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    MY ANCESTORS IN INDIA

(1808-1947)

 


 

MY FATHER'S SIDE

 

 

 

My great-great-grandfather George Roan DUNCAN I (c.1799 -1889)(left) was born in Ireland. He went out to India from Ireland in 1817 on the ship Herefordshire to serve in the Madras European Regiment of the Honourable East India Company's Army, rising through the ranks to become an Honorary Captain. He married three times and had at least eleven children between 1823 and 1862. He died in Kamthi (Kamptee), near Nagpur (now in Maharashtra State) aged about 90.

 

 

His second wife, my great-great-grandmother, was a widow, Mary LEECH (c.1821 -1855). They married at Kamthi, and had eight children, the seventh of whom was my great-grandfather George Roan DUNCAN II (1853-1901)(see below).

My 4th great-grandfather Thomas PRITCHARD (1780-1818) was the first to go to India - the 1st generation. He was from Ireland too, as was his wife Catherine DOYLE (c.1785-1824), and their baby daughter Mary PRITCHARD. They sailed for India on the ship Northampton and arrived in Madras on 17 February 1808. Thomas had enlisted as a Private in the Madras Artillery of the HEIC Army, and became a Cantonment Writer before he died at 38. 

Mary PRITCHARD (1806-1829), my 3rd great-grandmother, the 2nd generation to live in India, married when she was 16, in 1822, at St Andrew's Church, Madras, to my 3rd great-grandfather Hugh MACKENZIE (c.1801-1832). He had sailed to India from Scotland in 1818 as a Private in the HEIC Army, and was eventually promoted to Conductor of Ordnance (Warrant Officer), Madras European Regiment. The couple had five children, only one of whom survived infancy, my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary MACKENZIE (1828-1860), who was born in Bangalore (now in Karnataka State) - the 3rd generation to live in India.

 

Mary MACKENZIE married when she was 18, at Jalna (Jaulnah), now in Maharashtra State, in 1847, my 2nd great-grandfather, David DINWIDDIE (1818-1883)(right), a Scot, born in Penpont, Dumfries-shire. He had enlisted in 1841 as a Private in the Madras Horse Artillery. He rose through the ranks to become an Honorary Captain, serving in campaigns in China and Burma, and in the Indian Mutiny. His wife died in Burma, leaving him with a daughter, Mary Jane (see below) and three surviving sons. 

 

 

He married again, to a widow, Emily DE LA HOYDE (née HONEY)(1835-1879), and they had six children, none of whom survived infancy. David wrote a fascinating memoir about his early life and times in India, and left behind two 'pedigrees' and a collection of copies of letters he wrote to his family in Scotland.                                                   

                                                                                                          

 

 

David and Mary Dinwiddie's only surviving  daughter was my great-grandmother Mary Jane DINWIDDIE (1848-1918)(left), known as 'Jane'. She was born at Jalna (now in Maharashtra State) and spent all her life in India, except for five years in Burma when she was a child. She survived an attack of smallpox in 1871. She was the 4th generation to live in India.

 

 

Mary Jane DINWIDDIE married, in 1874 at Kamthi, near Nagpur,  my great-grandfather George Roan DUNCAN II (1853 -1901)(right). He was born in Kamthi, and worked in the Public Works Department (PWD) in Bengal, eventually becoming a Superintendent in the PWD Secretariat. George and Jane DUNCAN had seven children. The eldest son was my grandfather (below). He was only 47 when he died in Nagpur. The couple had seven children, of whom two died in infancy. The 2nd child and eldest son was my grandfather (below).

                                                                                                                                 

 

The eldest son of George Roan DUNCAN II and Mary Jane DINWIDDIE was my grandfather, baptised George Houston DUNCAN (1879-1961), but known throughout his adult life as 'Houston'. He was born in Kamthi, near Nagpur, the 5th generation to live in India. He worked for the Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) and was awarded an OBE in 1919. In 1923 he went to Nyasaland (now Malawi) as General Manager of Nyasaland Railways, retiring in 1936, and serving on the country's Legislative Council.  

Houston Duncan married my paternal grandmother Dulcie Cherry McKENNIE (1885-1963) in Bilaspur (N. of Raipur in Madhya Pradesh State) in 1905. She was born in Bankipore, near Patna, Bihar, and was an orphan at the time of her marriage. Her mother died when she was 13, and she looked after her father and younger sister. Her father died a few months before her marriage. She went to Nyasaland with her husband, and was buried with him, near Zomba. 

Houston and Dulcie Duncan had an only son, my father Richard Houston Roan DUNCAN (1906-1963), born in Kharagpur, W. Bengal, the 6th generation to live in India. He was educated in India and Cambridge University, and worked for the BNR. During the 2nd World War he was a Major in the 8th Royal Garwhal Rifles, serving in India, Burma, and on a Force 136 expedition to the Japanese occupied Andaman Islands. He took early retirement in 1947, and thereafter farmed in Nyasaland (Malawi). I am his elder son, Brian Houston Geoffrey DUNCAN, born in Kharagpur, W. Bengal, in 1934, the 7th generation to live in India, and the 6th generation born there. I was educated at Breeks Memorial School, Udagamandalam (Ootacamund), and the Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School, Lovedale, before leaving India when I was 12. Although I always wanted to go back, only a short visit in 1980 was possible. When I started semi-retirement I suddenly and luckily had opportunities to work in India on rural development aid projects, and have been there five times in 1999-2001 (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala). 

 

My daughter Caroline, who has helped me with research, visited India with me in 1980, becoming the 8th generation to have been to India. I hope that her sons, my grandsons, will go there one day, and continue our family's long association with India.

 

My paternal grandmother, Dulcie McKENNIE (1885-1963), was the daughter of Richard Cherry McKENNIE (1841-1905), my great-grandfather. He was born in Madras and baptised in St George's Cathedral. He trained as a civil engineer in Dublin, and returned to India in 1861, where he worked in the Public Works Department, first in the Madras Government, and from 1877 in Bengal. 

 

He married a Lillyan Violet...... (? -1898)(right), my great-grandmother. She is a major mystery in my family history. All that we know for certain is that she was the mother of three children in 1883-1888, including my grandmother, and that she died in Darjeeling in 1898. I've searched for her family name for over twenty years without success. There are a few legends about her - she was raised by an uncle in London; she eloped and was 'cut off' by her family; and she was related to the Earls of Jersey.

 

 

 

Richard McKennie's father was John Findlay(?) McKENNIE (1804-1865)(left), my great-great-grandfather. He was born in Cheriton, Kent, England and at some time 'went to sea'. We know he came out to India in about 1832 and worked in the Marine Department of the Madras Government, as Master Attendant (Harbour Master), Coroner and Sheriff. He died in Madras, leaving seven children who had reached adulthood.

 

 

 

John McKENNIE married in St George's Church, Madras, in 1833, Ellen O'Farrell FREND (1815-1858)(right), my great-great-grandmother. She was baptised in Dovercourt, now a suburb of the port of Harwich, Essex. In family legend she arrived in Madras shortly after her father died (see below), and was told the sad news by the young John McKennie - they were married a few months later.

 

 

Ellen was the eldest child of my 3rd great-grandfather, Albert FREND (1784-1833), an officer in the 55th Regiment of Her Majesty’s Army. He was born at Bridestream House, Kilcock, co.Kildare, Ireland. He enlisted in 1803, served in the Mediterranean (1805-08), and in the Dutch campaign under Sir Thomas Graham, when he was wounded at Bergen-op-Zoom (1814). He married Ellen LAST in Shrewsbury, England in 1820, when she was already bearing his fourth child.. He served in South Africa in 1821-30, moving to India with the 55th in 1830. He died at Bellary, now in Karnataka State, in 1833. I have not yet found whether Ellen re-married, or when she died.

 


 

MY MOTHER'S SIDE

My maternal grandfather was Sir Geoffrey Thomas Hirst BRACKEN (1879-1951), KCIE, CSI. He was a scholar of Oriel College, Oxford, and joined the Indian Civil Service in 1903. He served in the Madras Government in what are now Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh States. He was Assistant Collector (Tirunelveli [Tinivelly], Sattur, Tuticorin, Tiruchchirappalli [Trichinopoly], Thanjavur [Tanjore], and Nagappattinum [Negapatam]); Sub-Collector (Chengalpattu [Chingleput], Madras, Kakinada [Cocanada]), and Collector (Ganjam, E.Godaveri, and Waltair/Visakhapatnam [Vizagapatam]). He was Chief Secretary to the Government of Madras (1931-1938), and Member of the Executive Council from 1935 to1938, when he retired. None of his antecedants worked in India, as far as I know.

Geoffrey BRACKEN married my maternal grandmother, Beatrice Hastings FARRINGTON (1878-1964) at Tiruchchirappalli (Trichinopoly), in 1907. She was born in Coonoor, in the Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu, the daughter of Colonel Malcolm Charles FARRINGTON (1835-1925), CB, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

 

 

Malcolm FARRINGTON (right), my great-grandfather, was born in Muttra, India. He served with his regiment in India in 1857-1862, 1865-1867, 1872-1883, and 1884-1889. He married (1872)  Florence Agnes ASTELL (1849-1938)(right) in England; they had four children, the first three born in India. Florence died, aged 89, in Udagamandalam (Ootacamund), in the Nilgiri Hills. 

 

 

 

Florence ASTELL was the eldest daughter of Major-General Charles Edward ASTELL (1818-1901), my great-great-grandfather. He was born and educated in England, then served in the 15th Regiment of Foot, and for a time was ADC to Sir Colin Campbell and Lord Hardinge. His father, my 3rd great-grandfather, was William Thornton ASTELL (1774-1847), a Director of the East India Company for 47 years, and Chairman four times. 

Malcolm FARRINGTON's father was Major-General John James FARRINGTON (1790-1858), my 2nd great-grandfather. He was born in London, enlisted in the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1804, and arrived in India in 1808 to join the Bengal Horse Artillery. His campaigns included Java (1811), Jogjakarta (1812), the Celebes (1816), the 3rd Mahratta War, and the Siege of Bhurtpore. He was Acting Commandant, Bengal Artillery, when he retired to England in 1851.

John James FARRINGTON married, in Agra in 1820, my 2nd great-grandmother, Jane MacLEOD (c.1801-1876). Her elder sister, Flora Loudoun MacLEOD (c.1800- ?) had married in Agra in 1817. According to family legend the girls went out to India to join their cousin, Flora MURE-CAMPBELL (1780-1840), Countess of Loudoun. These girls were all granddaughters of John MacLEOD (c.1714-1786), 11th Chief of the MacLeods of Raasay, my 4th great- grandfather. Flora MURE-CAMPBELL had married (1804) Francis RAWDON-HASTINGS (1754-1826), Earl of Moira, who arrived in India in 1813 as Governor-General, was created Marquess of Hastings in 1817, and left India in 1823. 


 

For an index of family members and their relationships
go to INDEX

For details of sources and strategy for my research
go to PREFACE

 

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