“The Last O’ The Lot An The Best O’ The Bargin.”
Named after his mother Sarah MacMillan, Archibald MacMillan Murdoch was my 2nd great grand uncle. Archie was born on 3 Aug 1866 in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, and baptized in the Ballymoney First Presbyterian Church, a church that my family continue to be affiliated with. He was the youngest of seven children, comprised of four males and three females, born to John Murdoch and Sarah MacMillan. His oldest brother William was my 2nd great grandfather. Records indicate the probability that he had a twin named Arabella. However, other than a Baptismal Certificate, records for Arabella are proving difficult to find. This might suggest that she died at a very young age.
At some point in time, a date that I still need to confirm, Archie had moved to Scotland. I discovered him living in Dennyloanhead, Haggs, Stirlingshire, Scotland after finding his marriage record. On 30 June 1893, “After Banns according to form of the Church of Scotland”, and in the presence of Christopher Cardner and Joan M. Thomson, Archibald MacMillan Murdoch, of Dennyloanhead, was married to Lillias Johnston McArthur of Parkfoot, Haggs; by Rev. Alexander Robertson, Minister of Haggs. Sadly, both John and Sarah were deceased at the time of their sons marriage. The record does reveal that John was a “Dyer Journeyman”. Lillias was the daughter of William McArthur, a spade maker journeyman, and Margaret Clark Walker. The “Piper” was working as a furnace man in a foundry in Haggs.
As described in a 1921 publication “Dennyloanhead, as the name implies, means the head of the loan from Denny, and a finger-post erected there informs us that it is 294 miles from John l’ Groats”.
The 1901 census finds Archie and Lillias living on Bonnybridge Road in Denny and their little family had grown. Sarah, their eldest, was born in 1897 and John in 1898. Lillias remained at home to raise their children while Archie was a Pithead Worker . I’m sure this entailed working hard and long hours for little money. “The Scottish Board of Trade Census of Wages conducted in 1886 records that pithead runners earned an average weekly wage of 19s 3d. The report states that these men generally worked from 54 to 57 hours per week, exclusive of meal times.”
In 1911 the family was residing at 59 Craigmount Drive, Mary Hill, Glasgow. The 1911 census information would suggest that the family moved to Glasgow after 1902 and the birth of their third child Lillias who was born in Dennyloanhead in 1902. The census also reveals that four children were born to Archie and Lillias – while only three survived. The birth years of the other children might suggest the baby who didn’t survive was born about 1900 – another Twisted Limb to follow.
Another nugget of information was revealed and proved earlier stories I had heard from other family members… Archie was a self proclaimed musician! The census showed that Archie was no longer working in any kind of capacity as a labourer, but was a musician on his “own account”!
This is where things became even more interesting for me… I discovered a document entitled “Then and Now” which was delivered as a lecture at a Meeting of the Dennyloanhead Church Guild, held in the Muirhead Memorial Hall, on the Evening of October 19, 1921 by Rev. David Keir, M.A., of the United Free Church, Dennyloanhead. Upon perusing the document I discovered none other than The Piper, Archibald MacMillan Murdoch!
…”Among the new tenants who entered into them after they were renovated was a man who was an enthusiastic piper, Mr. Archibald Murdoch. Archie and I were good friends, although for a reason different from that given by a caddie who claimed acquaintanceship with Mr. Arthur J. Balfour, the distinguished statesman. This caddie, on being asked by a golfer what he meant by being acquainted with Mr. Balfour, replied, “Just this; I’m wearing a pair of Mr. Balfour’s troosers.” While Archie and I were acquaintances and friends, our bonds of friendship were not formed in any way such as that; for he could not wear either my hat, or coat, or “troosers,” and I could not wear his kilt. A good many years ago he removed with his wife and family to Glasgow. Archie was a rhymester as well as a piper, and some time after his removal to the city, I received from him a picture postcard, with the following verses beautifully written and embellished with hand-painted representations of the shamrock: –
I hope that the Glesca’ fouk will keep reachin’ their coppers and silver into Archie’s pockets in return for his stirring music.”
On 18 July 1933 Archie sent a postcard from Glasgow to, his nephew and my great grandfather, Thomas Murdock of Union Street, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. The note Archie wrote to “Tommie” was signed as follows: “I remain Tommie, your loving uncle. Piper Archibald MacMillan Murdoch The Last O’ The Lot An The Best O’ The Bargin”
On 28 Jan 1944 at the Oakbank Hospital and in the presence of his daughter Sarah, The Piper passed away – nine years after the death of his wife Lillias.
“Hoy Tommie. Hoo dae I look at sixty seven, I’m thinkin’ actually fit, An’ if I’m no on the road Tae Heaven LORD HELP THE HALF O’ THE RODDIN FIT”
I dare say my 2nd great grand uncle Piper Archibald MacMillan Murdoch, not only looked great in a kilt, but was quite a character… another ancestor I would have loved to meet!
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