Photo sleuthing – The Walston album

Although the photos in this album were unnamed, its owner had glued press cuttings of assorted family notices inside the covers – births and marriages at the front, deaths at the back. Unfortunately, they were undated – just a lot of ‘inst.’s and ‘ult.’s relating to the date of publication of the newspaper. Several names recurred – Frame, Thorburn, Steel – and the events mostly took place in rural villages around Biggar in South Lanarkshire.

I drew up trees for the principle families. Gradually a picture emerged of two of the sons of Alexander Frame (1811-1890) and Marion Weir (1816-1888). The older son, Archibald (1840-1912), married to Janet Greenshields, was a fruit grower and farmer of 6 acres on land in the Clyde Valley. At that time this was probably the largest commercial orchard area in Scotland.

Archibald and Janet Frame [?]

Archibald’s younger brother George (1847-1928) married Jane Thorburn on 20th March 1868. Jane had given birth to their first child at the beginning of March at her parents’ home, Hyndshawland Farm, Walston. She named her daughter after her paternal grandmother, Marion Weir. Back in December 1864, Jane had given birth to another daughter, also named Marion but probably after Jane’s mother. The baby was registered as Marion Thorburn.

The surname Frame seems to have proved problematic to transcribers and I hunted through variations of Fram, Franie and Fraine before finally finding George and Jane Frame in 1871 at Greenbank Farm, Walston, where George was employed as a ploughman. Little Marion Thorburn lived with her grandparents, James and Marion, on Hyndshawland Farm, suggesting that whoever her father was, it was not George Frame. Subsequent censuses show her working as a domestic servant on farms in the Biggar area.

George and Jane had seven children – Marion Weir (b 1868), Alexander (b 1869), Helen (b 1872), James (b 1875), Jane (‘Jeanie’) (b 1879), George (b 1880) and William (b 1887). The featured photo shows six of the seven children. Precise dating by dress styles is problematic among country people who made clothes last longer than fashion-conscious city dwellers. The men’s jackets, however, have small lapels and the little girl wears tartan, both characteristic of the 1880s. It may be that William had not yet been born and even that Jane was pregnant with him at the time.

George and Jane Frame with George jnr.

I had thought it sad that Jane Thorburn was reconciled to her two eldest daughters never being united in the same household, leading separate lives – why else would she have named them both Marion? I thought that the beautiful photo must show George and Jane Frame outside their cottage with their children. But then I noticed (back left) another young woman partly faded out of the picture by over-exposure. The four older women were all wearing two-piece costumes with identical lace down the front – had Jane and all her grown-up daughters bulk-purchased yards of the stuff and together sat trimming their jackets for the photographic appointment?

There the story would have ended – except I checked on George and Jane in the 1901 census. They and their adult children had moved to Cambwell Farm House at Skirling in Peebleshire. Grandchildren lived with them too – George Frame, Jane Frame and Jeanie’s son, Adam Lindsay. And there was six year old grand daughter, Marion Thorburn – looks like deja vue all over again!

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