Georgian newspaper obituaries were brief. Name, age, location and occasionally something about the nature of the death were as much as most people got. If you reached 100, things were different. If you were rich, you would gain a few extra sentence of praise. If you were poor, then you would become the material for a moral story, normally about the value of being sober and hard-working.
Not all lives were brief. ‘Terence Dugin’ was nearly 101 when he died on 4 December 1800. He was rewarded with the convoluted extra sentence ‘a gentlemen not more respectable for his abilities in his line of his profession, then eminent for the integrity of his conduct and uprightness in private life’.
The Scots Magazine had got his name wrong- there was a lot of copying between newspapers in the late Georgian period and not always a lot of desire to get the details correct. His actual name was Terence Dugan, sometimes Duggan, and he was a man who deserved to be remembered.
Duggan was a linen bleacher. Bleaching fields were common in places where there were textile factories, and this included the suburbs of Edinburgh, where Dugan lived. Dugan appears regularly in the Scottish newspapers from the 1760s onwards, first at the Ford Bleach field and later at Kevock Hills.
He was no ordinary bleacher. The Dugans were an Irish family; Mr Dugan had been brought over in 1749 by the British Linen Company to improve their techniques and it was his work that ended one of the bottlenecks in the production process. Linen no longer needed to be sent to Holland to be bleached. To the end of his days he received an annuity from the Trade Organisation and he regularly won prizes; the fact that there were prizes for bleaching shows how important it was for the Scottish and Irish industries.
This is from the 1756 Scots magazine;
Prize III Thick Plain WHITE Lawn. A piece 12 yards in and 31 inches in breadth the property of William Hill manufacturer Canongate, woven by Clement Carse at Picardy, bleached by Terence Dugan at Kevock .
When he died, he was a ‘gentlemen’- that was post-mortem generosity. I have been unable to find any references to the Terence Duggan that are not advertisements. Mr Dugan advertised in the newspaper consistently until 1795, by which time it had become Terence Dugan and Son. In his early days, he was situated at the Ford Bleach field and then later moved to the Kevock Hill Bleach field, nearer Edinburgh. His son was Francis Dugan, and it seems that Father and son ran the Kevock Hills site as partners. They leased the site for 38 years in 1774 with 30 acres of fields, a house where they lived and orchards. Buying the property would have been a problem, as they were both Roman Catholics who could not pass on property after death very easily
One of the Dugan family had some problem in 1775 with a servant.
By 1775 it seems that Francis was running the company offering bleaching by the Irish or Dutch methods and still boasting of the skilled Irishman that were brought over. Frances seemed to have enjoyed a 25 year retirement, common today but worthy of note in the late Georgian period.
When he died in 1800, the whole Dugan bleaching Empire was about to expire. New methods of chlorine bleaching would make the family another victim of the technological revolution , but the main problem at the time was the early death of Francis Dugan, who died in 1801 at more or less exactly half his father’s age .
His funeral was a touching story ‘He was borne the church yard by his own servants …two of them witnessed his interment bad been fifty years in his employ. He was the first invited to this Country about 70 years ago by the Hon Board of Trustees the improve the state of bleaching linen’
Francis Dugan was less than a month dead when the beaching fields and house were sold off and later the contents of the house. Sales of the crops growing in the fields were postponed until they were ready-liquidation of goods was an efficient and emotionless process.
—————————————————————————————————————————————– If you like my interest in the ordinary people in Georgian Britain, you will like this. If you like it a bit but not enough to buy one, please ask your library to stock one!