Friday, December 8, 2017

Gadsden Bell Swires families

Maud Alice Gadsden, nee Swires (my grandmother), with her only son, 
my father William Bell Gadsden, aged about 6 months, ca 1910.

William Bell Gadsden was the son of Sydney Bartle Gadsden and
grandson of Thomas Alfred Gadsden who married
Eliza Ann Bell.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bell Caithness family descendants

Mary Ann Caithness, daughter of James Ramsey Caithness and Ann Scorey, was born at Marchwood, Hampshire, 20 March 1820. She married William Douglas Bell at Port Elizabeth 29 June 1838. Their children were Mary Ann Elizabeth Pamela, Douglas William, Ellen Selwyn Sophia (d in infancy), Ellen Harriet, James Colquhoun, Sarah Scott, Sturges Bourne, Eliza Ann, Jessie MacGregor, George John Head, Alfred Thomas Payne, and Alice Millican Bell.

Mary Ann Elizabeth Pamela, their eldest child, married John James Johnason and they had a boy and a girl. Douglas William did not marry. Ellen Harriet married Edward Abbott Forbes Baxter, producing one son, Alexander. James Colquhoun married Sarah Clark in 1874 and had eight children. Sarah Scott married Charles George Pay; they had 3 children. Sturges Bourne's marital history remains unknown and he is the subject of further research. Eliza Ann married Thomas Alfred Gadsden, the Bluff lighthouse keeper; their children were William, Philip, Sydney Bartle, Faith and Hope. Eliza Ann and Thomas Alfred were my great grandparents.

Jessie McGregor married James Evans Pascoe Martin, engineer of the SS Basuto; no children are recorded. George John Head married Mary Catherine Tonkin. Alfred Thomas Payne Bell died in Whitechapel, London, in 1884 at the youthful age of 24. Alice Millican married Alfred Mathias Tilley and had two children. 

                                                                 Sydney Bartle Gadsden

                                     William Bell Gadsden and his mother Maud Alice nee Swires.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Reformatory Ancestors: Caithness Bell

William Caithness Bell and his brother Alfred Douglas Bell, grandsons of Captain William and Mary Ann Bell nee Caithness, are missing from their family’s entry in the 1891 UK Census. Parents James Colquhoun Bell and Sarah nee Clark are at home in Lyndhurst Street, South Shields, with their other children ranging in age from 11 years down to the infant Elizabeth. Where were William and Alfred, then aged 15 and 14 respectively, on Census night, 5/6 April 1891 - perhaps away working, possibly apprenticed to a trade?

These would be reasonable assumptions but the truth is that, unexpectedly, the two boys are listed elsewhere. On that date they were guests of the North Eastern Reformatory, Netherton, near Morpeth, Northumberland.

William Caithness Bell was born when his parents were living in Mile End Old TownLondon

A photograph of him in a dress (as small boys were before being ‘breeched’) and wearing only one shoe, shows William as bright-eyed and chubby-cheeked. Unusually, there’s a date written on the back of the photograph, 9 November 1876, so William was a year old. Tartan or similar checked fabric was a popular choice for children and there are yards of it in William’s outfit, complete with a large bow, as if he’d been gift-wrapped.

By 1881 William (5) had two younger brothers, Alfred Douglas (4) and James Colquhoun Bell jnr (1). Ten years later the family were in South Shields, probably having moved there due to work opportunities for James snr: he was a ‘Marine Enameller’. Additional children had arrived in the interim and seven are listed in 1891: James jnr (11), Hester, Henry, Ellen, Victor (his full name was Sturgeous Victor), and Frederick.Bell.

Local newspapers provide nuggets of information about the absent sons. On 31 December 1890, a brief report appeared in the Shields Daily Gazette:
Today's Police News: Pigeons.—William Caithness Bell (I4) and James (16) [no surname given]were charged with stealing two pigeons, the value 3s, the property of Charles Temple, joiner, 109 Edith Street. James Townsley, pigeon dealer, Mill Dam, said the elder lad brought the birds to his shop and he bought them from him. Fined 5s and costs each.
This was a relatively minor brush with the law, but there had been at least one previous misdemeanour in October 1890 and William was soon to be in the news again. In February 1891 he and Alfred were charged with three separate incidents of breaking and entering. The Bell brothers were duly sentenced and served two weeks in prison after which they were sent to the North-Eastern Reformatory for four years.

South Shields Gazette and Shipping Telegraph
Tuesday 24 February 1891

It seems a harsh punishment, though in an earlier era they might have been transported or worse. As the 19thc neared its close, there was a slightly more enlightened view. Juvenile offenders, especially those who had appeared before the court more than once, could be placed in Reformatories and hopefully redirected onto the straight and narrow path. These institutions weren't holiday homes, as entries in the Punishment Book for 1891 reveal, and the cane was frequently used.

The North-Eastern Reformatory School for Boys was founded in the mid-1850s, moving to a site at Netherton near Morpeth in 1859. By William’s and Alfred’s time there would have been 210 boys at the Reformatory. From 1933 the establishment became the Netherton Training Approved School.

Alfred Douglas Bell’s further adventures remain unknown but William Caithness Bell emerged apparently unscathed after his four year stint, marrying a Durham girl, Elizabeth Mankin, in May 1900 and settling down to raise a family. William was ‘in work’ at the shipyard. By 1911 they had a daughter Victoria Josephine and a son named James Colquhoun Bell (the third in that line), evidence that William valued family tradition and that his life was back on track. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Bluff lighthouse and Signal Station, Durban

The Bluff Lighthouse and Signal Station, with keepers' and signallers' quarters.
Ca 1890s/early 1900s. Definitely prior to the addition of the ugly concrete casing
added to 'strengthen' the lighthouse in 1935.

Senior Lightkeepers

1867 - 1880              T A Gadsden (Assisted by D Bell in the 1870s)
1885                          Moffat
1898                          J Stephenson
1.7.1898                    B Shortt
1918                          G Johnson
1922                          L R P Daly
1927 - 1933              T F Addison
1938                          G A Orchard
20.1.1941 - 1.4.1942 A Gray


27.7.1889 - 30.6.1898 F B Shortt
1.7.1898                     John Murphy
18.8.1931 - 16.7.1934 A Spring
16.7.1934 - 1.3.1941   E L Andreason                                              

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Souvenir Saturday: Bell/Martin marriage Durban 1874

Entry in the marriage register for the Colony of Natal
 in the parish of Addington, Durban, 16 April 1874:

James Evans Pascoe Martin, Engineer of the SS Basuto, to Jessie MacGregor Bell aged 17, daughter of Captain (deceased 1869) and Mrs. William Bell. The ceremony was performed by Archdeacon Lloyd at the bride's home, Conch Villa, on the Bluff. One of the witnesses was Douglas William Bell, brother of the bride.

was only 13 at time of Bell’s death. 

If your ancestor married in Natal check the following for a civil marriage certificate:

South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955


Civil marriage certificates for Natal Province sent to the Registrar General in Pretoria. Marriage certificates may include date of act, date of registration, name of bride and groom, ages, place of marriage, birth place, occupations, and residence at time of marriage. Records are usually filed by date of registration and include registrations of Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and Whites. Text of original records is in English or Afrikaans. When searching the index, researchers should be aware that in some instances individuals only have a single name versus having both a given name and surname. Original records are conserved at the National Archives, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Anglo-Zulu War 1879

Anglo-Zulu War Memorial, Pietermaritzburg

For more on this memorial see

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Marburg School (Natal) Group ca 1908

Descendants of some Norwegian emigrants to Natal.
Acknowledgement: David Larsen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Durban early 1900s: beachfront attractions

The Children's Bathing Pool, Durban, early 1900s

Durban Beachfront: Model Dairy. World War II era.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Souvenir Saturday: Norwegians in Natal

This attractive family portrait was taken by Emil Larsen, the Natal photographer. 
(See more about him elsewhere on this blog.) 
The dates given for his premises, 410 West St., indicate that the photo was
taken between 1900 and 1904. It is likely that the family is Norwegian but
the owner would be grateful if anyone could put names to the people in the  picture.

The owner states: this photo belonged  to my grand-aunt Adolfa Marie Nilsen Øvald (Oevald) from Porsgrunn in Norway, born 1890 and died in 1975. Her father was Halvor Martin Nilsen Øvald, died in 1901 on board his ship Coimbatore.

Comments would be welcomed.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wrecks of Waterloo and Abercrombie Robinson Cape 1842

'So great a loss of life has not happened in Table Bay since the year 1799.' 
Thus reported the South African Commercial Advertiser on 3 September 1842.

The Waterloo under Captain H Ager had been bound for Tasmania but, putting in for water at the Cape near the mouth of the Salt River on 28 August, had encountered a gale-force north-westerly to which she had speedily succumbed, her rotten hull timbers breaking up. 

Only a few hundred metres away, the British troop transport, Abercrombie Robinson, 1425 tons, Captain John Young, on a voyage from Dublin, was wrecked in the same gale. This ship was carrying 700 souls, including detachments of the 27th Regiment and Cape Mounted Rifles as well as the 91st Argyllshire Regiment (numbering 450), but due to the discipline of all on board, everyone was saved. 

This story ranks alongside that of the Birkenhead for human courage and selflessness while in peril on the sea.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Remembrance: World War l Battle of Loos

World War l British infantry advancing at Loos 25 September 1915

 It was the biggest British attack of 1915, the first time that the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The French and British tried to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, except for local losses of ground. British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German losses.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Remembrance: ancestors' military memorabilia tell a story

Border Mounted Rifles: brass button with BMR and crown.
Boer War period.

Border Mounted Rifles: the famous boot and spur insignia, 
with the motto 'Rough but Ready'
shown on memorials at Intombi Cemetery Ladysmith

In memory of William Dixon Smith who died at Intombi
during the Siege of Ladysmith 1900. Also his stepson
Alick Anderson of the same unit.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Remembering the Fallen in all Wars

The time you won your town the race,
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
As home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.*

"To An Athlete Dying Young" A.E. Houseman 1896

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Great Gale, 1888, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Great Gale 1888: ship foundering in surf while crowd watches on shore.

During a south-east gale, nine vessels were wrecked on the North End beach. The ships were: 'Andreas Riis', 'Dorthea' [sic], 'Wolseley', 'Drei Emmas', 'Elizabeth Stevens', 'Jane Harvey', 'Lada', 'Natal', and 'C. Boschetto'. The Rocket Brigade, life-boat and crews of other ships assisted and only one drowning was recorded.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Souvenir Saturday: maritime treasure in Durban

Bronze cannon salvaged from the sea - Natal Maritime Museum, Durban.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Passenger Lists Natal: Jane Morice: 1851

Arrival of Jane Morice reported in The Natal Witness 11 July 1851

The barque Jane Morice, 256 tons, under Joseph Browne left Liverpool on April 9 1851, arriving at Natal on July 7. Her 44 passengers on this voyage included Joseph and William Royston and their families, and Alexander Lyle. John Galloway was making a return trip to Natal, having first arrived in 1848 and establishing himself as a cotton planter. It was this ship which, in 1855, carried Bishop Colenso’s missionaries to Natal.



July 2nd - Douglas, Schooner, Captain P Gill, from Cape Town.

July 7th - Jane Morice, Barque 256 tons, Captain Joseph Browne, from Liverpool April 9th, with forty-four passengers and general cargo.
Edward P Lamport, Agent.

Joseph Royston, wife and child
Wm Royston, wife and child
John Smith
James Lloyd, wife and child
Eligah Middleborough
John McKeany and wife
Wm Dales and wife
Alexander Lyle [later saddler of Pietermaritzburg]
Thomas Allen, wife and child
John Allen, wife and child
Martha Allen
Alexander Murdock
Joseph Webster
Henry Webb and wife
William Hargreaves
Thomas Hargreaves
Betsey Turner
Jos B Shires, wife and four children
Richard Watson
Abraham Hirst
Mary Blackbrough and child
Mr Malloy, Surgeon
Mr John Galloway [planter]
Mr Martin
Mr WG Harvey

The Jane Morice is expected to come inside in a day or two.
She draws about eleven feet water only.* 
The Passengers are landed this day, (Tuesday.)

July 8 - Jane Greene, from London, with 53 Emigrants.

Jane Morice and Jane Greene.

McArthur and Hunter, Agents.
Sarah Bell,
H. Milner, Agents.
Henderson, Smerdon, and Co. Agents.

From London
Cheshire Witch, Brig, 155 tons, Captain Todd, sailed 13 March.
Jane Geary, Brig, 193 tons, Captain A Douglas, sailed 13 March.

From Plymouth
Mora, Brig. 200 tons, Captain Teulon, sailed 6 Jan.

From California via Sydney
Lalla Rookh, Brig. 250 tons, Milner.

*A reference to the difficulties arising due to the Bar (sandbank) at the entrance channel to Port Natal: ships would have to wait until there was sufficient depth of water and wind and weather conditions were favourable so as to cross the Bar without mishap. As a result of these delays, the actual date of landing of a passenger ashore may be later than the date of ship arrival.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Passenger List: St Kilda Australia to Natal 1872

The Natal Mercury announced on  6 June 1872:
The St Kilda's Passengers met at the Immigration Aid Office yesterday afternoon, by invitation of the Directors. Of the latter there were present the Mayor, in the chair, and Messrs H Escombe, Goodliffe, Greenacre, Robinson, and Dacomb. Mr Escombe explained at length the objects of the Office, and an interesting conversation followed chiefly bearing on the best and cheapest way of reaching the Diamond Fields. The new comers expressed much satisfaction with the attentions exhibited, and unanimously passed a resolution to that effect. It was finally decided to publish an advertisement, at the cost of the Office, calling for tenders for transport, and we refer wagon owners and carriers to the announcement elsewhere. Specimens of quartz from Marabastadt were pronounced excellent, but not sufficient in themselves to prove the existence of a gold field. Some of those present said they had seen in Australia similar specimens from reefs which were not payably auriferous. We heartily trust that our new friends, of whom there are about seventy, will succeed in reaching the Fields quickly and cheaply, and that when there, success will crown their efforts. About twenty of those passengers came ashore on Saturday last. The vessel herself could not get in, as the wind was unfavourable.
The following is a list of the passengers by this vessel from Australia:

Mr and Mrs A McKenzie
Mr and Mrs Slatbury
Mr B Longer
Miss F Chapman
Mr and Mrs G Foster
Mr and Mrs Mortlock
W Davidson
A Petrie
J Haston
G Macfarland
W Griffith
J Gadfield
L Foss
J Fotheringale
J Layle
D Dannen
T Dalahursty
J Ross
V Mochlig
D Hughes
J Tanson
R Leveson
Thos Malcaby
W Hercus
D McKermon
J Woodinge
J MacKereth
P Murphy
E Simpkins
D Pigott
J Trexion
W Sutton
E Longmore
E Crawford
W Toddington
T Lynes
C Rehbock
A Tierney
J Cope
J Armstrong
W Thornhill
J Maclan
D Gordon
T Bray and Mrs Bray, Miss Bray, and Edward and George Bray
T Herrington
N Hove
Mr and Mr Waterworth
S Douglas
C Daagden
C Wyberg
D Maceachern
J Nelville