300 years of Sweet history

My Great Grandfather, Alexander Sweet (1843-1921), was an editor of the  “Scottish Gardener and Northern Forester”  and on August 8, 1908 he published an article in the magazine (use the link above to view it) which was the basis of my research into the family tree.

The article picks up with James Sweet (1756 to 1841). However the story within our family is that the Sweets left Kent in the time of Queen Mary and settled in Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. Mary reigned as Queen from 1553 to 1558 and was known as Bloody Mary for persecuting Protestants. The story goes that one of our family was due to be burned at the stake and the family left Kent and crossed into Scotland at Bowmont Water. I have not yet been able to corroborate this story.

The earliest I have been able to trace the Sweets is to  John Sweet, a Baker who I guess was born about 1646. John moved  from Newcastle  to  the Scottish Borders at some time before 1682 when he was recorded as a Scottish Covenanter in Midlem.

John had three children: William, John and Jane:  John Sweet tree

John’s son, William born about 1677, would appear to have built Sweet Holm (now referred to as Nichol’s Cottage) in Yetholm and also what is now known as Mertoun Cottage; the latter after Sweet Holm and about 1709. William developed a market garden or orchard of three quarters of an acre behind Sweet Holm.

Sweet Holm Courtesy of Stenlake Publishing Ltd and Roy Perkins .

Sweet Holm fell into disrepair in the late 1950s, it has now found a new lease of life as a store for the allotments which occupy the ground where the orchard or market garden were located.

Mertoun Cottage 2005

Mertoun Cottage 2005



Mertoun Cottage however is still inhabited and still has its thatched roof.




William Sweet (1677-1766) married Jean Tully (1683-1771) in 1709; Jean was born in Jedburgh. They had seven children (link to their tree) one of whom was George Sweet (1725-1821). George held gardening positions in North Berwick (1752-1754), Garvald (1756) and Simprim (1758-1765). While at Garvald he was gardener and servant to Major Dalrymple of Nunraw and it was at this time that his son James Sweet (1756-1845) was born. This is the James referred to in the “Scottish Gardener and Northern Forester”   article.

In 1750, James’ father George had married Ann Lyon (1720-1809), who was probably of the Lyon family in Yetholm referred to in the booklet ‘Yetholm past and present’. Together they had ten children. Click here for a link to their tree.

George died between 1818 and 1821. The article refers to the reading of his will  and that the “house, orchard and fields” were left to Jean Sweet (1763 to between 1841 and 1851 ), his daughter, who had married Archibald Hogarth in 1807; he was a joiner in Edinburgh at the time of their marriage, and was born in Coldstream. The property referred to in the will is  “Sweet Holm”  known since then as “Orchard Cottage” and lastly as “Nichol’s Cottage” (the Nichol family took it over and ran a market garden from the orchard for a number of generations). George’s father, William, had laid out the orchard at Sweet Holm. Jean and Archibald appear in the 1841 census as living at Sweet Holm, with Archibald Hogarth described as a Gardener, so I presume that he took over the running of the orchard at some point. Perhaps he did so before George’s death and this may be the reason the property was left to Jean and not one of her elder brothers which would have been the normal approach in those days. James, who is mentioned in the article had been assigned Mertoun Cottage by his father, George, in 1787 and James in his turn assigned the property to John Lockie in 1803 which is probably when James moved to Spittal, Rutherglen to farm there, as noted in the article.

Jean, on her death, left the property to her niece Anne Sweet (1801 to 1879), daughter of Thomas Sweet (1758 to 1847, he was a brother to Jean). Thomas had left Yetholm around 1758 and set up in business in Glasgow with his cousin William Copland and established his family there. Anne came to Yetholm between 1818 and 1821 and she married her cousin, Robert Sweet (1798-1866) in Yetholm in 1835 but they did not live in Sweet Holm, they were living in a property across the road. After Jean’s death, Archibald Hogarth lived in Sweet Holm with his servant, Agnes Bolton, until his death in 1862 (see below).  Robert, Anne’s husband, appears in the Pigot directory for 1837 under headings for Linen drapers and Shopkeepers and dealers in groceries. In addition to this Robert was a seedsman, he won many prizes at the Yetholm horticultural shows and was noted for developing high yielding potatoes and turnip seed. Anne and Robert made a brave decision to emigrate to Australia with their four children. Click here for their family tree. They were both in their fifties at the time they left in 1853. Prior to leaving they held an auction of their business assets and this provides an interesting insight to their lives. There were eight acres of crops  with wheat, oats, pease, turnips and potatoes under cultivation along with bee hives and piglets. In addition to a list of their household possessions there is a description of the house as being a Dwelling House, Shop, Six stalled Stable, a Granary…The shop has been occupied as a Grocery, Seed and Meal Shop for the last sixteen years. 

The house was sold to Dr Turner, a local medical practitioner who also owned a number of properties in Yetholm. Dr Turner was a cousin of Anne’s. It was he who read George’s will to the family as mentioned in the article.  He allowed Archibald Hogarth to continue living in the property and ultimately sold it to the Wauchope family. After Jean’s death Archibald took in a domestic servant, Agnes Bolton, who was with him until his death in 1862, it was she who reported his death to the Registrar. In 1867 Agnes went on to marry John Kerr a retired agricultural labourer and widower in Yetholm who died in 1888 aged 80. Agnes appears to have died in 1900 in Berwick also at the age of 80.

According to Alexander Sweet’s article, the sale of Sweet Holm to Dr Turner ended a two hundred and eighty year association that the Sweets had with Yetholm. I have not been able to prove this length of tenure as yet.

The article refers to losing sight of James Sweet, but he does appear on the 1841 census living with his wife Margaret at Bridge Foot, Kelso, aged 85. James subsequently died in 1845 at Newcastle.

Langside Village courtesy of Tour Scotland

Anne and Robert Sweet began their emigration by travelling to Langside in Renfrewshire to stay with her brother, James Alexander Sweet (1797-1864) en route to Greenock. While there, James’ son, and so Anne’s cousin, Thomas Sweet (1833-1854) joined the family heading for Adelaide, South Australia.


The party left Greenock on 2nd October, 1853, arriving in Adelaide on Tuesday 17th January 1854. They sailed on “Anne McLean” a barque, built in 1852 at Ardrossan, which was 320 tonnes and registered in Greenock. The master was Mr McGaw. The temperature in Adelaide would be in the high 20s to 30s centigrade and they probably wore tweed suits!

Thomas Sweet (1833-1854)


Thomas, Anne’s cousin, made his way to Melbourne a few months after arriving into Adelaide and sadly he died from febris pneumonia a short while later in September 1854 at Melbourne. He would appear to have died alone but word got to his family as an announcement appeared in the Glasgow Herald on February 9th, 1855. He is remembered on his father’s headstone in Cathcart Cemetery.



Sweet’s Cottage, Woodchester


Anne, Robert and family set up home  at Sweet’s Cottage, Woodchester, Australia in September 1857 in the Hundreds of Strathalbyn. I am not entirely sure what they did in the period from landing in 1854; this requires more research of Australian records. Further details of their emigration can be found at Sweets to Australia


Moving the history on from the Scottish Gardener and Northern Forester article and exploring further strands of the history reveals that my family line is descended from Thomas Sweet (1758-1847) who was grandfather to Alexander Sweet, the author of the article. Thomas was a son of George Sweet who left Sweet Holm to his daughter Jean. According to Alexander Sweet’s Scottish Gardener and Northern Forester article, Thomas set up in business with his cousin, William Copland as Sweet, Copland and Co in Glassford Street, Glasgow. The Jones’s Directory for Glasgow 1787 has an entry for Thomas Sweet at Bell’s Wynd, Glasgow (now Bell Street):

“Sweet Thomas, manufacturer, ware room north side Bell’s Wynd”.

There is also an entry for:

“Hogg, Copland, Sweet & Co. merchants, counting-house, wareroom corner house north-side, Bell’s Wynd, 2d flat above No.22.”

Thomas Sweet married Catherine Robertson (1750-1813) in 1787 and they had eight children. Their tree can be viewed at

Catherine’s father, John, was a brother to Jean Robertson who married William Copland in 1786, confirming the family connection while being in business together. The business, however had its problems and was declared bankrupt in 1789. There are a number of court cases in which Thomas is suing for sums due and the inference is that he was managing a number of out-workers, I believe he was a weaver, the same trade as his father. This method of working is mentioned in Tom Devine’s book “Scotland’s Empire”; The old image of the master weavers buying their own yarn and working it up in their own cottages was being replaced by a new system. Merchant manufacturers in Glasgow, Paisley and Dundee and other centres supplied yarn to weavers working at home or in small factories. They provided credit and advance payments and it was easy to become enmeshed in a circle of debt which brought with it growing dependency.

 Some time between 1806 and 1811, Thomas ceased to be a manufacturer and became Quarter Master or Billet Master for the Burgh of Glasgow until  his death in 1847. There is an amusing anecdote included in the records of the Burgh of Glasgow, 19 June 1827:

“There was produced a petition from Mr. Thomas Sweet, quarter master for the city, praying an augmentation of salary, on the ground of additional expense now incurred by him in making surveys of inhabited houses. Which petition having been read, remit the same to the committee of finance, with instructions to have a conference with the justices of the peace for the county, with the view of theses magistrates making an allowance to the quarter master for acting in the suburbs without the royalty.”

I don’t know if he got his pay rise but his successor earned £55 per annum. From what I have read around the topic I think it had been this rate of pay for many years.

The role of the Quarter Master was to ensure the billeting of soldiers was carried out. “Recruiting Parties, Dragoons and other Soldiers, who are not quartered in the Barracks, are billeted on the inhabitants [of Glasgow], whose house-rent amounts to £3 and upwards, per annum, unless the possessors are legally exempted. The list is regularly exhausted over the whole City, before any person is liable to have soldiers billeted on them a second time; persons whose rent is £3, and under £5, are liable to have two men billeted on them for any number of days under a week, and those whose rents are £5 and upwards, are liable to have two men billeted on them for two weeks, or the residue of the month, which may happen to be seventeen days.” Source: Annals of Glasgow A brief account of the City from its origin, till 1816. James Cleland, L.L.D.

Thomas Sweet (1758-1847) by Charles Sweet.

Thomas became a Burgess in Glasgow in 1785 and possibly through this connection, he met John Robertson who was already a successful Merchant and Burgess in Glasgow as well as  cashier to the Glasgow Arms Bank. John’s father, also John Robertson, owned the Smithfield manufacturing company which supplied agricultural equipment to the Chesapeake tobacco plantations, among others, and I suspect from this the family became quite wealthy; contemporary accounts appear to confirm this. This may have funded John’s investment in the Glasgow Arms Bank.

Thomas died in 1847 which coincidentally is the same year as his son, George.




John junior (known as John o’ the Bank as he was cashier to the Glasgow Arms Bank) along with his brothers William and James were deeply involved in the merchant class of Glasgow. This John was also the owner of the substantial property Plantation.


Thomas and Catherine had one son who did not survive into adulthood. Click here to see their family tree. The first surviving child was also a son, George Sweet (1788 to 1847), who married another Catherine Robertson, daughter of James Robertson, (Thomas’ wife, Catherine, was an aunt to this Catherine Robertson who married George Sweet). George became an ale and porter merchant operating from addresses shared with his parents. Interestingly, in 1820 he is listed as :George Sweet & Co ale and porter cellars at 1 Charlotte Lane. The Volunteer Bar (a Glasgow landmark in its day) was located on the corner of Charlotte Street and Charlotte Lane, it is just possible that this was where George had his business. In any event by the 1838 directory he had become a wine merchant at 15 Charlotte Lane and by 1847 he had a wine cellar at 31 Charlotte Lane.

George and Catherine had eleven children; William Copland was witness at the christenings of nine of them and Copland appears in name selections for seven Sweet children. William was married to Catherine’s aunt Jean Robertson, sister to Thomas Sweet’s wife. He was a calico printer and set up a partnership with Thomas Sweet trading from Bell’s Wynd.

One of George and Catherine’s children was James Robertson Sweet (1823 to 1902) a painter and decorator who in turn had nine children with Annie Lang (1826-1917) who he married in 1850. Click here for the family tree.

One of the children of James and Annie was Charles Sweet (1864 to 1945); he became a renowned photographer with several studios in Rothesay between 1893 and 1914. The main studio however was at 19 Battery Place, Rothesay; this was run as a photographic studio and a boarding house. The latter may have utilised Charles’ wife’s  skills; he married Agnes MacKinlay (1859-1951) in 1890 she was the daughter of John MacKinlay hotelier in Rothesay.

White Lodge Studio and Boarding House (1928) courtesy of Bute Museum

The studio was attached to the house which they ran as the White Lodge Boarding House.  The photographic business was prolific supplying photographs of views for tourist guides; portraits both studio and natural including the 4th Marquis of Bute; postcards. Bute Museum.

The studio at the front of the building has now been removed.

Alexander Sweet (1843-1921) and Mr Elliot outside Sweet Holm in 1909, photograph by Charles Sweet, Rothesay.



It was Charles Sweet who photographed my Great Grandfather outside Sweet Holm in Yetholm in 1909.




Cadzow Cattle and Oaks (1910) courtesy of South Lanarkshire Council

One of Charles’ siblings, George Sweet (1852 to 1923), was a landscape artist; according to the National Gallery of Scotland “George Sweet was a minor Glasgow landscape painter active between 1876 until he died in 1923. He was a member of the Hamilton Art Club and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and Glasgow Institute”. There are five of his paintings exhibited on the Art UK website.


George was employed by John Kelly, a Carriage Hirer and Contractor, Muir Street Stables, Hamilton as a clerk in the cashier’s office from 1898. The firm went into liquidation and at the time George was accused of embezzlement and was in and out of court between 1905 and 1907 to prove his innocence. The verdict was listened to in silence but no sooner had the words “not guilty” descended upon the ears of the crowded Court than soon after cheer was raised. Many of the prisoners friends shook hands with him as he left the dock.

George had married Elizabeth Hamilton Robertson (1864-?) in 1896 and after George’s death in 1923 she and her daughter, Anna Copland Sweet (1897-1982), emigrated to Canada.

Another of James and Annie’s children, John Lang Sweet (1854 to 1928), was a painter and decorator who married Catherine Browning (1857-1910) in 1877. While another, James Sweet (1856 to 1901) started his life as a clay tobacco pipe salesman in Lancashire but returned to Glasgow and became a grain merchant for J.R. Middlleton & Co and finally had his own business. He married Mariah Bryce (1854-1930) in 1878 at Torr Aluinn, Dunoon.  James and Annie’s fourth son, Thomas Gilmour Sweet (1858 to 1932) who married Sarah Caunce (1852-1939) in 1880, was also a painter and decorator, but in Dunoon.  William Copland Sweet (1860 to 1893) was a fruit broker in Govan who married Annie Ferrier Ballingall (1862-1933) in 1887. A further son, Alexander Robertson Sweet (1862-1936) became a Bank Accountant and lived in Islington. Edward Sweet (1870-) also became a banker and married Emily Elizabeth Chapman in Cambridgeshire. The first born of James and Annie was their only daughter, Jessie Lang Sweet (1850-1933) and she married Thomas Leishman Wilson (1852-1929) in 1876 who became a Bank Agent living at Fernicarry House, Rosneath, Dunbartonshire.

James Sweet and family. Courtesy of Ian Sweet. The photograph was taken by Sweet and Kinloch, Rothesay. This is Charles Sweet, james’ brother.

James and Annie’s third son, James, pictured here with his wife Mariah Bryce and their four sons:(l to r) (1)Robert Bryce Sweet (1880-1956) who married first Nellie Bennett (1882-1942) in 1907 and secondly Mary Anne McLean Beaton (1910-)  in 1954. He carried on working in his father’s grain business before becoming a manager for Robert Howie, grain merchants.           (2) James Robertson Sweet (1879-1969) who married Margaret Readdie Spence (1880-1954) in 1910 was very successful in the insurance business in Glasgow before moving to Pinner in the 1960s.

(Front row l to r): (3) John Sweet (1881-1943) married Mary Louise o’Donnell (1879-1937) he was also involved in his father’s grain business taking it over in 1905 after Robert had left for Robert Howie. (4) George Sweet (1884-1956) married first Helen Walsh McDonald (1887-1936) in 1905 and secondly Agnes Stirling in 1916. He fought in the 2nd Boer War and in the First World War while with the Lovat Scouts he was also a commercial traveller and a clerk in a tea warehouse.

Returning to Thomas Sweet (1758-1847) and Catherine Robertson (1750-1813), two further sons, John (1791 to ?) and Alexander (1793 to ?) travelled to Jamaica to work on their uncle John Robertson’s plantation at Black River, Jamaica  Possibly the Robertson Plantation, Black River, Jamaica. According to my Great Grandfather, one died in Jamaica and the other went to America however, I have lost trace of them. Thomas and Catherine’s first daughter, Catherine Anne Sweet (1796-1832) married George Fyffe and they had seven children. Thomas Sweet (1799-1818) died single. Thomas and Catherine’s last born, Anne Sweet, returned to Yetholm some time between 1818 and 1821 perhaps as a domestic to help her aunt Jean who would be living in Sweet Holm at the time. (See above) Anne married her cousin Robert Sweet (1798 to 1866) in 1835 and emigrated in 1854, with their four children, to Woodchester, near Strathalbyn, Australia. For more of this branch read Sweets to Australia.  

A further son of Thomas and Catherine, James Alexander Sweet (1797 to 1864), married first Margaret Gardener (1802-1830) in 1823 and they had three children together, the last of whom was born in July1830 but died 12 days later, his wife Margaret died a short while later of inflammation of the brain on the 13th of August, perhaps caused by complications at the birth of the child. He married secondly, Mary Ann Graham in 1831 and they had a further five children together. Their first son, Thomas (1833-1854), travelled to Australia with his aunt Anne Sweet and uncle Robert Sweet, in 1853. (See above).

Barrowfield Church
Rev Wallace Graham Sweet was minister here 1873-1883

Another son, Wallace Graham Sweet (1835 to 1883), attended Glasgow University, was ordained in 1873 and was the first minister of Barrowfield Church in Glasgow in 1879. But he too had a sad ending as he committed suicide on board the SS Manitoban en route to Montreal in 1883; he possibly had a drink problem according to newspaper accounts at the time. He had married Arbuthnot Giles Drummond Watson (1830-1898) in 1872 and there were no children of their marriage. Wallace was remembered on his father’s headstone in Cathcart Cemetery along with Thomas who died in Australia.

The eldest daughter of James Alexander and Mary Ann Graham Sweet was Christina Sweet (1837 to 1927); she married Hugh McBride (1830-1896), a ship draughtsman, in Edinburgh in 1860 and together they had six children. Christina died in Leith in 1927.

Headstone for Annie Sweet married to John Crawford

Her sister, Anna Sweet (1841 to 1911) married John Crawford (1832 to 1889) in 1873. He was a colour-maker and they lived in Holmhead Cottage, Cathcart. She too had a tragic death; she “died of a fracture of the spine and haemorrhage, result of accidentally falling over quarry face a height of about 30 feet”, she had been missing for three days.





James Sweet

James Alexander Sweet and Mary Ann Graham’s youngest son, Alexander Sweet (1843 to 1921) who began this saga with his article in the “Scottish Gardener and Northern Forester”, published when he was 65 years old, was my great grandfather. He was a great horticulturist and wrote a book “Villa and Cottage Gardening”  which was published in 1889 (it ran to several editions) when he was aged 46. However before I detail his background, the bad luck that this family endured also affected the father, James Alexander Sweet, who was a sub post master and grocer: on 27th October 1864 he was returning from delivering post at 5pm when it is believed he slipped into the River Cart near Cathcart Bridge where the river was six to eight feet deep. By the time help arrived, from a nearby carpet factory, he was floating on the water and attempts at his revival failed.


Lindsay House, Cathcart.

Alexander Sweet (the author of the article) lived in Lindsay House, Cathcart with his wife, Barbara Dunn Wright (1842 to 1925), who had been a teacher in Newcastleton, Roxburghshire, having married in 1870. They would have occupied a four roomed apartment on one half of one floor. The property had a communal wash-house and coal cellars  in the basement for the five tenants.  It was built by David Lindsay in 1863.(Source: Aileen Smart.) The annual rental was £16.


Braehead House
Home to Alexander Sweet and family

Alexander and Barbara lived in Lindsay House from their marriage until some time between 1883 and 1886. They raised seven children in Lindsay House before moving to nearby Braehead Cottage on Netherlee Road where they had a further child. Braehead had eight rooms. At that time, Braehead had a very large garden running down to the river, this has now been separated from the main house and has been built upon. The gardens of the main house still show vestiges of a garden landscaped for, what I imagine was in vogue at the time, there is a Ginseng tree next to the house, which I understand is difficult to grow, possibly confirming Alexander’s passion for gardening. At the time they occupied the house it would have been a single storey property as can be seen from the stone detail in this photo.

View the family tree here.

Alexander Sweet was born in Langside in 1843 to James Alexander Sweet who, along with most of Langside village, was a weaver although later he ran a shop and was the sub postmaster. At the time it was a village of 13 houses. It did have a school but as this was before the Education (Scotland) Act of 1873 it would be funded by private subscription and depended upon a schoolmaster being prepared to work there. On the 1851 census, Alexander is described as a scholar so he would probably go to either Langside school or the school in Cathcart on Old Manse Road; interestingly his sisters, Ann and Christina, were described as scholars at home.

On the 1861 census Alexander is listed as a Sewed Muslin Designer at age 17. He would have left school about 1856 and to learn his trade he probably attended the Government School of Design, which was established in Glasgow in 1845 at 116, Ingram Street; this later became the Glasgow School of Art. Apparently he had set his sights on a career in medicine, but this was not to be.

Union Bank of Scotland, Ingram Street

He gave up being a designer however as this record in the Bank of Scotland archives demonstrates: “Alexander Sweet entered the service of the Union Bank of Scotland on 16 May 1864, at Glasgow office, as a Clerk in the Accountants Department. His first pay was £1.10.0, paid on 2 June 1864. This was increased to £2.18.4 on 2 July 1864. He was a Clerk in the Accountant’s Department all his working life in the Bank. His monthly salary rose from £1.10.0 in 1864, to £22.18.4 in September 1911. When he retired, his annual salary was £285. He was paid an allowance of £185 per annum after he retired. (He may have retired on 2 April 1920)”

On 14th June, 1870, Alexander was married to Barbara Dunn Wright (1842-1925). Barbara was the daughter of Archibald Wright (1810-1890) (whose employment was variously described as: Block Printer, Calico Printer, Insurance Agent, Co-Operative Salesman and Grocer) and Mary Dunn (1810-1866) who lived in Fallside Place, Abbey, Renfrewshire. Barbara, at the time of her marriage, was a teacher at Newcastleton in the Borders. Barbara’s sister, Cecelia, was a witness (possibly a maid of honour) at the wedding. The other witness was a William Baird.

Alexander Sweet (1843 – 1921). Photograph by Charles Sweet (1864 – 1945), Rothesay.


Alexander appears to me to be the quintessential Victorian gentleman. Having been born in Langside and lived in Cathcart he appeared to have a great knowledge of local history, indeed his obituary refers to his plan of writing a  history of Cathcart Parish but he was thwarted by failing eyesight. He had a cannonball which had turned up in a field in 1869 supposedly from the Battle of Langside which he lent to the 1894 Exhibition Illustrative of Old Glasgow. He is mentioned in a book about the Battle as having provided most of the local information. 



Old Cathcart Church : Mitchell Library

Alexander was greatly involved with the Cathcart Church, he joined the communion roll on 21st October, 1863 when he would be twenty one years old. In his will he left to Cathcart Church a portrait of Dr James Smith, the long-serving minister, and a picture of Old Cathcart Church painted in 1830 which was presented to ‘Mr Alexander Sweet by the Very Reverend James Smith D.D. Minister of Cathcart, Christmas 1893’. Both are still displayed in the present church.


Couper Institute

The Glasgow Herald of March 2nd, 1888 reported that there were 400 people present at the opening of the Couper Institute performed by the Rev. Dr. Smith at which he gave a brief history of his sixty three years as the parish minister. After the ceremony three further people addressed the meeting, one of whom was Mr Alexander Sweet. (Dr Smith retired from the pulpit in 1895 when he handed over to the Rev Wotherspoon, he died in 1897). Alexander was for twelve years a member of the Board of the Institute, three of which were as Chairman. He also served six years on the Parochial Board. The Rev Smith married his parents and many of the Sweets. As a young man he was also a member of the Cathcart Memorial Board.



Alexander was a member of The North British-Israel Society which maintains the theory that the British people are the descendants of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel, commonly referred to as the Lost Ten Tribes. He was a regular speaker at their association meetings. He also found time to be a Justice of the Peace.

According to Wallace Graham Grant (1905 -1985): he was vigorous in mind and body, kind yet stern disciplinarian. He walked and fished as a young man over the Renfrew and Lanarkshire moors with herbalist friend Dr Johnstone and engineer Thom who planned the reservoirs above Greenock, one named Loch Thom. He had entry to many of the great gardens then in Glasgow, Aitkenhead, Pollok etc. [and he was a] Gaelic speaker.

He was a very keen horticulturist and edited the Scottish Gardener and Northern Forester as well as writing a book ‘Villa and Cottage Gardening: Specially adapted for Scotland, Northern England and Ireland’. Published in 1889, it ran to ten editions. He also wrote articles for other magazines.

He maintained a correspondence with the Sweets who had emigrated to Australia and this was carried on by his daughter, Mary Wilson Sweet, after his death. He wrote poetry but I have only found one surviving poem which was published in the Kelso Chronicle on December 24th, 1869.

He was a member of  the Cathcart company of the 3rd Renfrewshire Volunteers from 1864 until 1871.

In the book “The Union Bank of Scotland 1830-1954” by Norio Tamak there is an organisation chart dated 1885 which shows that reporting to the General Manager (among other departments ) there was a Cashier’s department with 8 employees and an Accountant’s Department with 47 employees. There appeared to be 6 grades of clerk in the bank and in the early 1880s the 1st grade earned £60 – £100 per annum rising to the sixth grade earning an average of £282 per annum. When Alexander retired his annual income was £285 so it is possible that Alexander had reached a senior grade in the Accountant’s Department.

His will was a carefully prepared document in which he carefully described many of his possessions and their location and to whom they were to be given. He referred  to his collection of family history papers and books, however these seem to be largely lost. His daughter, Mary Dunn Sweet (see below) claims in a letter that Alexander had traced the family tree back to Plantagent times, however there are other references attributed to her which are clearly wrong so I am uncertain about the validity of this.

Alexander and Barbara had eight children together. Click here to view their tree.

The eldest child was Mary Wilson Dunn Sweet (1871 to 1959). While at Braehead she was described in the 1891 census return as ‘Housekeeper (assisting)’. After the family moved to Skelmorlie, Mary looked after her parents until their deaths (Alexander died in 1921 and Barbara died in 1925). Mary corresponded regularly with the Sweet family in Australia. She apparently kept copious notes in diaries and was well versed in the family history. However it is  also recorded that she burnt all of these. Her brother, Archibald, who had been a successful trader (see below) bought Skelmorlie for the family, I assume, and left it to Mary on her death provided she had not married. I think this was in recognition of the selfless devotion she had shown to her parents and also to her siblings.

Their second child  was born on 25 January 1873 at Lindsay House, Cathcart. Probably he was named after his uncle James Robertson Sweet (1823-1892). Sadly, James died of Scarlet Fever and Septicaemia aged 5 years.

Archibald Macintyre Sweet (1874 to 1937) was born on 7 October 1874 at Lindsay House.

Archibald, like the rest of the family, attended Cathcart Public School, Craig Road probably in 1879 until attending Hutcheson’s Grammar School for Boys in Glasgow from 1891 until 1896.

Growing up with the Sweets were the five grandchildren of Andrew Carnduff, the Schoolmaster, Registrar and Session Clerk for the church. The Carnduffs were of similar ages to the Sweets.

Andrew’s daughter, Agnes, was a governess in Glasgow, 14 Blythswood Square, to the four children of Thomas and Margaret Henderson. Thomas, a ship owner, was a partner in Handysides and Henderson, trading as The Anchor Line. (Agnes went on to marry Thomas Henderson in 1891 after his wife’s death). Agnes’ brother, Alexander, was a shipping clerk and her three nephews, Andrew (born1873), James B Carnduff (born 1877) and Alexander Carnduff (born 1880) were also clerks. I suspect that Agnes was influential in securing their employment at the Anchor Line office in Glasgow. And I further suspect that Archibald Macintyre Sweet was similarly employed at Anchor Line through their inevitable friendship. However I have no proof of this fact.

However from 1902 until 1904 Archibald Macintyre Sweet appears in the Nagasaki Directory as an employee of Holme, Ringer & Co. and from 1905 to 1906 he is an employee of Mutabe Coal Co. The next directory entry I have for Archibald helps to give some credibility to the above assumptions. It is in a 1909 directory for Shimonoseki and Moji, Japan listing Foreign Residents:

Holme, Ringer and Co, Merchants. Shimonoseki

Carnduff, Alex assistant Holme, Ringer and Co, Chemulpo, Corea

Carnduff, J.B. assistant Holme, Ringer and Co, Moji

Sweet, A.M. assistant, Samuel, Samuel & Co, Shimonoseki

The photos on the right are of No. 13 Higashiyamate, Nagasaki, dormitory accommodation where Archibald lived while in Nagasaki.

In the British Israel Review published in 1916 there is a biography of Alexander Sweet, Archibald’s father. In this it is reported that Alexander has a son who has spent fourteen years in Japan and is now in Vladivostok in shipping. So this corroborates much of the above.


Bryner’s Mansion and Office, Vladivostok.

Archibald was working for Bryner & Co. in Vladivostok involved in the shipping trade, probably arriving there in 1915/16, but I don’t know precisely. Bryner was the pre-eminent import/export trader in Vladivostok at the time and was a great friend of Frederick Ringer in Nagasaki, so the connection is entirely probable. Bryner was grandfather to the Hollywood actor Yul Brynner.

Archibald was in Vladivostok at the time of the Russian Revolution (February 1917 to April 1918). Contemporary reports suggest that for several years the port was in chaos with supplies not properly stored and lying in open crates on the dockside. During the First World War the US had been shipping armaments and munitions through Vladivostok and was concerned at the situation with the Bolsheviks advancing on Vladivostok. According to Eric Birkett, Archibald suffered terribly in Russian prisons during the Revolution, until released by Japanese gunboat diplomacy (according to Wallace Graham Grant) or by strenuous efforts of the British Consul (according to Mary Wilson Dunn Sweet and Jean Barr Houston). It is said that a Clan Line captain supplied him with clothing by wearing a double set himself, to visit him in prison, I presume.

In memory of Alexander Sweet J.P. Born Langside 17th Oct 1843 Died Skelmorlie 19th Nov 1921 Also his wife
Barbara Dunn Wright Died Skelmorlie 3rd Nov 1926 Aged 83 years
Their sons Alexander
Died at Malta 11th Oct 1927 Aged 46 years Archibald MacIntyre
Died Skelmorlie 9th Dec 1937 Aged 63 years




I assume that after this Archibald returned home to Cathcart until the family all moved to Skelmorlie sometime around 1921 where he lived until his death in 1937.









The fourth born to Alexander and Barbara was Wallace Graham Sweet (1876 to 1953), my grandfather. He was born in Lindsay House and followed his siblings to Cathcart Public School from 1881 to 1885 after which he was enrolled at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, Glasgow from where he left in 1890.

Wallace was described as a ‘Mercantile Clerk’ at ages 14 and 24. I am pretty certain he worked for C Schneider & Co, merchant and commission agent; certainly by the time of his marriage in 1904 he was describing himself as a Commercial Traveller for Corks and he was definitely employed at that time by Schneider & Co. who had a place of business at 33 Renfield Street, Glasgow.

Schneider represented Albert’s Basic Slag and were exhibiting at the Highland Show, Perth on July 19-22, 1904. Basic Slag is a by product of the ironmaking industry and is used as a fertiliser predominately on grass. In the 1901 Glasgow directory Schneider & Co is also listed under Cork Manufacturers which provides the link to Wallace’s occupation quoted on his marriage record.

Jean Brown (1878-1952)

Wallace married Jean Brown (1878–1952) on the 8th June, 1904. Jean was the daughter of George Brown (1851-1906) and Jeanie Irving (1853-1930). George Brown and family moved to Australia with Jean and their son, George junior, at some time between 1886 and 1896, he was a representative for Collins the Glasgow book publisher, where I am pretty certain he met his wife, Jeanie, who was also employed by them. They returned sometime before 1901, possibly 1898, by which time they had five more children.

Wallace and Jean were married at her parents’ home, 231 Langside Road, Govan by Thomas Pearson minister of the New Cathcart United Free Church. Witnesses were Alexander Sweet junior (Wallace’s brother ) and Mary Brown (Jean’s sister). Wallace was described as a Commercial Traveller and, as was normal at the time, Jean was simply recorded as a spinster but was in fact a costumier. Sadly, Jean’s father George died shortly after the wedding in 1906, prematurely at the age of 54

Wallace and Jean set up home at 20 Woodville Street, Langside. At the time of his marriage, Wallace had progressed from being a mercantile clerk to be a commercial traveller and in the telephone directories for 1904/05 through to 1911/12 he was employed by Schneider & Co and described himself as a commercial traveller for corks. Around 1910/11 they moved to ‘Dunimarle’, 3 Mitchell Drive, Rutherglen.

At the time of the first world war, Wallace was employed as a salesman by Buckstein and Gillein, a German firm dealing in fertilisers and chemicals, according to Eric Birkett. While I have no reason to disbelieve this I have not yet found any evidence to substantiate this. (For the period 1912 to 1922 I have not found any directories). However, according to Eric, it appears the owners were imprisoned for espionage and Wallace bought the impounded business in West Nile Street, Glasgow and flourished. In the directories for 1922 to 1930 he is shown as Wallace G Sweet, Merchant and Commission Agent, 142 West Nile St and living at ‘Dalveen’, Douglas Avenue, Burnside. The entries for the business in the Classified sections were under the following trades: Capsule manufacturer, Barytes manufacturer [Baryte is a naturally occurring mineral form of barium sulphate], Bottle envelope merchants, Chemical Brokers, Cork manufacturers and Commission Merchants and Agents.

The name of Schneider drops out of the directories after the First World War and Wallace moves from being a Commercial Traveller to a Merchant and Commission Agent. Around this time, in addition to his office at 142 West Nile Street, he rented a workshop at 44 Renfrew Street.


The family lived at Forefaulds, East Kilbride before moving to Finnartmore and Fairy Knowe, both in  Argyll and Bute and finally settled in Troon, Ayrshire.

Jean died in November 1952 and a year later Wallace died in November 1953.

Alexander and Barbara’s fifth child, Catherine Fyffe Sweet (1879-1956). According Eric Birkett ‘Catherine, the middle of three beautiful sisters, was blonde and blue-eyed’. She was born while the family were living at Lindsay House in 1879. Catherine, like the rest of the family, probably attended Cathcart Public School, Craig Road probably in 1884. Unlike her brothers she did not go to Hutchesons Grammar School; I have not yet found where she and her sisters were educated. Possibly at home.

On 9th September, 1904 she married Robert Grant (1875-1954) at Cathcart. Robert’s father was William Grant, a blacksmith. According to Eric Birkett he was descended from the Grants of Elchies in Moray but I have not yet found the connection. Robert’s mother was Jane Halksworth from Manchester and this raises the question of how Catherine met Robert. Jane would appear to have brought Robert up on her own in Manchester as in the census reports for 1881 and 1891 she is described as married but her husband is not recorded. The mystery deepens with the witnesses at Catherine’s wedding being Jean Barr Sweet (Catherine’s younger sister) and Alexander Sweet , her brother who was home on leave at the time, (see below). Strange that there was no Grant representative.

Robert began his working life as an Office Boy in Manchester aged 15 years. But by the time of his marriage, Robert was an accountant living at 120 Mallinson Road, London SW. At the time of the 1911 census they were living at 16 York Road and Robert was an ‘Accountant To Public Company Gas Company Operating Abroad’.

By 1939 they were living at 6, Avenue Road Southgate. Robert had retired as secretary to a Public Company, probably the Gas Company, and was at the time a member of the Civil Defence Emergency Committee. Their daughter, Barbara, who was normally a Clerk to the Local Authority was engaged in the Local Authority Control Room.

Robert Grant died in 1954 at Wood Green, Middlesex. Catherine Robertson Fyffe Sweet died on 30th November 1956 at Southgate.

Alexander and Barbara had their sixth child, Alexander Sweet (1881 to 1927) who was also born at Lindsay House. Like his brothers before him he would have attended Cathcart Public School on Craig Road until 1891. When he was ten he was enrolled at Hutchesons’ Boys Grammar School and left in 1896 at 15 years old.

Alexander was employed by the Eastern Telegraph Company as a probationer in 1896 aged 15 years and four months. At that time they were located at 141 Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

Porthcurno Telegraph Station


In March 1898 he was appointed to the Glasgow staff on a salary of £48 per annum and immediately posted to Porthcurno in Cornwall which is where the transatlantic cables come ashore. The original Eastern Telegraph Company buildings now form a museum.


In October 1898 he was transferred to Vigo, Portugal on a salary of £72. Further promotions followed in March 1900 and March 1901 rising to a salary of £96. In April 1901 he was transferred to Gibraltar on the same salary, rising to £108 in September 1902 following a promotion. The Gibraltar station was of significant importance in the Atlantic cable; the cable was laid in Gibraltar in 1870 and was a landing point of the long-range submarine cable that ran from Porthcurno, to Lisbon, Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Suez, Aden, Bombay, over land to the east coast of India, then on to Penang, Malacca, Singapore, Batavia (current Jakarta), to finally reach Darwin, Australia. It was the first direct link between Australia and Great Britain. The company that laid the first part of the cable took the name of Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta Telegraph Company and had been founded in 1869. This company later operated as the Eastern Telegraph Company from Mount Pleasant in Gibraltar and eventually became Cable & Wireless. [Source: Wikipedia]

In October 1902 he was transferred to Aden on a salary of £108 until a promotion in Sept 1904 raised his salary to £120. Aden was a major repeat station on the Eastern Telegraph Company network

Alexander had a month’s furlough, probably spent at home in Cathcart; his sister Catherine married in September, 1904 and I suspect Alexander officiated at it (see above). He was transferred to Saint Helena in November 1904 with promotion following in March 1905, September 1905, March 1906 and March 1907 which took his salary to £168.

English and American shared cable facility , Fayal, Azores

In June 1907 Alexander was transferred to Durban and then Durban Bay in 1909. He took leave prior to being posted to Fayal in the Azores in November 1909. This is a volcanic island on which earthquakes were common. There were German, American and English cable interests centred on this island. Alexander was promoted on March 1911, January 1913 and again in March 1913.

After a period of furlough he transferred to Zanzibar in October 1914 and then to Mozambique in April 1915 and back again  to Zanzibar in October 1915 and then to Carcavelos, Portugal in June 1918 after a period of home leave. Following a period of furlough, he was posted to Suez in September 1921. It was while preparing for his trip to Suez that he made his will.

Eastern Telegraph Company, Valletta, Malta

In September 1924, Alexander was transferred to Malta where sadly he died prematurely on October 11th, 1927. There is no record of an accident, so I assume this was from natural causes. I have been unable to obtain a copy of his death record. He was unmarried.

He is remembered on his father’s headstone in Cathcart Cemetery.

Jean Barr Sweet (1883 to 1976) was the seventh child of Alexander and Barbara. She too was born in Lindsay House.  Jean’s mother had a sister, Jane Barr Wright and I suspect she was named after her. Jean would attend the Cathcart Public School but I am not sure where she would have gained her secondary education. At the age of 17 she was a typist at G&J Weir of Cathcart who had built a new machine shop in Cathcart in 1886.

At the age of 27 years, Jean married the 29 year old John Houston, a Lloyds surveyor, at Jean’s home of Braehead, Cathcart. Jean’s sister, Mary Wilson Dunn Sweet (1871-1959) and John’s brother, David, were witnesses. At the time he was living at Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. They had three children. Jean died on 13 November, 1976 at Morningside, Edinburgh aged 93 years.

Braehead Cottage, Netherlee Road, Cathcart


The last born of Alexander and Barbara’s children was William Johnston Sweet (1886-1961). William was born at Braehead whereas his seven siblings had all been born in Lindsay House.



William would follow his siblings to the Cathcart Public School but unlike his brothers he did not attend Hutchesons’ Grammar School. At the time there was an entrance exam, so perhaps he did not pass the test. It became fee-paying in 1876 and perhaps the fees became too much.

He joined the Union Bank of Scotland in 1901 at age 15. He was an agent for the bank in various locations: Govan  from 20 Aug 1901, Hillhead from 15 Nov 1905, Shettleston from 22 Nov 1907, Stirling from 23 Oct 1912, Tillicoultry from 1 Dec 1915, Hillhead from 8 Oct 1919, Tillicoultry from 2 Jan 1920 and Alloa from 2 April 1924.

William married Nimmo Walker Johnson (1889-1927), a teacher, on 11th September, 1919 in Stirling. Witnesses were Maggie N Walker and Wallace Graham Sweet (1876-1953), his brother. Sadly, Nimmo died at 73 Millbrae Road, Shawlands in 1927 and William married secondly  Georgina Margaret Smith McLean (1899-1973), a Queen’s nurse, in 1930.

They moved to live at Craigshields, Skelmorlie when William retired from the bank and they looked after Mary Wilson Dunn Sweet in her later years. They bought Craigshields when Mary died but at some time moved to Largs which is where William died on 2nd August, 1961. 

Mary (30), Jean (22) and Catherine (18) Sweet 1901, in the Braehead garden.

Archie (27), Wallace Graham (25) and Willie(15) in the Braehead Garden, 1901.









Wallace Graham Sweet (1876-1953) who had married Jean Brown (1878-1952), see above, had six children. It was their eldest, Alexander Sweet (1905-1975) who was my father.

I have gathered a great deal more anecdotal history in my research and there are many branches of the tree beyond what is explained above. There are in excess of 1,300 people in my database of relatives. If you would like to have more detail then please contact me.