Alexander Duncan, Millwright

A family history received by the Garmouth & Kingston newsletter from Dave Crowley in 2007

Alexander Duncan, millwright in Garmouth

I read with interest the 2006 story you ran about the Barbara and Ann, the schooner built around 1815 by a consortium of Garmouth businessmen: William Hustwick, Alexander Duncan, William Geddes, Alexander Gatherer and Robert Bain. I am descended from Alexander Duncan, the millwright, and would like to add our family’s story.

When I was quite young my great- uncle Bill Christie had a painting of the Barbara and Ann in their home (in Sydney, Australia). By this stage the name of the ship had been forgotten, but the family tradition still remembered that Alexander’s daughter Margaret Duncan had brought the painting out from Scotland to Sydney when she emigrated in 1850. Unfortunately when uncle Bill died in 1972, the removalists accidentally smashed it, then deliberately disposed of it to hide their mistake.

Margaret Duncan also brought with her father’s seal, which proved less destructible. It is gold, inlaid with amber and carries the cursive initials AD surrounded by a buckled belt bearing the motto DISCE PATI (Learn to endure); the seal is surmounted by a crest showing a three-masted ship square-rigged on each mast.

The design of the seal was based on the badge of the house of Camperdown. Adam Duncan was the commander of a British fleet which defeated the Dutch off Camperdown in 1797 and was created a Viscount for this in 1800. Our Garmouth Duncans are not related to the Duncans of Camperdown, but our Alexander Duncan did appropriate the Camperdown motto and sailing ship design at the time as he became proud part-owner of the Barbara and Ann.

Alexander Duncan was born on 13 Dec 1769, the son of Alexander Duncan, a millwright, and Barbara Shand. His future wife, Barbara James, was considerably younger: she was born on 4 Oct 1786.

The “Barbara” in the name of the vessel was at once the name of Alexander’s wife, the name of his

mother and as well as that the name of the wife of William Hustwick.

Alexander became a millwright like his father. About 1803 the couple married, despite the difference in their ages: he was 34 while she was 17. Their children were born in Garmouth:

Andrew bn 15 Apr 1806 Alexander bn 7 Jul 1809 William bp 22 Sep 1812 Mary Ann bn 26 Jul 1815 Margaret bn 30 Jun 1818

Alexander Duncan died at Inverness on 16 Jun 1839. The Forres Gazette of 3 July 1839 (page 3, column 5) reported:

DIED suddenly at Inverness on the evening of Sunday the 16th ult Mr Alexander DUNCAN, millwright, Garmouth, aged 65 years.

His wife, Barbara Duncan, was buried in Essil cemetery on 24 Aug 1851; she was 65. Of their children the sons remained in Scotland, but the daughters came to Australia.

Andrew Duncan
Andrew was born on 15 Apr 1806 and became a millwright, following his father. In the 1840s, when the old wind-driven mills were replaced by industrial machinery, Andrew became a maker of ships’ chandlery.

He married Elspet Shanks on 17 Sep 1826 at Speymouth. Their children were:
Barbara 1828

William 1834 Helen 1835 Mary Ann 1837 Margaret 1839 Elspet 1839 Georgina 1843 Andrew 1846

The 1871 Census shows them inFlower Cottage, Garmouth: Andrew Duncan (aged 60) is shown as a block maker and moulder, while his sons William (34) and Andrew (23) are following the same trade.

Andrew Duncan died on 15 Feb 1882 in Garmouth. After his death his sons continued the foundry business. As late as the 1901 Census William Duncan (68) was listed as a retired iron founder, living in Newthorn House, Garmouth, while his brother Andrew Duncan (50) was listed as an iron founder, living in Willow Bank, Garmouth. The son William Duncan died in Garmouth in 1902, while Andrew Duncan died in 1917.

William Duncan
William was baptised on 22 Sep 1812 and became a shoemaker in Elgin; he married Helen Allan on 22 Feb 1836 in Elgin. Their children were born in Elgin:
Alexander 1836
William 1838
Helen 1840
Ann 1842
Joseph 1844

Between 1841 and 1851 the family moved to Nether Buckie, where William became the innkeeper of the Anchor Inn. By 1871 William was living in Low St., Buckie and had reverted to his former trade of shoe merchant. His wife Helen died there in 1883.

William and Helen’s sons Joseph and William both became (pharmaceutical) chemists. In 1861 they were lodging together in a private house in Grantown.

Joseph Duncan married Mary Ann Adam on 24 Jun 1870 in Logie, Perthshire; their first two kids were born at Bridge of Allan. The rest of the family was then born in Glasgow;

they lived for some time at 16 Gibson St, Govan and later at 32 Gibson St, Partick.

His brother William, also a chemist, remained in Grantown-on-Spey. He didn’t marry, and died there in 1924.

William Duncan (the father) died on 29 Dec 1894. He had been living with his son Joseph 32 Gibson Street, Hillhead, Glasgow. Joseph Duncan, his son, died in Lanarkshire in 1918. Of Joseph’s descendants, I know his son Hubert died in Glasgow in 1920 and his son Norman died there in 1941.

Mary Ann Duncan
Mary Ann Duncan was born on 26 Jul 1815. She married John Gray on 24 Dec 1838 in Elgin. John Gray saw opportunities in Australia: Mary Ann and John Gray arrived in Sydney in mid 1839, where John worked for Alexander Spark, a merchant. In October 1840 John bought land in the Sydney suburb of Balmain for £54 and a year later built Elgin Cottage there.

Between 1840 and 1846 John Gray bought at least 30 lots of land in Balmain for prices ranging from £4/19/10 to £143/7/0. In December 1847 John Gray sold some of his land in Balmain to finance a voyage back to Scotland; his father had recently died and his affairs needed to be settled. Mary Ann and John stayed in Elgin until 1849, when they decided to return to the Colonies. This decision prompted Mary Ann’s sister Margaret to marry William Macpherson Christie of Elgin, and also emigrate (see below).

The Grays sailed on the Julindur, leaving London on 27 Dec 1849 and arriving in Sydney on 13 Jun 1850. John’s brother James Gray had also decided to come to Sydney; he came out in steerage, arriving in Sydney in

March 1850. He was a printer with the Elgin Courant and was later to work with the Sydney Morning Herald. Other members of the Gray family followed, leaving and arriving in 1851: John’s sisters Eliza, Ann and Jessie (Janet).

John Gray later reassessed his future in Australia and decided on the interior. By 1852 John Fraser Gray had sold his Balmain property and bought three grazing properties near Gunning NSW; they subsequently moved there with their children, spending the rest of their lives on the family property “Byalla”. Mary Ann Duncan Gray died at “Byalla” on 14 March 1874, while John Fraser Gray died in Goulburn on 18 Dec 1881.

“Byalla” was in the Gray family until the 1990s, when my informant John L Gray moved to Tanah Merah in Queensland.

Margaret Duncan

Margaret Duncan was born on 30 Jun 1818, the daughter of Alexander Duncan and Barbara James. On the 1841 Census she was working as a servant for a Mary Stuart Robertson in Woodside Cottage, Longmorn.

Margaret met William Macpherson Christie, an Elgin bookbinder, five years her junior. William’s father David Christie and Margaret’s brother William Duncan were both shoemakers and knew each other through the trade guild.

As narrated above, Margaret’s elder sister Mary Ann had returned from Australia in 1848 with her husband John Fraser Gray and by November 1849 the Grays had decided to return to the Colonies. Margaret and William made a somewhat rushed decision to marry: they were married in Bishopmill Episcopal (Anglican) church, Elgin on 13 Nov 1849, by Rev M. Maclaurin (in deference to the wishes of William Christie’s mother, who came from Lincolnshire). They sailed from Glasgow aboard the barque Cadet on 05 January 1850. This collected cargo in Adelaide and arrived in Sydney on 14 Jun 1850 – one day after the Grays.

Margaret Christie died in Sydney on 24 Mar 1892, while William Macpherson Christie died there on 25 May 1903. They are both buried in Waverley cemetery, Sydney. The inscription on Margaret’s grave notes that she was a “Native of Garmouth”.



2 thoughts on “Alexander Duncan, Millwright

  1. Enjoyed this article.
    I have a William Duncan b. 30 11 1809 Speymouth, who I thought was the William attached to this family.
    Parents were George Duncan & Ann Duncan nee Duncan.
    Obelisk 285 listed in Monumental Inscriptions for Urquhart Old Churchyard seems to indicate that William died 30 3 1890 in Buckie and not on 29 12 1894 in Glasgow with son Joseph.
    Informant for Williams death was Wm Duncan, son, of Grantown.
    If you could clarify these Williams I would be most grateful

    1. I was interested to find this family history as it seems to include my great-great-grandfather William Duncan. However, he does not fit.
      My WD was the shoemaker in Elgin and Buckie, married to Helen Allen, with children as specified, just as described. But my WD stayed in Buckie until his death on 30/3/1890, at Seaview Place. On his death certificate his parents are George and Annie Duncan, which corroborates the information on the obelisk in Urquhart churchyard mentioned by Kerry McGrath.
      My WD was born to George and Ann on 6/2/1810 in Garmouth. The birth is recorded in an undated baptism record in the OPRs for 1811, [Old Parish Registers Births 143/30 109]. Oddly, in the births index on Scotland’s People the birth has date 00/00/1810.
      As to the WD who died on 29/12/1894 after living in Gibson St. with Joseph Duncan, this was not Joseph’s father, it was his eldest son born 8/8/1870 who qualified as a doctor and died soon afterwards.

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