David Brown of Penang

David Brown
David Brown

DAVID BROWN ESQ of Glugor who after a Residence Of 25 years on this Island died on the 12th September Aged 49 Years. He died on board ship HCS Windsor Castle en route to Malacca. He studied law at Edinburgh University.

It was common for early settlers to take local wives, such as Francis Light, James Scott, Logan and Brown. After steamships became common, and the opening of the Suez Canal, European women immigrated to the Straits Settlements and mixed marriages were frowned upon! 

David Brown studied law at Edinburgh University, and at 21 was sent to Penang by relatives, with Power of Attorney to collect the share of his estate of his uncle, Laurence Stuart who had joined James Scott in business. At that time the East India Company was limiting potential settlers on the island only to those recommended by their own members and shareholders. David who came out on board a ship as an ordinary seaman would appear to have jumped ship at Penang.

James Scott who had endless troubles, arguments and litigations with the East India Company, approved of David’s initiative and enterprise, employed him as an assistant and subsequently as his partner. Scott & Co. formerly Light, Scott & Co. , was re-registered in 1808, after the death of James Scott, as Scott, Brown & Co., and David became the most prominent man in Penang.

He was the largest landowner on the island and had a major impact on development. He donated 12 acres for a playing field, and when he died the citizens of all races subscribed to a large monument to his memory at the NW corner of Padang Brown at the intersection of Anson and Perak roads, and still exists. (Notes based on ‘Historical Personalities of Penang published by committee of the Penang Festival in 1986).

David Brown was a major spice planter and merchant and bought the Glugor Estate where he successfully experimented in cultivating cloves and nutmeg. The fruit of the Gelugor tree is called ‘Assam gelugor’ which is a tamarind used in local curries. There are many paintings of Glugor House and the Brown family sold the land in the 1960’s and is now the site of the universiy.


For even more information about David Brown and his life in Penang:


Glugor House
Glugor House
David Brown memorial, Penang
David Brown memorial, Penang

The Tait family of Langrigg

Farm at Langrigg, Whitsome

[“Tait ” is said to be an old Norse name, signifying affection. Some curious legends connected with it are to be found in Ferguson’s English Surnames, chapter viii.] The Tait family (my son’s paternal side)  is very adventurous and has many interesting relatives, some of which were instrumental in the development of new communities far from their Scottish home land. There is an interesting website that details the history of Whitsome Farm, which is where the Tait’s owned and lived for many generations. http://tudl1375.home.xs4all.nl/whitsome%201%20place%20study/farms/langrigg/index.html

Tait family tree first traced ancestor is James Tait b. 1684

one of a long line of James in our family. Taits of Langrigg

Taits first known adventures abroad the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

The TAIT family came from the small parish of Whitsome and Hilton in Berwickshire. Peter and William were the sons of Joshua TAIT of Langrigg. Peter TAIT led an earlier party of settlers to the Cape. Langrigg, TAIT, Peter, son of Joshua, tenant there, baptised 16 October 1781 in the parish of Whitsome and Hilton, Berwickshire. Before 1820 the white population of the Cape Colony was almost entirely Dutch, and it was so prolific that it doubled in number every quarter of a century. It was engaged chiefly in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The only British residents in the country were the principal civil servants, some merchants in Capetown, the staff of the naval arsenal in Simonstown, two or three farmers, a few missionaries. In 1818 a gentleman named Peter Tait took to the colony seven Scotch labourers. He received from the government a tract of land in the district of George, where he considered the prospects of farming so good that in the following year he had nineteen others of the same class sent out to him. All were under indentures, and he was able to obtain a considerable advance upon the cost of passage for as many of these as he cared to dispose of. The men thus introduced throve better than they could have done in Scotland, but Mr. Tait himself lost his capital through the failure of his crops in 1820, 21, and 22, and after struggling on until 1824 gave up farming and returned to Britain.

Extract from: http://www.geni.com/projects/1820-British-Settlers-in-South-Africa/162 According to others stories Peter Tait died on May 18 1836 in Charleston, Dorchester, South Carolina, USA, not sure why he moved to USA?

Moving on to the next generation and Joshua’s eldest son, James Tait b. 1769 was a Writer to the Signet  (Scottish version of a lawyer) and he married Margaret Turnbull in 1815 and they bought the Georgian Manor house Edenside where they raised 5 children : James b. 1816 Margaret Turnbull b.1817 Janet b. 1818 Wilhelmina b. 1823 Agnes b. 1826

Edenside, Kelso

EDENSIDE HOUSE, KELSO This is a beautiful, category B-listed Georgian house in the heart of Kelso. Its history gives some idea of the quality; it was built in 1796 by William Adam for the then provost of Edinburgh. It is two and a half storeys, south facing and surrounded by two acres of mature garden. It also has all the period features that a lord provost would no doubt demand: high ceilings, working shutters, beautiful fireplaces and detailed cornicing. It is very large – eight bedrooms over the top two floors, a dining room, drawing room, kitchen and impressive bowed morning room on the ground floor, plus an assortment of rooms on the lower ground floor, including a large former kitchen and servants quarters.

First steps to Penang James and Margaret’s eldest daughter Margaret Turnbull Tait married David Wardlaw Brown b. 1812 who was born at Gulgor, Penang, (then known as Prince of Wales Island). David Wardlaw Brown’s father was David Brown b. 1776 Longformarcus, Berwickshire, in 1797 he sailed to Penang, where he worked with James Scott, setting up a nutmeg plantation amongst other business endeavours!

Although David Wardlaw Brown was born in Penang, at some point he returned to the family seat of Longformarcus and married Margaret Turnbull Tait m. 10th Oct 1837. For 20 years or so they lived at Longformarcus, although they never had any children lots of their nieces and nephews from Penang, according to the census, came to stay with them, I imagine this was for their education!

David Wardlaw Brown

David Wardlaw Brown

Margaret was living not far from her only brother  James Tait b. 13th Jun 1816 Kelso who is married to Elizabeth Moir Stormonth Darling b. 25th Apr 1829, and they have 8 children;

James Tait b. 1851,  Stormonth Darling Tait b. 1852,  William Edgar Tait b. 1854, David Wardlaw Brown Tait. B. 1855,  John James Tait b. 1857,  Elizabeth Moir Todd Tait b. 1858, George Tait b. 1860 and Margaret Turnbull Brown Tait b. 1861

Among these eight children born of the Victorian age, were some real adventurers! Sadly on the family front, all but two died without marrying or having issue !

James Tait’s wife Elizabeth died 9th March 1863 aged only 33, when her youngest child was only 2 years old. James does not re marry but his sister Margaret Turnbull Brown and her husband, are living very close (journey today would take only 20 mins by car)…so I imagine she would have been quite an influence on her nephews in particular, the stories of David Wardlaw Brown and family growing up in Penang, if we follow their stories we can see the effect. We know she must have been a figure in their lives before their mothers death because two of the children had are named after the couple David Wardlaw Brown Tait and Margaret Turnbull Brown Tait.

After David Wardlaw Brown’s death on 26th Sep 1864 Margaret continued to live at Longformacus and appears on the census till a change of address on the 1891 census when she is now living at Nisbet House in Blackwater on the borders, with many nieces nephews and great nieces and great nephews many of whom were born in Penang, one of the nephews is an employee of the East India Company Merchant.

Longformacus House

One of Margaret Brown nee Tait sister’s, Wilhelmina Jane Tait b. 1823, also married one David Brown son’s, his youngest, John James Erskin Brown b. 20th Dec 1820 at Glugor, Penang , John probably did not share the same mother as David, as David Brown is supposed to have taken at least four local wives; Barbara Lucy Melang, Nonia Ennui, Inghoo and Akeen. John and Wilhelmina married in Kelso Church on 30th Oct 1850 and had at least two daughters, Margaret Brown b. ? and Wilhelmina Jane Brown b. 16th Feb 1856. Another Brown brother was also living close by at Ebdon Mansion, Forbes Scott Brown, wife Elizabeth and 7 sons, Merchant East Indies & Landed Proprietor.


Whilst researching into the Tait family , I found a big clue just by searching online for “John James Tait” +kelso, and stumbled upon a Google scanned book “Seekers of Truth: The Scottish Founders of Modern Public Accountancy” by Thomas Alexander Lee, which unlocked all the family stories… An additional story I found as a result of the book, was about our Tait’s relationship to Archibald Campbell Tait (1811–82) who became Archbishop of Canterbury (distant cousins).

Back to our main story, John James Tait, (son’s great great grandfather) we know he left Kelso and settled in Malaya, married and had children, we also found out he and his brothers all studied to become Writers to the Signet, like their father, but only David Wardlaw Brown Tait who was an Agent for the National Bank of Scotland and the honorary Secretary of the Buccleuch & United Borders Hounds, joined his father’s practice in Kelso, all the others left Kelso to travel to the far corners of the world, which for the 1880’s  was quite daring!

The Seekers of Truth book tells us: Stormonth Darling Tait was a wine importer in London and Lisbon and the tennis champion of Portugal in 1887. William Edgar Tait was a merchant in New Zealand, John James Tait, a planter in the Straits Settlements (now Malaysia), George Tait was also a planter there and described as ”a gentleman rider.” James Tait of Lanrigg was a tobacco planter in Sumatra until his death in 1911.

1st son James Tait, we can learn most about his life from the obituary in The Straits Times, 20 November 1911

Death of Mr. James Tait.
One of the oldest planters and sportsmen of Malaya and Sumatra has been removed by the death of Mr. James Tait, who came out to the Far East as long ago as 1876. Deceased on his arrival at once turned his attention to tobacco planting, and for some years worked as assistant on Charlothenberg Estate. Deli. Shortly afterwards he opened up, on his own account, the famous Toentoengan Estate, which proved a veritable gold mine to him and after ten years he sold the property and retired to Scotland, where, with the exception of an occasional trip to India and these parts, he has resided ever since. Mr. Tait was most popular both in business and sport during his sojourn in the East and his colours–the S’. Andrew’s Cross-were phenomenally successful on the Singapore, Penang, Taiping and Sumatra racecourses.

There is no official record of James marrying but in his will he leaves a sum to Agnes Steer known as Mrs Agnes Tait  of Minehead, Somerset and James leased the house she lived in.

James died at Raleigh Club,1 Kensington Gore, London (now the Geographical Club) it was a dining club for explorers and travellers established in 1826. Shackleton was amongst many famous adventurers to be members, interesting when you read next story about Stornmonth…

2nd son Stormonth Darling Tait (cool name !)

Stornmonth was also a traveller but did not venture as far as some of his brothers, he was a wine, sherry and port importer. An article about wine gives us a view of Stormonth’s life

The Senior partner in this firm is the nephew of Lord Stormonth Darling one of the principal Judges in Scotland. Mr Tait lived for about twelve years in Oporto on behalf of Messrs. Robertson Bros. & Co., to which firm he was admitted partner in 1882, and in the London house in January, 1892; in October, 1897, the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent.

Mr. Tait’s impressions of Oporto do credit to his judgement. It is a place, he says, where you can enjoy life in a fine climate surrounded by all the comforts of Scotland or England. While there he took a prominent part in all the athletic sports, and rowed, played cricket and lawn tennis to his heart’s content. While at Lisbon he had the honour of playing tennis with Don Carlos. He also seems to have entered into the spirit of our wild mountain shooting, not only in the Douro, but also on the more level ground of Almeiojo. It may be truthfully said that there are no preserves in Portugal, excepting the royal ones, and they are not of much account. But if a man be a keen sportsman and up to working and walking for his birds, there is plenty of shooting to be had. Mr. Tait like all other Scotchmen, likes Portugal because its bold scenery reminds him of Scotland, especially so the Douro.

At a recent wine auction, a bottle of Stormonth’s port was for sale with the description:

Lot 243. ‘Stormonth Tait “Discovery” Port Wine Shipped by Stormonth Tait Co., Oporto… the only port wine selected by the Antarctic Expedition for the use on board the “Discovery” and the relief vessel “Morning”‘, a full bottle of port, cork intact with lead seal, 2 printed labels (title as above, and ‘Also Supplied to The Shackleton Rowett Expedition S.S. “Quest”, 1921″). Estimate: £200-400. Stormonth Tait port

So Stormonth may not have ventured very far compared to his brothers but his port did! He married Helen Theodora Bagnall on 4th Apr 1894 in St Marks, Croyden Greater London and they had four children: (Mary & Gwendolen must be twins)

Helen Theodora M Tait b. 1899, James Tait b. 1895, Mary Elizabeth Tait b. 1902, Gwendolen Constance Tait b. 1902

3rd son William Edgar Tait headed for New Zealand where he traded in meat (tinned rabbits!) and timber based in Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand. He did travel back and forth to Scotland and died on 26th Jan 1930 at the Roxburghe Hotel, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. In his will he left his most of his estate to his only remaining sibling, Margaret, but he also left £10,000 to build a community hall in Kelso, Tait Hall, an information sheet about the hall tells us some more of William’s life:

William Edgar, the third son and the benefactor of the Tait Hall went out to New Zealand, where he was first of all a partner in a timber business.  He later became the owner of the Woodlands Canning Factory near Invercargill.  The business prospered and he sold it shortly after the First World War and retired.  He seems to have returned to Scotland for the family grave records that he died in Edinburgh in January 1930, aged 75, the last of the brothers to die.

Click to access 39_FromKelso.pdf

William Edgar Tait rabbit canning co NZ

Tait Hall Kelso now

4th son David Wardlaw Brown Tait, followed his father into the family law firm (which still exists today but no Taits involved http://www.taitskelso.co.uk ), as well as being involved with the Town Council.

Taits Kelso

5th son  John James Tait b. 1857, my son’s great great grandfather. He studied, like his brothers as a writer to the signet but there is no evidence that he ever practised law in Scotland. In approximately 1881 John travelled to Malaya.

J.J. Tait
John James Tait

John James Tait is listed in “Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources”published 1908, which says;

“Mr. J. J. Tait, a native of Scotland, is one of the oldest and most respected residents of Tanjong Malim, and one of the pioneers of the State of Perak. Altogether he has spent twenty-seven years in the Straits Settlements and the Malay Straits, and for the last sixteen he has lived in Tanjong Malim. Among the many works which Mr. Tait has carried out for the State may be mentioned the construction of 100 miles of road between Para Bunta and Tanjong Malim, and the construction of the roads between Ipoh and Batu Gajah and Taiping and Pinang. These undertakings were executed successfully at a time when large areas were covered with jungle, and when there were neither railways nor any other facilities for travelling. Of late years Mr. Tait has devoted most of his time to tin mining, and owns the Salak Prangin mine. This property, which has been worked since 1895, was, until recently, let on tribute to the Jeher Hydraulic Tin Mining Company, but it has now been taken over by Mr. Tait personally. It is not yet fully opened, but it is producing between 35 and 40 piculs of tin a week, and, as there are indications of a rich deposit, this output is likely soon to be materially increased.”

He married Foo Kim Tan and they had 5 children;

George b 1905, Bessie b 1909, May b 1913, Louise b 1915, and James 1918

Mrs J J Tait
Foo Kim Tan, Mrs JJ Tait

John James Tait died on 1st February 1919, at 290 Willis Street, Wellington, New Zealand, he died of Sprue, a condition associated with diabetes, he had been in New Zealand for at least 3 months whilst he was ill.

I have just found this obituary from  The Straits Times, 27 March 1919:


1st daughter Elizabeth Moir Todd Tait b. 26 Jul 1858 died 22 Feb 1859 only six months old died from hooping cough.

6th son George Tait b. 1860

2nd daughter Margaret Turnbull Brown Tait b. 1861

to be continued….