10 Annie McLeod`s Family Background
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Annie McLeod’s Family Background
The character of Annie McLeod is a ‘factional’ one – part fact, part fiction. A lot is known about the New Lanark families and their way of life, but we deliberately did not pick a real person from the records, in case we inadvertently offended a descendant by turning his or her great, great granny into a tourist attraction! However, all the background information is perfectly consistent with the known facts, so that although it is a fictional biography, it is typical of a family at this period. Annie’s grandmother, Flora McLeod, came from Skye, where she worked at the kelp. In October 1791, she and her husband and son were among the 400 emigrants bound for North Carolina aboard the ‘Fortune’. The ship foundered, badly damaged by heavy storms, and was forced back into port at Greenock. This was a terrible journey, for the ship was overcrowded and badly provisioned. Many, including Flora’s husband, did not survive. Flora and her son William were among the 200 or so destitute Highlanders to be brought to New Lanark in wagons, after David Dale offered them work and houses in his new mill village. (For more details, see The Story of the New Lanark Highlanders). In New Lanark, Flora met and married a Linlithgow man, George Inglis, a joiner. They had six children – Jean, a spinner, married a miner, and lives in Lanark; David, who went to find work in Greenock shipyards; twins, Flora and Catherine, both spinners – Flora lives with Catherine and her family in Braxfield Row; Bella, unmarried, a spinner who lives in Double Row, and Agnes who is in domestic service in Glasgow. Granny Flora remembers what New Lanark was like before Robert Owen’s time, in particular the little pauper apprentices from the workhouses in Glasgow and Edinburgh, in their brown woollen suits. Her second husband George Inglis recently died at work. Margaret Stewart, one of their neighbours, came up to lay him out in his Sunday best. He will be buried in the graveyard on the hillside above the village. Flora has given up work now, after 30 years in the mill. She has become deaf from the constant clatter of the machinery, and is very frail. She is no longer able to attend the services in the Gaelic chapel, in the room at the top of New Buildings. She has taken to her bed, and in old age is increasingly homesick for Skye. With the passing of time she has forgotten the hard times that forced her to think of emigrating. She has never really got used to living in a crowded tenement in the mill village deep in the valley, and misses the sea and the smell of a peat-fire. She tells her grandchildren wonderful stories of the island folk and fairies, all in the Gaelic. Annie’s father is William McLeod. He arrived in New Lanark when he was 11 and started work in the carding rooms of the mill. Later he became an apprentice in the Mechanics’ Workshop, and has worked there ever since. He still talks to his old mother in the Gaelic. Annie’s mother is Janet Watson, who came to New Lanark with her family when she was 15. Her father, now aged 70, still works as a mason. He and Janet’s mother live with her sister Jessie and her husband and family in Long Row. Jessie’s husband John MacKay came originally from Sutherland. Annie’s sister Eliza, who is 20, has recently married John Miller. Ten years ago, he and his parents came from Reay in Caithness. His parents live with his four brothers and his aunt. His mother is a spinner, and his father works as a handloom weaver in the basement below their home in Caithness Row.
Eliza worked a mule-spinner in Mill Three, until the building was destroyed by fire in 1819. Nobody was laid off. They were all given jobs in other parts of the mills. They have started to build a new mill on the site of the old one. John and Eliza are thinking of emigrating to Canada. They have heard that the Lanark Burgh Council will help to pay the fares. Annie herself is 10 years old. She has a 13 year old sister whom she hardly ever sees, as she is in service in a Doctor’s house in Edinburgh. William, 8, Thomas, 4, and Euphemia (Phemie) 2, go to school together every morning. Phemie has recently started going to the nursery in the Institute. They wear cotton tunics and enjoy their lessons, especially dancing the nature study. The baby of the family is Agnes. She was born at home, with Margaret Stewart acting as midwife. Christian Livingstone, their old neighbour looks after the baby while Annie’s mother is out. In return, Annie’s father fetches Mrs Livingstone’s water for her, and Annie goes to the Store for her messages. The family lives in New Buildings, and like all the village houses, their home is crowded. Hurlie beds, which can be wheeled away underneath the set-in beds are needed to fit everyone in at night. Mattresses are made of ticking, stuffed with chaff and straw from the farm. Provisions can be bought at the Village Store, and these are relatively cheap and good, thanks to Robert Owen’s system of bulk buying and insistence on high quality. The farm at Bankhead, also owned by the Company, provides milk and fresh vegetables. In addition, ground is set aside in the village for growing vegetables. The open coal fire is used for cooking and heating water, with iron pots and girdles hung from the swee. Water has to be brought up in buckets. Lighting was provided by tallow candles and whale-oil lamps. (For more details, please see ‘Living in New Lanark’ and ‘The New Lanark Village Store’). In an attempt to raise standards of hygiene and cleanliness, Robert Owen arranged evening lectures in the Institute on home economics and the importance of cleanliness. He called a public meeting of the villagers and asked them to appoint a committee to inspect the houses. This was met at first with rage and opposition from the women, and the members of the committee were nicknamed the ‘Bug-Hunters’. However, they were gradually accepted, and visitors to New Lanark often remarked on the unusually clean and decent appearance of the village and its inhabitants. Annie appears to visitors a ‘ghost’. So what happened to her? Sadly, like many other children of the village, she was drawn to the river, despite repeated warnings. One day she strayed too far and was swept away and drowned. The river always was, and always will be, dangerous; over the years it has claimed several lives. Its power is the reason for New Lanark’s existence, but it must always be respected.
5a.18.1 –10. Annie McLeod’s Family background