In an obituary for Thomas Sim of Fyvie, published in the Banffshire Journal in February 1912, the writer said: “He was a member of a famous Fyvie family, the Sims of Gourdas”. Who was this family? What had they done to make them famous? My research has rediscovered what their contemporaries clearly knew, namely that this was an unusual family whose talents and achievements made them exceptional within their community and whose successes were recognised over a much wider area. The obituary writer put it in these words: “The members of this family had distinct genius and intellectual ability”.
The fame and the accolades arose from the work of three brothers: Thomas, George and William Sim. They were three of the seven children of George Sim and Elspet Cowieson. Apart from information in standard records, nothing is known about the parents but one must assume that they supported their family to continue their studying and pursuit of their interests. Education in Aberdeenshire was of a high standard, helped by a bequest from which teachers could get financial support to improve their qualifications. While the curriculum lacked breadth and the teaching may have lacked inspiration and imagination, the basics were there as a solid foundation on which to build. The Sims certainly did this, continuing all their life to expanding their knowledge by reading books and journals.
The Sims were a family of the Victorian era. George was born in 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne. The family left Gourdas in 1903, two years after she died. Perhaps the national excitement and confidence of that period were factors in their achievements, added to their own abilities and determination.
This web site contains an outline of their work. A fuller account is in the book ‘The Sims of Gourdas’ published by the Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society.