The Douglas Archives

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John Douglas, Provost Marshall General of Grenada

A tale of two Johns.

In 'The House of Commons 1790-1820' By Roland G. Thorne, History of Parliament Trust (Great Britain) an assumption is made that it was John Douglas of Grantham, an MP, who became Provost Marshall of Grenada in 1836, and died there in 1838.

However, following an enquiry drawing my attention to evidence on a gravestone in Kelton graveyard, I am now convinced that Thorne got it wrong.

The MP was an interesting character. He was gambling man, and fled to Sweden to escape his creditors. He was a descendant of Alexander Douglas of Reath - one of our mystery men, who is discussed elsewhere here.

The Provost Marshall General is another mystery man - we don't know his ancestry either. This john Douglas was Acting Clerk of Council, Acting Provost Marshall General and appointed Provost Marshall General of Grenada on 3rd April 1835. But we don't know what qualifications he had to get there.  It seems his grandfather, John,  was a labourer and his father, Robert, an inn keeper in Castle Douglas.

If you know more about either families, please get in touch.


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Comment by William Douglas on September 9, 2011 at 11:05

Re: Slater's and Pigot's.

I have just been going through by brother's papers, hoping to find a photograph of The Douglas Arms (success!), when I discovered copies of Slater's and Pigot's directories.

Bob has already distilled the information from the directories, so no point in repeating it, but I will post the photograph in my photo album, here, with a little history.

Comment by julia kilfoyle on September 9, 2011 at 8:37

... so we can safely say that Robert's father John, was not the 'missing' brother of Sir William. But more evidence that Robert did have a link with Sir William in terms of the loan. And now I know the name of another of Robert's inns. Robert referred to having two inns in his will, but they are not named. He refers to one as the new inn. Now I'm wondering if the new one was the Douglas Arms, and whether Sir William influenced the naming of it, if he'd loaned the money to buy it!

Many thanks for this interesting new information.


Comment by Bob Henry on September 8, 2011 at 20:56

I am, this evening, eating humble pie and with a very red face through embarrassment re. my posting on Sunday last when I categorically stated that in all my investigations concerning the Douglas merchant brothers in Castle Douglas, I had never encountered a mention of John, other than he appears in the Douglas chart.

Well, in a conversation with my son in Aberdeenshire, a short while ago, on the matter of arranging a few days river fishing there, I happened to mention that I had been discussing the Douglases of Castle Douglas on the Archives and, in particular, background info. on the 'mysterious' John. He recalled one of my previous conversations with him on the subject and was sure that I had found some information on him in connection with Sir William's will...........WHAT!!!

Some frantic searching for 'Will's will', followed by scrutiny of pages, revealed on page 24 of the Kirkcudbrightshire Commissary Court procedure of 20/10/1809, Sir William referring to his "three brothers, James, John and Samuel", confirming, at least, his presence on the Douglas chart. Then, I found that I have made a note referring to a previous page, No 20, where is written: Item; "to Miss Cecelia Douglas, Daughter of Mr John Douglas, Merchant in Glasgow, the half of the fifty pound share of the Tontine Tavern or Coffee House in Glasgow belonging to me and at present standing in her name". Filed with this, is an O.P.R. death certificate headed; "1st. Part Money Register" for Cecelia Douglas, giving a date of death as 01/06/1837 and refers to a Mort Cloth for "Miss Cecelia Douglas".

While there seems to be no doubt that this John is Sir William's brother and Cecelia his neice, in every other instance within the Document, Sir William's relationship to the person mentioned is clearly stated as; "brother", "sister", "aunt", "first cousin", "cousin", etc, the exception being only John and daughter Cecelia.

So there we have it, clear evidence that my brain is deteriorating!!

However, one other interesting item in a Kirkcudbright Commissary Court document of 20/03/1810, regarding Sir William, is a reference to Robert Douglas of the Kings Arms Inn, Castle Douglas, having paid interest of £355 on what appears to have been a loan to him by Sir William.

In my posting on Friday of last week, I mentioned Robert as being in the Douglas Arms, according to Pigot's Directory of 1825-6, while in 1852, Slater has Marrion there. These entries being correct, it appears that both these Inns were occupied, at some time or other, by Robert and his wife, Marrion, Robert having died in 1830.

Hoping the above makes sense!      

Comment by julia kilfoyle on September 5, 2011 at 18:36

Well I wasn't expecting that! It would be fantastic to establish a definite link between the two families. I had come up with the much less exciting theory that Robert was a social climber who had befriended Sir William when he came to pick up his mail from the Douglas Arms. Your information is making me rethink... Thank you so much for your postings.

Bob, I didn't get your email, but I'll send you a message answering your query.

Comment by Bob Henry on September 5, 2011 at 16:19

.......and now we have John Douglas, Gentleman, living in Cotton Street, Castle Douglas, per Slater's 1852 Directory and my posting on Friday last. My understanding of 'Gentleman', in this context, is of someone of independent means and often landed gentry, both usually minted.  Now, in the 1841/'51census, we have John (jnr.), Mail Contractor, living in Cotton Street with his 2nd wife, Janet McClymont.   It appears to me, therefore, this is the same  John jnr., referred to in Slater's Directory. 

So, has John jnr. and brother, Robert, become wealthy following the death of their father, John snr. on 2/11/1820?  Possibly, with John jnr. described as Gentleman and Robert being an Inn Keeper.

We are still left with John snr., farmer, and his possible connection with the very wealthy Douglas brother merchants.  This being so, there is every possibility that influence may have contributed to his station in Grenada.

Any views/opinions on the above and on these dang Douglii ! 

P.S.   Sorry, in the second line of my last, I should have said: 'Sarah, daughter of William of Almorness'!



Comment by Bob Henry on September 4, 2011 at 21:16

Yes, Julia, William of Almorness was a nephew of Sir William and was the son of his brother, James, who married Elizabeth, daughter of William Douglas of Worcester.  Sarah, brother of Wm of Almorness, married Christopher Maxwell, 2nd son of Sir David M., of Cardoness,  Bart., so there could well be a tie-up with the families, contrary to the info. I have and per my previous posting! (Book by Alistair Penman, of Castle Douglas, on the Douglas family).

Hmm.....this now becomes a bit of a poser.  In all my investigations (and there have a been few), I have never found any reference to John Douglas, who was a brother of Sir William and James, etc, and who are the direct descendants of John Douglas and Mary Heron.  In their lineage chart, John is clearly stated as a brother but unlike all the others, no date of birth, death, or any info. what-so-ever is given, which may suggest he died at birth, was excomminicated, chose to go his own way, etc.   So, is this the John who married Dorothy Barwise???   In the Douglas chart, he follows James, who was born 1748.  The date of birth of John, snr. is c 1745, given his age was 75 at the time of his death in 1820, so there is undoubtably a possibility he could have been a brother.

Hmm...again.  Now you have me reaching for the malt!

While trying to digest all of the above, did you receive my emails with M.I. attachments with the query where/when 'your' John married Ellen Hardie?






Comment by julia kilfoyle on September 4, 2011 at 17:13

Thanks Bob for checking the directories.

I've been looking again at Roberts will. One of the trustees was William Douglas of Almorness, who I believe was the nephew of Sir William. Robert added a codicile in 1823, in which he added additional trustees, one of whom was Lt Colonel Christopher Maxwell, (who I think was Williams brother-in-law).

So although not directly related, there seems to be some connection with the family of Sir William. I wonder if that connection helped John get his job as PMG of Grenada?   

Comment by Bob Henry on September 3, 2011 at 23:32
Just picked-up 1855 Statutory Death Certificate for John Douglas Jnr. giving his occupation as Post Office Contractor, age 81.  Occupation of his father, John, is given as farmer and being 1855, lots of info. is given but quality is very poor.
Comment by William Douglas on September 2, 2011 at 21:33

Thank you for that Bob.  I was hoping you had the info.


Comment by Bob Henry on September 2, 2011 at 20:55

Great sleuthing on the 9 children of John Douglas and Dorothy Barwise, William! 

In Pigot's Directory of 1825-6, Robert Douglas is in the Douglas Arms, King Street, Castle Douglas and in 1837-8, Marion is recorded there. In 1852, Slater has Mary Douglas, although I am not sure  where she fits in the family.

When the building of Gelston Castle (Douglas Castle) was ongoing, circa 1805, for Sir William Douglas, the story is told of letters arriving in the town addressed to him:- 'William Douglas of Douglas Castle, care of Mrs Douglas, Douglas Arms Hotel, Castle Douglas'. However, it is noted that Mrs Douglas in the hotel was no relation of Sir William's.

In the 'Gentry' section, Slater has Mr John Douglas living in Cotton Street.


Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

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