The Master Chimney Sweep

27/01/2014 16:36


The Master Chimney Sweep

His name was Michael McGunnigle and he was my mother’s grandfather. He lived in the Cowcaddens area of Glasgow at 17 Ferguson Street.

He was married to Margaret McQueen, who was born in Greenock, and they had 12 children – one of them my grandmother known to me as “Grannie Watson”

Michael was born in Glasgow in 1841 and married Margaret McQueen on 11 February 1863 when he was 22 and she was 17. They were married in the Independent Chapel in Dovehill in Glasgow. Dovehill is an area off Gallowgate just north of Glasgow Cross, and south of the Old College.

Michael was a chimney sweep and later a slater also, and the family lived at 17 Ferguson Street for over 30 years. Michael employed other sweeps and sometimes had them as boarders in his house. At the time of the 1871 census there was a sweep called William Brougham living with them. They also at this time had a servant called Mona Oniel. At the 1881 census they had a sweep called James McGurk living with them.

Like many families at that time Michael and Margaret had a family bible in which details of important family events, such as marriages and births, were recorded. I have discovered from an internet genealogy forum that Michael and Margaret’s family bible still exists more than 150 years since the first records were made in it. It is in New Zealand in the hands of a grandson (Alan McGunnigle) of Michael & Margaret's son Peter (born 1881).

The first child of Michael and Margaret was Agnes, born in 1864, and the last child was Mary, born in 1886. The family bible records that they had 12 children in total, and it seems that Frances, William and Alexander died as infants. My grandmother, Janet, was born on 7 August 1872 – she was a twin, but her brother William died the following year. Son Michael also became a chimney sweep and lived at 26 Maitland Lane at the time of the 1901 census with his wife Sarah McKean. There is no record of any of the other children going into the chimney sweeping business – Janet, my grandmother, was a “Fancy Box Maker” and Samuel was a “Coachman – not domestic”.

I have no information about the size of their house in Ferguson Street – but it would have been quite small and cramped, with 11 of them in it at the time of the 1881 census. Ferguson Street was a small street which went from Cowcaddens Street through to Cambridge Street. It was demolished in the 1960s. It was just north-east of where the Thistle Hotel now is. I regularly walked along it, in the 1940s, 1950s and early1960s, when going to Cambridge Street Baptist Church - off the tramcar in Cowcaddens, up Ferguson Street to Cambridge Street then turn left and along to the church. In my memory Ferguson Street is only a few yards long, and had a sharp bend to the right as you walked up from Cowcaddens. Although I must have walked along it hundreds of times I don’t remember ever being told that my great grandparents had lived there.

The McGunnigle family seems to have been a very close one. At the time of the 1901 census the people recorded as being in the house, as well as Michael and Margaret, were Samuel (23), Mary (15), Margaret Gray (11) who was a grandchild, Janet Campbell (27) and her two daughters Sarah (5) and Mary (3) – Mary was my mother! Janet's husband John Greenwood Campbell who she married on 19th October 1894 was dead by the time of the 1901 census and it seems that Janet with her two daughters had moved back with her parents. (Later in 1901 Janet married James Watson.) I have not yet been able to find out when Michael McGunnigle and Margaret McQueen died, or if they moved anywhere else after 1901. (But the Voters Rolls show Michael was still living at 17 Ferguson Street until at least 1903.) Nor have I yet discovered the parents of Michael McGunnigle.
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1. Janet's birth certificate (1872) records her birth place as 19 Ferguson Street.
2. This source 
“Marriage: McQUEEN, Margaret on 11 February 1863 in High Church, Glasgow, Scotland
The spelling the this couple's names in their marriage lines is a little erratic:
Margreat McQueen and Michael McGinmigle.“
3. The family appear in the following censuses living at 17 Ferguson Street: 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901.

4. The 12 Children were:
Agnes 1864
Daniel 1864
Frances 1868
Michael 1870
William 1872
Janet 1872
Catherine 1876
Samuel 1878
Peter 1880
Mary 1886

5. The information about the son Michael is from the 1901 census and from the  site.