Fife dis­cov­ery

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Your news ar­ti­cle in April’s is­sue about Fife records on An­ces­try has led me to dis­cover more in­for­ma­tion about a miss­ing jig­saw piece from the life of my wife’s great un­cle Wil­liam Skin­ner, born 1892. We knew he joined his fa­ther and younger brother as a steam en­gi­neer main­tain­ing the wind­ing en­gines at the Mary Col­liery in Lo­chore, but there was no other in­for­ma­tion to help us trace him after the 1911 cen­sus. We thought that he was pos­si­bly killed in the First World War, but we couldn’t find any mil­i­tary records ei­ther.

The ad­di­tion of the reg­is­ters of Strathe­den Lu­natic Asy­lum to An­ces­try has al­lowed us to un­cover the truth about Wil­liam. He was ad­mit­ted to Strathe­den in 1920, and dis­charged in 1921. He was re-ad­mit­ted in 1925, but the record on An­ces­try was in­com­plete. I de­cided to con­tact Fife Ar­chives, and they pro­vided (for a fee) a copy of the redacted reg­is­ter page for Wil­liam’s ad­mis­sion in 1925. The page image is not on An­ces­try, be­cause it con­tains in­for­ma­tion on a child and is ‘closed’ for 100 years from the date of the en­try.

The 1925 record con­tained the words “Trans­ferred to In­for­mal 30/10/61”. I queried this, and the Fife NHS ar­chive sug­gested that this meant he was no longer de­tained un­der the Men­tal Health Act.

Know­ing that he was still alive in 1961 and still in Strathe­den, I was able to trace Wil­liam’s death in Strathe­den in 1973 and com­plete the jig­saw. My wife had no knowl­edge of her great un­cle Wil­liam – she doesn’t re­call her mother or grand­fa­ther ever men­tion­ing him, or go­ing to visit him. It would ap­pear that the stigma of men­tal ill­ness had made Wil­liam van­ish and be­come a fam­ily se­cret. My wife’s grand­fa­ther James Skin­ner reg­is­tered his brother’s death.

With­out the ar­ti­cle about Fife Records in the mag­a­zine, I would not have com­pleted Wil­liam’s story. Al­lan Mees, Liv­ingston

Ed­i­tor replies: I’m glad we were of as­sis­tance. I’m sure that there will be more sto­ries like this un­fold­ing as fur­ther asy­lum records are re­leased.

Wil­liam Skin­ner (seated) with brother James, the grand­fa­ther of Al­lan’s wife Is­sue 141 – Sum­mer 2018

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