Hawick Cornets :
you're reading about ...

1852 Robert “London” Laidlaw the Loan cowboy

Robert Laidlaw’s cousin William Laidlaw had been the Cornet in 1838.They would have known each other – their granny lived at 17 Loan with Robert’s family as a widow when William was Cornet, so he would have visited.

There were several Laidlaw families in Hawick at the time – hosiery manufacturers in Teviot Crescent, grocers in the High Street and the Howegate, hand loom weavers at 14 Loan – but Robert’s father Robert “London” Laidlaw lived at 17 Loan, south side. He rented the Moat fields behind the house to graze cows, and sold their milk

The two Laidlaw brothers, Walter and William, had arrived in Hawick in the 1780s from Leith [ here as elsewhere with many a nod of thanks to Douglas Scott’s magnificent Hawick Word Book ]. They had gone to work in the carpet factory in Orrock Place [1752-1806], and afterwards William, living in the Mid Raw, started his hosiery business – William Laidlaw & Sons.

1 Eldest daughter Janet had married wool spinner Robert Wilson, owned the Nixon mills at Lynnwood
2 William “Shaffles” was the first Son to go into William’s business – and his son William was the 1838 Cornet
3 Thomas was a grocer, as was his son – yet another of the many. many Williams!
4 Charles married Pawkie Paterson’s niece Hannah Harkness and lived at 14 Loan

And as for Nellie Harkness she rises in the morn
& cries “O godsake uncle, the yaud’s among the corn”
Hei tuik his muckle pleugh-staff then & cam & swabbled mei
Aw’m Pawkie Paiterson’s auld grey yaud sei how they’re guidin me

5 Robert “London” Laidlaw married Rachel Rae and had six children, starting with [yet another] William in 1815 and finishing with Cornet Robert in 1832. The “first William’s” widow Margaret was living with them as a 76 year old in 1841.
In that 1841 census, 17 Loan houses mostly Hawick born families: McMath “28, dresser of woollen hosiery”; Blaikies “22, White-smith”, as well as the Haigs, Blythes, Coombes, Huggans, Berridge, Scotts “woollen frame work knitter” – and what must be son William now aged 36 “woollen frame work knitter” with his wife Christina “36,woollen seamstress”.

10 years later, Cornet Laidlaw is safely married, to a slightly older Jessie Gow from Blair Atholl, and they have started a family

He is still a stone mason and still living at 17 Loan, and his father is still a “farmer of 15 acres” though he did eventually take over the renting of his father’s fields. Unfortunately his family didn’t thrive – James dies aged 25; John, Stewart and Robert in infancy; Robert at 17 – though Rachel lives as do Eliza, Walter and Agnes [though they moved to Huddersfield]

Cornet Robert died in 1908 and Jessie in 1910.


I presume that Robert must have been heartily sick of hearing the story of his father’s nickname “London Laidlaw” – no doubt many many times recounted.
The 1837 election for Roxburgh was marred by intimidation of voters and by rioting, and was the subject of a Parliamentary inquiry [one of many at the time].
London Laidlaw was called with others to London to give evidence to the inquiry on what was going on during the three days that voters tried to vote at the Tower Hotel.

I haven’t found his evidence, but two voters Oliver [farmer and miller, Hawick Mill ?] and Tully [farmer of 50 acres, Allars, Millpath?] “had their clothes torn off, and were left almost naked. Mr Benwick was most dangerously injured. Mr Elliot was thrown from his horse, had one of his fingers of his right hand mutilated by a cutting instrument, was struck on the temple and taken up insensible. Other persons were also shamefully maltreated” …………….. including London’s brother William “Shaffles” Laidlaw who lost his coat tails to Radical shears.


About Neil Wallace

Born in the Haig Maternity, lived in Dovemount Place, and started school there at Trinity. To Burnfoot Primary then the High School. Moved away from the town to Cardiff, then Edinburgh, and now an exile in Suffolk.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: