v 6.40.00
19 Dec 2022
updated 21 Dec 2022

The Cowbrough Link

I should like to express my deep indebtedness to Gavin Main Waddell (A History of the Waddells of Scotland, aka AHOTWOS, publ privately 2012), and Myrna Cowbrough who contacted me recently (Nov 2018) with a wealth of fascinating information about the entwined relationships between the Cowbroughs and the Waddells, plus new insights into the total impoverishment of 'Unlucky Jim', the 9th and last Laird of Balquhatstone of the First Line, and William Cowbrough of Ellrigg who was similarly torpedoed by the same unfortunate turn of events.

As always in long lines of descent, there are ongoing discrepancies in the spelling of the Cowbrough family name. Myrna herself counted 38 variants before calling it a day. We Waddells have similar problems of course.

As Gavin spells their name as Cowborough in AHOTWOS, I've left it that way on the corresponding website page. But on this page I've consistently spelt it Cowbrough.

There's a similar problem with the spelling of the Cowbrough's ancestral estate Elrig, of which there have been a dozen or more variants, but as Gavin spells it Ellrigg, so do I.

The relationship between our two families has evidently been osculatory, as mathematicians would describe it – a relatively brief tangency and then an amicable separation for who knows what future time-span.

#IndividualSpouse / PartnerFamily
‑10John Cowbrough
of St. Ninians
Margaret Steinson youngest son John Cowbrough of Ellrig
(b 1661)
‑9John Cowbrough
of Ellrig
(1661 –

a (sheep or cattle) drover
Helen Stevenson John Cowbrough
(bap Feb 1683 –

William Cowbrough
(b 1684)

John Cowbrough
(b 1687)

Margaret Cowbrough
(b 1689)
‑8John Cowbrough
(bap Feb 1683 –

a (sheep or cattle) drover
‑8William Cowbrough of Ellrig
(b 1684)
Mary Moir Helen Cowbrough
(bap 29 Jan 1710)

John Cowbrough
(bap Apr 1712)

Henry Cowbrough
(bap Dec 1714)

Mary Cowbrough
(bap Jan 1717)

another Henry Cowbrough
(bap 1718)

another Mary Cowbrough
(bap Apr 1719)

another Helen Cowbrough
(bap 1720)

Agnes Cowbrough
(bap Feb 1721)

William Cowbrough
(bap Sep 1723)

James Cowbrough
(bap 1725)
‑8Margaret Cowbrough
(b 1689)
Andrew Renny Margaret Renny
(fl 1714)
‑7Henry Cowbrough
of Ellrigg
(b 1718)
Christian Wright,
(m 31 May 1741, Slamannan)

daughter of Thomas Wright and Margaret Johnstown
William Cowbrough
(b 17 Mar 1741)
= Jean Auld

Thomas Cowbrough
(b 8 Sep 1743)

John Cowbrough
(b 2 Apr 1747)

Margaret Cowbrough
(b 15 Oct 1749)
= Thomas Brown

James Cowbrough
(b 18 Apr 1752)
= Agnes Reid

Mary Cowbrough
(b 26 Mar 1755)
(m 1 Jun 1776)
= John Waddell of Rashiehill
(b 1741, son of George)
‑6George Waddell
8th of Balquhatstone
(18 Oct 1734 –
Margaret Scott
(b 1734)
(m 1764 probably)
Ellis Waddell
(b 4 Jan 1765)

James Waddell
(1 Sep 1767 –
26 Dec 1850)
= Christian Cowbrough
(m 6 Oct 1792)

Jean Waddell
(b 17 Sep 1769)

Lilly Waddell
(b 10 Nov 1771)

Margaret Waddell
(b 2 Sep 1774)

Agnes Waddell
(b 2 Sep 1777)

George Waddell
(b 18 Feb 1780)
= Agnes Cowbrough
(m 26 Jun 1802)
‑6William Cowbrough of Ellrig
(b 17 Mar 1741)

'Silly Billy'
who lost Ellrig

just as 'Unlucky Jim' lost Balquhatstone
Jean Auld
(m 23 Jul 1768, Slamannan)
Jean Cowbrough
(b 1771)
= cousin John Cowbrough

Christian Cowbrough
(bap 1 Feb 1772 –
ca late 1806)
= James Waddell of Balquhatstone

Margaret Cowbrough
(bap Nov 1773)
= John Baird

Janet Cowbrough
(bap Feb 1776)

Mary Cowbrough
(bap 26 Jun 1778)
= John Liddell

Martha Cowbrough
(bap 31 May 1780)

Wilhelmina Cowbrough
(bap Nov 1782)
= father's cousin Henry Cowbrough

Hendry/Henry Cowbrough
(b 14 Feb 1785)
= Mary Wood

Robert Cowbrough
(20 Aug 1788 –

Thomas Cowbrough
(bap 14 Dec 1790)
= cousin Christian Cowbrough
‑6James Cowbrough
(b 18 Apr 1752)
Agnes Reid Agnes Cowbrough
= George Waddell
of Binnie Hill
(m 1802)
‑6Mary Cowbrough
(b 26 Mar 1755)
John Waddell
3rd of Rashiehill
(b 1741, Slamannan)
(m 1 Jun 1776)

According to a family tree ca 1890, their two last-borns supposedly emigrated

Christian Waddell
(b 12 May 1777)
= Hutton?

Janet Waddell
(b 19 Jan 1779)

George Waddell
(b 13 Aug 1781)
4th of Rashiehill

Henry Waddell
(b 17 Apr 1783)

Alexander Waddell
(b 1 Mar 1785)

John Waddell
(b 4 Jan 1787)

William Waddell
(b 23 Dec 1788)

James Waddell
(b 15 Dec 1790)

? John Waddell
(b 1793)
‑5Jean Cowbrough
(b 1771)
John Cowbrough

farmer in Thorn
William Cowbrough
(b ca 1795)
‑5Christian Cowbrough
(bap 1 Feb 1772 –
ca late 1806)

2nd daughter of William Cowbrough
of Ellrig
James Waddell
9th of Balquhatstone
(1 Sep 1767 –
26 Dec 1850)
(m 6 Oct 1792, Slamannan)

George Waddell
(3 Sep 1793 –
= Jean Aitken

Jean/Jane Waddell
(b 6 Feb 1795)
= Robert Oswald

James Waddell
(b Feb 1795 twin –
pre Sep 1796)

James Waddell
(b 14 Sep 1796)

Margaret Waddell
(b 28 Apr 1798)

Christian Waddell
(b 1 Mar 1800)
=Smith, Philadelphia,
1 child)

Elizabeth Waddell
(b 24 Mar 1802)
= James Waddell (?)

William Waddell
(b 29 Jun 1804)
= Eliza Dick
(m 3 Jun 1827,
6 children)

John Waddell
(b 5 Nov 1806)
‑5Agnes Cowbrough George Waddell
of Binniehill
(b 18 Feb 1780)

George Waddell
(18 Sep 1803 –
= Marrion Morrison
(m 4 Jan 1834)

James Waddell
(b 30 Jan 1806)
= Isabella Bryson
‑4George Waddell
(3 Sep 1793 –

d.n.inherit Balquhatstone,
as it had been sold
Jean Aitken Agnes Aitken Waddell
(b 20 Jun 1821, Falkirk)
Elizabeth Gardiner
(m 9 Nov 1828, Falkirk)
Elizabeth Waddell
(b ca 1831)

Christina Waddell
(b ca 1833)

Jean Waddell
(b ca 1835)

John Waddell
(b 1838)
= Margaret Smart
‑4George Waddell
(18 Sep 1803 –
Marrion Morrison
(m 4 Jan 1834)
Mary Waddell
(b 14 Feb 1836)

George Waddell
(b 29 Oct 1837)

James Buchanan Waddell
(b 30 Jun 1839)

Agnes Waddell
(b 6 Jun 1841)

Andrew Waddell
(b 1847)
‑4James Waddell
(b 1806)
Isabella Bryson not known
‑4William Cowbrough
(b ca 1795)

'Young Willie (or Wullie)',
absconded ca 1822

died early
Margaret Riddell
William Cowbrough
Rebecca Hamilton
(b ca 1795, Louisiana, USA)
at least one child
‑3John Waddell
(b 1838)
Margaret Smart Elizabeth Waddell
(b 1858)

George Waddell
(b 1860)

Margaret Helen Waddell
(b 1862)

Christina Waddell
(b 1866)

Henry Waddell
(b 1869)

Ruth Waddell
(b 1871)

The fortunes of both the Cowbroughs of Ellrigg and the Waddells of Balquhatstone were irrevocably altered in the early decades of the 1800's by the failure of two Scottish banks with which they were involved

Scottish law at that time decreed, in the event that a bank had to close down due to lack of funds, that the depositors (ie the account-holders) should be recompensed, as fully as possible, by the following groups of individuals

  • Cautioners
  • Shareholders
  • Directors

I'm not at all sure of the degree of overlap between these categories of luckless individuals (our daughter Andrea always used to convulse with laughter on such occasions and exclaim, "Dad's going to draw a Venn diagram").

Perhaps 'cautioners' simply meant both shareholders and directors. And if they were depositors too, perhaps they had to kiss goodbye to the contents of their own accounts as well.

The collapse of the East Lothian Bank was due to the Chief Cashier, William Borthwick, who fled to America with between £60,000 and £100,000 and was never heard of again. But the attribution of blame was complicated by the sudden disappearance also of 'Young Wullie', William Cowbrough (b ca 1795), a clerk at the Bank, who likewise was never heard of again, but whose rather comfortable subsequent lifestyle (see below) in Louisiana USA has been retrospectiveiy pinpointed by Myrna Cowbrough.

The record of the discharge (1822) of East Lothian Bank cautioners lists them as:

  • James Brown, of Broomage Bank in Falkirk
  • Peter Muirhead, merchant in Falkirk
  • John Dallas Esqr, of North Newton
  • William Cowbrough Esqr of Ellrig (b 1741, 'Ellrigg', bankrupted)
  • James Cowbrough Esqr of Bankhead
  • James Waddell Esqr of Balquhatstone (b 1767, bankrupted)
  • William Cowbrough, Merchant in Falkirk
  • Henry Cowbrough, Farmer in Dunmore
  • John Cowbrough, Farmer in Thorn.


  • James Brown of Broomage was possibly Ellrig's nephew, son of Ellrig's sister Mary and her husband, Thomas Brown
  • Peter Muirhead was possibly Ellrig's cousin
  • I'm not sure who John Dallas was,
  • William Cowbrough of Ellrig (b 1741) was young Willie's grandfather,
  • James Cowbrough of Bankhead was probably Ellrig's brother, who had married Agnes Reid,
  • James Waddell of Balquhatstone, whose first wife had been Christian Cowbrough, was, of course, Ellrig's former son-in-law;
  • William Cowbrough, merchant in Falkirk
  • Henry Cowbrough in Dunmore, was Ellrig's eldest son
  • John Cowbrough, Thorn, was Ellrig's son-in-law and father of young Willie.

The East Lothian Bank depositors got all their money back from the cautioners, though some cautioners apparently had to come up with more than their share to cover the people, like William Cowbrough of Ellrig, who couldn't pay the whole of their portion.

Both William Cowborough of Ellrig (b 1741) and James Waddell of Balquhatstone (b 1767) were cautioners for both the Falkirk Union Bank and the East Lothian Bank, and both of them got totally stuffed.

William Cowborough and his father Henry had also been involved in heavy expenditure in enlarging the Ellrigg estate, and James Waddell had also spent heavily in prospecting unsuccessfully for coal on his Balquhatstone estate.

Henry Cowbrough = Christian Wright
(b 1718)
William Cowbrough of Ellrig = Jean Auld
(b 1741),
partner in Falkirk Union Bank, cautioner in East Lothian Bank
father-in-law of James Waddell, 9th Laird of Balquhatstone

Around 1803 (at the age of over 60), William appears to have felt well enough off to become a partner in the Falkirk Union Bank, which seems to have opened for business on 18 Oct 1803 (A Century of Banking in Dundee, p296), with a capital of £12,000. The original 12 partners put up £1,000 each, but by the time it shut its doors in 1816, it was down to only about 8 partners, and liabilities of around £60,000. They eventually paid out 9s 6d in the pound, but William was bankrupted, and most of his partners were probably in equally dire straits by the time all was said and done.

Ellrig ended his days at Thorn farm, with his daughter Jean and her cousin-husband John Coubrough, who were the parents of young Willie.
    Jean Cowbrough = John Cowbrough (cousin)
(b 1771)
      William Cowbrough = Margaret Riddell
(b ca 1795)
'Young Willie', absconder from East Lothian Bank ca 1821/22

He abandoned his wife, Margaret Riddell, and their infant son, another William, in Selkirk. On the other hand, in 1821, a mysterious William Coubrough shows up in Franklin, St. Mary's parish, Louisiana, where he marries Rebecca Hamilton. In the 1830 census, their household consists of 2 white adults (1 male, 1 female), a white female child under 14 (possibly their daughter); 2 adult female slaves, and two slave children under 10 (1 male, 1 female).

If this was our boy, he probably died fairly young. His wife said she was a widow when she bought a piece of land near Opelousas, in St. Mary parish, Louisiana. The land register doesn't say how much she paid, but it does say it was a cash sale, so she obviously wasn't broke. Poor widows didn't go about paying cash for 160-acre chunks of land.

William Cowborough (Silly Billy) of Ellrig

Gavin Waddell (AHOTWOS, The Cowbroughs pp 61-62) states that

... By 1797 James Hay of Hayston had become the superior and he granted the lands of Ellrig to William Cowbrough [b 17 Mar 1741] of Ellrig, as eldest son of Henry [Cowbrough], on 1 Apr that year

The ominous phrase "Articles of Roup of the Lands of Elrig, North Balmitchell, Neuk, Mill of Newmill" means that the estate was up for auction following William's sequestration for bankruptcy and is dated 21 Aug 1817. His bankruptcy followed the crash of the Falkirk Union Bank, referred to above, of which he was one of the partners.

There is a fascinating description in Local Antiquarian Notes and Queries, by James Love, reprinted from the Falkirk Herald of 1817.

A doubtful Venture

... the Falkirk Union Bank ... was erected as a "Banking Office" by James Brown ... The more shrewd men of the town and district doubted the wisdom of the venture from the beginning especially as the Falkirk Banking Company had the entire confidence of the local merchants ... many of the partners of the newly formed Union Bank were small lairds and farmers with no great business ability. The original capital was [only] £12,000, and the guinea notes ... were poorly engraved.

Failure of the Bank

The business was chiefly with cattle dealers and farmers, but the bank was never a success and closed its doors on 18 Oct 1816, its liabilities including the notes in circulation, amounting to about £60,000.

The partners in the sequestrations were

  • James Brown
  • William Cowbrough of Elrigg
  • James Aitken, writer [Writer to the Signet], Falkirk
  • Robert Gillespie, Falkirk
  • William Glen of Mains
  • John Glen [? of] Linlithgow

From this it seems obvious why William Cowbrough had to sell up and presumably his brother-in-law [? father-in-law James Waddell of Balquhatstone] was, as the neighbouring laird, equally involved in the bank crash.

George Waddell, 4th of Rashiehill

Gavin Waddell (AHOTWOS, Comptroller for Customs pp 102-103) states that

George [Waddell, 4th of Rashiehill] must have initially taken up the medical profession, as earlier in his career he is referred to as Dr Waddell but later became the Comptroller for Customs at Grangemouth. He died there suddenly on 21 May 1846 and his wife, Isabella Lockhart Meek, died nearly ten years later in Rothesay, a favourite retirement place for Glasgow gentry.

George had married Isabella in 1805 – she was the daughter of Dr John Meek of Falkirk and the grand-daughter of John Meek of Fortisset and Janet Millar of the Frankfield family whose descendants greatly benefitted from Isabella's will.

An account of George in Local Antiquarian Notes and Queries by James Love in 1908, reprinted from the Falkirk Herald, praises his honourable and exemplary conduct during the crash of a local bank in 1822 of which he was a shareholder. The following is his account.

George Waddell, Comptroller of Customs, Grangemouth, a man of strict fidelity, genuine piety, and practical benevolence, was of the family Waddell of Balquhatston, Slamannan, one of the oldest families in the district. George Waddell was born (probably at Balquhatston), about the year 1782. In 1815 he was in the service of the Board of Customs at Grangemouth, and, at the time of his death, acted as Comptroller. How long prior to 1815, he may have been in the Board of Customs' service we have not ascertained.

He died suddenly at Grangemouth on 21 May 1846, and was buried in Falkirk Parish Churchyard on 27 May, doubtless [?] in the tomb of Dr John Meek, whose daughter Isabella Lockhart he had married in 1805. She died in Rothesay, 12 May 1854. Like her husband, she was known for her good works among the poor in Falkirk and district.

Under the heading of 'Honourable Conduct', Chambers [?] relates the following incident in George Waddell's career.

In the year 1822, when the manager of the East Lothian Bank absconded, it was found that funds to an immense amount had been embezzled by him [ie the manager], and that in consequence the bank was obliged to discontinue business, and wind up its concerns, in order to effect which very heavy calls had to be made on the partners for the purpose of meeting the liabilities of the bank.

Many of the partners, not being able to meet these calls, were ruined, and the burden thus became doubly severe on the few who were able to meet all the demands. Among those who were unable to pay the whole of the first call was Mr George Waddell, Comptroller of Customs at Grangemouth, who, after a representation of the circumstances, was finally discharged by the bank, on paying a composition of the utmost sum which he was then able to command.

This gentleman, though relieved by his discharge of all liability for the debts of the bank, nobly resolved that he would not take advantage of this, but would, if possible, compensate his fellow sufferers for the additional burden thrown on them by his inability at the time to pay his own share. Accordingly, by strict economy, Mr Waddell was enabled to fulfil his intentions, and made payment to all the solvent [?] partners of the bank who were not directors, ordinary or extraordinary, prior to its stoppage, of the additional sums paid by them in consequence of his not having formerly [fully] contributed to his share of the loss.

Grateful for his conduct so generous and disinterested, those who became partakers of this unlooked-for benefit, presented to Mr Waddell a silver tea-set and a copy of Calvin's works, in token of their gratitude and esteem. Conduct like this deserves to be extensively known in order that it may be imitated.