James Vannan

27/01/2014 16:43


James Vannan - Sailmaker


James Vannan was my father's mother's father. He was born in Meuse Lane, Cowcaddens, Glasgow in August 1842., and died at Berkeley Street, Glasgow in 1918.


His parents were James Vannan who was a cabinet-maker from Kilsyth (born 1816), and Jane Bennett who was from Glasgow. The first census record I found of James Vannan is the 1861 Census when he was 18. He was living with his brother Robert Vannan (26) at 7 Bothwell Street, Glasgow. His occupation is listed as a Sailmaker. (Also in the household was Jane Vannan aged 47. She is listed as Robert Vannan's mother, and therefore presumably James Vannan's mother.)

I've now discovered James Vannan in the 1851 Census, but listed as Jas Vanan, at 24 York Lane in the household of Jane Vanan (37). Household members are - Robt Vanan (16), Jas Vanan (8) and Alex Vanan (1). It would seem to be the same family since in both '51 and '61 Robert's occupation is listed as a Coppersmith.

James Vannan was married twice. His first wife was Jane Wilson. They had 2 children - Mary Vannan, born 1866 and Jane B Vannan, born about 1868.

At the time of the 1881 Census James Vannan was living at 25 Richard Street, with his two daughters - Mary and Jane B. Mary's occupation is described as a message girl. There is no mention of Jane Wilson in this Census record.

The next we hear of James Vannan is his application for Poor Law Relief, an application put in on 9th August 1888. By this time he has married again - to Elizabeth Sharp who was born in 1857 in Kinnaird, Larbert. They were married in June 1882. (His application notes that his first wife had died about 1876.)

At the time of submitting the Poor Law Relief application James and Elizabeth had four children - Isabella Jane Vannan, who was my grandmother, James Sharp Vannan, and two others who died in infancy.

Although James Vannan was a sailmaker to trade he had been unemployed for 3 years at the time he applied for Poor Relief because he was "wholly disabled from disease of right lung". (This certified by a Dr Park.) He acted as a church officer and received housing, coal and £1 monthly for doing that. His only other income was 2/4d a week from the Sailmakers' Society.

What drove him to apply for Poor Relief at the time he did so seems to have been that he had heard rumours that his services at the church "were to be dispensed with".
The continuing Poor Relief records show that the next child Daniel Vannan was born in 1894. James Vannan eventually withdrew his Poor Relief application in 1909.

At the time of the 1891 Census the family were living at 30 Brown Street. Only the children from the second marriage (Bella Jane and James Sharp) were in the house. By this time Mary, the first child of James's first marriage, was married and had emigrated to the USA in 1889 - to Youngstown, Ohio. The second child of the first marriage, Jane B, I have not been able to trace.

I have not yet been able to trace the family in the 1901 Census. However James Vannan appears in the Glasgow Post Office Directory in the early years of the 1900s (05-06, 06-07, 08-09, but not after 09). He is listed at Wemyss Place and it says he is the Church Officer of Cambridge Street Baptist Church.

It would seem then that the Vannan family was connected to Cambridge Street Baptist Chuch before the Johnston family was. Bella Jane Vannan became a member of Cambridge Street Baptist Church as a fourteen-year-old in 1898, and was a member for over 50 years, until her death in 1948. (The Johnston family came from Hawick to Glasgow in the mid-1890s. They are in Hawick at the time of the 1891 census, and in Glasgow, 138 New City Road, at the time of the 1901 census.) The marriage of Andrew Johnston and Bella Jane Vannan took place in the church officer's house at 5 Wemyss Street in October 1906. My father was born in 5 Wemyss Street in July 1907.

James and Elizabeth's financial situation does not seem to have improved much after the withdrawal of their Poor Relief application. By 1917 they were living with their daughter Bella and son-in-law Andrew (my grandparents) in a basement house at 150 Berkeley Street. It was there that James died in 1918 at the age of 76. Elizabeth Sharp died in 1938.

What about some of the others mentioned?

James Sharp Vannan married Sarah Jane Phillips in 1906 in Cambridge Street Baptist Church and emigrated to the USA in 1910 going to Youngstown, Ohio. James Sharp Vannan (known as 'Scotty' Vannan to his workmates) worked in the Youngstown steel mills. He kept in regular touch with his siblings in Scotland - exchanging photographs etc with Isabella Jane and her husband Andrew, and with Dan. Their three children were Sarah Jane Vannan, James Vannan, and Elizabeth Sharp Vannan.

Daniel Vannan married Jessie McIntyre. He served as a church minister in Cairnryan and in Glen Lyon. In the 1940s they lived at Napiershall Street in Glasgow.

Isabella Jane Vannan and Andrew Johnston, my grandparents, were married for about 50 years. Their children were:

Robert Johnston, my father
James Johnston
Arnold Johnston
Elizabeth Johnston (Bessie)
Isabella Johnston (Isa)

They lived at various addresses in Glasgow, latterly at 39 West End Park Street.

Some addresses mentioned.
Meuse Lane is at Stewart Street - there is a photo in the Virtual Mitchell website.
Bothwell Street runs west from Central Station
York Lane is
Brown Street is
Wemyss Place is just off Cambridge Street, runs to Stow Street
Berkeley Street is in the Anderston area
Napiershall Street is in the Woodlands area
West End Park Street is in the Woodlands area


1851 Census

1861 Census

James Vannan's application for Poor Law Relief (Mitchell Library, Glasgow)

1891 Census

Glasgow Post Office Directory

Minute book of Deacon's Court of Cambridge Street Baptist Church

1901 Census

"The Fifth Son" by I J Williams [my cousin Irene Johnston's book about her father's early life and memories]


More on James Vannan's Poor Relief application       he_had_a_clean_house.rtf