More recent images: for spectacular early aerial photographs, see here.
of an unsung, inadvertent, physical creator of a nation
which 80 years later had become the sixth most populous country in the world: exceeding 180 million
The distinctive features of the gentleman to the left, and right, belonged to Eric Hobsbawm, 1917-2012, a historian. He was perhaps not the world's most popular historian: controversial and contentious are words that may spring to mind. However, as recorded by Paul Lay, 1st October 2012, in History Today, Hobsbawm did remark, when interviewed in 1999, that "the business of the historian is to remember what others forget".
Probably not a saying typical of the Marxist outlook, but still an apt text for someone seeking to remember what might otherwise be forgotten.
Towards the end of the 20th century, AD, some clever men at Oxford decided to update their Dictionary of National Biography. Since they knowed all that there was to be knowed, they rejected the thought of remembering an archetypal constructive Briton, who had created livelihoods for two and a half million souls, as well as the backbone of a country now numbering 180 million. Without the successful completion of the immense irrigation project centred at Sukkur, the country of Pakistan would not now exist. Biographic preference in the ODNB, however, settled on the achievements of Mrs Pepys, who was joined in bed by Samuel; as well as the tragic life of a toddler, murdered at the age of three.
Priorities puzzling to some of us. Some remedy, however feeble, may thought to be in order. This page, subject to its disappearance in an instant, like tears in rain, therefore sets out to resist the onrush of banality and shabby neglect, by recording a modicum of otherwise forgotten life events.
At left, a concise, restrained obituary of Charlton Harrison. Below are the earliest known photographs of his father and mother, who were married on 2nd Dec 1878, at St Michael's, Kingston, Jamaica.
Caroline Page (Barclay, Swire)
1840 - 1921
James Harrison, aged 50
1828 - 1904
Caroline Page is shown above at a young age, probably at about the time of her first marriage. James Harrison is shown in what is thought to be the uniform of the Jamaica militia. This photograph was taken in Iowa, in 1878, when the couple appear to have been visiting Caroline's relations, shortly before their marriage. Caroline and James Harrison had three sons together: Leslie Girvan, 1879-1952, Charlton Scott Cholmeley, 1881-1951, and Henry Steuart MacNaghten, 1883-1963.
Caroline was first married in August 1856, aged 16, to Charles George Barclay. Although he died only 3 months after the wedding, he sired one child with Caroline. The boy was born in 1857 and named Charles Alexander Barclay. Her second husband, with whom she had no children, was surnamed Swire. James Harrison was her third husband. James, a widower, had previously been married to Caroline's first cousin, Susan Jane MacDermott, 1839-1877, and they had had eleven children, six of whom eventually survived beyond the age of 35.
It was passed down to me in later years that James Harrison, perhaps partly due to his own Scottish family origins, particularly wanted his sons to take up constructive professions, as engineers, and to devote their lives to service as honourable and dedicated builders of the British Empire.
James Harrison's three sons with his first wife were George McCulloch, 1861-1943, William Alfred, 1863-1898, and Robert Tullis, 1876-1950. All three were concerned with public works and railway engineering. George and Robert were active in India, and Alfred in East Africa, where he lost his life following an encounter with a lioness.
Below, the sons of Caroline, née Page.
By 1913 George Harrison was Chief Engineer in Sind, and in 1920 his brother Robert was Chief Engineer for Irrigation, and Secretary to the Government, in the Public Works Department, Bombay. Their half-brothers, the sons of Caroline Page, were probably caught up in the anti-German British jingoism of the last years of the 19th century. Leslie Girvan Harrison, 1879-1952, shown left, joined the Army, 1899, and was badly shot up in the Boer War, losing an eye, and being severely wounded in the leg, as may be seen in the photograph of the three younger brothers, above left, taken in 1902.
Pensioned for his wounds, Leslie, with his wife Beatrice Marian Gossett, lived the rest of his life in Jamaica. Katharine Ramsay, the Red Duchess of Atholl, mentions in her autobiographical memoirs, Working Partnership, that in 1928 she and her husband visited Jamaica, and that "for most of our stay ..... we were the guests of Colonel Harrison, who lived with his wife in a house on the south coast of the island."
Charlton named his eldest child, born in 1907, Leslie; and his brother Leslie, who married in 1912, reciprocated by naming his son, born 1917, Charlton. As it was handed down to me, in 1899 Charlton had been eager to follow his brother Leslie into the Army [hence the photograph of him in uniform, above right] , but his father James ordered him to abandon this idea, and obliged him to enter Cooper's Hill, the Royal Indian Engineering College.
Violet and Charlton's third son, James, was born in Chichester, 1910. Selwyn, when aged 7, in 1915, would have been sent, or taken by his parents, from India to be brought up by his maternal gandmother and aunts in Chichester. See Kipling's Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, 1888, for the potential effect of an experience of this kind on a child in comparable circumstances.
A fraction of the majesty of this barrage can be gauged from this video.
| ||I am the family face; |
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
| ||The years-heired feature that can|
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durance--that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.
Thomas Hardy; 1840 - 1928
| ||deyr fé deyja frćndr|
deyr sjálfr it sama
en orđstírr deyr aldregi
hveim er sér góđan getr
|kine die and kin die|
you too will die; but
the name never dies
of him who wins fame
| ||deyr fé deyja frćndr|
deyr sjálfr it sama
ek veit einn at aldri deyr
dómr um dauđan hvern
|kine die and kin die|
all men must die; but I
know what never dies:
how dead men are deemed
Hávamál; 10th century AD
|"For now I see the true old times are dead,|
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have liv'd my life ...."
|See what comes of Empire-building ?|
When we say that Britain once was master
Remember who it was that made her so
We're not forgetting it,
We're not letting it
Fade away and gradually die,
Fade away and gradually die.
Leslie Stuart; 1895
Indian Civil: A Silent Service
One thing I've never fully understood: --- how one good custom could corrupt the world.
a few more mementoes
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