Home Pre-History The District The Streets City Industry The Tenement Family Names North East Art

The Doric Columns

Yer Faither The Brithers The Wee Bairn Education

The Extended Family

Having attended a recent funeral in Aberdeen I was handed a genealogy tree for the Fowler Family and this links to the Wood and Masson Families and also Guyan.  The families linked around Portlethen, Fittie, and Torry and had long associations with Piloting, the Fishing and Shipbuilding Industries.  A great grandfather David Wood – known as Daedie a name for the head of the family was reputed to have crafted all the rowing dingy’s and pleasure craft used on the Dee for casual hire boatyards post war.  I remember him sitting outside the boat yard buildings on the Dee strand. My own full name is Edward Masson Fowler and my father was Alexander Wood Fowler.  The family tree mentions addresses at 10 and 21 South Square for the 1881 census and some of these names appear other lists.  The tree goes back to William Foular1756 from the Nigg Area.  Born in 1941 - I grew up in Castle Terrace and the whole harbour area was my playground and my mother always pointed to homes in the old fishing village community of Fittie saying I had relatives who lived there. Her ashes were scattered on the beach in front of Auld Fittie.

Yer page marked family names, when I opened it couldn't believe it my family name was there Guyan from Fittie.  I traced them back to the mid 1700's My G.G Grandfather John Smith Noble, died in the great storm off the Aberdeen Coast on  Wednesday 28 April, 1880

Through my own research of the fisherfolk I have come across many of the same family names and I have connections with the Masson family - most likely originating in the Portlethen area. You'll probably find quite a few names scattered over my webpages that have relevance to yourself. In addition there's a lot of stuff out there on Portlethen, Fittie and of course Torry!   I think if you were to investigate further you will find all kinds of interesting connections.  I hope you'll continue to dig backwards - but don't forget to record your own life and family. I have no doubt your mother was extremely proud of her heritage - and rightly so. All the names you mention were hard working souls who had a tough life and sometimes dangerous existence. All the best, Colin A Milne.
PS  You may find my links page helpful as it has some researchers who have fairly close associations with your own family background

Sinclair -
Of course, many new branches of the Sinclair family were established by younger sons who remained in Scotland, or left the country to begin a new life, including 'natural' sons who carried the name but were denied any legitimacy because they were born outside of marriage. Also, many farmers working on the estates owned by the Sinclair's took their landowner's name for their children, a common occurrence in feudal Scotland. In consequence, it is impossible to be sure who of the many Sinclair's around the world are descendants of the 1st William de St. Clair of Roslin.

Mother was illegitimate and to spare the shame of of my Grandmothers family she claimed was brought up in 'Cooscadden' in Glasgow.  On a visit to Glasgow I bought a map and searched vainly for the Borough, District - Cou,  Koo, etc and seemed to be failing when it suddenly leapt of the page at me - Cowscadden (The Scottish Coo!) and tall tenement heights of Central Glasgow then full of poor families and now very fashionable part of the Town with steep hills and adequate economic hotels converted from large Tenements.  Her mother eventually married despite her shame and new daughter Frances.  Such was the age and nothing changes it seems.

Bert Sinclair was a reformed gambler and Bookmaker in Rosemount and had lived in a tenement in old Queen St at the end of Lodge Walk but made mogin’s a’ money on his illegal betting as Banker with the Crown & Anchor Gamblers on Sunday morning sessions at Murcar Dunes – my brutish old man was his Bodyguard.  (Some Bodyguard - I clean KO’d him with a single punch when I was just 16 - but then I fully anticipated a prompt and vengeful death for my impetuousness,  but fate was kind to the brave but skinny wee warrior following my Stag like challenge to his status.  My fearful Fisticuff Father died of bowel cancer aged 49).   Bert used his proceeds to buy a Stewart Bungalow on the Anderson Drive – easier life for some then eh.

Bert, Alec, John, Archie, Annie, Jeannie, Magdalene / Frances

4 generations Great Grandmother Sinclair with daughter Magdelene right her Daughter Frances left and her eldest Jack Fowler aged 4 on 6th October 1940. Sandy 3 yrs was absent.

John Mitchell Christie - (Pronounced Christ-ee)  a Glaswegian from the Gorbal's Barra'land and a very fly 'barra' lad took a fancy to Magdelene Sinclair and returned to Aberdeen with her and produced his own family of 9 survivors - Cathy's twin brother died.  The entire family and her parents lived in various addresses in Aberdeen before finally ending up in Powis Circle part of the old Powis Estate.  They were all girls except for uncle Roy who was born at the same time as my mothers own 1st born Jack.  Both uncle and his nephew were exactly the same age Mother and Daughter fell pregnant in the same year.  Jake Christie as he was known was an inveterate gambler, opportunist Trader and went so mad with drink that his party piece was to smash doors with the 'heid'.  It must have been made of Steel.

Frances Sinclair, Meg, Doreen (Wi the droopy Drawers), Cathy (Katy Clocky), Sarah, Bella, Annie, Roy

Young Frances with probably Meg Christie aged approx 4 years Circa 1924

John Wood Fowler was my paternal Grandfather and he had 9 children too all boys except 2 girls and one infant demised - Nothing else to do but go to bed it seems.  Although naturally right handed he practiced with a riveting hammer till he could hit anything fair and square with a southpaw swing thus securing an advantage wage as a left handed Riveter a necessary adjunct for Shipbuilding and awkward corners.

Lily, Alexander, Alfred, David, Andrew, Robert, George, Ella

White Fisherfolk from Portlethen who were drawn to Torry to work in the fish industry which boomed with the advent of Steam Trawlers.  There own survival was hard enough setting out to sea in open boats and living off the ocean's bounty or shoreland shelfishl and salt blasted heathland.

The present Wood family can be traced back in the 18th and 19th centuries to the small fishing villages and communities of the Kincardineshire parishes of Fetteresso (8.75 x 5.25 miles in size with a population of 5541 in 1881) and Banchory-Devenick (3 x 5 miles with 8801 people in 1881). These parishes are located along the treacherous 10-mile coastline between Stonehaven and Aberdeen. This coast, facing across the cold and turbulent North Sea (then called the 'German' Sea) to Norway, consists of steep, almost perpendicular cliffs, with the occasional sheltered coves. It was in the fishing villages and hamlets built on top of these cliffs of the North East Fringe that the Woods and Massons struggled to survive on what they could take from the sea.  In the 18th century most boats were owned by the 'Laird'-appointed skipper who held the fishing boats directly from the proprietor. The fishermen had to help with digging peats and bringing in the harvest. In addition to paying a rent for his boat, the skipper had to lay aside a 'boat's deal' from every catch, and during the year had to provide the proprietor with a 100 haddocks, 3 large cod. Each fisherman also had to provide the 'Laird' with a pint of fish oil.

Fishermen tended to marry young women from a similar background, brought up in a fishing village. Not surprisingly in such small communities, many of these families were already related before they were married. Local historian J J Waterman records in his study of Aberdeen and the Fishing Industry in the 1870s that Masson and Wood were typical surnames of fisherfolk in the villages along the coast; Christie, Leiper and Johnstone were other common surnames.  The men 'white fishermen' fished from midnight till dawn. 'White' fishing was done with baited lines from which hung 'sneeeds', lines of twine finer than the line itself, which were hooked. The complete line was divided into strings each with 100 to 120 separately baited hooks. An ordinary line contained 8, 9 or 10 strings so the number of hooks to be baited could be fairly numerous. The women, who had been up since 3 or 4 a.m. carrying peats or collecting bait from the rocks (usually consisting of mussels and limpets), shelled the fish and baited the lines. Mussels were prolific in Montrose, where they grew in quantities in the fresh and salt water of the Basin.

When the boats returned the women would take the catch to Aberdeen Fish Market (Castle St and later Market St in baskets on their backs, then return home to continue with their everyday household affairs. A fisherman after all his expenses was lucky if he made £10 annually. Most fishermen could not afford to have their children educated, and with large families to support, the children were also worked hard. The girls started gathering bait at the age of 10 and by the age of 12, they were usually placed in 'service' as 'domestic servants' for the Lairds. The boys were already at sea with their elders. While researching the family, Susan Buyers (daughter of James Thomson and Margaret Wood) came across many cases of young children from babies to toddlers who died due to household accidents such as scalding. The implication being that they were often left in the care of older brothers and sisters, while their parents were working.)  The fishing communities of Stranathro (today known as Muchalls), Portlethen, Downies, Findon, Cove, Cookney, Newtonmill, Skateraw, and Cowie, south of Aberdeen, are all more or less alike both in situation and appearance, small villages of up to 40 or 50 houses, with 4 or 5 dominant family names.

The "Isabella" Tragedy
Further up the coast towards Portlethen, the small fishing village of Downies was home to other relations the Woods. Moses Wood sen., and his wife Isabella (married in 1818) had a daughter, also called Isabella who, in 1859, married James Wood. On the same day as the loss of 'The Brothers of Skateraw', James Wood's fishing yawl, the "Isabella", was also swamped in the 'Great Storm' and the entire crew drowned. Another of the crew, George Wood, had only been married a fortnight. The crew of the "Isabella" were: Moses Wood, sen., married and his 2 sons James Wood and Moses Wood, jun. (both unmarried); James Wood, married, leaving a family of seven); James Wood, unmarried and George Wood, married, both nephews of Moses Wood senior. Their bodies were never recovered. Another Wood, not mentioned in the newspaper article was John Wood, husband of Mary (Christie) and father of 10 children, including Helen Wood (later to marry her 1st cousin John Christie) who were subsequently brought up by the extended Christie/Wood/Leiper/Masson families. Helen and George, for example, were brought up by George Wood and his wife Isabella (Leiper).

The week after the tragedy, on Wednesday 28 April, 1880, a memorial meeting was held at 1-o'clock in the Douglas Hotel and a relief fund set up for the families of the drowned fishermen from Skateraw, Downies and Footdee. The fund was organised by Robert W Duff of Fetteresso Castle, Stonehaven, who launched the fund with a £20 donation.

According to family tradition, after witnessing the loss of her husband, one of the great-great grandmothers left her children with relatives and went home to bed, which she never left, dying shortly afterwards of a broken heart. Perhaps another victim of the 'Great Storm' was Isabella Wood's son, 20-year old James, another nephew of Moses, who died of Phthisis Pulmonalis (TB) on 5 October 1880 just 5 months after his father was lost at sea.

The Masson's were Portlethen fisherfolk people and Edward Masson was married to Lilly Fowler.  The Portlethen Church Cemetery is full of Wood's and Masson's.


Send mail to jazzmaster@jazzeddie.f2s.com with questions or comments about the design of this web site.
Last modified: 01/09/2013