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George Archibald Jobson my 2nd Great Grand Uncle

Having found a memorial to George Archibald Jobson in Rosebank Cemetery in Leith I decided to find out a little more. Here is how he relates to my Paternal Grandmother.

George Archibald Jobson was born on the 12th of May 1846 in Musselburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. His parents were my 3x Great Grandparents Robert and Margaret Jobson, so I guess this makes him my 2nd Great Grand Uncle. His father Robert Jobson was the Inn Keeper in Smailholm, Roxburghshire at the time of George’s birth. He was christened in the Church of Scotland on 12th of May 1846 in Smailholm.

Extract from the Parish Records of Smailholm

By the young age of only 14 he had become an engineer’s apprentice, and was staying with his mother Margaret, in the Kirkgate, Leith, Edinburgh. Also staying here were his older brother Robert and his sisters Isabella and Margaret, his father having died sometime around 1855.

Shore Leith as it is today
Kirkgate, Leith as seen in the book "Old and New Edinburgh" in 1880's

George wanting to progress in his chosen career moved west to Glasgow, and around 1871 he is staying as a lodger with Mrs Margaret P. Finwick and her family at number 10 Anderston Quay. No doubt the Clyde was the place to be for a marine engineer. George was 25 years old at the time and his landlady’s 22 year old son William, was also an engine fitter.

Learn more about shipping on the Clyde

In 1872 George finds himself on a big adventure, as he joins the crew on the SS “MacGregor” in the port of Leith on a voyage around the world. They would leave from Leith and head down to Plymouth, from there onwards to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal onwards to the East Indies, China, Japan, Australia, and North or South America a grand old journey at least that was the plan, however Shanghai would be their destination. This would be George’s first time as a crew member, joining as an assistant engineer, and on 6th May 1872 the ship duly left the port of Leith.

It was May the 13th 1872 before the SS “MacGregor” was to leave Plymouth and another 13 days at sea before entering the harbour at Port Said, the Northern terminus of the Suez Canal, in Egypt, which had only been opened in the November of 1869 after ten years under construction. Thirteen not the best number it would seem.

The MacGregor had the local pilot on-board and just after telegraphing easy ahead they weighed anchor. However there seemed to be a problem and delay starting the engine, meanwhile the wind and current was causing the bow of the MacGregor to be driven towards the stern of an Egyptian steamer (name unknown). As soon as they saw that they could not clear its bowsprit, a telegraph was sent down to the engine room to reverse full speed. However finding that the engines would not reverse they let go of the anchor, but were nevertheless driven against the bowsprit and figurehead of the Egyptian steamer. Some damage was caused to the Egyptian vessel but none to the SS MacGregor, George being the assistant engineer on board would no doubt have been under a bit of pressure. However, drama over, continued through the Suez Canal, leaving it on May 28th

Port Said, Steamer Traversing the Suez Canal (n.d.) - front - TIMEA

The next day Charles Robb from Musselburgh, Scotland, a boy aged only 15 on his first ship, became quite ill with a case of acute dysentery, and was quite weak and delirious however he went on to make a recovery later in the month.

 On June the 13th they arrived at the port of Galle in Ceylon, now known as Sri-Lanka, to take on board some coal, before heading on to Singapore for engine repairs. The Macgregor left here on the 28th of June but then had to head to Hong Kong for further engine repairs, looks like George and his fellow engineers were to be busy. Repairs in Hong Kong now over, the SS MacGregor left on July the 10th and headed to Shanghai arriving here on July the 15th. While in Shanghai two of the crew were posted missing without leave, and were not to be found until the next morning, although their services were urgently required. They were William Halley and John Macleod, no doubt out for a night on the town.

The stayed in Shanghai until the 8th of August, when the MacGregor started on the return trip back to Britain.

In the Indian Ocean south of Sri-Lanka a passenger takes ill and dies on the 28th August 1872. The SS Macgregor’s master and surgeon entered the following in the ships log.

“The passenger Asmus Bang of the town of Apenrade Schleswig (a town in Denmark), late Ships Master of the North German Bark Arab departed this life quietly and fully consciously to his last moment. From the time he came on board at Shanghai he was suffering from pulmonary consumption from which disease he expired at above mentioned time.” Signed Wm Jackobson Master, James MacDowall Surgeon.

When in Suez nine crew members who had been taken on as trimmers while in Hong Kong, deserted without leaving any effects on board, could it be because 'Trimmers' have the dirtiest and the most physically demanding jobs on the ship, bottom of the engineering hierarchy, and needless to say,  the lowest paid. On research it appears the above crew taken on at Hong Kong were all originally from Suez.

Eventually on October the 3rd 1872 George Archibald Jobson was back from his first ever voyage as an assistant engineer, when SS Macgregor entered Victoria Docks in London. George went on many other voyages around the world including to China in 1873 plus Fiji and Australia in 1874.

George Archibald Jobson George was a Steamship Engineer as seen in the Leith 1881 Census. George never married and died at 42 Tower Street Portobello of "Chronic Alcoholism" at a young age of only 40. He is remembered on a headstone in Rosebank Cemetery Leith Scotland.


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