An Illustrated Family History Archive

The Ewing Family

Dysart Grocers and Dundee Lemonade

© 2014 Garen C. Ewing. Last updated: Jul 2016
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Scone to Dysart

Currently, the earliest known event in this Ewing ancestry is the marriage between James Ewing (or Ewen/Ewan), a tenant farmer at Limepotts, and Helen Clark at Scone in Perthshire on 7th July 1793. Several children are known to this couple, my fives-times-great grandparents, but only one, James, is not shrouded in the mysteries of time accorded to his siblings.

James Ewing was born at Limepotts on 13 June 1803, and a week short of his 20th birthday he married Margaret Todd at Dysart in Fife, an area most of his eleven children and their families would call home for many decades to come.

Two of his sons, John and Robert, took to the sea, Robert passing his examination for Mate in April 1857 and John for First Mate two months later. Robert became a captain, but a promising career was cut short when he attempted to go ashore amid driving winds at Jaffa, Syria, in March 1863. The sea swelled and he and the four hands with him were thrown into the watery chaos - none of them could swim and Robert and one other of the crew were drowned. That wasn't the end of the drama; the storm continued and a week later the late Captain Ewing's ship, the Elliot Mary, broke her cable and went adrift towards the shore. The eight remaining crew were rescued by two Jaffans, one who swam out to the barque with a rope under great difficulty. Robert was interred at the Protestant cemetery at Jaffa.

Jane Ewing (née Gray) with two of her sons, John and David Ewing c.1930s.

Ewing Tragedies

This was not the only tragedy to afflict James and Margaret's family. They had lost their fourth child, Anne, a twin of daughter Margaret, probably at birth in 1828, but the couple would have another set of twins seven years later - Alexander Nicolson and Mary Nicolson Ewing. In August 1859 a special annual holiday took place where all the local merchants (James Ewing was a grocer) could close-up shop and take excursions to Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee, or board the little steamer 'Venture' and travel up the Forth. Many visited more local attractions, and it was in such a party that Mary Nicolson Ewing found herself, starting out for Lochleven on a bright Wednesday morning. But some way through the trek Mary fell ill, so much so that she had to be left at Kinglassie while the rest of her party went on. By the time they returned in the evening, Mary was dead. She was just 23 years old.

James' life would also come to sudden and devastating end. He was 79 years old when he went out to Burntisland to visit his surviving twin son, Alexander Nicolson Ewing, who had followed his father into the grocery trade. It was a foggy night and James left Alexander to see a friend in Leven Street, but returning to his son's he became lost in the dense fog and fell over the precipitous Lammerlaws rocks. His body was found the next morning at the foot of the cliffs. Alexander was killed ten years later after he lay himself in front of the express train at Bentfield, distraught at the decline of his grocery business - though one has to wonder how the deaths of his father and twin sister had affected him too.

Of course I am picking out these tragic events from many years of no doubt happier times that have gone unrecorded and can never be known, but we'll examine one final Ewing tragedy, one that has a twist in the tale. A younger Ewing brother, Thomas, had a daughter, Mary, who married a tailor called William McFarlane. One day Mary walked into the bedroom and picked up the lodger's shotgun from the kitchen bed. Without warning it fired into her chest. She staggered a few feet and then died as her shocked husband, who had rushed through, gently lowered her to the floor. The lodger was Joseph Smith, and just four weeks later, while out walking, he was shot by the same gun when it went off as he bent to tie his boot lace. He died at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary three days later.

Dysart to Dundee

James Ewing's eldest son was also named James, born in Dysart three months after the marriage of his parents, and who would enjoy a variety of occupations in his 87 years, including that of linen weaver, vegetable salesman, floorcloth worker, labourer at a linoleum factory, and a gardener in his twilight years. Back in 1852 he married 24 year old Jane Wright-Hammond, whose mother was an 'outdoor worker' who bore two illegitimate children - Jane Hammond in 1827 and William Penman in 1834.

Jane's father was Thomas Levell Hammond, an English-born writer, clerk and insurance agent who married another girl four months before Jane was born and then moved away to Edinburgh (and later, Dundee). Thomas's father, Francis Hammond, had been a Quatermaster in the Dumfries Light Dragoons, and he was named after his uncle, Thomas Levell, who had been a Lieutenant in the Fifeshire Yeomanry, and was later the Customs Surveyor at Kirkcaldy. Thomas would also end up as a Customs Surveyor, but in Haldimand, Ontario, Canada, where he moved his family some time in the 1840s-50s. One of Thomas's brothers, William, was killed in Java in 1825 as part of a hastily organised civilian cavalry under the orders of the Dutch, fighting the insurgent native population at Demak near Semarang.

A young son, James, born to James and Jane, within a year of their marriage, would only survive 6 years, dying from whooping cough a week before Christmas 1859. The mantle of eldest son then rested upon David Ewing who would work as a linen 'tear boy' in his youth before taking the Ewing name to Dundee and entering the lemonade business. In 1881 he married Jane Gray, the daughter of a master grocer from Errol and in June of 1882, a son, James, was born.

Making lemonade

The Dundee Aerated Water Manufacturing Company Ltd. was managed by Henry Blackwood, a Kirkcaldy man, which is perhaps how David Ewing knew him. David worked there from the company's founding, in 1874, up until his death in 1902 at the relatively young age of just 47. While David's eldest son, James, studied to become a teacher, his second son, George went to work with his father and eventually became manager of the Dundee Aerated Water Co himself. His stature in the business was such that in 1952 he became the president of the Dundee & District Aerated Water Manufacturers' and Beer Bottlers' Trade Association, and was a delegate to the National Federation.

Loch Ness Monster

His elder brother, James Ewing, married a stone mason's daughter, Jemima Rough Phillip, in Dundee. Her father owned an orchard and market garden on Blackness Avenue and built the cottage there. James became the schoolmaster in the tiny village of Kinnell in the first decade of the twentieth century, where the couple had three of their four children, including their only boy - my grandfather, James David Ewing - also known as Jim.

In 1939 Jim married Margaret Horsburgh Cameron at St Andrew's Church in Dundee. After the war the family left Dundee when he became the West of England Area Secretary for the Electrical Power Engineer's Association. This brought them to Bristol in 1947, then to Reading by 1950 where he became heavily involved in the local St. Andrew's Church (he fell off the roof whilst helping with repairs). Jim also held a keen interest in the fabled Loch Ness Monster, lending his boat to well-known cryptozoologist Tim Dinsdale. Jim died in Selsea in 1984.

This photo from around 1920 shows the Kinnell school, schoolhouse and church, all still in existance today, though the church is now in disrepair.

Research into the Ewing family is ongoing.

If you have further information, stories or photos, or are a family member who would like to know more, please get in touch.