Scotsman’s links to poet Robbie Burns

Thomas Gardiner with his birth certificate
Thomas Gardiner with his birth certificate

PROUD Scotsman Thomas Gardiner has been a keen genealogist for many a year.

He may be a resident of Park Road, in Hartlepool, now, but Thomas and his ancestors have their links in Scotland.

And they are no run-of-the-mill links either.

They are connections which show his family had once captured the imagination of Scotland’s most famous poet Robbie Burns.

Thomas said: “I have been researching my family tree for some time now. I am Scottish, but have been happily living in Hartlepool for quite a few years.

“During the course of my research I was amazed to discover that I am descended from John Davidson, otherwise known as ‘Souter Johnnie’.”

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

Thomas said 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.

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

He said: “I have been researching my family tree for about five years and it was something I enjoyed but it could be frustrating at the same time. You can spend hours on it.”

He described the moment that he knew of the Burns link as “exciting”, and added: “When I was 12, I won a prize from the Burns Federation for reciting Scottish poetry while I was at school in Kilmarnock.”

Thomas’s mother Catherine Wilson first came to Britain from Canada in 1939 when she trained as a nurse in Liverpool at the start of the Second World War in 1939.

And so began the family’s renewed links with the UK.

But Thomas’s interesting ancestry does not end with the links to Burns.

He added: “I also discovered that another of my ancestors, Mungo Duncan, was a professional soldier who served in such far-flung corners of the empire as the Caribbean, India and Australia during the 1830s, which explains why my great great grandmother, Isabella Duncan, was born in Sydney in 1832.

“I was born in Scotland but my mother was Canadian and her ancestors were English, Irish and Scots.

“Some of her family, who were Irish, settled in Whitehaven, Cumbria, in the South Lakes.

“My 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.”

Thomas added: “Researching the Scottish side of my ancestry was facilitated by the excellent Scotland’s People website and the website of Sam Davidsn, another of Souter Johnnie’s descendants.

“Researching my mother’s family was done through local register offices and At times it has proved an expensive, but ultimately satisfying experience.”