Monday, 2 April 2018

Looking for Annie Paton from Inverness

Everyone has a real bugbear with their family history. One of mine is my great aunt, Annie MacGillivray Paton, for whom I know very little. She was born in Belgium to my two Scottish great grandparents, and died in Inverness, having worked there in the aftermath of the Second World War at Menzies bookshop. So I'm hoping the reach of this blog post might generate a few answers!

Here is what I know about Annie:

Annie was born at 3.30pm on April 26th 1894 in Brussels, Belgium, to my great grandparents, David Hepburn Paton (pictured right) and Jessie MacFarlane. The registration of her birth was on the 28th, witnessed by 37 year old Auguste Moreau, negociant, and 23 year old magasinier Charles Depoorter from Schaerbeek. The birth certificate reads:

Annie MacGillivray Paton, nee le vingt six dec mois a trois heures apres midi, rue de Marche Aux Herbes, no. 76, 4e Don; fille de David Hepburn Paton, gerant, ne a Blackford (Ecosse) et de Jessie MacFarlane, nee a Inverness (Ecosse), conjoints, residant meme maison et domiciles a Glasgow.

Sur la declaration du pere, age de vingt neuf ans.

En presence d' Auguste Moreau, negociant, age de trente sept ans, domicile a Bruxelles, et de Charles Depoorter, magasiniere, age de vingt trois ans, domicile a Schaerbreek.

At the time of her birth, her parents were living at Marche Aux Herbes.

In 1907 the family briefly relocated to Inverness in Scotland, and then to Glasgow in 1908. The 1911 census, taken on April 2nd, showed that Annie was by then residing at 108 Cumberland Street in the Gorbals with her mother and her father's brother Joseph and family.

The family returned to Belgium in mid-1911. Annie was still there when the Germans invaded just three years later in August 1914. After the death of her father in March 1916, Annie remained with her mother under a form of house arrest in Brussels, and was there for the whole war. Whilst there, she had to endure not only the death of her father, but the imprisonment of her younger brother John at Ruhleben camp in Germany, and the uncertainty of her brother William's war service with the army.

When the war was over, Annie returned to Glasgow with her mother and brother Charlie (my grandfather).

My aunt Sheila Cobby (nee Paton) recalled how when she was laid up in hospital with her childhood illness of polio, she received a collection of Beatrix Potter books from her Aunt Annie. Sheila never actually met her aunt, neither did my father.  From 1930 to 1939, Annie was recorded in the electoral registers as being resident at 6 Sunnybank Street, a tenement in Shettleston, Glasgow, along with her mother Jessie (and brother Charles until 1934/35).

Their cousin Joan West (nee Paton) however, recalls how Annie moved to Inverness with her mother Jessie Paton, nee McFarlane (Calum's and Jamie's great great granny) during the Second World War. With the outbreak of war, William Paton, Annie's brother, had insisted they go at once to the north, not wishing them to experience what they did during the prior war, and that they would be safer there from German bombs than in Glasgow. Annie and Jessie shared a house initially on South Street, Inverness, with a Mrs Murray, and were visited by Joan after the war when she was stationed at a Royal Naval base in Lossiemouth. Annie never married, and took up work in Inverness at Menzies bookshop.

Annie's grand nephew, Alan Paton, once told me how he and his grandfather William had visited her in Inverness in her latter days. Alan recalled that she had a very strong French accent still, after all the years she had been back in Scotland, and that she constantly berated her brother William for having no French at all - what she considered should have been his 'mother tongue'!! Alan also recalls seeing a portrait of Annie, painted when she was about 19, and says that in her youth, she was a beautiful woman. The whereabouts of this portrait is no longer known.

Annie eventually died on March 25th 1975 at her home in Inverness, with her death registered on the 28th by her cousin by marriage, Ann Cooney. The cause of death was bronchopneumonia, hypertension and carcinoma of the breast.

The following notice was placed on page one of the Inverness Courier on March 25th 1975:

PATON - Suddenly at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, on the 24th March 1975, Annie Paton, 91a Bruce Gardens, Inverness. Service on Thursday, at 1.45pm., at Messrs D. Chisholm & Sons' Service Room, 10 George Street, Inverness; thereafter Funeral to Tomnahurich Cemetery. All friends respectfully invited.

Whilst I know a considerable amount about my grandfather Charles, and his brothers John and William, Annie is the mystery member of the family - I don't even have a photo of her or her mother Jessie Paton (nee MacFarlane).

If anyone has any further information about Annie and Jessie, or a photo, I'd love to hear from you!


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  1. Chris,
    I'm just wondering if Jessie MacFarlane is related to my family tree - do you know who her parents were ?

  2. Jessie's parents were John Brownliee MacFalane, a tailor, and Ann MacGillivray, who lived in Inverness. John was originally from Glasgow.