The Last William Orr of Kaim

Reproduced with permission David Williams, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

By family tradition there were fourteen William Orrs of Kaim. In historical records these Williams are most often referred to as a “Portioner of Kaim”. A portioner was originally someone who had rented a portion of a property from a landlord. The tenancy often became hereditary and 'portioner' a term for a modest farmer. An interesting site for Orr genealogy is Brian Orr’s definitive web site which includes a piece entitled “10 Bonnet Lairds” looking at the Kaim Orrs. Brian quotes two sources but the information is unfortunately a bit dated. The earliest of the 10 William Orrs on record was born in 1570 however some contend that there were actually 13 in total. This article is however in error with regard to the demise of the last William (pictured right).

The last William was born at the Kaim in 1866 and resided there until his death in 1915. He was involved in business ventures other than farming. He was a partner in ABOTT Engineering of Paisley, an early automobile parts manufacturer along with his cousin, James Heburn. He was also an agent for Bullock Bros., a large importing firm that dealt extensively in rice from the Far East, particularly Burma. This explains why he was on his way to India when he lost his life.

The KaimThe P&O liner SS PERSIA left London on 18th December 1915, and was about 70 miles off the coast of Crete at 1:10 pm on the 30th of that month when it was torpedoed without warning by U-38. The target was struck on the port bow and 5 minutes later the boiler blew up and the ship was lost. Of 501 persons aboard there were only 167 survivors, most of whom were picked up by a trawler around 30 hours after the attack.

The PERSIA was carrying a variety of known personages, including Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and purportedly a large shipment of jewels belonging to Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. The jewels and Scottish salvagers, Alexandra and Moya Crawford, have been the subject of a recent programme on UKTV History Channel entitled “The Lost Liner and the Empire's Gold”.

William drowned in the sinking but his nephew and traveling companion, James B. Dickie, survived. James was son of the James Dickie who was a partner in the Bullock Bros. company. James managed to get into one of the lifeboats and after several days of trouble was landed at Alexandria . He never recovered thoroughly from this ordeal and died in Burma some months later. As William was the last of that Orr line, ownership of the Kaim fell to the Dickie family.




In Loving Memory of
Christina Sophia McBride

Widow of
W Orr of the Kaim

Who died 4 Jul 1915 Age 78 Years
and of their son

William Orr Orr
Who died when the SS Persia
Was torpedoed in the mediterranean sea

30 December 1915 aged 49 years  

I am the resurrection and the life


The following is reproduced with permission Brian Orr, Merseyside, England

The Orr families have been around Lochwinnoch for over 700 years and were tenants of the Abbot of Paisley in the 14th century . They were primarily farmers but over time became involved with acquiring and sub-letting land. As "bonnet lairds" – small land owners who worked their land with the help of servants, there is an instance of 10 successive William Orr's farming in the locality. No wonder it is difficult to track any individual down when so many are named the same and all related to one another. The 19th century Fowlers Directory (1831/1832) of Lochwinnoch, Newton of Beltrees, How Wood, and neighbourhood listed some 22 families in the immediate area

  • Orr, Alexander, surgeon Harvey Square
  • Orr , James, Auctioneer, Clader Street
  • Orr, James, bookseller and stationer, High Street
  • Orr, James, flesher, and vintner, High street
  • Orr, James, of Langyard, farmer
  • Orr, James, farmer East Johnshill
  • Orr, James, of Newton of Beltrees, farmer
  • Orr, John, farmer, East Barnaich
  • Orr, Mrs. of Fairhills
  • Orr, Mrs. Thos. stationer, hardware, and toyshop, Cross
  • Orr, Robert, farmer, Westhills Orr, Robert of Auchinhane, farmer
  • Orr, Robert, of Cruiks, farmer
  • Orr, Thomas, grocer,and tea -merchant, High street
  • Orr, Thomas, of Risk, farmer
  • Orr, Thomas, (Orrian Academy,) behind the Cross well
  • Orr, William, carding master, Calderpark mill
  • Orr, William, farmer and grazier, Auchinhane
  • Orr, William, merchant, High street
  • Orr, William, of East Johnshill, cattle dealer
  • Orr, William, of Kaim and Greenbrae,farmer
  • Orr, William, of Linthills, farmer

There was also involvement of many Orrs in the community apart from their trade shown above;

  • A William Orr was precentor at the Parish church
  • Alexander Orr was president of the Sabbath Schools Committee
  • Thomas Orr was treasurer of the Sabbath Schools Committee
  • Thomas Orr was a teacher at the Orrian Academy, with 70 pupils
  • Hugh Orr was a clerk in the Lochwinnoch Friendly Society, High St (1812)
  • Alexander Orr was treasurer of the Lochwinnoch Library, Chaple St (1823)
  • A Mrs Orr was secretary of the Lochwinnoch Benevolent Society (1826)
  • James Orr of Cross was secretary of the Lochwinnoch Farmers Society (1827)
  • Alexander Orr was vice president of the Home Mission (1831)

The following extract from Elizabeth Anderson's "History of Lochwinnoch Parish" adds further to our knowledge of the Lochwinnoch Orrs:

"What about Orr? The Orrs were everywhere, but Andrew Crawford (who wrote The Cairn of Lochwinnoch) complained bitterly, in 1853, that that ancient family had not taken sufficient care of title deeds and other documents. Orr of the Langyard had lost all documents prior to 1703; the Kaim lost theirs in a fire of 1711; Jaffraystock, then called Jamphraysrock, sent theirs to Edinburgh when they sold out to Macdowall, and had not had them returned, when Andrew Crawford was frantically recording Lochwinnoch history before it was lost. He did, however, unearth a great deal of Orr history. One important wedding was that of Robert Orr at Markethill, (a Midhouse Orr), to Janet Orr, daughter of William Orr of Lorabank and Auchinane. Documentation of that wedding is in the possession of Janet Orr Ferguson, a direct descendant. Lorabank was part of the Estate of Langyards, which was in the possession of Orrs for several generations.

Many Orrs emigrated to America. One, John Orr, born in 1724, settled in Richmond, Virginia. His son was the captain of a ship which was caught by the British in the Revolutionary War, and eventually he landed at Largs with no money. He refused help from his Lochwinnoch relatives when they gave advice about the spending of the money. He got home without their help. His brother, William, born 1731, was a surgeon in the American service. Both were loyal to the new country.

Hugh Orr, born in Lochwinnoch in 1717, and reared to be a gunsmith and door-lock filer, went to America in 1737, and settled in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, where he set up the first tilt-hammer in that area, and for several years he was the only edge-tool maker. He was the cause of the spread of tool manufactures in many of the States. He manufactured 500 muskets in 1748, and in the war he was well established as an iron founder and arms merchant. He also exported flax seed, and was for many years a senator for the county of Plymouth in U.S.A.. He died in 1798, in his 82nd year."

Another comment on the prolific Orrs is contained in A History of Lochwinnoch prepared by the Scottish Women's Rural Institute ca 1960.

"Without a doubt, the most common Lochwinnoch name was 'Orr'. Search through the Register of Marriages, and you will find the name 'Orr' again and again. Mr. William Glen has in his possession his family tree, back to 1802, and there the name keeps recurring. Andrew Crawfurd, in his notes on Alexander Wilson, mentions this fact: "Lochwinnoch was the headquarters of the Orrs for above 500 years." To distinguish the different Orr's, secondary names or even nick-names were resorted to. Wilson's pirn winder was Pirn Peggy (Orr), to distinguish her from Lochside Peggy, Gentle Peggy and Gospel Peggy.

A more recent Orr, related to William Glen, was Robert Orr of Cruicks Farm. He and his cronies William Stevenson of Gateside and Robert Speir of Balgreen, delivered milk to Lochside Station, but instead of going on Sunday, they delivered twice on Saturday. Every Saturday night they raced home with their ponies and traps, very often risking disaster as their wheels came perilously close. Mr Speir of Balgreen was extremely reckless. Another caper was to leave the pub after the milk delivery, go like the wind up Calder Street, along Braehead, and down the Craw Road – all with a pony and trap. It makes one's hair rise to think of it. In Johnshill can be found a relic of the days of horses. No 5 Johnshill, the house with the crowstepped gables, has a tethering ring in the wall."

For all the hard work on the land it seems they also enjoyed themselves, although I expect the kirk may have had some views about the occasional exuberant behaviour.


Elizabeth Anderson's, "History of Lochwinnoch Parish"
"A History of Lochwinnoch", prepared by the Scottish Women's Rural Institute ca. 1960