A McVean family album reproduced by kind permission of Colin Houston with copyright: reserved.

To accompany the display of childhood photographs of Sir COLIN MCVEAN GUBBINS

first posted in November 2010 and first exhibited in Penicuik Town Hall 15 & 29 January 2011

the pictures below shown on 29 January reflect the lives of his grandparents

MARY WOOD COWAN & COLIN MCVEAN 

child of Penicuik papermaker Alexander Cowan & her husband the chief surveyor of Japan

 

Married in Edinburgh in mid 1862, the apprehensive couple have only days to prepare themselves for a long voyage and life together in Japan

 


Rather unhappily, the newlyweds pose with Colin’s parents the Rev. Donald McVean of Iona and Susan MacLean of the Moy Castle clan, and Colin’s younger siblings Mary, Dougald, Ann, Isabella & Archie McVean.

This older picture of Colin’s revered parents and his siblings is probably one he took with him on his earlier bachelor expeditions to survey the coasts of the Hebrides and of the Black Sea, two areas which had put his name on the map.

Mary Wood Cowan with her parents and some of her many siblings probably in 1857 at her sister’s marriage to the Reverend Boog Watson. Mary was then 20 and her father Alexander Cowan the papermaker (centre) died soon after in 1859.  (Alexander’s will endowed the Cowan Institute where this exhibition was shown in January 2011). Mary’s mother Helen Brodie, Alexander’s second wife, died in 1863 so by the time of her own marriage to Colin McVean in 1868 Mary was an orphan, albeit a thirty-year-old one.  Alexander Cowan and his first and second spouses had twenty children, Mary was the seventeenth.

 

Mary and Colin sailed to Japan after their wedding, in the company of Richard Henry Brunton (the father of Japanese lighthouses) and other appointees to the Japanese Imperial service.

Becoming established in Japan, Colin and Mary McVean and household after the birth of their first children, Helen (“Noni”, later Mrs Gubbins) and Donald (“Dondo”) in 1869 and 1870.

 

Enlargement shows the first children, Helen Brodie Noni McVean (later Mrs Gubbins) born 22 March 1869 and Donald Archibald Dugald Dondo McVean born 22 July 1870.  They would be known by these Japanese nicknames all their lives.

Nikko

Nikko Toshogu

Edojyomae

 

Colin McVean and the team at the Japanese Imperial Survey Department

Getting to grips with surveying

  

Minister of Public Works Ito                                         Iwakura            . 

Ito Hirobumi had been chosen to be one of the Choshu Five sent from Japan to study at University College London in 1863, and the experience in Britain convinced him of the need for Japan to adopt Western ways. He took a large part in the Iwakura Mission to the West while Colin and Mary McVean were in Japan, and he became Minister of Public Works soon after his return in 1873.  Among other places, the Iwakura Mission visited the Cowan papermills in Penicuik to learn from their methods and techniques.    

 

    

Japan hosts international delegations to observe the transit of Venus in December 1874: McVean at right.

 

 

Prince of Mito

 

Noni and Dondo

 

The family back in Britain around 1881. In their house at Ashton in Cheshire in the 1881 Census (close to where Dondo was boarding at Mostyn School) were parents Colin (43, Civil Engineer, Acting Estate Agent Home of the Queens Lady (Body?) Guards for Scotland), Mary (43, his wife), Helen (12, b. Japan), Susan (9, b. Japan), Mary (7, b. Scotland), Alexander (6, b. Japan), Flora(5, b. Japan), Colin (4, b. Scotland), Elizabeth (2, b. Scotland), Norman (8 months, b. Scotland) plus from Scotland cousin Elizabeth McVean (24, acting as their School Governess), Annie McLean (22, Head Nurse), Archie Campbell (24, cowkeeper) and a local cook, coachman, parlourmaid, housemaid and undernurse.

Noni and Dondo

Lily, Helen, Alick & Arthur

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kilfinichen from the Ard
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen from the Ard
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston


Hugh and Colin Gubbins with grandparents Colin McVean and Mary Cowan 
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Colin McVean and Mary Cowan stand between their Gubbins grandsons at Kilfinichen

 

At Abbotsford Gardens in Edinburgh:

 

A McVean album picture of the San Francisco earthquake in progress in 1906 (the family had connections there)

The same church appears at centre in this 1906 postcard view of the earthquake

And this Lloyds of London image shows the same church following all the damage of fire and aftershocks

 

McVean and Gubbins family sailing to Iona on the Armide
image copyright Colin Houston

 

McVean and Gubbins family Oban Scotland around 1905
image copyright Colin Houston Oban Scotland around 1905
image copyright Colin Houston

Oban Station Scotland around 1905
McVean and Gubbins family image copyright Colin Houston

Gateway to Mull: Oban Harbour and the Caledonian Railway’s trains from Stirling via Balquhidder and Loch Awe

 

with John McVean Luard, Flora’s son

Dondo Donald Archibald Dugald McVean
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Dondo (Donald Archibald Dugald) McVean (born 1870, grandson of Alexander Cowan).

An officer in Rattray’s Sikhs he had been Winston Churchill’s tentmate in the Malakand Field Force

Dondo and his adventures will be the subject of a later display

 

 

 

McVean family photographs

All reproduced by kind permission of Colin Houston with copyright: reserved.

childhood photographs of Sir COLIN MCVEAN GUBBINS

 

COLIN GUBBINS in Powell & Pressburger’s “I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING

 

RICHARD HENRY BRUNTON the father of Japanese lighthouses

other Lives at kosmoid.net

 

Penicuik GREATS

 

COWAN family ancestry & descent

 

This page is not one of the 350
 most visited
KOSMOID & MAKERS webpages