2. WIGTOWNSHIRE (1811–1861)

The story up till now: John [1] McKay was born in Aberdeenshire around 1804, but had moved to Riggend in Lanarkshire by the 1830s. Here he met and married Mary Kilpatrick from Ireland and they had six children, of which only 4 survived to adulthood. John [1] seemed to have left his family by 1861 and eventually moved to Cumnock in Ayrshire where he lived with one of his sons, John [2]. Mary died at  Riggend in 1874, and John [1] at Cumnock in 1878.

Elizabeth McMeekin

As we saw in the previous article, John [2] McKay married Elizabeth McMeekin (my g-g-grandparents) at Cumnock, Ayrshire, in 1863. To the left is a picture of the old parish church as it was before 1865, and the very place where they would have been married by the Reverend James Murray. Only their first child, Andrew McKay (my great-grandfather) would have been baptised in this church, as the new one (which still stands) replaced it in 1864. However, neither John nor Elizabeth were born in Ayrshire. John [2], we know, was born at Riggend in North Lanarkshire, and arrived in the town somewhere between 1851 and his marriage at Townfoot, Cumnock, in 1863. Elizabeth, though, came from further south, and we know her parents from her marriage certificate:

1863 SCOTLAND STATUTORY MARRIAGE: Parish of Old Cumnock, County of Ayr 1Source: 1863 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 610/ 12; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

married: 6th March 1863   at: Townfoot, Cumnock
After Banns, according to the Forms of the Church of Scotland

John [2] McKay (Bachelor)
His X Mark, Iron Miner
age: 27     of: Townfoot, Cumnock
father: John [1] MacKay, iron miner
mother:  Mary MacKay M.S. Kilpatrick

Elizabeth McMeekin (Spinster)
Her X Mark, Domestic Servant
age: 21    of: Townfoot, Cumnock
fatherJohn [3] McMeekin, Labourer
mother:  Helen McMeekin M.S. Flinn

minister: James Murray, Minister of Cumnock
witnessesJohn McMeekin; Margaret McMeekin

Elizabeth, actually aged 25, was the third child of eight for John [3] McMeekin and Helen Flinn (Flynn). Her family were at Cumnock by 1861, but had previously been living in the Parish of Penninghame, Wigtownshire, about 65 km (40 miles) south of Cumnock. This parish formed the northwestern part of the shire, and includes the town of Newton Stewart. Most of Elizabeth’s siblings were born in Newton Stewart, but an older boy, William, seems to have been born 30 km (20 miles) further south at Garlieston, a farming area by Cruggleton Bay, where John and Helen were married. Interestingly, Garlieston harbour was used by the Allies to practise certain landing procedures for the D-Day invasion of France in WW2.

1837 SCOTLAND BIRTHS: Parish of Penninghame, Wigtownshire 2Source: 1837 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 895/ 20 122; Penninghame, Wigtownshire.

John [3] McMeekine and Helen Flynn had a lawful child born
21st August and baptized 12th December named – Elizabeth

Below is the family chart for Elizabeth McMeekin showing her ancestors back to her great-grandparents. Following the chart, we will examine three of these families: (i) her paternal grandparents, John [2] McMeekinMary McCreddie; (ii)  her maternal grandparents, Peter Flynn & Elizabeth Connell; and (iii) her parents, John [3] McMeekin and Helen Flynn.

The McMeekin and Flynn families of Wigtownshire. By 1861, the McMeekin family had moved to Old Cumnock in Ayrshire.

Paternal grandparents: John [2] McMeekinMary McCreddie

One of the more difficult challenges with this branch of the family is the wide variety of spellings for these names in the records. The McMeekin name is variously spelled McMikan, McMickan, McMeikan, McMeekanMcMeekine, McMicking, and McMeken — while Flynn gets Flin, Flinn, Flint, and Flyn. There also seems to have been other McMeekin families living in Wigtownshire at this time, and this often adds a degree of uncertainty when searching for sibling births. I have standardised the spellings in the family file as McMeekin and Flynn to avoid confusion, but the original spellings are used when transcribing documents.

Elizabeth’s father, John [3], was likely the eldest of nine children born to John [2] McMeekin and Mary McCreddie — but we cannot verify these as his parents from other documents. Indeed, the only clues we have are: (i) we know John [3] was born in Newton Stewart in Penninghame Parish (which we learn from later census records); (ii) that the ages recorded for him mostly indicate a birth date of 1810–11; and (iii) there are no other “McMeekin” births in that particular vicinity to confuse the issue. On the negative side is some seemingly contrary information given in John and Elizabeth’s death certificates (more on that later). All of John’s siblings were also born in Penninghame Parish.

1811 SCOTLAND BAPTISMS: Parish of Penninghame, Wigtownshire 3Source: 1811 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 895/10 416; Penninghame, Wigtownshire.

John [2] McMickan & Mary McCreddie had a Lawful Son Born
10th. Baptized 22nd Jany – 1811 named — John [3]

No marriage has been found for his parents, but Mary McCreddie was still alive (presumably widowed) in 1841 and residing as a farmer at Castle Stewart with five of her children (we cannot say what happened to Mary’s husband). Castle Stewart, near the River Cree, was purchased by the Earl of Galloway in 1806, and he named it Penninghame. The castle is now a ruin and lies around 5 km (3 miles) north of Newton Stewart on the modern A714.

1841 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Castle Stewart, Penninghame, Wigtownshire 4Source: 1841 Scotland Census; 895/ 9/ 9; Penninghame, Wigtownshire.

Mary McMeken; 55; Farmer; born Wigtownshire
Peter McMeken; 20; Ag. Lab.; born Wigtownshire
Elizabeth McMeken; 19; born Wigtownshire
Margaret McMeken; 17; born Wigtownshire
Jean McMeken; 15; born Wigtownshire
Jess McMeken ; 7; born Wigtownshire

In the immediate district for 1841 we find a number of people with the surname ‘McCready’ (a common variation of ‘McCreddie’): John McReady (14), a male servant at the neighbouring Penninghame Lodge; and Alexander McCready (74) — a labourer, with Lidia (50) and Margaret (16) — at Challoch Cottage, which lies 1½ km (1 mile) south of the castle. It seems possible that these might have been related to Mary. In the book Penninghame, The Story of a Parish (James McLay, 1998), it is claimed that the earliest recorded ‘McMeekin’ at Castle Stewart was a John [1 ?] McMeekan, husband of Helen McMurray. The parish records show this couple had a daughter, Elizabeth, in January 1778 at Castle Stewart;5Source: 1778 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 895/ 10 183; Penninghame, Wigtownshire. she was followed by an “unnamed son” in February 1780,6Source: 1780 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 895/ 10 199; Penninghame, Wigtownshire. and another daughter, Mary, in January 1785.7Source: 1785 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 895/ 10 242; Penninghame, Wigtownshire. Given the unique location, it is easy to imagine that these folk are likely to be Mary McCreddie’s in-laws — and the ‘unnamed’ boy might well be her husband, John [2] McMeekin.

A closer view of Castle Stewart. The smaller building this side of the ruin is more likely to be the dwelling for farm workers.

The ruins of Castle Stewart from the A714. The farm lies immediately west of the road, and the modern Penninghame Estate lies to the east, behind the camera. The smaller building this side of the ruin is more likely to be the dwelling for farm workers—perhaps Mary McCreddie and her McMeekin family lived there.

This is about all we can say for Elizabeth’s paternal grandparents. John [2] McMeekin had died before 1841, when his youngest child, Jean, was about 17; this seems to indicate he probably died after 1823, aged between 43 and 60. Mary McCreddie does not appear in the 1851 census, so presumably she died in the decade before; her age range would have been 55–65.

Maternal grandparents: Peter Flynn & Elizabeth Connell

In 1841, Elizabeth McMeekin’s maternal grandparents were living at Cowgate, in the middle of the small village of Garlieston in Sorbie Parish, about 20 km (12 miles) to the south of Newton Stewart. Of particular interest from that record was the fact that a six-year-old grandchild, William (s/o John [3] McMeekin and Helen Flynn), was living with them.

1841 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Garliestown Cow Gate, Sorbie, Wigtownshire 8Source: 1841 Scotland Census; 897/ 4/ 11; Sorbie, Wigtownshire.

Peter Flin; 50; Ag. Lab.; born Ireland
Elisabeth Flin; 60; born Ireland
Jane Flin; 20; born Wigtownshire
William McMeeking ; 6; born Wigtownshire

Jane Flin, was Peter and Elizabeth’s fourth child, and was actually 27 at this time (born 5 Sep 1812 at Culscadden, just north of Garlieston).9Source: 1812 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 897/ 10 129; Sorbie, Wigtownshire. She never married, and died at Garlieston aged 63 in 1876.10Source: 1876 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 897/ 33;, Sorbie, Wigtownshire. William, on the other hand, was likely to be an illegitimate child of  Helen Flynn and John [3] McMeekin. There is no birth record for him, but he seems to have been born very close to when his parents married in 1835 — he lived with his grandparents until at least 1851.

On the left, we see the northern end of Cowgate, Garlieston, looking towards Wigtown Bay. This bay was used in WW2 to test an artificial harbour for the D-Day landings. The picture to the right is the south end of Cowgate. Peter Flynn and Betty Connell were living in Cowgate in 1841 before moving to Pouton Lodge.

Elizabeth’s grandparents were still at Garlieston in 1851 — however, they had moved from Cowgate to Pouton Lodge, just over a kilometre (600 yards) to the west on the modern B7004.

1851 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Pouton Lodge, Sorbie, Wigtownshire 11Source: 1851 Scotland Census; 897/ 2/ 18; Sorbie, Wigtownshire.

Peter Flinn; Head; Mar; 62; Farm Lab.; born Ireland
Betty Flinn; Wife; Mar; 71; born Ireland
Jean Flinn; Daur; Unm; 37; Farm Lab.; born Wigtownshire, Sorbie
William McMeekin; Grandson; Unm; 16; Sailor; born Wigtownshire, Sorbie
Ann McMeekin; Grandaur; 8; Scholar; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame

Again, we have William living with his grandparents, and by now he is a sailor (which explains his move to Liverpool in later years). Interestingly, his younger sister Anne was also living with Peter and Elizabeth, and she also lived with her grandparents until they passed away (Elizabeth in 1859, and Peter in 1861). Indeed, Anne was the informant on both her grandparent’s death certificates. Jean (Jane) is given her proper age in this record.

Pouton Lodge: the farm house Elizabeth Connell and Peter Flynn (4G-G’ps) occupied from at least 1851 till their deaths in 1859 and 1861. Some of their McMeekin grandchildren also lived here. It lies 1km west of Garlieston on the corner of the B7004 and Tacher Road. The photo on the right is looking to the northwest from the B7004. The main farm is to the left, and open fields lie beyond.

William and Anne were not the last of the grandchildren to live at Pouton Lodge. In 1861, about 18 months after Elizabeth Connell died, we find William has moved on, but Anne is joined by her younger sister Agnes. There was obviously a close and on-going relationship between Helen and her parents, although by about 1859, she had moved to Old Cumnock in Ayrshire with her husband and children. It is likely that the original lodge has been considerably renovated since the 1860s, and even the roof is probably of a later date, but this is the site it would have stood upon.

Betty Flynn née Connell passed away at Pouton Lodge in October 1859, and her death certificate provides us with her parent‘s names. Although her age was given as 86, her gravestone says 90, while her age at the 1851 census was 71, meaning she would be more like 78 if that figure were true. It is likely that she and Peter were always older than they were admitting to the enumerators.

1859 STATUTORY DEATHS: Parish of Sorbie, Wigtownshire 12Source: 1859 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 897/ 20; Sorbie, Wigtownshire.

Elizabeth Flyn
Married, wife of a agricultural labourer [Peter Flynn]
died: 26th October 1859    age: 86 years   at: Pouton Lodge

father: Andrew Connal, Agricultural labourer (deceased)
mother: Elizabeth Connal M.S. McGuffie (deceased)

cause: Age & Debility, 3 years feeble & 7 weeks worse
doctor: Jas. Dunsimore, Stud. of Medicine who saw deceased Octr. 25th
burial: Sorbie Churchayrd as certified by John Shillan, Sexton
informant: Annie McMeckin, Grand Daughter (present)

Pouton Farm from Tacher Road. The lodge and the B7004 are to the left.

Pouton Farm from Tacher Road. The lodge and the B7004 are to the left of the camera view.

By the census of 1861, Peter had been a widower for almost 18 months, and two of his McMeekin granddaughters were at the house. His age given was 25 years older than he gave on the 1851 census, and is probably closer to the mark.

1861 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Pouton Lodge, Sorbie, Wigtownshire 13Source: 1861 Scotland Census; 897/ 6/ 13; Sorbie, Wigtownshire.

Peter Flynn; Head; Widr.; 87; Ag. Labr.; born Ireland
Ann McMeckin; Grand Daur; Un; 18; Servant Domestic; born Wigtown, Newton Stewart
Agnes McMeckin; Grand Daur; Un; 13; Visitor; born Wigtown, Newton Stewart

Peter Flynn died six weeks after the census, and his granddaughters Anne and Agnes then moved to Cumnock, ending the family‘s connection with Pouton Lodge. Two years later,  Anne married Peter McCulloch, a local baker, and lived the rest of her life in Garlieston. She died relatively young in 1892, aged 50. Her sister Agnes married John Ross in 1865, and she eventually died in Kilmarnock in 1924, aged 78. Peter‘s death certificate gives us another generation: Robert Flynn and Mary Crawford — but we know nothing of them other than they were likely Northern Irish of Protestant stock.

1861 STATUTORY DEATHS: Parish of Sorbie, Wigtownshire 14Source: 1861 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 897/ 18; Sorbie, Wigtownshire.

Peter Flin
Agricultural Labourer
Widower of Elizabeth McConnell
died: 19th May 1861   age: 89 years       at: Pouton

father: Robert Flin, Agricultural Labourer (deceased)
mother: Mary Flin M.S. Crawford (deceased)

cause: Old age, 4 months very feeble
doctor: No regular medical attendant
informant: Annie McMeckin, Granddaughter (present)

Peter Flynn was buried in the old Sorbie churchyard, along with his wife, Elizabeth, and two of their children: William and Elizabeth. However, the dates on the gravestone don’t seem particularly accurate. The daughter Elizabeth was born Betty Flyn on 28 Oct 1809 at Balfern, Kirkinner—7 km (4.5 miles) north of Sorbie. Her age in 1842 would have been 32 or 33. There is no record of William’s birth, and that is likely to have been in Ireland. If the age is correct, he was born around 1804. Elizabeth Connell’s inscription has her dying on 22 Nov 1859 aged 90, but her death certificate says she was 86 and died on 26 October of that year. Even Peter‘s inscription was wrong — his death certificate has him dying 19 May 1861 aged 89, not May 1862 aged 81. The inscription on the family gravestone reads (as best as we can detect):


There is, however, a final piece of information that may be related to Flynn/McMeekin story of Wigtownshire. On the same page of the Kirkinner Parish baptismal book that we find Betty Flynn’s birth record is this intriguing entry:

Decr. 16 1809 15Source: 1810 Scotland O.P.R. Baptisms; 889/ 10 153; Kirkinner, Wigtownshire.

Jean McMiken an unmarried woman brought forth a child
to Robt. McMurray in Whithorn, the father being still under scandal
and the mother having been censured & absolved became sponsor for the
child a son in baptism this 25th day of June 1810; the child named John McMiken

Again we have a McMurray and a McMeekin involved in producing a “John McMiKen”. Given that the Flynn family obviously lived nearby at that time, is there a connection between this John McMikan and the one that married their daughter Helen? If so, the ‘McCreddie’ connection could be in doubt!

Parents: John [3] McMeekin & Helen “Alice” Flynn (to 1851)

Mary McCreddie’s oldest child, John [3], was not at Castle Stewart in 1841, but living nearby in Newton Stewart with his wife, Helen, and three children—and the records show he had married Helen Flynn in 1835:

1835 SCOTLAND PROCLAMATIONS: Parish of Penninghame, Wigtownshire 16Source: 1835 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 895/ 20 231; Penninghame, Wigtownshire.

John McMeekine and Helen Flynn procl. last time 22nd March 1835

1835 SCOTLAND MARRIAGES: Parish of Sorbie, Wigtownshire 17Source: 1835 Scotland O.P.R. Marriages; 897/ 20 111; Sorbie, Wigtownshire.

John, Penninghame Parish, & Alice Flin,
Sorbie Parish, March 23rd at Garliestown.

The  marriage for this couple was, as you see above, registered in two parishes, and this was a common practice where the bride and groom were from different parishes (we have several like that throughout). What you will also have noticed, no doubt, is the second record names the bride as Alice Flin (you can safely ignore the spelling variations for both surnames) — so, what’s this about?

One of the great breakthroughs in researching this branch of the family was actually discovered by a member of the Cumnock Family History group. In three separate records, Helen Flynn is named “Alice”: (i) her ‘home’ parish marriage entry in 1835 (above); (ii) her own death certificate in 1880;18Source: 1880 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 599/ 28; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. and (iii) her daughter Anne’s death certificate in 1892.19Source: 1892 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 897/ 15; Sorbie, Wigtownshire. Why she was sometimes called “Alice” is unknown, but it could be a nickname (like my grandmother Petronėlė being called and recorded as Sarah), or a ‘Sunday’ name — we’ll never know. Her birth record, around 1806, has never been found, but she is likely the second child of five to Peter Flynn and Elizabeth Connell. It is possible she was born in Ireland, although she always gave her birthplace as “Penninghame, Wigtownshire”.

1841 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Wigton Row, Newton Stewart, Penninghame 20Source: 1841 Scotland Census; 895/ 7/ 1; Penninghame, Wigtownshire.

John McMiken [McMeekin] ; 31; Shoemaker; born Wigtownshire
Ellen McMiken [Flynn]; 32; born Wigtownshire
David McMiken; 5; born Wigtownshire
Elizabeth McMiken; 3; born Wigtownshire
Andrew McMiken; 2; born Wigtownshire

As you can see, John [3] and Helen (or Alice, if you prefer) were living at Wigtown Row in Newton Stewart in 1841 and already had three children, including our three-year-old Elizabeth. It is not clear where this dwelling was situated, but the census schedule puts it “south of Mr Goods’ land and west of the River Cree”. There is a Goods Lane running on from Princess Street towards the river on the modern map, so we can imagine that Wigton Row would be situated within that locality in the southern part of the village:

LEFT: facing south. Goods Lane, just beyond the yellow house, runs off the main street to the left towards the River Cree. ‘Wigtown Row’ and ‘Old Glenluce Road’ would have been somewhere beyond or to the right.
RIGHT: south from the corner of Goods Lane. John [3] McMeekin and Helen Flynn lived in this area from at least 1841 to 1851 before moving to Old Cumnock in Ayrshire.

Ten years later, John and Helen were still living in Newton Stewart, more or less in the same area as they had been in Wigtown Row. John remained a shoemaker, and the eldest child, David, was working as a lead miner. There were two lead mines in the district at that time: Garlies Mine, which lay 3.8 km (2.4 miles) north-east of the town, and Blackcraig, a similar distance to the south-east. There were six children in all, the youngest was four, and all had been born in Penninghame. Although Elizabeth is not given an occupation, she is now 13, and would soon enter the workforce.

1851 SCOTLAND CENSUS: Old Glenluce Road, Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire 21Source: 1851 Scotland Census; 895/ 6/ 9; Penninghame, Wigtownshire.

John McMeeking; Head; Mar; 41; Shoemaker; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
Helen F. McMeeking; Wife; Mar; 42; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
David McMeeking; Son; Unm; 14; Miner (Lead); born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
Elizabeth McMeeking; Daur; Unm; 13; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
Andrew McMeeking; Son; Unm; 11; Scholar; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
Mary McMeeking; Daur; 7; Scholar; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
Agnes McMeeking; Daur; 6; Scholar; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame
Jane McMeeking; Daur; 4; born Wigtownshire, Penninghame

From this census, we can see that two of John and Helen’s eight children are not at home: William and Anne were both living at Pouton Lodge with their Flynn grandparents. Our McMeekin connection with Wigtownshire ended sometime between 1851 and 1861, as we next find the family in Old Cumnock in Ayrshire. Elizabeth was to spend her teenage years in that town, and there she was to marry and have her family—but, that’s not where she died.

Click here to continue the story.



2. Wigtownshire: 1811–1861 — 2 Comments

  1. My great-great-grandmother was AGNES McMECKAN (McMeekan/McMiekan – so many different spellings), born between 1833 and 1835 in Portpatrick, and died in Old Kilpatrick, Glasgow, on 2 November 1910. She was the second wife of JAMES McNEILLAGE (1819-1882), lock keeper at Dalnottar in Glasgow. But I am having a devil of a time trying to trace the McMeckan lineage further back. One of my relatives somewhere thought that Agnes’s parents were James McMeckan and Agnes McClymont. However, the only reference I can find on Scotlandspeople have an Agnes McMeckan whose parents are listed as Alexander McMeck and and Helen Gibson. Can you possibly help me make some sense out of all this confusion?

  2. Hello Andre,

    Sorry for the late reply, but I’ve been overseas in wilderness areas for the last month with only occasional Internet.

    Yes, “McMeekin” spelling is one of the most varied in my tree, and it often takes a while to search for all the possibilities in the records!

    I do have a couple of “Agnes McMeekins” in my tree, but they don’t seem to match your dates. My GG-Grandaunt (1846–1924) was married to John Ross. She was born in Newton Stewart, and died in Kilmarnock. I also have two 1st cousins (3R): (i) Agnes Dorrence McMeekin, born 1862 in Cumnock, but I know nothing more about her; and (ii) Ellen Agnes McMeekin, 1878–1937, born and died in Liverpool, England.

    I also have a “Mary Combs McNeillage” who married a GG-Granduncle, but that’s on my paternal side, so unconnected with the McMeekins.

    Some of the spelling variations for my McMeekin family include: McMikan, McMickan, McMeikan, McMeekan, McMeekine, McMicking, and McMeken – you’ll need to search for all those possibilities when looking for records.

    I hope some of this helps.



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