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Author Topic: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 1  (Read 4606 times)

Offline NorrieG

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Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 1
« on: Saturday 10 May 08 19:54 BST (UK) »
MURDER OF AN ANCESTOR

   During a visit to the local cemetery at East Wemyss to locate the graves of
my ancestors I found a headstone erected by Andrew Gordon, Grocer,  Buckhaven
for his Wife Janet Mitchell who died 1874. and his daughter Isabella Gordon died
19th October 1874 age 42.
   
           Checking the death certificate at the LDS centre at Kirkcaldy for
Isabella Gordon I found
                       Scoonie 456 – 45 1874
                       Isabella Gordon ( Bowman )  19th October 1874 Leven
                       Spouse: Robert Bowman  Joiner
                       Parents: Andrew Gordon Retired Grocer & Janet Mitchell
                       Reported by: George Gordon brother
The cause of death given as,’ Found dead in bed with a wound penetrating from under the left shoulder blade into the chest and lungs’. When I discovered she had been found in bed with a stab wound, bells started to ring in my head, it is said if you look hard enough you will find a murderer or a robber in your ancestry, here it was I had found a cousin dead in bed with a stab wound could she have been
                                                ??  “MURDERED”  ??
The certificate revealed she had been married to a Robert Bowman, Joiner of Buckhaven The original reason I checked the certificate was to find out if she was married or single. It was suggested I check at Kirkcaldy Library to see if copies of the local paper for the time were available on film, -Bingo in the local paper for 24th October 1874 there was a report of a Wife Murder at Leven this was my first stroke of luck!

Report from the Fife free press WIFE MURDER AT LEVEN

Leven has been thrown into a great state of excitement since Monday afternoon, when an eager crowd might have been seen collected in the neighbourhood of the house on the High Street occupied by Robert Bowman, Joiner and Isobella Gordon or Bowman, his wife.  A startling discovery made there that day was the cause of the excited gathering – in short, Bowman’s wife had been found dead in bed under circumstances which plainly led to the conclusion that a murder had been committed.

Norrie G


Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

Offline NorrieG

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 2
« Reply #1 on: Saturday 10 May 08 19:56 BST (UK) »
As far as they can be gathered, the particulars are these:- on Sunday morning Bowman and his wife, who are the only inmates of the dwelling, were heard quarrelling and the same morning they were seen to be both the worse of liquor.  Shortly after and somewhere about nine o’ clock, a shriek was heard to emanate from Bowman’s house, and a little thereafter Bowman was heard to leave the house, and lock the door behind him.  After leaving the house, Bowman must have proceeded direct to Buckhaven, as that same forenoon found him among the worshippers in church there.  He again attended divine service in the afternoon and returning in the evening he slept all night in his own house in a closet in a room adjoining the kitchen.  On Monday morning he left for work as usual, locking the door and taking the key with him.  Bowman had no family by this marriage but his wife had a daughter aged about 13, and to this girl he, in the course of Monday, gave the key of the house, stating at the same time that her mother was unwell and confined to bed; but instead of going direct to Bowman’s house to see her mother, she returned to her uncle in Buckhaven   (deceased’s brother) to whom she delivered the key stating at the same time what her stepfather had said about the illness of her mother. The simple story of the girl at once aroused suspicion of deceased’s friends, who thinking all was not right, at once proceeded to Leven: and on opening the door and going upstairs there worst fears concerning their friend began to be realised. Struck with grief and horror at witnessing a large quantity of blood on the stair steps, they hastily entered the kitchen, where sure enough as Bowman had said, they found their friend in bed, but lying in a pool of her own blood- quite dead, and bearing all the appearances of having been dead many hours before. A pool of blood also lay on the floor. Towels and other articles were all more or less stained with blood; and these appearances, together with the confusion of the house furniture, and the saddest spectacle of all the silent corpse stretched upon the bed - made up a scene intensely horrifying. As Police Constable Finlay was from home the friends of the deceased put themselves in immediate communication, by telegraph with Chief Constable Bremner, whom at once despatched Sergeant McIntosh from Cupar. On his arrival at Leven Sergeant McIntosh was joined by Constable Finlay, and at once proceeded to the house of the deceased. On seeing how matters stood, the officers considered it their duty to take possession of the body, clothing and other articles; and afterwords proceeding to Buckhaven, they apprehended the husband of the murdered women in his father’s house there. Having been formally charged by the Constables with the murder of his wife he was handcuffed; and although a powerfully built fellow he offered no resistance whatever to the officers, towards whom his conduct was docile in the extreme. During the same evening Chief Constable Bremner, along with Mr Black Procurator- fiscal, and Dr Walker arrived in a machine from Cupar- Inspector Chalmers of the Kirkcaldy division also reaching the town later on- and sometime afterwards orders were given to convey Bowman to the county jail and in charge of Deputy – Chief Constable Watson and another officer, the suspected wife murderer left in a machine for Cupar prison.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish


Offline NorrieG

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 3
« Reply #2 on: Saturday 10 May 08 19:57 BST (UK) »
A watch was kept over the body of Mrs Bowman, and the house which formed the scene of the terrible tragedy, till Tuesday morning, when a post mortem examination was held on the body of the deceased. The enquiry was of the usual minute nature, and was conducted by Drs Walker, Cupar; Languor, Largo; and Lyall and Balfour , Leven. Although we have not yet learned the full particulars of the medical investigation, we understand that the death of the woman is accounted for by a wound penetrating through the flesh at the back of the left shoulder, and supposed to have been inflicted with a carving knife. The wound was ascertained to be from three to four inches in depth, and therefore have passed through a vital part of the body. Little if indeed any doubt remains as to the description of the weapon with which the murderer had stabbed his victim, for on the house being searched a knife of the description above had actually been got in one of the drawers. It was wrapped in a blood – stained cloth, with which to all appearance it had been wiped; but still on one side of the blade particular, marks of blood were clearly visible. The confused appearance of the house furniture, the blood stained articles which here and there lay scattered across the room, the loud cries heard by the neighbours on Sunday morning, and that the fact that one of the window shutters was found to be wrenched off its hinges, all lead to the supposition that a terrible struggle had taken place; and that  Mrs Bowman had done her best to wart the murderers design. After receiving the wound in the back of the left shoulder, how ever her sufferings must necessarily have been of short duration; but whether the woman had been able with her yet remaining strength to reach the bed and expire, or had been laid by the murderer in the position in which she was found lying is not very clear, though it is most probable she had been killed outright and been placed there. But be that the case or not, there is no doubt that Mrs Bowman had been the victim of a brutal and cold-blooded murder.

Who was Robert Bowman
Robert Bowman born 1845 was the son of Lawrence Bowman Coalmaster & Catherine Cairns first came to Buckhaven area from West Fife in 1864

From Rambles in the Parishes of Sconnie and Wemyss by S Cunningham
In 1864, at the very time in which the fishing industry showed signs of decay, three men arrived at Dysart railway station from the little mining village of Crossgates. The young men caught up a young brewer who was driving a horse and a sprint cart and who had disposed of his load,”Is this the road to Wemyss Castle?” asked one of the men.”yes” was the frank reply I pass the entrance to the avenue. Jump on , if you care” The strangers did not require a second  invitation. They leapt on to the  van and were driven to he avenue leading to Wemyss Castle. The three men were Lawrence Bowman, James & David Cairns. The were on there way to Wemyss Castle to make Enquires about Muiredge Colliery, and before they left the Castle they had agreed to take a lease of the Muiredge Colliery.
Lawrence Bowman had married the sister of James & David Cairns “ Catherine”
they had two other children Archibald born 1843 & Isabella born 1854
In 1874 at the time of the incident Lawrence Bowman Coalmaster was a respected family man and a pillar of Buckhaven society.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 4
« Reply #3 on: Saturday 10 May 08 19:59 BST (UK) »
Robert Bowman was on Tuesday brought before Sheriff Beatson Bell at Cupar, and committed for trial on suspicion of being the perpetrator of the terrible crime. He emitted a declaration before the Sheriff, but the purport of his statement has not been disclosed. He was taken back to jail.

On Thursday the remains of the murdered women were committed to the grave in East Wemyss. Deceased was a good-looking woman. She was 38 years of age and her father brother, and daughter the little girl who carried the key of the house from her husband to Buckhaven where her brother carries on a business as a spirit dealer. Robert Bowman the husband of the deceased is about 27 years of age. He is well connected and belongs to Buckhaven, and great sympathy is felt for his friends.

A precognition of witnesses in connection with the murder opened on Thursday at Leven, when about 20 witnesses were examined leaving nearly as many to be precognosced next week. Great excitement has prevailed all week in Leven, which till now has happily enjoyed most complete immunity from atrocious crime.

           I visited West Register house in Edinburgh where I was able to view the actual statements made by the witnesses in 1874, I was given a package of documents all tied up in a red ribbon. Just think the last person to have opened this could have been in  1875 at the time of the trial.

         From the statements, a wider picture was built, what kind of people they were, where and how they lived, and what lead up to the terrible deed. There are statements from Robert’s Father, Mother, and Brother, his Uncle David Cairns, the Parents of Isabelle her daughter and various neighbours.

           It was quite clear from the statements that the Bowmans defence said Roberts state of mind was not sound. Here are some of the remarks made in their statements.  CATHERINE CAIRNS Mother: My sister in Methilhill had 2 children quite insane, I have also a cousin who has a daughter quite insane. Robert received a kick from a horse when he was 9/10 years; it was on the side of the head a year later he had a fit. LAWRENCE BOWMAN Father : He had an uncle who was quite unsound in mind but he died when I was young. Robert was an apprentice joiner at Dunfermline but had a dispute with his master and completed his apprenticeship at Cowbenbeath he went to work for a friend of mine in England on the railways. Then returned to work at Muiredge.
DAVID CAIRNS Roberts Uncle : Robert is my nephew he turned up for work at Muiredge on Monday in his Sunday clothes, I said to him are you for “jaunting”, he said not far. I said by the bye how’s the wife. He said quite coolly “she coppit it last night” I said what is this, is she gone. He said yes, when did it happen - last night, said he had got an old woman and it would have been much better for him to have leaped over the pier.
ARCHIBALD BOWMAN Brother : Robert said that while he was preparing his breakfast on Sunday she was giving him bad tongue and said he gave her a stroke below the chin. We were all sorry at Roberts going about the house of his Wives Father so much before his marriage, and his wife had pretended that she was pregnant to him. He had said that he was to get £400 hundred pounds on the night of his marriage. I always thought that my brother was touched in the brain. We could never trust him in business.
There were also letters from various doctors while he was in prison awaiting trial as to his state of mind.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 5
« Reply #4 on: Saturday 10 May 08 20:00 BST (UK) »
Who was Isabella Gordon ?

Isabella was born 1831 in Buckhaven the daughter of Andrew Gordon & Janet Mitchell
To me Norrie Gordon she was a second cousin twice removed, her  Grand Father and my Great Great Grandfather were Brothers.

    The  1861 census of Buckhaven states Isabella was grocers assistant, working for her Father who’s occupation is given as Grocer & Fish Curer and she has a 1month old illegitimate daughter Jessie Gordon who by the 1871 census was known as  Jessie Gordon Cairns whom when on to marry a Henry Nimmo a Grocer, I do not know the reason why Cairns was added to her daughters name.

The post mortem examination of Isabella found that her kidneys were diseased. Could this have been caused by drink since her brother George was a spirit Merchant and  Vintner.?

. In the statement by GEORGE GORDON her Brother said he had seen Isabella take a dram occasionally, and had seen her a little under the influence of drink, but not often.

The statement by GEORGE KILGOUR  Engine Driver Leven, : On passing Bowmans house about 10pm on Saturday he and his wife were standing at the door, he spoke to Bowman for a couple of minutes who then went to McLeods to get drink, where he had been refused it before. When he came back he asked me to go upstairs and light my pipe; Peter Haldane came in a few minutes later. There was half a mutchkin of whiskey in the house. Later Bowman got a bit excited and got up and danced, I got up also, his wife and Haldane sat still. There was some singing, after Bowman had danced awhile he asked me to pull of his boots and his wife said give him a hand to his bed. Mrs Bowman was the worse of drink sitting on a stool at the fireside. Bowman had, had on scuffing clothes and his wife was bare headed and had on a black silk gown. I have often seen him the worst of drink and he seemed to me always to take a drink when he could get it, I left at 11.15pm Haldane left a few minutes before.
WILLIAM  McLEOD  publican : I have never refused Bowman drink but I have refused  his wife 5 or 6 weeks before because she had no money.
JANET COWAN or WALKER : residing with Andrew Walker Plumber : - Walkers home and shop are on the south side of Leven High Street the house is above the shop but the kitchen is behind the shop, here is a passage on the east side of he shop and Bowmans house is on the east side of the passage above the shop of Mrs Aitken the grocer the door of my house is exactly opposite it. Bowman has been very much given to drink. At 7, o’clock on Sunday heard the noise of tongues of them. At 8 o’clock I opened my door to send my girl Isobel, out for milk and saw Mrs Bowman standing at her door in the passage. In the morning of Sunday Mrs Bowman was wearing a bedgown and a red flannel petticoat above it and a night mutch on her head.
On Sunday Mrs Cowan before opening her door heard Mrs Bowman crying to her husband that he was a dammed low drunken blackguard, he was a liar and she stomped her foot and swore at him and said “Your daft”
ANDREW WALKER : Bowman was saying all the buggery and hell and such but he has a defect in his speech and it is not easy to make much sense of him.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 6
« Reply #5 on: Saturday 10 May 08 20:02 BST (UK) »
It was then told that the trial would take place within two months but I eventually found that it didn’t take place until April 1875  6 months later. At Perth Spring Circuit Court

Report from Fifeshire Advertiser Tuesday April 18th on the Trial of Robert Bowman for murder at Perth Circuit Court

ALLEGED MURDER AT LEVEN.
Robert Bowman from the prison of Cupar was charged with the crime of murder, In so far as, on Sunday the 18 th day of October last, in the house in High Street Leven occupied by him, he did wickedly and feloniously attack and assault Isabella Gordon or Bowman his wife and did with a knife stab or cut her on the Left side of her back or shoulder, whereby she was mortally injured and immediately Or soon after died, and was thus murdered by the said Robert Bowman, and the said Robert Bowman had previously evinced malice and ill-will towards Isabella Bowman.  The panel pled not guilty. The defence was conducted by Mr Lancaster & Mr Rhind The special defence was made by Mr Lancaster that the panel was insane at the time he committed the crime with which he was charged. A motion to allow medical witnesses to remain in court was granted. A great deal of evidence was led, of which the following is a summary : -
George Kilgour, engine - driver, deponed to having been in Bowman’s house on the Saturday before the murder, along with Peter Haldane, fireman. The party had drink, and Bowman and his wife were both affected by it, but during his stay they appeared to be on friendly terms with each other. The prisoner went to bed before the witness left. He knew Bowman when he was station – agent at Muiredge, and always understood him to be a heavy drinker. He had always a strange look, and conducted the business at Muiredge In a loose manner. Peter Haldane, who is employed in Muiredge pit, a colliery belonging to the prisoner’s father, gave similar evidence. There were times when Bowman whom he had known for ten years would “ do anything” for a drink and he heard him say, “there’s not a right bit about me”.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 7
« Reply #6 on: Saturday 10 May 08 20:03 BST (UK) »
Janet Cowan or Walker, wife of Andrew Walker, plumber resided in the house immediately opposite that of Bowman. About 7 am on the Sunday the witness heard Mrs Bowman swearing at her husband, and shortly after the deceased came to the door in her night-dress and a petticoat, and asked Mrs Walker to go across to her husband and reprimand him for his treatment of her. On entering Bowman’s house she found him seated by the fire in his working clothes. Both appeared to be affected by drink Bowman complained of his wife’s bad tongue, and said he would go to church. An hour or so after the witness had returned to her own house, the deceased again came to the door, and asked her to go over as Bowman had begun to “rage”, but she did no do so. Shortly after she heard a scream from Bowman’s house, but thought nothing of it at the time. Next day Mrs Bowman’s father and sister came to the house door, and the witness entered with them. They found the dead body of Mrs Bowman in the bed and covered with bedclothes. The witness proceeded to give particulars regarding previous quarrels between the prisoner and his wife in which he treated her with violence. The last words she heard Mrs Bowman say to her husband were “ you are daft-fair daft”.   Several other witnesses having given unimportant evidence.  Archibald Bowman, colliery manager, stated that his brother the prisoner at the bar, came to his Father’s house at Buckhaven on Sunday, and went twice to church with the family. He went off before tea. His Brother usually attended the church at Buckhaven of which he was a member. His wife, who was fifteen years older than himself, generally came with him. Next day the witness Heard of Mrs Bowman’s death and on going to his father’s house he found the prisoner, who remained there till ten at night, when he was apprehended. Isabella Bowman, sister of the foregoing witness, confirmed his evidence. The prisoner appeared quite sober and his usual mind on Sunday. He was not in the least excited.
David Cairns Coalmaster, Uncle of the prisoner, said that on his asking after Bowman’s wife on Monday, his nephew replied “ She cropped last night” Witness thought he was “haverin”. John Paterson, goods agent, Muiredge, testified to the prisoner having told him also that his wife “cropped”. On being asked the cause of death he said he did not know, as she was lying dead when he went home on Sunday night. The prisoner asked the witness if he knew that his wife drank, and told him that she was very violent when drunk, and would throw knives or anything at him. The prisoner was much given to drink.   

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 8
« Reply #7 on: Saturday 10 May 08 20:04 BST (UK) »
Jessie Gordon Cairns stated that she was the daughter of the deceased Mrs Bowman, and lived with her Grandfather in Buckhaven. The prisoner called her out of Madras School at ten o’clock on Monday, and handing her a key of his house told her to go Leven as her mother was ill. Witness asked what was wrong with her mother and he replied that she would see when she went. Her Aunt and Grandfather went to Leven. Mrs Gordon Aunt of the last witness and Donald Macintosh, police sergeant, Cupar described the Condition of the body. He later found a knife in a table drawer covered with blood. There was also blood on the doorpost and stair.  Dr Balfour, Leven, stated that along with Dr Walker, Cupar, he examined the body, and found an incised wound, one and three-quarter inch in length and three inches in depth penetrating the chest. He had no doubt that the death was caused by this wound, and was impossible that it could have been inflicted by the women herself. The table knife produced would have caused the wound. The stab must have been given very violently, and death would have resulted in one or two hours after the wound was inflicted. The deceased could not have been in the position in which she was found when the wound was inflicted. He was of the opinion that death took place from twenty-four to forty-eight hours before he saw the body on Monday. This evidence was corroborated by Dr Walker, Cupar, who stated also that he saw no reason to suppose that the prisoner was a man of sound mind. He was a person of ordinary intelligence.  Dr T S Clouston, Morningside, Edinburgh, had visited the prisoner in company with Dr Littlejohn on 26th October. He answered intelligently the questions put to him and seemed fully to understand the gravity of the crime of murder. They cross-examined him very specially as to his relations with this wife, and he gave a straightforward account to them. He said she was addicted to drink, and he said that he had been betrayed into marrying her. That afterwards hated her and she was constantly irritating and annoying him.  This evidence was stopped, the Lord Justice-Clerk remarking the witness was not sent to interrogate the prisoner as to his wife, but to examine him as to his sanity. Witness examined the prisoner a second and third time. He showed signs of being a drunkard, when Witness saw him first, but none of epilepsy. Dr Littlejohn gave corroborative evidence. The prisoner mind was not of high order or stamp, but what he had of it was sound. He was somewhat below the average intellect. Witness had to do with many criminals and he always found that those who had given themselves to liquor were almost under the average intellect.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish

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Re: Murder Of An Ancestor in Leven Part 9
« Reply #8 on: Saturday 10 May 08 20:07 BST (UK) »
Evidence was then given for the defence Dr Watson, senior surgeon to the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh said there nothing impossible or improbable in the wound being caused by a stout woman like the deceased falling on the knife held in the hand of the prisoner. He thought it was more likely that the wound was so inflicted than by a stab. Before speaking on the subject he had, with assistance of his resident surgeon and class assistant made an experiment upon a dead body, and found that a similar wound was produced.  Dr Joseph Bell lecturer on surgery, Edinburgh said he thought it extremely improbable from the direction of the wound that the prisoner could have inflicted it. He thought it more probable that it was caused by Mrs Bowman falling on the knife. He never knew of a murder case where the stab was upward Dr Young; Edinburgh gave evidence as to the experiment made by Dr Watson. Dr James Mackie, Cupar gave evidence to the effect that the prisoner was affected with epilepsy.
Several other witnesses gave evidences to the state of the prisoner’s mind their general opinion being that “ he was not all there.” After 32 witnesses for the crown prosecution and 11 for the defence an adjournment was called. Robert changed his plea to Guilty to culpable homicide; and the plea was accepted by the Advocate Depute. The Lord Justice-Clerk was of opinion that the counsel on both sides had acted with great discretion; and the jury having brought a formal verdict. Mr Lancaster having addressed the bench on behalf of the prisoner, his Lordship Lord Moncrieff sentenced Bowman to fifteen years penal servitude. The prisoner who was a man of about 30 years of age went down the stair from the dock laughing and waving his hat over his head. He was dressed in a stylish suit of black cloth, with a brown overcoat and a satin hat. During the trial he appeared to be quite cool and indifferent.
Census Extracts
In the 1881 census
Institution         “ Wormwood Scrubs “
Census Place:  Hammersmith, London, Middlesex, England
                            Marr      Age        Sex        Birthplace
Robert Bowman    W         36           M           Scotland
                            Rel:     Convict
                            Occ:    Joiner
 
In the 1891 Census
Census Place:  George Street Montrose
                             Rel         Marr   Age   Sex  Occupation                Birthplace
Catherine Wadie  Head       W       66      F    Liv.on private means  Aberdeen
Mary Wadie         Daugh.    U/m   29      F                                         Forfar
Robert Bowman   Boarder   u/m    45     M    Liv.on private means Dunfermline

There is no mention of  when Robert was released from prison it should have been around 1889 but nothing was reported in the local papers.

Roberts Father Lawrence Bowman died on 22nd September 1882 in Buckhaven
Age 64 years of Heart Disease 1 year
Parents Archibald Bowman & Janet Izatt

Robert Bowman died 1st June 1893 at 4.30 pm at Castle Park  Corstorphine Edinburgh Usual Residence Buckhaven age 47, Single, Occupation Mining Operator, Parents Lawrence Bowman & Catherine Cairns
Cause of death Athertrus of brain 9 months ( softening of brain ) Sudden Death

Perhaps Roberts Mother was correct, the kick by the horse when Robert was 10 years might somehow have contibuted to this sad tale.
From my initial investigation at East Wemyss Cemetery the subsequent reports, and statements to the findings and the judges rulings I hope you have been intrigued by this story. I did indeed find my murder!
Does your closet hold any skeletons?

I hope you have enjoyed my story as much as I did in the research of it.

Norrie G
Gordon,Gillies, Taylor,Kinnear, Wemyss Parish