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Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith

M, #482, b. 27 November 1823, d. 17 June 1907
Last Edited: 22 Oct 2020

Parents:

Father*: Robert Nicolson blacksmith b. 14 Aug 1799, d. 17 Nov 1863
Mother*: Sarah Ann Henderson b. c 1802, d. 8 Nov 1877
  • Baptism*: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith was baptised on 27 November 1823 at St Nicholas, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, ; Aberdeen 27th November 1823; Nicolson; Robert Nicolson, blacksmith, and his spouse Sarah Ann Henderson had a son born named Robert Davidson, baptised by the Rev Mr Lyon in presence of John Nicolson and Andrew Henderson.1,2
  • He was the son of Robert Nicolson blacksmith and Sarah Ann Henderson.
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith married Janet Worrel, daughter of John Worrel and Elspeth Tait, on 27 December 1850 at Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, .3,4
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith married Isabella Yeaman, daughter of John Yeaman and Isabel Clark, on 4 August 1882 at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, .5
  • (Deceased) Death*: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith died on 17 June 1907 at 3 Cotton Road, Dundee, Angus, Scotland, , at age 83 Senile Debility aged 83.
  • Address*: As of 18 March 1856, Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith lived at Princes Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; Engineer at Foundry.
  • Address: As of 8 February 1857, Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith lived at Galloways Land, 5 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; fitter.
  • Address: As of 5 February 1859, Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith lived at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; mechanic (fitter.)
  • (Informant) Death: He registered the death of John Worrel on 28 September 1860 at Dudhope Crescent, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; John Worrall, plasterer (jour) (married), male, 74 years, fath John Worrall, gamekeeper (dec), moth Helen Worrall ms Hume (dec), broncho pnuemonia as cert by David Greig MD who saw deceased on 28th September, buried New Burying Ground Dundee as certified by Robert Patullo undertaker, inf Robert Nicolson son-in-law 3 Crescent Street (not present), registered 1860 September 29th at Dundee Peter Smith assist registrar, initialled AL registrar.6
  • (Witness) Death: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith witnessed the death of Robert Nicolson blacksmith on 17 November 1863 at 19 Bucklemaker Wynd, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; cert held: 1863 deaths in the 1st district of the burgh of Dundee in the county of Forfar, #1051, Robert Nicolson blacksmith journeyman married to Sarah Ann Henderson, 1863 November seventheenth 1h 55m am 17 Bucklemaker Wynd Dundee, m, 65 years, John Nicolson blacksmith (dec) Grace Nicolson ms Grant (dec), peritonitis ten days as cert by J m Baxter surgeon, Robert D Nicolson son 3 Crescent Street present.
  • (Informant) Death: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith registered the death of Elspeth Tait on 22 August 1864 at Poor House, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; Euphemia Worrell widow of John Worrell, plasterer (jour), 1864 August 22nd 5h 0m am at Poor House Dundee, female 74 years, fath Robert Tait, baker (dec) moth Betsy Tait ms Hume [probably incorrect info - believed to be Helen Clark] paralysis debility as cert by J M Baxter, surgeon, inf Robert D Nicolson, son-in-law, 3 Crescent Street (not Present), registered 1864 August 22nd at Dundee W Johnston registrar.7
  • (Informant) Birth: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith registered the birth of Alfred Henry Nicolson on 25 August 1871 at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Angus, Scotland, ; 1871 births in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee, ref 1044; Alfred Henry Nicolson, 1871 August Twenty Fifth 5h 30m pm, 3 Crescent Street Dundee; male, parents Robert Davidson Nicolson engine-fitter (master) and Jessie Nicolson ms Worrell, m 1850 Dec 27th at Dundee; informant signed Robt D Nicolson father; regsitered 1871 September at Dundee F Macdiarmid registrar.8,9
  • (Witness) Death: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith witnessed the death of Sarah Ann Henderson on 8 November 1877 at 35 ... Road, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; general debility.
  • (Informant) Death: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith registered the death of Janet Worrel on 5 May 1881 at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1881 deaths in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee, ref 467; Jessie Nicolson married to Robert Nicolson engine fitter journy, 1881 May 6 7hr 15m am 3 Crescent Street Dundee; female aged 50 years parents John Worrall carter (journeyman) (deceased) and Elspeth Worrall ms Tait (deceased); cause of death phthisis pulmonalis 3 years as cert by J Johnston MB CM, informant Robert Nicolson widower (present), registered 1881 May 6th at Dundee - F MacDairmid Registrar.10

Census Events

Member of Household6 June 1841Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith was listed in the 1841 census at George Place Joint Stock Building, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert Nicolson, 40, blacksmith, not this county; Sarah Nicolson, 35, England; Robert Nicolson, 17, apprentice blacksmith, not in this county.
Head of Household30 March 1851He was listed as head of household in the 1851 census at 25 Cowgate Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert Nicolson, 27, machine maker, Aberdeen; [Sarah] Janet Nicolson, 22, Errol, Perthshire; also in the household were Janet Worrel, Sarah Ann Nicolson and Euphemia Nicolson.11
Head of Household7 April 1861He was listed as head of household, along with spouse Janet Worrel in the 1861 census at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert Nicolson, head, mar, 38, engine smith, Aberdeen; Jessie Nicolson, wife, mar, 31, Errol Perthshire; also in the household were Sarah Ann Nicolson, Euphemia Nicolson, Robert Davidson Nicholson, John Shaw Nicolson, Andrew Nicolson and Betsy Mellish Nicolson.12
Head of Household2 April 1871He was listed as head of household in the 1871 census at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert Nicolson, head, mar, 47, engine fitter, Aberdeen; Jessie Nicolson, wife, mar, 42, Errol, Perthshire; also in the household were Janet Worrel, Sarah Ann Nicolson, Euphemia Nicolson, Robert Davidson Nicholson, John Shaw Nicolson, Forester Cockburn Nicolson seaman, Alexander Fairweather Nicolson and William Laird Nicolson.13
Head of Household3 April 1881He was listed as head of household in the 1881 census at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert Nicolson head, married, aged 57, Engine fitter at works, born Aberdeen; Jessie Nicolson, wife, married, aged 57, born Perth; also in the household were Janet Worrel, Alexander Fairweather Nicolson, William Laird Nicolson and Alfred Henry Nicolson.14
Head of Household5 April 1891He was listed as head of household along with spouse Isabella Yeaman in the 1891 census at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . 3 Crescent Street, Dundee; Robert Nicolson, head, married, aged 67, engine fitter, employed, born Aberdeen; Isabella Nicolson, wife, married, aged 39, born Rescobie, Forfarshire; also in the household were Alfred Henry Nicolson, George Kinnear Nicolson and Agnes Baxter.15
Head of Household31 March 1901He was listed as head of household in the 1901 census at 75 Victoria Road, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . 75 Victoria Road, Dundee; Robert D Nicolson, head, married, aged 77, retired mechanic, born Aberdeen; Isabella Nicolson, wife, married, aged 50, born Forfar, Forfarshire

; also in the household were Isabella Yeaman, George Kinnear Nicolson, Margaret Robertson Nicolson and Davina Kinnear Gow Nicolson.15

Family 1:

Janet Worrel b. 24 Aug 1829, d. 5 May 1881

Children:

Sarah Ann Nicolson+ b. c 1849
Euphemia Nicolson b. Feb 1851
Robert Davidson Nicholson+ b. c 1853, d. 29 Dec 1924
Mary Ann Nicolson b. 11 Apr 1855, d. 18 Mar 1856
John Shaw Nicolson b. 8 Feb 1857, d. 23 Apr 1912
Andrew Nicolson b. 5 Feb 1859, d. 17 Aug 1861
Betsy Mellish Nicolson b. 3 Jan 1861, d. 21 Aug 1861
Forester Cockburn Nicolson seaman+ b. 21 Jul 1862, d. 19 Jan 1926
Alexander Fairweather Nicolson+ b. 20 Jan 1866, d. 31 May 1941
William Laird Nicolson+ b. 2 Apr 1869, d. 17 May 1943
Alfred Henry Nicolson+ b. 25 Aug 1871, d. 20 Jan 1944
James Campbell Nicolson b. 21 Oct 1874, d. 11 Mar 1875

Family 2:

Isabella Yeaman b. 6 May 1852, d. 8 Oct 1932
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith married Isabella Yeaman, daughter of John Yeaman and Isabel Clark, on 4 August 1882 at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, .5

Children:

William Mitchell Yeaman b. 3 Jun 1882, d. 19 Jan 1883
George Kinnear Nicolson+ b. 4 Mar 1884, d. 30 Oct 1941
Margaret Robertson Nicolson+ b. 29 Jun 1886, d. c 1970
Mary Ann Geekie Nicolson b. 17 Apr 1889, d. 10 Jun 1890
Davina Kinnear Gow Nicolson+ b. 26 Jan 1894
  • (Witness) Note for Web: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith and Robert Nicolson blacksmith, Robert Davidson Nicholson, Robert Davidson Nicolson, Robert Davidson Nicholson, Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter, Robert Davidson Nicolson and Robert Davidson Nicolson was mentioned with Robert Davidson chemist. I have always wondered why so many of our Robert Nicolsons had/have the middle name of Davidson. I have looked far and wide to try to find a likely candidate marrying into our Nicolson clan, but have drawn a blank. That led me to think about someone who may have been known to the family from their days in Aberdeen. This Robert Davidson is only about 5 or 6 years younger than our Robert Nicolson who was the first (as far as we know) to use the Davidson name for his son born in 1823. Both men lived in the same part of Aberdeen - did they grow up together? Attend the same church? Did our Robert, as a blacksmith, cross paths with Robert Davidson the chemist who was building batteries, an electric locomotive, electric lathe, and electric printing press in the 1830s? Our Robert is in Dundee by 1836.

    The Scientific Tourist: Aberdeen
    Robert Davidson – pioneer electrician
    Robert Davidson (1804-1894) was a man of eclectic interests, an inventor who had originality, vision and even prototype devices but did not have the financial or commercial resource to develop his ideas far enough to better the technology of the day.
    His impact was not in generating a world-beating product or even gaining any significant personal wealth from his inventions but rather in providing an example to his successors of what could be done.
    Davidson was born, schooled, spent much of his working life and died in Aberdeen. He attended the second and third year classes of Marischal College from 1819-1821, including the lecture course of Patrick Copland. Since in due course Davidson established himself as a manufacturer and supplier of chemicals, it is likely that he also
    attended the optional chemistry class at the College given by William Henderson.
    Davidson set himself up in business in the 1820s supplying yeast from premises at Causewayend and then in nearby Canal Road, close to the Aberdeen-Inverurie canal. Via a small, narrow, wooden slatted bridge (the ‘tarry briggie’), Canal Road today crosses the railway line that follows the old canal cutting. In Davidson’s younger days the area was edge-of-town market garden and nursery land that was gradually attracting houses and industry1. Davidson moved from yeast into chemical manufacturing and supplying, and diverse ventures such as file sharpening. He seems, though, to have had two passions: astronomy and electricity. In astronomy he built himself a large reflecting telescope of 35 feet length with a 2 foot diameter mirror that rivalled the largest productions of John Ramage. His telescope, with its big supporting structure of struts and ladders, must have been a landmark in the area for several years but no illustration of it has been found. What brings Robert Davidson into these notes is his electrical developments.
    In the 1830’s, Faraday showed how to generate mechanical motion from electricity, albeit in a way that was useless for exploitation as a practical electric motor. Davidson became fascinated by the possibilities. He constructed his own batteries, not a difficult task for a chemical supplier and man with workshop skills, and by 1837 had made his first fair sized electric motor. In 1840 he held a public “Electromagnetic Exhibition” in Aberdeen and thousands paid 1/- entrance to see a working model electric locomotive able to carry two people, a model electric lathe, a small electric printing press and an electro-magnet that could lift 2 tons when supplied by a suitable battery.
    The motor driving the lathe and printing press had a 5 foot diameter flywheel and the electromagnet had pole pieces 4 inches square. These were not desk-top toys. If Davidson had had this exhibition in 1880, many would have marvelled. This was 1840, truly well ‘ahead of his time’. The Aberdeen Banner prophesised that electromagnetic machinery “will in no distant date supplant steam”’. Davidson took his exhibition to Edinburgh in the following year, where the influential Robert Chambers of encyclopaedia fame made similar remarks and the young James Clerk Maxwell aged 10 was taken by his father to see it. In late 1842, Davidson took his exhibition to London in the hope of attracting sponsorship. By then he had added an electrically powered circular saw that cut 1” square planks in about 1 second and a powerful electric arc made by passing the current through two pieces of coke. He broke even in London but didn’t attract the sponsorship he’d hoped for. His motor was illustrated (above) in an edition of Penny’s Mechanic of 1843.
    Between the Aberdeen and London exhibitions, Davidson built a full-sized prototype electric locomotive called Galvani. It was 16 feet long and weighed about 6 tons. In 1842 it ran at 4 miles per hour on the Glasgow to Edinburgh line (the railways hadn’t reached Aberdeen by then). Unfortunately, Galvani was destroyed before
    Davidson could get it back, by men unknown but suspected of being promoters of steam engines. In truth, Davidson didn’t quite have the necessary technology to make a commercial success of electric railways. His power was provided by chemical batteries that were expensive to produce and to re-charge them the chemicals had to be
    replaced. The re-chargeable lead-acid accumulator wasn’t invented until the end of the 1850s. He was some three decades before even the early days of viable electrical generators that could really make electric transport feasible. It all could have happened much earlier if Davidson had found a patron with deep pockets and patience but no-one was forthcoming in the early 1840s.
    Electric locomotives would make city underground railways a possibility but they didn’t appear in Britain until around 1890. Robert Davison was suddenly found to be still alive and was converted into a media celebrity “Octogenarian Aberdonian - oldest living electrician” e press trumpeted, or words to that effect. The Electrician magazine reported “Robert Davidson was undoubtedly the first to demonstrate the possibility of electrical traction in a practical way”. He was, but the torch he lit did not begin a blaze. Davidson died 4 years later at the age of 90, old enough to see his vision made real at last. Nothing remains in Canal Road of Davidson’s house at no. 32 or his business; only the name and the little road with its tarry briggie, itself a ‘modernisation’ of 1854 that replaced a lower bridge over the canal a little downstream. Davidson is buried in St Peter’s cemetery but his gravestone simply describes him as ‘chemist’.

    John S. Reid
    1 Diane Morgan “The Villages of Aberdeen: Round About Mounthooly”, Denburn Books, Aberdeen (1995),
    outlines how the area has changed over the last two centuries and includes a short chapter on Davidson.

    ---------------

    More info here https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/outdoors/motors/an-electric-future-planned-by-19th-century-scot/.16
  • (Witness) Note for Web: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith and Elizabeth Nicolson, Christian Nicolson, Sarah Ann Nicolson, Andrew Nicolson, James Nicolson and Isabella Nicolson were mentioned with Robert Nicolson blacksmith and Sarah Ann Henderson between December 1834 and May 1836. Family moved from Aberdeen to Dundee.

Citations

  1. [S35] Old Parochial Register of pre-1855 (General Record Office of Scotland) GROS 168/A00 0210 0125 image held [Jan 2007].
  2. [S1] International Genealogical Index (IGI) (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: International Genealogical Index), IGI C111688.
  3. [S64] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), OPR index - no image.
  4. [S1] International Genealogical Index (IGI), M112825.
  5. [S64] International Genealogical Index (IGI), 1882 Marriages in the District of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee
    page 104, no 207
    1882 on the fourth day of August at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee after banns according to the forms of the Established Church of Scotland
    Robert D Nicolson, engine fitter (journeyman), widower of Jessie Worral, aged 59, 3 Crescent Street, Dundee
    father Robert Nicolson, ... mechanic (deseased)
    mother Sarah Nicoslon ms Henderson (deseased)
    Isabella Yeaman, bleachfield worker, spinster, aged 30, 18 Ann Street, Dundee
    father John Yeaman, ... (deceased)
    mother Isabella Yeaman ms Clark
    signed Archibald ... minister of ... Church
    witnesses John Yeaman, Jessie C Yeaman
    1882 August 5th at Dundee
    J M ... registrar.
  6. [S50] Unknown subject, International Genealogical Index (IGI) (New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland: General Record Office of Scotland), GROS Statutory Death 1860 Dundee 2nd District 282/02 0923 image held [June 2005].
  7. [S50] International Genealogical Index (IGI), GROS Statutory Death 1864 Dundee 1st District 282/01 0978 image held [June 2006].
  8. [S14] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), GROS statutory births 1871, ref 1044 [Dec 2004].
  9. [S49] Website Web Site online (www.) Scots Origins www - ref 282/4/1044.
  10. [S50] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS statutory death 1881 St Andrew Dundee Ref 282/4 467 [Dec 2004].
  11. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), Census 1851 Dundee 25 Cowgate; image held [Jun 2006].
  12. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, Census 1861 Dundee, 3 Crescent St; image held [Jun 2006].
  13. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, Census 1871 Dundee, 3 Crescent St; image held [Jun 2005].
  14. [S30] LDS 1881 Census ref 0203487 vol 282-4 Enum Dist 16 page 36.
  15. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland.
  16. [S49] Website Web Site online (www.) https://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/npmuseum/Scitour/Davidson.pdf