Jack Shiels Handwritten History

Jack Shiels was a grandson of Thomas and Barbara (Cranston) Shiels. He lived in Southern Ontario and wrote the Shiels family history in the 1940’s.  The following text is in Jack’s own handwriting. A transcript is included below. As stated, most of Jack’s information is correct although we have discovered some inaccuracies through our research. Transcript from above:

This is a history of the Shiels family back to (1760) Seventeen Sixty when Michael Shiels went from Kildaire Ireland to East Mains Scotland for the harvest and he liked the country, the wiskey and the scotch lassies that he decided to stay.

He hired with a man Dan Scott for a year for ten pounds and before the year was out, he married Jessie Scott, his boss’s niece and there was a big row and they left.

They had a son they called Dan after her uncle and seven daughters named Bridget, Nora, Ann, Sarah, Margaret, Bettie and Susan. They were all good looking girls, far better looking than the generation to come.

Bridget trained for a nun but changed her mind and joined the Church of Scotland and went to China as a missionary of her Church. Nora took up teaching and made a very successful governess.

Ann married a farmer called Jim Dunn but did not have any kids.

Sara, Margaret, Bettie and Susan were farm girls and never married.

So it was up to Dan to carry on.

Dan was a gay sport till he reached his thirtieth year. Then he met his fate in Bessie Brown. She was up in years but a fine woman and a great girl for music. At that time, Danial got a good job as agent for the Duke of Buccleuch and a good salary, at least you would call it good in the eighteenth century.

They only had one son and they called him Thomas Jeff after her uncle Jeff. He looked very much like his dad but had his mother’s kind nature. He was very fond of music.

His mother died shortly after he was sixteen years old and his dad lived till he was nearly ninety years. He was a master stone mason. He had served seven years as an apprentice at the last century and you had to serve 3 years before you could get your papers. Now if you have a hammer and trowel, you are a mason.

So Dan was a good mechanic and got a good job. Tom, was a good musician but it did not fetch in much money. He married Jane Saxton and they had one son Thomas and 4 girls. They had a hard time to make ends meet. Some of the girls were out to service and they finally got married.

They moved to the village of Biggar in Lanarkshire and got a job on a farm.

Tom, the son, was very fond of horses and got a job in the stable of the Duke of Buccleuch and advanced quickly to be head man and got a good wage, at least good at the time.

He fell in love with the governess of the Duke’s two little girls and married her and raised a good sized family, 2 girls and 5 boys. Her maiden name was Jean Cranston.

The children were Thomas, Jean, John, Barbara, George, Robert and William. Their father died when they were quite young, William was just three months old. So that was hard luck for the widow but was a brave soul.

The Duke of Buccleuch remembered his old governess to his little girls and the girls backed him up. He got a room in the village and he paid her a living wage to teach the village kids. The Duke did not make a mistake for she was a wonderful teacher. About the turn of the century, your scribe had a talk with a gentleman that went to her school. He said you should thank God that you had such a smart grandmother and I tried to live up to it.

She retired from the school at the age of eighty one and she was as spry as lots of girls at 35 years old. She lived till she was 93. She spent her last days with William, her youngest son.

He was married and lived in her house. I must not forget our grandfather. He was a good sport and a great lover of horses, fast preferred, and he liked good company. He was a great hand with a fiddle and it did not do him any good. He was a kind hearted soul. He was his own worst friend. He worked on the Duke of Buccleuch Estate as a game keeper and was an expert with a gun. He was shot by a poacher and was badly wounded. He was not killed but he never was the same man after.

When he died, the Duke erected a marble slab at the head of his grave and on it “Here lies a Gallant and True Scotch Man”.

His oldest son James was now the head of the family. He only was fourteen when he signed up as a drummer boy and was killed by the French men in the early Napoleonic War.


The balance of Jack’s writeup was included in the detailed histories that follow.

Jack was 80 years old when he prepared this writeup in 1949. He suffered a severe stroke before he finished and lost most of the use of his right arm. The original copy was passed on to Jack’s cousin, Mrs Ellen Ford and she passed it on to her son, William Ford.

I hope everyone with a Shiels Connection will join our members list and review the rest of the details. Please send email to history@shiels.ca letting us know of your interest.