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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

More Clues than I Imagined

You will recall in my post of August 31, 2013, I shared a letter written by John McDougall to his brother Hugh.  That letter has since led me to things I never imagined.

I had the good fortune of visiting Scotland during the month of October.  A trip I could not take without visiting the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh.  To my regret, I had the equivalent of only one day there, but it provided many new pieces of information, only one that I will elaborate today.

ScotlandsPeople Centre – Photo by DenaP
The two areas you can head to when you arrive at the Centre include either the Search Rooms or you can go upstairs to the archives Research Room.  I knew my time was limited, and I had spent time searching ScotlandsPeople on-line, so I was heading upstairs.  First things first, you need to stow your gear in the locker room.  I was shown the way by a very busy Security guard, saying she would come back later to get me.

While in the locker room, I began a conversation with a clearly practiced researcher.  I asked him how often he came and what he was researching.  His name was Bruce Bishop and he was a regular.  He offered to take me upstairs and show me the way.  I explained a bit about my search for Angus McInnis and said correspondence and family lore suggested Angus might have been a piper.  My search for Angus born in 1746 was "modern history" for Bruce, his wife's area of expertise.  Nevertheless, he said "there is fellow who comes everyday, don't know his name, but he studies pipers".  I thanked him and went in pursuit of my Researcher's Ticket.  Bruce went off to his studies, or so I thought.

I must have been settled into my searching a good half hour, quite immersed and who should interrupt me, but Bruce.  He had in tow the Piping Historian, Keith Sanger.  Keith very attentively listened to my story of Angus and his family and how we had reached a dead end.  He asked probing questions and suggested some areas to look and that I send him some additional information including the transcript of the letter from John McDougal.

Over the next few days, Keith and I exchanged information.  He kindly researched his records and could not find reference to an Angus McInnis, piper.  He found a Paul McInnis, piper a little younger who came from the same area.  He provided me with a great deal of contextual history and many leads to pursue.  His help was invaluable.

Most interesting was,  that Keith immediately observed there must be an error in the transcription of the letter. 

This is how the end of the letter read:

“I am so
Your most affectionate Brother
John McDougald

Mr Hugh McDougald Arive
To the care of Mr Rob Maxwell
Island of Mull
Argyleshire - No Britain”

Keith said:
"The Selkirk letter is interesting, did you transcribe it yourself? The Maxwell’s were the Duke of Argyles factors on Mull and I notice that the last part of the address uses the description that was pushed during the Napoleonic Wars of calling Scotland ‘North Britain’, (the expansion of No Britain). ‘Arive’ does not ring any bells as a place name and I wonder if it was a miss reading for Aros which sits on the Sound of Mull facing across to Morvern? "[ii]

I had not paid attention to the address at the bottom.  Could it be, we found a specific location?  I went back and found my copy of the letter I had transcribed from the archives.  I did transcribe it absolutely correctly.  

I queried the history of the Selkirk papers and confirmed that what is in Library and Archives Canada is not microfiche of the original papers, rather of a transcription.  The originals were destroyed in a fire in at St. Mary’s Isle in Kirkcudbright were destroyed in a fire in 1940. Fortunately, some of the papers had been transcribed Public Archives of Canada in about 1900.[iii]  These copies are what I viewed at Library and Archives Canada. 

The transcription was incorrect!

Out came the maps and I found Aros - directly across from Morvern.   The reputed birthplace of our Angus.  Only a few miles as the crow flies!

 By GoogleMaps 2013

Keith’s observation unlocked a wonderful clue, one that we were able to explore further when we visited the Isle of Mull a week later...but that is for another post.


[i] Copy of the Letter sent by John MacDougald of Baldoon to his brother Hugh MacDougald in Mull, dated April 29, 1806, LAC microfilm C-14 14739-40, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[ii] Email sent by Keith Sanger to DenaP October 9, 2013

[iii] "Lady Selkirk and the Fur Trade" "Manitoba History" Number 38, Autumn/Winter 1999-2000 ( 6 November 2013)