George Mackay Sutherland and Elizabeth Walker welcomed their first born child, Mary, into the world on 27th September 1829. Mary was born in Ardeer, in the parish of Stevenston, Ayrshire, on the south west coast of Scotland. (1) She was the first of Ann Walker’s nieces and nephews.
Based on a letter from William Priestley, addressed to George Sutherland at Ardeer House, we know they had recently moved in.
“It afforded to myself and to my wife much satisfaction to learn from your kind and Friendly letter, that, you and Elizabeth are comfort-ably settled in your new abode, and that, you both enjoy the greatest of all earthly blessings, – good health. – We have often anticipated with more than ordinary pleasure, a visit to Scotland, as, I am quite aware from the little I have seen of some of the Southern Counties that there are beauties most highly interesting to those who are fond of contemplating mountain – scenery.”West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale CN:107/1 21 July 1829 WP to GMS – Transcription by Caroline Maillard, Martin Walker & Deb Woolson
The house was demolished in 1968.
Mary in Ann Walker’s letters
In November 1832, Ann wrote to Elizabeth on hearing Mary is leaving her parents for the first time.
Ann referred to her as “little Mary.”
“how I feel for my little darling Mary on first leaving home, I am sure she will be as happy as possible with Mrs. and Miss Sutherlands but still, when she first discovers that Papa and Mama, are not to be seen when asked for, I think her little heart will not be quite pacified, I often wish that I had her here, and it really will be a comfort to me when you can let her come to stay with me for a long time, you know it will only be the same as parting with her to go to school, and I will take care she does not lose in education. […] When you receive this you will only have two little pets to kiss for me but when you write to Inverness you must tell Mary that Aunty sends her 20 pretty kisses and best love.”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – CN:103/4/18 – November 1832 – Transcription by Leila Straub
In August 1834, while on honeymoon in France, Ann’s thoughts were with Mary:
“bought little white frock for Mary, at Laferriere Frère, Rue Neuve Vivienne”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – WYC:1525/7/1/5/1/31 – 23 August 1834 – Transcription by Diane Halford, Ivana Nika, Alexa Tansley, Leila Straub, and Dorjana Širola on behalf of In Search Of Ann Walker
We also have an insight that Mary played the role of an older sibling. Her younger brother Sackville (known as Sack), was two years her junior. Ann wrote to Elizabeth in September 1834:
“I am quite amused at Mary’s communicativeness, as well as at Sack’s patience and politeness waiting till she had said her say before he began his”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – CN:103/4/27 – 1 September 1834 – Transcription by Leila Straub
Two weeks later, Ann wrote again to Elizabeth wishing Mary a happy birthday:
“…Pray tell dear little Mary with my kindest love and a great many kisses that I shall think of her on her birthday and wish her many many happy returns. I can fancy how busy she will be making tea in her little teacups, and saucers – and how busy she will be inviting you and Papa, Hannah, Sack and Baby to have some of her “good tea.”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – CN:103/4/28 – 13 September 1834 – Transcription by Leila Straub
Ann was keen that Mary should have a good education. On 2nd Feb. 1835 she wrote:
“Tell dear little Mary I am delighted to hear she can read so nicely – and I hope she will soon accomplish words of two syllables as easy as one.”
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – CN:103/4/35 – 2 February 1835 – Transcription by Leila Straub
In July of the same year Ann was thrilled to learn how well Mary was advancing in her studies.
“Pray tell Mary, I am quite astonished to hear of her progress in Geography. I shall be very glad to receive the locks of hair when I have the pleasure of seeing you.”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – CN:103/4/53 – 4 July 1835 – Transcription by Leila Straub
Visit to Shibden Hall
Mary’s bond with Anne Lister
In the summer of 1837, Little Mary travelled to Yorkshire for a holiday. She was accompanied by the Sutherland’s devoted servant Hannah Heap. Mary was almost 8 years old, and stayed with Ann and Anne at Shibden Hall for 7 weeks. Here is an amusing entry in Anne’s diary that describes possibly a competitive scene (at least from Anne’s point of view).
“then sleepy – and locked myself up in my room and slept half an hour in my chair and then got out of the drawing room window to avoid little [Mary] she caught me however but I think I was in the garden first”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0072 – 5 June 1837 – Transcription by Leila Straub
Anne’s view on Mary’s character varied. On 6th June:
“Romp with little Mary who will soon I think like my society as well as A-’s”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0072 – 6 June 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
However, on 17th June:
“Mr. Jubb came at 2 ¼ to take out a front loose tooth for little Mary – he was here on Thursday for the same purpose but she would not let him draw it – today the same and he went away after a great piece of work and being here about ½ hour or more thinking, of course, the child sadly spoilt.”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0077 – 17 June 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
And this sweet scene on 9th June:
“A- came upstairs at 9 ½ with Little Mary and did not return – on coming upstairs at 10 ¼ found her asleep on the bed (dressed) lying down by Mary also asleep”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0079- 19 June 1834 Transcription by Francesca Raia
Overall, we do have evidence Anne was fond of Mary and keen that she should learn. They spent time studying Latin (2) and playing chess together (3). Anne also bought Mary books at Whitley’s in Halifax, including Pinnocks Goldsmiths’ Greece and Rome. (4)
Other fun at Shibden
On 27th June, Ann took Mary into Halifax to see the procession and hear the proclamation of Queen Victoria. (5)
On 30th June, Anne records a charming scene:
“A- and I and Little Mary and Mr. Gray went to the meer at 8 ½ for above an hour Mr. G- towed little Mary the whole length of the water on a raft formed of the 2 large timbers that had formed the run.”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0083 – 30 June 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
Ann bought Mary a book entitled “Evenings At Home”. (6) This collection of stories was considered an early example of children’s literature. It became a popular staple through the Victorian era. (7)
Tragically, Mary died from consumption in 1845. The term consumption was used historically in reference to tuberculosis. Read more about this dreaded disease here.
Mary was buried in St. Matthew’s Churchyard on June 20, 1845 at the age of 15. An interesting side note shows that the parish registry for Mary’s burial was not signed by William Gurney, the Lightcliffe curate but by Rev. James Gratrix, vicar of St James Church, Halifax. Shibden Hall wasn’t in the Lightcliffe curacy so it was unusual for a vicar in Halifax to officiate. It is through Rev. Gratrix’s letter of 19th February 1841 to Robert Parker about buying a plot of ground for the St James Church parsonage that we know Ann Walker had already arrived back in Halifax after Anne Lister’s death. Read more here.
A brass memorial plaque is attached to the wall inside the tower of the old St. Matthews Church in Lightcliffe, where Mary is buried. This was requisitioned by Mary’s brother Evan Charles, who survived into adulthood. The plaque was dedicated to his aunt, Ann Walker, as well as Mary and his other siblings who died in childhood – George (Sackville) and John. Learn more about this memorial here.
Mary had not yet reached her 16th birthday. She died in Shibden Hall, where 8 years earlier she had been full of energy playing with her aunts. Taken away on the cusp of adulthood, we can only imagine how her life might have played out. Would she have been courageous like Ann or a voracious reader like Anne? All we know is there were wonderful shards of light in her short life.
- Old Parish Registers Births 615 / 30 46 Stevenston – National Records of Scotland
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0072– 7 June 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0096 – 20 July 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0079 – 19June 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0082 – 27 June 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – SH:7/ML/E/20/0093 – 15th July 1837 – Transcription by Francesca Raia
Ian Philp – historical reference
Barbara Jessop for use of the image of Shibden Hall windows
Diane Halford – Archival Research
Deb Woolson – Editing
Leila Staub, Francesca Raia – (Anne Lister Italia), Caroline Maillard, & Martin Walker – Transcriptions
In Search of Ann Walker’s research into Ann’s life is ongoing, therefore new discoveries may change the way we chronicle her life in the future.
How to cite this article:
Catriona Findlay (2023) “Mary Sutherland”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]