Isabella Graham MacDowall

She may have moved in a circle which dreamed of a world in which people were free to pursue grand plans, make fortunes and build new societies; but, like her friend Helen Duff in the same Whig circle, what mattered to Isabella were the strong ties of family and friendship, and the strong, almost spiritual meaning with which that love could infuse objects, places or events. It seems contradictory to the ideology of their husbands, but they were both lessons which could be learned from the preaching of Bishop Sandford.

26 October 1792 - 27 August 1864
Garthland, Renfrewshire
William MacDowall, 2nd of Castle Semple (see Elizabeth MacDowall for his story)
Elizabeth Graham 'Black Bess' (d.1803) daughter of James Graham
35 Charlotte Square
Religious views
Her will gives a flavour of her spirituality as an old woman:
If spirits are allowed to visit those they have loved and left mine will be often with you my dear dear children... I have suffered much, but I have always felt I have had much to be thankful for... And now may God bless guide and keep you all, your attached mother.
She writes her will addressed to 'My beloved children', and disposes of items of sentimental value:
'The bust of my beloved Maitland is Stuart's, also the china table, the Aberdeen stand, the blue Christening jug and bowl. The old Castle-simple [sic] picture of the old man or swoman, Vandyke, Rousseau, and the plate with a very few exceptions. A plated dish I give to George. I bought it myself. The small silver tea pot I give to Graham. The short silver candlesticks I would wish to be given to my dear James boy, that if spared he may know he had a grandfather who gave them to his grandmother the day he was made a judge. There is a small sauce pan given me on my birth day by Fullarton, I wish given to E.F. Maitland [her brother-in-law, at whose house her husband died], he will keep it for the sake of one to whom he has shown more than the usual kindness of a brother... The money I may have, my triffles ['sic' in margin of original] and all my odds and ends are my darling Helen's.' (5)
Chapel connection
1815 (marriage)
Married on
8 July 1815
Thomas Maitland
George Graham (1817, died at 14 days), Adam (1827-1854, Captain in the 79th Highlanders), James William (d.1860 at Staten Island, New York), Margaret (1818-1821), Eliza (1822-1846), Helen (m. Robert Sandilands), Stuart Cairns (merchant in New York), George Ferguson, Graham (a girl, m.1837 Alfred Tritton Fawkes). (3,4)
Related to
Elizabeth MacDowall, sister
In her will she mentions two people who are not relations, 'my dear friends Mrs Tod and Mrs Welwood'. Mrs Tod was probably John Tod's wife Helen Duff, who in this period lived at 46 Charlotte Square. Their husbands were political allies. Helen was three years older, and had married 7 years earlier, but outlived Isabella by a few years. Although they moved out of the Square, Helen to 14 Ainslie Place and Isabella to 122 George Street, they remained still close neighbours in the West End.


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Monumental Inscriptions at Dundrennan Abbey, Inscription 109, in, accessed 9 August 2011
  4. Thomas Maitland's Will, National Archives of Scotland
  5. Isabella MacDowall's Will

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