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Robert Davidson Nicholson

M, #484, b. circa 1853, d. 29 December 1924
Last Edited: 22 May 2020

Parents:

Father*: Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith b. 27 Nov 1823, d. 17 Jun 1907
Mother*: Janet Worrel b. 24 Aug 1829, d. 5 May 1881
  • Birth*: Robert Davidson Nicholson was born circa 1853 at Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; No birth entry found.
  • He was the son of Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith and Janet Worrel.
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicholson married Margaret Combs Sword, daughter of Charles Robert Sword and Mary Richardson Combs, on 7 August 1874 at 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1874 Marriages in the district of St Andrew in burgh of Dundee, page 120, ref 239; 1874 on the seventh day of August at 11 Craigie Street Dundee after banns according to the forms of the Established Church of Scotland; Robert Davidson Nicolson, engine fitter journeyman, batchelor, aged 21, 3 Crescent Street Dundee, father Robert Davidson Nicolson, engine fitter journeyman, mother Jessie Nicolson ms Worrall; Margaret Sword, powerloom weaver, spinster, aged 20, 11 Craigie Street Dundee, father Charles Sword, iron moulder journeyman, mother Mary Sword ms Combs; signed Archibald Bell minister, witnesses George Stewart, Helen Sword; registered 1874 August 10th at Dundee F Macdonald registrar.1
  • (Deceased) Death*: Robert Davidson Nicholson died on 29 December 1924 at 4 Wortley Place, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, , Robert Davidson Nicolson, engine fitter, married to Margaret Sword, 1924 December 29th ...pm 4 Wortley Place, Dundee, male aged 71 years, father Robert Davidson Nicolson, jute mill mechanic (deceased), mother Jessie Nicolson ms Worrall (deceased), pelvic carcinoma as cert by T King ... MBChB, informant C Sword, broter-in-law, present, 111 Arbroath Road, Dundee, registered 1924 December 30th at Dundee H T Templeton registrar.2
  • Occupation: Say 1872 Robert was Marine Engineer.
  • (Informant) Birth: He registered the birth of Mary Combs Nicholson on 29 May 1875 at 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1875 births in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee, ref 732, Mary Combs Nicholson, 1875 May Twenty-nineth 7h 25m pm 11 Craigie Street Dundee, female, parents Robert Davidson Nicholson engine fitter jorneyman and Margaret Nicholson ms Sword, married 1874 Aug 7th Dundee, signed Robert D Nicholson father present, registered 1875 June 9th at Dundee F Macdairmid registrar.3
  • (Informant) Birth: Robert Davidson Nicholson registered the birth of Robert Nicholson on 15 December 1876 at 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1876 Births in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee page 13 no 37, Robert Nicholson born 1876 December 15th 6h 0m am 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, male, father Robert Davidson Nichoslon, engine fitter journeyman, mother Margaret Nicolson ms Sword, marriage 1874 Aug 7th Dundee,
    informant Robert D Nicholson father present, registered 1876 December 27th at Dundee J Mcadairmid registrar.4
  • (Informant) Death: Robert Davidson Nicholson registered the death of Robert Nicholson on 18 August 1877 at 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1877 deaths in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee ref 707, Robert Nicholson single, 1877 August Eighteenth 2h 10m am 11 Craigie Street, male aged 8 months father Robert Davidson Nicholson engine fitter journeyman, nother Maragret Nicholson ms Sword, meningitis 5 weeks as cert by David MacEwan MB, signed R D Nicholson father present, registered 1877 August 18th at Dundee F Macdairmid registrar.5
  • (Informant) Birth: Robert Davidson Nicholson registered the birth of Charles Sword Nicholson on 8 March 1880 at 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1880 births in the district of St Andrews in the burgh of Dundee ref 360; Charles Sword Nicholson, 1880 March Eighth 1h 0m am 11 Craigie Street Dundee, male parents Robert Davidson Nicholson engine fitter journeyman and Margaret Nicholson ms Sword married 1874 Aug 7th Dundee, signed Robert D Nicholson father present, registered 1880 March 10th at Dundee F MacDairmid registrar.6
  • (Informant) Death: Robert Davidson Nicholson registered the death of Charles Sword Nicholson on 26 February 1881 at 61 Crescent Street, Dundee, Angus, Scotland, ; 1881 deaths in the district of St Andrews in the burgh of Dundee ref 228, Charles Sword Nicholson single, 1881 February Twenty-sixth 8h 50m am 61 Crescent Street Dundee, male aged 11 months parents Robert Davidson Nicholson engine fitter journeyman and Margaret Nicholson ms Sword, diptheria 2 days as cert by David MacEwan MD, signed R D Nicholson father present, registered 1881 February 26th at Dundee F MacDairmid registrar.7
  • (Informant) Birth: Robert Davidson Nicholson registered the birth of Forrester Cockburn Nicholson on 27 July 1884 at 61 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1884 births in the distrcit of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee, ref 1203; Forrester Cockburn Nicholson, born 1884 July Twenty-seventh 0h 45m pm at 61 Crescent Street Dundee; male, parents Robert Davidson Nicholsonengine fitter foundry and Margaret md Sword married 1874 Aug 7th Dundee; signed by Robert D Nicholson father present; registered 1884 August 14th at Dundee signed F Macdiarmid registrar.8
  • Occupation*: On 24 August 1890 at 48 Crescent Lane, Dundee, Scotland, , Robert was Engineer in Steamer - from twins' birth and death records.
  • (Informant) Birth: He registered the birth of Margaret Sword Nicholson on 19 August 1895 at 1 Graham Place, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1895 births in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee ref 1118, Margaret Sword Nicholson 1895 August Nineteenth 1h 0m am 1 Graham Place Dundee, female parents Robert Davidson Nicholson engine fitter journeyman and Margaret Nicholson ms Sword m 1874 August 7th Dundee, signed Robert D Nicholson father present, regsitered 1895 August 29th at Dundee Jas Murray registrar.9
  • (Spouse) Death: His spouse Margaret Combs Sword died on 1 February 1934 at 21 Eglington Street, Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland, ; 1934 deaths in the district of Beith in the county of Ayr; Margaret Nicholson widow of Robert Davidson Nicholson engineer; 1934 February first 5h 10m am 21 Eglington Street Beith; female aged 80 years, parents Charles sword iron moulder (dec) and Mary Sword ms Coombs (dec); arterio sclerosis, cerebral haemorrhage as cert by Ian F Somerville MBChB; signed Frank McNeill son-in-law present; registered 1938 February 1st James Anderson registrar.10

Census & Directory Entries

Member of Household7 April 1861They was listed as a member of the household of Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith and Janet Worrel in the 1861 census at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert D Nicolson, son, 8, scholar, Dundee; Robert Nicolson, head, mar, 38, engine smith, Aberdeen; Jessie Nicolson, wife, mar, 31, Errol Perthshire.11
Member of Household2 April 1871They was listed as a member of the household of Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith in the 1871 census at 3 Crescent Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert Nicolson, son, unm, 18, engine fitter, Dundee; Robert Nicolson, head, mar, 47, engine fitter, Aberdeen; Jessie Nicolson, wife, mar, 42, Errol, Perthshire.12
Principal3 April 1881Robert Davidson Nicholson appeared in the 1881 census. Not at home.
Principal5 April 1891He appeared in the 1891 census. Not at home.
Principalbetween 1899 and 1900He appeared in a directory of between 1899 and 1900 living at 1 Graham Place, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; Dundee Directory, Nicholson, Robert D, engineer.13
Head of Household31 March 1901He was listed as head of household along with spouse Margaret Combs Sword in the 1901 census at 1 Graham Place, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, . Robert D Nicholson, head, married, aged 47, engine fitter, worker, born Dundee; Margaret Nicholson, wife, married, aged 46, born Dundee; also in the household were Mary Combs Nicholson, Primrose Davidson Nicholson, Davina Lowson Nicholson, Robert Davidson Nicholson and Margaret Sword Nicholson.14
Principalbetween 1906 and 1907Robert Davidson Nicholson was listed to vote in the register of between 1906 and 1907 at 1 Graham Place, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, , Householder, tenant & occupier. Dwelling-house Graham Place.15
Principal1908He was listed in the electoral roll of 1908 at 4 Wortley Place, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, , First name(s)     Robert Davidson
Last name     Nicholson
Year     1908
Name as transcribed     Nicholson, Robert Davidson
Street     4 Wortley Place proprietor & occupant
Place     Dundee
County     Forfarshire (Angus)
Country     Scotland
Record set     Scotland, Dundee & Forfarshire (Angus) Electoral Registers 1857-1939
Category     Census, land & surveys
Subcategory     Electoral Rolls
Collections from     Great Britain, Scotland.16
Witness28 April 1910He appeared on the census of 28 April 1910 in the household of William Laird Nicolson and Ann Stewart Fairweather at Plainfield, Union, New Jersey, USA, ; Unreadable street name, no 220, Nicholson, William, head, male, white, 39 on last birthday, married for 17 years; born Scotland, father born Scotland, mother born Scotland; able to speak English; occupation moulder, iron factory, worker... no... 0; able to read, able to write, property rented, is a home; Nicholson, Annie, wife, female, white, 38 last birthday, married 17 years, mother of 4 children, 4 children living, born Scotland, father born Scotland, mother born Scotland; able to speak English; can read, can write; McDonald, David, boarder, male, white, 28, single, himself & parents all born Scotland; immigrated 1908, alien, able to speak English; occupation machinist, tool works, worker, not unemployed, 0 months unemployed; able to read, able to write; Gorden, David, boarder, male, white, 28, single, himself & parents all born Scotland; immigrated 1908, alien, able to speak English; occupation machinist, tool works, worker, not unemployed, 0 months unemployed; able to read, able to write.17
Principal1913Robert Davidson Nicholson was listed in the electoral roll of 1913 at 4 Pikerro Road, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, , First name(s)     Robert Davidson
Last name     Nicholson
Year     1913
Name as transcribed     Nicholson, Robert Davidson
Street     4 Pikerrow Road proprietor
Place     Dundee
County     Forfarshire (Angus)
Country     Scotland
Record set     Scotland, Dundee & Forfarshire (Angus) Electoral Registers 1857-1939
Category     Census, land & surveys
Subcategory     Electoral Rolls
Collections from     Great Britain, Scotland.16

Family:

Margaret Combs Sword b. 4 Dec 1853, d. 1 Feb 1934
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicholson married Margaret Combs Sword, daughter of Charles Robert Sword and Mary Richardson Combs, on 7 August 1874 at 11 Craigie Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1874 Marriages in the district of St Andrew in burgh of Dundee, page 120, ref 239; 1874 on the seventh day of August at 11 Craigie Street Dundee after banns according to the forms of the Established Church of Scotland; Robert Davidson Nicolson, engine fitter journeyman, batchelor, aged 21, 3 Crescent Street Dundee, father Robert Davidson Nicolson, engine fitter journeyman, mother Jessie Nicolson ms Worrall; Margaret Sword, powerloom weaver, spinster, aged 20, 11 Craigie Street Dundee, father Charles Sword, iron moulder journeyman, mother Mary Sword ms Combs; signed Archibald Bell minister, witnesses George Stewart, Helen Sword; registered 1874 August 10th at Dundee F Macdonald registrar.1

Children:

Mary Combs Nicholson b. 29 May 1875, d. 20 Oct 1929
Robert Nicholson b. 15 Dec 1876, d. 18 Aug 1877
Jessie Worrall Nicholson+ b. 29 Jun 1878
Charles Sword Nicholson b. 8 Mar 1880, d. 26 Feb 1881
Davina Lowson Nicholson b. 17 Jul 1882, d. 1955
Forrester Cockburn Nicholson8 b. 27 Jul 1884, d. 9 Nov 1886
Primrose Davidson Nicholson b. 27 Apr 1888
Robert Nicholson b. 24 Aug 1890, d. 24 Aug 1890
Margaret Nicholson b. 24 Aug 1890, d. 26 Aug 1890
Robert Davidson Nicholson b. 7 Apr 1892, d. 24 Jul 1905
Margaret Sword Nicholson b. 19 Aug 1895

Notes

  • (Witness) Note for Web: Robert Davidson Nicholson and Robert Nicolson blacksmith, Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith, 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/.18

Citations

  1. [S64] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), GROS Statutory Marriages 1874 St Andrew Dundee 282/.../239 [Dec 2004].
  2. [S50] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1924 Deaths in the district of St Andrew in the Burgh of Dundee, page 260, ref 779.
  3. [S14] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), GROS Statutory Birth 1875 St Andrew Dundee ref 732 [Nov 2004].
  4. [S14] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS Statutory Birth 1876 St Andrew Dundee ref 37 [Jan 2005].
  5. [S50] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS Statutory Deaths 1877 St Andrew Dundee ref 707 [July 2004].
  6. [S14] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS Statutory Birth 1880 St Andrew Dundee ref 360 [Jun 2006].
  7. [S50] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS Statutory Deaths 1881 St Andrew Dundee ref 228 [Jun 2006].
  8. [S14] General Record Office for Scotland, Statutory Birth 1884 Dundee St Andrew ref 282/4 1203 image held [Oct 2019].
  9. [S14] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS statutory births 1895 St Andrew Dundee ref 1118 [Dec 2004].
  10. [S50] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS Statutory Death 1937 Beith 581/00 0004 [Jan 2007].
  11. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), Census 1861 Dundee, 3 Crescent St; image held [Jun 2006].
  12. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, Census 1871 Dundee, 3 Crescent St; image held [Jun 2005].
  13. [S37] Directory Dundee (Dundee:. Hereinafter cited as Dundee Directory.
  14. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, Parish of St Andrew, City of Dundee, book 7, page 19 [May 2004].
  15. [S16] Voters' List for Dundee, (DCC Central Library Local History) unknown cd.
  16. [S54] Website findmypast.co.uk (www.findmypast.co.uk) Record Transcription:
    Scotland, Dundee & Forfarshire (Angus) Electoral Registers 1857-1939
    Dundee, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland [May 2020].
  17. [S9] Website Ancestry.co.uk (www.ancestry.co.uk) image held; Thirteenth census of the United States 1910-population; State - New Jersey; County - Union; Supervisor's district no - 5; Enum Dist - 100; Sheet - 17B;Township or other division -blank; Name of Institution - blank; name of incorporated place - part of City of Plainfield; Ward of city - 4 part; Enumnerated by me on the 28th day of April 19100, John E Watson, Enumerator.
    Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Plainfield Ward 4, Union, New Jersey; Roll: T624_910; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0100; Image: 1126; FHL Number: 1374923. Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. [Oct 2009]
  18. [S49] Website Web Site online (www.) https://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/npmuseum/Scitour/Davidson.pdf