The Barrie - Inches connection


Thomas Ogilvie, Ploughman, lived in the parish of Kettins in Perthshire in the late 18th Century. His second child, Betty, met a Shoemaker called John Inches, probably in Dundee, in the early 1840s. They got married in 1843 and lived in a 3-room shop on the corner of Camperdown Court and Barrack Street in central Dundee until John’s death in 1878. He had a prosperous business that employed 6 men in its heyday. His second daughter Betsy, born in 1856, was one of his machinists. She married Perth man John Stewart in 1876, and went to live in Glasgow, where he worked for the Scottish Cooperative Society. Their daughter Jane married into the Hamilton family from Dumfriesshire and became mother-in-law to one of the Glasgow Batesons, who eventually returned to the ancestral home in Windhill, Yorkshire.


Betsy Inches was a short, good-looking woman, quiet and not given to making fanciful statements. She, or her mother, was reputed to have witnessed the Tay Bridge disaster on the night of Sunday December 28 1879, when a train from the south fell into the river. How she managed to see the bridge on a stormy winter’s night, when the flat she lived in did not have a view of the river, is not clear. She is also said to have claimed that JM Barrie, the playwright, was her cousin, or second cousin.


On the face of it, the evidence is not promising: the surname endings – Ogilvie and Ogilvy are usually different; and the locations are different - the Ogilvies came from Kettins, near Coupar Angus in Perthshire, while JM Barrie’s Ogilvy ancestors were from the Kirriemuir area in Angus.


JM Barrie was the son of Margaret Ogilvy and David Barrie. His maternal grandparents were Alexander Ogilvy and Mary Edward. Betsy’s grandparents were Thomas Ogilvie and Janet Millar. They could not have been cousins since there is no common grandfather.


However, JM Barrie’s grandmother May (or Mary) Edward probably came from Ascreavie in Kingoldrum parish, just to the west of Kirriemuir. Her husband, and JM Barrie’s grandfather, Alexander Ogilvy, came from Upper Ascreavie farm. Betsy Inches’s aunt was called Innes (from the Gaelic innis, meaning island or meadow), Edward. Innis, or Eunice, was born in Kingoldrum parish, probably at Upper Ascreavie, where her father Peter was a tenant farmer. These small farm communities contained few families - Ogilvy, Edward and Stormonth were the principal names and intermarriage must have been common. Unfortunately, there is no firm evidence that Peter Edward and May Edward were related: little is known of May Edward, except that she married around 1815 and died about 1827. This suggests a birth in the late 1790s; Peter Edward’s father was probably Robert Edward, who married in 1769 and died in 1776. He had three children: Janet was born in 1770, Peter in 1772 and Jean in December 1774. There is no May or Mary in the record, and given his early death, he wouldn’t have had time to produce one.


So, although it is perfectly plausible that Betsy Inches and Margaret Ogilvy were cousins by marriage, the evidence at present is inconclusive.


There are at least 2 characters in the records with interesting names: William Barrie Inches was born in 1872 in Dundee, but no link with either our Barries or our Inches has been found. And a James Inches married a Jane Barrie in Liff in 1892 but, again, no links have been found.


Innes Edward had four brothers and two sisters, all of whom are mentioned on a monument erected at Kingoldrum Parish Church. Innes herself is on the Ogilvy family tombstone in Newtyle Parish Churchyard.


Thomas, born around 1808, was a General Labourer in Kirriemuir.

James, the firstborn, and William and David were all medical practitioners in the Forfar area.

David died at the age of 24 of TB.

James practised as an MRCS in Forfar.

William Edward called himself a Surgeon and practised medicine in Dunnichen and Carmyllie parishes. He occupied a modest house in the village of Letham and never married. This may help to explain how he came to be worth over £8000 in cash at his death in 1889. Clearly something of an eccentric, his Will makes interesting reading: his nephew Charles, for instance, “is to get nothing, nor to be allowed to enter my house; that's him settled”.