ANGUS SOMERVILLE FLETCHER & HELEN MUIR STEWART
Data capture page. Working notes. Memos. Anecdotes
I am not going to tidy this page further. I hope material is still to
come, particularly from the USA, and so there is no point to any further
work at this stage.
[Note to Angus Family: The following is a brief outline of what biographical
detail has come to light on the African side. No doubt a few things may still be
found, but probably not much. Until we re-established contact with you last year
the only written detail we had was what is to be found in Margaret Mason's book,
and news in a few letters. There has been much contact recently though with
Jean and Katherine, and news of the rest of the family. But what is still missing
is an outline of lives of Angus and Helen, and of Donald, Peter and Angus - for a
start, at least. Further details of the younger generation I am sure are not in
immediate danger of being lost to oral memory, and can be added later.
A brief outline of this sort can only come from the family in America. The American
cousins should appreciate how little has been known about them since the 1920's.
If these gaps could be filled I would feel my task for this branch satisfactorily
This is not to say that nothing more would be welcome. Quite the contrary! N.F.]
1883 Angus born.
Youngest child of Peter and Agnes.
Probably in Queenstown, Eastern Cape Colony, SA.
[The family in the US surely have exact details, which would be welcome.
In the meantime my choice of Queenstown is based on letters written by his
brothers from College in Grahamstown to their mother (in Queenstown?),
when Angus would have been barely one or two, if he was born in 1883.
It is a presumption only. There is no absolute evidence so far that Agnes actually
lived in Queenstown at all. The letters could be interpreted in different ways.
Yet Queenstown is a strong probability, and furthermore it is the town of the
McDonalds, and Angus' two future sisters in law. - NF]
1889 Port Elizabeth ?
Letter from Pat to Agnes, Millwood, April 10th, 1889.
"On Monday we made tracks into our house here at Strip Bosch........" [Bob
and McBean are there] ".... man came to the house the other day and was
addressed as "my old friend" by Father, who asked why he had not called on
you when he came through P.E. the last time. Look out for a man in a yellow
waistcoat for his visit would be as interesting as Fulton's".
..."I am dead off packing if you have to move, so you will not catch me around
P.E. way if I can help it".
[This is clear evidence Agnes was in Port Elizabeth.]
[The flyleaf writing is Jean's. (Is this perhaps Angus' birthday?.) The fragments
for comparison are from a letter of hers. The initials "J.C.F." also appears on a
sheet of paper from Leslie Ford Studios, Queenstown, covering a photo of RA and
Pat, who look as though they might be at St Andrews College, Grahamstown.
It is reasonable to assume that in 1894 family members who had not already fled
the nest were in Millwood.
Further, see the letter Jean_RA? 1896. .
Living in Rondebosch, in the afternoon shadow of Devil's Peak at the eastern end
of Table Mountain, Cape Town.
Three (?) addresses have come to light: (1.) College Rd; (2.) "The Firs" in
Camp Ground Rd where they moved in April 1896, in which year, according to
Jean's letter, their father was away working for four or five months in Matatiele,
Eastern Cape. It is probable they did not live much longer than a year at "The Firs",
as it was sold soon after PcP's death in 1897. (3.) They were living in Derry Rd.,
Rondebosch in 1899? according the letter Agnes_Annie
Flyleaf : "Sixty Years A Queen". Wynberg High School for Boys. Std VI. 1st Prize
for General Work. June 1897
[Wynberg is a suburb of Cape Town, and the School is one of the old ones.
It is situated not far from a rival , Rondebosch Boys High, to which a number of
Angus' Rhodesian nephews and their children went.
Standard Six was the first of five senior school years (to Matric) in South Africa.
So Angus likely matriculated at the end of 1901, if he did not fail a year. He might
have had a year's break, or he might have gone straight to the law firm (see 1903
letters below). The latter case seems more probable, as it is unlikely he would
have been allowed the convenience of settling private expenses through the
company books after only a few months at work. Also, if in January 1903 he
states Godlonton was angry he had failed exams he surely must have been
studying for them in 1902.(?)
[Also scan the other Wynberg prize.
Angus' father died. At the Firs?Buried at Maitland Cemetery, Cape Town. [?]
They might have only lived at The Firs for a year or so. [Link re purchase
by Rondebosch School]
Agnes living at Derry Rd, Rondebosch. See letter Agnes_Annie 10 Jan 1899.
Agnes says she had received a letter from Angus the previous day. He was in
Bulawayo, Rhodesia. [ He would have been about 16, and probably on his
Christmas school holidays. To date, this is the last surviving letter written
by his mother, save possibly - almost certainly - for "the feint letter",
about which though there has been some uncertainty.
Outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in October.
The War ended at the end of May, 1902.
Letter, PatF to RA, 21 October. "I enclose a letter from [Neva??] which you
might attend to if you have time: otherwise hand it over to Jinks."
".....I take it you must have left Ookiep for Cape Town".
See Angus letter of June 1903 (below) alluding to RA being in a desert.
[Question for JP/Margaret. I do not recall anything about RA being in Ookiep
at this time. Was he in the Garrison at the end of the War? NF]
1903 Angus' letters to RA
Note: Fortunately a number of letters from Angus to RA, the eldest sibling,
have survived (RA >Ben >John). They are from a relatively short period in 1903
when Angus was in his second year [?] with a law firm, and RA apparently in
Ookiep, a small desolate place in Namaqualand, not far from where he was born.
It appears from the contents of the letters that RA might have been engaged in
survey work there.
The letters, between the youngest and the oldest of the children, are an engaging
insight into family dynamics. Something of Angus' personality surely is evident
in them. He moves from banter to quite serious censure, while maintaining a note
of brotherly affection.
One letter also is of particular importance because he refers to Agnes, his mother.
So we know she was still alive midyear 1903.
Scans of these letters can be found on the website. For convenience of reading
I have combined them in a single typrscript.
RA Dr Sauer
Angus sets up in Law in Bulawayo, Rhodesia.
[Stock Exchange Buildings. Get photo]
Hardly likely to have been before 1905 at the earliest.
Peter (Zimbile) used to say Jinks took on unpopular cases ("the underdog"), -
ones other lawyers were disinclined to handle
It should be remarked that by going to Bulawayo, Angus followed the same call
heard by most of his siblings: "Go North, young man". Archie is the only one
of the men who, as far as I know, did not follow the wagons north. (Though by
4th November 1897 you could go by train!). Murray married Capt. Mainwaring in
Bulawayo in August 1895, before the Rebellion. Isobel it seems got malaria(?) in
Bulawayo in 1896 and was very ill. Jean also (?) went there.
The Christmas (?) Picnic at Umvutcha photograph.
It is most probable Angus is one of the men in the photo.
Link the emails, suspenders, Fletcher Ears etc.
Letter Pat to Sheila. Pat write in a humourous vein to his daughter about
the writing and spelling abilities of her uncles, including Angus
Kenneths's letter about Angus standing Hugh two meals.
about Angus standing Hugh two meals
There was barely a decade difference in age between Kenneth and his uncle.
Joined 1st Rhodesian Regiment and went to German South West Africa.
Later joined Royal Artillery in England.
His nephew Kenneth also served in SWA. Kenneth and his brother Hugh also went
to Europe. Hugh returned in 1919, having served after the war in Syria etc
Winkie has WW1 photos in SWA through Kenneth. It would be nice to have copies.
[Peter in Florida mentioned photos on glass of the SWA campaign. Some(?) had
been damaged by flooding, but some had survived (?)
Wounded by shell in France. Nursed in hospital by Helen Muir Stewart, who was
born at Achallader farmhouse. They later married. (M. Mason)
[This romantic story awaits your correction, Katherine, Jean, Angus, Peter ...
See info already sent by Katherine, emails, below]
Kenneths's letter: Angus in London; US job; going to Scotland with Jean
Annie's letter re Hugh's return. Anecdote re Angus.
On National Industrial Conference Board in US, till 1922.(?) (Mason)
Helen went to America. [from the obituary]
19?? Lecture tour of America (Mason) - when?
Married Helen. (?) [M. Mason? But see son Peter born 1926.?]
Photo Angus holding Donald
Katherine, please send more details sometime......
Pat's letters to Sheila. 22/8/1927 : "Being hard up I opened one of those
American papers Murray sends me & find Angus has been putting
Chicago wise on South African affairs...."
Director, British Library of Information in New York, till 1941. (Mason)
Jean, please fill out details sometime......
Photo of family sitting outside
19?? Angus was in Dublin and met Sheila, his niece.
Chairman, United Nations Headquarters Commission. (M. Mason)
[ Jean: incidentally, re the Keerom photo; Angus likely travelled West
when the UN commission went to California? Maybe they went by plane though,
so he might not have seen many dwalas close-up!]
Letter to his brother Tom. Angus reflects on the life of his mother Agnes,
and clearly states that Helen knew the Cape Colony and the OFS .
Donald with NY Times; Peter student? at Stevens Engineering Inst; Angus exams.
[It was through this letter and its reference to Stevens Engineering Insitute
that I was able through Google to find an article by Edward Tenner on the tilting
chair designed by Peter Fletcher, and re-establish contact with the family. See emails. N.F.]
Letter Helen to Lorraine, 18th September, at the time of Tom's death.
[Flick, we're still waiting......! - N]
Letter to Ida when Pat died.
[There is another letter??]
Letter to Peter when Ida died.
Angus died in August.
Helen placed memorial in Dalmally Church, Argyllshire. (Mason)
Helen died on 26th December.
Feb. N.F. re-established contact with Angus' Family.
The amazing discovery of the Keerom homestead photo
Keerom recce trip.
The great, and great great, granchildren of Patrick called Peter go on a trip
to Keerom in Namaqualand after seeing the old photograph from Florida, USA.
Copy of a speech by Angus. [ Ida F. Coll. Still to be found/ posted]
The photo in National Portrait Collection. Any details concerning ..??]
COMMENTS ANECDOTES LOOSE ENDS:
Loose ends from various emails:
"Angus in his letter of 1951 to Tom seems to quite definitely state that your
mother was no stranger to the Cape Colony, as well as the Orange Free State.
I have never been aware that Angus ever came back to Africa after going to WW1,
much less Helen ever having been there. Can you provide any details on this
.........In this letter Angus also mentions knowing the American company that
subsequently owned and made a lot of money out of the Concordia copper mine
in Namaqualand. Do you know any details.? Up until this letter surfaced a few
months ago there was only the vaguest suggestion that PcP was in business
himself at any stage." [NF to Peter, 2008]
"Hi! Jean, glad you were able to put the fable of Grandma being a nurse to rest.
Finally! I actually think the truth of how they met is far more romantic. "
Please put together an account to replace the fable [N]
21 Feb '08 Katherine_N.F..
My grandmother Helen, Angus Somerville's wife who I believe you met at Fireplace,
was Helen Muir Stewart before she was married. (Did you know she also lived in
Rhodesia? She and her brother Donald were sent there for the dry climate. She
and her mother were the only members of her immediate family that did not succumb
to turberculosis. She had two sisters, Jean and Archina. Her father's name was
Archibald and I can't think off the top of my head what her mother's name was.
It will come to me. Interestingly, her first language was Gaelic, then she learned
English in school and learned Swahili in Rhodesia. Not too many people in this
country anyway can make that claim!)
re Helen Muir Stewart. Apart from the romantic account of her nursing Angus, and
being born in the family farmhouse, given in Margaret Mason's book, I believe the
family in Afrca knew nothing more about her. A couple of months ago I was sent
a letter from the Thomas family written by Angus in 1951 in which he definitely
states that Helen was familiar with the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State
(OFS). This was very interesting, as I am sure none of us knew she had ever been
to Africa. So on this point could you please try and remember as much as you can.
Did she ever meet Angus in Africa.? Are you clear she was sent to Rhodesia and
not one of the South African colonies/both? We would like to know more about her
family. etc Did her mother also go to Africa? Where did her family live
(in Scotland?) Where did she go to school.? She would not have learned Swahili
in Rhodesia. If you are sure on this point it is likely she was sent to Kenya or
Tanganyika rather than Rhodesia? But Angus definitely says she knew South
Africa, which is next door
THE SWEETCORN SPOON. In the summer at Zimbile green mealies for breakfast
was more than a religion. I think the record for one person was 22 cobs. Four
cobs was probably the minimum one could decently get away with. My father ate his
with the aid of something about which every season he said a number of times
"Jinks sent these to us". When we were small we just nodded, not being too clear
who Jinks was. I don't know why Peter used them, because in those days he still
had plenty of teeth, (and still a couple when he died, though they didn't meet.)
He just liked machinery of any sort. This machinery worked very well. It was
something like a small garden rake, the size of an ordinary spoon
One drew it down the corn cob, splitting the skins of the kernels. The other
thing was a spoon, in the bottom of which was a triangular space. The base of the
triangle was towards the handle, but set up a bit, allowing the other two sides
to act as scrapers when the spoon was drawn down the length of the scarified cob
When this happened, much like earth in a damscoop, the soft kernels would fill
the spoon, leaving the skins on the cob, where they couldnt get between your
teeth. Usually a knob of butter, and some salt and pepper, was first spread on
the cob. It worked like a charm for those who did not feel the pleasure of eating
green mealies consisted of getting their teeth into them.
Another thing I associate with early mornings on Zimbile was the clattering sound
of Peter sharpening razor blades. He did so with an Allegro razor sharpener
It was also something Jinks had sent, if I am not mistaken.
Both spoon and sharpener are now in Nannup, Australia [N.F.]
Material received from Angus Family, USA.
List to be done
Photo: People on a verandah.[ "RA might be one" - Peter (Florida)]
documents?/wynberg2 Another one. Find.!
documents/copy of his speech - scan!
Link to emails from Jean & Katherine
Filename: pages?/angus etc. Opened: 2007.
Last Modified: 13th May 2009. Posted ??/5/09
The Wynberg School book prizes
Angus' 1903 letters to RA. Single typescript
Pat writes to his daughter Sheila about her Uncle Angus' spelling.
Angus in uniform
Angus & Donald
family sitting outside
British WW2 propaganda.
Angus in kilt
Letter to Tom.
Letter to Ida.when Pat died.
Letter to Peter when Ida died.
Her obituary in the East Hampton Star
The sweetcorn spoon from Angus
Related Files - links
The Keerom Recce & Other Links