Select Petrie Miscellany



Here are some Petrie stories and accounts over the years:


Petrie's Flemish Origins?


One persistent story has the Petries of Scotland originating from a Flemish family named Peters that had migrated from Antwerp to Cornwall in the 12th century.  From there the family moved to the northeast of Scotland - to Kincardine (where they were said to have owned a manor) and to Aberdeen and Caithness.  It is known that Scotland was encouraging Flemish immigration at the time, because of their skills in weaving.


Prominent Petries in Montrose


Helen Petrie
wife of John Mylne, burgess
   1597
George Petrie
provost of Montrose
   1625
Katherine Petrie
wife of Alexander Pirie
   1625
Alexander Petrie
master at grammar school
   1625
Elizabeth Petrie
wife of John Ochterlony, baillie
   1662
James Petrie
shipmaster
   1756
William Petrie
master at grammar school
   1766
William Petrie
shipmaster
   1775
James Petrie
son of James Petrie, maltman
   1808
Alexander Petrie
Montrose merchant
   1810

The first Alexander Petrie above became a Scottish Covenanting minister based in Rotterdam.


George Petrie, Bishop of Moray

George's first employment in the 1740s was as a tutor to the family of Walkinshaw, not far from Glasgow, on the salary of 6 per annum.  Here he devoted himself so sincerely to his duties that, when he became ill, as he did, the family tookthe most anxious care of him. One trouble he had, and that was whether the influential friends of the Walkinshaws should insist on his taking the oaths to the Government.  But the point was never raised.

In 1754 he wanted to emigrate to Jamaica, but was persuaded to stay in Scotland by his relatives. In 1756 his mother fell ill and died.  The next year Arthur accepted the tutorship as a layman at Balgowan near Perth but stayed only a short time.  He returned to Aberdeenshire in 1757 and his father died the following year.   Arthur's first pastoral charge was at Wartle and Meiklefolla in Aberdeenshire.  He was appointed the Episcopal Bishop of Moray in 1778.

"Tradition still relates the gratification with which Bishop Petrie was hailed, when seen coming slowly up the glens on his little pony, his check plaid serving for gown and lawn sleeves."

Bishop Petrie died in 1787 "in the fifty-sixth year of his age and the eleventh of his Episcopate."



Flinders Petrie's Heritage

Flinders Petrie was born in Kent in 1853, the son of William and Ann Petrie.

Anne was the daughter of Captain Matthew Flinders, the surveyor of the Australian coastline.  She spoke six languages and was an Egyptologist.

His father William was an electrical engineer who had developed carbon arc lighting and subsequently chemical processes for Johnson Matthey.  His Petries had originated from the Scottish borders.  His great grandfather William Petrie had gone out to India in the 1780s and returned with a modest fortune.  While in Madras he had set up his own private observatory at his home, the first ever to be built outside Europe.

Flinders Petrie was raised in a Christian household - his father being a Plymouth Brethren - and he was educated at home.  He had no formal education.  But his father taught him how to survey accurately, thus laying the foundation for his archaeological career.


George Petrie, Nova Scotia Settler

George Petrie was a British soldier in North America in the 1780s and entitled to a land grant based on his service.  He took up this land grant in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

His origins were probably Scottish but obscure.  Some have connected him with the Captain George Petrie who was a staff officer on General Burgoyne's staff in Boston and Kingston.  Captain Petrie was captured in the Battle of Saratoga and marched with 6,000 captured British soldiers to ships to transport them from Saratoga. Captain Petrie was listed as a prisoner on parole in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

However, there was an interesting paragraph in the Rev. John Murrays 1921 book The History of the Presbyterians in Cape Breton.

"The earliest settlers on the Low Point shore in Cape Breton, between Lingan and South Bar, were Irish Roman Catholics.  But there were a few Presbyterian families among them.  These families were from Ulva in the Hebrides. They were all Gaelic speaking people, bearing the name of Livingstone, McGillivray, McPhee and Petrie.  The Livingstones were closely related to Dr. Livingstone the great African missionary."

Was this true for Petrie?


Andrew Petrie and His Passage to Australia

In the early 1830s Andrew Petrie was an enterprising young man working in the building trade in Edinburgh when he was approached by the Rev. J.D. Lang to emigrate to Australia. 

Lang was an evangelical Protestant of great tenacity who recruited skilled tradesmen that had been recommended by respected local Presbyterian employers and churchmen.  Since one of the reasons for the Rev. Lang's conscription of families was to remedy the climate of immorality in the penal settlement in Australia, only those of the highest moral character were chosen.

The restrictive economic climate of the Scotland in the 1830's made the Petrie family Andrew, his wife Mary and four growing boys keen to emigrate.  They were on board when the Stirling Castle carrying 52 Scottish mechanics and their families set off in June 1831 with Captain James Fraser at the helm.

The time taken for the voyage was not wasted.  In addition to Bible readings and strict observance of the Sabbath, male passengers devoted a considerable amount of time to study.  Mathematics, geometry and political economy were studied five days a week.  Many of the mechanics, Andrew included, signed a temperance pledge before they disembarked.

On arrival in Sydney life was very different. The mechanics were soon employed in building Lang's new Australian College and the Petries were working hard to pay back their passage money, as half of their wages was deducted for this purpose
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