The Lillie's Of
The smithy about 1900 some time after the
last Lillie blacksmith left the village
Peter Lillie and Margaret S Simpson were
married on the 19th of July 1782 at Coldingham, he then went on to became the
first Lillie blacksmith that I have been able to trace at the village of
Gavinton during the halcyon days of the Langton estate. He must have literally
been a Journeyman Blacksmith, which may be the reason why their children were
born in various parts of Berwickshire.
1690 UP TO PETER LILLIE & MARGARET S SIMPSON
JOHN LILLIE & ALICE FALDON'S SIX
JOHN LILLIE & ALICE BURN'S SIX
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Oh Why Couldn't They Be Famous?
by Peter Lillie
oh why, couldn't my forefathers have been famous? I would even settle
for being locally infamous, but no, all they seem to have been is,
well, normal, anonymous, without having left a dent on the record
books. It would have been so much easier if they had been at least a
little infamous; someone may have then deemed them worthy of a
foot-note, or even two, in history.
Don't misunderstand me, I am
proud of my family name and set out to trace the family history (I like
to think of it as an ancestral oak but, alas, it resembles more of a
family bush badly in need of a liberal dose of manure at the moment) in
order that my children, and theirs, would have a certain knowledge of
where, and who, they come from. So where to begin? Well, logic dictates
that you begin with your parents. So like many of you have already
done, so I set about questioning my father about everything he could
remember - and then set out to prove or verify his recollections as
best I could!
I felt certain that it would be a logical progression,
one father backwards to another, and then another and then another.
Soon I felt certain I would have traced them back to 1066 and beyond,
with a bit of luck. Was I mistaken!!
I thought that the family name,
being fairly uncommon, would be an advantage. After all, there are not
many Lillies in any telephone book I have ever come across. I can only
imagine the difficulties of someone called Jones or Smith or Brown. No
Lillie, I felt, must make things a little easier. Wrong again!
family has never been a great one for filling in forms. A recently
acquired family trait I thought but, no, it appears to be a long-held
family tradition. If a Lillie could avoid filling in a form then it
appears they did so. We seem to be either secretive or an unassuming
clan, to say the least.
I know that the Registers of Births,
Deaths and Marriages only go back to 1837 and, if I am to progress
further back than that, I must find the family on the 1851 census as it
was the first one to mandatorily demand a place of birth. It seems that
my lot decided to avoid divulging this information to anyone and
dropped from official sight in 1851. Well, then, they must have been
`caught' on the 1861 then! Well, no, they avoided that one too. The
1871? No, not there either.
I throw myself upon the mercy of you
dear readers in the hope that you may light a candle in the darkness of
this family's past or at least point this fledgling genealogist in the
So what do I know?
Well, my father was
John George Mark Lillie, born in Sunderland in 1926, and is happily
still with us but as a source of information is exhausted! His father
was William Mark Lillie born in 1903 in Sunderland in Woodbine Street
in Hendon. His father was John George Lillie born 1880 in Lawrence
Street, Hendon, Sunderland. His father was William Lillie and for the
first time we have moved away from Sunderland as this particular Lillie
was born in Back Lane Gallowgate in Newcastle in 1849.
far so good, we have progressed from 2003 all the way back to 1849 and
only now have left the confines of Sunderland and journeyed all the way
to the dark regions north of the Tyne. Sorry, but as a Mackem I was
born with an inferiority complex and have been genetically pre
programmed to be sarcastic about all things Newcastle. Imagine my
distress upon finding I am descended from a Geordie; just one of the
perils of genealogy I guess, you never know what you may turn up!
where was I? Oh yes, 1849 William Lillie is born to John Lillie and his
wife Alice (nee Burns) Lillie in Back Lane Gallowgate and is christened
in Saint Andrew's Parish Church. William is the second son, his brother
having been born in 1844 and christened John Henry Lillie. So I have a
family who must appear in Gallowgate on the 1851 census. Well, they
don't!! The young couple and their two sons aged 2 and 7 dropped off
the face of the earth and appear seemingly nowhere along the Tyne or
the Wear. As John is an engine fitter and is working presumably in the
shipyards, where has he and the family gone? I assume he has upheld the
family trait of avoiding officialdom and managed to not fill in the
census return. I am sure if he had known the trouble he would have
given his great great great (never can keep up with how many greats one
puts in) grandson he would have diligently filled out the form.
what of his father? Well, another thing my family seem to lack is
originality: John Lillie's father was also called John Lillie. It
became apparent that a Lillie father if called John would call his
first born John and his second son William. If a daughter came along
she was inevitable called after her mother, a second daughter would be
named after the father's mother. Anyway, I digress.
was a blacksmith working in Aspatria in Cumberland in 1844 where he
attends the wedding of his son John Lillie (at this time also a
blacksmith) to Alice Burns. So we have now crossed the country to
Cumbria by 1844 but it appears to be a dead end. For whatever reason
the Lillie family only seemed to be passing through Cumbria in 1844 and
left little or no trace apart from the marriage of John to Alice and
the birth of their first son John Henry, in December 1844.
I can only
assume that the father John and his apprenticed son John moved to
Cumbria to work, either in the coal mines or on the new railway going
through Aspatria about 1844. The work having dried up, they moved on
and at least the young John and his wife appear in Gallowgate in 1849.
Again a presumption on my part but, as he is now described as an engine
fitter, perhaps he has put his metal working skills as a blacksmith to
good effect on the newfangled steam ships being built along the Tyne.
If so, did he bring his father there as well?
My father seems to
recollect that the family came to Sunderland via Bedlington (in fact,
he says a cousin of his was the North East tap dancing champion in the
twenties and that she came from Bedlington) and before that, we were
Scots, probably Lowland Scots, but he's not certain. Of course, there's
also family stories of our family having fought alongside Bonny Prince
Charlie but I think it more likely we were actually on the other side,
if involved at all. Still, I doubt at my rate of progress that I will
ever get that far back to prove or disprove the story.
there you have it, a potted history of the Lillies so far. If any of
you good readers should come across a stray Lillie on your travels
please point them my way so I may look after them properly. We can't
have too many Lillies roaming about.
Author Profile: Peter
Lillie is 50 years old and works for an agency finding work for
freelance personnel in the broadcasting industry. Peter was born in
Sunderland and is married to Judith who was also born in Sunderland.
They have three grown up children. Peter began researching his family
history in 2002 and most of his information has been gathered from the
internet and various certificates. His other interests include
watercolour painting and Victorian literature.
AND IF ONLY THEY’D KEPT STILL !!
By Pam Smith July 2003
tracing the Lillies is complicated, tracing the ancestry of their wives
seems to be just as bad! Alice Burn ran off to Gretna with John
Lillie in 1844. They then married “officially” at Aspatria a few
months later. From her second marriage certificate and the family
bible, its clear that Alice was the eldest daughter of John Burn, a
Railway Clerk, and that the family actually hailed from the district of
Alnwick. The only appropriate baptism that I have been able to
find is one at Long Horsley in 1819 and the parents here are a John
& Mary Burn (visiting from Alnwick). This looks promising,
but no other children appear to have been baptised at that
parish. The Alnwick registers reveal that a John Burn married a
Mary Faldon in Alnwick in 1810. Again, this appears to be the
only possible appropriate marriage. The marriage entry itself
yields very little information, but the subsequent baptism of their
first child, William, at Alnwick in 1811, shows that John Burn came
from nearby Netherwitton. His wife, Mary Faldon, however, came
from Whickham in Durham - quite a distance from Alnwick in the early
The Faldons of Whickham have already appeared in our
family tree. John Lillie’s mother was Alice Faldon before her
marriage and the census shows that she had been born in Whickham.
Her parents were Thomas Faldon and Mirrell Field. The name Faldon
was not common in Durham at that time and it has since became apparent
that Alice and Mary must have been sisters. This means that John
Lillie and Alice Burn would have been first cousins and could explain
why they had charged off to Gretna for their “first” marriage.
Perhaps their parents didn't approve, or perhaps it was just Blacksmith
tradition or romanticism. Certainly, their first child, John
Henry, had been born a respectable eleven months after the first
marriage! The “cousinship” between John and Alice could also go
some way to explaining how a Blacksmith from Berwickshire came to marry
a Railway Clerk’s daughter from Alnwick. Its evident, from the
marriage register, that Mary Burn could at least sign her name, so its
possible that she wrote to her sister about work for Blacksmiths on the
new railways. Its also possible that John Lillie originally
stayed with his aunt’s family (possibly in Aspatria), met his cousin
Alice there and fell in love. I wonder if his aunt ever regretted
sending that letter to her sister ?!
If this is all correct, it
helps to solve the problem of how John Lillie met Alice Burn.
However, there are still many mysteries surrounding the lives and
marriages of their parents. For instance, how on earth did John
Lillie’s father (also John Lillie and a Blacksmith from Berwickshire)
meet Alice Faldon from Whickham? How did Mary Faldon come to be
in Alnwick by 1810 and how had she met John Burn, a Farmer’s son from
Netherwitton? How had John Burn come to be Railway Clerk and
where were he and his family living when John Lillie eloped with his
Useful information regarding the first marriage has
recently come from Geoff Nicholson. Alice Faldon’s baptism record
shows that the family were living at what looked like “Sw. Fact.,
Whickham” and Geoff has told me that this is most likely to be
“Swalwell Factories”. These factories were set up by a Quaker
family at the end of the 17th century much on the lines of places like
Bourneville. A century later, nearly all of the ironwork for
Nelson’s navy was being produced here. One of the factories, at
nearby Winlaton Mill, used outworker Blacksmiths from all over the
country for the making of small iron objects. This would give
John Lillie of Berwickshire a good reason to be in the Whickham area.
for Mary Faldon being in Alnwick, nothing more has come to light.
Swalwell Factories apparently closed at the end of the Napoleonic
Wars. Its possible that Thomas Faldon took his family up to
Alnwick before that time, though I have no idea why. I had hoped
that the Burn family would link in with the famous Robbie Burns.
A bit of culture in the family wouldn’t go amiss. Alas, this is
unlikely to be the case. John Burn was apparently the son of
William Burn and Isabel Ramsay and they hailed from a lovely little
farm out in the wilds of Northumberland - just down the road from East
Teviotdale - territory of “a most predatory and vicious family”* - the
Burn Riding Clan!
? Taken from “The Steel Bonnets” by George MacDonald Fraser
I have spent a considerable amount of effort in looking for the living descendants
of John Lillie and Alice Burn who married on the 22 July 1844 at St Kentigans church Aspatria
a civil marriage on the 3 February 1844 at Gretna Green.
great success with the exception of the second child called Thomas
(the first called Thomas Faldon only lasting two years),
So far without any clues if the second Thomas produced any little Lillies at all.
have a hypothesis that all Borders and Northumberland Lillies are of
the same family and am moving to gain the evidence that will prove it.
I have noticed that the expansion of trade in the 1700s and the
industrial revolution gave any man with a trade (Carpenter, Mason and
of course Blacksmith) the income to take on a wife and feed children.
When the male children grew up and also became blacksmiths and then
wanted to set up their own family, they had to move to another village
to do so, therefore causing the spread of the family throughout the
Last year 2007 the Scotish Records Office
published the old parish records so that I was able to download the
birth record of Peter Lillie born at Littlethank near Eccles in 1760 and confirm that
the transcriber had wrongly read the entry as Patrick. This allowed me
to confirm 2 more generations back into the 1600s.
I am amazed how little I know about the brothers and sisters of the
two generations above Peter Lillie, there must be many, who are distant
cousins, who I have not traced to share my story with. William Lillie
& Isabelle Underwood had 2 boys and 3 girls- William & Alison
Muckle had 4 boys and 1 girls- Peter & Margaret S Simpson had 1 boy
and 4 girls. I know nothing about the two Williams families except for
Perter and John his only son, my own ancestors.
Michael. John. Lillie