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.


The family ghost — it’s official!

The Ghost That Closed Down The Town: Stories of The Haunting of South AfricaThe Ghost That Closed Down The Town: Stories of The Haunting of South Africa by Arthur Goldstuck

I still haven’t finished the book yet, so this still isn’t a review, but I’m quite excited that I’ve found the family ghost, and it’s official.

In an earlier blog post I jotted down some thoughts about some familiar places that the book said were haunted. But finding a family ghost takes it to a new level.

I noted that Arthur Goldstuck has written several books about South African urban legends, and we have found several family legends about royal descent in the course of our research into family history. But a family ghost? Not till today!

Arethur Goldstuck recounts stories the haunting of theatres and film sets, mostly in Hollywood, and then he comes to a more local one, in the Karroo during the filming of The story of an African farm. It was being filmed near Matjiesfontein in February 2004. The ghost was apparently haunting both the derelict farmhouse being used as the film set and the Lord Milner Hotel where some members of the cast were staying.

As Goldstuck writes (page 170)

Local historian Rose Willis is convinced that the ‘ghost’ that haunted the set is that of Louisa Margaret Green, wife of a civil commissioner.

‘She was travelling with her husband Henry, who was on his way to become the civil commissioner of Colesberg in the 1860s, but then she fell ill with dysentery and died at Zoute Kloof,’ said Willis. ‘Her ghost has been seen often… she wears a kappie (bonnet), has a small waist, and wears flowing white clothes that look like they come from the 1860s.’

Now, ghosts or no ghosts, we’d really like to get with Rose Willis, because she could obviously tell us some things about the family history that we didn’t know. Three months ago we visited Colesberg in the hope of finding out more about Henry Green (see Ghwarriespoort to the Gariep Dam | Hayes & Greene family history).

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, where Henry Green once lived, now a restaurant

We knew that Henry’s wife Margaret had died on 4 July 1860, somewhere in the Cape Colony, but we did not know where. If we had known, we might have made a detour in our journey to have a look at her grave. Their twin sons died about six months earlier. We thought they haddied and were buried in Colesberg, but if their mother died six months later when their father was still on his way to Colesberg to take up his post, they must have died elsewhere. So perhaps Rose Willis can clear up some of these mysteried.

I’m a bit surprised that Arthur Goldstuck, an inveterate collector of urban legends, did not pick up the Green family legend, which would have it that Henry Green was the nephew of Queen Victoria, and that his father, William John Green, was her older brother, who should have inherited the throne. This family legend has been completely refuted by Mollie Gillen in her book The Prince and his Lady, but as a legend it goes well with the family ghost story.

Just to add to the interest, the ‘ghost’ was not only Henry Green’s wife, but his first cousin. Her maiden name was Louisa Margaret Quilliam Aitchison, and her parents were Edward Aitchison and Louisa Green. They were married in London in 1856. Before his marriage Henry Green was British Resident of the Orange River Sovereignty, before it became the Orange Free State.

Even though the legend of royal descent was a dud, Henry Green did the next best thing, and married, as his second wife, Countess Ida von Lilienstein — see here Found! Ida Carolina von Lilienstein, wife of Henry Green | Hayes & Greene family history

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Ghwarriespoort to the Gariep Dam

Continued from Hermanus to Keurfontein

Friday 4 September 2015

We woke up in chilly Keurfontein, at Ghwarriespoort, and continued our journey North and East along the N9. Keurfontein, the place where we stayed, was selfcatering accommodation rather than a B&B, but that was OK — it was was a fast day, so we had baked beans on toast for breakfast.



About 50 km up the road we passed the Grootrivier Dam — the road goes over the dam wall. Four years ago it had been dry, and we expected that after the rain of the last few days it might have had some water in it, but there was none, and the river was the merest trickle. A bit further on we saw puddles at the side of the road, so there had been rain, but obviously it had not affected the river. Perhaps the “Groot” name was irony.

Grootrivier Dam -- as empty as it was four years ago

Grootrivier Dam — as empty as it was four years ago

We bypassed Aberdeen, and reached Graaf Reinet at 11:43, 197 km from Keurfontein. We dropped in to visit my cousin Ailsa Grobler, and this time she was at home. Last time we had visited (in 2011) she was away visiting her son Bruce, who works as a chef in Dubai. Interestingly enough another cousin on the Hannan side of the family, Ceri Duff Henderson, lives in Dubai, where she is a diving instructor.

Steve Hayes, Ailsa Grobler, Val Hayes, Nick Grobler: Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Steve Hayes, Ailsa Grobler, Val Hayes, Nick Grobler: Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

There was a bonus on this visit, as Ailsa’s other son Gavin, who lives in Cape Town, was there as well. We had coffee with them and chatted for a while. Nick and Ailsa run the Villa Reinet Guest House in Graaff Reinet, and we stayed there on our trip in 2011, though only Nick was at home then. We can also recommend it as a very good place to stay, and not just because it is run by our cousins.

Steve Hayes, Gavin & Ailsa Grobler. Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Steve Hayes, Gavin & Ailsa Grobler. Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Our Hannan great grandparents, William Hannan and Ellen McFarlane, lived in Glasgow, and four of their children emigrated to southern Africa, including Ailsa’s grandfather Stanley Livingstone Hannan and my grandmother Janet McCartney Hannan, who married George Growdon.

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. 4 September 2015

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. 4 September 2015

We left Graaff Reinet about 12:45, and crossed the Lootsberg Pass at 1:20 pm, 262 km from Keurfontein, and probably, at 1781 metres (5843 feet), one of the highest places on our route this day. In some places we followed the railway line, which on our previous visit had looked neglected and disused, but this time looked as if it could be in use again. The road was wide and smooth, and seemed to go almost effortlessly over the hills. Last time we had been here 4 years ago we had travelled this section in the dark. At Middelburg, which we reached at 1:48 pm, 306 km from Keurfontein, they were working on the road, and there were a couple of stop/go sections, but they did not hold us up for long. The road clearly needed working on, as it was narrow, bumpy and much patched, They had completed the sections from Noupoort to Colesberg, which were wide and smooth.

Toverberg, the Magic Mountain, also known as Cole's Berg, named after Sir Lowry Cole, sometime governor of the Cape Colony.

Toverberg, the Magic Mountain, also known as Cole’s Berg, named after Sir Lowry Cole, sometime governor of the Cape Colony.

Henry Green, the brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green, was resident magistrate and civil commissioner in Colesberg in the 1860s, so we visited the town museum to see if we could find out where he had lived at that time, and it appeared that the drosdy (magistrate’s residence) was next to the Anglican Church, where most of Henry Green’s children by his second wife, Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, were baptised. The drostdy is now a restaurant, but it wasn’t open when we passed through. The Anglican church next door has services once a month, when the rector of Middelburg visits.

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant. Henery Green apparently lived here when he was resident magistrate in the 1860s.

We then followed the southern shore of the Gariep Dam to Oviston. The Gariep Dam is the biggest dam in South Africa, used for water storage, power generation and irrigation. It is on the Orange (Gariep) River, which we had seen further downstream earlier in our journey when we crossed it from north to south at Kakamas, and saw it at the Aughrabies falls.

Gariep Dam, 4 September 2015

Gariep Dam, 4 September 2015

We went to Oviston, on the southern shore, where we spent the night at the Aan Die Water guest house.

Sunset over the Gariep Dam at Oviston

Sunset over the Gariep Dam at Oviston





Found! Ida Carolina von Lilienstein, wife of Henry Green

One of the long-enduring mysteries of the GREEN family history has at last been solved, thanks to Ione Evans of New Zealand.

Henry Green, the British Resident of the Orange River Sovereignty in the early 1850s, came to South Africa some time in the 1840s, as did several of his siblings, including Fred (Val’s great great grandfather), Edward, Charles and Arthur.

It was known that Henry Green married Ida Carolina von Lilienstein, daughter of Count von Lilienstein, but little was known about her parents. Many of their descendants have tried to find out more, especially her mother’s name, but without success.

Ione Evans asked a researcher to check German records, and and finally found:

Congregation of Itzehoe, Christenings in the year 1836, daughters, page No 11, born on 4 December 1835, christened on 24 December 1835 Ida Caroline Johanna, legitimate daughter of local constable at the regiment of light dragoon, Carl Arthur Count zu LILIENSTEIN and Catharina Elise née STAEKER, christened by me at home. God parents: Carl von BARDENFLETH, colonel and head of the regiment, Martin von WILEMOOS SUHM, Premier Major, Johannes von EWALD, major (translation)

This will be especially good news for descendants of Henry and Ida, as Ida’s ancestors will be theirs as well, but for the rest of us too, the irritating gap waiting to be filled by “Spouse’s mother” can at last be filled.

In the course of our researches into the Green family we have met several descendants of Henry and Ida, and corresponded with many more. Some of them have been enthusiastic researchers into the family history, and many of them have helped us a great deal with our researches. We were in correspondence for a while with Hal Green in Swaziland. Jack and Peggy (nee Tapscott) Stokes visited us when we lived in Melmoth in Zululand, and stayed several days with their caravan in our back yard, and we spent many evening poring over family records, trying to sort out chronology and relationships.

One of the longest-standing mysteries (to us, at any rate) was what happened to Edith Susanna Green, daughter of Henry and Ida. She had married Ernest Borwick and then, apparently, disappeared off the face of the earth. Then we made contact with Ione Evans, a descendant of that branch, who filled in several generations. Ernest Borwick farmed in Kenya, and several of their seven children lived there, and some married and moved to other countries. Ione Evans is still following up some of the descendants, but has also been working backwards on the von (or zu) Lilienstein side as well, for which we are all grateful.