John Wyld of Biggar and Penicuik

I knew from my grandfather's writings that John Wyld operated a paper mill at Penicuik. The Wyld family had a Bible printed there in 1791. These mills were sold to Messrs. Cowan in 1770. The paper mill was still operating in 1936 in Penicuik. Little is known of John's early life.

There is some question as to whether he died in 1804 or before the marriage of his daughter Isabella Wyld in 1799, due to his being referred to as the "late John Wyld" on one of the marriage records for Isabella Wyld and Robert Brown. I have some old handwritten notes (not sure whose) which state that he was buried in Canongate in 1804, having retired to Bowhead above Grassmarket. I have his date of birth given as 1736, but the only John Wyld shown in the Scottish registers born in that year shows some discrepancies with some other information regarding his parents and siblings. He must have died after 1786 as his final son, Alexander, appears to have been born in late 1787. This puts his date of death as probably being between 1787 and 1799. I found a reference to a John Wyld who died in Canongate, Edinburgh, 14 May 1795, aged 61, and in the same parish a Mary Aitcheson who died 17 September 1800 aged 49. If this is the correct John Wyld then he would have been born around September 1733 - September 1734. But I cannot find any John Wylds born during this period. There is a John Wyld born in 1736 to Thomas Wyld and Isobel Barrouman, and another John Wyld born to an Adam Wyld and Ann Paterson in 1735, both in Dunsyre, which is a probable area.

However on the life of John Wyld, a fair amount was also written by his grandson, Robert Stodart Wyld. In his The Memoir of James Wyld of Gilston and His Family, also of Robert Stodart of Kailzie and Ormiston Hill, he writes:

"My father [James Wyld of Gilston] came of quiet, honest and pious parents. I have very scanty information concerning the life of my paternal grandfather, John Wyld of Penicuik. What his early occupations were, I know not, but later in life he started a paper mill in this small place, which he afterwards sold to Mr. Cowan. I have no right to suppose that it was thus that the extensive paper works of Messrs. Cowan took their origin, and which have since attained such importance. In his Reminiscences of the Cowan family, published in 1878, for private circulation, Mr Charles Cowan states, that he believes his grandfather became possessed of the mills of Valleyfield about the year 1770, and, that he gave the place that name. Up to this time, he states, the mills at Valleyfield were on a small scale, and that they had been used for making paper since about the year 1707, and that they had occasionally been possessed and wrought by the King's printers of the day. ..."

RSW also adds some interesting material concerning John Wyld's religious convictions:

"My grandfather being old, and having dropped the paper making business, came with his wife to Edinburgh, where they died. I have often heard my father talk with reverence of his father, who was an elder in the United Presbyterian Church, or as it was before their union called, the Burgher and Antiburgher Churches. To which of these sections he belonged I cannot say, but he was, by all accounts, a most patriarchal man, Some traits of his character and times may be given. For instance, it was his habit, along with a little band of the more earnest religious members of the Penicuik community, once a year, if possible, to cross on foot the hillds and moorlands between their own quiet and secluded homes, and the still more retired and solitary little church of Ettrick, seking to have their souls refreshed by the preaching of that ardent but severe and uncompromising Calvinist, Thomas Boston. I can record also, to the honour of my paternal grandparents, that the savour of their piety and hospitality did not perish with them, for when I settled in Queensferry in 1842, I felt some pride when told by the Rev. Wm. Carruthers, minister of the United Presbyterian Church there, that his father, who preceded him in the Queensferry charge, had often spoken to him, of old Mr Wyld of Penicuik, and his six stalwart sons and his one winsome daughter, and especially of the hospitality of the old gentleman and lady, whose house was a ready and happy resting-place when ministerial duties called the dissenting clergymen to the neighbourhood. We had at Bonnington Bank a large quarto edition of John Brown of Haddington's self interpreting Bible, in two volumes, printed in London in 1791, and which, on my father's death, fell to my brother William. The paper of the first edition of this work, which was afterwards so famous both in England and in Scotland, my father informed us, was hand-made paper made at my grandfather's paper works."

Regarding the domestic life of John Wyld, RSW adds:

"Possessing so little material that can throw light upon the domestic life and surroundings of our venerable grandparents at Penicuik, I feel the following incidents connected with the furniture of their modest mansion interesting. After the death of his parents, my father obtained a part of their furniture, among which were nine Chippendale arm chairs, possessing all the neatness and excellent finish which distinguished the furniture of this maker. These chairs stood in my father's bedrooms at Leith Links, and afterwards for many years at Bonnington Bank. When Bonnington was sold to Lord Erskine, they fell to the noble purchaser, but they were afterwards bought back by my father and distributed through the bedrooms at Gilston. When Mr. Baxter became proprietor of Gilston, and set about the extension and embellishment of the mansion, outside and in, the professional decorator of the handsome drawing room cast his eyes on the Chippendale chairs, and at once, after renewal of their cushions, transferred them from the bedrooms to the drawing-room. There they stand in their prudish severity, admired by all, but regarded by us with peculiar tenderness on our seeing them, in 1884, in juxtaposition with so many aristocratic surroundings."

Finally RSW describes something of what he knew about the wife and family of John Wyld:

"My paternal grandmother was Mary Aitcheson, of Loanhead. She was somewhat delicate, and died from a rupture brought on when forcibly opening a drawer. There were eight children of the marriage, three of whom died comparatively young. Thomas, the eldest son, born 1772, died in Holland. John, the second son, a tall, dark-complexioned man, married Miss Black, a most kind and hospitable aunt to us in later years. He, by my father's interest, held the office of agent in the Glasgow branch of the Commercial Bank, and died suddenly when about forty eight years of age, leaving a widow and a large family, regarding some of whom I, by and bye may give a few particulars. Janet died very young; George studied medicine, and as a young medical practitioner went to the West Indies, where he died of a fever; Alexander also died when a young man."

RSW also discusses at more length the lives of two other children of the marriage of John Wyld and Mary Aitcheson, namely his father James Wyld of Gilston, and Isobella Wyld who married Robert Brown. I have not yet added all the relevant material.

I also found some references to these children in the Scottish Record Society's Register of Marriages for the Parish of Edinburgh:

"Wyld, Miss Isobel; Robert Brown, jun. 2 Mar 1799
John, merchant, New Grayfriar's p., and Miss Marion, p. of Biggar, d. of John Black, merchant, Biggar, 19 May 1797.
Thomas, merchant, New Grayfriar's p., and Mary, St. Cuthbert's p., d. of William Mutter, farmer in p. of Dalkeith 10 Aug. 1799"

 

 

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My name is Alasdair Broun and I was born and brought up in Scotland, son of a clergyman and a freelance journalist. I took up genealogy as a hobby when I was 17 and I went on to write a PhD thesis in philosophical psychology ... more >


 

 

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