In the last post I wrote about the family connections of John Young (1770 – 1827), the Glasgow merchant and former Receiver-General of Jamaica who was the second husband of Penelope Thomson (1777 – 1847), widow of my 4th great uncle George Robb. John Young signed and sealed his last will and testament at his home at Meadow Park, Glasgow, on 15th January 1827. He died there on the very next day. Young’s will closes with the following statement:
In witness whereof these presents written upon stamped paper by David Craig Clark to Archibald Grahame and Thomas Struthers Writers in Glasgow are subscribed by me at Meadow Park the fifteenth day of January 1827 years before these witnesses Hugh Smith Merchant in Glasgow the said Archibald Grahame Writer there and the said David Craig and George Robb Apprentice to the said Archibald Grahame (sigd) John Young Hugh Smith witness Archd. Grahame witness Dav. Craig witness George Robb witness.
I’m fairly certain that the George Robb who was one of the witnesses to John Young’s will was his stepson, the product of his wife Penelope’s first marriage to my ancestor, George Robb senior. Born in 1806, George Robb junior would have been twenty or twenty-one years old in 1827. We know from the record of the legal dispute concerning the will of his aunt Elizabeth Thomson, that George was working as a (law) writer in 1836. However, he would later change professions and work, firstly as a coal and iron master in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, and then as a veterinary surgeon in Glasgow, before retiring with his wife Jane Sharp Thomson to Essex, where they lived on their inherited wealth.
View of Glasgow in the late eighteenth century
When I first read John Young’s will, I wondered whether the reference to Archibald Grahame, the writer, or solicitor, to whom George Robb was apprenticed, was an error, and that the person meant was actually Archibald Graham Lang, who would become George Robb’s brother-in-law three years later in 1830, when he married his sister Jean. However, I soon concluded that Lang was probably too young – he was probably about twenty-five years old at this date – to have had an apprentice. Moreover, we know that Lang was employed as a merchant, not as a lawyer. Finally, I concluded that mistakes about names do not usually occur in legal documents!
However, the similarity in names prompted me to search further, and I discovered that Archibald Grahame was a prominent lawyer in Glasgow, working with Thomas Struthers, until their partnership was dissolved in May 1827, just a few months after John Young’s will was signed and sealed, ‘the term on the contract having expired’. It seems that Grahame then relocated to England, where he secured an appointment as a parliamentary solicitor in Westminster. One source refers to him as ‘the talented Parliamentary solicitor in London.’ Graham’s name is attached to a number of cases decided by the House of Lords in the 1830s and 1840s.
This made me sit up and take notice, since I recalled that John Robb, the son of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb (brother of George Robb senior), was employed at one stage as a ‘parliamentary agent’ or clerk, indicating that he too worked for a law firm attached to Parliament. Could it be that John worked for Archibald Grahame, and/or that he acquired his post through the influence of Grahame, who had once been the employer of John’s cousin George Robb junior in Glasgow? If so, does this provide further proof of the connection between my direct ancestors and the Glasgow Robbs, and also suggest that the two branches of the family remained in contact after Charles moved with his family to London, and despite their very different economic fortunes?
The law certainly seems to have been in the Robb bloodstream. Charles Robb himself was described, when living in Malton, Yorkshire, as an ‘accountant and engraver’, but later records, following the family’s move to London, claim that he was a solicitor’s clerk. One of Charles’ sons, George William, was described as an ‘attorney’s clerk’ when he died from influenza in 1847, and of course another son, my great great grandfather William Robb, worked as a clerk to a law stationer.
Jane Grahame, wife of Archibald Grahame senior, National Gallery of Scotland
Returning to Glasgow: Is it mere coincidence that Archibald Graham Lang had a similar name to that of his brother-in-law’s employer? I know very little about Lang’s family background: some sources describe him as the son of David Lang and Marion Graham. One of the sources cited above relates that Archibald Graham was the son of another man of the same name, also a law writer, but later a partner in the Thistle Bank – and then its Cashier. His wife’s name was Jane and she was also a Grahame by birth – one of the Grahame’s of Whitehill- and indeed Archibald senior was in partnership with his father-in-law Thomas Grahame until he joined the Thistle Bank in 1781.
So far, I haven’t managed to find any connection between Archibald Grahame and Archibald Grahame Lang, but I believe the connection must exist. It would explain not only the latter’s name, but also perhaps how he came to meet his wife, Jean Robb, the sister of Archibald Graham’s apprentice George.