Miss Euphemia Symers
A native of Alyth, Euphemia Symers was the penultimate survivor of a large family of fifteen brothers and sisters. Her father, the Reverend Colin Symers, had been Alyth's longest serving minister and, "for several years, the Father of the Presbytery."
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Personal details and history
Date of birth
Place of birth
Name of spouse
Age at death:
Place of death:
158 Nethergate, Dundee
Date of death:
Western Cemetery, Perth Road, Dundee - Memorial stone on West wall
Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers
Established Church - Euphemia's brother, John Symers, was an Elder of St Mary's, East Church
Clubs / societies
- Subscriber 113 – Mrs Jobson and Misses Jobson, sisters of Mary Jobson, sister in law of Euphemia Symers
- Subscriber 212 – John Symers – brother of Euphemia Symers
- Subscriber 216 – Mrs Captain Scott – neighbour of Euphemia Symers living next door at 160 Nethergate
- Subscriber 227 – Lilias Symers – sister of Euphemia Symers
Career and worklife
Place of work
Career to date:
Little is known for certain of Euphemia Symers’s life in Dundee although some of its circumstances may be surmised or deduced.
Euphemia Symers was the seventh of fifteen children born to Reverend Colin Symers (Minister of Alyth parish) and his wife Helen Halliburton. Her father was Alyth’s longest serving minister, who, at the time of his death in 1817, had served the parish for 43 years. It was said that his son in law, Rev. John Macpherson Cunningham, referred to him as ‘a little old gentleman in a tye wig’.
Undoubtedly, Euphemia’s formative years were shaped and influenced by the ‘life and work’ of the Church. She was part of a family, which for generations (prior and succeeding), spawned ‘men of the cloth’.
Her great grandfather (David Thomson) had been a minister in Meigle. Her grandfather (John Halliburton) was minister in Kettins parish. Her father, her brother David (minister of Kettins parish) and her brother in law (John Macpherson Cunningham, minister of Newtyle, Meigle and Kinglassie parishes) were all also Churchmen.
Euphemia was brought up in the manse at Alyth. Her father wrote (1793) that ‘the Church at that time was an old Gothic structure. It has been frequently repaired and is in tolerable good order. The manse was lately repaired’.
Euphemia was 11 years old when her mother died in 1798. The ages of her siblings ranged at that point from 20 years to 6 months of age. It was probable that Euphemia and her older sisters may have had a share in looking after and nurturing the younger, surviving siblings – Mary, James, Lillias, John and George.
However, her access to learning was assured within her parents’ marriage contract which – ‘binds and obliges him (Rev Colin Symers) to maintain and educate (any offspring) until they reach the age of 18 complete’. Needless to say, Rev Symers also received 6,000 merks Scots money in ‘tocher’ (dowry) at the time of marriage to Helen Halliburton.
Euphemia’s life in the period after her mother’s death could be said to have undergone life’s ‘trials and tribulations’.
In the first decade of the 19th century, Euphemia’s oldest brother David was the first to leave the fold. In 1801, at the age of 23 years, David was ordained as minister of Kettins parish, the previous incumbent having been his grandfather, John Halliburton. David held this post for 41 years until his death in 1842. Her older brother Colin removed to Dundee where he was involved with the British Linen Bank. By 1811, he had been appointed to the responsible office of ‘Collector of Customs at Dundee’. He held this post for 33 years when, in 1844, he retired through ill health. His death came in 1860.
The next hurdle endured, also in 1811, was the death of her younger brother James, aged 20 years. By 1816, sister Margaret had married Reverend John Macpherson Cunningham and had moved to Kinglassie in Fife. Euphemia’s brothers John Symers and George Symers also left their Alyth home to forge their futures in Dundee.
There remained the six sisters – Elizabeth, Helen, Amelia, Euphemia herself, Mary and Lilias who, perhaps, lived on in Alyth until the death of their father in 1817. Certainly, there is no mention of them in Dundee until the later 1830s. Unfortunately, the listing in the Postal Directory merely lists ‘Symers, Misses, 107 Nethergate’ – giving little clarity as to which of the sisters the entry includes. What is more certain is the fact that the spinster sisters remained closely linked with each other, some living together or in close proximity and also, the six being grouped together in various financial ventures. As early as 1827, the six were equally granted a bond of £2000 by George, Earl of Aboyne (then Marquis of Huntly). There is evidence of further promissory notes, bonds, accounts and heritable subjects held equally among the sisters.
It becomes clearer too with census entries that older sister Elizabeth lived with older brother Colin until her death in 1852. Euphemia too resided with them at Nethergate House, 158 Nethergate for some years, perhaps acting as companion and nurse to her older brother whose death came in 1860.
Sister Helen had died in 1837 and so, it seems likely that ‘the Misses Symers’ of this period, referred to Amelia, Mary and Lilias. Mary’s death in 1858 and Amelia’s in 1863, left the last of the ‘spinster’ sisters (only sister Margaret married) to be Euphemia and Lilias.
Lilias had resided at 147 Nethergate (Whiteleys). After their brother Colin’s death in 1860, Euphemia had joined Amelia and Lilias at Whiteleys. Their home at Whiteleys (the Easternmost of the four villas, bordering Park Place) ‘occupied and possessed by Misses Symers’ had been sold in 1861. By 1863 when Amelia’s death is recorded, both sisters were in their 70s and had returned to 158 Nethergate (owned and occupied previously by their brother Colin). Perhaps the tables had turned. Lilias who had been looked after and protected by Euphemia in her younger years after the death of their mother was now assuming that role for her older sister, whose life came to a close in 1869.
The ‘Misses Symers’ continued to live a quiet, modest life for the remainder of their days, contributing also a quiet benevolence to various causes. Perhaps some of these causes had been influenced by their younger brother John, whose many charitable ventures were well documented.
The Symers’ early years in Alyth would appear to have been worthy of remembrance. To that end, Euphemia’s niece, Helen Halliburton Symers, gifted a stained glass window to the new Alyth parish church in 1905.
Surrounded as she had been by the closeness, love, faith and support of her large family, it could be surmised that Euphemia held Christian tenets deep in her character and would have spent her life in a manner as would befit one imbued with the teachings of the Gospel.
- Old Parish Records. Alyth. Births. 21 March 1787. 328/30 68. ScotlandsPeople website
- Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. 18 December 1869. 282/1 560. ScotlandsPeople website
- Dundee Postal Directory, 1861-62. p.215. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
- Dundee Postal Directory, 1864-65. p.193. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
- Dundee Postal Directory, 1867-68. p.205. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
- Meikle, James, B.D., F.S.A. (1933). The History of Alyth Parish Church. Edinburgh. J & J Gray
- Stirling, Sir John. 1793). Old Statistical Account
- Legal Record. Wills and Testaments. Dunkeld Commissary Court. 1818. CC7/ 9/ 4. images 430-447. ScotlandsPeople website
- Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae. Volume 5. Synods of Fife & of Angus & Mearns. (1925). Edinburgh. Oliver & Boyd
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 13 November. 1860. p.3. Findmypast website
- Dundee Postal Directory, 1837-38. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 1837. SC45 / 31 /3. ScotlandsPeople website
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 1852. SC45 / 31 / 10. ScotlandsPeople website
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 08 February 1861. Findmypast website
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