Select Blair Miscellany



Here are some Blair stories and accounts over the years:

The Blairs and the Barony of Blair


The barony of Blair in Ayrshire is believed to have been granted in the late 12th century by the Scottish king William I to a Norman knight named Jean Francois (John Francis in English) as a reward for some unspecified service.  The first evidence of ownership was in the 1190's when work commenced on the construction of a Norman keep.

John Francis's offspring took on the Blair name.  The first recorded was William de Blair in 1205.  He is believed to have married a daughter of the King of England, John.  His son Bryce took up arms with William Wallace against the English, but was caught and executed by them during the Barns of Ayr massacre in 1296. 


The Blairs and Balthayock Castle

The seat of the Balthayock Blairs was Balthayock castle, located four miles east of Perth on a hill overlooking the north side of the Tay river.  The castle was built on lands held by the Knights Templar, whereas the barony lands had been held by the King.  Here, for about five hundred years, the titular head of the Balthayock Blairs lived while the family settled in the counties of Perth, Fife, and Angus. 

The male line of descent ended in the mid 1700's when John Blair of Bathayock died.  The line went through his daughter and then her daughter and her family then assumed the Fergusson-Blair name.  These Fergusson-Blairs emigrated to Canada in the 1860's and sold the estate.   



Blairs in Scotland and England

Blairs have crossed the border from Scotland into northern England.   Some 28 percent of Blairs were in England by the time of the 1891 census.

1891 Census
Numbers (000's)
Percent
Scotland


Lanarkshire
  2.4
  28              
Renfrewshire
  1.1
  13
Ayrshire
  0.7
   8
Elsewhere
  2.0
  23
England


Northumberland
  0.3
   3
Durham
  0.4
   5
Lancashire
  0.5
   6
Elsewhere
  1.3
  14
Total
  8.7
 100

 


James Blair the Travelling Dentist

James Blair had tried his hand as barber, wigmaker and perfumer before choosing dentistry. The following is the advertisement that he placed in the Leicester Journal in 1787 to announce his new trade:

"Blair, dentist
Leicester
begs leave to inform the public that he removes the tartar from the teeth, fastens them if loose, and brings the gums to a proper colour and hardness; he likewise makes artificial teeth, fixes them without pain, and in such a manner as not to be distinguished from natural ones.  He has likewise prepared a tincture and dentifrice which are much approved and may be had at his shop at Gallowtree gate where the following articles are also sold:
Ruspini's tincture and dentifrice
Ruspini's styptic
Hemet's essence of pearl and pearl dentifrice."

So thinly dispersed were Blair's potential patients that, like other dentists, he was obliged to travel to find them.  For much of the 1790's he appears to have spent a considerable amount of time away from his shop in Leicester.  He made forays to Manchester, Chester, and even to London. 

He found his largest customer base to be in the northwest and so he moved, first to Chester and then to Liverpool.  Working close to the end, he died in Liverpool in 1817 at the age of seventy.  The Chester Chronicle commented: "He has not left behind him one who possesses more integrity or kindness of heart towards his fellow creatures." 


A Scots Irish Blair Family

Brice Blair was born in Ayr, Scotland in 1600.  In 1625 he fled to the north of Ireland with his wife, Esther Peden, and their small daughter Nancy. 

In the next 250 years many of their descendants emigrated from Ireland to America.  Samuel Blair, a rebel leader of an organization known as "Hearts of Steel," arrived in the 1770's, having narrowly escaped the hangman's noose in his homeland.   Patrick Blair, Samuel's nephew, came with his family in 1835.   Samuel and Patrick settled near each other in NW Pennsylvania.  In 1846, David and Nancy (Blair) Knox, Samuel's great niece, came to America and settled in Abbeville, South Carolina. 

The descendants of these three families have since spread throughout the nation. They fought and died in its wars, dug for gold, broke sod on the western prairies, built businesses, doctored the sick, were entertainers and sometimes just fought to survive in this often harsh new land.



The Rev. Samuel Blair at Fagg's Manor


Fagg's Manor Presbyterian Church in Chester county, Pennsylvania was first organized in 1730.  The church got its name because it was located on the northwest corner of what was Sir John Fagg's Manor and before that a Lenape Indian camp site. 

The earliest sermons were held under an oak grove near the present-day location of the church.  The first pastor, Rev. Samuel Blair, had come from Ireland in early youth and been educated in nearby Bucks county. He went on to achieve great fame as a scholar and pulpit orator.   Many residents would walk six miles to hear his sermons.  His career there lasted from 1740 until his death, at the young age of 39, in 1751.


Port Blair in India

Port Blair in India, with a population of 240,000, consists of two island groups in the Bay of Bengal and is situated on the east coast of South Andaman Island.  In 1789 Captain Archibald Blair of the Bombay Marine (the East India Company's Navy), acting under orders from the government of Bengal, established a penal colony on this site.  He named it Port Cornwallis in honor of his commander, Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.

By 1858 the first European settlers on the islands, who were established near the site of the old penal colony, renamed the place Port Blair in honor of this captain.


Tony Blair's Ancestry

Tony Blair's ancestry is English but, in terms of the Blair name, only one generation deep.  His father Leo, born in Yorkshire, was the illegitimate son of two travelling English actors, Charles Parsons and Celia Ridgway.  They gave up baby Leo and he was first fostered and then adopted by a working class couple, Glasgow shipyard worker James Blair and his wife Mary.  Leo would take their Blair name.

Leo Blair married Hazel Corscadden and they had two sons - their second, born in Edinburgh, being Tony. The family lived for a while in Australia before settling in Durham.  




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