Saturday, July 19, 2008

Handwriting on the Wall

Posted by PicasaIn fixing the floorboards and merging the boiler room and the laundry room, a wall got knocked down. Underneath the comparatively modern drywall wall was an older lath and plaster wall. In carpenter's pencil but still perfectly legible and saved mostly intact from the pry bar are two signatures on little wooden laths.

That wall was plastered perhaps 200 years ago, so it will be a bit of an adventure to discover if I can anything about the men behind the signatures:

James Campbell

in small, precise cursive


John McKay

John' s handwriting is larger, and the tail of the Y in Reay rises like waves, loops back on itself and ends with a couple hatch marks on the curly tail. Quite elegant. I presume the name beneath his name is Reay--parts of it are missing.

A little online searching revealed a John McKay, farmer at Milton of Borlum, had a will in Wick Sheriff Court in 1875. Is that the same McKay? Up here, the surname McKay fills about a dozen pages in the phone book. A quick search of census records for Reay parish gave me 18 John McKays in 1841; 21 in the 1851 census; and 28 in the 1871 census. The actual records are not available online for free, so next time I'm in the library I'll see if I can get some more clues. The census includes occupation. I might get lucky enough to put it in the realm of probably the right one, but I would like to see a note written in his own same hand on an invoice or in his diary. I like that kind of certainty. I think I am whistling in the dark, but it is an interesting challenge.


At 3:05 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

What fun! I love finding hidden surprises inside of walls. Has only happened once, but I keep looking!

At 8:51 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hayden, one of the great things about you is your faith that the world holds surprises. You find them because you believe in them. When you make your house in Michigan, you can put something in the wall and be the surprise for someone years and years down the line.


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