My Christmas present to myself, a second hand copy of a book "Stories from the Karkloof Hills" by Charles Scott-Shaw lays bare in black & white the story of this and other remarkable emigrant families that had the foresight and guts to carve out a new life in the beautiful but challenging environment of the Karkloof, Natal in the 1850's.
I could write at length of my findings contained within this lovely book, but for the sake of practicality I will limit this post to references to family members. As many of my relatives who read this post will know, our line is directly descended from Christian Trotter of Kerchesters, but what many may not know is that George Trotter, the subject of this post, had a mother called Christian, who was also the daughter of a Christian Trotter (aunt of our Christian Trotter) of Kerchesters & her husband Henry Richardson. George's parents John Trotter & Christian Richardson were therefore first cousins. George was thus first cousin to my 2x great grandfather John Smith, the progenitor of the Smith family of Longhoughton.
The importance of wills in research
I turned my focus to his wife's family Grace or 'Grizzel' Young daughter of Richard Young brewer in Cannongate Edinburgh. Again, although the family is very interesting Grace's siblings remained on the whole unmarried. Grace is named in her father's will along with a sister I had failed to pick up from the census - Jane. George Trotter is also mentioned in the left margin so I knew I was on the right track.
A search for the will of Jane and her other unmarried sisters threw up some enlightening new evidence. Written in 1886 it is pretty standard stuff leaving everything to each other etc., then one line caught my eye with reference to sister Margaret Ann Young residing in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa. What on earth is a single woman doing in Natal in 1886?
The 'Byrne Settlers' & The Unicorn
"Although the ship sailed from Liverpool on 13 June 1850, most of the emigrants were from Scotland and from one neighbourhood, a fact noted by a reporter of the 'Cape Town Mail' when the ship reached the Cape in August 1850. She carried 257 passengers and was too big (946 tons) to be conveyed across the Bar at Durban.
The little "Sarah Bell" brought off her cargo and the surf-boats ferried her passengers ashore. It was from these people that Byrne extracted an unexpected levy of two shillings and sixpence for first class passengers and one and sixpence for the steerage before the ship sailed.
One passenger, Archibald Smith, must have got a shock as Byrne and his clerks scrambled aboard, for he had just embezzled a sum of money from his Liverpool employer and was travelling under a false name.
James Arbuthnot, his wife and family came by the ship. Their family history states that the "Unicorn" was well run and well provisioned. The cabin passengers organized patrols throughout the ship and maintained good order. The first Presbyterian minister to Natal, the Rev William Campbell, came by this ship to seek a more benign climate than that of his parish in Alexandria, Dunbdrtonshire, Scotland. His wife Maria, aged 35, and his five children accompanied him. George Lamond, pioneer sugar planter with Edmund Morewood at Compensation, also came.
Forty-eight year-old George Trotter, his wife Grace,and a family of three good-looking teenage daughters and a son of 11 were passengers. Gabriel Eaglestone, a stonemason and sculptor, later to commit suicide in Pietermaritzburg, was another emigrant to come with his wife and three children.
Another family which became prominent and who arrived on the "Unicorn" was Duncan and Margaret McKenzie, an Argyllshire man, who abandoned his plot of 40 acres and bought a timber farm near Nottingham Road. Sir Duncan McKenzie was one of his sons. In 1906 he (the son) was commander in chief of the Natal forces who suppressed a Zulu rebellion under Chief Bhambata"
We can also ascertain from this account that two of George & Grace's children must have died prior to the date of departure. The surviving offspring, all baptised at Carriden, Scotland are, Isabella Cramond Trotter b. 1831, Christian aka Christina Trotter b. 1833, Margaret Ann Trotter b. 1836 & John Trotter b. 1838.
J C Byrne & Co - opportunist and bounder
His next enterpise, a foray into the world of stocks & shares also proved unsuccesful, but the stock market crash proved the inspiration for his next business venture - the resultant mass emigration from the UK to the colonies. During the period 1846 to 1851 over 1.3 million people left the UK for foreign shores and Byrne wanted his slice of the action and Natal was his destination of choice.
His first ship of 20 departed in January 1849 and by the time the fifth ship had docked at Port Natal there was already disgruntled murmurings amongst the earlier emigrants. In a nutshell it was the value of the land both monetary and productivity, that proved the major undoing of Byrne's scheme and by early September 1850, before the 'Unicorn' had docked at Durban, notices regarding the bankruptcy of J C Byrne & Co was appearing in the British newspapers.
The information detailed above is abridged in the extreme. To read a fuller account of the life & times of Joseph Charles Byrne I would encourage you to read the excellent work of Dr Shelagh O'Byrne-Spencer whose life's work is dedicated to the history of these early settlers http://shelaghspencer.com/josephbyrne/
The family of George & Grace
"In deeply moving and very personal language he writes of his feelings during courtship, the encouragement of Miss Young, Mrs Trotter's sister, the simple wedding performed by Dean Green at Woodside, and the complete sense of harmony with nature and ecstasy as he drove off in his buggy with his lovely bride beside him to spend autumn days together at Singleton. His grief which was too deep and personal to describe ends his diary a few months later when Christian was tragically drowned".
In an equally sensitive passage he describes her headstone and final resting place:-
"Her name is still clearly marked on a tombstone, standing between two rushing streams at the foot of the M'Bona and looking wistfully down the Karkloof valley. It is leaning over at an angle, perhaps symbolic, of the forgotten glory of the struggle of those early settlers. Fate had decreed that she was not to live to see her family's descendants develop and populate this land of promise. Her husband and sisters were later to found the families who have played such an important role in the history of Midland Natal."
Charles Barter married again in 1854, Emma Butler, and with private means was able to indulge in his love of horses and the chase. He was the first to import thoroughbred horses to the region, and not just any old horse but the famous stallion 'Mortimer' winner of the Ascot Stakes.
He imported hounds too, and such was his passion for hunting he named his farms 'The Start', 'The Chase', 'The Check' and 'The Finish' A talented horseman he was the natural choice to command the Karkloof Carbineers & 1873 led his troops into the unknown territory of the "Giants's Castle Pass" against overwhelming odds. He died at the 'The Finish' in 1904, aged 84 years.
Author Charles Scott-Shaw from his book "Stories from the Karkloof Hills" has this to say about this indomitable gentleman...
"His introduction of thoroughbred horse breeding, game preservation, and his contribution to social and military life of the Karkloof will always mark him as one of her greatest sons"
Isabella Cramond and the "Bishop"
However this was not to last, and for reasons that remain a mystery he was ceremoniously "defrocked", a matter to which his family allegedly referred to with "pride and admiration". Whatever the cause William set out for a new life in Natal and was granted land in the Karkloof which he named 'Cramond'. A larger than life character he was affectionately nicknamed the "Bishop", who liked to make his presence felt on his trips to Maritzburg, often 'painting the town red'. His friend the Dean Green being on hand to get him home to bed and confiscating his boots to prevent further merry-making!
"The descendants of "Bishop" William Mackenzie and Isabella Trotter have multiplied to the fifth generation. Isabella's brother John inherited Yarrow and his son George continued farming after him, while his sister married Walter "Wattie" Shaw, whose father settled in the Karkloof at the same time as old George Trotter."
Mary Isabel & "Wattie" Shaw
Wattie was the eldest of four boys born in quick succession from 1871 to 1876 to be followed by two girls Caroline & Muriel in 1879 & 1881 respectively. Scott-Shaw tells us that they were "brought up in the best Victorian tradition, strict paternal rule." The brothers and their cousins all attended Hilton College where they excelled on the sports field, were members of the school rugby, cricket and rifle team. The youngest of the brothers, Campbell Gower Shaw was an exceptional sportsman and went on to represent Natal at rugby.
"We young people, especially during weekends, used to go visiting at the various homes - 'Holbeck' where William Shaw lived, 'Yarrow' John Trotter's, 'Talavera' Eustace Shaw's, 'The Hutch' where Bunnie Burdon lived and ran that part of John Trotter's large estate and other places. Wattie spent most of his spare time at 'Yarrow' and also during the day supervising the erection of his home 'Colbourne'.........
Scott-Shaw tells us "It was generally agreed among British military officers that the Shaw brothers team would have beaten any club in the world at that time. They conquered visiting teams from India with championship honours.....They beat the 7th Hussars in the Beresford Cup and three months later the 7th Hussars won the British Army Polo Championship in England"
And all of this on colonial poines bred and trained by themselves. Such was the fame of the four Shaw brothers that a poem was written in their honour
Here, the great team of polo players rose:
Naught but the bush could raise such men as these-
The Shaws who on their poies brought
The skill of British Regiments to naught.
Four brothers never beaten. They were the sons
Of a Byrne's settler, these unvanquished ones
The military-men would turn out with their beautifully groomed expensive ponies and the team from the bush country, with their wiry, nippy little mounts, would defeat them time and time again. Perfect combination and perfect understanding of each other's play used to win the day for the famous four."
Reading Charles Scott-Shaw's book has been an enlightening experience and I hope you don't feel I have over glamorised my interpretation. As well as the fun and success, there was great hardship, suffering and loss, as I suppose there is, and always has been throughout the world. I have merely extracted a few of the high moments & events. I am so full of admiration of the foresight and fortitude of all of those settlers who stuck it out and made a go of it!