Sunday, 22 August 2010

Angus Kennedy, Part I

As we have seen Angus Kennedy was born in Edinburgh in November 1809. He married Isabella Dewar on 28 August 1838 in the United Secessionist Chapel in Wellington Street, Glasgow. Her father was a baker.

The United Secessionist Church was formed in 1820 by the union of a number of smaller churches which had seceded from the Church of Scotland from 1733 onwards, because of the latter church’s authoritarian behaviour and support for the Establishment. It existed until 1847, when it joined the Relief Church and became the United Presbyterian Church. This continued until it merged with the Free Church in 1900, becoming the United Free Church, which in turn merged into the Church of Scotland in 1929.

Throughout the period of this history the English-speaking population of the Lowlands were predominantly Protestant. Because of the questioning nature of that branch of Christianity its adherents (certainly the Scottish ones) were notoriously disputational and prone to fallings-out. This had the corresponding benefit that adherents were also open to new ideas and to experimentation. This was tremendously helpful at a time of rapid industrial innovation and expansion. It is no surprise, then, that most of the new industries that grew up in the West of Scotland were established by Presbyterians of one sort or another. (Of course they could not have succeeded without the efforts of the Gaelic-speaking incomers from Ireland, who were largely Catholic and from the Highlands, who were partially so, and I absolutely would not belittle their efforts. In the modern age their descendants have more or less achieved economic parity, according to authorities such as Professor Tom Devine.) I suggest that our ancestors’ belonging to an argumentative sect would have benefited Angus when he sought to form business connections in his adopted city.

Angus was originally a cabinetmaker, but in 1846, when he registered his son’s birth he described himself as an iron turner and as we shall see he was later a civil engineer and architect. I have not yet found out if he was a student anywhere and it seems that at that time there was no formal training for either profession. His life was so busy that it seems unlikely he took time out to be articled to anyone, especially with a growing family to support.

The 1851 Census has him living at 5 Gloucester Street, Tradeston with Isabella and Mary, aged 11, Margaret aged 10, Thomas aged 4 and James aged 2. He described himself then as a mechanical draughtsman. By 1858 the family were living at 26 Houston Street, Tradeston, but it seems they moved shortly thereafter to what was then the edge of the West End, as the 1861 Census has Isabella described as the head of the house and living at 15 Hill Street, Glasgow with Margaret, aged 20, milliner, Thomas aged 14 and Isabella aged 9. Angus was accordingly out of the house when the Census was done and he does not appear elsewhere in the 1861 Census for Scotland,so may have been in England on business.

15 Hill Street still stands and in fact is opposite the Art School workshop where I have been learning to make stained glass. It is a substantial four storey tenement and contains large flats, now used as student bedsits. In 1861 it was virtually brand new and would have been a first class address, looking out over open fields, where St Aloysius Church and School now stand. It was always best for your health to live at the extreme West, upwind, end of a dirty city like Glasgow, which at that time had some of the worst living conditions in the world for ordinary citizens.

The career and active business life of Angus will be described in subsequent posts.

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