Photo-sleuthing – The Tarbolton album

Cunningham Street, Tarbolton

“To Miss E McLymont from her affectionate friend Jessie Malcolm March 26 1863”

Jessie Malcolm

Cartes de visite were introduced into Britain in 1857 and rapidly became a national craze. People collected portraits of royalty, politicians, friends and family, and mounted them in photograph albums. This collection, presented by Jessie Malcolm to her friend Elizabeth McClymont, is a snap-shot of the village of Tarbolton, south Ayrshire, in 1863. Enough of the photos are named in the album for me to have recreated the main figures of the community, using the basic search tools of censuses and births, marriages and deaths.

George McClymont

This is George McClymont, local butcher born in Ochiltree and father of the album’s owner. His son, James, emigrated to Australia and settled in Orange, New South Wales. From there James sent the folks back home a photo of one of his children.

Unknown child of James McClymont, Orange, NSW

Other shop keepers and traders included James Brown, grocer and provision merchant and inn keeper, married to Jane Brown and with children Mary, Robert and Susan. Susan went on to marry the local school master, Andrew Morgan, in 1865. She died a year later, probably in child birth, aged just 24.

Susan Brown

The local doctor, John Gibson, lived with his wife and son Henry next to the Anderson family. Robert Anderson was a cloth merchant born in Auchinleck, and members of his family appear in several of the photos.

Henry Gibson

Other villagers include the mysterious ‘Pispah’, named after a little known biblical character (1Chronicles 7:38), and the so far unidentified Mrs Kennedy, Mrs Drennan and Miss Reid. Even the giver of the album, Jessie Malcolm, appears in the album although her identity so far remains unknown. The last photo in the album is probably of Adam Dodd, molecatcher, with his wife, four daughters and son. If you know anything about these people, do please get in touch.


[The featured photo shows George Dodd, the Tarbolton mole-catcher, with his family in April 1909]

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