Tombstone Tuesday: Vause family of Durban

On our holiday in Durban last month we visited St Thomas’s Cemetery in Durban, high up on the Berea, where my great great grandfather Richard Vause is buried.

I’d visited his grave earlier, with my grandmother, in 1968, and she had told me that she wanted to be buried there too, though whether she ever was buried there I don’t know. I’d visited a few years later and had some photos of the grave, but we thought it would be nice to have some digital photos as well, so we went to look for it, and could not find it after looking at almost every other grave in the place. Had I imagined it? Had it been moved?

No, it was still there, but it was so big that we hadn’t seen it for looking. It was just about the most prominent grave in the place. In this picture you can see it, the one with the pillar and the urn on top. The Vodapine behind it is bigger — it is actually a cellphone mast owned by Vodacom, disguised as a pine tree. There are also Vodapalms and various other varieties of Vodadendrons.

The Vause family grave in St Thomas’s Cemetery, with an urn on top, dwarfed only by a Vodapine

The current St Thomas’s Church is a bit further down the hill. The original one on the cemetery site was a wood and iron affair, replaced in the 1920s by the stone chapel that is there today, but is not used much. Richard Vause was one of the first, if not the first, churchwarden of the old St Thomas’s, and he lived a little way down the hill in what may still be called Vause Road with his wife Matilda (nee Park) and their eight children.

Their son Charles Reynolds Vause was the very first to be baptised at St Thomas’s, and is the fiorst entry in the baptism register, and was probably one of the first to be buried in the cemetery also. He and his sister Matilda, the two youngest of the Vause children, died young.

Memorial to Charles Reynolds Vause (1864-1866) and Mary Martin Vause (1866-1866), the youngest children of Richard and Matilda Vause

The second son of Richard and Matilda Vause, William John Vause, who died at the age of 41, is also buried in the plot. He married Jessie Cottam, but they had no children.

Grave of William John Vause (1855-1896) in St Thomas’s Cemetery

 

William John Vause’s elder brother, Richard Wyatt Vause (my great grandfather) married Maggie Cottam, Jessie Cottam’s sister, and Maggie Cottam also died young (but was buried in Pietermaritzburg). Jessie Vause, then remarried Gordon Parkes, but had no children by him either, and brought up her dead sister’s children. Richard Wyatt Vause, known as Wyatt to his friends, lived as a widower.

Memorial to Wyatt Vause (1854-1926), my great grandfather.

There are several other members of the Vause family buried in the same plot.

St Thomas’s Cemetery, showing the current chapel, and the Vause grave, with the urn on top of a pillar.

The cemetery also contains the grave of Julia, the daughter of nCaptain Allen Gardiner, RN. After retiring from the navy, Gardiner became a missionary, and went to Zululand. There he met a hostile reception from King Dingane and his people, so he returned to Durban, and established himself on a hill above the town. After finding the people there more receptive to his message he named the hill Berea, after the place where St Paul met a better reception than he did in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10-12). Allen Gardiner is not buried at St Thomas’s Cemetery, however. He went on to South America, where he died of starvation on Tierra del Fuego, and the South American Missionary Society was started in his memory.

Visiting family in Durban, July 2012

After spending a few days in Pietermaritzburg at the Aberfeldy B&B in Scottsville (which we can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone), we came down to Duban and visted Val’s aunt, Pat van der Merwe, formerly Terblanche, born Greene.

Val Hayes, Jared Alldred, Pat van der Merwe, 14 July 2012

We saw aunt Pat when we went to the Western Cape on holiday last year, but had not seen Jared since he was 9 months old, and now he is 12, so perhaps that warrants a special picture.

Jared Alldred, aged 12

Pat is Val’s father’s sister, and Jared is her great grandson (and Val’s first cousin twice removed). Pat is staying with her youngest daughter Edwina (Jared’s great-aunt) in Durban.

While visiting them we warched rugby, the Sharks playing the Cheetahs in the Super-15 tournament, and the Sharks won by a big enough margin to move on to the nextr stage in the competition.

On Sunday morning we went to church at St Nicholas Church in Durban North, and then went down to the Pirates Lifesaving Club to meet some Hannan cousins I do not think I had met before.

Bill Hannan was the son of Duncan McFarlane Hannan, the youngest brother of my grandmother Janet McCartney Hannan, and we met him and his two sons Shawn and Clyde, and had lunch with them at the lifesaving club. Shawn and Clyde are my second cousins, and our great grandparents were William Hannan and Ellen McFarlane of Glasgow in Scotland. William and Ellen had seven children, four of whom came to Southern Africa.

Bill Hannan, Val Hayes, Clyde & Shawn Hannan, at Durban, 15 July 2012

The children who stayed behind were the eldest son, Tom, a daughter Maria, and a son Stanley Livingstone Hannan, who was killed in the First World War.

Bill Hannan

Those who came to Southern Africa were Emily (or Amelia), who married first Charlie Mould and then Arthur Sharp; Janet (my grandmother), who married George Growdon; David, who married Agnes Irvine and lived in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and Duncan (Bill’s father) who married Margaret Helen Bain.

Earlier in our holiday we visited Peter Badcock Walters, who is descended from David and Agnes Hannan, and another of their descendants is Clyde Alexander Hannan, now an archiect in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. Bill said that his Clyde was named after the other one, because they thought it was a nice name, and Shawn commented that it was a bit wet, since it was a river, but that was probably the origin, since the Hannans lived at Clydeside in Scotland.

We had not known that Clyde and Shawn were married, and Clyde’s wife and daughter are now living in Shropshire, UK, on the Welsh border, where Clyde hopes to join them , and Shawn’s daughters, Giorgia and Maxine are very active in sports, and Giorgia has played hockey for South Africa.

Clyde Hannan

Clyde and Shawn grew up at Scottburgh on the Natal South Coast, and swimming and lifesaving were very much part of their lives on the coast.

It was good to make contact with another branch of the Hannan family, one that we had had little contact with before.

We’ve had a fair bit of contact with the descendants of Tom Hannan, most of whom remained in Scotland. My mother told me about her uncle Tom, who was a conscientious objector in the First World War, and spent two years in jail for it. In my youth this made him something of a hero in  my eyes, even though my mother also told me that uncle Tom Hannan wasn’t a pacifist, but was a conscientious objector because he was a socialist, and she said he sent his children to the socialist Sunday School.

When I went overseas to study I met Tom’s son Willie Hannan, who was MP for Maryhill in Glasgow, and my mother’s Rhodesian cousin Betty regarded him as a terrible man, proposing sanctions against Rhodesia after UDI, so before I met him I pictured him as a wild-eyed Che Guevara-type revolutionary, but was slightly disappointed to find thad he wasn’t at all like that, but was very respectable and rather conservative.

Shawn Hannan

But he was very kind to me, and when my mother travelled to the UK he introduced us to the other members of the family, his sisters Ella, Tilda and Ria, and took us to see the small town of Girvan, where the Hannans had originally lived before they went to Glasgow. I’m still in touch with some members of that branch of the family on Facebook.

The biggest remaining mystery of the seven children of William Hannan and Ellen McFarlane is Maria (Ria) Hannan, born about 1893, and said to have married a Jack Cochrane, but we don’t know if they had any children, or what happened to them at all.

After lunch with the Hannans we then visited Frank and Erna Vause in Durban North. Their main hobby is the collecting of Royal Doulton China, and family history takes second place to that. They have a most amazing collection, which occupies many of the rooms of their house.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing a Vause family tree, which many different members of the family have variants of, which traces the origin of the family to Vaux, De Vaux, or De Vallibus families, but always shows a gap of a couple of hundred years between them and the known ancestors. Different branches of the family have slightlky different versions of this family tree, but I believe the original was drawn up by one Arthur Wyatt Ellis, son of Henry Vause Ellis, who was born about 1880 in Reynoldston, Glamorgan, Wales.

Frank & Erna Vause, Steve Hayes

 

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