An obsession which has driven my family mad. I am hunched over my computer, in intense discussion with a ninth cousin whom I have never met and am never likely to meet, debating the details of two marriages and their respective offspring made by a controversial seventeenth century bishop who just happens to be – probably – our common ancestor....
Why would someone be driven to find out these kinds of facts? What need does it fulfil for an individual, and what benefit could it be for society that so many others seem to be following the same path?
Is it a primeval kind of ancestor worship? Is it a way for people to feel important? Is it a search for identity, beyond the immediate concerns of individuals today? Is it a kind of societal glue, whereby we can, as our knowledge of family widens and widens until we can begin to feel that everyone is linked together, belongs to the same family? Is it a way we can gain wisdom by being made aware of the temporal nature of our own private existences through the study of so many generations of family and in so doing feeling that our own lives are just one in a vast continuity of lives? Is it a way we can be made to feel at one with the whole of humanity through awareness of our own links with rich and poor, with good and bad, with significant and everyday? Is it a way of making history come alive? Is it merely an activity akin to stamp collecting or train spotting, where the methodology and collection itself become mental challenges, harmless yet irrelevant to life, an escape from reality?
As a boy I was not very aware of my family history. I knew that my greatx4 grandfather was General James Murray who was second-in-command to General Wolfe at Quebec; I knew that this man was from a military family that included various Lords Murray of Elibank; I knew that another of my father’s ancestors, a certain Hopkins Badnall, was Archdeacon of the Cape and also knew that my mother also had an ancestor who had been Archdeacon of Mauritius, whose daughter had been an artist, some of whose pictures had been in the family home; finally, I knew my father’s father had been a naval captain who had been awarded the DSO, and whose greatest disappointment in life was that he had not been chosen to accompany Captain Scott on his Antarctic voyage. Beyond that I knew very little. My father had been entirely uninterested in the family history, and my mother merely liked to boast somewhat of these connections, which to me had seemed irrelevant to my own life, whose own preoccupations seemed to have very little to do with either the army or the church. My family has used a middle name “Fiennes” for several generations, and every now and again members would conduct a little bit of research to find out how the name, which was perceived to show that the family had real class, came into the family. My father’s father, Maurice Fiennes Fitzgerald Wilson (known as “Fiennes”) did quite a lot of research into the Badnall family, and scrupulously kept all the family records safe.
A year or so ago, I was given the file in which all Fiennes’ records were kept. As I browsed through various documents, letters, paintings and photographs the lives of these people seemed to jump out at me and I began to wonder what else had happened in their lives; I began to want to find out about others who had been brothers, sisters, parents of the ones I was reading about; I wanted to get pictures of all of them; I wanted to find out how the pieces of the jigsaw already in place had got there; I wanted to know what their own perspective on the family had been – I was bitten. Subsequently I rooted around in my own loft and found other material, especially from my mother’s side of the family, and assembled everything and began to catalogue and document everything.
One of the first things I did was to scan every picture I had into a collection which could be put on a CD, making sure I knew whose they were. My knowledge of Adobe Photoshop came into use here in restoring many of the older photos which were faded or torn, and just this part of the operation took a long time. It was a fascinating experience to find out which photos could be restored and which could not. In some cases, very faded images could be almost wholly restored: in these cases, I reckoned, the light level ranges had been reduced over time, but the actual differentiation between levels had remained intact, and a simple operation within Photoshop re-expanding the range worked wonders; but in some cases playing with levels and another Photoshop operation “Curves”, which also looked at light and colour levels and distribution, made little impact; this could be because there was either insufficient remaining differentiation between the lighting levels of different parts of the photo, or because the photo had also become over-blurred or smudged. Mending holes and tears was mostly easier than I had imagined. Photoshop has sophisticated tools for copying and blending textures so that even tears which go over faces can often be eliminated almost without trace, given care and patience. In addition, adjusting contrast and brightness can also make a huge difference, as can a discreet use of image sharpening. The whole matter of restoring images also brings up the matter of whether it is better or not to restore the picture at all: there is an argument that the imperfections themselves contribute to the sense of age and history; but the difference between this kind of restoration and furniture restoration, where many dealers won’t touch antiques which have been restored, however well, or polishing brass or bronze antiques, where many experts claim that the metal is damaged by being polished, is that in the case of photos the original remains untouched: it is just a copy which is being restored. For me, the restoration can go a long way to bring the past into the present, as well as to reveal telling details lost in the original; at the same time I can keep the irreplaceable antique original.
Within a couple of months of starting my research I needed to refine the system I had put in place to hold the information, images and documents. I knew of a number of software programmes on the market, but had initially resisted using them, as I felt that I wanted more flexibility in the presentation of material than having to use either an “ancestors of...” or “descendents of..” report, examples of which I had seen on the Net, looking very professional, yet containing impersonal stock phrases as well as linguistic inconsistencies such as “John lived on in Burnham. His occupation was self-employed. He died.” So I experimented quite a lot using spreadsheets, tables and so on using Microsoft Office. However, I rapidly became frustrated with the complexity of the task, and the limitations of my own efforts. I also began to realize the power of software to store information about people in individual records and then present it in many different ways by different kinds of reports, filters, queries and so on. Every kind of information, I realized, could be extracted, sorted and compared. I could, at the touch of a button, find every relative who had been alive in a certain year; I could print a report of every relative who had had a connection with the church, with the forces or with any other profession; I could print out lists with details of all relatives with a given surname or who had lived in a certain place; I could present reports, trees and other diagrams for a variety of purposes, focussing on different individuals; and I could prepare my tree for display on the net. Furthermore, I realized that, with the appropriate software, I could share my information with others and incorporate their information into my own tree very easily through the GEDCOM format. The GEDCOM format (it stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunications) was initially devised by the Church of Latter Day Saints as a standard for sharing family information within its own ranks. However, it has now become a standard amongst genealogists for the sharing of family history information. One of the slightly nerdish things I have wanted to do is to list every descendent of my ancestor General James Murray.
Murrays of Elibank
Murray was the son of Alexander, 4th Earl Elibank, and the nephew of Patrick and Alexander, two perpetrators of the infamous Elibank plot, which attempted to kidnap the Royal Family and put the Young Pretender on the throne. James, like others in his family, had a strong rebellious streak, and against the wishes of his father, wished to join the army. After repeated refusals by his father James, aged 15, ran away from the family home accompanied by the son of one of his father’s gardeners. Lady O’Donnell, James’ granddaughter, related: “They concealed themselves for a day in Edinburgh and then embarked at Leith in a fishing smack. After many adventures, they arrived in Holland. James Murray enlisted in the “Scottish Dutch”, a regiment composed of Scotchmen in the service of the Stadtholder. Here he remained for two or three years. He used to say in after years that he had been every rank of the army except Drummer, adding “I never was a drummer”. One day a Scots nobleman (I think it was Lord Arbuthnot) coming out of the palace of the Hague was much struck by the appearance of a young soldier on duty, who looked fixedly at him: “I think I have seen you before now – you are like the Hon. James Murray who ran away from home”. “Yes”, answered the soldier, “I am James Murray, but I will never go home till they let me be a soldier”. The nobleman made enquiries, heard the highest character of the young soldier, returned at once to Scotland, and induced Lord Elibank gladly to obtain a commission for young James in the British army”
James’ strength of character, sense of principle and determination brought him subsequently to the rank of General in the army, despite the great suspicion levelled at him by the English establishment on account of his Jacobite heritage, and especially the conduct of his two brothers’ involvement in the Elibank plot to kidnap the Royal Family; also his brother Alexander’s refusal to bow to the House of Commons which resulted in a stay at Newgate prison. James’ qualities also resulted in him being made the first Governor of Canada. He had gone to Canada as one of General Wolfe’s subordinates and commanded Wolfe’s left wing in the battle for the Heights of Abraham. After the British had defeated the French and Wolfe had been killed and, of the latter’s other subordinates, one had been seriously injured and one had returned to Britain, Murray was made Governor of Quebec and then Governor of Canada. Much of the structure of the country’s administration put into place by Murray, whose role in Canadian history is seen as pivotal. However, Murray had an extremely difficult time trying to reconcile the British traders with the indigenous French Canadian community. He had probably more respect for the latter, whom he regarded as having more civilized values than the tough, hard and grabbing fortune-seeking British pioneers. In the end, the latter scored a victory, and Murray was recalled to London, facing charges of misadministration, trumped up by those who thought he favoured the French Canadians; although Murray was entirely vindicated, and although he remained Governor for another year, he never returned to Canada. Perhaps, in the end, he had had enough, especially as his wife Cordelia had always declined to join him and remained in Britain throughout his tenure. His reputation in Canada remains high to this day.
Another story of James Murray’s dogged determination concerns his wooing of his Cordelia, his first wife. The latter’s father, Edmund Collier, was one of the Barons of the Cinque Ports, and the family home was Beauport Park near Hastings. Collier liked neither Scots nor soldiers. Colonel Murray (as he was at the time) won Miss Collier’s affections on account of his “being very good looking and agreeable”, but could only come to see her secretly. He used to put on strange disguises. At last, in the guise of a Highland piper, he appeared in the garden of her father’s house, was discovered by Mr. Collier, was forgiven and married her.
After James Murray’s return from Canada, he was made Governor of Minorca. Cordelia did join him there, but had to return in a dying state, in charge of their niece Maria Murray. There exists a pathetic letter from her, written on the voyage home, wishing her husband goodbye. Cordelia died not long after her arrival in England. James subsequently married Ann Witham, 3rd daughter of Colonel Witham, Consul-General of Minorca.
If Murray thought he was landing a soft cushy job, well deserved after his excursions on the other side of the Atlantic, he was very much mistaken. He landed right in the middle of war and political struggle. The combined fleets of France and Spain besieged the island. The hardships and struggles that all on Minorca have been very well documented. Murray had to command the garrison for the long and arduous struggle, which ended in failure, and in the end he returned to Britain. Before he returned, however, it was decided that his own wife and child and the wives of his fellow officers try to escape from the island.
During the most dangerous part of the siege, "the Governor's wife and child and the wives of the officers of his Staff made their escape in an open boat in the midst of the night. Through the presence of mind of my grandmother (Ann Murray) the boat was enabled to pass through the French and Spanish fleets, she repeated the parole in the Spanish language with calmness, and like the other ladies, wrapped in large military cloaks. The boat landed at Leghorn in safety, where Mrs. Murray received the greatest attention and kindness. Soon afterwards she was taken ill, and when her little boy was born, he was apparently dead. She entreated that he should immediately be put in a warm bath, she had dreamt the night before that he was born dead, and that thus through the mercy of God, he was restored to life. His precious life was spared. That child was James Patrick Murray” Bertie Murray
The life of James Patrick Murray (son) is also a remarkable one; meanwhile, however, his father continued his career back in England as Governor of Hull and Warden of the Cinque Ports. His final years were spent ill, when the results of his many and various injuries caught up with him.
The remarkable life of this man is mirrored by the equally eventful lives of his four brothers, which prompted their father’s descendent Arthur C. Murray to write a book about them entitled “The Five Sons of Bare Betty”. The nickname “Bare Betty” for Alexander’s wife Elizabeth Stirling, which I had known from an old family tree, had always conjured up a picture of a primitive wild woman who had married the Earl and thus rejuvenated the over-refined aristocratic stock of the ancient family. However, the truth was slightly less glamorous. Elizabeth, the daughter of George Stirling, an eminent surgeon and MP for Edinburgh, was referred to, as a sixteen-year old student, as Betty Stirling by a college tutor. She objected to this, insisting upon Miss Betty or Mistress Betty – definitely not bare Betty! ... but the name, of course, stuck.
Betty and Alexander’s five sons all led remarkable lives: James, the youngest, has been dealt with; Patrick (5th Lord Elibank) was a literary man, friend of Dr. Johnson, and leading Jacobite; George became an Admiral in the Navy and subsequently became the 6th Lord Elibank; Gideon was a leading churchman; and Alexander was the notorious and explosive Jacobite who refused to kneel to the House of Commons. All this at a time when the family, despite their family history, were, like most of the rest of Scotland at the time, virtually destitute.
The whole process of my finding out about the Murrays has led me down the road of historical discovery in a way that learning history as a subject in school never did. The relations historically between Scotland and England, interesting to me who has more recently studied those between England and Wales as a result of living in Wales for six years, has been brought to life by those in my family who have been leading protagonists; for example, the whole business of loyalty to country for a man like James Murray, brought up a Scot in a family with anti-Englishness at its core, who wished to join the British army (maybe that is why his father was so against his doing so?), and had to fight against suspicion and prejudice. Family background has led me to read about those wishing to rescue the reputation of Mary Queen of Scots, another victim, like Richard III, of the propaganda of succeeding generations.
Patrick and Alexander Murray, two of Bare Betty’s sons, were involved in the last attempt to remove the Royal family from office: the Elibank Plot. The story is rather pathetic of a drunken Catholic vagrant, wandering about Europe, espoused by some as the true heir to the British throne, but, since his defeat at the Battle of Culloden, having no real power and increasingly deserted by allies and friends at home and in Europe, trying to kidnap George II and his family. The days of the Young Pretender were already as good as over, and the plot failed, with the plotters betrayed by a notorious and aristocratic Scot whose life was dedicated to spying for the English (under their Hanoverian King!); this man was named Pickle the Spy, and much has been written about him and his extraordinary life. It is said that Walter Scott started writing a book about him, but, changed his mind because of the awkward position it would have put him in through exposing such a traitor to the Scottish people who nonetheless was from a distinguished Scottish family, who themsleves were connected in friendship with Scott himself. Nonetheless, the Elibank Plot has gone down in history as evidence of the death throes of Jacobitism... and at the same time their brother James was on the way to becoming the first leader of British Canada.
James Patrick Murray’s son, who shared the name James Patrick Murray, the remarkable story of whose birth has been related above, also pursued a military career. James Patrick II had the Duke of Tuscany as a sponsor: in delving through the family history every family member had sponsors, and this has led me to try to find out what this “sponsorship” entailed. Was there a kind of system a little like being a godparent, yet involving financial support? How important was it to have sponsors? Was it only boys who had sponsors? Was a sponsor more useful for support or for contacts? Reading the odd casual remark about them provided some clues: a certain George Don Murray, last in a long line of children of James Patrick Murray II had this written of him by a descendant: “it’s rather amusing to note that his parents were hard put to think of influential sponsors for the 12th child, as your grandfather Pulteney [a brother of the aforementioned George Don Murray], then aged 19 years, was made one of them at his Baptism”, So, sponsors needed to be influential, and were obtained at Baptism. After a spot of “googling”, I discover that being a sponsor is actually pretty much the same as being a godparent: the role was obviously more crucial in those days than today, and had a material rather than spiritual focus: it clearly was crucial for the future of one’s children to have the right sponsors.
The story of James Patrick II’s birth is an interesting one: his father was Governor of Minorca, a post he had taken on after deciding not to return to Canada. If he had thought such a post a well-earned relaxation after the trials of being the first Governor of Canada, he was very much mistaken!
This account according to another descendent of Murray, from whom she heard the story directly:
“During his tenure, the Spanish tried to seize the island, and laid siege to it in an effort to get the British Administration to surrender. There was a long and hard struggle, in which the Governor showed his true worth, especially when there was an attempt by the Spanish king to bribe him.
“During the most dangerous part of the siege, "the Governor's wife and child and the wives of the officers of his Staff made their escape in an open boat in the midst of the night. Through the presence of mind of my grandmother (Ann Murray) the boat was enabled to pass through the French and Spanish fleets, she repeated the parole in the Spanish language with calmness, and like the other ladies, wrapped in large military cloaks. The boat landed at Leghorn in safety, where Mrs. Murray received the greatest attention and kindness. Soon afterwards she was taken ill, and when her little boy was born, he was apparently dead. She entreated that he should immediately be put in a warm bath, she had dreamt the night before that he was born dead, and that thus through the mercy of God, he was restored to life. His precious life was spared. That child was James Patrick Murray.
“The Grand Duke of Tuscany was his sponsor, and he was named after his father and his uncle Patrick, 5th Lord Elibank. General Murray joined them on the capitulation of Minorca. It had held out until its defenders were all worn out by famine, sickness and suffering. The brave garrison, with its noble chief, passed through the French and Spanish lines, drums beating, colours flying and all the honours of war, and then laid down their arms.”
James Patrick II also had a successful military career, ending up as a General. However, in command of his regiment under the Duke of Wellington at Duoro in Portugal, he was badly wounded and his arm shattered. In hospital later it was on the point of being amputated when Wellington entered and stopped the amputation taking place. However, the arm was completely useless afterwards and permanently had to be kept in a sling, as contemporary paintings of him and his regiment show.
As someone without a military bone in my body, I myself might legitimately be non-plussed at being sent, at the age of 13, to a public school with strong military connections – Wellington College. I didn’t know at the time that this was where James Patrick’s great grandson (and my great uncle) Bertie, who had continued in the family tradition and spent most of his career in the Indian army, had himself been sent. I was also not told that of the thirteen odd houses at Wellington, mostly named after Wellington’s generals, Murray was named after my great great great grandfather James Patrick Murray.
The latter’s son Pulteney Murray, my great great grandfather, was reported by my great uncle Bertie, as having also served in the army as a captain. His son Pulteney Henry Murray (Bertie’s father) also commanded a regiment, the 1st Shropshire Light Infantry (from 1894). What intrigued me was the fact that sandwiched between two generals and two colonels was a mere captain, a relatively lowly rank in the army. I later found out, on questioning my aunt about this, that this first Pulteney Murray was always known in the family as the man who ought to have been, but never was, the third general. In other words, he shamed his family. Meanwhile, I had found out, by writing to his old regiment, that he had actually retired from the army at the age of 29 by selling his commission. Despite many efforts to find out what he did afterwards, I have so far drawn a blank. He had just the one son: two years later his wife died, quite likely in childbirth. His son Pulteney Henry Murray was brought up by an aunt. Maybe he married again and had another family. One thing was certain, though, was that his family did not approve.
Photos of my great grandfather Colonel Pulteney Henry Murray exist, as does his military record, showing him spending his career with the 1st Shropshire Light in places such as Canada, Bermuda, Egypt and Malta – it was the heyday of the British Empire! Whilst in Bermuda, he met his future wife, the daughter of the Speaker of the House of Assembly in Bermuda, the Rt. Hon. Samuel Saltus Ingham.
Inghams of Bermuda
The Ingham family have provided me with some fascinating historical insights. They were a prominent family of traders on the island, some of whose roots were Cornish adventurers and possibly pirates. Most of them, unsurprisingly, worked in shipping, and Samuel Saltus Ingham’s father (whose name was the same as his son’s) was an extremely successful man. Recently an item came up in an internet auction of historical documents: “From the shipping register of Samuel Saltus Ingham”. Photos of pages from this and other documents in Bermuda show Ingham trading in sugar, rum and slaves. The effect of finding an ancestor who was a slave trader was a somewhat strange one: it is all very well to read that the British had slaves in the past, but that slavery was then abolished, but when one finds a slave trader in the family, it brings the fact home rather more strongly. Furthermore, in the Bermuda Journal of 9th February 1835 appeared confirmation of Samuel S. Ingham's claim for compensation from the Office of Commissioners of Compensation for 16 slaves at his Paget residence. This followed Wilberforce’s 1834 Abolition of Slavery Act.
Samuel Snr. was also a member of the Colonial Legislature; in 1836 he gave a speech to the Parliament in which he refers to Bermuda being brought to a state of near-starvation in 1778 because of the American War of Independence, which had hit Bermuda extremely hard because of the embargo on trade which had been put in place, which trade was the only gainful activity for the majority of Bermudans. Ingham reminds the parliament of this whilst making a plea for new legislation, demanding that all trade be carried out through Hamilton, the capital, not be put into place. He argues passionately that by doing this the other areas of Bermuda, already hard-hit by a decrease in trade, will suffer badly. Here is a transcript of the speech of June 14th 1836:
About the year 1778 the country was in a state of starvation; there was in consequence a deputation sent from these Islands to New York to Admiral and General Howe to crave relief. Mr. Henry Tucker, the late President and Mr. Nathaniel Jones were deputed; they were politely received and the General observed in reference to their mission that he had experienced much distress himself and could do nothing for Bermuda; but the Admiral told the Deputation that the only thing that could be done for their relief was to order the Ships of War off the Station and as they, the Bermudians, had plenty of fast sailing vessels they would soon be able to find relief, meaning, no doubt, in a trade with America. A short time after this a vessel arrived with a cargo of rice and corn; the owners waited on the Governor and told him that they had a vessel at the west end of the Island with provisions and that if he would allow him to enter without asking any questions they would order her in. The Governor consented on condition that they would give 1/3 of the cargo to St. Georges and to the Troops, which, after fixing the price the owners consented to; the vessel thereupon entered and the cargo was distributed accordingly. About this period Port Royal contributed largely to the relief of the Lower Parishes. That parish was in a high state of cultivation and it is remembered by many now living that the Lower Parishes did receive their daily supplies from Port Royal - part of the production of the land. Port Royal at this time was supposed to be one of the richest Parishes in the Island. It owned a large proportion of the vessels; Ship-building was carried on to a great extent - there were 4 blacksmiths' shops (one of them with 2 forges) in full work. It had a large Militia mustering usually 70-80 men when perhaps 2/3 of the population were at sea. Some time before this the Governor took on himself occasionally to order vessels to St. Georges to enter at the Custom House. The people bore this with tolerable composure till one of the vessels got on shore in coming up and was nearly lost; then it seems the People remonstrated and in 1784 there was an Act passed, authorizing the entry of vessels at the Customs, by producing a certificate from the "Waiter" or "Searcher" - appointed for the West End - of this having visited the vessel. About 1788 there were more vessels it was considered owned in Port Royal and part in Somerset which must have had at least 13 vessels which rendezvoused at the "Horse Shoe"; they had 3 whalers which were very successful; several vessels trading to Honduras and several European trades; besides traders between this and America and between America and the West Indies. After the French Revolutionary War they had several very heavy privateers that did great execution in taking and destroying the enemy's privateers, protecting the trade of the island and taking many valuable prizes. In 1789 there was an Act passed for the removal of the seat of Government. That Act, I believe, never received the Royal Assent for in a subsequent one of 1792 for the collection of trade, it is spoken of as being then in London, and it seems that the Act of 1798 declared the Act for the Collection of Trade shall commence on Jan. 1st 1799. I think there were then 7 privateers out of the parishes of Port Royal and Somerset as both the Privateers and Whalers were generally manned from them. These Parishes had lost somewhat of their former affluence; but like all other speculations it would no doubt have rallied but for the Act for the collection of Trade. From that period they may trace their downfall; the vessels being obliged to come to Hamilton, the men to get employment must follow and often in the winter months not get more than one days hire out of a week; many after coming down, the weather having proved bad had to go back disappointed, dispirited, discouraged, dissatisfied and some that depended on their labour for support, without a mouthful for themselves or their families; this drove many of the young men from the Island. Others dwindled in poverty. All this they attribute to the depriving them of their rights. Instead of bringing their vessels to their doors when they could go to their work either in their gardens or on board their vessels at sun rise, not losing a day or even an hour and at the same time have the use of their fishing boats, which usually furnished fish for the people they employed, their families and occasionally their neighbours... In stating the above grievances it is to be hoped the Legislature will do something for the relief of the country....They can see no chance of being relieved but by removing the restrictions on the trade of the Island. If those restrictions were removed the number of vessels would increase rapidly; those that have money in America would draw it out, when they know they could take their vessels to their doors, put on their short jackets and go to work at sunrise, in place of now being compelled to dress themselves fully to go to Hamilton; lose half their time going and returning, besides being deprived of the use of the fishing boats.... In 1789 there were 213 vessels registered here; since then the whole of the Western World has been improving except our little Island, which is now reduced to about 40 vessels.
My studies of life in Bermuda in the 18th and 19th centuries reveal what might be expected from an island society: a parochial and almost incestuous society dominated by just a few powerful families, with plenty of inter-marriage. These families were by and large traders and sea-farers, like the Inghams. Slavery was not the same in Bermuda as for example in the Southern States of the USA as Bermuda did not have plantations. However, most households had personal slaves. It was in fact a member of the Ingham family who featured in the sad story of Mary Prince, a black slave whose story, when published, helped bring about the end of slavery. The story relates how Mary was born into a Bermudan family (as a slave) and spent her first 12 years relatively happy, until she was sold, at the age of 12, to John and Mary Spencer Ingham. This is how her story then goes:
Captain John and Mary Spencer Ingham, of Spanish Point, five miles west of Brackish Pond, on the tip of main island in the parish of Pembroke, bought Mary for twenty pounds Bermudian currency. Other masters bought her siblings. Mary’s sense of stability was shattered and her heart was broken as she was separated from her parents, siblings, and Betsy Williams. Her condition as a slave worsened from tolerable to unbearable. Captain Ingham often flogged Mary exceedingly over the legal limit of flogging permitted by law while she was hung by her wrists and stripped. As well, he sexually abused her. Out of rage with jealousy of her husband’s sexual escapade with Mary, Mrs. Ingham frequently pounded with her clenched hands on Mary’s head, which was suspected to partially blind Mary in late life.
In her testimony, Mary watched with horror Captain and Mrs. Ingham’s constant senseless beatings and eventual slaughter of Hetty, a conscientious slave girl pirated from a French ship and suspected to have spoken no English. After Hetty died, Mary was forced to immediately replace her. Mary shuddered at the prospect of the same treatment Hetty received and considered running away. Soon, Mary was flogged brutally and illegally with a hundred lashes while tied to a ladder for breaking an already cracked vase. Then, a cow wandered off, and Captain got angry and struck Mary in the small of her back, severely injuring her, and flogged her until she was too weak to stand. Raging, feeling powerless, and desiring protection, Mary ran away to her mother at the estate of Sarah’s father, Captain Darrell, an upper-class Bermudian politician who soon became mayor of Hamilton, a province in Bermuda. Her escape to the estate of a politician seemed to have momentarily reined in Captain and Mrs. Ingham’s vicious abuse of Mary as they did not whip her on the day Mary’s father returned her to them. Upon arriving on Captain and Mrs. Ingham’s property, Mary announced to her masters that she could not tolerate the whippings anymore. Mary felt a temporary victory as Moira Ferguson writes in her introduction: "Resistance had temporarily silenced her predators if only for a day. She had won, at least in her own mind, a symbolic victory". For a change, Mary felt as if she were in control, not powerless as she normally felt.
The feeling of being in control was short-lived. Mary immediately suffered torturous whippings for five more years before being sold to Mr. D--- of Turks Island in 1805 when Mary was seventeen years old. The reasons for selling able-bodied and conscientious Mary to Captain D--- are uncertain, but Ferguson suggests that Mary’s stubbornness about not submitting to Captain and Mrs. Ingham may have sparked the transaction. Ferguson explains in her introduction that Mary went through five owners before she was freed, which was unusual as "most slaves had only one or two owners in a lifetime". Selling a servant was tantamount to selling a child in the minds of Bermudians.
Mary never got a chance to bid her family farewell before being transported to Turks Island in 1805. Ferguson suggests that Captain and Mrs. Ingham worked to prevent that out of vengeance for Mary’s willfulness. Mary sailed for four weeks, half starved along with other passengers, 200 miles northeast from Bermuda across Windward Passage to Turks Island. By the time Mary arrived there, the salt industry was beginning to deteriorate, signifying economic ruin as salt was the only cash product that the island could trade.
As soon as Mary left the vessel, she was valued at a hundred pound Bermudian currency, nearly twice as much she was worth five to six years earlier. Mary soon realized that employment conditions on the island were much worse than at Mary’s former employment. Captain D---, owner of a salt pond, often stripped and hung Mary by her wrists, and whipped her with cow-skin. Sick or well, Mary worked constantly on this utterly isolated island for the next five years until 1810. During her stay there, she witnessed several murders that went unpunished, including the one of an old woman, Sarah by Captain D---’s son. Ferguson states that during the five-year stay on the island, Mary had "no outlet" for her "internal resistance to abuse and confinement" (8). Her life with D---, therefore, "was deadening and deadly" (8).
Mary’s life took on a new turn when she returned to Bermuda with Captain D--- in 1810 at 22 years old. He retired and gave to his son his salt industry. Mary pursued saving for manumission with the goal of freeing herself. By this time, Mary was able to better assess her labour value, giving her "a heightened sense of self-worth". One day, Mary defended Miss D--- from Captain D---’s usual drunken abuses, and when he sought vengeance for her actions, she spoke, "Sir, this is not Turks Island". Additionally, Mary blatantly refused to bathe Captain D--- while he was naked despite threats.
While working at Cedar Hills as a washerwoman in 1815, 27-year-old Mary met a merchant, John Wood, who was relocating to Antigua. She successfully persuaded Captain D--- to sell her to Mr. Wood. She wanted no longer to be with Captain D---, and aimed to go to the West Indies where more employment opportunities for her existed. As well, the island was more populous and diversified. This island was a step away from freedom for her and many slaves. Free black men could vote. Franchise for free black men weakened owners' control and represented symbolic freedom for Mary.
Mary began working for Mr. and Mrs. Wood, and fell ill with rheumatism at 28 in 1816. She lost the use of her left arm, angering the Woods who expected her to do much more work. Mary further angered them by refusing to accept her status as a slave, and desiring the freedom that Martha Wilcox, the black overseer, had. Mary constantly challenged her masters with her attempts to gain freedom. In 1826, when Mary was 38, she married a free black widower, Daniel James at Spring Gardens in St. Johns. She hoped to gain her freedom this way; instead, Mr. Wood flogged her. Also, while the masters went away, which was often, Mary profited from selling coffee, yams, and meat to captains. She also washed clothes for money. She earned enough cash to buy her freedom. She offered the cash to her masters, who refused: "Mrs. Wood was very angry---she grew quite outrageous---she called me a black devil...but she took care to keep me a slave". Additionally, one day, by being unyielding, Mary successfully pressed the fed-up Woods into telling Mary to seek a new owner.
Several potential owners offered to purchase Mary, but Mr. and Mrs. Wood reneged, saying they did not mean to sell her. Mary attempted unsuccessfully to gain freedom from Mr. and Mrs. Wood several more times until she was finally free in England in 1833 following the passage of the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery. She was 45 years old. Explaining the Woods' constant refusal of freeing Mary, Ferguson writes, "Retaining their control of Mary Prince symbolized retaining their identity as the master class". She continues with an additional reason, "...they compelled [Mary] to remain their slave in order to protect themselves from a moral judgment about the quality of servitude in their household".
Mary accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Wood to England when she was 38 in 1826 following her marriage to a black free man, Daniel James in a Moravian church. The marriage so enraged Mr. and Mrs. Wood as it represented Mary’s firm assertion of her autonomy even though they had never granted her freedom. They took Mary to England with them without Daniel James in their final attempt to subjugate her. However, Mary’s future was about to change as she was being taken to a country that had a growing movement toward the abolition of slavery. In hindsight, it appears that Mr. and Mrs. Wood seriously miscalculated in their attempts to control Mary. Once in England, Mary continued to suffer their abuse and struggle with her illness. She was, in Ferguson’s words, a "partial invalid" when she arrived with the Woods. Mary observed how the Woods were looked upon with contempt in England for their treatment of Mary. Frustrated with Mary’s continued stubbornness, the Woods pushed Mary to depart knowing that she would not depart into strange and unfamiliar society. They had the goal of promoting dependence and fear in Mary. Their scheme succeeded temporarily until the fourth time they told Mary to depart when she actually left, ending thirteen years of service to the family. She remained with the family of a shoe blacker, Mash, until her health improved. She sought assistance from the Moravian Missionaries. Mary eventually went to the Anti-Slavery Society in search for help and met her lawyer, George Stephen. In 1827, Mr. Thomas Pringle, the Methodist secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society and editor of Mary’s History, hired her to work for them. They gave her religious instruction.
Mary’s health declined and her sight diminished soon after, and there is scant data on the remainder of Mary’s life except for some court cases involving Mary’s narrative.
It has been said by apologists for the Ingham family that Mary Prince’s story was most likely exaggerated so that its publicity would be a sharper tool in the struggle by the anti-slavery society for abolition. Be that as it may, a study of human nature generally shows us that absolute power of people over other people most often leads to unspeakable abuse, and physical and sexual abuse of slaves was known to be common...
(to be continued)
Wilsons of Cliffe Hall, Yorkshire
When I was a small boy, the family used to visit my grandfather’s house in the Chilterns. He had had a small house built for him when my grandmother died, which he shared with a friend who was a Canadian retired merchant seaman. My grandfather, known as Fiennes, called the house “Lonk”. Lonk was the name of a breed of sheep local to certain parts of Yorkshire; when he came across such an oddly memorable name, Fiennes found himself imagining that this breed of sheep might well have had a major impact on his family’s fortunes in the past: the Wilsons were from the North Yorkshire landed gentry, and had made their money in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from the wool trade. Whether or not the Lonk was a breed of sheep used by the Wilson ancestors, the name of the house gave me my first glimpse of the history of this branch of my family.
Much later on did I come across the photographic portraits of my great great grandfather and mother, owners of a large estate called Cliffe, where they were not only landlords, but occupied a pivotal position in local society, with the church, as benefactors, and as magistrates. Like most landed gentry of the time, they had huge power locally; they were virtually owners of their entire village. Their portraits reflect this showing Richard Bassett Wilson and his wife Mary, archetypal pillars of the community, formally and stylishly, if rather stiffly, dressed.
Interestingly, the portraits are in a format apparently common early in the days of photography: the face itself is a photograph, cut out and lightly coloured in, stuck onto a painting of the rest of the body, clothing and background.
My grandfather was also rather proud of the fact that his own grandmother Mary’s sister had married into the Irish aristocracy and was “descended from the Kings of Ireland”. It puts me in mind of another distant relative of my mother’s, a humble London shopkeeper, who had found that there was a 10% chance that his third cousin’s husband’s employer was distantly descended from the Duke of Pomeroy, whose ancestral home was Berry Pomeroy castle near Newton Abbot in Devon. As a result of this most tenuous and distant “link” he built a whole world of imagined family connections, and a painting of Berry Pomeroy held pride of place in his living room, so that he could boast and be proud of his high connections: one wonders where such puffed up vanity and class consciousness connects with people’s desire for “democracy”!
To return to Richard Bassett Wilson, who was also a soldier – my grandfather Maurice Fitzgerald Wilson was his fourth son, but his first and third sons were also soldiers, and both fought and were killed in the Boer War. Internet searches led me to the “Roll of Honour” where their names are listed along with a photo of John Gerald Wilson and potted biographies:
(John Gerald Wilson. Wounded 7th March 1902, near Tweebosch. Died the next day. Aged 60. Son of Richard Bassett Wilson, of Cliffe Hall, Piercebridge, Darligton. Born 1841. Educated at Cheltenham College. Awarded the CB in 1897. His brother (below) and son (Lieut. Richard Wilson) were killed in the Boer War.).
One of the overriding issues which have come up during my family research regarding the differences between life today and in the past is the presence of death in a real way in most families. Today we try hard to ignore the precariousness of life; we believe we can insure against any accident, we believe we can vaccinate against any disease; and we believe that we can impute blame and take legal action with regard to any and every mishap. Our whole philosophy makes us believe we have an absolute right to a long and healthy life. On the contrary, family life in the past was blighted by many women dying in childbirth, by many children not surviving into adulthood, and by men being killed in wars: how different must have been their attitude to life. During history lessons at school I doubtless learned the fact that many women did die in childbirth in the past, but when, during the course of family research, I found again and again records of the men in my family marrying two or three times, in an age where divorce was pretty much out of the question, I realized so much more vividly this poignant fact. It made me think of the powerless of women in society; I put together the fact of women’s lack of any financial independence & lack of any rights within marriage with the fact that it must have been uppermost in any woman’s mind that there was a very good chance that she might not survive to see her children grow up and that there was an equal chance that her husband would remarry a discrete time after her death. When we consider this in the light of the now known fact that birth techniques, worked out and decided by men, were a prime factor in the mortality of women giving birth, the situation seems to us doubly bad.
Internet searches and census records have also given me further insight into the lives of Richard Bassett and Mary Wilson. The 1851 census lists Wilson as a "Magistrate and Landed Proprietor occupying 60 acres of land employing 12 outdoor labourers and their wives. In the house at the time was a French governess aged 43 and ten servants. The Wilson family were local benefactors, including the local church, Cliffe church: “The clock was presented by Mrs. Wilson, of Sea Croft Hall in 1841, and the east window, representing the four Evangelists, by Miss Sarah Wilson. There are also two stained glass windows in the south aisle to the memory of Richard Bassett Wilson, of Cliffe Hall, and Anne, his widow.” Mrs. Wilson of Sea Croft Hall was most likely RBW’s mother Martha Wilson (nee Bassett).
Richard Bassett Wilson’s ancestry is well-documented as a landed family (at least the male line), and goes back as far as the 15th century, but I have yet to find out detailed information about their lives in the wool trade, what kind of people they were, what they looked like, and so on. I recently traced a common descendent, Richard Wilson, who still lives in Cliffe Hall, where apparently there were several portraits of various of Richard’s ancestors on the walls. I say was, because, very sadly, shortly after I had found this contact, a serious fire occurred at Cliffe Hall and much of it has been destroyed. At the time of writing I am not sure if the portraits have survived. The only other thing I have found, through a search at the National Archives at Kew, is the will of RBW’s maternal grandfather, a certain Richard Bassett. The first thing to notice on looking at old wills is how much hand-writing has changed. The first few lines took me several hours to decipher, but gradually, through detective work associating the strange symbols with letters in common and predictable words, I managed to get a transcription. A will can tell you, obviously, what money and property is owned by a person, but it can also tell you personal things such as what small things were of sentimental value, and to whom those small things were given – which can give some small indications of the relationships within the family. A will can obviously indicate whether there has been a big family rift, and may also tell the reader who the person’s friends were. In the case of Richard Bassett, his will indicates very strongly that he thrived under the patronage of a much more powerful man, to whom, in the will, he pays homage in a way that was common at the time, but seems sickeningly obsequious now. The will mentions his daughter who married John Wilson. Details also indicate the status of the two families and their relative wealth. Furthermore a will can tell one about general social patterns and customs of the time. For example, the women in the family only inherit anything if the men die first: there is a pecking order which is in this particular will, but I have seen it in other wills of the time, so it seems it was a standard wording: sons inherit first; if they are all dead then daughters; if they are all dead the sons of the sons; then – sons of the daughters, husbands of the daughters, wives of the sons, sons of the daughters, daughters of the daughters; and so on.
Of the two surviving sons of Richard Basssett Wilson, my great grandfather Maurice was the youngest. Maurice had a successful career as an engineer, and towards the end of his career was invited to become President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a particularly high honour. Maurice declined, because of his and his wife’s health. I had always known that my own father, who was also a civil engineer, had joined the same firm that his own grandfather had been in, and that Maurice had built the harbour at St. Ives in Cornwall (where I had also seen the plaque with his name on) but recently was determined to find out more than this. I wrote to the Institution of Civil Engineers, who were extremely helpful in sending me photocopies of articles and reports written by my great grandfather in the ICE Journal, as well as a copy of his obituary:
Maurice Fitzgerald Wilson was born on the 4th February, 1858, and died on the 23rd December, 1945. He was educated at Eton and at the Crystal Palace School of Engineering, and, after a short period at the Thames Ironworks, was articled in 1881 to Sir John Coode, K.C.M.G., Past-President Ins. S.E., spending most of his pupilage on the harbour works at Table Bay and Port Elizabeth. From 1883 to 1886 he was engaged on constructional work at Tilbury Docks for Messrs. Kirk and Randall and Messrs. Lucas and Aird, for whom he also worked on the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway. In 1888 he was appointed resident engineer on the construction of the breakwater at St. Ives, Cornwall. From 1892 to 1895 he was resident engineer on the dock works of the London and South western Railway at Southampton. In 1896 he was appointed superintending engineer in charge of the survey for the Admiralty harbour, Dover, and later for the construction of the works, on which he was engaged until 1905. In 1906 he joined the firm of Coode, Son and Matthews, of which in 1924, on the death of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, Past-President Inst. C.E., he became senior partner. For nearly forty years he was engaged in the design and construction of harbours, docks, sea defence works, bridges and barrages, including dock extensions for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board; the Admiralty harbour of refuge at Peterhead; Fishguard harbour; the Lyttleton and Gisbourne harbours, New Zealand; wharves and docks at Singapore; the Jahore causeway; Colombo harbour; entrance works and wharves at Lagos; harbour works on the Gold Coast, in Sierra Leone, and in Gambia; and work for the Whangpoo Conservancy Board, Shanghai. In 1921 he was appointed a member of the consultative committee of engineers of the European Commission for the Danube. From 1929 to 1933 he was in charge of the technical investigation of the proposed Severn barrage, upon which the report issued in 1933 was based.
Mr. Wilson was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 5th February, 1884, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 12th February, 1895. He was elected to the Council in November 1928 and became Vice-President in November 1937, but declined nomination for election as President in November 1940 owing to ill health. In the previous February he had been elected an Honorary Member of the Institution. In 1919 he presented a Paper on the Admiralty Harbour, Dover, for which he was awarded the George Stephenson Gold Medal and a Telford premium. He was a member of the Sea Action Committee and later acted as its Chairman. For many years he took a leading part in the work of the British Standards Institution, of which he was Chairman from 1922 to 1933, and honorary life chairman of its Engineering Divisional Council.
In 1884 he married Florence May, daughter of the Venerable Hopkins Badnall, Archdeacon of the Cape, and had two sons. Mrs. Wilson died in 1941.
Thus did I find out about how extensive Maurice’s work was, especially with such major projects as the harbour at Dover.
Having found out about Maurice’s father and family, I realized that engineering would have been quite an unusual choice of career for him; I wondered whether his family approved, or even whether his choice was influenced by his being the youngest son, or by his elder brothers’ deaths in the Boer War. In any case, Maurice’s career spans a hugely exciting time in the history of engineering: if at the start it would not have seemed an obvious choice for a man of his background, by the time he retired the profession had immensely expanded and developed in scope.
In whichever event, Maurice’s early career took him to South Africa, where he met, fell in love with, and married his future wife Florence May Badnall; Florence was one of many daughters of the Venerable Hopkins Badnall, Archdeacon of the Cape. Florence had some artistic talent, which, coupled with a sense of humour, gave rise to a booklet (….) containing caricatures of her father and many siblings, alongside humorous verses. Later in life, Florence became very fat, and her children remembered her as extremely slothful: they used to enjoy playing jokes on her to get her moving, such as putting signs on hotel lifts saying “out of order” in advance of her arrival.
I possess a diary kept by Maurice during his time in South Africa, in which he decries life there for its complacency and lethargy. Interestingly, he does not mention his future wife or her family at all in the many pages which cover his stay. It would be interesting for me to know how the two met – I don’t think Maurice was overly religious, but maybe he did meet Florence, the Archdeacon’s daughter, at church. He clearly gained the respect and trust of his father-in-law, because the latter appointed him as one of the executors of his will later in life.
Maurice and Florence had two children, Fiennes and Bassett, both of whom led extremely interesting lives. Both had a quirky sense of humour (as can be seen in letters they wrote to each other and to others) and both showed great courage in times of war. Bassett trained as a solicitor, but subsequently followed a military career. Seriously injured during World War I, he was advised (as was Churchill) to take up painting during convalescence, as a way of re-establishing co-ordination. Later, after leaving the military, he exhibited with his wife Muriel in London, becoming established in the world of art. In the 1920’s they went to live in Paris, amongst the modern art community, working with Man Ray, Lotte, Marc Vaux, and many other well-known figures. They were respected as the practically the only British avant-garde in their circle, and were soon exhibiting all over the world, including America, Finland and back in the UK, where they had the great honour of causing outrage in Darlington for their modern ideas! Later, in Paris again, they exhibited alongside Miro, Delauney and Matisse. When World War II came, many of Bassett’s compatriots in France got on the first boat to America for the duration, but he and Muriel both signed up for duty, Bassett taking up his old rank and Muriel organizing help for refugees. Their only son Paul signed up as a commando; tragically he was killed at the very end of the war. Neither (but especially Muriel) ever recovered from this blow. I always remember as a child that we were not to go to Muriel and Bassett’s because they did not wish to see children, as it would be too painful a reminder or their own son. For Bassett’s contribution to the war effort, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He also gained an OBE and an MC.
During the war, most of their paintings were looted or destroyed: it would be a wonderful thing to locate them. Muriel only continued painting after more than a decade. Much later, after Muriel’s death, most of Bassett and Muriel’s paintings were also sold off to raise money by a family who didn’t really appreciate good art. A book about their work and lives, with prints of their paintings, is long overdue.
I have a couple of interesting bits of history which cast light on their roles as artists and in the Second World War. The first is a copy of Charles Gaulle’s book “France et Son Armée”, signed by de Gaulle and with an inscription “Au Géneral Bassett-Wilson, en souvenir(?) de son glorieux fils. C. de Gaulle 23/1/48”. Bassett had also been with the first troops who came to liberate Paris. In fact, Bassett was a brigadier – it seems that de Gaulle was in error, unless he had been made an honourary general in the French army. The second item is a catalogue for an exhibition of work, “Apollinaire Chez Lui” which was to take place in England, containing art, poetry and music. The exhibition contained work by Derain, Braque, Picasso, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Poulenc, Villon and many others. The catalogue contains the inscription: Dedicated to Paul Francis Bassett Wilson and to all those other promising sons whose early death in action left unfulfilled the high hopes of their parents and friends. The cover contains a poem by Apollinaire “Il Pleut”, which is written with the words making the shape of drops of rain. It shows that the avant-garde artistic community in Paris was well aware of the sacrifices made by so many in order to liberate their city and country.
Bassett and his brother Fiennes (my paternal grandfather) got on well together, but Fiennes apparently always felt as if he were in the shadow of his elder brother. Despite this, Fiennes had a successful career in the Navy, and was awarded the DSO and the Dutch Commander in the Order of Orange Nassau for his bravery in the first World War, when he took command of HMS Calypso at Heligoland, when the Captain had been killed. Fiennes remained on deck, in full command, even though he himself was quite seriously injured. His testimonial from Admiral Kelly, later his boss when he worked for him on the League of Nations Commission gives an idea of the regard in which he was held.
League of Nations Commission 25th January 1928
Commander MFF Wilson, DSO, Royal Navy, has served with me as my Commander for Navigating Duties, for one year when my Flag was flying in HMS Revenge, and for two years when my Flag was in HMS Curacao. He is now at my request serving as my Assistant at the Admiralty. I have therefore had exceptional opportunities of judging his capabilities. He is I think without question the most able Navigating Officer of his time, but unfortunately no Commander for Navigating Duties was promoted during 2 ½ years until he passed out of the zone for promotion in June, 1927.
Commander Wilson earned his DSO when Navigator and 2nd in Command of HMS Calypso. On 17th November 1917, when in action in the Heligoland Bight, the Captain was killed by a shell, and Commander Wilson was wounded by the same shell in both legs and in several other parts of his body, but remained at his post for over an hour until he had brought his Ship out of action, when he was taken below. He was in hospital for four months, and on sick leave for two, as the result of these wounds, so his courage and powers of endurance were shown to be remarkable.
He is sober and steady as a rock, and absolutely reliable under all circumstances.
He is an intelligent and indefatigable worker, both mentally and physically, and is as cheerful after a long and worrying night on the bridge as if he had spent the night in bed.
His mathematical knowledge is considerable, and he is the inventor of several schemes and methods which are now in standard use in the Royal Navy.
He has the inventive brain and much ingenuity in his ideas.
He is very even tempered and tactful, and is always very popular with his brother officers. He was an excellent senior member of a Mess.
He would teach well, but I think he is worth something better than that.
He is not one of the world’s talkers, and his shyness and modesty are the only faults I have discovered after a long association.
Commander Wilson is too good for a bad job, and I honestly consider it is a great chance for anybody to obtain his services. I shall be delighted to confirm and amplify any of the statements in this letter by a personal interview.
WAH Kelly, Vice-Admiral
Added to that, Fiennes was much loved by all his family, and all his grandchildren have extremely fond memories of him. He enjoyed fun and got on well with children. When my brother and I stayed with him, he fixed up bunk beds for us, and put walkie-talkies in each bed so that we could talk to each other, which hugely appealed to us as six or seven year olds. At Christmas, knowing that my brother and I did not get on as well as we might, he used to send money in the form of a single note, which he had torn into two pieces; each one of us was sent one of the pieces, which meant that we had to co-operate with each other in sticking the pieces together and then getting change.
Fiennes was also very interested in family history, and did a considerable amount of research on his mother’s family, the Badnalls, especially on his maternal grandfather Hopkins Badnall, Archdeacon of the Cape, who was involved in a particularly acrimonious dispute with a man called Bishop Colenso, which dispute overlapped with another concerning the independence of the Church in South Africa from Canterbury: more of this later, and on the line taken by Badnall.
It must have been a disappointment to Fiennes that he was not promoted to the rank of Captain during his naval career, despite his enormous skills as a navigator, but that disappointment would have been partially alleviated when he was given the honourary rank of Captain when he left the Navy. However, Fiennes biggest disappointment was in not being chosen as Navigator for Scott’s Antarctic expedition of 1910. He had applied to go with Scott, and had indeed received several letters from Edward Evans implying that the confirmation of his acceptance was pretty much a formality. However, in the end, he and three others were not chosen: this was not to do with their personal or professional qualities, but because a suitable arrangement with the Royal Navy (to go, I believe, on half pay) in the end was not agreed upon. I have in my possession the various bits of correspondence, including rather despondent (yet at the same time humorous) pencil notes on the final letter of rejection. I also have a copy of the pamphlet produced by Scott promoting the expedition. Interestingly, the main purpose of the expedition is scientific (sub-divided into geographical, geological, meteoric and magnetic) and Scott gives £40,000 as the cost below which it would not be possible to go – presumably the pamphlet was produced in order to raise the funds for the exhibition. Another interesting aspect of the pamphlet was that Scott was seriously considering taking dogs to the pole – I had always been taught that Scott had not wished to do this because, like a true Brit believing in fair play, he had not wanted the assistance of dogs, in contrast to his Norwegian rival Amundsen, who in the end “won” the race to the pole, but only because he had not played fair, and had taken dogs. Whether or not my grandfather would have survived the expedition or not, or whether he might have made any difference to what happened, is a matter of pure speculation.
After he had retired from the Navy my grandfather did a variety of things, amongst which was keeping chickens! However, he spent a lot of time on family historical research and bookbinding, and enjoyed driving around in his Daimler. Unfortunately, late in life tragedy struck, for he went out in his Daimler one evening, and, not seeing as well as he used to, ran over and killed a girl who was walking along the road. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the girl turned out to be the daughter of a man in the village he knew very well and had helped him a lot; my grandfather could not forgive himself for this and did not really ever recover from the shock.
Bassetts, Whichcots, Cliffords and Cliftons
The name Bassett, which was Fiennes’ brother’s Christian name, was their grandfather’s middle name and their great grandmother’s maiden name. I had had the name of this lady’s father as Richard Bassett from various family trees, but had known nothing about him. A trip to the National Archives revealed his will, which I am in the process of transcribing. Wills reveal quite a lot of detailed information about family members, revealing little snippets of information about possessions: it is often the mention of the smallest items, like teapots or linen, for example, that reveal as much as the main items of money and property; but wills also give detailed information about the society in which people lived, the conventions by which they abided, the social hierarchy, and so on. In the case of Richard Bassett, the list of fam.....(to be continued)
Interestingly, having found out more about this man Richard Bassett, some further internet research and information from a lady by the name of Jackie revealed that his father, one William Bassett had been the Archdeacon of Stow, and also had a very distinguished pedigree, which included both the Clifford family of Skipton, who had been very powerful in the Wars of the Roses on the Lancastrian side, but finally lost influence until the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, when they regained their power, lands and influence, mostly through Sir Henry Clifford, a man known as “The Shepherd Lord of Skipton”. The story went that his father, having behaved rather brutally during a battle between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, and especially, killed, in cold blood, a son of one of the leading Yorkists after he had surrendered, became attainted and was punished by having his property and estates confiscated. His wife, fearing that his enemies would further attempt to avenge themselves on the family by murdering his two sons, arranged for them to be sent immediately into exile. Meanwhile he himself gained the nickname “The Butcher”, although posterity might judge that he was no more brutal than any other warlord, on either side of the civil war.
Some while later, Henry, one of the sons, was secretly brought back home, but his mother needed to keep this a secret, so arranged for Henry to be brought up by a local shepherd as a shepherd boy, waiting for the political tide to turn. Although Henry’s secret was revealed when he was a young teenager, he still had to wait many years, until Henry VII, having defeated the Yorkist Richard III at Bosworth, came onto the throne, before his family’s estates were restored, and the family became one of the most important and favoured ones in the country under the tudors. Henry’s son (also Henry) was brought up at court with the young King’s son Henry (later Henry VIII) and later became an extremely influential courtier in Henry VIII’s court. A bit of a wild young man, he was originally one of the Yorkshire men chosen to a company Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France but his name was struck from the list. He was active against the Scots before and after his father's death in 1523. He was created Earl of Cumberland in Jun 1525 and he was also appointed Lord Warden of the West Marches and Governor of Carlisle Castle. Maybe his most interesting claim to fame was that in 1530 he signed a letter to the Pope in which King Henry sought sanction for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
This Henry Clifford’s great granddaughter Frances married into another extremely influential family, the Cliftons of Clifton, Nottinghamshire. Frances Clifford’s husband was Gervase Clifton, about the twelfth Clifton of that name, and who gained the nickname “The Great”. Many earlier generations of the Clifton family had been Sherrifs of Nottingham: in the Robin Hood story there are several real life Sherrifs of Nottingham who may have been the one on whom the storybook Sherrif is modelled: an earlier Gervase de Clifton is one of the candidates. Gervase the Great (the one who married Frances Clifford) also had the distinction of marrying more times than Henry VIII - seven times in fact - although it is thought that his motives were different from the monarch’s: it is said that he deliberately married older rich women in order to keep his family’s wealth and standing! Gervase the Great’s grandfather was another Gervase - “the Gentle”, who was also an extremely influential courtier under a number of monarchs: “...a gentleman of considerable authority, both in peace and war, in four successive reigns, Sir Gervase Clifton is mentioned in a distich penned by Elizabeth,
"Gervase the gentle, Stanhope the stout,
Markham the lion, and Sutton the lout."
Like the Clifford family, the Cliftons played a major role in the Wars of the Roses, on the Lancastrian side. There are several brasses of various members of the Clifton family in the church at Clifton.
One of the most revealing things about society revealed by a study of family history is the huge divergence between rich and poor, the high and the low in the land, which can exist within the same family over a very few generations. In earlier epochs, where primogeniture dominated, a younger son would have to accept a much lower status than an older one. Thus, the younger son of a younger son of a younger son of an earl might be a farmer, for example. Also, the destiny of any family might be very much tied up to a particular monarchic dynasty - both the Murrays of Elibank and the Stewarts of Traquair allied themselves unambiguously to Charles I - both families fell disastrously under the Protectorate.
The late twentieth century saw an unprecedented mixing of classes and backgrounds - such that politicians and others have boasted of the “classless society”; and yet family mini-dynasties continue in the field of politics, the arts, the media, sport and show-business. It would be difficult to envisage a society where that would not happen, unless all children were removed from their parents at birth, with no means of those parents ever identifying their own children again. Although something like this was once suggested in the early days of communism, it is difficult to imagine that anyone would believe this to be either possible or desirable. Most people in Britain, though avowing the notion of democracy and equal opportunities for all, still support the idea of a Royal Family - based on a hereditary line: people like to read stories about Kings and Queens; children’s stories are often based around monarchs or emperors; millions of people have recently become fascinated by the idea that Jesus may have had children whose descendants are still alive today (holy/royal bloodlines etc.) as if it were truly important to someone’s status if their great x 56 grandfather was Jesus (meaning that they are approximately .000,000,000,000,00014 of Jesus, genetically speaking). Without doubt the concept of the bloodline has been important throughout history, and remains so. Why??
Only when I looked into my own family history did I understand much of my own family’s dynamics. My father hardly ever spoke about his family, and was not very interested in it; yet my mother was extremely interested in my father’s family, but not her own. My mother often blamed her own step-mother for this: my grandmother had died at a relatively young age, and my grandfather had remarried. My mother could not forgive her own father for this and thereafter hardly had any contact with her own father. All I knew was that he had been a very strict father and made my mother lie on hard boards for long periods to ensure that she would have a straight back, and other such Victorian excesses. Actually, to this day I do not know what work my grandfather did: my mother always simply said that he was a civil servant, but that she did not know what exactly he did.
Having found out quite a lot about my mother’s side of the family, I can now understand why my mother (to whom class and breeding was always supremely important) would wish to keep quiet about her own family: looking through a list of family members in the previous three generations we find an outfitter’s manager, 2 printers, 2 laundresses, 1 clergyman, a glover, a civil servant, a tradesman, a railway policeman and 2 cabinet makers. Looking at my father’s side we find 2 civil engineers who reached the top of their professions, a naval officer who was awarded the DSO for gallantry in WW1, 4 army officers including one general who was also an MP, 2 politicians - one of whom was the Leader of the Assembly Parliament in Bermuda, 2 landed gentlemen who tended over large estates and one shipping magnate.
Until I found this out I was somewhat confused at the reaction of my mother when my parents divorced at about the age of 50, to the happiness and advantage of both sides, I reckoned. Both my parents were then able, with both their sons now having left home as young adults, to pursue their individual (and mutually contradictory) lives. My father remarried, and spent the rest of his life quietly at home, pottering - as he put it, and my mother launched on a series of worldwide adventures which involved visiting places as far afield as Antarctica, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Galapagos; she also was able to pursue an interest in classical music by joining various music societies.
Although my mother seemed very much happier, she was nonetheless bitter about the whole business. Now, with the knowledge I have, I realize that my mother must have felt that the social advantage that she felt she had gained by marrying my mother had disappeared in one fell swoop; she need not have worried, because her friends just took her as she was, and she was secure financially and in the fact that she could do as she wished; but it was by her own rather rigid views of a clearly stratified society that she judged herself; and she must have judged that she had fallen.
My mother’s great grandmother Emily Hurlock was an imposing looking woman who was apparently nicknamed Onez. Onez’ parents had eloped - her father George was from a very poor background - more of this in a moment - but her mother was from a wealthy banking background, and it is hard to imagine that her family would have approved the match. George was the son of a notorious Billingsgate Market man known as “Cutaway Mike”. His job was to patrol the banks of the Thames at Billingsgate and ensure that people had paid their mooring fees. Anyone who had not paid would have their mooring ropes cut - hence “Cutaway Mike”. Cutaway became such a notorious figure that various Victorian Ballads were written about him, some of which are still performed by folk singers. So it was a bit of a surprise to find that a few of Miss Charlotte Hodsell’s relatives turned up at her wedding with Cutaway Mike’s son!
Onez herself learned dressmaking as a teenager, but shortly afterwards went to work for her brother William, who became an extremely successful trader on the Walworth Road, which eventually became the large department store Hurlocks. William clearly had social aspirations, and decided to move out to St. Albans, buying a large house there called Ver House and eventually becoming Mayor. However, he did not shirk controversy, and, during the Boer War, being a staunch liberal, he spoke against the War and the local mobs broke all the windows. As a family man it seemed, however, that he was rather an autocrat - most of his five sons died before him, and apparently had quite a few problems, including drink ones. William’s sister Emily married young to a man named Williams, but it is not known what happened to him after they had had their two children (amongst whom was Emily Williams, my great grandmother). In any case, Emily remarried to a clothier and draper by the name of James Carpenter, and the two had three further children. It is an interesting point that at the time of her marriage to James Carpenter, Emily underestimated her age by quite a few years, according to census entries. Over the following three or so 10-yearly censuses those years were made up bit by bit, so that in old age her correct age was once again documented! Emily’s daughter Emily Williams, apparently known as the “Belle of Camberwell” later married an Outfitter’s Manager by the name of George Waller, and the two moved to another area of London, Brondesbury, where they became “esteemed residents of Brondesbury”.
A man named Richard French was the publican of the Pointer & Bird pub in Watford in the opening years of the 19th century. This man ended his days as a “General Dealer”. It is not known what his son Robert did for a living, but Robert’s brother was an agricultural labourer. It is all the more remarkable that Robert’s son Robert James French, coming from such a humble background, achieved such success as a clergyman and missionary, eventually becoming Archdeacon of Mauritius. Robert James French spent his early years working as a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in southern India. Later, when he had been ordained, he moved to Mauritius, where there was a large Indian population, and Robert retained his links with the Tamils of Tinnevelly, India. He worked his way up the ranks of the church and eventually became Archdeacon. It is likely that it was hard for the church to find people to work in Mauritius - it may today have the reputation of being an island paradise, but in the late nineteenth century it was an extremely hostile place for a Westerner, in terms of its climate and general conditions, as well as the fact that it was a place with a large amount of people of different nationalities, with their own faith, added to which the catholic church was also strong and a major landowner on the island.
“A second Tamil deacon was ordained in 1867; .... but in 1868 he died. At this period (1867-1871) the Mission work was greatly hindered by calamitous visitations. In 1867-8 a malarious fever swept away one fifth of the population of Port Louis in six months, and one tenth of that of the whole island in twelve months. Five of the Society’s agents perished, including the Rev. CG Franklin. A hurricane followed in 1868, causing commercial prostration from which the colony has never fully recovered. Bishop Ryan’s episcopate lasted 14 years, but two of his successors, Bishop Hatchard (1869-1870) and Bishop Huxtable (1870-1871) died, the one within three and the other within seven months of consecration.”, according to the records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
The society’s records continue: "The fact that two thirds of its present population are Indians flowing form and returning to India makes Mauritius a Mission field of extraordinary value and interest. The Creole race (of Malagashe and African extraction) are dying out, and the Hindu coolies are likely eventually to be the permanent inhabitants of the Island.
"The difficulties of the Anglican Mission in dealing with the polyglot population are increased by the fact "that the proprietorship, or at least the management, of almost all the estates is subject to Roman Catholic influence.
"The superintending Missionary of the Society, the Rev. RJ French, has had much to do with the training of Tamil agents both in India and in Mauritius; and in 1879 a Telugu Deacon, Mr. Alphonse, was ordained. He had come to the island "steeped in the idolatry of India”[!!PW]. On his conversion he volunteered to work as a catechist among his own race, which he did for eight years.
"As yet, however, it has not been found possible for Mauritius to supply all its needs in regard to native agency and the Church in India is now giving promise of assistance in furnishing well-trained evangelists and pastors. The first ordained native Missionary from India to Mauritius - the Rev. G David Devapiriam (an old pupil of Mr. French in Tinnevelly) - arrived in 1890, and already under his care the Tamil and Telegu congreagations in Port Louis have "greatly increased". Since 1889 the local affairs of the two congregations of St. Mary's Church have been well managed by an "Indian Church Council" under the direction of the Missionary."
This was the background in which Robert French brought up his three daughters, one of whom was Margaret (also spelt Margerett), my great grandmother. Margaret was a remarkable and beautiful woman, who was a very talented artist. Some of her pictures still survive, including one of a waterfall in Mauritius. Margaret married a printer by the name of Thomas Martin, a printer who worked in his father James’ printing and stationery business. They in turn had three children, one of whom was my mother’s stern Victorian father; interestingly, the other two children, Daisy and Violet were both girls who both spent their lives as music hall artistes.
The Badnall family of Leek, Staffordshire, played an important role in silk production and its automation in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Their story in many ways is typical of the industrial revolution. William Badnall (d. 1760) of Mill Street worked as a dyer by 1734 and possibly by 1725, with dyehouses by the Churnet in Abbey Green Road at its junction with Mill Street. He was described as a mohair dyer in 1736. In 1758 he bought the bankrupt Richard Ferne's linen-thread works on the opposite side of Abbey Green Road, which included a dyehouse by Ball Haye brook. It is not known that he ever engaged in silk dyeing, but the Badnall family's works was engaged in silk dyeing by the 1780s under the management of William's son Joseph.
In 1818 there was only one factory, and that had only a few looms. It stood in Mill Street and was run by Richard Badnall and William Laugharn, who appear to have been using steam power by 1816. A foreign visitor in 1826 described it as a 'fine factory building, at the end of the town, quite new, most splendid position in the whole place'.
When Joseph Badnall died in 1803, his dyeworks was taken over by his son William and brother James. On William's death in 1806 a partnership was formed between James and his brother Richard and son Joseph. James died in 1813. By 1826 the works was run by a partnership consisting of Richard's son Richard, F. G. Spilsbury, and Henry Cruso; the partners also manufactured silk and silk machinery - thus, by the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century the Badnalls’ business involved new automated machinery. The partnership was dissolved that year. The business was bought by James Badnall's son Joseph, on whose death in 1830 it passed to his sister Ann. She let the works to John Clowes, who died in 1833.
The Commercial Bank, also in Market Place, was opened in 1825 by a partnership consisting of Richard Badnall of Highfield House in Leekfrith, his son Richard of Ashenhurst in Bradnop, R. R. Ellis, Henry Cruso, and F. G. Spilsbury; all, except apparently Ellis, were connected with the silk industry. The partners were reduced in 1826 to the elder Badnall and Ellis. In 1827 the partnership was dissolved, and Ellis was left to close the bank at a heavy loss to himself.
His eldest son William (d. 1896) and another son Joseph (d. 1908) went into partnership in 1850 or 1851 with William Beaumont Badnall; William was then living at Pickwood, Joseph at the Derby Street house, and Badnall in Church Lane. In 1854 Badnall became the son-in-law of Francis Cruso, and he apparently took over most of the Cruso practice.
In other words, the typical comings and goings of an ongoing family business. It is interesting to note, however, that it was the younger Richard Badnall’s invention of machinery which brought the process fully into the Industrial Revolution. However, as has been mentioned, the firm had severe financial problems and Richard Badnall Jnr.went bankrupt, though it has to be said that he had overstretched himself by buying the huge estate of Ashenhurst, and was frequently and with great energy devoting himself to this or that scheme, many of which did not succeed.
Richard Badnall Jnr. was more of a dreamer and inventor than a financial man, and as such caused his family considerable trouble. Although he may have been successful in the invention of machinery for the family silk manufacturing business, he ahe was less successful in another venture, into which he put all his energies in the 1830’s - the railways. Alan Bednall continues the story:
“The 1830s was, for all practical purposes, the first decade of rail travel and a period of rapid growth in the spread of this form of transport nationally. It was the period too, which established George Stephenson and his son Robert as the foremost railway engineers not only in Great Britain but also in the World. Their genius and perseverence enabled them to overcome the very considerable doubts which were expressed concerning the viability of railways.
“The success of the Liverpool to Manchester line created a considerable enthusiasm for new railway projects all of which required the services of engineers, not only to survey and plan the lines but also to take charge of the construction and commissioning of the line when Parliamentary approval had been obtained and the necessary finance found. The Stephensons, Brunel and other established engineers were thus in great demand but they alone could not carry out all the projects and the high fees and salaries offered attracted new " railway engineers".
“Samuel Smiles describes how these engineers became leaders of the battle when two or more rival lines were planned between the same points. Such battles were trials of individual ambition as well as professional skill and considerable personal feeling was involved. According to Smiles "many new men laboured to mature and bring out railway projects more striking and original than anything heretofore proposed" and amongst this group of "fast engineers" he identified Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Dr Lardner and a certain "Mr Badnell".
“Both Lardner and Badnall were, according to Smiles, proponents of railways constructed with "rising and falling gradients" with Mr Badnell claiming that "an undulating railway was much better than a level one for the purposes of working".
“The Mr Badnell referred to by Smiles was Richard Badnall of Cotton Hall in Staffordshire . Richard Badnall, a Staffordshire man by birth, was the eldest son of Richard Badnall of Highfield, a Leek, silk manufacturer, banker and dyer.
“Richard junior, was a well educated man, a poet, author and inventor who played the flute and whose romantic disposition is evident in his writings and in his choice of home. His book "the Legend of St.Kilda", "Jelinda: a Persian tale", and his poem "The Pirate" illustrates his Byronic, romantic, view of the past and the Staffordshire homes he chose for himself - Ashenhurst, Woodseaves and Cotton Hall - give further clues to his nature.
“His sister Mary Elizabeth Cruso, described him on one occasion as "as usual full of schemes " and of "talking up and down the town (Leek) of his plans for enriching himself and his family". In 1837, after hearing that her brother proposed to stand as a Parliamentary candidate for Newcastle under Lyme, she described him as "strange in his proceedings".
“He was also, for a time, a silk manufacturer and dyer and perhaps would not have ventured into railway engineering had not his first partnership with his brother in law Henry Cruso and Francis Gybbon Spilsbury , come to an early and abrupt end in the bankruptcy of the partners and the parents of both Badnall and Spilsbury, in 1826.
“Following the announcement of his bankruptcy, Richard Badnall, junior, had tried strenuously, both in this country and in France, to remedy matters , pay his creditors and sustain his wife and their young family. The contents of Ashenhurst were sold off and his wife's uncles, Samuel and William Philipps, took over the considerable mortgage on the property. For several years Badnall's life was extremely unsettled and between 1827 and 1832 he lived at six different addresses in London & Liverpool before going to live with his father in Liverpool. For much of this time he appears not to have had any settled occupation except for a short period when he acted as a silk broker and merchant.
“In 1832 his petition as an insolvent debtor was heard at Lancaster Court and later that year a patent application revealed that although he may have been without an occupation his mind was as active as ever. It was this patent that formed the chief item of discussion between Richard Badnall and Robert Stephenson, younger brother of George Stephenson, over dinner at the Manchester home of J.L.Gardener, and subsequently led to the formation of the Stephenson & Badnall partnership to exploit its potential.
“Richard Badnall,junior, was born in Leek at the turn of the 19th century. He was the son of one of the town's most successful silkmen, Richard Badnall of Highfield, Leek whose family firm had been established in the town for some 75 years. Richard,junior, eventually took over the family firm in 1824 when his father decided to concentrate on his duties as a JP, his young family and his farm. Richard, junior, entered into partnership with his brother in law Henry Cruso and Francis Gybben Spilsbury and began to develop the firm to exploit their various patents relating to tanning and to the manufacture of silks. Unfortunately, they entered into the euphoria of the times and within a short time they were bankrupt and their failure subsequently caused the bankruptcy of Richard Badnall, senior. Following a period in which he kept moving from place to place in a vain attempt to restore the family fortunes, he lived for a while on the Isle of Man and whilst there developed his theories of the "Undulating Railway". Though his theory proved in the end to have been flawed he was convinced of the value of his railway design, primarily because of the practical tests which he had carried out using, initially, clockwork models but subsequently, the real trains of the Manchester & Liverpool Railway . There is a lengthy correspondence in the Mechanics Magazine in which he vigorously defended his ideas .In 1833 he entered into partnership with Robert Stephenson, senior, of Pendleton Colliery to exploit the undulating railway patent.
“Richard Badnall was politically a Whig, and had a somewhat romantic nature. He wrote poetry and several books, registered several patents for improvements in silk machinery and stood as Parliamentary candidate for Newcastle under Lyme in the elections of 1837. He appears to have had a tendency to enjoy the fruits of success before they had been harvested. For example, on first entering into partnership with Cruso and Spilsbury, he took on a mortgage of £12000 in order to acquire the Ashenhurst estate near Leek and following his bankruptcy continued to try to live in a style which his income couldn't maintain. Unfortunately too, he suffered all his life from gout, and the combination of this and the stress under which he lived from 1827 resulted in his death in 1842, at the relatively early age of 42.”
It was in this exciting but somewhat insecure environment that Richard Badnall’s second son Hopkins was brought up. Hopkins’ mother was herself the daughter of a solicitor and coroner, and her grandfather had, like most of the Badnall family, been involved in silk manufacturing.
Hopkins’ career has been well-documented, culminating as it did with his work as Archdeacon of the Cape in South Africa, where he was involved in a major division of the church between, to put it at its most simplistic, the forces of tradition and those of change: Hopkins was on the side of tradition, and set himself against his colleague Bishop Colenso, who took the opposite view.
I quote the article on Hopkins Badnall by M. Boucher of the University of South Africa in full (Hopkins was also the third vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa):
The life story of the Venerable Hopkins Badnall begins in the little Staffordshire town of Leek, which lies in the attractive Churnet Valley on the western edge of England's Peak District. Hopkins was born on September 21, 1821, the second son of Richard Badnall (1797-1839) and his wife Sarah, the daughter of a Uttoxeter solicitor, Isaac Hand. The child was christened in the parish church three days after his first birthday and was given the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, Harriet Badnall, who had died in 1819. His father was a prosperous silk manufacturer, a local trade in which the Badnalls had been engaged for several generations.
Hopkins spent his childhood in the family home, where he received his early education, but later continued his studies under the tuition of his uncle, the Rev. William Badnall of Wavertree, Liverpool. At the age of twenty, he entered the University of Durham, an institution which had been founded not many years before by the Church of England. He proved himself to be a sound scholar, winning several awards and graduating as a B.A. in classical and general literature in 1844. He was elected a Van Mildert Scholar for his academic achievements and suitability as a divinity student.
Hopkins Badnall obtained a Licentiate in Theology in 1845 and also became a Fellow of University College. In 1851, after he had left the university, he was awarded his M.A. and eleven years later, he gained a doctorate in divinity by diploma. The young man was ordained deacon in 1845 and priest in the following year. His career in the Anglican Church began with his acceptance of a curacy under the Rev. Robert Gray in the industrial town of Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.
It was late in 1846 that Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, the great Victorian philanthropist and friend of the novelist, Charles Dickens, made a substantial donation to the Colonial Bishoprics Fund for the endowment of two new sees. One of these was to be at the Cape of Good Hope and in June, 1847, Gray was consecrated Bishop of Cape Town in Westminster Abbey, London. Hopkins Badnall joined the new Bishop's party as his domestic and examining chaplain and on December 20 sailed from Portsmouth in the "Persia", bound for Madeira, the Cape and Ceylon. The long voyage ended for the newcomers to South Africa on Sunday, February 20, 1848, when the small vessel cast anchor in Table Bay. The first phase of Hopkins Badnall's connection with South Africa had begun.
He took up residence at Protea, later known as Bishopscourt, the home of Robert and Sophia Gray, and officiated at Claremont, where a small church was eventually built. He does not seem to have been popular among the clergy at this period, but his position as chaplain to a Bishop intent upon rousing a somnolent church was a difficult one. Nor was he entirely successful in another field to which he was introduced as a result of Gray's zeal.
It had long been the dream of Anglicans at the Cape to found a school which would be a counterpoise to the undenominational South African College, established in Cape Town in 1829. The new Bishop was determined to make this a reality and in 1849, opened the Diocesan Collegiate School on the Protea estate. A brilliant scholar from Winchester and Oxford, Henry Master White, who had come out to the Cape to work for Gray at his own expense, was appointed Principal; Hopkins Badnall added to his other duties that of Vice-Principal. The two men had strikingly similar careers. White, a future Archdeacon of Grahamstown, was also to serve upon the university Council in Badnall's time. His death followed closely upon that of his old colleague.
The school, soon to move to Woodlands, was very small, for the arrival of two little boys in August, 1849, only brought the total number of pupils to nine. It was a modest start for the Diocesan College of today. Two future members of the university Council were boarders there: John X. Merriman, the politician, and John Espin, later to distinguish himself in the church and as Headmaster of St Andrew's College, Grahamstown. Another pupil was W.H. Ross, who became the medical superintendent on Robben Island. Both Espin and Ross have left recollections of those days which suggest that Badnall did not endear himself to the young as a teacher. While the school remained at Protea, he used to take the senior class for an hour each morning; after the move to Woodlands, he rode over for lessons twice weekly. "The young fellows", Canon Espin recalled, "dreaded his coming since he appeared to them to be lacking in sympathy", while Dr Ross remembered his nickname, "Carker", and the brilliant glitter of his teeth as he smiled a cold, conventional smile! Yet to leave that impression is to do Hopkins Badnall an injustice. John Espin came to know him better on many an adventurous mountain climbing expedition and grew to love him well. Gray found him gentle and considerate and there is eloquent testimony of the affection in which he was held by his parishioners from Claremont days onward.
The increasing burden of church duties compelled Badnall to resign as Vice-Principal in 1853. In February of the following year, he married Sarah Elizabeth, the daughter of a Port Elizabeth merchant, John Owen Smith. Sarah died in London on December 7, 1903, at the age of 70. Two of their three sons, Herbert and Reginald, passed the Law Certificate examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. Herbert, who died in 1938, became Magistrate at George in the Cape. The other son, Lancelot, was a prominent sportsman. He was born in 1871 and attended Durham School in England. The Badnalls had five daughters, the youngest of whom, Evelyn Elizabeth, married Captain Frank Leonard Northcott of the Norfolk Regiment at St Mary Abbot's Church, Kensington, London, in June, 1898. It is interesting to record that Hopkins Badnall's granddaughter, Mrs E. Hancock of Rosebank, Cape Town, has recently presented her grandfather's papers to the muniment-room of St George's Cathedral in the Mother City.
Soon after his marriage, Badnall decided to return to England, where he laboured for a number of years in the West Riding of Yorkshire, first as Rector of Goldsborough and then as curate in charge of the parish of Cawthome. He retained his connection with the Cape as the Bishop's commissary, however, and was in frequent demand as a speaker and preacher on missions. He had great gifts as an orator, sufficient to gain him the praise of the eminent Cape parliamentarian, Saul Solomon. In 1862, the Grays visited England and the Bishop was able to persuade his former chaplain to return to the colony. The Archdeacon of George, Thomas Earle Welby, had been elevated to the St Helena see and Hopkins Badnall was appointed in his place. He left his homeland for the second time in October, 1862, to take up his new duties.
Now began his period of greatest usefulness in the life of the church in South Africa, in the course of which he was able to display his learning as a theologian and his ability as an ecclesiastical jurist. The Badnalls seem to have had a decided leaning towards the law and another of Richard's sons, William Beaumont Badnall, was a barrister of note in England and a Queen's Counsel.
It was in 1862 that the unorthodox views of Bishop John William Colenso of Natal caused a public sensation in Britain and the colonies alike. The Bishop of Cape Town decided to take action against him and Badnall was chosen as one of Colenso's three accusers. His colleagues in the case were the Dean of Cape Town, the Rev. Henry A. Douglas, who was later to go to India as the Bishop of Bombay, and the Archdeacon of Grahamstown, the Venerable Nathaniel J. Merriman, John's father and the future Bishop of the eastern Cape city.
The proceedings took place in the cathedral at Cape Town between November 16 and December 16, 1863. Badnall was the last of the accusers to speak and his lengthy indictment lasted the best part of a day and a half. The result was a foregone conclusion and Bishop Colenso was formally deposed, a judgement subsequently reversed on appeal to the Privy Council in Britain. The differences between Gray and Colenso went further than matters of doctrine and Biblical interpretation. The question of authority within the church was involved and the Colenso trial marked a significant stage in a growing split within the Anglican community.
Hopkins Badnall's years at George were happy ones and he had the companionship of a former associate, J.C. Davidson, who had also arrived aboard the "Persia" as the Bishop's Registrar. Davidson was then Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate for the district. Badnall was much liked at George and got to know his extensive archdeaconry well. He suffered, however, from lumbago and the many journeys he made, often in inclement weather, aggravated the complaint.
In 1869, Badnall was appointed Archdeacon of Cape Town and Rector of Rondebosch in succession to the Venerable J.H. Thomas. He was also made a Canon of the cathedral in the colonial capital. He was now a leading figure and was to be offered the Bloemfontein see, a preferment which he declined. In the course of his career he published a number of sermons, tracts and addresses and had already appeared in print on the position of the church in South Africa. He played an important part when the first Provincial Synod was held in Cape Town early in 1870 and was largely responsible for the canons which were adopted there. These, together with a constitution, mainly the work of the Bishop of Grahamstown, Henry Cotterill, brought into being the autonomous Church of the Province of South Africa, with Bishop Gray as Metropolitan. The creation of this new body emphasized further the differences in outlook among Anglicans. Many Evangelicals looked with disfavour upon the High Church views expressed within the Church of the Province; many, too, saw no reason to change the existing order of things.
Badnall was actively involved in this conflict in 1879. In that year, he presided at the trial of the Dean of Grahamstown, Frederick Henry Williams, who refused to accept the jurisdiction of the Church of the Province over the cathedral there. As in the Colenso case, a verdict against Williams by the ecclesiastical court was overruled by the civil power. Both the Cape Supreme Court in 1880 and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1882 regarded the Church of the Province and the Church of England as separate institutions in law.
In 1872, Badnall lost his eldest daughter and his old friend, Robert Gray. He was deeply distressed. In the long interregnum which followed the Bishop's death - again reflecting discord within the church - the Archdeacon acted as Vicar-General. He enjoyed wide support as a candidate for the vacant bishopric; Gray, too; had thought of him as a likely successor. It was not to be, however, and the Rural Dean of Oxford, William West Jones, became the second Bishop and Metropolitan. Badnall co-operated with him loyally in many fields, although they did not always agree.
Anglicans who, like Badnall, deplored schism and were prepared to compromise, felt that the surest road to unity lay in the deletion of a clause in the constitution of the Church of the Province which gave it freedom to interpret doctrine in its own way, with no outside interference. The new Bishop was opposed to any such amendment, but Badnall campaigned strenuously in his last years at the Cape for the removal of the controversial third proviso. In this, however, he was unsuccessful.
Nevertheless, his known moderation enabled him to keep his Rondebosch congregation together and gained him the full backing of those who still looked upon the parish as an integral part of the Church of England. He was greatly loved and respected there and it was through his efforts that St Paul's Church was extended and its furnishings improved.
A few years after he had become Archdeacon of Cape Town, the Venerable Hopkins Badnall was brought into contact with the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In those days, instruction and examination were kept strictly apart and Section IX of the Incorporation Act of 1873 prevented the governing Council from appointing active professors as examiners unless others were unobtainable. Good scholars outside the colleges were therefore much in demand and the Rector of Rondebosch soon found himself setting papers and marking scripts for degree examinations in arts. The regularity with which the same gentlemen were selected for these tasks did not escape public notice and on one occasion the examiners were referred to in the Cape press as "recurring decimals"!
Badnall also applied to Council for admission to a Cape M.A. on the strength of his Durham qualification at this level - degrees in divinity being at that time unobtainable from the new institution. This was common practice in the lifetime of the University of the Cape of Good Hope and gave admitted graduates a voice in the deliberations of Convocation. The Archdeacon's application was accepted when Council met in December, 1874, and he was active in the affairs of the body of graduates for a number of years. He was chosen President of Convocation in February 1881, in succession to the Chief Justice, Sir J.H. de Villiers, and held that office until October, 1882. He was assisted by the Presbyterian minister, the Rev. J.M. Russell, who was then Secretary. De Villiers had also been appointed to the first Council in 1873; Russell took part in university government at a later period.
At its meeting of March 17, 1875, Convocation had elected Badnall a member of the university Council in the place of another Anglican, the Rev. Canon E.C. Judge, who had recently died. In the following year, however, he took leave in England for reasons of health and was obliged to relinquish his seat. Convocation chose Professor P.D. Hahn of the South African College to succeed him.
Badnall's absence abroad was not a lengthy one and when the second six-yearly Council was selected in 1879, he again took his seat as a Convocation member. One of his colleagues there was Bishop West Jones, who had been nominated by the Governor, Sir Bartle Frere. It was during the life of this Council that the controversy in the Anglican Church found an echo in "University Hall" - a pretentious title for the modest accommodation the university rented in Bureau Street, Cape Town.
The admission in 1882 of the Durham M.A. obtained by the Rev. Dr C. Maurice Davies was hailed by the opponents of the Church of the Province as a "significant triumph of learning and letters over ... bigotry". It was also seen as an encouragement to Dean Williams of Grahamstown, for Davies was one of his clergy. The university Council found itself further enmeshed in the Anglican schism when Davies became the centre of a sordid court case in the eastern city. The Bishop of Cape Town was not silent on the whole issue and some of his remarks found a wider audience than that in the Bureau Street debating chamber. One of his comments led to a threat of legal proceedings. This brought up the question of the sanctity of Council meetings and the propriety of admitting newspaper reporters. The last suggestion was at all times strongly resisted. Not every application for the admission of degrees was accepted. In March, 1884, another Anglican, the Rev. P.J. Oliver Minos, asked for recognition of his M.A. and Ph.D. of the American Anthropological University of St Louis, Missouri. Minos was in 1883 the Headmaster of Bishop Henry B. Bousfield's school for boys in Pretoria, St Birinus', and in charge of the cathedral choir. Council, however, declined to place the certificates of a well-known degree mill on a par with Cape degrees!
When Council met at the end of July, 1881, Langham Dale was re-elected Vice-Chancellor for the customary two-year term. It came as something of a surprise when, in the following year, he announced his intention of resigning. He was not in good health; moreover, he was out of sympathy with the views of a recent arrival as Inspector of Education, Donald Ross. Dale also wished to resign as Superintendent General of Education, but was dissuaded by government. His quarrel with Ross grew as the new man proceeded to find fault with many aspects of education at the Cape. It must therefore have been galling indeed to him when Convocation elected Ross to fill a vacancy on the university Council! However, the antagonists only attended two meetings of Council together in January and February, 1883, for Ross died unexpectedly soon afterwards.
Dale's resignation as Vice-Chancellor led to the election of Hopkins Badnall as his successor. Council, in its agitation, first chose him to complete Dale's term of office only, but later realized its mistake and extended his incumbency for the statutory two years. Badnall was thus Vice-Chancellor from 1882 until 1884. The Registrar, Cameron, was absent for part of this time and his work was carried out by J.H. Brady, an Oxford graduate who was to become Dale's assistant in the Department of Education.
Hopkins Badnall's period as Vice-Chancellor was not marked by any great changes in university administration. The institution over which he presided was already encountering considerable hostility as a factory of certificates of all kinds, but it was unwilling to relinquish any of its examining functions. When Laura A. Robinson, Principal of All Saints' School, Wynberg, asked in 1884 whether her pupils were free to sit the Cambridge Locals, Council sprang to the defence of its own tests for schools! At undergraduate level, a new examination was first held in 1883 - the Intermediate B.A. The work of Council was growing more complex at this period and in January, 1883, the first Standing Committee was appointed.
An Extension Act in 1875 had tried to make the University of the Cape of Good Hope a more South African institution, but the slower rate of educational advance outside the colony and a resistance to its Englishness impeded efforts made in this direction. Vice-Chancellor Badnall did, however, exchange letters with President J.H. Brand of the Orange Free State on the subject of bursaries to students living in that country.
Among those who passed the various university examinations at this time were the future Reformed Church minister and professor, Marthinus Postma, who gained his M.A. in classics in 1884, and a later Cape Doctor of Science and Council member, Charles F. Juritz, who surmounted the Intermediate hurdle in its first year and was awarded an exhibition. In the Matriculation list for 1883 appears the name of John Tengo Jabavu, who earned renown as a Xhosa newspaper editor and educationist. He was only the second of his race, after S.P. Sihiali of the Congregational Church, to achieve this distinction. Jabavu laboured under difficulties, however, and only succeeded in scraping together 38 marks out of 300 in Greek! No girls graduated until after Badnall's day, but our forefathers were coming to agree that sustained mental activity was neither injurious to their health nor beyond their capabilities! Agnes Ellen Lewis passed the Intermediate examination in 1884; two years later, she would become the first woman to obtain a B.A. in South Africa. She studied privately to this end, but the colleges soon began to open their doors to girls who wished to follow in her footsteps.
One admitted graduate in 1883 was William Thomson of the Stellenbosch College, soon to be renamed in honour of Queen Victoria. He followed Donald Ross as a member of the university Council in that year and was to be connected with the university and its successor in this capacity and as Registrar almost without interruption until his death as Sir William Thomson in 1947.
Early in Badnall's term of office, the governing body lost two outstanding members, both connected with education at Stellenbosch. In September, 1882, Thomson's predecessor at the college, Professor George Gordon, died. A few months later, the death occurred of the Rev. John Murray of the Dutch Reformed (N.G.) Church seminary and Chairman of the Stellenbosch College Council. Two deaths at opposite ends of the university scale were recorded in 1884: those of the Chancellor, Sir Bartle Frere, and the Department of Education's messenger, J.W. Coskey, who looked after the Bureau Street premises.
Langham Dale returned as Vice-Chancellor in 1884, although Badnall remained a member of Council. He was chosen once more by Convocation in the election for the third Council of 1885, but resigned almost immediately. His health was far from good and he decided to leave the colony. Thomas Fothergill Lightfoot became Archdeacon and Canon George Ogilvie, a university Council colleague who had long been Principal of the Diocesan College, took over the Rondebosch parish. The Council vacancy caused by Badnall's departure was filled by the appointment of the Congregationalist minister, the Rev. Wilberforce Buxton Philip, youngest son of the famous Scottish missionary, John Philip.
Badnall sailed for England in the latter part of 1885 and settled again in the West Riding as Rector of Fishlake, near Doncaster. In 1888, however, he moved to the Maida Vale district of London, where he lived in retirement. It was there, on September 27, 1892, that he died.
Hopkins Badnall was buried four days later in the family vault at Leek Parish Church. The opening sentences at the funeral were spoken by the Vicar of Leek, the Rev. C.B. Maude, once Rector of Kimberiey and Precentor of the cathedral in Cape Town; the Lesson was read by the Rev. S. Bond, a former Diocesan College Vice-Principal who had sat with Badnall in the Council Chamber of the University of the Cape of Good Hope; the service at the grave was conducted by Archdeacon Thomas, then Vicar of Hillingdon in Middlesex, whose place he had taken at Rondebosch. It was a last tribute to one who had devoted many years to the service of God and the cause of education in a distant land. His work should not be forgotten.
The Diary of Maurice Fitzgerald Wilson of Cliffe Hall - South Africa 1881
FROM Maurice F.G. Wilson
3rd April 1881, Capetown. I had intended to begin this diary ever since I came here, three weeks ago, but of course did not, as was quite natural; and the best thing I can do now is to give a kind of account of the place as well as I can remember up to now and then go on with it every day. The place, that is to say Table Mountain, looked very fine on coming in, and the day was beautifully fine and hot. On landing the ship was overrun with Coolies, (Coolie being a sort of word for "boy" for whenever you want anything done you just shout "Coolie" and they come by scores)who laid hold of all your baggage and wouldn't leave go; just like a lot of Irishmen. I put up at the "George" which they say is the best hotel in Capetown. If it is I can't say much for the others. These hotel keepers seem to have it all their own way here - for at this hotel, and I hear it is the same at all the others, they won't give you anything to eat unless you come at the proper Table D'Hote hour. For instance, Breakfast is at half past 8, lunch at 1, and Dinner at half past 6, and if you want your meals at any other hour it is next to impossible to get them. The town itself is at first sight foreign looking but soon turns into a seedy sort of English town. The houses are all white or yellow and flat topped, the streets are wide and regularly laid out arid the principal shops very good. Such a town for smells I should say there never was? going down as I do from the station to the docks there are at least 20 different smells from dried fish to Typhoidal Sewage, and coming back again in the evening it is quite a relief to get to the dried fish; they are quite sweet in comparison. Of course I do not mean that at the Docks themselves there are these smells on the contrary where I have to work is thank goodness the best place in Cape Town for it is most beautifully fresh and cool,
Cape Town itself just now is, or rather last week was, a perfect oven, for Table Mountain shuts out every breath of air that might come to it. Here at Newlands where I am staying the air is quite perfect, and the scenery pretty. The place and the whole country about here is covered, with fir and oak trees at the back of which rises Table Mountain and the Devil ‘s Peak, covered for about two thirds of the way up with evergreens of various sorts and. the rest an almost perpendicular precipice. There is I believe at this end of Table Mountain only one way up it, but I have not been up and do not suppose I shall do so till after the winter. Every thing here seems fearfully slack and no one seems to care to have any thing nice. 'the private houses (or rather villas which reach pretty well all the way from Cape Town to Wynberg, a distance of about 9 miles) are certainly nice and clean looking outside, and those I have been into are nice inside, but there is no attempt whatever at even a decently kept garden. The entrances and gardens (with a few exceptions which might be counted over again on one's fingers) are regular wildernesses. Bar the Governor’s carriage I have not yet seen a decent turn-out of any sort. Every thing from beginning to end is filthily dirty, for it is impossible to get good white servants and the niggers are very bad. My introductions have turned out very well. Lady Robinson and all the Government House people being very nice and friendly. Captain Wright from Simons Town asked me down in time for the Squadron Regatta and. put me up for it; and I had a very good time of it down there. Kitty Cradock (Admiral Sir Christopher Cradook, lost in the "Good Hope” at Coronel, 1914) was there and seemed very well but did not seem so keen about the Navy altogether as last time I saw him.
The Hazards seem nice, especially the Colonel, but I should say he had a temper and a will of his own, I have never seen Colonel Montgomery since the first day when I took my introductions to him though I have called twice. He promised to put me up for the Club, but I have heard nothing from him since about it. I can't make Head or Tail of Jenour but think I shall get on with him all right. He most certainly is a fearful toady. His wife is a sort of half cousin of General Roberts, and when that celebrity was here the other day he lunched with the Jenours, and we were occasionally informed of the fact by Mr. Jenour: also reminded of it occasionally afterwards. The General seems to have been pretty well disgusted at the peace and his having to go straight home again, as well he might. Every one here is in a fearful state about it, and Gladstone is being burned in effigy allover the country, though what they hope to gain by so doing I don’t quite see; if they were to burn the original there might be some sense in it but to think that he is likely to care one bit what a Cape mob does seems great nonsense. They say there will be no standing the Boers about here now and all through the Colony, for they quite believe, and very naturally, that we were thrashed into this peace. Any how all the troops have gone out [?] though what for remains to be seen. The real Dutchman, or Afrikander, as he calls himself, is about the most mean creature alive from all accounts. He will tell any lie and do any thing to get round any one; at least, so I am told but I have certainly had no chance of finding it out for myself yet.
The climate certainly, as far as I can see and hear is beautiful as far as temperature, etc. goes, but the dust at present and always through the Summer is simply fearful. It is bright red and very fine and wind or no wind covers your clothes and in a short time utterly spoils them, do what you will. It gets under your clothes, and covers your whole body and makes you feel quite filthy. I would never have believed it if I had not seen it; and when the South-Easters blow (and they do blow perfect hurricane!) it is unbearable; first comes the dust which blinds you, then after a bit gravel comes which hurts you; then small rocks which about finish you. But as I was going to say - the other men in the office are Thwaites, the Assistant Engineer, who really does all the work, and Bell the Accountant. Bell is a very nice quiet Scotchman [deadly sin committed here - they are Scotsmen?] and Thwaites rather a nice little man but vulgar and very fond of his liquor. This last seems the curse of the place? All these clerks, one and all of them, are always "having a drink" and when they are not doing that they are smoking. This boarding house is not at all bad in its way but shamefully dirty and badly managed, but I am going somewhere else next week so it is not worth while bothering about it. Here are staying Mr. and Mrs. Lascar. He is a German Jew who made his money at the diamond fields, she is a regular Cockney; This does not sound lively but they are really very nice especially Mr. Lascar. She would also be nice if she was not always abusing the house and drawing comparisons between it and what their own house used to be and which they have just sold for they are going to England. Then there is a Mr. Williams who is on the Colonial Office; he is very nice and pleasant and a gentleman, but he has a fairly good opinion of himself and seems to have been great friends with the Freres which fact he takes good care all should know. Then there is a very girlish youth who is harmless and has nothing peculiar one way or the other, except that he much prefers drinking other people’s beer or wine to his own. The reason this house is badly managed is that Mrs. Adams the landlady was the wife of a rich City merchant who spent all his money and she does not like coming down as far as to look after things properly and has at least two servants too few - by way I suppose of making more money, but the result is every one is going to leave as soon as the chance comes of getting elsewhere. The roads here are beautiful, and I wish I had my bicycle but I think it would hardly be worth it, but I will see about that later on. I was rather sold with some people of the name of Graham yesterday. A friend of theirs whom I met on the "Warwick” told me I was to call on them and that he had told them to expect me; so I called yesterday and found he had never said any thing about it which was rather a sell, but they did not seem to mind and said I might go up again so I suppose it is all right. This morning I went to Claremont Church about a mile off. It is a nice little church but the singing is not good. I was going to have walked to Wynberg this afternoon with Williams, but he seems to have gone to sleep and is not going to appear. The Post here is very irregular, the letters dropping in at all sorts of hours, but I believe they are generally all delivered in course of time. They ought to get my first letters from here early this week at home. I wonder if they will do so.
April 7 If I describe one day it will do for the lot, one being almost exactly like another. I get up in the morning at 7 a.m. Breakfast at 8. Catch the train at half past 8 having got a Cape Times at the Railway Station which I study carefully all the way up to Town, generally not with much result as far as the getting of any fresh news is concerned. Arrive at Cape Town at quarter or 10 minutes to 9 and do any thing in the way of shopping I want in the Town, and then walk down to the office through all the delightful smells above described, reaching that place at about half past 9 or quarter to ten. Have my lunch (a few sandwiches) at about 1 and read the paper or talk or wander about for an hour or so, and then to work again, leaving town by the 5 o’clock train, or some times if nothing particular is to be done, at 4 p.m. Get down here again at quarter to 6 and walk on the Hats till quarter past and dine at half 6. After dinner talk, play chess, and read till half 10 or 11, when we all as a rule turn in. This is the usual daily routine and bar a few exceptions is not, so far as I can see, likely to be altered.
Today Mrs. Lascar was fuller than ever of abuse of this wretched house and its management, and I really don’t know which is the worst, Mrs. L. or the Boarding House. It is a great nuisance for it quite spoils one’s dinner, and otherwise she is not at all bad - on the contrary rather nice.
I don’t know what I should do if it was not for the fresh air out here especially on the flats, for really the last few days it has been fearfully oppressive at Cape Town and made one feel quite good-for-nothing by the afternoon, but I suppose one will get used to it soon.
They are certainly most annoying people here: I damaged my fiddle and took it to what I was told was a good place to get it mended, but the man there certainly seemed to understand what was wanted. This was last Thursday. He promised me I should have it on Tuesday. On Tuesday he had forgotten all about it. Then I certainly would have it on Thursday. Today Thursday he had had no time but would let me have it perhaps on Saturday. But the annoying part is that he did not care a bit and so it was not the slightest use getting angry, and it is just the same with every one about here; they are the most free and easy people it is possible to imagine and untruthful and lazy into the bargain.
The "Warwick Castle" went off on Tuesday with a great lot of passengers. The debate on the Government is put off till Monday, but there does not seem any chance of the present Ministry staying in. I have never yet got up to the House but must try and do so soon.
Jenour has at last asked me to lunch or rather dinner (for every one dines in the middle of the day on Sunday) next Sunday. I wonder what Mrs. J. is like.
The Bay looked very pretty this morning going in: it was a flat calm with all the ships lying any way and there was a slight mist all over with the sun at the back which gave every thing a reddish yellow tinge, and as it rained a bit last night the ships had their sails unfurled to dry. However the Bay always looks pretty whatever the weather is. The winds here are most peculiar and I do not suppose one sees the same any where else. All this week it has been blowing a strong S.E. breeze getting at times almost to a gale all over the outer part of the Bay, but inland – that is on the Cape Town side - owing to Table Mountain which shelters that part of the bay there has been a strong back eddy. Consequently while it has been blowing S.E. outside (about a mile out) it has all the time been blowing N.W. and W, on the inside, and one could see vessels going full sail before the wind in exactly the opposite directions. Today it blew quite a S.E. gale all over and the dust was awful, quite blinding, but I am told it was nothing at all to a real summer S. Easter.
Talking of Easter, it never struck me before that Sunday week is Easter Day. What a pace the time goes: But all the same it seems ages since I came here. I see the "Pretoria" arrived on Sunday night so they should have got my letters on Tuesday. I hope they did. I must not forget next Monday to write to Matthews for I promised to do so when I left. It is about bed time now so I must turn in. It is a regular case of "Early to bed -—- " etc. I wish the last part would come true also.
April 10th - Sunday Still the same beautiful weather and cloudless skies, day after day. It is certainly very pleasant, but for my part I think it is too hot. For the last few days there has been quite a strong S.E. Gale in the Bay, but luckily it did not come into the Town and consequently the dust was not blowing about very much.
Yesterday I dined with the Sivewrights. They have a very nice little house and in a beautiful situation rather high up along the slope of Table Mount with a beautiful view of the latter and also of the mounts on the other side of the flats. Mrs. S, turned out very pleasant, for I did not care much about her the first time I met her. She plays rather nicely but like all the rest out here she fancies she can sing and sang a lot of songs indifferently instead of playing a few things nicely, which she might have done.
Today I went to Town and Church at the Cathedral, The service there is nice and well done, but they can't sing an anthem but of course will try and do so which is a pity. They came to great grief over one of the Psalms which was meant to be sung very softly, and they got so very soft that at last they could not be heard at all and the organ (which had stopped) had to come in with a bang to wake them up again. After that I went to lunch or rather mid-day dinner with the Jenours. He is not bad at home at all, nor is she, but that is all. However I had a good dinner and the Bay looked quite lovely. It certainly is a beautiful bay and grows on one every day. He has got a horrid little daughter about 9 or 10 years old who kept bullying a very nice little retriever pup about 6 weeks old which made me very angry.
The "Conway" arrived last night but I shall get no letters I'm afraid till to morrow. I did not get away (and then with difficulty) till half past four and then went on to the Governor’s for tea. He and my Lady and the two daughters and Captain St. John were there. I took a dislike to Captain St. John (the eldest daughter's husband) at first but am beginning now rather to like him. Lady L. was of course still abusing (and rightly) the people here but of course I don't care; it is nothing to me.
I got my fiddle back yesterday and he has made a very good job of it, but it is not quite right so I must take it up to him again to morrow.
I always thought foremen and the like most awfully pig- headed but had thought Stere (the clerk of the works here) above the common herd, but that delusion was dispelled yesterday after spending 2 and a half hours trying to shew him how and where he had made a mistake in his setting out of the head of the dry dock.
The general management of this place is steadily getting worse (if possible), and Mrs. Lascar's stock of abuse and complaints at dinner more and more plentiful, so I am very glad I am clearing out of this on Wednesday next. I had a great argument this evening with Williams as to what was, and what was not Sacred Music. I said that Sacred Music proper consisted of Oratorios, Anthems, Hymns, Chants, and any music that was used especially in connection with Sacred things; that there were many other things, Sonatas, Symphonies, etc. that the most proper and religious people would play or listen to on Sunday or even play in Church, but still they were not necessarily Sacred Music; in the same way that there are many Good Books that can be read on Sunday but still are not Religious Books. He said that anything that was played on Sunday by strict people, whether it was Oratorio, Sonata, or what you will, was Sacred Music, and that was the Argument.
I wonder whom my letters will be from to morrow.
April 16th - Saturday My letters were from Willie, Mary, Bassett, and Aggie, and the Cornish Telegraph from Robins giving an account of a great run with the Western Hounds, Aggie as usual riding like any thing. The "German" arrived this morning bringing me another letter from Willie and one from Mary at Seacroft. I wonder how they are there, she never said a word about them.
I left Adams on Thursday and came here (Bone's, Rondebosch) and like it very well so far as it goes. It is vastly better managed. They call one and get one's bath and all the rest of it and brush one's clothes occasionally, but so far I have not "cottoned" to any of the inhabitants very much yet but I daresay they won't be so bad after all. I had a good walk this afternoon from Mowbray round by the Sivewrights, It is the most puzzling country I ever was in; the roads twist and turn about so and come out at all sorts of unexpected places so that unless you actually know for certain where the road you are on leads to you can't possibly guess; or rather if you do guess you are sure to guess wrong. The reason for this is first the twisting and fuming of the road itself and secondly the fact of the whole country being overgrown with trees, and you can't see the general country at all as you walk along and if you get up a hill and see around you you can't then make out the roads because of these trees.
There are some most beautiful avenues of oaks and firs here, one in particular, near where the Siverights live, is a double row of oaks and about 2 miles long with a splendid view of the best side of Table Mt, all the way. It is a grand old mountain and looks well from wherever you see it. Except for the scenery and a few nice people here I am beginning to come round to what most of the people here think of the place, viz: that it's the very last place in the world; a mistake altogether in fact. Some say that after the rest of the world was finished there was a bit of stuff left over from -the scrapings, and as these scrapings were being taken away a portion of them fell out of the cart and fell down here forming South Africa, Others say that they were so disgusted with the rest of the world that they never took the trouble to finish this at all. That is what they say but I'll not answer for it,
The whole thing is the fearful laziness and slackness of every body and every thing here. Nothing is ever done well and no one cares to have things looked after, Every thing is slovenly and untidy and servants and shop keepers and officials and all are most fearfully free and easy, not to say cheeky. The upper classes here with a few exceptions are a sort of Anglicized Dutch (though of course there are some real English) who talk always of going "home" to England and toady to Government House, The Freres used to have all these people and pet them till they got so much above themselves that they used to cut all their friends whom they "did not know at Government House". But the Robinsons just gone on the opposite tack and had nothing to do with them and so they are left in the lurch. There is very little goes on here I believe, very few parties of any sort, I believe the climate has a lot to do with it for it makes one more inclined to sleep than any thing else.
The Rains have come at last and it rained most of yesterday and to day making - the air beautifully fresh and cool but the roads in a frightful state, I go to lunch with the Coles to morrow, I rather think the Wrights are staying there; I hope they are. Mr. Cole is a very nice old man but very deaf and they say hard up and in debt, but no one cares and he lived on just the same.
April 27th - Wednesday I have written nothing in this book since last Saturday week which is too long but any how there has not been any thing very exciting happen since that. The "Garth" arrived Saturday afternoon bringing letters from Mary, Gerty, Aggie, and Gerald all of whom seem very well which is something. The "Garth" is certainly a very fine ship but slow and, I think like all the rest of the Castle ships, clumsy and stiff and not so comfortable as the Union, The Union all round is much the better Service and I shall certainly go back by it if I can.
Last week was most awfully hot again, perfectly stifling - I don't think I ever remember such disagreeable damp any where} but yesterday and to day have been cooler and a little rain has fallen. I went to a reception at Government House last Thursday which I thought very slow for there were very few people there, Montgomery mounted me on a very nice hack on Saturday and we had a very pleasant ride, calling on Mrs, Manuel and Mrs. Fleming, both of whom I liked very much and on Sir D. Tennant who was not at home, Captain O'Connell came with us; he seems very nice indeed. Afterwards I dined with him at the Club and had a good dinner. He has put me up for it now which is all right.
Sunday I was to have walked round the Kloof with Page but it was so fearfully hot we did not go but went back to the Sivewrights and spent the rest of the day there. Mr. Brand, a barrister and son of President Brand of the Free State was there and seemed very pleasant and quite took our part against the Boers. There are all sorts of accounts coming from Transvaal now saying that war will break out again and there certainly seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction up there and they seem to wish to back out of their agreements and say they won't give up any of the country at all and now there are all sorts of meetings being held all over the country by loyalists protesting against the peace for they say they have been misled and they certainly have, and now are having their property confiscated and are altogether in a bad way. The "no confidence" debate keeps on steadily, having been going on for nearly a fortnight now. There are only 70 members in the House but every one of them like a lot of babies will have his say and a pretty long say too.
I went to the Theatre the other night and heard "Somnabula" which was hardly perhaps as good as when I heard it last Summer at Covent Garden, but still all things considered it was not bad. There is a very nice little fellow here called Woodcock, an engineer, and I should say rather clever. He is well sick of the Colony and has come to the conclusion that it is not a place for engineers to get on in. They get to a certain position and there they stick; there is no getting on and being so far from England the English engineers never hear of them or care to hear of them and so they never get a chance of getting on. Woodcock has been out here about 4 years, he and two others, and they are all disgusted with the place and are off home this Winter most likely. As in every thing else out here —— nobody cares for any thing. The whole line is most disgracefully managed and they have just made General Traffic Manager a young Colonial who never saw a railway in his life before this one, much to the disgust of the other engineers in the office.
April 30th - Saturday A very wild day with heavy rain and strong N.W. Gale, I had to go and take the positions of ships in the Bay this morning to see if they shift at all but I don't think they will though tonight the wind seems increasing. I lunched at Government House and found them all in a very good humour. We were a very small party, Lady B, Mrs. St. John, Miss R and myself; the Governor himself had just sailed for Natal in the "Orontes".
The Debate finished Thursday with a Government majority of 5 which will be a lot of use I think.
The races this week seem to have been a success but I did not go to them. Woodbine Cloete[?] an awful smash. His horse shied and got entangled in some wire fencing but some how neither were any the worse. He has just gone smash for £75,000 but does not seem to care much but goes on racing just the same.
I dined with Bell the other night: he has a nice little house and prettily furnished but I did not care much about Mrs. Bell and I am sure she will go out of her mind some day, she has such a fearful look in her eyes. To morrow I lunch with FitzGerald quite one of the nicest fellows I have met yet. He comes from near Killaloe and knows all the people about, Jim, Marcus Patterson, Will Spaight, Massey Dawson, the old church people and all. It is very funny meeting him out here. He is a sort of general agent for any thing and every thing and I believe is doing very well.
I am getting awfully sick of little Thwaites. He is so very pleased with himself always and is always giggling and drinking whiskey and abusing Jenour of whom he is evidently very jealous. The "Nubian" has not arrived yet but I suppose will do so to morrow. The letters by her ought to be in answer to my first lot. I think my fiddle is all right now but some how I get very little time for practice.
May 7th - Saturday Another week gone since I last wrote this up. It is certainly wonderful the pace the time slips away. I had dinner with FitzGerald on Sunday and then went on to see the Sivewrights and Curreys. This has been a very uninteresting week, the only excitement being the heavy rain and its consequences. Here alone 7 new houses simply fell down. They are all run up wholesale with soft new bricks and some sand and water with a very small proportion of bad lime for mortar and so when the rain comes they simply get washed away "stock and block" as Tom would say,
About 7 on Monday we were all roused up by a chimney collapsing, and down the Kitchen Chimney all the time it was raining there was a perfect stream of clay and sand from the dissolving bricks!! It really is shameful and I should not be the least surprised if the whole house fell some day. However it is quite in keeping with every thing else out here. Now that the rain has come there is no more thought about the water supply of the Town but they will wait till there is another drought probably next summer. Cape Town has no proper water supply, no drainage, no places for depositing rubbish, no pavements, no nothing - in fact it is without any exception for a so-called civilized town the most benighted and forsaken place it is possible to conceive. The gutters along the street sides till the rain came were fall of dead cats and dogs and filth of all sorts. All the rubbish is thrown anywhere on the beach. The sewers run out anywhere and everywhere and while they were dry the smells from them were truly delicious. One really could not turn a corner without coming to fresh stenches each one worse than the last. If it were not for the South-Easter which blows during the Summer nearly every day for a while there would most certainly be a break out of yellow fever or some thing equally bad and all solely and simply because that lively lot of old women calling themselves the Town Council are so utterly stubborn and pigheaded to do any thing but wrangle among themselves as to which is the bigger fool. They did make a reservoir last Summer but never made any arrangements for filling it, I suppose they thought it would fill itself. One of the warehouses at the Docks too got flooded and of course a great deal of jabber and jaw and squabbling between Jenour and Hewat (Dock Superintendent) who hate each other like poison.
I went to the Theatre again last night and saw 'Ixion' which was not up to much. But that again is quite as it should be for any thing good here would be quite out of place.
The Ministry resigned yesterday and so the others are going to take their places and form themselves as they like. The Governor is away but still they don't seem to mind that at all. I called on the Grahams this afternoon and they seem rather nice and have tennis every Wednesday when it is fine. I went on to call on Mrs. Fleming but there were people sitting on the Stoep which frightened me and I did not go up, so I must try again another day. I got worried again by mosquitoes last night which is a nuisance to say the least of it. It is teaming rain again now and I am sure the house will go. At any rate I must go to bed for I am horful sleepy. I am rather in hopes my hair is growing again with some stuff Thwaites gave me. I have to dine with him on Tuesday which all things considered is rather a nuisance.
May 12th - Thursday I dined with the little man on Tuesday which was not so bad after all. Just before dinner we went out to the observatory and saw Mr. Finlay who took us over and shewed us round and tried to explain every thing to me but generally had his words taken out of his mouth and inferior ones substituted by Thwaites who will always have his say whether wanted or not. They have some very nice instruments there which were most interesting to me for I had never done more than read about them before. The Transit there is about the finest in the world, with a 6 ft. Circle read by 6 equidistant verniers - the lower one reads the degrees and to 5 minutes of arc, the others read the minutes to the one thousandth part which is pretty accurate. He is off to Aden soon when Gill (the Astronomer Royal here) returns from home to get the exact Longitude of the Cape for that has never yet been accurately obtained.
After dinner we had music from a Miss Newman who did not play badly and some things (walses) she played very well. Little Thwaites who knows no more about music than an old stick and has no more ear than a fish though he thinks himself a second Mendelssohn was in raptures and stood over her all the time looking round periodically with a most "intense" smile of placid, satisfaction. It was great fun.
I have been taking soundings all day to day at the end of the Breakwater which was at any rate a pleasant change, but the boatmen of course were most aggravating, invariably pulling the wrong oar, or backing when told to pull and vice versa - but that is as it should be out here. I am going to dance to morrow at Mrs. Flemings which I hope will be nice, and have just got an invitation for one at the General’s for Saturday. But I can’t go unluckily for I am going to the Cloetes? to dine and sleep. But there are to be some more I believe soon; the Government House one is next Wednesday.
The shopkeepers here are certainly most amusing in their free and easy manner. I went into a boot shop this morning to get a pair of evening shoes, Mr. Boyes was sitting there quietly but never took the slightest notice so I said I wanted a pair of dress shoes. "Oh!" "A pair of dress shoes please". "Yes! Patent leather". "Yes". "Won't you sit down". Then he walked over and began talking about the weather. "Take your boot off please", which I did. "I wonder what day of the month it is. Do you know?" "12th, I think". "Oh! I have an almanac here only it's a year old and so it won’t help us much", "It is the 12th". "It won't do to go backwards, that would be like the Klief. Have you ever seen a Klief? It is a sort of Crawfish which strikes out forwards and goes backwards - curious , isn’t it? Fancy walking forward and going back all the time. That is what the boys say in the streets of a lazy fellow; "Augh em Klief". Now I'll measure you please; thanks, that will do, you can put your boot on again if you like and I would not advise you to walk out without it if I were you for it is rather muddy. “Name please". "Wilson", "So many of them Please give me an initial, though, (soliloquising) Patent leathers will distinguish him for I have no patent leather Wilsons here at present". "Can I have them by Wednesday?" "Well, I daresay you might; are you in a hurry, Bad plan to be in a hurry for any thing in Cape Town; However, I daresay you shall have them by then. At any rate you might look in in the morning and see how they’re getting on".
The weather since the last rain has been beautiful, nice and cool and still fine and bright though the sun is hot about midday. The Bay looked beautiful to day going in for there was all over a sort of dreamy haze through which loomed the various ships in the Bay all lit up with a yellowy light from the rising or rather lately risen sun, the sea all the while being perfectly calm. Afterwards this haze cleared off and the atmosphere became clearer than I have ever yet seen it, the Blueberg Mountains about 4 miles distant being so clear and distinct that one could fancy he could see a man even if he chanced to be walking there. And coming back this evening they were looking most magnificent being lit up by the setting sun with the deepest red and purple, the tips of the highest Peaks being of the brightest gold and above them the Moon, nearly full, which had just risen. Altogether this has been the most beautiful day we have had yet. At any rate I am fearfully sleepy now and am off to bed.
May 21st - Saturday There is nearly 10 days gone since I last wrote up this but somehow it only seems about a day or two since. A lot of things have happened, of more or less consequence. We (Woodcock, Nichols, King, and myself) went to Great Constantia to the Cloetes on Saturday to dine and sleep and found there a bachelors' party which might have been great fun and very pleasant, but it wasn't. It was all very well till Woodcock, Nichols and myself turned in about half past 1, but the rest kicked up a fearful row all night and two got very drunk and we had to take them back next day which was far from pleasant for they were still very much the worse. Constantia is a very nice old house but like all the rest out here very dirty and untidy. The vineyards there are very fine and the Cloetes are very irate at a certain Mr. Fluentes who has been writing down the method of wine making out here.
The night before I was at a dance at Mrs. Flemings at Wynberg Hall which was very pleasant indeed and I got lots of dancing, and on Wednesday there was one at Government House which also was very nice for the "nice people" are very nice but the converse is equally true. I did I think a very good afternoon's work today going to Wynberg and calling on the Flemings who were at home and then going up to Town and calling at Government House, General's, Hazards and Montgomery - only finding the Hazards at home. I am to lunch there on Sunday next being the Queen's Birthday which is the great holiday here.
I am afraid there is going to be a row with the Harbour Board and Jenour but I hope it will blow over. On the Board is a great man of the name of Murison, (Captain Murison of a small trader years ago) who cares for nobody nor for what he says of or to anybody; he can hardly read or write but abuses whom he likes and lays down the law all round and everybody is afraid of him (especially little Thwaites though he doesn't know it or at any rate doesn't own to it). Murison dislikes Jenour, Jenour distrusts Murison; Barrowes the chairman of the Board is a very nice quiet gentlemanly
man but gives in to Murison. Hewat the Dock Superintendent (not on the Board) hates Jenour (and Jenour hates him) and lets him know it, and sucks up to Murison. Thwaites sucks up to Murison and abuses Jenour to him while all the time he tries to keep in with Jenour too, but Jenour sees through him. Fforde is the only man on the Board who will really stick up for Jenour.
Now during the last rains the docks have been in an awful state and a lot of goods have been damaged owing to stopped drains, and the Board have come to the conclusion that something ought to be done, and Murison thought Jenour should be hung and Thwaites did his little best to insinuate the blame on to Jenour (he is always insinuating but seldom says anything out) and altogether to agree with Murison. Murison proposes at the next Board meeting that Thwaites should be made Maintenance Engineer and Jenour left the Constructive part which would of course be taking his (Jenour's) assistant away from him and which of course is a great shame and he is consequently against it, and Fforde is the only man who backs him up. Thwaites can’t think what they can be going to do and pretends before Jenour to know nothing about it though all the time he is doing his best to egg them on. It seems to me a great shame and to be done entirely out of spite towards Jenour. Most certainly he does not look after the Maintenance properly but still he could do so quite well if they told him to do so and let him knock off some of the men from the dock which he does not seem inclined to do of his own accord.
There is going to be a great Regatta on Tuesday but I don’t suppose it will be much.
May 27th - Friday Another week nearly gone since I last wrote and a week of rain and squalls and all sorts. The Regatta on Tuesday went off very well and I had a seat in the Governor’s stand where all the Robinsons and Hazards and everyone were. I lunched with the Hazards on the day after the Inspection which was pretty good as inspections go. Captain Michaelmas very nearly got landed on his back at the volley. The rain held off very well though there were a few showers fell in the evening. There was no wind which was bad for the sailing races though of course it made it much better for the rowing.
Last Sunday I dined with the Manuels where were Colonel Thynne who was at Windsor the last half I was at Eton, a Mr. Mooney and another man both M.R.A.s, and so they talked politics all the time, and seemed to think we ought to have finished off the Boers while we were about it but that Shepstone had misled us all round before, in saying that the Majority of Boers in the Transvaal were in favour of the Annexation whereas in reality it was only those in the towns who were at all of that opinion, the country people being entirely against it; and they said that Sir B. Frere followed in the same way and entirely misrepresented the real state of things. And so altogether we were well let in.
This last rain has been damaging this wretched house again and last night Woodstock and King and I went down and routed Cowper out of bed and brought him up and I think pretty well frightened him, for he says now he will put it right, and certainly he has been fiddling about here all day.
The "Trojan" arrived last evening and ran it rather too fine and had a narrow shave of damaging herself. Letters from Jim, Gerald and Mary bringing accounts of a new niece at Summerville [May Bannatyne]. Gerald in a great state about Mr. Gladstone’s doings both in Ireland and at home. I dine with the Curreys on Sunday and go to another dance at Mrs. Fleming’s on Thursday.
Thwaites has got the Maintenance of the Docks now, and is in all his little glory. He is a most diminutive, skinny, and puny man and always wears a tall hat and frock coat and reminds one muchly of the "Hatter” in "Alice in Wonderland". But now he’s more important than ever though to my mind he has become by this new arrangement little more than a sort of work surveyor or Clerk of Works. He is certainly on the permanent staff and there he is likely to stick I imagine.
This chimney arrangement here is getting a great nuisance for it is beginning to get quite cold now and we can have no fires. It is raining again now like cats and dogs. It certainly rains with a will here when it does rain - just about the only thing that is done with a will in this benighted hole. The reservoir is gradually, I believe, filling itself, but as yet they have taken no means to get it properly filled.
une 7th - Tuesday Ten days gone again - I shouldn’t wonder at all if even now it was the middle of next week, the time goes so quickly, I don’t think there has been any thing particular happen since I last wrote this up. Last Thursday I was at a dance at Mrs. Fleming's at Wynberg Hall. It was a very pleasant dance but I had rather a headache all the time which rather spoilt it, but still it was very good fun. It is a pity there is only one room there, for one gets tired of sticking in the same place all the time. There is another Ball at Government House on the 15th which I hope will be as good as the last.
I had some tennis last Saturday at the Manuels. It is a very nice court but catches the wind a great deal. Miss Shaw the Rondebosch Lady Champion was playing but was a very ordinary player I thought. There is a great Ladies’ Tournament at the Castle soon which is going to be won I believe by the youngest Miss Hazard who is also going to be married. They were both at the dance the other night and seemed very much afraid of each other and to wish they were out of it.
We have been having the most extra ordinary weather lately. Last Sunday week the glass was at 29.52 which is very low indeed for here - almost unheard of - the usual height being about 30.00 and varying very little one way or the other. On Monday the glass had risen in less than 24 hours to 30.63! and next day was down at 30.00 again and blowing a furious S. Easter which is an utterly unheard of thing here at this time of year. Last Saturday again it blew a strong S. Easter and the dust was simply fearful. To day it has been raw and wet but the glass is on the rise so I hope we will get some fine weather.
There is very little news now in the papers either from Home or the Transvaal. The Commission have finished sitting at Newcastle and are now going to Pretoria. Mr. Saver started to day for Basuto-land to try and bring them to terms; I wonder if he will. They seem to be going to pass the Railway Bill which will be a great thing for the country if they do. According to the Saturday Review which Geraldine has sent me today peace was made with the Basutos a month ago, I don’t know where they got it from, but certainly no-one heard of it here and it is equally certain that it is not yet settled; most of the chiefs have agreed to it but Lethorodi[?] will not do so.
The "Argos"[?] (Orient Boat) arrived this morning and went on this afternoon to Australia. The "Durban" is the next mail from England and being a fast boat will most likely be in on Thursday morning if not to morrow night.
June 14th - Tuesday It has suddenly turned most fearfully hot again just like the middle of Summer at home. Guide books and Whitakers Almanac and Geography books and the rest all persist in calling this an equable climate which is the most utter nonsense. They say that the difference between the Summer and Winter mean temperatures is small and they are right, but they conveniently (in advertizements) forget that the mean between 40° and 100°, and 65° and 75° is the same; and that is just where it is that they get wrong, for the changes here are most sudden. In the morning and evening it may be, and often is, very cold, while in the middle of the day the heat is very great. Last Saturday morning when I started for Simons Town it was quite frosty and the ground white and I was very glad of a thick coat, - the same afternoon I was very glad to get both my coats off and fish in my shirtsleeves; and yesterday and today have been most unpleasantly close - this afternoon especially. But still the weather is beautiful and one ought not to grumble.
I had a very pleasant visit to Simons Town and found them all well. On Saturday all round the "Flora" was swimming an enormous shoal of very large Mackerel followed all the time by a lot of what they call here "Yellow Tails" - large fish with bright yellow tails. About half the Mackerel at least were gashed and cut about all over as if they had been worried, whether by these yellow tails or no I can’t say, and one of them was swimming about with 2 yards of line in his mouth. We caught a few of them and put them alive on to great big hooks and put them back again and then watched these yellow tails go for them, and caught a couple of them. In the afternoon we caught some stockfish which are quite the best eating fish there are here.
Dr. Mahon of the "Flora" has just got back from the front. He was or rather is about the only man who can give an account of Majuba Hill for he was there all the time. It seems General Colley never told any one where he was going and left no orders about a reserve, or what was to be done in case they got beaten and made no arrangement about communication with the camp or any thing but just took these 400 or so men and climbed the hill at night, and in the morning when the Boers saw them they opened a sort of fire on them from about 1000 or more yards and succeeded in mortally wounding Commander Romilly whom Mahon attended. The General then ordered them back from the Brow of the hill out of sight and left no one on the look out and he and the officers had their lunch and smoked when all of a sudden some Boers appeared over the hill about 50 yards from them having quietly walked up while they were lunching. The men wanted to charge them at once and if they had done so it would have been all right, but they were not allowed to do so and then more appeared on the other side, and our men got seized with a Panic and off they went and Colley when he found he could not stop them was holding up his hand to the Boers to stop firing for he was going to give up when he was shot. It turned out afterwards that there were only 120 Boers altogether, 60 on each side.
Mahon all this time was tending Romilly, and a lot of young Boers came up and were for shooting them at once only they knocked their rifles up (He had put a handkerchief on a stick but it was shot down two or three times) and then he tried to explain who he was but before they would believe him he had to untie Romilly’s bandages to shew that the wounds were real! What a fearful mess we seem to have made of it.
The "Duart Castle" was in the other day with some of the 92nd [2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders] wounded and they were walking about the Docks, some without arms, others without legs and all of them wounded and maimed in one way or another and it was really too horrible to see them and think that it was all done for nothing; all these lives thrown away and all these poor men wounded and many of them maimed for life and nothing what ever gained by it.
A German Man of War came into harbour to day. She is a fine ship ("Skosck" by name) very heavily sparred but like all other foreigners that I have seen is very dirty and untidy as compared with ours.
There is another Ball at Government House to morrow to which I am going and one on Thursday week at Wynberg Hall given by the Grahams to which I have just got an invitation. I felt very guilty when I got it for hearing they were going to give one and thinking they had not got my address I called there this afternoon but found them out and when I got back I found the invitation. I am afraid we are going to get more rain for we have now been nearly a fortnight I think without it.
June 17th - Friday We had a very pleasant ball indeed last Wednesday and I don’t think I have ever been at one I liked better. My Lady was great fun - when I went in and said How do you do she asked me if I knew many people there and I said I thought not and she answered no more did she but that did not matter she would introduce B» to any one I liked and then we went round and she kept saying "What do you think of her, will she do?” and then asked her name and introduced me and then on to someone else.
The weather has been very close and sultry the last few days, worse than ever and quite as hot as a hot sultry and rather dull June or July day at hone, and this in the depth of Winter!
The "Warwick" got in at 10 this morning having made her quickest run of any. It brought letters from Aggie and Gerty and a fine long one from Tom. He seems to have had a good time of it in Switzerland. There was a letter from Gerald as well which I had forgotten. I am very sorry Geraldine is not well but I hope she will be all right when she gets home from Ireland. My bicycle has all arrived I suppose but I have not seen it yet.
We caught a small snake at dinner to day, I believe poisonous but did not make experiment to see. Woodcock goes away on Tuesday in the "Trojan" I am sorry to say for he is quite the best of the lot here.
They seem to be making a great deal of Lady Florence Dixie at the front - I wish them joy of Sir Beaumont, that’s all. Thank goodness it will soon be bed time.
uly 17th - Sunday It is a month and two days now since I last wrote up this. How on earth the time has gone and how it is I never wrote all the time I am sure I can’t say. I heard of poor Nigo's [?] death the other day. It seems to have been most fearfully sudden and no one knew what was the matter with him till the last two days.
The weather has been beautiful all the time but some days have been very hot, and today the rain has come again but I do not think for long for the Glass is on the rise again.
The Scanlens’ ball was very good indeed and the Claremont ball was not bad but rather a bear fight. There are two this week on Tuesday and Friday at Claremont and Cape Town. For the latter I am going to dine and sleep at Government House.
Last Thursday we had a great walk up the mountain with about 18 ladies young and middle aged and about 10 gentlemen. It was not at all bad fun on the whole but we did not go far enough for we stopped before getting out of the trees and so lost what would have been a very pretty view. Friday I dined at the Rosses and danced a bit afterwards. Yesterday we danced here in Mrs. Boyes' Room and to day I dined with the Curreys. Mrs. Boyes is a very nice little woman indeed but very delicate I am afraid. Major Boyes arrived here this morning after having been away 5 years.
I am getting very sick of this house - the servants and landlady are so fearfully impertinent, there is no standing them and I think I shall go to Mrs. Welby’s at the first opportunity. I have been all wrong this last week but am getting all right again now I hope. The Dr. says it’s liver and I mustn’t drink beer which is a nuisance for the Cape wines are not nice to say the least of it. We have got FitzGerald as assistant Engineer now I am glad to say and little Thwaites is more self important and interfering than ever. I had all the Quarterly measurements to do this time and strange to relate they came out very near indeed considerably more by good luck than good management, I'm afraid.
September 20th Two months this time since I last wrote, but how the time has gone I am sure I can’t tell. I don’t seem to have been doing much. In the way of work I have been busy sounding with Captain May for the last four or five weeks and at times it has been very hot and disagreeable but we are getting through with it now. I am going to start a lot of experiments next week on the strengths of the different woods used on the works.
The "Trowbridge" arrived all safe after a long passage of 99 days bringing out the Caisson which they are just beginning to erect. The weather has been very nice and pleasant with the exception of a few very close muggy days which ended up in a thunderstorm. The whole country now about here is looking perfectly lovely. I never saw any thing to equal the wild flowers. The flats are a mass of Africandus Orchids and Bulbs to say nothing of Arams and commoner flowers without end and heathers, while up the Mountain are more bulbs, wild roses and geraniums and arams and most beautiful flowering trees, Maiden hair ferns and ferns of all sorts, Anemonies, Heathers, Everlastings, and all the flowers you can imagine, besides of the trees being in fresh leaf again. The view of this side of the mountain from near the Railway station [Rondebosch] beats any thing I ever saw for grandeur and colour.
Tennis is the order of the day. Tuesday the Tennants, Wednesday the Grahams, and Friday the Flemings, and others I believe to follow. I have been to a lot of dances lately and among them to a Fancy Ball in a Tyrolean peasant's dress lent me by Mrs, Currey. It did very well. The Hunting is over and I never got out after all and I can’t say I care very much after all.
The chief excitement of the last two months has been the loss of the "Teuton" with 235 lives!! A most awful thing and they say the Captain’s fault for going on the old game of hugging a dangerous and badly surveyed coast.
They say Bassett is talking of coming out in November. It will be great fun if he does only I would rather he came later on instead and then we could go home together. I suppose in about six months I shall be off again. I know I shall be very sorry to leave for it is not at all a bad place and the people about are very nice and most hospitable. It is horrid to think that having got to know a lot of people well one must go and probably never see a quarter or perhaps any of them again.
November 1st - Tuesday The pace the time slips away is really too horrid to think of. When I first came out here I used (as I was told every one did) to abuse the place right and left and would have given anything to be off by the next steamer. However I was told that no one came here and was not very sorry to leave and generally came back again, and I am coming to the conclusion that they were quite right, for in many ways this is much better than England. The people are a vast deal more genial and generally hospitable; they are always glad to see one whenever one turns up, and to have a game of tennis or whatever happens to be going - and altogether one sees a great deal more of one's neighbours than ever in England: and then there is no comparing the climate of the two. I am very glad I do like the Cape for I suppose I shall have to go somewhere when I have done with Sir John [Coode] and if he gives me anything to do I hope the goodness it will be somewhere in this Colony and not in New Zealand, that is always supposing it is not at home.
The Geralds have let Cliffe at last; it really is too horrible to think of; but I suppose it was necessary or he would not have done it, but it will certainly be very very unpleasant going home to Snow Hall and not being able to go to Cliffe, I do hope the result will be satisfactory.
Since last writing I have again changed my quarters and am now at Mrs. Welby's and like it very much indeed.
Last Friday week little Thwaites broke his leg under the wheel of the Fire Engine but is I am glad to say progressing favourably. Last Saturday Harry Currey and I went down to Niekerk’s farm near Durban to shoot quail but saw none, only getting a brace of snipe.
There have been some large tennis parties lately notably at the Farmer’s and Ebden's. Both are very nice English looking places especially the former. From Belmont (the Ebden’s place) there is a most lovely view of the Mountain which they are having painted and it will probably be in the Academy next year or the year after. Aggie doesn't seem to care a lot for Yankee land to judge from her letters. She will soon I suppose be on her way home again now. The General gives a ball on Thursday which I hope and expect will be good. It is given I believe as a farewell to the Hazards who I am very sorry to say are very soon going home. They are all of them very nice and all of [us] will be very sorry to lose them.
It is funny how different people turn out to what one expected: I had introductions to the Hazards, Sivewrights, and Col. Montgomery. After the first sight of them I did not expect much from either the Hazards or Montgomery. But Sivewright was going to do everything "anything for a friend of dear Frank Sullivan". I might almost if not absolutely say that either directly or indirectly I have got to know all the people I do know through either the Hazards or Montgomery while the Sivewrights have never introduced me to a one single solitary soul and have never asked me to their house to dine or anything unless I happened to call there when it was getting on for dinner. I don't think they mean to be inhospitable at all for they are always very nice and pleasant when I meet them, but it just shews how differently people turn out to what one expected. I have not been to Government House for a long time now, but my present intention is to call there tomorrow afternoon if I have time.
… ends …