Can you solve Riddell family mystery?

Mystery man...Chris' grandfather with his own son
Mystery man...Chris' grandfather with his own son
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OVER the past two centuries the Riddell clan have travelled far and wide.

One member in particular was born in mysterious circumstances in Carluke at the start of the last century and went on to live in the United States of the Roaring Twenties and then wartime Britain.

He was the grandfather of Chris Riddell, of Leeds, who is now compiling a detailed family history and wants Gazette readers to help fill in the gap on the Carluke Connection.

The part our area played in Chris’s family’s story began almost 150 years ago with a simple marriage ceremony in 1873, that between Peebleshire farm worker Robert Riddell and Carluke lass Jane Longmuir.

They subsequently worked at Bushellhead Farm in Braidwood where their first two children, Margaret and Robert, were born.

The family had moved to North Albion Street in Glasgow by 1879 when their third child, Chris’s great-grandmother Ellen, was born.

It appears her former farmworker dad quickly took to a very different profession, becoming one of Glasgow’s very first official firemen! He was to be widowed when Jane died on Hogmanay, 1890, Ellen losing her mum when she was still just 12.

Robert Riddell seemed to have a taste for Carluke lassies; when he remarried 12 years later, it was to another one, Marion Shirlaw of Cat Craig Farm.

The Carluke Census of 1901 reveals that Ellen, now in her early twenties, had moved to her mum’s home town of Carluke, living and working as a housekeeper at Gillfoot House, the home of William Scott, a co-founder of Scott’s famous jamworks.

This is probably because William’s late wife was Ellen’s aunt, Jane.

Shortly after her arrival at Gillfoot, unmarried Ellen fell pregnant and quickly moved to Oban where she gave birth to Chris’s grandfather, Leonard Allan Riddell.

Chris said: “Who did Ellen meet and what were the circumstances? If only I knew. I have wondered whether she chose the names Leonard or Allan after his father?

“The only other Leonard Allan Riddell born in Scotland is my father, who was born in Stevenston, Ayrshire in 1924.”

Shortly after her illegitimate son’s birth, Ellen and her small child appear to have returned to Glasgow and it is here that she totally disappears from the official records, still aged only 23.
By the time of the 1911 Census, her son – Chris’s grandad –was in the care of James Reid and his wife Catherine in Kilwinning, Ayrshire.

Said Chris: “ It’s not known why Ellen gave up her son, although it’s easy to imagine the difficulties involved.”

At the age of 22, Chris’s grandfather emigrated to Niagara Falls, New York State in 1923 and married later that year in York, Ontario, Canada.

His marriage certificate sadly states clearly that he does not know the name of his birth father.

He gives instead the name of his ‘Guardian’, James Reid. It also stated he did not even know his mother’s maiden name.

He returned to Britain in the Thirties and lived and worked in the wartime aircraft industry until dying prematurely of natural causes in Leeds in 1944.

Perhaps optimistically, his grandson Chris seeks any information on his grandfather’s Carluke parentage 114 years on.

If any reader can help, Chris can be contacted via Ron Harris at the Gazette on 01555 678793.