The Family of John Douglas: From Borenich to Muirhead, Parish of Liff

Liff churchyard

Liff Parish Churchyard

There are two reasons for trying to trace the genealogy of the Douglas families of Borenich. Firstly, there is the obvious link to the homestead called Croftdouglas. Secondly, two independent sources state that the Borenich burial ground once belonged to the Douglas family, despite there being no evidence of Douglas family members having been buried there.

The earliest record relates to the marriage of James Douglas to Christian McGregor in the parish of Dull, on the 8th June 1761. It is worth noting that in some of the records Christian's name is given as McGregore, and this is how it is used in the IGI Index.

Dull, 1761
James Douglas and Christian McGregor both in this parish gave up their names to be proclaimed for marriage 6th June 1761.

It is uncertain as to where James and Christian were living at the time of their marrriage, but it is assumed that it was on the south side of Loch Tummel, as soon after their wedding they had moved to Balcastle where their three children were born.

Blair Atholl, 1762
James Douglas and Christian McGregore in Bailechastail of Boranich had their lawful son born July 11th, baptised 14th named John.

Blair Atholl, 1767
James Douglas and Christian McGregor in Bailechastail of Boranich had their lawful daughter born October 26th, baptised November 2nd named Hellen.

Blair Atholl, 1772
James Douglas and Christian McGregor in Bailechastail had their lawful daughter born October 15th, baptised 18th named Margaret.

The family moved down the hill from Balcastle to Balchapel, and when he was thirty, John Douglas married Margaret Robertson of Pitagowan on 30th March 1793.

The following year, his sister Helen married James Douglas of Croftcarnach, which was a settlement just to the east of Balchapel, close to the present-day Borenich farm. This Douglas branch are the ancestors of Duncan Douglas the shoemaker. Details of their history are available in the "Record Room".

Blair Atholl, 1793
John Douglas in Balintepail and Margaret Robertson in Pitagowan (married) March 30th.

After their marriage John Douglas and Margaret Robertson moved into one of the dwellings at Balchapel. According to the Old Parish Records for Blair Atholl, they produced at least seven children, and an eighth child, John, who was not recorded in the OPR.

Blair Atholl, 1794
John Douglas in Balintepail and Margaret Robertson his wife had a child born 28th January, baptised 30th, named Christian.

Blair Atholl, 1795
John Douglas in Balintepail and Margaret Robertson his wife had a child baptised 18th October, named Donald.

Blair Atholl, 1798
Isabel, lawful daughter to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson in Chapeltown, born 20th December, baptised 23rd.

Blair Atholl, 1801
Helen, lawful daughter to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson in Bailnteapail, born January 8th, baptised 11th.

Blair Atholl, 1803
James, lawful son to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson in Balnteapail, born Jun 10th, baptised 11th

Blair Atholl, 1806
John, missing from OPR .....

Blair Atholl, 1808
Margaret, lawful daughter to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson spouses in Balinteapail, Borennich was born 28th May and baptised 5th June.

Blair Atholl, 1810
Janet, lawful daughter to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson spouses in Bailntepail, was born 1st June and baptised 3rd.

From the death certificates of some of his children, it is known that John Douglas the elder, was a flax dresser or heckler. This work entailed 'carding' the flax with spiked wooden blocks to pull the flax fibres into the same direction so that is could be spun into a linen thread. He was probably working in the lint-mill at Milltown of Borenich which was quite close. The lint-mill was probably still being used by 1841 as Isabella Robertson and Ann Kennedy in Tomanbuie are described as lint spinners in the 1841 census, but by then John's wife Margaret Robertson had died and the Douglas family had already left the area. Although Margaret probably died in Borenich, her monument is in the churchyard at Liff and the inscription reads "Margaret Robertson who died 15th April 1823 aged 54 years".

Perhaps the family moved to the Dunkeld area first, as this is where they next appear. On 24th June 1838, John Douglas's daughter Janet married Angus Gillies, who probably worked as a quarrier in the slate pits of Dunkeld. However, by 3rd August 1838 the family was living at Muirhead in the parish of Liff, just to the north of Dundee, as shown by a feu disposition of that date. The property is described as "house and garden, byres and stable shed", and was situated on the south side of the Coupar Angus road at the junction. It later became the post office for Muirhead. The 1841 census for Muirhead provides the following information.

Dwelling Name Age Occupation Birth-place
Muirhead Angus Gillies 25y quarrier Not in Liff parish
Janet Douglas 25y Not in Liff parish
Flora Gillies 2y Liff parish
John Gillies 1y Liff parish
Muirhead John Douglas 35y linen handloom weaver Not in Liff parish
Isabella Douglas 37y Not in Liff parish
Margaret Douglas 30y linen handloom weaver Not in Liff parish
John Douglas snr 78y Not in Liff parish
Hendry Stewart 45y labourer Not in Liff parish

John Douglas the elder died 14th January 1844 and was buried in the churchyard of Liff parish church.

Memorial stone to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson of Borenich

Memorial stone to John Douglas and Margaret Robertson of Borenich

"Erected by
John Douglas
feuar Muirhead
in memory of his father
John Douglas
who died 14th January 1844
aged 82 years.
Also his mother
Margaret Robertson
who died 15th April 1823
aged 54 years.
Margaret D. Gillies
died 20th June 1918 aged 76".

The Kirk Session Minute Book for Liff Free Church records that on 1st April 1844 "John Douglas residing at Muirhead, Liff was appointed by them to fill the office of Church Officer in the congregation". However by December his position seemed to be in jeopardy, as the Minute Book records that "It was agreed that the following persons should not be served with tokens for the approaching solemnity and that in the meantime the elders of the different districts in which they reside should affectionately deal with them as to the sins of which they are reported to have been guilty. viz. Isabella Douglas, Muirhead - guilty of the sin of theft. John Douglas, Muirhead - guilty of conniving to the sin of theft. Whatever the crime, John seems to have been repentant, and by 1847 is being paid as the Church Officer at Liff.

At the time of the 1851 census (Muirhead, dwelling 30), John Douglas was working as a grocer, possibly for David Coupar. He and his sister were looking after Margaret and William Gillies for their parents. It is thought that Angus Gillies and his wife Janet had returned to Argyll, but the census pages are of such poor quality that they are not available on-line (GROS Data Ardnamuchan 505/00 002/00 001 etc). Janet (Jessie) and Isabella appear to be with them, and Flora may be working in a nearby dwelling.

Name Relation Age Occupation Birth-place
John Douglas head 45y grocer Blair Atholl
Isabell Douglas sister 50y Blair Atholl
Margaret Gillies neice 8y scholar Liff
William Gillies nephew 5y Liff

The following year, on 24th April 1852 Isabel Douglas married David Coupar. She was over fifty and he was in his sixties. His first wife, Isabella Fleming, had died two years previously, and his daughter Mary had died in infancy, so that it would seem that he had no next of kin, and when he died on the 16th January 1857, Isabel took over the grocery store.

On 18th March 1853 John Douglas married Christina Chalmers of Auchterhouse, daughter of William Chalmers, a smallholder farmer and Janet Anderson. Their only chold, John, was born 18th December 1853.

Margaret Douglas, John's sister, died at Muirhead on 2nd July 1858 and was buried in the churchyard of Liff. She was unmarried and had been working as a domestic servant.

1861 census for Muirhead provides the following information.

Name Relation Age Occupation Birth-place
Isabell Coupar head 61y grocer Blair Atholl
John Douglas head 55y grocer Blair Atholl
Christina Douglas wife 39y Auchterhouse
John Douglas son 7y scholar Liff
William Wilkie lodger 50y mason Dundee

By 1861 the Gillies family had moved to Dundee and were living in Ryehill Lane which is just off the Perth Road.

Name Relation Age Occupation Birth-place
Angus Gillies head 48y labourer Island of Skye?
Janet Gillies wife 48y Blair Atholl
John Gillies son 21y labourer Liff
Margaret Gillies dau 18y mill worker Liff
William Gillies son 16y baker Liff
Jessie Gillies dau 14y Liff
Isabella Gillies dau 12y domestic servant Liff

Janet Gillies died of chronic bronchitis at 35 Ryehill Lane, Dundee on 11th November 1868. The death certificate was witnessed by her daughter Flora, so it must be assumed that her husband was working elsewhere. Nothing more is known of the Gillies family, except that Margaret died on 20th June 1918 aged 76, and was buried in Liff churchyard.

1871 census for Coupar Angus Road, Muirhead of Liff

Name Relation Age Occupation Birth-place
Isabell Coupar head 71y grocer Blair Atholl
John Douglas head 65y grocer and postmaster Blair Atholl
Christina Douglas wife 52y Auchterhouse

In the following year John's wife, Christina Chalmers, contracted smallpox and died 18th January 1872 at Muirhead. A couple of months later, John's sister Isabella Douglas, widow of David Coupar, died of pneumonia 25th April 1872 at Muirhead. Finally John himself died 13th November 1874, the last of the Douglases at Muirhead of Liff. The death certificate was witnessed by John Douglas, his son, who was now living in Edinburgh.

John Douglas, the son of John Douglas and Christina Chalmers was educated Aberdeen University, and graduated M.A. in 1874. He then enrolled as a divinity student in New College, Edinbugh, and was living in Rankeillor Street when his father died. There does not seem to have been a will and it took a year to wind up the estate which amounted to over 90. Over 22 of this was owed to him by customers of his grocer store, together with his postmaster pay, and his half-yearly salary for acting as Church Officer of the Free Church at Liff.

John was ordained as a foreign missionary in 1878 and was sent by the Free Church Presbytery of Dundee to Nagpur, Maharashtra, in India, and served there for three years before being transferred to Bhandara. However, in 1890 he was re-appointed to Nagpur and remained there until his retirement in 1918. He died in 224 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, on 21st October 1920.

His report on the Nagpur Vernacular Mission in 1909 gives an idea of his work and the difficulties encountered.

The past year has been the most calamitous one in the whole of my thirty-one years of missionary experience. The city of Nagpur and the surrounding villages have been visited by an epidemic of plague, which has exceeded in severity anything we have ever known. The one bright spot in that dark period was the Charitable Relief Fund, raised by public subscription for the benefit of the families that had been left destitute by the loss of the breadwinner, and distributed by a band of voluntary workers. In this philanthropic effort our own kinsmen had an honourable share, and immense good was done.

All schools were closed during those awful months, and our pupils were scattered far and near, many of them having been cut off by the fell disease. It will take months of hard work to raise the schools to the standard they had reached before the epidemic came, when the roll-books of eleven schools showed and attendance of 606 pupils. An attack of enteric fever in the beginning of August laid me aside from active service at the time when my superintendence seemed most required, and left me with enfeebled energy to reorganise the work after the plague had passed.

During the year new and substantial buildings, to replace those swept away in the flood of three years ago, have been erected on a fine site at a cost of about 2,000 Rupees. they will stand empty, because there is no money to pay the workers. At Dhapawada the work is being carried on with half the usual staff, from the same cause. At Borgaon (Durkheda), where a new schoolhouse has been put up, during the greater part of the year there has been no Christian agent. the school has been kept on by our old and faithful assistant, waiting the advent of better times.

In Patansaongi the catechist has had to do the work of both teacher and preacher. Itinerating work has been largely at a standstill. In the work of charitable relief some of my Christian teachers did yeoman service, helping the Rev J. F. McFadyen in finding out the houses where aid was needed. The present is a crisis when more than ever before we require to hang on that promise, 'Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not'.

The Reverend John Douglas married Jean MacKenzie, daughter of Donald MacKenzie and Christine Ross, on 11th December 1879, presumably in India.

The children of Rev. John Douglas and Jean MacKenzie of Nagpur, India

Name Born Married Date Residence Died
Rev. John Douglas Feb 4 1881 Ada Oliphant Jeffrey Mar 21 1911 Strathmartine, Dundee h. 1931
w. 2 Aug 1939
Dr. Mackenzie Douglas Aug 3 1882 Challis Hilda Ashford 1915 Roehampton h. 1972
w. 1956
William Chalmers Douglas 1884 Maud Wood . . h. 1953
w. 1981
Andrew Douglas 1886 died in infancy . . d. 1886
Robert Douglas 1890 . . . d. 1932
Ross Douglas 1892 . . . d. 1917
Rev. Archibald Matheson Douglas Oct 30 1893 1w. Gwendolen Carmichael
2w. Christina Mungall
. . h. 1968
1w. 1929

Ada Oliphant Jeffrey was the daughter of James Jeffrey, minister of the Church of Scotland, and Mary Lang Whyte.

Genealogy of the family of John Douglas in Muirhead, Liff

Genealogy of the family of John Douglas in Muirhead, Liff


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