Carnival of Genealogy – 116th edition – Catherine McCorkindale


My grandmother, a girl on the verge of young womanhood, looks at us sidelong from her position beside her mother, yet her gaze is direct and intense. I see echoes of myself in this photo, taken when she would have been about 12. This makes it likely that the photograph dates from around the time of the 1901 census, when the family was living at 3 Bolton Drive, Mt Florida, Glasgow. Catherine McCorkindale, second daughter and sixth child of Duncan McCorkindale from Argyllshire and Annie Sim from Bothkennar in Stirlingshire, was usually known as Kit by her family, yet on this census she is called Katie, obviously her childhood name.

Kit and her family were said to move often because with all four of her brothers expert pipers, the noise of their practicing was too much even for their Scottish neighbours! She was always so proud of her family’s Highland heritage, and taught me early to love the sound of the pipes and the music of the reels, even though she generally disapproved of dancing. She passed on her love of all things Scottish (except religion!)…not a good combination with the Irish Catholic ancestry on my maternal side.

As a child, Catherine attended the Cathcart Mt Florida school and among my heirlooms is her hard-bound Merit Certificate from the Scotch Education Department in April 1900, though she is still a scholar in 1901, aged 13.[i] Kit would become a dressmaker like her mother and older sister Belle, but unfortunately no oral history has survived about where or how she worked at this trade in Scotland. I certainly hope she was not forced to work in the inhuman conditions of some Glasgow factories.

Kit’s father died suddenly in 1906 and in 1910 Kit, her mother, and most of her siblings emigrated on the Perthshire to Australia where her two older brothers (and unbeknownst to us, an uncle) had already settled. Catherine and her sisters are recorded on the Queensland immigration cards as domestic servants, arriving as assisted immigrants. The family settled in Brisbane, where Kit is known to have worked for David Jones’ store as a dressmaker. David Jones was one of the more up-market department stores so presumably her needlework skills were good, as evidenced by her lovely wedding dress, which I assume she made. I’m also fortunate to have heirlooms from this time in her life – her treadle sewing machine and pair of silk pyjamas she made.

Catherine met my grandfather at a Christmas party when he asked if he could get her a drink (almost certainly non-alcoholic). I don’t know what year they met but it was possibly around the time of World War I, and it’s thought that my grandfather visited some of her relations while he was serving overseas in 1917-1918.  Even on his return the couple did not marry quickly and it’s difficult to be sure why that was. It may have been due to religious differences because my grandfather was brought up a Catholic. It may have been because he continued to contribute to the upkeep of his youngest siblings, orphaned in 1901. I’ve often wondered if he feared the consequences of marrying young and having too many children – the cause, in part, of his mother’s early death.

Dinny and Kit married in the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, Red Hill on 29 April 1922. None of Denis’s siblings were witnesses and his non-Catholic marriage was certainly a problem for many of them. As a result their social circle revolved around Kit’s family. My grandparents lived in the same house all their married life and were our next door neighbours. I spent lots of time jumping the fence to be with them both and I have very fond memories of my grandmother brushing my hair and talking to me. Her hairbrush (minus bristles) is another of my “treasures”. Catherine lived to see my marriage and the birth of her first great –grandchild. She died on 19 December 1971 aged 84.

This Carnival of Genealogy post was inspired by Jasia at Creative Gene. The challenge was to honour a woman from our family tree by starting with a photograph and telling the story of the photo or a biography of the woman. I chose my grandmother.


[i] Scottish education was compulsory from ages 5 to 13.

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17 thoughts on “Carnival of Genealogy – 116th edition – Catherine McCorkindale

  1. I can only echo what Susan and Julie have said about these tangible links to the past. You’ve really made Kit come alive for this reader. Thanks – an inspiring post.

    • Julie, Susan and Rebelhand, thanks for your comments. I am delighted that I conveyed some sense of my grandmother, whom I loved dearly. I enjoyed this exercise particularly. You’re right Julie, those simple objects can be more personally valuable than items with a greater financial value. Sorry about my delayed responses – we’ve had the 3 grandkids over this weekend so building some memories with them…I hope.

      • I am sure Pauline you have created some really happy memories with the Grandchildren. Some of my earliest memories involve my Grandparents & Great Grandmother.

      • I surely hope so Julie and I hope also to live until they’re a bit older. I only have dim memories of my maternal grandmother who died when I wasn’t quite four. Like you the memories you hold of grandparents are true treasures. But today I’m glad just to be bludging, feet up, laptop to hand!

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    • Thanks for the acknowledgement -I thoroughly enjoyed your post and if the week turns out I’ll build on the domestic theme with some of memories of mine.

    • If I was half a glamorous as the youngest daughter in her older years I’d be happy but sadly I fear I take after my grandmother. It’s so interesting to hear what others see in the photos and stories, thank you for commenting. I love hearing from people.

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  4. This was a very interesting post, Cassmob. I often think what adventurous spirits those who moved to Australia and New Zealand had. That was such a long voyage! I, too, grew up living close to my grandmother and am so grateful that I did. Did your grandmother teach you to sew when you were a child?

    • Thanks Nancy. I think the early pioneers were both brave and determined, and sometimes a little desperate. No, my grandmother didn’t teach me to sew but my mother did. My grandmother was fairly elderly (well so it seemed to me at the time) so I guess that was a factor. I was allowed to play with the buttons etc from her machine.

  5. Pauleen, what a lovely story of Kit. I now know why you were so close to this McCorkindale grandmother — the love and affection is there for all to see. And so glad you have those many wonderful heirlooms from her — my favorite has to be the bristle-less hairbrush — I have kept a few of those too, for the images and memories evoked.

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