Alexander Bowie (1731 - d.)

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Birthplace: Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
Death: (Date and location unknown)
Managed by: Cecilie Nygård
Last Updated:

About Alexander Bowie

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The Burgh Town on the Point, or Borrowstouness, 'ness' derived from the French word, 'le nez' meaning nose. Bo'ness as it is known today was founded on a point which juts out into the River Forth. Coal was the first industry, and the monks from Holyrood Abbey are credited with hewing the first coal in Scotland here. Carriden ' Fort on the hill' to the east of Bo'ness was the first site, the monks were granted a tithe by William di Vipont to mine the coal on his estate. Roads at that time were virtually non-existent, giving Bo'ness a seaport from which coal could be transported down river to Leith and onwards to ports in Europe. In 1707 the act of union enhanced the position of the port, British Navigation Laws stated that produce of British colonies were to be shipped through Great Britain, no matter where the final destination. Tobacco intended for Holland was landed at Port Glasgow and transported across land to Bo'ness to be exported. Bo'ness became the second largest port in Scotland, second only to Leith. With the victory of the American colonies, the re exporting of Tobacco was a big loss to the town, only the export of the coal helped to maintain the importance of the port.

Coal and Steam Coal mining played an important part in the early history of the Bowie's, this would set the foundations for that side of the family who emigrated to the USA in the mid 1800's. Before 1799 most miners in Scotland were serfs, and the method of working in the pits had not changed for centuries. In 1762 it was established that a pit owner was entitled to move his colliers to any pit that had work for them and that they had no right to refuse to move, Colliers were treated like any other part of the mines equipment, in fact along with the Salters they were the only two who were still treated like slaves. There is a place in Bo'ness called Thirlstane Terrace, which reflects the long tern suffering where many of the towns folk were thirled, i.e. tied or bound to their work, this applied to the wives and children of the colliers and salter. After about 1780 the only important innovation was the introduction of the steam engine to drain the water from the mines and sometimes lift the coal. Children were also used in the pit one ten year old boy described his job at New Craighall Colliery. "I pump out the water in the under-bottom of the pit to keep the men's room dry. I am obliged to pump fast or the water would cover me. I had to run away a few weeks ago, as the water came up so fast that I could not pump at all, and the men obliged to gang, The water frequently covers my legs and those of the men when they sit to pick".

Death was no stranger to young and old, " Brother Robert was killed on the 21st January last: a piece of roof fell upon his head, and he died instantly. He was brought home, coffined and buried in Bo'ness Kirk-yard. No-one came to enquire how he was killed; they never do."

The Cadells of Cockenzie and a Dr Roebuck saw the advantage of setting up an Iron works on the banks of the river Carron, to the east of Bo'ness, this would supply the munitions for the armed forces who were fighting France (7 year war). Pits at the east end of Bo'ness were bought over by the Cadells and the pits at the west end were leased from the duke of Hamilton by Dr Roebuck. This provided the fuel for the new foundry which was opened with due ceremony on New Years morning 1759. As the demand for coal forced the miners to dig deeper, keeping back the encroachment of the river Forth became a bigger problem. Roebuck sent for a steam engine, this failed, he then persuaded a young Greenock instrument maker, James Watt, who had been experimenting with steam engines, to come and work at Kineil. Watt's engine also failed, it was not until he moved to England to work with Mathew Bolton that engine was perfected.

This was the environment that Alexander, Sarah and their family were born into, given the area in which they stayed and the employment., Alexander was most likely a miner. They were born during the early years of the United Kingdom, the religion at that time was protestant, and it would be another 100 years before the influx of the Irish Catholics would bring back the Roman Catholicism to West Lothian. King George II was on the throne and Alexander was in his mid teens when the last land battle was fought on British soil, between the Jacobites of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Government troops, under the leadership of the King's son the duke of Cumberland at Culloden Moor on the 16th of April 1746. Culloden has been viewed as a struggle between the Scots and the English, this was a civil war in which in some cases brother fought brother, clan fought clan and catholic fought protestant. Bonnie Prince Charlie's army made it as far south as Derby, 127 miles from London, his followers were mainly Catholic and Episcopalian clans and the Campbells of Glen Lyon. On the 6th December 1745 after an argument on whether to continue or go back to Scotland, the Jacobite army made its way back north, the closest battle fought to Bo'ness was at Falkirk on the 17th January 1746, which the Prince's forces won, due to weather conditions the advantage was not exploited. One Bo'ness hero of this time was Colonel Janes Gardiner, imortalised by Sir Walter Scott as Edward Waverley's commanding oficer, was born at Burnfoot, near Carriden, in 1687. He died at the battle of Prestopans in 1745. By 1745 the clan system had started to change, some clan chiefs were becoming more interested in financial maters than in clan relationships, gone were the tacksmen, who often were directly related to the chief, agriculture and forestry were beginning to take their place. Defeat at Culloden accelerated what would have been a gradual social change and the effects would still be felt almost 200 years later.

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Alexander Bowie's Timeline

1731
1731
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1755
January 3, 1755
Age 24
Bo'ness, UK
1756
June 2, 1756
Age 25
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1759
June 16, 1759
Age 28
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1762
May 14, 1762
Age 31
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1765
June 14, 1765
Age 34
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1767
April 30, 1767
Age 36
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1769
December 24, 1769
Age 38
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1771
May 1, 1771
Age 40
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland
1772
September 27, 1772
Age 41
Carriden, Bo'ness, Scotland