strange feeling when you discover something extraordinary about your family.
remember my grandfather Alexander telling me about travelling to South Africa
as a young boy with his younger brother and parents. His father George was a successful accountant
taking advantage of British colonial rule in Africa. He made a small fortune working in the gold
and platinum mining industry during the gold rush of the early 20th
century. The family returned to England
when Alexander was still a young school boy. By this time his siblings comprised two
brothers and two sisters.
A few weeks
ago I was casually surfing the internet and looked up my grandparents’ home in
Middlesex, wondering if there were any old photos of the house that I
remembered from my childhood. I stumbled
across an article that mentioned the BBC programme Who Do You Think You
Are? The celebrity featured was a young
black TV presenter by the name of Reggie Yates (I’d never heard of him but apparently
he is quite well known). Surely this
was a mistake, how could he be part of my family?
I managed to
find a re-run of the BBC programme and was absolutely gobsmacked by what was
revealed to me. George's work in Cape
Town and Ghana and the developing gold mining industry looks like it kept him
from the UK for large periods of time. His
wife, Ethel, (my great grandmother) remained in England with their children. During
one of his expeditions he took a "local wife" and they
had a son, Harry, together. Great
grandfather fell ill, returned to England and died at the relatively young age
of 44 years. Harry was just two years old. As far as I am aware the English
family were unaware of Harry’s existence and I don’t think my grandfather ever
knew he had a half brother.
|Great Grandfather's other 'wife'|
grandmother was left a very small legacy.
I was always told that great grandfather George gambled away his fortune
on his voyage home. I now suspect his
fortune was invested in his Ghanaian family.
Harry grew up
in Ghana and married a local lady.
Together they had 11 children. Reggie
is his grandson, which makes him my half cousin once removed. Well I never did!
|Harry with his large family in Sekondi, Ghana |