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