Minnie Rainey Wilson

Mary Rainey was born June 30, 1866 in Dungannon, Tyrone in Ireland. She was known as Minnie. At the time of her birth, her family was living rurally in Mullybrannon (I chose a current streetview  with a ramshackle house for effect). Her parents were Robert Rainey and Mary (Neill) Rainey. She had 2 older brothers: Charles born 3 years before, and Thomas, who’d been born 2 years earlier and likely died as a child. At least 3 other brothers followed her birth: Richard was born 3 years after she was, George 2 years after that, and finally Joseph followed when she was 11.

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All but the youngest (Joseph) were born in the Dungannon/Coalisland area. Joseph was born in Lurgan, and 7 year old George died there in 1879. Cause of death: Phthisis (translation: tuberculosis), which was medically uncertified and occurred at their home on Clara St after an illness of one year.

It’s likely that the Raineys were struggling as farmers and went to the city for work. There was a booming textile industry in Lurgan at the time, and according the picture below, a lot of muck in the streets.


It’s my totally uninformed hunch that the Raineys had connections with Scotland – perhaps they were Ulster Scots. After the family was in Lurgan, this is the next place they crop up. Minnie is next found in Scotland as a witness at her oldest brother Charles’ wedding in 1888 in Old Kilpatrick, Dumbartonshire.

Minnie married Thomas Wilson the following year in 1889, when they were both living in Glasgow at 3 Brown St. She was working as a silver plater and he was a foundry labourer. I’m not sure how common it was for women to do such work, but it was probably not easy or safe work.  I don’t know much about silver plating except that it involves a chemical baths and electricity and sounds dangerous.


In the 1891 census, she’s in Glasgow and has a wee babe, Thomas Jr. Her older brother is in Clydebank, but her parents and other brothers’ are MIA. By 1901, Minnie’s parents and brothers Richard and Joseph pop up in Scotland and are living near her older brother Charles in Clydebank.

Thomas and Minnie go on to have at least 6 children. Between 1890 and 1901 they have Thomas Jr., Robert, Sarah, Mary “Minnie” Jr (my great grandmother), Andrew, and Cate. There was a gap of 5 years between the first two, but the next came fast and furious, so I think there may have been more that I don’t know about. Over these years the family is found living at at least 10 different addresses, all within a few blocks of each other in the Anderston area of Glasgow – each child’s birth takes place at a different house, each census at yet another, and deaths at others still. These were tenement housing and extremely overcrowded. Below is a picture of the slum housing area where they were living in 1898, and where my great grandmother was born. This picture is from about 15 years later, though.


Life in Anderston was difficult and urban squalor abounded. Respiratory problems and other diseases ran rampant in the tenement houses because of overcrowding, damp conditions, and poor air quality. 60-90%  of a family’s money went to food, yet nutritious food was scarce and many people were malnourished and suffered from rickets. Apparently those in Glasgow were 4 inches shorter than those in rural Scotland, because of poor health. I’m not surprised, since my great-grandmother was maybe 4’9 at her tallest.

The picture that follows shows the banks of the Clyde near where Minnie and her family lived. Certainly she and her family walked Broomielaw Street daily. Most of the homes they lived in were very close to the tower (the Soldier’s House) in the photo.

Lancelot-and-Sultana-at-the-Broomielaw.Wilsons lived near the tower (150Broomielaw)

In 1907 their oldest son Thomas, a cattle drover, died. Apparently there was a large meat market in nearby Calton and there were a lot of cattle transported through the city at the time. Cause of death: cerebral fever, (translation: meningitis, scarlet fever, or something else involving a hot head). In Dec. 1908 Minnie’s mother, Mary Neill Rainey died in Old Kilpatrick. Cause of death: cerebral apoplexy (translation: stroke). Minnie’s father, Robert died shortly after in a nearby poorhouse. Cause of death: rheumatism (translation: pain of joints) and cardiac weakness (translation: broken heart, which was apparently a euphemism for a broken heart), which he’d had for 4 months. His wife had died 4 months earlier.  Both her parents were 66 at the time of their deaths.

Minnie herself passed away just the next year in November of 1909 at the age of 42. Cause of death: consumption (translation: tuberculosis) and problems of the shoulder joint (translation: I have no idea how that’s fatal). She died at the Stobhill Hospital (pictured below), which had been recently built under the poor relief laws and served those who could not pay for health care. It was affiliated with a workhouse. Minnie’s death was surely hard on her family. Her husband Thomas was left with 5 children between the ages of 8 and 14. Thomas himself died just a year and a half later from an accident at work… but I’ll save his story for next month.


*A lot of the information about and pictures of Glasgow came from these wonderful sites: