Fàilte! (Welcome!)

Fàilte! (Welcome!)
This blog is the result of my ongoing research into the people, places and events that have shaped the Western Isles of Scotland and, in particular, the 'Siamese-twins' of Harris and Lewis.
My interest stems from the fact that my Grandfather was a Stornowegian and, until about four years ago, that was the sum total of my knowledge, both of him and of the land of his birth.
I cannot guarantee the accuracy of everything that I have written (not least because parts are, perhaps, pioneering) but I have done my best to check for any errors.
My family mainly lived along the shore of the Sound of Harris, from An-t-Ob and Srannda to Roghadal, but one family 'moved' to Direcleit in the Baighs...

©Copyright 2011 Peter Kerr All rights reserved

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Sir John Brown of Redhall, Fordoun (1856-1928)

A little over three years ago I penned a couple of pieces regarding my Stornowegian grandfather, John Kerr (1875-1936) and at last I am able to fill in some of the gaps, most notably identifying who my late father, Ian Brown Kerr, acquired his rather unusual middle name from!


The Post Office directories for Aberdeen reveal that in 1902/3 John Kerr was the manager of The Steam Herring Fleet Ltd and that in 1903/4 his role has been taken by John Brown, fish salesman, of Redhall, Fourdon. He, in turn was replaced as manager from 1904/5 until 1910/11 by A. Robertson but another entry for John Brown provided the Aberdeen address of 10 Marine Terrace in additional to that of Redhall, Fordoun.

Fortunately, the Brown family were already resident at 10 Marine Terrace at the time of the 1901 census which show the family headed by the Aberdonian 45 year old shipowner of steam vessels alongside his wife, Barbara, and their four children, one of whom is the 17 year old son John Brown who is a fishing book keeper. There are, as we might expect, also a cook and a housemaid in residence.

The Brown family's other residence was Redhall House in Fordoun, Aberdeenshire and a little information about it appears at the RCAHMS site:

and it will make an appearance later in this tale.

Before moving forward, I should like to take a step back to the 1891 census for then the 35 year old John Brown was a fish curer living at 9 Millburn Street. The significance of the address is that, by 1901, my grandfather was lodging across the road at number 12

However it is a series of articles that appeared in the Aberdeen Journal that provide the information for what followed and I should explain at this point that I have only accessed the opening sentences (shown in italics) to each one rather than the complete articles. I have made comments where necessary but otherwise let the articles speak for themselves.

12 Oct 1904: Presentation Mr John Kerr.—Last evening John Kerr, of the Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing Company, was waited upon number of friends in the Douglas Hotel and presented with handsome aneroid barometer, for himself, and a repeating carriage clock...

On the 19 October 1904 my grandparents were married so it is safe to assume that the barometer and clock were their gifts from the Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing Company. This is, in fact the earliest reference that I have to my grandfather's employment with that particular business.


1 Dec 1904: PRESENTATION TO .MR JOHN BROWN Jr.. OF REDHALL. Mr John Brown, Jr., of Redhall, was, the occasion of his attaining his majority, met last night the Imperial Hotel, Aberdeen, by the members of the office staffs of the Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing...

16 May 1906: PRESENTATION TO MISS BROWN OF REDHALL received by Mr and Mrs Brown and family. Mr John Kerr made the presentation the 'gifts, which consisted of a cabinet of Silver cutlery, a plate affixed to the cabinet bearing following inscription:—Presented to Miss Brown of Redhall the occasion of her...

Assuming this to be Elizabeth Brown, who was born in 1883, then this would have been her engagement present, presumably from the Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing Company as that would explain my grandfather's involvement. It might also have been her youngest sister. Lily's, coming of age but I find that less likely given the nature of the gift!


23 Jul 1907: PRESENTATION TO MISS BROWN OF REDHALL The directors the Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing Company, Limited—of which Mr John Brown Redhall chairman —visited Red hall yesterday for the purpose presenting wedding gift to Miss Brown the occasion approaching...

29 Jul 1907: MARRIAGE OF MISS BROWN, REDHALL. PRETTY WEDDING AT FORDOUN. An interesting and pretty wedding took place at Fordoun Parish Church on Saturday afternoon, when Miss Elizabeth Brown, daughter of Mr John Brown, of Redhall, was married William Bradley Trimmer...

26 Oct 1907: HONOUR TO MR JOHN KERR, ABERDEEN. DINNER AND PRESENTATION. Mr John Kerr, chief assistant to Messrs John Brown and Son, trawlowners and fish salesmen, Aberdeen, was entertained dinner in the Imperial Hotel last night, and made the recipient of gift from...

I am presuming that my grandfather was leaving his work as Chief Assistant to the Brown's to take up his duties with the Congested Districts Board in Ireland.


15 Jun 1909: John Kerr, chief superintendent of fisheries, Congested District Board, Ireland, is visit at present to his family at Aberdeen. Mr Kerr had run down in health, and has been granted leave from the Board. He is disappointed being away from business this...

I don't know the details of my grandfather's ill health at this time, but neither did I know that he had become the Chief Superintendent of Fisheries for the Congested Districts Board of Ireland, my aunt's birth certificate having omitted the significant word 'chief'!


29 Jul 1918: OFFICERS' BIOGRAPHIES Captain John Brown, Gordon Highlanders, only son Mr John Brown Redhall, has been killed in action. Captain Brown was in the Aberdeen Territorial Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders at the outbreak of war. He was partner the firm of Messrs. John Brown & Son...

This came as a shock. The 34 year old John Brown died on the 20 July 1918 and his memorial may be seen here.http://twgpp.org/information.php?id=1854547

I don't know which John Brown my grandfather had in mind when he gave my father the middle name 'Brown', but the death of John Brown Jr in the later stages of World War I seems to add poignancy to him having borne the name.


5 Jun 1920: MR BROWN OF REDHALL KNIGHTED. Public Service Recognised. PIONEER OF THE TRAWLING INDUSTRY. The King,, on the occasion his birthday, has conferred the honour of knighthood on Mr John Brown of Redhall in recognition of public services not only in...

John Brown becomes Sir John Brown two years after losing his only son.


1 May 1926: SIR JOHN BROWN RETIRES. Fish Trade's G.O.M. FORTY-THREE YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY. Sir John Brown of Redhall, the 'Grand Old Man' of the trawlowning community of Aberdeen, yesterday went out of harness to enjoy a well-earned retirement...

It was not to be...

30 Apr 1928: DEATH OF SIR JOHN BROWN. A Fishing Pioneer. FORTY-THREE YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY. The death has occurred, after six months' iliness, of Sir John Brown of Redhall, Fordoun, one of the last of the pioneers of the trawl fishing and allied industries in Aberdeen...

3 May 1928: LATE SIR JOHN BROWN. Large Body of Mourners at Funeral. The high respect in which the late Sir John Brown of Redhall was held was reflected in the representative character of the large body of mourners who followed the remains from Marine Terrace, Aberdeen.

14 Jul 1928: ABERDEEN FORTUNES Sir John Brown of Redhall, Fordoun, Kincardineshire, and Marine Terrace, Aberdeen £107,521...

5 Oct 1929: NO OFFERS FOR REDHALL. The estate of Redhall, in the parishes Fourdoun and Laurencekirk, belonging to the late Sir John Brown, was offered for sale in the Douglas Hotel to-day, at a reduced... There were no offers this figure...


A very sad end to the story but I'm glad to have seen something of my grandfather's relationship with the 'Grand Old Man' of Aberdeen's trawloning industry.


I suppose it's also a wee part of the story of Stornowegian contributions to the Scottish fishing industry, and I mustn't finish without reminding myself that grandfather's grandfather was a seafaring Hearach to the core!

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