Matilda Fletcher (Zinkevičius)

based on the recollections of Matilda, Anne Bissett, and others

by John Bissett, 2006

updated with new information and edited by Alan Craig, 2018 — [my direct ancestors are marked in purple.]

Notes: Anne Bissett (born Anne Whyte) is my half second cousin.  John Bissett died 23 September 2014.

Matilda Zinkevičius, aka “Tillie” Fletcher, was the daughter of Jonas Zinkevičius, coalminer, and Ona “Annie” Simanavičiūte. Jonas and Ona were married on 5 Feb 1911 at the Roman Catholic Church, Holy Family Church, Mossend, Lanarkshire. Mossend and Bellshill are contiguous. They were aged 26 and 19 respectively.1Source: 1911 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 625/03 0026; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. Their children were: Matilda “Tillie”, b. 16 Dec 1911;2Source: 1911 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/01 0580; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. Jaroslav “Russell”, b. 5 Apr 1913;3Source: 1913 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/01 0167; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. and Malvina, b. 25 Feb 1915.4Source: 1915 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/01 0111; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. (All were baptised Catholic.)

From the same source, we find that Jonas was the son of Vincas Zinkevičius (spelt “Zikewiczius” on the certificate), farmer, and Amelia Vishnouskie. Ona/Annie was born 10 Feb 1891, daughter of Pranciškus Simanavičius and Petronėlė Melninkaitytė, in Lauckaimis, a village in the Vilkaviškis district of Lithuania.5Source: Extract of birth certificate held by Anne Bissett, Brisbane, Qld. Ona’s half-siblings, Joseph, Bernard and Petronėlė, were also born there. Her father never came to Scotland; we know that he had died before Ona was born, because Petronėlė married her second husband, Jonas Šugžda, on 6 Sep 1890 when she was four months’ pregnant with Ona.6This date now appears to be incorrect; no record is found for that marriage in the 1890 parish records of Vladislovov. Their first child was not born till December 1894, and the marriage is likely to have been closer to that date; however, the years 1891–1894 are missing from the records.

Ona’s mother and step-father had at least three more children in the same village: Joseph, b. 12 Dec 1894; Bernard, b. 1896; and Petronėlė Juzė, b. 16 Nov 1901, though it is likely there were others who didn’t survive.7In fact, there were five other children who had died in infancy: first, Juozapas and Silvestras (fathered by Pranciškus); then, Pranciškus and Vladislovas (fathered by Jonas); and, lastly, a previously unknown ‘Maggie’ who had been born in Lauckaimis in Nov 1902 and died of TB in Bellshill on 13 Jan 1904. Petronėlė had 11 children in all, but only 6 survived.  The family then moved to Scotland sometime between November 1901 and May 1904 where John Šugžda was born at 7 Bellside Terrace, Glebe Street, Bellshill.8Source: 1904 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/03 0309; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. The last of Ona’s half-siblings, Alexandra “Alex”, was also born in Glebe Street on 26 Feb 1910.9Source: 1910 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/03 0138; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

Jonas Zinkevičius was a coalminer, which together with work in foundries and steel mills, was the usual occupation of Lithuanians in Scotland. He migrated to Scotland in unknown circumstances, but it could have been on economic grounds or to escape Russian domination. He died 12 Dec 1921 in Soviet Hospital No 15, Kharkov, Ukraine, of typhus. The full translated text of the letter in Russian from the Government Health Department at that hospital dated 31(?) June 1922:

This certificate is given to citizen Annie Zinkevičius, wherein it is certified that her husband, John Zinkevičius of the government of Suvalki in Lithuania, was admitted to Soviet Hospital Nº15 on December 7th 1921 after a relapse into illness from which he had been suffering, namely Typhus. He died on December 12th 1921 in above mentioned hospital.

Suvalki is in Poland today, but in Jonas’s time was within Russian Poland. Anne always used to say that he was Polish, but the best explanation seems to be that he was part of the Lithuanian minority in Poland. The nationality issue is complicated because:

  • His family seems to have regarded him as a Pole. Russell said that his mother was a bit of an outcast in the family because, Lithuanian born, she had married a Pole [my mother always told the same story —ed.].
  • His name is undoubtedly Lithuanian, and there is a Lithuanian population in Poland.
  • In Scotland, Lithuanians were called Poles by most people.

There is an untranslated abbreviation before his name on the original certificate that could tell us more. It may be an army rank, but the original translator is unknown. A reasonable hypothesis is that Jonas was in the Red Army during the post-Revolution Civil War. That seems to be the only explanation for his being in a Soviet Hospital and for the authorities going to the trouble of notifying his widow.

During WWI, the British Government made an agreement with the Bolshevik Provisional Government of Russia that Lithuanian men in Britain, aged between 18 and 41, faced the choice of being conscripted into the British Army or being repatriated to Russia for military service with the Russian army.10This was the Anglo-Russian Military Convention, signed 16 Jul 1917. This was based on the UK Government’s acceptance of Russia’s occupation of Lithuania. The country had been under Russian rule since the eighteenth century, and that had, in fact, been the trigger for so many to emigrate to Scotland and, especially, the USA and Canada. Britain regarded the Lithuanians as Russians.

Jonas certainly went off to the war, and although there was an assumption by Anne’s generation that be had gone to the British Army — an assumption fostered by Jonas’s own children — hindsight and evidence shows that was probably not the case. This whole episode is very confusing. These men had a choice between the British army or the Russian. Considering that they had fled Russian oppression, it seems odd that 1200 went to Russia. About 200 dependent families were left behind in Bellshill. One hypothesis is that they thought that Lithuania would be given its freedom by the new Russian government.11Editor’s note: At least a number of these Lithuanians were idealistic socialists/Communists, and the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 possibly removed the previous disdain they had for imperial or Tsarist Russia. One theory would be that many joined the Russian Army to advance Socialism and to help free Lithuania. Jonas Zinkevičius was almost certainly a ‘Conventionist’, and part of the 1,100 Lithuanians of Lanarkshire who chose to return to Russia rather than be conscripted into the British Army. That did happen in 1920. When they took over, the Soviets had tried to retake Lithuania, but were defeated in the attempt. Jonas was one of about 800 who did not go back to Scotland when others did in 1919. A good source, though not necessarily accurate, is The Lithuanians in Scotland by John Millar (Jonas Stepšys).12John Millar was actually Jonas Stepšys, the son of Vincas Stepšys of Sakalupis Estate in Lauckaimis. It is quite possible that he is related to our family, as Petronėlė Šugžda’s grandmother was Ieva Stepšytė, the daughter form of Stepšys (pronounced ‘Step-shees’).

Before his departure, Jonas apparently told Annie that, should he not return, she was not to bring the children up as Catholics. The handed-down story is that the priest made life difficult for Annie because of this. Russell (Jaroslav) said that his father spoke seven languages, but that is possibly an exaggeration. He probably spoke four: Lithuanian because of his family background; Russian if he had been to school in Poland or Lithuania (because that was the compulsory medium of instruction); Polish in that community; English learned in Scotland.

Anne remembers that her Uncle Russell said his father, Jonas, sometimes called himself ‘Fletcher’, and Russell adopted that name when be started work at a dairy. However, Lithuanians found that employers or officials simply gave them new names that Scots could get their tongues round. They did not change their names. It is probable that in the pit or the steelworks they were known by English names while, in the Lithuanian community, they retained their real names. Anne’s mother, Malvina, used her Lithuanian name on her wedding certificate13Source: 1937 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 644/08 1732, Blythswood, Glasgow, Lanarkshire. and as her maiden name on Anne’s birth certificate. It was used also as her maiden name on her death certificate.14Source: 1962 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 597/00 0448, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.


Jonas Zinkevičius’s family

Of the three children — Matilda “Tillie”, Jaroslav “Russell”, and Malvina — only the last went to high school. According to Russell, their widowed mother could only afford for the last to go. Before Jonas left, the family lived at 2 Store Place, Bothwellhaugh;15My mother Patronele McKay, was born here, although her parents lived at 81 Govanhill Street, Glasgow, at the time. this was mine housing that belonged to Hamilton Palace Colliery at Bothwellhaugh near Bellshill, not far from Glasgow. The village no longer exists, as it is under a lake that is part of a country park. There is very good information on the Web about the village. Widowed, Annie had to leave the house and went to live and work at Bothwell Park Farm, which was farmed by the Gibson family.16Although Annie was living at 2 Store Place in July 1929 when my mother was born, the Valuation Rolls for 1930 and 1935 have “Annie Fletcher, widow” living at 31 Glebe Street, Bellshill. In 1935, Russell was at Bothwell Park Farm under the name of “Zincavitch”, and Annie was at the farm when Malvina got married in 1937. When Annie married Willie Dubickas in April 1938 she was living at Unthank Street in Bellshill.  Bothwell Park Farm is likely to be the place my mother was evacuated to as a child in WWII. She always said it was the first time she had milk or eggs.

When she left school, Tillie looked after the Gibson children before going on to another family near Stirling. Russell also worked on the farm before he went down the mine with his Šugžda uncles — Alex and Joe — and a third whose name he forgot [that would be Barney —ed.]. Annie’s second marriage was to a fellow Lithuanian on 30 Apr 1938, a widower, Vincas Dubickas (aka Willie Dobbin, but later William Savage). He too was a miner and they lived in the miners’ rows at Orbiston in Bellshill. Miners’ rows were lines of joined cottages, built by the mine owners to house their workers, often with few amenities. Some were quite primitive, especially those that were remote from towns. Apparently, the housing at Bothwellhaugh was superior to the rows, as they were tenement buildings, not cottages.

One amenity at Orbiston was the communal washhouse where Annie did her laundry. She remembers it as a round brick structure with a conical roof. It had two entries, one to serve each of the facing rows. Inside, there were a number of copper boilers. Annie and Willie later moved to a council house at Crofthead, still in Bellshill, the main centre for the Lithuanian communities in Scotland. Bellshill had (from 1904) a series of Lithuanian priests, who were responsible for the whole of the west of Scotland, and there was a Lithuanian language newspaper.

Willie looked remarkably like Khrushchev. He survived Annie and, after his death, much that would have shed more light on the family disappeared. Before Malvina could get to the house and rescue things, Willie’s son [Joe Dubickas aka Stewart —ed.] came up from England and cleared out everything, including photos and papers. Anne has no mementos of her grandmother. There had been a large framed photo of Jonas hanging in the house, but it went with the rest. I remember seeing the photo a few times, because Anne was close to her Granny, had often gone to her on holiday as a child, and we went there quite often. I have always thought that Robbie Stripling looks like that photo.17This is  Robert G. Stripling III, Matilda’s son-in-law, and married to her oldest daughter, Sarah Ann.

Annie was a thin, very active woman with green fingers. She grew wonderful flowers and vegetables and had herbs for all occasions. At Orbiston, she grew these in her plot at the allotments, a group of gardens about fifteen minutes walk away from the rows and near the town centre. Seeds were sown and plants went in according to the phases of the moon, and she had to replant her dahlia tubers before St George’s Day, 23 April. She brought other traditions with her. All Lithuanian women made rag rugs for their homes. Anne’s mother had one, and Anne can make one too. She still made Lithuanian dishes like kopustiu, a cabbage soup made with her own pickled cabbage, barsčiu, the very dark rye-bread, duona, which was bought as a whole or half loaf from the baker.

Like all Lithuanian women, Annie grew the herb rue, in Lithuanian, ruta. This was supposed to cure many diseases and had symbolic significance. It was an important part of Lithuanian heritage, and Annie used herbs as medicinal remedies. Russell says that when his mother lived in the rows, neighbours would send for Annie when there was sickness in the family. In fact, Russell said: “When someone was sick, the doctor said, ‘Send for Annie!’.”

Although Annie was literate in Lithuanian, she had Mrs Swallow, a Lithuanian neighbour in the rows, write letters in English for her. She was a calm person, but Anne once saw her very angry. She had given Willie money to renew their radio licence, but be put the money on the dog races and lost the lot. At home the explosion was all in Lithuanian, so Anne has no idea what was said.

The Polish connection seems to have been maintained over the years. Jonas’s sister Rosaleen (or a similar name) had stayed in Poland but kept in touch. She had sent a photo of herself, her husband in uniform, and two young sons to Annie, her sister-in-law, but that photo disappeared. At some point in the 1940s, Rosaleen appears to have asked for sponsorship to migrate to Scotland, but Tillie, then living in the US, apparently advised her mother against that. In that same decade, Tillie treated her mother to a trip to America, and she sailed on the RMS Mauretania.

Tillie left Scotland when she was 17 to go to Canada and enter service there. Russell had intended to go with her, but he fell through the ice on the River Clyde, caught pneumonia, and was not immediately fit to travel. By the time his convalescence was up, he had lost the notion. According to Tillie, she emigrated with no money under a program where boys went to work on farms, and girls into domestic service. These emigrants did not pay the cost of the passage. She was met at the port of Halifax on 18 Mar 192918Source: 1929 Alien Arrivals New York, USA (M1480; roll 39; group 85) — “Matilda Fletcher”, in transit with employer. and put on the train to Toronto, and there she worked for the family of R. Leighton Foster, who had one girl and one boy. Foster was Superintendent for Insurance in Ontario. On 30 June 1929, she travelled with that family to the US for a holiday at Grove Beach, Connecticut. There is nothing known about the circumstances of her eventual permanent move to the USA, but she was working at Atalaya for the Huntingtons19This is Atalaya Castle, then the winter home of industrialist and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington and his wife, the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. It is located in Huntington Beach State Park near the Atlantic coast in Murrells Inlet, Georgetown, South Carolina. where she met Eugene Moore. She told us she caught sight of him as he was working at roof level, and gave us the impression that she was immediately smitten. These two were living, with children Sarah Ann and Evelyn, at 233 Highway No. 501, Conway, South Carolina in 1935 and 1940.20Source: 1940 US Federal Census; Conway, Horry, South Carolina; ED: 26-8 / 13B, roll 3817.


Šugžda relatives

There is another branch of the family. We need to go back to the original generation that came to Scotland. Annie’s mother, Petronėlė Melninkaitytė, had been widowed in Lithuania and had married Jonas “Johnny” Šugžda. When they came to Scotland, Jonas became a miner but, in October 1911, he lost his left leg in a cage fall21Source: Scottish Mining Website, http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/77.html at the Hamilton Palace Colliery, Bothwellhaugh. Anne remembers her step-great-grandfather, who was hot tempered and had a peg-leg, but she cannot remember her great-grandmother. They had five [actually 8—ed.] children together: Juozas, “Joe”; Bronislovas, “Barney”; Petronėlė Juzė, “Sarah”; John, “Johnny”; and Alexandra “Alex” 22There were three other children born to Petronėlė and Jonas in Lauckaimis: Pranciškus (1896); Vladislovas (1899); and a previously unknown ‘Maggie’ (1902). All these died as infants, although Maggie survived until the family reached Bellshill. — the first three born in Lauckaimis, Lithuania, the last two born in Bellshill. Joe, Barney and Alex, as we know, migrated to New Jersey, and Sarah stayed in Scotland. John also went to New Jersey in 1929 to stay, but returned to Scotland in 1931.

There is some suggestion that Tillie would have caught up with Barney and Alex in Canada before they went to America, but facts are obscure. Anne knew Uncle Johnny and his family in Bellshill, where they lived in the rows at Orbiston. He was married to Jeanie Hill Wallace,23Source: 1927 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 625/01 0099; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. and they had a large family. According to Tillie, she washed floors and cleaned for her grandparents since her grandmother was a very large lady, unable to do these things herself. [They had lived at Glebe Street in Bellshill until they moved to Park Place, Bothwellhaugh, in 1911. Old Jonas Šugžda lost his leg in a mine cage collapse that same year, but both stayed on at Park Place until they died (Annie’s mother in 1930, and Old Jonas in 1941) —ed.]24John’s original text had them living first at Bothwellhaugh and then Bellshill, but it was the other way round. Tillie says that she “went to Grandma’s for a big pot of soup while Mother was working”.

Petronėlė “Sarah” Šugždaitė was, therefore, Annie’s half-sister and Tillie’s half-aunt. She married George Brown McKay,25George and “Sarah” married 23 Feb 1929. Source: 1929 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 625/01 0016; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. who she remembers as a gentle, thoughtful and studious man in the building trades. He was a trade union official and a founder member of the Scottish Communist Party. When the Russian Party celebrated a 50th anniversary of the 1905 Revolution, George was one of six British communists invited as official guests of the USSR. Sarah and George’s daughter, Patronele — “Pat”, named after her grandmother and mother — went to Australia with her husband, John “Iain” Craig, and son, Karl Alan [me! 🙂 —ed.] in 1950.

Sarah lived on her nerves, quite unlike her half-sister, Annie. Anne theorises that she may not always have been like that, but it was the result of living alongside British Oxygen in Glasgow during the war and air raids. She was a woman of quite unusual fancies. She would not, for example, drink from a teacup with a flower pattern inside, as that would have flavoured the tea. She was an embarrassingly generous woman, and you had to be careful not to say you liked something or you would have left with it.

These Lithuanian families were not well off, and even the women had to work hard. Sarah, for example, worked at one time at the coal wash, which was a woman’s job at the pit-head. They were looked down on by the Scottish communities and usually labelled ‘Poles’. There was a lot of prejudice against them with the usual attacks on immigrant workers: they pushed wages down; they brought disease; they had dirty homes and dirty habits; they pushed up the crime statistics. The official evidence, turning up in government inquiries and so on, contradicts all of this.


Summary for Jonas Zinkevičius & Annie Simanavičiūte

None of Jonas and Annie’s descendants are still in Scotland. Jonas was born in Russian Poland and went to Scotland. Ona/Annie was born in Lithuania (then under Russian control), and went to Scotland. Their children:

  • Matilda “Tillie” was born in Scotland (1911), but went to Canada in 1929, and then the USA in 1930; she married Eugene Moore in 1932, and lived in Charleston, South Carolina. She died there in 2000.
  • Jaroslav “Russell” was born Scotland (1913) and married Jessie Yokubaitis (Grant) in 1938; they went to the USA in 1947 and lived in Jacksonville, Florida; Russell died in Tennessee in 2002;
  • Malvina was born in Scotland (1915); she married John Whyte in 1937, and lived in Troon, Ayrshire where she died in 1962.
The next generation:
  • Tillie’s children are in the USA;
  • Russell’s children are in the USA;
  • Malvina’s children are in Australia.

Jonas and Annie’s line were only passing through, which is ironic, because many of the Lithuanians who migrated to Scotland thought they were on their way to America. Some of you made it eventually.


Summary for Jonas Šugžda & Petronėlė Melninkaitytė

Johnny Šugžda married Petronėlė after her first husband, Pranciškus Simanavičius, died leaving her with Annie, the only survivor of their three children. JohnnyPetronėlė had six more children in Lithuania and went to Scotland where they had another two. Their children (half-siblings to Annie):

  • Joseph “Joe” was born in Lithuania (1894); he went to Scotland with the family in 1903; he married Phemie McCaskill in 1917, and went to Bayonne, New Jersey in 1922. He died there in 1952.
  • Pranciškus was born in Lithuania (1896), but died aged 1 week.
  • Bernard “Barney” was born in Lithuania (1898); he went to Scotland with the family in 1903; he went to Bayonne, New Jersey, in 1924 where he married a Lancashire girl, Carrie Carthy (a cousin of Phemie). He died in Hollywood, Florida in 1978.
  • Vladislovas was born in Lithuania (1899), but he died before the family left for Scotland.
  • Petronėlė Juzė “Sarah” was born in Lithuania (1901); she went to Scotland with the family in 1903; she married George McKay in 1929 and lived in Glasgow.
  • “Maggie” is a previously unknown child of this family; she was born in November 1902 in Lauckaimis, and went to Scotland with the family in 1903; she died in January 1904 in Bellshill.
  • Johnny was born in Scotland (1904) where married Jeanie Wallace in 1927; they went to the USA in 1929, but returned permanently to Scotland in 1931; they lived in Bellshill.
  • Alexandra “Alex” was born in Scotland (1910); he went to Bayonne, New Jersey, in 1929, where he married Anna Stanis, a daughter if Lithuanian migrants. They moved to Garwood, New Jersey, around 1939, and he died there in 1971.
The next generation:
  • Joseph’s had nine children; four born in Bothwellhaugh, and five in Bayonne, New Jersey.
  • Barney did not have children.
  • “Sarah’s” only child married in Scotland, and went to Australia in 1950.
  • Johnny’s six children were born and raised in Scotland.
  • Alex’s four children were born and raised in Garwood, New Jersey.

Johnny Shugesda is the only one of this family to have put down permanent roots in Scotland.

Sources:

  • Anne’s memories
  • Birth, death, marriage and census records as referenced
  • Letter of notification of Jonas Zinkevičius’s death
  • Notes made at the time of talks with Tillie and Russell
  • John Millar The Lithuanians in Scotland
  • Internet
  • Additional research by Alan Craig.


Addendum 1: Jonas & Annie’s family

I sent what I had written to Lyn Cherry in Maryville and, through her, we have a bit to add. There are also additions I have been able to make:

Lyn asked if l knew when Grandma Sugzda [i.e. Petronėlė Šugždienė née Melninkaitytė —ed.] had died. I eventually found the answer on the Internet at ScotlandsPeople, which I use often, but I had never looked there for Sugzda. Petronėlė was Annie’s mother and, therefore, the grandmother of Tillie, Russell, and Malvina; and great­-grandmother of Sara, Evelyn, Gene, Lyn, Russell, Anne, Isobel and Joan (who all have the same grandfather, Jonas Zinkevičius). She is also the mother, through her second marriage, of Petronėlė “Sarah” Šugždaitė and her brothers. Sarah Šugžda/McKay is half-sister to Annie and the great-aunt of Sara, Evelyn, etc. I found the following the following from the death certificate:26Source: 1930 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 625/01 0022; Bothwellhaugh, Lanarkshire.

Petronėlė died on 18 Jan 1930 at 13 Park Place, Bothwellhaugh of a cerebral haemorrhage. The certificate names her as “Patronele Sugzda”, and her husbands as: (1) “Vincas Simanawie” [sic], farm labourer; and (2) “Jonas Sugzda”, coal miner. And the good news is that we kick back one generation because we now read her parent’s names: “Simonas Melinikaitis” [actually Melnikaitis —ed.], farm labourer, and “Ona Widrinskuite” [actually Vidrinskaitė —ed.] (both deceased). The informant was Aunt Sarah, who is entered as “Patronele Juze McKay”, daughter, of 63 Hamilton Street, Polmadie, Glasgow. On this certificate, Petronėlė’s first husband was given as “Vincas Simanawie”, farm labourer; however, he was actually Pranciškus Simanavičius.27Source: 1886 Lithuania Marriages; parish Vladislavov, Vilkaviškis; see record here. A check of the ScotlandsPeople website for ‘Sugzda’ and similar names, in all districts of the country, shows only one census record and two weddings in Scotland:

  • In the 1911 Scotland census, all the family were living at 6 Bellside Terrace, Bellshill.28Source: 1911 Scotland Census; 625/03 012/00 006; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. The newly married Ona (20) and Jonas (26) “Zinkovich” lived in a room next door to Jonas (41) and “Sarah” (41) “Shugesda” in a two-roomed dwelling with their five children: Joseph (17); Bernard (15); “Sarah” (10); John (7); and Alex (1). All the adult males are coalminer hewers, and everyone is recorded as being born in Russian Poland and of Russian nationality.
  •  Joseph Sugzda on 31 Dec 1917, in Glasgow, Joseph (that is, Uncle Joe, “Sarah” McKay’s brother) who married Euphemia McCaskill.29Source: 1918 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 644/10 0034; Blythswood, Glasgow. Anne remembers at least hearing of both Joe and Aunt Phemie. He was a 23-year-old coal miner, and gave his address as 13 Park Place, Bothwellhaugh, the same as his mother. Phemie was a domestic servant.
  • John Shugesda (or Johnny Shugistaff) who married Jeanie Hill Wallace on 20 Aug 1927 at Uddingston.30Source: 1927 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 625/01 0099; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. Exactly the same as his brother Joe, John was a 23-year-old coal miner living at 13 Park Place, Bothwellhaugh. Jeanie was a 20-year-old pithead worker.

Both these marriages took place by declaration at the office of the registrar. This was a normal form of marriage for thousands of Scots, and only needed a couple to declare their intention in front of two witnesses, whose names are shown on the certificate of registration. This exchange could take place anywhere (hence, the romantic English runaways to Gretna just over the border into Scotland). Any wedding not performed by an established minister was termed an ‘irregular wedding’. The term has no implication of impropriety, and this was how many working-class people entered marriage. Children of such a marriage are legitimate, and the courts granted such marriages the same legal status as those performed by a minister. In an ironic phrase, the date of ‘conviction’ is recorded for an irregular marriage. For Joe and Phemie, Johnny and Jeanie, and for Sarah and George McKay (below), that was a Warrant of the Sheriff-Substitute of Lanarkshire. The Sheriff and his substitutes are not policemen; they are full-time judges, and the Sheriff ranks immediately below the High Court. In the eighteenth century, there are examples where the couple or their witnesses were fined. This practice had been well and truly dropped for the time we are looking at. Marriages by declaration ceased in 1940.

What I find unusual about Joe’s wedding is that it took place at the end of 1917. By then, the Bothwell Lithuanians had already gone to Russia. Joe was born on 12 Dec 1894 in Lithuania,31Source: US WW2 Draft Registration, New Jersey (M1986 / 004136205 / 02964). and exemptions from military service were hard to get, even for miners. Nevertheless, the evidence is clear: he was still in Scotland and was a coalminer, not a soldier on leave. His brother, Bernard (“Barney”) was also 19, and neither seem to have seen military service.

The birth certificates of John (b. 28 May 1904)32Source: 1904 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/03 0309; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. and Alex “Shugesda” (b. 29 Feb 1910),33Source: 1910 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/03 0138; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. the only two children of Jonas and Petronėlė to be born in Scotland, record the marriage date of the parents as 6 Sep 1890 at “Vladislaw, Poland”. In each case, the informant was Jonas. This place was actually Vladislavov (now Kudirkos Naumiestis), a small town about 75 km southwest of Kaunas (then Kovno), on the border of the Kaliningrad Oblast (once East Prussia). This date, however, conflicts with the date given for Annie (Ona) Zinkevičius’ birthday of 10 Feb 1891, which, if correct, would mean Petronėlė was 4 months pregnant with Annie when she married Jonas Šugžda. It would also mean that her first husband, Pranciškus Simanavičius, would have died between May and September 1890. [John’s original text updated —ed.]

The Lithuanians who came to Scotland worked in the mines and the steel and iron works before, like all other immigrant communities, spreading gradually into other jobs, trades and professions, as is evident in the descendants of Jonas and Annie. However, in Lithuania, they were mostly farm workers.

Lyn Cherry wrote to us that her father (Russell) was upset when we showed him the letter from Russia announcing his father’s death [i.e. Jonas Zinkevičius —ed.], which we did on one of our visits to Jacksonville. We sent back this message:

We are saddened to hear that your Dad was upset about Jonas. As you know, he had little choice in the matter. He either had to join the British or Russian armies. Even if he had appealed for exemption as a miner in an essential job, that appeal would have been knocked back, because that is what was happening locally. It is thought that the men who went back believed that their country, Lithuania or Poland, would be freed by the Bolsheviks (as they were) and that they would then bring their families back and resettle. Some did that probably after the successful repulsion of the Soviet attempt to retake their country after the Bolshevik collapse. The real mystery is why he was in the Soviet Army during the Civil War, as it appears he was. His death, incidentally, was during a major epidemic of typhus in that region and at that time.

Lyn responded with a possible explanation of what may have happened, and with a lot of additional useful input:

Dad said he had a memory that might mean something. He remembered his mother sitting in a room that was full of things packed up and she was holding a piece of paper and crying. He wondered if his father had sent for them and they were packed to go when they got the letter. Of course, that might have been wishful thinking on his part.

He talked about the time they lived at 2 Store Place in Bothwellhaugh. It was apparently above a pub [pool hall —ed.] and the only heat they had come from the chimney that ran through their upstairs room. His mother sewed fancy waistcoats for the miners. Apparently, Uncle Johnny34This Johnny Shugesda, Annie’s half-brother.  pretended to live with them, so that they could stay in the miner’s houses.

He also remembered his grandma [Petronėlė Melnikaitytė —ed.], and would go to her house on a Friday and get a shilling and that he hated to drink tea at her house because she just kept throwing tea in on top of the original bunch and by the time school was over and he got there, it would be like tar! Also, he said that the family (Annie, Tillie, Dad, and Malvina) lived with Mr. Sugzda35This is Jonas Šugžda, Annie’s step-father. after great-grandma died, but he apparently made improper advances to Annie, and they left. My mother’s brother, Alex, told me that Grandpa Sugzda had a wooden leg. Also, that Grandma Sugzda36This is Petronėlė “Sarah” Šugžda née Melninkaitė, Annie’s mother. was very short and very fat.

My mother’s Lithuanian name was Yokubaitis. Her father’s name is listed in Millar’s book as donating money to send back to Lithuania for the ‘cause’. Her father, Augustinas Yokubaitis, apparently joined the Russian army also, and the tale is that he died somehow in a river in a prison camp. Mother remained Roman Catholic until she married my dad outside the church. Her mother’s name was Ona Paulioniūtė.

Aunt Sarah’s [i.e. Petronėlė Juzė McKay née Šugždaitė —ed.] name does not appear as “Sarah” on any official document — everywhere I have found her, it has been is always “Petronele” or “Patronele”, or a variant of that. Her mother (Grandma Sugzda), although, is recorded as “Sarah” on Joseph’s marriage certificate.37Source: 1918 Statutory Marriages, 644/10 0034, Blythswood, Glasgow. After I found Grandma Sugzda’s death certificate for Lyn, I looked for Aunt Sarah’s wedding certificate. The marriage on 23 Feb 1929 at 8 Main Street, Uddingston was by declaration.38Source: 1929 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 625/01 0016; Bothwell, Lanarkshire. George McKay was a 28-year-old railway surfaceman, and Aunt Sarah was shown as “Patronele Juze Sugsdaite”, the daughter form of her family name, which correctly should be Šugždaitė. She was a 27-year-old brickfield worker of 13 Park Place, Bothwellhaugh.

There is nothing of further interest on the certificate, except that one of the two witnesses to the declaration is her niece, Matilda Zinkevičius (Tillie) of 2 Store Place, Bothwellhaugh. On that date, she would still have been only 17 — and Anne thinks that was the year she went to Canada [it was —ed.].

Anne remembers her father, John Whyte, said he got on well with Johnny Sugzda [Jonas Šugžda aka John Suggistaff —ed.], because he took no nonsense from him and answered back. Anne has started to wonder if Russell was the only member of his generation to call himself “Fletcher” in Scotland. She cannot remember her mother ever referring to herself as having been a Fletcher, and wonders if Aunt Tillie did unofficially before she went to America.

I was interested in Russell’s memory of living above a ‘pub’ at Store Place at Bothwellhaugh. Industrialists who built housing for their workers seem to have been opposed universally to the operation of licensed premises in their villages. It was certainly so at Robert Owen’s New Lanark, at Josiah Wedgwood’s Etruria, at Titus Salt’s Saltaire and at the model workers’ village, William Lever’s Port Sunlight. These men tended to build churches for the workers — the colliery owners didn’t! On the other hand, the colliery owners sometimes gave in and my own grandfather, who started his working life as an ironstone miner, kept the Dalmellington Iron Company’s beer store before WW1 in the South Ayrshire village of Waterside. (Note: beer only.)

I chased up my suspicion and found the following under a section on social life in Bothwellhaugh in Bothwellhaugh: A Lanarkshire Mining Community, 1884–1965, by Robert Duncan. This is on the Internet and was a project that included memories of people who once lived there. I found that either Russell’s memory was of somewhere else, or that there was illegal selling of alcohol in a house downstairs, which is more likely. (This is called sly grogging in Australia.) This is what the history says:

In the formative years of the company village up to and beyond the Great War, the colliery owners and management also intervened to set the tone for social and cultural behaviour among their employees and families … They were also inclined to approve of any amenities and recreations which provided alternatives to the evil temptations of betting, gambling and drink.

… the Miners Welfare Institute, built by the colliery owners in conjunction with the workforce, was opened in August 1924: It consisted of a big hall, reading room, smoking room, a well-equipped kitchen and baths. Apparently, in the early years of its existence, the Welfare was shunned by many of the miners. They were suspicious of the motives of the owners in opening up the Welfare, and wished to steer clear of contact with company stooges and blacklegs who frequented the place.

It was the policy of the Hamilton estates and of the Bent Colliery Company to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the village. There was not a single licensed premise in the village until the Welfare finally secured an application in the early 1960s. Bothwellhaugh was ‘dry’, but it is doubtful whether the enforcement of this policy deterred the practice of drinking, as beer and spirits were easily available elsewhere. Re-enforcing the prohibition on pubs, the local churches, the Rechabite and the Salvation Army kept up the crusade against the evils of drink.

Anne’s mother, Malvina, was a Rechabite, which is an order dedicated to abstinence from liquor. The Hamilton estates were those of the Duke of Hamilton whose palace stood in the vicinity until it was a victim of the subsidence caused by the pit. Today, the visible remnant of his palace is the enormous Mausoleum. The physical memorials of the village are a cairn and a war memorial. The colliery itself closed in 1959. Locals called the village “the Pailis” — that is, the Palace.

The area is now much busier than it was then because Strathclyde Country Park and Loch cover much of the territory. Local people usually referred to the arched bridge that crossed the South Calder Water near the village as “the Roman”. When they were children on holiday at their Grannie’s, Anne and Isobel would go and play at the Roman with their friends. The bridge was not Roman, but the Romans did pass through. One of the bonuses of the park has been the proper excavation of the remains of Bothwellhaugh Roman Fort and its bathhouse. They were built and occupied briefly in the second century. Although the park stages major international and national events it apparently has a bad reputation for other things.

John Bissett
Brisbane, 21 July 2006


Addendum 2: Annie & Jonas

Correction: Lyn has let me know that when she said that the family lived above a ‘pub’ in Store Place it was a slip of the pen (so to speak):

I meant to say ‘pool hall’, instead of ‘pub’, when talking about the bottom level of 2 Store Place. Dad said that the men liked fancy waistcoats or vests, and that his mother made beautiful ones.

That certainly adds up, because if the street gets its name from a store, then any community recreation facility would have been near the store, judging by mining village patterns elsewhere.

Lyn also added this about the name:

Dad said he was advised to change his name when he went to the employment office. He said the man there said there was prejudice against “foreigners” and, as dad was born in Scotland and wasn’t “foreign”, he should change his name to make it easier to get work. He adopted ‘Fletcher’.

Russell told Anne and me that he chose the name ‘Fletcher’, presumably on that occasion, because his father had sometimes used it.

More about Annie: Joan [Anne Bissett’s sister —ed.] remembers that Annie was so house-proud that she polished under floor mats. Once Joan slipped because of this, and Annie applied a vinegar poultice. She also remembers going with Annie when she went to lay out a body. That’s an echo of Russell’s memory of the doctor saying, “send for Annie” — maybe it was for her ‘laying out’ skills, rather than her healing ones! She was very caring about her garden — flowers in the front yard, vegetables in the back — and she put brown paper bags over the heads of her dahlias to protect them overnight.

It must sometimes have been a trial for Annie being in loco parentis for girls who saw a holiday with Grannie as an adventure. She accepted climbing out of the bedroom window as a shortcut to play in the park as normal. She had, however, occasions to scold them. She did like them playing on the pit bings (where Anne remembers the miners’ illegal pitch-and-toss schools going on); she was not happy when they came back with wet clothes from ‘the Roman’ [bridge —ed.]. Her usual threat, when any of them had been naughty, was that she would put a stamp on their bottom and send them home to their mother.

Annie’s Birth Certificate: I have had another look at the certificate, and there are two things that I have not put on paper. First, our copy was issued in 1927. That could mean that Annie wanted it for naturalisation reasons. Second, wakening up to the obvious, I realised that we have her place of birth. She was born in the village of Lauckaimis, in southeast Lithuania, right on the border with the present-day Russian exclave of Kaliningrad (previously part of the East Prussian province of Königsberg). It has other names: Lauckaimio, Lautskaymis, Lautskayme. There is little about the place on the Internet. It’s at latitude 54.7425 N, longitude 22.8300 E, and the district population currently about 3,000.

The Šugžda children were Annie’s half-sister and half-brothers. Lyn sent this about them:

Joseph and Euphemia Sugzda emigrated in 1922 to New Jersey. His brothers, Barney, Alexander, and John also emigrated, but I don’t know when, with John and his family returning to Scotland. Dad said the McCaskill’s, Aunt Phemie’s family, tended to emigrate to New Zealand … I understood that somehow Uncle Barney (Barnard) entered the U.S. illegally. In fact, the term “jumped ship” was used by my parents. Aunt Carrie was English. Uncle Barney had a limp.

Joseph Sugzda’s children’s names were: John (1918), Mary McCaskill (1920), Sarah (1921), Euphemia (1922). All were born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland and went with Phemie to join Joe in USA in April 1923.


 

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