The Gilles burgesses of Linlithgow: John Gilles

Evidence from the marriages of Eupham Gilles

Eupham Gilles who married Robert McCulloch in 1744 was a daughter of John Gilles, currier in Linlithgow, and his wife Agnes Thomson. This family is much better attested than are the McCullochs, forming part of the fabric of Linlithgow’s society for several generations. Later, the name became more usually spelled as ‘Gillies’, but earlier spellings were the usual Gilles and sometimes Gilleis (with other variants).

Eupham’s first marriage was on 3rd June 1739 with William Thomson, tenant at Kettlestone Mill, with whom she had two children, William (1740) and Janet (1742). (She would have another seven with Robert McCulloch, including the twins William and Robert, as previously outlined.)

The marriage record with William Thomson reads:

William Thomson Tenant in Kettleston miln & Eupham Gilles Daughter to the deceast John Gilles Currier in Linlithgow  John Douglas Tenant in Ecclesmachan Cau[tione]r for the said William & Thomas Wardrop weaver in Linlithgow cau[tione]r for the said Eupham in Com[mun]i Forma

William Thomson was therefore either milling or farming, as a tenant, at Kettlestone Mill. Eupham, however, was from the burgh of Linlithgow. Her mother died in 1749, and there was a payment of £3 for the use of the second mortcloth. There were many Thomsons in and around Linlithgow parish, and the William Thomson who was married to Eupham may or may not have been related to Eupham's mother, Agnes Thomson. At the time of Eupham’s marriage, another William Thomson was having children with Dorothea Heart baptised in the parish (from 1733 to 1749), and shortly before there had been the family of a William Thomson and Agnes Douglas (with baptisms from 1726 to 1738).

There is a death record for a William Thomson, on 25th April 1743, and this is likely to be the William who was at Kettlestone Mill, as Eupham’s second marriage was in May 1844. It is also likely that the infant William, baptised in 1740, did not long survive as there is a burial of a William, child of William Thomson in April 1741. 

The second marriage record for Eupham Gilles clearly identifies her as widow of William Thomson, and the first marriage record names her father, John Gilles, currier, who had died before her marriage in 1739. 

John Gilles, father of Eupham, and Agnes Thomson

A currier was a leatherworker, who would receive leather already tanned, and dress it further before passing it to the shoemakers (or others such as saddlers) for whom Linlithgow was famous. The marriage, or more accurately the ‘booking’, of John Gilles and Agnes Thomson was recorded in Linlithgow, and Eupham and her twin Margaret were their fourth and fifth-born children. The record from 19th October 1707 reads:

John Gilles son to William Gilles Currier Burges in this Burgh and Agnes Thomson daughter to umq[uhi]le William Thomson Indweller therein Both in this paroch The said William Gilles Cau[tione]r for both parties In community forma.

The children of this couple were:

  • Alexander and Susanna (twins) 12 September baptised 19 September 1708
  • Christian 22 Jan, baptised 28 Jan 1711
  • Eupham and Margaret (twins) 8 November 1813 baptised the same day
  • Janet, 1716 baptised 14th April 1716
  • William 1717 baptised 23 Sept 1717
  • John 28 Oct 1719 baptised 8th Nov 1719
  • James 23 Aprl 1722 baptised 6th May 1722.

Baptism witnesses for this family (in those records that I’ve seen, about half of them) included 'William Gilles', likely in the first ones to be the Currier burgess in the marriage record, father of John. The final record, for James in 1722, also has a William Gilles as witness, and this may be more likely to be John’s younger brother William. However I’ve now gone beyond the McCulloch line shown in the chart of the ancestors of Marion Fisher, and so it’s time for a specific Gilles chart. This shows the ancestry of Eupham Gilles - and you’ll see it’s incomplete as we’re running out of records, with Linlithgow records starting only from 1613. There is however other evidence, and that will be considered in a later page on the earlier burgesses of Linlithgow.


John Gilles features in a testament dative from 1717, where he is Executor Dative for Margaret Lithgow, the mother of Agnes Thomson. This document is interesting on several grounds. It shows that John, the son-in-law of the deceased Margaret Lithgow, has become executor on grounds of also being her creditor, replacing her ’nearest of kin’ who would be her son James, brother of Agnes. Here is a part of my transcription of the testament dative:

John Gilles Currier in Linlithgow only Exe[cuto]r Dative
Decerned as creditor to the s[ai]d Defunct In Swae farr as upon 
the third day of Augast JajvijC and seventeen years the s[ai]d 
John Gilles obtained Dec[rei]t Cognitionis causa before the 
Commissaries of Edin[burgh] at his Instance against James Thomson 
Dragoun in Carpenters regiment & residenter in Linlithgow 
Son and nearest in kin to the defunct. By the which decreet
the Saids Commissaries Fand & Declared the Sum of xxxv lib~
xvj s~ ij d~ Scots money to be ane just True and law[fu]ll debt addebted
and Resting owing by the said umq[uhi]le Margaret Lithgow
to the said John Gilles and that he was the s[ai]d Defunct her law[fu]ll
Creditor therefore and had Interest in her heretable & moveable
means & estate for pay[men]t throf ...

A translation/summary may be needed by readers: John Gilles, Currier in Linlithgow, has requested and obtained a decreet (legal decree) that as chief creditor to Margaret Lithgow, he should act as her executor, with an interest in her heritable and moveable property, supplanting James Thomson, who is a soldier in Carpenter’s regiment of Dragoons.
The inventar (not shown here, contact me for details) from the TD is interesting, giving an insight into the ‘plenishings’ of what would be later seen as a lower middle-class household of a widow - including beds, sheets, gowns, ‘plait and stoup’, blankets and bolsters -  and the cautioner named was James Forsyth, tanner burgess of Edinburgh.

John Gilles, therefore, is well attested as a Currier in Linlithgow, and his connection with Marion Lithgow, through his wife Agnes Thomson, also shown. So now we turn to his own parentage. (More on Agnes Thomson and Marion Lithgow her mother to follow in later pages.) We know that his father was William Gilles, currier burgess, who became cautioner for both parties on the marriage of John with Agnes Thomson. So, on to William:

The antecedents of John Gilles, currier in Linlithgow, and his family

Summarising the above: John Gilles, currier in Linlithgow, the great-great-great-grandfather of my great-grandmother Marion Fisher, was baptised in Linlithgow in 1681, married there to Agnes Thomsone in 1708, and in 1717 drew up the inventory after the death of his mother-in-law, for whom he was executor dative. It is from his documents that we have information about his parents and those of his wife. Here we'll deal with John’s parents William Gilles and Margaret Jarden, with some material on his siblings.

William Gilles is identified in John’s marriage record as currier burgess of Linlithgow. He and Margaret Jarden had many children, but alas most did not survive childhood. There are a stream of burial records saying only ‘From Wm Gilles for his chyld’ with the amount - £1 Scots - showing that this was an account for the small mortcloth for a young child. The names William and Margaret were each given to several children. Two who survived, however, were the second-born child, George, and rather later John. Others may have, including Jonet, Bessy and Alexander, and later one of the Margarets and the last-born, William, though this is less certain.

John Gilles was born in 1681. The baptism record reads,

Aprile 30 William Gilles and Marg[are]t Jarden had a child Named John Baptized Witnesses thrto were James Russell Mongow Moffat Robert Alex[ande]r.

The first child in this family was named, not surprisingly, William. But he would not live to know John. The baptism information from 18th October 1668, following another entry for that date, reads:

Siclike William Gilles yor [younger] and Margaret Jarden had a child Named William Baptized Witnesses thereto were George Jarden pyper and Wm Gilles

The witnesses are most likely to be the fathers of the couple. William Gilles (who will be referred to in other pages as Wm3) was by this time a burgess of Linlithgow, the William Gilleis, son of William Gilleis, burgess, who was a witness to the 1648 testament of John Gilleis, maltman burgess of Linlithgow (to be discussed in a forthcoming page). George Jarden is interesting. I have not found information on the town pipers of Linlithgow, but George may have occupied this role. He is a witness also to the baptism of the second child, George, the record from 1669 intriguingly stating:

November twenty and eight William Gilless and Margaret Jarden had a Child Named George Baptized Witnes theirto were George Jarden pyper William Gilless Eld[e]r & Wm Gilless yo[unge]r

Which leads to the question of who were the William Gilleses elder and younger. This child’s father was William. It seems - this will be outlined in a page in development - that the grandfather was also Willliam, and the great-grandfather was yet another William. The grandfather, William Gillis (Wm3) who was married to Rinny Muir, was born before the start of the first extant Linlithgow baptism register, that is, before 1613. He might be around 56 to early 60s. But the great-grandfather (Wm2), likely to be born around the 1580s or early 90s, would be at least in his 70s, even 80s or 90s. It is possible that he was still alive, but maybe less likely that he would be a baptism witness. But not impossible. (There are other possibilities, though - the ‘younger’ may have been a cousin...)

The list of children of William Gilles and Margrat Jarden is saddening:

  • William, 1668-1670 - baptism witnesses ‘George Jarden pyper & Wm Gilles’
  • George 1669 - witnesses ‘George Jarden pyper William Gilless Eldr & Wm Gilless yor’
  • Jonet 1671 - witnesses ‘William Gilles Nicoll Gardner Geo[rge] Polok
  • Margaret 1673 - ‘John Polok Patrik Backnay and Andrew duncane’
  • Margaret 1674  -  ‘William Inglis William Gilles Mungow Moffat’
  • Bessy 1677 - 'James Russell William Ingles Mungow Moffat’
  • Margaret 1678
  • William 1679   - ‘William Inglis Mungow Moffet and James Russell'
  • Alexander 1680
  • John 1681 - ‘James Russell Mongow Moffat Robert Alexander’
  • William 1682 - ‘John Pollock the y[ounge]r John Balderstone & Wm Ingles’

There is a mortcloth entry for a child of William Gilles from 1670, and another from 1679.

 Mungo Moffat appears to be important to this family, and it would be good to know more about him. Patrik Backney is a name worth noting, and connects with a previous generation, as will be shown.

(It’s worth noting at this point that also in 1682 there was the birth of a child Agnes to Robert Alexander and Margaret Gilles, with witnesses Wm Gilles, George Gilles and Mongo Moffat - clearly closely connected. This couple had children from 1667 until Agnes, their last.)

John’s mother, Margaret Jarden, did not long survive the births of her later children. There is a burial record for her in March 1685, as ‘Martt Jerdan spous to Wm Gilles’, with a best velvet mortcloth costing £4 Scots. The burial records for Linlithgow start from 1652, but these are mortcloth records and may not be complete, particularly if a gild had its own mortcloth. There is one for a Wm Gilles, 13th December 1679, for £5 for the best velvet mortcloth (for an older William), but all others indexed as for William appear to be those of children.

This is where the story of the William Gilleses of Linlithgow gets complicated, with several generations of Williams, and a confusing array of marriages and children: so, time for another page…So on to the William Gilleses, burgesses of Linlithgow


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