Tale from The Barracks

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south_africa_flagEduard Reynhardt, of Great Brak River, South Africa, wrote on February 6 2009:

I  am interested in the history of a building in Helensburgh which was in the 1890’s known as The Barracks. This building was in James Street, Helensburgh. Most probably the street number was 27.

My  mother-in-law emigrated from that part of the world to South Africa in 1934.  Some of her relatives (Kerrs) lived in The Barracks. My mother-in-law passed  away in 1981 in a small town Hopetown in the Karoo region of South  Africa.

It  would be wonderful if somebody could tell me something about the history of The Barracks.

Heritage Trust director Kenneth Crawford replied:

To mark the bicentenary of the Burgh of Helensburgh's Charter, we published '200 Years of Helensburgh', which is now the source of much information. Previously I published 'Around Helensburgh', a picture book with much text. Many of the photos we found and published are now available this website.

If you look this up and go to Photo Gallery, Search, and enter Barracks you will find the only known picture and some text. I will see what else there is and ask if anyone knows of your mother-in-law. Could you give her first names(s) and date of birth or age at death, which will help?

Eduard Reynhardt replied:

Thank you very much for the information. It was something special to see the picture of The Barracks!

My mother-in-law’s family lived in Greenock) and Helensburgh during the second half of the 19th century and during the first decade of the 20th century. My mother-in-law was Thomasina (Ina) Kerr, born in Helensburgh on January 17 1912. Her parents were Thomas Cameron Kerr (1876) and Margaret McCallum (1778).

The Kerrs lived at 22 James Street and the McCallums in The Barracks, on the other side of James Street. Thomas and Margaret were married in 1896.

Thomas was a tailor. According to the family he fought in the Anglo Boer War and the First World War. Unfortunately we could not find any records of his involvement in these wars.

My grandfather, Jacobus Hendrik Smith, a Free State farmer, fought against Thomas at the Battles of Magersfontein and Paardeberg. The first battle was won by the Boers and the second by the British. Seventy years later his grand daughter, Gertruida Gagiano, and I got married.

Ina and her sisters stayed in a soldiers’ home in Bridge of Weir during the First World War. She went to school in Helensburgh. As I already mentioned, she came to South Africa in 1935 to accompany a homeopathic doctor, Dr Thompson, to the Transkei.

There she met a policeman, Johannes Gagiano. They got married and she stayed for the rest of her life in South Africa. She went back to Scotland in 1956 and 1965 for short periods.

Thomas Kerr died in Glasgow on April 16 1948 and Margaret in Helensburgh on January 17 1914.

We have been to Helensburgh many years ago and would like to visit Scotland once more with a view to seeing places which played a role in the history of the Kerrs (Ferniehirst Castle, Jedburgh, Helensburgh, etc). If possible, I would like to visit some of the graves of the Kerrs of Helensburgh. Would it be possible to locate the graves of people buried in Helensburgh?

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