I have been doing some work recently on the Coutts side of my family tree, and in particular my great-grandfather John Coutts who was a crofter in Angus, near Montrose. In those days in the second half of the 19th century agricultural workers had a hard life, and so did great-grandad, John. Work on the land was hard and he had to supplement his income by selling fish. In official documents he was described as a “fish cadger” and crofter. His wife died of typhoid fever in 1888, leaving him with four of their ten children still at home, including my grandmother, Maggie, then less than two years old. I have just one picture of my grandmother, and none at all of great-granddad, John.
John was killed in an accident in 1911 when he fell from his pony and trap and was run over by one of the wheels.
On Thursday I met a lady who was looking for her great-grandfather. Bonnie Dawson was on a tour of Scotland with a group from the National Presbyterian Church, in Washington DC. She was the great -granddaughter of Dr James Stewart who was a distinguished minister in Peterhead Old Parish Church in the latter part of the 19th Century. He died in 1917, aged 87. He had a long and distinguished career as minister in Peterhead, and to mark that, his portrait was painted by the Scottish artist Peter Brough and presented to him by the Provost. The painting still hangs in the Muckle Kirk. It was a pleasure to meet Bonnie and three others of the group from Washington. They made the extra trip from Inverness where the group was staying for the night so that they could visit Dr Stewart’s Kirk.
I took the opportunity to find out a little more about him, and even found a picture of the old Manse which once stood beside the Old St Peter’s Church and graveyard, to be replaced by the woollen mill, and now the famous Peterhead gap site.
Other memories of him in the Muckle Kirk are awakened by the large bookcases in the vestry presented by him and the collection of theological works left to his successors in the Parish.
What different lives these two men had, living about the same sort of time in Scotland, a minister and a crofter. But both leave their different marks and memories for their families.