Catherine Brawley 1859-1960

The village of Newmains, Lanarkshire really owes its existence to the Coltness Iron Works which was established in 1839. The promise of employment led many Irish immigrants to make their homes in the rows of houses provided by the company.

My family first arrived in the village in the late 1850s. The first Newmains birth I can find is that of Catherine Brawley who was born at 24 Furnace Row on 29 November 1859.

You can see from her birth record that her father, 22 year old James, was employed as a furnace filler. He and his wife Sarah had come to Newmains with son John who was born in 1857 in Calderbraes where James would have been employed by the Monkland Iron and Steel Works.

Sadly, Catherine is also the earliest recorded death in the village. Two weeks before her 1st birthday she contracted diphtheria. For 9 days her parents would have watched as their baby became increasingly more unwell with a high temperature, swollen glands which would eventually have lead to difficulty breathing. She passed away within the family home on 25 November 1860. It was James, who had witnessed her passing , who had the task of registering the death.

Her death record shows she was buried at the new churchyard in Cambusnethan. While checking the cemetery records at the Heritage Centre in Motherwell I stumbled across Catherine’s burial record. The lair is recorded as OGY which means she is in a public plot in the old Cambusnethan graveyard. There will be no headstone. The family paid 3/- for the lair. It’s recorded that it is 4’ 6” deep, a detail that made me feel very sad somehow. That section of the cemetery is partly closed to the public for safety reasons. The headstones are in dangerous condition and the place is pretty overgrown. It’s sad to see. I took some photos but I have no way of knowing the exact spot where Catherine was laid to rest.

The remaining headstones are very worn and almost impossible to read
An old headstone still standing but completely overgrown
Nature reclaiming the cemetery
Part of the churchyard is inaccessible for safety reasons
Many of the headstones are badly damaged

James and Sarah went on to have 9 more children including my great grandfather Daniel who was born in 1864. Elizabeth, who was born in November 1861, was to be their only other girl.

  • John 1857-1892
  • Catherine 1859-1860
  • Elizabeth 1861-1946
  • Daniel 1864-1935
  • James 1866-1955
  • Hugh 1869-1895
  • Peter 1871-1940
  • Patrick 1873-1876
  • Matthew 1875-1876
  • Matthew 1877-1937
  • Patrick 1884-1956

John was the only one who even met Catherine. You’ll see from the list above that two other siblings died very young and two subsequent children took their names. That didn’t happen in Catherine’s case and I wonder why. I wonder why the name Catherine was even chosen in the first place. It wasn’t a granny’s name. It would have made more sense for the first girl to have been named Elizabeth after her maternal grandmother. Her maternal grandmother was called Hannah. It’s a question that may never be answered.

Was wee Catherine ever talked about in the home? Was she remembered on her birthday or the anniversary of her death? Perhaps the children were never even aware of her existence. That’s why I want to record her here. She’s not recorded on any census. She could easily have been missed from my family tree. But she did exist and as I wandered through the cemetery today I was thinking of her.

4 thoughts on “Catherine Brawley 1859-1960

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s