Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jane Pearson

Jane Pearson was the daughter of Sir James Campbell of Aberuchill, third baronet (1723–1812), and his first wife Margaret, née Ball, who was the daughter and heir of the splendidly named Captain William Conductor Ball of Hatton Garden, London, “land commissioner for Scotland.”

As a young man, Sir James Campbell served in the Scots Greys, and was present at the Battle of Fontenoy (May 11, 1745) in the War of the Austrian Succession, which unfortunately the Anglo-Dutch-Hanoverian forces lost woefully, in what is now Belgium.

The Scots Greys were beaten on that day by the French under Marshal Maurice de Saxe, much assisted by the “Wild Geese,” the famous itinerant brigade of Irish cavalry who fought on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie when and wherever possible, usually on the continent.

Sir James Campbell of Aberuchill, my five times great-grandfather, had two large families. With his first wife, Margaret, whom he married in the same year in which he inherited the baronetcy (sensible), he had at least two sons who survived infancy, (1) Jane’s brother Colin, a captain in the 19th Regiment of Foot, a brevet major and eventually lieutenant-colonel of the Perth militia, who died “unmarried” in 1811, and (2) Alexander, the future fourth baronet (1757–1824).

Jane herself and one of the other issue, so inadequately described in Burke’s Colonial Gentry, all of whom died young, may well have been born at Aberuchill in Perthshire between 1755 and 1757. Her mother, Margaret, the first Lady Campbell, died in 1766, possibly in childbirth.

Sir James remarried (to Mary Ann, daughter of Joseph Burn, who was evidently a good deal sturdier than my poor five times great-grandmother), and presented him with another eight children, viz. four sons: (1) Thomas, 1769–1799, gentleman, who died “unmarried”; (2) William, 1774–1849, a writer to the signet; (3) Frederick, 1779–1816, of the 42nd Highlanders; (4) John, 1785–1867, a surgeon; and four daughters, about whom, thanks to the meticulous suppression by Burke’s Colonial Gentry of any available detail, we know absolutely nothing.

This impressively enormous family of at least six sons and five daughters who survived infancy may have been a factor in causing Sir James to sell the estate of Aberuchill in 1772.

According to Burke’s Colonial Gentry, “in 1800 he executed an entail of the barony and estate of Kilbryde,” the Regency equivalent of taking out a double mortgage. At his death these passed in the manner of a bad check to Jane’s brother Alexander, for whom the baronetcy was at best a consolation prize.

In 1775, Jane Campbell married William Pearson of Kippenross, Perth. With ineffable ill judgment, perhaps genetically encoded, three years later Mr. Pearson is said to have lost the freehold of the estate of Kippenross in a game of dice or cards with his neighbor, John Stirling of Kippendavie, but managed to retain a lease on it for the remainder of his life.

These William Pearsons, my four times great-grandparents, had four sons and two daughters, namely (1) Commander Hugh Pearson, R.N.; (2) John Pearson, 1783–1807; (3) Major James Pearson, b. 1787, who served in the Indian Army, was awarded the Peninsular medal with Java clasp; joined the expeditions against Palembang and Nepal, and became commanding officer of the 65th Regiment at Agra; (4) William, b. 1790, “d.s.p.”; (5) Margaret, 1776–1840, who married the Rev. Dr. David Ritchie, D.D., Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; and (6) Agnes Catherine, 1780–1865, a “spinster.”

Somewhere out of this respectably fertile soup of Pearson uncles descended the thread of kinship at the end of which dangled the late Lucy Pearson, another “spinster,” who was a closer friend to Granny than she was evidently the remotest of cousins.
They must have made friends when Gran was living in England shortly before and during World War I.
In 1975 Mum and Aunt Anne, who kept in touch with Lucy, took me, aged eleven, to visit her in the comfortable but slightly forlorn flat where she lived in genteel poverty, just off Knightsbridge. We had tea, and sardines on soggy toast.
The high point in Lucys career was the invitation in about 1963 to sail out to Melbourne as a semi-official “companion” to Joyce, Lady Delacombe, whose husband, Sir Rohan, a former military governor of the British sector of Berlin, was lately appointed Governor of Victoria.
Although nothing at all was explicitly stated to me by Loris Callander or Charlie Curwen, who were both very much in evidence at Government House during the Delacombe era, I gather that Lucy Pearson’s tour of duty was not an unqualified success, and before long she flew back to London.

Within the vice-regal household, Lucy was known, no doubt affectionately, as “Juicy Lucy,” and the sense was quite definitely ironic.

This portrait of old Mrs. Pearson, our common ancestor, was probably painted in Edinburgh around 1828–30, when she was an old lady of about seventy, presumably around the time of her husband’s death, and she was obliged to vacate Kippenross.

In about 1860, Helen Pearson (née Littlejohn), the widow of Commander Hugh Pearson, Jane Pearson’s eldest son, brought the portrait to the first homestead at Kilmany Park near Sale in East Gippsland, when she sailed out to live in quiet retirement with her son, daughter-in-law, and their family. It passed thence to my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Mim, and down the line to our Davidson cousins.

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