Walter [2] Ferguson & Margaret McKerrow

Robyn’s Great-great Grandparents


The story so far: Walter [1] Ferguson was born in Cumnock, Ayrshire, in 1774. His father, James, had been an inn-keeper, and his mother, Katharin Goldie, was the daughter of a miller. Walter [1] joined the Lord Elgin Fencibles in 1799, soon after marrying Anne Phillips, the daughter of a revenue boatman from Cork in Ireland. With Anne following as an ‘on-service wife’, Walter served with the Fencibles for one year, then enlisted with the 72nd Highland Regiment of Foot  and served throughout Ireland for the next five years — they had four children during this period, but all died as infants. In 1806, Walter [1] and his wife Anne were still with the 72nd when they invaded Capetown and wrested the Cape Colony from the Dutch.

Walter [1] served in the Cape, Mauritius and Calcutta, India, over the next 13 years, rising to the rank of sergeant — and Anne delivered him six more children during this time. When discharged in 1819 due to injury, Walter [1], now a Chelsea Pensioner, and his family (Anne and children Janet, William, Catherine, Walter [2], Elizabeth and Thomas) returned to Cumnock, and eventually moved to Skares. Anne Phillips died in 1855, and Walter [1] Ferguson in 1861.

Margaret McKerrow

As we have seen on the previous page, the younger Walter [2] was born in 1814 on Mauritius while his father was garrisoned there during the Napoleonic Wars. The family had returned to Cumnock in 1820 after Walter Snr. had been discharged and pensioned. Not much is known about the family until the 1841 census (though daughter Janet was involved in a couple of ‘scandals’); however, in 1836, Walter [2] married Margaret McKerrow, a lass from the neighbouring parish of Auchinleck:

1836 SCOTLAND MARRIAGES: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 1Source: FERGUSON, Walter [2] & McKERROW, Margaret; 1836 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 610/ 40 378; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Walter Fergusson of this parish, and
Margaret McKerrow of the Parish of Auch-
inleck, after proclamation of Banns at their
several Parish Kirks the two preceding
Sundays, were intermarried the 22nd
of April, 1836.

1836 SCOTLAND MARRIAGES: Auchinleck, Ayrshire 2Source: FERGUSON, Walter [2] & McKERROW, Margaret; 1836 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 577/ 20 290; Auchinleck, Ayrshire.

Walter Ferguson of the parish of Cumnock and
Margaret McKerrow of this parish were mar-
ried at Cumnock on the 22nd April 1836
by the Rev. N. Bannatyne after having been
thrice proclaimed on the two preceding Sab-

The ‘McKerrow’ family name is quite common throughout the parishes of Auchinleck and Old Cumnock, and this has made it hard to trace our particular line. However, Margaret’s parents were married in 1796:

1796 SCOTLAND MARRIAGES: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 3Source: McKERROW, John [3] & HODGE, Jean; 1796 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 610/ 30 142; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

John McKerrow in this parish and Jean
Hodge in parish of Auchinleck gave in their
Names for proclamation of Banns on Friday
the 2nd day of September & were accordingly pro-
claimed on the three immediately following Sab-
baths and no objections being offered were married
on Monday the 12th Day of September 1796.

As you will see in the chart above, Margaret was the third last of 12 children for John McKerrow and Jean Hodge, and we are fortunate that this family is validated through DNA matches that Robyn has with the descendants of two of Margaret’s siblings (William (ii) and Andrew). Similar DNA matches also confirm the parents and grandparents of John McKerrow and Jean Hodge:

1767 SCOTLAND MARRIAGES: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 4Source: HODGE, William & MITCHELL, Jean; 1767 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 610/ 30 32; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

William Hodge Weaver in Cumnock and
Jean Mitchell in Donnaldstown were allowed
the priviledge proclamation in order to mar-
riage, May 28th 1767. Married June 13th

1769 SCOTLAND MARRIAGES: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 5Source: McKERROW, James & HANNAH, Helen; 1769 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 610/ 30 38; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Jas. McKerrow & Helen
Hannah were proclaimed
in order to marriage three
several times, last time Novr
12th 1769

We have one DNA match that verifies Jean Mitchell’s parents, Andrew Mitchell and Isobel Samson. From the old burial records, we find that James McKerrow died in 1832 at the Toll Bar,6Source: McKERROW, James; 1832 Scotland O.P.R. Deaths; 577/ 10 74; Auchinleck, Ayrshire. just south of the village of Auchinleck, but we have very little information about the family until the 1841 census — except for this appearance before the Kirk Session:

1836 KIRK SESSION: Cumnock, 30th May 1836, p.36

Compeared voluntarily […] Walter [2] Fergusson and Margaret MacKerrow, Spouses; all confessing themselves guilty of antenuptial Fornication. They were rebuked, exhorted to repentance and absolved from the scandal.

Naughty, naughty! Their first child (yet another Walter, and hereafter called Walter [3]) was born on 6 May 1836, only two weeks after the couple married, and a confession and repentance was necessary for the child to be baptised — and they were not the only ones in the family to be dragged before the Kirk elders (see Janet, William and Elizabeth in the previous chapter)! Also on the previous page we saw that Walter [1] Ferguson and Anne Phillips were living in Cumnock Village in 1841 with three of their children and a couple of illegitimate grandchildren, but the younger Walter [2] was living close by with his wife Margaret and two of their three children:

1841 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Cumnock Village, Ayrshire 7Source: FERGUSSON, Walter [2]; 1841 Scotland Census; 610/ 1/ 11; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Walter [2] Fergusson; 25; Agricultural Labourer; not born in Ayrshire [Mauritius]
Margaret [McKerrow] Fergusson; 25; born Ayrshire
John Fergusson; 3; born Ayrshire
William Fergusson; 8 months; born Ayrshire

However, their oldest child, Walter [3], was living with Margaret’s widowed father at Woodhead, a workers’ row about 2 km (1.25 miles) south-west of the village:

1841 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Woodhead Row, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 8Source: McKERROW, John; 1841 Scotland Census; 610/ 4/ 1; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

John McKerrow; 65; Agricultural Labourer; born Ayrshire
May McKerrow; 30; born Ayrshire
Helen McKerrow; 20; born Ayrshire
Walter [3] Ferguson; 5; born Ayrshire

The name “Woodhead” will appear again later in this story, but about 16,000 km (10,000 miles) away!

Coal Mines

By the mid 1800s, Cumnock’s main industry had become coal and iron mining, and that is probably what attracted our McKay and McMeekin families to come there in the 1860s. The Ferguson family had been weavers and agricultural workers after returning from their colonial exploits in South Africa in the 1820s, but by the 1851 census, we see some of the younger generation joining the ranks of coal miners. Though Walter [1] and Anne Ferguson had moved to Skares and were living on an army pension, Walter [2] and his family were living in the miners’ rows at Mid Changue:

1851 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Mid Changue, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 9Source: FERGUSON, Walter [2]; 1851 Scotland Census; 610/ 5/ 6; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Walter [2] Ferguson; Head; Mar; 35; Ironstone Miner; born East Indies (British Subject)
Margaret [McKerrow] Ferguson; Wife; Mar; 34; born Auchinleck, Ayrshire
John Ferguson; Son; Unm; 12; Miner; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
William Ferguson; Son; 10; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Jane Ferguson; Daur; 6; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Agness Ferguson; Daur; Unm; age; occ; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
David Ferguson; Son; 2; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Marion Ferguson; Daur; 10; born Cumnock, Ayrshire

The couple’s oldest child, Walter [3], was still living with his maternal grandfather and an aunt at Woodhead:

1851 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Woodhead Row, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 10Source: McKERROW, John ; 1851 Scotland Census; 610/ 4/ 4; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

John McKerrow; Head; Widower; 78; Agricultural Labourer; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Helen McKerrow; Daur; Unm; 30; employed at home; born Auchinleck, Ayrshire
Walter [3] Ferguson; Grandson; 14; Scholar; born Auchinleck, Ayrshire

However, John McKerrow and Walter [1] and Anne Ferguson all died before the 1861 census, and this was to be a seminal year for the family. In April that year, the younger Walter [2] and his family were living at Barrhill, a mine row immediately to the north of Cumnock Village:

1861 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Barrhill, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire 11Source: FERGUSSON, Walter [2]; 1861 Scotland Census; 610/ 2/ 29; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Walter [2] Fergusson; Head; Mar; 45; Miner (ironstone); born Port Louis, East Indies
Margaret [McKerrow] Fergusson; Wife; Mar; 44; born Auchinleck, Ayrshire
William Fergusson; Son; Unm; 20; Miner (ironstone); born Cumnock, Ayrshire
David Fergusson; Son; 12; Scholar; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Marion Fergusson; Daur; 10; Scholar; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
James Fergusson; Son; 7; Scholar; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Helen Fergusson; Daur; 3; born Cumnock, Ayrshire

By now, the two youngest children had arrived (James and Helen), while the two older boys had married: John in 1859 (to Elizabeth Pollock), and Walter [3] (to Agnes Wilson). John was living in the village and also working as an ironstone miner, while Walter [3] had moved to Roadside, about 2¾ km (1.7 miles) south of Cumnock. Walter [3]  was working as a tailor, like his uncle Thomas, who was also living in the village with his wife and five children. However, this was the last time the Ferguson family were to be living close together. Sometime around October, Walter [2] and Margaret McKerrow, with their seven youngest children, took the journey to Plymouth in England and, on the 26th of that month, boarded the sailing vessel “Jessie Munn” and sailed for Brisbane in far-off Queensland. The two older boys remained in Scotland.


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