A Maryhill Highlander

Following on from my A Walk on the Woodside blog, I’d like to focus on my great grandfather who lived his short life of 26 years in Maryhill before the turmoil of the First World War meant he would never return home. 

John was born in 1888 in the District of Kelvin in Glasgow at New City Rd. As you’d expect from my comments in my A Walk on the Woodside blog, the tenement building is no longer standing and a flyover and car park takes their place. The 1891 census for the Civil Parish of Barony is the first census return we see John’s name, along with his father James, mother Isabella and younger brother Thomas all residing in Kirkland St.

Kirkland St, 1975,  Record # C1855, Virtual Mitchell

John’s father James was the son of immigrants John Priestly and Ellen Dickie, both from County Antrim in what is now Northern Ireland, who, like so many, travelled to Scotland in the mid-1850s and later to seek a new life in industrial Glasgow.  John and Ellen were married in the Central District of Glasgow in 1859.  It is interesting to see their residence on the marriage certificate as being Garngad, but not surprising as this was a predominantly Irish neighbourhood in central Glasgow.

 213 Garngad Rd, 1928, Record # C6053, Virtual Mitchell

The 1901 census for the Civil Parish of Glasgow finds the ever expanding family back in New City Rd, with John living with his parents, younger brother Archie and three younger sisters Jessie, Helen and Isabella.  What is noticeable is the absence of Thomas mentioned living with the family in the 1891 census.  Young Thomas, born in 1889, died of bronchitis in 1893. Young Isabella died from TB on April 25th, 1914. The date of April 25th would come to be a day of mourning in the Priestley family.

What it is clear in my family research is the traditional naming patterns of my ancestors. First son named after father’s father and second son named after mother’s father. This pattern is followed to the rule and was practiced throughout Scotland for generations.

By 1908, John is now a journeyman bricklayer and is married to a local lass from Cameron St, which was just around the corner from his Abington St home.  Marrying aged 20 years and being a journeyman shows the young age he must have left school, as qualifying as a journeyman could take up to five years.  This was the norm in those days.

National Grid Maps, 1940s to 1970s. National Library of Scotland

On a personal note, the 1911 census for the Civil Parish of Glasgow North is the most informative and, again following on from my previous blog A Walk on the Woodside, reveals the closeness of this family. We are now in Cameron St and specifically number 37.  John, now married and aged 23 years old, is living with his wife Jeannie and their first child Isabella (named after John’s mother). Next door we have Jeannie’s cousin and his wife and step children, next door on by three we see Jeannie’s sister living with her husband and three children, and finally next to them we see John’s mother Isabella and his brother and four sisters with youngest Willliamina born in 1904.

The Valuation Roll for the City and Royal Burgh of Glasgow for the period 1913-14 shows John still at 37 Cameron St and that is the last trace on paper we have of him until the outbreak of the First World War.  By October 1914, he has volunteered to fight and enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  The image below is a stamp from the infantry Records Office, Perth, Scotland and is on the back of his son, my grandfather's, birth certificate.  This is just over two months since Britain entered the war.

John arrived on the Western Front in early March 1915 and was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres on April 25th, 1915, tragically exactly one year after the death of his younger sister Isabella.  His body has no known grave and he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium. He left behind a wife, daughter, and two sons. My grandfather was the youngest son aged 14 months at the time of his father’s death.  My great grandmother was left a widow with a war widows pension of 20/6 a week until it expired on my grandfather’s 16th birthday.  The Army Register of Soldier’s Effects show he left £1.12.1.

John’s name on the casualty list, Daily Record, May 29th, 1915

John was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.  I have his British War Medal, but sadly the other two medals are no longer within the family.  In memory of my great grandfather, I’ve collected the two missing medals (these do not have his name inscribed) and other artefacts that he would have received, such as the Princess Mary’s Gift Fund box.  My belief is that these artefacts were lost when my great grandmother remarried in 1920 and started a new family. This would have been a common occurrence during that period in history.

John is remembered at the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, and in the City of Glasgow Roll of Honour, City Chambers, Glasgow.  And, he is proudly remembered by me.


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