Friday 3 February 2023

The Pitcairn Girls of Greenock

The Pitcairn family came to Greenock when Andrew Pitcairn (1784-1873) was appointed to the Greenock Customs.  The family originated from Kintillo in Perthshire.  In 1811 Andrew Pitcairn married Anne Tait (1796-1877) at Ayr.  The couple had a large family including four daughters who all married into shipping families.  The family lived at Ann Street in Greenock.

Custom House, Greenock

Margaret Pitcairn (1819-1866) married Captain Thomas Henderson (1820-1895), a year later her sister, Jane Pitcairn (1817-1908) married  David Henderson (1817-1893), brother of Thomas.  Both marriages took place at Greenock.  Jane and David Henderson's son, David (1862-1921) had a distinguished army career and is recognised as instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson

The Henderson family originated in Pittenweem later moving to Glasgow.  Thomas and David were the sons of John Henderson, shipmaster and his wife Janet Shanks.  (There were two other brothers - John Henderson (1823-1892) and William Henderson (1826-1895).)  All the brothers became shipmasters like their father later becoming shipbuilders and ship owners.

and William Henderson founded D & W Henderson & Co, Shipbuilders at Meadowside Yard, Partick in Glasgow in the 1870s.  Thomas and John Henderson founded the Anchor Line of ships in Glasgow in 1855.  

Another sister Anne Pitcairn (1821-1896) married Greenock ship owner Robert Little (1815-1909).  The family lived at Finnart Cottage in Greenock and later moved to Thorndean, Helensburgh.  The Greenock firm of James Little & Co (ship owners and steam shipping agents) was started by Robert's father in 1812.  They managed steamers travelling between Greenock and Liverpool as well as steamers connecting with various railway routes.  Robert Little was responsible for the Barrow Steam Navigation Company running a passenger service between Barrow and Belfast.  He was also involved in shipbuilding worked with his brothers in law, David and Thomas Henderson.

Photo - Greenock Burns Club

Anne and Robert's son, Robert W Little (1854-1944) became an artist.  Another son, James William Little was a former mayor of Barrow in Furness.  A daughter Jessie Cecilia Brownlie Little married William Hamilton Kidston (1852-1929) of Helensburgh in 1878. 

Isabel Pitcairn (1831-1908) the youngest sister married (in 1857) Harrington Robley (1824-1895) a ship stores merchant of Helensburgh and Glasgow.  Their daughter Annie Pitcairn Robley married in 1891 Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister from 1922-1923.  Bonar Law was connnected to the Kidston family of Helensburgh.

The Pitcairn girls of Greenock certainly married well and all had families of their own.  It is interesting to think of all the connections these families had throughout Scotland and worldwide.

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