Stephen and Mary Williamson

Leicester Cathedral was not the only place to have a significant re-interment on the 26th March 2015.  Harry D Watson has contributed this article on the desecration of the grave of Stephen and Mary Williamson.

Sometime at the beginning of this month (March 2015), the grave of farmer and shipowner Stephen Williamson and his wife Mary Grieve in Kilrenny churchyard was dug up and bones were scattered on the ground.

Reports of the desecration were carried in the Scotsman and the Courier. Fife CID appealed for details of living relatives of this couple who could be contacted. As a keen amateur genealogist and a native of Kilrenny parish, I knew that descendants of that family were scattered all over the world, but I managed to make contact with an American descendant whom I met when he visited Scotland in 2007.

Luckily he hadn’t changed his email address. He soon put together a group email list of about 40 cousins, near and distant, and informed them of what had happened. At least one of these people has since visited Kilrenny and liaised with the police and the Rev. Arthur Christie. A small ceremony is to take place on March 26 to reinter the bones which were disturbed, and the beautiful carved headstone will be re-erected on a new base. A plaque will be attached to the coffin with the following dedication (there was some dubiety about the spelling of Mary’s maiden name, and the conclusion was, ‘when in doubt, leave it out’) –

Here lie the partial remains of Mary, wife of Stephen Williamson, first laid to rest in this place in 1828 but disturbed by vandals in March 2015. They were buried again with Christian blessing by representatives of the fifth, sixth and seventh generations of her descendants on March 26th 2015. May her soul rest in peace.

Stephen Williamson and Mary Grieve had some distinguished descendants, including their grandson Stephen Williamson M.P., co-founder of the Balfour Williamson shipping line in Liverpool, and his brother John Williamson, deputy chairman of Cunard. Present-day descendants include the 4th Baron Forres of Glenogil, in Australia, and there have been academics and a major-general in the family-tree.

Burgh Collection Mini Exhibition helps open the Murray Studios

2014: Murray Studios Opened
2014: Murray Studios Opened

In March 2014, the Provost of Fife, Jim Leishman, opened the new craft and industry units in the Murray Library, Anstruther. This was the culmination of several years of hard work by the Trustees of the Murray Library, a registered charity. To mark the opening, the Burgh Collection mounted an exhibition in the public display area of the Murray Studios detailing the history of the Murray Library, which was built using an endowment of £4000 in 1908 from the estate of David Murray. A native of Anstruther, Mr Murray had emigrated to Australia, where he built up the largest trading company in the country. The foundation stone was laid with full Masonic ceremony, before a large crowd, in April 1908, and the library opened in December that year, a remarkable feat by any standards, to be followed by the Snooker Hall. None of the books to be stocked, it was stated at the opening, “would bring a blush to any cheek”, which may have come as a disappointment to many. It was a sign, however, of the faith in the power of education and self-improvement which was behind the original intention to provide a recreational and educational facility for the town. It was principally aimed, it must be said, at the many young fishermen of the town, who otherwise resorted to the pubs for their entertainment. In its day, the Snooker Hall, which was extended in 1924, was highly popular and very well used.

1908: Murray Library Studios Foundations Laid
1908: Murray Library Studios Foundations Laid

The Burgh Collection exhibition featured invoices detailing the cost of the building itself – £1600 – and quotations for the furnishings and fittings, as well as artefacts including a penny door lock from the original gentlemen’s toilets, and brochures and snooker table fabric samples from the old snooker room, which had become uneconomical many years before it was finally obliged to close. (In fact, the minutes of the Trustees for 1931 show that even then the snooker hall was a drain on the resources of the trust.) In its space, following several years of hard work by the voluntary trustees, the new Murray Studios were created, which now house several small local businesses. The exhibition was open to the public in the week following the opening of the studios, and will be stored intact in the meantime.