The COX Family - in Angus and Perthshire

5 Jul 1808 at Lochiefield
James Cock 1776-1848
Helen Scott 1787-1824
David, William, Robert, Henry, Thomas, George, Edward
Jean 1806, Helen 1824
18 Aug 1834 in Dundee
Clementina Carmichael 1811-1888
James (1835), William, Charles, Edward, James (1853)
Grace, Ellen, Clementina, Beatrice, Adeline
1 Dec 1885 at Clement Park

At the age of 13, James progressed to his sixth and final school, the Dundee Academy. The rector of the Academy was William Murray who gained notoriety in a liaison with the wife of Alexander Bell, grandfather of the inventor Alexander Graham Bell. The story is told in a biography entitled 'BELL: Alexander Graham Bell and the conquest of solitude' by Robert V Bruce, first published in 1973 and quoted below.

James left the Academy in 1824 and spent the next few months assisting his father who had become very downhearted following the death of his wife and could no longer face the stress of the marketplace. However James was still only 16 years old and not ready to undertake any major responsibility. In any case it was not a good time for a young man to start up in business as trade was very depressed. So to gain experience, he started work under Christpher Kerr in the Town Clerk's Office and remained there for nearly two years.

At around this time, his youngest brother Edward died aged only three. No doubt James was very preoccupied with his own life at the time but nevertheless it's sad that he doesn't mention this in his journal.

St Andrews RC Cathedral, 150 Nethergate, Dundee
Photograph taken c1900 by Alexander Wilson.
The Cathedral was built in 1836 but prior to this
the site was occupied by the Dundee Academy.

Baron Georges Leopold Cuvier (1769-1832)
Author of the Theory of the Earth, published in 1813.
Won by James Cox as a school prize in the early 1820s.

The Town House, Dundee, built 1734, demolished 1932
James worked here for 3 years in the Town Clerk's Office

The High Street, Dundee
The Town House can be seen on the left.

The First Railway Engine in Scotland 1833
Run by the Dundee & Newtyle Railway

SOURCE: The James Cox Journal

Teachers at the Dundee Academy

I began my Academy classes in 1821 and finished in 1824. Mr Wm Murray DD was rector and Mr Gauld teacher of Geography and Arithmetic etc. He had a famous method of teaching proportion. I did not understand how to work the calculations, nor even to date, the question of my scale, before going to the Academy. The first lesson when there, made it very clear to me. Mr Gauld had such a nice way of explaining everything that even a stupid fellow could take it in at once. Mr Murray was not so widely respected by the students as Mr Gauld was, although I got on very well with him and carried off the first prize in his class during the third session (it was Cuvier's Theory of the EarthAn essay first published in 1813 by Georges Cuvier who popularised the idea that fossils tell the story of past life on earth).

One day, during the third session, Mr Murray was invited to dinner at Foggyley to meet Mr Smith, the Parish teacher of Liff who was a great favourite of Father's. They were elders together in the Parish Church and had often meetings. Mr Murray was a DD and Mr Smith said to him 'Why don't you use three D's?'
Mr Murray asked 'What do the three stand for?'
Mr Smith replied 'Drunken, Daft and DoiltedScots word meaning dazed or confused - do ye no ken that?'

Mr Murray was offended and left the table for he was a little given to holding up his little finger and otherwise did not behave as he ought to have done. Sometime after I left the Academy, one morning he disappeared. I do not think it was ever known where he went to but storiesA coy reference to the notorious affair between Mr Murray and Mrs Bell came out and it was better that it was not known.

SOURCE: Biography of Alexander Graham Bell by Robert Bruce

William Murray's Affair with Elizabeth Bell

His wife ElizabethElizabeth Bell, grandmother of the inventor Alexander Graham Bell to be sure, now enjoyed the luxuries of a carriage, servants, and a group portrait of herself and the children in the trappings of affluence. But in 1827, as time hustled her into middle age, she began a liaison with William Murray, rector of Dundee Academy. The lovers grew reckless. 'The whole town of Dundee' said counsel later, 'seems to have been aware of his wife's frailty, before the light flashed on the unfortunate husband.'

The light flashed with the melodramatic quality that so often follows actorsElizabeth's husband Alexander Bell, had at one time been a comic actor from stage to private life. Feeling ill just after Christmas 1829, Bell let his wife take a letter to a firm of Edinburgh publishers to whom he was offering a speech textbook. In Edinburgh the lovers met, took lodgings in a house of tarnished repute, and were seen together. Word came to the husband, and he confronted his homecoming wife in a fury. The panic-stricken woman hurried a letter by the guard of the Edinburgh tallyho coach to the returning Murray so that their stories might match, but the guard missed Murray's coach on the road, the letter fell into Bell's hands, and Bell read it. 'I shall never betray you' it concluded. Mrs Bell, in a state of collapse, asked the servant girl Elizabeth Baird to get her some poison, but the girl refused. So divorce rather than suicide ended the marriage in July 1831, after a legal contest that cost Bell more than eight hundred pounds.

SOURCE: The James Cox Journal

The Slump of the mid-1820s

I went regularly to town in his steadIn place of his father who had become withdrawn following the death of his wife, and was very ably advised by him in the evenings. This continued until I went into Mr Kerr's office, about the middle of the year 1825. There I had to devote my whole time and attention from nine o'clock morning when I left home, to late at night when I returned home.

By the middle of the year there was very little business doing by any one of the manufacturers in town or neighbourhood, so that nearly every work was standing of every kind - foundries, spinning mills and weaving factories, and nearly all for sale. For some years the birr of the spindle and the clink of the shuttle were silent.

When a work was sold, the price obtained for it was ruinous, in many cases not over the twentieth part of the first cost, and the previous proprietor, not being able to retain his works even at that low figure was compelled to emigrate to a new country in search of a livelihood, leaving the standing works idle or to be sold by their master as best they could, many of which were unsold for years to come, so that the town appeared as a mill and every day had the appearance of a Sabbath.

SOURCE: The James Cox Journal

Lochee Weavers in the Slump

Lochee being a weaving village full of first class weavers, for a number of years at this time (1826) was very ill-off for want of work. The very best weavers would plead for a web a fortnight. It was perfectly heartrending and so different was it from what I had been accustomed to in previous years, when I had plenty of work to give to all those who were willing to work.

But alas, the time had come when work could not be got of any kind, by even the very best, and who had many mouths to fill. How painful it was to be compelled to say 'I have not a web to give you and cannot sell what I have at any price.'

SOURCE: The James Cox Journal

The Town Clerk's Office

I was most reluctant to abandon the business and learn any other, knowing that our forefathers had been weavers and bleachers of linens for centuries, and with so many brothers at my back who I knew would assist, I made up my mind to begin in a small way with one man at the wheel. I did not send cloth into the market daily but supplied any orders that might be sent to me, and as I was at this time only 17 years old, I considered I had if spared, plenty of time before me to learn and improve myself as a merchant or otherwise.

Now that I had finished my academical course, Father thought it advisable that I should go into a merchant's office and get a thorough training for business, but no one would have me with me with so many brothers all ready to assist if I thought of beginning in the same line, for fear of us injuring their businesses. Such was the narrow-mindedness of the moralists of my younger days.

I therefore went to our Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Kerr, and told him my story. He looked into my face and said 'Come to me at ten o'clock tomorrow morning and I will prepare a place at one of my desks for you.'

I did so, and continued a portion of three years. This training did me, I think, more good than I could have got in any merchant's office. Everything was open and above board. It was here that I got acquainted with the first railway in Scotland, the Dundee and Newtyle.The first railway in the north of Scotland, chartered with an Act of Parliament that received royal assent in 1826, and opened in 1831. I had the mercantile work of the office to do, unpaid bills to present for payment and if not paid, get them protested, sederuntA prolonged formal meeting books to keep, creditors meetings to attend along with one of the principals who dictated the minutes, and assist in the general business of the office.

Our hours were from 10 morning to 4 afternoon and from 6 to 9 evening. Sometimes we were very late, but if urgent work had to be done we had to continue until finished. I have seen the clerks in the office up to 2 and sometimes 4 morning, though not very often.

Whatever were the hours, however, I never once heard a complaint about them during all that time. I walked from Foggyley to the Town House twice into Dundee and twice out every day.A total of at least 10 miles each day At that period I was never idle. If an hour or two at home, I had always ready for me warping mill or lapping table, or amongst the yarn drying. It was always saving the wages of another and assisting in keeping forward the then small work.

I left Mr Kerr's office on 10 February 1827, and made my first journey to Glasgow on the 11th, where I formed some valuable connections, many of whom continue with my present firm to this day and I may add, we never had a dispute with any one of them about quality or price, all the past fifty-seven years.James must have written this in 1884, aged 76, the year before he died