Rogues and Vagabonds

Earlier this week I shared this meme to my Facebook Page. It got me to thinking about the rogues and vagabonds I have in my own tree. Families may seek to hide or be embarrassed to share details of an ancestor that has led a “colourful” life shall we say but for me it is precisely those people that make researching family history particularly interesting. I love to discover someone that makes your eyes pop and draws you in with the devilish details of their story. After seeing this image today on Pinterest ,baffcc0f38df3d6ce0c9f382211f78a6(

I decided my next post would be about one of these “skeletons”. We can’t hide or change our family so we should just embrace and acknowledge those characters and recognise that every family has them.

This particular rogue comes from my husband’s side of the family tree and I imagine there would be some who would say that that is avoiding the skeletons in my own tree but I assure you I’m not. It’s merely the end of a long day and I’m looking for a quicker post to draft – my own skeletons will be saved for another day!

Ebenezer Hay McMillan – a man with a name like that has got to be an interesting character, right? He was born 6 Mar 1861 in Alness, Scotland to John McMillan and Jane Kelbie and was my husband’s 1st cousin three times removed on the Kelbie side. My mother-in-law was a Kelbie and descended from a long line of hawkers and pedlars, gypsies and travellers! Ebenezer was a basket-maker and hawker as was his father also. He lived in the Elgin area of Morayshire and was married to Jessie Glendenning on 2 Oct 1915 and they had at least 12 children that are known to me. He lived to the age of 82 and died on 21 Nov 1943 from a cerebral haemorrhage.

Ebenezer Hay(Ebenezer at his trade of basket weaving)

Living the kind of lifestyle he must have done, it’s easy to understand how a man like him could have become embroiled in trouble from time to time. It must have been a hard, difficult upbringing at times, raising large families, making ends meet on very little. Family members clash even in the most privileged of circumstances but Ebenezer clashed very hard and with his father John McMillan.

On the 26 April 1888, it is reported in the Banffshire Advertiser that 2 days prior there was an event that can only be described as the attempted murder of Ebenezer Macmillan by his father during a quarrel about pawning boots. During the course of a drunken squabble between father and son, John McMillan draws a knife and stabs his son in the chest before running off and leaving Ebenezer seriously wounded. Ebenezer survives fortunately and his father is eventually apprehended, tried and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour. It appears that John McMillan was well acquainted with trouble and had had previous convictions for assault. Ebenezer also was accompanied by trouble and not always on the receiving end of a violent act. He was often the aggressor and had himself served 14 days for assault against a man named Campbell McPhee 4 years previous to this event. Four years after this event in August 1892, Ebenezer was again in trouble for stabbing James Williamson (another hawker and another family member!) and he was sentenced to imprisonment for 3 months duration for that event. There are also numerous reports of convictions for begging and breaches of the peace held against both Ebenezer and his father John.

(Newspaper clippings obtained from and are my own personal copies)

I cannot imagine the sort of relationship between a father and son that would make one want to stab the other but it seems that heavy bouts of alcohol consumption and the carrying of weapons was not uncommon amongst the family and aggression was the way to sort out your differences. I am not phased by stories such as these – they are a part of my past and lessons can be learned from the good and the bad. I find the stories beautiful in the way they demonstrate the richness and diversity of lives that came before mine and helped shape my family and I thank my ancestors for making an impact that ensured they would be remembered. I can only hope my impact on those that follow would be as profound and without the need for stabbing anyone preferably!

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6 thoughts on “Rogues and Vagabonds

  1. Hi there that is also my great grand father my grandad was Francis Macmillan and my father is James Macmillan Francis settled down in Keith and had 6 children with Elizabeth Macmillan

  2. Hi Shona – thanks for stopping by. I have Francis or Frank as he appears in my tree with wife Helen Stewart but have not researched beyond that into his children so you are a cousin that is previously not known to me. Are you on Ancestry at all? Maybe we could connect – I am sure my mother-in-law would be interested too.

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