Caitlyn Clarkson emailed me recently from her home in Canada, commenting, “You have created a wonderful website, the photographs are amazing and create such a sense of time and space. My great great grandparents lived in Blantyre for quite some time. They were Helen Miller and James Hogg. Helen Miller who married James Hogg (coal miner). Helen died November 26th 1904. Helen’s parents were William Miller (engine keeper) and Mary Dargavell / Dargavel. I really do not have any more information than some Canadian ancestry stuff. Helen and James’ daughter was Sarah Hogg, she was my great grandmother. She came to Canada and married Charles Ford. If you have any access to information about them it would be deeply appreciated!”
I was able to respond with the following:
Helen Miller was born on December 21, 1869, in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Her father, William Miller (an enginekeeper), was 34 years old at Helen’s birth and her mother, Mary Dargavell, was 24. Helen’s parents had married only 2 years earlier on 3rd December 1867 in Bothwell and Helen was a middle child, the eldest of 10 children. She had another 2 younger sisters (Ann and Sarah) and five younger brothers (John, William, Alexander, Robert and Andrew). She also had 2 elder siblings , Agnes and James. The elder siblings were too old for Mary Dargavel to have given birth to them, and were born before William and Mary married, leaving me to conclude that significantly older William had been married before or had children in a different relationship before he met Mary.
The family lived in Bothwell right up until 1874, where brothers John and William were born. However, sister Ann was born in 1877 in Blantyre. A darkest year for Blantyre when over 200 men and boys died in Scotlands worst coal mining disaster. It would have been a terrible cloud over Blantyre, especially for a family who had just moved there. Thankfully, it would appear the Miller family were not involved. Exploring this further, I noticed Helen’s father was an enginekeeper and it is likely in the mid 1870’s he was employed by William Dixon Ltd. This makes sense as Dixon’s had opened up new pits in High Blantyre in the 1870’s and an influx of miners from all around came to Blantyre attracted by the proposition of good employment and being able to rent a tied home, like Priestfield Row or Dixons Row. The answer is revealed when in the 1881 census, 12 year old Helen is living at Priestfield Row, in High Blantyre confirming father William was indeed caught up in the Dixons Mining Disaster on 22nd October 1877, but had survived either through a lucky shift pattern or being out of the pit at the time. It goes without saying, this disaster would have deeply affected the family and it is incredibly likely her father lost friends that day. Unfortunately, their home faced out on to the disaster scene and the immediate attention the site got by press, police, investigators and tourists, would not have been a great environment to bring up little children.
Skipping forward 10 years, to 1891, we see the family living at 33 Bairds Rows. These were at the opposite end of Blantyre, just off Glasgow Road and belonged to coalmasters William Baird. The Miller family lived at number 33, which was on the front at Glasgow Road , immediately next door to a store at number 35. In that little 2 apartment were 11 of the Miller family AND a lodger , Mr Craig (27). Twenty one year old Helen was a factory worker, but the men of the family were working in the nearby Craighead mine by this time.
Helen must have fallen for a miner also living nearby at Merry’s Rows, for on 3rd March 1893, she married Mr James Hogg (b1868-d1932). I suspect immediately afterwards, Helen moved around the corner to live with James at the tied cottage he had at Merry’ Rows and first son James Hogg came along in 1894, followed by daughter Mary on 28th October 1895. It would have been a happy time for Helen, living nearby to her parents and siblings, with her new husband and growing family. Exciting too, for in the 1890’s Blantyre was rapidly expanding and shops and entertainment of many sorts were immediately being constructed nearby on Glasgow Road.
However, in 1896 or 1897, Helen and James took their son and daughter to England, perhaps in search of work? Such an abrupt move, signifies loss of work at the Craighead colliery and with their home tied to that employment, the move may have been necessary. Another son, William was born in Northumberland on 9th January 1898 and daughter Sarah Hogg on 16th January 1901 also in England. The 1901 census shows the Hogg family living at Longbenton, Northumberland, England.
Their family complete, Blantyre drew them back, most likely Helen homesick. Sometime between 1901 and 1904, they moved everything back to Blantyre to Rosendale Place, a new tenement, which had been built directly across the Glasgow Road from her family home at Bairds Rows. Indeed, it was so close, Helen would have been able to look out her window at her parents home, literally 45 seconds walk away.
The move back to Blantyre may have been prompted by Helen’s ill health for sadly, at 4.10am on 26th November 1904, she passed away just aged 35. Her death certificate indicates a perforated stomach ulcer and she had collapsed 10 hours earlier. She may have been suffering from this for some time beforehand. James Hogg was with her at her time of passing, at their home at 4 Rosendale Place.
Stopping for a second to reflect upon this, James Hogg would have been 36 years old, a miner with 4 young children all under 10 years old. Little Sarah Hogg would have hardly known her mother properly, and was only 3 years old at that time. Another move further up the same street at Auchinraith Road was on the cards in 1904. After Helen’s death, James took his family to Melbourne Place, a tenement immediately beside the Auchinraith Pit, where James, then a widower was then employed by Merry & Cunninghame (coalmasters). Needless to say, a single parent bringing up a young family and maintaining a job, would have relied heavily upon Helens parents and siblings for childcare.
Just 8 months later, James then 37 years old remarried on 20th July 1905 to Glasgow cotton spinner, Margaret Edwards (34). His father endorsed the wedding but his mother was deceased by that time. I have not explored if James and Margaret had further children. Of the 4 children James and Helen had, 3 of them stayed in the Blantyre / East Kilbride areas through their lives. Little Sarah who would be brought up by her father and stepmother, was the one to make a bold move, for at the age of 20 on 20th November 1921, she left the UK setting sail from London to Canada, where she met and married Charles Stuart Ford on 2nd June 1923, an ancestry line, which hopefully will be familiar to Caitlin in Canada.