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John Downie and Jane Gordon Family Group

John Downie and Jane Gordon

No record of the birth of John Downie has yet been found and even the parish is uncertain: the 1851 and 1861 Censuses give his birthplace as Kirkpatrick Fleming and the later Censuses give it as Annan. His birthdate is also uncertain, as the age recorded in successive ten year Censuses regularly went up by only nine years; the birthdate of 1811 is based on his 1851 entry. If his gravestone in Kirkpatrick Fleming kirkyard is to be believed, he was born in 1814 as his age is given as 84.

We know from his death certificate, and from the family gravestone, that he was the son of Archibald Downie and Janet Gass, who had married in Annan on 28 December 1805.

His wife Jane Gordon was the daughter of John Gordon and Mary Farries or Farish, and her baptism record in Middlebie does exist, as does the record of marriage of John Downie and Jane Gordon in the Annan parish register:

Register of Marriages of Parish of Annan for 1834
John Downie of the Parish of Annan and Jane Gordon of the Parish of Middlebie were lawfully married 3 Oct 1834

John and Jane were to have at least 12 children between 1834 and 1859, the first two, twins Agnes and Mary, being born just over two months after the marriage.

Twin Agnes died aged 7 and the other twin Mary may have died in childbirth, as John and Jane had a grandchild Margaret Sutton aged 9 born Annan living with them at Bonshawside, Annan in the 1861 Census. Mary had left home by the time of the 1851 Census, when her parents were at Burnbrae, Annan - she was a domestic servant on the farm of William Wells at Limestonerigg, Dryfesdale.

The second Agnes, who was at home aged 12 in the 1861 Census, has still to be traced after that. Son Thomas, aged 9 in the 1861 Census, moved to Cumberland, where he was a carter in Carlisle. He was still alive at the age of 66 in the 1911 Census. The death of youngest son James in 1880 is recorded on the family gravestone. All the other children will have their own pages on this website.

Family gravestone in Kirkpatrick Fleming kirkyard

ARCHIBALD DOWNIE, who died at Flow-
bank, 20th Octr 1833, aged 52 years.
Also JANET GASS, his wife who died at Luce-
park 15th May 1865, aged 85 years.*
Also AGNES, daughter of John Downie
their son, who died 4th Septr 1842 aged 8 years.
And JAMES DOWNIE his son who died at
Woodside 19th June 1880, aged 20 years.
Also JANE DOWNIE, daughter of the above
A Downie, who died at Eaglesfield 18th May
1888, aged 79 years. Also JANE GORDON
wife of the above John Downie who died
at Eaglesfield 1st June 1894 aged 77 years.
Also the above John Downie, who died at
Eaglesfield 17th Dec 1897 in his 85th year.

[*This transcription is taken from a document downloaded from a now defunct website at http://www.domuztepe.org/argy20081/KPF Faces.xls. The document appears now to be available at http://www.docstoc.com/docs/112513100/KPF-People, where registration is required. Janet’s death certificate gives her date of death as 24 March 1862 at Luce Park, Brydekirk; George Downie has transcribed the date of death as 15 May 1863, so it appears that the date of Janet's death may be very difficult to decipher]

John's occupation is given as cotton weaver in both the 1841 and 1851 Censuses but work for handloom weavers was dying out as power loom weaving took over, and the later Censuses list his occupation as General Labourer, as does his death certificate. He was almost certainly a farm labourer as the places where his children's births are recorded are all in the country.

An interesting insight into the conditions in which this family lived comes from the Dumfries and Galloway Standard of Wednesday 17 October 1860 page 4:

FIRE AT ECCLEFECHAN.—On the night of Wednesday the 9th inst., as John Downie, a labourer, residing at Bonshaw, Burnhead, Ecclefechan, was searching for a saw on the top of a box bed, the flame of the candle passed up through the laths of the ceiling, the plaster being broken away, and set fire to some loose straw, which speedily communicated to the roof thatched with heather and straw, and in fifteen minutes it fell in. Downie had just time get bis mother, an old woman of 84 years, out of the house ; his wife and children saved themselves. In consequence of the speed with which the fire spread, very little furniture was saved.

At the time of the 1861 Census a few months later, John and Jane were still living at Burnhead with eight of their children and one grandchild - Janet Gass had moved to John's sister's house in Brydekirk, presumably as a result of the fire. Her death certificate in 1862 states that she had been bedridden for four years so the fire must have been a traumatic experience for her.