Death of Canadian author Mollie Gillen

Mollie Gillen, who died recently at the age of 100, was not a relative, as far as we know, but she made an enormous contribution to our family history research into the Green family.

As her obituary in the Toronto Globe & Mail puts it

Born and educated in Australia, married to a Canadian sergeant in wartime England, Mrs. Gillen lived and worked here for most of her very long life. No more than 5-foot-2, with bespectacled hazel eyes and curly brown hair – which eventually turned into a snowy crown – she was the author of several acclaimed biographies, including an early study of Lucy Maud Montgomery…

She published The Masseys: Founding Family in 1965; The Prince and His Lady, an intrepidly researched study of Queen Victoria’s father, Edward Duke of Kent, and his mistress, Madame de St. Laurent, in 1970; and in 1972, The Assassination of the Prime Minister, a biography of Spencer Perceval, who was shot through the heart in the lobby of the British House of Commons during the Luddite riots of 1812.

Ir was The prince and his lady that put us on the track of the history of the Green family.

Val went to see her great-aunt Gladys Clark, who lived in Ixopo, to ask about the Green family, and she said that her grandfather was “General Green”, who had lived in South West Africa (now Namibia). Reference to history books, such as Vedder’s South West Africa in early times showed that he was Fred Green, an elephant hunter.

A few years later, when we lived in Zululand, we visited Gladys Clark’s daughter, Dion Stewart, who lived in Empangeni, and she told us that Fred Green’s father or grandfather was the Duke of Kent. That sent us back to the library, looking for books on the Duke of Kent, one of which was Mollie Gillen’s The prince and his lady, which refuted the family legend of royal descent, but in the course of doing it showed the actual ancestry of Fred Green’s father, William John Green, alias William Goodall Green, who was the illegitimate son of William Goodall, a London merchant, and Eliza Green, the daughter of a Quebec butcher.

We wrote to Mollie Gillen, and she very kindly sent us copies of her research materials, including the baptism records of William Goodall Green and other members of the Green and related families, and his will, and that of Thomas Esdaile, his stepfather, who later married Eliza Green.

So thanks to Mollie Gillen’s research we were able to trace more of the early history of the Green family. She was a careful researcher who documented every one of the claims she made in her book, as the material she sent us showed.

See here for more on the early history of the Green family.

So we salute Mollie Gillen. She may not have had formal qualifications, but she was a careful and diligent historian, and we owe her a great deal.

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