William Runciman

William Runciman (1729 - 1765)

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William Runciman aka Runsheman, Runsyman, Rynsiman
Born in Tyninghame, Haddingtonshire, Scotlandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Crail, , Fife, Scotlandmap
Husband of — married in Crail, , Fife, Scotlandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in the Mouth of Crail Harbourmap
Profile last modified | Created 30 Aug 2013
This page has been accessed 2,011 times.

Categories: Runciman Lineage 1b - William Runciman of Crail | Crail Fishing Disaster 1765, Crail, Fife, Scotland | Crail, Fife | Drowning | Accidental Deaths.




Name: William /Runciman/ [1][2][3][4][5][6]

The sobriquet 'William of Crail' attributed to him is not anything 'noble' or official. It is merely a means of easy identification of the individual who for so long was identified as patriarch of a recognised Runciman DNA line (line 1b in the Runciman DNA project). More information about the lineages is at http://runciman.lornahen.com/lineages/cpdescendantcharts.htm

The discovery in 2012 of his father's name reveals William had several siblings and now redefines his 'line' to a branch of a now recognised longer and wider line up through his father Richard and further to William's grandfather, also a William.


Date: ABT MAR 1729

The Old Parish Records show baptism dates & in William's case this was 23 March 1729. The day of the christening was a Wednesday and all the christenings recorded on the same page of the Old Parish Register are also Wednesday dates. There appears to be one exception as a later date reads more like 2nd than 3rd of August, which would have been a Tuesday. (However this could be a clerical error by the Session Clerk.) So this would point to the birth being any time in the previous 7 days. Parents would go to extreme lengths to ensure their child was baptised at the earliest opportunity, usually insisting that it occurred in church even though they were allowed a home christening in severe weathers. This contributed to the high infant mortality rates.

Place: Whaupknow, Par. of Whitekirk & Tynninghame, East Lothian, Scotland[7]


Date: 23 MAR 1729
Place: , Par. of Whitekirk & Tynninghame, East Lothian, Scotland[8]

Witnesses: James Williamson in Scohongal (Scougal) and James Barrie in Muttonholl (Muttonhole). Neither are obvious relatives. Note that William's son John is later to marry a Jean Barrie. Possibly a relative (grand-daughter/grand-niece?) of the witness to William's birth but there is no researched evidence that this is so.

Interestingly, the church recorded father Richard's surname as 'Runciman' which would possibly make it, if not the first, one of the earliest recordings of what has now become the prevalent spelling.

To give an indication of the size of the community there were only 9 baptisms on the page containing William's entry over a period from January 1st to the last entry on the page on 14th September.

The parish where William was baptised has an interesting history. [1]


William lived his boyhood years where he was born, in Whapknow in the parish of Tyninghame. He was the eldest of nine children, the youngest of whom (Renay/Rennie) was born in December 1746 when William was 17. All his siblings, including Renay, were born/baptised in Tyninghame Church which is what informs us that William lived his childhood through to independent adulthood in his birthplace. In General Roy’s Military Map of Scotland, drawn up in 1750 shortly after the 2nd Jacobyte Rebellion as a precaution that Government forces understood ‘the lie of the land’ for future skirmishes, Whapknow is depicted as 4 separate buildings. It was almost certainly a small sub-tenanted farm, although there is no record to indicate whether father Richard was a tenant, sub-tenant or labourer there. The ‘laird’ is believed to have been the Earl of Haddington whose stately home was in Tyninghame. It is not known why William then chose to live in Crail, Fife. By road even today the journey to/from Tyninghame can take 2 hours but the most common mode of travel was to cross the Firth of Forth by boat. Whapknow lay beside the Peffer Burn, close to the River Tyne by which you could access the open sea. North Berwick was only about 4 miles distant where there was an active fishing harbour and trade was brisk with the Fife ports, including Crail which was one of the leading markets in the 1700s. There was always social interaction between North Berwick and the Fife visitors and it’s said many a romance blossomed between the local fishermen and the Fife womenfolk who followed their town’s boats to carry out the landside jobs & repairs. Its highly likely William was one such fisherman & Katharine Wishart one such Fife fisherwoman. Her Wishart family had lived for generations on the Isle of May, a renowned fishing ground. Anyway William made the decision at a young age, marrying in Crail parish in 1748, at the age of 19. This may have been on the Isle of May. Certainly its known that they were living there in 1752 as their tragically young 2nd daughter Catharine is recorded as ‘of the Isle of May’ on her burial record.

From that point in his life we can trace William clearly lived in Crail parish. All his children are baptised in Crail Church and his second marriage was also in Crail. (His first wife Catherine had died following the birth of their 3rd child).

At the time of his death we learn that he owned a house in Crail as the records of the Widows & Orphans Fund refer to his orphans receiving a rental income from his home in Crail. The annual rental received was 15/- (now decimalised as 75p). Unfortunately no address is recorded. There are fishermen's cottages built in the 1730s close to the harbour but insufficient to accommodate all those who made their living from the sea.


We can only guess from what little we know about William that his living would be very hard and hazardous but rewarding by the standards of the day. The evidence pointing to this is that he was able to afford to bury his wives and young daughter, complete with an engraved headstone, own his home and skipper his own fishing boat, large enough to require a crew of 8. He appears to have been a member of the FisherBox in Crail. This is a Society with a separate identity from the SeaBox.

The Seabox was contributed to by crew members and was an early form of Union in that by contributing to it the fisherman was supported by it in times of hardship or disaster. The SeaBox paid for the funerals of the 4 members of William's crew who contributed to it.

The FisherBox (more research required) appears to be a Society for the owners of the boats. Perhaps it may be also an early form of co-operative for buying and selling on of the day's catch. (This fact will be researchable). I have read some of the old FisherBox records pre-1765 (held at Crail Museum & Heritage Centre) when William was a member and there are instances of him examining and signing off a financial statement for the Society. To do so he would have been trusted and respected by his peers.


Date: 21 JAN 1765
Place: Crail, , Fife, Scotland
Note: aged 35. c.o.d. 'died in the mouth of the harbour', drowned with 7 others in the 1765 Crail Fishing Disaster. A 250th anniversary commemoration for the drownings was held in Crail on 16 May 2015. See the Crail Fishing Disaster page for the known history and further information.


Place: It is not recorded where William's body lies. Until 2015 or so it was conjectured that he and his fellow fishermen lay at rest where his boat sank. However a further reading of the 1765 Disaster records revealed that father Richard met the cost of burial & reimbursed by the Fund - but no mention of where. W is not mentioned as buried on the headstone in Crail Churchyard at the grave of his two wives and 2nd daughter Catherine. A reading of Erskine Beveridge's authoritative 'Churchyard Memorials in Crail' (published 1894) indicates that none of the names of other victims appear on headstones in the churchyard either. However in William’s case with a lair paid for and family members already buried there it seems unlikely that he would have been buried anywhere other than in the family grave. The other victims do not appear to have family graves so their circumstances may have been different, leading to the possibility of the Fund paying for paupers burials only. A pauper’s burial did not sustain a coffin, never mind an engraved stone, so this would account for Beveridge not making any record of them in his 1894 book. Although the Crail Churchyard theory is very satisfactory another possible but altogether weaker explanation for William is that he was buried in North Berwick cemetery where the father Richard then lived (William's parents were married in NB in 1728). Further information may yet be uncovered from the archived records of Crail (held at St Andrews University) and North Berwick.
Note: Wm Runsheman mariner here, w Catharine Wishart 24.7.1753 31, 2da Catharine 15.7.1752 1, 2w Eliz Jameson 24.1.1763 34 (see Beveridge 32 254 [Erskine Beveridge Churchyard Memorials of Crail ]; Wm Runsyman on the May & w Cath Wishart married 12.12.1743, da Cath b. .8.1751, da Cath b. 15.7.1753; Wm Runsheman & w Eliz Jamieson married 30.12.1754, at least 3 chn 1755-62; he was drowned when going fishing 21.1.1765.[9] [10][11][12]


Reference: 62529


Note: William belongs to a DNA tested line. Click here for further information[13]


Occupation: Mariner[14]
William & 7 others were drowned in the 'Crail Fishing Disaster'. A commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the event was held in Crail in 2015. See the Crail Fishing Disaster page for the known history and further information.


Husband: William Runciman
Wife: Elizabeth Jamieson
Child: Margaret Runsyman
Child: Elizabeth Runsyman
Child: Helen Runsyman
Child: John Runciman
Date: 30 DEC 1754
Place: Crail, , Fife, Scotland
Note: "Contracts" entry for Dec 14th reads: "William Runsyman & Eliz. Jamison married Decr 30th"[15][16][17][18][19][20]
Husband: William Runciman
Wife: Catherine Wishart
Child: Janet Runsiman
Child: Catherine Runciman
Child: Catherine Runciman
Date: 12 DEC 1748
Place: Crail, , Fife, Scotland
Note: Contracts for Nov 30th 1748 show "William Runciman & Catharine Wishart married 12th Decbr"[21][22][23][24]
Husband: Richard Rynsiman
Wife: Jennet Gourlay
Child: William Runciman
Child: Hugh Runciman
Child: Jennet Runciman
Child: Richard Runciman
Child: Jean Runciman
Child: Marion Runciman
Child: James Runciman
Child: Helen Runciman
Child: Renay Runciman
Marriage (assumed parents):
Date: 28 APR 1728
Place: North Berwick, , East Lothian, Scotland
Note: entry reads: Richard Runchiman and Jennet Gourly both in this parish gave up their names to be proclaimed[25][26][27]

Note: According to the Crail Kirk Parish records of December 1764 William would not take with a daughter of Patricia Stephen baptised as Mary Runsyman. Mary was known by the name of Runciman for all her life (a Mary Runciman is recorded in 1841 census, Crail, aged 75.). She was also supported financially by the Widows & Childrens Fund following the drowning as the other young children were. Runciman-362 15:34, 13 May 2014 (EDT)


  • Source: S101 Title: OPR Fife Scotlands People RUNCIMAN Marriages 1538-1854 (Index ) Repository: #R146
  • Repository: R146 Name: Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/) Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
  • Source: S102 Title: OPR East Lothian, Scotland RUNCIMAN Births 1538-1854 (Index ) http://scotlandspeople.gov.uk Repository: #R146
  • Source: S103 Title: OPR East Lothian Scotlands People RUNCIMAN Marriages (Index ) Repository: #R146
  • Source: S1045 Title: RUNCIMAN Correspondence H.D.W., Edinburgh, Scotland Recipient: L Henderson
  • Source: S15 Title: RUNCIMAN (& variants) Surname DNA Project
  • Source: S1596 Title: IGI: Online searches Repository: #R149
  • Repository: R149 Name: Family Search (LDS) Utah USA http://familysearch.org
  • Source: S2562 Title: RUNCIMAN Corres., Address: NSW, AUS
  • Source: S3221 Title: EM RUNCIMAN/WISHART/JAMIESON ex Phyllis RUNCIMAN, (SCT)
  • Source: S3222 Title: "Scotland and Beyond" (2004) Authors: Diane Middleton Jen Jelley; plus subsequent research by Alan RUNCIMAN, Ros RUNCIMAN, Lawrence FLETCHER, Lorna HENDERSON & many, many others, Compilers Addresses: UK, Australia and New Zealand
  • Source: S3233 Title: Old Parish Record (OPR)
  • Source: S3235 Title: Scotland and Beyond, published 2004 Authors: Jennifer Jelley and Diane Middleton
  • Source: S3237 Title: Henderson Web Site, Url: http://runciman.lornahen.com Author: Lorna Henderson Also on MyHeritage.com family tree
  • Source: S4 Title: RUNCIMAN Conclusions, Author: Lorna Henderson Runciman One Name Study Repository: #R156
  • Repository: R156 Name: RUNCIMAN One Name Study Project Diary
  • Source: S55 Title: Scottish Birth, Marriage, Burial entries (to 1854) http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/index.php
  1. Source: #S4 Page: Apr 2010
  2. Source: #S2562 Page: Birth 22 Jun 1762 John s/o William RUNCIMAN & Elizabeth JAMIESON, Crail, FIF, from Outline family tree from William & Catherine (WISHART) RUNCIMAN, and emails, rcvd Jan 2010
  3. Source: #S2562 Page: Birth (Crail) Dth 1765 (mouth of harbour) William RUNCIMAN, from Outline family tree from William & Catherine (WISHART) RUNCIMAN, and emails, rcvd Jan 2010
  4. Source: #S3221 Page: Pay-outs to the widows and children of the Crail fishermen drowned on 21st January 1765, from GD/26/12/25 held National Archives of Scotland (NAS), transcr. by Phyllis rcvd Nov 2012
  5. Source: #S3235
  6. Source: #S3237 Page: William Runciman CONT 26 MAY 2011 Added by confirming a Smart Match
  7. Source: #S102 Page: Birth/bap.? 23 Mar 1729 William s/o Richard RUNCIMAN & Jennet GOURLAY, Whitekirk & Tynninghame, 723/ 0010 0071, extracted from index Feb 2010
  8. Source: #S102 Page: Birth/bap.? 23 Mar 1729 William s/o Richard RUNCIMAN & Jennet GOURLAY, Whitekirk & Tynninghame, 723/ 0010 0071, extracted from index Feb 2010
  9. Source: #S1045 H/stone (& info) William RUNSHEMAN/RUNSYMAN and family, Crail, FIF, from pre 1855 transcriptions, rcvd Jan 2010
  10. Source: #S3222
  11. Source: #S1045 H/stone (& info) William RUNSHEMAN/RUNSYMAN and family, Crail, FIF, from pre 1855 transcriptions, rcvd Jan 2010
  12. Source: #S2562 Birth (Crail) Dth 1765 (mouth of harbour) William RUNCIMAN, from Outline family tree from William & Catherine (WISHART) RUNCIMAN, and emails, rcvd Jan 2010
  13. Source: #S15 Page: Jan 2012
  14. Source: #S3222
  15. Source: #S2562 Marr. 1754 William RUNCIMAN & Elizabeth JAMIESON, from Outline family tree from William & Catherine (WISHART) RUNCIMAN, and emails, rcvd Jan 2010
  16. Source: #S1045 H/stone (& info) William RUNSHEMAN/RUNSYMAN and family, Crail, FIF, from pre 1855 transcriptions, rcvd Jan 2010
  17. Source: #S1596 Marr. 30 Dec 1754 William RUNSHEMAN & Elizabeth JAMESON, Isle of May, Crail, FIF, post 1991 patron submission, extracted Jan 2010
  18. Source: #S55 Marr. 30 Dec 1754 (also indexed for 12 Dec) William RUNSYMAN & Elizabeth JAMIESON, Crail, FIF 417/0020 0084, index searched (and copy d/loaded) Jan 2010
  19. Source: #S3233 Page: Marr. 1754 William RUNCIMAN & ElizabethJAMIESON, Crail-417/00 0020 0084
  20. Source: #S3222 Marr. 30 Dec 1754 William RUNCIMAN & Elizabeth JAMESON, Crail, Fife, Pg 3
  21. Source: #S2562 Page: Marr. 1748 William RUNCIMAN & Catherine WISHART, from Outline family tree from William & Catherine (WISHART) RUNCIMAN, and emails, rcvd Jan 2010
  22. Source: #S55 Contract 30 Nov Marr. 12 Dec 1748 William RUNCIMAN & Catharine WISHART, Crail, FIF, 417/0020 0017, copy rcvd (from Lawrence F) Feb 2010
  23. Source: #S101 Marr. 1748 RUNCIMAN/WISHART, Crail, 417/0040 0480 (30 Nov) 417/0020 0017 (12 Dec), extracted from index Jan 2010
  24. Source: #S3222 Marr. 30 Nov 1748 William RUNCIMAN & Catherine WISHART (b. 1721 d. 24 Jul 1753), Crail, Fife, Pg 3
  25. Source: #S103 Marr. 28 Apr 1728 Richard RUNCHIMAN & Jennet GOURLAY, North Berwick, 713/ 0030 0051, extracted from index Feb 2010
  26. Source: #S55 Marr. 28 Apr 1728 Richard RUNCHIMAN & Jennet GOURLY, North Berwick, 713/ 0030 0051, copy d/loaded Nov 2012
  27. Source: #S3222


Thank you to Alan Runciman for creating WikiTree profile Runciman-565 through the import of RUNCIMANAlansPaternal4WikiTreeAug2013.ged on Aug 29, 2013.

Thank you to Stuart Wilson for merging WikiTree profile Runciman-810 after the import of Family_2013-10-07.ged on Oct 7, 2013. Click to the Changes page for the details of edits.

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with William by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. Y-chromosome DNA test-takers in his direct paternal line on WikiTree: It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with William:

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Images: 4
Runciman Family Stone with Commemorative Tablet.
Runciman Family Stone with Commemorative Tablet.

Crail Harbour
Crail Harbour


William Runciman Image 4
William Runciman Image 4

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William is 28 degrees from Walter Morrison, 30 degrees from Alison Wilkins and 18 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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