In 1606 the Anent Coalyers and Salters Act was passed in the Scottish Parliament. This Act ensured that “colayers, coal-bearers and salters” were in permanent bondage to their employer. This created a situation whereby people in these professions were effectively slaves. If they were absent from their employer or sought to work with another employer they could be punished as a thief. They had different conditions to other workers and became an underclass within Scotland.
In 1775 another Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament. This Act was written to redress the wrongs of the previous Act. As a result, miners and their families were gradually released from servitude over a number of years.
This story is about the impact these laws had on the Davidson family over four generations.
Robert Davidson, the son of John Davidson and Mary Dalrymple was born on the 4th of September 1856. He had quite a remarkable life that was full of many interesting events, but in this case, it is the life of his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents that are of interest, but finding that information starts with the search for Robert Davidson. The information about where Robert had been born was in a newspaper article about notable citizens of Port Macquarie, many years after his death giving a place to start the research into the Davidson family.
Using the details from the article about Robert Davidson it was possible to get a copy of Robert’s birth certificate. He had been born, on the fourth of September 1856 in Mauchline, Scotland. Exactly as the news article had said. His parents were John Davidson box manufacturer and Mary Davidson, maiden name Dalrymple.
This birth certificate confirmed a number of details. Robert’s eldest daughter was Mary Calderwood Dalrymple Davidson and it was understood in the family that the Dalrymple name had come from Robert’s mother’s maiden name. So given the date, the name and the fact that the place all matched up with the information from the news article it was probable that this was the correct birth certificate for Robert Davidson.
Further research lead to the marriage of Robert Davidson and Mary Davidson nee Dalrymple in 1883. They had been married at 196 Bath Street in Glasgow on the thirty-first of August. Under the details of Robert’s parents were John Davidson, Fancy box manufacturer, deceased and Mary Davidson nee Dalrymple, also deceased. Mary’s parents were James Muir a commercial traveller and Mary Muir nee Calderwood. This finally confirmed the Mary Calderwood Dalrymple full name. Interestingly this was the first indication that Robert had ended up in the Church, as his profession was noted as Rev Church Probationer.
On researching the life of Robert Davidson it was time to go looking in the census records from before Robert arrived in Australia. In 1871 and 1881 Robert was living in Glasgow and studying Theology at the Free Church of Scotland. The College was established in 1856 in Thistle Street Glasgow. Later the College was to become known as Trinity College, part of, but detached from, the University of Glasgow. The College and University later became re-integrated.
- John Davidson 45 Snuff Box Manufacturer
- Mary Davidson 42 Wife
- William Davidson 20 Clerk in Box Manufactory
- George Davidson 17 Box maker
- Jane Davidson 15
- David Davidson 12 Scholar
- Alexander B Davidson 11 Scholar
- Agnes Davidson 8 Scholar
- John Davidson 6 Scholar
- Robert Davidson 4 Scholar
Ancestry.com. 1861 Scotland Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
All of this had some interesting elements to it. There was an early theme around fancy box manufacturers and around the town Mauchline. So further research was needed backwards looking at additional census details. From there it was possible to see that in 1861 Robert as a young baby was living with his parents and siblings. His father was at this stage a Snuff Box Manufacturer. His older brothers George and William were both working in the same industry. William as a Clerk in a “Box Manufacturey” and George as a box maker.
At this stage, a basic google search for Mauchline and Fancy Boxes lead to a local industry in box work and tartans. Resulting in finding out all about Mauchline ware and the origins of the souvenir industry. By then there was enough information to start to get a hold on this family and some of the events that had changed their lives.
 (Records of Trinity College, college of theology, Glasgow, Scotland, n.d.)
 (1861 Scotland Census, 1861)
 (Marriage- Davidson, Robert and Muir, Jeanie- Logan, 1883)
 (Laws relating to Coalworkers in Scotland, 1609- Act)
 (Laws Relating to Coalworkers in Scotland, 1775 Act)
 (Robert Davidson, 1979)
 (Birth Certificate- Robert Davidson, 1856)