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Duncan, John (1794–1881), hand-loom weaver and botanist, was born on 19 December 1794 at Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, the illegitimate son of John Duncan, weaver and soldier, from Drumlithie, and Ann Caird (c.1773–c.1830), also of Drumlithie, who decided to support herself and her child by weaving stockings and harvesting at nearby ...

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John Duncan (1794–1881) by unknown engraver, c. 1865–6 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Martin, John (1783–1855), botanist and hand-loom weaver, was born on 17 November 1783 in Tyldesley, Lancashire, the son of a poor shopkeeper and farmer. He lived with his parents, of whom little is known, until about 1802, during which time he received some schooling and began weaving. When he was fifteen he became intensely religious, advocating voluntary poverty. None the less, when his father began losing property to creditors, ...

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Nowell, John (1802–1867), weaver and bryologist, was born at Springs, near Todmorden, Yorkshire, the illegitimate son of William Midgley, smallholder and publican at Kebcote, and Miriam Nowell (c.1781–1852). He lived with his grandparents and, other than a short attendance at Sunday school, received no education until, aged twenty, he joined a grammar class held at ...