Ancestors recording meteorological observations in 19th century

Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive digitising many decades of Southern Reporter issues, I’ve just found lots of references to ancestors in the Borders. And they include some very unexpected ones, like those described in this blog post, where two generations of Dodds ancestors at Abbey Gate in Melrose were recording the weather conditions, with the results printed in the newspaper.

The first references come from meteorological observations made by Alexander Dodds (1816-1877). As well as being church officer, or beadle, for Melrose parish, he was burgh officer and baron officer, and took a wage directly from the Duke of Buccleuch. His weather observations were reported as below:

Southern Reporter, 1873 January 9


The following return of the rainfall for the past year, compared with that of the previous year, is furnished by Mr Alexander Dodds, Abbey Gate. The elevation of Melrose above the sea level is 280 feet, and distance from the sea thirty miles. The register is as follows:-


  • January 1.54 inches
  • February 3.49
  • March 1.80
  • April 3.98
  • May 1.02
  • June 4.81
  • July 3.91
  • August 2.38
  • September 2.84
  • October 2.97
  • November 2.59
  • December 3.30


  • January 4.17 inches
  • February 4.19
  • March 4.26
  • April 3.40
  • May 3.76
  • June 3.70
  • July 5.15
  • August 9.20
  • September 5.64
  • October 5.56
  • November 5.45
  • December 4.43

Total in 1871 34.66 inches. Total in 1872 58.91 inches.

The number of dry days in 1872 was 148, with 112 dry nights.

His son Alexander Burnett Dodds (1836-1895) continued the meteorological observations, as a later newspaper report revealed:

Southern Reporter, 1895 January 24


During the past year the temperature at Melrose, as registered by Mr Dodds, Abbey Gate, showed the maximum to be 82.6 in the month of June, while the minimum was .6 in January. During the preceding twenty-one years, the maximum temperature registered was 93 degrees on 5th July 1872; the minimum being 10 degrees below zero on 17th January, 1881. The rainfall for 1894 shows that the greatest fall in twenty-four hours was registered in August, being 1.88 inches, while there were 196 days in the year on which rain fell. During the years 1872-93, the heaviest fall of rain in twenty-four hours was 259 [2.59?] inches and occurred on 7th August, 1872; while the greatest number of wet days was 296 in 1872, the fewest being 180 in 1893. The total depth of rainfall in 1894 was 38.44 inches, as compared with the heaviest fall of 58.91 in 1872, and the least of 25.67 in 1893. The rain guage is 5 inches in diameter; 6 inches from the ground; 280 feet above the sea level; and 30 miles distant from the sea.

About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
This entry was posted in newspapers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Ancestors recording meteorological observations in 19th century

  1. vivdunstan says:

    Reblogged this on Melrose One-Place Study Blog and commented:

    I found out tonight that two of my direct ancestors – a father and son – recorded weather conditions in 19th century Melrose. Here’s the blog post which I wrote about it on my own dedicated ancestry/genealogy blog.

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