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.

 

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Ria Mcfarlane Hannan Reddick 03/11/1921 – 15/06/2015

I was saddened to read this on Facebook this morning:

Ria Mcfarlane Hannan Reddick
03/11/1921 – 15/06/2015
Our lovely Mum, Grandma & Great Grandma sadly passed away yesterday. She was the last of a very special generation & will be greatly missed by us all.

posted by my second cousin, Fiona Hannan Reddick Smyth.

Ria was my mother’s first cousin, and I only met her twice, but both were memorable occasions.

The first time I met her was in 1966 when I scarpered from South Africa to the UK to avoid the attentions of the Security Police (you can read more of the story of that here), passing through Ian Smith’s UDI Rhodesia on the way. I met Ria’s brother, Willie Hannan, who was then MP for Maryhill in Glasgow, and he helped me find my way through the tangled bureaucracy to get a job to support myself while waiting to study st Durham University.

Ria had been living in Rhodesia but when Smith made his UDI she wanted out, and returned to Scotland, and I went with Willie to meet her at the airport. UDI caused great divisions in the family. Another Hannan cousin in Rhodesia, Betty Stewart, had met Ria there, and wrote to my mother referring to their cousin Willie as a “one-man-one-vote bastard and a sick leftist”. So when I first went to the House of Commons to meet him I pictured a wild-eyed revolutionary, a sort of Che Guevara figure, and was rather disappointed to find that he was very mild and rather conservative, and his main concern was not Rhodesia but getting Britain to join the European Union, which he thought would encourage international peace and understanding.

Here’s what I wrote in my diary on the day I went with him to meet Ria at the airport, 4 February 1966:

I went by train and underground to the West London Air Terminal, where I met Willie Hannan. His sister Ria was flying in from Rhodesia with her two children, and were returning to settle again in Scotland. Her plane was due to arrive at 12:20, and then she was going up to Glasgow with Willie at 3:00. On the way to the airport on the bus Willie told me about his family, and how he had met Tommy (Mum’s brother, who died 2 and a half years ago) when he was in the merchant navy during the war, and he said I looked like him. He also told me of his father, who during the First World War was a pacifist and  a socialist, and had spent two years in jail. I told him that Mum had said that my pacifism runs in the family, but did not enquire about the nature of the socialist Sunday School she had said her uncle (Willie’s father) had sent his children to.

At the airport we found the plane with Ria, a South African Airways Boeing, would be late, and we sat having tea and sandwiches, and I told Willie something about the Liberal Party and its policies, and a little of the way in which our activities were hampered by Special Branch intimidation and so on. He said he was not a religious man himself, and I said I wouldn’t have expected it. “Oh, why do you say that?” he asked. “Because so few people are,” I replied. He said he admired John “Honest to God” Robinson, and thought he might be able to accept those views. I then told him how issues in South Africa were sufficiently clearcut to enable one to make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was not so.

When the plane with Ria arrived at about 1:20 we had to go over to another building for them to get the plane to Glasgow (there are 3 terminal buildings at Heathrow — one internal, one European, and one intercontinental) and there we had tea and talked about Rhodesia. Ria said that she had had a Rhodesian passport and citizenship, and felt that she could not stay after UDI, so had got a British passport on the 9th of November, two days before Smith went mad. Two of Willie’s parliamentary colleagues joined us while we were waiting, and Ria showed us a letter she had had to get from the government giving her permission to resign from her job with Shell Oil. Then Willie and Ria and the children left. The kids were quite sweet — a boy of about 15, called Carson, and Heather, about 12. Both had dark hair, like their mother.

I stayed talking to the other MPs, and showed them my letter instructing me to call at the magistrate’s office for my warning. They wanted to make a copy of it to show round the House, and I resolved to try to get them a copy of a real banning order, which would be of far more interest and value. One of them, the Lancashire whip of the Labour Party, when he heard that I was an ordinand, wanted to know whether my political views arose from my Christian convictions, and was interested in my use of the Bible as a political textbook, or, more accurately, text book. Later, when the two of us were alone together, he said that he himself was a Christian, and seemed quite keen that we should meet again and talk.

I really would like to have known what went on at the Socialist Sunday School, but I got the impression that Willie was rather embarrassed by all that, and had indeed been embarrassed when his father was arrested and jailed as a conscientious objector, and preferred not to talk about it, while I was quite proud to have a great uncle who was a conscientious objector.

Ria’s eldest daughter, Fiona, had stayed in Rhodesia, mainly because she had a boyfriend there, and only returned to Scotland a few months later when she broke up with him, so I did not meet her then.

Hannan family in Glasgow, 6 May 1967

Hannan family in Glasgow, 6 May 1967

Fifteen months later my mother came for a holiday in Europe and the UK and we went to Glasgow to meet the Hannan cousins, and that was when I met Ria for the second time, at a kind of family reunion.

Ella Hayes and Ria Reddick, Glasgow, 6 May 1967

Cousins: Ella Hayes and Ria Reddick, Glasgow, 6 May 1967

We gathered at the house of Willie’s sister Ella (Annabella Buchanan, born Hannan), and there was a whole family reunion there, as two others of his sisters, Ria, who had been in Rhodesia, mother of Carson and Heather, and Tilda, whose daughter Ives Duff and grandson Alastair were also there. Their mother Hannah, who was my mother’s aunt by marriage was there — it was her husband, Tom Hannan, who was twe socialist who had refused to fight in the First World War and gone to jail for it. We talked most of the evening after having supper.

We tried to see Ria when we visited the UK in 2005, but on the day we called to see her she had gone out on a bus trip, so we missed her, and were sad to do so. As Fiona said, she was one of the last of her generation, and I knew her for all too short a time.