Robert Philip, grocer in Leith, and his immediate family

My ancestor James Philp or Philip, ship-carpenter, died in Leith 0n 27th August 1836. Out of several possible ‘candidates’ for this James, one is very highly probable - James Philp born in Dairsie, Fife, 13 November 1775, his parents being Robert Philp, wright in Dairsie, and Janet Kermack, who were married in Dundee in 1774. There is discussion of the family of this James and his wife Mary Bell, on my older pages at

In pursuing James, I came across a Robert Philip or Philp, grocer in Leith, having children there at about the same time as James, and began looking into this Robert’s antecedents and the possibility that he and James were related and came to Leith at around the same time, as part of a movement of people from Fife into the port at the end of the 18th century.

This page therefore begins with Robert.

Robert Philip, grocer in Leith, and his Fife connections

Robert Philp was born in Crail, moved to Leith and became a grocer there, eventually moving to Corstorphine He has a memorial inscription in the very small burial ground at the New North Kirk in Leith. He is not directly connected to James Philp the shipwright, though there may be distant or incidental connections. He and his family give some context for Fifers moving to Leith, and help to tie up some loose ends.

Robert was born in 1765, eldest son of Robert Philp and Isobel Brown.. The memorial inscription at New North Kirk , from North Leith MIs, states:

PHILIP imo Mary an amiable sister (age) 21, Mary a virtuous mother a 77, Robert a christian father a 87, Robert of Crail grandfather a 88, Agnes d 20 Feb 1873. Erected by Robert Philip of Leith 3 Sept 1888?.

 (The final date is eroded, and must be earlier as Robert Philp, banker and merchant of Leith, died in 1868. The final inscriptions are likely to be added by another family member. There was probably another line giving the date of this Robert’s own death, also around age 88.)

So Robert the grocer died aged 87 around 1852. He appears in the 1851 censuses, now retired and having moved to Corstorphine with his daughter Agnes at an address called Yellowhouse. 

 Robert Philip    86 head, retired grocer born CRAIL
 Agnes Philip    40 daughter, born LEITH
 Catherine Corstorphine    19 servant, general servant born Corstorphine

He was succeeded by two generations of Robert Philip, in Leith. He married Mary McKie in 1787 and their children born in Leith (variously South and North) were:

  • Robert 1789, who became a merchant, banker and shipowner
  • Christian, 1791
  • John 1793 – possibly the child ‘of Mr Philip’  recorded as buried in South Leith on 1 Oct 1795
  • James 1795, who may have become a clerk in Leith
  • Isabel 1798
  • Mary 1802, dying in 1804 and buried 24 Apr in Wrights’ ground in SL kirkyard
  • Agnes 1803, housekeeper for brother Robert in 1861 census
  • Mary 1811, dying aged 21

Most of these baptisms were witnessed by John Mackie (occasionally McKie or Mackay) blockmaker, and James Philip wright in Broughton (or Edinburgh on Robert’s baptism entry).  Christian’s was witnessed by John Mackie and David Norrie, John’s by John McKie and Robert Brown. James Philip, the witness, is elsewhere described as cabinet maker and was the brother of Robert, born in Crail. Some of these children are found in later censuses.

Children of Robert Philp, born in Leith

Robert Philip - born in 1789.
The 1841 census has Robt Philp aged (approx) 50, in North Leith in Old Church Street, a merchant, with two female servants in the household. 

The 1851 census has Robe(rt) Philip aged 61, North Leith given as both birth and residence, banker and shipowner, on Old Church Wharf, with a '3rd cousin' aged 7, Davina Ford, and a female servant. (This Davina Ford can be traced. She was born 4 Jan 1844, baptised 13 Jan, in North Leith, parents David Ford and Catherine Neil. Her father David Ford was born 29 dec 1810 baptised 13 Jan 1811, North Leith, parents William Ford and Christiana Mackie, so the link is to Robert the merchant/banker’s mother Mary McKie.)

The 1861 Census has Robert Philp age 71, born South Leith, living in North Leith, Old Church Street, occupation described at Justice of the Peace, House Proprietor, (given as ‘Instia Offencer House Proprietor' by ancestry's bad transcription). In the household are Agnes Philp, sister, age 57, housekeeper, and a servant named Janet Leitch aged 63.

Agnes Philp born 1803

Agnes has already been mentioned twice, in the household of her father in 1851, then of her brother Robert in 1861. In 1871 she is in North Leith, with address Gothic House, described as head of household and an annuitant aged 67. Also in the household are two servants, Helen E Sword aged 47 and Ann Fergusen aged 18.

James Philp born 1795 

A James is in the 1841 census born in the right time-frame, James Philippe, a clerk, in North Leith in a household with many other people, in Bridge street, with also a Janet Philippe and Isabella Philippe, aged 11 and 8. There is also marriage of a James Phillips to Mary McNicol in South Leith on 19 September 1826, again at the right time to be parents of Janet and Isabella.

Parents and siblings of Robert Philp the grocer are discussed in the next page of this section.

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