Visiting Pearson/Ellwood cousins

Last week we had visits from two cousins on the Pearson/Ellwood side of the family that we hadn’t seen for a long time.

On Tuesday 24 October we went to the Balalaika Hotel in Sandton to meet Ian and Zania McKenzie from Edinburgh. They were on a tour that had begun in the Western Cape, and gone along to the Eastern Cape. They had visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and were about to go to the Kruger National Park, then to the Victoria Falls and home.

Zania McKenzie & Val Hayes, Balalaika Hotel, Sandton 24 Oct 2017

We had last seen them 12 years ago, when we visited Scotland in 2005. Zania is Val’s double second cousin — her grandfather Ernie Pearson was the brother of Val’s grandfather William Walker Pearson, and her grandmother Margaret Ellwood was the sister of Val’s grandmother Martha Ellwood.

Zania & Ian McKenzie

It was quite interesting to me to see the Balalaika Hotel, a large multistorey affair in a cobbled street (where some clown tried to run us over when we were going to the hotel), and a row of tall trees. In my youth the Balalaika was more of a nightclub than a hotel, s single-storey building with coloured lights in the garden in Sandown, which was then the heart of Joburg’s “mink and manure” belt, where people used to go to watch polo and gymkhanas. Now it is full of high-rise buildings, mostly office blocks.

The other cousin we saw was Sonja Gammage, who had been attending a Classics Colloquium in Centurion. She had spent a couple of years at Oxford in England doing her Masters, and is now completing her doctorate at UKZN. I was fascinated to learn that her thesis is on Atticising tendencies in Greek novels of the 2nd Century AD. I hadn’t known that novels as a literary genre went back that far, and as they would all have had to be hand copied, they must have been pretty expensive.

Sonja Gammage and Val Hayes at Hawk Lake Spur, Centurion. 28 October 2017

It was even longer since we had seen Sonja — 14 years. We had last seen her at the funeral of her grandmother Mollie Gammage, who was Val’s aunt.

 

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Gravestone of Gladys Nourse

Recently a picture of the gravestone of my great-aunt Gladys Nourse popped up on FamilySearch, with no indication of its location. It solved one family history mystery for me, because for over 40 years I had been looking for her date of death, but had been unable to find it.


The inscription reads:

In loving memory
of
Gladys Nourse (nee Vause)
Born 10th June 1891
Died 27th February 1964
Loving mother of Joy Gazzard and
Peggy Kyle

I had had a rough idea of when she had died because in January 1963 my mother and I had taken by grandmother Lily Hayes to tea at the Pepperpots in Kloof, then a pleasant country tea gardsn, but the site is now in the middle of a car park for a shopping mall. While we were having tea and cream scones, and warding off the bees that wanted to share it with us, my gran told us something of the family history — about her grandfather who was mayor of Durban. Afterwards we took her to see her sister Gladys, who was ill. And that was the last I ever heard of great-aunt Gladys while she was alive. I don’t recall ever meeting her in person, though I may have done when I was much younger (about 4 or 5).

I had heard snippets about her at various times. My father had once told me my uncle was a famous cricketer, Dudley Nourse. Much later, when we started doing family history, I discovered that Dudley wasn’t really an uncle, but was great-aunt Gladys’s stepson, from her husband Dave Nourse’s first wife. But Dave Nourse was a cricketer in his own right, having played for Natal for many years, and closing his first-class career by scoring 55 for Western Province against Australia at the age of 58, and at age 55 he scored 219 not out for Western Province against Natal (his old team).

When I was 12 I went to spend a holiday with some friends at the sugar experiment station at Mount Edgecombe, and my father told me that his uncle named Wilkinson owned a large house at Ottawa nearby. My friend and I rode over to Ottawa on bicycles to see it, and we saw it beyond a river, but we would have had to climb a steep hill through the bush to reach it. Perhaps it was just as well we didn’t, because I later learned that great-aunt Gladys had had a rather acrimonious divorce from Gilbert Wilkinson, her first husband, before marrying Dave Nourse.

Much later, in 1987, we spent some time with a cousin of my father’s, Don Stayt, who was also interested in the family history, and we spent a pleasant few days swapping floppy disks on our Osborne portable computers to share our discoveries. He was able to tell me more about great-aunt Gladys’s side of the family, but we still did not know when she had died.

Now I’m in contact with some cousins from that side of the family on Facebook, which does make it easier for family members to stay in touch.

So here’s the family, as we have it now:

Family Group Report
For: Richard Wyatt Vause  (ID=  232)
Date Prepared: 28 Sep 2017
NAME: VAUSE, Richard Wyatt, Born 10 Feb 1854 in Durban, Natal,
Died 28 May 1926 in Durban, Natal at age 72; FATHER: VAUSE,
Richard, Born 2 May 1822, Died 29 Aug 1886 at age 64; MOTHER:
PARK, Matilda, Born 29 May 1828, Died 12 May 1881 at age 52

MARRIED 3 Feb 1881 in St Paul's, Durban, to COTTAM, Margaret
Ellen, Born 25 Apr 1860 in Manchester, Died 7 Aug 1891 in
Pietermaritzburg at age 31; FATHER: COTTAM, John Bagot, Born
30 Jul 1836, Died 3 Jun 1911 at age 74; MOTHER: HERBERT,
Adelaide, Born 10 Oct 1831, Died 10 Aug 1909 at age 77

CHILDREN:
1. M VAUSE, Richard John Wyatt, born 23 Mar 1882 in
Pietermaritzburg, died 19 Aug 1924 in Bloemhof, Transvaal;
Married 7 Jul 1920 to HOOLE, Mabel; 1 child
2. F VAUSE, Ruby Wyatt, born 21 Mar 1883 in Pietermaritzburg,
died 7 Jun 1961 in Durban; Married 28 Apr 1904 to STAYT,
John; 3 children
3. F VAUSE, Lilian Wyatt, born 18 Sep 1884 in Pietermaritzburg,
died 9 Jan 1971 in Durban; Married 9 Jun 1904 to HAYES,
Percy Wynn; 3 children
4. F VAUSE, Kathleen Wyatt, born 30 Apr 1887, died 13 Aug 1887
in Pietermaritzburg
5. F VAUSE, Violet, born ??? 1888, died 4 Jun 1889 in
Pietermaritzburg
6. F VAUSE, Gladys Vere Wyatt, born 10 Jun 1891 in Natal, died
27 Feb 1964 in South Africa; Married 15 Feb 1911 to
WILKINSON, Gilbert Anthony Marshall; 2 children

Michell family of Cornwall

We haven’t made any startling family history discoveries for a while, and recently I’ve been working on the Michell family of Cornwall. My great great great grandmother Mary Michell (1791-1873) married Richard Greenaway at Blisland, Cornwall in 1812, and they had nine children.

Mary Michell herself was the daughter of Benjamin Michell (1767-1848) and Elizabeth Lego (1762-1837) — I wonder if there is a rich relative somewhere who made a fortune out of children’s toys! I’ve been following up some of Mary’s siblings, and quite a number of their descendants seem to have emigrate to Ontario in Canada and then skipped over the border to Michigan in the USA. Several branches of the family seem to have changed the spelling of the surname to Mitchell, and even those who didn’t often had it recorded with that spelling by census takers and the like, so Michell was probably pronounced the same as Mitchell, with the emphasis on the first syllable.

So quite a number of Michell descendants ended up in Osceola County, Michigan.

Osceola County, Michigan, was originally called Unwattin, and is shown as such on this 1842 map.
By Henry Schenck Tanner – File:1842 A new map of Michigan with its canals roads distances by H.S. Tanner

The US and Canadian branches of the Michell family lived about 320 miles apart, though both were quite a lot further from Cornwall.

Heirlooms and other family news

An heirloom is an article or object that has been in a family for several generations. Most objects that might become heirlooms don’t, because they are broken, thrown away, stolen or destroyed or lost (by fire, flood, earthquake etc). So in the end, only a few may survive to be passed on from one generation to another.

bell01Those that do survive, however, often have stories attached to them, and the stories are often forgotten, so we’re recording the story of one such heirloom — a measuring tape in the shape of a china fisherwoman. It was made in Germany, and belonged to Auntie Belle.

Auntie Belle was Val’s great aunt, Isabella Carr Ellwood (1873-1958), who was Matron in a hospital in Whitehaven, Cumberland, England. She was married to Jim Hurst, and they had no children. Val’s grandmother, Mattie Pearson (née Ellwood), who was living in a granny flat with Val’s parents in Escombe, Natal, travelled to the UK about the time that Auntie Belle died, and brought back the measuring tape, and gave it to Val, who was then about 9 years old.

Mattie Pearson wrote regularly to her brothers and sisters in England, and especially to her younger sister Maggie, who was married to Ernest Pearson, Mattie’s late husbands brother, which made him a double brother-in-law. The family tried in vain to persuade Mattie to make the journey home to England to see her brothers and sisters. When Mattie’s daughter (Val’s Auntie Mollie) was ill with jaundice, Mattie stayed with them to look after the children. When Mollie recovered, the family primed the family doctor, Doctor Rosenthal (who was well-known and well-loved in Escombe and vicinity) to tell Mattie that she needed a rest, and that a trip to England to see her family there would do her good. What Dr Rosenthal suggested was tantamount to a command.

Mattie Pearson and her sisters when she visited the UK in 1939, bust before WW2. Mattie is on the front right. Behind her at the back right is Maggie. Bessie was at the top left. We think the other two are Belle and Lizzie -- can anyone identify them?

Mattie Pearson and her sisters when she visited the UK in 1939, just before WW2. Mattie is on the front right. Behind her at the back right is Maggie. Bessie was at the top left. We think the other two are Belle and Lizzie — can anyone identify them?

So Mattie booked a trip on the Southern Cross, a three-week relaxing voyage in company with her old friend Mrs Mitchell who had been glad to join her on her trip, and saw her brothers and sisters. Auntie Belle died either while she was there, or shortly before, and so she brought the fisherwoman measuring tape back for Val.

Mattie Pearson (on the left) at dinner on the ship, with her friend Mrs Mitchell on the right.

Mattie Pearson (on the left) at dinner on the ship, with her friend Mrs Mitchell on the right.

The time for such sea voyages has passed; air travel is quicker and cheaper, but far less relaxing, and if you want to go by sea, for the most part you can only take cruises to nowhere. The days of passenger ships was dying by the early 1970s.  The ship that took Mattie and Mrs Mitchell to England was the Southern Cross.  When Val and her sister Elaine travelled to England in 1971 they went on the very last voyage of the Arawa and came back in September on the very last trip of the Southern Cross.

banana1Now here’s another family artefact that will never become an heirloom because we’ve already eaten it. Our son Simon saw a food programme on TV where the presenter said that food should be artistically presented, so Simon made this artistic arrangement of bananas in the fruit bowl. But the photo might last a bit longer than the bananas.

Mention of the Ellwood family, and the fact that Mattie Pearson kept in touch with her siblings by letter for almost 60 years reminds me of changing patterns of communication. When our daughter Bridget went to Greece 20 years ago, we kept in touch by snail mail, writing almost every week. When Bridget got e-mail, it should have been easier to communicate, but it actually wasn’t. E-mail messages were much less frequent and much less informative. Now there is Facebook, but Facebook, though it allows one to share photos, lends itself to textbites rather like soundbites. You see a photo of a place and realise that whoever posted it might have visited it, but there is little description of the when, where and how, or who they were with, or what they did there.

For the last 3 weeks our internet connection has been faulty. I’ve been able to download e-mail (after 5-20 attempts), but the replies are all queued, waiting to be sent when the line is repaired (for more on this problem and the reasons for it, see Incommunicado). But in these 3 weeks there have been almost no personal messages from friends or family. There was one very welcome message from a cousin whose existence I was quite unaware of — Roxanne Williamson, née Dryden — and I’ll reply to that more fully when our internet service has been restored (if you are reading this, then it will have been restored). But apart from that all the genuine mail has been in two mailing lists, one from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and the other the Legacy User Group – a support service for a genealogy program I use. Two-thirds of the mail that we have downloaded with such difficulty is spam — things like discount offers from shops I’ve never heard of (which country is “Macy’s” in? Or “Everest Windows” or “Takahashi?).

But that’s what the state our communication has been reduced to, in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the marvellous technological aids. I can receive and send email without moving my bum from this chair, whereas to send a snail-mail letter I have to go 2,6 kilometres to the nearest post box, a 40-minute walk one way. Yet Mattie Pearson managed to write to her sister Maggie once a week, and at less frequent intervals to her other siblings, and her letters were probably far more informative.

When we first started doing family history just after we were married back in 1974 we tried to re-establish contact with those relatives, and Maggie’s daughter-in-law, Nora Pearson, wrote to us by snail mail once a month or so, long chatty letters telling about her children (Val’s double second cousins) and grandchildren, what was going on in the town, and in their church (she and her husband John had just joined St Begh’s Roman Catholic Church). Now we are “friends” with her children on Facebook, but Facebook censors the communication so we only see about 10% of what they post 10% of the time, and in spite of the wonders of modern technology, we are less in touch with that side of the family than we were by snail mail 40 years ago.

King Solomon’s mines revisited

King Solomon's MinesKing Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I’ve read this book before, as a child. I certainly saw the film as a child. The only scene I remember from my first reading of the book was Captain Good going around for half the story with a half-shaven face. For the rest of the story it was like reading it for the first time.

But re-reading a book after a lifetime of experience and acquisition of knowledge makes a difference to what you notice, and the significance of things that passed you by when reading it as a child. For a child, it was a straightforward adventure story; the heroes got into difficulties and dangers, and they got out of them. Reading it as an adult, the historical and political background moved to rthe foreground.

Richard Vause, Mayor of Durban 1883-1885

Richard Vause, Mayor of Durban 1883-1885

The book was published in 1885, and the action of the story seems to have taken place in 1883-84. The protagonist and narrator, Allan Quatermain, was living on the Berea in Durban then. And my great great grandfather, Richard Vause, was also living there, and was mayor of Durban at the time — he died the following year, in 1886. That gives a new and personal interest to the story. I didn’t know that when I first read the book. Yes, I knew I had an ancestor who had been mayor of Durban at one time (acually five times), but had little idea of the dates until I began researching family history.

Quatermain also mentioned fighting in the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, and escaping from the Battle of Isandlwana (which the Zulus won pretty decisively) because he was sent back with some wagons — precisely what happened to my great grandfather, Wyatt Vause. Perhaps H. Rider Haggard himself lived on the Berea, heard the story from my great grandfather, and decided to incorporate it into his book;

Allan Quatermain also mentions having been an elephant hunter, and describes in some detail how elephant hunters travelled in those days — the kind of wagons they used, the features they looked for in buying them, and how they travelled. That sort of thing is rarely mentioned in contemporary primary sources — letters and diaries and news items and the like. The people who wrote those things assumed their readers knew about them. But a writer of fiction, who knew most of his readers would be in the UK and would be unfamiliar with them, takes care to describe them in some detail. My wife Val’s great great grandfather, Fred Green, was an elephant hunter in what is now Namibia and Botswana, and so those little details throw light on his life too.

In many ways the story is fantasy. It describes a country unknown to outsiders. In the 20th century, when most of the world was mapped, it was no longer possible to do that, and so such fictional countries were moved to other planets and other galaxies and became science fiction. But in other ways the story is not like that — the people in the strange country are hypothetical relatives of the Zulus, and speak a dialect of Zulu, so the travellers are able to communicate with them.

It is also a typical fairy story — the exiled prince who returns to overthrow the wicked usurper and reestablish justice in the land.

And there is also a darker side to the story, which takes place on the cusp of the New Imperialism and the Scramble for Africa. From about 1880 onwards the New Imperialism gave rise to an ideology of imperialism, which was racist at its root. While racism was not unknown before, it became much more ideologically driven after the rise of the New Imperialism, and a consciousness of ethnic superiority was actively promoted in the imperialist powers. Children’s literature abounded with it, and it was taught in schools.

There are some echoes of this in King Solomon’s Mines. Allan Quatermain disapproaves of the budding romance between one of his white companions and a young black woman. While in Natal, Quatermain is upset and annoyed when “natives” speak in a too-familiar manner with white men. In the fictional African kingdom they travel to, he describes the local inhabitants in terms of a somewhat grudging equality. At times I wondered whether Haggard was doing this consciously or unconsciously. Could he be consciously trying to show the changes in Quatermain’s attitude to black people the further he travelled from colonial Natal, as part of his character, and as a result of the influence of his less racist companions? But what is certain is that after 1885 there was a sharp increase in racism as part of the ideology of British Imperialism.

So re-reading the book was interesting for various reasons — as filler material for family history, but also as a mirror reflecting changing attitudes in the British colony of Natal in the 1880s.

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Family links with Cecil John Rhodes

I’ve just been reading about the (largely posthumous) cult of Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), the former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony who made his fortune in diamonds.

RhodesBkI was interested in the book for several reasons — first, as a background to the #RhodesMustFall movement, which is a kind of countercult or anticult movement. Secondly, because of the rise of Donald Trump, another unscrupulous businessman turned politician, who is in the news right now, and thirdly because of our interest in family history, and several members of our family had links with Rhodes. I’ve already written a review of the book and dealt with the first two points in a post on my other blog  – see  The Cult of Rhodes. In this one I just want to point out some of the family connections.

C.J. Rhodes wasn’t related to us in any way that we know, but he came to southern Africa for his health at the age of 17 and, like many others, was drawn to Kimerley by the discovery of diamonds there in 1868.

A member of our family who was also drawn there was Henry Green, brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green. The Green brothers came to the Cape Colony in about 1846, and Henry, like his father William Green, was in the commissariat department of the British army, in which capacity he accompanied the Cape Governor and High Commissioner Harry Smith to the Battle of Boomplaats, which established the present Free State as the Orange River Sovereignty. Henry became the British Resident of the Sovereignty, and after it was abandoned, went to England, and married his cousin Louisa Margaret Aitchison. He then went to Colesberg in the Cape Colony and became magistrate and civil commissioner. His wife died on the road to Cape Town, and became the family ghost. Henry married again to Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, and they had several children.

Henry Green and several associates formed the South African Diamond and Mineral Company, and when he was suspended as magistrate over some missing money, he became a diamond digger, first at Pniel and then in 1872 Henry Green moved to Kimberley and entered into a partnership with George Paton on the diggings of Colesberg Kopje. They worked claim 144 for a long time.

George Paton and Henry Green lived for a while at the Boarding House – or rather Boarding Tent — called ‘The 12 Apostles’. It was there that they got to know Cecil Rhodes who had just come out as a young lad from England for health reasons. Rhodes had a contract to pump out water that flooded the claims. The friendship seems to have continued even after Rhodes bought out all the other claim holders and established his company, De Beers, as a virtual monopoly in the diamond business.

One of Henry Green’s daughters, Ida Margaret Catherine Green, married George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott (see The Tapscott Family), and their great-granddaughter Burnett McMillan Milne recently wrote on Facebook “Henry Green’s daughter, Ida Margaret Tapscott, was a great admirer of Cecil Rhodes — the feeling was mutual, they had quite a voluminous correspondence and in one of his letters he refers to her as ‘The cleverest women in the Cape Colony’. He gave her a magnificent diamond brooch which is still in possession of the family.”

Then there was Henry Green’s nephew, Arthur Walpole Francis, son of Henry’s sister Agnes. Arthur was born and educated in Sydney, New South Wales. He came to South Africa in 1880 and farmed at Harts River, Griqualand West. He went to the Transvaal in 1886 and took up Botha’s Reef on behalf of a Kimberley syndicate and Cecil Rhodes. He was involved in the purchase of Luipaardsvlei for £60000 and a load of poplar poles. Perhaps he was introduced to Cecil Rhodes by his uncle Henry. He later went back to farming and died of bladder stones in Mariental, Namibia, in 1921. His eldest son was named Cecil.

Henry Green’s niece (Fred Green’s daughter), Alice Elizabeth Green, married John Martin Cuthbert O’Grady in Johannesburg in 1893, and they named their second son John Rhodes O’Grady, and he was known as Rhodes. They probably didn’t know Cecil Rhodes personally, but would have known of him though Alice’s cousin Arthur Walpole Francis, and perhaps admired him from afar.

The last instance I can think of is probably getting back to the cult, which is the main topic of the book. My mother’s cousin Betty Hannan married John Christian Fowler in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia, in 1935, and their eldest son was named Brian Rhodes Hannan Fowler. I think by then the cult of Rhodes was in full swing.

Willie Hannan, MP for Maryhill, Glasgow. 1966

Willie Hannan, MP for Maryhill, Glasgow. 1966

I liked cousin Betty, and I think she was my mother’s favourite cousin, but we didn’t see eye-to-eye politically, not at all. In 1965, just after the Rhodesian UDI, Betty wrote to my mother and mentioned a mutual cousin, Willie Hannan, who was at that tome a Scottish Labour MP, and, according to Betty, “a one-man-one-vote bastard and a sick leftist”. A few weeks later I skipped South Africa to escape the clutches of the SB, and had a brief stopover in Salisbury, so I phoned Betty from the airport and she brought some of the family out to the airport to say hello. We chatted for a bit, and as we said goodbye and I was going out to the plane Betty fixed me with a beady eye and said fiercely “We’re determi9ned to see this thing through” (meaning UDI). Shortly after that I met cousin Willie at the Houses of Parliament in London, expecting, from Betty’s description, to meet a revolutionary Che Guevara-like figure. Instead he turned out to be mild and inoffensive, and indeed, very conservative (with a small c).

That was probably my closest brush with the Rhodes cult.

 

Ten years ago: a sad day

Ten years ago, 10 July 2006,  was a rather sad day in the life of our family.

When Val was leaving for work early in the morning, when it was still dark, she found the back gate open and our Toyota Venture gone. There was no sign of the cable we used to lock the gate.

Our Toyota Venture, stolen on 10 July 2006

Our Toyota Venture, stolen on 10 July 2006

There was also no sign of of our four-month-old puppy Mardigan, and Val called him and went looking for him while I phoned the police. Eventually, after quite a long search, Val found Mardigan cowering behind a wall. He looked ill, and we thought the thieves may have poisoned him, and Jethro and Simon took him to the emergency vet that was open at that time of morning.

Mardigan

Mardigan

Later Ariel, our older dog, started looking sick, so they took her to the vet as well, and brought her back, and the vet said she was OK, but kept Mardigan for treatment.

Ariel

Ariel

Later in the morning Ariel looked very sick, so we took her to our vet, and he gave her an atropine injection. He said we should warn the neighbours as other dogs had been poisoned, and when they left to take them to the vet, burglars broke into their house. Val worked at home for the rest of the day. Jethro came home as well, and bought new and bigger locks for the gate.

A couple of days later we fetched Mardigan from the vet, thin and weak and wobbly on his legs. The vet said we should watch him because he could have a relapse, and might need immediate treatment. And the following day he looked ill again, and so, not having a car since the Venture had been stolen, Simon set out for the vet’s surgery on foot, with Mardigan in his arms, but later returned saying that Mardigan had died even before he had got there.

We had used the Venture for our mission work, taking people from our mission congregations to services and courses and conferences.

At Tembisa, with Fr Spiridon of St Thomas's Church in Sunninghill

At Tembisa, with Fr Spiridon of St Thomas’s Church in Sunninghill

A few months later we got the insurance money for the Venture, but it was not enough to buy an equivalent vehicle. It also didn’t cover the R2500 vet’s bill. In August 2006 we drove to Durban to buy a second-hand Subaru station wagon, which the insurance money did cover, and we still have it, and I would say it is the best car I have ever had. It is a nice family car, but could not do the same job in the mission congregations as the 10-seater Venture, and looking back over the last ten years we can see that the mission congregations have declined ever since, so we are still feeling the loss.