but who was Grace Purdie and where is Forkneuk?
Buying this christening mug led to my first serious attempt at research.
I was curious of the name Forkneuk. Where is/was Forkneuk? I had never heard of it. Was it local? I had no idea, just like the many
people I also asked!
I have always thought neuk was a place name associated with Fife so I phoned the library in Kirkcaldy. They didn’t know the name and
it wasn’t listed in any of their gazetteers.
Then a friend discovered a reference to the old Forkneuk shale mine in Uphall and on the present day street map for Uphall I found
Now that I’d found Forkneuk, who was Grace Purdie?
Looking in the census for 1851, I found the Purdie family living at Forkneuk Farm.
Using parish records, birth records, other censuses plus a visit to the family grave, which is in Strathbrock Parish Church yard in Uphall,
I now knew of Grace’s parents, her brothers and sisters, her grandparents and her aunts and uncles. However, there was only one
problem. In all these records there was never any record of Grace, not even for her birth!
Who was this mysterious Grace?
There was a child, Grizel, who I thought may be Grace. But why write Grace on a christening mug if the child’s name was Grizel? On
consulting the Chambers dictionary, it told me that Grace was not derived from Grizel, and vice versa. The two names came from
different languages and had different meanings. They are two different names.
Grizel Purdie WAS NOT Grace Purdie.
There was no marriage record for Grace and I couldn’t find a death record. Had she emigrated? I had to admit defeat and gave up.
About a year or so later, it all fell into place. Browsing the net one night, I came across a site dedicated to old Scots names and,
seemingly, we Scots regard Grizel and Grace as the same name, the Gaelic for both being Giorsal.
This meant Grizel Purdie PROBABLY WAS Grace Purdie.
I now restarted my hunt for the elusive Grace, or is it Grizel? Her family history follows...
Farmer’s daughter Grizel Purdie, the 3rd of 7 children, was born at Forkneuk Farm, Uphall, West Lothian on 26th November 1854.
Grizel’s parents, Thomas Purdie and Mary Storry were married in Whitburn in 1845.
Grizel was named after Thomas’ mother.
With regards to Scottish christian names, Grizel and Grace are looked upon as the same name, the Gaelic for both being Giorsal.
This explains why the name Grizel was used on her wedding and death certificates, but in the 1901 census and on her children’s birth
certificates she was known as Grace and also Gracie.
On 17th December 1878 at Forkneuk, Grace married Charles Rennie Cowie, a manager with the Rangoon Oil Company. Charles, the
7th of 12 children, was born in Falkirk in 1851.
Grace and Charles had 10 children:
born 1880 in Burmah
born 1882 in Burmah
born 1884 in 5 Windsor Place, Portobello, Edinburgh
born 1885 in Burmah
born 1888 in Mambeg House, Roseneath, Dunbartonshire
born 1889 in Burmah
born 1891 in Park House, Kirn, Argyllshire
born 1893 in Woodend House, Partickhill, Glasgow
born 1895 in Woodend House, Partickhill, Glasgow
born 1903 in Woodend House, Partickhill, Glasgow
By 1884, Charles was no longer with the Rangoon Oil Company. He was now described as an East India Merchant.
He, along with brothers Archibald and James, formed Cowie Brothers & Co, a company of exporters based in Glasgow.
When Charles and Grace’s eldest son, John, married in 1908, he was already part of the family business.
Charles Rennie Cowie was an ethusiast of our bard, Robert Burns, and was President of the Partick Burns Club.
The Glasgow and District Burns Association owned three properties within the village of Mauchline.
Charles purchased these houses in 1915-16, had them repaired, and gifted them to the village.
Burns’ House was gifted in 1915.
Dr Mackenzie’s House was gifted in 1919.
Nanse Tinnock’s Tavern was gifted in 1924, after Charles’ death.
He also amassed a collection of manuscripts of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Allan Ramsay. They were inherited by his son
John, whose widow, Elizabeth Janet Ramsay, presented them to the National Library of Scotland in 1964 and 1966. They are held in
the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.
Charles Rennie Cowie died at 62 Partickhill Road, Glasgow on 18th November 1922.
Grace Purdie died in the same house 7 years later on 9th November 1929.
They are buried in the Western Necropolis Cemetery, Glasgow.
Forkneuk Farm (below), now converted into housing, with
Forkneuk Farmhouse on the right.
The farmhouse is not shown on the map above and was built
after Grace’s birth.
The Purdie family would have lived in one of the now
Grace’s parents, Thomas and Mary, retired from the farm in the
1870s and moved to 5 Windsor Place, Portobello, Edinburgh.
It was here that Grace’s third child, Margaret, was born in 1884
(her first Scottish born child).
Her fifth child, Isabella, was born in the family home of
Mambeg House, Roseneath, Dunbartonshire.
Woodend House, Partickhill. Grace’s home for more than 30 years.
100+ years later and the houses
on either side of Woodend House
still stand today.
Unfortunately, Woodend House
has been replaced with
something less grand.
Grace's husband Charles, as previously mentioned, was in
business with his brothers and were very successful merchants and
exporters based in Glasgow with premises in Rangoon, Burma.
Their mechandise varied greatly, from cutlery to steam engines and
everything in between!
Cowie Bros & Co. also exported pottery.
The transfer printed bowl below is Delph pattern and was made at
The sponge printed bowl that follows is the same moulded shape
and size as the Delph bowl and was probably made at Bridgeness
When Charles gifted the renovated Burns' House to the people of Mauchline in 1915, it was Grace
who performed the opening ceremony.
This silver key was presented to Grace at the opening ceremony. It was a copy of the key
believed to have been used by Jean Armour.
After the ceremony the Burns' enthusiasts gathered around Grace and Charles for a group
photograph to mark the ocassion.
The Staffordshire operated between Birkenhead and Rangoon via
the Suez Canal.
On January 19th, 1896 it was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.
On board was Charles Rennie Cowie, making one of his many
At 2 a.m. that morning, the Staffordshire responded to the
distress signals from the S.S. Aidar and a five hour rescue
By 7 a.m. everyone on board the Aidar had been rescued.
19 crew and 2 passengers of the Staffordshire were awarded the
following silver medal for their heroism: the Board of Trade Medal
for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea, also known as the Sea
Gallantry Medal (SGM).
One of the passengers that was decorated was Charles Rennie
Charles Rennie Cowie died at 62 Partickhill Road, Glasgow on 18th November 1922. Grace Purdie died in the same house 7 years later
on 9th November 1929. They are buried in the Western Necropolis, Glasgow.
By the time Nanse Tinnock’s Tavern was gifted in 1924, Charles had died. Grace performed the opening ceremony
and in this photo is being presented with the ceremonial key.
Charles Rennie Cowie