Saturday, March 7, 2009

Eric Temple Bell - important mathematician and Sci-fi writer distantly connected to Draysons

In the 1990s Granny was contacted by American author Constance Reid, carrying out research for her book The Search for E. T. Bell: Also Known as John Taine. The story as I remember it from Granny and reading the book went as follows.

Her Granny Drayson (mother of Alan and Edwin) also had a daughter, who died as a toddler. The bereft mother had a breakdown and to help her recover, a lady companion was hired, who lived with the family for many years. This was Miss Bell, who was always known to the Draysons as Pieface. There are photos of her among the family archives.

Granny didn't like her Drayson grandmother, nor Pieface, whom she found bitter and sarcastic (cf Arthur Conan Doyle, who enjoyed Arther Drayson's sarcasm. Sarcasm didn't impress Granny much & we used to get black looks if we tried it). She recalled that when Pieface had a letter announcing the death of her brother in the far East, she said "good riddance" and the family were very shocked.

Eric Bell was an influential Scottish-American mathematician - see for example Reid's book, as I remember, suggested that there was a mystery connected with his early life and family, possibly connected with the death or disappearance of his father, which he was determined to keep secret and probably lied about.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Meriel's family and Granvile Sharp

This family tree shows the connection between Meriel's family and the famous abolitionist Granville Sharp. Fanny Mary Smith is Meriel's Great Grandmother. Granville Sharp, and his family, are shown in the painting at the top of this post (the image is a link to the National Portrait Gallery where the picture is on display).

The town names mentioned in the family tree are all situated around Bradford in Yorkshire, as shown in this Google Map. Some more details about that branch of the Sharp family can be found in the book Rambles round Horton by William Cudworth (a description of the history and ancestry of the town of Horton near Bradford).

Uncle Alan's obituary

Shown below is Uncle Alan's obituary from the 24th April 1964 edition of the Teignmouth Post. The text reads:

The death occurred on Thursday of last week of Brigadier F. G. Drayson, C.B.E., M.C., of Thatch Cottage, Coombe Vale. He was a former member of the Urban Council and was the founder of the Teignmouth Civil Defence Corps.
He took a keen interest in many other local organisations, including the British Legion, the Conservative Association and the Debating and Lecture Society. For years he helped to run the local Tennis Tournament, and was a familiar figure at the Haldon Golf Club until arthritis forced him to become less active.
In 1906, Brigadier Drayson was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Border J egiment and was stationed at Gibraltar. He was then posted to India where he helped to form the Indian Signal Corps. In World War I he served in France, Belgium and Mesopotamia, and saw further active service during the Afghan War of 1919 and the Waziristan operations of 1919-21 and 1921-24. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1915 and during the period 1914- 24 was four times mentioned in despatches. In 1921 he transferred from the Border Regiment to the Royal Corps of Signals.
The Brigadier was appointed Chief Signal Officer, Northern Command, India, in 1934, and from 1935-39 was C.S.O. Middle East. While stationed at Cairo, he was responsible for all Army radio and telephone communications, not only in Egypt, but also in Palestine and Cyprus.
On the outbreak of World War II, Brigadier Drayson became C.S.O. III Corps, B.E.F., and remained in France until the withdrawal at Dunkirk, after which he received the C.B.E. He was then appointed C.S.O. Northern Command and was stationed at York until his retirement in 1945.

Uncle Alan's uniform

Uncle Alan served in the Border Regiment and later in the Royal Signals. This is his uniform while serving the in the Border Regiment.

The labels show the name of the military outfitters it was purchased from:

The buttons are emblazoned with a Chinese dragon motif, signifying the Border Regiment's part in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Family link to Sir Richard Grenville.

This is from Meriel's side of the family, rather than the Morgans.

This is a section of the Sharp Family Tree, taken from Gloucestershire County Records (part of National Archive). Document is from Browne/Murray-Browne family records (ref number D6919/8/1). It is more clear in this image.

This section of the family tree shows Sir Richard Grenville (they spell it Granville) and his wife Mary, their son Sir Barnard Grenville, grandson Sir Basil Grenville, and their connection to the Sharp family through the wife of Thomas Sharp, Judith Wheeler. Thomas Sharp is the father of famous abolitionist Granville Sharp.

Sir Richard Grenville (the link goes to a excerp from The Dictionary of National Biography) was a famous tudor rear-admiral immortalised by Tennyson in the poem The Revenge. Meriel's family is connected to the Sharps through Thomas Sharp's great-grandfather James Sharp (as described in this post).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alfred Wilkes Drayson writing in Beeton's Boy's Own

As well as publishing books Alfred Drayson also wrote in "Beeton's Boy's Own" magazine. Here is the cover of a story he wrote entitled "Ingonyama, the Caffre Chief: A Tale of Southern Africa," it is from Boy's Own Magazine (vol.3, pt. 22) 1871 (image is a link to this website).

Obiturary of Alfred Wilkes Drayson

Alfred Drayson's obituary appears in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in February 1902, it appears this is where most of the information in that article by B. E. Schaefer comes from. Bizarrely it gets his middle name wrong, calling him Alfred WILLIAM Drayson, though all the other details clearly refer to Alfred Wilkes Drayson (including the detail about teaching the Duke of Connaught):

ALFRED WILLIAM DRAYSON was born at Waltham Abbey, Essex, in 1827. He received his education at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and obtained his first commission in 1846. He served in the Kaffir war in 1847. and against the insurgent Boers in 1848. In both campaigns his knowledge of the Kaffir and Zulu languages were of great service, He was appointed instructor in surveying and field works at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and shortly afterwards professor of surveying and practical astronomy. During this period he was instructor to the Duke of Connaught. On returning to military duty he was appointed to command the Royal Artillery at Portsmouth. In 1876 he proceeded to India in command of his brigade, and did valuable work in the rearmament of various forts in Bengal. Upon returning to England he was promoted to the rank of General. He retired from the army in 1883, and lived at Southsea till his death on the 27th of September 1901.
General Drayson wrote a number of stories, beginning in 1888 with Sporting Scenes among the Kaffirs, and following with Among the Zulus, The Gentleman Cadet, and many others. He published books on billiards and whist, on both of which games he was an authority.
As a military writer mention may be made of his work on military surveying, which had several editions and was used as a text-book.
In his astronomical writings General Drayson went somewhat astray, in one of these he attributed what were really errors of observation to a gradual increase of the Earth’s diameter; and in another he substituted a geometrical movement of the pole (which more or less accounted for the phenomena of recent years, but which was entirely empirical) for the orthodox precession, nutation, and change in inclination of ecliptic to equator which have a dynamical basis.
General Drayson was of a kindly disposition and made many friends. He passed a long life in great activity and rendered valuable services to his country.
He was elected a Fellow of the Society on the 20th of January 1868.