From Souter Johnnie to Scottish jailers

Family tree researcher Thomas Gardiner.
Family tree researcher Thomas Gardiner.
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THOMAS Gardiner had already unearthed a wealth of riches when we last asked him about his family tree seven months ago, but time in the world of the genealogist never stands still and Hartlepool man Thomas has now found even more fascinating facts about his past.

WITH a Scottish father and Canadian mother, Hartlepool man Thomas Gardiner has an interesting background.

He’s shared his ancestry with us before and told us how he was related to a Scotsman of distinction called John Davidson, otherwise known as ‘Souter Johnnie’.

John Davidson was a shoemaker, or souter, from Kirkoswald where many of Robbie Burns’ ancestors hailed.

Souter Johnnie was made famous as the character in Robert Burns’s epic poem of drunkenness and witchcraft, called ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ which was written in 1790.

But Thomas’s research now goes further than that.

He told us: “On my father’s side, I have found that my great-great grandfather, John Scott, was a gaoler at Dumfries prison in the mid 19th century.

“Further back, to the 17th century, I found that some ancestors, the Gilmours, were Glasgow burgesses, tradesmen - in this case maltmen.

“On my mother’s side I have found that my great-great great grandfather John Banks, came from Borrowdale and, according to someone else’s research which I believe is reliable, further back the family were mill owners.”

Thomas also found out that the son of John Banks, known as John Andrew Banks, was himself something of an entrepreneur.

He said:“John Andrew Banks, born 1816, was a shipowner out of Liverpool, and was, apparently, involved in the guano trade.”

Guano was the faeces and urine of various creatures and the manure is a highly effective fertilizer due to its high phosphorus and nitrogen content.

Thomas’s research also showed that John Andrew Banks’ wife Mary Parks described herself as “a gentlewoman” who came from the Furness area.

Thomas, 52, is married to Glynis, 54. And while Thomas hails originally from Scotland, his wife is from Hartlepool.

He has been researching his family tree for about six years and admitted: “It was something I enjoyed but it could be frustrating at the same time. You can spend hours on it.”

Thomas’s mother Catherine Wilson first came to Britain from Canada in 1939 when she trained as a nurse at the start of the Second World War in 1939. Previously he told us that another of his ancestors, Mungo Duncan, was a professional soldier who served in the Caribbean, India and Australia during the 1830.

His great-great grandmother, Isabella Duncan, was born in Sydney in 1832. Some of her family settled in Whitehaven, Cumbria, in the South Lakes.

He has also found out that his great great great grandfather, William Wilson and his son, William Forbes Wilson, were head gardeners at Holker Hall, near Cartmel, and William Wilson was responsible for developing the Duke of Devonshire apple.