Looking for Descendants of a World War I Glasgow Kilt Maker

Economic historian Dr Helen Paul, of the University of Southampton, found a hand-written message when she was removing the packing stitches from a kilt that has been passed down in her family for decades. The message reads: “I hope your kilt will fit you well, & in it you will look a swell. If married never mind. If single drop a line. Wish you bags of luck, & a speedy return back to Blighty.” Underneath was the name of Helen Govan, of 49 Ardgowan Street in Glasgow.

Dr. Paul reports, “This garment has been in our family for a number of decades, and until recently, we were completely unaware there was such an intriguing secret hidden in its folds. It was a real surprise when the note fell out.

“My father tried to trace any relatives of the note’s author a few years ago, but his efforts failed and I’m hoping to pick up where he left off.”

“It would be fantastic to trace who this lady was and learn more about her history, as well as the social history of the women who made and packed the kilts, which ultimately went to clothe the soldiers fighting in the trenches.”

Are you descended from Helen Govan, of 49 Ardgowan Street in Glasgow? Or do have any ideas of how to find descendants? If so, Dr Helen Paul would like to hear from you.

You can read more in an article by Keith Perry in The Telegraph at http://goo.gl/NgB3bP.

My thanks to newsletter reader John Rees for telling me about this story.


You may have this information already. According to the 1913/14 Valuation Roll, Thomas K. Govan lived at that address, perhaps her father. He was a clerk.


According to the 1920 valuation roll, Thomas K Govan was still one of tenants at the 49 Ardgowan Street address.


A good place to start your search would be the 1901 and 1911 Scotland Censuses, both of which look to be available on the Scotland’s People website ( http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/Content/FAQs/Questions/index.aspx?98 ).

A quick search provided several hits for the name Helen Govan for both 1901 and 1911. Scotland’s People is a pay-as-you-go site, but for a reasonable fee you can call up digital images of the actual census pages with all the details. In the earlier censuses I’ve seen for Glasgow names, ages and occupations of all members of each household were always included.


Sad to report that Helen seems never to have found the right guy…or the right guy never found her:

“…After leaving school, probably aged 14, it would have been natural for Helen to follow her sisters into the clothing trade. It is believed she wrote the note while working with Peter Wilson, kiltmakers of Bridge Street, Glasgow.

Helen died unmarried in Prestwick, where her family originated, in 1965, aged 67….”



There are more details about the kiltmaker, Helen Govan, and her family on the Scotland’s People website:

Although Helen apparently never married, she had several brothers and sisters who did, and Scotland’s People has asked anyone who can help them piece together Helen’s story to please contact them at press@scotlandspeople.gov.uk


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