David Macneilage was born in Campbeltown, Mull of Kintyre 8th March 1840, to Archibald, a tailor and his wife Catherine McIntosh. David was their first child and by the end of the 1850s, the family have had four more sons and three daughters. They were poor, but thanks to the Kintyre Institute, David was given the chance to study at Anderson’s University in Glasgow. His other siblings were not given this opportunity, so we can assume he was clever and perhaps lucky to be the first born. He was one of the founder members and Vice President of the Andersonian Chemical Society, which was founded by Professor Frederick Penny “It is believed the society is the longest running student chemical society in Great Britain”
Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser – Saturday 06 December 1862
He was living with two medical students and calling himself a teacher in the 1861 census. So something dramatic happens which we can only guess at. Next time he appears, he is a surgeon’s assistant.
On 10th May 1864, Archibald, father of David is awarded poor relief of “1/6d a week, tailor, due to general disability” and claims to have no knowledge of David’s whereabouts.
At some point between 1862 and 1867, David Macneilage moves to Leicester to become assistant to Dr Sloane, honorary surgeon to the Leicester Dispensary and lodge surgeon to the Rock of Hope Lodge of the Odd Fellows, who was also in private practice. Indeed, you wonder if there were any other doctors in practice in Leicester at this date, since Dr Sloane and his assistant are called out to every murder and ill doing, as well as babies and bunions. All seems well, until suddenly, in July 1868 a mysterious advertisement appears in the Leicester Chronicle.
Leicester Chronicle – Saturday 11 July 1868
No mention is made of what the “injurious reports” may be, nor whether anyone applies to make a claim. But one can assume that Macneilage is not able to work in Leicester and has possibly returned to Glasgow. “Injurious reports” would, I assume, suggest malpractice of some sort. But instead of this being the end of the matter, another horror appears in the Leicester Mail the following month. It seems he escaped trial, but not accusation.
Seeming to not allow this to get him down, instead of running away from it all, Macneilage gets married to a local girl on 1st January 1869, Agnes Maria, youngest daughter of local business man William Mcadam. But he can’t even tell the truth when getting married!
His father has become and Inland Revenue Inspector, a highly paid job done by reputable men, instead of a lowly tailor! On 6th January 1869, his father Archibald dies in Campbeltown. Unremarkably, a baby, Archibald, is registered in Leicester before the end of the year, the address given being that of his maternal grandmother.
But the time the census for 1871 appears, they are in Cornforth, County Durham, although, still called a “Surgeon’s Assistant”. By later in 1871, a daughter, Helen Kate is born.
True to form it isn’t long before he pops up again. This time he has pretended to be a fully qualified surgeon, when in fact he had to leave his previous job in a bit of a hurry.
He seems to have either taken a backhander to give a reference or “accidentally” forgotten he wasn’t a surgeon. Meanwhile, no doubt in order to fit in, David Macneilage joins the Masons.
Perhaps that looks like he has decided to conform? No, not him!
This time, 1878, it is clear that he is not just not qualified as a surgeon, but not qualified as a doctor either. By 1878, there have been three more children, Mary Stuart (named after his sisters) in 1874, David George in 1877 and William Edward (named after Agnes Maria’s brothers) in 1878. He must be getting quite desperate. In December 1878, he finally passes his medical exams and appears in the medical register for 1879. The relief must have been enormous.
Just as things should be on the up, in 1880 tragedy strikes, Agnes Maria dies in childbirth. The baby survives and is named after her mother. David is left with six children under 12, no real job and no mother for his children. What plan will he hatch next? That’s another day’s story!
Click here to read the next chapter or any the links below to read what happened to the children.
David Macneilage Campbeltown 1840- Manchester 1907
Agnes Maria Mcadam- Leicester 1840- Cornforth 1880
Archibald– Leicester 1869- Zimbabwe 1940 married and divorced Elsa Martha Wierk
Helen Kate – Cornforth 1871- Scunthorpe 1948 married Stanley Calvert
Mary Stuart “Queenie” – born Cornforth 1874 -? married Harold Kynset Nicholson
David George, Cornforth 1877- New York abt 1960 married Katherine Canning
William Edward, (sometimes William Andrew) Cornforth 1878- Broughty Ferry 1958 married (1) Elizabeth Bathe (died) (2) Annie Green
Agnes Maria Cornforth 1880- Surrey 1955 married Parmenas Hudson