The following article is the copyright of the author and the Alloway & Southern Ayrshire Family History Society. It is displayed on this site with their kind permission and may not be distributed in any manner without their approval. The article below appeared in issue no. 4, Autumn 1999, of the Journal of the Alloway & Southern Ayrshire Family History Society.
Researching my wife’s family tree, I came across her great-great-grandfather, Edward McVey, who had been a gamekeeper in 1895. Prompted by this information, a family member told me that Edward had been the gamekeeper "at Kilkerran". Kilkerran Estate is in Dailly parish and so I searched the censuses for Daily. I found no trace of Edward McVey.
A trail of IGI references led me to the 1871 census for Kirkoswald parish. Almost at once, I found two McVey households listed together at West Balvaird, beside the road from Kirkoswald Village to Culzean. The schedules read:
In the 1861 Kirkoswald census, I drew a blank in my search for my main interest, Edward McVey (indeed, I still do not know his whereabouts on that census night) but found Francis, Edward’s brother, and his family at the tiny community of Goats Green (below Balchriston Farm on the coast just north of Culzean Castle).
Moving back to 1851, listed third of the three families at Goats Green were:
So, it appeared that the McVeys had come over from somewhere in Ireland at about the time of the Great Famine.
At New Register House, I looked up the record of marriage for Francis McVey and Mary Ann Watson. I expected quite a lot from this entry as it was for a November 1855 wedding and should contain much extra information. I was not disappointed. Bride and groom’s dates and places of birth were both provided (a real bonus as they were both in Ireland - Co Derry and Dromore, Co Down respectively). Another significant piece of data, however, turned out to be that the father of the groom, Bernard McVey, labourer, was deceased. Bernard McVey’s death was not listed for 1855 and so it preceded statutory records. The chances of finding out just when and how he had died seemed pretty remote.
The McVeys turned out to provide me with a fruitful area for research as many of them settled in Ayr and Carrick. Some time later, after an unprofitable foray into Maybole OPR searching for baptisms, I noticed that a set of Death records was included. As I browsed through them, expecting nothing, I was stunned to read:
"Killed" !?! Was thissome sort of murder? an agricultural accident? How dare they just say "Killed"? I wanted to know more!
So, I had a look in the Newspaper archives.
AyrAdvertiser April 10th 1851 there it was, and much
‘MISFORTUNES SELDOM SINGLE.-- A few days ago, the wife of a poor labourer named Barnard McVae, residing at Goat’s Green, Maybole (better known by the youngsters as Mary Meikle’s Shore) having been confined, one of her children about two years of age, while amusing itself about the doors tumbled into the well and was found there drowned by a neighbour who had gone there for water.- On Friday last, the father coming into the town to look after some work having, it is said, partaken too freely of spirits, missed his foot at the top of a stone stair in a house at "Pat’s Corner," fell to the bottom and was killed! Thus a poor family, lately requiring the aid of kind neighbours, are thrown entirely upon the public for support. This is a sad case. Intemperence as usual has not been behind in claiming his victim - slow it may be, but sometimes as in this instance fearfully sudden ; but, whether quick or slow, inevitably sure in the end. We must not forget the living however. Poverty has a heart and feelings. The benevolent will, we daresay, make a little subscription for a mother in her confinement, with a child and husband lying dead under the same roof- probably in her sight. Fiction could not heighten the shocking reality.’ Ayr Advertiser, April 10th 1851
Pat’s Corner was the name given to a district of Maybole heavily settled by Irish immigrants and centring on the old Kirkport and Kirkwynd near the Earl of Cassillis’s Town House.
After this tragic sequence of events, no wonder the youngest child was unnamed and unbaptised. Perhaps Elizabeth Forster, the visitor, was there to assist at the birth but found herself in the midst of a family disaster. Whether the newspaper’s suggestion of a "subscription" was taken up by the public is not evident, as there are no follow-up reports over the next few issues.
So, is that the end of the story? Not quite, but we have to move on a few years and see what happened to the as yet unbaptised baby of the family.
The baby was named Bernard after his father, but called "Barney" by family. He was in Maybole with his remarried mother, Mazy Flinn, in 1861 and with his sister "Tilda" Rodie in 1871. In 1874 he married Helen McGuire of Maybole, became a stonemason and they lived at various addresses in Maybole between 1875 and 1905, producing at least 6 children. Helen died, of heart disease and cirrhosis, in September 1913.
I looked up Barney’s death record, dated 22nd April 1914 at the Glasgow Genealogy Centre. It proved to be the final surprise, for it states that he was "found drowned", "on the seashore near Bentfield, Prestwick" and gives his usual residence as "Maybole Poorhouse". This discovery sent me scurrying once again to the Carnegie’s newspaper archive to find a McVey death once again featuring in the local press. This time the Ayrshire Post gave the more detailed report
‘BODY WASHED ASHORE.—- On Wednesday afternoon the body of a man, apparently between fifty and sixty years of age, was washed ashore near the rocks at Bentfield. The police were communicated with, and they had the body removed to the mortuary at the New Cemetery. In a pocket in the clothing was found a National Insurance medical ticket bearing the name Bernard McVey, and giving an address in Maybole. From the appearance of the body, it had only been in the water a short time, and there was a wound on one side of the head. Very little is yet known as to the movements of the man prior to his death.’ Ayrshire Post, April 24th 1914I looked for a report of an inquest or police investigation in later editions of the Ayrshire Post and the Ayr Advertiser but found nothing. The death record carried a reference to the Register of Corrected Entries, which can be consulted at New Register House. It states that Bernard:
"Went amissing in Ayr on the night of 20th April 1914. Dead body found in the sea near Bentfield House in the Burgh of Prestwick on the forenoon of 22nd April 1914." It goes on to declare that the cause of death was: "Drowning as certified by Dr. R.A.Morton, Ayr who inspected the dead body. The drowning was probably accidental."
Of all the deaths in the McVey family, the only two dramatic enough to have appeared in a press report were both called Bernard Mcvey. Has there been another member of the McVey family to have been given the name Bernard? I have not found one - indeed, I hesitate to look!
Site administrator's note: It seems the passage of another 50 years did little to change the difficulty that Maybole's men encountered with the combination of spirits and heights. Read this newspaper account of another of Maybole's citizens unfortunate demise.