In Print

The Corsie Family

Written in January 1980



Born on November 25th 1906, Leonard Corsie was the son of Malcolm Corsie, Brendale,  [1858-1927] and Agnes Kidd, South Queensferry, [1860-1958]. His father Malcolm’s parents were William Corsie, Nears, later Brendale [1830 -1917] and Ann Leonard, Digro [1833 -1924].

[The following information was assembled by Leonard Corsie of Canada on visits to Orkney in 1970 and 1972 and thereafter with assistance from his cousin Janet Cameron of London. The documents  and all photographs [unless otherwise accredited] were amongst family memorabilia kept by the late Vicky Aitken, Dunedin, New Zealand, and were forwarded to me for use on Rousay Remembered by her daughter Paddy Rapson, of Melbourne, Australia.

Vicky’s maternal grandmother was Ann Corsie, daughter of William Corsie and Ann Leonard. Leonard Corsie’s father Malcolm was also a child of William Corsie and Ann Leonard. The document was typed up in 1980 by Janet Cameron who for many years lived in London and worked at Selfridges. She was the daughter of James, another son of William and Ann.

The NZ Connection was written by Vicky Aitken to fill in the gaps and correct errors about her grandmother Ann Corsie’s family – written at the behest of Janet Cameron.]

When I was growing up in Scotland, I was under the impression that we were an isolated group consisting of our family  and  my father’s  brothers  and  sisters  and  their  children. We were aware that there was a family named Corsie in the town of Kirkwall, Orkney, but did not consider them to be related.

There was also a family named Corsie in Aberdeenshire who were related, but we had never met any of them, except once when a Miss Corsie, a cousin of my father, visited us when we lived in Broxburn. She was a nurse and never married.

In the late 1960’s I became interested in the family history and, to my amazement, found that there are many families of the name of Corsie. There are several in the South of England and also throughout Scotland.

The family in Kirkwall is certainly related, though there is not any definite proof.

We do not know the origin of the name. The book ‘Black’s Surnames’ does not list ‘Corsie’ but does list ‘Corse’, an old surname in Rousay, from ‘Corse’ a farm in the parish of St. Ola.

Mr. J. Storer Clouston in his book “The People and Surnames of Orkney” mentions the Corsies of Rousay as an example of a territorial name, and this would suggest that the name was originally Corse. There are people living in Orkney named Corse and in Edinburgh at one time, perhaps even today, there were people named Corse living in Rousay. The Rousay parish records start in 1733 with a blank period between 1746 and 1798. The earliest record of the name I have is a Will made in 1632 by an Edward Corsie. It is unreadable, being hand-written in a mixture of Latin and Old Norse. I have extracts from the parish records 1734 to 1744 listing many births and also 1807 to 1813 listing many marriages.

The first record of my particular family is of my Great-Great Grandfather, Hugh Corsie. He was born in 1770 and married Christina Sinclair in 1797. There is no record of his death, and no record whatever or Christina Sinclair’s death – or birth.

Hugh Corsie and Christina Sinclair had two sons, one of which there is on record John born Nov. 11th 1880 [78]. There is no further record of him of which I am aware. Malcolm, the other son, was my Great-Grandfather and was born 17th November 1798.

MALCOLM CORSIE 1798 – 1878

Malcolm Corsie was born 17th Nov. 1798, married lsabella Louttit 7th Dec., 1827. He was 29 – she was 30. In the 1851 census he is listed as the tenant of the farm of Nears (Nearhouse) Rousay, 52 years old. Isabella, his wife, 53 – son John, 22, employed on the farm; son, William, 20, tailor; son James 18 employed on the farm. Daughter Isabella, 16, employed at home, and son George, 12, scholar. I do not know how long he had been at Nears before 1851 but I think he must have been there since they married in 1827. He died at Nears 18th January 1878 and he was 79. His widow Isabella died 17th March 1888, aged 90, also at Nears. Her death was registered by John Robertson, her son-in-law. In the 1881 census John Robertson was listed as farm manager at Nears. Then in 1891 census John Robertson is listed as farmer at Banks. Apparently John Robertson had managed the farm of Nears from Malcolm’s death until lsabella died.

Malcolm spent many years with the Dundee whalers, which meant that he was away from home every year from early Spring until late fall, while Isabella managed the farm. He must have been a fairly successful man, as he was worth, in Bank Deposits, farm stock, implements and household effects, over £500, which in 1878 was quite a respectable sum of money. He must have been a man of strong character and his descendants still refer to him as if he had died ten years ago, instead of a hundred. When Malcolm was away, Isabella had many of her grandchildren at Nears and practically raised them, my father included.

My father told me of once when a pack of gypsies had come around the farm – they were common at that time. They must have thought that Isabella was alone, as they had tried to intimidate her and had actually laid their hands on her just as Malcolm had come around one of the buildings. Malcolm took a whip and beat them up. On occasions, sailing ships would seek shelter between the islands and would signal for a pilot. As many men as could would try to get the job, but, while they were bargaining with the master, Malcolm would board the ship, start giving orders and settle with the Master after  the  ship  had  anchored. I wonder what his neighbours thought of him and his high-handed ways?

The landowner in Malcolm’s day was a retired army General, a General Burroughs of Indian Mutiny fame, and from all accounts a most exacting landlord. The writer, Edwin Muir, in his auto-biography published in 1954 claims that the General’s exactions drove his father off the farm on the Island of Wyre of which he was tenant. My father once told me that once General Burroughs met Malcolm on the road which circles the Island of Rousay, and apparently not for the first time, brought up the subject of Malcolm buying the farm of Nears, saying that he believed that Mr. Corsie was a rich man. Malcolm replied that indeed he was a rich man – he had four sons and a daughter.

Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit had four sons, John, William, James Sinclair and George William Traill, one daughter Isabella.

JOHN CORSIE 1829 – 1913

Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit’s oldest son John married Elizabeth Martin on September 6th 1861 in Aberdeen. She was a daughter of William Martin, Grain Merchants’ Agent, and at that time was farming in the parish of Cleat on the island of Westray. Between 1863 and 1866 John Corsie and his wife moved to Millbrex in Aberdeenshire, and in the census reports or 1871, 1881 and 1891 he is listed as a school teacher, and, for each of these census takings he was acting as the Registrar. There were four daughters and one son of this marriage. Elizabeth, born in Westray 1863 married in 1891 to a William Rae, a Congregational Minister. She married a second time to a J. Strachan and there was a son Malcolm Strachan, a school teacher, who died in the 1970’s. Georgina born 1866, married James Horne, a farmer, in 1893. There were two …. [the rest of this paragraph is missing].

John Corsie’s wife died of cancer on 10th June 1888 aged 53. John died August 26th 1913 at Peterhead. He was 84 and living with his son Malcolm who  was  a  marine  engineer. He had spent several years at sea and then became the owner of a small shipyard at Peterhead. I am not sure but I imagine the scope of the work would be limited to small trawlers, drifters and such like craft. He operated this yard until he retired, and died on 17th July 1949 at the home of his daughter Mrs Robert Smith, 82 years.

Malcolm married Margaret Alexander and there were four daughters Elizabeth (Mrs E. Ramsay), Agnes (Mrs. J. Harper), Christina (Mrs. Robert Smith), and Margaret (Mrs. A. Steel). There are eight grand-children and eighteen great-grandchildren, none  of  whom, of course, has the surname of Corsie. Several have Corsie as a second given name. A son of Christina is a marine engineer and is at sea. I have met him. He is also called Malcolm – Malcolm Corsie Smith. I also met his parents. Another son of Christina is a Government Official in Rhodesia. Margaret, Mrs. Steel, has a son Colin who is a Professor at Brandie University, Boston, Mass., U.S.A.

WILLIAM CORSIE 1830 – 1917

The second son of Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit, was my grandfather William, born at Nears 24th August 1830. He was trained in Kirkwall as a tailor and did work as such for a while in Rousay. I have a tailor’s thimble which belonged to him. He married Ann Smeaton Leonard, a daughter of Peter Leonard and Isabella McKinlay, at Digro, Rousay on February 18th 1853. I am named after her. My cousin, Janet (Mrs. J. Cameron) remembers Grandma saying that she was known as “The Belle of Whiteha’” and indeed we all remember her as a very lovely old lady who carried herself erect to the end. I believe they went to Iive on a croft called Catholes, and most or the children were born there. It is just a short distance from the farm of Nears where his father farmed. In 1922 some of those buildings were still standing, but by 1972 there was only the outline of the foundations left. How long they lived there I do not know, but in the 1871 census they were still living there, and Fred, the tenth child was three months old.

William Corsie and his wife Ann Smeaton Leonard

In this 1871 census William is listed as a fishermen, but I suspect that this was only a part time occupation and that he also farmed and worked as a tailor on occasion. In 1881 they were still at Catholes and the census lists William as Master Tailor, and Sheriff Officer, Kirkwall Court. In 1882 their oldest son William died. According to my father, they were then on the farm of Brendale and farmed there until, I think, 1889 when they retired to Kirkwall. After retiring from active farming, he was skipper of the “Star of Bethlehem” and of “The Gleaner” both owned by a Kirkwall merchant named Robert Garden. The Gleaner, I know, was fitted as a shop purveying groceries etc. round the Islands. There is an entry in the Kirkwall Harbour Master’s records dated  22nd  July  1894  of  the “Star of Bethlehem” arriving or departing from and to the North Isles, Master Corsie. “The Star of Bethlehem” was still afloat in Kirkwall Harbour in 1972 fitted out as a pleasure craft. “The Gleaner” was built in 1884 and was rammed and sunk in the Firth of Clyde during the Second World War while employed as a Balloon ship. William was active after his retirement with the Royal Naval reserve and also the Coast Guard at North Queensferry. He and Anne Leonard celebrated their Diamond Wedding in 1913 and the account from the Kirkwall newspaper “The Orcadian” follows. William died in Kirkwall on 31st July 1917 aged 86. Anne died Oct. 3rd 1924 aged 90, in Kirkwall.

Mr and Mrs William Corsie – a newsprint photograph on the front page of The Orcadian – February 22nd 1913
[Orkney Library & Archive]

Account of Mr. & Mrs. Wm. Corsie’s Diamond Wedding – 1913

There was an interesting and interested gathering at the home of Mr. & Mrs. W. Corsie, 11 Albert Street, Kirkwall, on Monday evening. The occasion was the celebration of the aged couple’s diamond wedding – an event which the members of the family fittingly honoured.

William and Anne Corsie were married on February 10th 1853. The husband is 83 years of age as the following Certificate shows: – “March 6th 1831. William, son of Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit, Frotoft, was born 24th August 1830 and was baptised 6th March 1831 before witnesses. (Extracted from the Register of Births and Baptisms of the united parishes of Rousay end Egilshay, by George Robson, Session Clerk).

“Anne, daughter of Peter Leonard and Isobell McKinlay, Digro, Sourin, was born 23 September and baptised 8th December 1833 before witnesses”. (Extracted from the Register of Births and Baptisms in the Pariah of Rousay and Egilshay, by James Gardner Minister of Rousay and Egilshay”).

Mr. Corsie served an apprenticeship as a tailor in Kirkwall and afterwards worked at his trade on his father’s farm. He also occupied the farm of Brendale on the Rousay estate, and, on retiring in 1889, came to Kirkwall to live.

Mr. Corsie was for many years a member of the Volunteer Naval Reserve and is now the doyen of the National Reserve in Orkney. Mrs. Corsie is a sister or the late Mr. Peter Leonard, Cabinetmaker, Kirkwall, and it is of interest to note that her brother James, who acted as best man to her husband, is still alive and is resident in Oban. Mr. Corsie’s only sister, who was Mrs. Corsie’s bridesmaid, died many years ago.

Of the marriage, thirteen children were born – eight sons and five daughters, of whom six sons and all the daughters now survive. The Grandchildren number sixty-five, of whom fifty-seven are alive, and the Great-grandchildren were twenty-three, of whom eighteen survive. The table annexed gives these particulars in more detail.

MargaretSix (1 dead)Seventeen (3 dead)
MalcolmSix (3 dead)
GeorgeEleven (2 dead)
JohnThirteen (2 dead)Six (2 dead)
FrederickTen (2 dead)

lt is interesting to note that the combined ages or Mr. Corsie and the eldest of the three succeeding generations total one hundred and ninety-one years.

The company which met with Mr. and Mrs. Corsie on Monday night numbered about thirty-five, including six of their children. Malcolm the eldest, came all the way from S. Queensferry; Minnie from Edinburgh; James resident in Kirkwall, John from Rousay, Margaret from Egilshay and Annie from Evie. Of the five remaining children unable to be present, most of these were in Midlothian and one as far away as South Africa. The Rev. William Pitcairn Craig of St. Magnus Cathedral was asked to preside and opened the proceedings with prayer.

Thereafter he read Mr. and Mrs. Corsie’s marriage certificate, which is in the following terms: –

“Rousay 9th February 1853. This is to certify William Corsie in Nears and Anne Leonard in Digro nave been regularly proclaimed with a view to marriage, and no objection offered. Geo. Robson S.C.

Digro 16th February 1853. I have this day married the above parties. James Gardner, Minister of Rousay and Egilshay.”

Mr Craig heartily congratulated Mr. and Mrs. Corsie on attaining the unique distinction of celebrating their diamond wedding. Referring to the extreme rarity of such celebrations, he remarked that they were impossible without an unusual conjunction of circumstances, those of great longevity on the part of both husband and wife, and also an early marriage. After contesting an ordinary wedding and its thoughts of anticipation and prospects, with a diamond wedding and its thoughts, largely of retrospect and thanksgiving, he went on to speak of the early life of Mr. and Mrs. Corsie in their Island home, and of their joy in the reflection that of their large number of descendants, almost, he said, the population of a village, there was not one who was not a credit and a comfort to them. In this connection he recalled the old wedding wish “Long life and prosperity and may all your troubles be little ones” and said that Mr. and Mrs. Corsie had had no fewer than “thirteen little troubles” who had all however turned out “great blessings”. He concluded by speaking of the many excellent qualities of their venerable friends and by wishing them happiness and peace in the eventide of their life. On behalf of the family he then presented Mr. Corsie with a handsome purse of sovereigns to mark the interesting occasion.

Mr. Corsie replied in a speech reminiscent of his younger days and concluded by handing over the purse to ‘his better half’ who bowed her acknowledgement of the applause with which the company greeted her. Later in the evening Mr. Craig presented Lena Patton, one of the Grand-children whom Mr. and Mrs. Corsie had brought up, since the death of her father, with a Bible and Hymnary to commemorate the notable event. The company then sat down to a sumptuous supper presided over by Mr. Craig, and the remainder of the happy evening was spent in song and sentiment. Before leaving, Mr. Craig was awarded a hearty vote of thanks proposed by Mr. Hugh Robertson (son-in-law) of Egilshay.


The next child of Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit was a son, James Sinclair Corsie, born 1833. He is somewhat of a mystery. In the 1851 census he is listed as 13 years old and living at home at Nears. There is no further trace of him until his marriage on 20th November 1873 to a Mary Marwick Low aged 19 years. He was 40 years old. On February 9th 1875 he died of internal injuries and haemorrhage. His wife gave birth to a son, also named James Sinclair Corsie. Malcolm Corsie, the baby’s grandfather, in his Will dated 10th May 1878 provided Ten Pounds towards the boy’s education. In the 1891 census, the widow of James Sinclair Corsie and her son are listed as living at Lower Banks farm with her parents. There is no further record of this boy. The date of his birth was 17th August 1875. My father told me that one of his uncles had been abroad for many years, taken part in some gold rush, returned to Orkney in middle age and later had been killed by a fall on the cliffs while collecting birds’ eggs. The Gold Rush in Australia happened in 1851. In the 1881 census his widow is listed as formerly “sailor’s wife”. I feel that it is fairly certain that James either emigrated, worked his passage to Australia, or went to sea and left his ship in Australia, then spent several years there, returning in 1873 or perhaps some time before that.

A headstone in Rousay’s Westside kirkyard contains the following inscription: ‘Erected by Mary Corsie in memory of her dearly beloved husband James S Corsie who died 19 Feb 1875 aged 42 years. “A few short years of evil past: We reach the happy shore: Where death divided friends at last. Shall meet to part no more.” Also the above Mary Corsie who died 22 Dec 1925 aged 71’


The next child of Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit was a daughter, Isabella, born in 1835. She married John Robertson in 1870. They are listed as living at Nears in the 1871 census, and apparently John Robertson was working for her father, Malcolm Corsie. In the 1881 census they were still at Nears and John Robertson was listed as Farm Manager, Malcolm Corsie having died in 1878. There were four daughters, Isabella nine years old; Mary Ann 7 years, Elizabeth five years and Margaret three years old. In the 1891 census the family was resident at Banks. I have no further knowledge of the family. Isabella died on January 21st 1906. She was buried in the churchyard of the ruined Westness Church. I found the gravestone in 1972 and it was in very good condition then.


The last child of Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit was George born 1839. He is mentioned in his father’s Will which was drawn up at Kirkwall in 1878 May 14th when he would have been thirty-nine years old. At that time he was farming at Sandwick, Orkney. He died in South Ronaldshay in 1917 aged seventy-nine.

This completes the account of Malcolm Corsie, my Great-Grandfather and his family, and will now continue with my father and his brothers and sisters.


The second son of Malcolm Corsie and Isabella Louttit, he was my Grandfather. There were thirteen children – five daughters and eight sons. There were numerous descendants and I do not know them all, but will give what account I can of those I know.


Margaret was born March 23rd 1854 at Geramont [above Nears] and died probably in Egilshay in 1943. She married Hugh Smith Robertson and they farmed on the island of Egilshay at Kirkbister. There were six children – Hugh, Maggie, David, Annie, William and Lizzie. There are seventeen grand-children.

Margaret and Hugh

[Picture courtesy of Tommy Gibson]

ANN CORSIE 1855 – 1936

Ann Corsie was born on 7th September 1855 and died in 1936. She married William Mowat, one of the Mowats of Howe [on March 9th 1880 in Rousay], and lived all their married life at Woo in Evie, although Ann died in Kirkwall. There were four daughters – Mary Ann, Victoria, Eliza Jane and Jemima. Jemima married a widower named Shaw, a prosperous manufacturer in the North of England. There were several children of this marriage. One daughter lived for a time in Toronto, Canada, and a son went to New Zealand.

[Click > here < to read ‘The N.Z. Connection’
written by Vicky Aitken,
Ann Corsie’s grand-daughter

Ann Corsie with her fourth daughter Jemima
Jessie Corsie Mowat (Minnie) 1890-1977,
who married widower Edgar Shaw of
Huddersfield, Yorkshire in 1917.

Bill and Annie Mowat with their four daughters.

On the left is Jemima Jessie Corsie Mowat/Shaw (Minnie) 1890-1977 Huddersfield,
Yorkshire. Standing centre is Eliza Jane Mowat/Kirkness (known as Jean in NZ)
1883-1957 Otago, NZ, and standing to the right is Victoria Williamina Beattie
Mowat/Groat (Vicky) 1887-1921 Evie. Seated between her parents is
Mary Ann Mowat/Johnston (Nannie) 1881-1970 Evie.

WILLIAM CORSIE 1857 – 1882

William Corsie, the oldest son and third child, was born 11th March 1857 and died of pneumonia Sept. 13th 1882. He was unmarried.

[A comment on the back of the photo of William Corsie 1857-1882, reads – ‘Bill Corsie, Grannie’s brother, accident off load hay – turned TB and died’ although Leonard Corsie says of pneumonia.]

MALCOLM CORSIE 1858 – 1927

Malcolm, the fourth child and second son, was born at Catholes 31st Oct. 1858. In the census report of 1871 there is an entry as follows: – “George Scarth farmer of 92 acres, Catherine Scarth wife 54, six children and three servants, one being Malcolm Corsie, 12, cowherd.” In 1877 he and William, his elder brother, were working on neighbouring farms near Ellon, Aberdeenshire. I believe they were there since 1875 or 1876. The date 1877 is positive as my father himself told me that he and his brother were working in the fields when William had waved him over to the fence and said “not to tell anyone, but they had a baby sister.” This was Isabella (Auntie Belle) their youngest sister. The next year, father and his brother James (who was the next youngest) emigrated to Canada. Mrs. Janet Cameron of Chiswick, London, who is a daughter of James, tells me that her father was seventeen years old and my father was 19. My brother Malcolm confirmed this. It was in the spring or early summer and they went by river boat and train to Toronto, Ontario. At the St. Lawrence Market, which in 1980 is still there, they hired out the next morning to farmers from the village of Agincourt, about twelve miles North East of Toronto. Agincourt is now absorbed into metropolitan Toronto. Mrs. Cameron thinks that her father, James Corsie, was in Canada for about 13 years. At any rate, he ended up in hospital in St. Johns., Michigan, U.S.A. Father remained in Ontario working on farms, field work in the summer and land clearing in the winter months. He also worked on what would be a railroad section gang, on track work, and part at least he spent with a cousin named Mainland near Owen Sound.

Their older brother William died Sept. 1882. Their father William was then the tenant of the farm of Brendale and my father went back to the Orkneys to help him run the farm. This, I believe, was in the fall of 1882 as I know that he took the train from Toronto through Niagara Falls to New York and sailed from there. From what father told me, the ships were steamships but carried sails. Sea travel, at least by steerage (the cheapest class) must have been quite casual. Passengers supplied their own bedding, paid their fare at a dockside office and went aboard. No passports – no fuss.

When father got back to Orkney, the three youngest boys were at home – John 16, Charlie 14 and Fred 12 – also the three younger girls, Jemima 9, Jessie 6 and Isabella 5. From what I have been told, father was a hard worker himself and expected everyone else to be the same. Together they made a great many improvements to the farm of Brendale, built up the fences, drained the land etc. Today, almost a hundred years later, Brendale is still a very good farm. Whatever went wrong I don’t know, but father and grandfather did not seem to get along, and in 1884 father left the Orkneys. I would guess the whole affair was wrong and when father was an old man he told me himself that the biggest mistake he ever made was to leave Canada. All the savings he made had gone into the farm, and he had to borrow the steamer fare from Kirkwall to Leith. A younger brother, Peter Leonard, was already a member of the West Lothian Police, stationed at Linlithgow, so he walked from Leith to there a distance of 18-20 miles. Father applied and was engaged at once in the Police and took up duty as a constable 27th March 1884. He retired 37 years later as Inspector on 27th March 1921. When he arrived in Linlithgow he was wearing some sort of a cap or bonnet which he had brought from Canada and of which he was very proud. When he told Peter that he had been engaged, Peter’s remark was – “that being the case, the first thing you have to do is to get rid of that awful hat!” With that, Peter took the hat and stuffed it into the open coal fire in the office. I don’t think father ever really forgave him for that. Father had the reputation of being a good Police Officer, and was well regarded by all. Several times he had differences with the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constables. Twice he was prepared to resign – once had the position of County Clerk of Shetland arranged, but at the last minute decided to remain with the Police. Another time he and my mother were prepared to go to Canada, and that cleared up also. One time there was a row over delayed promotion to the rank of Inspector, and when the promotion was made it was only to Acting rank in 1906. After he retired, he went back to Queensferry to live. For several years father acted as Procurator Fiscal for the Burgh of Queensferry. He was active in Church affairs and was a Member of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He suffered from a heart condition and died suddenly on 27th March 1927.

Father and mother, (who was AGNES KIDD, youngest daughter of John Kidd of Dumbarton, formerly of Leuchars, Fife, where mother was born 11th Feb. 1860) were married at Dumbarton 20th June 1888. Mother died 16th Sept. 1958 in her 92nd year.

Click > here < to read newspaper articles regarding
Malcolm Corsie’s Retiral and Death

There were six children in the family. Three died as children, and three lived to old age as follows: –

William, born 1889, died 18th June 1894
Isabella, born 31st July 1890, died 13th Nov. 1976
John, born 1893, died 30th Sept. 1896
Malcolm, born 17th Dec. 1896, died 10th March 1979
Leonard, born 25th Nov. 1906
Edward, born 24th Feb. 1910, but died just 8 hours old.

William and John both died of diphtheria, which was a very common childhood disease in the days.

Isabella was a well-known Nurse in and around Edinburgh for many years. She suffered from tubercular glands; she underwent twelve or fourteen surgical operations and twice she suffered from tuberculoses of the lungs. She also had various other operations to correct problems caused by previous major operations. She never married.

Malcolm joined the Civil Service when he was fifteen, as a boy clerk, at first in the Home Office and then in the Inland Revenue. Except for service in the Amy during the first War, he was never in any other kind of work. Malcolm married Dora Webster or Ripon, Yorkshire, in 1922.

There were three children – Malcolm who only lived a few weeks. David born on 13th July 1925 married June Margaret Martin Sep. 13th 1952. They have two daughters – Linda, born Jan. 8th 1956 and Wendy born 15th Feb. 1959. David is a factory manager with the Clark Shoe Co. in Bath, England. Ian was born 4th July 1931 and married his cousin Kathleen Mary Husband, March 31st 1959. They have three daughters – Gillian born 3rd Aug. 1961, Helen born 31st Dec. 1962, and Clare born 28th Aug. 1967.


I was born 25th Nov. 1906. I went to school in Queensferry, Broxburn and Edinburgh. I was at sea for two years and then emigrated to Canada. I came back to Scotland for two years and then returned to Canada where I have lived ever since. I was Plant Superintendent of Sarnia General Hospital for twenty-two years, retiring in 1972.

JAMES CORSIE 1859 – 1932

James, the fifth child and third son of William Corsie and Anne Leonard, was born at Catholes in Rousay in 1859. He had a healthy happy childhood – helping on the farm, bird-nesting on the rocks and crags, boating, peat-cutting, harvesting etc.

In severe winter weather, when he was a small boy, he sometimes went to school with a peat tied on top of his head, for there was no coal on the island and of course no gas or electricity in those days. When each child brought a peat, both teacher and children had the benefit of a fire at least part of the day.

In 1876, when James was 17 and Malcolm 19, they left together for Canada. Malcolm stayed in Canada, returning to Orkney in 1882, but James moved West into the State of Michigan U.S.A. where he worked in a sawmill for a while. His daughter Janet recalls a story of the load of logs that crashed through the ice on the lake. James leapt to the ice, slashed the harness, grabbed the reins and managed to rescue the horse and ride him madly to safety and home!

In 1888 the family heard that James was in Hospital in St. John’s, Michigan, with rheumatic fever, and destitute. He was in Hospital there for two years and had a stiff leg for the rest of his life. His brothers were able to get him home to Orkney but he had lost his trunk, with all his belongings, while in hospital.

He was a gifted musician and in the 1891 census he is listed as a Teacher of Music and was qualified to teach, not only Practical Singing but the Theory of Music as well. He held at least seven Certificates from the Tonic-Solfa College of Music in London, England, dating from 2nd January 1889 to 29th May 1890 and was qualified to act as an Examiner. He was appointed Singing Master to Kirkwall Burgh Public School and held this post for many years. He was also Choir Master in St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney, and for some years acted as superintendent of the Sunday School there. When he left Kirkwall, in appreciation of his interest in and all that he had done for the children, he was presented with a silver-headed ebony walking-stick, suitably inscribed. This is now in the proud possession of one of his grandsons.

James was for 19½ years Honorary Agent for the Shipwrecked Mariners and Fishermen’s Society and the many nightcalls are remembered when he had to make a hasty dressing and receive a crew of wet and shivering men for whom he would have to find accommodation, food and clothing first of all and then make arrangements for their sea and rail transport to their homes – often to a foreign country. On one occasion, during the first War, he had 103 men to care for in one week-end.

In the winter months, James was always invited by a Minister of one of the Parishes in the West Mainland (Evie, Sandwick and Harray) to take Singing Classes there on Wednesdays, which was the half-day in Kirkwall when his barber shop was closed, and on special occasions for a Sunday afternoon or Evening Service, he would take two or three male singers of his Class in Kirkwall, for part-time singing, and always his daughter Janet (then about 12 years old) to sing alto. On one occasion, a Sunday he and she had been invited to sing their special duet “Lead Kindly Light” and, when he went to arrange the transport – a horse and gig from Sinclair’s, he was regretfully told that at that moment they had only one young horse not yet broken in to harness. After his life in Canada he was undaunted and said he would take this horse. The test soon came when at the Ayre Mills they met one of the town’s doctors coming in his motor car (one of a very few in Orkney at that time), The horse decided to turn round and ‘run for it’, but James took real control, and, while she was on her hind legs rearing madly, he stood on the shafts, gave a smart crack of the whip over her head that took her down to earth and on the way to Finstown. Later he heard that the doctor had queried his sobriety on a Sunday morning!!

James went to Sanday as best man to his cousin James Grieve who was marrying Mary Ann Cumming of Hillside there. Benjamina the youngest Cumming sister was Mary Ann’s bridesmaid. The outcome of this was that James married Benjamina (or Mina as she was called) on 12th June 1895 and they had six children: –

William was born in 1896
Janet Harcus Cumming, in 1897
James, in 1899
Jane Cumming Harcus, in 1901
Thomas Cumming, in 1903
Bena Marion, in 1907

Bena’s lovely name was a concoction of Benjamina and Mary Ann – two sisters who were very close in their relationship. This close relationship of course became extended to the children of the two families whose mothers were sisters and fathers were cousins. Many happy family holidays were spent together on the two farms at Hillside, Sanday, where the children ran wild and enjoyed the pleasures of both sea and country.

The family of James and Mina Corsie: –

WILLIAM CORSIE 1896 – 1951

William was born on 31st January 1896 and was educated at Kirkwall Burgh Public School, where he obtained his School Certificate and joined the Bank of Scotland in Kirkwall. As he was a member of the Band of the Royal Garrison Artillery (T.A.), he was called up in 1814 and served at first at Stanger Battery guarding Scapa Flow. Later he went to France where he was a range-finder on one of the long-range guns. After the War, he returned to the Bank in Kirkwall and later transferred to the Head Office in London for a few years prior to sailing to Calcutta in 1921 to take up a position in the Bank of Scotland there. Some years later he joined a Jute firm in Calcutta and in due course became chairman of that Company. During the Second War he was appointed Chairman of the Sugar Commission for all India.  He married Netta Pratt, only child of Mr. And Mrs. J. Pratt of High Street, Kirkwall, the ceremony having taken place in Calcutta. He retired in 1946, and, after spending a year with Netta touring the India he had been too busy to see, they returned to Kirkwall. He had hoped to find a suitable hone in Orkney where they could settle and which would be a holiday attraction for the rest of the Corsie family – they had no children of their own. He had brought to Orkney from India all the furniture, furnishings, silver etc. necessary to carry out this aim, but things were difficult in this post war period in Britain and he must have found it all restricting. After visiting his sisters in London en route from India, and learning of the rationing of meat etc. there, his sister Janet received from the postman a slightly blood-stained parcel one day, which, on being opened, revealed four ribs of lovely Orkney beef – the nicest they had ever tasted. There was no rationing in Orkney as in the rest of the country, as they were virtually in the War Zone and to separate civilians from service people too unwieldy. After the second such parcel he was asked to ‘hold it’ as Food Inspectors were known to inspect larders in London at that time and punishment sometimes followed.

William had the good looks of the previous generation, such as John Corsie of Knarston and Malcolm of Linlithgow, was good at golf and snooker, a clever musician who could write and transpose music, a staunch friend, the soul of honour, slightly aloof, a man’s man – he ended his own life in Kirkwall in 1951.


Janet Corsie, the first daughter and second child of James and Mina Corsie was born in Kirkwall on 2nd June 1897. On leaving K. B. P. School she learned shorthand and typewriting in the legal office of T. P. & J. L. Low on Broad Street, Kirkwall, and, after three years there she went to Highland Park Distillery for a similar period. In January 1920 she went to London as secretary to a director of a firm of Engineers’ Furnishers with offices in the heart of the City. After five years she was offered a post in Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, as secretary to a director of Dominion Motor Spirit Co. then in process of being formed. When the offices moved to the City, she was engaged at working out delivery costs per gallon, for each Board meeting, which proved rather boring to her and in 1926 she joined the National Flying Services at Hanworth, Middlesex, in process of formation under the Chairmanship of the late Lord Sempill (at that time The Master of Sempill) where she soon was in charge of the supply and control of petrol and oil – not only there but for eight aerodromes in other parts of England. However, too much travelling was required for her liking and in 1930 she obtained an interview at Selfridge’s and was selected as secretary and later personal assistant to a director who was also General Manager. There she found such a variety of interests and problems, meeting people from all countries and all stations of life, helping in the control of 4,000 staff, so that even although she married Joe Cameron in 1941, it wasn’t until 1949 (after nearly 20 years’ service at Selfridge’s) that she finally retired to Chiswick Village. Joe Cameron was a Higher Executive in G.P.O. Telephone Headquarters and holds a certificate of 40 years’ service, from the P.M.G. of that time.

Both Joe and Janet spent the War years in London, and during the blitz sometimes didn’t see each other for days on end, being on A.R.P. duty at work, and Janet spent a whole fortnight, night and day (prior to the outbreak of War) in Selfridge’s helping in arrangements being made for the safety of staff and customers in case of bombing. The massive building withstood eight direct hits in one of which her office was destroyed in the night, but no life lost, and valuable files and records were later rescued. Shocks and excitements were many, but Joe and Janet were lucky and the bomb that landed too close to the Village did only superficial damage to windows etc.

Janet Harcus Cumming Corsie, who married
Joe Cameron in 1941. It was Janet who
typed Leonard Corsie’s handwritten
family history that is transcribed here.

JAMES CORSIE 1899 – 1971

James junior was also a R.G.A. bandsman but on the outbreak of War had to be a Bugler as he was under 14 and of course could not be sent abroad. He did, however, serve some time at one of the Batteries guarding Scapa Flow. When Lord Kitchener was lost at Marwick Head, James and another young bugler played “The Last Post” in Magnus Cathedral at the Memorial Service – a most impressive event with two young boys high up in that ancient Cathedral making melancholy music.

James followed William to India in 1923 and spent his time in Eastern Bengal in the Jute growing business, where Jeannie Tait, second daughter of Mr. James Tait, cabinetmaker, Broad St., Kirkwall, joined him in marriage. She returned to Kirkwall for the birth of their only child, James, in 1933, and when James senior left India they settled in Bournemouth where very happy holidays were available to all family and friends. Both of them were the very best of hosts and he was the kindest of men who would have given all he had to anyone in need.

The Tait house on Broad Street, Kirkwall, became available in 1970 when Jim and Jeannie decided to return there as their son had by then gone to Kuala Lumpur for the Norwich union Assurance Co.

Unfortunately they did not have a long retirement there as he was rushed to hospital one night when he became seriously ill of some internal obstruction. He had immediate operation but did not survive. He died on 8th July 1971 – a sad loss to all who knew him. A few months later, Jeannie died of shock when an oil heater caught fire in her sitting room. She tried to telephone but was so incoherent that the operator felt that something was wrong and sent someone round to see if all was well. He extinguished the fire, but the fright had been too much for Jeannie’s weak heart. She and Jim had been so close since their schooldays that to all who knew them it seemed in some ways right that they should not be too long apart.

Young JAMES, on leaving School in Bournemouth, joined the Norwich Union Assurance Co. in Bournemouth, was later sent to Singapore where he met and married ANN GILES from Australia, whose father was in charge of Tin Mining in Malaya. They married in Kuala Lumpur and their oldest daughter Alison was born in Sydney, Australia. Ann came to Kirkwall for the birth of their next child, another daughter, Fiona. The third daughter, Trina, was born in Bournemouth and the fourth child, lain was born in Calcutta, surely an International family! They have been since 1970 in Perth, Western Australia, where Jimmy is Norwich Union Assurance representative for West Australia.

[The following information on William Corsie (1896-1951) and James Corsie (1899-1971) was sent to Janet Cameron by Jimmy Corsie (son of James) from Perth, Western Australia, in a letter dated 2 Sep 1980. Jimmy could not remember the names of the companies they worked for in India but Janet remembered that the firm they started with in India – and for which William left the Bank of Scotland in Calcutta – was Sinclair Murray & Co.

‘Bill’s real claim to fame was the marketing (and consumption) of CAREW’S GIN, which is now regarded as one of the world’s best Indian gins. It all started when he teamed up with a distiller in the middle 1930s and through his company he launched the product which never looked back. You may recall that after the War the entire Board of Directors voted themselves out of office in order to give returned soldiers more rapid promotion within the Company. While in India I met a couple of clerks who remembered him.

Father’s (Jim’s) career fell apart with the demise of the European jute grader plus his inability to get other work during the depression. I also feel that mention might be made of his Trade Union activities which took up much of his time and interest and also earned him his Imperial Service Medal when he retired.’]


JANE was born on 25th July 1901 and promptly named ‘Polly’ by the older children as she had arrived at the same time as an African parrot to Hilda Farquhar who lived next door! In London she was re-named ‘Pete’ and, in spite of her father’s efforts against it this name stuck.

Jane also obtained School Certificate standard at K.B.P.S. and worked for a short while in Kirkwall Post Office as a telegraphist, but in March 1920 she joined Janet in London at the same Engineering Office where she did Costing and some typing. She met and married Charles B. Woodward in 1925. He was born in London but had been taken to New Zealand by his parents while he was very young. He was a major in the N.Z. Army and in that capacity had returned to this Country during the War, but when he met Jane he was working for British Ropes Ltd., and this soon earned him the nickname of ‘Ropey’, which, again in spite of her father’s protests, became attached to him for good. Charles was a widower, twelve years older than she was and with two young children who stayed with their grandparents in S.E. London most of the time. Jane and Ropey bought a house in New Malden, Surrey, and her father James Corsie went to stay with them. There, his first grandchild, James Corsie Woodward was born and proved a great and delightful companion to him.

After James senior died in 1932, Pete and young Jimmy accompanied Ropey to the West Indies where they had a house in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They travelled a good deal, in the Caribbean and down through South America as far as Argentina. Often Pete and little Jimmy came to London to spend many months with Janet (who was then at Selfridge’s, unmarried, and had a little flat in W. Kensington) while Ropey did concentrated business tours in and around the Caribbean. They returned to England and went to live at Kingston Hill to enable Jimmy to attend Tiffen’s School in Kingston-upon-Thames where he distinguished himself in Geography by earning the highest marks in England for his School Certificate. At that period, his ambition was to join the Navy, but when his opportunity came, during the war, his eyesight did not pass the test. He decided to study the Wool Industry and to this end he went to Buenos Aires and now has his own Wool Export Business there, keeping close contact with London….. two sons William and Andrew, and a daughter Deborah.

Charles B. Woodward died in 1973, since when Jane has slowly and now completely lost her memory. She stayed with Joe and Janet Cameron in Chiswick for four and a half years, and for over two years now has been in hospital where she is very well cared for and her sister is able to visit her regularly.

William J. Woodward has just graduated from Brunel University; Andrew has shown an interest in his fellow-man, has been studying the German language and is currently assisting in one of the Group-Captain Cheshire homes situated in Kent. Debbie completed a Secretarial Course at St. Godric’s Secretarial College in North London. She is a keen horsewoman.


Tamo (as he was known) was born in Kirkwall on 28th May 1903 and, after being educated at KBPS joined the Commercial Bank of Scotland in Kirkwall. Following the family to London, after the death of their mother, he obtained a transfer to the Commercial Bank of Scotland in the City of London, and, after some years there he became the youngest Bank Inspector in the Country. In 1931, he married Christina Shiells and he became Manager of the Markinch Fife, branch of his bank and stayed there many years. Chris died or cancer in 1955, after years of suffering most courageously borne. They had one son, Olaf John Corsie, who graduated in Engineering from St. Andrews University. Tamo came to London and spent some time in Bournemouth with Jim and Jeannie, and also to the Camerons in Chiswick where he met and married Elizabeth Cameron, younger sister to Joe. They lived at first in London but later went to Deal on the Kent coast where Tamo found great interest in the channel shipping, but unfortunately his health gave way and after a short period of illness he died in 1969. Bess returned to London and a recurrence of cancer operations at St. George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, but all to no avail, and she too died in 1979. Olaf had married Doreen Kinnaird, whose father was a farmer in Fife, and they have moved around in Scotland and England as his engineering projects dictated. They have one daughter, Jane Elizabeth, and they live near Kirkcaldy in Fife. Although Jane has had a very interrupted education, moving from one school to another between England and Scotland, it does not appear to have affected her in any way and she holds her place – at the top.


BENA, the youngest member of the family was born on 23rd Feb. 1907, a beautiful girl who was more interested in home-making than in study, and consequently did not extend her schooling like her sisters. Her mother became unwell and Bena nursed her, but the illness was found to be tubercular and Mina died in January 1923. Bena came to London with her father and joined Janet and Pete in New Malden, Surrey, where they had bought a house. However Bena also had contracted the trouble and died in London in 1925. She was just eighteen years old, an outdoor type with a lovely gay nature, and was Ladies’ Golf Champion before she left Kirkwall.


The next child of William and Anne was PETER, born 23rd July 1862 in Kirkwall. Nothing is known of his earliest  years.  In 1884, when my father joined the police, Peter was already a police constable in Linlithgow when he would have been 22 years old. Sometime between 1884 and 1892 he left the police and became an evangelist with what was known as the Faith Missions. He married Miss Martha Colville Ross on 22nd September 1892 in Campbeltown. She was the daughter of Alexander Ross, Rector of a Grammar School (I presume) in Campbeltown. At the time, Peter was living at Paisley, and later they lived at St. Helens, Dunbartonshlre. Then for many years they lived at Slateford House, Slateford, Edinburgh, where they both died in 1943. He was 81 and she was 83. There were no children. Uncle Peter was always rather looked upon as an outsider – my own opinion is that Peter was a perfect Christian Gentleman.

Peter Leonard Corsie and wife Martha Colville Ross.
On the reverse of the photo a family member has
witten ‘Grannie’s brother Peter the Pilgrim.’

GEORGE CORSIE 1864 – 1912

GEORGE, the seventh child of William and Anne Corsie, was born 22nd August 1864. I don’t know much of Uncle George and do not remember him at all. I have met one or two of his children many years ago but know nothing of them now.

In 1890 he married Eliza Bella Lennie in Kirkwall where he was employed as a mercantile clerk. He was 24 and she was 18 years old. Between 1890 and 1894 they moved to the Edinburgh area. A daughter Anne Leonard Corsie, aged 1 year and 10 months, died of pneumonia in 1894. The address given was 9 East Thomas Street, and George was working as a salt-man. He died on 11th February 1912 and his wife a few years later. What became of the children, of whom there were nine, I do not know.

JOHN CORSIE 1866 – 1948

The eighth child of William and Anne Corsie was a son, John. I have no knowledge of his early life, but as long as I remember he farmed Knarston in Rousay. Knarston was really two crofts, and totalled, I have been told, thirty acres. One croft had been willed to George, the youngest son and youngest child, by his maternal grandfather. John raised Clydesdale horses, Cattle, Sheep and Pigs. Barley, Oats, Turnips, Hay and Potatoes were all grown. My father figures in the early 1920’s that John was worth in horses alone in the neighbourhood or a thousand pounds. That was a considerable sum of money in those days.

John Corsie of Knarston, and his wife Margaret Skethaway with their eleven children.  Back row, from the left: William, Janet, Maggie Jean, John, and Agnes.
Front row: Lizzie, Margaret with Cilla, Ann, Minnie, John with Peter, and Tommy.
[Picture courtesy of Tommy Gibson]

Below are photos [courtesy of Orkney Library & Archive]
of four of John and Margaret’s children in later life:-

Maggie Jean 1886-1977
William 1895-1972
Janet 1890-1977
William 1895-1972

John and his wife had 13 children. She died in 1906 when George, the youngest, was born, and she was 37 years old. Of the sons, two remained in Orkney, and three went to Canada. John had a blacksmith’s business at Orphir and his son Jackie still carries on the business. A younger son Leonard is a police officer in Kirkwall and his son is the chief of police at Heathrow Airport, England. William farmed the Glebe farm, alongside Knarston. Peter Leonard went to Canada, had an electrical business in Port Arthur for many years then went to British Columbia. He was in business there for years in the heating trade and is now (1980) living in retirement in New Westminster. George is retired in Thunder Bay – he was a paper maker in the paper mills there. Tom also went to Canada and after some years or farm work etc. as was usual he joined the Fort William City Police Force. After a few years there he joined the Ontario Provincial Police in 1928 retiring in 1964 with the rank of superintendent. Tom died in 1968 and the following is from the Fort William newspaper at his death: –

OPP Vet. T. Corsie dies at 71

One of North Western Ontario’s best known and popular policemen over four decades, retired OPP Superintendent T. G. (Tom) Corsie, died in hospital here on Friday night. He was 71.

Native of Rousay, Orkney, Mr. Corsie emigrated to Canada and Hamilton 50 years ago. He came to Fort William in 1924 and joined the City Police. Transferring to the Ontario Provincial Police 3½ years later, Mr. Corsie devoted the following 40 years to maintaining law and order in the Northwest, serving at one or another in every area west of White River.

Promoted to Sergeant in 1939, he became Inspector at Kenora in 1948 and retired as Superintendent, when the family moved back to Fort William to establish residence at 2708 Park Row.

Mr. Corsie was an active member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, of the Masonic Order, A.F. and A.M. 287 Port Arthur Superior Lodge of Perfection, Nannabijou Chapter Rose Croix, North Star and Moore Consistories of Scottish Rite. He is survived by his wife, the former Maude (Penny) McNichol whom he married here in 1940; one daughter Geraldine (Mrs. J. Spence) Thomas Jr., Dryden; Robert Nestor Falls; Allan, Fernie B.C. and Douglas, Winnipeg. Also surviving are three brothers, William in Scotland; Peter, New Westminster, B.C., and George Corsie, 363 N. John St.; six sisters – Mrs. Jean Nicholson, New Zealand; Mrs. Janet Sinclair, Mrs. Anne Grieve, Mrs. Robert Seatter, Mrs. Minnie McFarlane and Mrs. Cilla Nicholson – all of the Orkney Islands. He was predeceased by his parents, one brother John, and a sister, Mrs. John Craigie in the Orkneys.

As a gesture of affection and respect OPP at Kenora named a new 26 ft. patrol boat the “Thomas G Corsie” after he retired.

George also went to Canada and settled in Fort William. He was a paper mill employee. Peter also went to Canada and for several years was in the electrical business in Fort William. He moved to New Westminster B.C. and was then in the heating business, just when natural gas became available there, and he did very well. He is now retired and lives in New Westminster.

Tom had one daughter and four sons, one of whom, Robert, is a member of the Ontario Provincial Police. George has two daughters. Peter has two daughters and several sons. The remainder of John Corsie’s family stayed in the Orkneys. John was a blacksmith at Orphir, and a son still carries on the business and a son of his runs a garage at Scapa Pier. He is named James Sinclair Corsie.


The two photos below were taken on August 30th 1955 when relatives from
far and wide gathered for a family get-together at John and Marie Corsie’s
house, Smithy Cottage, Orphir.

Standing, from left to right:- Jackie Corsie, Vernon Corsie, William Corsie, Leonard Corsie.
Seated, from the left:- Meg Mangano (nee Margaret Jane Skethaway Corsie),
John Corsie, Marie Corsie, Estelle Corsie.
From the left:- Jean Corsie (Jackie’s wife, nee Foubister), Lesley Corsie (Leonard’s wife, nee Flett),
William Corsie, Baba Leonard, Jackie Corsie, Meg Mangano (nee Margaret Jane Skethaway Corsie),
Leonard Corsie, Marie Corsie (nee Leonard), John Corsie, Estelle Corsie, Venice Mangano, Vernon Corsie.
Children: Michael (son of Len and Lesley Corsie), Sarah and James (children of Jackie and Jean Corsie).


Charles was the next child of William and Anne Corsie. He was born on 11th October 1869. The date of his death is unknown but must have taken place in the 1950’s. He was somewhat of a mystery and no one seems to know much about him. In the late 1890’s he was a member of the Mid Lothian County Police, and I think that Lindsay, who married his sister Jessie was also in the same Force. From all accounts, they lived high, wide and handsome. They were always up to some sort of mischief and always in trouble. Charlie became the father of illegitimate twins. This was towards the end of the South Africa war, and he went to South Africa. The following is an account of what happened, according to Mrs. John Ivory of San Diego, California. She is the daughter of my Uncle Fred – and my cousin: –

“Anyway, did you know the story of why he went to South Africa? When I was old enough to understand, my mother told me. Seems he was being hunted by the police in Mid Lothian and around there, the charge being that he had fathered twins to some dame and he was in no mood to be tied up to her, so he decided to get out of the Country – and that he did. (I don’t understand how the police came into it, but that’s the story). His brothers George and Fred (my father) and probably your Dad too were all on this escape. They planned that he go quietly by himself to Haymarket station, and my father (who resembled him very much except in height) was to walk along the Waverley Station as if he was Charlie, and the cops would think it was Charlie – and that’s what actually happened, and when they grabbed my father he could prove he wasn’t Charlie – so Charlie by this time was well on his way and they never caught up with him.”

According to Margaret Ivory, Charlie used to write occasionally to his sister Jemima who had loaned him money to get to S. Africa. I have heard that he engaged in railroad building. He was in France as a Sergeant in a native labour battalion. At that time he visited Edinburgh while on leave and also visited his mother in Kirkwall. My father had a postcard from him, posted in Southampton, apparently on the eve of sailing for South Africa. To my knowledge that was the last time my father ever heard from him. When we lived in Broxburn, my father used to hear of him through people visiting Broxburn from South Africa. Margaret Ivory tells me that he married a 19 year old French girl when he was in his 40’s. This seems convincing as he would be about that age during the War. When he visited Scotland on leave from France he told every woman in the family a different story. He told one he was single, another that he was married to a negro woman, another that he had married a Chinese woman – whether he was married or not, no one really knows. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if we had several cousins in South Africa, and they are liable to be any colour. I am not sure, but I believe he got in touch with his sister Isabella in Australia, but I am not certain of this, shortly before his death.


Uncle Fred was the next child of William and Anne Corsie. He was born on 19th December 1870. Of all my father’s brothers and sisters, I knew him best of all. I don’t know when he came to the Edinburgh area and the first I remember of him was him driving the four-horse brakes which used to bring sightseers to the Forth Bridge on Sunday afternoons before the first war. At one time he was a driver on the horse-drawn street cars, while Leith, which was a separate city then, changed to electric cars, and Fred went over to the Leith cars. For a time he was training new horses. This was a steady job as the turnover of horses was high. Their feet and legs gave out with the constant pounding on the hard surfaces of the streets. Edinburgh and Leith became one city in the 1920’s and the cable cars disappeared. Fred drove the last cable on Princes Street. This was quite an occasion and there was a picture of it in one of the newspapers. My sister had a copy but it got lost when she died.

Fred’s wife died quite young leaving three children. Louie, who in later life went to Australia – a daughter of hers also went to Australia; another daughter, Adeline of whom I have no knowledge; and William, who I believe was in the London, England, Fire Service.

Fred married again, and of that marriage there were seven children. Margaret, Mrs. John Ivory of San Diego, Cal. U.S.A. She is a widow and has one son and two daughters. There are also several grand-children. Jean (Mrs. Sandison) living in Scotland and also a widow has no family. Angus (who never married) died in 1976. Charlie still living in Leith never married (1979). Fred was a Marine Engineer with the Currie Line of Leith. He died but left some family, John and Donald, whom I never met. Uncle Fred retired before the last war but was recalled and drove street cars during the war finally retiring when it  was  over.  He died in 1950.

JEMIMA CORSIE 1874 – 1916

Jemima (Aunt Minnie) was born on 23rd August 1874. She was the eleventh child. My first recollection of Minnie was when she and Isabella (Belle) were working for a dentist, the name of Finlayson at Manor Place near the Haymarket. Minnie was the dental assistant and Belle was cook-housekeeper. Belle (Mrs. Patton) was a widow and Minnie was unmarried, though I believe she was engaged to be married. Minnie died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on April 12th 1916, of a ruptured appendix. She was 42 years old.

JEMIMA CORSIE 1874 – 1916

Jemima (Aunt Minnie) was born on 23rd August 1874. She was the eleventh child. My first recollection of Minnie was when she and Isabella (Belle) were working for a dentist, the name of Finlayson at Manor Place near the Haymarket. Minnie was the dental assistant and Belle was cook-housekeeper. Belle (Mrs. Patton) was a widow and Minnie was unmarried, though I believe she was engaged to be married. Minnie died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on April 12th 1916, of a ruptured appendix. She was 42 years old.


The thirteenth and last child of William and Anne Corsie was Isabella, Aunty Belle. Belle married a man named John Dunn Patton, whom I never knew as he died before I remember. There were three children – Anne Leonard (LENA), Jack, and Charlie. Lena was brought up by her grandparents in Kirkwall [and lived to the age of 102]. Jack and Charlie were in Donaldson’s Hospital, a school for orphan boys. The school is still standing in the Morningside district, in Edinburgh, but it is not now used as an orphanage. Both Jack and Charlie became Electrical Engineers, receiving their training at the Bruce Peebles Co. As soon as Jack finished his training there was a period of severe unemployment and he had little or no chance so he put in about two years at Knarston, Rousay. I remember my Uncle John lamenting to my father that Jack had left just when he was beginning to be a useful man at the ploughing. When Charlie finished his training, the working position was the same, so Auntie Belle, with Lena and Charlie followed Jack to Australia.

Belle, pictured in 1919…..
…..and in Melbourne in 1948.

Both Jack and Charlie worked for a time on farms – then both got back into their profession. Lena married Jack Kenyon, a Royal Air Force Officer whom she met in Kirkwall and he also went to Australia where he became famous as a stage designer. He died a few years ago. Jack became Chief Electrical Inspector of the city of Melbourne. Once when I was in London, England, I talked with a daughter, Heather, whose husband Noel Svensson is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia. They have two children, Adrian and Jane now almost completing their education. Jack is dead. Charlie visited Great Britain a year ago but Jack or Lena never did.

Janet Cameron tells of an occasion, before she married Joe, when she returned home from Selfridges and was astounded to see a light on in her sitting-room. On entering she found her Aunty Belle sitting on the one comfortable chair with her feet soaking in warm water and that was the first indication she had that her Aunt wasn’t at home in Australia! It transpired that she (Aunty Belle) had enquired of a neighbour where the landlord lived – luckily nearby – she had called on him and he allowed her into the flat. At that time she took a course of Chiropody in London and I understand that she did very well with the result of this in Melbourne later. One grandson is a well-known cartoonist in Australia. Aunty Belle was a most enterprising lady – unfortunately no longer alive.

This completes to the present (January 1980) the history of our branch of the Corsie family. The Corsies, according to Tom Corsie of Racine, Wis. U.S.A., have always been leaders in the community where they live. Until my father’s generation, they have always been tenant Farmers. My grandmother’s people, the Leonards, appear to have been crofters and woollen weavers.

My mother’s people, the Kidds, have been resident for over two hundred years around Leuchars, Fife, Scotland. Mother was the youngest of eleven – there were two brothers and eight sisters.

Her oldest brother Alexander married the niece of the then managing director of the North British Railway and there was a statue of him in Waverley Station. I never met Alexander and I think he cut himself off entirely from his family. He had two daughters who never married. The other brother Tom was also a railway man with the NBR. He had at least one son. Grandfather Kidd was, I believe, a farm worker, and, with the help of his sons, moved to Dumbarton where mother received her education. An older sister, Mary, had married a John Seth who was the landlord of the Cross Keys public house in Bo’ness where father was stationed as a constable and they were married in 1888. Mother’s sisters all married shipyard workers -carpenters, platers, caulkers, marine engineers and what have you. Some of the Aunts considered themselves much superior to a mere police constable. There are still cousins living around Dumbarton, and quite a few emigrated to the United States, around Pittsburgh. When my parents were first married and up until they lived in Linlithgow, there was quite a friendship with the sisters in Dumbarton – after that a decided coolness developed.

The other family of Corsies who are resident in Kirkwall, for as long as I remember, are definitely related to us. There was a common ancestor in the late 1700’s. There are several Corsies living in Edinburgh who are our relations. In the South of England there are several Corsie families and I do not doubt that they also are related to us. The relationship is not close and it would be impossible to establish it now. There are a tremendous number of younger people who are Corsie descendants, but do not carry the name. In many cases Corsie is used as a second name. This is quite common and personally I am very glad to see it.

My Great Grandfather, Malcolm Corsie, claimed he was indeed a rich man. He had four sons and a daughter, and I have no doubt that could he see the many prominent people who are his descendants, he would still consider himself a rich man.


Sarnia, Canada
January 1980


[Leonard passed away in 1989, and is interred alongside his wife
Louella Longhurst [1899-1986] in Lakeview Cemetery
(Section: R), Lambton County, Ontario]