The sons of William and Penelope Meikleham

The previous post described the second marriage of Penelope Young (daughter of Penelope Thomson by her second marriage to West India merchant John Young) to William Meikleham, Clerk to the Senate of Glasgow University, and later bankrupt and fugitive from justice. Penelope and William had two children together, before the latter fled to the United States to escape his debtors. William Meikleham junior was born in 1845 and his brother John Young Meikleham in 1846. At the time of the 1861 census, William, 15 and John, 14, were living with their mother and her daughter Joan, 25, from her first marriage to John Thomson, in Duncan Street, Edinburgh.

I’ve been unable to find the family in the 1871 census, but we know that Penelope died in October 1874 at Kilmun, Argyll, which suggests that they might have resident there before that date. In searching for information about William and John after that date, I’ve had only patchy success, though what I’ve discovered has added to my understanding of the complex inter-relationships between the different branches of this Glasgow family.

The 1881 census record for Edinburgh mentions a William Meikleham, born in Glasgow, living with his aunt, Alice Meikleham, 74, as well as a cook, nurse and nursemaid, at 5 Buccleuch Place. If Alice can be allowed as an alternative for Alison, then the details match those of William Meikleham senior’s younger sister, born in 1806 (he had two other siblings: Esther Alison, born in 1800, and David Scott, born in 1804). The census describes William junior, though still only 35, as a ‘retired sugar broker’.

Hampstead in 1881, a painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw

I’ve found no other definite records for William, but I’ve been more successful with his younger brother John. My first discovery was a census record for 1901, when John Y. Meikleham, a commission agent living on his own means and born in Scotland, can be found at 37 Upper Park Road, Hampstead, London. To begin with, my search was hampered by Ancestry’s characteristically wayward transcriptions: John’s name was rendered as ‘John T. Mukleham’ and his wife Janet’s as ‘Grant S.’, despite it being obvious that she was his wife and therefore female. However, those middle initials would help me to find details of their marriage and Janet’s background further down the line.

The 1901 record also includes five Meikleham children: William, 26, a clerk in a shipping house; Penelope E., 24, Barbara I., 18, David L., 13, and Marion G., 10.  Their places of birth provide clues to the family’s movements: William was born in Scotland, Barbara in London, and Penelope, David and Marion in Manchester. From the records of their births I discovered that Penelope’s middle name was Esther, Barbara’s was Isabel, David’s Lang and Marion’s Graham. The last two suggested a close tie with the Lang family of Glasgow, but at this stage I put this down to Archibald Graham Lang and Jean Robb being John Young Meikleham’s uncle and aunt. Penelope’s first name was obviously given in honour of her grandmother, Penelope (Young) Meikleham, and (as mentioned above) Esther was the name of one of William’s Meikleham aunts.

Unfortunately, knowing the names of John and Janet’s children didn’t help me to find any earlier census records for the family. Perhaps they were hiding behind other failed attempts by transcribers to come to terms with the name Meikleham? Initially, the only record I found before 1901 was for Penelope in 1881, when she was 4, and a visitor in the home of cashier Gervase Etchells and his family at Bury New Road, Broughton, Lancashire. With her was two-year-old London-born ‘A.M.Meikleham’,  obviously a younger sister not mentioned in the 1901 record.

A village in Java during the colonial era (via

A search at Ancestry for an A.M.Meikleham, born in 1879, threw up a record in the 1891 census for Alice M. Meikleham, 12, at 6 Belford Terrace, Edinburgh, the home of widow Margaret Laing and her daughter Marion G. Laing. With Alice are Penelope E. Meikleham, 14, and Margaret M. Meikleham, 15 – the latter evidently yet another sister, since all three are described as granddaughters of Margaret Laing. Margaret Meikleham’s birthplace – Batavia, Java – may explain why I’ve been unable to find the Meiklehams in earlier census records. John Young Meikleham’s work as a commission agent appears to have taken him and his family abroad at some stage.

As to the nature of the link between the Meiklehams and the Langs (or Laings), this is resolved by identifying the maiden name of John Young’s wife Janet. The first letter of her middle name enables us to identify her as Janet Snell Lang, born in 1850, the daughter of Glasgow (law) writer James Leitch Lang and his wife Margaret Morrison. In other words, the Margaret La(i)ng looking after the Meikleham girls in Edinburgh in 1891 was their mother’s mother, while Marion Laing was her sister.

Janet’s father, James Leitch Lang, was the youngest son of David Lang and Marion Graham. Their eldest son – Janet Snell Lang’s uncle – was Glasgow merchant Archibald Graham Lang, who married Jean Robb, daughter of George Robb and Penelope Thomson. So Janet’s husband, John Young Meikleham, was also her cousin. Incidentally, the middle name ‘Leitch’ in Janet’s father’s name is intriguing. I’m almost certain that a Marion Leitch was the second wife of John Thomson, the father of Penelope Thomson, so the links between the Langs and the Thomson-Young family might go back even further than I’d previously thought.

John Young Meikleham died at the age of 62 on Christmas Day 1908. At the time of his death he was still living at the address in Hampstead given in the 1901 census. The administration of his will was the responsibility of William Meikleham, agent. At first I thought this might be his brother, but now I believe it’s more likely to have been his eldest son. This is partly because a William Meikleham of 32 Queen Mary Avenue, Crosshill, Glasgow had died in the previous year, on 20th February 1907. If this is John’s brother, then he would also have been 62 at the time of his death.

Ventnor, Isle of Wight, in the Victorian era

John Young Meikleham’s daughter Penelope, who lived at 75 Parliament Hill Mansions, Gospel Oak, Middlesex, died a year after her father, on 8th September 1909. She was 32 years old. Her will was administered by William Meikleham, manufacturer’s agent: once again, this was almost certainly her older brother. Penelope died at ‘the Solent Ventnor Isle of Wight’. I think her mother, and perhaps some of her siblings, must have moved there after John Young Meikleham’s death, since Janet Snell Meikleham would herself die in 1934, aged 83, at ‘Worsley’, Belgrave Road, Ventnor.

As for the other Meikleham children, I’ve yet to explore what became of all of them. However, I know that Margaret M. Meikleham died, presumably unmarried, on the Isle of Wight in 1951: she was 78. And David Lang Meikleham was killed in action in August 1917, while serving in France as a Lance Corporal with the First Field Company of the Royal Engineeers. He was 30 years old, also resident at Ventnor, and he left a widow, Janet Mill Meikleham.

Of the other children of John Young and Janet Snell Meikleham, I know that Barbara married schoolmaster William Francis Vereker Bindon in Hendon in 1914, and Marion married civil servant Harold Mattingley in Golders Green in 1915. On the latter’s marriage record, her father John’s occupation is given as ‘Indian merchant’, confirming my suspicion that he was involved in trade with the far-flung regions of the British Empire.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s