The Young Family of Grange and Colinswell

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The Young Family of Grange and Colinswell: Distillers and Farmers

Genealogical data          Activities          Achievements

HeadstonesGenealogical data

(Pictured right - the Young family memorials in the north west corner of the Kirkton Churchyard.)

William Young of Grange [William Young #1] (c1745-1831)

Married twice: (1) Margaret Gulland; (2) in 1784, Helen Simson/Simpson (c1748-1821) (also appears on some certificates as Sinclair, unless he was married three times). Helen Simson was related by marriage to the Rev Thomas Chalmers, a family link which was later complemented by the marriage of Robert (see below).

Children of William Young #1:


The Youngs were based in the Parish of Orwell (now Milnathort), Kinross-shire, until about 1786. William Young #1 was in Orwell when he married his second wife in 1784, and their first child Thomas was born in Orwell in October 1785. The Grange Brewery of Messrs Boog & Thomson was established in 1767 and was converted to a distillery in 1786; and as a distillery it was owned by the Youngs. The Youngs were certainly in Burntisland by October 1786, when their second child William was born. Putting two and two together, it's a reasonable hypothesis that, following financial difficulties, William Young and his second wife decided to embark on a new life in Burntisland around 1785-86, bought or leased Grange Farm and House (probably from the Aytouns), acquired the brewery and converted the brewery to a distillery.

Marilyn Edwards of Craigencalt Rural Development Trust has published a most interesting paper, "History of Craigencalt", which provides details of the Young family's involvement with Craigencalt Mill. It also contains additional information on members of the Young family.

Sons George and Thomas moved to Leith, where they appear to have established (in partnership) the firm of merchants, George Young & Co.

William Young #2 remained at Grange House and was perhaps the most significant figure in the running of the distillery. This branch of the family also built up a significant portfolio of farm properties (some or all of which they may have leased). The lands in which they had an interest when John Young #2 died in 1858 were:

In 1858, this branch of the family occupied Grange House and Newbigging House.

William Young #2 was living at Newbigging in 1851[xvi]. He died at Grange House in 1855, aged 69 - a good age in those days. His sons were less fortunate. His eldest son, William, died in 1854 - a year before his father and aged only 33 (cause of death unknown). His second son, John, was killed aged 26 in an accident at Grange when a gig overturned. His third son, Joseph, suffered from poor health and moved to Folkestone to benefit from the kinder climate. He died there in 1864, aged 41. John and Joseph were both millionaires (in today's terms) when they died.

The major share of the estate of this branch of the family passed to the children of Thomas Young of Leith (with the balance to the Purvises?). It is likely that Thomas's male children, William Simson and David, were closely involved in the management of the distillery because they are both recorded as staying at Grange House after the death of Joseph. William Simson Young's association would have been a short one, as he died at Grange House in 1865, aged 42. David may well have carried on the business for many years, and he is recorded as staying at Earn Craig (probably the building we refer to as the Royal Hotel, and which is now Briggs's head office) in 1867 and 1871. William Young & Co (the trading name for the distillery) became a limited company in 1888, and in 1914 it joined four other distillery companies to form Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. Production at Grange ceased in 1927.

Sons John and Robert were based at Colinswell, and Robert's farming activities were separate from those of his brother William. However, both John and Robert had a share in the distillery. John's pre-nuptial agreement ensured that when he died his share in the distillery remained in the hands of the Youngs.

With Robert, it may be that the absence of an heir persuaded him to take the plunge at the age of 67 and marry Anne, the 24 year old niece of the Rev Thomas Chalmers, founder of the Free Church of Scotland. Robert was 73 when his third and last child was born.

Robert's will dated 1855 lists his substantial land and property holdings, all of which he appears to have owned outright. They included:

The will established a Trust to manage the estate, with the bulk of it to pass to his son Robert William when he reached the age of 25. Robert senior was seriously rich - his estate amounted to about £3m in today's terms, and that did not include his land and property holdings.

His will makes it clear that he was a hard liner when it came to the Roman Catholic faith. If his daughters became Catholics, or married Catholics, they would have their inheritances significantly reduced. Similarly, if any of his executors became Catholics, they would be disqualified from acting.

A 1901 map shows lands at Colinswell and Meadowfield as belonging to Robert Young - probably Robert William Young.

Two of William Young #1's daughters, Helen and Betsy (known as the Misses Young), set up home in Burntisland town centre. They are recorded at the Shore in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. The property at the Shore is probably the one which is now Briggs's head office. Helen died at Young's Place (again probably the Briggs building) in 1862, aged 74. Betsy died at an unspecified address in the High Street in 1865, aged 73 - probably at what is now the Bank House Hotel, a substantial town house which belonged to the Youngs.


Postscript (August 2016): additional genealogical information

The following information came from descendant of William Young (William Young #1 above) and Margaret Gulland through their daughter Margaret who married Rev James Thomson in 1793 in Dysart, Fife. Margaret and James had one son, Thomas Thomson, who was born in 1794 in Dysart, Fife, and emigrated to Australia. Our correspondent has amassed a large amount of information about the Youngs and related families, and would be pleased to hear from anyone who shares these interests. Please contact via Iain Sommerville.

William Young #1 had a brother, Dr Thomas Young. Thomas was an Army surgeon and was deployed in Egypt when the Rosetta Stone was discovered. Dr Thomas Young married Violet Burnet in 1808 in Edinburgh. When he retired, he bought a property in Peebles called Acrefields and renamed it Rosetta. Thomas's house still stands, and is now home to the bar and restaurant of Rosetta Holiday Park.

      (Additional information courtesy of Geoffrey Hamilton of Peebles, Peeblesshire News, 23 February 2014: The story is sometimes told incorrectly as a consequence of the coincidence that two gentlemen strongly associated with the stone had the same name - Thomas Young - and were both members of the medical profession. Thomas Young, decipherer of the Rosetta stone’s hieroglyphic inscriptions, lived from 1773 to 1829. He was based in London where he undertook medical research and pursued egyptology as a hobby. He had no connection with Peebles. Our Thomas Young lived from 1753 to 1836 and had a distinguished career as a military surgeon including an appointment as Inspector General of military hospitals. In 1801 he was the principal medical officer with the expeditionary force sent to Egypt under the command of Sir Ralph Abercrombie, with whom Young had previously served in the West Indies. Thus he was present when the Rosetta stone came into British ownership. After retiring from the Army, in 1807 Young purchased land in Peebles upon which he built the house he called Rosetta.)

The Fife History Centre website stated that the father of William Young was John Young, a portioner of Orwell in Kinross.

According to a newspaper article, William and Thomas Young had two sisters, Mrs Ann Shaw and Mrs Betsy Ireland, and another brother John.

Thomas Young married Mary Wallace. Though I can find a record of the marriage of Thomas Young and Mary Wallace on 23 August 1820 in Creich, Fife, I cannot find any record of their children's births. I found five children for William Simson Young and Euphemia Hill: Mary born 1857, Jessie Helen born 1858, unknown female born 1860, Amy born 1862, and Harry George born 1864. I couldn't find a marriage for William and Euphemia.

According to the England and Wales National Probate Calendar, Margaret Anne Gulland Young died or probate was granted in 1944 (

Helen Chalmers Young (1845-1923) married John Butchart. Helen died in Rutland, England, and had one son Harry (1878-1925), who died in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I have Robert William Young (1849-1935), married 1872 in Cumbria, England, to Alexandrina Jessie Esther Green Thompson. Three children, George Eldred, Mabel Isobel, and Allan Edwin. The family are on the 1891 English Census at Sketchly Hall in Hinkly, Leicester, and at Lutterworth, England, on the 1911 English census. George was born in 1873 in Scotland, can't find birth for Mabel, and Allan was born in 1881, also in Scotland. On the census Robert is aged 62 and born in Burntisland.

Robert William Young is on the 1881 Scottish census, aged 32, birthplace Fife.

(with assistance from John Burnett)
March 2016

Sources and footnotes:

[i] IGI

[ii] Death registration

[iii] Headstone, MI

[iv] Headstone

[v] Robert Young's will dated 7 February 1854

[vi] IGI

[vii] Note dated 1852 appended to Robert Young's will

[viii] IGI

[ix] Joseph & John Young's joint will dated 13 April 1855

[x] Death registration

[xi] IGI

[xii] IGI

[xiii] IGI

[xiv] IGI

[xv] IGI

[xvi] 1851 Census

[xvii] Robert Livingstone

[xviii] George bought and donated the site, Robert and John (presumably senior) paid for the building, and Helen and Betsy paid for the furnishings etc. George also seems to have left money for the school which started off in the basement. (Sources - Robert Livingstone and George's will.)

[xix] It appears that Joseph and John Young built the Music Hall for the town in 1857, but retained ownership; and that their heirs donated the hall to town in 1869. Quotations concerning the Music Hall:- Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1882-85: "The Music Hall (400 seats), lying off the E end of High Street, was built in 1857 at a cost of nearly £2000, all defrayed by Messrs John and Joseph Young of Dunearn; and, given by their representatives in 1869 to the town, serves both for entertainments and public meetings." Fifeshire Advertiser, 5 December 1857: "Our Hall. Would that we could rouse the inhabitants to shake off their torpor and take advantage of the many sources of amusement and instruction opened to them by this building. The Hall, liberal as it was in the Messrs Young to erect it, is only a means to an end and if the inhabitants do not by their patronage of lectures, concerts and other innocent gratifications come forward and appropriate the good it is calculated to bestow, then the stones had as well been left in the quarry. We hope for better things however. We trust many assemblages both grave and gay will yet meet together in our peerless Music Hall and where the recipients of information and enjoyment give credit to the liberality that reared its graceful proportions." The plaque inside the Music Hall says: "This hall, erected and fitted up by Joseph Young Esq and John Young Esq at their joint expense, was presented as a free gift to the town of Burntisland, 1869."

[xx] Will of George Young dated 1847. "To Robert Young my Brother for the purposes of Charity among the deserving Poor of the Parishes of Burntisland and South Leith" - £150 to each parish.

© Iain Sommerville 2018

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