A Fife hotel reveals family’s historic past

Carolyn and Ken Stewart could hardly believe the ship's original stained glass ceiling had survived. (Pic FPA).
Carolyn and Ken Stewart could hardly believe the ship's original stained glass ceiling had survived. (Pic FPA).
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A chance discovery while on holiday has provided an Australian couple with an emotional encounter with their ancestors who emigrated over 100 years ago.

Traveling around the UK as part of a year-long holiday to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Carolyn and Ken Stewart stumbled on an amazing discovery which links them to a Fife hotel and the grandfather who made the life-changing trip out to Oz over a century ago.

Australian tourists Carolyn and Ken made the trip to the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour. (Pic FPA).

Australian tourists Carolyn and Ken made the trip to the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour. (Pic FPA).

While searching the records held by Lloyds shipping register for information regarding the Orontes, the ship which took Carolyn’s grandfather, John Robertson, out to Australia, the couple were astounded to learn that the historic stained glass ceiling from the ship’s smoking room still existed.

So, just weeks later the pair made the pilgrimage to Aberdour and the Woodside Hotel, where the decorative stained glass ceiling has been situated since it was salvaged from an Inverkeithing ship breakers yard when the vessel was scrapped in 1926.

“It’s truly incredible to be able to sit under the very same glass detailing that my grandfather must have looked at as he travelled under on his way to a new life,” Carolyn told the Press.

“It was a hugely emotional moment as I’d been researching the family history for the last decade yet knew nothing of this until just four weeks ago.

Carolyn and Ken with Woodside Hotel owner John McTaggart. (Pic FPA).

Carolyn and Ken with Woodside Hotel owner John McTaggart. (Pic FPA).

“Because we were in the UK we just had to come and immediately made plans to travel up.”

The son of James Robertson, a member of the 74th Highlanders, Carolyn’s grandfather was born in Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow, and in later life became a merchant seaman, an occupation that ultimately brought him to Australia.

“Having had enough of sea life, he jumped ship at Port Philip, now Melbourne, in 1906, thus starting the Australian chapter of our family history.”

Sadly, the couple lost their son Grant 17 years ago, so the poignancy of the their pilgrimage to the hotel was was brought to a climax when the couple planned to dine under the stained glass ceiling on what would have been their son’s 50th birthday.

But even that very special occasion nearly didn’t come about, until new Woodside Hotel owner John McTaggart stepped in to help.

“Learning of their amazing story but not having the restaurant open due to refurbishment work, we contacted Room With A View restaurant to step in and create something special for the couple,” John explained.

“We can’t thank John enough, it was a magical for us to have that direct connection to my family’s past in what was a very emotional occasion,” Carolyn added.