Helen Frew

Scottish Samplers

Helen Frew


Coatbridge, Lanark


The strawberry and curlique border surrounds many spot motifs, familial initials, and an alphabet. Motifs include grapevines, peacocks, a fountain covered with birds, Arc of the Covenent, more birds and trees.

Two features are done especially well: a small elegant two-story house and a couple in period dress. The compact configuration of the house is atypical - it is not the predominant motif nor does it have an overabundance of details. Looking at the back of the sampler (see the last picture), there was an awful lot of pink used in the original colour of the house - could it have been red? We'll never know.

Familial initials: MO, BO, JF, IH, JF, MT, JF, RF, MF, IF, HF, TF, MF, AF, JF, RT, MA

Size (W x H): 12 7/8 x 12 3/4 inches

Stitches: Cross, double running, eyelet, outline, satin, chain

Media: Wool on linen


James Frew, a collier (coal miner) woodside of Carphill, and Margaret Tennant baptized their daughter Helen 9 August 1807 in Old Monkland or Coatbridge, Lanarkshire. Helen was one of eight children, siblings included: James (1799-1874), Robert (1801-1865), Margaret (1802), Isobell (1805-1882), Thomas (1808-1872), MaryAnne (1812-1890), Andrew (1815), Jane Nisbett (1817).

Helen never married. The 1861 Scotland Census shows her living with her 83-year old father. Helen died of gastritis at the age of 56 in 1864, as witnessed by her brother Thomas. Her father outlived her, not dying until 1867.

We had fun researching her brother, Thomas. Lucky Thomas, a spirit dealer, married Agnes Margaret Simpson in 1833. They proceeded to have a nine children: Mary (1834), Margaret (1836), Agnes (1838), Margaret #2 (1840), Catherine Maria (1841), Isabella (1843), Robert Simpson (1846), James (1849) and Helen (1852). After the death of his first (very tired) wife, he married a woman almost 20 years his junior, Rebecca McPhun 21 February 1853. The 1861 Scotland Census lists his occupation as joiner wright. Thomas and Rebecca wasted no time having even more children: Jane Kerr (24 November 1853), Daniel (1860), Andrew Munro (1862), Rebecca (1865), John (1867), William (1870). Thomas died of scrofula (a contagious tuberculosis infection of the lymph nodes of the neck) in 1872.


WEalth & Titles ar the
GiFt of ForTUNE but Peace & Con
tenMEnt is OF a Well DiSP
OSeD MinD That Can Be Fa
Milar WithOut Meaness
& Reservd WithOUt PRiDe



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(This sampler was added to the site on February 15, 2013)

Additional Information

The name of "Monklands" originated in the grant of lands in the area to the monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Newbattle, East Lothian in 1162. From the seventeenth century the area was formed into the two parishes of New Monkland and Old Monkland. The area was known for its coal production.

Helen's verse is not directly attributable to any particular author. It appears in several collections of "Aphorisms & Maxims", appearing in print as early as 1722.

Wealth and titles are only the gifts of fortune; but peace and content are the peculiar endowments of a well disposed mind; a mind that can bear affliction, without a murmur, and the weight of a plentiful fortune without vain glory; that can be familiar without meanness, and reserved without pride.