Andrew CAVAYE & Chrissie GRIEVE

1872-1930               1874-1938

Chrissie& Andrew with their 8th to 13th children and 1st grandchild


Winks    Ian           Noel

Chrissie and Andrew           .

Ronnie   Dorothy  Maysie     Stanley

The Portobello Cavayes

Cavayes of Craig Royston & Portobello in the Thirties Dorothy Cavaye remembers


Printable version of Cavayes of Craig Royston

1919 Andrew at Romanno Bridge

Family tree link to Andrew CAVAYE

Andrew Cavaye’s father Robert McClelland Cavaye (1808-1876)

Family tree link to Christina Hepburn GRIEVE

about 1928 with the family at Castlelaw near West Linton

on the back steps in 1929

North Berwick in June 1931

near Inverness in July 1937


Chrissie’s mother, Grannie Grieve (Helen Gibson Dods c1847-1919)

In the back garden at Craig Royston, Portobello, probably in the winter before her death

Dorothy Cavaye as bridesmaid to her aunt Maysie, Portobello 1934

At the wedding, an outstanding monologue was delivered by Maysie’s Grieve cousin

Helen Gibson Dods Henderson, later better known as the actress Helena Gloag


Andrew Cavaye and Christina Hepburn Grieve

remarks by their eldest grandchild, Dorothy at the 2009 Portobello Cavaye reunion

Here we are, all of us Cavayes -  descendants of, or married on to descendants of, Andrew Cavaye and Christina Hepburn Grieve.  These two were married on his birthday 1st October 1895 in Leith Assembly Rooms.  In Scotland few couples in those days were married in a church.  In fact the first, apart from city toffs, so I have read in a contemporary paper, was in St Boswells in 1898.  Marriages took place generally in hotels or at home in private houses.

At the time he married Chrissie Grieve, Andrew Cavaye was a fine handsome young man.   Though not very tall in stature, he was dark with a well-groomed moustache and known for being impeccably dressed.  His rise to this status in his life is truly remarkable. 

 He was born in Northfield Cottage in 1872 the ninth child of Robert McClelland Cavaye and Margaret Boyd    Within two years of Andrew’s arrival the last child of the family was born, a girl, Louisa, but within eighteen months she had sickened and died, so Andrew was left as the youngest of a big family.  This was a low point both financially and emotionally in the Cavaye family’s fortunes.  In the words handed down to me, Robert McClelland Cavaye, the father, had not done a stroke of work since his nursery garden apprentice days in the early 1830’s, but lived on a very small annuity from his railway shares.  In the early ‘70’s things were to deteriorate further until, when Andrew was nearly four, his father committed suicide cutting his throat with a razor . Eventually  Dr. Balfour, senior, who had been rushed up from Portobello, pronounced him dead after six days from loss of blood  Whether our grandfather remembered any of this or not, it could not have been a very good start to his life.  General Cavaye, his Uncle, came down of course from Royal Circus.  His carriage waited outside while all the business and legal pleas were drawn up to make Mrs. Cavaye more secure and the two Northfield Cottages bought and knocked together to give the big family a stable home.  Mrs. Cavaye, Andrew’s widowed mother, was a very competent woman.  She took in dressmaking and was even capable of joinery and laying a floor.  Her standards were high and the General would come down regularly to keep an eye on things.  If you have any skills in you hands, you must inherit them from her, I can assure you.  My Auntie Maysie had none, I have none.  Auntie Peggy had a lot as did Ronnie.

Thank God for the Education Act of 1872.  Andrew Cavaye went to Willowbrae School where he was a diligent and indeed a prize pupil.  When he left at the age of eleven to train as a clerk in Miller’s Foundry at Abbeyhill , he went with excellent testimonials.  He stayed there till he was seventeen when, again with first class testimonials, he applied for a situation as managing clerk with a cooper and cask maker in Leith.  One of the partners, John Macgregor, died in 1898.  Andrew decided to leave the firm immediately in spite of wage inducements to remain and act as manager and, through the good offices of Mrs. Elizabeth Macgregor and investments from her relatives, in July 1898 Macgregor and Company was born.  He rented a large warehouse in Timber Bush and a two roomed office in Bernard Street.

Starting during his days in Miller’s foundry and going on until he was fully established, Andrew Cavaye walked down Fishwives’ Causeway to evening classes in Portobello Burgh School, where he specialized in French and Pitman’s shorthand.  During this period he was regularly to be seen walking down Restalrig Road or along Duke Street, studying his book, while he paced along on his way to and from work.  His nephew, George Nichol, said his mother Auntie Maggie told him this.  On Sundays he attended services in Restalrig church.  And in the pew he had two copies of his own leatherbound Bible, one in French and the other in shorthand.  I am ashamed to say that when I started learning French, Grannie gave me his French bible, but within a dozen years I had lost it

How about Chrissie Grieve at this stage?  She was two years younger than Andrew.  The Grieve family had lived in various colony type houses in the Restalrig area of Leith since they had come to Edinburgh from Auchterarder in mid-century. Chrissie had four sisters and one brother, Uncle Bob.  The father, John Grieve, was an insurance collector.  He was also the precentor at one of the North Leith churches.  The family was musical and every one of them was conscripted to sing at all the Sunday services.  Grannie did not go to the Normal Training College to train as a teacher, as she told me several of her contemporaries did.  “You knew you were the bees knees, if you got into the Normal,” she said to me in the 1930’s.  I think Roger discovered that she worked for a while in a printing works in Bernard Street.  Everyone walked everywhere in those days.  Andrew walked from Northfield to Leith and Chrissie, Restalrig to North Leith .  On his way daily down Restalrig Road we believe Andrew Cavaye spotted Chrissie Grieve in her front garden.  Perhaps they started speaking on a regular basis and then they started walking out together.  Grannie set a high value on courtship.  Even after fourteen children she remained sentimental about people she called lovebirds and spoke of “her lad” or “his lass”.  Nothing in her opinion was as important as that.  .

A year after they were married they had twins a boy and a girl, who sadly survived only a few days.  A year later their eldest child Bertie was born, my father.  From there we go on to ten more boys and four girls.  The girl just before Peggy died too, so that left a big family of eleven, with Ronnie, born in 1919, as the youngest.   She was a lovely smiling woman, Chrissie, always laughing, always generous   Andrew had a fiery temper and a short fuse.  I have Douglas’ word for that.  He has more of a reputation for being careful with money, but that isn’t true, for again Doug and Winkie told me that if they wanted anything badly they always got it eventually and any organization they wanted to join, the entry fee was always paid.   He also made sure that his less well off sisters got generous gifts of money.  He had a strong sense of duty. He seems immensely strict, keeping all his sons except Ronnie down in the basement at Craig Royston, but almost all fathers were strict disciplinarians in those days.  He didn’t pay a lot of attention to his children, shutting himself in his private den with his newspapers and his black-horned wireless, but he provided for them extremely well and thought about their education and future careers.  He took his responsibilities as to their future very seriously.   He was a very good business man himself and he did very well by his wife and children.  If you wonder why he didn’t send any of them to college (unless you count sending Winkie and Ian to an opening in Montreal), just think it’s a bit of a long jump from leaving school at eleven yourself and sending your son to college.  It took us another generation to reach that point.

Andrew kept to his own gentlemanly interests and didn’t have much time for conversation with women.  He liked his clubs and his sports, his bowls and his golf, his cars and the convivial company of men.  Women mostly stayed at home, men went out to the club or the pub in the evenings.  Grannie often sneaked a visit to the cinema sometimes with Ronnie, while Grandpa was out.    When I was born, he said to my mother, “You’re an awful family for girls.”  She didn’t much like him for that.  Both Winkie and Ian especially, thought he was a bit unfeeling, when he saw them off to Canada.  It is impossible to know for certain.  Perhaps he just hid his feelings, keeping a stiff upper lip.  Cavayes certainly didn’t cry or complain about pain or illness.  Mary, Melville’s wife, felt she daren’t cry if she went to the pictures with Peggy and Maysie for they thought that was a dreadful display of softness.  The story of Noel’s traumatic birth at Christmas was told to me often.  Grannie nearly died and my father, who had been sent to fetch the doctor, was reported as having sat down outside the bedroom door and cried.  The aunts told me this story with glee.  Any sign of weakness was a giveaway – no true Cavaye would do that!   My own father was a lot gentler, but he too lived the male good life, going out to the club or the masons most nights. We don’t live like that any more.  Still most women didn’t have a bad life then.  They were provided for.

Andrew Cavaye prospered every year becoming well-known in Leith business circles and also in Portobello society.  I don’t imagine he was a particularly talkative man, judging by his children, but he certainly made the right sort of friends through his golf and bowling, the masons and the High Constables.  During the War he was able to afford a fine Bechstein grand piano. He and his wife went off in 1924 to visit Doug in British Columbia, crossing the United States by train to Seattle.  Prohibition was on then and he noted that in his letters home to Bertie.  He was so impressed by Canada that, when they came back, he went round lots of churches and societies in Portobello and Leith showing all his Canadian slides with his magic lantern.  He hoped to encourage young men to go off to a better life and career in Canada.  To him it was the land of opportunity.

During that time he was away, trouble began brewing with the Inland Revenue and in 1925 he had to pay back £8000 plus a £2000 fine.  This led to his having a heart attack in the office in Storries Alley.  Early in 1930, my father recalls, there was a problem with some contaminated casks, a hundred hogsheads to Bertram of Quality Street. Leith.  This was a major tragedy.  In March, travelling with his wife on a tramcar to town, he had another heart attack. And died back home at Craig Royston attended by Dr. John Balfour.

Bertie had to take over the firm he had inherited at a terrible time.  The great depression was just starting and the cooperage was hardly ticking over.  The bottom had fallen out of the whisky market.  Production was halted.  Three year old whiskies were being offered at the filling price.  Grannie had to be life rented and the money £1800 Andrew had left was to be divided between the eleven children.    He was advised to declare himself bankrupt.  He got no helpful advice from the family lawyer, John Loudon of J and A. Hastie, who suggested that if he was not able to repay the £3000 of borrowed capital he would have to sign a trust deed.  This he couldn’t bear to do.  Why should he be the only one of a family of eleven to suffer from the sudden decline of the business from which the whole family fortune had stemmed.  In his own words in the lawyer’s office, “You are forcing my back to the wall.  Something must be done.”

He sent out enquiry letters to the Belgian, French and Swedish consuls for names of glass and tumbler manufacturers in their respective countries.  Subsequently, filling a suitcase with tumblers, he tramped round the pubs of Leith and Portobello hawking his wares.  He worked unremittingly, running everywhere.  If Andrew Cavaye was characterised as the man who studied as he walked to work, Bertie was labelled as the man who was always in a hurry.  When Grannie and Maysie saw a man running along the pavement, they would say, “It must be Bertie,” and as often as not it was Bertie. So they told me… Gradually after about four years like this, things improved and he was able to employ an office assistant and buy a car to do his travelling in.  He brought Macgregor and Company through these hard times, keeping the cooperage humming along as second fiddle. 

We are now at the end of the life and sad early death at the age of 57 of Andrew Cavaye .  Both he and his wife had got too fat in their middle age.  Like many of us, being hard up and kept on small rations when they were young they were naturally happy to be able to afford the good things of life when they were more affluent.  It didn’t do their health any good.  As with us also.

What can I add now about Christina Grieve, our grandmother?  I loved her, whereas I had been very afraid of Grandpa Cavaye.  Ronnie was probably the only one who wasn’t, so he said.  With that enormous family, she had to be relaxed and yet she couldn’t have been laid back, for the household was always well organised, rooms were always tidy and meals on time.  It was a well disciplined family and it can’t have been only Grandpa who asserted himself.  She was a very generous woman not just to her children and grandchildren but, when she could afford it, (and remember she never was hard-up during the depression) to any poor people in Regent Street Church.  She helped her daughters, when they got married, with their deposit for a house she was open-handed and sentimental.  She gave me a book every year for my birthday, as instructed by my academically-ambitious mother.  I still cherish them, always classics, often leather bound, with her signature To Dorothie with Love from Grannie.  We all love ie on the end, but not on Dorothy.

Others will talk about the particular child of Andrew and Chrissie who was their ancestor. I’ll say something quickly about mine, Bertie, the oldest.  I absolutely adored my father. He took up his position as the eldest of the family with all its aspirations and responsibilities.  He was one of the first Scouts and became a King Scout as did both Doug and Winkie after him.  He trained as an officer in the university OTC, eventually joining the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders.  He told me a lot about the War.  He spent most of his war time with the Seaforths in the Middle East and India.  He was shipwrecked on the Cameronia in the Mediterranean on his way to Mesopotamia.  Through his swimming prowess he got to a destroyer off Malta.  When he was wounded in Mesopotamia he nearly lost his leg.  All over the place, Palestine, India, Egypt, he took photographs all the time and I have all those in albums: small pictures, not all labelled and sometimes difficult to decipher, but it is a full photographic account, demanding my attention.

I have always taken him as my model for ethical behaviour and integrity.  He believed in hard work.  I also thought him a very logical thinker.  I think I got my love of politics and argument from him.  He got the OBE after all for his services to politics.


Pictures of the 2009 Portobello Cavaye reunion and walk around Portobello



In memoriam


fourth generation Cavaye musician, teacher and expert on Edinburgh






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