Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Ardrossan slave-owner

Newly-published records detailing the names of British slave-owners reveal an Ardrossan woman was compensated for the loss of her ‘property’ when slavery was abolished in 1833.

Jane Adam, whose address was given as 45 Glasgow Street in Ardrossan, submitted a claim to the British Government over the loss of slaves on a sugar plantation on the Caribbean island of St Vincent.  Mrs Adam, whose maiden name was Wilson, received £231-17s-10d, which is the current-day equivalent of almost £20,000.

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Along with her husband, John, Mrs Adam moved to Ardrossan from Glasgow.

Records from the 1861 Census show Jane Adam to be a 52-year-old widow, which means she was just 28 when she claimed compensation for the loss of human beings she ‘owned’.  By this time, Mrs Adam was living with her mother at 16 Montgomerie Street, Ardrossan and her occupation was listed as “Landed & House Proprietor”.  The Census showed there were 12 rooms in the Montgomerie Street property “with 1 or more windows” – there was a tax on windows at that time.

On her death in 1889, Jane Adam left an estate valued at £3,746-12s-9d (£318,000 today).

Mrs Adam is the only resident of the Three Towns listed in records detailing ‘Legacies of British Slave Ownership’ compiled by researchers at University College London.

The extensive work of the university is the basis of the two-part documentary ‘Britain's Forgotten Slave-owners’, presented by David Olusoga and shown recently on BBC2.

In total, the British Government paid-out around £20m (£16bn today) in compensation to 46,000 slave-owners when the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. Amongst those compensated were ancestors of current UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

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