John Schaw



Contact information on HOME page

Direct descendant is highlighted in red  

John Schaw   see  Family Tree  
Born: Abt. 1703 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland      
Died: 01 Sep 1770 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland   see court decision below  


William Schaw or Shaw


Janet Hardie


Margaret Borthwick
    died: 1794


1. William Schaw b. 29 Oct 1723 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

2. Katharine Schaw b. 11 Mar 1725 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

3. Janet Schaw b. 26 Feb 1727 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

4. Hardie Schaw b. 21 Jul 1728 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

5. Alexander Schaw b. 18 Nov 1730 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

6. Marie or Mary Schaw b. 20 Dec 1731 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland 

7. John Schaw b. 28 Sep 1733 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

8. Janet Schaw b. 16 Apr/1735 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

9. Margaret Borthwick Schaw   b. unknown.  Named as younger than her sister Janet Schaw.

10. Ann Schaw b. 13/Apr/1743 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

The Scottish people followed a traditional naming pattern when naming their children.  The first son was named after the father's father and the first daughter after the mother's mother, etc.  In this case the pattern would lead us to believe the parents of John Schaw were William and Janet.  William Schaw and Janet Hardie married in Edinburgh on April 15, 1698.  Note that the fourth child born to John and Margaret Schaw is named Hardie.  When their children were baptized, a William Schaw, merchant, was a witness to every baptism.  John Schaw's brother, Gideon Schaw, was witness at two of the births, Katharine in 1725 and Ann in 1743.  Gideon Shaw was also a witness at the baptism of Theophilus Feild in 1760, son of Dr. James Feild and Margaret Borthwick Schaw.  Janet Hardie's possible brother, Major Alexander Hardie, was witness at three of the births. He was also witness to the baptism of one of Gideon's children. (Alexander Schaw b. 1730)  Sir James Justice, one of the principal clerks of session was witness to three of the baptisms: Katharine, Janet and Hardie. Sir James Justice was the brother of Cathrin Justice, the mother of Margaret Borthwick.  George Livingston, one of the under clerks of session, was a witness to four of the baptisms: Katharine, Janet, Hardie and Alexander. George Livingston was married to Anna Justice, aunt to Margaret Borthwick.  All of this circumstantial evidence leads us to believe that this John Schaw is the son of William Schaw and Janet Hardie. 

When the ten children, listed above, were baptized, John Schaw was always listed as Merchant.  And when the last daughter, Ann, was baptized in 1743, he was listed as "John Schaw, Merchant, Burges."  We know he was wealthy and successful from the court decision listed below. (1) We also know he was a "merchant-  upholsterer" from the death records for two of his children, the first Janet Schaw and Hardie Schaw. (See their pages for death records.) 

The Academy of St Luke was established in 1729. It was the first academy of artists in Scotland.  "The academy met in the University where (Richard) Cooper collaborated with the famous anatomist, Alexander Monro. - The upholsterer, John Schaw's name appears in the class lists of the anatomist, Alexander Monro in 1736, an indication that he may also have studied with Cooper." (2)

John "Schaw was a merchant and, most probably, an entrepreneur who bought furniture in London and brought it to Scotland for his customers.  In 1740 William Adam, the architect, recommended the Schaws to the Duke of Hamilton as 'the most employed upholsterers in Edinburgh; and in November of that year Schaw promised 'a scratch of the newest fashion in beds agreeable to one lately come from London for the Duchess of Gordon." (3)

In 1748 the earl of Traquair, Charles Stewart, and his wife, Teresa purchased "a new four post bed, with a full suite of vases, all covered in 'yellow double water camblet'. It was supplied by John Schaw in June 1748 and the same account also lists two pieces of 'superior fine two blew cloath paper on yellow ground -8sh.' He also supplied 4 yards of yellow ground common paper with 22 yards of flock border." (2) 

Other upholsterers were trying to break into the market.  Young and Trotter formed a partnership in 1751. "It cannot have been easy for the two men to challenge the position held by John Schaw and his wife, whom William Adam had recommended to the Duke of Hamilton. - During the next ten years the Schaws seem to have established a virtual monopoly in their chosen line, supplying goods and services to such clients as the duke of Atholl, the duchess of Gordon, the Marquess of Tweeddale, the Countess of Hopetoun and other members of the Hope family. Yet by 1763, although the Schaws were still active in business, Young and Trotter were carrying out work at Hopetoun and at other houses belonging to the Hopes." (4)

From the facts listed below we find that he was in business with his wife and and his company was called John Schaw and Son co in 1764 indicating at least one of the above listed sons lived until 1764.  However, by the time of the death of John Schaw in 1770, only two children were still living:  Janet Schaw married to William Murray and Margaret, the wife of Dr. James Feild.

1753 Supplied a four-poster bed to the Duke of Atholl.  Helen Cumming was "creator of the sewed work on the four-poster bed."

1756 John Schaw and Co, upholsterers and house furnishing, within the Laich Coffee House

1759 William McLean apprenticed for 7 years on 28 March 1759

1760 Andrew Gillespie and James Russell each  apprenticed for 7 years on 27 February 1760

1764 Thomas Michie apprenticed to John Schaw, Son & co upholsterers for 7 years on 7 November 1764


At left is a large sofa made by John Schaw found at Holyrood.  "The large sofa has retained its original needlework cover.  This was recently removed for repairs to the frame, and underneath, on sacking covering the stuffing, the inscription "J S EDENB" has been stamped.  J S almost certainly stands for John Schaw, whose firm William Adam recommended to the Duke of Hamilton as 'the most employed upholsterers in Scotland". Schaw was certainly employed by the Duke of Gordon."  Country Life, Volume 178 pg 403  


On 24 Mar 1754 Janet Schaw, daughter of John Shaw married William Murray.
At that time, the father,  John Schaw, was listed as "merchant in N. N. K. p. "
This was New North Kirk Parish, Edinburgh, Scotland

Map found at

Area surrounded in red is the old town of Edinburgh. New North Parish can be seen in blue. 



(1)  The decisions of the Court of Session: from its first institution to the ...
 By Scotland. Court of Session, Lord Alexander Fraser Tytler Woodhouselee, William Maxwell Morison ( Edinburgh Printed for Bell & Bradfute Booksellers to the Faculty of Advocates 1802 )
page 3237, 3238

1797 December 5
Margaret and Amelia Murray, against The Trustees of Margaret Borthwick

John Schaw died on the 1st September 1770, leaving a widow, Margaret Borthwick, and two daughters, Janet, married to William Murray, and Margaret, the wife of Dr. James Feild.
In 1769, John Schaw had executed a trust-settlement, by which he left his wife L. 2000, and the life-rent of the greatest part of the remainder of his property. He also left L. 1500 to his grand-children by each of his daughters, payable at his wife’s death.
These legacies were qualified by the following clause: ‘Reserving always full power to the said Margaret Borthwick, my spouse, at any time of her life, after my decease, by writing under her hand, to revoke and alter the provisions hereby conceived in favour of my said grandchildren, or otherwise to divide and proportion the same amongst them, in the same manner, and as freely in all respects as I could have done myself, if in life.’
The deed further provided, that ‘upon the decease of the said Margaret Borthwick, my spouse, I do hereby appoint the whole free residue of my estate, real and personal, which shall then remain, after payment and satisfaction of my debts, funeral-charges and expenses, and after deduction of the aforesaid L. 2000 Sterling provided to my said spouse, in case she shall have disposed thereof by a writing under her hand; as also after payment of any legacies or donations, which I may hereafter think fit to bequeath to any of my friends or relations; and the aforesaid provisions to my daughters or grandchildren, before named, to be divided into two equal shares; the one just and equal half thereof, I do hereby assign and dispose, to and in favour of the said Janet Schaw, my eldest daughter; and the other just and equal half thereof, to and in favour of the said Margaret Schaw, my other daughter, and their respective heirs and assignees; and which division between my said daughters shall be made at the term of Whitsunday or Martinmas next and immediately following the decease of my said spouse, by two neutral persons, one to be chosen by each of my said daughters, or their heirs,’
John Schaw, on the 27th August 1770, when on deathbed, executed a subsequent deed, by which, after referring to his former settlement, he declares That ‘in place of an equal division betwixt my said two daughters of the residue of my means and estate, as is appointed by my said disposition and settlement, it now is my will and intention that the said Margaret Borthwick, my spouse, if she survive me, shall have the sole power of dividing the said residue betwixt my said two daughters, or amongst them and their children, as she shall think proper; therefore, and in virtue of the said reserved power, I do hereby, but in so far only as regards the division of the said residue, revoke and after the said disposition and settlement; and do hereby declare, that it shall be in the power of the said Margaret Borthwick, my spouse, in the event of her surviving me, to divide the residue of the said means and estate, which shall remain at her decease, after payment and satisfaction of my debts and funeral charges, and of the other debts and burdens mentioned in the said disposition and settlement, betwixt my said two daughters, or amongst them and their children, by such shares and proportions as she shall think proper, and payable to them at such times or terms as she shall think fit.’
At Mr Schaw’s death, almost all his fortune was lent out, on bonds secluding executors.
Mrs. Schaw survived her husband twenty-four years, in the course of which she received payment of the greater part of the bonds, and again lent the money, along with the sums belonging to herself, and took bonds for the whole, payable to herself, proprio jure.
In 1791, Mrs. Schaw executed a trust-settlement, by which she left the whole of her own fortune to her daughter Margaret, and her family; and, in virtue of her power of distribution by the deed made by her husband in 1770, she likewise ordered the residue of Mr Schaw’s fortune, after paying his debts and legacies, amounting to L 3746: 14: 6 ½, to be divided in the following proportions, namely, L 2946: 14: 6 ½, to her daughter Margaret, and her family, and the remaining L 800 to her grandchildren, and great grandchildren by Janet, who had died before the date of the settlement. She further ordered the special legacies of L 1500, left by her husband to the families of each of the daughters, to be paid precisely in terms of his settlement.
Considerable losses having been sustained on the bonds which Mrs. Schaw had taken in her own name, it was by her settlement declared, that ‘although in justice I might state and get allowance of the losses which have already fallen upon my husband’s funds; yet it is my resolution, that the same shall be sustained proportionally by his funds and my own, and therefore, I do hereby direct my trustees before named, and survivors or survivor of them accepting, that after my death, upon casting up the whole losses which have been sustained, a proportional deduction shall be made from the estates both of my husband and myself, so that the losses may fall equal upon both; and I direct that the different sums payable to my grand-children, or great-grand-children, shall suffer a proportional abatement.’
Margaret and Amelia Murrays, children of Janet Schaw, conceived that they had right to a greater share of their grandfather’s succession, than was given them by his widow’s settlement, on two grounds: 1st, Because, as John Schaw’s funds consisted chiefly of bonds heritable destinatione, he could not by his death-bed deed in 1770, give his widow the power of dividing the residue of his estate, to the prejudice of his heirs at law; 2ndly, Because his widow had no right to burden her husband’s funds, with losses arising on bonds payable to herself, proprio jure. They accordingly brought a reduction of Mr. Schaw’s death-bed settlement, and of Mrs. Schaw’s trust deed, to the effect of setting them aside in these particulars. Etc........

(2) Joe Rock's Research Pages

(3) Dictionary of Edinburgh Furniture Makers 1660-1840 as found in Furniture history; the journal of the furniture History Society volume 19

(4) The Rise and Decline of an Edinburgh Cabinet-maker as found in The Connoisseur, Volume 183, Issues 737-738