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Barbara and her mother


Barbara was born in West Dunnet, known as the "West Side," and was undoubtedly named for her grandmothers Barbara Brotchie and Catherine Clark. She and her family moved to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands when she was about 2. They lived first at the Kirwall Hotel when it was on Bridge Street. This had been a large house with an ornamental garden behind it. Her Father was a "boots" there, performing various butler-like services. The hotel was run by her uncle William Dunnet. After Barbara's father died, her mother was given the supervision of Seatter farm on the outskirts of Kirwall, which Dunnet rented to provision the hotel. The Sinclairs lived here for a while, during which time Barbara's brother drowned in a pond on the property. By the time the 1891 UK census was taken they were living on Mill Street in Kirkwall, Jacobina was a housekeeper, probably at the hotel, and Barbara a "scholar" at 14. At this point there's some speculation to be made about her life.
     Barbara had her son Alfred in 1896 at Newhall Cottage, on the outskirts of Kirkwall on the way toward Seatter Farm. There's no record of who his father was, but his birth certficate shows she wasn't married. It says she was a baker's assistant. The 1901 census puts them on Ulaf Place, her mother living on "independent means" and Barbara was dressmaker. We then jump to 1903, when she married William Garden, the son of of one of the most prominent businessmen in the Orkney Islands. Daughter Jacobina was born about five months later in a remote part of County Sutherland on the Scotland mainland.
     JohBarbara had seven more children with William. Two months after giving birth to the last, she died of "acute peritonitis." Her death certificate says she only had it for four days, so it apparently wasn't from complications from the birth. She died at Quoys in the Evie and Rendell district - a location well beyond Kirkwall and has no known family connection. The family's home was at 17 East Road in Kirkwall.



The farmhouse at Quoys, once a substantial home, but since converted to a barn, adding an extra melancholy touch to the story of Barbara's life and death.



The Garden family house at 17 East Road, Kirkwall. I visited Orkney in 2018.


child of Barbara Catherine Sinclair:

Alfred Edward b. 26 October 1896

children of Barbara Catherine Sinclair and William John Garden:

Jacobina b. 10 May 1904
Margaret b. abt 1906
Rhoda b. 26 September 1907
Robert b. 21 July 1909
Dorothy b. 14 November 1910
William John b. 26 April 1912
Barbara Dunnet b. 6 May 1913
James Dunnet b. 19 June 1915




all text and photographs © 1998-2021 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted