|I am trying to complete
this project re the Harper side of the family, in order to have it printed,
hopefully with the inclusion of some of the photos I have inherited from
Mum. Could you please look through the section on your part of the family
and correct or add details. I have tried to continue with Mum's format of
having a bit about the son or daughter of Ada or Lillie, the names and birth
dates of their children, names of grandchildren and numbers of great
grandchildren. It would perhaps be good to add where the great grandchildren
(my generation) of William and Isabella are living in 2001. If there is
anything else that you think would make the story more interesting, please
let me have it.
I also would like to have copied for anyone who
would like it, the little book "A summer in Kashmir". I wonder if anyone
else has an original? There are photos in the album that may have been
Bella's, of Kashmir, possibly from the trip, but there are no captions.
Having experienced Kashmir in 1963, I have always been awed by the trip they
did in 1909.
Could you please get back to me as soon as possible with any
amendments. I would very much like to complete the project before the end of
the year. Nearer the time I shall try to find out how many copies people
Thanks for your help.
24 July 2001.
The family of William and Isabella Harper, as recalled and researched
by their granddaughter, Margaret MacGibbon, in the year prior to her death
in January 2000, then picked up by her daughter Barbara, in consultation
with family members.
To family members who may be interested.
You have asked me to tell you what I know about the Harper side of
our family ancestry. Actually, I have little authentic information about the
backgrounds of my grandparents William Harper and Isabella Milne, except
that they were both from farming families in Aberdeenshire. Where or how
they met is a mystery. William was approximately nine years older than
Isabella, and they were married on the 14th October 1875, when Isabella was
William had degrees from Aberdeen University, including a Bachelor
of Divinity, and was accepted by the Church of Scotland to serve as a
missionary in India, in the part of the Punjab that is now in Pakistan. The
marriage took place in St Andrews Church in Calcutta. I do not know if
Isabella's parents travelled to India for the wedding, but somewhere there
is a photo of them, with Isabella in her pretty wedding dress and William in
a frock coat.
I wonder how they travelled from Calcutta to Umbala in the Punjab?
Probably by train. Not much is known of the years there. As was common for
missionaries, their first child, Fanny Prior, born 16/9/76, died before her
first birthday on 14/5/77. Lillie Isabella was born 11/10/77, Ada
and George Milne on 27/8/92. Their baptisms are recorded at the Sialkot
William and Isabella went on Sabbatical furlough or leave, which
literally meant leave for one year in every seven years. I think Ada was 7
when the family returned to Scotland. You will probably be familiar with the
beautiful studio photo of the three children taken during that year,
presumably so that their parents had it to take with them back to India.
After the year, the children, then aged approximately 9, 8 and 5, were left
in the care of Isabella's sister and brother, named Cheyne, on a dairy farm
"Inchgreen" in Aberdeenshire. In 1960, Tom Hutchison took me to visit
mother's cousins who were still farming on the family farm.
The children were boarders at the Dollar Institution, where many
mission children were educated. Ada received prizes in 1891 for 1st in
Domestic Economy and 3rd in Arithmetic, the prize being a fine copy of
"Goldsmith's Choice Works". There was another prize for Gymnasium.
Interestingly, she counted on her fingers when doing her accounts, and
perhaps the unfailing straightness of her little back was the result of the
gymnasium. I do not have any information about Lillie's or George's
achievements during this time.
My mother suspected that Isabella refused to return to India after
the next furlough in 1892. It must have been awful for her to be separated
from her children for seven long years. At this point William retired from
missionary service and for the next ten years he was Church of Scotland
minister in Geneva, Leipzig, and I think Dresden. The children had no
further formal schooling, as William became their teacher. My mother, and
presumably the others too, spoke fluent French and German and was given a
musical education in Leipzig. She became reasonably proficient on a lovely
violin that is still in the family, and was able to help my son Richard tune
his violin in the early days of his learning. He went on to play her violin
in an orchestra through his school years.
At the same time Lillie became a very acceptable artist. I am
proud to have some of her work hanging in my house, and my daughter Barbara
has a fine black and white sketch of Edinburgh. I also have a photo album
embellished with delightful water colours, portraying their travels and
walking tours in Europe, mainly Germany and Switzerland. These must have
been happy years for the family.
George, despite his education being largely from his father, gained
entrance to Edinburgh University, graduating with an honours degree in
history in 1905. His obituary describes him as a debater, an enthusiastic
sportsman, and a hard worker. He qualified for the Indian Civil Service on
graduation from Edinburgh and worked for 35 years in the United Provinces.
In 1941 George was awarded the Companion of the Indian Empire.
the family returned to Edinburgh in 1901, William retired, but was in
demand as a preacher. Much later he became absorbed in the ideas of British
Israelism and brought out several little books on prophecy to substantiate
Amongst other things while in Edinburgh, Lillie and
Ada took up tennis and it was at the tennis club that they met James
Hutchison of Aberdeen and Arthur MacGibbon from New Zealand, both students
at Edinburgh University, and whom they later married. Ada and Arthur
continued to enjoy regular tennis until they were in their sixties.
May 1907 William, Isabella and Ada travelled to Canada where Lillie and
James were living in Montreal following their marriage in Edinburgh on
25/10/06. Jim established an accountancy business there. They stayed in
Montreal until after the baptism of William Harper Hutchison, who was born
on 5/10/07. William, Isabella and Ada then spent the next 2 months visiting
cousins who had settled in Canada and the USA, before sailing to New Zealand
In January 1908 they arrived in New Zealand for Ada
and Arthur's wedding on 18th January at St Andrews Presbyterian Church
in Wellington, a Church that claimed to be Church of Scotland. Ada and
Arthur settled in Hawera where Arthur was a country GP. The house they lived
in is still identifiable as one drives through Hawera. William and Isabella,
known as Will and Bella, spent the next year travelling in New Zealand, and
attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand in
Dunedin in 1908. There is a photo of the gathered gentlemen at this event.
They returned to Hawera for the baptism of George Buchanan MacGibbon, who
was born on 30/10/1908.
Will and Bella then visited George in the
United Provinces arriving in January 1909, before visiting their old mission
station and joining a walking tour in Kashmir. A little book, "A summer in
Kashmir" 1909, describes this trip in detail. The wild flowers and scenery
were clearly spectacular and the weather fortuitously kind as they trekked
their 60 miles up hill and down dale. My daughter Barbara was particularly
interested in the book after a visit to Kashmir in 1963.
if the stress of being back in India perhaps combined with menopause
contributed to the disappearance of Bella from the ship when returning to
Scotland. It is assumed that she took her own life, at the age of 53. Word
of her death was sad news for Ada, the more so as the day if her
disappearance was two days after the birth of her daughter Margaret Isobel
on 1 April 1910.
For the next 16 Years Will had no settled home. He
spent a year at a time as he called it 'visiting the Empire' - a year in
Canada, a year in New Zealand and a year in India.
Lillie and Jim had four more children, James Gordon (21/4/09), Ann Isobel
(21/12/12) who died just before her 1st birthday, Ada Madeline (16/9/15),
and Frances Eleanor (18/6/17).
Ada and Arthur had two further children, Alastair Arthur (8/4/13), and
Alison Ada (5/1/15).
George Harper married Madeline Irvine on 26/12/12 and had two children,
Evelyn Frances Irvine (Oct 1913) and Christopher George Irvine (24/5/19).
I remember looking forward to my grandfather's visits, the first when
I was two years old (1912), then again when Alison was a baby. These visits
continued until William married Lillias at the age of 77, when she
was 64. They came to New Zealand on a final visit in 1927 when he was 79.
This was a very happy visit. I have a photo of him working in our garden.
William and Lillias lived in Surrey, where they were visited by my
brothers George and Alastair during their years in the UK, and also by Ada
and Arthur in 1934. William died in 1949 at the age of 92. Lillias continued
to live in Surrey for the remainder of her life. They seemed happy together,
even if she 'bossed' him now and then.
brother Alastair kept in touch with George and Madeline's children Evelyn
and Kit until he came back to New Zealand in 1946. We know that Evelyn was
married and her husband was killed in WW2. Kit was in the Indian army. More
than that, I know nothing. The changes in Indian administration after
Independence would also have changed their way of life. We do know that
George was killed in a motoring accident between Lucknow and Allahabad on 1
December 1943. At that time he was retired from the Indian Civil Service and
was President of the United Provinces Public Service Commission, set up to
handle recruitment for all the provincial services. It seems this
appointment was a high honour, the other two members of the commission being
an Indian ex-High Court Judge and a Muslim ex-Chief Engineer. Following is
the text of an obituary to George, thought to have been printed in an
Edinburgh University publication.
Tragedy is common enough in war, but the
motor accident is something which invention has brought in its train, and
will it is to be feared persist.
George Milne Harper's short and buoyant frame was well known in
the Old Quadrangle, in the Union and in many debating societies some forty
years ago. His cheerful bearing and happy smile , so well remembered by
those who knew him then, continued throughout his life. He came to Edinburgh
from Dollar Academy and studied arts, taking an honours degree in history in
1905. He was keen, always a hard and painstaking worker, serious in mind. He
had, too, a strong religious sense. As a debater he was always interesting,
and one or two of his Union speeches, besides many at the Historical
Society, are still remembered. He had time, too, to cultivate the social
side of University life, made many lasting friendships and was popular with
all. In those days sports were less specialised than in recent years, but he
would golf, play tennis, walk, dance and enjoy a social picnic - all with
equal zest. In India, tennis was his game, and it reached a high standard.
Harper passed into the Indian Civil Service in 1905, and went to
the United Provinces the following year. There he spent 35 years - a full
term of service. In the words of the Government of the U.P. Gazette
Extraordinary - published after his death - almost his -
"entire service until promotion in the last three years to the post of
member of the Board of Revenue was spent in the Districts of the Province.
He earned respect and affection in all the posts which he held, whether in
the discharge of his official duties or in the equally important social
relations which a Collector or a Commissioner must establish and maintain."
And again, he brought -
"to all with whom he came in contact those qualities of energy,
cheerfulness and vitality which were his until the end of his life."
In 1941 Harper received the honour of CIE and on retirement at the
end of the year he was appointed President of the United Provinces Public
Service Commission - a body of three created by the India Act 1935, which
the principle(sic) function was to handle recruitment for all the
provincial services. The appointment was for five years but was terminated
by death in rather less than two. The other members were and Indian ex-High
Court Judge and a Muslim ex-Chief Engineer.
Sir Harry Haig, late Governor of the United Provinces, described
Harper as - "balanced in temper, reliable in judgement and loyal in
support." These are qualities which his old Edinburgh friends will
recognise, as they developed in his student days. He learned the measure of
his own powers, and rarely if ever attempted anything beyond them.
Harper was killed while motoring from Lucknow to Allahabad on 1st
December 1943. He was not the driver of the car. Throughout his career he
maintained the highest tradition of the ICS. In the United Provinces - for
Indians and Europeans alike - the sense of his loss is heavy. For those that
loved him - in India, at home and elsewhere in the Empire - there can be
only regret, tempered with pride.
had a cerebral haemorrhage in 1948, forcing him to give up his specialist
practice. Mum and Dad came to live with us once he was released from
hospital as they could not go back to their 2nd storey flat. Dad lived until
he was 80, dying in 1958, and Mum lived to the great age of 95, dying in
1974, just before the birth of her 25th great grandchild. (There are now
George did his medical training in Edinburgh and was in the
RAF from 1936 to 1946, serving during WW2. He was Wing Commander, and during
service on the Gold Coast, West Africa, he was "Mentioned in Dispatched". In
( ) he married Mary Cumberton. They had three
children, Jean Mary (1941) George Alexander (1943) and
Sheila (1945) before returning to New Zealand in 1946, to take up a
general practice in Roxburgh, then a booming hydro development town..
Nigel Thomas (1948) and Alastair David (1951) were born there.
The family moved to Christchurch in 1952. George was in general practice in
Opawa for many years. He died in ( ) and Mary in 1992.
Jean Mary has 4 children, Kirsten, Ian, Michael and Hamish, and (
Sandy has 3 children, Geraldine, Andrew and Matthew;
Sheila has 3 children, Barry, Justin and Sonya and ( )
Nigel has 2 sons, Mark and David;
Alastair has 4 children, Zara, (
I, Margaret, trained as a kindergarten teacher, but during the
years of the great depression I worked for 3 happy years as a governess to 3
children on a large sheep and cattle station in South Canterbury. I
married Dick (Richard Slater) Royds in 1936 and we farmed on what is now
the outskirts of Christchurch, near the airport. Geoffrey Ian was born
on 28/10/37 and Barbara on 24/1/40. Dick died in 1942, 3 months
before the birth of our third child, Richard Arthur (8/8/42). We were
able to continue farming until the children were in their teens , when the
farm was sold, although I stayed in the home until I moved to my present
home in 1986 after 50 years in Memorial Ave. I have involved myself in
church and community affairs over the years. I played tennis regularly until
my late 70's, and since then have been a keen member of a women's walking
group. (Margaret died suddenly in January 2000 after completing most of this
Ian has 4 children, Stephanie, Philip, Douglas and Elizabeth.
Barbara has 4 children, Tony, Anna, Kate and Ruth and 1 grandson.
Richard has 5 children, Matthew, Sarah and James from his first
marriage, and Jonathon and Hilary, from his second marriage.
followed Dad, training in Edinburgh as an ear, nose and throat surgeon. He
was also in the RAF during the war. In 1945 he married Jeannie Kerr,
the sister of a medical friend. In 1946 they came to New Zealand to take up
a specialist practice established for Alastair by Dad in Palmerston North.
Their daughter Carol Jean (13/7/46) was born in Christchurch before
they moved north, and Heather Ann (23/3/48) was born in Palmerston
North. Alastair continued in practice, retiring to a beach town, Waikanae,
after Jeannie's death in 1981. Alastair led an active sporting life,
travelling and enjoying his family until his sudden death in 1997.
Carol Jean has 3 daughters, Jenny, Diana and Fiona.
Heather Ann has 3 children, Katy, Anna and Paul.
married Bill Rowley, a farmer from Hawea in Central Otago. They farmed
in Tarras until they moved to a farm at Cave in South Canterbury in 1956.
Alison had trained as a nurse. As a farmer's wife she was a great home-maker
and gardener, as well as being involved in community activities. Alison and
Bill had 5 children, Alasair John (6/7/41), Ann Harper
(19/3/43), Helen Margaret (31/7/45), then some years later 'the
twins', Susan Mary and Michael William (20/11/54). Bill died
in 1977 after a short illness, and Alison in 1982 after some years with
Alastair has 4 children, Joanna, Richard, Nicholas and Annabelle,
and 5 grandchildren.
Ann has 3 sons, James, who died at the age of 3, Mark and Sam.
Helen has one daughter, Saskia.
Susan has 1 daughter, Nina.
Michael has 1 son, Billy.
(Married James Hutchison).
(Son) Bill (William Harper) did an
engineering degree in Montreal, worked in Lincoln, England, and later worked
in Washington, USA, where he met and in 1942 married Virginia Merrill.
He would have liked to be a pilot in World War 2, but was involved in the
Indian Supply Mission in Montreal and Ottawa. After the war he and Ginny
settled in California where Bill developed his business. He and Ginny had 3
children, George Merrill (12/2/44), Nancy Merrill (28/4/49)
and Susan Merrill (6/2/53).
George has a daughter, Bryan.
Nancy has a daughter, Virginia.
Bill died in 1989.
Gordon was a chartered accountant like his
father, and an athlete. He married Kay in 1934 and they had 2
children, Sandra (27/3/36) and James (17/9/40). Because of Gordon's
asthma, the family moved to Calgary in 1953 and developed an office of the
family firm from a small beginning to a large business. After Kay's death in
1984 Gordon married Betty. He died in 1994.
Jim lives in Calgary.
Sandra lives in Sacramento.
Ada married Mel Angus of
Toronto in 1936. They lived in Halifax during the war and Mel went into
shipping after the war. They had 3 children, David (21/7/37),
Elizabeth (30//11/40) and Gillian (7/12/44).
David has a son, Gregor and a daughter, Jackie.
Elizabeth has 2 daughters, Cynthia and Caroline.
Gillian has 2 sons, Nicholas and Philip, and a daughter Stephanie.
Frances married George Jarvis in 1940 and they continued to live in
Montreal until Frances moved to Ottawa after George died. George worked for
a steel company after the war. They had 2 children, Bill (5/5/??) and
Bill lives in Ottawa.
An explanation about British
Israelism. This seemed to be based on the prophecies from the books of
Daniel and Ezekiel, and claimed that the British were descended from the
'Lost' 2 tribes of Israel who migrated along the north coast of Africa and
somehow arrived in Britain! According to these beliefs the British were not
privileged people, but had an obligation to support the Jewish race against
their traditional enemies, the Muslims. Once when my mother was reprimanded
by her father for not even opening his little books on prophecy she replied
"It takes me all my time to be an ordinary Christian, without having to be a
British Israelite as well".