The Scott Family – Dundee, 1885

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alexander greig and scott family, dundee
Alexander Greig On The Right, Sitting. His Daughter Jane Greig On The Left. John Scott Standing.

Update – June 21, 2021
A twitter account named “JJ#2” saw this post and digitally enhanced the above photo, removing the tear mark. Here’s what was done – I think it was a great job and big thanks to JJ#2:

digitally enhanced photo of scott family in dundee

I do not recall precisely when I came across this photo – it may have been some years ago on Facebook when various members of my family including my cousin Elinor Clements had scanned and uploaded photos to Facebook. When I saw it, I was convinced immediately that we were looking at the family of John Scott, married to Jane Greig.

Oddly enough, I never took the time to try to actually date the photo or identify each person (other than the three adults and the eldest son, also John Scott).

There are also other reasons I took less time as Facebook seemed to take over the world and personal/business blogging declined. I’ll get into that below. First, let’s discuss this photo!

My Estimated Date – Between March & May, 1885

While one can (and should perhaps) research photographers of the eras family research is conducted, we don’t have to do that in this case. I did try to research an A. Watt – it is most likely Alexander Watt – who had a photography studio at 30 Reform Street, Dundee.

At the time the photo was taken, the Scott family along with Alexander Greig were living at 14 Melrose Terrace, Dundee – about a 25 minute walk to the Alexander Watt’s photo studio. However, if they traveled from their home, it’s very possible they may have taken a steam powered or horse powered public tram, available in those days.

By the 17th of March, 1885, the Scott family with John Scott and Jane Greig as parents had grown to 7 children – 4 sons and 3 daughters.

However, in the same year, this family would suffer the loss of two year old Joseph Lawrenson Scott, who passed away on the 4th of May, 1985.

We also know that in his older years, Alexander Greig, the father of Jane, lived with the Scott family. He would pass away a few years later in 1888.

With this information, we can confidently state that the photo was taken after the birth of the youngest daughter, Sarah in March and before wee Joseph died two months later, at the beginning of May.

Could we narrow the date down further? Possibly – it is unlikely this photo was taken within a day or two of the birth of Sarah. We also know that Joseph had suffered with pneumonia for 21 days before his death. There we can reasonably guess the photo was taken mid April of 1885.


We have the Family Bible which the John Scott Sr in this photo started. I have taken photos of the pages which we can guess is John Scott’s writing and recording of the births of his children, deaths, and marriages. However, I don’t immediately have access to those photos, and the Family Bible is presently in the possession of Alex Scott (probably a big mistake on my part).

However, we also have other documentation which supports what is written in the Family Bible and even provided further information as to the cause of Joseph’s death:

joseph lawrence death 1885 dundee scotland

“Lefty” handwriting is difficult for me to interpret and read but this registration record shows the parents of this Joseph to be John Scott, Woodturner, and his wife Jane, maiden surname of Greig, and their address at the time of 14 Melrose Terrace, Dundee. I cannot make out what is written between “Acute” and “Pneumonia” nor the word that appears after “Woodturner” in that column. If anyone wants to have a go at that, feel free!

I do have other documentation as well but I’ll provide that later as an updated to this post.

Let’s Identify Each Person In The Scott Family Photo

When I first saw the photo, I thought it odd that the two female children’s height didn’t seem right. John Scott the son was the eldest child, yet his sister standing behind him appears to be taller. I think this is easily explained that likely, the photographer had the two daughters stand on stools in order to get a good composition for the photo. We can’t see the stools, but it’s the only viable explanation.

So in the photo we have:

  • Jane Scott nee Greig on the left, with baby Sarah on her knee.
  • John Scott (Sr) standing.
  • Alexander Greig (father of Jane – read more about what is known of his Seaman Career) sitting. On his knee is Joseph Scott, aged almost 2 yrs old.
  • John Scott, b. 1872, standing between John Sr and Alex Greig
  • Annie Scott, b. 1874 standing behind her brother John Scott and beside her father.
  • Elizabeth Cunningham Scott, b. 1881 standing directly in front of her father, and behind her two other brothers.
  • James Scott, b. 1877 standing in front of his brother John and directly to the left of Alexander Greig.
  • Alexander Greig Scott, b. 1879 and standing to the right of his mother, Jane.

Some Personal Reflections

I have often looked at this photo and been a bit awed by the fact I can make out the faces of my great-great-grandfather and grandmother, as well as a great-great-great-grandfather (Alexander Greig). There are now in fact, recently, more photos that we believe are of Jane Greig, the son John Scott, and Alexander Greig.

I am not sure which Scott in our history passed on the idea of keeping family history but we do know that the Family Bible that has been passed on to us was started by the senior John Scott in this family (it may actually have been his father, with the Family Bible given to John as a wedding gift).

There are other things that have been passed on, and combined with the fact that this John Sr in this photo kept family records, I suspect he may have had a “romantic” heart – although his life, compared to anyone’s today, was by no means easy. John Scott Sr was working by the time he was 13 years old as an Apprentice Turner and the rest of his life, the documents suggest he continued in the occupation as a woodturner.

I believe he also dabbled in metal turning; today I have in my possession a brass candlestick that has been passed down, and it’s been held that the John Scott Sr in this photo made it, along with a small brass fishing reel. Additionally, a wooden bowl that is obviously of an old age that was apparently made by this man.

Lady Hamilton’s China

There is also very old china that has been passed down to me and a note somewhere, that John Scott Sr in this photo had acquired as a wedding gift to give to his bride, Jane Greig. The information (not yet authenticated) is that John attended an auction in Aberdeen or Glasgow (after getting married in Dundee, Jane and John would live in Glasgow for a short time) that included some of the estate of Lord Nelson.

It was there that John purchased a collection of china, apparently previously owned by Lord Nelson’s mistress, Lady Hamilton.

Was John Scott A Presbyterian?

This question just recently came to my mind as I’ve never been able to find a baptism/birth record for John Scott, b. abt 1848 in Dysart (or anywhere else, to a James Scott & Elizabeth Scott for that matter, for the years 1847 through 1849).

I believe, from memories of conversations with my dad, that the John Scott Sr. in this photo could more likely be referred to as a “Practicing Christian” than simply being associated with a denomination. This might explain the lack of a baptismal record – family lore has suggested that either his father or his grandfather James Scott was one of the men that introduced to, and encouraged the growth of the Brethern movement in Dundee. If so, there likely would be no baptismal records for their children as typically this evangelical Christian group did not believe in any efficacy of infant baptism.

And it should be noted that often what we refer to as “birth records” are actually baptismal records, in Scottish genealogy.

But other than that, I don’t know for sure about this John Scott’s theological beliefs or choice of denomination – just an observation on notes I’ve read in the past and what has been passed on to me orally.


Although I am hoping to write individual bios as best I can and as time permits on the individuals in the photo, I have mentioned the brass candlestick and wooden bowl, which I have taken photos of. I have not taken photos of the china that apparently belonged to Lady Nelson.

I also have in my possession, an old brass name plate that I believe was on at least one door of the addresses this family resided at. While my great-grandfather (John Sr’s son) was also named John Scott, I really don’t think he would have had any use for a nameplate on his door during most of his life being the manager of a grocery shop at 83 Hanover Street in Belfast. As well, it just appears to me to be of an age older than any time my great-grandfather might have used it. But admittedly, I do not know for sure.

wooden bowl made by john scott

brass candlestick made by john scott

j scott brass door name plate

My Philosophy On Family Heirlooms

When I thought my eldest son was mature enough to take possession of the Family Bible as well as his great-great-grandfather’s pocket watch, I explained to him that there was a great responsibility in being the “caretaker” of these heirlooms – not the “owner” of them. With the responsibility of “caretaker,” went some joy and pleasure in the possession (but not ownership) of these items.

It has been a tradition that these family pieces were handed down to the eldest son. In both my grandfather and my father’s case, they were passed down at an early adult age, so that their young families could also enjoy these pieces.

In about 1997, I was sitting at the table with my dad and mom in their home, and my father had gone to retrieve the Family Bible with old family photos (including a tintype that has since gone missing), and some other things and had said, “I think it’s long past time you had these and are able to share their existence with your own sons.”

My mother however, freaked out and demanded my father return them to the place in their house where they were kept. My father had been suffering with some illnesses and my mother exclaimed that this act of his was some sign he was “giving up” on his life. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth – that was not what the gesture meant at all. My father, not wanting to get into an argument but with disappointment in his face, tried to give me a wink and later “snuck” me some of the pieces of china, mentioned above without mom noticing.

Some years after my dad passed away in 2001, I had asked my mom about some of the items, but she claimed she was “not ready to give them up herself.” I would eventually be given the Family Bible and the pocket watch – which I held on to for a couple of years, before deciding that like those before me, I really also wanted my own children to enjoy them as well.

But the oldest three sons were already adults by then. I made a decision to pass on the Family Bible and watch to my own eldest son, about 3 or 4 years ago, with the instructions to preserve and maintain them as a caretaker, not an owner.

How that will work out, we’ll see…

It has always been a goal and a hope to write out what I know and research further, so anyone in the Scott family, descended from John Scott in our family photo above, would know about their existence, and perhaps know more about their family’s lives.

Melrose Terrace, Dundee – Today

I thought it would be interesting to see what the area of 14 Melrose Terrace, Dundee, might look like today. I’d love to visit Dundee, and to the villages in Fife including Dysart, Burntisland, Cupar etc – perhaps someday, but for now, we have Google:

melrose terrace, dundee, scotland

Family Group Sheet For SCOTT, John & GREIG, Jane Wilson (Rev 1 – 2021 Jun 19) PDF

Three Scott Brothers – Dundee

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2 thoughts on “The Scott Family – Dundee, 1885”

  1. Pingback: Elizabeth Scott - 1811 - 1901 - Ian Scott

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