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Gilbert Ritchie 1872-1944
Although Gilbert Ritchie did not work at H M Factory Gretna , he served the community of Gretna through his news agency and ironmongery on Central Avenue. He would be well known to anyone who lived and worked in the Gretna township and he would know many of them by name.
Gilbert was the only son of Thomas Ritchie and Marianne ( Mary Anne ) Peter Carnegie Ritchie, born on 23rd November 1872. He was named after his paternal grandfather, also Gilbert.
Thomas married Mary Anne at Calton, Glasgow on 19th October 1870. Thomas described as a clerk , son of Gilbert a merchant. Mary Anne’s father is described as a mill overseer.
Their first child , a daughter , Marianne Smith Ritchie was born in 1871, Gilbert followed in 1872, Sarah Dalziel on 1873 and a third daughter Emily in 1875.
The first census evident for the Ritchie’s is the 1881 return which finds the family at Carrick Road, Maybole, Ayrshire. Thomas is 29, was born in Kirkconnell and is manager of a shoe factory employing 26 men, 10 girls and 3 boys. Marianne , 28 born in Arbroath, Forfarshire. Marianne Smith ( daughter) , 10 born in Glasgow, Gilbert 8, born in Glasgow , Sarah D, 7 born Glasgow and Emily 5 also born in Glasgow, All the children are at school.
We learn that Marianne junior died aged 15 in the third quarter of 1886, registered in Paddington, London. It is not clear why Marianne was in London.
The 1891 census finds the family living at 13 Westgate, Newcastle. The household includes Marianne Carnegie , a widow living on own means aged 69, mother in law. Thomas at 39 is a boot dealer, Marianne also 39, Gilbert now 18 is a boot retailer’s assistant, Sarah D , 17 a scholar, Emily , 15 a milliner’s assistant. They also had a 32 year old Welsh male boarder, a hotel chef.
Perhaps Gilbert was working for his father.
In 1901 , 28 year old Gilbert was boarding at 10 Garturk Street, in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, a boot salesman. His landlady was a 38 year old dressmaker. A second boarder was a 24 year old law clerk.
In August 1901 , youngest sister Emily married John Ray a writer in Glasgow Her father is now described as a wine and spirit merchant.
On 10th June , 1902 , Gilbert married Gordina Nichol born in Wigtownshire in the Gorbals District of Glasgow. Gordina was working as a cash girl aged 14 in 1891 living at 53 Cathcart Rd, Govan. In 1901 she was working as a clerk living with her widowed mother in the Gorbals district.
Gilbert and Gordina had their first child on 4th April 1903, Louisa Stuart Ritchie born at Cathcart, Renfrewshire. Gilbert described on the birth registration as a boot salesman.
Gilbert’s father, Thomas died on 14th January 1906 at 276 Crow Road, Partick.
A second child , Gilbert was born on 10th June 1910.
The 1911 census lists Gilbert as a manager of a boot store , 4 families are listed at the same address. The children are 7 and 9 months old.
In September 1913, Gilbert paid for his own passage to New York via Ellis Island on SS Caledonia from Glasgow. The passenger list describes 40 year old Gilbert as a boot salesman on his way to visit a friend at McCreary’s Store . NYC. His nearest relative is Gordina at 103 Woodville Gardens, Longside. He is described as being 5ft 9 ins tall with a dark complexion and brown eyes. The photograph in the attached file certainly indicates this description. He then crossed the Canadian border in October 1913.
Sailed to US arriving Ellis Island , 40, boot salesman of 103, Woodville Gardens , Longside. Nearest relative is wife. To visit friend McCreary’s Store, 23rd 1st NY 5 9 dark complex, dark hair, brown eyes. SS Caledonia from Glasgow 20th Sept crossed Canadian border to Ontario from NY October 1913.
Gilbert’s obituary in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 8th March 1944, suggests that Gilbert, Gordina and children moved to Gretna in 1914 opening a newsagent and ironmonger shop on Central Avenue , Gretna. This date is questionable as Central Avenue did not exist in 1914 and according to a valuation roll Gilbert was a tenant and occupier of 103 Woodville, Cathcart, Glasgow in 1915. He went on to open further branches in Eastriggs and Gaitlebridge.
It is more likely that the account from a nostalgic letter written in the 1980s by Alan Shaw is more accurate stating that Gilbert took over from W and R S Kerr who ran a newsagent, tobacconist and barber in the back room a 127 Central Avenue. Kerr’s had several retail interests in the Longtown area.
Gilberts children attended the local school, to be found in the school registers , and Gilbert served the community throughout the time that the Factory was active and beyond. We learn that he was a founder member and master of the Gretna Masonic Lodge.
Daughter Louisa married Thomas Robb in Gretna in 1925.
Gilbert junior married in 1939 in Glasgow. It is not clear whether either Louisa or Gilbert junior had any children. Gilbert junior in 1939 is an electrical engineer and Gilbert senior described as a tobacconist and confectioner. Gilbert junior’s address is Manchester and his bride, Glasgow.
GRETNA-BOMBING-FINAL.pdf (devilsporridge.org.uk) gives a full and detailed account of the bombing of Gretna in WW2. Gilbert was present at the Masonic hall when several members were killed by a German bomb. He was severely injured but recovered.
This detail is included in the following obituary – Dumfries and Galloway Standard 8 March 1944
“OBITUARY NOTICE MR GILBERT RITCHIE, GRETNA The death occurred in Cumberland Infirmary on Friday night of Mr Gilbert Ritchie, newsagent and ironmonger, Central Avenue, Gretna. Mr Ritchie, who was 71 years of age, was a native of Glasgow. On completing his education, he was for some time engaged in Canada and the United States; and settled in Gretna in 1914, opening a newsagent’s and ironmonger’s business in Central Avenue. Shortly afterwards he opened shops in Eastriggs and Gaitlebridge, and became a well-known figure on both sides the Border. He was a founder member and past master of Lodge Gretna Freemasons, and was present when Gretna Masonic Hall was bombed, when several members were killed in 1941. He was very severely injured on that occasion, and made a remarkable recovery. He took an active interest in the social life of the township, and was a devoted member of St Andrew’s Church, and a prominent member of Gretna Bowling Club. He was popular and highly respected member of the community. He is survived by his widow, one son, and a daughter. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon to Gretna Cemetery. “
As we read in the above account, Gilbert was a prominent member of both the church community and the local community.
Gilbert is buried at Rigg Cemetery, the burial register gives his address as 123, Central Avenue, Gretna. Probate describes him as Gilbert the elder.
Gordina outlived Gilbert by 27 years. She died at 2 Victory Avenue on 13th January 1971 aged 95, according to probate.
Louisa lived until the ripe age of 98, dying in 2002. Gilbert junior’s death is unknown.