As I sat with my granny around a month ago, I sat with a notepad and pencil at the ready, and told her to tell me about her parents. She grinned. “You’re going to like this” she promised. I wanted to find a rascal, someone of local importance, someone with a great story just waiting to be told. Enter Mr John Weddell, known to most as either Daddy Weddell or Gentleman John, for he was always smartly dressed.
John Weddell was born and bred in Edinburgh. By 19, he was married with a son on the way. The marriage didn’t last and just a few years later, a divorce was granted. I’m told this was rare for the early 1900’s. He met his future second wife and they had a son together, who sadly died in infancy. The couple were able to marry now John’s divorce was final and grew their family by adding 15 more children to their household over the next 25 years. After his second wife died, he met and married Margaret Barclay, my great-grandmother. They added some more children to the brood. My granny is the very youngest of 20 children in all (2 died in infancy). I couldn’t believe it! I thought she was the youngest of 3!
The other note my granny gave me was to do with football. Her dad was involved in football, she was sure she had been told years ago. She remembered her mum washing a big load of dark football strips in their bath regularly too. After a fair few emails later and with some much-appreciated help from some local football historians, I think we have uncovered the link. He was involved in the first women’s football team in Edinburgh, who also represented Scotland before there was an official team. Edinburgh Ladies FC played plenty of games and did reasonably well, so I’m led to believe, even raising money for local disabled ex-servicemen in a charity match against Dick, Kerr who were the most famous women’s football team of the time. I struggled to find information by myself but one historian managed to source me some newspaper clippings and a couple of team photos. Thanks to one of my granny’s nephews posting a picture of John on a local history website, I was able to identify one of the men standing proudly with the team as my great-grandfather. As none of the photos have names attached and the newspaper clippings don’t reference any one person in particular, I am yet to find out exactly what John’s role was with the club.There may not be a huge amount of information publicly available on the subject but to know that he was involved in something pretty unique like that gives me a story I am proud to tell and delighted in sharing with my granny.
Having so many children gives me an unprecedented timeline of his life. Something that stood out clear as day to me was John’s timeline of work. His job does change a few times but the point is he always had a job. He was able to provide for all of his children. He also registered all of his children himself. I’m not sure whether the rules are the same everywhere else but in Scotland if a child was born out of wedlock, the father’s name could not be listed on the birth record unless he was there to confirm the child was his. By signing his name to all of his children, legitimate or illegitimate, he tells me he chose to take responsibility. Family was clearly important to him. Many of his children went on to marry and set up their married lives in the same square as their father and siblings still lived. I sort of love that.
John died in 1937, aged 63. His youngest child, my granny, was just 4 years old. His third wife, Margaret, continued to raise the remaining children, treating them all fully as her own. This speaks volumes to me about her character too.
I’ve been researching my dad’s side of the family tree for a year now and, while I love and cherish them all, I can quite honestly say that I have never met a character quite like John Weddell! Charming, responsible, sociable, hard working, family man. I may never come across as long a branch in my family tree again (20 children is slightly above average, after all!) but I love all the information and stories researching his full life has given me. I didn’t even know his name when I started out. Now I feel like I know him very well indeed and I smile whenever I think of the cheeky chap I have come to know.