William Suttie and Catherine Purdie

My third great grandparents, William Suttie and Catherine Purdie, immigrated to Australia from Scotland at the end of the Edwardian era, at the height of luxurious sea travel, faster than it had ever been before.

William Suttie was the illegitimate child of domestic servant Margaret Suttie and her mistress’s son Robert Thomson. Margaret gave birth to William on 18 February 1862, in Southside, in the parish of Newbattle, Midlothian. She registered his birth herself on 6 March 1862, without listing a father.

On 29 April 1862, the Sheriff’s Court of Edinburgh found that William’s father was Robert Thomson, the 25-year-old son of Margaret Suttie’s former employer, Mrs Margaret Pringle. A note was then placed on William’s birth registration and an entry placed in the Register of Corrected Entries to this effect.

Catherine Purdie was born to Peter Purdie, millwright, and his wife Christina Ewing on 22 May 1859 in Bonnington, in the parish of Ratho, Midlothian. Her parents had been married for more than a decade, and already had a number of children. The Kirkliston parish register, in an entry dated 10 September 1847, says: “Peter Purdie and Christina Ewing both of this Parish gave up their names in order to marriage”.

William Suttie and Catherine Purdie married on 7 June 1887 at East Calder, in the parish of Kirknewton, Midlothian. They were married after banns, according to the forms of the Church of Scotland. On the marriage certificate, William cited his parents as “William Suttie, Grocer (deceased)” and “Margaret Suttie m.s. Gray” – which left me searching in circles for a long time looking for his parents.

East Calder Parish Church, photo courtesy of Kirknewton & East Calder Church

William, a successful grocer, and his wife Catherine went on to have six children together, before immigrating to Australia with their five surviving children, and first grandchild, in 1912. All but their last child were born at 181 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh.

Their first son, William, was born on 18 April 1888. Sadly, William did not survive his infancy. He died when he was just 18 months old, from accidental poisoning, suffering for four days before dying on 10 November 1889.

Their eldest daughter, Christina, my second great grandmother, was born on 8 November 1890.

Their second daughter, Mary, was born in October 1892. Mary gave birth to an illegitimate son, William and Catherine's first grandchild, George James Suttie, on 29 March 1911.

Their only son to survive childhood, William Peter John, was born on 7 January 1896. Later, he would fight as part of the Australian Imperial Forces during World War I. I have previously posted a letter from Private Suttie to his father that I found on Trove.

Their third daughter, Catherine Margaret (aka Maggie), was born on New Year’s Day 1898.

Their fourth and last daughter, Elizabeth Purdie (aka Bessie) was born on 29 April 1902 in Pathhead, in the parish of Crichton, Midlothian.

William and his son William Peter John immigrated first, paying for their own passages; leaving Glasgow aboard the Union Line’s RMS Maunganui on 27 December 1911, they arrived in Sydney on 5 February 1912. It was the ship’s maiden voyage, on its way to take over the Tasman “Horseshoe” route between Australia and New Zealand.

Maunganui, picture by Allan C Green
held by the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/28279

Catherine, along with her daughters and grandson, departed Liverpool aboard White Star Line’s SS Waimana on 16 July 1912, arriving in Sydney on 29 August 1912, also as unassisted immigrants. This was only three months after the Line had lost the RMS Titanic, and I wonder if they were worried about sailing so far around the world after such a tragedy. Or perhaps they had been saving up to move to the new world for so long, that they were excited and trusting God to deliver them safely to their new home.

Waimana, picture from www.photoship.co.uk

Whilst William’s family was still on their way to join him, he was successfully preparing to provide for his family, taking over the Imperial Hotel in Singleton. In an article I found on Trove about the license transfer, the author stated “No doubt “brither Scots” and the public will give him [William Suttie] a warm welcome.”

1912 'Hotel License Transfer.', Singleton Argus (NSW : 1880 - 1954) , 27 July, p. 4, viewed 15 November, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80063925

I truly hope the Suttie’s welcome in Australia was warm, and that they were happy with their decision to move to the other side of the world.

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