Ironstone had been discovered between the Clyde and Forth rivers in the early 1800s, and many people migrated to this area from elsewhere, particularly from Ireland. The Union Canal runs through the area, originally running from Edinburgh to Glasgow. It followed the 240 foot contour line and so had no locks. It was originally built to carry coal to the cities in the 1820s. Amongst the navvies who came over from Ireland to dig the canals were William Burke and William Hare, who later moved to Edinburgh and exploited the need for dead bodies in the medical school by murdering people and selling the bodies, pretending that they had just robbed the graves.

Bridget Hudson was born to John and Mary Hudson somewhere in Ireland in the early 1820s. At some point before 1840 she married William Burke and emigrated to Scotland - not necessarily in that order. They may lived in Manchester, England for a while on the way. It is not known whether this William Burke had any connection with the other one. It was quite a common name.

Patrick Cairns (or Kearns) was born to farm labourers John Kearns and Rosanne Shiels in Ireland some time approximately 1838. At some point he emigrated to Scotland.

Mary Ann Burke was born to William Burke and Bridget Hudson in Manchester some time approximately 1840, and was brought up at Denny in Stirling, with her younger sister Catherine and brother Michael. Her father (a calico printer) died before she was 10, and her mother married another calico printer, Thomas Burke, in 1853.

The laws against Roman Catholics were repealed in 1829, permitting them to buy or inherit property and to keep records. However, the missing records for this family are not in the Catholic Church Register covering the Denny area.

The New Statistical Account described Denny in the 1830s:

Denny is situated on the river Carron. Castlerankine burn, which runs into the Carron, once powered a lint mill, but this had been replaced by the Herbertshire Printfield, run by Messrs Thomas Shiels and Co., printing calico.
There were 11 mills on the banks of the Carron, including Herbertshire Paper Mill (the oldest establishment in the parish) where Messrs Alexander Duncan and Sons manufactured writing paper from rags.
An artificial reservoir had been built in the Carron valley to ensure the flow of water to power all the mills. After a rainstorm in 1839 the new embankment gave way, and much flood damage occurred.
There were both ironstone and coal mines in the parish, the ironstone being at Castlerankine. The iron mine was not working in 1841, owing to the low price of iron.
The Union Canal passed nearby, and was used to send coal to Greenock and Edinburgh.
The population rose from 1400 in 1790 to 4300 in 1838. The increase was due to the manufacturing industries being developed there. The average number of births was 86, marriages 35, deaths 70 per year. The parochial registers date back to 1679, but are merely lists of names and dates. Many children's births were not recorded.
There were about 50 Roman Catholics, all of them Irish.
There were a number of schools in the parish, and most of the children could read a little, but the parents were not so keen to have the children educated. A new parochial school was being built.

Patrick Cairns and Mary Ann Burke were married in 1859 at Milngavie Catholic Chapel. They were both living in Strathblane at the time. (Milngavie is 4 miles from Strathblane). Patrick was an ironstone miner. Both were illiterate. Patrick learned to write at some point between 1859 and 1863, but Mary Ann never learned.

The New Statistical Account described Strathblane in 1841:

Strathblane is 12 miles from Glasgow, in a sheltered valley by the warm river Blane. The climate was healthy, and the bad health of the inhabitants was blamed on the hazards of their employment. (Bilious affections, inflammation of the lungs, and consumptions were frequent).
The population rose from 620 in 1795 to 1045 in 1841. The population had decreased due to the lesser need for agricultural labourers on the farms, and then increased due to the development of a large calico print-field at Blanefield (employing 78 adults and 45 children under 14) and 2 bleach-fields at Dumbroch (employing 67 adults and 14 children under 14). They worked 10-11 hours per day, 6 days a week.
The parish registers had been kept well since 1816, though badly before that. The parish church was the only place of worship in 1841.

The family have not yet been found on the 1861 Census. They were not in Strathblane nor in Denny. It is possible that they lived in Strathblane (15 miles from Denny) temporarily to satisfy the "resident in the parish" requirements, if there was not a Catholic Church in Denny at the time. Certainly, Patrick could not have been mining there.

Two daughters were born to Patrick and Mary Ann in Denny - Bridget in 1863 and Catherine in 1866. It is possible that Mary Ann went to her mother's home to give birth, so that is not proof that the family lived in Denny.
The family then moved to the Bathgate area, although Patrick remained an ironstone miner.
In 1868 Rose Ann Cairns was born at Bankhead, West Calder.
The family moved to Garibaldi Row, Fauldhouse, Whitburn.
In 1872 Mary Cairns was born in April and died in November of bronchitis.
In 1874 John Cairns was born.
An ironstone mine was opened in 1840s at Fauldhouse, and later coal was mined there too.

In 1876 Bridget Burke died of bronchitis at Denny, where she had been a Lodging House Keeper. Mary Ann was with her at the time. Mary Ann had never learned to write, and signed her mother's death certificate with an X.

At about this time, Patrick switched from ironstone to shale mining, and the family moved to Uphall. The area around Uphall and Broxburn used to be called Strathbrock, and is about midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, in the parish of Bathgate. This area's main claim to fame is as the world's first oil boom town, and the site of the world's first oil refinery.

The man behind this was James "Paraffin" Young, a Glaswegian research chemist. He realised that there would be an increasing demand for mineral oil. He discovered that it was possible to extract oil from coal, and built the world's first oil refinery in Whitburn in 1848. He made a fortune exporting oil all over the world. He then found that oil could also be extracted from shale. Before that time shale had been regarded as valueless, so he was able to buy up the mineral rights to huge areas very cheaply.
Up until 1864, his patent gave him a worldwide monopoly. He exported not just oil, but paraffin and candles. During the next decade, oil works opened up all over West Lothian. There were 27 shale mines in the Uphall/Broxburn area, and the Broxburn oil works was the largest in the country when it was built in 1877. However, by the 1870s, oil had been discovered in America which gushed from the ground and did not have to be extracted from shale. It was therefore cheaper, even when imported across the Atlantic.
Pit ponies were used for haulage underground, and many of the miners began work as pony boys, the day after leaving school at 14.

In 1872 education became compulsory for all children under 14. Bridget (then 9) was already at school and learned to write, although her future husband (then 11) never learned to write. The younger children would have started school at 5.

In 1881, most of the Cairns family were living in Uphall, apart from Bridget (then 18), who was in service in Edinburgh with a family named Hood. Catherine was already working as a domestic servant at 14, but still living at home. They lived in Greendykes Road, a row of miners cottages built at the beginning of the Shale Oil boom.
Greendykes Road was a terraced row of one-storey red brick houses built to house the miners' families in the 1860s. They had a kitchen, one bedroom (shared by the entire family) and an outside non-flush toilet in a small back yard. There was no piped water, and all the water had to be fetched from the stand pipe at the end of the street. Hot water was heated on the kitchen range for the miners' baths at the end of each shift. The houses were pulled down in the 1960s.

Nearby lived William Townsend, who married Lena Hodgens in 1884 when JCT was 10. The Townsends left the area before 1891. No reason has yet been found why JCT later took the name of Townsend.

In 1883, Bridget Cairns (18, domestic servant) married Charles McFalls (20, miner) at St. Patrick's Church, Edinburgh.
They moved to 42 Simpson's Row, Uphall, where their eldest child Catherine was born the next year, follwed by Elizabeth 2 years later.

In 1886, Catherine Cairns (19, domestic servant) married John Warnock (23, miner) at Broxburn Catholic Church. Her sister Rose Ann (17) was her witness, and presumably her bridesmaid. The Warnocks disappeared from the Scottish Records at this time, and appear on a list of emigrants to Ontario.

In 1887, Mary Ann Cairns died aged 40 in Holmes Row, Uphall. Her youngest child John was then 13. The following year, Mary Ann McFalls was born in 8 Holmes Row, Uphall. It is not clear whether the family were all living together, or in neighboring houses, or whether they had been visiting each other at the time of the death of Mary Ann senior and birth of Mary Ann junior. John would probably have started work down the mine as a pony boy later that year, after leaving school at the age of 14.

The McFalls family (with 3 little girls) moved to New Monkland (near Glasgow) and Charles switched from shale to coal mining. They moved to Shanks square, Greengairs. Shortly afterwards, the baby Mary Ann died of gastric & intestinal catarrh. This was followed by the birth of James the following year.

In 1890, Rose Ann Cairns (22, domestic servant) married Francis McFarlane (25, miner) at Broxburn Catholic Church. Her brother John (16) was her witness. Francis and Rose Ann probably moved to Brownrigg, New Monkland.

In 1891, John was working down the shale mine at the age of 16, and living with his widowed father Patrick. He may have run away from home soon after. Nothing more is known of him until he joined the Seaforth Highlanders 4 years later.

The McFalls family moved to Meikle Drumgray, New Monkland, a tiny village near an opencast coal mine. 2 more children were born there: Bridget in 1892 and Mary in 1894.
Then they moved along the road to Mossbank Row, Darngavel by Airdrie, where Patrick lived with them. Their youngest children were born there: Charles in 1896, Sarah in 1898 and Patrick in 1900. Sarah died in 1899, and the baby died at 3 months. Patrick had died a few months earlier (aged 56) of cardiac disease. It is not clear how long he had been living with Bridget's family.

In 1905 Bridget McFalls died in Darngavel by Airdrie aged 42 of epileptic convulsions. Her youngest surviving children Bridget (12), Mary (11) and Charles (9) were still living at home.

In 1920 Charles McFalls (24, coal miner) married Mary Rafferty (19, baker's assistant) at St. David's Catholic Church, Whiterigg by Airdrie. They changed their name to McFaulds and had a large family, all born in the Airdrie area.

Questions still left unanswered:

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