Arthur Edgcome BROWN

Arthur was born on 29 January 1869 in Tottenham, London. He was the 2nd eldest child of Walter Brown and Amelia Edgcome Richards. The Browns ran a grocers opposite the Tottenham Hotspurs stadium on the High Road and were lifelong members of the local Baptist Church.

In 1895 he graduated in Chemistry from the University of London and went on to have career as an analytical chemist. He held various roles including Gas Examiner to the Enfield and Tottenham Urban Sanitary Councils.

He was married twice, Myra Lucy Brown (no relation) (with whom he had two children) and then Vivien Meryl Baker. He celebrated two silver weddings and outlived them both. On 15 August 1965 he finally passed away at The General Hospital Barnet, aged 96. His cause of death is quite interesting “Congestive cardiac failure and Atherosclerotic mycardioal – death accelerate by fracture of femur following fall in Nursing home, accidental – the family story says he fell out of bed!

Air & Service : Arnold Dyer #52Ancestors in 52 weeks

Arnold Ernest Dyer in uniform
Arnold Ernest Dyer

The title of this blog “Air” & “Service” in the series 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. The story is about Arnold Ernest Dyer, my 1st Cousin 2 x removed,  my maternal grandmother”s cousin. Arnold also seems an appropriate subject at the time of writing, as we approach the 8th May 2020, being the 75th Anniversary of VE day.

Family tree HF DYER

Unfortunately I know nothing much more about Arnold’s life, he was born on 1st November 1918 to Edgar Percy Dyer (known as Percy) & Edith Emily Harding. He lived with his parents and 5 brothers in North London. According to the 1939 Register his father was Representative Sanitary Electrics Works!

Sadly Arnold died on Friday 13th December 1940 and he is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Libya. (TRIPOLI WAR CEMETERY (Number of casualties: 1242) Cemetery reference: 7. H. 22)


UK, Commonwealth War Graves, 1914-1921 and 1939-1947 for Arnold Ernest Dyer

Arnold was a pilot in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and in 1940 he was with the 830 Squadron FAA stationed at HMS St Angelo the Royal Navy base in Malta.

HMS St Angelo

As a naval base, HMS St Angelo was self-sufficient. It had a sick bay, dormitories, silos, a water distillation plant, a mechanised mechanised flour mill, at least two pubs and even a cinema. This was one of the first cinemas on the island.

Fairey Swordfish (courtesy of Geoff Dyer)

The 830 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm squadron formed in Malta in July 1940 flying Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. During 1940–41 the squadron carried out attacks against the Axis supply effort in the Mediterranean. These included torpedo attacks against merchant ships and their Royal Italian Navy warship escorts, and also bomb attacks on port installations in Sicily and Libya.

The book A history of the Mediterranean air war, 1940-1945. Volume 2 by
SHORES, C. F., MASSIMELLO, G., GUEST, R., OLYNYK, F. J., & BOCK, W. (2013). Records the events of 13th December 1940.

Friday, 13 December 1940
Swordfish of 830 Squadron from Malta dive-bombed Tripoli harbour. During this attack K8866 was lost, Sub Lts R.H. Thompson and A.E.Dyer being killed.
Following the raids on 7 December, the RAF was mainly engaged in activities over Cyrenaica and the Egyptian frontier area. It was to be two weeks before a further heavy attack was made in Tripolitania. This time the assault came not from Malta, but from the deck of the newly-arrived aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious.
This vessel had been involved in two recent sorties mainly connected with Malta convoys, although on 12 December her Swordfish had bombed transport laagers near Bardia in support of Operation Compass. Following a return to Alexandria to refuel, she had sailed again with the Mediterranean Fleet to attack targets on Rhodes and Stampalia (see Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete, 1940-41).
Heading then to Malta, where the battleship HMS Warspite put into harbour briefly, the fleet approached Tripoli to interdict the flow of supplies to the Italian forces in Libya.
On 21 December nine torpedo-armed Swordfish drawn from the carrier’s two squadrons, intercepted a convoy of three merchant vessels off Kerkennah Island, claiming seven hits which sank the 6,511 -ton refrigerator ship Norge and the 1,926-ton steamer Peuceta.
Next day 15 Swordfish attacked Tripoli, claiming to have set fire to warehouses and dumps, all save one of the aircraft returning safely to their parent ship.
Throughout this particular sortie, which lasted from 15-25 December, no aerial attacks were experienced, and the carrier’s fighters were not called upon to fly any defensive operations.

Arnold’s brother, Geoffrey was kind enough to pass on some photos including Arnold’s funeral, the Italians in Tripoli awarded him full military honours!

Arnold Dyer funeral Tripoli
Arnold’s funeral courtesy of Geoff Dyer

Royal Navy casualties for Friday 13 December 1940
FAA, 802 Sqn, Sparrowhawk, air crash RUSSELL, Godfrey F, Lieutenant, killed FAA, 830 Sqn, Grebe, air crash DYER, Arnold E, Py/Ty/Sub Lieutenant (A), RNVR, missing THOMPSON, Richard H, Sub Lieutenant (A), RNVR, missing Pembroke SMITH, Frederick O, Stoker Petty Officer, C/K 1705, died RN Hospital, Hong Kong, illness ALLEN, Arthur, Warrant Wardmaster, died Southdown FORD, Walter F I, Supply Assistant, P/MX 68968, MPK

Arnold is remembered on a war memorial in  Broomfield Park, Palmers Green.

Arnold Ernest Dyer Broomfield Park memorial

P.S. The National Archives in Kew, have the service records of the RNVR, so I have added this to my ever growing “look up list”.  The National Archives are closed at present, as this blog post was written during the 2020 lockdown due to Covid 19 world wide pandemic!

Water (the sea): Dr William Tait – #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

William Tait’s signature

The Sea is the topic for this #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks blog. I have chosen yet another Tait brother’s tale to tell. What a wealth of stories this family are!

William Tait was the second youngest son of Joshua Tait. (Joshua Tait of Langrigg)  He was born in Langrigg in around 1778, he was baptised 23 March 1778 at the local church in Whitsome and Hilton.

William Tait baptism

I have found no record of William again till he attended the University of Edinburgh and studied medicine.

William Tait medical student

After graduation he joined the Navy and we next find him in 1808 working as a medical officer with the Royal Navy.

William listed as Medical Officer of the Royal Navy Physician appointed 16 July 1808

On 15 August 1818 at the age of 40 he gets married in Bath, to Maria Bertha Edgar the widow of Robert CAMPBELL who was a captain in the Royal Navy alongside Admiral NELSON! Robert died in 1815 leaving Maria with 3 children. Both William and Robert worked for the Navy, so they might have met then?

William & Maria’s marriage 1818

Maria was the only  child of Rear Admiral Alexander EDGAR (1736 – 1817), for more about Alexander’s fascinating life – see

Real Admiral Alexander EDGAR

By 1841 William is retired and on half pay, and 22 September 1854 he dies in France, where he is living with his wife.

He is buried in Boulogne, he had no children of his own and left his estate to one of Maria’s children!

British Overseas Burial Record

William’s French Burial Record

Dr William Tait (& his brother George Tait) wrote a series of letters on his brother Peter’s behalf, who was trying to set up as a farmer in the Cape, South Africa. (Disaster: Peter Tait, early Cape settler #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks)

William seemed to move around the country quite a lot, I imagine he went to a sea at some point, perhaps he served alongside Captain Robert Campbell and knew Lord Nelson!

Born Langrigg Scotland March 1778
University Edinburgh Scotland 1795
Married in Clifton, St Andrew, Bristol, England August 1818.
Wrote letter from Somerset Coffee House, Strand  January  1819.
Wrote letter from Southampton February 1819 to  April 1819.
Died and was buried in Boulogne France 1854.

Maria died in 1856  two years later and was also buried in Boulogne France. Sadly she outlived all except one of her children.

Maria’s French Burial Record

Maria & William’s family tree


Luck: Penang Clerk’s Luck, #52Ancestors in 52 weeks

This blog prompt “Lucky” is about my husband’s grand father Thomas Yean de Bruyne, who was born about 1890 we think in Sumatra, Indonesia, one of two sons of a Dutch man and a Burmese woman.

Thomas Yean de Bruyne

Thomas married Annie Irving on 20 March 1923 at Farquhar Street Mission House and Chapel, 35 Lebuh Farquhar, Penang. They lived in her father’s house on Cantonment Road, George Town, Penang. James Irving (Irvine) of Penang (and Scotland)

Thomas & Annie wedding 1923
Wedding of Thomas Yean de Bruyne & Annie Irving

In 1935 Thomas won a horse racing sweepstake and the tale of his “Luck”, was reported in the Malay Tribune of 20 June 1935.

Malay Tribune article 1935
Newpaper article from Singapore Library’s digitised collection:

Transcribed story.

Wins First Prize In Race Sweepstake

The luckiest man in Penang to-day is Mr. T Y de Bruyne, Chief Taily Clerk of Messrs. Islay Kerr and Company, Penang. who was has won the first prize in the Penang Buddhist Association Sweep drawn on the Kuala Lumpur races on Saturday, says Penang gazette of June 17.

The number of the lucky ticket is 3839, which drew Pantoi securing for Mr. de Bruyne the prize of $44,000.


Approached by a “Penang Gazette” reporter this morning Mr. de Bruyne who was surrounded by his friends, said that he was forced by the ticket which had brought him the windfall. “I was buying oil for my motor-cycle when a friend accosted me and thrust two tickets in my hands. I told him I had no money with me but my friend insisted on my having one. It was sheer luck”.

A few days before the drawing took place the black dog belong in Mr. and Mrs. de Bruyne climbed up the steep tiled roof of the house Mrs. de Bruyne made the remark that it was a sign of luck and promised to buy a silver chain for the dog if they were fortunate in winning a prize.


How the lucky ticket changed hands also makes interesting reading.
It appears that the member who bought some tickets handed two to a Siamese who tried to form a syndicate among a number of school boys.

He was unable to raise the $2 and had to return the tickets. Mr. de Bruyne’s friend was the next holder of the tickets and, as related, Mr. de Bruyne became possessor of the lucky ticket.

Mr. de Bruyne has been in the service Messrs. Islay Kerr for nearly 23 years “I have no intention of leaving my employment,” Mr. de Bruyne added.

The number of the residence of Mr de Bruyne at Cantonment road is 13!

Post script
This report makes me want to ask several questions: What is a Pantoi, what was the dogs name? and did Annie buy the dog a silver chain ?
The money stated in the report is in Malaysian dollars.

Strong Woman: Ann Isabella Guy #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

Ann Isabella Wright
Ann Isabella Guy

This blog prompt “Strong Women” is all about Ann Isabella Guy, a formidable looking women.  I have always admired Ann, she had to turn her hand to running a business at the passing of her husband, whilst raising 6 children. She then moved on to allow her son to take over as cheesemonger and started running a printers and booksellers with her sister, living in a full household of family, and employees.

Ann Isabella Guy was born around 1814, the daughter of John Guy and Jane Glover, the eldest daughter and one of nine children. Ann was baptised on 9th November 1814 in Kendal at Westmorland, which is in what we now call the “Lake District”. Her father John was a school master and wrote books later in life. The Guy family of Westmorland

By 1836 we find Ann in London getting married to Thomas Wright (a cheesemonger) on 21st August 1836 at St Georges in Bloomsbury, the witness were Jane Guy (possibly Ann’s mother or sister) and Henry Wright ( no idea who this was, imagine family because of name).

Ann & Thomas marriage 1836
Ann & Thomas marriage record

Ann is recorded on the first full census in 1841, living at 9 Blackmoor Street, with her husband Thomas and 3 children: William aged 4 (my 3x great grandfather), Jane aged 2 and Anne aged 1. Also living with them was John Wright (b. 1823) might be Thomas’ brother and Jane Guy (b. 1822) Ann’s sister and two others, George Eater (b. 1822) and Sam Benning (b. 1823) who probably worked for Thomas selling cheese!

Ann and Thomas had another 3 children Thomas Henry in 1843 (died in 1844), Isabella in 1844, and Martha in 1845. That is a lot of children in a very short amount of time, but not unusual for the times.

Ann had 6 children under 10 when Thomas’ financial troubles began, he was declared bankrupt and went to debtor prison for around a month, he owed money to a Henry Billingham. Then sadly Thomas died on 22nd October 1850, of Delirium tremors (also referred to as “DTs”, “the horrors” is an acute episode of delirium that is usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol).  He died at home and the death was registered by Jane Guy, Ann Isabella’s sister, who was now living close by at 8 Stanhope Street. Thomas was just 42 years old and his probate states Ann got £300….worth around £30,000 today (2015) not bad for someone who went to prison for not being able to pay his debts !
On the 1851 census, Ann is now head of the household and occupation is cheesemonger (rare to have a women’s occupation stated). She is still living at 9 Blackmoor Street with her four of her children, William, who is already working as a clerk aged 13, Jane, Anne and Isabella, but Martha is not listed. Also living with her is her sister Martha Guy (b. 1825) her companion and two assistants John Foulke & James Bishop.

1865 directory
1865 London Directory listing “Wright, Ann (Mrs.) Isabella, cheesemngr.     9 Blackmoor st wc

By the 1861 census Ann and family are still living in Blackmoor Street, running the cheesemongers, but there are only 3 of her children living with her, Martha has returned but Anne & Jane are not listed. She still has one assistant recorded as a shopman William Thomas also John Foulke is listed as a visitor (assistant on 1851 census).

In 1871 things have changed for Ann, she is no longer living at Blackmoor Street, but has moved to 29 Newcastle Street (a few roads away) and occupation says bookseller, Ann’s father was a writer, John Guy. Ann’s son William has married and is running the cheesemongers in Blackmoor Street.

Inkedmap showing Newcastle St & Blackmoor St
Map showing Blackmoor Street & Newcastle Street

Living with Ann at Newcastle Street are Jane Johnson, married (Jane Wright) daughter, visitor William Johnson, b. 1864, grandson Isabella Johnson b. 1867, granddaughter Isabella Wright, single, daughter Martha Guy, single, sister, bookseller Jane Simpkin, Ann’s married sister, and a visitor Clara Wigg b. 1865. (who is actually Ann’s granddaughter).

John Guy book printers Wright Simpkin & Co
John Guy book Printers Wright, Simpkin & Co

1881 census finds Ann still living at 29 Newcastle Street, she is publisher, living with Matilda Wright, daughter (think she is the same as Martha in other records, same D.O.B.) Harriett Boxall, domestic servant William King, Boarder, Gentleman, Edward Parry, Boarder, warehouseman, J. W. Sprang, Boarder, Author (female) Clara J. Wigg, granddaughter, scholar.

On 3 November 1887 Ann died her old house in Blackmore Street, aged 73, of “senectus morbus cordis” old age heart disease. Death notified by Jane Johnson (nee Wright) her daughter.

Death Certificate
Ann’s death certificate

Ann is buried at Kensal Green Cemetary, (the same place as both of her parents), and one day I hope to visit and find her grave.

Ann Isabella Wright nee Guy burial record Kensal Green
Ann Isabella Wright (nee Guy) burial record for Kensal Green

Disaster: Peter Tait, early Cape settler #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

A disaster is not the most inviting topic and luckily in our family there are not that many disasters to choose from. One person in our tree that did have a disaster and I have chosen him as there is also a lot written about his adventures, is Peter Tait youngest son of Joshua Tait of Langrigg.

Peter Tait was born in Langrigg in around 1781, baptised 16 October 1781 at the local church in Whitsome and Hilton. Little else has been recorded about him till 1819, but between then and his baptism he got married to a local girl Agnes Hogarth, she was baptised in Edrom in 1779. I can find no marriage record, so evidence of their relationship is via their gravestone and their four children’s baptism (3 daughter and 1 son), which states the children were all legitimate.

Peter Tait wife and family

Sadly Agnes died in 1817, she is buried in the old kirkyard in Whitsome. Her gravestone reads “In memory of Agnes Hogarth spouse of Peter Tait tenant of Horndean who died at Horndean 13 March 1817 aged 38 years.” Their youngest child would have been only 3 years old. The inscription also says Peter was a farmer in Horndean.

Agnes Grave 1817
gravestone of Agnes

We do not know what happened to the children after their mother’s death, I imagine they were put in to the care of family? The girls all married, but after their father’s death, the only son John lived and farmed the family estate of Langrigg, but his is another sad tale to be told later.

What Peter did next seems quite extraordinary, he decided to take a local group of people and migrate to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He was one of the “pre 1820 settlers.”

In 1820 there was a Government sponsored scheme a “The Cape Emigration Scheme”.  The scheme’s selection was to be limited to men who could afford to engage and maintain a party of at least 10 able-bodied labourers over the age of 18, with or without families. In return they would receive free passage and ‘victuals’ and be granted 100 acres of land in the Eastern Cape plus 100 acres per man in their party. Their initial aim was that the settler parties would be made up of middle to higher-class people who had some capital and would enter into agreements with members of their parties in exchange for land and a number of years working in the employ of the party leaders.

Peter’s story is told via letters sent by 2 of his brothers: Dr William Tait a navy physician  (more about this brother in a future blog) & George Tait, also by Peter himself on his return from the Cape.

Dr William Tait & George Tait write a series of letters Mr Goulburn and others on Peter’s behalf, he seems to have arrived in the Cape on his own and is requesting help sending the rest of his party:


Original Letter at National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 1

Somerset Coffee House, Strand
Tuesday January 5 1819

Dr TAIT presents his duty to Mr GOULBURN and begs most respectfully to acquaint him that he has received letters from his Brother at the Cape of Good Hope where he has received a Grant of Land in compliance with the official letter he carried out to His Excellency the Governor.

As Mr GOULBURN was kind enough to say, when Dr TAIT had the honour of an interview in February last, that he would see him again relative to the Settlers to be conveyed to the Cape whenever he obtained intelligence from his Brother of his having received the Grand of Land, he now, therefore, presumes on Mr GOULBURN’s kind condescension, and he will be infinitely obliged if Mr. GOULBURN will appoint a convenient time to see him, when he will state the objects he has in view and the assistance he expects from Government to enable his Brother to introduce a value System of Agricultural improvements and a very valuable & highly necessary class of Settlers into the Colony of the Cape.

[Note from GOULBURN across bottom of page] Appoint him for the next day I come to town]

Original Letter at National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 3

To P. SMITH Esq, Colonial Office

February 18th 1819


From your very kind attention to me in January last, I am induced to take the liberty of acquainting you, that I have this day written to Mr. GOULBURN on the subject of the Settlers I wish to send to the Cape of Good Hope, and if you will grant me an extension of your kindness by accelerating the application from your office to the Transport Board for their Passage, so that the Settlers may leave this Country as soon as possible, you will lay me under the greatest obligation.

I am aware that I have no claim or right to intrude upon you for favours of this sort, but being, like yourself a Public Servant (a Physician of the Royal Navy) I hope you will pardon my intrusion, and afford me all the assistance in your power.

I am Sir

Your most obedient & very Humble Servant


National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 5

Febr. 18 1819


I beg leave to take the liberty of acquainting you, that I have engaged Twenty Settlers in Scotland viz. seventeen men, and three women to go to the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope to be there located on the land granted to my Brother Mr. Peter TAIT.

They are ready and waiting my directions to proceed to London and if you will have the goodness to order a Passage to be found for them from London, by the Transport Department, so that they may sail from this Country in the first or second week of March next, it will be greatly beneficial to my Brother’s interest.

As I do not wish to order the Settlers to proceed to London till I know the precise period when the vessel which may be Chartered to convey them will sail for the Cape, I will be infinitely obliged to you Sir if you will give directions that I should have due information on that subject so that I may have fourteen days at the least to order them to sail from Scotland.

I am ready to Deposit the Sum required as a security [obscured] those Persons shall be located on the Land granted to my Brother and I will be much obliged if you will honor me with Instructions in that respect.

I have the Honor to be Sir,

Your most obedient & very Humble Servant,


[Note from GOULBURN across bottom of page] Request him to furnish a list of the persons of the members of the several families if any that passages may be ordered – 24 Feb


National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 7

[from George TAIT, brother of William and Peter TAIT]

Langrigg, by Duns
March 4 1819


I have the honor to prefix by my Brother Dr. William TAITT’s directions a list of the persons I have engaged in this Country to proceed to the Cape of Good Hope as Settlers to be located on the land granted to our Brother Mr. Peter TAITT and I take the liberty of informing you they are all ready to embark at Berwick for London whenever I am directed to forward them.

I have the honor to be Sir,

Your Most Obedient & very humble Servant

George TAITT

List of Names of Persons engaged to go out immediately to the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope to serve Mr. Peter TAITT there.

Plowmen & Women Servants
Isaac TAITT and his Wife 2 & four children
___ TAITT oldest son of Isaac TAITT 1
William WIGHTMAN 1
Robert ROBSON 1
Thomas HILL 1
James GRIEVE 1
Edward WAKE 1
Joseph McDOUGAL 1
Peter LAIDLAW & his Wife 2 & 2 Children
Andrew PRINGLE – Blacksmith 1
George HAVERY Joiner 1

Total 19

[Note from GOULBURN]

Order a passage for them on deposit being made & acquaint him that this will be done


National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 9

9th March 1819


On being honoured with your letter of the 25th Ult., I wrote immediately to my Brother in Scotland, directing him to send you a list of the Persons he had engaged as Settlers to go to the Cape of Good Hope, and I have this day received a letter, acquainting me that he had sent you a list, consisting of sixteen men – three women – and six children.

When you have ordered the Tonnage to be provided for their conveyance, I will be much obliged if you will have the goodness to inform me, at what period the vessel will be engaged to sail from London, that I may have sufficient time to direct the Settlers to sail from Scotland to join her.

I have the honor to be Sir,

Your most obedient & very Humble Servant


[Note from GOULBURN] Let him know when we receive an answer


National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 11

March 15th 1819


I am honoured with your note of the 12th instant, and I beg leave to enclose, herewith, a Bill at sight, for one hundred and ninety Pounds, being the Deposit for the Settlers going to my Brother at the Cape of Good Hope.

In offering you my most respectful acknowledgements, for your very kind and handsome attention to me in this business.

I have the honor to be Sir,

Your most obed’t.& very Humble Servant,


[Note from GOULBURN]

Acknowledge receipt, book passages & write the necessary letter to Gov’r of the Cape


National Archives, Kew CO48/46, 13

April 25th 1819


I am honoured with your letter of the 22nd instant, and I have directed Andrew MARSHALL, one of the persons going to my Brother of the Cape of Good Hope, to call at your office on Tuesday next to receive the letter to His Excellency the Governor.

As some of the persons in the List sent to you from Scotland, refused to fulfil their engagements when required to embark at Berwick, it became necessary to engage others in place of them, I beg leave, therefore, to enclose a corrected List of those who have come from Scotland and who are going to the Cape in the Carmarthen.

I have the honor to be Sir,

Your most obedient & very Humble Servant,


A list of Persons going to the Cape of Good Hope to Mr. Peter TAIT in the Ship Carmarthen

Robert ROBSON 1
Thomas HILL 1
James GRIEVE 1
Edward WAKE 1
Joseph McDOUGAL 1
George HAVERY 1
James FOORD 1
Isaac TAIT & his wife  2 Children (under 12 years) 4
William FOORD aged 14 1
William FOORD & his wife 2
Children (under 12 years) 2
Margaret HAVERY 1
George OGILVIE 1

Total 25 Abstract  16 men – 3 women – 6 Children

April 25th 1819



We then go forward in time to 1824 and now have letters written by Peter Tait himself. He writes to explain why he returned to London and wrote to explain the disaster  or “dreadful calamity” as Peter describes his experiences in the Cape.


National Archives, Kew, CO48/67, 321

Nov 17th 1824


I have taken the liberty of calling at the Colonial Office on my return from the Cape of Good Hope. I had the honor of carrying out letters from Earl BATHURST to Lord C.H. SOMERSET, Governor of that Colony, in Feb’y 1818 (one year previous to the Albany settlers) By these letters I received every mark of attention from His Excellency and Col. BIRD, Colonial Secretary.

I located in the District of George twenty six settlers from Scotland and had that dreadful calamity the rust in wheat not infected that colony for three successive years I should have succeeded equal to my expectations; however, that famine has not made me alter my opinion respecting the capabilities of the colony in point of agriculture &c and I am a professional farmer in [Berwick?] Scotland from my first career in [obscured] and have been in Africa as a farmer five years.

Sir, my object in waiting at the Colonial Office is to express my [obscured] to Earl BATHURST and should any in[formation] be wanted respecting the colony of Cape of Good Hope I shall be most [obscured] to give His Lordship the same so far as I am enabled so to do.

I have the honor to remain Sir

Your most obedient humble servant

Peter TAIT


National Archives, Kew, CO48/67, 325

27 Dec 1824


I shall feel much obliged by your doing me the favor of laying the statement enclosed herewith before the Earl BATHURST at your earliest convenience

I have the honor to be Sir

Your most obedient humble servant

Peter TAIT

{Transcriber’s Note: The enclosed statement below is not in Peter TAIT’s own hand]

My Lord,

In obedience to your Lordship’s wish expressed in the answer you did me the honor to return to my letter, I proceed to state such observations as occur to me respecting the agricultural state of the District in which I was located at the Cape of Good Hope, and as I have had opportunities at different times of visiting many other parts of the colony to add, with your Lordship’s permission, such observations as occurred to me on those occasions.

In the first place I have to inform your Lordship that I was located in the District of George, the Town bearing that name being situate about half way between Cape Town and Graham’s Town and on the east side of a flat but fertile country, extending about 24 miles in length and about 8 miles in breadth, called Outeniqualand, being the place of my immediate location.

The District of Outeniqualand was originally retained by the Dutch Government with [obscured] of being concocted into a Corn District and it was afterwards, by a Proclamation of Sir John CRADDOCK, granted out at [obscured] quit rents. This district can be converted to tillage at much less expense than most other districts of the Cape, and with proper attention and management is in an agricultural point of view capable of great improvement, besides possessing many local advantages such as having a superabundance of timber, the Knysna contiguous to the forest and Mossel Bay, where a Government store is erected capable of containing a great quantity of grain.

The Dutch Government, whilst the colony was under their protection, issued a notice to the Boers that they would take all the grain (wheat) that could be delivered at Mossel Bay. During the first year the notice was complied with, but during the second year, in consequence of an abundant harvest in the Cape districts, the Dutch Government withdrew from the engagement. In the mean time the store at Mossel Bay was filled with wheat & there it remained till it was totally useless; and scarcely at any future time has the district in question raised more grain than was necessary for the consumption and support of its inhabitants.

In 1819 notice was issued by the Burgher’s Senate to receive grain at Mossel Bay; but such notice being so near the approach of harvest, the Boers were not prepared to meet it, therefore a [small] quantity only was delivered. This notice was repeated the following year and as a consequence a very considerable [extra] quantity was sown; but during the [three] succeeding years that unfortunate calamity the rust swept all before it, not only in the district in question but in all the other districts of the colony, so much so as to create almost a famine – and I may be allowed to remark that His Excellency Lord C.H. SOMERSET was upon those distressing occasions & upon all others most kind & benevolent towards the inhabitants, and exerted his utmost & most anxious endeavours not only for their benefit but for the welfare and prosperity of the colony in general. The Corn Mills in the Colony (those in the vicinity of Cape Town excepted) are on the most miserable and inefficient scale, very few being capable of grinding more than one English quarter of wheat in the space of 13 hours. Now, as the District of George is well supplied with water for all purposes, I may be allowed to state it as my opinion that great benefit would result to the Colony at large were Flour Mills on a proper and efficient scale erected at convenient and proper places for the purpose of converting wheat into flour, instead of storing the former, as is the present custom, for in the first place by these means provisions would be made against any subsequent calamity arising from the rust – in the next place it would prevent the necessity of the Burgher’s Senate interfering with the Corn Trade, and by barrelling the flour it would keep a considerable time and be a great saving against the destruction of the wheat caused by the insect called the weevil – and with a market also established at George Town the Boers in the interior would be induced to bring their goods thither & return with timber, with which they can only be supplied from [this] district.

The Colony at present is at a great annual expence in the import of rice, and therefore were barley [mills] erected (there not being one in the colony) a great saving on that head [would in my opinion be the consequence.

It has been asserted by a late writer upon the Cape that the Colony is not capable of raising corn sufficient for the support of its present population and never can be lower than one hundred and fifty Rix dollars per ten muids. Now in my humble opinion this assertion is completely erroneous, and as a proof of it the crop of 1823 sold in March 1824 as low as eighty Rix dollars per ten muids and even corn was, to my knowledge, exported from the Colony, and that so soon after the distress occasioned by the three years failure of the crops.

The colony to the eastward of Swellendam is at present laying in a dormant and unproductive state from the want of a market at george Town – another advantage, therefore, would arise from the establishment of a market there, which is that the whole of that part of the colony would be brought into a state of productiveness & would even with its present population be capable of raising corn for exportation upon an average to the amount of forty thousand pounds sterling annually, and the Bays at the mouth of the Breed River and Mossel bay would afford every facility for exporting the same.

The Cape sheep are a breed of very unprofitable animals and ought in my opinion to be gradually extirpated and the Merino and South Down breeds substituted in their place – of the former there are [now] about 8,000 in the Colony and they thrive as well and attain a greater weight than the Cape sheep. The mutton also is preferred by the inhabitants. The South Down [breed] has been I believe but lately introduced into the Colony and I have no doubt in my own mind of their turning out well – I am therefore of the opinion that by encouraging & cultivating with due care the Merino and South Down breeds of sheep, and by gradually getting rid of the Cape breed, the advantage to the Colony would be very great; and were there in the Colony at this period the same number of Merino and South Down sheep as there is Cape sheep, the quantity of wool by a moderate calculation would produce (allowing for one fourth of the present price to be diminished by the extra quantity brought to market) the sum of one hundred and eighteen thousand one hundred & twenty five pounds sterling annually.

In consequence of the dreadful distress occasioned by the three years failure of the crops, sheep can rarely be purchased for slaughtering above two years old, whereas about six years since they could be purchased for the same purpose four years old & upwards. Now were the number of Merino & South Down sheep increased so as to avoid the necessity of killing them under 4 years old, the quantity of wool would of course be also increased to the amount or value of nearly seventy eight thousand seven hundred & fifty pounds sterling yearly.

In the Cape [Calendar?] of 1824 an account is given by Mr. VAN BREDA of the management of his flock and he then states that by [putting] Merino rams to a herd of Cape ewes that those of the latter more nearly approached [obscured] wool. It is well understood by [practical?] men that by crossing the breed of sheep [& black?] cattle the crossed can never be depended upon and will revert back to their original breed, therefore should that system be carried into effect it certainly will defeat the purpose that is so earnestly wished for as a very few fleeces of inferior wool can render a whole pack of pure genuine [wool] totally useless to the manufacturer, and ultimately the Cape wool would not find a market.

The Boers state one objection to the growth of wool in the Cape, viz the want of proper places for washing it. Now in my opinion that objection might be removed by constructing proper reservoirs in the districts where there are no streams of water.

The breed of Black Cattle in the colony is by no means deficient for agricultural purposes, tho’ the cows I admit are very deficient for the purposes of the dairy. I am of opinion that beef never can be cured to any extent as the artificial grasses will not thrive in the colony in consequence of the severe droughts with which it is frequently visited, therefore the cattle are not sufficiently fed to admit of the beef being salted, so as to prevent it from becoming dry & hard.

The Cape horses are very small and very ill adapted to the purposes of the Colony. His Excellency Lord Charles SOMERSET introduced the English breed of horses at the Cape and the immediate districts, and which in a short period has improved beyond all calculation – as a proof of which, in Cape Town two horses perform the same work that required six formerly. In the interior districts a breed of strong English agricultural horses would be of great benefit to the country, as it would be the means of rendering a smaller number of labourers necessary.

The roads in the Colony require attention. The road which is now nearly finished at the French hoek will be a great facility, by avoiding the mountain of that name, and making an easy conveyance over that part of the country. It would in my opinion be a great improvement to the Colony were the roads properly surveyed from Cape Town to the districts on the frontiers, more particularly to Graham’s Town, with a view of forming roads to lead from the public line of road to the Bays and interior districts. The expence would be trifling and the roads would neither require forming materials, the line or direction being all that would be necessary, except where passes and mountains occur. From the extraordinary height the rivers attain in cases of flood, bridges are by no means adviseable. Ferry boats are in my opinion much more preferable. At present it is a very great burden, and frequently a matter of complaint on the part of the Boers who are situated near the public roads, by being obliged to accommodate the nervous travellers passing from Cape Town to Graham’s Town. It is also very unpleasant for the traveller to be obliged to force himself upon the Boer’s residence and hospitality. I would therefore suggest that instead of outspan places reserved by Government for grazing the cattle of travellers, houses and proper buildings should be erected at convenient distances on the roads with a sufficient quantity of land to each for the accommodation of travellers & others, allowing the occupiers of such houses the Government allowance in forwarding the post and the privilege of the spirit licence; and this in many instances would be a good living for discharged veterans.

The Cape wine is of low estimate in England – the Constantia vine having such a superiority over the other vines in that Colony led my curiosity to minutely examine both CLOETE’s & COLYNE’s vineyards, and I found both to be of the same soil, namely a decomposed granite, the adjoining soil being a rich red loam. The wine from Drakenstein and the Pearl are the next in estimation. I was not in Drakenstein, bur examined the vineyards at the Pearl and found the higher part of them composed of a similar soil to CLOETE’s and COLYNE’s.

The general system of the vine growers at the Cape is to make choice of low swampy situations as being more sheltered from the south east winds. Those situations certainly produce wine in much greater quantity, but never will produce it of good quality; and were experiments made in higher & more appropriate situations I have no doubt that the Cape wines would cope with those of other countries.

I may remark of the Colony generally that it has the superiority over many others from its climate, and none can raise grain with so little labour and expence, but the want of labourers for reaping and machines for threshing the corn are much felt, as are also, as I have before remarked, the want of markets and the consequent fluctuation of prices occasioned by the interference of the Burgher’s Senate. It is also necessary to observe that farming at the Cape, in all its branches, is very different from that in England; and that the most experienced English farmer, both in practice and theory, would require to be two years resident in the Colony before he could be aware of the real nature of the soil and climate, the dangers his stock is liable to, and other difficulties which experience alone could teach him.

It may be said that the Colony in an agricultural point of view is at present in a torpid state and will not be easily roused or brought into action without the aid of the British Government, and owing to the unfavourable (but in my opinion unfounded) reports circulated by the disappointed and inexperienced settlers, but few British farmers would be induced to embark their capital in the Colony, and the failure of three years crops, coupled with other circumstances, has impressed upon the minds of the ignorant and illiterate Boers that their forefathers’ system of management is the only one to be pursued & that they should by no means deviate from it in future.

I may be allowed to add that after the first two years failure of crops by the rust I was induced to try, at considerable expence to myself, no less than six different experiments with the seed wheat sown for the third year’s crop, in the hope of preventing a third years failure from the same calamity, but I am sorry to say to no purpose.

From experience and local knowledge I am of the opinion that were the capabilities of the Colony fairly and judiciously brought into action it would not only in a few years be in a situation to support itself with little or no expence to the British Government, but would become of importance as a British Settlement in may other productions such as (such as sea silk &c &c) which never have been nor never will be [introduced] unless by the British Government.

My Lord I trust I may be pardoned in the liberty of stating to your Lordship anything in reference to [myself] individually but in consequence of three successive years of rust not only my means became exhausted but my future prospects there completely ruined and those unfortunate but unavoidable causes alone induced me to return to England after a residence of nearly seven years in the Colony.

Thus circumstanced, my Lord, might I be allowed humbly to solicit your Lordship’s favour and interference in my behalf by conferring upon me any situation or appointment at the Cape which your Lordship might be pleased to consider my local knowledge & experience and humble abilities adequate to. This, my Lord, circumstanced as I am at present, would be a favour indeed, and one that should command my most sincere and grateful acknowledgement.

I have the honor to be most respectfully, my Lord,

Your Lordship’s obed’t humble servant

Peter TAIT


I have not found any more information about of Peter’s life, so sadly the final record is his death and this recorded on his wife’s headstone in old kirkyard in Whitsome (see image a top of blog).

He died on 18th May 1836, some 12 years after his return from the Cape. He was living and assume buried in Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

What he did was doing in Charleston I haven not yet discovered, but hope to one day learn more about his last adventure!

Scots in the Carolinas
excert from book




So you may be wondering how I discovered the story of Peter’s attempt at farming in the Cape of Good Hope? by pure chance and some “Googling” I came across a website “The 1820 Settler Correspondence, as preserved in the National Archives, Kew and edited by Sue Mackay”        Sue has kindly given me permission to share her amazing work.

The website introduction:
The Correspondence in connection with the 1820 Cape Settler Scheme is preserved at the UK National Archives at Kew and contained in class CO48. Each file is in fact a large leather bound volume into which the correspondence has been inserted (this is the cause of so many [obscured] words as they disappear into the binding, and of course one is not allowed to undo them). The letters were bound in the 19th century, and were filed in order of receipt…

I recently visited the National Archives and was able to read the original letters:

Dr William Tait letter 25 April 1819
Dr William Tait letter 25 April 1819



Favourite Discovery and Prosperity Captain James Tait #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

One of my most exciting & surprising discoveries was the extraordinary life of Captain James Tait.

My mother-in-law’s grandfather, John James Tait migrated to Malaya in around 1880, he built roads and owned tin mines and was into horse racing!

We always assumed he was the first to venture to the Far East to seek his fame and fortune, but whilst researching John James’ family I discovered he was born at “Edenside” in Kelso Scotland, one of seven sons of James Tait writer to the signet. (lawyer) and his father was James Tait (lots of people called James in this part of our tree).

James Tait was born in Langrigg farmhouse in 1769, he was the 4th child of Joshua Tait and Janet Johnston ( , in total they had 9 sons and 2 daughters and several of their children were adventurers.

Langrigg as it looks today (Ravelaw)

As the century was turning from 1799 to 1800 James was working as a captain of several country ships sailing between Calcutta, Prince of Wales Island (Penang) and Indonesia. He is listed in the East India Company directory as a European resident in Calcutta in 1805 and then for several years in Prince of Wales Island.

A Country ship is the term applied to the ships that traded in the East Indies – they picked up goods and took them to entrepots where the East India Company purchased them. They were restricted from sailing directly to England. The captains were known as free mariners as they had no connection with the East India Company.

There was an incident involving the sale of opium which meant that he ended up going back to Scotland with (possibly a fortune in his pocket).

On 26 June 1815 he married a local girl Margaret, daughter of a prominent writer to the signet George Turnbull.

Marriage of Captain James Tait & Margaret Turnbull

They first rented and then bought a beautiful Georgian manor house called Edenside, in Kelso Roxburgh, where they have four daughters and a son called James Tait.

Edenside as it looks today
Plan of Kelso 1847, living next door to Paradise!

He died in 16 May 1847 and is buried in the the churchyard of Kelso. His only son James Tait went on to become a writer to the signet and two of his daughters married the sons of David Brown http://( an adventurer who set up home in Penang and had large nutmeg plantations, I’m imagining that connection was made to the families during James’s time living in Penang?

Over the last few months I have been researching captain James takes life through reading the gazette the paper published weekly Prince of Wales Island. The paper is useful in that it recalls when ships come and go and other interesting events in the life of the island. I am therefore hoping to eventually write a fuller longer blog tracing the Life and times of this adventurous gentleman.

Same Name #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

This weeks 52 Ancestors blog is “the Same Name”

Our tree includes approximately 15,000 people, it is very wide (thanks to all our DNA cousin matches) and quite deep, thanks to several unusual surnames.

So the big question is “who do we have the most off?”, this is hard to say, if you look at variations. One of the most frequent names is Elizabeth.

The name Elizabeth is derived from a form of the Hebrew name Elisheva (אֱלִישֶׁבַע), meaning “My God is an oath” or “My God is abundance”. It most often appears as full name but does have many shortened variations: Beth, Betsy, Eli, Bettina, Betty, Elisabeth, Élise, Eliza, Elsa, Elspeth, Isabel, Isabella, Isabelle, Lisa, Lisbeth, Liza, Liz, Lizzie, Lizzy, and probably many more!

I have middle name Elizabeth and there are 565 Elizabeths (with first or middle name)  in our tree….

They occur in most of my branches, most occurrence are :
Elizabeth Punchard  13
Elizabeth Pinchbeck 14
Elizabeth Brown          8

Not many pictures of Elizabeth’s available to share, but these 2 are rather splendid images, Elizabeths from my husband’s maternal line in Scotland.

 Elizabeth Moir TOD 1801- 1872 3rd great-grandmother of husband

and daughter of Elizabeth Moir, Elizabeth Moir Stormonth DARLING 1829 1863  2nd great-grandmother of husband

There are some other “Same Names” in our tree, including middle names.

Ann and variations, Anne, Annie total 736
James 550
William 883

Largest First and Last name combination is William Pinchbeck 26, which is not a surprise if you have read any other of my blogs about Pinchbecks a gift of a genealogy name!

So far away #52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

So far away, starts close to home, ending up in America via Australia and becoming part of a Mormon Church dynasty! My story starts in around 1780, involves ships, trains and wagons and several big adventures so far from home….

My 4th great-grandparents (maternal branch) Ann Carrington (b.1781 and d.1862) and George Gregory (b. 1779 and d.1853), lived their lives in rural Flamstead, Hertfordshire, England. Ann and George were married January 1804 in the parish church of St Leonards in Flamstead, and went on to have 12 children the first was named Ann, was baptised July 1804, which means Ann must of been pregnant at their wedding, the last Arkeah (great name) was born baptised in 1825, poor Ann she must have been pregnant every other year!

Their eldest child, Ann Gregory and Matthew Hobbs b. 1798 married in 1825 in Great Gaddesden in Hertfordshire, where they lived and had 7 sons. Their eldest son named William Hobbs, was baptised 1826 in his mother’s home village Flamstead.

William Hobbs married a local girl, Emily Geary in 1844, William was a labourer, so was his father Matthew and father in law, they were all illiterate as their marriage certificate was signed with an X by all of them. Emily was a straw platter, hat making was a big industry in that area, with lots of homeworkers.

William Hobbs Emily Geary m 1844

According to his obituary, William (my 1st cousin 4x removed) and Emily migrated to Australia and landed in Adelaide in November 1849. He and his family settled Reedbeds, nearly Henley Beach and worked many jobs and when gold was discovered, he like many others searched but was not successful, and eventually returned to his family. After several false starts they settled and farmed land in Muntham in Southern Grampians, Victoria, around 350km from Melbourne.

Emma Geary

William Hobbs

William & Emily had 12 children, first 2 were born England, the third was born at sea, and the other 9 were born in Australia. William lived to the grand age of 87 and was buried in 1913 in Douglas Salt Lakes, Harrow, Southern Grampians, alongside his wife Emily who died in 1898.

William Hobbs & Emily Geary grave

Their 5th child Emma Hobbs, was born in 1854 in Reedbeds, South Australia. In 1876 she married William James Brooksby. William was born in Northampton England and aged 6 in 1850 he migrated to South Australia with his parents and siblings on the “Carnatic”. His family were non conformists and some of his family were Quakers. Whilst in Australia he was baptised in to the Mormon church.

William and Emma Brooksby were in their 40s with ten children, and  Emma was pregnant, William walked out and went to America in the wake of his Mormon friends, leaving his wife and family (the eldest aged sixteen) to manage as best they could.
He bought a house and a piece of land in Arizona and returned to Australia to fetch his family.

William Brooksby & Emma Hobbs

Emily was baptised into the Mormon church, they sold up, and set off for Vancouver, a journey the children at least loved and remembered all their lives. It was a train journey from Seattle to Salt Lake City, and then a wagon trek over the hills and the desert and the canyons, stopping on the way for a month while the last baby was born, a girl that nearly died in the cold as they travelled the last stage over the mountains.

Story of William & Emma’s migration, extracted from the excellent website

William Brooksby & Emma Hobbs Golden Wedding 1926

William was an active member of the Jesus Church of Latter day Saints when living in America, he became a priest and counsellor to Bishop A W Judd, Eliza Brooksby (William & Emma’s daughter married into the Judd family.

William & Emma were buried in Fredonia, Coconino County, Arizona, USA.

It is thanks to the amazing Family Search website that I have been able to find this story and Ancestry DNA I have 23 cousin matches on my Carrington line.

Close to Home – 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

The 4th blog prompt in the series 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks is “Close to Home”, I have decided to tell the story of two weddings the first in 1791 and second in 1995.

Our Wedding

My tale starts with the second wedding which was ours. Having decided to get married we then had to pick a venue, although there is quite a lot of choice around Enfield where we live and Hertfordshire where my parents live (making everyone go to Malaysia did not seem a good idea), we did not really like any of the places on offer, many of them just looked like conference centre rooms, and those that were more special or unique could not cater for enough people. I can’t remember who’s mad suggestion is was but we ended up booking a marquee in parents garden in Hertfordshire. Now we had a venue for the reception where to actually get married, we are not very church going people but decided we did want to get married there. Back in 1995 the rules were more restrictive on church weddings, which meant you could only get married in your parish or at a stretch your parents, this gave us a choice of 2, one in Ayot St Lawrence and one in Kimpton.

My choice was the Ayot St Lawrence church, we had been inside on one of our country. It is quite different and quirky, it was designed in a neo-classical style by Nicholas Revett and features a Palladian-style frontage with Doric columns. In side the ceiling is painted a dark blue with stars. First problem was not quite sure we would get all the guests inside, also from the back it did look a bit like a crematorium, and lastly my husband-to-be objected because he’d read a description the the gentleman who paid for the church building that he and his wife were buried either side because “the church that has kept us together in life could keep them apart in death!”

Ayot St Lawrence Church

Fortunately my second choice St Peter and St Paul in Kimpton, is lovely really beautiful old church sitting on top of a hill, so we decided on this and approached the vicar to make arrangements. Our wedding took place on a glorious sunny afternoon in September.

St Peter & St Paul, Kimpton

Some 20 years later whilst researching our family history I was looking into Florence Coots family, my maternal great-grandmother, her father was born in Flamtsead Hertfordshire, a long line of agricultural labourers and straw platters. Florence’s mother was Eliza Burgess following back along the Burgess line to then John Burgess his wife Sarah Riddle, we come to Sarah’s parents Joseph Riddle b. 1770 and Hannah Dimmock b. 1771.

Florence Coots to Joseph & Hannah

I was working my way through all their details, baptism, death and finally marriage, looking carefully at all the details to ensure I had traced the correct people, I found myself gasping out load when I realised what I had read, Hannah Dimmock married Joseph Riddle on the 24th of July 1791 in Kimpton Hertford England, could Hannah & Joseph really have got married in the same church as we did?

Joseph & Hannah marriage transcription

My next step was to investigate churches in Kimpton around the time of their marriage 1791 and as I suspected it was the only church in Kimpton at that time, so we had got married in the same church as my 5th great grandparents, some 204 years later!

Joseph & Hannah marriage registration 24 July 1791