He always broke his thoughts into three distinct channels of logic: the things he knew, the things he could assume, and the things he wanted to know. The last channel was always the widest. Detective Hieronomous Bosch in The Crossing by Michael Connelly. p. 232
SIR THOMAS JACKSON's BARONIAL ARMS
Ermine on a pile azure between two fountains in base proper a Sheldrake or.
CREST: Upon a fountain proper a Sheldrake
FOOTNOTE (in Burke’s): The ancestor of this family in Ireland came from co. York in Oliver Cromwell’s Army and was granted lands in Co. Carlow for his services. The estate, called Mt. Leinster, was sold in 1745 by his descendant GEORGE JACKSON (1728-1782) who settled at Urker, Crossmaglen, co. Armagh.
NOTE: Information for both the pedigree and the footnote was based on material submitted by the family. This was not an unusual approach. I am still working on verifying some of it.
Although Stansted was Sir Thomas’ residence when he died, it was Urker, Co. Armagh – where he grew up - that was his true heart’s home.
I spent a
weekend at his home in Stansted & said to him “What a lovely
place this is!” He said, “I’d rather have Urker” “Really,
Uncle,” I said, “how could you compare the two? Urker
is a small house with many inconveniences” He said, “Its
not the size that matters, its where one’s roots are.” Kathleen Major (1879-1973): Her recollections of her uncle.
In 2015, Peter O’Donaghue, the York Herald, shared some useful facts for us to stick a pin in - aka the things we can assume:
- For Sir Thomas’ arms, there is no surviving paperwork or correspondence.
- For families that share a surname, the designs of their arms are often similar .
- There may not be any genealogical link to JACKSONs with similar arms.
Dear Ms Brown,
THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF SIR THOMAS’ ARMS
1) THE MOTTO: Aut Mors Aut Victoria.
This motto translates as: Either death or victory and is not found in any other Irish or English family crests (that I know of). More facts and speculations to pin to our current “evidence board” include:
- Only two men from Creggan parish in Co. Armagh have ever been knighted. Both had held leases to Urker, Parish of Creggan, Co. Armagh. Urker Lodge is where Sir Thomas spent his childhood years. SEE: The Tale of a Townland:
b. Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915) was knighted in 1899 and made a baronet in 1903. He had grown up on his family farm at Urker near Crossmaglen. His parents had frequently struggled to pay the rent. On one occasion, their cows were seized by the bailiff because of arrears. At age 22, Thomas left Ireland to work as a banker in Hong Kong. He became a key figure in building what had merely been a small agency bank into the international institution now known as HSBC. His great-grandson, Sir Thomas St. Felix is the current holder of the title.
There is an even wilder speculation than the previous ones that may also be worth entertaining. In the mid-1770s, there were banknotes from South Carolina and Georgia - backed by Spanish silver - which were engraved with the same motto as we find in Sir Thomas’ arms: Aut Mors Aut Victoria. They are the only other place where I have found this motto in use - except for a few instances where it is used by 20th Century American military units, and in recent video games and rap songs (who knew?).
The note is denominated as both twenty Spanish milled dollars as at £32 10s0d. The front contains four border cuts with cornucopias at the top and a seal. The 29mm seal depicts a bull with the motto: "AUT. MORS. AUT. VICTORIA" (Either death or victory). The reverse contains typeset borders and four Hebrew letters in the corners of the center block as anti counterfeiting devices. Note the top border contains a skull with cross bones flanked by an hourglass on either side followed by a design and then a harp. Provenance: Purchased through the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment from the EANA mail bid auction of 5/23/98, lot 455, graded as choice extremely fine. SOURCE: South Carolina Currency.
ANOTHER BILL FROM THIS ERA: Georgia May 4, 1778 $30 PMG Choice Very Fine 35. This bright note with nice margins also has bold signatures. One of the signers, William Few, was to become a signer of the United States Constitution in 1787. The lower two-thirds of the boar vignette is strong. The phrase on the back, AUT MORS, AUT VICTORIA LAETA, means "Either death or victory is pleasing." SOURCE: Heritage Auctions. Sold in 2010.
The reason that these particular bank notes might be connected to Sir Thomas’ choice of motto is because of his reputation as a silver trader. When China’s currency was still on the silver standard, most banks in the region failed when the value of silver plummeted, but thanks to Thomas the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation made it through the 1890s. Going against conventional wisdom, he had ensured that his bank had maintained large deposits of silver during the currency crisis. This enabled his bank to accept contracts and to advance loans which other banks couldn’t handle because they didn’t have the reserves to back them. Since this was risky, he became known as Lucky JACKSON.
Even as a child, it is likely that Thomas would have learned about the power of silver-backed currency. Although one of his near-relations, a Thomas Coulter (1793-1843) of Carnbeg Co, Louth was better known as a botanist (the poppy Romneya coulteri was named for him), Coulter had also managed silver mines in Mexico for ten years, and in April 1838 had delivered a paper on the use of the Spanish silver dollar as a universal unit of currency. [SOURCE: A Man Who Can Speak of Plants. E. Charles Nelson and Alan Probert p.128.] I would not put it past Thomas' mother not only to have read this paper, but then much later to have told her son about it. It was his mother – not his father – who was reputed to be the brains in the family. She often offered her unsolicited advice to him about when to take risks, when to be cautious, and how to play the long game. Even after Thomas had become a world renowned banker, her advice to him about money never ceased.
We get a hint of the future Sir Thomas' sympathies to the Confederate cause – at least to their financial and political interests - in an 1863 letter. He wrote it when he was 22 years old and working as a low paid clerk at a bank in Belfast. The American Civil War (1861 –1865) was at its halfway mark.
… For so far there appears to be no prospect of peace in America both Federals and Confederates are still determined to fight it out the tremendous loss of life does not appear to alter their purposes, the question is getting more and more complicated every day. The South has suffered a number of reverses lately and perhaps ‘ere this has suffered another in the destruction of Charlestown the very heart of rebellion. Yet with all this the spirits of the Leaders of Political and Military are still buoyant. I think every person must admit that the North if let alone would conquer the South in fact annihilate them. But in all probability interventions will come; the governments of both England and France I am sure wish a separation of North and South. America if united would be far too formidable a power for any European nation to cope with. A very important Pamphlet has appeared in Paris written it is thought by the Emperor. The title is “France Mexico and the Confederate States of America” the Pamphlet is very favorable to the Confederate cause. The writer urges France and Mexico to recognize the Confederates; rumor asserts confidently that the New Empire of Mexico will not only recognize the South but form an offensive and defensive alliance with them this would be virtually a recognition by France as France is the guardian of the New Empire – United States would most undoubtedly declare war against any power recognizing the South at present. If I remember right our opinions on the American question were a little different but I'm sure our Opinions on the main question the Abolition of Slavery are agreed the course events have taken lately bids fair for the accomplishing of this most desirable end; at the same time I would like to see the Confederates succeeding in obtaining their independence the break has come too wide to heal and considering the animosity that exists between them I think it was to be better for both parties to have a separation. 1863 September 23. Letter from Thomas JACKSON to his Aunt Barbara BRADFORD. NOTE: In spite of some sympathies towards the cause of the South, he remained consistant in his opposition to slavery.
Barbara BRADFORD (1783-1865), the recipient of this letter, was a significant mentor to young Sir Thomas and had likely bankrolled his education at Morgan's School in Castleknock, Dublin. An activist and deep thinker, she was also the widow of William Donaldson (1768-1815) of Freeduff, the leader of the United Irishmen in Co. Armagh in the late 1790s. Several of his fellow United Irishmen, those who had come from counties Armagh, Monaghan, and Down, had fled to the Southern states after the failed Irish Rebellion that they had backed. Some of their letters from the early 1800s were saved by his mother and his aunt, and were likely also read by Thomas. SEE: 1811 February 27 William Donaldson to Oswald Lawson and 1812 February 18 William Donaldson to Oswald Lawson.
The fact that the motto on Sir
Thomas’ arms had also been on American bank notes at the time of the American Revolution may be no more than a fluke. After all, it was a few generations before Sir Thomas was even born.
Also, President Andrew JACKSON (1767-1845), who governed after the Revolution, had no known close family or business connections with Thomas' family. Although President JACKSON had died when Thomas was a child, Thomas would likely have learned
about his politics (for good or ill), including his opinions about banking (See: Jackson and
Distrust of the National Bank. President Andrew’s father, Andrew JACKSON (1730-1767) had been one of the
of Co. Down who had left Ireland for America, and his parents would have heard of this connection. It may be significant that Andrew JACKSON sr. had settled and died at Waxhaws, South Carolina. This state was not only one
of the ones whose motto on their bank notes was the same as Sir Thomas’, it was also home to many Protestant emigrants from Ulster.
This crest is connected to the JACKSONs of Doncaster. Both the motto and the birds are also present in other JACKSON crests. It is the same bird that we find on Thomas' arms.
2) THE BIRD: Sheldrakes and Shovellers don’t show up much in British Baronial Arms. According to Arthur Charles Davies, The Sheldrake appears occasionally under another name i.e. that of the Shoveller. [SOURCE: p246 A complete Guide to Heraldry. 2008.] The sheldrake is very similar to the common duck, but of more varied colour, and is often distinguished by a long tuft on the breast and another on the head. [SOURCE: A grammar of British heraldry, consisting of blazon and marshalling; with an introduction on the rise and progress of symbols and ensigns. William Sloane Sloane-Evans. Edition: 2. J.R. Smith, 1854]
Why choose a duck for baronial arms? Compared to eagles and bears and such, it does not sound too impressive, but after all ducks can elude their enemies in many ways - by flying, running, swimming or diving for cover. Perhaps ducks are the perfect image for members of the merchant class. After all, they didn’t always enjoy the support of the political powers of their day, and sometimes sailed into the grey zone of illegality (or worse).
Three such birds can be found in the family crests
of many JACKSONs who were in Ireland's and England's merchant class. Many had originally come from Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Westmorland,
and Yorkshire etc. and recent research is revealing that many were related to one another, although some of these
ties can be challenging to prove. These inter-relationships between different JACKSON lineages may have been the result of the practice of fathers placing their sons in various maritime ports,
financial centres, or else in places where raw materials such as flax, wool, wood, and
coal could be acquired. Often, that included Ireland.
SEE: Wiki: Red Hand of Ulster.
3) RED HAND OF ULSTER: (In the upper left hand corner of the shield.) Since 1922, the year that a single Ireland was split into two Irelands – North and South - the arms of all new and reconfigured Baronets from Northern Ireland included the Red Hand of the O'Neills. Sir Thomas’ version of the red hand is the left-hand version, the one used in Irish baronetcies after 1835 which was the same version used in British baronetcies after 1922. The O’Neil crest, like the older baronetcies in Ireland, includes the right-hand version.
O'NEIL FAMILY CREST
heraldic fountain does not resemble a real fountain but is put in the form of roundel
wavy argent and azure (a silver and blue circlet of wavy lines), unless it
is expressly stated that the fountain is proper—i.e., a natural fountain.
nature and origins of heraldic terminology. Britannica.]
FOUNTAINS –ROUNDEL & PROPER
The description of Thomas’ arms includes the words a fountain proper, and yet the image has a silver and blue circlet of wavy lines. I have no clue about this discrepancy. Did someone mess up when checking that the description and the image matched or did I mess up? I cannot be sure, but here is what can be safely assumed: In heraldry, fountains suggest a connection to water: lakes, oceans, headwaters of rivers, or wells.
In Sir Thomas’ case, the fountains might indicate the global reach of his banking success. When he had been hired by the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation as a young man, the bank had fewer than a dozen employees. By the time he retired they had branches all around the world, all connected by telegraph cables stretched beneath two oceans. The bank had become a robust international power, now better known to most of us as HSBC. Thomas’ contribution to this success would have been the main reason for the granting of baronial honours.
Regardless of what we might think of the
British Empire these days - and a range of perspectives pro or con are totally
legitimate - Sir Thomas’ work was vital to its success, and Queen Victoria had noticed.
NOTE: In 2011, I did a series of blog posts relating to crests and coats of arms. As always, such posts are limitd by what I knew at the time:
A more in-depth exploration of the range of connections between the Jacksons of Urker and other Irish JACKSONs with family crests that shared these elements will be in a future post.