Anastatius Raitt

Anastatius Robert William Raitt born in 1846 in Worcestershire was another son of Charles Robert Raitt, who in turn was the son of Charles Frederick Raitt, who may have been the son of William Raitt and Ann Petrie (see Hampshire Raitts and Kincardineshire Raitts pages). I had not troubled to find anything about him, until however I was contacted by someone in Perth, Australia who was transcribing South African marriage records. One was of a female named Willie Fulton Raitt and I was asked whether I had come across this person and could I decipher the place of marriage. I thought initially that Willie might be short for Wilhelmina, but no, it does appear to be Willie. The marriage took place between Willie and Arthur Augustine Pyne on 17 June 1897 in St George's Cathedral, Grahamstown, South Africa. The marriage extract gave Willie's age as 18, resident in Tootabi, and Arthur was of full age (i.e over 21 - in fact he was born in 1855 in Devon, England), in the Civil Service and resident at Halesowen - both in the Eastern Cape. Willie was married with consent of her guardians who were named as Ernest Ashburner and his wife Dorothy Adelaide Augusta Ashburner. Dorothy actually was Willie's mother,  who as spinster Dorothy Bean married Anastatius Robert William Raitt on 6 March 1875, probably in South Africa since she was born in Port Elizabeth on 23 September 1852. She died on 7 May 1911. Willie was born about 1878 - also certainly in the Eastern Cape.

Anastatius Robert William Raitt, son of Charles Robert Raitt, who was by this date a Major, was born on 7 August 1846 at Bench Hill, Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England and christened there on 12 September. He joined the Royal Navy aged about 13 and is listed in the HMS Conway Cadet Register as being there from December 1859-December 1860. HMS Conway was the first school ship to train young boys for a life at sea and since it opened only in August 1859, then Anastasius (as he is in the register) was one of the very first cadets aboard the Liverpool-based vessel.

He died in South Africa on the night of the 4 March 1878, aged 31. Initially I thought he had been killed in action - but it would appear that his death was the result of an accident while on active service with the Cape Colonial Forces in the 9th Frontier War. He is buried in King Williams Town main cemetery in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

At the time of his death Anastatius was a volunteer with the rank of Captain in the very recently formed Pulleine's Rangers just before the start of the Zulu War proper in 1879 when there were just skirmishes - the so-called Kafir War. During British operations against the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape Frontier, Colonel Henry Pulleine was responsible for raising irregular cavalry from amongst European settlers in the area including railway navvies. The unit was formed to support the British troops in the 9th Frontier War, in the Eastern Cape. They acquitted themselves well and helped organize supply columns to besieged British garrisons. They were feared by the locals and Pulleine's Rangers were known as Pulleine's Lambs. A Naval Brigade (blue jackets) from HMS Active, flagship on the South African station, was landed at East London on 16 December 1877 and were camped at Ibeka, the Headquarters Camp of the British Field Force in Transkei. In mid-January 1878 the Naval Brigade was reinforced from the European colony around Ibeka by 100 of the Pulleine Rangers volunteer forces and both units saw some fierce fighting.

It seems that Anastatius had already retired from the Navy and had settled locally and was, in fact, recruited into the Pulleine Rangers almost immediately after he had arrived with his wife and son at the Cape from Baghdad. It looks as though Anastatius had met and married Dorothy Bean in Baghdad, Iraq while she was on a visit to her sister. It was there that their first child was born in 1876. But who was this child?

In some details posted under the heading William Raitt’s career and marriage on in 2010 by Lois Harley, we can glean more about Anastatius’ death. I have added some comments in [].

“With a name like Anastatius it is understandable that he was known by his third Christian name, William. He was 31 years old when he died in a tragic accident during the Ninth Frontier War in the Eastern Cape. His commanding officer Lt. Col. Henry B. Pulleine wrote to his widow after the funeral on the 5th March 1878. He explained that Capt. Raitt's death on the night of Friday the 4th March was as the result of a fall into a deep and slippery "sluit" or gulley. He cut his head and must have been unconscious and therefore could have suffered little pain. The accident happened en route to King Williams Town [with his Pulleine Ranger group].

He was buried with military honours, the firing party being under the command of Capt. Sir George Sarjeant of the 88th Regiment. The Commodore sent the Naval Aide de Camp to represent him and all the officers of Pulleine's Rangers of Oudtshoorn and the Cape Town Native Contingent as well as representatives of the Frontier Light Horse and the Diamond Field Levy attended. He was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in King Williams Town.

From correspondence between his widow Dorothy and the Secretary of the Cape Colony concerning a pension for her and her two small children, it emerged that William had served upward of 15 years in Her Majesty's Marines. His last posting was as First Lieut. on HMS Cornish in Baghdad, Turkish Arabia. [There seems to be no such ship - probably the Comet is meant. In any event, the Indian Navy - Bombay Marine - ships were designated HMS, but the officers and crews were not Royal Navy] He had resigned from the service on account of her health and they had moved to South Africa, her birthplace. I think that Dorothy may have been visiting her sister Maria Georgina Nixon in Baghdad as Maria’s husband John Pigott Nixon was Political Agent in Baghdad during the 1870s, and she met William then.

William was recruited by Capt. O'Flaherty, of the Prince Alfred Volunteer Guard in Port Elizabeth into the Colonial Forces to serve as a Captain. He had served only two months before his death but had been congratulated on his excellent and efficient service. Ironically, his widow's request for a pension was turned down on the grounds that Pulleine's Rangers to whom he was attached was an Imperial not a Colonial force. [It was actually the other way round: Colonial not an Imperial]

Reference:KAB CO 4206 R40 1879 Dorothy Adelaide Augusta Raitt claiming pension.

From: The Armed Forces of South Africa by Major G Tylden published Johannesburg.

437 Pulleines's Rangers. Raised by General Cunynghame in 1877 during the 9th Kaffir (sic) War mainly from British navvies working on the Railway from King Williams Town with Coloured men also enlisted. The Corps was employed on L of C and seems to have been a very rough crowd. In 1880 known as Transkei Rifles.”

Lois Harley had apparently also received some of her details above from a descendant of Anastatius. I myself have not (yet) seen any documented report of his funeral arrangements, nor the letter that Henry Pulleine sent to Dorothy. In fact, Pulleine seems to have been only involved in raising, and providing officers for, the unit, rather than being its CO.

There is more to the story, however, and together with a Robinson relative (see below) we have pretty much teased it out - and not necessarily in the correct order! We knew that a Sydney Charles Frederick Raitt had married a Janet Henrietta Robinson in 1903 in South Africa. According to his Death Notice, Sydney Charles Frederick Raitt died on 13 August 1931 in Vryburg, South Africa [some 340 km south west of Johannesburg.] The Notice stated he was born on a steamer between India and Durban, Colony of Natal, South Africa. Since his age at death is given as 58, this implies he was born in 1873. However, his Marriage Certificate indicates, from his age recorded at that time, that he was born in 1876.

During his life Sydney Charles was at times a farmer, railway employee, general labourer and road overseer. Aged 27, occupied as a railway conductor, he married Janet Henrietta Robinson on 18 August 1903 in Vryburg. Janet was the daughter of Jesse Robinson and Emily Ellen Watson and was christened on 14 December 1879 in Thaba ‘Nchu, Orange Free State. The couple had six children between 1904-1928, all born in Vryburg: Eleanor Emily Adelaide, born 10 June 1904; Janet Violet Edith Lavinia, born 29 November 1907; Ethel Annie Irene, born 3 January 1910; Anastasius Robert William, born 16 July 1912; Sydney Clinton Nelson, born 3 April 1920 in Vryburg; and Teresa Joyce, born 24 July 1928. The two sons and all the daughters, with the possible exception of Teresa for whom we yet have no details, married and had children.

Now the question is who were Sydney Charles Frederick Raitt’s parents? If they had come from India, it is possible that his father was a military man - and there were certainly several such Raitts in India at the time. However, I did come across one intriguing reference in The Times of India for 7 November 1876, to whit: a son born on 10 September 1876 at Bagdar to the wife of A.R. Raitt, 1st Officer [of the H. C.] Steamer Comet. [The Comet seems to have been an armed (two guns) iron river steamer of 204 tons and 40 horsepower built for the Indian Navy in 1839, deployed to the Indus and with non-Indian Navy officers to keep open communications and prevent hostile bands from crossing the river. In a bitter engagement in 1843 the Comet was the means of preventing a large body of the enemy crossing the river to link up with the main Belooch army. After seeing much action, including protection of British interests on the Tigris in 1855, the Comet was taken into the service of the newly-constituted Bombay Marine as part of an expedition to lay the Indo-European telegraph. The expedition sailed from Bombay in January 1864 and after proceeding to Baghdad in April returned to Bombay. According  to a list of sea-going vessels at the disposal of the Bombay Government in 1875-1876, the steamer Comet was still employed on the Tigris.]

I assumed initially that Bagdar was the Bagdar in India since the birth was announced in the Indian press. Bagdar is, though, a long way from the sea, but it is fairly close to the river Ganges - and I thought that maybe the fact that the father was a serving officer aboard a steamer had become distorted over time to have the baby born onboard rather than on land. And if Sydney Charles married in 1903 aged 27, then he was born in 1876 (and not as early as 1873). A British Consular Birth Index of British nationals born overseas reveals that a Sidney Charles Raitt was born in Baghdad, Iraq between 1876-1880. Another entry from All India Births for 4 December 1876 provides the same information as the announcement in The Times of India except that the birth was at Bagdad (rather than Bagdar)! Certainly Baghdad, Iraq would fit in at least one voyage of the Comet - though we do not know yet when Anastatius (if he is indeed First Officer A. R. Raitt) joined the Comet.

Now quite apart from this, I was struck by the name Anastasius (or variants). Back in Scotland, of course, many were named John, James, William, David, Alexander, Robert Raitt - but would there be many Anastasius Raitts around who were not related in some way?

Looking again into the family of Willie Fulton Raitt we know her father was Anastatius Robert William Raitt, born in 1846 in Worcestershire, England who married Dorothy Adelaide Augusta Bean in 1875. And we know, from her petition to Parliament for a pension (see below), that Dorothy Raitt, wife of Anastatius, had two children. Could Sydney Charles Frederick Raitt be the first child of the couple - and born in 1876? Certainly the names Charles and Frederick and Clinton ran in Anastatius’ family (his grandfather was Charles Frederick Raitt) and one of Sydney Charles Frederick Raitt’s daughter had the name Adelaide - possibly after her grandmother, while Charles’ first son and grandson were presumably named after his grandfather.

True, the name Sydney does not seem to be present in the early family names, but it may be no coincidence that a Sidney Charles Raitt was born in Baghdad, Iraq between 1876-1880 according to the register at the British Consul there. (As an aside, a similarly named Lieutenant Charles Henry Sidney Raitt, aged 18, of the 90th Light Infantry Regiment, died in Malta on 28th April 1855, on route to the Crimea. Perhaps he too is an Army ancestor or relative.)

Now, if A. R. Raitt is indeed Anastatius (and there is no reason to doubt it), then as First Officer of the Comet, he would not have been a Marine, as they were mostly soldiers attached to the Navy, with a land role, and took no part in the running of ships. The Bombay Marine was the name of the sea-going Navy of the East India Company at that time. A Marine Corps apparently did not exist until later. It was only in 1877 that the Bombay Marine (and Bengal Marine) became Her Majesty's Indian Navy, under Imperial command.

But then, having ferreted out these facts and done a little considered speculation, out of the blue I was asked to befriend a Clinton Raitt on FaceBook. Struck by the name and the location of South Africa, I followed up on this and indeed he not only turns out to be the eldest son of Sydney Clinton Nelson Raitt (see above) but he also supplied me with a copy of the birth certificate of Sidney Charles Raitt. And the story turns out to be true! According to the entry of birth in the British Consulate General Baghdad, Sidney Charles Raitt was born on board the Indian Govt. Str. Comet B. M. on 10 October 1876 in the River Tigris off the Dyalla River. His father was named as Anastatius Robert Willian Raitt, Officer H. M.’s Indian Marine and his mother was Dorothy Adelaide Augusta Bean.

Since the precise date of Willie's birth is not known, then whether Anastatius ever got to see his baby daughter before he died is also not known. It is interesting to speculate how she got her name - apparently not short for anything. However, in her petition to the Cape of Good Hope House of Assembly in 1882 for a pension, Dora (as she was named) Raitt refers to her deceased husband as Willie Raitt! It is likely then that Willie was so named after the name her mother used for her father - possibly then in his posthumous honour.

Using her full name, Dorothy Adelaide Augusta Raitt first wrote to the Under Colonial Secretary in Cape Town on 18 August 1879 requesting a pension for herself and her two destitute children noting her late husband was appointed to the Colonial Force during the Frontier War. Captain O’Flaherty obviously supported Dora’s claim, but a curt handwritten note from the Colonial Secretary on 5 July 1880 said “Inform Captain O’Flaherty I am well acquainted with the circumstances with Capt. Raitt’s death and do not feel justified in recommending to [the Cape Colonial] Parliament any pension for the widow and children.”

Dorothy obviously did not let the matter rest and decided to petition the Cape Colonial Parliament directly herself in 1882 (using the name Dora Raitt). In her petition she states that Anastatius (or, as she calls him, Willie) was at one time Commander in Her Majesty’s Indian Navy, entered the service of the Cape Colonial Government in the year 1878, was duly gazetted as a Captain in such Service and proceeded to the Front against Rebel Gealekas and Gaikas. It was during service at the Front, and while encamped near King William’s Town that he met his unfortunate early death on a very dark night.

Returning to Willie Fulton Raitt - as noted above she married Arthur Augustine Pyne on 12 June 1897 in Grahamstown, Cape Colony, South Africa (photo at right above). Arthur was born on 26 August 1855 in Plymouth, Devon, England and died on 1 September 1900 in Halesowen, Cape Colony where he was the railway station master. The couple had two daughters: Dorothy Mabel Lavinia born 1898; and Mavis Arthur born about 1900. It appears that after Arthur’s death Willie married again - around 1906, to Englishman Eric Henry Courtenay Latimer, born on 15 September 1873 in Calcutta, Bengal, India. Willie had a further six children with Eric, also a station master in the Cape, and later South African Railways. The eldest child, Marjorie Eileen Doris Courtenay-Latimer, born 24 February 1907 in East London, Cape Colony was the person who, in East London, brought to the attention of the world the coelacanth that had been thought extinct for 65 million years! Eric died in East London on 24 February 1941 with Willie signing the death notice. In his will, he left “all his worldly possessions”  to his wife “born Willie Fulton Raitt” Like the date of her birth, the date of Willie’s death is not known (though see below!)