Thursday, 21 December 2017

Exploring Fact & Fiction - Bonnie Prince Charlie's Sojourn in Slateford, 1745


Prince Charles Edward Stuart being feted in Edinburgh,
a painting by William Brassey Hole.
[Source : Internet]

[This may be the last post for awhile as I enjoy the Southern Hemisphere Summer Holiday Season. I wish my loyal Readers the Compliments of the Season]

As the generations pass the story of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, has become enveloped in folklore, romanticism and legend but not always, it appears, adhering strictly to the facts! My own 19th century ancestral family home of 'Gray's Mill' in the village of Slateford, being located about two miles south west of Edinburgh, served as accommodation for the Prince on the night of the 16th September 1745 while awaiting a response to his demand for the surrender of the City. You can read my earlier Blog on his short visit and subsequent entry into Edinburgh HERE.

But what I found surprising were the stories that built up around his very brief sojourn in Slateford, including his short residence in the old circa 1600 farmhouse, these stories still being passed on and recounted as late as the mid 20th century. So, let us explore these 'stories' as fact or fiction based on evidence or simply on plausibility. Unfortunately there is evidently more fiction that fact but such is often the basis of 'legends'.

Slateford Village and Lanark Road, circa 1900
The "Cross Keys Inn" is down the right side of the street.
The left side of the street would be swept away in 1967.
[From my own collection]

In the late 1700's the poet Robert Pollock, and while recuperating in the local manse from an illness, wrote in his diary of Slateford; "The village is an earthly paradise. Everything here looks as if the world had never fallen." But the Prince would naturally have been rather less interested in the scenic delights afforded by Slateford as to planning his entry into a recalcitrant Edinburgh (by force if necessary), a tremendous psychological blow to those in Scotland who opposed the Stuart's restoration to the throne.

Our first story relates specifically to the village of Slateford and is in fact still immortalized today in the naming of the local public house, being the "Cross Keys Inn", and the 1936 built "Prince Charlie Bridge" which carries the Union Canal over the busy Lanark Road. Both are significant as the bridge allegedly spans the place where Charles Edward Stuart had been handed the keys for the City of Edinburgh prior to his entry into Edinburgh, hence the "Cross Keys" reference in the naming of the local public house. But was it?

The Old Bridge Carrying the Union Canal
Aqueduct over the Lanark Road (Pre 1936)
[Source : Edinburgh City Libraries]

We know beyond any doubt that representatives of the City made two visits to Slateford that evening to meet with the Prince, the latter having sent a "summons" to the Magistrates demanding that Edinburgh surrender to him or be taken by force by his army. Four Deputies were first sent to wait on the Prince to ask him for a little more time while the Magistrates discussed more fully the terms of their surrender. The four "City Baillies" left Edinburgh by carriage for Gray's Mill at 8pm, departing Slateford at 10pm with a letter from the Prince demanding that his original terms of surrender be adhered to. There is no mention of "surrender" at Slateford let alone the handing over of keys.

As late as 2am, after great debate, and considering that the Magistrates could not easily consult the citizens at that hour with the majority having retired to their beds, the Deputies were hastily sent back to Gray's Mill to specifically request that any "action" be delayed by seven hours.

Charles quickly concluded that the sole object of the Magistrates was to gain time in which to further plan and advance their means of defence. The Prince would also no doubt have been aware that English relief troops were expected although he may not have received the intelligence that the troop transports, being under the command of General Sir John Cope, had in fact now arrived in the Firth of Forth.

The 1842 Caledonian Railway Viaduct and the 1822 
Union Canal Aqueduct which pass through Slateford.
The Bowling Club and Gardens in foreground
Taken circa 1900
[From my own collection]

Naturally annoyed at being trifled with the Prince ordered the Deputies away at 3am. In the face of such prevarication and obstinacy the Highlanders therefore proposed to take possession of the City by stealth. "A body of Camerons" 900 strong and under the command of "the gentle Lochiel" marched in darkness by Merchiston and Hope Park to the Netherbow Port [City gate] where they "lay in ambush". The "accident" of the opening of the gate to permit the passing through of the carriage conveying the City Deputies, and against orders, allowed Lochiel's troops to rush in and easily overpower the City Guard. This took place "In the early early morning in broad daylight" on the 17th September 1745. The defence in place to guard the City sounds quite farcical but without Copes troops they were in any case outnumbered.

The regular troops retreated to the safety of the Castle under the command of the aged General Guest, being "old and in feeble health"; the weary and exhausted Dragoons, being badly in need of supplies and "worse than useless a terror to their friends rather than to the enemy" fled to the relative safety of Haddington; and "when they scented danger... a good many of the volunteers decamped" with many surrendering their arms at the Castle lest they be caught bearing arms in the face of perceived defeat. With General Cope's relief arriving too late to be of any practical assistance, Edinburgh - but not the Castle - capitulated to the Prince and his victorious Highland Army. Edinburgh had, according to the pro Hanoverian "Edinburgh Evening Courant", underestimated the "pitiful" and "good for nothing" Highlanders to its cost. Their audacious bid to take the Scottish capital had succeeded after no more than a bun fight.

All these events were not only well related in no less than three period newspapers but were also comprehensively researched by the noted Historian, the late Dr. Walter Biggar Blaikie FRSE, DL, LLD. (1847-1928), being the leading scholar and author in his day of the Jacobite period and particularly of the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

But what this all tells us is that there is therefore no evidence whatsoever that any handing over of the "keys to the City" took place at Slateford. While one writer in 1936 advances the possibility that the Deputies may have had the keys to the City with them at Slateford he accepts that they were certainly not handed over. We know that on both visits the Deputies had no intention, or even the delegated authority, to hand over any keys, having only been sent by the Magistrates to ask for more time and definitely not to negotiate a surrender. The Magistrates would surely be the ones to officially hand over any such keys and would have only have done so after formally agreeing themselves to a surrender. Why would they even appoint Deputies to carry out this official task? As to commemorating the supposed place where the Deputies handed over the said keys, all evidence confirms their waiting on the Prince at Gray's Mill although they would almost certainly have been met and given safe passage of entry from the outskirts of Slateford.

Upon the new Union Canal bridge being constructed in 1936, it was generally accepted that "the fact that no support for this legend can be found in any records is being dismissed as being beside the point". And thus Slateford would have its "Prince Charlie Bridge". Rather than perpetuating such a myth the commemorative bronze plaque affixed to the bridge at an unknown date merely states, "Near this spot at Gray's Mill, Prince Charlie's Army halted in 1745 prior to the occupation of Edinburgh".

The Window of "The Little Bedroom",
Gray's Mill farmhouse, Slateford
[Source : University of St Andrew's]

The second story relates to the farmhouse of Gray's Mill where the Prince spent the night, being originally located only a short distance from the village of Slateford. The tenant at this time was one David Wright who held the tack [lease] for the Lands of Cauldhame, also known as "Gray’s Mill". An article from 1936 recounts a story told by the then resident, Mrs Jessie Jamieson;

"The little bedroom in which the Prince slept remains unchanged although the rest of the house has been altered. In the old days this house had a thatched roof which has long since been replaced. The tethering ring at the side of the door is the ring to which the Prince's horse was tied, and there is a story that when a company of English soldiers attempted to capture him here he leapt out of his bedroom window to his horse below. All the tenants of this farm have left the window untouched because of the story surrounding it." 

We know that "the Prince lay in his cloaths [clothes] two hours that night at Slateford". Dr Blaikie's history of 1896 then describes this same bedroom; "His room, a very small one, is still pointed out".  A long letter I hold written by my Gt. Gt. Uncle, Dr Cornelius Cunningham V.S. of Slateford and dated 1897 notes that the old house was then tenanted by the Thorburn family and had recently been re-roofed but does not mention any other changes to the exterior.

While the Prince's residence in the house that evening is certainly not in dispute, more than a few questions now spring to mind. Beyond dispute is that there was certainly an iron tethering ring at the side of the door, having been specifically sighted in 1936. But why would it be considered a matter of 'safety' to the Prince to tether his horse below his bedroom window but directly beside the front door where any intruder would naturally enter the premises? And in any case, notwithstanding the small window itself indicating a small room, Blaikie in fact confirms it as being a very small room in his 1896 history.

Assuming the Prince, and with his troops nearby, to have felt perfectly secure in the house and to able to be given adequate warning of any advancing hostile force, why would he even choose what appears to be a very small box room as his bedroom? The two larger upper windows would indicate these were also much larger bedrooms, even if the windows were enlarged at a later date. With the cost of glass and even an 18th century "Window Tax", all the upper windows may once have been of a similar size. My feeling is that it was overall a rather more entertaining - and romantic - story that the Prince could in fact simply jump out his bedroom window onto his waiting steed and high tail it to safety.

Gray's Mill farmhouse, Slateford.
The image resolution is too low
to show the tethering hook by the door.
[Source : University of St Andrew's]

As to the fate of the tethering hook, a helpful correspondent who has actively researched the history of Slateford advises that after the demolition of Gray's Mill in the early 1960's the iron ring "allegedly" found its way to the Railway Inn in the village (a Public House, I might add, once owned by my Gt. Gt. Grandfather who resided at Gray's Mill). But the Inn, along with the rest of the west side of the street would be wholly demolished in 1967 and the whereabouts of the ring after this date is unknown so even if it were retained its provenance may by now be lost.

As for "a company of English soldiers" attempting to capture him, the Prince was well protected, no English soldiers were known to be that close to Slateford, and I doubt even a modern trained company of commandos forced to travel on horseback would have considered it prudent to carry out such a brazen action without being discovered by the Highland forces well before their entry to Slateford. Then to manage a safe escape from a no doubt well guarded farmhouse with their unwilling royal prisoner in tow? And simply for the Prince to leap out a rather narrow upper story window onto a horse that just happens to be conveniently standing in the correct position directly under the window but therefore inconveniently blocking entry to the front door stretches the imagination even further. One could lower oneself down from the window but quite frankly, I perceive it would be quicker to have raced down the internal stairway and out the front door. Need we say more? 

We know of course that the Prince's troops were in fact bivouacked in an adjoining field, that being confirmed from an amusing anecdote which also illustrates some considerable bravado on the part of the exasperated farm tenant.

"Gray's Mill' Farmhouse as Viewed
from the Water of Leith, taken circa 1900
[From my own collection]

A "disenchanted" and obviously less than enamoured Laird of Woodhouselee  (a staunch Presbyterian and a committed Whig supporter) had earlier described the passing of "the pretender Prince, his retinue and guards" through Midlothian,“....with their bagpipes and plaids, rusty rapiers, matchlocks and firelocks.....” The said Laird also related accounts of "pressing" of horses and carriages, of plundering, and of destruction of personal property. It was this same "rag tag and bob tail" band of troops at Slateford who camped on a field [Gray’s Park] of nearly ripe ‘pease’ belonging to the Gray's Mill tenant farmer, David Wright.

Wright, no doubt feeling that he now had little to lose with his home appropriated by the Prince and his retinue, a large 'rabble' of Highland troops additionally occupying his precious farmland and flattening his crop, called at the farmhouse, being of course his own residence, and demanded compensation for his ruined crop. Clearly, confronting the Prince was clearly less intimidating than the thought of being summarily evicted from his tenancy by an unsympathetic Factor for unpaid rent.

The Prince then offered Wright a promissory note in the name of the ‘Prince Regent’ (which would have been his Royal title when the Stuart’s regained the throne), but this was not found acceptable to the said farmer. The name of the ‘Duke of Perth’, was then offered by an amused Prince as being a more credit worthy guarantor, which was then accepted. I wonder if Wright was in fact ever paid?   

I do wonder at my family, including my own Grandfather, who were farm tenants and resident in the said farmhouse from 1824 to 1879 recounting these well known 'tales'. Judging by the tall tales enthusiastically related by the then tenant in 1936 it would appear that my family must certainly have continued to romanticize and keep alive these 'legends' through much of the 19th century. I like to think that they delighted in recounting such tales, but no doubt with a twinkle in their eyes. But my Grandfather died as early as 1925 and my Father, although by then in adulthood, certainly knew nothing of these stories other than holding a few old photographs and knowing that his Father had lived for some years together with his then aged Grandfather at "Gray's Mill".


The "New" Crenelated and Gated Entrance to the old Slateford
Secession Church adjoining the "Cross Keys Inn" at left.
Taken circa 1900. This entrance is still extant today
[From my own collection]

But the Slateford of today would be virtually unrecognizable to the 18th century village witnessed by both the Prince and by Robert Pollock. Even by the mid 19th century, with convenient access to Edinburgh by canal, road and railway, extensive industrialization was evident in the area. A large quarry even now also served as a convenient tip for Edinburgh's 'night carts'. Without any listed status, the demolition of the circa 360 year old 'Gray's Mill' farmhouse, and which my paternal family had tenanted from 1824 to 1879, took place in the early 1960's. During the same period the remaining adjoining farmland was appropriated for a sprawling housing development. Thus the 'legends' surrounding the Prince and his residence at "Gray's Mill" have largely been forgotten

The actual site where the house stood is now part of a soul-less carpark immediately behind and on the north side of a Sainsbury's convenience store and petrol station for the large adjoining Sainsbury's Edinburgh Longstone Superstore. The latter is actually quite an attractive modern building and a definite improvement on the previous ugly 'tin shed' (a compliment to the unknown architect) . But who would honestly now know when they park their car or purchase their petrol that Bonnie Prince Charlie plotted and received the news of the surrender of Edinburgh for the Stuart cause from this very site? Would Sainsbury's care to commemorate this fact with a plaque???

I wandered around what was then just a warehouse car park in 2004 and could only ascertain the approximate site of the farmhouse from the location of the still extant 1913 Masonic Lodge Hall (now the Waterside Social Club) nearby at 26A Inglis Green Road. Inglis Green Road has itself also been widened which included part of the original farmhouse walled garden. I could simply feel no sense of connection or of times past, the changes over the last 50 odd years having been so complete.

Changes to the village of Slateford itself have been pretty dramatic as well with the western side of the old town being completely demolished in 1967 in an unbridled act of modern vandalism to enable an admittedly narrow and by now very congested road to be widened. But this action destroyed the heart of the old village which up till then had at least retained something of the look and feel of former times. Such were the decisions of the then city planners who were tasked with looking to the future and not to the past.

The "Cross Keys Inn" and former Church Entrance today.
[Source : Wikipedia Commonds]

The afore-mentioned 18th century Cross Keys Inn still survives alongside the entrance to the former 1785 Slateford Secession Church. The Church building itself survives and is used for storage while the crenelated entrance, being described as "new" around 1900, is just next door.

Two imposing 19th century landmarks also remain in situ at Slateford, being the brick arches of both the 1818-22 Union Canal aqueduct linking Edinburgh with Falkirk, and the 1840-42 Caledonian Railway viaduct which still links Edinburgh with Carstairs and the main West Coast Line South.

I suppose that even in name only, and admittedly with some inaccuracies, we must at least be thankful that Slateford still commemorates their royal visitor with two well known landmarks, a bridge and a Public House. But the name "Gray's Mill" has, apart from the name of a Public House some distance away on the A70 into Edinburgh, now unfortunately passed into history.


Sources :

- "The People's Journal", 21 Nov 1936 (courtesy of G. Watson)
- "Itinerary of Prince Charles Edward", 1896, by Dr Walter Biggar Blaikie (Internet Archive)
- "Prince Charles Edward Stuart, His Life, Time, and Fight for the Crown", 1913, by J. Cuthbert Haddon (Internet Archive)
- "Villages of Edinburgh" Vol 2, 1987, by Malcolm Cant (from my own collection)
- "The Colinton Story", 1994 by Lynne Gladstone-Millar, (from my own collection)
- Personal family papers and photographs in my possession
- With thanks to Gordon Watson, Penicuick, Midlothian

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Chronicles of a Country Saddler, Mayor & Centenarian - Andrew Liddell of Winton


Andrew Liddell of Winton in his 97th year,
Taken at Heddon Bush, Feb 1939
[Copyrighted Photo taken by William Dykes]

Last Update 18 Jan 2018 (further information always welcome)

This blog attempts to relate something of the life story of Mr Andrew Liddell (1842 -1942), a well known and highly respected Southland identity in his day but now, and after the passage of so many years, largely forgotten. A Scottish born colonial era immigrant, Andrew Liddell not only became a successful country saddler in both Christchurch and in the small rural Southern town of Winton New Zealand, but also served as Town Mayor for a period before finally reaching the significant milestone of becoming a centenarian. Liddell would also, as we shall read, put his practical skills, experience and business abilities to very good use in the local community.

It was the finding amongst old family papers of some no doubt unique old invoices from his rural saddlery business and then, shortly afterwards, the quite serendipitous discovery of an actual original photo of Andrew that piqued my interest in researching the life story of this obviously resourceful and practical minded Scotsman. A family descendant has subsequently provided further family information including another wonderful photograph.

Confirmation of Birth of Andrew Docherty (later Liddell)
[Source : Scotland's People]

So firstly, what do we know of Andrew Liddell's early life? Historical Scottish Church and family sources confirm that he was born in Paisley Scotland on the 18th June 1842 but what is surprising is that his parents were John Docherty (1815 - March 1861*) and Helen Liddell (13 Feb 1812 - 1857). And herein lies an interesting tale upon which we will learn more of anon. I do note that while Andrew Docherty's birth is entered into the Baptismal record book of the Paisley Burgh (or Low) Church (Church of Scotland - Presbyterian) he was not baptized here. This ceremony would occur on the 6th August 1842 at the George Street United Succession Church in Paisley, being a breakaway Presbyterian Church. So it appears that both parents were from two different churches, a registration of a birth and then a baptism at separate Presbyterian churches not being uncommon in such circumstances. [*This date was confirmed by Andrew Liddell to Historian Herries Beattie. I can however find no evidence of death in civil records but this is also not uncommon in these early colonial years]

The Otago & Southland volume of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, being published in 1906, confirms  Andrew as being the eldest son of John Liddell of Paisley. As Andrew would have had input into the writing of this bio he was at least prepared to acknowledge his father but not his original birth surname. After leaving school at nine years of age, Andrew's early employment was in rope spinning and then at a silk mill, Paisley being famous for thread manufacturing and spinning with 'Clarks' and 'Coats' being two such local firms. It was not uncommon for children of working class families to receive a short education and commence working long hours six days a week at such a young age. Could this have been one factor in a growing resentment against his father? Additionally, his later strong support of the temperance (anti drink) cause is perhaps also worth considering here. At any rate, Liddell confirmed many years later to Historian Herries Beattie that he had experienced "a hard boyhood".

But crucially, and in 1854, a young Andrew Docherty would next be apprenticed to the saddlery trade. Already his practical abilities were coming to the fore and he would go on to make this trade his future career.

It was now as a qualified saddler and at around 14 years of age that Andrew, along with his family, departed Gravesend on the Thames on the sailing vessel 'Palmyra' on the 28th October 1857, arriving at Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand on the 14th February 1858 after an extended 105 day voyage [Incidentally, this was the same voyage that carried the 'unlucky' Tokomairiro Church bell which I wrote about HERE]. While Captain Tierney would be charged with seven breaches of the Passenger's Act 1855 and fined £30 a number of passengers wrote in support of Tierney and many of the 300 immigrants on board had in fact signed a testimonial to him at the end of the voyage so opinions were rather divided.

The passenger manifest lists "Mr J Docherty", "Mrs Docherty", and "4 children" in steerage confirming that the family emigrated to New Zealand together, undoubtedly in search of a better life abroad. But crucially, published records also tell us that Mrs Helen Docherty died on the voyage out, being one of nine deaths on board. All would have been buried at sea and no further details were given. Family sources then advise John and his son Andrew as "going to live with relatives in Nelson". We now know this to be incorrect as confirmed by two independent sources.

A typed record of the Staples family (who Andrew later married into) provided to the NZ Society of Genealogists states; "He left Scotland on board 'Palmyra', arriving in New Zealand in February 1858, only to find that there were just eight horses in Dunedin! So he found work as a plough boy and a bullock driver for a Mr [David] Berwick of Saddle Hill. He drove a two-wheeled dray with six bullocks, taking household goods and stores to the gold diggings at the Dunstan (Clyde). Later, he drove his own team and travelled to Gabriel’s Gully, a rich goldfield near Lawrence. Later, he travelled north by steamer from Dunedin to Auckland. In 1869, he went to Canterbury, and became a saddler in Cashel Street, Christchurch."

In 1935 and again in August 1938 Andrew Liddell was interviewed by that great Historian and Author, Herries Beattie, the latter earlier preparing an article for publication in the Southland Times, being submitted on the 30th October 1935. This article is not among Beattie's papers in the Hocken Library, only the article headings and some notes. These at least confirm that Liddell drove bullock teams from Waikouaiti inland over the Pig Root to the Maniototo and Manuherikia, some of his experiences at this time being described. The published article will take a little searching as Papers Past has not yet covered this period of "The Southland Times". There may also be references in one or more of Beattie's numerous published works. 

His entry in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand merely states that from his arrival in 1858, "Mr Liddell experienced many changes incidental to early colonial life, including visits to Auckland, Nelson, and West Coast goldfields." Of this period we know that the gold rush at Gabriel's Gully took place primarily between 1861 and 1862 and that on the West Coast between 1864 and 1867 although the above biography excludes any reference to being on the West Coast goldfields although Nelson is at least mentioned.

As stated above, we find that in 1869 Liddell, and now using his mother's maiden surname, entered into business as a Saddler in Cashel Street Christchurch in the Province of Canterbury. There are two family stories relating to this change of surname but after the space of so many years it is difficult to confirm the absolute veracity of either. The first story holds that he changed his surname to 'Liddell' to simply "fit in" with the predominately Scottish settlers in the south, assumedly during his earlier time spent in Otago. The second story,  which circulated around some older members of the family and to which I would give greater weight, holds that he simply did not care much for his father and "wanted to lose his identity" so upon his arrival in New Zealand he simply assumed his maternal surname. This could have been achieved very easily if he did not have to rely on any apprenticeship papers or testimonials from Scotland for his employment or required a Church disjunction (transfer) certificate. 

Interestingly, a family story relates that Liddell was "a member of the early cycling club and was one of the few surviving persons who rode the old penny farthing bicycle". I assume this to have most likely been a club in Christchurch (possibly the Canterbury Bicycle Club) and while he was still a relatively young man.

Sale of Andrew Liddell's Saddlery Business
[Source : "The Press", 13th Jan 1882]

On the 13th January 1882 we find Andrew Liddell advertising his "Old Established" saddlery and Harness making business for sale, having been "carried on successfully by the present proprietor for the last ten years". So it would appear that from 1869 to 1872 he had perhaps only been an employee within the business before buying it out in 1872.  On the 21st May 1874 Liddell married Ada Jane Staples, a native of Imber in Wiltshire, England, having arrived in New Zealand in 1858 with her parents at just two years of age. Andrew was then almost 32 and Ada not yet quite 18 but it appears to have been a very happy marriage. Both Andrew and Ada would then set up home in Woolston with their first child being born in November 1874, being followed by twin boys in November 1876. A Lodge member, Liddell would be appointed Provincial Grand Master of the North Canterbury district in 1879, quite an honour but still not by any means the only feather in his cap.

Around June 1882 the Liddell family took a steamer south to Campbelltown (Bluff) at the southern end of the South Island. From here he would set up a new saddlery business in the strategically placed rural servicing and railway town of Winton in Central Southland. This would go on to became one of the largest such establishments in the district. But why he chose to leave an established business in Christchurch and move to Central Southland is unknown but his choice would surely turn out to be the right one. What I find interesting is that Liddell advertises his new business in Winton opening as from the 20th June 1882 but chose not to advertise his existing Christchurch business for sale until January 1883. I daresay he wished to make a go of the new enterprise before totally cutting existing ties.

The new business would carry on much as before. Besides the manufacture of saddlery, "Mr Liddell was a large importer of ropes, tarpaulins, horse covers,canvas, oils, etc." An invoice dated 1898 states that the business stocked "saddles, side saddles, bridles, coach, gig, buggy, and cart harness, spurs, whips, bits, and every description of saddlery in stock".

The First Evidence of Andrew Liddell,
Saddler & Harness Maker in Winton, Southland
[Source : "The Southland Times", 20 June 1882]

But his personal interests and service to the local community would also be notable; "He was elected to the [Winton] Borough Council in 1892, and during his term of office, a handsome Atheneum building was erected. Mr Liddell was chairman of the Winton Literary [and Debating] Institute, treasurer of the Lodge Winton [No 108, N.Z.C.], and a member of the Oddfellows, Manchester Unity".

Another obvious passion is noted in 1884 when Liddell acted as a Steward for the Winton Jockey Club annual races, no doubt having supplied much of the saddlery and various accoutrements for many of the locally owned race horses. He would then quickly go on to be elected Vice-President in 1888 and President in 1889, quite an achievement. This would, however, still prove not to be the penultimate achievement for this public spirited and very industrious man.

A Close-Up of Andrew Liddell from the Photo shown below
Taken circa 1900
[Photo Courtesy of Malcolm Liddell]

The Saddlery business at Winton appears to have been a great success with Liddell opening a new and "very commodious saddler's shop" in August 1885. This initial success may have encouraged him to open a new branch in Lumsden on the 24th August 1885. But unfortunately the new branch evidently proved not to be financially viable, being simply closed down as early as February 1887 rather than being sold as a going concern. In August 1885 Liddell makes reference to further reducing prices to "suit the times" and he, like many of his customers, were probably hit by the continuing general economic and rural downturn so expanding the business at this time was probably just bad timing, especially with additionally having to now pay for a qualified Tradesman at Lumsden.

In January 1888 his business would have a very lucky escape when the nearby Winton Hotel burnt down, Liddell being forced to remove his saddlery goods to safety across the street. A further expansion of the premises would then take place in June 1893, now stocking an even greater range of saddlery and horse related products, including equine related medicines. His business title at this times reads; "Winton Saddle, Harness, and Collar Factory".

An Invoice for "A. Liddell & Sons" dated 1st April 1898.
[Source : Personal Family Papers]

In May 1890 Liddell, as Secretary (possibly of the local Farmers' Club), chaired a meeting of farmers in the Winton Hotel to consider "the Small Bird Nuisance". He had, by now, also been elected Chairman of the Winton School Committee. And seemingly not content with an existing heavy workload of business and public activities he now became President of the Winton Caledonian Society, having served as a Committee member since 1884. But significantly, and in 1894, he was also voted onto the Awarua Temperance Party to represent Winton so was clearly teetotal and not afraid to represent this divisive cause. His obvious skills, ability to manage his prodigious workload, and his status in the community would however be fully recognized when, between 1896 and 1898, he would hold the very great honour of serving as the Winton Town Mayor. But still he somehow managed to find a little extra time to devote to his membership of the "River Board", representing, along with four other members, the Winton River District.

Andrew Liddell and his Two Sons,
taken outside the Winton Premises,
Circa 1900
[Photo courtesy of Malcom Liddell]

The business had now expanded to such an extent that on the 23rd January 1897 Liddell opened a second shop in Winton, now bringing his two sons Arthur and Herbert in as full partners, both already having "been working for him for some years". And sometime after the turn of the century, but prior to May 1903, branches would also be opened at Drummond and in Mossburn.

Unfortunately tragedy would strike at 3am on the morning of the 4th January 1904 when a devastating fire destroyed a number of wooden building in Winton, including 'A. Liddell & Sons' Saddlery shop - and no doubt also their financial records. The location is noted as being adjoining the still extant two story brick 'Jamieson's Building' which was largely saved. Liddell held insurance cover of £810 (and was in fact an agent for the company) with re-insurances of £230 each with two other firms but, it was noted, none of the businesses affected held cover for the full amount of their losses. But the business would survive this untimely conflagration. One invoice I hold is dated the 2nd February 1904 but includes an account dated July 1903 however this may be from the existing Drummond branch, being more convenient for my Grandfather than Winton.

The destruction of the Winton premises was obviously not a catastrophic financial loss as his sons would further diversify the business with additional branches being opened at Otautau as early as 1907 (after purchasing the business of Mr James Kidd) and in Balfour, all being in prosperous rural areas and serviced by the railways. But Andrew Liddell Snr., being now in his 60's, is mentioned very little from the earlier years of the 20th century as he slowly handed over his responsibilities to his very capable sons.

An Invoice for "A. Liddell & Sons" dated 2nd Aug 1904.
This has been signed by Arthur Liddell.
[Source : Personal Family Papers]

Sadly, Andrew's wife Ada died on the 3rd December 1918 at 62 years of age after a long period of ill-health. Her obituary notes that; "She was a worthy helpmate, and unobtrusively performed many kindly and charitable acts among her friends and neighbours." She also took a keen interest in her Church which I assume to be the Winton Presbyterian Church as the family were brought up in this faith. Ada was also a talented pianist. At this time their son Andrew Liddell, a baker, was serving with the forces in Palestine but would survive the war and return home. But of their fourteen children, six would die in infancy and one at 12 years of age, truly a saddening tale. Despite Andrew being 14 years older than Ada he would live on a further 24 long years after her death. 

Immediately after Ada's death, and on the 28th December 1918, Liddell now promptly sold up his furniture and personal effects and then moved in with his youngest daughter Evelyn, also a resident of Winton, but spending the winters with his family further north including his son Gordon in Wanganui.

In February 1936, and at age 94, Liddell was quoted as being; "a wonderful example of the early pioneers, being hale and hearty and often travelling in various parts of the Dominion." In fact, he continued to travel alone until he was in his 99th year. Another notable achievement was when, and at age 98, he was officially declared the oldest living "Past Provincial Grand Master [of a Lodge]" in the world, having of course been elected to that post as far back as 1879. 

Andrew Liddell's Signature on his will, 8th July 1941
[Source : Archives New Zealand]

My Grandfather photographed Andrew in the garden of my Mother's family home at Heddon Bush in February 1939, his photo being shown at the top of this page. As a well established and very hospitable Scottish born farming family, and having been long term customers, their friendship would have extended back almost to the time Andrew set up business in the district. But the invoices I hold (eight in total) are in fact from my Father's family, also being established farmers in the Heddon Bush district. So both were thus regular and loyal customers of "Liddell & Sons".  

Andrew Liddell "Southland Centenarian", taken 18th June 1942
[Source "The Auckland Weekly News", 8 July 1942]

Andrew Liddell's final milestone was reached on the 18th June 1942 when he achieved the significant age of 100 years. But owing to his then failing health a formal banquet to be put on in his honour by the Winton Borough Council had to be cancelled. Instead, a smaller gathering took place at his daughter's home. The then Winton Mayor speaking at this rather more intimate and personal gathering noted the unique situation of a sitting Mayor being able to congratulate an ex-Mayor on reaching 100 years. Liddell would also receive over 150 telegrams, including one from the King and Queen, a most telling testimony to his status in the community and of his wide circle of friends, family and acquaintances, both in New Zealand and overseas. By this stage he was not only the oldest Past Provincial Grand Master but also now the oldest Oddfellow in the world.

Liddell Family Gravestone,
Old Winton Cemetery
[Source : Tim Macdonald]

Having reached this great milestone in his life, Andrew died, no doubt with a contented heart for a full, long and useful life, at Invercargill on the 25th November 1942 and is buried in the Old Winton Cemetery with his wife and their son Edward who both pre-deceased him (location in Cemetery; Plot 18, Old Survey Block XI). His estate was valued for probate purposes at £682.10.6

Copyright & Updates : Commercial publication prohibited without my specific written permission. Excerpts may however be copied for private or academic use provided this site or the original publication source is acknowledged. Corrections of any unintentional errors or additional relevant information welcome. My email link appears in the right-hand menu bar.

Sources :

- Papers Past / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
- Hocken Collections, Dunedin / Uare Taoka o Hākena (Herries Beattie papers MS-582/B/17 and MS-582/G/8)
- Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Scotland's People website
- Family Search - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
- "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand - Otago & Southland", 1906 (from my own collection)
- "The Winton Record", 18 Feb 1936 (from my own collection)
- "Staples Family Tree and History" (NZ Society of Genealogists, Auckland) 
- Cochrane Family Papers (In my possession)
- William Dykes Photographic Collection (In my possession)
- Various Internet sources
- With grateful assistance from Malcolm Liddell & Jane Shennan
- Also my thanks to Tim Macdonald for taking the photograph of Andrew and Ada's Gravestone.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin & Port Chalmers Railway Coy., 1872-73 (Part Five)


Gravestone of Frederick Gatwood
in the East Perth Cemetery, Western Australia
[Used with kind permission of a family descendant]

Mr Frederick Gatwood - Assistant Engineer

This Blog concludes my series entitled "The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway". To go to my short history of the D&PCR Co. click HERE. In this blog series we explore these "forgotten" enginemen, their early lives, their engineering and railway backgrounds, their employment with the D&PCR Co., and their subsequent railway and post railway careers and lives. 

Our fourth and final biography, having been pieced together from published, on-line and private sources, charts the life of Mr Frederick Gatwood, being initially employed as an Assistant Engineer for the D&PCR Co. As we shall read, Mr Gatwood led a rather interesting and decidedly peripatetic life which would, unfortunately, be tragically and unexpectedly cut short in the prime of his life. From what I have read I would describe him as very adaptable and not afraid to try something new, a very practical minded person and not afraid of hard work, an honourable man, a family man, sociable, and it would appear, enterprising and very successful in matters of business. 

Frederick "Fred" Gatwood was, according to his son's birth certificate, born in Bristol, England, not as noted by Mr Sligo in 1928 and even in his own obituary, as in "Lancashire". A family descendant believes him to be the "Frederick Gattward" born in Bedminster, Bristol in December 1851 to Edward and Emma (née Custerson) Gattward. Phonetic spelling in the days prior to civil birth records was common and in fact the 1851 census records the surname as "Gattwood". 

Interestingly, Frederick's Father Edward, a "Civil Engineer", was in later years, the Manager of the Bristol Railway Carriage and Wagon Works Company. With an engineering background in his family it is probably not surprising that Frederick would also choose to follow a similar career path. But knowing that the latter company supplied the carriages, wagons and other rolling stock for the D&PCR Co., I do wonder if there could be a connection here to Frederick perhaps also having worked for the same company? Employing someone holding experience in the manufacture of the rolling stock would certainly have been an advantage to the D&PCR Co. half way around the world.

After moving with his family to Holmer, Hereford and then back to Upper Easton in Bristol, Frederick now followed in his Father's footsteps as an "Engineer's Apprentice". As the now twenty year old Frederick came out with Messrs Amos and Thomas with the Fairlie locomotives "Josephine" and "Rose" from Bristol on the "Wave Queen" in 1872, he must also have signed 'Articles of Agreement' through Robert Fairlie. And, as noted above, could Frederick have been working for the Bristol Railway Carriage and Wagon Works Co.? The connection with Fairlie and the Bristol works manufacturing the rolling stock (under the oversight of Fairlie) for the D&PCR Co. is intriguing, and in my mind at least, would make perfect sense.      

The Iron Clipper Ship "Wave Queen"
[From an old published print]

The first mention of Frederick Gatwood in direct connection to the D&PCR Co. is when he arrived at Post Chalmers New Zealand on the 853 ton "Wave Queen" from Bristol on the 28th August 1872 after a "fair passage" of 98 days (actually her fastest ever voyage out). Gatwood would then take up his employment as an Assistant Engineer with the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway Company. Nothing is specifically known of his time with the company. He will almost certainly have assisted in the servicing of the locomotives and rolling stock under the direction of Mr Amos the Chief Engineer and no doubt assisted him with the initial assembly of "Josephine". 

While Gatwood's Obituary states that he came to New Zealand as a young man where he had "mining and other experience" I do not place too much store in this vague comment written years later by someone who would not have known him at this time and of course they also incorrectly gave his place of birth as "Lancashire". There are in fact gaps in a number of civil records relating to Frederick's past but family research has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that we have the right man. He may have had some mining experience before he left New Zealand but we do not know where. 

By April 1874 Gatwood was now apparently living in North Otago. An advertisement under "Missing Friends" in the "North Otago Times" of the 8th April 1874 advises "Fred Gatwood" to collect a letter from the Palmerston Post Office which indicates that he was residing in the general area. I hope he received it. I do know that from March 1874 the main south railway line between Oamaru and Moeraki was then under construction with Messrs Brogden & Sons holding the contract so this is a possibility should his employment with another railway construction firm after this date be taken as a guide. At any rate, he had been a locomotive driver since about May 1875 (as noted below) and would have had experience as a locomotive assistant or "stoker" prior to this date to gain the relevant qualification.

From around the 8th March to the 3rd April 1876 Gatwood is then specifically referred to as having been employed as an engine driver by the private railway contracting firm, W.G. Morrison & Co., who were then constructing the new Waiareka Branch Railway just south of Oamaru. During this time Gatwood had driven a small locomotive named "The Rover" being manufactured by Kincaid, McQueen & Co. of Dunedin, with his regular fireman being John Robinson.

Their former locomotive would suffer a boiler explosion in May 1876 due to a defective steam gauge and safety valve [which had been reported], the latter having been tied down to avoid blowing off steam at low pressure. On one occasion Gatwood was noted as having held the valve down with his hand in order to maintain pressure but it was the locomotive's then Driver, Mr D. Mitchell, who requested his fireman to later add the rope, believing the pressure gauge to be of sufficient warning. The Driver, Dugald Mitchell and the Contractor's clerk, Alexander Taylor, both lost their lives in the subsequent explosion. The fireman, John Orr, survived. 

On the 5th May 1877, and now employed by the New Zealand Government Railways and stationed at Oamaru, Gatwood was the driver on a passenger train from Timaru when the engine, and in darkness and at low speed, struck an object on entering the Oamaru Town Belt. After initially believing it had been a sheep on the line it was later found that a man had been run over and killed. At the inquest (the afore-mentioned) Mr GH Amos, in his capacity as Provincial Locomotive Inspector at Oamaru, stated that, "Gatwood had been driving about two years, but has been connected with the railways in Otago for about five years. He is one of the most careful, sober, and steady men on the line". The jury found the man to have died due to the effects of drunkenness "and that there is no blame attributable to the engine driver." The Coroner believed the man had simply fallen asleep on the line but no object had been seen by the ever attentive Gatwood. This was probably not surprising considering the relatively poor lighting of the colza oil locomotive lamps then in use.

But now a surprising twist. In early March 1882 we find Frederick Gatwood working in the Northern Hotel in Oamaru, being owned by his old D&PCR Co. associate, former Foreman of the Oamaru Locomotive depot, Locomotive Inspector, and friend, the above Mr George Amos. There is no published record of Gatwood having left the Railways service so I feel certain that he did not leave under a cloud. But the Hotel would be sold in March 1883 when Amos was declared bankrupt. Perhaps this is when the still single Gatwood undertook his "mining experience" in New Zealand? There is certainly a five year gap between late 1882 up to 1887.

A personal interest of Gatwood's is noted in August 1882 by his active membership of the Oamaru Jockey Club, this being the last mention of him in public and civil records anywhere in New Zealand. This would however serve as a clue to point towards another quite surprising twist and turn in his very peripatetic life - a move to Australia. I first confirmed this from Australian newspaper references but was then lucky enough to discover a family descendant who was aware of his connection to the D&PCR Co. and has been most helpful in providing further detailed information.

Frederick Gatwood had experience in engine driving, hotel keeping, and in horse-racing (as well as possibly mining experience) and he would, as we shall read, now put all three to very good use in Australia. 

After leaving New Zealand, and around 1886-87, Gatwood is first noted as being employed as an Engine Driver on the Great Western Railway at Dubbo, a major railway centre in New South Wales. This fact also confirms that he had previous locomotive driving experience. Gatwood is then noted as marrying his wife, Mary Ann ("Annie") Burness, on the 22nd February 1888 at Dubbo in NSW. By this date Frederick was working as a commission agent in Brisbane, Queensland, his wife and daughter soon joining him. Their son Ted's birth certificate clearly confirms Frederick as being born in Bristol, England. 

Gatwood then had "further mining and racing experience" in Queensland before selling up and leaving for Sydney on the 30th November 1889 and thence onto Perth to deliver a new "Patent Totalisator" to be used at the West Australia Turf Club New Year race meeting in Perth. It is clear that Frederick and Annie intended to then settle in Western Australia. Frederick would now become the Licensee of the "Imperial Hotel" in York, W.A. before moving to the "Globe Hotel" in Wellington street, Perth and opposite the Railway Station sometime after April 1892. By September 1892 he was carrying out major renovations to the hotel, being celebrated in November with "a grand dinner".

A Busy Wellington Street, Perth, circa late 1890's.
The Globe Hotel appears in the middle distance.
[Source : Battye Library, Perth]

His worst misdemeanour as a Publican appears to have been a charge of selling alcohol on a Sunday, being on the 4th December 1892. Despite a quite brilliant and rather humorous defense being based around what I would term deception and intentional entrapment by four plain clothed Constables, Gatwood was fined £50 He was, however a very successful Publican, turning the business from obscurity to "one of the most popular hostelries in the city". Frederick also continued his active interest in the Turf Club, being Manager of the Totalizator.

We then find that after being taken suddenly ill on the evening of the 31st July 1894, Frederick Gatwood, "the popular Licencee of the Globe Hotel", died of peritonitis aged 42 years. The interment took place on the afternoon of Wednesday the 1st August at the Church of England Cemetery, Perth, the funeral cortege consisting of "sixteen or seventeen vehicles, and quite a number of mourners who followed on foot" leaving from the Globe Hotel in Wellington Street at 3.30 pm. The service, being "very largely attended", was conducted by the Rev. H. Wallis.

A man of some means, included in Frederick Gatwood's estate was a block of six terrace houses valued at £22,500 His widow, who had the handsome gravestone erected to his memory, remarried in June 1897 to a Rockhampton born businessman, Mr George Henriques. Frederick Gatwood was survived by his four children. "Faith", "Ted", "Percy", and "Mollie".


A Close-up of Frederick Gatwood's Gravestone
in the East Perth Cemetery, Western Australia
[Used with kind permission of a family descendant]

"Of genial temperament and generous natured, he endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact."


Copyright : This blog may not be reproduced without my specific written permission and / or that of family descendants. Excerpts may however be quoted for non-commercial and academic use provided this site is acknowledged. Please feel free, however, to publicize this Blog.

Sources :

- Papers Past / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
- Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- "The New Zealand Railways Magazine", 1934
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- "Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway - New Zealand's First 3ft 6in Gauge Line" by TA McGavin, 1973
- "Josephine and Her Friends" by JA Dangerfield, c.1994
- Genealogy.com
- Trove (National Library of Australia)
- With my grateful thanks to a Gatwood family descendant

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin & Port Chalmers Railway Coy., 1872-73 (Part Four)


Marble Gravestone of Thomas & Margaret Graham,
Anderson's Bay Cemetery Dunedin
[Source : Dunedin City Council]

Mr Thomas Graham - Locomotive Fireman 

This Blog is a continuing instalment in my series entitled "The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway". To go to my short history of the D&PCR Co. click HERE. In this blog series we explore these "forgotten" enginemen, their early lives, their engineering and railway backgrounds, their employment with the D&PCR Co., and their subsequent railway and post railway careers and lives. 

Our third biography, having been pieced together from a number of published and online sources, charts the life of Mr Thomas Graham, being initially employed as a Locomotive Fireman for the D&PCR Co. As we shall read, Mr Graham went on to have a long and fulfilling railways career in the south which, along with his then driver Mr John Thomas, included a couple of notable railway firsts. 

Graham appears to have been born around 1843 but I have been unable to locate him in Scottish Baptismal records. And without more accurate information searching census records could prove a costly exercise. His obituary at least confirms that he was born in West Calder, Scotland. On the 7th July 1872 Graham arrived at Port Chalmers on the sailing vessel "William Davie", having left the Clyde on the 6th April 1872 with a complement of 390 passengers, many being assisted immigrants. Oddly his name does not appear on the passenger list so I wonder if perhaps he worked his passage?  

His first work in Scotland had been that of a "plate-layer and Engine Driver" but with which railway company is unknown. The two likely possibilities, based on where he was born, would be the Caledonian Railway Company or the North British Railway Company.

The most likely scenario is that he was directly employed in Otago by the D&PCR Co. upon his arrival based on his previous railways experience and qualifications rather than having been engaged for this work in Scotland. His obituary dated 1919 states that, "his first work in Dunedin was as fireman to Mr Jack Thomas (who, it is understood, is still living), when they worked the first engine running to Port Chalmers. This engine was one of the two double-engined Fairlies...".


The double door firebox on Double-Fairlie
Locomotive "Josephine", 2016
[From my own collection]

The "first engine running to Port Chalmers" is well recorded in published accounts of the D&PCR Co., with John Thomas as driver and Thomas Graham firing when the Double-bogie Fairlie locomotive "Josephine" hauled the first 'public' timetabled train on the line from Dunedin to Port Chalmers on Wednesday the 1st January 1873.

The boiler configuration on the Double-Fairlie's, as can be seen on the preserved 145 year old "Josephine" above, included a centrally mounted firebox with two firing doors and two boilers, each extending to the 'front' and 'rear' of the engine. Thus firing was to the side on the rather cramped footplate on the fireman's side of the boiler, hardly an excessively large area by any means, especially when wielding a shovel of coal on a moving locomotive. I daresay a short handled coal shovel was in order.

And while Thomas Graham may have been fireman on the first public trip on the 1st January 1873 and again on the 16th July 1873, his obituary also states that he "was one of the original engine drivers on the Dunedin-Port Chalmers railway". Knowing that he had previous driving experience in Scotland and therefore the requisite locomotive drivers ticket this statement may still be correct even if he is not specifically noted as a driver on the line in earlier published accounts. It may well be that he was initially only a relieving driver. At any rate, Graham would appear not to have undertaken any driving or firing on the D&PCR Co. line until the afore-mentioned opening trip on the 1st January 1873 and as of July 1873 was still working as John Thomas' regular fireman.

On the 17th July 1873 Thomas Graham is noted as being the fireman ["stoker'] and John Thomas the driver when the first recorded fatality occurred on the line itself. A man named Angus McPherson, being under the influence of alcohol, was found to have been run over and killed. There was confusion at the Coroner's Inquest over Graham either shutting off steam upon approaching the curve where the body lay or not shutting off steam. Graham claimed he did not and the Guard stated under examination that he did as he was prompted to put on the brake in the guard's van. But I can find no evidence of Fireman Thomas Graham being asked for his evidence. Perhaps if it had gone onto a criminal court this would be the case but after driver Thomas was given a good character reference, and with his conflicting evidence simply being put down to "confusion", the jury duly returned a verdict of "Accidental Death".

Graham's obituary does appear to be badly written but states; "On the erection of the second engine, about a year later, Mr Graham was appointed driver." This second engine is referred to as "Josephine" but we know that "Rose" was in fact the second engine to be completed. But the inference is that around twelve months after public services commenced on the line Graham was appointed permanent driver of one of the locomotives, most likely for the "Rose".

Graham is specifically noted as driving the 7.15 pm up train from Port Chalmers on the 14th May 1875 so we can certainly confirm that he was then driving locomotives, the old D&PCR Co line now being run by the Otago Provincial Government Railways.

It was at this time, specifically on the 25th June 1875, that Thomas Graham married his wife Margaret Ward, a "Native of Glasgow", at Knox Presbyterian Church Dunedin .


Otago Provincial Government Railways Double-Ended Fairlie
Locomotive E25 built by "Avonside" England in March 1875
[Source : SA Rockliff Collection]

By now working for the New Zealand Government Railways but still based in Dunedin, Thomas Graham is reported as having been driving the Avonside built 'Fairlie' No. E25 (being originally supplied to the Otago Provincial Government Railways in 1875) on the evening of Saturday the 28th June 1884 and up to 1.25 am the following morning. A woman 'of doubtful repute', being one Emily [sic Ellen] Adams, a native of Ireland, was later found dead on the line but apart from some evidence that the cow catcher had made contact with the deceased "no concussion or shock" had been felt on the engine despite the body obviously having been run over more than once at slow speed and no object had been noted on the line. A verdict of "Accidental death" was given and that the line "be more closely fenced".    

A further inquest into a railway fatality involving Thomas Graham, who was required to give evidence, occurred the following year. On the night of Saturday the 24th October 1885 John Robertson met with his death on a railway journey between Dunedin and Abbotsford, Graham being the locomotive driver. The jury were told that the deceased fell between the carriage and the brake van when the train was still travelling very slowly at about 3 to 4 miles per hour as it approached the platform and was thus run over and killed instantly. The Jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death", adding a rider that "they thought the rule prohibiting people jumping off trains while in motion should be strictly enforced." 

But on Wednesday the 2nd February 1887 Graham would save a life, being that of 18 month old John Gray. As the 11.40 am train approached the Pelichet Bay Station the driver, Thomas Graham, noticed the child lying between the sleepers on the line. Although within only twenty yards of the child he quickly shut off steam and managed to bring the locomotive to a stop with the cow catcher just striking the child on the forehead but only causing a slight wound. A miraculous survival for the child.

Graham continued in the railways service and appears to have remained based in Dunedin where he ended his railways career, retiring on superannuation about 1907. Thomas Graham passed away at his Dunedin residence on the 3rd May 1919 aged 76 years and is buried with his wife Margaret, who died in 1923, in the Anderson's Bay Cemetery. He left his widow, four married daughters and seventeen grandchildren.

At a University Club luncheon given in July 1928, Mr W.F. Sligo (Past Night Foreman of the Dunedin Locomotive Dept.) recalled those early D&PCR Co. days noting the achievements of John Thomas but also that ; "...Mr Thomas' first fireman was a man named Tom [Thomas] Graham." From this statement we can fairly safely assume that the latter was known to his friends on the railway simply as "Tom".

And the last word comes from his obituary; "Old railway men will miss him, for he was an honest, straightforward man, and held in high esteem by all who knew him."


Copyright : This blog may not be reproduced without my specific written permission. Excerpts may however be quoted for non-commercial and academic use provided this site is acknowledged. Please feel free, however, to publicize this Blog.

Sources :

- Papers Past / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
- Archives New Zealand /Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- "The New Zealand Railways Magazine", 1934
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- "Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway - New Zealand's First 3ft 6in Gauge Line" by TA McGavin, 1973
- "Josephine and Her Friends" by JA Dangerfield, c.1994
- Genealogy.com

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin & Port Chalmers Railway Coy., 1872-73 (Part Three)


John Thomas, taken later in life
[Used with kind permission of a family descendant]

Mr John Thomas - Locomotive Driver

This Blog is a continuing instalment in my series entitled "The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway". To go to my short history of the D&PCR Co. click HERE. In this blog series we explore these "forgotten" enginemen, their early lives, their engineering and railway backgrounds, their employment with the D&PCR Co., and their subsequent railway and post railway careers and lives. 

Our second biography, having been pieced together from both published and family sources, charts the life of Mr John Thomas, being initially employed as a Locomotive Driver for the D&PCR Co. As we shall read, Mr Thomas went on to have a long and varied railways career in the south which also included a number of notable firsts in the annals of Otago's early railways. 


Double Fairlie "Josephine" as she appeared in 1925.
The baloon funnels were not original.
Photo by Percy Godber
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

Thomas remained proud of his railways career and the contributions he made but what appears to stand out is his great pride in not only having played an integral part in the establishment and running of the D&PCR Co but also, as we shall read, his personal connection to the 1872 double-bogie Fairlie Locomotive "Josephine", having in fact been preserved within his own lifetime. I can only imagine that it was indeed a proud moment and full of memories when John Thomas viewed the by now preserved, re-painted and highly polished "Josephine" when she formed an integral part of the New Zealand Railways display at the outstandingly popular 1925-26 Dunedin and South Seas Exhibition. 

From published and family records we know that John Thomas was born in Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales in 1844 but by 1851 was living with his family at Penydarren in Merthyr Tydfil, also in Glamorgan. Could the steam engine workings on the railways around Penydarren (also where the world's first steam powered locomotive commenced working in 1804) have influenced a young, impressionable and practical minded boy to seek a career as a locomotive engine driver?

The Thomas family subsequently moved to Newport, Monmouthshire where John would marry his wife Sarah in 1866. Interestingly, his Father-in-law happened also to be a locomotive engine driver. Prior to coming out to New Zealand John Thomas served from an early age with the illustrious "Great Western Railway" and then five years later joined the "London and North Western Railway", no doubt having risen through the ranks from a lowly engine cleaner to fireman to locomotive shunting & goods engine driver to passenger work. 

In 1871 Thomas "took part in the tests of Robert Fairlie's patent locomotives, and upon completion of these he signed articles of agreement (through Robert Fairlie) to proceed to New Zealand with the sister engines, The "Rose"and "Josephine", for Messrs Proudfoot, Oliver and Ulph, owners of the Dunedin-Port Chalmers Railway." I have found a reference that "Fairlie staged a series of very successful demonstrations on the Ffestiniog line [which had been successfully using a Failie locomotive since 1869] in February 1870 to high-powered delegations from the many parts of the world. This sold his invention (and the concept of the narrow gauge railway on which it was based) around the world." So I assume this may be the "tests" referred to, even if the date is a year out.

As previously noted in my short history of the D&PCR Co., Thomas came out to New Zealand from Bristol England on the "Wave Queen" with the locomotives "Josephine" and "Rose", arriving in Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand on the 28th August 1872 after a "fair passage" of 98 days. His wife and two children would follow him out in the "Naomi", arriving on the 24th May 1873 after "a particularly rough and stormy voyage". Bearing this in mind, we cannot discount that Thomas had perhaps intended returning home at the end of his contract or if things did not work out for him but decided to stay and then sent for his family to join him. At any rate it would have been a long thirteen month separation from his wife and family.

The Double-Fairlie Locomotive "Josephine" at Wickliff Terrace, 
Port Chalmers, believed taken during a trial run in Sept. 1872. 
Burton Brothers Photo.
[Source : OESA Collection, 1979]

On the 18th September 1872 we note that "Josephine", and being specifically driven by John Thomas, hauled the first ever goods train on the line, being a shipment of three hogsheads of beer from Burke's Brewery to Port Chalmers. This is in fact also the first recorded goods train on the 3'6" gauge system in New Zealand.

Then on Saturday the 26th October, with George Amos driving and John Thomas placed in charge of the brake van, "Josephine" conveyed, "by invitation of the contractors" several members of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives, including promoters Messrs David & George Proudfoot & the General Manager Mr Richard Oliver, from Port Chalmers on the partially ballasted line through to Dunedin in one of the first class carriages.

The No 2 locomotive "Josephine", with John Thomas now driving and Thomas Graham as his fireman, would forever hold the honour of hauling the first public rostered train on the line from Dunedin to Port Chalmers on Wednesday the 1st January 1873. This event was always a matter of great pride to Mr Thomas and continues to be so to his descendants today.

John Thomas would continue to be be employed by the Otago Provincial Government Railway after the purchase of the D&PCR Co. on the 10th April 1873.

On the 17th July 1873 Thomas was driving the last passenger train of the day when a "black object" was run over on the line about a quarter of a mile south of Burkes Brewery on the line between Dunedin and Port Chalmers. This was found to be one Angus McPherson, now deceased. His fireman is again noted as Thomas Graham. Conflicting evidence given at the inquest by Thomas and by the Guard, Frederick Farrow, as to whether steam had been shut off approaching the scene could easily, according to the Coroner, have implicated Thomas. But, in the end, and after a character reference was given, Thomas' conflicting evidence was simply put down to "confusion".

It was the Manager of the line, Mr Daniel Rolfe, who acquainted the jury with what he knew of Mr Thomas in the way of a supporting character reference; "He had known him as engine-driver in the service ever since the line was opened. He was a remarkably sober, steady, and industrious man. He had not been very long from Home [ie Britain]...". Based on the fact that McPherson has been "the worse for liquor at the time" the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death". 

John Thomas remained an Otago based locomotive driver for the rest of his long career. In 1876 the Otago Provincial Government Railways would be taken over by the Central Government under the Public Works Dept. before becoming part of the Government owned "New Zealand Railways" (or "NZR") in 1880.

Additionally, "As soon as the Main North and South lines and Central Otago lines were completed, Mr Thomas had charge of the locomotives for the opening runs". Interestingly, this would again place him on the footplate of "Josephine" for her second claim to fame (or humiliation whichever way you look at it) when she met up with the American built and "flashy" Rogers K88 "Washington" at Oamaru to join the first through train upon the opening of the Main South Line to Dunedin on the 6th Sept. 1878 [Link HERE]. "Josephine's" early failure on the return to Dunedin was, as explained, not really of her making even if her tractive effort was slightly higher than that of the "K".  

Thomas, according to his obituary, went on to have "a particularly successful career of continuous footplate service with many classes of express engines, eventually retiring on superannuation in 1907". Furthermore he was noted as being "a particularly unobtrusive and retiring man, well liked by all who knew him, and was a great favourite with the locomotive staff and the officers of the several departments". The New Zealand Railways Magazine, who refers to him as "Jack Thomas", described him "as everyone's old friend".

At a University Club luncheon given in July 1928, Mr W.F. Sligo (Past Night Foreman of the Dunedin Locomotive Dept.) noted that John Thomas, "was a particularly successful driver, and was resourceful, cool, punctual, and thoroughly reliable. He must have possessed all these qualifications to have gone on for 50 years and to have left the record he had left as a driver. He had one collision, and on one occasion he lost a fireman [Ebenezer Brown] near the Goodwood bridge [on the 14th Feb 1885].... Mr Thomas' first fireman was a man named Tom [Thomas] Graham." 


Gravestone of John & Sarah Thomas & Family
in the Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.
Note that "NZR" is placed alongside his name.
[Source : Dunedin City Council]

John and Sarah resided in Mornington in Dunedin with John continuing to reside here after Sarah's death in January 1912. John ("Jack") Thomas died at the home of his son in St. Kilda, Dunedin on the 28th July 1928 and is buried with his wife Sarah in the Southern Cemetery. Both the obituary for his fireman Thomas Graham, who died in 1919, and the above Mr Sligo when speaking in 1928 quote his name as "Jack Thomas" so it would appear that he was always known on the railways and to his close friends as "Jack" rather than "John" which is the diminutive and common form of the latter name. Thomas was survived by four sons and one daughter, all being married. A son died in 1878 aged seven years.

I find it rather sad that from being Josephine's first driver and personally taking part in and witnessing so many momentous events in the formative history of Otago's early railways that his name has now all but been forgotten. While the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum have his photo, being clearly labelled as Josephine's first driver, this early connection is not publicly acknowledged.


Copyright : This blog may not be reproduced without my specific written permission and / or that of family descendants. Excerpts may however be quoted for non-commercial and academic use provided this site is acknowledged. Please feel free, however, to publicize this Blog.

Sources :

- Papers Past / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
- Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- "The New Zealand Railways Magazine", 1934
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- "Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway - New Zealand's First 3ft 6in Gauge Line" by TA McGavin, 1973 (From my own collection)
- "Josephine and Her Friends" by JA Dangerfield, c.1994
- Genealogy.com
- Auckland War Memorial Museum / Tamaki Paenga Hira
- With grateful thanks to a Thomas family descendant for their very helpful assistance

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...