ELIZA RENNIE - the Copybooks

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Rennie family in Kilsyth

New! See the slideshow of Corrie farm as it is today

The Eliza Rennie copy books:

Corrie farm near Kilsyth, now a ruinThe story of the rediscovery of Eliza Rennie begins with an email from California to Rob Kay, at that time the webmaster for Kilsyth Community Council website, www.kilsyth.org.uk :  "I have a small collection of poems which are beautifully and precisely hand written in blue and red ink. They were originally bound simply between pieces of wall paper then later bound in a leather journal. On the cover of the journal is embossed, "Eliza Rennie. Copy Books. 1841-1842". Several poems are signed, "Eliza Rennie, Corrie, Kilsyth". Cynthia Collier, USA

Initially, it appeared that these books were the work of Eliza Rennie, the author, and research was continued on that basis. As time went on, a second, much more likely candidate came into the frame: a young girl then aged only 12, who was a relative of Eliza the poet.

The photograph on the right shows the book signed off: Eliza Rennie, Corrie, Kilsyth, Finished 14th June 1842 Year

David Rennie, and his wife Jean nee Gillies, were living at Corrie Farm at the time, and this meticulous and graphically gifted work was completed by their daughter Eliza. They consist of handwritten examples of verse and hymns, with elegant border decoration.

Eliza Rennie copy books 1841-1842 Eliza Rennie copy books 1841-1842 open page Eliza Rennie copy books 1841-1842 front page Eliza Rennie copy books 1841-1842  page

Following the death of Revd Robert Rennie in 1820, the extended Rennie family were known primarily as gentleman farmers at several farms in the area, including Allanfauld and Corrie, a large farm near Kilsyth. David Rennie, and his wife Jean (born Gillies), were managing the Corrie Farm at the time.

Rennies of Corrie, Kilsyth, 1841 censusThe 6th June 1841 Census, shows the Rennie family at Corrie with 5 lively young children. David Rennie (50 yrs) and Jean Gillies his wife (40) already had Alex, 14, Elizabeth (12) George (9) Robert (6)  and David (2). At the time, Jean was heavily pregnant with another child, James to be born on 8th September 1841. The family had four agricultural labourers and one female servant, Anne, aged 20, co-resident at this large and busy farm.

Two surviving copy books signed "Eliza Rennie" 1841 and 1842 are full of meticulously written hymns and devotional fragments in a fine copperplate hand, written using several colours of ink, but on poor quality notebooks, which were only later expensively bound in leather with gilt lettering. These were almost certainly by Elizabeth Rennie then aged only 12?.Parish register, Kilsyth 1841

Parish records were brought up to date, and all seven children (including one who had died in infancy) were belatedly registered on the Parish roll on October 1st 1841...Parish register, Kilsyth 1841

According to James Rennie of Skye, (private correspondence) "Eliza married her cousin William Rennie, a coalmaster of Kilsyth, whose father farmed at Currymire (sad to say the farmhouse there has recently been demolished). They had three children, John, William and James and moved to Wellcroft, Helensburgh, where she died on 12/01/1898.  Her son, John, died a bachelor in 1937, and his possessions were distributed between his relatives around the world. William and James both went to California and married out there. William had a daughter and a son, but James had no family. William's son died in 1957 and his daughter in 1961: his daughter was unmarried, but his son was married with no family, so the line died out completely. It would seem that the Americans who broke up the estate in 1961 must have disposed of some of their possessions including Eliza's copybook."

Rob Kay, 2007