The Proudfoots


It seems the name Proudfoot originated in England as a nickname for somebody who swaggered as they walked. One source says the clan Proudfoot was in Berwickshire in the C14th. Another says they were never a clan, nor even a sept. A coat of arms appears to show a knight’s foot on top of a cross within an orb. Certainly, the earliest of our Proudfoots that I can find was born in Berwickshire at the end of the C18th.


My grandmother, Janet (Jessie) Proudfoot was born at 124 St Andrew Street, Galashiels, on 15 February 1884. By the time of the 1901 census, she was a woollen yarn twister which, I think, is the process of turning fleece into yarn (sort of a spinner). By 1911, she was a power loom weaver (see picture). I’m imagining that she and David Wilson were in regular contact in the mill as he went about his business of keeping the machines going. She and David married in Innerleithen on 22 March 1913, shortly before he left on the Athenic for New Zealand.


Jessie followed within the year. They settled in Mosgiel, just outside Dunedin. Their first child, my father, William, was born at the end of 1914. Their second child, my Aunt Olive, was born in 1916. David worked at the Mosgiel Woollen Mill and, by the time I was born in 1949, and probably for many years before, he lived over the road from the mill’s main gates in Factory Road, latterly with his second wife, Connie. 


Jessie died on Christmas Eve 1945, aged 61. Her death certificate reports she

died of heart failure due to occlusion of coronary vessels following three years

of arteriosclerosis (build up of cholesterol plaque that can burst, leading to heartfailure). She’d also had a stroke two years earlier that had left her with partialparalysis of her right arm. I am sorry I never knew her.

power loom weaving

The Proudfoot line


John was a farm worker, according to the 1841 and 1851 censuses. He was born in Ayton (one ‘hint’ said Hassington Mains, Eccles), Berwickshire and died in Morebattle, Roxburghshire. He married Sophia Henderson on 5 September 1817 in Edrom, Berwickshire. The couple had at least five children. Robert, in our line, was born in the middle of his four siblings.


In 1851, John and Sophie were living in Primrose Mill Cottages, Morebattle.  On census night, their unmarried sons William and James, also farm workers, were living with them, as was their daughter, Janet, and an infant granddaughter, Mary Graham. The census provides a link to 1861 when Janet has married Thomas Graham. Clearly, there’s a story to be told there but, unhappily, we aren’t privy to it.


Robert was born in Fogo, Berwickshire and died in Gateshaw, Morebattle, Roxburghshire. From census records, he was variously an agricultural labourer and a hedger, which a genealogical site for old occupations says is a skilled art.  Robert married Barbara Middlemas/Middlemiss around 1847. I’ve found records for five children of whom Robert Jnr was the youngest.



Jessie’s parents were Robert Proudfoot and Margaret Renton. Robert was born in Kelso, Roxburghshire and died in Walkerburn, near Innerleithen, aged 80. He was a hard-working man whose occupations include being a lorryman which, in 1884, probably meant driving a horse-drawn vehicle; a millworker (machine, 1891); a railway surface man (track maintenance worker, 1901); and a labourer dye house (1911). He and Margaret married in Galashiels on 28 June 1881. Their occupations at the time were “common labourer” and “domestic servant”. They had six children, of whom Jessie was the second.





Jessie’s mother was Margaret Renton, born 30 July 1861 in Makerston, Roxburghshire. While her marriage certificate records she was a domestic servant, the census of the same year lists her occupation as farm worker. Margaret’s marriage lasted 20 years until her death, aged 40, on 8 March 1902 of Bright’s Disease (now named nephritis). It is a disease of the kidneys and her death certificate reports she was confined (i.e., bed ridden) for 13 weeks before she died. Robert stayed “widower” until he died 36 years later. 


Margaret’s parents were William Renton (right) and Janet Purves. They married in

Duns, Berwickshire on 17 August 1848. William’s occupation was recorded as “hind”

which, Mr Google tells me, was a farm labourer who probably lived in a cottage on

his employer’s farm and who looked after a small number of horses. He was born

ca 1824 but, frustratingly, I can’t find definitive evidence about where and to whom

he arrived. Records have his birth in Chirnside or Duns. He died 23 November 1898

in Galashiels. 



Through Janet Purves we reach back to the C17th through a line of Berwickshire families.

It’s disappointing that finding death details seems to be impossible. It will probably mean

doing a lot of cemetery trawls to find headstones, assuming there are any. 


The various Wilson-Purves unions over the years make for a confusing record although I think

I have it straight in this chart. I have found a birth record for a Janet Liddal (8 April 1770

in Coldingham, to Thomas Liddal and Janet Purves) but I have nothing to prove it is ‘our’

Janet Liddell, nor a record of a marriage of either spelling to John Bell.