John Sinclair

By Morag T Fyfe

In April 1863 several newspapers reported the death of John Sinclair on board the steamer Islay.

MAN KILLED – Yesterday afternoon, a man named John Sinclair, labourer, residing at 79 M’Alpine Street, while employed in stowing goods in the hold of the steamer Islay, lying at the north quay, met with an accident which cost him his life. He was receiving some bags of meal which were being lowered in slings from a stage over the hatches, when two of the bags slipped out of the slings, and falling down the hold a depth of about 12 feet, struck him on the back of the head while in a stooping position, whereby his neck was broken. The unfortunate man died almost instantaneously. The body was removed to the receiving house at Windmillcroft. Deceased was a widower, 45 years of age, and has left 2 of a family, grown up.
Glasgow Herald, Friday 24 April 1863.

John’s death certificate recorded his parents as Daniel Sinclair and Margaret Wright and showed Daniel as registering his son’s death. Daniel gave his occupation as a labourer in a printfield and his son’s occupation as a quay labourer, both menial poorly paid jobs. His wife is named on his death certificate as Ann Young.

When John was buried in common ground in compartment Eta on 25 April 1863 his age was given as 54 not 45 – is this a simply transposition of the digits?. He has proven difficult to identify in the public records as have so many of those buried in common graves. A John Sinclair was born to a Daniel Sinclair and Margaret Wright in Dunipace, Stirlingshire in 1814 but this date does not match either of his given ages exactly. Similarly there is a marriage for a John Sinclair to an Ann Young in Mearns, Renfrewshire in 1835 followed by a census record in 1841 for what is possibly the same couple still living in Mearns. Those are the only official records that have been found for John Sinclair until his death in 1863. When searching for birth and marriage records in the Scottish church records prior to civil registration which started in 1855 it has always to be borne in mind that these records are incomplete and one may have found the wrong person.

The paddle steamer Islay on which John Sinclair lost his life had been built by local yard Tod & MacGregor in 1849 for the Islay whisky trade. A half hull model of the ship is one of the earliest steamship models preserved in the collection of Glasgow Museums.

It can be difficult to find out much about people in the unmarked graves of the Glasgow Necropolis. However we feel it is important to publish what we have been able to discover to date. We would be grateful if anyone with further information on any of these people would contact us.


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