Thursday, November 6, 2014

Anglo-Zulu War: William Roy DCM and some confusion

I am amazed at the facts about the Anglo-Zulu War which are still hidden in the mists of time and folklore. Far too often 'facts' reported in follow up books and publications need revision every now and again. 

Look at QM Bloomfield 24th as an example, oft reported married once with (issue) one child when in fact he was married TWICE with THREE children. However this article is not about him but of a Scotsman who saw his life over before 40 but somehow ended up in the 24th and was fighting for his life with his comrades on Jan 22nd 1879. I have written about William Roy, 1st 24th before including his voyage to Australia and his death a few short years after his arrival.

William Roy won the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) on that fateful day so long ago, just what he did I am not sure: the 11 VC holders we know to the edge of a razor blade how they came by the coveted Cross, not so the DCM holders of which there were 5 awarded that day. I have recently got documentation which confirms the wedding of William Roy DCM and that he had a daughter when in Australia. Sadly that little girl did not survive long, was this due to the climate or the bad health of her father (William Roy).

The fact that the widow Roy re-married and eventually died in 1948 is testament to her toughness which can be accredited to Scottish stock. Roy himself was not born in Dundee nor indeed Edinburgh but in fact in Portmoak Kinrosshire. Yes he enlisted in Edinburgh Castle and lived in Dundee with his parents at 316 Hawkhill Dundee prior to his emigration to Parramatta in NSW Australia to the home of his brother John Roy. It was believed and hoped that the climate might be beneficial to William as his health was in a bad way at the time. He only lived in Parramatta for 7 years until his death in 1890.

William Roy married Cecilia Butchart on the 27th Oct 1882 in Monifieth Parish, Dundee. Williams parents had married in Portmoak in 1845 where today a glider school takes advantage of the hills and terrain in the area. The island in Loch Leven which Portmoak skirts is famous as the goal of Mary Queen of Scots, the prison with no bars because it is reported that Mary could not swim although I don't know of any evidence to support this. There is not much there today let alone in 1845/46. At the time of his marriage to Cecilia, she was living in Tay St Dundee while William was living William was living close by in Hawkhill as stated earlier.

Cecilia was the daughter of the local station-master while William was a porter at the same station, the obvious place where they first met. What is not generally known is that William served in the 32nd Regiment before his transfer to the 24th. Had he been with the column at Isandlwana, well we all know what happened there! William joined the 32nd Regt on the 13th Aug 1870. He had a terrible medical record throughout his career and was at Rorke's Drift as a result of malaria and eye problems. He deserted on the 16th Oct 1876 and was imprisoned, he transferred to the 24th on the 4th Dec 1877. He did transfer to the 2/24th in 1879 but after Rorke's Drift.

John his brother was a Church warden in Parramatta and it is believed he persuaded William and Cecilia to join him in Australia, however Cecilia did not travel with her husband but arrived on Christmas Eve 1883 in Australia aboard the 'PERICLES', she travelled under her maiden name, I am not sure why nor indeed why she did not travel with William, cost ?, maybe someone can enlighten me please?. They had a daughter called BEATRICE CECILIA ROY who was born on the 23 Nov 1886 in Brisbane but died on the 27 Feb 1888. It is not known why the birth took place in Brisbane and not Parramatta. There is no mention of the death of Beatrice on the death certificate of William Roy indicated on his death certificate by his brother John is , 'NO ISSUE', we do not know why.

Cecilia re-married and her husband was one EDWARD WILLIAMSON and they had a number of children. In 1948 when Cecilia died she was buried with her first husband, her second husband Edward and her daughter by William Roy, amazingly the location of the grave is unknown because the records have gone missing or have been destroyed (?).

On the 15th Sept 1948 in the 'Cumberland Argus and Fruit Growers Advocate' is the report of the death of Cecilia Williamson formerly Roy nee Butchart. I have traced the BUTCHART'S back TO 1798 and descendants of Cecilia to the present day. One last twist to the story is this. William was a Presbyterian by birth but is buried in the Baptist section of Parramatta Cemetery. A possible explanation is the following:

Parramatta has NO general cemetery, there was the large St John's (C of E) cemetery established c1790 about a mile down the road from the church of that name. The Presbyterians and Baptists were given an acre each for their cemeteries in the 1840's. They were run by their own trusts till the 1970's but they adjoin each other and have a single perimeter fence and collectively known as Mays Hill Cemetery. John Roy was the caretaker of St John's Anglican Church for nearly 10 years and lived next door to the Church. When William moved to Hunter St Parramatta it was some 8 doors down from his brother. There was no ground left for burials in the Baptist section of the cemetery and so the Anglicans were approached when William died. The Anglicans purchased the grave site to allow Beatrice Roy to be buried there in 1888. William died in 1890 and was buried with his daughter. Cecilia died in 1948 but is buried with both husbands and her daughter by William! So we have four people buried in the same plot, the last in 1948 and the location 'missing'.

A final footnote to this story is of course we have a PRESBYTERIAN buried in a BAPTIST grave and the ceremony (1890) performed by an Anglican minister! John Roy goes out of the picture at this point, no records of his demise seem to be available in NSW Australia, it may be possible he went back to Scotland after the death of his brother and parents (?). I sense more research is needed!

My eternal thanks and gratitude to, 'STAN' and Mr and Mrs Gray for the additional information.nI add the report of the death of Cecilia.

Sept 15th 1948: Parramatta NSW Australia
A link with the massacre of Rorkes Drift, in 1879 has been broken by the death at her home in Philip St, Parramatta, of Mrs Cecilia Williamson aged 92. Her first husband, ex-Private (Cpl) William ROY of the 24th Regiment, was one of the handful of men who survived the massacre of the regiment by the Zulus. Wounded during the battle Roy was a patient in a field hospital which the Zulus set on fire. Despite his wounds he played a leading part in rescue work. For his gallantry Queen Victoria personally presented him with a medal 'For Distinguished Conduct on the field' and a bible inscribed: "Souvenir of Rorke's Drift Jan 22nd -23rd 1879".

Invalided from the Service, Roy married in 1882, at Forfar, Scotland, Cecilia Butchart, youngest daughter of the local station - master. An account of the couples arrival in Parramatta, and Roy's subsequent early death, appeared in the Argus in 1885, it read: "The hardships and exposure Roy had been subjected to made sad inroads on an originally robust constitution: and his brother, John Roy, of Parramatta, he came to this colony in the hopes of recruiting his failing health."
"He had not been here two years before his sight, which had been failing some time, was entirely lost; and, blind and paralysed, he lingered on till Friday night last, when death released him from his sufferings. His remains were interred in the Baptist Cemetery, Parramatta , on Sunday afternoon, two of his old comrades, from Sydney being amongst the little band of mourners who watched the earth deposited over the remains of the departed" .

Mrs Williamson's most treasured possession was a reproduction of the famous painting now in the Sydney Art Gallery, showing the escape from the burning hospital. The central figure in the painting is Private Roy carrying a wounded comrade to safety. In 1892, Mrs Roy married Edward Williamson of Parramatta who died in 1920. A son and two daughters of the marriage survive. Mrs Williamson was laid to rest in the Baptist Cemetery Parramatta, on Thursday, beside the ill-fated hero of Rorke's Drift.

Also buried in the same grave are her daughter by W Roy and her second husband. The location is not known as the records have been lost/destroyed.

Detail from Alphonse de Neuville's painting OF THE dEFENCE OF rORKE'S dRIFT
 showing wounded escaping from burning hospital

Graham Mason Anglo-Zulu War Researcher



Extraordinary, emotive painting.

Mole said...

Yea it is. Of course it is a portion of the large work by Alphonse de Neuville of the Defence, but this detail is particularly moving and what is more, accurate.
'Stand to, Here they come again' ... brave men all, on both sides.

Unknown said...

Thanks for a very informative story about William and Cecilia Roy. I am a descendent of Cecilia and Edward through their daughter Barbara Elizabeth Williamson.

Over the years I have managed to collect bits of information about them, but not a lot.

So thanks again


Mole said...

ozeguy40 -
If you would like to leave your email address I could put you in touch with a Zulu War researcher who may help with further info.
Regards Mole