-passionate bather

Marjory Simpson in 1839. She was born Marjory Cowan in 1808.


The Cowans grew up in Penicuik and in Edinburgh’s Canongate, where their parents’ paper business was conducted from Moray House.


  Over the street was the Canongate Tollbooth, seen here in 1829.


In 1831 Marjory Cowan married Henry Simpson, fourteenth child of Robert Simpson, doctor in St Petersburg who had been Principal  Medical Officer of the Russian Imperial Navy hospital at Cronstadt.  


Marjory (Simpson) with her father, papermaker Alexander Cowan and brothers and sisters: Charles, Helen (Menzies), Bissie (Thompson), Duncan, Lucy (Constable), James and John in the garden of Moray House in 1839 



Marjory Simpson with her tenth (and last) child Frederick James (born 1856) outside their house, Selville Cottage, in Portobello.


Marjory's neice Mary Constable (Mrs Forsyth) writes: "...Now comes Aunty Marjory, who married Henry Simpson. She sang and played the guitar and piano delightfully, was enthusiastic, romantic, and married most happily the man she loved. He, Uncle Henry, was the kindest brightest, most affectionate uncle to us all there ever was. He was a real musician, and when he and Aunty Marjory were quite old they would sit down at the piano and play the most entrancing Russian duets, and then sing song after song in any language you liked, and perfectly. Aunt Marjorie had a passion for bathing. She chose a mountain burn in the end of September, because Ullswater lake was too warm for her. Nearly every morning during the winter she bathed in the sea at Portobello. "


In 1820, aged 12, Marjory had been on holiday with her family at Moffat, where they were noticed by Mrs Grant of Laggan who was also staying there.  She writes: "Did you ever hear Mrs. Brunton speak of a family of the name of Cowan, who possess a great paper manufactory, and once lived beside her in Edinburgh, and afterwards were her country neighbours at Lasswade?  She knew them well, and esteemed them much.  Mr. Cowan is a man possessed of much general information, derived from a more extensive library than one usually finds in the possession of a private individual: his wife shares mentally in the treasures of her husband's knowledge, though personally devoted to the care and education of eleven promising and well-trained children.  I must tell you a great deal about them when I see you: I shall only tell you now that they are spending the summer here, and are one of the most rational, comfortable and happy families I know.  They have the most admirable cart imaginable, with seats slung in it, that makes it a most desirable vehicle.  They call for me every day I can go, and take me to see all the old castles and Hopes and strange places in the neighbourhood; and their conversation is a treat, such as one does not often meet with.  But I will tell you much of them hereafter." "MOFFAT, 26th July, 1820: I continue my cart-excursions here with no small satisfaction.  My companions are delightful--the happiest, best, and most intelligent people imaginable.  Their cart has such seats and slings and springs as make it quite the king of carts, and the very horse is a sensible, well-behaved animal, worthy of your acquaintance.".  Over 60 years later at the 1881 census, Marjory was back at Moffat, staying at the new Hydropathic Hotel with her husband Henry Simpson, who died in 1885. 


The vast Moffat Hydro opened in 1878



Marjory Simpson died in 1891




Marjorie and Henry’s eldest child, Elizabeth Jane Simpson was born in 1835, probably at Moray House, and married John Montgomerie Bell WS in 1870. He was the founding honorary president of the Edinburgh Bach Choir 1889-1894.  In 1908, their eldest child, Alexander C M Bell followed his father as the choir’s honorary president.


Marjory and Henry’s second child Thèrése (Rézie Simpson) was born in Liverpool in 1838. Trained by Miss Yaniewicsz and A.W.Smith, she became the best public singer of her day in Edinburgh.  She taught singing.  In 1875 she went to Paris, where some said her voice was almost ruined by more training; it recovered later under Franz Bozen.  In 1881 she was a teacher of singing and staying at Selville, Portobello, with her youngest brother Frederick James –he was a music teacher-- while their parents were at Moffat Hydro.


Frederick James Simpson, the youngest child of Marjory and Henry, was brought up at Selville, Portobello, and spent his life in the world of music. Educated at Edinburgh Academy, Leipsic and Berlin, he took a musical degree at Oxford in 1885.  He was professionally engaged in music, teaching and composing, sometimes in a romantic Scottish vein, and mostly in and around London.  His Three-part Songs. Op.1 was published by Novello, Ewer & Co in 1888 [No.1: Music when soft voices die. (Words by Shelley.) No.2: There is dew for the flow'ret. (Words by T. Hood.) No.3: Tell me, thou star. (Words by Shelley.) No:4: To-morrow. (Words by Shelley.) No.5: Autumn. (Words by T. Hood.) No.6: It was not in the winter. (Words by Hood.) No.7: When icicles hang by the wall. (Words by Shakespeare.) No.8: Delightful Summer, then adieu. (Words by Hood.)]. Frederick James Simpson’s Canon for two voicesA Country Life is Sweet.” was published by Vincent in 1901.  Simpson married Georgina Hopwood, sister of the watercolourist Henry Silkstone Hopwood who died in Edinburgh in 1914.

HS Hopwood’s “Industry” in the Tate Gallery




Marjory Simpson family tree



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