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The Hotel Buckhorn
One of the many William Coubroughs in Stirlingshire

William was the youngest son of William Coubrough, surgeon, Falkirk and his wife Margaret Aitken. He was born on 20 Jul 1834. He led a very chequered career!!

He married Jane Bryson on 24 Nov 1859 at Redding, Stirlingshire. He was a printer who lived in the High Street, Falkirk (probably the family home). His family disapproved of the marriage. From later information we learn that the marriage was an unhappy one right from the start. However, with his many changes of abode and work places, William does not give a very stable picture of a family man! In fact a lawyer later was to say “From his childhood upwards there was no doubt that he was of weak intellect. He was weak not only in mind, but in body.”

Two babies – Jessie Steven C. b. 2 Jan 1861 and Margaret Aitken C. b. 13 Oct 1862 were taken out to Australia with their parents in 1863.

N.B. All the legal paperwork says Australia – the 1881 census says New Zealand!!

That didn’t work out either. William felt his wife was gossiping behind his back and alienating him from his business contacts. He always seem to think she was also unfaithful to him. Jane returned to Falkirk in 1873/74 with the girls (or maybe Margaret had died in Australia because she was not with the family in 1881 census and neither her marriage or death has been found in Scotland so far) and William born 1869 and John Archibald born 1871. Emma Jane was born at sea on the way home! 

William returned to Scotland in 1877. After a short time in Glasgow he returned to Falkirk and set up a printing and bookselling business. That lasted two years before he sold up. Around that time he was in court for assaulting his wife and fined 30/- or 30 days in prison.

By the 1881 census he was back as a printer in Glasgow lodging in 99 Dundas Street. I think young William died in 1887 in Falkirk but that needs to be checked out. Jessie married Beaumont M. Burrell, a road surveyor living on Islay on 10 Jul 1889. They emigrated to Montana and she tragically died there on 16 Apr 1892.

William was still lodging in Glasgow in 1891. We are told he frequently journeyed to Falkirk to spend time with his sister Ellen (Helen Dawson C. 1823 – 1894). He was very upset when she died. Perhaps that precipitated the next happenings? He planned to go to America, bought his ticket and then changed his mind! He also purchased a gun!! He was in London for a short spell before heading back north to Glasgow.

Jane had been unsuccessfully trying to get arrears of aliment from him especially after he said his sister left him money. He offered to give his daughters £200 to set up a milliner’s business. Jane travelled to Glasgow and went to his lodgings to demand settlement. The landlady said at that stage she hadn’t even known he was married! Later, she reported that William seemed to get into a ‘ frenzy when he thought of her and also threatened to shoot her.’

Ellen’s Will showed that she and her sister Margaret had left everything to one another. Did Margaret give William some of the £380 Ellen had left??

The family in Falkirk had not seen William for some time when he suddenly called at the house in 46 High Street around 11 – 11.30 am on 10 Jun 1895. Jane was dealing with clients – she ran a “servants’ agency” from the house. The girls did dressmaking. He entered the parlour and began talking about a settlement. He wanted Jane to go to Glasgow to sort things out. Emma remained with her mother as Jane was a little afraid of her husband – with due cause. He produced his pistol and fired twice at Jane wounding her on the chest and back. Then he turned on Emma. However, with all the screaming etc. help was soon on hand. Meanwhile William put his gun in his mouth and shot himself. He dramatically laid down as though dead and imagined he and Jane would ‘appear together before a judge with whom perjury was impossible’. The police arrived and he was taken to the Cottage Hospital. Jane was treated too and recovered from her traumatic incident. William was assessed to see if he was insane. He was held in Glasgow Prison until the trial.

His special defence pleaded in court in Glasgow on 29 Aug 1895 was that he was insane at the time of the attack and as a result was given eight years penal servitude. He spent time in Peterhead Prison which is where he was found in 1901 census. Lengthy reports of the attack and subsequent case were printed in the Falkirk Herald.

Emma married George Clark, a commercial traveller living in 27 Alma Street, Falkirk in 1898. I didn’t find any children. 

Helen Dawson C. married a draper from Crieff, Frederick Ninian Hunt on 2 Apr 1905 in Falkirk. There were at least four children.

Her father died on 8 Sep 1915 in Larbert Asylum. His usual address was recorded as Gartcows Farm, Falkirk. What connection did he have with the farm?? He was 81 years old and died of arteriosclerosis. The informant was his daughter Emma who was living in Manse Place, Falkirk. William left a Will and £157.

Jane died on 21 Nov. 1923.

Anne Cruickshank

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