Family History


The house in which my sister and I were born, 202 Wingrove Road, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne, was built in 1924 for my mother's parents. They were Captain Alec Aikman and Jessie Ann Arabella (nee Smith). My grandfather was born at 70 Saville Street, South Shields (demolished in the 1960's and now occupied by the Public Library). He later lived at 24 Linskill Terrace, North Shields, according to the 1881 census, aged 9. He ran away to sea at the age of 16, later became a Master Mariner and was with P & O Shipping Line for many years. I was only four when he died, but remember him quite well. He was only 60 when he died of throat cancer in 1932, and is buried in Hexham Cemetery.

The name Aikman is an ancient one: the first record of it was in Scotland: Alisandre Aikman in Lanarkshire, who rendered homage in 1296. The origin of the name is probably Old English - oak pronounced "aik",

An Edinburgh genealogist has traced our Aikman forbears to the area just south of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, villages then but now suburbs of the city. I had a useful clue, as my mother said her grandfather, James Aikman, had named his house at Whitchurch (Heolden Road) near Cardiff, "Craigmillar", after his birthplace. He was born at Drum in the parish of Liberton on 26.10.1840 and baptised on 15.11.1840 before the congregation of Gilmerton. Craigmillar Castle is in the same parish.

James' parents were John Aikman and Helen Thomson, who were married at Melrose on 24.7.1835. Helen was born at Lessuden, near Dryburgh, Roxburghshire, in 1813. Lessuden is the old name for St Boswell. Her father was a ploughman and her mother was Jean Thomson: possibly a cousin?

John and Helen Aikman had 8 children:

William born in 1831 at Ancrum

Jane born in 1839 at Drum

Helen born in 1837

James born in 1841 at Drum

Elizabeth born in 1843 at Newton

Agnes born in 1845 at Newton

John born in 1850 at Duddingston

George born in 1852 at Duddingston

On the 1851 census they were at Roseville Lodge, Duddingston, where John was employed as a miller/labourer: William was a farm labourer. The 1861 census shows John and Helen at Meadowfield, Duddingston, where he was an agricultural labourer. Helen died on 24.8.1866 aged 57 at Weston, Duddingston.

There is no trace of John Aikman and family in the 1871 census for Duddingston and Liberton, though his son John was living there with his wife Isabella and their children. John senior died aged 63 on 8.11.1878 at Broomhills, Liberton parish. His wife was given as Margaret Neilson, farm servant, so he may or may not have married her. The informant was his son John, aged 21, living nearby at Portobello.

The 1881 census lists Margaret Aikman, m.s. Neilson, as head of household, at Melville Laundry (Melville Castle), aged 44, a gardener's assistant: she was born in Perth. Living with her then was an unmarried son aged 17, also called John, born at Duddingston and a Carter. Margaret's marriage to John Aikman is not in the General Index.

John Aikman, born in 1815 was the illegitimate son of John Aikman, a farmer, and Julia Snodgrass. On the 1851 census for Liberton there was no trace of John, senior, but Julia was living at Drum Street, Gilmerton, with her brother James, aged 46, who was an unmarried Coal Carter, born in Liberton. Julia was listed as a housekeeper, aged 59, also born in Liberton.

The 1841 census for Liberton shows Julia, aged 48, a labourer, living with her mother Euphemia Snodgrass, a pauper aged 87: they were at Gilmerton. Julia died on 27.2.1865 at Gilmerton, aged 71: she was single and a pauper. Her parents were James Snodgrass, a carter and Euphemia m.s. Lawrence. The informant was her daughter, Elizabeth Knight, a servant. That pregnancy was noted by the Kirk Sessions in 1819, when Julia was living at Drum Deer Park. Her son John's illegitimate birth was, surprisingly, not registered or noted by the Kirk Sessions. This unfortunately means that his father, the farmer, cannot be identified, but it seems that by giving him his name, he must have acknowledged him.

In June 1997 I visited Gilmerton/Liberton/Craigmillar area on the south side of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. The city by-pass goes right through Drum and there is a big roundabout called Gilmerton Interchange. Gilmerton is run down in appearance but Liberton has a fine Kirk on top of the Brae (the area is hilly) where the Aikmans may be buried. Around the fine ruin of Craigmillar Castle and across to Duddingston is still green and quite rural, though there is a housing estate at Duddingston. The castle is impressive and quite well preserved: it was possible, standing there, to see it in its 19th Century rural setting and to look across to the nearby Firth of Forth and hills of Fife, little changed in outline since the Aikmans worked in farms in the area.

James, my mother's grandfather escaped from the poverty of farm labouring by going to sea and eventual prosperity. Scottish education was good and he became a seaman, later a Master Mariner, and his three sons also went to sea. He married Mary Ann Cooke in Hexham Abbey on 25th November 1867. She was the daughter of Lawrence Cooke, a leather dresser, and Lucy Banks Earle, his wife who he married at St John's, Newcastle on 19/7/1823. One of the witnesses in 1867 was Alex Coates, after whom their third son, my grandfather, was named. James was aged 27 and his father's occupation was given as contractor. Mary Ann was aged 32 when she married James.

They lived at 68 East Saville Street, South Shields, with the Coats, when there first son James William was born in 1871, my grandfather in 1872, Uncle Jim in 1875, then Mary Helen (known as Nellie), in 1877. By 1881 they had moved "up market" to North Shields and James was by then a Master Mariner, though at sea on the day of the census. On 9th May 1883 Mary Ann, his wife, launched the SS Midas, owned by Hall Brothers, of which James was Captain.

In 1885 the Aikmans moved to Cardiff, where they lived at 32 Plasturton Gardens, near to the Smith family, who came from Banff in 1888. Alex and Jessie Ann met through the church and married in 1896. Mary Ann died on 23rd April 1895 and is buried at Hexham Cemetery with her two sisters; Margaret Read and Lydia Coats. They were both married to sea captains, which is probably how James came to Hexham and met Mary Ann. Neither of her sisters had children, Aunt Coats who died in 1924, inherited from her sister and brother in law, their fine house, Allendale House in Hexham. I have a diamond and Turquoise ring which belonged to her and have furniture of hers. Uncle Willie also married in Hexham, to Annie Knight and they had no children. We were all fond of Uncle Willie and used to see him often. He had a car and would come to take us down to Tynemouth, where he loved to walk along the pier and smell the sea air. He sometimes took us up to Hawick to visit the MacTaggarts there; his sister Nelly had married Robert MacTaggart, a co-founder of Pringles, the knitwear frim. Nelly had died prematurely of emphysema. The MacTaggarts had 3 children, Ian, Jim and Mamie; my mother was very friendly with these cousins, they used to have holidays in Embleton and Hexham. Mamie was one of my mothers bridesmaids, but lived in Australia after her marriage. Uncle Bob remarried Hermione known as Hymie. They had one son, Crosby, who was killed at the Battle of El Alamein, one of the great turning points of World War II in 1942.

Later, as a schoolgirl, I used to go to Hawick for holidays with Uncle Jim, his wife Jessie and their two young sons Robin and Jamie. Jim and the boys all died prematurely. Uncle Ian was prosperous in the wool trade and had a fine house at Denholm near Hawick. I remember going there to the wedding of one of his daughters in 1964. A second cousin of my mothers, Willie Mactaggart, was managing Director of Pringles, he has family still in the borders but we are not in contact. We met again at Fiona's house in Dryburgh in October 1998. He is now 92. My grandfather's younger brother Jim went to Canada with his wife Jenny and lived at Montreal. They visited us before the war and I remember they brought maple syrup for us! They had two sons, Percy and Howard. The former was 6 foot 7 inches tall, became an atomic physicist in the US. I believe he married a tall girl called Jet Black. Howard was in the Canadian Royal Navy and visited us during the war. There has unfortunately been no contact with these Aikmans since that time.

After Mary Ann Aikman died in Cardiff in 1895, James lived in his house called Craigmillar in Whitchurch. My mother was very fond of him though very frightened of his white bull terrier called Charlie! He was apparently obsessively punctual, sitting down to lunch at and banging on the table until the maid brought his meal. I wish I knew more about his career at sea. He was quite an entrepreneur and used to take additional cargoes to make handsome profits. When on the Archangel-Murmansk route he took warm hats and gloves to sell. He was a wealthy man, but after he married Frances Phalp of Cardiff, he was exceedingly generous to her family. He virtually adopted a niece who married an alcoholic: James was very fond of this niece and helped her. Later, when the second Mrs Aikman died, all James' money went to the niece, then on her death, to her husband. In 1940 when my mother, sister and I visited Cardiff, we met two Miss Phalps, who were presumably sisters of Mrs Aikman. My mother didn't much like the latter and was very sorry when her grandfather died in 1914. This happened after he had had a leg amputated and, I think, was burnt by a hot water bottle. I believe he was diabetic, which would account for the amputation. Cardiff was the largest port in the world in the 19th Century, so it was not surprising that so many Scots families went to live there. Both of my mother's grandfathers, Aikman and Smith, sailed from Cardiff, also Alec Smith, her mother's brother. It must have been strange for the wives and children at home, after long periods without husbands and fathers.

My Grannie, Jessie Ann, felt that her home at 25 Pitman Street, was too near her mother at Plasturton Gardens for comfort! Margaret Smith (nee Mackie) was a hard domineering woman whom my mother disliked. After leaving Banff by sea with her family in 1888, with her husband Alexander and son Alec at sea, she lived with her daughters Mary and Metta and her granddaughter Wilma. The latter was brought to live with them after her mother Mina died at her birth in 1895. Williams father, William Smith, was the brother of Alexander Smith and both of them were born in Banff. William was an engineer in Inverness and built the swing bridge there. He and Mina had two daughters, Agnes and Maggie and several babies who died, before Wilma was born. William later left for Vancouver with Agnes and Maggie and his housekeeper whom he later married. He led a successful life in Vancouver as an engineer and also went to the Klondike and Atlan gold rushes. He died a very old man in Vancouver in the 1930's. Wilma was a thorn in the side of my mother who was five years younger and seems to have been blamed by their grandmother for all Wilma's wrongdoings.

Alec and Jessie Ann had two children at 25 Pitman Street: Stanley, born 27th January 1879 and Margaret Edna, always known as Edna, born 9th March 1900 who was our mother.

Mainly to escape from the influence of the Smiths, Alec and Jessie Ann moved to Southampton with their children around 1908 I believe. My grandfather took up a shore job and they lived overlooking the Solent. But Alec was unhappy away from seagoing and on his returning to the Merchant Service, they went to live at Whitchurch near the Aikman grandfather who lived in Heolden Road. Margaret Smith died in 1909 and I am not whether the Aikmans were in Whitchurch by then. Later they moved to Ilford in Essex and were there through the First World War when Stanley was in the Essex Regiment. He was wounded in ... After the war he got a job in the wool trade through Uncle Bob MacTaggart's assistance. He then worked for Walter Stockwell who owned Alexandra Mills in Morley. Stanley married his daughter Constance in 1922 and they lived in Leeds. Their children are Elizabeth born 22nd June 1923 and John born 28th March 1926 who in 1953 married my sister Margaret.

My grandparents moved to Newcastle upon Tyne about 1922 with Stanley living in Leeds and my grandfather presumably sailing from the Tyne - I wish I knew more about his career in the navy, though it would be possible to research this sometime. At first they lived in rented houses in Heaton, one was in Simonside Terrace. In 1924 they moved to 202 Wingrove Road in Fenham, the house in which my sister and I were born on 5th April 1930 and 29th April 1928. My mother met my father Thomas Garibaldi Farina at a tennis club in Fenham. They were married on the 11th July 1925 and lived with my Granny (and Grandfather when he was at home). I have recorded the Farina family history separately. At the time my parents were married in Banwell Parish Church he had been living with his mother Minnie and unmarried sister Patricia at 4 Bartinck Villas, a handsome John Dobson house. They had moved there about 1920 from Park Parade where my grandfather Alfred had died in January 1914.

My fathers war service is recorded separately. After the war was over in 1918 it was not possible for him to train to be an architect as he had wished since he was now responsible for his mother and sister. Through contacts with colleagues and business associates of his father, who was well known on Teeside, he got a job there as a ship worker and coal exporter working for a Mr Whitfield in an office on the side. Later he worked for the Hudson Steamship Company in Collingwood Street. At the end of the Second World War ship broking was centralised in the City of London and my father moved down to work in Canon Street in 1946, living with his sister Theo Date, then a widow living in Bromley. Their mother Patricia had moved to College Road in Bromley in the 1930's to be near Clyde who was married to John Trend and living with their son David. We stayed with them a few times at their house, Greengates in Southborough Road. I was very impressed by my big cousin David. Another Farina aunt was Molly Boyle Lawrence who also lived in Bromley with her husband Sydney who was the Court Correspondent for a National Newspaper. They had no family though he had a daughter by a previous marriage.

In 2000 I visited Duddingston, in an attempt to find Helen Aikman's grave. It is a delightful and surprising oasis, with the ancient Kirk (one of the oldest in Scotland) and small village beside a small loch - and Arthur's Seat steeply rising above it. Guides took me round the Kirk and it was easy to see its rural character in the 19th Century. The Kirkyard is small, part of it has been lost under a newer porch, but it was apparent that Helen's grave is not there. She and John may be buried in Liberton. I was interested to find the grave of John Aikman, died February 1905, his wife Margaret Dickson, died March 1911 and their eldest daughter Elizabeth, died May 1947. There is surely a connection here and possibly family to be discovered!

In Duddingston Kirk one of the pews was named "Meadowfield", for the use of the Clark family who farmed there. The site of the farm is now covered by a housing estate, on a steep, hilly slope of Arthur's Seat, which must have made ploughing very arduous.

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