Peter Giles

Sarah Dart supplied this Profile.  Peter Giles, father of James Giles, R.S.A., was her third great grandfather.

Peter Giles was born probably in Aberdeenshire, being possibly the one of that name baptised in Clatt in 1776, son of George Giles and Elspet Paxton. In 1800 he married Jean Hector (a native of Rhynie & Essie) in Old Machar, Aberdeen.

Peter was an artist and a pattern designer at the cotton mills in Woodside (now part of Aberdeen). He also later opened an art studio and taught drawing and painting. Peter and Jean had two children in Aberdeen: James, born 1801 (who became a well-known artist and member of the Royal Scottish Academy) and Isabella in 1802.

Apparently, the marriage was not a happy one and Peter left his wife and children in about 1812 and went to Glasgow, where his drawing academy appears in the directories from 1812-1820.

His daughter Mary Isabel was born in 1819 and family lore has it that her mother (also named Mary Isabel, surname unknown) died soon after her birth. Peter then took the baby to Belfast, where he taught drawing and painting for about 15 years.

In the summer of 1835, Peter decided to go back to Glasgow. Mary Isabel stayed behind and married in Belfast, she and her husband leaving for America two years later. “Peter Giles, teacher of drawing and painting” appears in the Glasgow directory again in 1839.

From the letters he wrote his younger daughter it is clear that he found it difficult to make a living in Glasgow after being away for so long, but he wrote enthusiastically about the church services at “St Marey’s Chaple” and mentioned several preachers whose speaking he had enjoyed.

In 1840 he caught the influenza and died, far from any of his family and attended only by the house factor, Robert Rattray, who wrote Peter’s son James in Aberdeen and daughter Mary Isabel in Connecticut about his last illness (his elder daughter Isabella had died in 1833).

Peter Giles was buried in the Necropolis on 15 June 1840, in Iota No 6.

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