Employment Opportunities in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Employment Opportunities in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Over the past several weeks I have written a series of posts that centre on a series of letters from one branch of my ancestors who lived and travelled between Scotland, Canada, and the USA. Please visit my introduction to the letters and my work on their news of births and deaths, their experiences with immigration and transatlantic travel, and agriculture and the environment in their old and new communities.

This week I want to build on the post I wrote about farming and agriculture by looking at some of the other branches of employment the authors of the letters and their friends and family were undertaking in the latter half of the eighteenth century in Scotland’s rural central belt.

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Segment of Shotts showing Hareshaw, Muirhouse, and the Kirk of Shotts, ‘Northern Part of Lanarkshire’, John Thompson’s Atlas of Scotland, 1832 [NLS]

From farming and mining to service in homes and religious institutions, the Gilchrists, Shearers, and their families and friends provide us with fascinating little details about their lives and their livelihoods. Continue reading

Ulster Unionist Political Propaganda Postcards

Postcard - Belfast Under Home Rule

Anti-Home Rule Postcard – Source Credit: Linen Hall Library/Postcards Ireland

The postcard above was printed during the third Home Rule Crisis ca. 1912-1914. It features the Albert Memorial Tower being pulled down and replaced by a statue of John Redmond (leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party) with crown and scepter, labeled ‘Redmond Rex Hibernia.”  The gigantic Poor House Annex is “Full Up” and droves of people are crowded at the Protestant Emigration Office where they can buy “Tickets for New York or Anywhere” (sponsored by the Irish state, with the green harp flag flying above).  One wing of the building is dedicated space for the “Office of the Molly Maguires.” The American influence over the new Irish government and “King Redmond” is further symbolized by the American flag and ship parked at the Customs Office.  Meanwhile the formerly industrial Belfast is being overtaken by pigs, chickens, and goats. Continue reading

Postcard from Port Glasgow, Ontario

Postcard from Port Glasgow, Ontario
Port Glasgow

Beach at Port Glasgow — Photo Credit: P. Dumas

Port Glasgow is a village on the coast of Lake Erie, about 75km southeast of London, Ontario. It was settled by Scottish immigrants to Upper Canada around 1818. Erosion eventually destroyed the original harbour. The port itself now features the Port Glasgow Yacht Club and marina, a small lighthouse, sandy beach, and a walking trail through the forest along the water’s edge. Continue reading

More Maps: Ordnance Survey in Ireland

Given my love of the history of maps, I was excited to hear a segment on the creation of Ordnance Survey maps for Ireland on the RTÉ History Show a few weeks ago.

In the 1700s, when the Williamites wanted to flush out Jacobite fugitives in Scotland, they were hampered by the fact that they had no maps of Scotland, and so they started to make some. Later, in the 1800s, when the revenue people in London wanted to list all the townlands in Ireland that might generate an income for the crown, their first job was to do a major survey of the whole country.  And so, while an early generation of surveyors, the Williamites, arrived with guns, the Victorians arrived with clipboards.

You can find the full segment on the RTÉ Radio Player here:

The History Show: The Story of Ireland’s First Ordnance Survey Maps

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Cashel on the historic Ordnance Survey – Source: osi.ie

The Ordnance Survey office was established in Ireland in 1824, intended to update land valuations for tax purposes. Under the direction of Major Thomas Colby, the survey was completed in 1846, on a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile. A large portion of the historiography is devoted to debate over the impact of the Ordnance Survey on the anglicization of Ireland, the Irish language, and Irish placenames. Continue reading

Farming and the Land in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Farming and the Land in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Over the past few posts I have been working through a series of letters from a Scottish branch of my ancestors and delving into some of the themes that come up. You can check out my introduction to the letters, and look at death and disease, and contemporary thoughts on emigration in my previous posts.

Today I’ll be looking at issues of agriculture and farming, another topic that comes up frequently in the letters. The Gilchrists and Shearers were not strictly farmers. Several worked in service (as servants), for example, and as such I’ll take a closer look at employment opportunities in a later post.

Farming opportunities, the land and the weather, and how the markets and trade in general were doing were of interest to the writers and recipients of these letters. These factors affected their well-being, their diet, their place of residence, and their ability to survive. Continue reading