The Boa Family Tree

According to the Old Parish Register for Ettrick, William Boa was a " hird " at Hopehouse for at least twenty years. Certainly, seven of William and Catherine Scott 's children were born there between 1792 and 1810.


William and Catherine must have known James Hogg, the " Ettrick Shepherd " who lived only half a mile away from Hopehouse.In 1800, James Hogg was 30, about the same age as William.

Only two of their sons survived to have children. The eldest, Peter, born in 1788, had 10 children, five of them sons, who carried on the family name.In the 1840s Peter and his wife Christina moved to the island of Arran where they, their sons and grandsons farmed at Dippin. To this day the road junction by the farm is known locally as "Boa's Corner".

Their eldest daughter, Beatrice, was born in 1792. She married John Scott, bore him nine children, and died in 1836, at the age of 44.
By 1850, John was at Melrose Abbey. "I have the charge of it and show it to all that comes to see it." So he wrote to his brother who had emigrated to Canada. The letter, a copy of which Alan Scott, a Canadian descendant of John and Beatrice, kindly sent me, reveals a caring and very devout man.
He includes an interesting indication of how life in mid 19th century Scotland was beginning to speed up:

"There is a wonderful change in our native land since you left it. There are now railways in all places. They can now go from Hawick to Edinburgh to their breakfast, and do business, and come home to their supper."

William and Catherine's other son who married and had children was Walter Boa ,who was born in 1800. When Walter was 14, Wordsworth visited nearby Yarrow, and wrote

" Fair scenes for childhood's opening bloom,

For sportive youth to play in,

For manhood to enjoy his strength,

And age to wear away in! "

At the age of 31, Walter married Catherine Little , who was 20.They married in Moffat,and went to live at Birkhill Cottage, near the "Grey Mare's Tail".Walter was a shepherd there. The Statistical Account, written seven years later, in 1837, gives a vivid description of the parish and the people:

"At Birkhill Cottage , fishers will find accommodation and directions."


"Farm cottages are as comfortable as farm houses were in 1800. The dress and mode of living of cottagers is not greatly inferior to that of farmers 40 years ago."

"The sheep stocks are large and excellent and are all or nearly all Cheviots."

"Up Moffat Water carriages pass without difficulty or danger by the lakes and from Yarrow to Selkirk."


In 1848 Walter and Catherine thought seriously about emigrating to Canada, where they might buy land to farm. Walter's sister Margaret and her husband Thomas Stavert had already succeeded in doing that on Prince Edward Island. Walter wrote to Thomas and received an interesting letter describing life in Canada at that time.

Catherine died in 1877, and Walter 10 months later.They are buried at Yarrow Kirk, along with six of their children: 10 year old William (1843), 24 year old Samuel, (see letter)(1864), three infant sons, and 83 year old Isabella, who was born in 1854, when Walter was 54, and died in Edinburgh in 1938.

Their seventh child, Joan, died on the Island of Arran at the age of 13.

Almost four years after young William's death, Walter and Catherine had their eighth child, a son, whom they named William. Using the name of a dead child in the nineteenth century was not uncommon.They had 14 children in all, but William was the only son to survive, marry and have sons to carry on the family name.His youngest sister, Isabella, born when their father was 54, lived on in Edinburgh, a very devout old lady, until 1938, allowing therefore a two-generation span of 138 years.(Walter was born in 1800.)

William Boa was born at Birkhill and baptised at Eskdalemuir.On 18th February, 1876, three days before his 29th birthday, he married Marion Dickson , from Capplegill Farm, near Moffat, where her father worked for 56 years.


Marion was born at Moffat on 27th May, 1847.She must have known this stream well at Capplegill:


Her father, Adam Dickson, was born in Peebles in 1811.His parents were Andrew Dickson, a shepherd, and Jane Cranstoun, who was born in 1780 and did not die until 1876, when she was 96.

An invaluable source of information about the Dickson family is to be found here. The family tree has been thoroughly researched by Jim Fosti, from Alberta, Canada. Jim's wife, Joanne, is a descendant of Andrew Dickson and Jane Cranstoun.

Marion's mother, Marion Templeton, was born in Lanark in 1812. Her parents were Thomas Templeton, a shepherd, and Jane Ram.

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As a shepherd, like his father and grandfather, William worked on a number of farms.

He spent 17 years at Breconside, Moffat. On 11th October, 1892, Marion arranged for a photographer to come to the farm to take the whole family.William was very tense - as can be seen! - having to take time off work and perhaps incur the wrath of his employer.


W.A.J.Prevost's "Annals of Three Dumfriesshire Dales", published in 1954, gives clear descriptions of the early days in the Moffat area.

"Shepherds were very independent men, and their status was rather different to that of other farm servants. They were of course responsible to the farmer for his sheep, but they were also farmers themselves in a small way, and in lieu of cash wages were allowed to keep sheep of their own and received perquisites such as meal and fodder. The stock so kept by the shepherd may have made up all or part of his wages, and was known as the "shepherd's pack" and consisted usually of about 44 or 46 ewes.

In later years the size of the shepherd's pack was reduced, and the difference was paid in cash wages. William Boa, whose father Walter was young herd in Birkhill in 1830, made the following bargain in 1887...(William began at Breconside that year)...He was allowed to keep 21 sheep as his pack, one cow and a few hens; he was to receive 20 in cash, and 1000 yards of potatoes and 60 stone of oatmeal as perquisites. His coals were to be carted for him."

The old farmhouse at Breconside is still standing, although no longer inhabited.


When William retired, he and Marion went to live in a cottage at Newbigging, not far from Breconside, for an annual rent of 5.There was no running water - they had to walk to the nearest spring - the floor was made of flagstones, they lived very simply, but were happy.William caught trout in this burn behind the cottage, and shot rabbits in this nearby field.

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Their grandson, Andrew Boa, had very happy memories of holidays at Newbigging when he was a child.This letter gives some idea of the rapport between 73-year-old William and 6-year-old Andrew:


The letter is dated Sep.5 1920.

He writes

My Dear Grandson,

I was pleased to receive your nice long letter saying you got safe home and enjoyed your ride in the train. I have been wearying. I have nobody to walk with me up to the Chapman Height. Tell daddy that I have got all the holes at the gate sorted, the Tennis Court mown, the lid put on the water barrel, the garage mended and the roans are running all right , and the skylight is letting the rain in....

They celebrated their Golden Wedding on 22nd February, 1926.


Marion died less than a year later, in January, 1927. William moved to Kilmarnock to live with his son Walter, but never became reconciled to living in a town. He died in January, 1929, and was buried beside Marion, in Moffat.

William and Marion had five sons and a daughter.The eldest was Walter Boa , who was born on the 19th of March, 1877, at Craigierigg, Megget. In the 1960s, the valley where the farm stood was flooded to form a reservoir.

While living at Breconside, Moffat, he started work as a grocer's assistant in the town - the first of the line for at least 150 years to leave the land. He was probably the first, too, to change his speech, about the year 1900, from rural dialect to the standard English required in the shop. His brothers teased him for saying "Soap, Madam?", in his sleep.While basically a serious person, he was not without a sense of humour. For his 28th birthday he bought himself a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, inscribing it as follows:

Presented to Walter Boa from himself

With best wishes


In 1910 he married Mary Jane Mills from Kirkbean, and they moved to Kilmarnock. Walter was now a commercial traveller, serving the towns of central and north Ayrshire.In the 30s, the firm offered him a car and a phone. He refused both, preferring to travel by train and then to walk to the various shops on his route.The phone he felt would be an invasion of his privacy.


Throughout his life he devoted a lot of time to charitable work. He is seen below as a member of "The Follies" (back row, second from the right) at a garden fete, possibly at Craufurdland Castle.(Mrs Houison-Crawford is seated in the middle row at the left.)


During the First World War, he was Assistant Secretary to the Kilmarnock Joint Political (War Funds) Committee.

In June, 1918, the committee sent out a circular letter to the people of Kilmarnock, asking for funds for the Red Cross, to "help those who are tending the stricken and the wounded warriors to continue their noble work".The letter was a double page, the front of which is reproduced below:


He achieved high office in the masonic order.With the Earl of Eglinton he attended the inauguration of King George VIth.

For almost 30 years, he was an elder of Portland Road Church.On Sunday 11th May, 1958, he died while walking to church. The following Sunday, his minister read a eulogy to the congregation. He said: "Walter Boa was a man of goodwill, a man of peace, possessed of a friendly and conciliatory spirit, a lover of his fellow-men, with a shrewd knowledge of human nature and a charitable attitude to its foibles." Walter and Mary Jane had three children: Violet, Andrew and Walter.

Andrew Boa , my father, was born on 25th April, 1914, just before the First World War. He was brought up at 2 Burns Avenue, Kilmarnock.


On 18th April, 1939, just before the Second World War, he married Jessie McWilliam Hunter , my mother.

Below is a photograph of the three of us, taken in late 1940. My sister, Evelyn Mary Boa was born four years later.


My father spent all his working life in local government, mostly in the Finance Department of the Burgh Chamberlain's Department, Kilmarnock.
Just before he retired in 1978, he spoke on the phone for the last time to a London stockbroker with whom he had dealt for many years. He explained that he was about to retire.
"Really? said the broker. "And what plans have you made for your retirement?"
"I've invested in stock", said father.
"Well done!" said the broker. "Tell me, what have you bought?"
"No, no", said father. "I don't mean that kind of stock.The stock I've invested in is my family."

That neatly summed up the major priority of his life.