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Adelaide Clunies-Ross, the Cocos Islands and Joshua Slocum the first person to sail solo around the world

The Cocos Keeling Islands -' extraordinary rings of land which rise out of the ocean' (Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle), are situated in the Indian Ocean about 700 miles S.W. from Sumatra and 1200 miles from Singapore.

'If there is a paradise on this earth, it is the Cocos Islands."    
Captain Joshua Slocum, 1897.

Located close to one of the inner pathways in Ladywell cemetery is the stunted remnant of a headstone inscribed with the name, Adelaide Clunies-Ross ( d.1924) Adelaide's (she was sometimes known as Addie) final resting place has featured in recent guided cemetery walks as her unusual background, growing up on the idyllic Cocos( Keeling) Islands in the Indian ocean, provides a fascinating link to two significant historical events which are referenced below. Although in 1836, HMS Beagle under Captain Robert Fitzroy, arrived to take soundings to establish the profile of the atoll as part of the survey expedition of the Beagle.

The Cocos islands were discovered in 1609 by the British sea captain William Keeling. One of the first settlers was John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish merchant and much of the island's current population is descended from the Malay workers he brought in to work his copra plantation. The Clunies-Ross family ruled the islands as a' benevolent' private fiefdom for almost 150 years before the British annexed the islands in 1857, although the family retained complete control of the Island's institutions, a fact which was recognized by a royal grant in 1886. With some governmental oversight via Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and later Singapore before the territory was transferred to Australia in 1955.*

Photograph of Adelaide (undated) kindly provided by family historian Linda Hargreaves.

Adelaide, who was of mixed heritage, was born to George and his wife, Inin Malarat at Cocos in 1870. She was the second child of 13 and the eldest daughter. Being particularly close to her aunt Eliza, George's sister, she accompanied her for an extended visit to England, Scotland and Guernsey shortly after her 2nd birthday. In 1885 she was back in England and appears to have remained here, with frequent visits to Europe, including recuperative trips to Rapallo, on the Italian Riviera. Adelaide lived mostly in the East Grinstead area of West Sussex, before moving to London in the 1920's. During the Great War she provided support for Canadian soldiers encamped nearby. Adelaide never married and died aged 54 years in 1924. She was interred in Ladywell cemetery on the 8th October, 1924. Her aunt Eliza (d.1915), is also buried here..

Alfred Clunies-Ross (1851– 903) Adelaide's uncle, was a rugby union international who represented Scotland in the first international rugby match in 1871. He was the first non-white rugby union international player.

Captain Joshua Slocum, one of the 19th Century's most successful sea captains salvaged a 100 year old rotting oyster boat, he named 'Spray' and decided to use it to become the first person ever to sail around the world - alone. On April 24, 1895, at the age of 51, he departed Boston in his tiny sloop Spray and sailed around the world single-handed, a passage of 46,000 miles, returning to Newport, Rhode Island on June 27, 1898.

In 1897 he reached the Cocos Islands, where he was greeted by George Ross (Adelaide's father) noting that 'Though the winds and seas were fairly idyllic on our way to the Cocos Keeling Islands, our arrival wasn't as pretty. The wind screamed, the sea was grey and crashed around us and the rain poured down in torrents." In 1909 Joshua Slocum set sail from New England in the Spray to spend the winter in Grand Cayman and was lost at sea. He was assumed to have been the victim of a collision; he and the Spray were never found, and in 1924 he was declared legally dead.

Joshua Slocum on his "Spray". the first man to sail single-handedly around the world.He was a Nova Scotian-born naturalized American seaman, adventurer and a noted writer. His classic tale "Sailing alone around the world with the spray" was published in 1900. ( source; Sailing Spirit)


The Royal Australian Navy's first victory at sea - HMAS Sydney's destruction of the German cruiser SMS Emden on November 9, 1914. The Sydney was in a convoy escorting 29,000 Australian troops to Europe when it encountered the feared light cruiser Emden, which was intent on destroying the telegraph station on the Cocos Islands. The Emden was much feared by the allies and had been wreaking havoc on trading ships in south-east Asia since the outbreak of war. The battle was a huge victory for the Royal Australian Navy, which was then less than three years old; 136 Germans and four Australian sailors died in the battle.

In a spectacular footnote to the battle, around 50 German sailors, including their commander, Lieutenant Hellmuth von Mücke who had been stranded on the nearby Direction Island, commandeered the schooner Ayesha, owned by the Clunies-Ross family, to make their getaway. They embarked on what can only be described as a one of the most remarkable naval odyssey's of all time, sailing via the Red Sea, their 5,000-mile adventure ending in freedom in Constantinople in 1915!.

Wreck of the Emden, some time after the battle of 1914, HMAS Sydney's defeat of the infamous German raider SMS Emden during Australia's first naval battle of Cocos in World War I.

(source : Allan C. Green 1878 - 1954 - State Library of Victoria)

 Below is You Tube video on the impressive Clunies-Ross family dynasty. 

Inline image

* For readers interested in finding out more of the Clunies-Ross family - the 1950 book 'Kings of the Cocos' by John Scott Hughes is recommended

CONVICTS, CARTOGRAPHERS & CAPTAINS! Mike Guilfoyle will lead a guided walk Sunday 1st May at 2pm

Sunday 1st May at 2pm

As part of National Cemeteries’ Week, sponsored by the 
National Association of Cemetery Friends

Mike Guilfoyle will lead a guided walk starting from the Ladywell gate



The walk will last approximately two hours and end at the Brockley gate

Culloden, Thomas Hastie Hay, a public beheading and the last battle to be fought upon British soil

A recent and striking discovery of a familial link to the last battle to be fought on British soil at Culloden moor, which is located close to Inverness, on the 16 April 1746, was uncovered when tracing the ancestral links to a Glasgow born oil company merchant called Thomas Hastie Hay ( d.1891) whose headstone lies close to the Dissenters Chapel in Ladywell cemetery. Thomas who died at the relatively young age of fifty, had been living in Catford at the time of his passing and was married to a Maud Annie Greenstreet (d.1933)*

With the 276th anniversary of the Battle pending, which battle saw forces loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated by the Duke of Cumberland's government army, it seemed apposite to relate the fascinating historical link to the event, set within the 1745–46 final Jacobite uprising, and a direct link to its gory aftermath.

The Battle of Culloden took place on Culloden Moor, near, Inverness on the 16 April 1746. It was the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising and the last battle to be fought on British soil. The Battle on Culloden Moor, was both quick and bloody, it started with an unsuccessful Jacobite Highland charge across flat boggy ground, totally unsuitable for this previously highly effective manoeuvre. The Jacobite troops were soon routed and driven from the field, the battle only lasting about an hour.

The Battle of Culloden saw some 1500 Jacobites killed or wounded, while government losses were lighter with 50 dead and 259 wounded. Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre is a first class resource for those visiting the battle site. Jacobite derives from the Latin as 'supporters of James' -James the VII of Scotland, the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Headstone of Thomas Hastie Hay, Ladywell cemetery - Source: Billion graves

Thomas Hastie Hay's ancestral connections are particularly interesting as he is a distant relative on his fathers side to William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock. He was a Scottish peer who joined the 1745 Jacobite Rising, was captured at Culloden and subsequently executed for high treason on Tower Hill. His family were supporters of the government and Kilmarnock had not previously been involved with the Stuarts; he later stated "for the two Kings and their rights, I cared not a farthing which prevailed; but I was starving." His title was declared forfeit and his heavily mortgaged estates confiscated; they were later returned to his eldest son James, later Earl of Erroll, who fought at Culloden on the government side.

William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock c. 1746

William Boyd was captured on the battlefield and there is a very poignant account of him being dragged bareheaded in the rain by his captors. At this moment his son James emerged from the redcoat ranks embraced his father and placed his own hat on the Earl’s head. His broken-hearted wife was said to have retired to Kilmarnock where she wept herself to death.

Execution of the Earl of Kilmarnock and Cromarty, and Lord Balmerino at Tower Hill, 1746 - Image:  National Library of Scotland.

In a macabre postscript to the Earl's beheading, his only wish was that his severed head be caught in a large cloth as he couldn’t stomach the idea of it rolling around in the dirt. His wishes were duly carried out but it seems his head is still around !!. People have reported seeing the ghostly skull rolling along the floor of the corridors, at Dean Castle ( Kilmarnock, Scotland) which was home to successive generations of Boyd's until the 4th Earl – William – was captured at the Battle of Culloden. The family surname changed from Boyd to Hay in the 1750's.

Another Jacobite executed at Tower Hill ( in 1747) was Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who was dubbed the 'Old Fox' and,will be familiar to fans of the historical drama television series Outlander as the grandfather of the hero Jamie Fraser. Shortly before the execution, a scaffold for spectators viewing the beheading had collapsed and left 20 dead, much to his amusement. Apparently Lovat was laughing about the spectacle as the executioner's axe fell. So ended the life of Simon Fraser and the phrase ‘laughing your head off’ was born!

* Thomas' brother in law was the genealogist James Harris Greenstreet (1846-1891) who was born in Brixton, the son of a traveller in the wine trade and started life as a clerk in an insurance office but by 1881 when living at Camberwell was describing himself as a record agent. In 1883 he helped Walford Selby to form the Pipe Roll Society. In 1888 at Catford he was recommended by Walter Rye and by 1891 when at Lewisham was a literary agent. He wrote a number of articles for Archaeologia Cantiana, was editor of the The Lincolnshire Survey (1884) and author of Memorials of the ancient Kent family of Greenstreet (1891). He did not marry until 1887 and had no children. At his early death in 1891 he left £290. He is also buried in Ladywell cemetery.

Absalom Dandridge and the Captain Swing Rioter Transported to Van Diemen’s Land

Nestled away in a section of Brockley cemetery  sometimes dubbed  the ' Mini-Valhalla' for it's grander funeral headstones, is the last resting place of the wonderfully named Victorian, Absalom Dandridge (d.1904) who is buried alongside his wife, Sophia Caroline (d.1906). Absalom who was described in the 1858 Directory of Kent as a 'Marine Store Dealer' and operated later as part of a family an established business partnership called J & A Dandridge. He had been living in Shardeloes Road, New Cross when he passed away. His not insubstantial effects of over £8,000 were cited in probate documents.

Headstone of Absalom and Sophia Caroline Dandridge [Find A Grave]

But what particularly intrigued me when researching Absalom's family history was discovering that his father, John Dandridge, a Buckinghamshire farm labourer, had been sentenced to be transported to Van Diemen's land (now Tasmania) for seven years in 1831, having been commuted from a death sentence, together with others, for having ' unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled at the paper mill of Mr William Robert Davies and having destroyed machinery at the mill'. He arrived in Hobart aboard the convict ship, HMS Proteus. A fuller account of John Francis' Dandridge's life can be found here 

Nocturnal rick-burning was one of the features of the Captain Swing riots ( Source: Dorset Life)

Curiously enough before he obtained his ticket of leave in 1835 John had been assigned to the 'care and tutelage' of the Rev. Philip Connolly, Hobart Town's first Roman Catholic chaplain and who opened up the first Catholic Church in Australia. He also performed the last rites for Alexander Pierce, dubbed 'Australia’s first cannibal' prior to his hanging in Hobart prison in 1824. 

John Dandridge had married a Susannah Davies in 1810. He died in New South Wales (Australia) in 1853. It is unclear if he ever returned to England.

The historical background these pivotal historical events are briefly referenced. By the late 1820s, landowners and farmers had begun to introduce threshing machines to do farming work. Large numbers of labourers found themselves out of a job, without the money to buy food, clothes or other goods for the winter months. The final blow was the poor harvests in 1829 and 1830, resulting in hunger, protests and disturbances in many country areas, especially in southern counties. The protesters used the eponymous name ‘Captain Swing’, a made-up name designed to spread fear among landowners and to avoid the real protest leaders being found out. No doubt it was also chosen, to some extent, as a form of morbid humour that echoed the gallows fate that could await apprehended rebels involved in his movement. The uprisings had started in Kent some time in June 1830 and spread across the south of England and were met with severe and repressive penal measures from the authorities.

Susannah Dandridge who died in Mill lane, Deptford in 1867 (Absalom's mother) is also buried in Brockley cemetery. But a remarkable early photograph of his mother 'looking resolute if careworn' having given birth to sixteen children and suffered the loss of a husband transported to Van Diemen's Land is shown below.

Undated daguerrotype of Susannah Dandridge (Source : Ancestry UK)

For readers wanting a greater historical understanding of the Swing Riots -The classic 1969 social history of the Great English Agricultural Uprising of the 1830's by two of the country's greatest historians Eric Hobsbawm and George Rude is a good place to start.

Mike Guilfoyle, Vice-Chair, FOBLC