Monday, 9 August 2010

Colin Sievwright, weaver and poet

I was surprised to find out that my great great grandfather Colin Sievwright was a published poet, mentioned in a database of labouring class poets at Nottingham Trent University. Granny failed to mention this. Or I failed to remember it!

He was born about 1819 in Brechin, Angus (to Solomon Sievwright and Martha Burnett.

He married Annie McKenzie in 1842 and they had 4 sons and a daughter, Jessie Sievwright, my granny's mother.

Granny's given names were Charline Amelia Annie McKenzie. Don't know about the Amelia or Charline but now I know where Annie McKenzie came from!

It seems that Colin was the oldest of a large family and went to work in the linen mills from the age of eight.

In 1841 census he was in Kirriemuir working as a Linen Handloom Weaver. He married Annie there the following year. He wrote about her in a poem Annie was my dearie, O quoted in an out of print book: One Hundred Modern Scottish Poets. I have yet to find the full text.

His first work was published in 1866
The sough o' the shuttle : or poems and songs
by Sievwright, Colin.
Dundee: Printed By Robert Park, 1866.

In the 1871 census he is in Forfar listed as a Starchmaker in factory and poet

Other works are

Love lilts o' the braes o' Angus / Colin Sievwright.
by Sievwright, Colin.
Dundee: Weekly News Office, 1878.

Rhymes for the children of the church : with an introductory note by the lord bishops of St. Andrews
by Sievwright, Colin.
Brechin: D. H. Edwards, 1879.

A garland for the ancient city : or, love songs of Brechin and its neighbourhood, with historical notes. 2nd ed
by Sievwright, Colin. Brechin: D. H. Edwards, 1899.

He lost his Annie in 1874. By 1891 he was living with one of his sons James D Sievwright a customs officer in Wales where he died in 1895. Son Thomas Wildman Sievwright was a market gardener in Arbroath and another son David Burnett Sievwright a shoemaker went to New Zealand and my great granny went to Aberdeen.

One of his poems appears online on another blog

I think I am going to have to go through to Angus as they have copies of his works in their reference library! (I did! see this post  and more about Colin here)

This is the link to Colin on my tree


  1. I have a copy of Rhymes for the children of the church inscribed "Master Harry Sievwright from his Godfather Colin Sievwright Dec 6th 1879". I just decided to find a bit more out about the book and found your blog.

    It came to me from my Gran who used to clean for a Miss Sievwright in Folkestone - right up until she (my Gran) was about 75 or more (late 1970's). If I find any more info I'll contact you again.

  2. Just spotted your comment today.

    How interesting! Harry might be his grandson born 1876 in Berwick. Harry died in 1910. He had 6 sisters but all of them would be very old in the 1970s.
    Thanks for the informtion!

  3. I have traced all of Harry's family, He was married for 3 years until he died in 1910 to Ellen Drew. She lived and worked as a health visitor in Folkestone. She died in Glamorgan in 1962. They don't appear to have had any children and she left her estate to a nephew. Harry's sisters died in Sussex and Wales so Ellen seems to be the person your gran worked for but earlier than you thought.

  4. Hi, I have been searching our Great Great grandfather (Thomas Kennedy MacDonald also Scottish) who was a prominent businessman and politician in Wellington New Zealand during the 1880s-1914. We have just returned from visiting the National Librairy of NZ (in Wellington) where we discovered one of our Grandmothers original wedding invitation from 1907 to a "Mr & Mrs Sievwright", which reading yours blog could very likely be David Sievwright. I was able to take a photo and happy to email it to you if you would like to see it.
    I found the name Colin Sievwright in a NZ book Im reading called In Praise of Older Buildings -McGill/Tilly, published 1980. A lady they interviewed (A writer they called "Mrs M") showed the author poems from her Grandfather Colin Sievwright.
    Kind Regards Kelly

    1. Hi, ‘Mres M’ was my Grandmother, Rene (Irene) Meldrum (Nee Sievwright). She lived at 239 The Terrace (the house was called Vialima) form age 4 (1902) until she got married. She returned to live in the house with her three children (Bill, Jean and Elaine - my mother). My family (my mother, Elaine Bransgrove, nee Meldrum, and four children) went to live at 239 in 1963 after my father died. We grew up on the Terrace. Grandma was still living at the house when she died aged 90. I remember the journalist visiting to interview grandma for the article. Gran’ma and mum didn’t want her name used as in those days the Terrace was not always a safe area to live, particularly for 2 women and 4 children. It is for the same reason that they asked the artist not to draw our house, but rather the two houses across the road. I hope this helps with the puzzle of ‘Mrs M’.
      Kind regards
      Jo Bransgrove

  5. Hi Kelly

    Thanks for getting in touch. I would to love to see the invitation! email kmcmeekin at

    Now to figure out who Mrs M is! Lovely!

  6. I am thinking the recipients of the wedding invitation in 1907 are more likely to be James Dickson Sievwright son of David. He was a journalist and politician so would move in the same circles as your great grandfather, Kelly.
    JD's daughter Jessie married A F Meldrum. She died 1986 so may well be Mrs M although Colin was her great grandfather. David had no daughter who fits the bill.

  7. Hi Kay,

    I'm a student at Otago University in Dunedin. I was talking to my grandmother last week about a paper in Scottish literature that I'm taking and she mentioned that her great grandfather (there may have been another great there, but I can't remember) was Scottish poet Colin Sievwright. I did a quick Google search to see what the Internet has on him and... well, here I am!

    I imagine my grandmother, Lyn, is a descendent of shoemaker David. She was born in Dunedin but I don't know off the top of my head the names of her forbears.

    Best wishes,

  8. Hello Dominic
    Lovely to hear from you!
    I have been in touch with your grandmother Lyn. She was a great help with the NZ links.
    Her father was Kenneth Gavin Sievwright
    Best wishes

  9. Colin Sievwright was my Great-grandfather, also. I have copies of most - if not all - of his works, a photograph, and some of his manuscripts. Alas, at the time of his death, in January 1895, he was suffering from dementia. His son and daughter-in-law were buried in the same grave, in 1925. A few years ago, I paid a large sum, to have the headstone cleaned and restored. I say that it is less than, but a better way of spending money than suffering the depreciation on a new car. Henry Gates was buried in an unmarked grave, in the same cemetery - possibly because Colin's grave had been dug only for three. Apparently, Ellen wished her ashes to be interred with Harry; but it was not done. My Aunt was quite upset about that. Even before I had met her, Ellen used always to send me a Christmas present. I was the last English correspondent with James Dickson Sievwright's nephew, Archibald Burnett Sievwright - who had emigratd to N.Z., after WW I - and his widow, Doris. Their son, Nigel Burnett (also a solicitor), did not long survive his father. I have memorabilia from earlier generations of the Sievwright family, the oldest dating from 1750.
    Roger Wilson-Tucker -