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Lost Uncle James Irvine

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ArgyllGran Report 23 Jun 2022 10:38

James may have become a merchant seaman after he went to NZ, in which case he won't show up in records of UK merchant seamen.

We don't know when he emigrated. His brother William emigrated at some time before 1910 when he married. Perhaps they went at the same time.

Ann was back in Shetland by 1911:

005/1 7/ 5

George, Catherine and Mary Ann are with her.


nameslessone Report 23 Jun 2022 15:17

Have you tried Or the NZ National archives?


ArgyllGran Report 23 Jun 2022 16:00

A PM from Neil says that the info re birthday cards came from a relative in Canada who is no longer alive.

They were signed James, but there was no return address.

It's a pity we don't know when the birthday cards to George stopped, nor what country they were posted in - which would have been known from the stamps and postmarks.


LondonBelle Report 23 Jun 2022 17:15

According to Neil's Tree George arrived in Canada in July 1923 so if George was receiving birthday cards from James then James was still alive in 1924. George was born 02 Jun 1902.

Perhaps James did make it home to Shetland to see his Mum in 1919/20 but then went back to sea!


ArgyllGran Report 23 Jun 2022 17:29

Yes, I'd wondered about that, LondonBelle.

Neil -
who gave the information that he didn't arrive home after his letter?
If it was the now deceased relative in Canada, perhaps they weren't up-to-date with news from Shetland?


ArgyllGran Report 23 Jun 2022 18:26

No help with the present query, but just for interest.

Seafarers whose surname is IRVINE, forename JAMES..., date of birth 1894 ±5 years
Surname Forename Age/DOB Birthplace Vessel ON Capacity From To Previous vessel Links

IRVINE JAMES 19 SHETLAND KINGSWEAR 124617 AB 1/1/1913 30/6/1913 FIRST SHIP, 1913

[ IRVINE JAMES ] 19 SHETLAND KINGSWEAR 124617 AB 1/1/1913 30/6/1913 SAME SHIP, 1913

IRVINE JAMES 20 SHETLAND KINGSWEAR 124617 AB 1/7/1913 31/12/1913 KINGSWEAR, 1913

[Dates aren't accurate - only 6-month periods are shown]

So James went to NZ between 1913 and 1916. I would guess before the start of WW1 .

Details about the ship:


LondonBelle Report 24 Jun 2022 09:39

A couple more messages from Neil, here is the first

yes Mary Ann Henry Irvine was James younger sister, my great aunt

I've asked him to add any replies to his Thread :-)


LondonBelle Report 24 Jun 2022 09:44

Here's the second Message

According to my second cousin in Shetland, her father said he was never seen in Shetland, apparently he has traveled to America in search of James.


nameslessone Report 24 Jun 2022 12:17

So we are back to not knowing where in the world to look.

Neil - have you tried to find copies of his discharge book? Each sailor had a discharge book showing when and what ship he was on.

Is it possible that James didn’t want anyone to know where he was but did want them to know he was alive.

Please reply on here and not by private message as there are a number of people trying to help you.


LondonBelle Report 24 Jun 2022 18:35

Came across the following article in The Shetland Times,10 Dec 1892


I hereby intimate that my wife Ann Henry or Irvine has of her own desire elected to live apart from me, and I will therefore not be responsible for any accounts incurred by her from and after the 4th day of December last.


Lower Sound
Lerwick, 7th Dec 1892

I wonder if they every got back together?


ArgyllGran Report 24 Jun 2022 19:35

Must have done, unless Ann was lying on George's birth cert in 1902!
Or rather, Ann's father-in-law, who was the informant.

But maybe James wasn't William's son, dare I suggest?
Might account for lack of birth record.


LondonBelle Report 24 Jun 2022 20:16

That had crossed my mind, AG.

As far as I can see, it was compulsory in Scotland to register births from 1855!

So either James was born either earlier or later than 1894. There are a couple of James Irvine births, if I recall, in 1891 and 1897 in Tingwall. He could have lied about his age to get into the Merchant Navy but in the 1901 Census it says he was 6!

James might not have been his first name. Could he have been John or could James be a middle name?

Or he was illegitimate and birth was registered under his mother's maiden name, there is a James Magnus Henry registered in 1894 in Tingwall!

It might be none of the above and his birth has just not been transcribed or transcribed incorrectly!


ArgyllGran Report 25 Jun 2022 00:53

He's not James Magnus Henry.
That child was with his parents George and Helen in Tingwall in 1901.

Assuming his birth was registered in the Lerwick reg district, there's no Irvine registered in 1894. There are a George and a Thomas Charles in 1893, and a George Andrew in 1895.

If he was illegitimate, but registered in Lerwick under his father's surname - which seems unlikely - there were 6 James-es in 1894 (but James Blance and James Byrne are actually one person registered under different surnames - and he's with his parents in 1901) ; 7 in 1893; and 9 in 1895.
The majority had middle names.

Almost all of them were with their parents in 1901. One or two died before 1901.

If it were my own search, I might spend credits to check the remaining birth certs - but it seems a long shot.


LondonBelle Report 25 Jun 2022 07:07

Another Notice by William! Shetland Times, 17 Dec 1892

I hereby intimate that it was my wish to keep and provide for the Children on the Marriage between Ann Henry and myself, but my wife has taken them away without my knowledge and consent, and refuses to give them up.

I am prepared to leave them with her in the meantime, but will not be responsible for their support or maintenance while living with her; reserving, however, to myself right should they not be properly attended to, to petition the Court for their Custody.

William Irvine Jr
Lower Sound, 14 December 1892


ArgyllGran Report 25 Jun 2022 09:03

Seems rather unfair - expecting Ann to look after the children properly without any financial help from him!

Perhaps it was a way of forcing her to go back to him.


nameslessone Report 25 Jun 2022 10:04

That must have been quite something to take your children and leave your husband when you live in such a small community.

Edit: I wonder if Neil has contacted the Shetland family history society for help. They may have records that are not online.


LondonBelle Report 25 Jun 2022 11:18

Here is a rather interesting article from The Shetland Times, Saturday 29 September 1894 (note the date)

A Breach Of The Peace A Gulberwick

William Irvine, jun., seaman, was charged with having, on the 17th instant, broken the door of the house at Upper Setter, and also, at the same time and place, with creating a breach of the peace.

He pled not guilty, and was defended by Mr Grierson.

Margaret Henry, Upper Setter, Gulberwick, deponed that she lived with her brother John Henry, at Gulberwick. On the 17th of this month they went to bed about eleven o'clock, and were awakened by a terrible noise of someone kicking at the door. Elizabeth Henry got up and asked who was there. Accused answered that he would lay in the door if it was not opened. He was told that it would not be opened, as her sister-in-law had a sick child. He continued kicking at the door, and then he brought a stone and struck it. Witness held the door for some time, and then she got it barricaded. Accused broke it with a stone. The door was shattered, and the jambs pushed in. They had to fetch Robert Sinclair, a neighbour man. Witness' daughter was married to William Irvine, jun., in 1887, but they had not got on well together, and two year ago they had separated, the wife and the three children coming to live with them. Accused quietened down a little when Robert Sinclair came. The disturbance lasted three hours, and her sister-in-law who was not strong got a fit twice....once during the disturbance, and once after. There was no one in the house at the time except women and young children.

Cross-examined - Irving's wife was her daughter and she left her husband in 1892, and took the children away with her. She was always passing his house, and he saw the children on the 13th. She had said that if he had stopped drinking, she would go back to him. She spoke about going back with the children but witness said if she took them away, she could keep them away. She began to tell witness that there was an arrangement to see the children, but she told her that if she took them out she would not bring them back again. On the 17th he said nothing sensible when he got in, but witness never spoke to him and he never spoke to her. Witness never heard him say that he was coming to see his children. Robert Sinclair was come to the house before W Ridland came, but he made no noise after he came into the house. His wife went to Lerwick for the police, and Wm. McKay came into the house. Witness considered that they had good reason to keep him out, as it was not a reasonable time of night for him to come to the house. Witness had nothing to do with the disturbance between her daughter and the accused, and never interfered with them or their house. Irvine was not sober when he came to the house. A sober man would never have broken in a door with a stone, and sworn for people as he did.

Elizabeth Henry gave corroborative evidence. She was in bed on the morning of 18th instant, when she was awakened by hearing two kicks at the door. They she heard a voice saying "Open the door, or I'll break it in" Shortly after the witness went out a back window to bring Robert Sinclair, and when she came back she came in the same window. The door had been knocked in at the foot. Her sister-in-law did not faint, but it set up a crying at her heart.

Cross-examined - They kept the door closed because they did not mean to let him in. He asked to see his children as soon as he came in. She was perfectly well aware that Irvine and his wife were separated. Irvine was sobered a good bit when he saw a strange man, but he still showed that he was the worse of drink.
Mary Copland or Henry deponed to hearing the noise created by Irvine and getting out of bed and seeing Irvine take up a stone. After that she heard a knock on the door. Irvine said he wanted to get in to see his property, that was what he called his wife an children. (Laughter.) She was excited and had a fit twice.
Robert Sinclair, Setter, Guilberwick, deponed that he was awakened on the morning of the 17th instant by Elizabeth Henry, who said that W, Irvine was breaking in their door and making a noise and they were afraid inside. Before he got to the house Mrs Irvine hurried him up. Irvine was there when he got up, and as he night was fine he heard him a good bit off. He wanted to get inside. The jambs of the door were pushed in about 8 inches, the handle was broken, and the paint was scratched off.

Cross-examined - Doubtless Irvine had been taking whisky, but he was not drunk. They had refused to let him in, but when he got into the house he was no wise violent.

Wm. Ridland, Brindister, deponed, for the defence that when he came to the house Irvine said that the reason he had come to the house was to see why his wife had not come north with the children.
After hearing parties, the Sheriff said there was no doubt the accused was guilty of the charge, and that he went to the house and committed a breach of the peace. He had thought that he would not be able to give the accused the benefit of a fine, as the offence was a rather serious one, but he would do that although it would have to be a heavy fine. The sentence was that he pay a fine of £1 or go to prison for seven days.

The fine was paid.


LondonBelle Report 25 Jun 2022 11:35

Interestingly, the article mentions three children, presumably William, John and Thomas.

So that must mean that in September 1894 either James hadn't been born or was not included as a child of William as he was illegimate! My feeling is that he hadn't been born at the time of this article!


ArgyllGran Report 25 Jun 2022 12:20

Fascinating stuff!


nameslessone Report 25 Jun 2022 13:27

Good to see she had somewhere to go.