Sunday, April 28, 2019

Twin blows and the end of the line. (The Greys of Falldon, Part III)

(Continues on from previous blogs about the Greys of Fallodon. Part I, Part II)

1928 was a bad year for Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon, as he suffered two close personal tragedies.

(In 1914, he had lost a second brother and the heir presumptive to the title, Alexander Harry Grey, who died without issue aged 44, after years of service in the West Indies as Vicar of St Jude's, Arima, Trinidad. There is little on record about him and some sources suggest that he had suffered a form of brain damage after being hit by a cricket ball as a child.)

Then, on 28 September 1928, his last surviving brother, Charles Grey, was fatally wounded in a similar fashion to that of George Grey in 1911: in Africa by a wild animal. This time it was a buffalo rather than a lion and the incident took place in Tanganyika, and he died at Tabora

The African buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals in the world, often called the widow-maker. Its weight, strength and speed has been the undoing of many a hunter.

Always dangerous. See this article in The Telegraph

Like his brother George, Charles Grey had had an adventurous career in Africa. He accompanied George in the exploration and development of the copper fields of Katanga but often travelled independently with his own boats and native carriers while exploring the lesser-known regions.

He was also a keen long distance cyclist (see Part II on George Grey). According to a correspondent in The Times:

“… On hearing the news of the outbreak of war in August, 1914, Mr Grey rode 500 miles on an ordinary bicycle to reach the nearest place where he could get into the fighting. He joined a company of the King’s African Rifles in East Africa as a lieutenant. Shortly afterwards, in an engagement against a very superior force of Germans, he was severely wounded in the left hand and forearm. Only first aid was available, and Mr Grey had to walk 22 miles to Kisumu, the nearest place where he could obtain surgical treatment. There his arm was amputated 6 in. below the shoulder, and when he had sufficiently recovered he returned to England, where he underwent two further operations. In the following year he went back to Africa and joined General Northey’s army, serving under him on the Intelligence Staff till the end of the War, being mentioned in dispatches and receiving the Military Cross. He became an expert shot with a rifle, in spite of the loss of his arm, and his death was the result of injuries that he received from a wounded buffalo while he was hunting in Tanganyika, accompanied only by four of his native servants. He was man of singular integrity, courage, and charm, and greatly beloved by every one who knew him.” [The Berwick Advertiser 4 October 1928.]

As with the real story of George Grey (see Part II), there is much about Charles Grey and his exploits in Africa that are unknown today. A book called Adventures in Africa Under the British, Belgian and Portuguese Flags by John B. Thornhill is one of the few sources on this elusive character and it describes how, while he was manager of the Tin Belt in Katanga and with the help of another white man and a group of their servants, Charles confronted and killed around twelve marauding slave traders.  Although having only one arm, it was due to his fluency in Swahili that he was made an intelligence officer during the WW1 East African Campaign.

Probably his last voyage. 1926 Passenger List for SS Llandovery Castle to Mombasa.
Charles gives the cryptic occupation of "Research Work"

Location of Tabora - centre of Tanganyika Territory

National Probate Calendar, UK

A few weeks after Charles died, on 18 November 1928, while residing at her country estate in Wiltshire, the second Lady Grey, the former Pamela Wyndham, became acutely ill (with what exactly is difficult to establish) and in spite of emergency attendance by a doctor was dead within hours. She was 57.

Lord Edward Grey was away at Fallodon in Northumberland and had to make an emergency dash to be at her side. This involved stopping the overnight Edinburgh-London express to pick him up. He was a director of the LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) at the time and had his own private railway station. Apparently he boarded the train at 10 pm without even bothering to pack. Early in the morning of 19 November, Pamela’s son, Lord Glenconner, met his stepfather in London with the sad news that he was too late.

Lady Grey was a popular figure in high society and widely mourned. A writer of prose, poetry, memoirs and children’s books, she had taken a particular interest in spiritualism following the death of her eldest son from her first marriage, Edward Wyndham Tennant, during the Battle of the Somme.

Her book on the subject The Earthen Vessel deals with “book tests”, in which the departed sent their messages via a medium and directed the living individuals to messages contained in extracts from various books. The medium in this case was Gladys Leonard, who chanelled an Indian woman called Feda. Mrs Leonard could not possibly have had intimate knowledge of all the specific libraries Feda mentioned, let alone the books contained in them, and so was merely the conduit for the messages from “the other side”. Mrs Leonard seems to have been discredited eventually, but Lady Grey was convinced by them and the book tests in The Earthern Vessel do make for interesting reading as to unexplained coincidences. 

Lady Grey, c. 1920, Copyright National Portrait Gallery UK

With the death of Charles Grey, the baronetcy passed to the line of an elderly cousin and thus the male descendancy from Anna Sophia Ryder, the owner of the little book in my possession that initially inspired this research into the Greys of Fallodon, came to an end.

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