Dundee Family History · Hutcheson Family History · Sinclair Family History

John Sinclair and Elizabeth Hutcheson

Elizabeth Hutcheson was born in 1816, the child of John Hutcheson, a mill manager and his wife Elizabeth Reid.


She met a young man called John Sinclair, who was working as a clerk in the mill office.

John had been born on 2nd July 1813 in Paisley, the son of a skilled weaver, Alexander Sinclair and his wife Margaret Stevenson. He was the first child of eight children. They left Paisley and came to Dundee around 1824. He was also known by the Gaelic form of John, Iain.

By the time of the 1841 census, the couple are married and living in the Cowgate in Dundee. Their first child had been born in October 1840 and they had called her Elizabeth.

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The Cowgate was a very different place in the 19th century from the way it is today. Apart from the mills, the river ran almost to the end of the street.Dundee was a much smaller place, but a very busy one.

dundee 1832

During the 1840s, the family grew. Margaret was born in 1842, Jane in 1845, John in 1850 and Charlotte in 1851. By the time of the 1851 census, the family had moved away from Dundee, up the hill to Lochee’s High Street to live with Elizabeth’s sister Margaret. In the previous census, Margaret was living with her mother, Elizabeth, so this had probably been the family home. John was now working as a machine maker at Cox’s Works.


It is almost impossible to imagine how noisy Lochee was. The works were relatively new, having been established in 1841, but it now covered 33 acres and by the height of its business employed 5000 people. The Sinclairs were living in the shadow of the works.


lochee 1859
The OS map of 1859 shows Burnside Street running horizontally between the cooling ponds.

In 1854 their son Alexander Reid  was born, followed by Edward in 1855, Harriet Georgina (or Lyell) in 1857 and Isabella Baxter in 1859. As the family became more prosperous, the children’s given names seem to have become grander. Isabella’s middle name was no doubt in recognition of the fact that the Baxter family had given John his first chance in life, in an office, not the weaving floor.

Lochee High Street, the Sinclair’s house is the right hand door. You can see Cox’s stack, the mill chimney, looming behind the house.

In 1856 John had been promoted to East Mill in Blinshall Street

john sinclair po 1856
Dundee Post Office Directory entry for 1856
East Mill
East Mill, Blinshall Street.

Life seemed reasonably good for the Sinclairs. Blinshall Street was about a mile and a half from Lochee High Street and so not too far to return home every night.

But on 24th February 1860, John became unwell. Thirteen long days later, he died of Typhoid. That year on 67 were admitted to DRI, less than half the previous and next years. One wonders how many of those were from East Mill. Certainly, the rest of the Sinclair family were not taken ill. The Scouringburn ran directly under East Mill and was possibly the source of this outbreak of the disease.

john sinclair death.JPG

John outlived his father, but not his mother. She lived directly across the High Street from them in Colville’s Land, Flight’s Lane. Elizabeth’s parents were dead, but her sister, Margaret was still living with the family in 1861 and listed as a “Laundress” so would have been bringing in a much needed income. By 1861, oldest daughter Elizabeth has left home and is working as a live in servant. Daughter Margaret is working as a machinist, Jane a linen weaver, Charlotte, only 14, a linen yarn weaver. John, Alexander and Edward were still scholars and Harriet only 3 years old and Isabella not yet 1. This cannot have been an easy life for any of them. By 1863, Charlotte is dead.

On 3 August 1869, John married Davina Gorrie. They are both 19 years old. They go to live in South Mid Street, next to her mother. Like his father, John becomes a jute manufacturer’s clerk. Unlike his father, he stays with Cox’s Camperdown Works for all his working life. On 21st May 1870, their only daughter, Betsy McFarlane Smith Sinclair was born. On 22 September 1871, their first son, Edward Thomson Sinclair, was born.

So, by the time of the 1871 census, Elizabeth is 53 and a grandmother twice over. Her sister has died, but she has only one child, Isabella, not working. Daughter Elizabeth is working as a servant at Airlie Lodge, a fine house which stood where Dundee University now stands. Margaret is still a machinist, Jane a power loom weaver, Alexander is a mechanic and Edward and Harriet (aged 13) factory workers.The family are now living at 110 Logie Street, a new street, with better facilities than those they had had in Lochee’s High Street. John’s mother and brother Russell live at number 106. Their flat was just up the road from where John had been buried in 1860.

On 13th September, John and Davina have another son, David Cockburn Sinclair. On Christmas Eve 1873 daughter Elizabeth marries George McGregor, a young man who does very well and they become quite wealthy. In 1875, Alexander marries Charlotte Sandeman, and their story is told here. But in 1876, Harriet dies, aged only 21.

Edward is story is a sad one. In 1880 he drowned in a cooling pond at Cox’s Camperdown Works. Elizabeth’s first daughter was also born that year, and called Elizabeth Sinclair McGregor.

In 1881, they are still living at 110 Logie Street. Elizabeth has only Margaret, now a mantle maker, Jane, now a jute rather than linen weaver and Isabella, who has become a vest maker, at home.The end of year 1881 brings another child for John and Davina, on 11 December.

But, as you may already have read, John and Davina lost their son Edward Thomson Sinclair in another drowning accident in 1883. Shortly afterwards, Davina died too, followed by Elizabeth’s daughter Isabella in 1885.

Isabella death Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 06 April 1885
Dundee Evening Telegraph – Monday 06 April 1885

Son John married for a second time in 1885, a widow who lived just down the street from him, Agnes Carrie. They had a shop in Liff Road together and lived there with all their children, ten in total.

Elizabeth died in 1889 of a cardiac arrest, at 110 Logie Street. The death was reported by her son John. She outlived her parents, her husband, her sister, some of her children and grandchildren and still managed to live until 72, not bad for Victorian Lochee.

The offspring of John Sinclair and Elizabeth Hutcheson-

Elizabeth born Dundee 1840, died Dundee 1910. Married George McGregor.

Margaret Stevenson Sinclair born Dundee 1842, died Dundee 1921.

Jane Hutchison Sinclair born Dundee 1845, died Dundee 1924

John Sinclair born Dundee abt 1850, died 1894 married Davina Gorrie 2) Agnes Reoch nee Carrie

Charlotte Hutchison Sinclair born Dundee 1851, died Dundee 1863

Alexander Reid Sinclair born Lochee 1854, died Invergowrie 1930 married Charlotte Bowman Sandeman.

Edward Thomson Sinclair (1) born Lochee 1855 died Lochee 1880

Harriet (Hariot) Lyell (Georgina) Sinclair born Lochee 1857 died 1876.

Isabella Baxter Sinclair born Lochee 1857, died Lochee 1885.

sinclair grave whole
Balgay Cemetery, Section D, plot 296. The marker for John and Charlotte’s grave at Logie is either lost, or it was in the section which has now been built on.

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