Finding Out More – John Brawley 1857-1892

I have previously written about John Brawley and the circumstances surrounding his death. At the time of writing all I knew about him was that he died young and that made him seem a tragic figure. Of course, one event cannot tell us everything there is to know about a person. From newspaper reports and other records I have put together a bit more of John’s story.

He was born in old Monkland, Lanarkshire on 12 June 1857 and was the first of 11 children of my great, great grandparents, James Brawley and Sarah McLauchlan who had been married in June 1856. His sister Catherine was born in November 1959 but died of diptheria a few days short of her first birthday. Two more siblings were to die at a very young age.

By the time of the 1861 census John was living in Newmains. His father was employed as a furnaceman at the Coltness Ironworks. By the 1871 census John had completed whatever education had been available to him. At just 13 years old he was employed as a miner and was living in Furnace Row, Newmains with his parents and four younger siblings including my great grandfather, Daniel who was born in 1864.

John married Roseann McGuinness in 1877 in Glasgow and the couple welcomed a son, James in 1879. After James came Julia in 1883, Sarah in 1885, Roseann in 1887, Daniel in 1888 and John in 1890.

In 1887 John and Roseann lost two of their daughters; Julia to diptheria and Roseann to meningitis. They died within a few months of each other. It is hard to imagine such terrible loss.

Life was not always easy financially and the family had turn to the parish for assistance on more than one occasion. In February 1886 John was working as a furnace filler at the Coltness Ironworks. An accident left him with a burnt foot and unable to work and he had to plead his case for poor relief. On this occasion he received 4/- to keep his family. In July 1887 he made a further claim and was given the sum of 3/-.

Finding my family in the Poor Law registers always makes me feel sad. Times were very tough and a bit of bad luck such as the injury to John’s foot could drastically alter the family circumstances. So at this point I am feeling very sorry for John.

Then I came across this article from 31 January 1885 which shows a dark side of John’s character.

The circumstances of the assault are very strange and there is no way that John’s actions were justified. What on earth could he have been thinking? This seems to have been an unprovoked attack on a poor woman who received a very nasty injury. And all this while Roseann was at home taking care of a new baby.

Roseann may well have been in court to find out what would happen to her husband. While well deserved, a fine of 40/- would have seemed like a fortune to the Brawley family. From the court John was taken to Duke Street prison in Glasgow.

With her husband incarcerated Roseann was forced to seek help from the parish. This register shows that she was seeking relief as her “husband was in prison of stabbing”. She received 3/-.

And what of John and his time in prison? The admission records still exist and show that prisoner 13361 John Brawley age 28, with a height of 5’9 1/2″ an weighing 158lbs was admitted to Duke Street prison on 30 January 1885 having been convicted of assault at Wishaw Magistrate Court.

I find it quite remarkable that he was released on 31 January after his fine was paid in full. How on earth did he come up with £2? Did the family get together to pay? Quite frankly, after what he did, I would have been tempted to leave him there.

Just a few months later, in July 1885, Roseann and her three children again had to visit the poor house to seek help after “her husband John Brawley deserted her a week ago”. The record does not state where he went or went he returned but leaving his wife and three young children is pretty unforgivable behaviour.

I also found this article from 1891 regarding an assault by a John Brawley and his wife but while I’m sure he would be related I don’t know for certain that it’s the same John Brawley. (Owen Carroll is the only one in the article who is NOT a on my family tree!)

In the 1891 census the family were living with Roseann’s father. Perhaps he needed looking after or maybe Roseann felt happier having another man about the house in case John should take off again. He was not there to see his children grow up but not through desertion.

On 2 March 1892 died as a result of injuries sustained through an accident at work. The incident was reported in the local paper and was one of two fatal accidents at Coltness Ironworks on the same day.

The cause of death was a fracture to the base of the skull. His death was registered by his father, James Brawley.

While this is not the full story it gives us more of an idea of John Brawley and how he lived his life. He can’t have been all bad but sadly, the good side is not recorded.

4 thoughts on “Finding Out More – John Brawley 1857-1892

  1. Shady character right enough. Even with potentially the death penalty for murder using a knife or such it didn’t seem to put him off attacking the woman so could it have been argued as premeditated Paula?

    Liked by 2 people

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