And now to my last grandparent, Jean (or Jeanie) Wilson Sutherland, born in Glasgow on 20 February 1890, the eldest of my grandparents and the longest-living!

Between 1870 and 1914, Glasgow was one of the richest and finest cities in Europe, thanks to the industrial revolution and heavy engineering such as shipbuilding, etc.  However, there was also extreme poverty.

Jean’s parents were George Sutherland and Jessie Simpson Allison.  She had five sisters and one brother, all born in Glasgow.  At the time of Jean’s birth, the family was living at 26 George Street.  Apparently this address was a tenement block which housed several families.  In 1891 the family was still living in George Street (except for one of the children who I can’t find and who may have died).  Jean’s father was a cloth lapper.  According to various websites, a cloth lapper: cleaned cotton fibres before sheets fed into carding machines; moved the yarn from the carding machine to the next process in weaving; worked in textile finishing, folding or doubling the cloth repeatedly upon itself ready for packing – probably all three.

The family had moved on to 94 Parson Street by 1901 (the street where architect George Rennie Mackintosh was born in 1868).  Most of the street has disappeared.  All that’s left of it is mostly occupied by Martyr’s school, built in 1895.  As a matter of interest, in 1904 a man caused the death of his wife at 64 Parson Street by pushing her against a table during an argument.

Ten years later, in 1911, Jean’s family were living at 83 Taylor Street, which also housed more than one family.  A death of a neighbour followed them there as well, as a storeman, who resided in Taylor Street, was found dead at his workplace.  (Just beneath that report is an article on the death rate in Glasgow which was 16.5 per 1000.)

Jean’s father was still a cloth lapper and he, and two of his daughters (including Jean), worked at the calender works (Maggie and Jean were warehouse girls).  A calender worker was someone who operated a machine to press cloth between two large rollers.


According to Google street view this is 83 Wilson Street now.


This was 89 Wilson Street in 1938, a provision warehouse

There was a calender works in Frederick Lane, about 3 or 4 blocks north of Wilson Street and just off George Street/George Square, so I’m guessing this is where they worked.


The family moved yet again to Taylor Street to another block of flats.


Taylor Street in 1967

Jean now worked in a shop in Sauchiehall Street.  I remember the street name being mentioned numerous times so she must have enjoyed working there.



Mid-20s view of Sauchiehall Street

According to my aunt, Jean had an active social life, with friends being invited to the house for parties, and her sister, Effie, would sing.  (It reminds me of Billy Connolly’s accounts of the singing at home.)  Jeanie and her friends belonged to a “rambler’s club” and would go for long walks and picnics.  Holidays were spent in Rothesay, Oban, Saltcoats and Ardrossan.

War broke out and I’m assuming the family continued living in Taylor Street.  Some interesting background information on Glasgow in the lead-up to the war can be read here.  It was towards the end of the war that Jean met Percy Kercher, an Australian soldier.  My aunt says that they met when he arrived at their home(?) with the friend of one of Jean’s sisters.  They must have continued seeing each other, as after Percy’s return to Australia, he asked her to marry him.  Percy must have first written to Jean’s father.  I am lucky enough to have a copy of George’s reply.

83 1/2 Taylor St  25/2/20 Glasgow

Dear Percy

Just a few lines to thank you for the nice letter Mrs Sutherland and I received this morning.  It was no great surprise to us to hear from you as Jean is always talking about you we feel as  if we know you well and we regret very much we had not the pleasure of meeting you when you were in Glasgow your time being so limited. Well you ask for our dear daughter Jean to come out to you in Australia. We give our consent and our blessing we are also sure you will do your best to make her happy. It has given us great pleasure to hear you have been a good son and we believe a good son always makes a good husband. As for Jean she has been a dear loving daughter and we feel sure she will make a wise loving little wife. So when the happy event comes off we will pray that God’s blessing may rest on your union and that you and Jean may be long spared to each other with health and every happiness. As to your dear mother being a second mother to Jean I feel quite sure about that according to what I have heard about her and I feel sure Jean will be loving daughter to her. Now Jean is busy preparing for her journey and although we will feel the parting very much still we know she is going where loving hearts are waiting to receive her. Remember us to Father Mother and all the family trusting that you and them are keeping well.  With best wishes

Sincerely yours

Geo and Jessie Sutherland


My aunt tells me that Jean left for Australia on the “Wahine” about April 1920.  Unfortunately, I can find no passenger list or details of the departure or arrival.  (Google searches naturally come up with the much later shipping disaster in Wellington harbour.)  At first she lived with her in-laws in their house in Goulburn.  She and Percy got married on 15 June 1920.


Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 17 Jun 1920

They then moved to a federation house in George Street in Goulburn. I have another copy of a letter from Jean’s father, addressed to them both, no date.

My dear son and daughter

A few lines from the old chap to say that I was very pleased to hear that Jean had a good time going out to her new home and the fine welcome she received on her arrival. I cannot express the joy it gives Mother and myself to know that you both get on so well together. My hearts desire and prayer is that both be long spared to each others happiness. I hope you wont be disappointed by me not writing often as I write once in a blue moon not the (blue mountains) where you enjoyed yourselves so much. I don’t see the joke do you. I am very lazy, but Jessie is very good she writes every week and gives you all the news. Although I don’t write much, it gives me great pleasure to hear from you. Now let me take this opportunity to thank you for the papers you send. Do you mind when you used to pull me up and dance round the kitchen. I think it was Jazz you called it. I hope you won’t torment Percy Jean as you did me when you took a turn for fun. Whit dae ye think no sae bad for a start and aw tae yer ain sel. During the fair holidays we had no house taken at the coasts so George being on holiday we took some trips together and enjoyed ourselves. A.I. The first day we went on the motor to Newton Mearns it was very good the next day we had the car to Killermont and walked through Bearoden, Garcaddens to Dalmuir and took the car home a good long walk. We had also a fine day when we trained to Mulguy or Milngavie we went as far as Strathblane and back. But the best day of all was when we trained to Balloch. We walked through Glasgows new Park to the Bonnie Banks of Lochlomond it was very nice and we enjoyed a short time there. I had fully a week in September at Largs where Jessie & Maggie were with Mother having a holiday it is fine and bracing and it done us a lot of good. You know James King in the packing hall well he has a brother in Fairley a hairdresser so I walked there and went into the shop for a shave he knew me and very kindly pressed me to stay and have dinner with them which I did and enjoyed it as I had a long time to wait for a train. We all had a motor drive to Wenyss Bay and we had a very jolly time. Now excuse the mistakes I have had to tear up 4 or 5 pages with missing out words. I think I will stop now hoping this finds you all in the best of health as it leaves us.

From yours loving

Father & Mother

xxxx for yer ain Sel

xxxx the rest for free distribution


I love how it mentions Jean dancing, obviously enjoying jazz.

Percy built a house in Ruby Street on land purchased from his father, which they then moved to.  My aunt was born a year after the wedding, followed by my father in 1923, and another son in 1928.

I’m afraid I have very little information on Jean’s earlier life in Australia.  She never did return to Scotland, but a sister did visit when my aunt was young.  Jean was proud of being Scottish, loved the bagpipes, and loved the song “My ain folk”.  She would sing Scottish songs to her children.  My aunt tells me that she grew up speaking with a Scottish accent.  Her mother, Jean, never lost her strong Glaswegian accent.  I remember she was an avid reader of “The people’s friend”, and watched soap operas.  I envied my cousins having much more contact with their grandparents while I, in New Zealand, barely knew them.  I should ask them about their memories of Jean.

Jean and Percy moved to Westmead, a suburb west of Parramatta in Sydney sometime between 1940 and 1949.  Percy died in 1963 but Jean continued living at the house until an advanced age.


Jean at 1 Napier Street, Westmead in 1961

It became clear to the family that Jean was starting to forget things and had auditory hallucinations.  I remember on one visit that she had put cooked chicken in a cupboard instead of the fridge and complained about a man next door singing loudly, when there was no sound at all.  It worried my father, who could only visit occasionally for short times from New Zealand.

Eventually, Jean was moved to a nursing home in Grafton, near to my aunt’s house.  She was reluctant to go but evidently got used to it after a while.  The staff were fond of her.  I think I lost touch about then (we used to correspond at least annually), as she was not up to it.

Jean died on 23 January 1984, just a month before her 94th birthday.  She had got very thin and at the end refused any liquids.  My aunt wrote to my father with details of the funeral.  It was a very hot day in Grafton.  One of my cousins played “My ain folk” and “Loch Lomond” on the clarinet.  There were red roses tied with the Black Watch tartan.  She was buried at the lawn cemetery.



Sources: “Victorian Glasgow“; Dundee Evening Post, 5 May 1904; “Strange death in Glasgow”, The Scotsman, 4 May 1904; “Glasgow storeman’s death”, The Scotsman, 16 May 1911; Census occupations; Canmore catalogue; Mitchell library; Joyce Stuart; Glasgow history; Trove newspapers