David LINKLATER Helen Wylie LINKLATER James Stevens LINKLATER Jannet Halcrow LINKLATER Janet IRVINE tree

Barbara Watt LINKLATER 1855-1873

13th Aug 1855

Born in Aith, Sandwick, Orkney (Rith?)

2nd May 1873


I know little about Barbara Watt Linklater other than that she was born in 1855 and died of tuberculosis of “uncertain” duration on the 2nd May 1873 aged 17 as stated in her death certificate.


The certificate is for “Deaths in the District of Canongate in the Burgh of Edinburgh.” Barbara’s place of death is given as 21 Salisbury Street, Edinburgh. I don’t know whether this was a nursing home or the house of another relative. It was not where her brother, James Stevens Linklater, was living because, in the penultimate column, “Signature and Qualification of Informant, and residence, if out of the House in which the death occurred”, James’ address is given as 32 Bernard Street, Leith. I don’t know of any other relations living in Edinburgh at the time.

Her father, David, is described as a “general merchant”.

She was apparently buried in Edinburgh. Somewhere I believe I have a photograph of Barbara’s headstone. Of David and Janet’s four children only Barbara and James seem to have been given middle names; Watt in Barbara’s case, Stevens in James’. Why James was burdened with Stevens as a middle name I have no idea; there are none in the 1841 Stromness or Sandwick census returns, but it was common practise at the time to give a child the name of the ‘laird’. At the time of Barbara’s birth Willie G. Watt [1810-1866] was 7th Laird o Breckness. 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 see ‘Breckness Estate’ pps 155-185]. For whatever reason, when Barbara was baptized, David and Janet appear to have felt beholden to Willie Watt, probably because they were tenants of his.

I wonder if Barbara was subjected to any of this - apart from the “last resource.”

A much respected dissenting clergyman, still alive, called at this cottage [Leraback, in Foula] to inquire for a poor woman who was dying of consumption. On hearing she was no better, he inquired if they had used means to aid her recovery : “Yah,” said her aged mothger, “we gaed to the kirkyard, and brought mould frae the grave o' the last body buried, an' laid it on her breast. As this had nae effect, we gaed to the brig ower which the last corpse was ta'en, an' took some water frae the burn below, an' made her drink it. This failed too, an' as a last resource, we dug a muckle hole i' the grund, an put her in't.” Quoted in County Folk-Lore vol 3: Orkney and Shetland collected by G.F. Black and edited by Northcote W. Thomas [David Nutt, London 1903] They cite their source as “REID, pp. 22, 33” probably John T. Reid's ‘Art Rambles in Shetland’ [Edinburgh, 1869]