I’m still trying to trace the family of my 3rd great grandmother, Margaret Ricketts Robb née Monteith, who was born in 1782 and died in 1843. In the last post, I wrote about the Ricketts family of England and Jamaica, with whom I believe there may be a connection, given that other members of the Robb family had links with the colony. However, I’ve yet to find a direct connection between the Monteith and Ricketts families. Frustrated by running up against this brick wall, I’ve turned back to the Monteiths. We still know very little about Margaret’s father, John Monteith, except that he is said to have married a woman named Matilda, who (according to family tradition) was the daughter of Viscount Stormont.
Monteith is a fairly common name and there were a number of prominent John Monteiths living in Glasgow in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I’m assuming that my Monteith ancestors were from Glasgow, since that is where my 3rd great grandparents, Margaret Ricketts Monteith and Charles Edward Stuart Robb, were said to have been married in 1802, and we know that Charles was originally from Aberdeenshire.
Perhaps the most famous John Monteith of this period was the manufacturer of that name, who established a power loom factory at Pollokshaws, to the south of the city. I’m intrigued by this particular John Monteith, in part because he married into the Thomson family. George Robb, the Glasgow merchant who I believe to have been the brother of my ancestor Charles Robb, also married a Thomson, though I’m unsure whether the two Thomson families are linked. John Monteith married a woman named Isabella Thomson, and they had a daughter of the same name. Charles and Margaret Robb named one of their daughters Isabella: a tenuous connection, perhaps, but it may provide an additional clue.
Power loom weaving (via common.wikimedia.org)
Interestingly, John Monteith and Isabella Thomson were first cousins. John was the son of James Monteith, who was in turn the son of Henry Monteith, the son of another James Monteith. According to one source:
James Monteith was a small Perthshire laird in the Aberfoyle area, whose livelihood was under constant threat from the depredations and blackmailing of Highland reivers. After his death his son Henry moved south and set up as a market gardener at Anderston, then a village near Glasgow. He fought against the Jacobites at Falkirk and died ‘a staunch Presbyterian of the old school’. His eldest son James Monteith, who was born in 1734, took up handloom-weaving. He prospered, especially when he began to import fine French and Dutch yarns, and became a cambric manufacturer on a large scale, with a bleach field near his house and warehouse in Bishop Street.
On 8th October 1754 James Monteith married Rebecca Thomson, the daughter of John Thomson of Anderston, Glasgow, and his wife Isobel Yuill. As yet, I’ve been unable to discover any connection between this John Thomson and the John Thomson of Hillhead whose daughter Penelope married George Robb. James and Rebecca Monteith had four sons: John (1760); James (1763?); Henry (1765); and Adam (1769).
Robert Thomson senior (via ancestry.co.uk)
Rebecca Thomson had a brother Robert Thomson, who married Christian Strang on 22nd April 1766. Robert and Christian Thomson had three children: Isabella (1765); Robert (1771) and Janet (1773). It was this Isabella Thomson who on 9th January 1785 John Monteith, the son of James Monteith and Rebecca Thomson. John and Isabella Monteith had three daughters: Rebecca (1786); Christian (1788); and Isabella (1791).
Three of the sons of James and Rebecca Monteith followed their father into the cotton manufacturing business:
John Monteith, the eldest, formed his own company in 1801 and established the first Scottish power loom factory at Pollokshaws. James Monteith, the second, was initially a dealer in cotton twist at Cambuslang and in 1792 bought David Dale’s Blantyre cotton mill…He died in 1802. Henry Monteith, the youngest son … took the family business to new heights of success and prosperity. He was trained early in the art of weaving, and by 1785, when he was not quite of age, he was running a large cotton weaving mill, Henry Monteith and Company, at Anderston … In 1802 he established at Barrowfield a factory for producing bandana handkerchiefs, and on the death of James that year he took on the principal management of the business, which encompassed bleaching, turkey red dyeing and calico printing, as well as cotton spinning and weaving…He bought the Fullerton estate of Carstairs, four miles from Lanark, and from 1824 had a mansion built there.
In addition to his success in business, Henry Monteith also achieved fame as a politician:
Unlike his father and brothers, Monteith was a staunch church and king Tory. At the general election of 1818 he stood belatedly for Linlithgow Burghs against a Whig, with the backing of the Buccleuch interest. He secured the votes of Lanark and Peebles, but was beaten by the casting vote of the returning burgh, Selkirk. On the death of George III in late January 1820 he declared his renewed candidature for the district…He narrowly won Selkirk, whose vote, together with those of Lanark and Peebles, gave him victory (at the age of 66) over Robert Owen, the socialist cotton master of New Lanark.
The pattern of repeated intermarriage between the Monteith and Thomson families is reminiscent of a similar practice between the Robb and Thomson families, also in Glasgow at this period. George Robb married Penelope Thomson in 1805. In 1831 their son George married Jane Sharp Thomson, the daughter of Penelope’s half-brother Henry Thomson. After George Robb senior’s death, his widow Penelope married John Young, and in 1832 their daughter, also named Penelope, married John Thomson, another of the children of Henry Thomson.
If I could establish a link between the two Thomson families of Glasgow – the one that married into the Monteith family, and the one that was connected by married to the Robbs – then I might be closer to discovering the origins of my ancestor Margaret Ricketts Monteith née Robb.
The pattern of intermarriage between the Monteith and Thomson families was even more extensive than I’d realised. Not only did John Monteith marry his first cousin Isabella Thomson, but it seems his brother Adam Monteith married her younger sister Janet Thomson. I’m indebted to the White-Thomson family tree at Ancestry for this information.