Make your own free website on

How I first came to research the Bowie Story

History of the Original Research

The sequence of events that led to the writing of this 'Web-book' started in July 1979 when my wife Helen and our six children moved in to No.7 Allan Park, Stirling, Scotland. During the purchase of the house we found out that it was a 'B' listed building, that it was a 'Georgian' house and that, having nine rooms spread over four floors, it gave enough accommodation for our large family. Having sold the house some twelve years ago we never would have guessed that, some seventeen years after our original purchase I would still be interested in both the building and its builder.

Recognising both its age and its architectural style I thought that it might be interesting to ask the lawyer for some photocopies of the title deeds. This he duly did and on the first title for the sale of the property we read of the builder Alexander Bowie and found that, on completion in 1820, that he sold it to Robert Banks of Craighead the then Town Clerk for Stirling. As Craighead is situated on the road to Aberfoyle some 15 miles from Stirling we assumed that he wanted it for a town house to use when Court business kept him in Stirling.

This then was my first introduction to Alexander Bowie the man whose family history was to occupy me in a research project that has occupied me for seventeen years. The family research spans from 1779 to the present time, spreads over three continents and was finally completed using one of the most modern mass communication ideas--- the Internet.


The title deeds led me to research Alexander Bowie, Robert Banks and all the other people who, over the years, lived in the house. Later I turned my attention to the other houses in Allan Park and subsequently identified the feus from the old 1810 feuing plan together with the identity of the first fuars.

At this point the Chairman of the Kings Park Community Council approached me to ask if I would be willing to collaborate with two other researchers Peter Aitken and Bob McCutcheon to research and write a history of the Kings Park area of the town. Where Allan Park is Georgian in style Kings Park is the the major Victorian housing development of the burgh.

Over the next ten months we delved into a huge amount of archived material in Stirling and Edinburgh and made, I like to think, a formidable and effective research team. Certainly in the time that we worked together our very different skills seemed to successfully complement each other. By May 1984, in less than a year, 'Kings Park' was researched, written and printed under the heading of 'Notes for a new History of Stirling'. In that month I gave a lecture about the research in the lesser Albert Hall. Serendipity struck, as it does for researchers and we met Miss Ailie McLaurin whose story about her father led to Bob, Peter and myself writing the second in the 'Notes' series "The Homesteads, Stirlings Garden City Development" This was published in October 1984 only five months after our first being aware of the Art Nouveau style housing development. It was one of these projects that, once we were started, virtually wrote itself. A experience that I was frequently to ponder when the later stages of the Bowie story were almost daily coming to me via the internet from the other side of the world. NOTE A RESUME OF 'KINGS PARK' AND 'THE HOMESTEADS' WILL APPEAR IN FUTURE POSTINGS ON THIS WEB SITE

Sadly the stresses and strains of the research, writing and printing split the partnership and, although the three of us still remain friends no more books have been written in the series. One collaborative paper, however, that we wrote before the end of our partnership was entitled 'Alexander Bowie, Stirlings Forgotten Builder'. It pulled together and added to all the research that I had done on Allan Park prior to meeting Bob and Peter. Nothing was ever done with that paper except to submit it to 'The Scots Magazine'. This was turned down by the DC Thomson organisation because it was deemed to be 'too detailed and specific and would not appeal to their wide readership'.


Twelve years ago, when that original draft of the story about Alexander Bowie and his family was written, it concluded by picking up an announcement from the local paper of 1863 by saying that Helen, Alexander Bowie's daughter and David Philp her husband were emigrating to Shortland in New Zealand. As we had never been able to find out exactly where Alexander Bowie had come from before he appeared in Stirling and we had no idea how the Philps fared because the New Zealand Embassy in London reported that there was no Shortland in New Zealand a situation confirmed by consulting maps and gazeteers. The 1984 Bowie article concluded by saying. "Indeed much of the beginning and the end of the Bowie/Philp story may remain shrouded in mystery."

Over the years the 1984 article moved house with us three times and was frequently reread. The desire to complete that Bowie/Philp story never diminished and the idea of one day completing it remained at the back of my mind. I read books on the history of New Zealand, looked at gazeteers and avidly poured over maps looking for any reference to Shortland. Plausible suggestion was made that there had been a newspaper misprint of the original announcement and that the Philps had, in fact, gone to 'Southland' the name for the Otago area in the South Island, to which there was strong Scottish emigration.


Many years later two events renewed my interest in tracking down Shortland and the Philps. Firstly a friend, who had spent some time in New Zealand, confirmed that there was a Shortland Street in Auckland and secondly, while watching the video of 'The Piano' ( set in Victorian New Zealand), the word Shortland flashed on to the screen. Thinking that it might refer to where the film had been shot I re-wound the tape only to find that it was a credit for Waihoroi Shortland the adviser in Maori culture and language. These incidents, however, kept alive the idea of finding the fate of the Bowie/Philp family and confirmed for me that the word Shortland did have meaning in New Zealand.

Subsequently I was to find that the whole premise of my research was at fault and that they were not heading for Shortland at all but Shortland Street, Auckland. Shortland as a township was not in existence until 1867.

This then was my first introduction to Alexander Bowie the man whose family history was to occupy me in a research project that has occupied me for seventeen years. The family research spans from 1779 to the present time, spreads over three continents and was only finally completed by the use of the most modern of mass communication ideas--- the Internet.

The details of how the internet solved almost all my research problems and some of the ways that it brought answers from New Zealand, Australia,Canada and USA to questions that could never have been answered in Scotland. All due to the most wonderful genealogists that I met in the various newsgroups.

It is a remarkable story and gradually these pages will feature most of the story together with links to related areas.


When you read the wealth of detail presented you will realise that this is really a Web Book. I would therefore appreciate if you would respect my COPYRIGHT and give credit if at any time you quote my pages. For my part I am only too happy to make my research freely available to those who are interested.

Links to other pages on this website

Link to the main index of the Bowie Story:
Back to Cameron's Homepage.: