Blogovus: The First John Girvan (1798-1878)


Family Crest from South Ayrshire, Scotland


John Girvan



From the Research of John Thom McKinley Girvan (1920-?)

And Gloria Girvan Akin (1922-2003)


  • John Girvan, 27 year old wheelwright, millwright, builder, emigrated from Scotland with his brother Thomas Girvan in 1825. John settled in the Parish of Clarendon and Thomas went to the Parish of. St Ann. John bought properties, North Hall, Canoe Valley and Tanarchy, house and land. A third brother, William either came John and Thomas or came later. We know this because William had a history in Jamaica, through property transactions.

Court House at St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, John Girvan Builder, 1866: Click on photo to magnify

  • Thomas and John were in business together and worked together as wheelwrights and millwrights as well as supervising their properties. When Thomas died in St Ann in 1841, John carried on the business. He built the St Ann Bay Court House in 1866 and there was evidence that he presented an estimate, as requested,  for the repairs of a church in the town. He was given a citation of tribute for the Court House building. John also had a property in Scotland, “The Manse”. This was left in the charge of David Brown Esq. It would seem that John kept the property in Scotland in the eventuality of his return.
  • We do not know the name of John’s wife nor the mother(s) of his children. However a sheet in John Thom McKinley’s research states: “Ann Grey spouse of John Girvan.” This is not too far fetched since one of his daughters was named Jane Ann Grey and his third granddaughter was named Mary Ann Grey Girvan.  John’s children were: John born 1828, Jane born 1837, Mary Ann born 1841 and Robert born 1842. Jane emigrated to the U.S. and Robert died in 1874.
  • John was a man of many parts. He had a good education and his priority for his children and grand children was to see them well schooled. That meant that they should go to Scotland after their primary education. Thus, according to Robert Girvan, expert on the Girvan history in Maybole, Scotland, John’s children were duly sent to Scotland and afterwards returned to Jamaica ( see letter in section called “Artifacts of research of John Thom McKinley Girvan”).
  • Of the three brothers, John lived the longest and kept up the connection with his nieces and nephews in Scotland. The connection would have been especially necessary when his youngest brother William died in 1853 at 48 years of age. Thomas the Second was only 15 years old, a difficult age for a son to lose a father. It appears that John must have become a father figure to Thomas.He knew him for 40 years. Edna Dewdney remembers her father David Girvan saying that Thomas the Second returned to Jamaica for a while and that John, the First set him up in farming on the Tanarchy property in Clarendon, next to John’s property at North Hall. This would have been after his schooldays in Scotland and before he had chosen a profession. Perhaps at this time he made up his mind because he gave up farming and returned to Scotland where he completed further training and graduated as an engineer and attorney. This time of farming would have served him well when he returned later to Jamaica and took over the Oxford Pen and Ireland properties in St. Thomas.
  • John and his daughter Jane had a very serious break in their relationship. They never reconciled. Jane left Jamaica with her daughter Otalee amd never saw her father again. John did not leave her anything in his will.
  • From what we can ascertain, John was avery authoritarian figure, (N.B. his picture in the gallery of photos).A type of patriarch,he was strong in his opinions. From what we have heard, he certainly wanted the marriage made between Jane Thom and his son John Thomas as well as the union of his daughter Mary Ann and his nephew Thomas, the Second. His son John the Second and Jane Thom had six childrem, one of whom died in infancy.
  • John died October 18, 1878 at Tanarchy House, Clarendon, with his son John Thomas present. He was buried there.

John’s Will


Will of the First John Girvan

Part of the Will of the First John Girvan; Click on image to magnify, then click again

  • John’s son John Thomas Girvan (1828-1892) received the North Hall and Canoe Valley properties and the sum of 1000 pounds.
  • Thomas Girvan(1838-1886) received The Manse, his father’s property in Scotland and money in the Royal Bank which may have been used to support Thomas’ children who lived with his aunt Margaret in Scotland.
  • Mary Ann received the house at Tanarchy with forty acres in Clarendon and benefits derived from the property. The benefits from the property would, however would go to Mary Ann only after the death of a certain Catherine McGee who had the use of the Tanarchy house and land for her lifetime. Miss McGee was called “nurse and friend” in his will. It is believed that Catherine McGee came from Scotland to help care for John’s children and stayed on to help nurse John himself in his last illness. John’s grandchildren remembered Mis McGee.
  • John chose his nephew Thomas and his daughter Mary Ann as his executors.



The First John Girvan of Our Tribe, 1798-1878: Click on photo to magnify




5 thoughts on “Blogovus: The First John Girvan (1798-1878)

  1. My fathers name is Ewart Girvan. He was born in Clarendon. I believe he is connected to Gaston Girvan, does that mean he is related to John?

    • Hello Ashley,
      If your father is connected to Gaston Girvan, it does mean that he is connected to the John Girvan on this blog site. In fact even more interestingly it means that you are probably related to me!
      Like your father, I was born in Clarendon in a town called Kellits. Gaston was my father. I have put information from research done by an aunt and an uncle about the stories of our ancestors on this blog site for a few years. You will find this information at Please follow up this communication with more information about your father and about you. Your stories may lead to further explorations about our possible kinship.
      Regards, Garry Girvan

      • Oh my gosh I’m freaking out? Do you happen to know A women named June? Or Gordon Girvan? Gordon is my grandfather!

    • Hello Ashley,
      Since the contents of this blog are on public space, the internet, I will give you my email address to continue this conversation offline. Here it is: My name is Garry. I am 78 years old. I am Canadian, having emigrated from Jamaica in 1955. My sister is June. I have no knowledge of a Gordon. I did note that there were other Girvans in the parish of Clarendon according to some of the registers on a Jamaican Family Research website which I consulted last year. It would appear that those Girvans must be part of the original immigrants from Scotland to Jamaica in 1825. Gaston, my father, was quite a significant contributor to the expansion of the population in parts of the parish of Clarendon.

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