Research Update

Over the past 6 months research has been limited to looking at the genealogy of Christian Shaw, and this will take a lot longer to uncover.  What we can say is that Christian certainly had 4 siblings: Elizabeth, John, James and Jean.  As work progresses more information will he published.

At our conference in June 2012, we also announced the recent finding that we had discovered the death and burial of Christian Shaw on the 8th September 1737 in Provost Tods Tomb in Greyfriars Kirk Yard in Edinburgh.

Tracking Christian down in this period is hard, as after her marriage to the Rev Millar in 1719, she is known as both Christian Shaw and Mrs Millar and also as Mrs Livingstone after her second marriage in 1737.

One question that has come up is why did Christian move from Johnstone, where the Bargarran Thread Company was doing well, to Edinburgh?  Well this year we can now tell you why.

Christian’s introduction of fine linen thread manufacturing to Renfrewshire sparked a county wide industry by the early 18th Century.   Christian’s business head must have brought her to the attention of many of the senior people in the Linen Industry to the extent that when the Board of Manufacturers and Fisheries was established in 1727, Christians name soon appears in their minute book.

On the 6th October 1727 a Mrs Millar appears to be present at the Board of Trustees meeting where discussions take place on the condition of spinning in the country:

“Edinb. 6th October 1727,

Mr Donaldson & Mrs Millar were discoursed with upon spinning & the way to remedy the defects that it at present labours under here.  Who gave it as their opinion that both fine and good spinning want to be promoted if not introduced, which they believe might be done by the direction of some expert foreign spinners selling here or by some encouragement to those of this county who have made the greatest progress therein.”

On the 13th October plans submitted by Mr Donaldson and Mrs Millar were sent to the Linen Committee for discussion.  By the 3rd November Christian was back in Edinburgh at the Committee:

“Edinb. 3rd November 1727,

Recommended to Lord Monsieur, messrs McCauley, Drummond and Patterson to converse with Mrs Millar of Johnstoune now in town, and bring in her proposals for spinning and twisting thread.”

Between November and December the minutes of the Board of Trustees are concerned with the establishment of Spinning Schools.  On the 15th December 1727 they minute, that a School in Edinburgh has been approved the magistrates of the Edinburgh.  The next mention of the school comes in April 1728:

“Edinb. 12th April 1728,

… As was also a precept on the cashiers for paying over to Mrs Millar, Mistress of the Spinning School erected by the plan at Edinburgh Fifty pounds sterling as her salarie from the first of April last to the first of April next 1729.”

From this entry it is obvious that Christian has been appointed to the main Spinning School.  The board must have considered her a very intelligent woman to receive such a handsome salary. The Mistress of the Galsgow Spinning School founded at a similar time only received a salary of £30!

The entry of April 1729 all but confirms the Mrs Millar we have been looking at is indeed Christian.

“Edinb. 18th April 1729,

A precept on the cashiers for paying over out of the monies appropriated to the Linen & Hemp Manufacturers for the year 1729 to Christian Shaw relict of Mr John Millar minister of the Gospel, Fiftie pounds sterling in full of her salary payable per advance for the year from the first of April 1729 to the first of April 1730 as mistress of the Spinning School erected in Edinburgh.”

As yet we have still to look at the records past 1730, but we are gradually beginning to understand Christian Shaw’s part in the growth of the Linen and Thread industry not only in Renfrewshire, but in Scotland as a whole.

Christian’s appointment to the Spinning School certainly explains the move from Johnstone to Edinburgh, and it also explains how she met and eventually married William Livingstone in Edinburgh in 1737.

Stephen Clancy,


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