Who was Kirkcaldy’s Civil War hero?

John Messner, Curator, Riverside Museum, Glasgow
John Messner, Curator, Riverside Museum, Glasgow

Organisers of a new exhibition in Glasgow are looking for information on a Kirkcaldy man who played his part during the American Civil War.

The display entitled ‘Blockade Runners’ at Riverside Museum focuses on Glasgow’s role in the war which ran from 1861-1865 and explores the vital part Clyde-built ships played in running the naval blockade of the Confederacy from the South.

Joannes Wyllie

Joannes Wyllie

One of those ships, the Advance, which was built in Glasgow in 1862, set sail to join the blockade in 1863 and was captained by a man called Joannes Wylie who came from the Kirkcaldy area and the museum is keen to speak to anyone who may know more about him.

Joannes Wylie, also known as John, was a mariner before and after the war, then returned to Fife to take up residency at Mitchelston Farm in Sinclairtown, where his father, known as a keen local gardener, had a tenancy.

As a young man he had taught at both Coaltown of Balgonie and Strathmiglo schools and was active in local farming groups and shows such as the Dunnikier and Windygates Agricultural Societies.

He was also a member at Lodge St Clair of Dysart No 520 and a board member of the Landward School Board in Dysart.

He had a long life after the war and was a very well respected speaker

John Messner, Curator of the ‘Blockade Runners’ exhibition at Riverside Museum

Exhibition curator John Messner said: “He is an interesting name. He crops up a lot in the academic world, but we know very little about him.

“The painting we have of the Advance belonged to Joannes and was gifted to us by his nephew George Porteous Scott. It was painted by Samuel Walter who is a very well known maritime artist.”

The museum would like any further information on Joannes such as photographs of him or any of the groups he was a part of, or photographs of Mitchelston Farm from any time until its destruction.

The museum is also keen to track down any family members – Joannes had no children but had five siblings; Margaret, James, Helen, Isabella and William who may have had children.

They would also like to find his gold chronometer watch which was given to him as a token of his effort as a blockade runner. The watch bore an engraved picture of the ship on one side and the arms of North Carolina on the other.

John said there may be some items available from talks Joannes gave after he returned from the war.

“He had a long life after the war and was a very well respected speaker, so there may be photos or handbills from talks he gave out there.

“Anything we can find out would be really helpful.”

If you have any information regarding Joannes Wylie contact John at john.messner@glasgowlife.org.uk or 0141 287 2666 or at Riverside Museum, 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, G3 8RS.