The Reid Family Tree



George William Reid, born 1864, and ‘Author of these notes’

Probably the Reids came first to Orkney in the train of the Stewart Earls, Earl Robert and Earl Patrick, his son, in the days of Queen Mary and James VI. A number of Orkney families, the Balfours, Stewarts, Traills, Elphinstones, Gibsons, etc, came with those earls as their retainers or servants. There were Reids in Westray and Eday during the 18th Century, but I have not been able to find any connection of our ancestors with them.

George Reid – the centenarian

[This photo, and those of the other members of the Reid family, as well as the loan of the text, are courtesy of Tommy Gibson]

First Generation:

George Reid 1 (the centenarian, my great grandfather) came to Rousay from Westray some time about the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th Century. He was said to be 107 years old when he died, but our people thought that that was a slight exaggeration. They estimated 105 years at the outside as his age. From incidents that he remembers they considered he must have been that age at least. He must have been born in Westray sometime about the middle of the 18th Century, for my father who was born in 1843 remembered him still living in Garson in Westside, say, between 1850 and 1860 I should think. I cannot fix the date exactly. I think he came first as a servant to the Traills of Westness, but he was farming in Woo in Sourin for a short time, for I have heard grandfather George 2 (your great grandfather) of Wasdale say that he remembered being at Woo as a little boy with his father. This first George married a Barbara Logie whose parents were Gilbert Logie and Helen Scott, also belonging to Westray. And that Gilbert Logie was the ancestor of the present Rousay Logies, who are thus cousins (3rd and 4th) of ours. I cannot trace the pedigree of George 1 further back. He was said to have been a very bold man. There was a Craigie in Westness, after the Traills I suppose who went and hanged himself. Nobody would venture into the room until our ancestor boldly went in and cut him down. So the story goes. I have never heard of any notice being taken of him by Royalty (Queen Victoria it would have been) or anybody else on account of his great age, except the individual who wrote those doggerel rhymes on the occasion of his photograph being taken. I think I must have a copy of that photograph somewhere if I could only lay hands on it. Whether he was married when he came to Rousay or after I have not been able to discover, but I think all the family were born in Rousay.

Issue (As far as I know)

1. George Reid 11 (in Wasdale) married Janet Harcus.

2. Peter Reid 1 (in Broch, on Westside) Married Mary Louttit.

3. Barbara Reid married William Mainland of Cot a Fea as his 2nd wife.

4. Betty Reid married John Johnstone in the Brinian.

5. Jean Reid married a Harcus, a brother of Janet Harcus mentioned above.

6. Mary Reid 1 died young, unmarried.

George Reid of Wasdale was born about 1806. He used to tell of an escapade of his when he was a very young child. He wandered up from Westness to the “Waters”, and was found somewhere between the Muckle Water and the Little Water which he thought were two seas. When brought home the lady of Westness, after giving him a piece of cake (fine bread he called it) laid her land on his head and said “thoo must not do that again”. He worked about Westness in his youth, went a-fishing as a young man, and was on two or more  voyages  to  the ‘straights’,  i.e.  the  Greenland  whale fishing.  Many a yarn he used to tell us boys about his whaling experiences. He was on one voyage, nearly frozen in, but fortunately they managed to get the ship out through a narrow channel. Otherwise they would have had to spend the winter amid Polar Ice and would probably never have been heard of again. He was first to spot the opening in the ice, and was highly commended for his alertness. I wish I could recall some of these yams but I have forgotten most of them.

He married Janet Harcus about 1830 or perhaps a year or two thereafter. Her family I have not been able to unravel satisfactory. It is very complicated somehow. Her father was a William Harcus and her mother a Christian or Christy Flaws, who lived to the great age of 103 years, and died at Wasdale. My father and aunt Lydia remembered her quite well. William Harcus must have died when the family were quite young.

George Reid 11 and his wife Janet Harcus

Grandmother was born about 1801, and as a child had a very hard life. She used to told me how she had to at the age of seven herd kye away in Sourin while her folk were on Westside, and got very (little) to eat from her employers. A sister Betty Harcus (aunt Betty we used to call her) was marred to Willie Robertson, and they lived as far back as can remember at Crey (where Shearer is now). Aunt Betty was a very cheery old lady and I used to like to go up and see her and old Willie, her man. He had lots of old world yarns which were very interesting, but grandfather said to think he put on too much “side”.

To return to the Reids, George 11 and Janet Harcus were a short time in the Brinian; in what house I did not know. Then they were in Pow on the Westside close to Scabra Head, now almost obliterated, and most of the family were born there, except the eldest two perhaps who were born in the Brinian. They lived there till about 1850 or thereabouts, when the landlord, George Traill of Veira, cleared all his Westside tenants out and turned the whole district into a large farm of Westness. Most of the tenants got holdings elsewhere on the estate, either in Wasbister or Sourin or one or two in Frotoft. Grandfather got Wasdale, which was part of a “three penny land of Overdaile” (i.e. Ervadale) as it was described in the old rentals. It was not called Wasdale then though, but simply Newhouse. Grandfather built the house and steading with his own hands mostly, and broke out a great deal of the land and our folks after a time named the place Westdale or Wasdale as it lay west of the other two dales, Ervadale and Brendale. He went to the fishing, did all sorts of odd jobs of carpentry and mason work, etc, for the folks round about, and worked hard all his days. He was a very jolly old soul. The oldest boy William died when only 11 years old in Pow, and grandfather never seemed to get over his loss. My father was born shortly after his death and was named William also after his older brother.

Grandmother died in 1894 and grandfather a few years after. Thus the Reids continued in Wasdale for some 80 years – from about 1850 till it was sold in 1930.

Issue of George 11 and Janet Harcus,

1. William 1 died aged 11 years

2. George 111

3. Mary 11

4. John 1

5. Peter 11

6. Hannah

7. William 11

8. Lydia

Third Generation:

George 111 born about 1835, went to sea, then was in New Zealand for a time at the gold diggings with his brothers John and Peter. Was the first skipper of the first Rousay steamer ‘Lizzie Burroughs’ for a year or two. Married Mary Shearer, a Tankerness woman about 1880 or ’81. Gave up the sea after a few years and kept a shop in Wellington Street, Kirkwall till his death in 1905.


1. George 4 now a chemist in Kirkwall married May Reid, an Edinburgh woman.

No issue.

2. Mary Reid 11 married her cousin John Mainland, son of Barbara Reid and William Mainland of Cot a Fea. Lived all her married life at Cot a Fea.


1. John Mainland of Cott – 3 Children.

2. George Mainland in Rysa – 2 children, I dead.

3. Mary Mainland in Crusday, married Dannie Mackay – no issue.

John Reid 1 went to New Zealand as a young man about 1857 in the days of the gold rush. Working at gold diggings for about 15 years, then returned to home. Married Sarah, daughter of James Mainland of Tratland. Drowned in Evie Sound off the Rousay Mail boat in the autumn of 1893:-

1. John 11 joiner in Glasgow. Issue – 2 children.

2. Maggie married Peter Reid 4 as his second wife.

3. George 5, now in Tratland issue? (Don’t know how many).

4. Anna.

5. Mary 3. Both living in Gripps, unmarried.

Peter Reid 2, served apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker in Kirkwall. Was a great swimmer. Went to New Zealand about 1860 to the gold diggings. Married a Charlotte Stewart and settled there for life. Died some dozen years ago I think. No issue.

Hannah Reid, born about 1841. Married about 1859 James Leonard of Digro lived in Digro till evicted by Burroughs, the landlord about 1886. In Kirkwall for a year or two, then went to Oban, where both died.

Issue a family of 14.

1. George Leonard, died of diphtheria in Digro.

2. John Reid Leonard, Died in Oban. Was married to a Highland woman there.

3. Hannah Leonard, born 1864. Still living in Oban. Unmarried.

4. James Leonard born 1866, went to Canada as a young boy. Married there a Highland Woman. Sailed the Lakes. Engineer in Government Service;

Issue 5 children, one of whom was killed in the war.

5. Fredrick Leonard born about 1869. In the service of the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners, on their steamer ‘Hesperus’. Unmarried.

6. Isabella Leonard born about 1871. Married a Pearson in Oban. Issue 5 or 6 children.

7. Annie Leonard born about 1874 or ’75. Married a David Sinclair from Sanday. Both were in the Hotel service in Oban or elsewhere. He died a few years ago.

Issue 5 children I think.

8. and 9. Arthur Leonard and William Leonard, both died in infancy at Digro because of diphtheria at the same time as their brother George.

10. Alfred Leonard works (or idles) about Oban. Unmarried.

11. George Leonard 2. Married in Oban. Coal merchant. Has issue but I don’t know how many.

12. Edith Leonard, married a man Ogg in Aberdeen, in the Post Office service and still lives there. Issue 2 or 3 but I don’t know how many actually.

13.  Archibald Leonard now in Glasgow. Married. Issue unknown to me.

14. Lydia Leonard. In Oban. Issue unknown to me.

William Reid 2. Born in Pow, Westside, in 1843. Married Catherine Baikie from Stromness, 1863. Went fishing in his younger days. Started as a carpenter and joiner after, and continued that business until stopped by Burroughs the landlord. Was a short time in Edinburgh but soon returned owing to strikes and bad trade. He and his father, George 2 worked the farm of Wasdale jointly for a few years until George 2 failed in health, when he took over the whole farm, succeeding to the rights of the Crofter’s Act on his father’s death. Latterly he suffered much from asthma but continued working until a few days before his death. He died of pneumonia, 29th May 1915.


1. George William 6, born 1864. Married (1905) Margaret Yorstan, daughter of Capt James Yorstan, the Ayre, Kirkwall, and Margaret Inkster. She died 31st Jan. 1930. No issue (Author of these notes)

2. Mary Catherine, born 1868. Milliner in Kirkwall for many years then worked at Wasdale after her father’s death. Now resident in Kirkwall since November 1930. Unmarried. Died 9/8/47.

3. Lydia 2, born 1867 or ’68. Died in infancy when only a few weeks old.

4. Peter Reid 4 (Peter 3 was son of Peter 1, 1st generation in Broch) born 1869. Went to Coatbridge Post Office under Mr John Louttit as a young man. Passed through grades to chief clerk. Then as Post Master at Gourock till laid aside by illness. Died 28.11 29.

Married 1. Mary Arthur in Coatbridge. She died 27.10.18.

Married 2. Maggie Reid, his cousin. Daughter of cousin John, above.

         Issue on the first marriage:-

         1. William 4.
         2. James Arthur
         3. Margaret Dean (Peggy)

5. Jessie Harcus born 1872. Worked at Wasdale all her life. She and her sister Mary Catherine became joint proprietors of the farm for a few years until 1930 when they sold it and came to reside in Kirkwall. Unmarried. Died 19.12.1945.

6. William John 3, born 27 Jan. 1874. While at school at Sourin herded cattle at Ervadale for a summer or two. Served apprenticeship as a joiner with his father. Was a harvest or two at Ha’breck in Wyre. He and his father did the joiner work of several houses in Rousay. He was very clever with his hands and could do some fine work. He had a great fund of natural humour, and had more mental capacity I think than any of us. He went to Edinburgh and worked at his trade for nearly two years. I do not know anything of the firms with whom he worked. After a short holiday with his younger brother, James and myself went up to Oban in the summer if 1897, he took typhoid fever, and died at the end of August that year in Edinburgh City Hospital. Father went south just after James and I came home, and was with him to the end. He is buried in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh. Unmarried.

7. James Marwick born 24th February 1876. Served apprenticeship with father and worked at home for a few years. Then at Melsetter in Walls as an estate joiner to Middlemore for a year or two. Worked in Kirkwall for a year or so with S. Baikie & Son. Then went to Coatbridge and eventually to Glasgow in pursuit of his trade. Married in 1915 Kate Muir, whose father belonged to Sanday. Has a small business of his own now in Glasgow.

         Issue 3 children: 1. Betty (in full Elizabeth Catherine) 2. Thelma (Thelma Campbell) 3. George William 7

The Reid siblings just mentioned above: Peter, born September 3rd 1869; George, born
November 20th 1864; James, on February 24th 1875; Mary, July 16th 1866; Jessie,
April 10th 1871; and William, who was born on January 17th 1873. Their sister
Lydia was born on February 25th 1868, but she died in infancy. Photo c.1895

Lydia Reid: Born about 1845 at Pow Westside. Lived at Wasdale practically all her life till after the death of her father, George 2. Then came to Kirkwall, where she lived for some years. Suffered greatly from asthma and other chest troubles and died in the spring of 1913 or ’14. Unmarried.

Additional notes on the Reids. George Reid 1 must have at least one brother and one sister, for George 11 of Wasdale used to tell of an aunt of his called Peggy Reid, who was said to been a very beautiful young woman, but she apparently died young. Then the Reid family in Glasgow – George Reid who lives down Whiteinch way – are of the same stock. That George’s father was Thomas Reid, schoolmaster in Sourin after the Education Act of 1872 came into force, who continued to live in the old school after he ceased teaching. Now, he and my grandfather, George of Wasdale were second cousins. Therefore his father and my grandfather, George of Wasdale would have been full cousins, and consequently, their fathers must have been bothers.

There are also Reids in Shapinsay who are somehow connected with us, but I have not ascertained what the actual connection is. Thus there are many problems to be solved before one could make out a complete pedigree of the clan.


A cutting from the Edinburgh Evening Courant, dated July 6th 1858

George Reid, the Rousay Centenarian

Below is the ‘doggerel verse’ alluded to above. It is reproduced with the permission of the editors of The Orkney View, issue No. 54, published in June/July 1994.

‘The following poem was sent to us by J. O. Sclater of Orphir, whose father was given it by Robert Johnson of Scows, Orphir around 1920.

It is thought that George Reid, who died in 1858, was Mr Johnson’s great-grandfather. Who the writer was is not known.’

I had often heard of one, George Reid,
In Rousay he did dwell:
That long he worked with plough and spade;
The truth I mean to tell.

His name in print had lately been,
When some account was given
That George the wondrous age had seen,
One hundred years and seven.

I therefore to that isle did go,
And climbed up the hill,
And there I found old George, who
Was hale and hearty still.

My man went in to break the tale,
Which was by my desire,
And George was sipping milk and meal,
As sitting by the fire.

I went into the house also,
And there beheld the scene;
And told George I should like to show
Him to our gracious Queen.

The snow had fell the day before,
Which rather troubled me.
Yet George agreed to come outdoors,
And sit just as you see.

A second time I asked him out.
He said he was quite willing;
He knew well what he was about,
So asked of me a shilling.

When out of doors, the sun and snow
That in his eyes brought tears,
In all respects he looked as though
He still might live for years.

His cheeks were full and colour good,
With some teeth, strange to say,
With which to masticate his food;
His beard was scarcely grey.

And when he sat down in his chair,
I did his portrait take;
I must confess it made me stare –
His head nor hand did shake.

Two days before that I came there
He travelled up the hill,
Unto a neighbouring house that’s near,
And that of his own will.

To beg a little weed so dear –
You will think this a joke –
But since he turned his hundredth year,
Old George had learned to smoke.

His sight and hearing are quite good,
His intellect also;
He spoke of things he understood
An hundred years ago.

He said that he from Westray came,
And made me understand,
The year that he was born, the same
Was famine in the land.

A castle in that isle yet stands.
I asked him also
If he remembered that Northland
An hundred years ago.

He told me yes, and gave the name
Of people who lived there.
From others I have learned the same –
It is an hundred years.

His calling I desired to know.
He let me understand
His business was to plough and sow,
And help to till the land.

His food was on a moderate scale,
And that his humble dish.
A few potatoes, milk and meal,
Sometimes a little fish.

I asked him how his health was still.
He said he had been queer;
And had indeed been very ill
When in his hundredth year.

For five years past, as he told me,
Much better he had been;
It was a pleasant sight to see,
He looked so neat and clean.

I now had carried out my plan,
That had much pleasure given;
I took my leave of this old man,


*Following the poem in the last issue about George Reid, the Rousay centenarian, Tommy Gibson from Brinola, Rousay tells us that Reid had been born in Westray in 1755 and came to Rousay to work for the Traills at Westness House. He was ‘cleared’ from Quandale and later farmed in Woo in Sourin for a short time, ending up in Garson on the Westside. The man who took Reid’s photograph was Queen Victoria’s photographer in Scotland whom she specially sent to Rousay. It is unlikely that Reid was 107 as the poem stated. It is estimated that he died at the age of 104.


Graham Lyon of Sandwick has been good enough to share a pictorial version of his Reid family tree. Starting with bottom right, his mother Sheila Lyon. Bottom middle, his grandmother Lydia Mary (Edda) Mainland. Bottom left, his great-grandfather John Mainland. Middle right, his great-great-grandmother Mary Reid. Top right, his great-great-great-grandfather George Reid. And main picture the man himself, his great-great-great-great-grandfather George Reid.