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Inverary to Port Glasgow

Archibald McNuier 1762 - ?

The second son of Alexander McNuier and Catherine Ferguson, Archibald, married Sarah McArthur, daughter of Duncan McArthur and Catherine McKenzie, of whom more later. Banns were proclaimed 25 February 1785 so the marriage probably took place 3 weeks later. We don't know anything of Archibalds life in Inveraray except that three children were born there, the latest, Duncan, in 1789. In Port Glasgow his occupation was listed variously as tailor or tidewaiter, so it is probable that he learnt tailoring in Inveraray and may even have been a tidewaiter there also.

Their fourth child, Janet, was registered in Port Glasgow under the surname of Weir, which is somewhat of a trap and very smart of Alice to find it. 24 July 1791 O.P.R Port Glasgow - "Archibald Weir, Taylor, in Port Glasgow and Sarah McArthur his spouse had a lawful daughter born 24th and baptised 31st instant called Janet".

Sometime between the arrivals of Duncan and Janet they moved from Inveraray to Port Glasgow. This was a time of agricultural reform which resulted in higher rents and many tenants being evicted. It was also a time of great famine throughout Scotland. Whatever the reason for Archibald and Sarah to move to Port Glasgow, they were not alone. Between 1770 and the end of the century thousands of poor people moved to Greenock and Port Glasgow.

Archibald signed his warrant as a tidewaiter on 3 September 1794; his salary was 5 pounds a quarter paid at the end of the period to ensure his faithfulness to his employer. In 1800, tidesmens salaries rose to 8 pounds, 15 shillings a quarter and the following notice was displayed warning them not to take bribes.

Tidesmen's Notice

GENTLEMEN,I have it in Command to acquaint you, that the salaries of the Tidefmen being now increafed to what the Board judge an adequate Income to each of them, the Board here-by prohibit all and every Tidefman, under pain of Difmiffion, befides forfeiting the Salary that may be due to him at the Time of Detection, from either afking or taking, though offered, any fee or Gratuity from any Paffenger, Merchant, Shipmafter, or other perfon, unlefs Tidefman at Creeks, who act as Coaitwaiters; and the Greateft Care is to be taken that Fuch Tidefmen, acting as Coatwaiters, do not receive upon any Occafion more than what is fixed by the Table of Fees hung up, or which fhould be hung up, in the Cuftomhouse; and that fuch Tidefmen, acting as Coaitwaiters, may not pretend Ignorance, you are to fend them a Copy of the faid Table of Fees, fo far as relates to them. - You are to hang up a Copy of this Letter in the publick Cuftomhouse, and to renew it from time to time, and to give a Copy of it to each Tidefman, that none of them may pretend Ignorance.
I am,GENTLEMEN,Your moft humble Servant,
Cuftomhoufe, Edinburgh,
27th March 1800.

The tidewaiters purpose appears to have been the suppression of smuggling. They were "allowed to fish or do anything that may contribute to the better subsistence of themselves or families that is not contrary to the law or their instructions. However they are to cease from this if their duties call".

Port Glasgow was an important trading port and cargoes included whisky, hemp, wine, coffee, rum, cow and ox hides, and 400 barrels of English white salt for the Loch fishing on Loch Fyne.

By 1800, Archibald McNeur's name was 10th from the top of a list of 42 tidesmen at Port Glasgow and the name Archibald Wier was directly below his. Probably the same person! 5 January 1804, Archibald McNeur is 8th from the top. It states "Archibald McNeur and the person serving (in his place)." 5 April 1804, Archibalds name is 7th from the top. It states "Archibald McNeur and the person serving." His name does not appear again. He does not appear on the retired list of allowances in 1812 or on the new superannuation list of 5 June 1827. Alice suggests that the reference to "the person serving in his place" may mean that he was occasionally ill and died in 1804. However, the 1851 census lists Sarah McArthur as a seaman's widow, so he may have left as a seaman and died elsewhere.

An 1842 list of communicants of Dr. Barr's parish in Port Glasgow lists Widow McNeur in Church street with Mr & Mrs James McNeur and Catherine McNeur. The widow is probably Sarah, meaning that Archibald was dead at that time.

Registration of deaths did not become compulsory until 1855 and Archibalds death is not recorded after that.

It would be interesting to know how the spelling of a name became fixed. As far as I can ascertain, my ancestors have used variable spellings before 1802. When the family of Archibald and Sarah were being recorded, 5 different spellings were used for 9 children.
Family name spelling at Inveraray:
30 December 1785Alexander McNewer
6 April 1787John McNuier
24 April 1789Duncan McNuier
7 May 1800Ann McNuer
18 July 1802Alexander McNuir

When Archibald signed his warrant as a tidewaiter, his name is recorded as McNuer but in the lists of tidesmen of 1800, January 1804, and April 1804, the totally new spelling of Archibald McNeur. In my family, and I think in most of Archibald's and Sarah's descendants the spelling of McNeur has held.

Later in life, widow Sarah McNeur lived in Falconer street near to her son James and his family. In 1861 James McNeur and family lived in a tenement house with four windowed rooms while his mother shared a house and a one widowed room with her daughter Catherine, who was unmarried.

Sarah was buried in the Shaped Burying Ground, Port Glasgow and her son James had her name incorporated on a family memorial stone in the Port Glasgow cemetery.

Church St, Port Glasgow,
where James McNeur lived.

Of Sarah McArthur's early life we know only what was on her death certificate (as follows) and as she was 96 or 97 then, the information could be in error:

"8 March 1862 at Church street, Port Glasgow, Sarah McNeur aged 96, widow of Archibald McNeur, daughter of Duncan McArthur, farmer (deceased) and Catherine McArthur, M/S McKenzie (deceased). Informant: James McNeur, son"

McNeur graves at Port Glasgow cemetery.

Death certificate of Sarah McArthur McNeur, widow of Archibald

Although Sarah McArthur herself was not well documented, Sarah's mother Catherine was. Catherine McArthur was born out of wedlock, and her name appeared many times in the parish records:

  • First 18 June 1729 - Kenneth McKenzie and Elspeth McKenzie were married.
  • 15 September 1730 - a daughter Jannett was born
  • 26 April 1747 - It was reported to the session of the kirk of Inveraray that one Elspeth McKenzie, a widow woman in town, was with child so the officer was asked to summon her to the next meeting.
  • 3 May 1747 - Elspeth was interrogated and named Duncan McKenzie who worked under Mr Paterson, gardener to the Duke, as father to the child as they has "carnal dealings several different times in the month of December last".
  • 10 May 1747 - Duncan McKenzie "acknowledged guilt with her" and asked for a few days to reflect.
  • 17 May 1747 - Duncan and Elspeth were called to the session and Duncan acknowledged that they had lived in a course of criminal correspondence together during December and if the birth answered to this time, he could not refuse to father it.
  • 27 September 1747 - Duncan McKenzie went to the session and acknowledged paternity of the child now delivered and asked for the benefit of baptism which was granted.
  • 7 October 1747 - Catherine McKenzie baptised.
  • 7 November 1747 - Duncan and Elspeth married.
  • 27 March and 3 April 1748 - Duncan and Elspeth appeared before the congregation on both Sundays and were absolved from the scandal.

Catherine's brothers Donald and John were born in 1749 and 1754 respectively. And so we move on to James McNuier or McNeur, master shoemaker and sixth child of Archibald and Sarah.

Both texts are copies of original church session notes relating to the scandal over Catherine McArthur (later McNeur)'s parentage.

James McNeur 1796 - 1871

6th child of Archibald McNeur and Sarah McArthur. James was born 25 March 1796 and baptised 3 April 1796 in Port Glasgow. His next appearance in the records is: O.P.R. Port Glasgow 27 June 1828 "James McNeur shoemaker in Port Glasgow and Mary McGaw residing there were booked in to order to proclamation for marriage and were married 30th June by the Reverend Dr. Barr, Minister of Port Glasgow."

All we know of Mary McGaw is that her parents were William McGaw, a ship carpenter/journeyman, and Jane or Jean Ritchie. She had an elder sister Elizabeth and younger brothers James, William, Alexander and Peter. She died at Port Glasgow on 1 January 1877 aged 74.

James and Mary had 8 children:

  • Archibald who emigrated to NZ and died there (see NZ McNeur section for more on him ),
  • William who became Ship's captain and brought our ancestor to NZ (more information on him to follow),
  • Jane (According to census papers, Jane Ritchie McNeur was resident in an "insane asylum" in Larbert aged 43. She died in Larbert aged 60, presumably having spent many years in the asylum),
  • Mary,
  • James (our ancestor- see NZ section),
  • Sarah,
  • Elizabeth and
  • Alexander.

In the 1851 census of Port Glasgow county of Renfrew:
1851/574/10/3 at Falconer street, town and parish of Port Glasgow:

James McNeur Head Married 55 Shoemaker employing 8 men. All born Port Glasgow.
Mary McNeur Wife Married 48
Archibald McNeur Son Unmarried 21 Shipbuilders clerk
Jane McNeur Daughter Unmarried 18
Mary McNeur Daughter Unmarried 16
James McNeur Son Unmarried 14 Errand boy
Sarah McNeur Daughter Unmarried 12 Scholar
Elizabeth McNeur Daughter Unmarried 9 Scholar
Alexander McNeur Son Unmarried 7 Scholar
Jean McGaw Mother in law Widow 75 Annuitant
Then the 1861 census:
1861/574/12/86 at Falconer street (Resmiths land), Quoad Sacra parish of Newark, Port Glasgow
James McNeur Head Married 65 Shoe Warehouse. All born Port Glasgow.
Mary McNeur Wife Married 58
Jane McNeur Daughter Unmarried 26
Mary McNeur Daughter Unmarried 24
Sarah McNeur Daughter Unmarried 21 Teacher of English
Alexander McNeur Son Unmarried 17 Bookseller Shopkeeper
In 1842 a list of the communicants of Dr. Barr's congregation includes:
Mr & Mrs Alexander McNeur, Ropework Lane,
Mr & Mrs James McNeur, Church street,
Widow McNeur, Church street,
Miss Catherine McNeur, Church street.
Note: Church St intersects with Falconer St; They possibly lived on the corner, hence the reason why sometimes its given as Church St and sometimes it's Falconer. Or they may have moved from Church St to Falconer St prior to 1851.

From the Port Glasgow church records: 22 March 1843 "The following individuals being members of the session viz. Messers Neil Douglas, James McNeur, Robert Freeland, Peter Murch, John Colston, and Alex McGaw gave their resignation to their office of eldership in this parish and congregation which resignation was accepted." "On 2nd November 1842, James McNeur had been chosen to represent the congregation and the parish at the meetings of Presbytery to Synod of Glasgow and Ayr so when he resigned on 22 March 1843, he was replaced by Mr Alex Douglas who had been made a bona fide acting elder to act."

These resignations were at the beginning of "The Disruption" when objectors to the States control of the Church of Scotland withdrew and formed the Free Church of Scotland. In a letter from Alice Collins, she says that James was also sent to the Assembly of the church in Edinburgh to represent the congregation. The Alex McGaw who resigned from session with James would have been Mary McGaw's brother.

During the 1830s and 1840s, Glasgow was the fastest growing, and unhealthiest, town in Scotland, with Greenock running a close 2nd . The population had grown from 30,000 in 1770 to 359,000 in 1851, partly due to the famine in Ireland and the Highlands, partly to the change from agriculture to industry with higher wages being offered in the towns, partly due to the lack of cheap fuel and the suppression of illicit distillation and partly due to the huge changes made to farming where many small crofts were converted into large scale cattle farms and the crofters were subsequently displaced off their lands.

Houses of the working class in Port Glasgow and Greenock were overcrowded, and had little ventilation, the streets were filled with refuse and filth, there was poor sanitation and inadequate water supplies. When the cholera epidemic hit Scotland in 1832 these towns became the worst plague affected spots, with further outbreaks in 1834, 1848 + 1854. In 1837 the death rate was 1/37, and in 1847 was 1/18.

James and Mary therefore lived through a very turbulent period and it is a wonder most their family survived.

James I died 5 October 1871 and was buried in Port Glasgow cemetery. The memorial stone of grey granite carries inscriptions for the following:

"James McNeur, died 5 October 1871 aged 75;
Daughter Elizabeth died 23 June 1853 aged 11;
Son Archibald died 25 September 1861 aged 32;
Sarah McArthur died 8 March 1862 aged 97, widow of Archibald McNeur;
Widow Mary McGaw died 1 January 1877 aged 74;"

Church St, Glasgow
This photo is presumed to be of James and Mary McNeur c 1845. 3 girls on the left would be Jane, Sarah and Elizabeth. Probably Archibald at the back with James (who fathered the NZ branch), and Alexander to the right. William missing - probably at sea when the photo was taken. James McNeur's death certificate
Grave of James MacNeur, wife Mary, daughter Elizabeth and son Archibald - who died in NZ. Grave of James MacNeur,showing Jane's daughters Mary McGaw McNeur and Jane Ritchie McNeur..
This is where the McNeur family splits up. Alice Collins and the American wing are descendants of Alexander, younger brother of James I and the other descendants remained in Scotland. James' sons James and Archibald emigrated to NZ, either brought out, or at least encouraged, by big brother William.
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