Thomas Jack (1788 - 1841) & Janet Carswell (1797 - 1870)

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I MOURN FOR THE HIGHLANDS

I mourn for the Highlands, now drear and forsaken; The lands of my fathers the gallant and brave;

To make room for the sportsmen, their lands were all taken; And they had to seek out new homes far away.

Oh shame on the tyrants who brought desolation; Who banished the brave and put sheep in their place;

Where once smiled the gardens rank weeds in their station; And deer are preferred to the leal-hearted braves.

Oh where are the parents and bairns yonder rovin'; The scene o' their gladness is far o'er the main;

No blithe-hearted milk-maid now cheers at the gloaming; The herd-boy no longer seen on the plain.

But the lark is still soaring, she sings in her glory; With no one to listen her sweet morning lay;

The clansmen are gone, but their deeds live in story; Like chaff in the wind, they were borne far away.


From about the middle of the 18th century Scottish landowners started to force the crofters and tenant farmers off their land in an attempt to modernise agricultural methods. For some, the landowners were enlightened modernisers; for others, they were cultural vandals. But while the Highland Clearances led to songs (such as the one above), poems, and books, what happened in the Lowlands appears not to have left anything in the cultural record. The number of cottars and other tenants who were displaced in the South far exceeded those who suffered further North, but their removal caused virtually no violent response; so it is only recently that historians have recognised that the clearances were something that affected the whole of Scotland.

New Monkland and Airdrie in 1773
Between about 1760 and 1820 tens of thousands of Lowlanders emigrated to the USA and Canada to become landowners there, while many others moved to the industrial centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh and England. In rural Lanarkshire the population fell by over a third during the second half of the 18th century and a way of life that had existed for centuries was changed for ever. Large farms with full time labourers were much more profitable than renting to smallholders and cottars and, as landowners doubled or tripled the rent, tenants were forced off their land, and villages were removed so that sheep could graze.
William Jack of Hagmuir paying tax on two horses
One of those facing the challenges of the agricultural revolution in Lanarkshire was William Jack. He married Margaret Morton in 1774 and appears to have been a (tenant) farmer all his adult life. William and Margaret had eleven children, at least six of whom survived to have children of their own; and throughout those twenty-five years William was always described as a 'farmer' or 'tenant'. They never moved far from New Monkland, but he worked on at least five farms during that time, suggesting a lack of stability, or periods of unemployment, as he moved from farm to farm.

Although well above sea level, New Monkland was fairly flat with nothing that could be called a hill. For a long time the area had been well known for cultivating flax and William was likely to have grown it, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1799 the Edinburgh Advertiser included a William Jack of Hagmuir, Lanarkshire on a long list of those who had received premiums for growing flax. William received £2 2s 9d, more than many, so if it was the same William, he may have been reasonably well off, especially as this William also paid tax on the horses he owned[1]. The flax was woven locally in a large number of houses that had hand looms inside, and was then sent on to large companies in Glasgow. After the war, the advent of cheap cotton meant that growing flax died out and farmers switched to growing grain, peas, potatoes and turnips in the rich clay that covered most of the parish. Some of the crops would have been taken into Glasgow on the Monkland Canal which had been completed in 1794 and ran for twelve miles across the parish, winding its way to the city to avoid having too many locks. It had been built to carry coal and ironstone, which were becoming increasingly important locally as virtually every farm had rich seams of both running through their soil, and large numbers of mines were opening everywhere; but farm produce and even people were carried on the canal as well. Apart from the canal, New Monkland also had a new church - built in 1777 - so William was farming at a time of change for the area. The population was still well under 300 at this time, and ploughing competitions, annual fairs and other events, showed that country life was still an important feature, but the increasing number of collieries in the area was changing its character.

New Monkland and Glenmavis in 1859; The Kirkstyle Inn is just left of centre


Thomas Jack, born in 1788 when the family lived in Castlespeals, Old Monkland, was William and Margaret's seventh child (although three of his older siblings probably died in infancy). Despite the problems that his parents had faced in farming, it was a life he understood and - presumably - enjoyed. In 1821 he married Janet Carswell in an 'irregular' marriage, as many Scottish marriages were. Couples did not have to be married in a church in front of an ordained minister; in Scotland there were three other legal ways to marry, each of which was a variation on simply making a public statement in front of witnesses that you were married. The church was forced to recognise these marriages (or accept that many were living in sin) and many of them were entered into the registers when the couples were fined by the authorities: in Thomas' case the fine was £1 6s. Janet's father (and grandfather) was also a farmer, although he appeared to be better off than most. Although probably a tenant farmer, his farm at nearby Hillend was over 100 acres and he employed others to work on it. The parish records show him making occasional payments of 3s 6d towards the funds for the poor - a not insubtantial amount.

The view from Glenmavis up to the kirk
The kirk with a glimpse of the Kirkstyle Inn on the right
The Inn in 2009 just before demolition with the kirk on the left

At the time of his marriage Thomas was described as a 'vintner' so he may already have been running the Kirkstyle Inn which he was certainly doing a few years later. The inn was opposite the church (kirk), both slightly separated from the village of Glenmavis as New Monkland was now called, and was linked to the church by more than its position. Parishioners would travel to church services from miles around and many would need a meal, or even a bed, before travelling back home. In addition, the turnpike road from Edinburgh to Glasgow passed through the South of the parish, and the road from Stirling to Carlisle went from North to South, so there was passing trade to look after as well. The inn would brew its own beer and spirits; indeed Thomas often called himself a 'spirit dealer' (as well as 'changekeeper'), as did Janet after his death. There was also a small farm attached to the inn, although it is not clear whether it produced anything beyond what the family needed.

Thomas and Janet had nine children of their own while living in the Kirkstyle Inn, some of whom may have attended the parish school which catered for about 50 children. Although nearly all the children survived into adulthood, theirs was not to be a happy family life because Thomas died in 1841, when his youngest child was only three. After his death Janet continued to run the Kirkstyle Inn for nearly thirty years with the help of her eldest son, William, who was nearly twenty when his father died. That William's name later appeared on the list of those who received parish help showed that running the inn could be as hard as farming.

Of their other children, Helen was the only one to die as a young child; but Janet also outlived another son, John, who had been attracted by the increasingly dominant mining industry, and become an engine keeper at a nearby colliery. He died of tuberculosis when he was only twenty-nine, leaving three young children and his wife who was forced to continue as a spirit dealer. Janet also faced the last years of her life without James, her second son, who emigrated to Australia in 1854, giving up mining to run a market garden on the Melbourne coast. His life would have been much healthier than the one he left behind, but that was likely to be of little comfort to his mother. However, most of the other children married and remained in the area, giving her over thirty grandchildren by the time she died in 1870.

References

  1. Edinburgh Advertiser on 8th Mar 1799 referring to an announcement made on 28th Feb 1799. Farmers were paid 9d/stone for flax and 1s/peck for flax seed (up to a maximum) and there were references to farmers making dishonest claims!