Three Christians & A Reverend, Cake & Manure, Toys!, The need for Speed, "Nessie" & The Crusader
As a follow-up to last months article about the Trotter family & descendants in Natal, I thought it may be of interest to look at what some of George's cousins, and their respective families were up to back here in the UK. As the given name Christian features regularly across the generations, I thought it fitting to start with Christian Smith, first cousin to the pioneering Byrne Settler, George Trotter, and sister to my 2x great Grandfather John Smith. So this months blog will centre around Christian and the fascinating family she married into and their descendants and relatives
Three Christians & A Reverend
Christian Smith was born on the 14th September 1814 at Norham to parents George Smith and Christian Trotter. In 1832 she was married at Norham to William Wilson JP and farmer at Gateside, Linlithgow, West Lothian.
Together Christian and William had six children, five daughters, including a set of twins and one son. Three predeceased Christian, including their only son William John, in 1872 aged just 28 years old and unmarried. Of the three remaining girls only one would marry. The eldest, Christian Marion born at Gateside in 1834 married Edinburgh surgeon, David Greig. (It is actually quite alarming how often David Greig appears as the doctor on Trotter death certificates!!!)
Christian Wilson & David Greig had four children, three boys and a girl. Again only one marriage and again it was daughter Christian Anne. She was born in 1864 and married the Reverend Alexander Still on 5 February 1891 at West Coates Parish Church, Edinburgh. She was widowed a year later when her husband the Rev Alexander died at Torrens Island in May 1892. She didn't re-marry & died childless at 38 Coates Gardens, Edinburgh in August 1951. A point of note is that the Rev Alexander's given residence at the time of his death was India. One of his wife's brothers Lt Col Edward David Wilson Greig was a surgeon in Indian Army Medical Service.
From evidence presented I would be seriously thinking twice before engaging a doctor with the surname of Greig!
So endeth the line of Christian Wilson, daughter of Christian Trotter & George Smith. However, the will of her youngest daughter Joanna Wilson in 1917 bequeaths oil paintings, portraits of the Wilson sisters and in particular a full length portrait of one of the twins Georgina, to members of the Greig family. She also made a bequest to her cousin George Aynsley-Smith of £300. The paintings will be out there somewhere, the problem will be tracing them! It may well be the case that they have passed to other members of the Greig family.
The monument above is a researchers dream, the earliest reference in 1675. If anyone is interested in a transcript and explanation of the relationships of the people it is dedicated to, please contact me and I will gladly pass on all information I have.
Cake & Manure
Moving sideways a bit to Christian Smith's nephews William & Peter Thomson, sons of her sister in law Marion Murray Wilson & her husband Peter Thomson William & Peter were born at Hangingside Farm, Linlithgow in 1833 and 1834 respectively. Both were to be involved in the business of Tod Thomson & Co Ltd, 19 Dock Street, Leith, Edinburgh.
They made oilcake for animal feed & sold manure. In 1869 the company was in dire straits but by the time of William Thomson's death in 1899 the company was flourishing, and he was able to leave his three daughters well provided for.
Peter, his brother had vanished after the 1851 census and again it was his 'will' that showed the way, with a bequest of a diamond ring to a solicitor in Wales. Sure enough Peter appears on the 1861, 71 & 81 census as a Land Agent in Denbighshire. In 1891 he is back in Scotland and staying at the 'Balmoral' hotel in Edinburgh his occupation is now listed as Corn Merchant, most probably for Tod, Thomson & Co Ltd.
In 1894 business must have been booming as Peter purchased Binny House and Estate from George Falconer Stewart for circa £15,000. Among the farms included on the Binny Estate was Oatridge, which had previously been tenanted by another branch of the Trotter family. John Trotter and his wife Sarah Smith, cousins to both Christian Smith & George Trotter of Natal! What a tangled web.
John Trotter and Sarah Smith died childless. From the records it would appear that John had met with an accident at some time, as he is described on his death certificate in 1869 as a 'paraplegic for many years'. The farm was being run by his nephew, another George Trotter! Following John's death Sarah Smith returned to her family in Norham, in Northumberland where she died in March 1888 aged 94.
Generous to a fault he left bequests to his friends and staff as well as his only surviving sister, three nieces - the daughters of his brother William and his nephew William Agnew Ralston. The estate of Binny was held in Trust and farmed by William Ralston until ill health brought about the sale in 1927. William died the following year.
The estate has since had some illustrious owners including Basil Gerritsen Ivory & Meyer Oppenheim. Binny House is now a 'Sue Ryder' nursing home.
The grand-daughter of William Thomson and great niece of Peter was Nora Marjorie Cobb, born in 1899 to parents Edward Rhodes Cobb & Marion Murray Thomson.
Educated at Roedean & Somerville College, Oxford, Marjorie married Cyril Paul Abbatt in December 1930. Initially intending to set up a school, the couple were drawn into the world of toys after an extended trip throughout Europe, studying the more advanced European educational methods used in kindergarten.
The couple saw the potential for play as an educational medium, and set about designing toys for younger children to encourage problem solving. Initially the Abbatts saw this as a way of raising the capital required to set up their school, but the success of their first exhibition in the summer of 1932 set them on a different path.
In September of the same year 'Paul and Marjorie Abbatt Ltd' was registered as a company "to carry on the business of designers, manufacturers and retailers of toys, furniture and educational materials etc-" This mail order business was so successful that by 1933 they had substantially expanded their enterprise and acquired a factory, offices and stock room in Tottenham Court Road. In 1937 they opened their first shop at 94 Wimpole Street, London.
Shortly after the launch of the famous Abbatt climbing frame in 1969, Paul fell ill and died in 1971. Marjorie continued to run the businesses, until 1973 when it was sold to the Educational Supply Association. She was interviewed by the BBC in 1973 and her profile was featured in the Times Educational Supplement. Such was the regard for the couple and their achievements an exhibition in was held in their honour a the Victoria & Albert Museum, London in 1989. Marjorie died at her home in Oxford on 10th November 1991.
The Need For Speed, "Nessie" and The Crusader
Marjorie had a cousin who played with toys of a quite different nature! Obsessed by speed his name was John Rhodes Cobb and he was for many years, quite literally the fastest man on earth!
Born on the 2nd December 1899 in Surrey near the Brooklands race track, and educated at Eton and Cambridge. Described as a "bear of a man" his sheer size dictated he drove large cars from the outset. John's occupation as a director of a firm of fur brokers funded his passion for speed.
In 1935 he set the lap record at Brooklands at an average speed of 143.44 mph.
His first land speed record came in 1938 at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. Driving a 'Railton Special' he achieved a speed of 350.2 mph, his second record came in 1939 when achieved a speed 367.91 mph. This was to remain unbroken until he himself raised the record for a third time to a speed of 394.19 mph. This record would remain intact until 1964 when it was raised to 403.10 mph by Donald Campbell in the iconic 'Bluebird'.
His land speed record intact, in 1952 John had his eye on another prize. He set about regaining the water speed record for Britain. A speed of 178.49 had been achieved that July by American Stanley Sayers.
In September 1952 the destination was Loch Ness, his boat was the 'Crusader'!
What actually caused the ripple on the surface of Loch Ness has never been fully explained and there remains a faction that firmly believe it was caused by that most elusive of creatures, "Nessie" herself.
Whatever the cause may have been, I think this article clearly demonstrates the discoveries that can be made whilst doing your own research by just going sideways a little.