David LINKLATER Helen Wylie LINKLATER Arthur David LINKLATER Valdemar McLelland LINKLATER Mary Flint LINKLATER Edward James LINKLATER Adelaide Jeanette LINKLATER James Ernest LINKLATER Amelia Agnes BELL Jannet Halcrow LINKLATER Barbara Watt LINKLATER Janet IRVINE tree

James Stevens LINKLATER 1850-1899

25th Oct 1850

Born in Sandwick, Orkney (Rith?)


1st Oct 1878

Married Amelia Agnes BELL in Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland


8th Jul 1879

Birth of son Arthur David LINKLATER in Leith



Birth of son Valdemar McLelland LINKLATER


Jun 1885

Birth of daughter Mary Flint LINKLATER


27th Apr 1888

Birth of son Edward James LINKLATER


8th Nov 1888

Death of son Edward James LINKLATER


8th Mar 1890

Birth of daughter Adelaide Jeanette LINKLATER



Birth of son James Ernest LINKLATER


21st Aug 1899

Died in St Andrew, Edinburgh, Scotland


EVELYN: Amelia married James Linklater who came from Orkney. He was a wholesale provision merchant, trading with the Baltic countries. Amelia was a pretty but incredibly stupid woman. Mother said that Amelia was in love with Johnnie Crawford (see Aunt Betsy) but both grandmother and Aunt Alicia put their feet down on that.

There were six children of Amelia's marriage, the younger ones quite small when Uncle James died in his early forties, of Bright's disease. He failed in his business and, like your grandfather, [i.e. Mona Benny's grandfather, Thomas Flint] found financial worry and ill health too much for him. Naena and I knew Aunt Amelia very well but Uncle James died when I was a baby and his youngest son, James, only 3 years old. Aunt Amelia died of cancer in 1917.

In what follows I refer to my great-grandfather James Stevens Linklater as JSL since there is another key James Linklater who lacked any distinguishing middle name - “very tarsome.”

JSL was the second of four children and only son of David and Janet Linklater. His older sister was Helen; his two younger sisters Jannet [sic] and Barbara. [Jannet was a not unusual spelling in Orkney at the time. Indeed, her mother flirted with two ns occasionally as in the 1861 and 1891 censues. In all the other censues she economised on ink.] All four siblings were born and raised in Aith, a township in the parish of Sandwick on the western side of Mainland, Orkney, with a largely unapproachable Atlantic coastline apart from the Bay of Skaill, the original Sandwick or ‘Sandy Bay’. Stromness is about 6 miles south of Aith, and Kirkwall roughly 10 miles to the east. Aith itself is strategically placed at a cross-roads at the eastern end of the Loch of Skaill, and almost unavoidable by anyone travelling from Stromness to North Mainland on roads that were, before or during the 19th C., minimal to non-existent. Before he married, David, JSL's father, was a cobbler employing a couple of men. Latterly he was referred to as a ‘provision merchant’ and occasionally Post Master. Their home in Aith was probably their mother Janet's property, from which, inter alia, she ran a Post Office from 1876 until her death in 1902. David, originally from Kirbister, Stromness, predeceased her in 1874.

Date Address Source
1850 Aith Birth cert.
1851 East Aith Census
1861 Aith Census
1871 72 Great Junction Street, Leith Census
2 May 1873 32 Bernard Street, Leith Death Barbara
1 Oct 1878 7 South Fort Street, North Leith Marriage Amelia
8th July 1879 14 Summerside Street, Leith Birth Arthur
1881 14 Summerside Street, Leith Census
1891 14 Summerside Street, Leith Census
21st Aug 1899 11 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh Death James

Dum's card There is the suggestion of another address. Inscribed on the back of a card [image at right] made by James' eldest son Arthur is this: This is for Father from his dear loving son Arthur for a New Year present. Where will you put it? December/[83 or 85] Burghfield [For more see Arthur's Biography.] The wording suggests that father and son were not in one and the same place so Burghfield may have been the home of a relative [Roxburghs?] with whom Arthur was staying or Burghfield could have been ‘home’ while James was away somewhere - possibly viewing Herm for example. The only domicile I have for ca. 1883-5 is 14 Summerside Street, Leith. Whether this was also ‘Burghfield’ I do not know.

Two difficulties concerning JSL are his middle name and his sudden and rapid rise in prosperity. As middle names are something of a problem afflicting two of JSL's three sisters I shall deal with them first. Middle names are in themselves somewhat unusual in Orkney at the time, where a single Christian name was the norm. JSL's middle name was Stevens - always spelled thus on documents relating to him, including the record of his birth in the Parish Register, and by himself e.g. his signature on the purchase contract for Herm q.v. Exactly why this was his middle name is unclear. He was rather distantly related to a Caroline Stephens, whose surname was also always spelled that way. She was his half-uncle's second wife. Given the tenuousness of this relationship it is hard to see why JSL's middle name did not derive from someone closer in kinship; Irvine, his mother's maiden name for example, or Sinclair, a popular name - the commonest surname in Orkney, one of whose number married an uncle of JSL's. It is conceivable that JSL's father learned of the name of his half-brother's second wife and simply liked the sound of it - but presumably not its spelling. Another possibility, that Caroline was a godmother, seems equally far-fetched; firstly, I have not the slightest evidence for it and secondly, had she been his godmother, it makes explaining the variant spelling just as tricky. However, although the kinship was distant, Caroline's husband this James was one ‘J’ in the partnership of J. & J. Linklater in which the other ‘J’ was Jacob, JSL's ‘full’ uncle. Of which more anon.

Helen, the eldest of the four siblings, had Wylie as her middle name. Three or four, and possibly more, generations of JSL's [and my !] male ancestors came from Kirbister, Stromness. Indeed, Helen, Jannet [sic] and Barbara as well as their brother James [JSL] were the first generation I know of not to have been born in Stromness.

It has been suggested to me that Helen's middle name may have derived from the surname of a local Stromness minister, the Rev Andrew Wylie, originally from Auchtergarven, who was the first minister of the Stromness ‘Anti-Burgher’ church. The convulsions of the Scottish reformed church are superbly illustrated diagramatically, their intricacies resembling a tube map rather than a neat linear progression. Suffice to say, that ‘Anti-Burgher’ and many other weird and wonderful schismatic congregations erupted all over Scotland following The First Secession from The Church of Scotland in 1733, the first major upheaval since the Reformation of 1560. The Burgher Oath required holders of public offices to affirm approval of the religion “presently professed in this kingdom”. Some were prepared to take the oath; others were not. The latter became known as Anti-Burghers. At issue was the supremacy of civil law over ecclesiastical law - the path adhered by the Burghers. Conversely ecclesiastical law trumped civil law for Anti-Burghers. The debate rehearsed what later became the argument for separation of church and state and lead ultimately to The Disruption in 1843 by which time the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, inextricably involved in civil as well as ecclesiastical administration, found itself increasingly at odds with the civil law especially over patronage and church appointments. As a result, The Disruption saw nearly 40% of ministers and 30% of the congregation sever their allegiance to the established church to form the Free Church of Scotland. It divided professions, families and social classes giving rise to the jibe that the Free Kirk was the wee kirk, the kirk without a steeple and the Auld Kirk the cauld kirk, the kirk without its people. The Disruption was as divisive as the reformation, but without the burnings. Think ‘Brexit’ times five. The ultimate benefit was that the state assumed responsibility for education and poor relief which had hitherto been the responsibility of the church.

Revenons a nos moutons... In 1805 our straying sheep in Stromness began building work on an Anti-Burgher church and in 1806, after spending some £600 and with a seating capacity for 643, the church threw open its doors to a new congregation consisting of two elders and thirty communicants. Andrew Wylie was their first minister. He was ordained in 1809 and other than the upheaval of the church's birth, his ministry was tranquil save for wrangling over the leading of the Psalmody. Ruffled feathers were eventually smoothed by the expedient of disallowing any “band” to collect in any particular part of the church and the discontinued use of those tunes deemed ”obnoxious.” Andrew Wylie died in 1826. If this was the man whose surname was bestowed on Helen he must have been held in considerable veneration by my forebears as Helen was not born for another 23 years! and indeed, in the year of Andrew Wylie's death Helen's father was eleven and her mother one. No other Wylie immediately suggests itself.

Jannet, the older of JSL's two younger sisters, had no middle name that I know of, which is something of a relief, but the addition of an extra ‘n’ to her name may have been some compensation, whereas Barbara, the youngest sister, had Watt as her middle name. It was to bring her no luck. It was quite common for parents to bestow the laird's surname on their offspring and Aith in Sandwick was part of Willie Watt's Breckness estate. When Willie Watt, 7th Laird o Breckness, died in 1866, his death prompted obsequious obituaries that described him as a benevolent landlord who was kind, genial, hospitable, knowledgeable and moderately well read, with shrewd judgement, mild manners, gentlemanly deportment and a benevolent and indulgent disposition.[Orkney Herald, 30 Oct 1866]. Less flattering was the contemporary description of him being hospitable, sensible, mild and not very bright, and the more recent description of him as rich but tight fisted. For more - much more! about Willie Watt, see James Irvine's excellent ‘Breckness Estate’ pps 155-185, but none of this helps with the name Stevens or its bearer's life.

Most of what I know about JSL's later life concerns his ownership of Herm which has a section to itself - see HERM. I know little about his early life such as when exactly he left Orkney except that it was some time between 1861, in which year the census placed him in Aith aged 10, and 1871 when he was recorded as 21 years old, a lodger at 72 Great Junction Street, Leith and already a “Provision Merchant.” It was also noted that the number of rooms he occupied with one or more windows was 2 - a useful benchmark for his subsequent propsperity.

Sadly JSL surfaces next as ‘informant’ on his sister Barbara's death certificate dated 2 May 1873 where JSL's address is given as 32 Bernard Street, Leith.

Five years later James married Amelia Agnes Bell on 1 October 1878 in Maryhill, Lanarkshire. His marriage certificate states he was a “general merchant” and 7 South Fort Street, North Leith given as his “usual residence.” Their first child, Arthur David Linklater, my grandfather Dum, was born on the 8th July 1879 and on his birth certificate JSL is described as a “provision merchant” resident at 14 Summerside Street, North Leith. This would be where JSL and family lived for most of, if not all, the rest of his short life.

Come the next Census, 1881, JSL was recorded at the same address with wife Amelia, son Arthur and one visitor, Alicia Flint, a “teacher of French”, as noted on the census return. She also, according to Evelyn, spoke and wrote German fluently and, as a young girl, had been introduced to Robert Burns' ‘Clarinda’, Mrs Agnes McLehose - see Alicia FLINT for more about Alicia Flint.

Meanwhile, JSL continued to trade as a “Produce Merchant” and could now boast that he occupied 7 rooms with one or more windows - so things were clearly looking up. His circumstances remained largely unchanged at the next census in 1891 save that all concerned were a decade older, Alicia had gone home as had possibly a “girl servant” called Euphemia Baxter, whose name was entered as a member of the household but then crossed out on the census return. JSL was now simply a “Merchant.” This was JSL's last appearance in an earthly census.

During JSL's time living in Leith he appears to have enjoyed considerable success, but how he managed to set up independently in business at such a young age [no older than 21] is unclear, let alone how he prospered so rapidly that in the space of less than twenty years he was emboldened to buy one of the Channel Isles, even then at considerable cost and equivalent roughly how much a ploughman would earn in 380 years ! I wondered if his rapid rise in prosperity and middle name might be connected, e.g. that he had been a beneficiary in some way of James or his wife Caroline née Stephens but that seems unlikely. Firstly the relationship was, as noted, a distant one. Secondly, James and Caroline had at least four of their own children. Money can't have been that plentiful, nor is there any indication that James and Caroline were particularly ‘flush.’

JSL remained in trade till his early death, aged 49 in 1899. His death certificate does not make clear his residence. In JSL's case there is a column for “When and Where Died” in which 11 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh is entered but this could have been a hospital or nursing home or someone else's residence e.g. that of Alicia Flint who signed as “present” under the column headed “Signature & Qualification of Informant and Residence, if out of the House in which the Death occurred.” Whether 11 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh represents a move from 14 Summerside Street, Leith is unclear at present. All in all JSL must have been quite successful because, as noted above, in 1884 he bought one of the Channel Islands, Herm, and owned it for several years. Reading between the lines however, he may have bitten off more than he could chew in purchasing Herm. JSL died 18 years before his wife Amelia, on whose own death certificate JSL is described as a “fish curer.” Family tradition has it that he bought Herm as a better place than Leith or Orkney to dry fish. This suggests he was into dried fish in a pretty big way, but is only part of the story in my opinion.

JSL's grandfather, Peter Linklater, had two wives; Janet Linay and Helen Towers, and a raft of bairns. My descent is from Peter's second marriage to Helen Towers whose third of four sons, David, born 18 Aug 1815, married Janet Irvine on 12 Mar 1846 and had one son, James Stevens Linklater, who was the last of my ancestors to be born or live in Orkney.

JSL's father David had three brothers the youngest of whom, Jacob, was unmarried when he died intestate in Edinburgh on 27 Aug 1858, and was recorded as “sole partner of J. & J. Linklater Provision Dealer Candlemaker Row Edinburgh.” [While the street location of the ‘warehouse’ was given thus in the Inventory, the actual property was not precisely identified.] As an eight year old, JSL would have been too young to benefit directly from Jacob's estate which was valued at £999 at a time when farm labourers earned roughly one shilling a day and when there were twenty shillings in a pound. As was/is normal with intestacies an Inventory of the estate was drawn up, which in Jacob's case was witnessed by William Linklater in Stromness on 10 Dec 1858. William is described in the inventory as a “tailor, Kirbister, Stromness”. As Jacob's oldest brother was probably principal if not sole beneficiary of Jacob's estate valued at the convenient sum of £999 - £1 below the threshold at which a higher rate of death duty would have been exacted. The youngest surviving brother David, my great-great-grandfather, was recorded in the 1851 census, seven years before Jacob's death, as a shoemaker; come the next census after Jacob's death in 1861, he had become a ‘merchant’. David was to die suddenly in 1874 and within five years as noted above, JSL, David's only son was married and set up in business on his own account as a “provisions merchant”, just like his uncle Jacob. Whether JSL received a legacy from his father David I do not know as I have been unable to trace any will.

In the process of trying to discover who Jacob's other half was in J. & J. Linklater I started with the assumption that whoever it was must have pre-deceased Jacob. There is a will for a James Linklater dated 24 Sept 1852. This James' will valued his “half interest in the firm of J. & J. Linklater Provision Merchants, Grassmarket, Edinburgh” at £90.16s.9d which clinches the matter. The inventory was witnessed and signed by James' widow “Caroline Stephens or Linklater...” the first and only clue that possibly explains James Stevens Linklater's middle name. James' and Caroline's marriage certificate, dated 26 Nov 1841, states James was a “Ship Carpenter Residing in No. 15 Lady Lawsons Wynd in this Parish” i.e. St Cuthbert's, Morningside. James and Jacob Linklater were half-brothers, James having been born 15 Dec 1806 at Windywalls, Kirbister, son of Peter Linklater by his first wife, Janet Linay. JSL was born about 9 years after Caroline and James were married. When James husband of Caroline died, he too died intestate. I assume the whole of his residual estate, including his share in the business, passed to his widow, Caroline. I don't know when Caroline died nor if she made a will.

When Jacob died intestate, his estate presumably passed in its entirety to his nearest surviving relation. In Jacob's case that was William, the oldest of the three surviving brother. Crumbs from the table may have gone to Robert, the nest oldest brother. Robert had a son named Jacob, born 10th November 1840, suggesting possibly more than mere kinship. Robert and his family all emigrated to Australia. Whether David, as youngest surviving brother, got a look in is unclear. Had Jacob's residual estate been distributed by the book the answer is no, and leaves another question-mark as to how JSL set himself up in business.

Somewhere along the line I learned that Jacob's death certificate was attested by John Beaton Linklater giving as his address 54 Candlemaker Row, but I have not managed to find a copy of Jacob's death certificate so far. The address must have been the same property as Jacob's ‘warehouse.’ [Today it is surrounded by tattoo parlours!] The only John Beaton Linklater I know of was son of one of Jacob's half-brothers, plain John with no middle name according to my records, who married Ann Thomson; among their numerous offspring was a son called John Beaton Linklater b. 1833 who could conceivably, even though of a different generation, have witnessed Jacob's death certificate in 1858 when John Beaton Linklater would have been about 25 years old.

One other possible boost to JSL's business career may have been his marriage to Amelia, who may have had some money of her own; her father was a retired jeweler, of whom Naena wrote: Jeremiah Bell came from Donegal and, as a young boy, was apprenticed to his uncle who was a jeweler in Edinburgh. How my grandmother ever came to meet him I don't know, but he came of a very good substantial middle class family in Ulster, and any of his relations we ever knew were people of quite outstanding character, and some of great charm. Otherwise we know nothing about him, except that he, like everybody else, never seems to have followed any trade, business or profession, and that he became a complete invalid in his thirties, and died at about 40.

Whether he pulled himself up entirely by his own bootstraps or had help a helping hand from his wife's family or, sharing a miss-spelled name with Caroline conferred benefit of money or know-how, contacts or property is all unclear. Somewhat clearer is that James Stevens Linklater seems to have lost whatever ‘fortune’ he made just as quickly as he made it if, what Evelyn wrote is anything to go by.

Pomona While researching the misnomer Pomona I discovered a family connection. Below is a transcript of p. 36 from Sail Ships of Orkney by Sinclair Ross [W.R.Mackintosh, Kirkwall, May 1954] The illustration is from the same page. The picture shows the schooner Pomona discharging cargo at the “clipper's” berth, Kirkwall. A wooden vessel of 84 registered tons, she was built at Stromness in 1876 for Samuel Reid and others of Kirkwall. In 1886 she was purchased by Linklater of Leith and was one of the last Kirkwall sailing clippers. In the closing decade of last century the sailing clippers were replaced by steamships on time charter; the first to be so employed was s.s. Keelrow. The Pomona was sold to Moray Firth owners and in the early years of this century she was wrecked near Fraserburgh.
Other sailing clippers of Kirkwall were: George Canning, Sir Joseph Banks,
Mary Balfour, Pandora, Paragon (old and new), and Queen of the Isles.

This all ties in with such dates as I have for James Stevens Linklater of Commercial Wharf, Leith and with information contained in Alastair and Anne Cormack's book, ‘Days of Orkney Steam’ [Kirkwall Press 1971.]

Having thus successfully disposed of their opposition on the kirkwall-Leith direct trade, the ‘North Co.’ nevertheless soon had another competitor. Pomona, the former sailing clipper of the Kirkwall and Leith Company, had been sold to Linklater and Company of Leith, who soon placed her on her old trade route again, together with the Luna. In 1888 another schooner Queens of the Isles replaced Luna, but it was not very long before Linklater's saw, like their predecessors, that the regularity of steam had, with the increased pace of living, begun to outweigh the advantages of cost in favour of running sailing vessels. The small cargo steamer Keel Row was placed on the Leith-Kirkwall sailing as from the beginning of April 1894, and continued until replaced by another small steamer Ben Nevis.
In the autumn of 1895, a series of meetings of shippers and merchants under the chairmanship of John Tait, Papdale, was held in Kirkwall to militate against the high freight and passenger fares then charged by the ‘North Co.’ One of the outcomes of these meetings was a request in October to Linklater and Company that they replace the Ben Nevis with a larger steamer, and that it should call additionally at Aberdeen. Due to the limited livestock shipments available at that time of year, it was well into 1896 before Linklater acceded to the first request, and the Strathbeg took over - though without the desired calls at Aberdeen...
Agernts in Kirkwall for the Leith trade by Linklater's vessels were Cooper and Co., and in 1898 they themselves placed on the Kirkwall and Leith passage the former Pentland Firth steamer Express... After many years spent performing a wide variety of functions, Express at last found herself steady employment, steaming weekly between Kirkwall and Leith for almost twenty years.

About nineteen of which can have no connection with James Stevens Linklater, who died on the 21st August 1899. As with much of James' life, the above poses plenty of questions while supplying few answers. A further sojourn in Edinburgh may fill in some of the gaps. Watch this space.