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John Fea: The Lock Keeper

John Fea of Falkirk was born between 1767 and 1791. The 1841 and 1851 Scottish census documents give Crosskirk on the Island of Sanday, Orkney, as his birthplace. His parents, given on his death certificate, were John Fea, Seaman Royal Navy and ______ Sutherland. The lack of a precise date of birth is one of several factors that have hindered tracing John the lock keeper's lineage further back into his Orkney roots.

According to his obituary in the Falkirk Herald, he was a great-grandson of John Fea VII of Clestrain in Orkney. Unfortunately, the obituary cannot be relied upon in its entirety for accuracy and it has not been possible to verify the connection.

Parish records state that he was “irregularly married” to Elizabeth (Betty) Brown on 25th August, 1802 in Falkirk, Stirlingshire. They had five children:

  • Elizabeth Fea c. 13th March 1804, Falkirk
  • Alexander Fea b. 16th November 1811, Greenock, Renfrewshire

No details of birth or death have been located in respect of Elizabeth Brown.

The obituary notes that he was 'pressed' back into naval service at a later date. He was certainly on the ship Indefatigable for a number of years and at an incident in 1804 when she was involved in the taking of three Spanish frigates, laden with gold and silver. After the seafaring life, he was employed by the Forth and Clyde Canal Co. for 48 years.

John remarried in 1821. His second wife was Catherine Thomson. He and Catherine are understood to have had eight children.


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