Friday, January 27, 2012

Remembering my Grandmother, Helen Rowan, on her Birthday

On January 27, 1894, my grandmother, Helen McMillan, was born at 81 Roxburgh Street, Greenock, Scotland.  Her parents were Robert Sheddon McMillan of Greenock and Jane (Jean) Blackburn, formerly of Loch Winnoch, Scotland.  I am very much enjoying looking into the family genealogy.
Here is a picture of my grandmother at about age 12:
Helen McMillan

Robert and Jane had six children: 

1. Jean McMillan, born in 1882, who married William McLay.  They have descendants living in Victoria, Canada;
2.  Anne Sheddon McMillan who married Henry Currie in 1908.  She died in Victoria about 1946.
3.  Margaret McMillan who died at the age of 10.
4. Thomas McMillan born in 1889, who died in Victoria in 1961 with no descendants.
5.  Elizabeth McMillan, born in 1892, who married Robert Sharp, and died in North Vancouver, BC; and
6.  Helen McMillan (my grandmother), who died in Victoria, Canada on January 15, 1988.    Helen immigrated to Canada in 1912 and married Robert Spiers Rowan in Victoria, BC. in 1913.  Her descendants live in Vancouver, Victoria, Vancouver Island, Calgary, and Prince Edward Island.

I am fortunate to have a collection of old postcards of Greenock, Scotland, which my grandmother may have brought with her to Canada.  The scenes look quite old and give an impression of what the area looked like when she lived there as a child.

Here are a few:

West End, Greenock

On the Cut, Greenock

The Cut from Loch Thom, Greenock

Lady Alice Park, Greenock

Grosvenor Bowling Greens, Greenock

Unfortunately, there is very little information about my grandmother's life prior to immigrating to Canada in 1912.  However, I do have a hard cover book called "The Blessedness of Irene Farquhar" by Eglanton Thorne, which was awarded to "Nellie McMillan" as the First Prize in the Scripture Knowledge Examination in December, 1904 (she would have been 10) by the Free West Church of Greenock:

The above drawing of the Free West Church  of Greenock was taken from the Archseek website

I searched the author, Eglanton Thorne, and discovered this name was a pseudonym for Elizabeth Emily Charlton.  There are no biographical details available for her.  She wrote over 50 children's stories, with an inspirational Christian, romantic theme.  Her books are out of print, of course, but available free online (eg Google books).

So there is still lots to discover through my genealogy searches.


  1. Hi Donna, I came across your blog as I am currently a member of Lady Alice Bowling club in Greenock and doing some research as it is our centenery in 2015. Was the postcard sent to your Gran from Greenock to Canada or did she take them with her as I think the bowlhouse was not built until 1915. I know Roxburgh street very well and some McMillans in Greenock if I can be of any help to you dont hesitate to contact me.

    1. Hi Jim:

      Thank you very much for writing; I appreciate it. Regarding the postcard, I found it among my aunt’s possessions after she died, with items she had from my grandmother, Helen Rowan nee McMillan. I had assumed that my grandmother and her mother Jean McMillan (nee Blackburn) brought them to Canada when they immigrated to Canada from Greenoch in 1912 but I have no evidence to back that up.

      Thanks for your offer to help. I will look up some of the earlier family history re the McMillan family and email you again with questions I may have. I have very little information about the McMillan ancestors from Greenoch.

      Have fun planning the centenary celebration. I hope to be in Scotland next July.

  2. Hi Donna, Regarding the postcard. My research tells me that the bowlhouse was not finished until 1915. Is there a message on the card or is it blank? This is an extract I took from the Greenock telegraph from the 18th of July 1915...

    Provisional arrangements had been made for the opening of the new bowling greens on the Lady Alice Park on the 20th (July 1915) but it has been found that the bowlhouse can not be completed by that date, and a postponement is necessary.

    When I found the first compition date an interesting name cropped up as the Lord Provost of Greenock...!

    Greenock Telegraph 19th August 1915
    Lady Alice Bowling Green.
    First Competition.
    An interesting wapenshaw game took place on above green last night, six rinks in all taking part. The winners---Messers D Morrison, W McEwan, M. Smith and J. Holmes---were the recipients of walking sticks presented by some of the corporation members. Among the many who were interested in the proceedings Provost McMillan. Bailie Carmichael, Councillors Adam, McCallum, Robinson and Stevenson. The prizes being presented by the parks Gonvernor (Baile Carmichael). The members adjourned to the bowlhouse and formed themselves into a club. (The Lady Alice Bowling Club). A committee was formed, with councillor McCallum as president and Councillor Robinson as vice-president. Already there is 100 ticket holders on the greens, and everything augurs well for the promotion of a most successful club.

    If you end up in Greenock next July be sure to get in contact. I'll be happy to help you with anything you need for your ancestry checks and I'd love to see the post cards....!

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  3. Hi Donna,

    I seen this article and thought of you...! May be of some interest.