|We are all clear that the two Harper sisters
- Lillie (Hutchison) and Ada (McGibbon) - were daughters of William Harper, Church of
Scotland Minister and Missionary. I've met him - in 1936 and earlier. But
none of us are clear about his antecedents. I probably am nearest to being
on target with this scenario:-
The aforesaid William was thought to be
fourth child (and second son) of John Harper and his wife Jane Cummings, who
farmed a tiny place at Maryhill, Asleid, Monquihitter, six acres in extent,
which could hardly be expected to pay for William taking two degrees at
Aberdeen University - MA. (1870) and BD.(1873), which is what he did. However, I have to
guess about William's Grandparents, and the likelihood is that they were
John and Elspet Harper, Crofters at Millbrex in the 1841 Census, which
suggests that there were eight - not seven in the Maryhill family, the
eldest being with his grandparents at the time of the census, and presumably
dying before the 1851 census. These assumed grandparents were crofters at
Millbrex, in Fyvie Parish, about two miles from the Maryhill farm Inchgreen
which is about half a mile from Maryhill.
We may get confirmation of these and similar points from another look at the
1851 census. As you have read, Isabella Milne married William Harper in
Calcutta; but they were neighbours in Fyvie/Monquhitter. I don't yet know
who Isabella Milne's parents were, nor their address, but she had a sister
who must have married Alexander Cheyne, who moved with his parents
(Father - James ) from New Deer to Inchgreen. Alexander's wife was Maggie
Cheyne, or Milne, and she must have been Isabella Harper's sister.
(Margaret Royds' letter refers to Isabella's sister and brother, but he was
I think I've seen the death certificate of William Harper's father, John,
which states that he was born at "Farthinghill".. There never was any such
place, but a possibility is "Faddonhill", an area at Millbrex, in Fyvie
parish, and this needs following up. (The census takers of those days, and
the registrars, were a bit illiterate)
But again, these are only speculations, and there is at least one other
candidate for the post of William Harper's Grandfather - viz - James Harper,
Farmer at Greens No 10 (presumably a croft) All these places are within one
or two miles of each other, and research is bedevilled by the way that they
straddle the boundary between two parishes - Fyvie and Monquhitter - which
means different Registry records, Census records, and Church records.
So, if you want to explore the area in person pinpoint Millbrex on the OS
Map at NJ 821436, and search an area within two miles radius of that
point. I'm going back to the Family History Shop.
Incidentally, on the question of accuracy of the clerks in those days, it's
not impossible that Maryhill had 60, not 6 acres.
Column by TMH. Aug 2004.
||Isabella Milne was the youngest of nine
children of David Milne and Margaret Cheyne, who married on 15th December
1835 in Monquhitter.
I don't know where they lived but it must have been within a mile or so
of Maryhill, John Harper's farm.
Isabella was born on 3rd October 1856 and so was about eleven years
younger than William Harper.
Isabella had an elder sister Margaret (Maggie) born 22 April 1850, who on
9th July 1875 married Alexander Cheyne with whom she eventually settled in
Inchgreen, Monquhitter - another site within a mile or so of Maryhill.
Alex Cheyne thus became Isabella's brother-in-law, and the Cheynes
became surrogate parents for the three young Harpers during their parents'
absence in India.
TMH. 18 September 2004.