Thursday, September 11, 2014

Discovering Captain Bolton

In November 2012, I walked up and down dozens of rows of graves in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley graveyard, but had little luck in finding what I was seeking. In my backpack, I had a copy of Ken Nicholson’s The Happy Valley: A History and Tour of the Hong Kong Cemetery, and was looking for several of the family graves mentioned in Patricia Lim’s Forgotten Souls: A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery. Unfortunately, when I tried matching the maps with the relevant reference numbers, nothing was a fit with what I could see on the ground. I was about to give up, when I spied Paul Harrison and Kwok Mei Wah in the distance. I had met them both when I had given a talk a few days earlier to the Royal Asiatic Society. Lovely people.

Kwok Mei Wah at work in Happy Valley Cemetery.
 From our initial chat, I had learned that Paul worked as a conservator. He also knew a lot about the graves that were maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. As I approached, I could see that the two of them were surrounded by an assortment of pails and rags and other implements of their trade. They dropped everything to help me. Apparently, reading the maps upside down can be decidedly misleading.

In a future post, I will share more of what I learned from Paul about the CWGC graves in Hong Kong, but for now I will stick with the story of Charles James Bolton, and the grave of his daughter. It was that which got me curious to learn more about them. (Recently, he also worked on a couple of dozen non-military Armenian and Russian grave markers, the work being funded by the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust. Perhaps I will see them on another visit to Hong Kong).

Paul Harrison to the right of the grave marker: Sacred to the memory / of/ MARY LOUISA/ infant daughter / of/ CHARLES JAMES/ and / LOUISA CAROLINE BOLTON/ died 11th March 1866/ aged 6 months eleven days. Thy Will be done.
For those who have been following my posts, you will know that Louisa Caroline Bolton was a daughter of Captain Dare of Singapore, and hence a sister of Amelia Dare, who in turn was the wife of Sir Thomas Jackson, the central focus of my research. On my web site, I have posted a chart: Mentions of BOLTON in the Far East in the mid to late-1800s. This post takes the story of Captain Bolton and Louisa Caroline Dare one step further.

It is worth knowing that their infant daughter, Mary Louisa, died in Hong Kong when Thomas Jackson was in his mid-20s and was also living and working there, first at the Agra Bank and then at what we now know as HSBC. This means that Thomas would have met his future sister-in-law, Louisa, long before he moved to Yokohama and met her younger sister Amelia. The social class that they all belonged to was so small, there is virtually no chance that they could have missed each other, plus they were close in age.

It is always easier to dig up nuggets about men in this era, so it is no surprise that there were some bits about Capt. Bolton available in various archives. He had received his master mariner’s certificate on 22 December 1862, at the age of 33.  In An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, published in 1902, he is mentioned in the context of other family members:

Mr. Dare died in London, 50 years of age in 1856. He had a family of nine children, one of his daughters married Mr. William Ramsay Scott; another Captain C.J. Bolton, very well known and a great favourite in Singapore, who commanded Jardine Matheson & Co.’s crack opium schooner, and when steam came, the Glenartney. He is now living in Essex.

The Glenartney, was a three masted, screw-steamer launched on March 13th, 1869. It had been built by William Denny and Bros. at Dumbartin, Scotland and was owned by Robert Jardine and the Union Steam Ship Company. It was lengthened in 1875 by an additional 63.6 feet, which may not have been prudent. Six years later, on August 30th, 1881, it struck some rocks about 4 miles off Quoin Point, Cape Colony. When it attempted to reach Simonstown unaided, it suddenly sank. I do not know who was at the helm, but unfortunately 236 of those were on board died, while only 36 survived. The two words ships and sinking are all too often found in the same sentence in this era.

Mark Sherbooke also found a news release indicating that Louisa Caroline Bolton had a hand in the naming of the ship:

LAUNCHES  - On Saturday, Wm. Denny & Brothers launched an iron-screw steamship of 1700 tons.  The machinery, of 300 H.P. nominal, will be fitted up by Messrs. Denny & Co., on the direct-action surface condensation principle. The vessel was named the “Glenartney” by Mrs Bolton, lady of Captain Bolton, who has superintended the construction. The Glenartney is the property of Messrs. Jardine, Mathieson & Co. and intended for their trade between Calcutta and China. Monday March 15 1869.The Glasgow Daily Herald,

The Reiver was another of Bolton’s ships. Like the Glenartney, it also traded in opium and other goods, and also sank, or at least as Mark Sherbrooke points out, there is an indication in the Jardine Matheson archives that the clipper was “lost” at some point before 26 November 1868.

There must have been a successor ship to the Glenartney because six years later, in 1874, an article in The Illustrated London News Vol 65 says that the Glenartney won the race to deliver the tea from China to England. They did it in 44 days. Apparently, Bolton was not the captain for that voyage. Coincidentally, a future Glenartney was the ship that Dowager Jackson sailed on when she departed from Hong Kong on March 31st, 1965 after participating in the 100th anniversary celebrations of the founding of HSBC. She had a marvelous time in Hong Kong, enjoying her usual abundance of G&Ts when she was hosted up on The Peak. Thankfully, that iteration of the Glenartney didn’t sink.

We do know that Bolton had a long and profitable career with Jardine Matheson that lasted long past the sinking of two of the ships associated with him. Their archives are full of his letters from such places as Amoy, Whampoa, Shanghai, Siam, Malay and other ports in the East Indies and China Coast. They also include his marriage settlement:

An envelope containing a marriage settlement agreed between Charles James Bolton of Hong Kong, master mariner, commander of the S.S. 'Reiver'; Louisa Caroline Dare of Singapore, spinster; and William Keswick and Edward Whittall, whereby, in light of the intended marriage between Bolton and Dare, Bolton assigns his leases, stocks and shares, and various other interests to Keswick and Whittall in trust, 22 February 1864.

Charles and Louisa would have met at least a year before their marriage because on the 16th of March 1863, Louisa’s brother, John Julius Dare, brought her and other members of his family up from the Cape to Yokohama in the Jardine Matheson clipper-steamer Clan Alpine, another of the ships captained by Bolton.

Mary Louisa was Charles and Louisa’s first child. On both of the 1865 and 1866 birth documents for her and her younger brother, Charles, their father was listed as: Master Mariner, Commander S.S. Reiver, and the family was described as resident in Hong Kong.

A mere nine months after the death of Mary Louisa, Charles George was born in Singapore. Given Bolton’s profession, this was a not surprising location. Also, Louisa had deep family roots in this city where her father had long operated as a ship’s captain and chandler, with many other business enterprises on the side. Singapore was also where her younger sister, Anna Maria Dare, married her husband Whitworth Allen a few years later.

Recently, Mark Sherbooke unearthed more bits about the Boltons that had long eluded me. It was he who found the marriage agreement between Charles Bolton and Louisa Caroline Dare, and its connection to William Keswick of Jardine Matheson (see my previous post), but he also found evidence of the 2nd daughter, the one who died at sea. It came from a most curious source, a book called The North Star and the Southern Cross: Being the Personal Experiences, Impressions and Observations of Margaretha Weppner, in a Two Years’ Journey Round the World, published in 1876.

The steamer was a fine large vessel and the commander Captain Bolton an extremely dignified and cultivated Englishman whose regularity punctuality and vigilance we had good reason to admire Some three months before the good captain had lost his wife and a little daughter on the voyage from England to Calcutta both were buried beneath the waves A dear little son had outlived the poor mother who had been brought to the much afflicted father by his foster mother and was now on board with him The sweet child was only five years old and his innocent jokes and games served to while away many an hour and I became very fond of him

This is a perfect fit with the notes by Amy Oliver Lloyd, one of Sir Thomas’ daughters. According to her, Louisa had died at sea, along with an infant daughter, sometime in 1870. With a few more dates, Mark has been able to pin down the dates of these two deaths even further.

According the June 1, 1870 edition of the Hampshire Advertiser Country Newspaper, the P&O’s Delta sailed for Gilbraltar, Malta and Alexandria with those who were leaving for India, China and Japan boarding on Saturday May 28th. Built in 1856, it wasn’t a new ship, but was still swish enough that a year earlier, it had ferried official guests from Marseilles to Port Said for the formal opening of the Suez Canal. The passengers on this sailing included Mrs. Bolton, two children and servant (not all of the 75 on board were mentioned).

Although shipping records show that Louisa then boarded the P&Os Mooltan at Suez bound for Calcutta, only one child is mentioned as accompanying her on that leg of the voyage. It seems that Violet died before reaching Madras. We do know, according to the London and China Telegraph issue of August 15, 1870, that Louisa must have died within a month of the death of her infant daughter:

DEATHS - BOLTON – On the 1st July, on board the P. and O. steamer Mooltan, on her way to Calcutta, Louisa Caroline, the wife of Charles James Bolton Esq., commander of the Glenartney steamer.

Meantime, Bolton had been sailing the Glenartney between Hong Kong and Calcutta via Singapore. When he arrived in Calcutta, possibly not yet knowing that his wife had died, he now had a 3 ½ year old son to take care of, his only living child, plus he had to set sail again. On July 21st, the Glenartney left Calcutta with Bolton at the helm. Who fostered the young Charles George Bolton until a year and a half later when we hear of him again in Margaretha Weppner’s voyage? There is still more to learn.

As Marke Sherbrooke points out, the sad thing is that that after Captain Bolton departed on the Glenartney’s maiden voyage, he and Louisa never saw each other again. 

·       Was Charles James BOLTON related to John and Thomas Bolton of Manchester who exported textiles to the Far East in a company named Bolton and Barlow? See: Barlow Family Business Chronology. It seems likely.
o   An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore: The firm of Syme & Co. commenced in Singapore in 1823 In 1856 G.M. Dare was a clerk. J.C. Bolton [NOTE: This is not Charles James Bolton] was a partner in 1858. Afterwards he was Chairman of the Caledonian Railway and MP for Sterlingshire. (NOTE: Robert Jardine was also a partner of this railway then)
·       Who did Louisa stay with in London when she gave birth to Violet? Friends? Extended family? Was it her intention in living there to avoid the circumstances which had led to the death of her first daughter in Hong Kong?

·       Julia Mitchell, the 2nd wife of Charles James Bolton lived in 1901 at Bocking Hall, Bocking, Essex, an address which is on the same census page as that of John English TABOR of Bovington Hall. TABOR was a 1st cousin once removed of Albert Maitland TABOR, husband to Thomas JACKSON’s daughter, Kathleen. Bovington Hall is also where Albert Maitland TABOR died, so it is not a far fetch to suspect that Uncle Charles James Bolton kept up connections with his niece Kathleen McCullagh TABOR long after the death of his 1st wife. Thanks to Mark Sherbrooke for catching this as well.
·       If the age of death given in the transcription of Mary Louisa’s grave-marker is correct, then she was born August 30, 1865. On the other hand, her baptismal certificate gives a birth date of August 27, 1865. Unfortunately, there is vegetation obscuring that part of the inscription in my photos. Is it possible that the stone mason misread "14" for "11", and then engraved "eleven"? That’s a common error.


  1. Every time I read one of your posts I feel like I'm following a master detective. Your sleuthing is incredible. Remind me to hire you if I ever need to solve a mystery.

  2. This blog piece has gone through more iterations than most - but in this instance it is thanks to new info that I keep receiving from correspondents in Hong Kong and New Orleans. I love the World Wide Web when it comes to stuff like this. I am always learning more.