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Bell Roots

Karon Gilliland

Most of us have no idea where our family came from. This was true of me, and after watching the TV series ROOTS when I was fifteen, I decided to ask my family about my history.

Apart from being able to say my great grandmother, Sabina Bell, was Irish and had spent time in Pennsylvania, there was not much more to say. I did get to copy details from all certificates they had and I collected some photographs, but most of my information has been built up over my personal research at libraries and registrar offices over the past few years.

Having decided to commit my research in a way to share it with my family. I have begun these newsletters which I hope will inspire more family stories, photographs etc. to be shared

Most of our ancestors are either Irish or are Ayrshire born and bred So l will begin by sharing the history of the Bell family.


James Bell is first noted in Ayrshire in the 1841 census return. He is a twenty-year old coal miner living in Street, St.Quivox. He was one of five foreigners living there. Foreigners just meant not of that country.

James was born around 1820 in Carlisle to James Bell and Agnes Robertson. James met and married Margaret Milisops on 12 Mar 1848. Their first child, William circa 1849, was named after his brother William, who was living with them at that time. Another son born 1853, was named afterí Margaretís father, Jackson. The Bell family then moved to Irvine where a daughter Agnes was born in 1855. Soon after they moved to Dreghorn.

James was working for the Bourtreehill Coal Co., who supplied them with housing at Corsehill Square. (This is in the area now known as Springside).

Seven children were born here:

James 1857, Hugh 1860, John 1862, John Christie 1864, Georgina Taylor 1868, Thomas Lindsay 1870 and Robert 1873. Of their ten children only four survived.

John was only 9 months old when he died from water on the brain. This would have caused him to be drowsy and irritable and his head would have swollen.

In 1866 James died of typhoid fever. This is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. He was 8 years old. Eighteen months later, fifteen year old Jackson died of typhus fever - a rash and fever spread by body lice. As we can see living conditions at the Corsehill were not good. Poor sanitation and ventilation spread disease.

Thomas died next, he was only three, and cause of death was disease of the brain. Two years later, 1876, another three year old, Robert, died. He died of diphtheria, an infectious disease among children. In 1882, John Christie Bell died aged seventeen from tuberculosis. So as we can see, the Bell family suffered great losses.

The surviving four all married locally. William lost his first wife Mary after childbirth and went on to marry Christina Rubie. Agnes married James McLaughlin, and Georgina married Peter Orr.

Hugh married Mary McCarroll in 1881, they had fourteen children before she died in 1902 from rheumatic fever at Broomlands Row, Irvine where the family lived for a while. In 1903 Hugh married widow Sabina Burke, who had two children of her own. Hugh and Sabina had three sons of their own: Robert, Harry and George. Robert was my grandfather.

The date of James Bellís birth has varied from 1813-1829. He appears to have lived at the Corsehill all his time in Dreghorn. On 29 September 1900 he died after suffering bronchitis and chronic diarrhoea for three days. His son registered the death and gave his fatherís age as 87.

His widow, Margaret, died on 30 May 1911 after suffering erysipelas for six days (an inflammation of the skin). Her age was given as 72 years, but she was born in 1829, making her 82 years.

The burial register for the Old Churchyard in Dreghorn has the deaths of James in 1866 to John Christie in 1882 listed. So I am not sure what happened to the first John in 1863.

HUGH BELL 1860-1924

Hugh Bell was born 29 March 1860 to James and Margaret Bell. Any schooling he received he would have got at home. On 16 September 1881 he married Mary McCarroll, the daughter of a neighbouring coal miner.

The 1861 census for Dreghorn shows they too lived at the Corsehill Square. They had six children: Maggie, Agnes, William, James, Hugh and Nelly.

A search through the birth registers of Dreghom showed the following children: Jane 1891, Charles McKerrel 1893 both born at the Corsehill. Twin girls born 1895, both died as they were premature and John 1896 at Station Row. Now we move to Irvine. Mary Aird Bell was born 1898 at the Black Row; William McCarrol Bell and Andrew Currie Bell were born 1900 and 1902 at Broomlands Row. After the death of Mary, Hugh had to find a wife to mother his large family. On 23 November 1903 at Ayr county buildings, he married Sabina McMananiion Burke. They settled at Station Row in Dreghorn.

What happened to Hugh and Maryís children I have not yet found out. One son. Hugh, was killed in the First World War. The only one I knew of was John. John named Madge (Margaret Stewart) and they had three children - Hugh, Eleanor and Stewart Madge died in 1981 just as I was about to see her regarding information on her family.

Hugh and Sabinaís eldest son, Robert McMenemy Bell was born 16 September 1904 at the Corsehill. On 8 February 1935 he married Isabella Welsh Morgan , they were married at her family home of 2 Wyllie Place, Stewarton. The Morgans used to live at Bankhead, Dreghorn. Robert and Isabella had three children , Hugh, Thomas Morgan and Jean Lindsay (the latter two named after Isaís parents).

This family moved from Station Row (which was prone to flooding in bad weather) to The Globe, a council house in Dreghorn.

Hugh Bell died on 17 December 1924 from carcinoma of the stomach, at Townhead, Dreghorn. Sabina died from chronic myocarditis on 2 May 1948, she still lived at Station Row. They are remembered on a gravestone in Dreghorn Cemetery, the double lair was bought by Sabina She also buried her son George there. George Bogle Bell died at the Kilmarnock Infirmary on 18 November 1937, he was 28 years old. George was a coal miner and on that day he was struck by a runaway hutch which fractured his skull.

My dad has many fond memories of his grandmother. He told me often how he would run to her if he got in trouble from his parents. I wish I had a picture of Hugh Bell just to see how he compares to my grandpa and dad. Maybe someone out there has one. Sabina is pictured above with grandsons Hugh (right) and George (left-son of Harry).

The Corsehill is long gone, the area is now the separate village of Springside.


On 7 August 1963 at 129 Main Street Dreghorn, I was born to Hugh and Mary Bell. My sister Jacqueline was 11 months old and we lived in a one bedroom flat. In 1966 we moved to 23 Milton Crescent and Marilyn, Dadís 10 year old daughter by his first wife, came to live with us. Marilyn had been living with our grandparents at the Glebe up until then. Our family was complete in 1970 with the birth of my brother Stuart

We all went to Dreghorn Primary school which was built in 1904 and we were the third generation to be educated there.

Marilyn left home in 1972 to start a family. Jacqueline moved to Reading, England in 1986 to be with her fiancťe, they married and have three children. Stuart left home in 1997 to move to a flat in East Broomlands. I moved to a one bedroom flat in 1993 and married

Craig Gilliland that November. We had Rebecca in April 1996 and moved to a house in Ford Avenue, Dreghorn in May this year.

Unfortunately I lost my father to cancer in June 1995 and he was buried in the family lair in Dreghorn. Mum shill lives in Milton Crescent

My Gran Isabella died of a heart attack in 1975 and my grandpa, Robert died in 1992, from prostate cancer. They were cremated at Masonhill, Ayr.

I belong to the fifth generation of Bells in Dreghorn, Stuart is a banker in Glasgow with aims to move there, so we disappear.

Researched and written by Karon Gilliland