The Five Margarets

Margaret Cochran 1760-abt 1821
Her niece Margaret Cochran 1796-1854
The latter’s daughter Margaret Lyle 1827-1925
And granddaughter Margaret Johnston 1858-1926
And Great granddaughter Margaret Huxtable 1896-1978

The first Margaret (Cochran), who was most likely named after her mother Ann Kerr’s mother if the family followed Scottish naming patterns, was born on 19 August 1760 in Paisley and baptised in the Abbey Church two days later. Her mother Ann Kerr carefully recorded her birth in a large family bible which she had “aught” (bought) following her marriage to Thomas Cochran in Paisley on 16 April, 1756.

The bible is a large ornate volume with gold-stamped leather spine and cover, not something a poor family could afford. That plus the fact that Ann was literate points to the Cochrans having been an affluent family. The baptismal records of their children show that until 1771 they were living in the village of Eaglesham to the south of Paisley and Glasgow. Eaglesham flourished during the age of agricultural and industrial improvements, with handloom weaving the main industry until the establishment of a water powered cotton spinning mill in the village in 1791. By then the Cochrans had moved back to Paisley, most likely to the area known as Seedhills, where her sister Jean died in 1785. Seedhills is now known as the site of the first cotton thread factory. It seems very likely that Thomas Cochran was involved in the weaving industry.

It is difficult to research back past the early nineteenth century, but when Thomas Cochran died without a will on 27 January 1804, it was necessary for his son James together with three of his sisters applied to the Commissary Court of Paisley for their share of an inheritance which Thomas and Ann had received from a John Kerr of Dorchester, Dorset. Discovering these documents was a great breakthrough in our family history. Fortunately John Kerr had left a large Testamentary (will) containing bequests to various relatives, including “my sister Ann Cochran”. It was dated 1798 in London, and he added a codicil 2 years later. A similar Testament Dative was presented to the Commissary Court at the same time for Thomas and Ann’s daughter Jane who died in 1800, who had also received an inheritance from John Kerr.

Part of the latter named some of her siblings, which enabled positive identifications: “….Made and given up by James Cochran manufacturer in Paisley, Margaret Cochran spouse of Peter Stewart Weaver in Glasgow and Ann Cochran spouse of John Houston weaver in Parkhead Brother and sisters of the said Defunct ….”

So we know that Margaret the First married weaver Peter Stewart Donald on 21 March 1780 in Glasgow. There is some dispute among her descendants as to the name of her first daughter. Jane or Jean (interchangeable names in those times) was born 5 March 1780 and there may have been a second daughter named Janet. Jane/Jean was born in Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire and married Robert Hillhouse by whom she had 5 children, all born in Old Kilpatrick. There are several Margarets among her descendants.

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The second Margaret (Cochrane) was born 10 November 1796 in Paisley to James Cochrane 1771-1824, brother of the first Margaret, and his wife who has not been positively identified. Her name was not recorded in either the church entry or, somewhat curiously, the family bible. We know our Margaret the Second’s exact birthdate as it was later recorded in the large family bible by her husband. She was baptised in the High Church, Paisley on 17 November 1796.

It is thought that Margaret the Second’s mother was Margaret Allan born about 1798 and died 1823. A James Cochrane and Margaret Allan married on 20 Aug 1796 in Paisley High. There were other James and Margarets marrying about the same time and also several other Margaret Cochran(e)s born about the same time so without any entry in the family bible (a significant omission) it is impossible to be certain if Margaret Allan was ‘our’ Margaret’s mother – and indeed she is claimed by several other families on Genealogy websites. It was quite common in those times to ‘prove’ fertility before marrying so the arrival of a baby 3 months after a wedding would not have caused much comment.

Margaret the Second married her cousin Dr. Thomas Lyle on 30 May 1821. Thomas was the son of Margaret the First’s sister Mary Cochran(e) 1765-1797 and Robert Lyle 1763-1793. Dr Lyle wrote in the Bible:

Thomas and Margaret Lyle had eight children, all recorded in Thomas’ neat hand:
Unnamed male Mar 27 1822 died due to a ‘difficult parturition’.
Thomas 5 Nov 1823. Glasgow, Lanark.
James 24 Oct 1825 Glasgow, Lanark. May have emigrated to Australia.
Margaret 14 Oct 1827 in Glasgow. (Margaret the Third.)
Another male 13 Sept 1829, stillborn.
Mary Ann 24 Dec 1830. Airth, Stirling.
Amelia 22 May 1833. Airth, Stirling.
Robert 10 Aug 1835 Airth, Stirling.

The Lyles married in Glasgow in 1821. Ten years later the 1841 Census records the family as living in Airth, Stirlingshire, with the last three children born in that County. Dr. Thomas was listed as a Surgeon. However it was well known that he preferred composing poetry and the study of bryology to that of medicine. He was the author of the well-known song “Kelvin Grove” and also a book on Scottish Ballads. He kept up a voluminous correspondence with a leading Bryologist, Mr. William Wilson. All Wilson’s letters, bound by Lyle, are in the author’s possession; Lyle’s letters are in the British Natural History museum.

By1851 the family has dispersed. Sisters Margaret (the Third) and Amelia were earning their living as Cap makers in Glasgow. Only their brother Thomas was still living with his parents in Airth, possibly working as an assistant to his father. Sister Mary Ann and brothers James and Robert cannot be found in that Census.

Margaret the Second (Margaret Cochran Lyle) died in Glasgow the following year. According to letters from William Wilson to Lyle:

18 Oct 1853:
(after some bryological correspondence – a new paragraph, a fresh pen)
If you must needs go to Glasgow, I sincerely hope that you will succeed in the attainment of your moderate wishes, and escape from the pestilence that you go to withstand – I shall rejoice if this revolutionary event of your life shall be productive of good to you and your wife –

Then 5 months later on 9 March 1854:
My dear Sir, You have often been in my thoughts and I had fully intended to write to you on the day that I received yours informing me of your loss – it is a relief, I trust, both to yourself and to your departed wife, (who must have suffered much under the protracted and hopeless illness) that she is gone to her rest.

There was an epidemic of typhoid in Glasgow in the 1850’s – possibly the pestilence referred to; on the other hand Margaret died “after a protracted and hopeless illness” so perhaps they moved to Glasgow so she could receive the best available medical attention.

Margaret the Second’s father James Cochrane, said to have been a Merchant of High Street Paisley, was the registered owner of a large lair, No. 395, in Castlehead Church of Scotland, Paisley Church cemetery (also known as the “West Relief Burying Ground”). But he was NOT buried there. He died on 17 June 1824 (entry in Cochrane bible) and on 13 April 1826 the ownership of the lair was transferred to Thomas Lyle, his son-in-law. James’ wife Margaret (? Allan) was not buried there either. But Dr. Thomas Lyle, his sister Anne and his wife Margaret the Second (Cochrane) – “Mrs. Thomas Lyle” – were all buried in this lair. There was a cholera epidemic in Paisley in 1823. Perhaps James died from that and was buried in a mass grave with other victims? There is a large one in Castlehead churchyard. And also his wife?

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The Third Margaret (Lyle) was born on 14 October 1827 in Glasgow, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Lyle 1791-1859 and Margaret Cochrane 1796-1852. Despite being the daughter of a Surgeon and later married to a Librarian, she was illiterate, signing the birth register of one of her children with a cross.

Margaret the Third was working as a cap maker in Glasgow when she met the young Alexander Johnston, a carpenter and precentor (choir leader). The Johnstons were solid Glasgow stock, painters or shoemakers; Alexander’s brothers were a shoemaker, tailor, Sheriff’s officer and gas fitter, carver and gilder, and Congregational Minister respectively. His lone sister married a Free Church minister. The marriage was in Glasgow on 25th March 1853. the Minister who married them was a John Ker – probably just a coincidence.

Late the following year their first child, Charles, was born in Airth. It is not known if any of Margaret’s siblings were still there – her mother had died in Glasgow early the previous year and her father was by then living and working in Glasgow. Did Airth hold happy childhood memories?

When baby Charles was less than two years old and Margaret was pregnant with her second, the family embarked for Tasmania on board the “Storm Cloud”, a new clipper sloop of 907 tons, built 1854 in Glasgow. Alexander and Margaret’s voyage was sponsored by St. Andrew’s Immigration Society; they came to Australia under engagement to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church in Launceston, where Alexander took up a position as precentor or a choir leader. A cabinetmaker by trade, he also carried out his own cabinetmaking business in Brisbane St. Launceston.

They arrived on 20 August 1855, the passage from Glasgow to Launceston having taken 71 days (Log of Logs Vol.2). It must have been a difficult time for Margaret, heavily pregnant on a long sailing voyage, and doubtless still grieving the loss of her mother in February 1854 just before they emigrated. But she was made of tough Scottish stock, and lived to be 98.

A few weeks after their arrival Margaret gave birth to their second son George on 15 Sept 1855. George was to lose his life tragically to the sea some 32 years later. (See his story elsewhere).

Their third child and only daughter Margaret was born on 20 July 1858 in Launceston. Her birth was registered by her mother Margaret on 6 December – perhaps Alexander was too busy?

In about 1860 Alexander became the Librarian at the Launceston Mechanics Institute, as Libraries were frequently termed in those days. He remained at the Library for 45 years and “died in harness” aged 77 in 1906. When he died the Library authorised his portrait.

Ten years after the birth of their daughter, Alexander and Margaret’s third son and fourth child Alexander was born on 28 June 1868. This Alexander was to lead a very full and adventurous life as a young man – an artist, journalist, traveller and author. He was the author’s grandfather.

Alexander and Margaret lived all their lives in the same house, at the corner of Mayne and Gunn Streets, Invermay, Launceston. However, it is likely Margaret at least visited her eldest son Charles and his family in Sydney. The photo her (above) would have been taken in the 1890s judging from the style of dress.

Margaret (Lyle) Johnston was to live for another 19 years, dying in Sydney on 29th March 1925 aged 98. Cause of death was given as uraemia. It is thought that she moved to Sydney to live close by her son Charles and his family She was buried on 30th March in the Presbyterian section of Sydney’s Northern Suburbs Cemetery. Her daughter Margaret (the Fourth Margaret in this story) who married Frederick Huxtable died a year later, in 1926, and was also buried at Gore Hill in the same grave as her husband.

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The Fourth Margaret (Johnston), the daughter of Margaret the Third, was born on 20 July 1858 in Launceston, Tasmania. Her birth was registered 5 months later by her mother, who surprisingly signed with a cross.

She grew up in Launceston with her three brothers – the last born 10 years younger than her and probably quite a surprise to her parents. They were a close-knit family as evidenced by the letters her seaman brother George wrote from his various ships overseas, always sending love to his siblings Charley, Maggie and Sandy.

George was to die at sea just a year before Margaret married Frederick James Alexander Huxtable in Launceston on 7 December 1886. The photo below is said to have been taken on their wedding day.

Margaret and Frederick spent their early married life in Georgetown, Launceston. The photo below was taken in the early 1900s and shows them with their last-born, the Fifth Margaret (“Maggie”). FJA Huxtable, a telegraphist, was the Superintendent of the Georgetown Cable Station in 1910. His work involved sending and receiving telegrams via the Bass Strait submarine telegraph cable, the world’s longest submarine cable at the time it was laid in 1858.

They had four children:
Charles Alexander Huxtable 1888-1974
Walter Louis Huxtable 1891-1982
Eustace Lyle Huxtable 1893-1970
Margaret Young Huxtable 1896-1978

Some time around 1915 the family moved to Sydney, together with Grandmother Margaret (the Third) perhaps to be closer to Grandmother Margaret’s older brother Charles. They lived at Kensington and then Chatswood, where Grandmother Margaret (the Third) died in 1925. Margaret the Fourth died in 1926 and her husband Frederick in 1930. Their daughter Maggie – the Fifth Margaret – lived with them.

An interesting letter written by George Alexander Johnston, son of Maggie’s elder brother Charles, says that the Huxtables “fared very badly” in the Great Depresssion of the 1930s and for a time rented a house next to “Ellaville” in Centennial Ave, Lane Cove. He also mentioned building of a “Longueville Cottage” commenced in 1904 – a timber cottage in Kenneth Street. Also that “Uncle Alex” was already living in Wharf Road. The 74 Kenneth Street house was indeed the address of Charles and Charlotte Johnston, from at least 1930 to 1933 when Charles died; Charlotte was at a different address in Alpha St in early 1936 and died later that year.

Margaret (Johnston) Huxtable died on 22 June 1926 at Chatswood, aged 67, and is buried at Gore Hill in the same grave as her husband, and next to her mother Margaret the Third. The cause of her death is not known.

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The Fifth Margaret (Huxtable), daughter of the Fourth Margaret and Granddaughter of the Third, was born in Georgetown, Launceston, Tasmania on 26 October 1896. Always known as Maggie, she never married but from her photos looks like a lovely lively person, described by a great nephew as a diminutive roly-poly lady with a mass of fine silver hair, a round face and sensible shoes with buckles.

Maggie moved to Sydney with her parents and brothers when she was between 12 and 16 years old. They lived for a time in Kensington and then Chatswood during the Depression. Eventually they bought a house at 9 Wharf Road Longueville which they named “Glencliffe”, right next door to Margaret the Fourth’s brother Alexander Johnston. (Photo below).

Maggie’s father FJA Huxtable died in 1930; the Census taken some time earlier that year showed him as a ‘telegraphist’; Maggie’s (whose name as always spelled that way in the electoral rolls) occupation was the usual ‘home duties’ and also with them at the time was Mary Ritchie Huxtable, widow of FJAH’s brother Ernest Octavius Huxtable. The following year only Maggie, who had inherited the property, was living at No.9; it is believed she took in boarders for a time.

Maggie lived to be 81, dying in the upper North Sydney suburb of Gordon on 20 August 1978.

The photo below would have been taken at “Glenciffe” in about 1925, and shows the Fourth and fifth Margarets with FJA Huxtable.