What’s in the box?

In the attic of his Aunt’s house, George found a box. It was bit battered about but sound. A good example of a 19th century pine kist.


These chests were very common in Scotland and had a multitude of uses. They could be simply storage vessels or they might be used to transport a family’s worldly goods as they moved from place to place, hired seasonally to work the land or perhaps to seek a new life overseas, whether voluntary or forced.

It was covered in thick layers of varnish and dark paint but obviously had good potential, so George set about stripping it down. But first it had to be opened and emptied. And so we found. This.

inside the kist

What we found..

Pages from a commemorative edition of the Glasgow Weekly Mail of 1871 marking the engagement of HRH Princess Louise with the Marquess of Lorne, later the Duke of Argyll.

princess Louise

HRH Princess Louise

Why had this been pasted inside the kist? We can only make wild guesses. It must have been decorative it can’t have served any function, it’s not lining there’s too little of it. We don’t even know who put it there.  But suddenly the serious sometimes forbidding looking people in old photos become more familiar. Could those newspaper pages pasted inside a chest be the 19th century versions of the posters of Donny Osmond on my childhood walls or Kim and Justin on Instagram?

bessie and robert paterson

Bessie (Hill) Paterson on left and her husband Robert on right, with their children. The little boy in the sailor suit is George’s grandfather (also George). Bessie and Robert married in 1879. Bessie was 16 in 1871.

It’s fun to imagine and make up stories but it would be even better if the real story or even parts of it had been passed down the years. But it’s too far back, even in a family with long memories. So the  mystery stays in the box.


We’re not from here……….

But we’re learning about its past.  We’ve both got an interest in history – though  in contrast to  George my formal study stopped before O’ levels (the GCSEs of olden days). Now we’re searching out old pictures of the house and stories about island life in the days when the slate was being mined.  There’s an excellent little museum on the island slate isands heritage trust to help us.

old postcard image of the bridge showing Sheiling

I’ve always had an interest in family history too and have managed to trace my roots back several generations, although  for this I’m indebted to some very good local history groups particularly this one Thornbury roots. I wrote a little story about us, you can read it here. And I’ve recently started following Twile, which is reaching out to  a new younger audience, encouraging them to record their family stories.

Perhaps you have roots on Seil, Argyll or anywhere in Scotland? You can make the research for your family history part of your holiday. In his other life George headed  National Records of Scotland so he has the expertise to help you on your way.

Stories, of people, of places, we all love them; come and find yours here with us.