John Durie was born on 24 February 1846 in Morham, Haddingtonshire, Scotland. He was the tenth and youngest child of John Durie (b. 1803), a farm labourer, and his wife Isable Blakie.

Our first record of John is the 1851 census. He was living in the town of Dirleton along with his mother, father, and eight surviving elder siblings. The children above the age of 15 were employed as farm labourers, and those between 6 and 15 were attending school.

We might speculate that around age 5 John began to attend his local parish school, where he would have received a basic education in “the three Rs” – reading, writing, and arithmetic.

He may have continued to attend school until around age 15, at which time would have been expected to join the work force with his father and elder siblings. We presume that young John Durie began an apprenticeship with a joiner at around age 14 or 15, and remained apprenticed until he was married.

According to the 1861 census, fourteen-year-old John lived with his parents and three of his elder siblings in the small village of West Fenton. His father, brother Joseph, and sister Ann were all agricultural labourers. John Jr. was recorded as a scholar, and absent from home on the night of the census.

On 15 June 1867 at age 20 John married Jane Tear, a domestic servant from Dunbar. The couple married in Edinburgh. John was employed as a Joiner.

The wedding was swiftly followed by the birth of the couple’s first child on 28 June 1867 in Nungate, Haddingtonshire: a girl, named Isabella after John’s mother. Sadly, she died two months later on 24 August. No medical attendant was present, and the cause of death went unrecorded.

One year later on 11 September 1868 their first son John was born. On 14 May 1870 their second son was born, and christened Gilbert. Some time between Gilbert’s birth and the 1871 census, the family moved from Nungate 5 miles south to Gifford, in the parish of Yester. The census lists Jane Durie as a farmer’s wife (probably in error, since John is otherwise consistently recorded as a Joiner), along with her young sons John and Gilbert. John the elder was apparently absent from the family home that night.

By 1872 the family had relocated about 64 miles west of Haddingtonshire, to 71 Merry Street in Motherwell. There a third son, Charles, was born on 5 April 1872. Charles survived only 21 months; suffering from inflammation of the bowels, he died on 25 January 1874. Jane was already expecting at the time of his death, and five months later on 14 June 1874 she gave birth to a girl and called her Jane. The family had moved from Merry Street to Reids Land, still in Motherwell. On 2 September 1876 John and Jane had their sixth child, a boy named Charles. He succumbed to infantile convulsions on 4 June 1877, aged nine months.

It was not uncommon in 19th century Scotland for families to lose young children. The infant mortality rate in 1850 was 12%, a figure that rose in densely populated cities, and particularly in impoverished neighbourhoods (Knox, A History of the Scottish People). John and Jane Durie had eleven children in total, and of these they lost three.

On 20 April 1878 the couple had a daughter, Janet, named after Jane’s mother, Janet Hunter, and later known as Jessie. Janet was born at 41 Main Street, Motherwell. On her birth certificate John’s occupation is given as Joiner (Journeyman), which probably meant that he was employed by a master Joiner, and paid a daily wage.

By 12 November 1880, when son Joseph was born, the Durie family had moved back east, to Edinburgh. The 1881 census recorded John, Jane, and their five children (John, Gilbert, Jane, Janet, and Joseph) living together at 8 Newton Street, Ediburgh. John, aged 33, was working as a Joiner, and Jane was caring for the home and the children, who ranged in age from 5 months to 12 years.

Two years later their next son, Ralph Tear Durie, was born on 29 April 1883. The family had left Edinburgh and were living about nine miles south of the city, at 6 Manderston Place in Shottstown, Penicuik. Here the Duries settled down, and their remaining children were born at this address: Agnesborn on 8 November 1885; and Christina (later known as Tina), born on 29 May 1888.

Some time after the birth of their last child, a family register was made. The register gives John and Jane’s year of birth and date of marriage, and lists the births and deaths of all their children. The origin of this document is unknown.

The 1891 census offers a final snapshot of the Durie family living at 6 Manderston Place in Shottstown. John and Jane Senior were 43 years old. Their oldest child, John, was unmarried and still living at home. He was employed as a Hammerman for a Blacksmith. Next youngest Gilbert, 20 years old, had married earlier that year, and moved away to begin a household of his own. Eldest daughter Jane, at 16, had found work as a domestic servant. Four children aged 5 to 12 were attending school, while the youngest, 2-year-old Tina, was still at home.

The 1891 census was taken on the night of 5 April. Two months later, on 14 June, John Durie died after a three-day struggle with Meningitis and inflammation of the ear. Thereafter Jane Durie, who lived to the age of 81, received a pension or annuity, the details of which are not known. The younger Durie children never knew their father.


  • Occupation: Joiner.
  • Residence: 1851-03-30, Kingston, Haddingtonshire;

    1851 Census

  • Residence: 1861-04-07, West Fenton, East Lothian, Scotland;

    1861 Census

  • Residence: 1867-08-24, Arungate, Haddington;

    Isabella Durie Death Certificate

  • Residence: 1868-09-11, Arungate, Haddington;

    John Durie Jr. Birth Certificate, Joiner Journeyman

  • Residence: 1870-05-14, Arungate, Haddington;

    Gilbert Durie Birth Certificate, Joiner Journeyman

  • Residence: 1871-04-02, Gifford Bridge End, Gifford;

    1871 Census, Joiner

  • Residence: 1872-04-05, Merry Street, Motherwell;

    Charle’s Durie Birth Certificate, Joiner

  • : 1874-01-25, 44 Merry Street, Motherswell;

    Charles Durie Death Certificate

  • : 1874-06-14, Reids Land, North Motherwell, Lanarkshire;

    Jane Durie Birth Certificate, Joiner

  • Residence: 1876-09-02, Reids Land, North Motherwell, Lanarkshire;

    Charles Durie’s Birth Certificate, Joiner

  • Residence: 1877-06-03, 41 Muir Street, Motherwell, Lanarkshire;

    Charles Durie Death Certificate

  • Residence: 1878-04-20, 41 Muir Street, Motherwell, Lanarkshire;

    Janet Durie’s Birth Certificate, Joiner

  • Residence: 1880-11-12, 8 Newton Street, Edinburgh;

    Joseph Durie’s Birth Certificate, Joiner Journeyman

  • Residence: 1881-04-03, 8 Newton Street, Edinburgh;

    1881 Census, Joiner

  • Residence: 1885-11-08, 8 Manderston Place, Shottstown, Penicuik;

    Agnes Durie Birth Certificate

  • Residence: 1888-05-29, 6 Manderson Place, Shottstown, Penicuik;

    Christina Durie Birth Certificate

  • Residence: 1891-04-05, 6 Manderson Place, Shottstown, Penicuik;

    1891 Census

  • Residence: 1891-06-14, 8 Manderston Place, Shottstown, Penicuik;

    Per death certificate