On 18 August 1874 a marriage took place at Largo House between Robert Rintoul and Margaret Jack Jeffrey. Robert was the Glasgow-born proprietor of Lahill House (pictured above) and Margaret the daughter of John Jeffrey the Kirkcaldy linen manufacturer. The Jeffreys had taken the tenancy of Largo House in 1872 and had become well-known in the Largo area. After their marriage, Robert and Margaret settled at Lahill and in 1878 their daughter Leonora Jeffrey Rintoul was born. She would go on to become a pioneering ornithologist along with her great friend Evelyn Baxter. Two years later, on 30 March 1880, another daughter, Jane Helen (known as Jean) was born at Lahill.
The 1881 census recorded the household at Lahill Mansion House. Robert was described as a "Proprietor farming 726 acres of which 706 are arable, employing 15 men, 14 women and 2 boys". In addition to Robert, Margaret and their two young daughters, the household included a cook, house maid, table maid and nurse. There was also a visitor - cousin of Margaret, Charles Maxton, a linen manufacturer. Other staff were living in the Lahill Coachman's House and Lodge House. Two years later, in 1883, a son was born - Andrew Jeffrey Rintoul. Robert Rintoul (who had been the very first Captain of Lundin Golf Club when it was first founded in 1868, having learned golf on Dubbieside links) died on 26 January 1887 just before his son's fourth birthday.
Growing up Leonora and Jean were educated privately and had the opportunity to travel on the continent. At home, they were often mentioned in the papers as "the Misses Rintoul" when attending social occasions. Jean also featured in newspaper reports for her pianoforte solos and theatrical performances. On example above is from the 29 June 1899 Leven Advertiser in relation to a fund-raising event in Kirkcaldy. Perhaps it was at such an event that Jean met her future husband.
On 4 August 1910, Jean married Captain Thomas Kershaw Gaskell of the 89th Punjabis at Upper Largo Parish Church. She was 30 years old and he was 39. Reverend Duncan Macmichael and Reverend James Robert Burt (Macmichael's predecessor) officiated. Sister Leonora was a witness. The 6 August Fifeshire Advertiser described the wedding as "fully choral" and noted that there was "a large and fashionable assemblage" at this "pretty wedding".
Thomas Kershaw Gaskell was born on 1 October 1870 in Portsea, Portsmouth, one of 8 children. His father, also Thomas, was in the army and this required the family to move frequently, including a spell in Cupar in the late 1870s when young Thomas was still a boy. So he had a connection to Fife from an early age. Thomas junior served as Lieutenant in the Suffolk Artillery Militia from 1890 and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers on 19 October 1892. He was promoted Lieutenant in the Indian Staff Corps on 12 January 1896, whilst serving with the 29th Burma Infantry. He was made a Captain with the 89th Punjabis on 19 October 1901. He was still a Captain at the time of his marriage.
Shortly after the wedding, Thomas returned to India, where he attained the rank of Major later the same year. The image above shows Thomas in Burma in 1911. By this time he was in the 91st Punjabis. He served during the Great War on the Western Front in 1915 and 1916, before returning to India. Jean remained based in Scotland. The 1911 census finds her living at Strathairly House (pictured below) with her uncle Andrew Rintoul. Thomas remained in India until he retired on 24 June 1920, having been granted the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, at which point he returned to Scotland.
The reunited couple initially lived at Lahill House with Jean's mother for a brief time before becoming proprietors of Balchrystie House (see image below) for the remainder of the 1920s. Jean was extremely active in the Kilconquhar and Colinsburgh W.R.I. through this decade and was clearly very talented at many domestic skills and handicrafts. She taught an embroidery class associated with the W.R.I.. Also an able speaker, she gave many talks including one in 1923, while President of the local W.R.I., about Egypt - having spent six weeks travelling there. Around 1930 the couple relocated to Upper Largo, moving into Largo Cottage on South Feus (the former home of Dr George Lumgair).
Thomas died at Largo Cottage on 20 November 1934, aged 64. Following her husband's death, Jean gifted a stained glass window to Upper Largo Church in his memory. Installed in the south transept of the church (where they had been married a quarter of a century earlier) the window is pictured below. In the lower right hand corner it is inscribed: To the Glory of God in ever grateful remembrance of Lieut-Colonel Thomas Kershaw Gaskell. 20th November 1934. Further inscriptions within the window's artwork read:
Now is come salvation and strength. Behold I make all things new. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now widowed, Jean continued her active life in the Largo community and beyond. The newspaper archives record her opening fetes, hosting social events, assisting in the Girls Guildry, being involved in church events, presiding over the East of Fife group of the W.R.I., being part of the wartime work parties making provisions for the troops, acting on the Kirkton of Largo school management committee and continuing to entertain by playing the piano. In some of these endeavours she was joined by her sister Leonora Rintoul and friend Evelyn Baxter, both of whom were also extremely prominent in the W.R.I..
Another of Jean's interests was the newly-created Scotland's Gardens Scheme (a scheme which continues today). She acted as organiser of the scheme for Fife in 1930s and 1940s. Gardens were opened to the public in order to raise money for the Nursing Association. Jean was able to arrange for gardens at houses such as Lahill, Strathairly and Cambo to be open to visitors. The notice below from the 10 April 1937 St Andrews Citizen notes an opening of the Lahill gardens - often timed to show the daffodils at their best each year.
In 1940, Jean bought Grove Cottage in Upper Largo, which was adjacent to both her sister's home, Balsusney, and the home of Evelyn Baxter, The Grove. The three properties can be seen in the map below.
However, she spent the final years of her life in Lundin Links, residing at 'St Margarets' (now known as Strathearn) at 19 Victoria Rd. In the grounds there she had a garden room from which she ran a Sunday school and which also acted as a collection point for ration books for a time. Her kitchen and garden hut also occasionally provided a base for refreshments for Sunday School picnics held at the Common. The piece below from 27 June 1945 Leven Mail shows an example where a group from St Andrew's Church in Buckhaven visited.
In February 1943 Jean Gaskell was co-opted as a member for Largo and Newburn of the Anstruther District Council. The same year she was Secretary of the Wings for Victory committee for Largo. A few years later she funded the building of a hut within the grounds of the manse at Newburn Church to be used as a community hall. Groups using the hall included the Newburn Women's Guild and the Newburn Men's Club.
In the weeks immediately prior to her death she conducted the opening ceremony of the Robinson Crusoe Social Club's Sale of Work in the Club House at Mill Wynd (see 11 Feb 1948 notice below from Leven Advertiser). She also attended a meeting of the local housing committee and made a recommendation which resulted in the naming of Durham Crescent (see 10 January 1948 Courier below). The Housing Supervisor had suggested the name Crusoe Crescent but Mrs Gaskell thought the Crusoe name was already overused and made her alternative suggestion.
When Jean Gaskell died on 27 March 1948 at St Margaret's just days before her 68th birthday, the official record of her death described her as a 'housewife' but there was so much more to this talented, independent, community-spirited lady. Aside from the pursuits mentioned above, there were no doubt many other strands to her activities. Unfortunately, I have been unable to unearth a photograph of Mrs Gaskell so far - if anyone has a photo of her, please do get in touch.