This story was sent to Jimmy Gordon’s wife, Bud, who has kindly allowed us to put it on our website. It tells how the sampler was discovered and how it came to be reunited with the Gordon Family.
Letter from Jill
“About a week ago I received an email from Janet Martin, a friend who lives in Hervey Bay, north of Brisbane. We both have Gordon ancestors but they don’t connect. Our paths have crossed many times during our searches because we share information we think might benefit the other. Janet wondered whether I might know of a J Gordon who stitched a sampler in 1846; Janet had received an enquiry from an antique dealer in Newcastle, New South Wales, who was selling a sampler she had bought in the 1990s in Christchurch, New Zealand. The dealer had found Janet Martin’s family tree on the internet and explained that she was now selling the sampler and was trying to trace any Gordon descendants to offer it to them before advertising it for general sale on the internet. As soon as I saw the initials I recognized that this was, indeed, our family, and the little seven year old girl who stitched it was Jessie Gordon of Twynholm Manse.
Janet (Jessie) Gordon married a draper, Robert Symington, and they emigrated to New Zealand where he set up a business in first Lyttelton, and later Christchurch. They did very well and eventually Janet’s brother, John and his wife, Barbara Houston, joined them out there. Both Barbara and Janet lost baby girls within six months of each other and the infants are buried in a cemetery in Christchurch, but even worse, poor Jessie’s health deteriorated with the birth of each child and I think the death of baby Lilias tipped her over the edge. Her mental health was so bad that Robert eventually had to take her home to Scotland and she finished up in the Royal Murray Home for the Insane in Perth.
Robert brought up the remaining children, Penelope and Walter, in the UK but their mother was hopelessly insane and lived in the institution until her death in 1909.
Walter became a marine engineer and returned to New Zealand where he married and had one son, Robert Henry Symington. Robert became a Chartered Accountant and he married Reta Brown; they lived in Southampton Street, Christchurch but they had no children so the line died out completely.
Probably Penelope, who lived in London, had the sampler until she died in 1936 (she did not marry) and then it would have been sent out to Robert as the only direct descendant still living.
I visited Christchurch a couple of times and tracked down the homes where Walter and Robert lived and even found a neighbour who remembered Robert and his wife. Robert Henry died in 1984 and his widow Reta died in the early 1990s and this would fit with the acquisition of the sampler about that time by the antique dealer who has now sold it to me.
What a story all this is. Knowing how I feel about family history you will appreciate how important the sampler is to me. I am still shaking my head in wonder that it has “come home” in this way. You can imagine how I felt when I realised the significance of the sampler and the stroke of good fortune that resulted in my purchasing it!
I have now sourced a framer who can reframe it with acid free backing and UV resistant glass so that it will not fade. It is 171 years old and I hope the conservation process will ensure it survives another few centuries!”
Details of the sampler.
The first six lines of the sampler are the alphabet, and the seventh line numbers one to fifteen.
Then she begins with her family and the initials are as follows:
JG (her father, John) PG (her mother, Penelope) [These were Jimmy’s great grandparents]
MG (Mary, born 1837) JG (John, born 1839 – he’s the one we call Rascal John because he had a rather interesting history for a son of the manse!)
JG (James, born 1841) ((Jimmy’s grandfather) PJG (Penelope Jane, born 1842 CDG (Catherine Douglas born 1843) TG (Thomas born 1844) MEG (Margaret Elizabeth, born 1846)
[Jessie was born in 1838 but does not include her initials as her name is on the bottom of the sampler. She also had one more brother, William Ireland, but he was born in 1847 and this sampler was stitched in 1846]
Then she gives her aunt and uncle,
MG TG (this is Mary Corrie and Janet’s uncle, Thomas Gordon) Their children,
MG (Margaret born 1843) JG (John born 1841) MG (Mary born 1844) Then comes my lot: SG AG (my great, great grandparents, Samuel Gordon and wife Alicia McCallum) Their children:
JG (John, my g. grandfather born 1840) AG (Alicia Julia McLean born 1842) AG (Alexander McCallum born 1843) MG (Mary born 1844) RS MG (these are her Aunt Mary Gordon who married Robert Stobo) Their children
SS (Sarah born 1841) MS (Mary born 1842) ES (Elizabeth born 1844) JW JW (these are her aunt Janet Gordon who married James Williamson) JW (John born 1830) MW (Margaret born 1832) JW (James born 1835) GW (Gordon born 1835) JW (Jane born 1837) IW (Isabella born 1839) AW (Alexander born 1842) TW (Thomas born 1844) and then she repeats her own parents and siblings.
(More photographs and details of the Gordon Family can be found in the Gallery part of the Society website.)