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The Wilsons


Crest: A demi-lion

Motto: Semper Vigilans (always watchful)


‘Wilson’ is a common name in Scotland. Thought to be a sept name of the northern Clan Gunn, the population in the south seems to have grown from internal migration to settlement in the Borders (Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire) from about the C16th. One story is that this migration followed a disagreement between Will Gunn and his clan chief. Will picked up his caber and left home, taking his family - “Will’s sons” - with him. Sounds about right.



The Wilson-Proudfoot footprint


Family names associated with the Wilson branch are: Aitken, Bell, Blackwood, Bryce, Brydon, Euman, Henderson, Hope, Hume, Irvine, Jeffrey, Liddle, McLaren/Macklearin/McClaran, Middlemas/Middlemiss/Middlemist, Piercy, Potts, Proudfoot, Purvis/Purves, Renton, Ruan.


This chart traces only the immediate family back three generations from my father because I have found no parents for Thomas, born in 1813 in Skirling, Peebleshire. I have also not found definitive parentage for William Renton, born in 1824 in Duns, Berwickshire.


Other branches reach eight generations back, to the C17th, through the Purves family to another Wilson, Alexander, born in Coldringham, Berwickshire and his wife, Jean Middlemist, in Duns, Berwickshire; and to Peter Purves, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Berwickshire and his wife, Alliesson Wilsone, again from Duns.


The Wilson branch were hard workers and I suspect the longevity of the men was down to lives of hard physical labour. Hard work didn’t help the women, many of whose lives were shortened by ill health.  


The Wilson line


Thomas, the earliest Wilson I have so far found, was born in Skirling, just up to the right of Biggar. The unnamed pin on the left of the above map is Carmichael where Jean Blackwood was born (17 May 1816) and where she married Thomas on 18 June 1837. They had seven children, one of whom was William (b. 12 August 1849). Jean’s parents were Thomas Blackwood and Jean Bryce

(b. 10 October 1790) who married in Carmichael on 28 May 1809. Jean Bryce’s parents were John (b. ca 1752) and Mary Piercy (b. ca 1756). I have seen uncorroborated marriage details for John and Mary: 28 November 1777 in Lesmahagow, which is about another seven miles west of Carmichael.



An C18th description of Williams' birthplace, Liberton (Edinburgh), suggests the name may have derived from Leperton, where there would have been a hospital. In the C21st, it has its own hospital and is very close to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, so this may be true. It was an agricultural community when William was born and Thomas’ occupation on the birth certificate was that of farm servant. This good farming land has now given way to several golf courses. 


William married Marion Brydon Potts (b. 10 January 1858, Kirkhope) in Innerleithen on 22 February 1878 and they had six children. The 1891 census has them in Kirkmichael, Isle of Man and that is the last record for William other than the possibility he is the William Wilson, carter, in Innerleithen on the 1895 Valuation Rolls. The 1901 census records and the 1894 birth of daughter, Marion, suggests he died between those years.



David was born 22 May 1889 in Innerleithen to William Wilson and Marion Brydon Potts. By 1891, he was living in Kirkmichael, Ilse of Man, with his parents, his brothers Thomas, Archibald and William, and his sister Elizabeth. By 1901, another sister, Marion, had arrived but the family was living in Ballingry, Fyfe, with Marion B recorded as the head of the household. David was the householder, in Innerleithen, in 1911, with his two sisters but his mother was still alive, according to Elizabeth’s marriage certificate, in 1917. He married Janet (Jessie) Proudfoot in 1913 and immediately emigrated to New Zealand. I can’t prove it but I am sure that the David Wilson, engineer, who left London on the 27 March 1913, travelling third class on the SS Athenic to arrive at Port Chalmers, Otago, on 14 May, is our David Wilson. In the 1911 census, he was an engineman stationary (an engineering job) and his occupation at marriage was that of mechanical engineer. The only likely record I’ve found for Jessie’s

migration is that of a Mrs J Wilson who travelled on the SS Ionic, leaving London for Wellington on 18 July 1913. I have found no record of a Wilson couple travelling together that fits the relevant dates.  He worked at the Mosgiel Woollen Mills until retirement and died of a second stroke on 8 August 1969.


William (Bill)

Born in Mosgiel, just outside Dunedin, in 1914, Bill was the elder of two children born to David and Jessie.

His sister, (Agnes) Olive, was born in 1916. Bill was a schoolteacher. Towards the end of his career, he was

a primary school headmaster. He married twice: to my mother until their divorce in 1964 then to Alice Isobel

Sinclair from 1968 until his death from a heart attack on 1 March 1985.







The Potts, in-laws of William Wilson through his marriage to Marion Brydon Potts, were Eskdalemuir people, shepherds and farmers. Eskdalemuir is at the head of Eskdale, originally owned by the clan Beattieson. Wikipedia tells me it is high wet moorland and

rich in archeological artefacts such as stone circles and a bank barrow. Current claims to fame include a weather station/magneticobservatory and a Tibetan Buddhist monastery (a long way from home). Around 410 people live there, mainly sheep farmers and forestry workers, so not a lot has changed. Given the Potts and their in-laws were mainly from there, we could be related to most of the village. 



In-laws to John Potts were the Irvines through his marriage to Elizabeth around 1828.  Père Irvine, Archie, was born around 1766 in Eskdalemuir. I have found little information about him, other than his wife may have been Mary Elliott.



Archie Potts’ marriage to Cecilia Aitken was nearly marrying out of the district because, although she was born in Eskdalemuir, her parents may both have been from Roxburghshire. John, a farmer, was born (1803) in Hawick and died (1881) in Roberton.  Frustratingly, because of the line of ‘Brydon’ middle names in subsequent generations, I can find no information about his wife, Marion Brydon, other than that she died young, before 1851, or about her family.



David’s marriage to Janet Proudfoot introduces the next major branch of our family.

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