Part 2: The Ballantynes: Ancient Discoveries Unearthed.

Hello again. I promised I’d be back to continue the story, and here I am. This time, not so long in between posts. Thanks so much for the lovely feedback on part one of the Ballantynes’ story. Do you like the title of this new one? As creative as ever, I am!

In part one we left David and Margaret in the arrival notice of the Stratheden into Port Adelaide. My intention is now to share their journey from leaving Scotland, arriving in Australia, Port Adelaide and then beyond. It maybe too much to fit into one post, so we will play it by ear and see where the writing takes us.

Every piece of information I glean from the WWW, is amazing but stumbling on to information the likes of, Davids’ ordination notices, the name of the ship he and Margaret travelled out on and discovering that article about their connection to Hawick and what that then lead to, are truly special. In that same light was how I discovered the information on their marriage and the story around that.

All I had was the information someone had entered into Ancestry. Married in 1849 in Edinburgh. I headed back to Scotland’s People, and this time I was lucky.

Figure 1: Courtesy of Scotlands People

Straight away, lots of great information once again. Occupation and street address for David. Confirmation of the area that Margaret was living in, her father’s name and occupation. The name of the church and place they were married in and the priest who married them.

Let’s unpack this a bit. First thing I noticed, the huge flourished name for David and how small Margaret’s name is in comparison. It was the same for every other entry on the page with David and Margaret. It so hard not to notice once you are aware of it. I wonder if the awareness was so pronounced for Margaret too?

The next, the occupation for David, a stationer. Of course this is new information for me, I knew about David being a Presbyterian Minister and the fact that he has been mentioned as a teacher in newspaper articles both in Australian and English newspapers, but this was new. I wondered what that actually job entailed back in the mid 19th century. Not much out there apart from the obvious. One website lists historic job descriptions of the time and has Stationers described as (…bookseller, seller of paper & writing implements…)

I wondered if David appeared on a professional list somewhere, like the Edinburgh Guild of Stationers, but nothing came up, unfortunately. Still very interesting to note what he was doing and fits, I believe, with the academic background we have on him already.

Having David’s address listed is wonderful. I went looking of course, and 18 Elm Row still stands.

Figure 2: Courtesy of Canmore

No 18 is marked with the yellow dot above.

Figure 3: Courtesy of Canmore
Figure 4: Courtesy of Google Maps

Number 18, is the William Hill shop there in the centre of the photo. Again, unfortunately, there is next to nothing I can find on the history of the tenement building, as to when it was built or who by. I did find a number of other sites that all mention how much demolition occurred in the Greenside area in the early 20th century, so we are incredibly lucky that the property is still standing.

The Scottish Places Info website confirmed that this was the actual address for David. As you will note, the marriage record states that Elm Row is in Greenside which does not come up on a Google map search. The website gives a history of the Parish, and it states that Calton Hill (marked on the map below) overlooked the ancient village of Greenside which just happened to be down from Elm Row.

This map confirms we are in the correct area.

Figure 5: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

The yellow mark again shows where 18 Elm Street is situated.

Having just said that I couldn’t find anything on the history of the building, the National Library of Scotland just threw this one out. A map of the site from 1811, that is two years before the Battle of Waterloo happened.

Figure 6: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

For Margaret, things aren’t quite as clear. We don’t get an exact street address, but this is the area she and her family were living in at the time, Hawick.

Figure 7: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

In part one of the Ballantyne’s story we mentioned that Margaret was born in Cavers, a small village, 3.5 miles North East of Hawick. At that stage in 1819, her father was listed as a Blacksmith working in Cauldmill and now 20 years later they are listed as living in Hawick and that her father James is an Engineer. I can find nothing of Jame’s career as an Engineer online but his son, Margaret’s brother, Alexander Kennedy Smith becomes an Engineer of some renowned in Australia in the later part of the 1800’s. (Alexander’s story will feature in a future post)

On an interesting aside and an example of how small their society was at the time, Margaret and Davids daughter Jessie Davina, my 2x Great Grandmother and Alexander’s daughter Margaret Kennedy cousin to Jessie, marry Macvean brothers. Jessie to Alexander Macvean and Margaret to John Zeiglur Hugh Macvean.

Another aside for you, and turning our attention back to the map of Hawick, Figure 7 above. If you look to the top of the map, to the next town listed, Wilton. This is where Margaret’s parent’s marriage banns were proclaimed in 1804. I’m amazed, but I found a record of their wedding banns.

Figure 7a: Courtesy of Scotlands’ People

Again with a stroke of luck I stumbled onto another WordPress Blogger’s site, Viv Dunstan, who is local to the area, and she had a picture of the old church where James and Margaret’s banns were proclaimed. Incredible.

Old Wilton Church
Figure 7b: Courtesy of Viv Dunstan, Originally sourced from Canmore

Viv explains in her blog post that the whole site was cleared in the 1950s, with 100’s of family members’ remains still buried there. Viv’s post was from years earlier, in 2013, but I felt I needed to send my thanks for this window into the past.

Map of Old Wilton Church
Figure 7d: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Viv also explained that when looking at the photograph, Prince’s Street runs to the left of the building. You’ll notice that if you compare the map and the photograph together, you can see the photographer was probably standing just under the “Y” in the “Yard” marked on the map to get that perspective. This is the site today, looking from the little alleyway marked on the map on the opposite side to the perspective of the photographer.

Figure 7e: Courtesy of Google Maps

You can see there are still some headstones standing. 217 years ago my 4x Great Grandparents were standing right here, listening to their marriage banns being proclaimed or being married. That is amazing to know that, let alone to see the exact spot where it happened.

Now turning our attention to the church on Margaret & Davids wedding notice back in Figure 1, this is where things get a little confusing. There are three dates noted on this one notice. The 11th June, date of registration, 10th June, the proclamation date and then the date of the marriage, the 19th June 1849.

I was pretty sure that I had interpreted the rest of the information correctly. That they were married in the parish church of Greenside in Edinburgh by the Reverend James Bruce of the Free St Andrews Church, but then I re-read the notice a few times and I can’t be certain if it is proclaiming that the banns were announced in the parish church of Greenside in order that they could marry in Reverend Bruce’s St Andrews church.

In order to cover all bases, I have checked out what information was out there for both churches and the Reverend Bruce. Check this out, the National Galleries of Scotland had some photographs and drawing of the Reverend, how amazing. Again we are seeing the face of someone who knew my family. This is the man who married my 3x Great Grandparents in 1849.

Figure 8-12 : Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

According to Wikipedia, as a result of the Great Disruption to the church in 1843, the Reverend Bruce set up the free St Andrew’s church in 80 George Street in Edinburgh. It was built wholly in the rear garden of a section of Georgian shopfront which you had to enter through to access the church. There are no photographs of the church, but the Georgian shopfront still stands, and I stumbled onto some fantastic maps of the site, one in particular, an elevated sketch of the section of George street the Georgian shop fronted onto. This might be the church David and Margaret were married in, if not they certainly had been aware of it and possibly attended.

George Street, Edinburgh, 1851
Figure 13: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Site of St Andrew’s Free Church, 1851
Figure 14: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Exterior of 80 George Street, Edinburgh, 2020
Figure 15: Courtesy of Google Maps
Interior of St Andrew’s Free Church,1850
Figure 16: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Thomas Sulman Map of Edinburgh, 1868
Figure 17: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

You’ll notice on the Sulman map above, the second building from the left of the corner where the statue is situated has gabled windows drawn on top. This seems to match with the Google Maps photograph of the site in 2020. David’s residence at 18 Elm Street is a 20min walk to the left straight-up George Street past the statue. This drawing is 19 years after Margaret and David’s marriage, and it looks as though Sulman has included church spires behind the shopfront. What a gift to see it like this in an elevated view.

But what about the other option, Greenside Parish Church? I know, well this too could be the church Margaret and David marry in and guess what? I found a photo of that church from 1870.

In the accompanying description of the photo, the author explains that the picture was taken from a French Stereo view and that the photographer was unknown. I unfortunately can’t find the source to refer to, but I read somewhere that the tower was built at a later date to Margaret and David’s wedding, so when they married in 1849 it was sans tower. Here is an aerial shot of the church and Elm Row today to show how close they are together.

Aerial View of Greenside Parish Church & Elm Row
Figure 19: Courtesy of Canmore

This modern view now helps us to confirm that in the 1870 view you can see the back of David’s residence at the time in Elm Row. It is the 2nd chimney to the right in the lower section of the roofline to the left of the spire and behind the curve of the tenement block facing the tower. 20 years after David’s time, but there it is, another small tear into the past.

Oh yeah, I did send a thank you to Lost Edinburgh as well for their generous share. No response but a couple of likes, the beautiful Alex and a random dude, Roy from Edinburgh. Also, a great friend and big supporter of this blog, the wonderful Ms Kay, asked a question. It is wonderful when other people are engaged with what I’m sharing, and Kay never disappoints. She is always so generous with her comments. I must say, it is something I didn’t expect that I would want when I started this blog, but if I’m honest I have come to love the feedback from people.

It brings to mind thoughts of my 3x Great Grandfather, George Nicoll who penned the Nicoll Talisman, did he feel the same way? And in 1890 with no “Socials” at the time, who did he have to share it with? I wonder if he penned draft’s first on paper that he shared and then received feedback from family and friends? Oh! To find that goldmine of information buried somewhere.

Well that was a change of tact wasn’t it. But I did say at the beginning of this post that we would play it by ear and if you look back at what I intended to share, David & Margaret’s journey out to Australia, we didn’t even touch on it yet. Next post.

The marriage of David and Margaret on the 11th of June 1849 brings us up to 4- 5 months before their departure. Wait a minute……

Oh, I am so slow off the mark, I didn’t even realise until right at this moment. Margaret and David’s first child, Margaret Kennedy Yorston Ballantyne who is born on board the Stratheden in late December 1849 is born six months after her parent’s wedding day.

Damn! So many questions. Was she born premature? 3 months premature in 1849 was that even survivable back then? Or is this the reason that Margaret and David make the seemingly hasty journey to Australia after their wedding? When Margaret would be in confinement when the least amount of questions could be asked and surrounded by people who knew next to nothing of them and wouldn’t be asking uncomfortable questions.

Figure 21: Courtesy of

I would so love to know the full story here, but for the moment this is all we have, speculation. I do have a fantastic find in relation to Margaret the youngers name, Yorston, but I will share that in the next post as it happens in the story of the journey.

I will finish off here these “ancient discoveries” with one last find discovery. It concerns Margaret and Davids connection to Reverend Bruce and the Free Church of St Andrews.

I came across a listing from Amazon about a book on the history of the congregation of Rev’ Bruce’s St Andrews and its eventual move to an area of Edinburgh called Drumsheugh. Check out the price. It was printed in 1936 to mark the Jubilee celebration of the current church at that time in Drumsheugh.

Figure 22: Courtesy of Amazon

I’m delighted to report that I found a copy at Abe Books in the UK for the grand sum of US$50 including postage. And mine looks like mint condition. Wow.

It is 85 years old and has the most wonderful turn of language in it and a whole chapter on Rev’ Bruce and what type of man he was. He is described as “…incorrigibly Scottish…a preacher who ignored authorities and took his own way through a subject…he was a creature of infinite kindness but also of unfailing wit, and by both of these he lived in the remembrance of his people…” “St Andrew’s Church Drumsheugh Gardens; Its Origin and History”, A K Walton, 1936

It also describes him setting up the Free church in George St, where Margaret and David probably attended or married. It also had a brilliant picture of him. “St Andrew’s Church Drumsheugh Gardens; Its Origin and History”, A K Walton, 1936

Getting to know the people surrounding them just seems to bring Margaret and David more into focus. What a treasure to find and add to the collection, this little book that three weeks ago was sitting on the other side of the globe.

4 thoughts on “Part 2: The Ballantynes: Ancient Discoveries Unearthed.

  1. Fantastic info, love the twist at the end! Rev. Bruce sounds like a charismatic character, certainly one who inspired David. Cannot wait to see some of these places in person like we have with Alexander Macvean. You are creating your own manuscript, and it is wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What an amazing journey. Keep it coming. Also what a great find on St Andrews Church Drumsheugh Gardens… what a bargain. And the way Rev. John Bruce is described. Sounds like my kind of preacher.

    Liked by 2 people

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