Sunday 26 May 2024

What's in a name?

Passing this gravestone in Greenock Cemetery, it would be natural to think that Doctor Daniel Yeo had been a medical practitioner in the town.  The stone reads:- "To the memory of Doctor Daniel Yeo, died 7 May 1871.  Also Susan his wife died 10 April 1902".

Actually Doctor and Daniel were his given names, his occupation was painter, particularly a painter on velvet.  This is an entry from the catalogue of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 which is describes a piece of his work as a “Specimen of oil painting on white velvet, in which the velvet retains its elasticity and softness, and can be washed or brushed, without injury to the painting or fabric.  Adapted for chair-covers, and general decoration."

Doctor Daniel Yeo (1812-1871) and his wife, Susan Weyman (1819-1902) came to Greenock from Ashburton in South Devon in the early 1850s.  Yeo is the old name for the River Ashburn which runs through the town of Ashburton.  Doctor Daniel became the inspector and measurer of painter’s work in Greenock.  He is described as painter, paperhanger and oil and colour merchant in the local newspaper.  The couple lived at Brisbane Street.  He died in 1871.

After his death in 1871, Susan Yeo, his widow continued to live in the town.  She gave lessons in sewing, wax flower making and also painting on velvet.  Velvet painting seems to have been a popular hobby at the time.  She also seems to have run an employment agency for domestic servants.  Quite an industrious woman.

From a simple headstone in the cemetery lies an unexpected story!

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