Thomas Hay, who was to be Cornet in 1847, was living in the Crown Inn on the High Street as a 12 year old in 1840, when Cornet Charles Smith and his followers were served a sumptuous dinner by the publican Mrs Ann Hay, helped no doubt by the young Thomas.
The 1840 Common Riding is described in much more detail here on the site.
Thomas’ innkeeper father Robert Hay, had died aged 51 in January 1832 [according to Wilson’s Record of Deaths], so Ann, born in Langholm, had been left as a 30 year old widow with 5 year old Thomas and 7 year old Jane, to run the Crown Inn since then.
In 1847, Thomas appears in the list of Cornets as a millwright, so he must have been apprenticed to the trade when he was 14-15 or so, in 1842 or 1843.
His mother dies in January 1848; and then Thomas himself dies in October 1851, just over 4 years after he was Cornet, at the age of 23, and he is buried with his mother and father in St Marys churchyard
His sister Jane was left to carry on the Crown Inn business as a married woman – she had married the boy next door, Robert Grieve, in May 1846 , so they had had about eighteen months to learn the business before mother Ann Hay died at the start of 1848.
Robert was a Solicitor’s Clerk from Teviothead who was lodging at Waldie the tailor’s shop next door to the Crown, and he would have been able to help with the legal transfer. Ann left £22 in cash, £202 in wines and spirits, and debts of £3 – an estate worth [though estimating “worth” is pretty tricky] £12,000 in todays money, which would be enough to buy 1,000 days of a tradesman wages or 13 horses or 40 cows = say £100,000, which sounds right for a good-going and well established business on the High Street.
But Robert also died young in 1853, and Jane was left to carry on at the Crown as a widow for another 10 years until she had to give up the Crown Inn in 1863, with substantial debts to be settled. However, she was able to carry on as a hotel keeper till the 1870s at 8 Bridge Street, albeit on a smaller scale, with only one general domestic servant, and her daughter Annie Little Grieve, a governess.
But to return to our Cornet – what would his obituary have said about Thomas? At a guess, that he was
- sociable – brought up in the Crown Inn on the High Street, he would know and be known by most people in the town
- hard-working – with his father dead, he would be expected to play a full part in the running of the Inn
- popular with girls – he deserves this in his short life. He would be used to female company, with a mother and elder sister, and with the young female servants in the inn, his would be a working female environment
- bright and practical, good with his hands and his brain. Millwrights were key technical people in Victorian Britain – a look at The Young Mill Wrights Guide tells us a lot about Thomas and where he worked – presumably at one of the water powered mills in the town – the current Tower Mill wasn’t built until 1852, but it may just be Thomas was involved in equipping it