The Roberts Sisters, Captain Adams and the Dundee Whaling Ships

By Heather Connie Martin

I have read the articles on the FDCA website about the Captain Adams with great interest. My great-great grandmother Betsy Roberts was married twice, and both her husbands sailed on the whaling ship s.s. Arctic. Her older sister Jessie was Captain William Adams' first wife, and mother of the younger Captain Adams. I would like to share the information I have about that branch of my family. It may help to shed some light on William Adams' early life, and on the lives of the women waiting at home in Dundee. The little boy Berty, mentioned at the end of the piece, was my grandfather.

Betsy and Jessie's parents were John Roberts and Isabella Caithness. John was born in Falkirk. His parents were Thomas Roberts, a farmer, and Agnes McKechnie. There are two records for a John Roberts born to Agnes and Thomas at Falkirk, a sad but common example of a brother named for an earlier boy who did not survive his first few years. The first John was born in September 1807. Our John was born in August 1809. The record of his birth includes an interesting latin phrase "Born Eodem Die", meaning "born this day". John was an engineer. Isabella was a Dundee lass, the daughter of John Caithness and Janet Sandiman.

John and Isabella's eldest daughter Janet Sandiman Roberts was born in December 1837. She would be known as Jessie. She was joined in September 1839 by a brother Thomas Roberts. In 1841 the Roberts were living in West Dock Street, and another daughter Agnes was born in December of that year. The family had moved to South Union Street, which ran from the end of Dock Street to the old Ferry Harbour, when their son John Mckay Roberts was born in August 1843. Sadly, John died of croup when he was just three months old. He was buried in the Howff, and in his burial record it gives his father's occupation as the engineer of a steamer. Their daughter Isabella was born around 1845, Betsy (possibly baptised Elizabeth) was born around 1847, and their son David was born around 1848.

In 1851 the Roberts were living at Fish Street, Dundee. John was aged forty-two and Isabella was aged thirty-one. They had six children at the time. Their eldest daughter Jessie was aged thirteen by then. Their son Thomas was aged eleven. Agnes was nine, Isabella was six, and Betsy was four. Their son David was aged two. Isabella and the children were all recorded as having been born in Dundee and the older children were at school. Isabella's mother Janet Caithness aged seventy-two was living with the family. Fish Street is described in the Dundee City Council Photopolis Archive; "This area was demolished in 1878 to make way for Whitehall Crescent. The spire of St Pauls Cathedral can be seen in the distance. At one-time Fish Street was occupied by respectable well-to-do tenants. By the middle of the 19th Century Fish Street had lost its appeal with the merchants and middle classes and became occupied and frequented by unsavoury characters. It was then referred to sarcastically as "The Holy Land"."
In 1853 a daughter Jane was born into the family, but at three months they lost her when she died of convulsions. Isabella died three years later on the first day of August 1856, at Fish Street. She died of consumption, TB, which she had had for many months. The records for the Howff show Isabella Caithness or Roberts buried on the fourth day of August 1856 in the New Howff.

In 1859 Jessie Roberts married William Adams, future Captain of the whaling steamer s.s. Arctic. At the time of their marriage William was boatswain on the s.s. Narwhal. The record of their marriage reads; "On the fifteenth day of September 1859 at Paradise Road, Dundee - Marriage (after Banns) was solemnized between us according to the Forms of the U.P. Church, Signed William Adams, 23, Signed Jessie Roberts, 22" The couple gave their address as 30 Fish Street. William's parents were William Adams, also a seaman, and Betsy Kerr, his father's first wife. The couple were married by George Gilfillan, Minister of School Wynd United Presbyterian Church, and well-known as the subject of William McGonagall's first poem. At the time of her sister's marriage Betsy was around twelve years old. Jessie's wedding record gives a clue as to why there are records existing for the baptisms of the Roberts' first four children, but not for their youngest four. Most records from before 1855 are Old Parish Records kept by the established Church of Scotland. At the Disruption in 1843 a third of the ministers, and almost half of the members, left the established church. It looks as though the Roberts family were among them.

William Adams gravestone is very specific in giving his date of birth as 15th September 1837, and as he was born before the Disruption his birth should be recorded in the Old Parish Records. The fire at the City Churches in 1841 may have destroyed some of the records.
There is a record for William's parents' marriage. William Adams, seaman, and Elizabeth Ker, the daughter of William Ker, gardener, were married on the 2nd of January 1832. They appear in the 1841 census at Rankin Lands, McVicars Lane, a lane which runs south off the Perth Road, just opposite where the Art College is now. William would have been three years old then, but he does not appear with the rest of his family. The ages for his sister and brothers are also inaccurate, with Margaret shown as five, Andrew as three, and James as two years of age. In fact, James was only two months old, and it is possible that because Margaret had just given birth, her second youngest son William was being looked after by a relative, perhaps her mother.
In 1851 thirteen-year old William was living with his father and grandmother in Perth. His mother had died, and his father was working as a "Vintner". Margaret was eighteen, and Andrew was fifteen and working as an engine fitter. William and his younger brothers, ten-year old James and eight-year old John, were scholars. The census shows that all the children had been born in Dundee. Their grandmother was also living with the family. Jackobina Keir (or Ker) was born at Kettle in Fife. In 1851 she was sixty years old and a widow.
When William married Jessie in 1859, his father had remarried and was back in Dundee, living in the Overgate. A son, Hector Annan Adams, had been born to his new wife Elizabeth Annan in August of that year, and he was baptised at the Wesleyan Chapel on Ward Road on the 28th of December. The census two years later shows William and Elizabeth at Shepherd's Close in Dundee, with James, who was then nineteen and a seaman like his father and brother, and one-year old Hector.

In April 1861 the ten-year census was taken, and it seems to show that the Roberts had moved apart. Grandmother Jannet Caithness was living at Union Street, with her widowed daughter-in-law 41-year old Agnes, and her grandson, 16-year old Peter Caithness, who was working in one of the mills. Jannet was recorded as the "Proprietor of House". Jessie was close by at Malthouse Close, which ran behind the houses on the west side of Union Street. She was living beside another seaman's wife Isabelle Smith, and her two-month old son Charles, and the family of shipmaster John McLagan. Next to the McLagan family's entry the census records "Shipmaster at sea..... do."
The youngest of the Roberts siblings, thirteen-year old David, was a boarder at the Dundee Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, at 19 Bucklemaker Wynd.
As for the rest of the family, there was an Isabella Roberts lodging with two Irish sisters, Margaret and Mary Reilly, at Blackness Road. The three girls were millworkers, and she may have been our Isabella. John, Thomas, Agnes and Betsy do not appear in the census. One possible reason could be that they were staying onboard the steamship where John was employed, and were missed by the enumerators. It is not clear what happened to Thomas Roberts or Agnes Roberts after that date. There are references to folk with those names in records and newspaper items, but none with enough detail to definitely link them with our family.

1863 was an eventful year for the family. In April Jessie Adams gave birth to a son named William, but sadly he does not seem to have lived very long as another little boy was given the name William just six years later. Jessie and William were living at Candle Lane.
In the summer of 1863 John Roberts was in charge of the steam engine in an old steamer which lay in the lock at Camperdown Docks. It was owned by his employers Carstairs, Mitchell & Co., and was being used by them while they were working there. The Tidal Harbour of Victoria Docks had been renamed Camperdown Dock in 1859, in honour of Admiral Duncan, and the company had been contracted to carry out the major improvements to the dock which began then, and were only completed in 1865.  Around the beginning of June, John noticed that brass parts and pieces of lead pipe had been taken from the engine. About a month later the culprits were caught when a police constable spotted two young lads hurling a barrow, containing over 40 yards of heavy iron chain, along Dock Street. It turned out that they had been stealing metal and cloth from various premises around the city, and selling it to a dealer in the Greenmarket. John and ship's carpenter William Morgan, who was in charge of the steamer, were called to give evidence at the trial in September. The case was held in Perth, at the Autumn sitting of the Perth Circuit Court of Judiciary. John described the missing parts, when he had noticed that they had been taken away, and when he had last seen them. He was then able to identify them, "(shown the bushes and other articles) - These are the articles I missed." The trial was fully covered in both the Dundee Advertiser, and the Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, and the two young thieves were sentenced to six years' penal servitude.

In October 1863 David Roberts died at the Deaf & Blind Institution aged just 14. The surgeon John R. Begg gave the cause of death as inflammation around the heart which seemed to have happened quite suddenly. His brother-in-law William Adams was with him, and reported his death.

At the beginning of 1865 John Roberts was working for Gilroy Brothers as an engineer. The Gilroys were one of the biggest jute companies, and owned an extensive area of mills and warehouses in the centre of Dundee. Their engineering department was responsible for, among other things, works on the extension of the massive Tay Works, and maintenance of the boiler houses and vast expanse of machinery in the jute mills. That February was bitterly cold. The Stobsmuir pond had frozen over, and on Saturday afternoons crowds gathered to skate and slide. Complaints had been made in the Advertiser, and the People's Journal about the nuisance caused by snow-ballers; "... at many of the public works the female workers have become afraid to leave the place, as when they do they are instantly set upon by numbers of cowardly men and boys, who lie in wait for them and ill treat them in the most shameful way." The 18th of February was a Saturday, and John Roberts was making his way to work from his home at Foundry Lane. He was walking along Meadow Road, which had recently been renamed Ward Road, and just as he reached the timber yards opposite the old Newtyle Railway Station, his heart gave out and he collapsed on the ground. He was immediately carried into the nearest building, a stable belonging to the Gilroys. A Doctor Duncan tried to help, but in just a few minutes John had died. His death was reported by his daughter Jessie Adams.

In 1866 Betsy and Isabella Roberts were both working as confectioner’s assistants. In June of that year, Isabella married David Air. David was born in Dunfermline, but his family were living in the Cowgate and he worked as a lapper, folding the lengths of linen in one of the calendar works there. Isabella and David were married at Tay Square, the home of Independent Church minister, the Reverend Robert Lang. It was usual then for marriages to take place at the manse, rather than the church. Three months later, Betsy married David Gibson at 6 Springfield the home of the Reverend David Cook. The Reverend Cook was also a minister in the Independent Church. The Panmure Street Independent Church had been formed after Robert Lang resigned from the Ward Road Chapel in 1853. A large part of the congregation broke away with him and, with the help of the wealthier members, a new church was built and opened in 1855. Panmure Church is now part of Dundee High School and is sited at the corner of Panmure Street and Euclid Crescent, facing the Albert Square. Neither of the Robert sisters new husbands had followed their fathers professions. David Air's father Robert was a teacher, and David Gibson's father James was a coal dealer, but their sons joined the hundreds who were then employed in the complimentary industries of jute weaving and whale hunting. Their sister Jessie's husband William had just gained his Masters Certificate, and been appointed First Mate of the whaling ship s.s. Arctic under Captain Wells.

The following year Isabella gave birth to a little girl, Jemima Air, in March. Jessie also had a daughter, Margaret Herald Adams in May, and that year her husband became captain of the Arctic. Another year passed, and in June 1868 Isabella had a son, Robert Air.

In 1869 the sisters Jessie, Isabella and Betsy, were all living in Gellatly Street, which ran from the Seagate down to the Custom House at the Docks. The Adams were at number 4, the Airs at number 32, and the Gibsons at number 12. There were a number of lodging houses in that street and it was very handy for the ships crews and their families. It is possible to guess which of Dundee's women were the wives of the whaling fleets crews, by looking at when their children were born. Some arrived at the beginning of the year, nine months after the ship's homecoming in early Spring. Others came into the world during the Summer, roughly nine months after the return of the fleet in late Autumn. That summer all three women were expecting a child.  Betsy and David Gibson's son David was born on the twenty-third day of August 1869. William Adams was born two days later on the twenty-fifth. He was baptised at the Ward Road Chapel on the eighth of November, when his father returned. Isabella gave birth to a daughter, Jessie Roberts Air, in the following April. Her birth was shadowed by sadness as, just three days before, Betsy's son died aged just seven months. His father was back at sea, and the little boy's death was reported by his uncle David Air.

On the second of April 1871 the ten-year census was taken.
Isabella and David Air had just moved to Perth, where David, and lodger John Boyd, had found work as linen lappers in one of the mills there. The family were living at 20 West Mill Street. Their daughter Jemima was then four, and son Robert was two. Their second daughter, baby Jessie had been born the year before in Dundee.
Jessie was at 2 Peter Street, in the maze of houses packed between the Seagate and the Murraygate, with her children, eight-year old Thomas, four year old Margaret and one year old William. Her brother-in-law, Andrew Adams, was living with the family. Andrew worked as a stevedore at the docks.
Betsy was a seaman's wife, alone and expecting her second child. The ships would return near the end of the month from the seal hunting in the Greenland Sea. David would have been home for just a short visit while the cargo was unloaded. His daughter Davina was born on the eighteenth day of August 1871, but he did not live to see her. As the Arctic was leaving the Tay bound for the Davis Straits he fell from the ship and was lost. On Friday, May 5th, 1871, a report appeared in the Dundee Courier & Argus;
"SEAMAN DROWNED FROM THE ARCTIC.... We regret to state that a telegram has been received from Captain Adams, of the Arctic, from Stromness, Shetland, at which port the vessel had put in yesterday afternoon, conveying the melancholy intelligence that one of the seamen on board the Arctic had fallen overboard and been drowned while the vessel was leaving the mouth of the Tay. The telegram, which was received by Mrs Adams, is in the following terms: - "David Gibson fell overboard at buoy of Tay. Sea too heavy; could not save him." The unfortunate man was a brother-in-law of Captain Adams, and we understand was a most respectable, sober-living man, and much respected in the circle in which he moved. He lived in Gellatly Street where his widow resides. The Arctic passed out of the river yesterday morning, at which time there was a severe gale blowing, and as Captain Adams states the sea was so heavy that it was impossible to save the man's life."; and from the log-book of Dr G. A. Rae, medical officer on board the s. s. Arctic; "May 3d. - While going down the Tay a man fell overboard in the most dangerous part of the river, and where the current is greatest. It blew very freshly, and the sea was quite high at the time. A boat was speedily manned and on its way to the rescue of the unfortunate man, who was making an attempt to swim. As the ship was going at the rate of nine knots an hour he was carried down long before the boat could have reached the spot."

On the 26th of August the Arctic unexpectedly arrived back in the Tay, much earlier than normal, and she was carrying the largest cargo of whales ever brought to Dundee. This success would have been of little comfort to Betsy, with a week old daughter and no husband coming home.

On the first of November Jessie Adams also gave birth to a daughter. Jessie Isa Adams was born at the beginning of November in the Murraygate, and baptised at the Ward Road Chapel on the 21st December 1871. Four of Jessie's children were baptised there, and are recorded in the Wesleyan Register of Baptisms. The Airs in Perth were expecting their fourth child, and David John Scrimgeour Air was born on the seventeenth of April 1872.

On the twelfth of November 1872 Betsy married again. Her new husband William Martin was also a member of the Arctic's crew, and would have been home for the winter. William was the son of Grace Gray and Robert Martin. He was born in Arbroath, the eighth of ten children born to the couple. His father was a master stonemason, and the family probably moved to the towns where Robert had work to do, so it would be interesting to find out what building projects were underway in Dundee, Arbroath and Leith at the times they were living there. Going by their children's births that would be Dundee roughly 1836-1840, Arbroath roughly 1841-1847, Leith roughly 1848-1850 and back in Dundee from about 1851, when William was four and the family were living at 28 West Wynd. William's father Robert died from rheumatic fever on the sixth day of May 1860 aged just fifty-one. He was buried in the Western burying ground. In April of the following year, his widow Grace was still living at West Wynd. Aged fifty, she was working as a housekeeper and she had eight children with her at home, five of them working. Jean was twenty-six and a sheeting weaver and Marjory was twenty-five and a sacking weaver. Sons John twenty-one and Robert seventeen were both journeyman masons. William was still at home and working as an apprentice rope maker. The three youngest children, ten year old James, eight year old Jemima, and four year old Alexander, were at school. William Martin was still living at home when his mother died at the end of January 1871.

William and Betsy Martin were married by United Presbyterian Church minister James Wilson, at 6 Wellington Street. William was twenty-six and Betsy was twenty-four, and they gave their address as 16 Miller's Wynd. Their witnesses were James and Catherine Webster. Betsy was unable to write, and signed with a mark, which was witnessed by James W. Wilson and William's older sister Margory Martin.
Betsy gave birth to their first child the following September. William Adams Martin was born on the sixteenth day of September 1873, and a notice of his birth in The People's Journal the following Saturday shows that while the family were still at Millers Wynd, William was away at sea on the steamship Arctic; "Births.... At 40 Miller's Wynd, Perth Road, Dundee, on the 16th Inst. the wife of Wm. MARTIN, s.s. Arctic, of a son."
By 1873 Jessie and William had moved to 8 James Place, in Broughty Ferry. It would have been a grand new house, after the tenement rooms in the centre of Dundee, but Jessie was now separated from both the sisters who had been close at hand for so many years. She also gave birth to a son that Winter. Albert Hastings Markham Adams was born on the first of December and baptised at the end of January 1873. He was named after the explorer Albert Markham, who sailed as second mate on the Arctic that year.
A couple of weeks later, and Betsy and Jessie both waved their husbands off at the dockside, as they headed out into the North Sea to face whatever the midwinter sea could throw at them. The Arctic was heading for the seal fishing in Newfoundland, the first time a vessel had left Dundee for that fishing.

On the 10th of September 1874, the families of the whaling fleet were horrified to read or hear of the headline in The Dundee Courier and Argus; "THE LOSS OF THE WHALER ARCTIC. - PERILOUS POSITION OF THE CREW - THE VESSEL BURNED. SEVERAL OF THE SHIPS BESET." In fact by then Jessie and Betsy would have known that their men were safe. Captain Adams, with his first and second mates, had arrived in Dundee by train after being landed at Thurso, and the rest of the crew were safely on board the s.s. Victor which was making its way down the east coast towards the Tay. On the 6th of July the Arctic had reached a place called Fary Point, in Cresswell Bay, when the ice began to gather around, trapping the ship. The sails were taken down and she was steamed into a natural dock in the ice in order to protect her as much as possible from being nipped. The Courier gave a very graphic account of what happened next;
"On the morning of the next day a strong gale from the S.S.E. began to blow, the ice driving fast and squeezing terribly. About half-past eight tremendous fields of ice brought up on Cape Garry, which caused the ice around the Arctic to crush her so violently as made her timbers creak and crack as if she were to be crushed to atoms every moment. The pumps were sounded in order to ascertain whether the vessel had suffered any damage, but it was found that she was still quite tight. In half-an-hour afterwards, however, there was a fearful upheaval of the bow, which threw the ship completely on her beam ends and damaged her seriously. The mate and carpenter on making an examination found that the port bow had been stove in, and a heavy rush of water was making its way aft, All hands were instantly ordered to the pumps, and the donkey and bilge injection pumps were also brought into operation, but notwithstanding the efforts to keep the water down, it rose so rapidly that in fifteen minutes the fires were drowned out, and shortly afterwards the water reached its own level. It was now self-evident to everyone that the loss of the ship was inevitable, and Captain Adams directed the men to move the provisions and all the effects they possibly could. Meanwhile the ice continued to leap up in tremendous bodies around the vessel, which made it very difficult for the men to save the provisions, for no sooner had some quantities of the provisions been thrown overboard, than they were buried by the broken masses of ice which were every now and again thrown up. In their efforts to save the provisions many of the men lost all their clothes. All were very anxious to get under the decks to save as many articles as possible, but owing to the very critical condition of the vessel, it was deemed unsafe to do so. The vessel was borne up simply by the pressure of the ice, and it was feared that should the men venture to go below the deck the ice might probably open up and the ship and all on board might be engulphed without anyone having the least chance of escape. While the men were busy saving the provisions, &c., a fearful storm of wind and rain prevailed. After the men left the ship and took to the ice they gathered all the provisions they could together, as well as the clothes which had been saved, and prepared for the worst. The whole of the fifty-four men which formed the crew were at this time entirely without shelter exposed to the full violence of the gale and the heavy pelting rain which drenched them through and through. They remained by their vessel till six o'clock in the evening, when from some cause or other fire broke out on board near the bow, and spread so rapidly that in a few minutes the vessel was entirely enveloped in flames. The appearance of the fire was picturesque though terrific. The flames rose to a great height, and roared and cracked furiously while they shed a brilliant light around. When the flames were burning most fiercely the ice opened up and engulphed the flaming hull, which went down stern first amid a hissing cloud of steam. After the vessel had disappeared the crew made their way towards the other vessels. It was found that they also were firmly beset in the ice, and had been left by their crews, who had carried with them all their provisions and clothing, and were living together on the ice in tents which they had made out of the ships' sails. A change for the better, however, took place on the morning of the 8th, when the storm began to moderate and the ice became loose around the vessels. The different crews then returned to their respective ships, while the crew of the Arctic was divided among them.

The Airs had returned to Dundee by 1875, and were living in Panmure Street, so Betsy once again had her sister Isabella near by, and in November, Andrew Air was born. For the Adams too, everything seemed to be going well. The Arctic II was launched on the 22nd of January. She was larger than any previous Dundee whaler, and went into the water to loud cheers from the crowd gathered at the Stephens' yard; and in August the Northern Warder and Bi-Weekly Courier and Argus announced; "BIRTHS.... At 8 James's Place, West Ferry, on the 17th inst., the wife of Captain Wm. Adams, s.s. "Arctic", of a daughter." The couple named the baby Alberta Markham Adams. She seems to have been named after her brother Albert.

In June 1876 the Airs lost their young son David when he died from some sort of intestinal disorder. The loss of young children in the crowded and often filthy conditions of Dundee was common, but always devastating. Isabella's pain was compounded when her sister Jessie Adams died on the seventh of October, of heart disease. Jessie's death was reported by her brother-in law Andrew who was living in the Perth Road.
William Adams lost no time in finding a new wife. This doesn't necessarily mean that he wasn't grieving for Jessie, but he knew he would be returning to the sea in a few weeks time, and leaving a family of young children, the youngest just one year old. On the 30th of January he married Elizabeth Beattie, a farmer's daughter from Newcastleton in Roxburghshire. They were married in England, at St Paul's Parish Church in Bedford.

Over the next few years, life went on for Isabella and Betsy in Dundee. The town must have been chaotic in those days as more and more people poured in, ships came and went, and the air foul as the dust from the building sites mixed with the smoke and stoor from the mills. Betsy had another two sons, and Isabella had a daughter. Alexander Martin was born in June 1877, Margaret Mary Neish Air was born in February 1879, and Albert Adams Martin was born in September 1879. At the end of December 1979 the whole town was shaken when the Tay Railway Bridge collapsed just as everyone was getting ready to celebrate hogmany. William Adams led a search party in a desperate search for any survivors. It was a terrible end to the year.

In 1881 Betsy was living at 24 Miller's Wynd. She was 31 and named as the head of the household, as William was away at sea again when the census was taken. With her were her ten year old daughter Davina, and her sons William six, Alexander four and Albert one. Davina and William were at school. Betsy's second daughter, Grace Gray Martin, was born in 1882 in Dundee. William Adams was living with Elizabeth, and their one year old son Arthur, at 12 Duntrune Terrace in the north west of the Ferry, not far from Claypots Castle. Elizabeth's younger sister Mary Beattie was also living with them, and William's older children, Margaret, William, Jessie, and Alberta, were all still at home. Isabella and David Air were living at Bain Square, in Dundee with their five children. Fourteen year old Jemima was working as a paper reeler. Robert, Jessie, and Andrew were at school, and Margaret was the baby of the family at two years of age. Sometime after 1881 Isabella died, although it is not clear when or why. David remarried in 1888, to housekeeper Margaret Guthrie. Margaret was also a widow, having previously been Mrs Keir. They were both staying at 12 Gellatly Street.

In 1883 William Adams retired from Alexander Stephens & Co., owners of the Arctic, and bought his own ship the Maud. The Martins moved to Broughty Ferry around the same time. The family settled at 14 Alexander's Land. This was a block in from the harbour, in King Street. The Ferry must have felt fresh and open after Dundee, with it's sandy beach and plenty of open space for young children to run about. Betsy's two youngest children were born there. Robert was born in September 1884, and his mother reported his birth as William was at sea. Marjory was born at the end of November in 1886. The whole family moved back to Dundee around 1890, when Captain Adams died, and the Maud was sold.

In 1891 Betsy was living at 36 Seafield Road. She was aged thirty-nine and living with three daughters and four sons. Again, her husband is missing from the census and must have been at sea. Her eldest daughter Davina was nineteen and working as a jute winder. Her son William was fifteen and Alexander was thirteen. Both boys were working as rope spinners, the job their father had done as a boy.  Albert aged eleven, Grace aged nine and Robert aged five were all scholars, and the youngest daughter Marjory was just three years old. Betsy's niece Jemima Air was by then twenty-four, and working as a servant. The census specified "comes home at night", an exception as most servants were expected to stay overnight with the families who employed them. She was boarding at Bank Street with Barbara Miller, a widow who worked as an office cleaner. David and Margaret Air were at 48 Constable Street with James Weir, Margaret's twenty two year old son, fifteen year old Andrew Air who was working in one of the mills, and thirteen year old Margaret who was still at school.

A year later, and William was working on board the Aberdeen steam ship Ben Wyvis, when he was terribly injured. A report of the accident appeared in the Dundee Courier of Thursday, April 7, 1892; "SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO A DUNDEE SEAMAN. - Information has been received in Dundee to the effect that William Martin, seaman, Seafield Road, Dundee, had met with a serious accident at Stockton-on-Tees. Martin was a member of the crew of the ship Ben Wyvis, of Aberdeen. While engaged at his work the other day when the vessel was lying at Stockton, he accidentally fell down the hold. On his being picked up, it was ascertained that his back had been broken, and that several of his ribs had been fractured. He was removed to Stockton Hospital, but his injuries are of so severe a nature that it is not expected he will recover. Martin's wife proceeded to Stockton yesterday."
Betsy brought him back to Dundee, where she cared for him, and he lived for several years before finally succumbing to traumatic myelitis erysipelas, severe infections associated with his injuries. William died in 1899 on the third day of February, aged fifty-two, at the Parochial Hospital, Dundee. William was described in the register of his death as "pauper, formerly seaman merchant service (naval pensioner)".

William death was intimated in the Dundee Advertiser of Monday, February 6; "DEATHS - At the Eastern Hospital, Dundee, on the 4th inst., after seven years illness, borne with Christian patience, William Martin, seaman, aged 54 years, beloved husband of Betsy Roberts - deeply regretted. (New Zealand papers please copy)"

Two years later in 1901 Betsy was forty-eight and living at 42 Step Row with her children. William and Alexander were now both seamen, Albert was an assistant grocer, Grace was working as a rope hanker, Robert as an engine cleaner and Marjory, who was just thirteen was working as a twine baller.

In 1911 Betsy was living with her six year old grandson Berty at 3 Union Place. Berty was at school. His mother Grace, a jute mill weaver, had died from tuberculosis two years before when she was onle twenty-six years old. In the census, under occupation, Betsy had given 'Private Means'. She had been widowed for some twelve years then and it is possible that she had some sort of pension or, perhaps more likely, support from some of her grown up children. Betsy lived until 1921, when she passed away on the seventeenth day of January, aged sixty-eight.

Heather Connie Martin, October 2017

With Grateful thanks to Heather Connie Martin who has allowed us to put this on our Website.