This morning, I was pleased to receive an e-mail indicating that the time might be ripe to investigate a tantalizing genealogical challenge, which I refer to as the Johnnie Walker hypothesis. There are strong reasons to believe that our ancestor Charles Walker [1807-1860] of Braidwood, New South Wales, might have been a brother of the grocer John Walker [1805-1857] of Kilmarnock, Scotland, who invented whisky. In the context of my maternal family-history research, I also refer to this hypothesis as the Billinudgel legend, since I first met up with it in a letter sent to me in 1980 by Walker people living in the village of Billinudgel near Mullumbimby, in northern New South Wales.
When I brought up this subject with the woman—employed by the international corporation Diageo—who's in charge of Johnnie Walker company history, she was incapable of either substantiating or disproving my hypothesis, and she asked me to keep her informed of the evolution of my research.
This morning, I learned that the Scottish authorities in charge of records at Edinburgh have finally digitized their ancient archives.
[Click here, or on their banner, to visit the site.]
Apart from the amusing idea of a possible relationship with the famous grocer, this hypothesis casts doubts upon the social and religious roots of our Braidwood patriarch, who has always been thought of as an Irish Catholic. Indeed, certain present-day Walker descendants would be surprised—to say the least—if they were to learn that their ancestor was a Scottish Protestant. I've always imagined that 32-year-old Charles Walker might have told a white lie about his birthplace and religion in order to persuade the parents of a 16-year-old Catholic Irish nymph named Anne Hickey to allow him to marry their daughter.
The only obstacle in my forthcoming research concerning this Johnnie Walker hypothesis is that the old parish registers in the Scottish archives for the period 1553-1854 would appear to contain some 50 thousand records concerning individuals named Walker!