Caroline Phillips 1874-1956

by Alison Taylor McCall

Her parents were married at Townend of Kintore on 28 May 1869 (established church). James A Phillips was 28, a bachelor, schoolmaster, son of William Phillips, a captain in the merchant service and Isabella Phillips MS Leaper.

Jane Watt was 26, spinster, daughter of John Watt, a farmer and Agnes Watt MS Mackie. They were married by John Watt, Minister of Whitburn, (relatives of the bride) and the witnesses to the marriage where Agnes Ross and George S Forrest.

It is interesting that they have female witnesses, because, although wasn't unknown it was unusual. There were 11 couples married in Kintore in 1869, and the other 10 all had two male witnesses. I've wondered the four how much significance to put on female witnesses, and have come to the conclusion that, at the very least, it suggests an absence of negative attitudes to women.

Jane Watt was part of the family who were possibly related to Watt of steam engine fame.

Caroline Agnes Isabella Phillips was born 13 December 1870 at the Free Church School house in Kintore. Parents James Alexander Phillips, schoolmaster and Jean Phillips MS Watt.

Caroline's younger brother, James William Phillips, was born at Kintore 18 September 1872.

Her father, James Phillips, was the Free Church schoolmaster. Her mother Jane was a member of the Watt family and also taught in Kintore's Free Church School as a sewing teacher. The family moved to Aberdeen when Caroline was small.

James Phillips was appointed head of the boys Department of St Paul Street School in 1874, on a salary of £50 and annum, plus half the income from the boy's fees. (School board minutes seventh of January 1874). This resulted in an actual salary of £80 per annum.

However Isabella Chalmers head of the girls apartment and four years his junior, had an actual salary of £100 per annum. I think because the girls apartment included mixed sex infants, so she had more pupils under her. (School board minutes 7 April 1874, 14 May 1874, 13th of August 1874, 12 November 1874).

In addition to their salary, teachers in promoted posts also got an annual “payment by results” bonus. In August 1825 Isabella Chalmers got a whopping £145 (£25 quarterly salary plus £120 bonus!), while Claude James Phillips got £79 (£20 plus £59 bonus) (school board 12 August 1875). This made Isabella Chalmers one of the highest-paid teachers in Aberdeen.

Unfortunately for James Phillips, he was in major financial difficulties, partly through having become responsible for debts owed by his late brother. He was frequently absent from work with headaches. On 31st of August 1875 he went AWOL – his wife came back to the school looking for him. On 3rd September he wrote from Edinburgh resigning. On 7th September, back in Aberdeen, he withdrew his resignation, requesting leave of absence instead. His doctor recommended six weeks rest to restore his health. (School board 9 September 1875).

The school board resolved to let him continue in his job, noting that his friends including a Rev A Watt, Whitburn, had “taken steps to relieve him from further anxiety in regard to pecuniary matters”. (School board 14 October 1875.)

However it would appear that parents were not happy with the standard of teaching and the boys apartment. (School board 8 June 1826). “It was resolved to recommend that future admissions of scholars to the boy's Department of St Paul Street School be restricted to boys over the age of seven years of age, and that future admissions of such boys to the girl's department of the same school be prohibited.”

Presumably, parents must have had strong feelings for the tritone role of sons and a class of girls!

The school board found a solution, James Phillips was promoted to head of Northfield School, Rosemount, queer, with a fresh start and presumably a higher salary he throve, becoming a well-respected head.

In 1881 census James Phillips was living with his wife, Jane, and their two children Caroline 10 and James 8.

James Phillips died on 1 August 1899. According to his obituary (Aberdeen Journal) “he is survived by a widow and a son and daughter, the son, Mr JW Phillips, being engaged in journalistic work in Aberdeen.”

No mention of Caroline's occupation, but perhaps she hadn't become a journalist by 1899?

1901 Census:

9 Strawberry Bank, Aberdeen, ref 168-2 21 19
Jane Phillips, Head Widow 58 born Kintore
Caroline A I Phillips Daughter Single 30 born Kintore
James W Phillips Son Single 28 Daily Paper Reporter Employed born Kintore

So Caroline didn't give an occupation in 19 one. Generally woman's occupations tend to be underreported in the census, but I can't think why Caroline wouldn't have given an occupation if she in fact had one. So possibly she became a journalist after 1901.

Caroline became a journalist of the Aberdeen Daily Journal and became interested in women's rights. She joined the WSPU and was honorary secretary of the Aberdeen branch from 1907 to 1909. Her correspondence (including correspondence with the Pankhursts) is archived in Aberdeen Art Gallery, in the Watt collection.

Caroline Phillips is buried in the Watt family plot in Kintore kirkyard.

It says “Caroline Agnes Isabella Phillips, journalist, died 13 January 1956, aged 85”, On the side of the stone, difficult to see.

It is next to her grandparents, a very clear stone, in fact if I hadn't found a clear stone in first, I would never bothered trying to decipher Caroline's adjacent stone.

Her grandparents' reads:

“In memory of John Watt, farmer, Townend, Kintore died 22nd of September 1866, aged 61 and of his wife Agnes Mackie, died 15 December 1895 aged 81. Also of their sons Joseph Watt, MD Turriff guide 17 July 1897, aged 44. Baillie James Watt, Banchory died 10th of March 1902 aged 64 years. John, infant son of Thomas Watt, merchant, Kintore, died 18th of March 1906, aged 10 months. Also all of George Skene Duff Watt, died 30th of May 1931, aged 83. Thomas Watt, merchant, Kintore tied fourth of March 1933 aged 79 And his wife Mary Robbie died 27th of June 1946 aged 79 And their son major Norman Watt MBE died suddenly ninth of June 1961, aged 63 and.Mary A Watt RN died 16 July 1979, aged 75 years. Also their daughter Josephine at what died 15th of June 1992, aged 92 years. Also Norman's wife Rosina E Walster died 28 January 1997, aged 89.

(See A Guid Cause Leah Leneman Aberdeen University Press 1991 and The Conciliatory Suffragette Dr Sarah Pederson, History Scotland magazine Vol 5. No 2, Mar/Apr 2005)
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