Friday, April 26, 2013

Sugar in Natal: the Pioneers – Vacy-Lyle



William Bray Lyle started business as a sugar merchant in Durban in 1864.  By 1874 he was managing the Kirkly Vale Sugar Estate; described by John Robinson in 1870 as ‘the last sugar plantation to the northward’ Kirkly Vale was near the Umvoti River between the coast road and the sea.

Natal sugarcane fields: green gold
The estate was sold in 1877, and Lyle took it over, ploughing up the cane and planting tea. By 1888 the Kirkly Vale Tea Estate was reportedly owned jointly by Arthur T Reynolds (son of Thomas Reynolds, M.L.C.) and W B Lyle. The old sugar mill had been converted into ‘a large and commodious tea-house.’ Sir Liege Hulett later purchased the estate.

William Bray Lyle was manager, in 1886, of the Glendale Sugar Estate (which belonged to Arthur T Reynolds); the Glendale mill was put up in 1880. In 1890 the estate was sold to G Nicholson, and in 1920 was bought by the Paruk family.

W B Lyle had two sons, John C Vacy Lyle and Leonard Vacy Lyle.

John Vacy-Lyle, D.S.O., M.C., was a medical doctor and sugar planter who served as a founder member and Captain of the Victoria Mounted Rifles and later as Colonel in the Natal Mounted Rifles. He founded the Fenton Vacy Sugar Estate at Verulam in 1860. By 1870 600 of its 1400 acres were under cane. A popular product of this estate was Fenton Vacy Rum, advertised in local newspapers at the time. The estate was sold in 1878 to Arbuckle and again to Tom Milner who added it to his adjoining estate, Redcliffe.

Leonard Vacy-Lyle, John’s brother, was a sugar planter at Inyoni. He served as Lieutenant in the Natal Mounted Rifles 1889-1892 and also in the Matabele campaign. From 1893-1897 he was a transport rider in Rhodesia, returning to Natal to serve during the Anglo-Boer War. He married Emma Farthing in 1892 and the couple had four sons and two daughters. In 1929 he married Emily Faram.

The compound surname, Vacy-Lyle, originated with the marriage of Mary Ann Vacey to William Lyle in 1825, at Whitstone, Cornwall. The spelling of Vacy/Vacey varies depending on date and source as does the use of the hyphen. William Bray Lyle included neither Vacy nor the hyphen.

A civil marriage declaration is held at Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository for Mary King Vacy-Lyle to Bartlett Little, 6 November 1876. (CSO 22286 p 298)



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