Campbeltown family history · Macneilage Family History

W. Mcneilage- Victualler, butter and ham dealer

19th century token from a shop owned by a W. Mcneilage, victualler, butter and ham dealer, Anderston, Glasgow.

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Campbeltown family history · Macneilage Family History

The Macneilage boys, Archibald, David & William.

This page was updated on 10th September 2017.

Before you start reading the boys story, you might like to read their childhood, which starts here- Part One and Part Two.

william manchester 1891

macneilage 1891 2
The 1891 census, showing William at home, but no David or Archibald.

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.

The Manhattan ferry port in 1895, seen from the ferry.
The Manhattan ferry port in 1895, seen from the ferry.

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.

7th avenue in 1900
7th Avenue in 1900

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.

david macneilage new york 1900

177 Seventh Avenue, Kings, New York 1900.
177 Seventh Avenue, Kings, New York 1900, their home was in the block above the pizza restaurant.

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 in the UK 1901 census, a visitor at his future in laws
William in the UK 1901 census, a visitor at his future in laws

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.

The New York Times 30 May 1902
william ivernia
R.M.S Ivernia of the Cunard Line

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.

A menu from William's time working on ths ship- Dinner Menu Card, Second Cabin RMS Irvernia, Monday 30 June 1902
A menu from William’s time working on the ship- Dinner Menu Card, Second Cabin RMS Irvernia, Monday 30 June 1902

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.

William served on the Booth's Line ship Augustine in 1902
William served on the Booth’s Line ship Augustine in 1902

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.

william wedding one
William’s wedding to Elizabeth Alice Bathe, showing their address as her parents. The address was bombed during WWII.

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 carmania
William is listed as crew for the Carmania in 1907.

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.


david usa macneilage 1910

368 Court Street, Kings, New York
368 Court Street, Kings, New York.

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.

william macneilage 1911 directory
1911 Directory entry for William at their home address in Bootle.


william ambrose
R.M.S Ambrose, William is listed as crew in 1911.

By 1911, William is again working for the Booth’s Line, this time on their ship R.M.S. Ambrose.

ambrose 3

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.

william 1914
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920

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.

william macneilage 1927 phone bookwilli's shop

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.david usa macneilage 1930

david macneilage 1930
409 Lafayette Avenue, Kings, New York.

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.

David's entry in the 1940 New York census.
David’s entry in the 1940 New York census.
catherine macneilage 1940.png
Wife Katherine’s entry in Park Place Brooklyn in 1940.
david pine
91 Pine Street, Brooklyn, New York
katherine macneilage 1940.png
593 Park Place, Brooklyn.

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.

Want to read more? Click here to go to the Index page.

Archibald Mcneilage October 1869- 12 october 1940 married Elsa Lillian Wierck



William Andrew-1906-1968


David McNeilage 20 March 1877-? married Katherine Canning


Archibald William-1904-1905

David George-1905-1948 married Genevieve I Swenson 1908-1996.


Katherine Canning-1908-1971


James Canning-1909-1909

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.




Campbeltown family history · Macneilage Family History

Daniel MacNeillage and Stewart McPhail

Daniel and Stewart were born before name spelling had become as rigid as it is today and before it was law to register births, marriages and deaths. We know they married on August 19th 1799 in Campbeltown and from the marriage entry in the parish register, that they were both of the parish of Campbeltown. It is likely that his parents were Daniel Mcneilage and Katherine McTagart. But it will probably be impossible to ever prove this.

Stewart seems an odd name for a girl today. Being prejudice against it because it sounds like a boy’s name is probably just a modern idea, she may just have been named after her Mother’s maiden name, as was very traditional on the West Coast of Scotland. But it likely to infer that the family had Jacobite sympathies, especially since later generations use “Mary Stuart” instead of just “Stewart”. No record of her birth has so far been found.

Daniel was a weaver, probably of coarse linen, but again that is not recorded. His occupation and the fact he is deceased is recorded on his son Archibald’s death certificate in 1869.

The couple have four children, two daughters and two sons. Katherin is born in 1800 and later married James McMillan. Mary Ann in born in 1806 and does not marry. Archibald (born born 1804) becomes a tailor and marries Catherine McIntosh and Malcolm (born 1802) is a local grocer and marries Margaret Beith.

Campbeltown family history · Macneilage Family History

Archibald Macneilage- father and small town tailor

Archibald Macneilage was born in Campbeltown on 24 March 1804, the 3rd child of Daniel McNeilage and Stewart McPhail. He had one brother , Malcolm and two sisters, Katherin and Mary Ann.

On 27 September 1838, he married Catherine McIntosh, one of five children of Gilbert McIntosh, a weaver and Mary McCallum. The marriage entry gives Archibald’s occupation as “tailor”.

The marriage of Archibald Macneilage to Catherine McIntos
The marriage of Archibald Macneilage to Catherine McIntosh

Their first son, David, was born in 1840, closely followed by their first daughter,  Mary, at the end of 1841. The census shows them living in Main Street, Campbeltown and his occupation is still that of a tailor.

Main Street, Campbeltown.
Main Street, Campbeltown.

The couple have a second daughter, Stewart, in 1844. Stewart may seem a strange name for a girl, this one was of course named after her paternal grandmother. It occurs quite commonly in Campbeltown and in most generations of the Macneilage family of this period. It is probably a discreet way of showing Jacobite sympathies.

Another daughter, Catherine, is born in 1847.

High Street, Campbeltown.
High Street, Campbeltown.

By the census of 1851 they are living in the High Street and he is still a tailor.  The children listed are David, Mary, Stewart, Catherine, Archibald and Daniel, aged 3 months.

Three further sons are born between 1852 and 1857, Gilbert, Archibald and Malcolm.

By the census of 1861, Archibald is 57. The couple only have four of their children still at home, Catherine, Archibald, Daniel and Malcolm. David , Mary and Stewart have left home and are in Glasgow. It would seem Gilbert, the boy named after his maternal grandfather, has died. The family’s address is given as McMillan’s Land, High Street.

In 1861 Archibald is awarded poor relief of 1/6d a week, due to general disability and in 1869 he dies, 5 days after David’s wedding, which took place far away in Leicester.


Campbeltown from Gallowhill Scotland

Archibald Macneilage- Campbeltown 1804- 1869

Catherine McIntosh- Campbeltown 1815-Campbeltown 1896

David- Campbeltown Campbeltown 1840-Manchester 1907 married 1) Agnes Maria Mcadam 2) Anne Anderson

Mary- Campbeltown 1841- Campbeltown 1894

Stewart- Campbeltown 1844- dod probably in South Africa, married William Hamilton Bowes

Catherine- Campbeltown 1847- Campbeltown 1931

Daniel- Campbeltown 1852- dod unknown

Gilbert- Campbeltown 1854- dod before 1861

Archibald- Campbeltown 1857- Campbeltown 1904

Malcolm- Campbeltown 1857- Durban, SA, after 1905.






Campbeltown family history · Macneilage Family History

David Macneilage- Doctor, Father and Rogue, Part two, the second marriage.

Updated 18th July 2017.

So, we left David Macneilage, recently widowed with six small children, one a baby.

What he does is shout for his sister, Stewart Macneilage, whose husband, ten year old daughter and three sons have recently died. I’m not convinced it is what she needed, but she dutifully turned up.

In 1880 he triumphantly delivers triplets alive, a feat very uncommon back then, so presumably he was a skilled doctor, although a recently qualified one. (two seem to survive childhood)

Census entry for the Macneilage family 1881
Census entry for the Macneilage family 1881

Two of his children are missing from the census. Archibald is at a boarding school nearby,  Trimburn House in Fishburn and Helen Kate is with her aunt Mary Mcadam. He states all his qualifications in the census and I note he calls himself a “General Practitioner” not a surgeon. It is worth noting he is missing a university medical qualification. It was illegal to practice medicine from 1859 without an entry in the Medical Register and it would seem David Macneilage had no right to have an entry until 1878, so he had been practicing for around ten years unqualified.

David Macneilage Advert in Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough 7th February 1882
Advert in Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough 7th February 1882


By 1882, he has left County Durham and is in the seaside resort of Saltburn. He advertises for a housekeeper and instead gets a new wife. He also goes back to calling himself a “surgeon”

David Macneilage marries Anne Anderson 23 June 1882
David Macneilage marries Anne Anderson 23 June 1882

But just when it seems he has settled down to a new life with his new wife and his children, suddenly, it appears, he reverts to form.

David Macneilage Yorkshire Gazette, 2nd December 1882
Yorkshire Gazette, 2nd December 1882

However, no further mention is made of his death and in April 1883 he applies to be Medical Officer of Guisborough Union, a position he fails to win despite the fact he has a petition of 600 rate payer’s signatures asking for him to be appointed.

Entry from the UK Medical register for 1883 for David Macneilage
Entry from the UK Medical register for 1883
The Macneilage's house at 6 Hilda Place, Saltburn
The Macneilage’s house at 6 Hilda Place, Saltburn.

His first child with his second wife is born in the second quarter of 1883 and registered in Guisborough. But by later that year he advertises in the Campbeltown paper “”Dr David Macneilage, surgeon, at Sergeant Curries, McNair’s Land Longrow”

Longrow, Campbeltown
Longrow, Campbeltown.

Even getting to Campbeltown in 1883 was difficult. The railway didn’t get there until 1905 and Saltburn was on the opposite coast. A long journey. Now trailing his children from his first marriage, an English wife who is unlikely to have ever been to Scotland and their new baby, it can only have been a journey made in desperation.

david macneilage 1885

He has two more daughters, in 1884 and 1886, Barbara Elizabeth and Alice Hannah, 1885 sees him made surgeon to the 1st Argyll and Bute regiment and appointed to the Campbeltown School Board. He and his family seem to becoming very much a part of Campbeltown life.

david macneilage Thursday 12 March 1885 ,  Glasgow Herald ,  Lanarkshire

In 1886 he is the doctor who records the death of his brother, Malcolm’s  wife, Agnes Galbraith, from TB. His son William reports that things were tough for the children. They were expected to go to church three times every Sunday and they knew no Gaelic, so often played only with each other. Their stepmother was cruel and they often ran away and played truant from school, eating nuts, berries, young hawthorn shoots, seaweed, sorrel and earth nuts to stave their hunger. He remembered seeing his father standing in the kitchen, tearing up unpaid bills and feeding them into the kitchen range and consoling himself from the greybeard of whisky under the kitchen table. Campbeltown residents needed a doctor, but they simply could not afford to pay.

David Macneilage's bankruptcy The Edinburgh Gazette October 9th 1888
The Edinburgh Gazette October 9th 1888

In 1887, yet another child is born, Ethel Le Page, but in 1888, a insolvency notice was placed in the Edinburgh Gazette, chasing him for his debts. It seems the family were already in Manchester. Archibald would have been now 19 and appears not to have been living with the family for some years. David George leaves for the USA in 1890. Mary Stuart has left home to become a nurse.

David Macneilage Medical Register 1891
David Macneilage Medical Register 1891- they remain at this address until his death, the entries staying the same and the last being 1903.
david macneilage 740 rochdale road
740 Rochdale Road, Manchester


From 1889 -1900, the Macneilages are given poor relief. This did not stop them producing more children- Isabella Winifred in 1891, Davina Giberta in 1892 and Norman Anderson in 1895.

William is sent to the Manchester Grammar School, though one wonders how they could afford it. Did he win a scholarship? From various later mentions of her, it appears that Annie and the girls were educated “at home”, at least for a time. It didn’t seem to do her any harm, as she seems to have done well in exams. William left home in 1893 and had no further contact with his father and stepmother (the older boy’s story is another interesting one!)

david macneilage liberal unionists Thursday 14 January 1892 ,  Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser ,  Greater Manchester, England
Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser 14 June 1892

Despite being in poverty and there being not much sign of any income, David Macneilage kept up appearances and a social life, being an active member of the local Conservative Club.

Sadly, Isabel Winifred died, aged two, in 1893. She is buried with her father in the Manchester General Cemetery and an announcement placed in the Manchester Courier. Considering all that has happened, it is perhaps amazing to have only lost one child out of twelve. (but then, he was a doctor!)

david macneilage Monday 24 July 1893 ,  Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser ,
Manchester Courier & General Advertiser 24 July 1893

In 1893 he transfers his army commission from the 1st Argyll and Bute Voluntary Artillery to the 7th Lancashire Artillery Volunteers, a position which gave him a fabulous uniform and possibly some prestige and contacts, but little else. The UK is at war in Zimbabwe, but there is no evidence that he was called into action. In 1897 he resigned his commission. The most interesting thing is we can tell from this advert he was over the required measurements to join the regiment, so over 5 foot 6 and his chest was more than 33 inches!

1898 Kelly's directory of Manchester david macneilage
1898 Kelly’s Directory of Manchester- clearly a year out of date!

In 1896, Catharine McIntosh, David’s mother, died in Campbeltown, at the hearty age of 81.

From 1897 he is, for the first time, regularly employed. With his daughter Annie as nurse, he becomes a P and O doctor. From his obituary, we know he was sailing on the S.S. Somali from 1901. Somali carried 90 First Class and 70 Second Class passengers on a regular run to Calcutta and the Far East.

SS Somali. sailed 1903-1923
SS Somali. sailed 1903-1923

From the fact his name is removed from the poor relief register and the fact he has a salary, he is clearly feeling more prosperous and pays for an entry in the 1898 Medical Directory. It mentions that he was house surgeon at the Glasgow Lock Hospital and Clinical Assistant at the Newcastle Eye Hospital. This presumably accounts for the years between the 1861 census and working for Dr Sloane in Leicester.

1898 medical directory david macneilage
Dr Macneilage’s entry in 1898 Medical Directory

I have already mentioned that the older children were unhappy at home. But they didn’t, as far as I am aware, ever claim to have been kidnapped by gypsies, unlike Norman and Davina! It would seem they were no happier at school than their step siblings. This is the last mention of Davina that I can find. I assume she died sometime between 1903 and 1907, but can find no record of her death, unlike her sister Isobel. I like to think she liked living with the gypsies and ran away again!

macneilage gypisies Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 08 September 1903
Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 8 September 1903


macneilage gypsies 1Leeds Mercury - Saturday 12 September 1903
Leeds Mercury 12 September 1903
macneilage 2 Leeds Mercury - Saturday 12 September 1903
Leeds Mercury continued

On 6th September 1907, Dr David Macneilage died of a “strangulated hernia, which brought on toxis”. He had, according to his obituary, “been in ill health for a year or two, but nobody anticipated that the end was so near” He is buried in Manchester General Cemetery, in a different plot from his daughter.

Was he a bad man? He seems to have been a cruel father who frightened his children. But his main crime seems to have been being born poor but clever and aspiring to better things.


David Macneilage born Campbeltown 1840 died Manchester 1907

Anne Anderson born Guisborough 1857- died Manchester 1909

Annie Macneilage born Guisborough 1883- dod unknown

Barbara Elizabeth born Campbeltown 1884- died Manchester 1931 married Robert Booth

Alice Hannah born Campbeltown 1885- died Winnipeg 1978

Ethel Le Page born Campbeltown 1887- died Manchester 1949 married Arthur Lindsay Swire

Isabel Winfred born Manchester 1891- died Manchester 1993

Davina Gilberta born Manchester 1892- dod unknown, probably abt 1905

Norman Anderson born Manchester 1905 died Surrey 1945 married Winnie Murphy

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Campbeltown family history · Macneilage Family History

David Macneilage- Doctor, Father and Rogue (Part One)

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”

David Macneilage Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser - Saturday 06 December 1862

Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire AdvertiserSaturday 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.

david macneilage 1861.png
1861 census

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.

david macneilage 2 Leicester Chronicle - Saturday 11 July 1868

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.

david macneilage 3 Leicester Mail - Saturday 15 August 1868
Leicester Mail – Saturday 15 August 1868

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!

ag and dav

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.

david macneilage archibald agnes maria 1871

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.

david macneilage Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough - Monday 15 April 1872

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.

dAVID MACNEILAGE The Era - Sunday 16 June 1872.png

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.

UK Medical register for 1879 entry for David Macneilage
UK Medical register for 1879

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

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