Having visited Stewarton recently with my dad, I decided that I wanted to find out more about Walter Ballantyne's wife, Janet Brown. It was she that was instrumental in starting the many happy years that the Ballantynes spent in Stewarton before they relocated to Hurlford, Ayrshire.
The fact that the Ballantynes will end up in Hurlford is to be noted as Janet was actually born in Hurlford in 1852 at Brown's Land. Her father was Thomas Brown, born around 1802 and was a blacksmith. Janet's mother was Janet 'Jessie' Graham from Kirkoswald. They had several children together:
- Thomas b. 1849
- Mary b. 1850
- Janet b. 1852
- David b 1856
- William b. 1858
At the time of the 1851 Census, Janet Gibson, a vistor and dressmaker from Stewarton, is with the family, as well as Jean Graham, the children's maternal aunt, who is a seamstress.
Janet Graham's father was William Graham and her mother, Mary Kennedy.
Thomas Brown's parents were Thomas Brown, a farrier, and Lillias Cowan from Lawnside, Tarbolton.
The Brown family have gone through a tragedy by the time of the 1861 Census. Jessie Brown is dead, leaving Thomas to cope with the children in Hurlford. Janet, my great, great grandmother, is nine years old and at school, while her elder brother Thomas, now 12, is an apprentice blacksmith, no doubt helping his father. David and William are too young for school and are being cared for by Janet Gibson, the dressmaker from Stewarton. There is also no mention of Mary, who would have been eleven years old, so maybe she is also dead.
Move forward ten years to 1871 and we discover that Thomas has now married Matilda, they are living in Hurlford and he is a joiner. They will eventually have five children together:
- Agnes b. 1869 (a message girl by 1881)
- Alexander b. 1871
- Helen b. 1873
- John b. 1876
- William b. 1878
By 1881, Janet's neices and nephews have entered the world of work. Alexander is a grocer in Hurlford, Helen an unemployed dressmaker, John is an apprentice joiner and William an apprentice draper.
David Brown, Janet's brother, is 25 in 1881 and a baker. He is married to Janet from Lochwinnoch and they eventually, by 1891, move to 109, High Street, Dumbarton where he is still a baker. They have two children, Lizzie b. 1883 and Janet, born in 1886.
William Brown spends his life as the schoolmaster in Fenwick. He first of all lives at 21 Main Street, Fenwick before moving by 1901 to West Park, Fenwick where he has a house keeper from Banff, Margaret Forbes. He died on 7th January 1940 at Rysland Cottage, High Fenwick at the age of 81 from pernicious anaemia and cardiac failure. He never married.
Janet, by the age of sixteen in 1871, had moved to the Gibson household in Stewarton, where she became a general domestic servant. The Gibsons lived in 10, Loudoun Street at this time. James Gibson, the head of the house, was a bonnet manufacturer who at his peak employed around 70 people in the town. There had obviously been a link between the two families for some time, made stronger by Janet Gibson caring for the children when Jessie died. It is possible that Janet was the sister of James Gibson but this requires more research.
The Gibsons had previously lived in Kirkford, which is very close to Loudoun Street.
So it was that on the thirtieth of December, 1881, after Banns, according to the Free Church of Scotland, Janet Brown, domestic servant, married Walter Ballantyne. The Gibson's son Thomas was his best man and witness. Walter was a ploughman at the time working on a farm named Dinnings. Janet's parents were both dead by this time but so began many happy times in Stewarton...and the rest is history.