Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Thinking about my last blog post, I am still so proud to have come from a family of such strong women.
I’ve mostly been looking at my grandmothers maternal side, but I know that her paternal side has some strong females to, so today I’m going to talk about Merion Scollay, my great, great grandmother, my grandma Rosa’s paternal grandmother.
Merion, mostly known as Marion, was born around 1856, to Andrew Scollay (1807-1875) and Agnes Tulloch (1832-1886), although I’ve not been able to find her birth record yet. Some censuses state she was born in Mid Yell, although those in her younger years state she was actually born in Volister. I am currently looking into whether the Scollay family were victims of the Highland Clearances or not, I’m pretty certain they were cleared from their Croft at Volister and moved to Mid Yell.
Andrew and Agnes had 7 children. Marion was their second child, however her older sister Robina died aged just three years old.
The first record I find of Marion is in the 1861 census, she is 5 years old and daughter of the household, they are living at 1 Volister.
In 1871, she is still daughter of the household, aged 16, her mum is a knitter, and father Andrew is listed as a pauper. The family have now moved to Lussetter, on the east of the island near Mid Yell.
In 1881 she is still living with her mother who is now head of the household. Andrew Scollay died in 1875 of General Debility, Marion registered his death. We also see on the census two grandsons for the head of the household, Andrew Barcley, born in 1876, and Laurence Williamson, born in 1881.
Poor Marion, in the space of ten years had lost her father, and become mother to two illegitimate children, both with different fathers. It must have been very hard for Marion to take on responsibility to help her mum with the household and the family, whilst bringing up two children. To have one child out of wedlock in those days was frowned upon, but to have two with different fathers, I can’t imagine the potential ‘reputation’ this may have given her.
In 1891, she is now the unmarried head of the household, living at Hillend, Mid Yell.
All her siblings have left home, and mum Agnes has passed away. She died in 1886 from Chronic Brights Disease, a historic term for a debilitating kidney disease. Her 10 year old grandson Andrew registered the death with his mark. Marion is now solely responsible for her two children and her younger brother Robert.
In the 1881 census Robert is described as an ‘imbecile’ and in 1891 the census tells us he is ‘an idiot from birth’. We do not know the extent of his disability, but we can assume it was enough that he couldn’t work, and again must have put huge pressure on Marion to provide.
By 1901, Andrew has left home with the Merchant Navy, and Marion lives with Robert and Laurence. They are still at Hillend. She is working on a farm and her son working as a general labourer. We know that a few years later Marion loses her younger son to an accident whilst he to is serving with the Merchant Navy.
In 1911, we see that Andrew has married, and his wife and first child are living with Marion and Robert.
The second page tells us Marion is working as a crofter and knitter of hosiery.
I have seen evidence of three occupations for Marion throughout her life time. At about 20 years old when her first son was born, she is documented as a domestic servant. When son Laurence is born in 1881, she is listed as a crofter on his birth record, but as a knitter on the census. As above, we see farm worker and knitter again. Her death lists her occupation as Knitter of Hosiery.
Marion died on 18th February 1929, 9 years after her brother. She died at South Roadside, Lerwick. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this means she may have actually died at the side of the road. There is a South Road in Lerwick, but I don’t think there is a South Roadside. Her usual residence is listed as 17 Queendale Lane, which is the address of my great grandparents so she must have been living with them. I know they moved to the mainland from Yell sometime in the 1920s. Marion passed away from senile debilitation, which she had apparently been suffering with for months, I can only assume she had some kind of dementia.
This is not your typical inspirational story for International Women’s Day. Marion did not make any new discoveries or win a Nobel peace prize, but she did do what millions of women throughout the world do everyday, and have done for thousands of years. She worked her whole life to support and provide for her family and children. She was not bullied to give her children up for adoption because they were born out of wedlock, she looked after them and they both traveled the world. Andrew was a successful sailor who worked his way up from seaman to commodore. She looked after her parents in their old age, and she took on the responsibility for her disabled brother, whilst her siblings brought up their own families, some moving abroad and leaving her behind.
So, let’s have a shout out to the amazing women that do great things with love every single day. They may not be smashing the patriarchy or changing the world, but they are still outstanding in my eyes. The single mother’s, past and present, who are doing a terrific job even when it gets tough. Also all the women out there that juggle caring for their elderly parents, whilst looking after their own families and still working full time. International Women’s Day is for all women, even those that live seemingly ordinary lives. Marion, you did amazing, may you rest in peace. I hope you are finally able to put your feet up and relax!