Sir, – My great-great-great-grandfather was a resident of Keith between 1814 and 1839, though he was born around 1779. His name was James Stuart. He and his wife, Margaret Taylor of Keith (1794-1879), lived above a bakery where the present day Strathisla Bakery stands, and raised six children.
Scant records remain from this time period, but this much I know of his story. Between 1814-1817, James was the Master brother of the St James Operative Lodge No 250 in Keith. And from 1816-1819 he was contracted as the general foreman for the construction of the Parish Church of St Rufus.
I had the honour and pleasure of a personal tour of the church with the Rev Gauld in 2009. Inside and out, it is a beautiful tribute and testimony to the skills of the craftsmen and the faith of the church. Beyond these facts, nothing is known of the man who became known as ‘Kirkie’ by the citizens of Keith upon the completion of the church.
Much is known of what happened to the children of Margaret and James after James died in 1839. In 1841, four sailed to Canada. I am a descendant of their oldest son, James. Two sons remained with their widowed mother. The elder of the two, William, became a master baker in Fife-Keith and worked with an aunt, Elspet Taylor, and perhaps his mother, at the aforementioned bakery.
It is my hope that one of your readers might have some background information, personal or anecdotal, on James ‘Kirkie’ Stuart, his family and locations of other buildings that he worked on as a mason. Of particular interest are the names of his parents and siblings and what part of Banffshire he hails from.
If any resident or reader in Banffshire has any information that would further my search, I would be most appreciative if they would share it with me at: James Stuart, 368 Codrington Street, Barrie, Ontario, Canada L4M 1T2; e-mail: ore-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org – Yours etc,