This page was updated on 10th September 2017.
Archibald, David and William Macneilage lost their mother when they were aged 11,3 and 2. They were unhappy at home and left at the first opportunity.
Between 1883 and 1888, Dr David Macneilage and his family return to Campbeltown and in October 1886, his brother’s wife dies of TB. Malcolm was seventeen years younger than David and had been born after David had left home. Malcolm and his wife Agnes had one son, Archie, born in 1878. After Agnes dies, Malcolm takes his young son to Africa. Having seen his sister lose all her children, one by one, he probably hoped the warmer climate would save him from the fate of his mother and all four of his sister’s children. 19 year old Archibald goes too.
We know that in 1891 David arrives in New York. There are not many records of this immigration records of this period, they were lost in a fire in 1907, but we can see from the later New York census entries his date of immigration.
William takes a job in England in a brand new electric kettle factory and learns to be an electrician, but in January 1896, he too leaves for New York and to join his brother. He was arriving in a different way from his brother, who seems to have worked his passage, William arrives on the Aurania as a passenger.
Since 1892, passengers had to land at Ellis Island on arrival. William passed the health checks, although, in later life, it turned out only one of his lungs worked because he had had TB, very possibly contracted during the families stay in Campbeltown. The Ellis Island we see pictures of today is not the one William saw, it was an enormous wooden structure, which burnt to the ground in 1907.
But William was not to stay. He found that David was spending his time as a professional gambler on the Manhattan ferry. William was furious with his elder brother and very disapproving of his occupation. We don’t know how long William stayed in New York, only that he worked his passage home.
On 10th April 1897, David married Katherine Canning, known as Katie, an Irish girl who had come to New York on a passage paid by her sister Maggie. On 23rd May 1897, their first daughter, Agnes, is born. She was named after David’s mother and David appears to settle down to family live and regular work.
At the time the 12th USA census, in 1900, David, Katherine and Agnes are living at 177 Seventh Avenue. David is in the leather goods trade and Katherine a housewife.
In South Africa, Malcolm and his son Archie are both serving in the Boer War, Malcolm having been in the Cape Police and later the Durban Light Infantry. Archie serves in Bethune’s Mounted Infantry as a Sergeant and is mentioned in despatches on 30th March 1900. Both are listed on the War Memorial at Inverary.
William appears in the 1901 census at the home of his future parents in law. He is listed as a “visitor” and is called a “seaman”. It is interesting to note that he is called “William E.” in the listing. On his birth certificate he is called William Edward, but he was baptised William Andrew. It certainly leads to some confusion!
The first ship that it has so far been possible to find William working on is the S.S. Ivernia, owned by the Cunard Line and launched in 1899. She worked the immigrant run from Liverpool to Boston. You might wonder who the ship brought back, since the this was largely a one way journey. In 1902, Katherine Macneilage and her baby daughter Agnes make the journey, they do not appear to have David with them. It seems only to be a short trip before they return to New York. The same year, David is sued in the New York courts for a debt. Possibly their return to the UK was to try and raise some money.
William was by now working as a chef, not an ordinary seaman. It is interesting to see a menu from that period and see the kind of hearty fare that was being served.
By later in 1902, William had started to sail with the Booth line’s ship Augustine. Their business had been built on the back of importing rubber for tyres and exporting English leather to the USA. They sailed to South America and up the Amazon as far as Manaos (now Manaus) Manaus was at the centre of the Amazon region’s rubber boom during the late 19th century. For a time, it was “one of the gaudiest cities of the world”. Historian Robin Furneaux wrote of this period, “No extravagance, however absurd, deterred the rubber barons. If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion in his villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne.” The city built a grand opera house, with vast domes and gilded balconies, and using marble, glass, and crystal, from around Europe. The opera house cost ten million (public-funded) dollars.
Their cousin, Archie, died in 1902 in Lucknow, India. His father, Malcolm, arranged a gravestone for his wife Agnes and their son back in Campbeltown.
Archibald has met Elsa Wierck, a girl from Hamburg and they marry and live in Rhodesia, where he is a miner. (Elsa’s parents kept a boarding house in Cavendish Street, London, before emigrating to California in 1903, where Elsa’s father also became a miner.) Archibald’s stepsister, Annie, served as a nurse, with her father as doctor, on boats from the UK to India, the Eastern Cape and Zanzibar. The last time I find any record of her she is living in Rhodesia. So Archibald still has family contact.
On 23 January 1903, Archibald and Elsa have a son, given the name of Archibald, in true Macneilage tradition. (Like their father, Archibald and David both use several spellings of the name -Macneilage, MacNeilage, McNeilage and Mcneilage)
In July 1903, back in Liverpool, William marries Elizabeth Alice Bathe, the daughter of a lithographer.
In New York, David and Katie have a son on 3rd April 1904 and call him Archibald William, after both his brothers, but also carrying on the naming tradition. Archibald William is followed swiftly by another son, David George, on 31st August 1905. But, very sadly, on 3rd November 1905, Archibald William dies.
1906 sees the birth of daughters for both Archibald and David. In Rhodesia, Elsa is born and in New York, Helen, named after one of David’s sisters.
William is back working for the Cunard line, on their ship the Carmania which travels the route between Liverpool and New York. In May of 1907, Archibald calls a son William Andrew, after his brother.
Dr David Macneilage, their father dies on 6th September 1907. None of the boys attend his funeral. He leaves £41.
In January 1908, David and Katie have Katherine Canning Mcneilage and in March 1909, Archibald and Elsa have Kathleen.
In New York on 13th January 1909 the Macneilages have a son and call him Freddy. (when grown up and working on Wall Street, he uses the name Frederick) But far too soon, on 16th June 1909, only 6 months after Freddy was born, James Canning is born. Amazingly, he lives until 28 December 1909. But there were no more babies in New York after that.
1910 sees another census in the USA. The family are now living in Court Street, opposite a park and David is still working in a leather store.
William does not appear in the 1911 UK census. It would appear he is at sea. His wife has her sister staying with her at their home in Ivanhoe Street. The 1911 UK census is the most detailed to date and asks the intrusive questions- “How many children living?” ” How many children have died?” “How many children are still alive?” From this we can see that William and Elizabeth have had no children in the seven years of their marriage.
By 1911, William is again working for the Booth’s Line, this time on their ship R.M.S. Ambrose.
This would be William’s last trip on a big ocean liner. After 1912 he gets a job as chef on Lord Inverclyde’s yacht. Lord Inverclyde’s family owned Cunard and so, presumably, this is how he gets that job. It is not clear which Lord Inverclyde William worked for. James Burns, 3rd Baron Inverclyde (1864-1919) was heavily involved in all kinds of shipping and had connections to the Port of Liverpool, as well as sitting on the Board of Cunard, the family firm. However, Alan Burns, 4th Baron Inverclyde (1897-1957) was well known for owning large seaworthy yachts, which were more in keeping with having a chef on board.
Back in New York, Agnes is doing well at school and winning prizes.
Both William and David were called up for WWI. William was not called up until 1916, because of he was 34 when war broke out. However, when the young soldiers had become in short supply, the older generation were called up. David returned from New York to fight and William was lucky enough to be pulled of the ordinary troops to work as a chef in the officer’s mess. Both survived the war and returned to civilian life, when William started his own ironmongery business in Liverpool.
In 1920, on David’s return to New York from the war, David and Katherine had a nother daughter, Mary Ann, born 9th January.
Archibald had been too far away and too old to be called up. His marriage was now over and he was living in Fort Victoria without his family who were in South Africa. His daughter Elsa died in Johannesburg, in the flu epidemic of 1925. Far away in Liverpool, William’s wife Elizabeth died too.
William’s shop had a flat above it and he rented it to a Mr and Mrs Robert Green and their daughter Annie. Robert worked in an office at the docks. In September 1926, William married Annie.
In 1927, William’s shop in listed in the telephone book at 123 Knowsley Road, Bootle.
By the end of 1929. William and Annie had two daughters and had moved to Great Crosby.
David and his family had also moved, this time to Lafayette Avenue. David is listed as “a retail leather salesman” and son Freddie is a runner on Wall Street.
In 1934, William and his family move to a new life in East Coast Scotland. Between 1934 and 1938, he ran a garage in Broughty Ferry. He lost Annie in 1954 and died in 1958.
In October 1940, Archibald died, at Fort Victoria, Salisbury, Rhodesia of cancer of the Pharyn and Broncho Pneumonia. He was still listed as a miner and his marital status is listed as “unknown”.
By 1940, David is living in Pine Street, which would appear to be a street made of pine, rather than a street planted with pines. Only daughter Agnes is still at home, but David is listed as “married” not “widower”. He is now the proprietor of a French leather repair firm. His wife, Fred, David and Mary are living at a different address, 593 Park Place, some 6 miles away.
All three boys had a hard start to life and travelled so far before they settled down and settled so far apart, with some more unsettled than others. I wish they could hear each other’s stories, I don’t know how much they knew. I don’t yet know when David died.
Archibald Mcneilage October 1869- 12 october 1940 married Elsa Lillian Wierck
David McNeilage 20 March 1877-? married Katherine Canning
David George-1905-1948 married Genevieve I Swenson 1908-1996.
Mary Ann 1920-2005 married William Weldon.
William Macneilage 7th April 1878-1958 married 1) Elizabeth Bathe 2) Annie Elizabeth Green
Two daughters, one of whom died in 2017.