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Scotland Magazine Issue 40
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Ewan McGregor has become something of a national treasure. But for a man whose career has
taken him across the galaxy, he has remarkably humble roots.
Search for Ewan McGregor in Google and the first fact that hits you is incorrect. Most sites state that he was born in Crieff on 31st March 1971, while in fact he first saw the light of day in Perth Royal Infirmary.
His family was however based in Crieff, Ewan being the younger of the two sons of James McGregor and Carol Lawson, both schoolteachers. The McGregor line can be traced in the area for several generations, going back to Duncan McGregor, Ewan’s great-great-great grandfather, who was born in Fortingall in the early 19th century.
Duncan McGregor was a tailor who lived with his wife Betsy Hunter in the village of Fowlis Wester. Betsy bore eight children before dying of consumption in 1859, at the age of 50. Although he was still listed in Fowlis Wester in the 1861 census, Duncan thereafter disappeared from the records.
Neither he nor his son, also Duncan (born around 1856) are to be found in Perthshire in 1871 or 1881, and there is no trace of the death of the father anywhere in Scotland. Perhaps they were part of the great army of Scots who emigrated.
Alexander, the older child of Duncan and Betsy, was a ploughman who, with his Edinburgh-born wife, Janet Stewart, had nine children. The youngest of these was James, who forsook agriculture and became a mason, living in Crieff and dying in Bridge of Earn in 1960, having outlived his wife, Emily Cramb, by seven years.
Their son, James Peter McGregor, stands out from his forebears. Born in Crieff in 1916, James married Isabella McMillan Clark MacIndoe, at Headless Cross, Gretna, in 1936. This marriage bore the hallmarks of an elopement. Married ‘by Declaration’ (that is, in front of witnesses), these marriages did not require banns or proclamations and, as such, could take place more speedily than usual.
Neither party was under age, James being 20 and his bride 21, comfortably beyond the Scottish age of consent. The relative occupations of the groom and his new father in law do perhaps hint at possible parental disapproval, James being a ship steward at the time, and the bride’s father being described as ‘Chilean Consul, retired.’ This conjures up images of a clandestine shipboard romance between a crew member and the sheltered daughter of the Chilean Consul, perhaps on a voyage from Chile.
Although Isabella’s father was described as an electrical engineer when he married her mother, Mary Forrester Clark in Glasgow in 1906, by the time of Isabella’s birth in 1915, John Charles McIndoe had become Chancellor, Chilean Consulate. His birth cannot be traced in Scotland.
Intriguingly, when his own death was registered in Perth in 1962, it was stated that John McIndoe had formerly been known as Juan. On that occasion, his mother’s maiden name was given as Kraus.
James Charles Stewart McGregor, Ewan’s father and the grandson of ‘Juan’ MacIndoe, married a fellow schoolteacher, Carol Lawson, in Crieff in 1966. Recent television documentaries have featured their elder son, Colin, in his role as an RAF pilot, far removed from his hometown and the lifestyle of his better known younger sibling, although equally dramatic. Drama in fact runs through the genes, the maternal uncle of the McGregor boys being Denis Lawson, the acclaimed Scottish actor, possibly best known to the general public for his role in the film Local Hero. Carol McGregor herself is involved in the world of film-making.
No earlier thespians are apparent in the Lawson family tree, the father of Carol and Denis being a Glasgow watchmaker and jeweller, Laurence Lawson, born there in 1918. He too died in Crieff. He lost his mother, Diana McCulloch Brown, at an early age, when she died in 1920, following childbirth. His father, Alexander Dobbie Lawson, lived for a further 40 years, dying in 1960.
The chosen career of Ewan McGregor has taken him far from his Scottish roots, but his settled and stable family background has no doubt helped to keep him grounded, as he appears not to have succumbed too much to the ‘luvvy’ ethos.
Contact This article has been prepared with the help of Scottish Roots of Forth Street Edinburgh, who undertook the search for Scotland Magazine.
For further details on genealogy email: firstname.lastname@example.org