Discovering My Scottish Roots 1:
Looking for Peter Munro at Aberfoyle Cemetery and unravelling his Stirlingshire connections.
by Tom Thorne
Readers may recall that earlier this Spring I wrote about my impending trip to Scotland. The purpose of this trip was to hammer home some loose ends concerning my family history research and also to experience the ground where my Scottish ancestors trod. Getting on the ground makes research tangible at least for me. It was, I admit, also a bit of a bucket list item for an aging septuagenerian.
However in pursuing this bucket list item I can only report that it was a very useful and interesting thing to do. I connected into Edinburgh Airport completely jet lagged from a flight from Canada to Brussels and a wait for the flight to Scotland that entailed hanging about the Brussels airport for almost a full day.
I had exhausted the bright lights of the duty free area of Brussels Airport in about ten minutes where the bookstore offered only trashy potboilers and books that solved such problems as proper household budgeting and making a mint on the stock market. In my tired state I decided to close my eyes and rest. However the hard seats negated any real attempt to rest. Finally, I boarded an admirable Canadian built turboprop Dash 8 for Edinburgh in the middle afternoon.
Once in Edinburgh I got my rental car painlessly and took off down the road to the closest Travel Lodge where I sacked out until morning. It was a bit disconcerting driving on the left side in my fatigued state, but the hotel was only two kilometers from the Airport so I made it in once piece. Much is made by those of us schooled in right side driving about adapting to the left side of the road. I usually find it a painless exercise only slightly more harrying when a need for sleep is really your first priority.
The next morning (12 April 2013) I started the real family history quest. I installed my GPS in the rental car and it lit up perfectly with my Edinburgh location. I set it for Aberfoyle a village in Sterlingshire and headed out. My ultimate destination that day was my Bed and Breakfast in Bonhill near Dumbarton, but the short Aberfoyle detour enabled me to explore the graveyard where Peter Munro was buried in 1857.
Peter Munro was the son of my great great great grandfather Duncan Munro (1790-1882). His mother was Janet McCunn (1783-1869) and he was the third child of a family of four. The eldest was Agnes Munro born 1818, John Munro born 1821 and Archibald Munro born 1825. I descend from Archibald Munro through his daughter Janet Munro (1858-1898) and her “natural” son Andrew Mitchell Munro (1879-1948).
Peter Munro was a farm labourer who worked mostly at Drymen in Stirlingshire. I searched for his head stone in the rain. The older part of Aberfoyle cemetery on Manse Road is in poor shape. Many stones are covered by lichen or worst yet, toppled text side down.
One stone, however, caught my eye. It was very simple, worn, and its text was covered by lichen. Later in the trip I would find another stone erected by Duncan Munro in 1820 at Rhu Cemetery at Helensburgh in the memory of his McCunn parents in law and it proved to be a similar simple stone like this one. I spent a long time looking for Peter Munro’s grave in the rain and the stone below, I believe, is his memorial erected by his father. Along the grass line is the engraved text “Munro” found by careful scrutiny of the photo and on site.
This is Peter Munro's grave at Aberfoyle Cemetery in Stirlingshire. In the right hand bottom corner along the grass line
is the engraved word "Munro" just barely visible through the lichen growth on the stone.
We know that Peter Munro is buried at Aberfoyle Cemetery because it is recorded on his death certificate, although the on line Cemetery list of graves does not show him which is understandable seeing the condition of his and other gravestones.
He died of “gastric fever six weeks” at Fintry a nearby village, not far down the road and near Drymen where he had also worked as an agricultural labourer from at least age 17. The 1841 Census records show him in the Parish of Buchanan at Ross Mcalpine Farm. at that age. Later in the 1851 Census records we find him at Gartenbrodnack Farm at Drymen aged 27.
He was 34 at his death and was born at Dumbarton in 1823. There is no mention of his wife Agnes Blair a local woman whom he married at Drymen in 1853 nor their son Duncan who was born at Fintry in 1854.
His father Duncan Munro came up from the Bonhill-Dumbarton area to take care of the funeral arrangements. We know this because he signed the death certificate. To go by car today from Aberfoyle to Dumbarton is about 45 minutes to an hour. This would be a three day trip in 1857 for Duncan who was 67 years old at that time.
In the 1851 Census Duncan Munro is living a long way from Fintry and Aberfoyle on the Strathleven Place estate near Dumbarton town with his wife Janet McCunn and two unmarried sons John and Archibald both “fleshers” or butchers. In addition, the future wife of Archibald Munro, and my great great great grandmother, Helen Mitchell (born 1831) in Barony Glasgow is also living with them. She is described as a “House Servant”. She was likely working for someone else. Duncan and Janet could ill afford any servants.
Peter Munro lived a short life and the fate of his family is not known at this time. What we do know about his wife Agnes Blair and her family comes from a 1841 Census tract. Here is her family. They are living on a farm called Blarnabord also near Drymen. I have added the birth years. The 1841 Census is somewhat irritating because it does not record the county origins of people not born in the Census area, hence the “Outside Census County” designation.
Blair Walter M 55 Farmer Outside Census County born 1786
Blair Margaret F 45 Outside Census County born 1797
Blair John M 15 Stirlingshire born 1826
Blair Walter M 13 Stirlingshire born 1828
Blair Agnes F 11 Stirlingshire born 1830
Blair Janet F 6 Stirlingshire born 1835
Other people are also on the farm, some of interest with the name Blair. There is another Walter Blair age 40.
Blair Walter M 40 Outside Census County born 1801
Blair James M 55 Dyke builder Stirlingshire born 1786
Blair Duncan M 15 Agricultural lab. Stirlingshire born 1826
Others on the farm are: Alexander McGregor 15, Agricultural labourer from Stirlingshire; William Thomson, 15, Agricultural labourer from Outside Census Country; Christina McLaren, 20, Female Servant, Outside Census County; Christina Campbell, 15, Female Servant, Outside Census County; Robert McKay, 40, Dykebuilder, Outside Census County.
We don’t know whether Walter Blair, 55, was a tenant or a land owner. The number of farm labourers suggests a farm that was at least a going concern. Agnes Blair is 11 years old which makes her birth year 1830 seven years younger than her future husband Peter Munro. That would make her 23 at her marriage at Drymen on 7 June 1853 and Peter would have been 30. The birth of their first child Duncan Munro (named after his paternal grandfather) on 1 November 1854 at Fintry, comes after 18 months of marriage.
Going back to Peter Munro’s 1851 Census reference in Drymen at Gartonbrodnack Farm Peter worked as a “farm servant” for a Gavin Paterson who was a shepherd. Sheep farming was something Peter knew well. His own father, Duncan Munro was a shepherd all his life. By this time the 1851 entry reveals Peter’s birthplace as “Dumbartonshire-Dumbarton”.
© Copyright 2013, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.