The search is on for author's descendants

Hopes of restoring the gravestone of a Berwick author could depend on finding a living descendant.

Sunday, 18th February 2018, 07:33 am
Andrew Ayre with the tombstone of Border poet John Wilson at Tweedmouth Church.

John Mackay Wilson, a former Berwick Advertiser editor, became a publishing sensation with his Tales of the Borders.

In recent years, Andrew Ayre has established the Wilson’s Tales project, which has managed to raise the author’s profile with a new generation through plays and readings.

Now he is hoping to have Wilson’s gravestone in Tweedmouth Churchyard refurbished and Berwick Preservation Trust has indicated it is willing to help.

“The task will be a lot easier if we can trace a living descendent as it becomes their property and means a lot less hoops to jump through,” said Andrew.

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Research carried out at Northumberland Archives, Berwick, found a report in the Berwick Advertiser of January 1927, stating that an organisation had been formed in Tweedmouth, called the John Mackay Wilson Association, to ‘honour the memory of the Tweedside author’.

Another aim of the association was to care for his resting place, and to commemorate his memory by the placing of a tablet somewhere in Tweedmouth.

The report also showed that the John Mackay Wilson Association in 1927 had in their possession an old document dated 1801, which contained a record of the author’s family.

The document showed that William Wilson and Jean, his wife, were married at Dunse, in 1801. A record from 1821 showed their children then living were John Mackay Wilson, born at Tweedmouth, 1804; James; Isabella; Eleanor; William; and Jean.

The only definitive record of a marriage in the Advertiser report of 1927 was that of John Mackay Wilson’s eldest sister Isabella, who married George Beattie, of Chatton. Census returns show them living in Amble from 1851 onwards with their children. It has been possible to establish that George William Beattie, who died in Amble in 1958, aged 83, was a descendant of John Mackay Wilson. He lived with his wife Helen, along with daughter Elizabeth and son George, at 22 Albert Street.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Andrew Ayre via aa@wilsonstales.co.uk