#03-DNA-4 James McCubbin & Isabella Lorimer

The Homeplace – Penpont, Dumfries

Penpont    A small village formerly associated with limestone quarrying in Dumfries and Galloway, Penpont lies in the valley of the Scaur Water, 3 miles (5 km) west of Thornhill and 16 miles (24 km) north of Dumfries. The geologist and explorer Joseph Thomson was born here

in 1856.  Penpont is a parish, which lies in Dumfries and Galloway Council Area, some 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Thornhill and 8 miles (13 km) south of Kirkconnel in Dumfries and Galloway. It is located in the old county of Dumfriesshire, which disappeared following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1974.  The parish has an area of 89.3 sq. km (34.5 sq. miles). Penpont has 7 neighbouring parishes; namely Closeburn, Dalry, Durisdeer, Keir, Morton, Sanquhar and Tynron.

Early Families

I. James McCubbin was born in 1760. At various times in the records his name appeared as McCaben and McCubbing. He was a Stone Mason. James married Isabella Lorimer. Between 1783 and 1800 the couple had ten children, Janet, Anne, Mary, Grace, George, Andrew, William, Edward, John and Catherine (she had a son, George who retained his mother’s surname. (see Generation Descendancy Chart).

The first son of James and Isabella was:

1. George born 1790. George McCubbin, Penpont,  
by Donald McCubbin, a descendant.

George McCubbin was born in 1790 at Penpont the son of James McCubbin and Isabella Lorimer and one of a family of ten children.

On 5th February 1815 he married Agnes Lorimer and they too were to have ten children, James, John, Jean, Robert, Isabella (died aged 14) Ann, William, George, Margaret and Isabella. Two of the children, Robert and James, emigrated to Australia. James was twice married, the second time to Agnes McNish in 1851 with whom he emigrated settling, as did Robert, in Victoria. James died after about ten years there and his widow returned to Penpont with their children.

George, however, was clearly busy in Penpont. He was described as a Master Builder and had erected a dwelling house, stable, byre and other buildings on land on the west side of the village which had been acquired by his father, James McCubbin, by disposition dated 14th May 1791. George made a will in 1841 in which he placed his assets in a trust making provision for any of his children in any branches of my family to be sustained and educated until they reached the age of 21. He made provision for his unmarried daughters as long as they remained so and it appears that both Margaret and Isabel benefited until Isabel died following a fire in 1915. George was in Penpont in 1846 when he made some small changes to his Will and he died there on 14th January 1847.

The succeeding generations could be summarized as the three Williams. The first was Georges son, William, who was born at Penpont in 1824. He married Isabella McNish of Dunscore in 1848 and they had seven children. William was described as a Mason and, after his marriage, lived initially at Penpont and then in a cottage at Morton Mill, Morton. In 1881 he was at West Newlands in Morton. A silver medal suggests that in 1876 Sergeant William McCubbin won the Maxwell Cup on 4th November, a Rifle Shooting competition involving the Dumfriesshire Rifle Volunteers.

His youngest son was also a William. He was born at Penpont on 23rd April 1865 and was still at home at the age of 15 in 1881. He was also a keen rifleman but at 11 would probably have been too young to have been the winner of the medal. He trained as a Joiner and in the 1890s he was to emigrate to Canada, although letters he wrote in the early 1900s suggest he may have also spent time in the United States. What is clear is that he married Jane Buchanan, eldest daughter of William Buchanan of Drumburn on the 21st December 1895 in the township of Wakopa in Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. Whilst in Canada he served in the North West Mounted Police. He returned with his wife to settle in Birkenhead, Cheshire where he worked as foreman joiner for the ship repairer Clayton Clover & Co. They had three children, Agnes 1898-1986, William 1902-1983 and Jean  1911-c1944.

The trophies and prizes he won for Rifle Shooting were far too numerous to list but in 1904 he won the Daily Sketch prize at Bisley. He was made an honorary Life Member of the National Rifle Association in 1926.   He worked on perfecting a rear aperture sight for bolt action service rifles which was described at the time as the best rifle sight ever invented. However some papers described a condition known as McCubbins nose where use of the sight inflicted a nasty bruise on the nose of the unwary user when the rifle kicked back on firing.

Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury, Sept 28, 1909

In his early manhood M’Cubbin was for some years a trooper in the Canadian North-West Mounted Police, a force that easily takes rank among the smartest semi-military organisations in the empire. It must, then, be with singular gratification that he finds his ingenious little contrivance being so favourably received in the land of the maple leaf. A correspondent sends us a cutting from the ‘Winnipeg Free Press.’ There is not space to print the paragraph in full, but the extract here given will suffice to show what Canada thinks…

“Long Branch, Ontario, Aug 19. It is only a matter of time until the B.S.A. peep sight, which experts agree is the best rifle sight ever invented, will be issued by the Government to the Canadian Militia, is the opinion of Major Helmer, DAGM. Many prominent officers of the Militia discussed the new sight at the semi-annual meeting.”

Following the death of his Aunt Isabella, he bought the properties at Penpont with the intention of retiring there, but unfortunately he never realised that ambition and died in Birkenhead at the age of 71 in 1936.

The last William was William (2) s son born in Birkenhead in 1902. He trained for and succeeded in earning his ticket as a Master Mariner. In order to see service in the Merchant Marine in WW1 he misinformed the authorities of his age by a year stating his date of birth as April 11th 1901. In 1932 while serving as Quarter Master with Brocklebank Line (Cunards Freight Company) he led a party of volunteers to the aid of the stricken French Passenger Liner Georges Philippar which had succumbed to a fire, later described as a blazing inferno. The ship had been returning from its maiden voyage when the blaze started and the SS Mahsud and two other vessels were able to save most of the 700 Passengers and crew. William McCubbin received the Medaille be Sauvetage and a citation by order of the French President.

William married Beatrice in 1937, the girl next door in Mortimer Street, Birkenhead alongside the Town Hall and Hamilton Square. They had one son, Donald (me).”

As mentioned in Donald’s story, William’s elder brother, James immigrated to Australia.

James McCubbin was born circa 1820 in Pointhead, Penpont. The census of 1841 listed him as a Mason Journeyman. Later as a Mason and Builder. He married Margaret Corrie  in 1841 in Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh. He was a Farmer of 14 acres at Keir, employing 1 labourer. He had funds to travel with his family to Australia in 1851. Tragically he died in 1858 in VIC, Australia.

a) James McCubbin was born 1844 in Keir. He married Leah Hurleston 1873 in Woodend, Australia. James and Leah had twelve children, George (1), Ernest, Margaret, James, Norman, Robert, Angus, George (2), Lizzie, Emily (1), Emily (2), and Ruby, all born in Australia.
b) George, 1846-1847

James’ first wife Margaret Corrie died and he then married Agnes McNish  ‘McNeish’ on 1 Oct 1848 in Keir, Dumfries.

c) George McCubbin was born in 1849 in Keir, Dumfries. He was a Grocer as listed on census in 1891. He died 1902.
d) Agnes McCubbin 1851-1877, died Single. She had one child George McCubbin.
e) Robert McCubbin 1853-1875. He was a Draper’s Assistant.
f) Isabella McCubbin born1856 in Keir, Dumfries; gave age as 30 on marriage cert. She married Thomas Thorpe Kerr, a Cattle Dealer, in 1886 in Penpont Village.
g) William Charles McCubbin was born circa 1859 in North Melbourne, VIC, Australia. He married Mary A Mitchell,1885, Glasgow, a Mason. William and Mary had  two daughters. Euphemia ‘Effie’ McCubbin was born in Glasgow. She married Alfred Webb Dyke in 1912. Effie and her husband immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Related descendant Bill Dyke,

“From military records I learned that my grandmother and my father (then age two) left Canada and lived with her parents William and Mary McCubbin at 164 Cambridge Drive, Kelvinside, Glasgow until the end of WW1. After the war my grandparents and my father returned to Canada, settling in Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton was chosen because grandfather had cousins in the city. Alfred served in France and Belgium, starting 1914. He died in Chicago of war injuries.  Effie married Fred Potts in 1922.”

Their second daughter Agnes McCubbin was born in Glasgow. She died a single woman.

Brother of James, born 1820, was John McCubbin. He was born in 1827 in Pointhead, Penpont. In the census of 1851 in Pointhead, Penpont, he was an unmarried Draper.

Another brother, Robert McCubbin was born in 1832 in Penpont, Dumfries; a Joiner.  He married Jane Young on 9 Feb 1860 in Emerald Hill, South Melbourne, Australia. He died in 1884 in Woodend, Australia; age recorded at death was 55. Robert and Jane had eight children between 1860 and 1876, all born Woodend; Isabella, George (both died young), Isabella, George, (married Annie Rees), Robert Lorimer, William James, (married Louise Robertson), Agnes Lorimer, (married Patrick Buckley), and Annie.

Another brother of William and was George McCubbin. He was born in 1833 in Penpont, Dumfries, but so far, there is no other record of him.

One of the sisters, Isabella McCubbin born c 1836 in Pointhead died in 1915 at  Pointhead, Penpont. She was age 78 when she died of “Shock, from extensive burning.” A single person.

2. The second son of James McCubbin & Isabella Lorimer, Andrew McCubbin was born 1792. He was a Gardener and a Landowner. Apparently at one time he was a Steward to the Duke of Buccleugh, the owner of Drumlanrig. He married Janet Dalrymple. They had seven adventurous children some of whom ultimately spanned the world, Mary to Australia, Isabella Lorimer McCubbin to New Zealand, (the sisters first sailed together to Australia), John Dalrymple McCubbin to Virginia, U.S.A. The others moved on up to Edinburgh area.

1. Mary McCubbin married Archie Robertson, 1852 in St Cuthberts, Midlothian. She immigrated in Mar 1853 to Australia; left Edinburgh with her husband & sister Isabella Lorimer McCubbin in the sailing ship IDA from the port of Greenock.
2. Catherine McCubbin married John Robertson in 1852 in Saint Cuthberts, Edinburgh, Midlothian.
3. Janet McCubbin was born1829. She married John Gowans, 1844 in Inveresk, Musselburgh, Midlothian. The had a son, Andrew. Janet died 1880.
4. Isabella Lorimer McCubbin 1833 in Musselburgh, Scotland, married James Kinvig, 1855 in Melbourne, Australia. They immigrated to Rathray, New Zealand in 1870.  She died 1918 at age 85. Children were: Jessie, James Richard, Richard Cooil,  Ellanor Elizabeth ‘Nellie’.
5. John Dalrymple McCubbin was born circa 1835. He was a Printer Compositor. He died 1872 in 283 Canongate, Edinburgh. A single person.
6. William McCubbin, born circa 1843, Scotland, married Anna Medland. He immigrated in 1872 to VA, USA; He was a Farmer as listed on census in 1880. Children were Lovedy, William and Janet.
7. Margaret Ambrose McCubbin was born 1845. She married Andrew Cairns 1867 in Newbiggen, Musselburgh. Andrew a Mercantile Clerk living at Dundas Castle, South Queensferry.

3. The third son of James McCubbin & Isabella Lorimer, was William McCubbin born 1793 in Penpont and possibly died young.

4. The fourth son of James and Isabella was John McCubbin, was born about 1795 in Penpont, Dumfries. Possible twin to Edward.
5. The fifth son of James and Isabella was Edward McCubbin, born circa 1795 – 1805, Penpont. A possible twin to John. Edward left home in his mid 20’s and went off to Stratford on Avon where he became a Tea Dealer, as was listed on his Settlement Papers. He married Sophia in 1829 and they had six children, James, b1830, Emily, b1833, John, b1835, George, b1837, Annie Sophia, b1839, and Mary, b1841. Sophia died of Consumption when Mary was just an infant.

1. James McCubbin was born 1830, in Stratford on Avon, Warwick, England.  He was listed on the Settlement papers of father Edward in 1843 in Parish of Old Stratford. He married Harriet Chubb, 1854 in Leighton Buzzard. James became a successful Draper. The census of 1881 finds him at Wing Road, Lindslade, Buckingham, a Draper, employing two men. James and Harriet had eight children,  Frederick, also a Draper, James George, a Draper, Twins – Martha Sophia and Margaret Sophia, Wallace, Alice, Florence and Ernest. James died on 20 Nov 1896 in Linslade Bucks, Leighton Buzzard, Bedford of “Shock to the system caused by injuries received through the deceased accidentally falling violently to the ground.” His estate included the household furniture and effects – the property of the late Mr James McCubbin, at ‘Warwick House’, Linslade, Bucks.”

An on-line source says,

“Warwick House, 69 Wing Road, was presumably built in the latter half of the 19th century as Linslade expanded with the coming of the railways. In 1896 the household furniture of the former occupier, James McCubbin, who had died was inventoried and valued [BML10/44/98]. He had been a draper and had had his shop on the premises.”

Their son Frederick died young at age 34, second son James George married Harriet Lambert and three of their sons went to war, Donald was an Engineer in the British Army, “He was sent to France at once.” Alexander died at Gallipoli.  Son Kenneth received a medal for bravery. Third son of James and Harriet, Wallace, was a Grocer’s Clerk and Congregational Minister. Fourth son, Ernest was also in the Draper’s business.

2. Emily McCubbin was born in 1833 in Northampton. She married Charles Joseph Cuffley circa 1853. She appeared on the census of 1861 in Poplar, Middlesex, England; living with husband Charles, a Bricklayer, and four children, Emily, Harriet, Ann, and Virginia. Names spelled Caffley. Emily senior’s bplace listed as Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire. She appeared on the census of 1871 in Bowling Green Lane, St James Clerkenwell, London, ENG; living with husband and seven children. Husband Charles listed as a Bricklayer.

3. John McCubbin was born in 1835 in Stratford on Avon, Warwick, He married Martha Chubb in 1856 in Leighton Buzzard.

John’s wife Martha was the sister of John’s brother Jame’s wife Harriet.  A Draper. He went to Melbourne, Australia on 2 occasions with his family, the first in 1867 aboard the Royal Oak. They then returned to England at some date and returned to Melbourne on the Loch Torridon in Aug 1885 (Fiche 455 Page 1). By this time his son John Edward aged 28 was married to Alice Jane Randall. between 1867 and 1885. He appeared on the census of 1881 in Boxmoor Private Cottage, Hemel Hempstead, Hertford, England; John 46, a Draper, married, head of household, living with wife Martha & son John Edward McCubbin. He was a Draper. He arrived in Australia on Loch Torridon in 1885. He died in 1886 in East Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, of Pneumonia.

a) John Edward McCubbin was born circa 1857 in Linslade, Buckingham, England. He arrived in Australia aboard the Royal Oak with his parents in 1867. He became a Draper.  He married Alice Jane Randall in 1881 in Berkhampstead.  They immigrated to Australia & lived in Geelong. He died in 1933 in Granville, NSW. Their children were, Maggie, Albert, Mildred, Allan, Ivy and Violet.

4. George McCubbin was born in 1837 in Stratford on Avon, Warwick, England. In 1851 at age 14, he was a Tailor’s Apprentice. He married  Mann in 1864, Stratford-On-Avon, Warwick.  He died 1891 in Stratford. George and Mary Ann had four children, all born Stratford on Avon; Edward Charles, Wallace McCubbin, a Master Tailor, who married Ada Ellen Hay, George Edwin, Charles Arthur and Emily Ethel.

5. Annie Sophia McCubbin was born in 1839 in Northampton. She married Francis Palmer on 15 Feb 1863 in Saint Mary, Leamington Priors, Warwick

6. Mary McCubbin was born in 1841; listed on father’s settlement papers, Old Stratford as 2 years old.

Edward remarried to Ann Lambert and between 1843 to 1861 they had seven children,

7. Mary Ann, 8. Thomas, 9. Robert, 10. Edward, 11. Andrew, who married  Ruth Miles in 1896 in Warwick. He was a Bricklayer. Son Percy Andrew McCubbin was born in 1897 in Warwick.12. Edwin McCubbin was christened on 11 Jul 1858 in Leamington, Warwick.  He married Mary Jane Shaw on 11 Oct 1880 in Saint Paul, Leamington Priors, Warwick, England. He was an Ironmonger Porter. They had a son, Richard, born 1885 in Leicester. 13. Catherine McCubbin was born in 1861 in Warwickshire, Leamington

Occupations & Accomplishments

Printer Compositor, Farmer and Gardner, Tea Dealer , Draper, Grocer, Draper’s Assistant, Ironmonger, Porter, Free Mason,  Mason Journeyman, Mason’s Apprentice, Builder, Sculptor, Monumental Sculptor, Dressmaker, Outfitter, Mechanical Engineer, Dressmaker, a Minister of Congregational Church, Dyer, Master Mariner.

Three accomplished McCubbins

The following is an excerpt from an obituary:

George McCubbin (1851-1915) husband of Elizabeth Niven, carried on a business as a monumental sculptor and builder. During his residence in Moffat extending over a period of 30 years, he took a lively interest in the affairs of the burgh, and on three occasions he placed his services at the disposal of the ratepayers as a member of the Town Council, in which capacity his practical knowledge and intelligence proved of considerable value in municipal affairs.

He was also for a term one of the bailies of the burgh and in virtue of that office he acted along with co-magistrates as a trustee of the Proudfoot Endowment Fund administered for behoof of the working men of the town. Mr McCubbin, in his younger days was an enthusiastic Volunteer and a popular member of Moffat company. He was a prominent prizewinner at the various competitions at the range, being a crack marksman. He was also at one time a keen Freemason, and in the early days at Lodge “Hartfell,” 728, he was a prominent member and held the office of architect. Deceased had a liking for art, and did some striking work in the way of sketching. He had also a fondness for angling, and enjoyed a day with the rod.

William, son of George McCubbin and Elizabeth Niven: 27/7/1895 – At the annual prize-giving at Moffat Academy that year, young William was awarded the Dr Rogerson Silver Medal as dux of the school (Dumfries & Galloway Standard). William was apparently a very talented man. Further info re William’s occupation was related by descendant Isabelle Cote –

“I understand that he was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, where he excelled in mathematics, and that he became an engineer draftsman.  I have been told that he designed a part that still functions in the Singer Sewing Machine and that he worked on drafting certain mechanical elements of the ill-fated ship, the Titanic. In fact, he was aboard the ship when it first sailed from Ireland to Southampton, England. I understand that he later became a scholar and taught at the University of Edinburgh.”

The census of 1901 in Glasgow, records William as a Mechanical Engineer. William Lorimer McCubbin Jr, son of George McCubbin and Ada Stewart, taught astrophysics at the University of London and for a time he lived in Kenya and taught at Kenyatta Universitys Department of Physics.

 Leaving Scotland

 Going to Australia and New Zealand

Two brothers, James and Robert, sons of George and Agnes Lorimer, immigrated to Australia, in the mid-1850’s. Both skilled in their building trades, James, a Mason/Builder and Robert, a Joiner, they settled in Woodend. (The town has a long history, dating back to the days of the Gold Rush of the 1850s, when Woodend was a service centre for people on their way to the goldfields of Bendigo and Castlemaine.) Tragically, James died at age 34, a few years after arriving, leaving his wife Agnes McNish with several young children.

Their cousins, sisters Mary and Isabella Lorimer McCubbin, daughters of Andrew McCubbin and Janet Dalrymple left from the port of Greenock, Scotland on the sailing ship IDA, bound for Australia. They settled in nearby Ballarat.

Following is a note (held by great grandaughter Beverly Murray of N.Z.) written by Isabella Lorimer Kinvig, nee McCubbin:

“At the wish of my parents in the month of March 1853, I left Edinburgh with my sister and her husband, Archibald and Mary Robertson for Australia in the sailing ship IDA from the port of Greenock. I married at St James Cathedral, Melbourne on the 14th May 1855, and came to N.Z. in 1863 in the sailing ship GLENCOE.”

Another cousin John, from Stratford on Avon, moved with his wife and family and first settled in Ballarat then Geelong. Ballarat was in the midst of gold country. Many descendants of the brothers and cousins live in Australia today.

Going to the U.S.A.
Mary and Isabella’s younger brother William travelled in the reverse direction, to Virginia, U.S.A. The census of 1872 finds him with wife and three children. He was listed as a Labourer and in the next census as a Farmer.

 Going to Canada
Donaldson MCCUBBIN, descendant of William McCubbin and Isabella McNeish, was born 1911 in Dumbarton.  “My father, went to school at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow in 1926 and took up engineering,” as related by Isabelle Cote. He immigrated in Jun 1929 to Montreal, Quebec, Canada aboard the Metagana which sailed from Glasgow. Listed as an Engineer. He married Iris Kathleen Wraight, 1835 in Park Ave, Montreal, Quebec.

Military Service

The following three men were brothers, sons of James George McCubbin and Harriet Lambert:

1. Donald MCCUBBIN was born 1892 in Wolverton, Buckinghamshire, England. He was an Engineer in the British Army. “He was sent to France at once.” as written by mother in Alexander’s memorial papers in 1914.

2. Alexander MCCUBBIN was born 1894 in Leighton Buzzard, Bedford. He was a scholar at Leighton Buzzard Beaudesert Boys’ School. When he left school he immigrated in 1912 to Broken Hill, Australia; and became employed as a miner. He enlisted and went to war.

From Anzac site:  War service: Egypt, Gallipoli, Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal in 1915. He died on 25 Apr 1915 in Gallipoli, Turkey; Debt of Honour Register In Memory of ALEXANDER McCUBBIN  Private 511 10th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F who died on Sunday 25 April 1915 . Age 21 . Enlistment date, 24 August 1914, Rank on enlistment, Private, Unit name, 10th Battalion, H Company, AWM Embarkation Roll number, 23/27/1,  Embarkation details, Unit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board Transport A11 Ascanius on 20 October 1914.

Other details from Roll of Honour Circular,

“My son Alec loved Australia. He said it was finest and best country in the world and that he should never want to leave it and his dearest wish was that some day his 2 brothers Donald and Kenneth should cross the water to make their home here too.” (details from Mother) Fate, Killed in Action 25 April 1915, Age at death, 21.

3. Kenneth McCubbin was born in 1897 in Leighton Buzzard, Bedford. He was RFA Quale: Rough Rider (Serat). Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery & devotion to duty in France (as written in memorial papers of Alexander McC by mother Harriette) after 1914.

William McCubbin, born 1865, the youngest son of William McCubbin and Isabella McNeish, began military service on 4 Jun 1886 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (as mentioned in Donald’s narrative about ‘the Williams’. He signed up with North West Mounted Police (NWMP). Trade listed as Carpenter. Transferred to Fort McLeod, Alberta. Personnel records give an interesting overview of William’s time at Fort McLeod, a tough assignment with extremely cold winters, temperatures sometimes dropping below -30F. He was issued a regulation buffalo coat. A prized possession. When he was discharged he wasn’t able to get his coat at the time. He corresponded with his superiors until he reached an agreement..he wanted either the coat or $25. He also corresponded to receive a reprieve from some reprimands that were in his file. He succeeded. He seems to have been a feisty, intelligent young man. He ended military service on 2 Jun 1891 in Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada. Of interest on his file is the comment that he was utilized for a day after his discharge, hunting for an escaped fugitive. It was recommended at the time by his CO that he be paid as a Special Constable for this task.

He retired to Liverpool and once again signed up for military service which ended in Apr 1908 in Liverpool; after serving his time on the Territorial Force, 5th Battalion, The King’s Liverpool Regiment.

Clement Edwin Taylor, son of Isabella McCubbin and Dr Edgar Taylor was born 1883 in Newlands, Morton, Dumfries. He was a Merchant Services Officer at the time of his death, age 34; “his ship was torpedoed” as noted on MI at Keir, Dumfries on McCubbin/McNish gravestone.

Alfred Dyke, husband of Effie McCubbin, enlisted in 1914 and served in France and Belgium. After the war they settled in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Alfred later died of war injuries.

Facts of Interest

Tea Dealers

“Tea dealers existed on a variety of levels. Some in the major cities were shippers and importers. Others in small towns had shops specialising indifferent varieties of tea. But in the country areas a tea dealer was a packman who went round the farms and cottages selling tea to the countryfolk. It was common for the younger sons of Scottish farmers to be given a sum of money to buy their first stock of tea, and sent off to seek their fortune. Most went to England, and many became rich by dint of hard work, and so returned to Scotland and bought farms.”


Drapers were an important element of any large village or small town in Scotland. The name derives from the french Drapeau meaning curtains, and it may be that they originally sold drapes. But they stocked much more than that, being dealers in uncut cloth provided by local weavers, which people bought to make into clothes, curtains, bedding, towelling, cushions etc. They also sold all the items of haberdashery needed to carry out these tasks. Drapers were Guild Members, and served apprenticeships. This was at a time when you got your clothes made up by a local tailor (or, if you lived in a remote farm, by an itinerant tailor known as a whip-the-cat) and your shoes from the local cobbler.

Scotch Drapers

Scotch drapers are very similar, and were originally called credit drapers. But like the tea dealers they were predominantly the younger sons of Scottish farmers, so they became known throughout England as Scotch Drapers. They were packmen who went round with samples of woollen cloth and sold them on tick to their regular customers. They then had to go round collecting the instalments on a weekly basis. Eventually a successful Scotch Draper would open a draper’s shop in the English City where he was based, and would provide opportunities for relatives to work out of his premises as Scotch Drapers. Many of these Scotch Drapers became prominent drapers and outfitters in the cities and towns where they settled. Others made large sums of money and returned to Scotland to buy a farm. As market habits changed, so did the Scotch Drapers. They began to sell woolen clothes rather than cloth, and they graduated to horse-drawn traps and then motor cars.” (by Bill Copland)

Stone Masons

Stonemasonry was brought to Britain by the Romans over 2,000 years ago but it was the Norman Conquest and the Gothic cathedral builders of the Middle Ages that cemented the stonemason as a key master craftsman in Britain. Traditionally medieval stonemasons served a seven-year apprenticeship. A similar system still operates today.

Medieval stonemasons’ skills were in high demand, and members of the guild, gave rise to three classes of stonemasons: apprentices, journeymen, and master masons. Apprentices were indentured to their masters as the price for their training, journeymen had a higher level of skill and could go on journeys to assist their masters, and master masons were considered freemen who could travel as they wished to work on the projects of the patrons.

The roles of Stonemasonry involved – quarrymen, stone cutters, stone dressers, stone crackers, stone miners and stone merchants. The job entailed carving Memorial stones, carving headstones, carving archways,grinding stone to the required shape/size, putting the finishing touches on building work, building walls and fences.

Stonemasonry is the craft of shaping rough pieces of rock into accurate geometrical shapes, mostly simple, but some of considerable complexity, and then arranging the resulting stones, often together with mortar, to form structures.

Memorial masons or monumental masons carve gravestones and inscriptions.

The following is excerpted from descendant Rob McCubbin’s historical novel, “Blood on the Heather”. James McCubbin, father of the boys, was speaking at a farewell for them:

“They have, as you all know, been indentured into trade. Thomas is to learn the baking trade from Mr. Baxter in Dumfries Town, while Alex is to follow in my footsteps and learn the masons trade from Mr. Menzies in Edinburgh. Both will be away at cock-crow tomorrow, with my blessings. And both will return to this village in seven years time, not as apprentices but as fully trained journeymen.”

Alex’ arrives in Edinburgh:

“Mr. Menzies was allowed a squad of ten men by the local Masons Guild, and their sleeping cots were arranged in order of seniority along the wall, with his Master Masons furthest from the door, the other three masons next, followed by the three labourers and finally the two apprentices. That way, each man knew who his superior was, and which underlings he could order around. So the few belongings on the cots nearest the door were shifted one along, and Alex was told that the bed nearest the door was his from now on.

Tis lucky for ye that this is the Lords Day an most of us are off at Kirk. But, as from tomorrow yer duties will be thus, he was told. Every morn, as the cock crows, ye will roust yersel out o bed an fetch water fer the rest of us, from the town pump. Then ye will help Callum here wi cookin the oats. After that, Mr. Menzies will assign ye to one or other of us, and ye will do anythin ye are told to do. Then at night, ye will fetch wood fer the fire, an help Calum again wi the cookin. But fer now, ye will tidy up this room.”

And on Alex’ first day:

I have my Faithers old mall, he replied, picking it out of his sack. And a plumbbob Faither showed me how to make, as he presented the wooden weight, pointed at the bottom like a childs spinning-top, but with a hole through it for a string. This was held off the ground to check that walls were going up truly vertical.

Good lad, thats a start. Now I will get you a wide chisel, rule, straight-edge and square. You will need them all. I will deduct a little from each pay until they are paid for. Now, show me how you cut stone. And he pointed to a rough block which lay nearby.

Picking up his mall hammer, and a boaster that was lying nearby, Alex bent to his task with a will, stone chips spraying everywhere.

Whoa, Alex, his master cautioned. Yell smash the mall like that. Here, lad, yeve got to give it a wee twist on each strike, like this, so as to keep the wear on the grain even all round it. Otherwise too much pounding in the same place, and the head will split.

Alex nodded, seeing the logic of that.

Now, today ye will be helpin Hamish cut out the roughs from yon stone standin there. He will tell ye what size he needs. Ye can read a rule, can ye no? Now make sure ye do not cut shorter measure than he says. Longer can be shortened, but it needs the very Dievel himself to make a short block longer.

He moved off, chuckling to himself, as Alex went on with his work.”

And after his day.

“Alex was bone weary. Every muscle in his body was on fire. Menzies spent his time running between the masons and the apprentices, exhorting them to greater effort.”

And so, Alex’ seven year apprenticeship had begun.

4 Generation Descendancy Chart

Correction to above Descendancy Chart – Robert McCubbin, born 1832, died 1884 in Woodend.

Contributors: Rob McCubbin, Donald McCubbin, Isabelle Cote, Beverley Murray, Susan Matthews, George Niven, Bill Dyke
MI transcriptions: Leslie and Billy McCubbin
Research: Penny McColm, Kathy McCubbing Hopkins, Lorna McCubbin
Sources: Blood on the Heather by Rob McCubbin, 2006, Tea Dealers, Drapers and Scotch Drapers, Rootsweb D&G archives, by Bill Copland, 21/05/2001

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