The Clyde Estuary showing the places where the Munros and McCunns lived.
Family history 2: Exploring the Dumbarton Munro Family.
Duncan Munro comes south in 1818 from Inveraray.
by Tom Thorne
We don't know the exact month or year that my great great great grandfather Duncan Munro actually came down to Dumbarton from his Highland Inveraray Glenaray Parish where he was born in 1790. There was annual traffic on established trails that brought cattle, sheep and farm labourers from the Highlands to southern Scotland. Perhaps Duncan found work on one of these trips and simply stayed on. He was skilled shepherd by the time he arrived in Dumbarton. He learned his trade working with his father John Munro on Drimfern Farm in the Glenaray, the valley of the Aray river that flows to Loch Fyne at Inveraray.
We do know that he married Janet McCunn in 1818. She came from Roseneath a village on the peninsula across Loch Gare from Helensburgh. Janet was born in 1783 and was 35 on her marriage day. Duncan was 28. Janet’s late age for marriage didn’t affect her fertility. In the same year of their wedding (it may have been the reason for the marriage) she gave birth to their first child Agnes on 4 July 1818. The second child was John born in 1821, and then Peter born in 1823 (see Family History 1) and finally Archibald born 1825. I descend from Archibald’s marriage to Helen Buchanan Mitchell and their second daughter Janet born in 1858.
We know little about where Duncan and Janet actually lived in the early years of their marriage.The fact that they were married in Dumbarton suggests that is where they lived and worked and that is certainly the case from the 1841 Census onwards. Janet McCunn’s father Peter McCunn and mother Agnes McFarlane lived on Fern Brake farm in Rhu Parish in the Helensburgh-Roseneath area close to Dumbarton. All of these towns and villages are on the Clyde River Estuary where it turns towards the sea.
Peter McCunn died in 1809 and Janet’s mother Nanny (Anne) and sometimes also Agnes McFarlane died in 1820, according to the grave stone put up by their son in law Duncan Munro. This stone is in Rhu Parish Cemetery, Plot 71. I found their stone on my trip to Scotland during April 2013. The stone was lying down on the grass and had it toppled the text side down I would have never found it. The stone was also covered with lichen and the only word that could be seen when I first located it was “CUNN”. I scraped off the lichen with a 50p coin revealing this text:
IN MEMORY OF MY FATHER IN LAW
FARMER FERN BRAKE
DIED APRIL 1809
AND NANNY McFARLANE
HIS WIFE DIED JULY 1820
Duncan Munro erected this gravestone for his McCunn parents in law.
The stone was also surrounded by several McFarlane graves and this was the another clue I had to intensify the search in that area of the cemetery since I had no cemetery plan to find Plot 71.
How well Duncan knew his father in law is debatable. His marriage to Janet McCunn in 1818 suggest that he may never have met him since Peter McCunn died in 1809. The sentiments on the gravestone suggest that he did know him before his marriage to Janet. Was Duncan in the Dumbartonshire area before the marriage? In 1809 Duncan would be 19 so it is very possible.
Earlier documents dating from 1780 show three Peter McCunns living on farms owned by The Duke of Argyll in the Roseneath area. This part of the Duke’s census of the people living on his properties in 1779-80 only provides the names of males over 12 years old and so is almost useless to discern very much about the Roseneath McCunns or the McFarlanes of that time.
However one farm that one Peter McCunn lives on is called “Ferncarry” and the men “over 12” living on it include: Andrew McFarlane, Donald McFarlane, Duncan Campbell, Duncan Campbell junior, John Campbell, Donald Campbell, Duncan McAllum, Dougald McFarlane, Archibald McKeller, James McKeller, James McKeller and Peter McFunn.
Peter McFunn or McCunn are interchangeable surnames in the late 18th Century. My guess that this is the right Peter McCunn comes from the name of the farm “Ferncarry” which is close to “Fern Brake” found on Duncan Munro’s memorial grave stone to his parents in law. The number of McFarlane men listed on this property is also a clue. However we can never really know because unlike the 1779 Duke of Argyll’s Census done in Argyllshire no women with their maiden surnames, or their children are recorded .
The Roseneath area McCunns (or McFunns) are also concentrated on Barber Farm with Turners and Chalmers families. One of the men, Duncan McFunn may be Peter McCunn’s father but these obscure records leave only tantalizing guess work and speculation.
At this time we are also plagued with no record for Peter McCunn’s marriage to Anne (Agnes) McFarlane, however all their children are recorded and all of them were born in Rhu Parish, Roseneath: John McCunn 1775, Archibald McCunn 1780, Janet McCunn 1783, Mary McCunn 1787, Peter McCunn 1789, Dugald McCunn 1792.
An aside: Dugald McCunn’s daughter, Jane McCunn, age 6, is found in the 1841 Census living for some reason with Janet McCunn and Duncan Munro at “Spouts” the shepherd’s cottage high on the hills behind Dumbarton and Old Kilpatrick. This child opened up the discovery of her father Dugald McCunn and his wife Jane McKeller (another Roseneath 1780 surname) through their marriage record in 1828 that take us to Inverkip Renfrewshire just across the Clyde River from Dumbarton. Jane McCunn, was born in 1834 at Old Kilpatrick very near to where she is found with Duncan and Janet Munro in 1841. This suggests that her parents lived nearby (walking distance) to the “Spout” shepherd’s cottage. Jane also had a brother Daniel McCunn also born in Old Kilpatrick in 1836. There were also McKellers living at Roseneath in 1780 Duke of Argyll Census.
By combing birth index records one Peter McCunn was born about 1753 which would make him 56 at his death in 1809. We do better with Agnes (Anne, Nanny) McFarlane who is likely the daughter of Daniel McFarlane and Katherine Wilson born in 1754. This is a strong choice because her son Dugald’s first son was also Daniel and this would follow traditional Scottish naming patterns.
Agnes McFarlane McCunn died in 1820 when she was 66. Duncan Munro unfortunately recorded only Peter and Agnes’ death years on the stone at Rhu Cemetery which makes it more difficult to find the birth years of his parents in law.
Next we explore the lives of Duncan and Janet Munro and what happened to their family from 1841 to the turn of the 20th Century.
© Copyright 2013, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.