Saturday, October 25, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: colonial Natal - a snapshot in time

Natal Colonial group early 1900s: a relaxed all-male occasion (a stag party?); attendants include two Africans and one Indian wearing a turban. There are several different kinds of hat in evidence among the group,  Some trouser turn-ups indicate date after 1902 when this fashion feature became trendy. Facial hair is 'in'. The wicker chairs are of an easily-recognisable design much seen gracing Natal verandahs. Photographer unknown.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Anglo-Zulu War: new look at Fripp painting

Battle of Isandhlwana by Charles Edwin Fripp

Having a copy of possibly the most famous painting of the Anglo Zulu War, by Charles Edwin Fripp (1854-1906), a picture that has adorned my wall for a good number of years, I thought it time to look at it in a different way and hope to invite you to draw your own conclusions much as I did when I re-examined this picture. Fripp arrived in Zululand in March 1879 as an artist for the Graphic so was not a witness to this event but I suspect painted it with a Victorian eye to the dramatic.

The painting made little or no impact when it was shown in 1885 at the National Academy but as the years rolled by and interest grew in this campaign, the painting took on more significance. It could be said that the film Zulu catapulted the Fripp picture into the spotlight. So let us look into the various aspects and see what there is on offer.

The first thing that comes to mind is the imposing mountain of Isandlwana which is both central to and the background of the painting. Somewhat shortened in its composition it still is a striking feature of the overall picture. Flanked at each end by either clouds or smoke it is hard to distinguish, and from various accounts the action took place much nearer the base of the mountain. To convey the eclipse on that date must have been a difficult task for Fripp as he portrays blue skies with cloud.

The action scenes fall into three groups with the main section left of centre. Perhaps it was Fripp's intention to highlight the mountain because we see a necklace of cloud right across the front of Isandlwana. Some tents can be seen at the left of the painting and at the left edge we see a redcoat on his knees about to meet his sad end at the hands of the Zulu army. On the right hand side we see a similar scene but this time a redcoat is in fierce battle with his opponent totally unaware that a fatal blow is about to end the life of this unknown soldier. Two Zulus can be seen stripping another soldier of ammunition and his tunic, whilst a third, adrenalin pumping, exults at the scene before him.

We move closer to the centre of the picture where another soldier has extended his rifle at arms length, bayonet firmly stuck in the shield of a Zulu warrior, perhaps mercifully he does not see the raised arm of another warrior about to dispatch him with a blow of his battle axe. One thing is very noticeable: there are no officers shown. Is this a deliberate policy on the part of the artist to indicate that once again the private soldier was left to his fate due to the action of so-called superiors? It is known that pockets of soldiers fought like tigers in various sized groups to the very end. In the foreground the field is quite clear of fallen Zulu and soldier alike. Yes, there are casualties and two badly wounded soldiers with one in possibly his final action offering a last round to dispatch another enemy, of which there were many.

This group are defending the Colours so was this before Melville and Coghill left the battle? Does the drummer boy point to a possible exit or another wave of determined warriors at hand? The man behind him wild-eyed at the knowledge that their lives are near the end, perhaps contemplating whether it would be kinder for him to dispatch the boy before the terrible fate awaiting the youngster? Although a very moving painting was there a hidden agenda by Fripp in his portrayal of events that day? We see the wounded Sergeant standing square onto the foe, in the full knowledge that he did his duty and very soon all his lads that he drilled at Brecon would be no more and he would meet his fate bravely to show an example as to how a man should met his end. There is an awkwardness in the fallen as they lie on the ground, life expended as though death is mocking them in their posture. I would like to think the Sergeant was the last to fall in this group trying to save the life of the drummer boy.

by Graham Mason, AZW Researcher.

Note: Charles Edwin Fripp was the fourth son of artist, George Arthur Fripp, and his wife, Mary Percival. He was also the grandson of Captain Nicholas Pocock, the marine artist. Charles was born at Camden Town, London on 4th September 1854. Like his father and grandfather, he made his mark in the world through his paintings and illustrations. He studied at the Royal Academy of Munich and Nuremberg and was employed by The Graphic (London) in 1875. After years covering the wars in South Africa, he was made special artist for The Graphic from 1885 - 1900, also covering other conflicts in Sudan, Japan and the Philippines.

He is most well known for his painting of the Battle of Isandhlwana, which depicts the last stand of the 24th Regiment of Foot (South Wales Borderers) during the Zulu War on 22nd January 1879. It was completed six years after his initial sketches and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885. It is now displayed at the National Army Museum. The image is regularly used by battle enthusiasts to reenact the scene of this courageous event. He was with Lord Chelmsford's column later in 1879, when he witnessed an attack on the British camp on 2nd April and Chelmsford's successful relief of Pearson's force at Eshowe. He was also in the column when the body of the Prince Imperial was discovered, and at the battle at Ulundi, which he sketched as he lay on the leather roof of an ammunition cart.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Survivors of Rorke's Drift

What happened after?

As the Autumn mists swirl round the coast of Anglesey, I often think of what it must have been like months and years after the battles of the Zulu war were over. What pressures were felt by the surviving participants as they tried to pick up lives torn apart from the rigours of campaign. What long-term effects did those 9 months have on the men who came back home? Upon further research I have found out, especially in the case of the men who fought at Kwajimu in that intense 12 or 13 hours back in January 1879, that a great deal did happen to those soldiers when they arrived back in the UK .

The British army does not like two disasters in one day and hence the, some would say, unwarranted attention covering the action at Rorke's Drift. As in any battle there are casualties not seen or felt until well after the engagement was over. With the advances in medical practices, I feel the mental strain on the men under CHARD and BROMHEAD would have had the term syndrome (post traumatic stress?) applied to the undoubted after-effects of keeping a determined foe at bay for so many hours. Even today after 125 years many graves of the men who fought at Rorke's Drift are still to be discovered and a public grave with no marker is often the case .

There are groups and organisations who amongst their activities search out these final resting places and hopefully leave a marker behind. In Ruddington in Nottinghamshire TWO headstones were laid in one cemetery as both men came from Ruddington and were mates, these being Pte Caleb WOOD and Pte Robert TONGUE both of B Coy 2 / 24th Foot. The final resting place of one Pte John SMITH is proving a tad difficult to locate, but I try! I do have his birth details, however, and am in the process of obtaining his birth certificate (he was born in Wigan). The other fact which has come to light is that many soldiers who were not in any of the prominent engagements suddenly stated they were at Rorke's Drift on that fateful day when in fact, after careful checking, it was found they were not. One example being Pte COMBERTON 1/24th whose glowing account of his actions on Jan 22/23 is to be found in a publication printed in 1966 and which has been found to be false from the outset. Had he done any of the things mentioned he would have been awarded 2 VCs at the very least! Pte Comberton, by the way, did not arrive in South Africa till April 1879.

Another example was a certain 'Sgt JONES VC' who was at the training camp in Pochefstroom and in contemporary papers of the time is shown quite clearly as being at Rorke's Drift and winning a VC there. Careful research revealed this was not the case. I have avoided mentioning one Lt ADENDORF because that is a whole different set of circumstances to go into. I am intrigued, however, that after his arrest for assault and desertion he vanished and to this day we do not know the full story. Apologies to any of his descendants, but that is one mystery I would love to resolve. Back to the main theme.

Research has proven that nearly all who took part in the campaign on Jan 22/23 1879 were affected in a mental capacity. To a man, any mention of those terrible 12 hours brings out anger or denial if mentioned in later years. 

Pte William COOPER who was over eighty gassed himself in the 1940's because, coupled with his physical condition and memories, his mind could take no more. Pte William JONES VC was seen towards the end of his life wandering the streets of Manchester with his granddaughter in his arms to protect her from the Zulu, quite obviously suffering from the pangs of that terrible day. Another VC winner (Pte Robert JONES VC) allegedly shot himself with a shotgun while the balance of his mind was disturbed. Quite how he managed to shoot himself twice is a fact I find difficult to accept. What is true is that the gun he was carrying was known to have a hair trigger, that the area where the accident took place was uneven and that Robert was not concentrating on his business at the time as it was proven that he was disturbed about events back in 1879 and this fatal combination resulted in him losing his life. To add insult to injury his coffin was taken over the cemetery wall and when buried the headstone faced the other way round! I feel a campaign is in order to investigate the true causes of his death and to reverse the suicide verdict raised against him. 

Fred HITCH VC on the other hand was known to have been quiet and unobtrusive when he lived the remainder of his life out in Chiswick, London and never once boasted that he won this highest honour. There is even a case where a defender was assaulted by fellow soldiers for just being part of that little garrison that day, jealousy I believe was the cause that resulted in that particular assault. One figure I recall sticks out in particular: this was the sad story of Sgt Joseph Lenford WINDRIDGE. First promoted to Sgt in 1862 he suffered various demotions and promotions during his career but at the time of Rorke's Drift was the senior Sgt. Incidentally, the majority of the men promoted shortly after the battle lost that rank for all sorts of reasons and Windrige even went down to a Pte at some stage. Recent research has proved that he married twice and his first marriage ended as he lost his wife, with his second he had no less than 13 children, 6 died within three weeks of each other. It was thought at one time that his wife poisoned them but it was proved not the case. Can you imagine what must have been going through his mind at this stage? Windridge eventually died in 1902 in Birmingham and is buried in this city under an unmarked grave. One day it is hoped that he too will get a marker to show he was at Kwajimu on that day so long ago. 

It was said that Pte DUNBAR dispatched 8 Zulus with 8 shots, quite a remarkable feat considering the pressure and heat on that day. He saw his last days out in South Africa, as did C/ Sgt George William MABIN the Fighting Clerk as he became known, the sad case of Gunner CANTWELL DCM, buried somewhere in Durban, who after winning the Silver Medal, as it was known, became a Prison guard in Durban goal, was assaulted by a lifer (DUBOIS) and eventually left the service, became a toilet cleaner and eventually died in Addington Hospital in August 1900, an oft-forgotten hero of that fateful day on the Buffalo River. Maybe one day his grave location will be found and a marker placed at the site, 'Here lies John Cantwell DCM , hero of Rorke's Drift.'

by Graham Mason, AZW researcher

Anglo-Zulu War Memorial,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Was Your Ancestor at Rorke's Drift 1879?

The Defence of Rorke's Drift by Alphonse de Neuville

The list below was compiled from the following sources:

1. Lieutenant Chard's list (at the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales, Brecon).
2. Colour Sergeant Bourne's list (also at the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales, Brecon).
3. Bourne's amended list.
4. Major Dunbar's list of January 1880.


1st Battalion, 24th Foot
Sergeant Wilson; Privates Beckett, Desmond, Horrigan, Jenkins, Nicholas, Parry, Payton, Roy, Turner, Waters.

'A' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Drummer Meehan; Privates Lyons, Manley, Scanlon, Sears.

'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Lt. Bromhead; Colour Sergeant Bourne; Sergeants Gallagher, Smith, Windridge; Lance Sergeant Thomas; Corporals Allen, French, Key, Lyons, Saxty; Lance Corporals Bessell, Halley; Drummers Hayes, Keefe; Privates Ashton, Barry, Bennett, Bly, Bromwich, Buckley, Burke, Bushe, Caine, Camp, Chester, Clayton, Cole, Collins, Connors, Timothy Connors, Davies, Davis, Daw, Deacon, Deane, Dick, Dicks, Driscoll, Dunbar, Edwards, Fagan, Gee, Hagan, Harris, Hitch, Hook, Jobbins, Evan Jones, John Jones (970), John Jones (1179), Robert Jones, William Jones, Judge, Kears, Kiley, Lewis, Lines, Lloyd, Lockhart, Lodge, Lynch, Marshall, Martin, Mason, Mireham, Moffatt, Augustus Morris, Frederick Morris, Morrison, Murphy, Neville, Norris, Osborne, Parry, Pitt, Robinson, Ruck, Savage, Shearman, Shergold, Smith, Stevens, Tasker, Frederick Taylor, Thomas Taylor, Thomas, Thompson, Michael Tobin, Patrick Tobin, Todd, Tongue, Wall, Whetton, Wilcox, John Williams, Joseph Williams, John Williams, Thomas Williams, Caleb Wood.

'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Drummer Galgey;
Privates Adams, Chick, Haydon.

'E' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Lance Sergeant Taylor;
Private (934) John Williams.

'G' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Sergeant Maxfield;
Privates Conolly, Partridge.

'H' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Private Evans
General Staff
Colour Sergeant Mabin.

'N' Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Artillery
Bombadier Lewis; Gunners Evans, Cantwell, Howard.

Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Chard; Driver Robson.

2nd Battalion, 3rd Foot
Sergeant F.A. Millne.

90th Perthshire Volunteers
Corporal Graham.

Commissariat and Transport Dept.
Acting Commissariat Walter Dunne;
Assistant Acting Commissariat
James Langley Dalton;
Acting Store Keeper, Louis Byrne.

Army Service Corps
Second Corporal F. Attwood.

Medical Staff Corps
Surgeon James Reynolds,
Mr William Pearse.

Hospital Corps
Corporat Rowland Miller;
Privates Luddington, McMahon.

Natal Mounted Police
Troopers Green, Lugg and Hunter.

1st Battalion, 3rd Natal Native Contingent
Lieutenant Adendorff; Corporals Anderson, Doughty, Mayer, Scammell, Schiess, Wilson; Private Umkungu.

Rev. George Smith
Daniells (Ferryman)
Unnamed servant to the Revd. Smith.


Killed in action:
1861 Private William Horrigan
1st Battalion, 24th Foot
841 Private James Jenkins
1st Battalion, 24th Foor
625 Private Edward Nicholas
1st Battalion, 24th Foot
623 Sgt. Robert Mayfield
'G' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
987 Private Robert Adams
'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1335 Private James Chick
'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
969 Private John Fagan
'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1769 Private Garret Hayden
'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1051 Private John Scanlon
'A' company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1398 Private Joseph Williams
'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
801 Private Thomas Cole
'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Louis Alexander Byrne, Assistant Storekeeper
Trooper Sydney Hunter,
Natal Mounted Police
Corporal Michael Anderson, 2nd Battalion,
3rd Natal Native Contingent
Private Umkungu, 1st Battalion 3rd Natal Native Contingent.

Died of wounds
135 Private William Beckett,
1st Battalion, 24th Foot.
1328 L/Sgt. Thomas Williams,
2nd Battalion, 24th Foot.

Wounded in Action:
568 Private Desmond.
447 Private Waters,
1240 Corporal Allen,
1112 Corporal Lyons,
1362 Private Hitch,
1812 Private Tasker,
James Langley Dalton,
Corporal Scannel,
Corporal Schiess,
1373 Private Hook,
Drummer Keefe.


Victoria Cross
Eleven defenders won the Victoria Cross -- the highest number ever awarded for a single action.
Lieutenants Chard, Bromhead; Corporal Allen; Privates Hitch, Hook; R. Jones, W. Jones, J. Williams, Surgeons Reynolds, James Langley Dalton, Corporal Schiess.

Distinguished Conduct Medal
Colour Sergeant F. Bourne; Privates W. Ray; Gunner J. Cantwell; Second Corporal F. Attwood; Private M. McMahon (awarded 15th January 1880 but cancelled as he was later found guilty of theft and being absent without leave on 19th January 1880).

The defenders of Rorke's Drift: 
B Company 2/24th Warwickshire Regiment

Graham Mason, AZW Researcher, who compiled this list from the sources given above.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spot the mistakes in this shot from the film ZULU

A tense moment during the battle of Rorke's Drift
as portrayed in the film Zulu

The actors seen in the photo, L to R, are Nigel GREENE (with mutton-chop whiskers), Glynne EDWARDS (slumped figure centre) and David KERNAN (lying back against the bags).

Nigel GREENE (who appeared with Michael CAINE - also starring in this film - in 'The Ipcress File') is portraying Frank BOURNE. The actor is clearly much older than BOURNE would have been at the time. Frank Bourne was 5 feet 4 inches tall - played by Nigel Greene who was 6 feet 2 inches. Nigel Greene is showing wearing 3 white chevrons (on the left arm i.e. the 'wrong' arm) which indicates the rank of a Lance Sgt, something Bourne never was. Bourne, despite his age (23) was a C/Sgt and would have worn, on his right arm, three gold chevrons with crossed colours surmounted by a crown (in Full Dress Uniform) and in undress uniform no crossed flags but three gold stripes surmounted by a crown.

The medals worn by Nigel Greene, as seen in this photograph, are the King George V Coronation medal of 1912 and the Ashanti War Medal of 1896-7 - obviously, neither of these medals had been struck in 1879.

Glynne EDWARDS (who appeared as the barman at the Winchester Club in the TV series "Minder") is portraying Cpl ALLEN. The actor in 'Zulu' was about twice the height of Cpl ALLEN, a small feisty Geordie from Newcastle, not a Londoner as played by EDWARDS.

David KERNAN (a singer in the BBC show The Black and White Minstrels) is portraying Fred HITCH. No wound is visible, yet HITCH was shot in the right shoulder - 39 pieces of his scapula were later removed.

The tunics as seen here are in pristine order without a blemish after 9 months in the field.

The pith helmets are white - in service conditions these would have been stained with tea or mud to present a less easy target in the surrounding terrain.

The Shako plates -i.e. the badge on the front of the pith helmets - have not been removed from the helmets (as they would have been to prevent their glinting in the sun and presenting a target for the enemy).

The white webbing at the front of the uniforms is shown as straight rather than crossed in the front, as it should have been.

The unit badge (24th Regt) is not shown on the shoulder tabs.

The rifles are right - though for the film they were probably fibreglass copies of those used in 1879. The film itself (made in 1964) contains some glaring errors, a few are listed below:

Cpl Allen is shown as wearing chevrons on the wrong arm, and worse, wearing a post-1881 Silver sphinx on his collar; this should have been of brass.

In the film, BOURNE is asked by a hospital patient wearing a leather neck brace: "What's that shooting C/Sgt?" Reply: "A rifle, Hughes." Strange, since there was no person called HUGHES at Rorke's Drift.

Natives friendly to the British are not shown in the film wearing the Red Puggaree on their foreheads as would have been the case on January 22 1879. This is noticeable in the scene where they are pushing ponts on the river.

Pte HOOK is shown as a hospital patient: incorrect, he was the company cook and HITCH was the tea-maker.

In the sequence showing BROMHEAD about to shoot an animal this was a cheetah, but when we see the "dead" animal it becomes a leopard.

CHARD's helmet badge is of the Royal Monmouthshire Volunteer Engineers and silver - this should be a Royal Engineers badge and in gilt, as worn by officers.

It was Sgt MILNE (3rd East Kent Regiment, the "Buffs") that tied the ponts up midstream, not Cpl ALLEN and he did not kick Fred HITCH into the trickle of a stream which should have been the Buffalo River in full spate.

In the opening sequence of the film, CHARD is shown wearing a post-1881 full dress tunic, his collar should be decorated with a crown and not a flaming grenade, indicating he is a lieutenant. In 1879 his rank would have been shown on his collar but he is wearing it on his epaulette, his white cross belt is of Royal Artillery pattern. A Royal Engineer would wear a black cross belt with gold edging and gold centre zigzagging. Most likely, though, he would have been wearing a blue patrol jacket.

In 'Zulu', actor Ivor EMMANUEL says to Stanley BAKER: "every Welsh regiment has a choir." In 1879 the 24th Foot were the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment, an English Regiment. It is a commonly-found error to refer to the regiment as the South Wales Borderers, which in 1879, they were not.

Graham Mason, AZW Researcher

Monday, October 20, 2014

Passengers to Natal per Dreadnought 1849: a Byrne Settler ship

Natal Witness 2 November 1849

The Dreadnought, 377 tons, under Captain Bidder, took a somewhat circuitous route to Port Natal, as the captain lost his bearings on more than one occasion. This isn't as impossible as one might imagine. Later steamers ploughed a straight furrow across the seas. Navigation in the days of sail could be very hit and miss and if weather was bad "dead reckoning" had to be relied on, plotting compass bearings, prevailing current and the vessel's speed. So the position of the ship after storms or cloudy skies could bear little relation to that plotted on the chart. Gales could spring up and blow the ship off course, and being becalmed was another hazard. Sometimes, much tacking had to be done back and forth without gaining many sea miles. Dreadnought was an old ship, and not in the best condition. She left London on 17 August 1849 and arrived at Natal on 2 November, having run out of drinking water supplies.

One of her passengers was destined to be closely involved in the development of the port: John MILNE, a widower travelling with his daughter, Jessie. Milne, a Scottish engineer, had worked for John Rennie (who built Plymouth breakwater) and on harbours such as Leith. This experience would stand him in good stead when fighting the Battle of the Bar at Natal.

The VINNICOMBE family also arrived on this ship, bringing with them an assortment of musical instruments: George Vinnicombe was to build the first pipe-organ in the colony. His brother, Valentine, coming out to join the family later, was among those shipwrecked on the Minerva.


Nov 2nd - Dreadnought, bark, 338 tons, Capt. G Bidder, from London, with 114 passengers. Left the Downs 17th August. 
Nov 4th - The Rosebud crossed the bar.

Oct 30th - Lalla Rookh, brig, Henderson, with cattle to Mauritius.

Outer Anchorage 
Henry Tanner, bark, for Mauritius. GC Cato, Agent.
Dreadnought, ditto.

Gem, for Cape Town. H Jargal, Agent.
John Gibson, for Mauritius, to sail in a few days. GC Cato, Agent.
Rosebud, for Cape Town.

Archimedes, from Port Elizabeth.
Douglas, from Cape Town.
Aliwal, from London.


Dr Taylor and family 
Mr Inchstone and family 
Mr and Mrs Dawson 

Intermediate and Steerage: 
Thomas Hudson 
G Vinnicombe and family 
Robert Humphry and family 
DJ Price and family 
R Smith 
Edward Goodwin and family 
T Hind 
E Tomlinson and family 
G Tomlinson and wife 
R Whitehorn and wife 
J Robson 
H Vertue 
P Vertue 
WH Roberts 
J Puttarill and family 
J Jacob and wife 
F Jacob and family 
F Corbit and family 
R Harwen 
EC Whitworth 
W Whiting and family 
G Waddelove 
WH Fenton 
Alfred Hubbard 
William Smith and wife 
John May and wife 
John Dykes 
T Hannah 
F Stott 
RL Brooke 
Jabez South 
W Hill 
C Wakelin 
J Harrison 
D Paterson 
J Paterson 
F Ashford and wife 
John Rogers 
J Blackwood and wife 
J Crowder and family 
Isabella Masterman 
John Bull 
E Campbell and wife 
WA Emerson and wife 
WF Baths 
E McFarlan 
SV Phillips and wife 
C Florey and family 
R McLachlan 
T McLachlan 
John Eagle and family 
Isaac Adams and family 
FW Good 
J Milne and family 
Walter McFarlan 
J McLauchlan 

In all 65 males, 27 females, 22 children. Total 114 Persons.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tracing a Military Man 2

Finlay Gibson is at various dates during his career at the explosives factory described as ‘searcher’, ‘cartridge foreman’ and ‘gatekeeper’. A remarkable photograph shows the very gate where Finlay would have been positioned as gatekeeper. 

The loading gates at the Nobel Factory in Ardeer circa 1900. 
The employees are all wearing Tam O’Shanters except of course for the foreman with his bowler hat. North Ayrshire Council photo collection/

Fascinating as I found his years at Nobel’s, the mystery was what he had been up to before that. How had Finlay had ended up in an obscure spot in Ayrshire, because his death certificate revealed he had been born in England. Several vital details were provided by this record. These in turn led to finding that long before his Stevenston phase he had been in the British Army. 

Born in the parish of St George’s East, in the district known as Borough, London, in 1841 to William Gibson and Ann Morgan Jenkins, Finlay was a parasol maker by trade. He had at least two siblings, Margaret and William jnr. 

How long Finlay practised his civilian occupation is not known, but the proceeds from parasol making were probably limited. For hundreds of young men in Victorian England, the army provided a reasonable alternative to poor living conditions in civvy street. William Gibson snr. was a soldier, and in due course both his sons would march in his footsteps, though neither very willingly - particularly the younger - judging from their army documents.

William jnr, joined, as Private No. 1265, the 2nd battalion of the 4th Regiment of Foot (the Buffs).  He would turn out to be, so to speak, a loose cannon. More about William and his colourful career in due course.

Finlay Gibson's Army Discharge papers
 give his civilian occupation  as
parasol maker

To be continued
Finlay went into the Army Service Corps, 15th Hussars, as Private No. 448, and served in colonial wars in India and Afghanistan. On 22 June 1880, he was discharged at the age of 39. His army records describe him as 5’6” tall, hair grey and eyes brown. 

From service records it was possible to build up a fairly comprehensive picture of Finlay’s career. There were clues as to his later life when his army days were over. 

These together with Census records offered a wealth of information as well as a welcome explanation of Finlay’s popping up so unexpectedly in a small Ayrshire town by 1881, as he entered his forties. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: Pietermaritzburg postcart 1880s

Postcart outside Pietermaritzburg Town Hall, ca 1880s.
An interesting variety of headgear in this picture.
[KZN Museum NAM0010_014F.tif]

For an excellent article on postcarts and postal services in Natal see

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poppies at the Tower of London: a World War I tribute

The Tower of London's Moat is Bleeding ...

Marking 100 years since the Brits’ involvement in the First World War, Cummins was commissioned to create a moving, yet beautiful installation in tribute.

Passenger list Natal: Conquering Hero 1850 a Byrne Settler ship

Natal Witness 5 July 1850

The Conquering Hero, 320 tons, Captain Cockburn, sailed from Glasgow and carried mostly Scottish settlers, arriving at Natal after a 90 day voyage, on 28 June 1850. Her passengers, like those of the Henrietta, were eye-witnesses of the Minerva disaster which could have done nothing for their confidence, especially as the Conquering Hero temporarily lost her moorings during a north-easterly. This bad start was compounded by the failure of Moreland, Byrne's Emigration Agent, to show them personally their allotments at Richmond, as planned.

William CAMPBELL was a passenger by this ship, also the JOYNER family, the SPEIRS family, John and William PEDDIE, William MCKENZIE, later the first schoolmaster at Richmond.

Per ship Conquering Hero, from Glasgow the 25th March; arrived at Port Natal 28th June, after a favourable passage:

William Joyner 
Mundo M Joyner 
Natal Witness 5 July 1850

Amelia Joyner 
James Joyner 
Ann Joyner 
Jessie Joyner 
John Craig 
William Craig 
John Simpson 
John Dallas 
Robert Spiers (or Speirs) 
Jane Spiers 
Agnes Spiers 
Charles Spiers 
Robert Spiers 
Alexander Spiers 
James Mason 
William Robertson 
Mrs Robertson 
James Lindsay 
Catherine Lindsay 
Roderick McLeod 
Henry Newlands 
William Newlands 
Hugh Livingstone 
Mary Ann Campbell 
William Arbuckle 
Margaret Arbuckle 
Janet Arbuckle 
William Arbuckle 
Helen O Arbuckle 
Mary Stewart 
Charles Fraser 
Henry Johnstone 
James Christie 
Neil McWilliam 
Ann McGown Sharp 
John Kilgour 
Grenville Pierce 
JR Gildart 
H Fulton 
James Cormie 
Jean Cormie 
Robert Cormie 
Peter Cormie 
John McPherson 
Robert McPherson 
PH McPherson 
Alexander McPherson 
John F McPherson 
C and William Peddie 
Thomas McWilliam 
Mary McWilliam 
Christian McWilliam 
Hugh Woods 
Archibald Russell 
Robert Aitken 
M Bates or Aitkew 
Andrew Aitkew 
John Aitkew 
James Aitkew 
George Aitkew 
Samuel Strapp 
A Russell or Strapp 
Wm Strapp 
Ann Strapp 
Mary Ann Strapp 
William Campbell 
Jessie Campbell 
Marshall Campbell 
Gavin Pettigrew 
John Killock 
Roderick Campbell 
Alexander McNab 
William Anderson 
William Dow 
Margaret Dow 
Jane Blair, or Dow 
Helen Dow 
Andrew Stevens 
Thomas McWilliams 
J Simpson 
James Mcland 
Margaret McDonald 
Margaret Young 
James Mitchell 
Mary Miller 
Walter Archibald 
Agnes H Archibald 
John Coats 
Thomas McDonald 
Sarah McDonald 
R McDonald 
W McKenzie 
Jane McKenzie 
Elizabeth McKenzie 
Robert McKenzie 
Kid Millory 
P McLachlan 
H Caldwell 
Isabella Caldwell 
Marion Caldwell 
Mary Caldwell 
Jessie Caldwell 
Henry Caldwell 
John Luke Thompson 
Alexander Pattison 
A McArthur 
A and J McLean 
James Willan 
Thomas Beveridge 
RM Gibson 
Agnes Campbell