[The houses which Stewart Paterson (my great grat grandfather) had built about 1870, this photo taken in 2012. The tower of the church is visible behind the houses.]
My family has close connections with Earlston in the Scottish Borders. Earlston is about about 4 miles north of Melrose and 5 miles north-east of Galashiels. The population is about 2000.
As a child in the 1950s I remember visiting my Auntie Lizzie in Earlston a number of times. My parents regularly talked about Earlston. My parents spent their honeymoon in Earlston in 1932.
For the past few years, on and off, I have been researching my family history and in doing that I have seen the details of the Earlston connection.
It appears to me that the key person of the Earlston connection was Stewart Paterson (1832-1908). He was my great great grandfather. (My father’s father’s father’s wife’s father.) Stewart Paterson earned his living as a molecatcher, and it seems that it was a very good living indeed. When he died in 1908 he left in his will what would be the equivalent of at least half-a-million pounds today.
Stewart was not born in the Borders, he was born at Cairns of Drimmie, Bendochy in Perthshire but the family moved to the Borders by the time Stewart was in his mid-teens. They moved to Legerwood which is two miles north of Earlston. But by the time he was seventeen Stewart was working and living at the farm of Newtonlees in the parish of Edam just north of Kelso (Newtonlees is about 10 miles east of Earlston.). He was employed as a mole-catcher and seems to have been in that occupation for the rest of his life.
Stewart married Helen Mason in November 1854 when he was eighteen. The marriage bans list him as being from the parish of Legerwood. (So he must have moved back there from Newtonlees sometime after April 1851 and before December 1854.) Helen lived at Pyetshaw in the Earlston
Stewart and Helen lived at Standingstone, Earlston and at the time of the 1861 census they had two children Isabella (born 1856) and James (born 1859). Also living with them at the time of the census was Stewart’s brother Hugh (also a mole-catcher) and Helen’s mother Isabel who was 63 and had been a widow for the past 20 years. Between 1861 and 1871 three more children were born Alexander in 1862, Emily in 1867, and John in 1869) and at the time of the 1871 census the family were living at 92 Main Street, Earlston. Living with them was Stewart’s father James (71).
Around 1870 Stewart built a home for himself, and a number of adjoining cottages at the part of Earlston’s main street which was known as East End, just beside the church.
Helen died on 6th October 1884 at the age of 49. She is buried iin the family grave n the Earlston churchyard. Stewart remarried in 1890. His new wife was called Jane Sanderson, and she was twenty years his junior. (She had lived at 66 Main Street, Earlston with her parents and three sisters at
the time of the 1861 and 1871 censusesi, but later had moved to Galashiels. Jane worked in a woollen mill in Galashiels before her marriage to Stewart.) Stewart and Jane had two children, Elizabeth (Lizzie) and David.
Stewart died in 1908. Jane lived in the family home until she died in 1928. Lizzie continued to live in the family home until she died in 1978.
Many of Stewart’s children continued to live in Earlston.
His son James Paterson, who was also a mole-catcher, (1859-1913) married Agnes Whitelaw. They
had three sons and two daughters. They lived in Main Street, Earlston. Emily Paterson (1866-1909) - died in Edinburgh but it is not clear when she moved from Earlston to Edinburgh. John Paterson (1869-1924) married in 1894 in Chatham, Kent. He was a Police Sergeant there.
David Paterson (1891-1916) emigrated to Canada. Enlisted for WW1 with the Royal Canadian Regiment. Killed in action. Buried at Menin Road, Ypres. He is commemorated on the War Memorial in the centre of Earlston.
Elizabeth Paterson (1895-1978) was unmarried. She lived all her life in Earlston.
Stewart’s daughter Isabella Paterson married Robert Johnston (1855-1909 ) and they started their married life in Earlston before moving to Hawick and then to Glasgow.
The Johnston family were regular visitors to Earlston.
My grandparents, my parents and my uncles and aunts were there quite often there. My Uncle Arnold in particular often visited Auntie Lizzie in Earlston and his daughter Irene in her book “The Fifth Son” describes some of her father’s stories relating to Earlston.
On Stewart Paterson’s death in 1908 my grandfather Andrew Johnston went to Earlston to collect £300 left for the relatives in Glasgow (£30 of which was for himself.)
In the late 1940s or early 1950s, with my parents, I visited Aunt Lizzie a number of times in the family home in Earlston. I found it amazing that the house was furnished and decorated in the Victorian manner - heavy furniture and lots of it; thick covers on the tables draped right down to the floor.
As far as I can remember it was mostly when we were going on holiday that we detoured into Earlston to visit Auntie Lizzie, on the way to holidays in England or on the way to Jedburgh to visit my father’s brother James, or his sister Bessie.
My Earlston connections were in quite a dim and distant part of my memory until my cousin Irene, the daughter of my father’s brother Arnold wrote a book about her father’s early life. I found the information in her book fascinating and it got me interested in delving into my family history, including looking through old family photographs.
Shortly after reading Irene’s book I went to Earlston (first time in over 50 years). I saw the family home and adjacent houses, and also visited the grave in the Earlston churchyard, and carefully transcribed the inscription, parts of which are becoming unreadable. The inscription reads as shown.
IN MEM O RY
HE L E N MA S O N
WIFE OF STEWART PATERSON
WHO DIED 6th OCTOBER 1864
AGED 49 YEARS
AND THEIR DAUGHTER
EMI LY PAT E RS O N
WHO DIED 11 SEPTEMBER 1850#
AGED 5 MONTHS
ALSO THEIR SON
AL E XA N D E R PAT E R S O N
WHO DIED 28 JUNE 187#
AGED 15 YEARS
ALSO THE ABOVE
ST EWA RT PAT E RS O N
WHO DIED 25TH JANy 1908
AND ALSO HIS SON AND DAUGHTER
WHO DIED IN INFANCY
AND HIS SON DAVI D LC RCR
KILLED IN ACTION IN FRANCE
4th AUGUST 1916 AGED 26 YEARS
ALSO HIS SON JO H N
WHO DIED 14th JUNE 1924 AGED 54 YEARS
ALSO JA N E SAN D E R S O N
WIFE OF THE ABOVE STEWART PATERSON
WHO DIED 30th NOVEMBER 19## AGED ##
ALSO EL IZ A B E T H PAT E R S O N
WHO DIED 15th JAN 1978 AGED 82 YEARS
In 2012 I was again in Earlston. My cousin Irene’s parents had died in the previous couple of years and they had asked that their ashes be scattered on Earlston’s Black Hill. That was the purpose of our visit there in 2012. I also took the opportunity to see the Paterson grave again and the Paterson family home.