Who was Captain J G Dunlop?

A few months ago while searching the Australian newspapers online, Trove, I came across an article in the Kyneton Guardian  of 11 January 1917 mentioning the cousin of Cr. John McKnight (known as Johnny to family)  and Mrs. M Moore (formerly Margaret Gregg McKnight) and thus nephew of Johnny and Margaret’s mother Sarah Jane Dunlop.  Sarah Jane Dunlop married Alexander McKnight in Raphoe, Co Donegal, Ireland on 15 January 1857.  They are my great great grandparents.  For those of you who are family, they were Elsie McKnight’s grandparents.

Captain J G Dunlop was said to be serving in British East Africa but that his commission was awaiting him in Europe with the Royal Irish Rifles.  He had served in the Boer war and in the operations in German South West Africa.  He had taken part in four campaigns and was hoping to complete his fifth.  It mentioned that he had been a captain under Major Maritz who had defected to the Germans but J G Dunlop had fortunately been sent by headquarters to military college and had escaped being a prisoner of war.

The article also mentioned a sister of J G Dunlop who was a sister in the South African Military Nursing Service in South West Africa.  She had  just returned to Johannesburg for a few weeks when she was told she had been selected as one of five nurses for the nursing service overseas contingent and had sailed for England almost immediately on a troop ship carrying 2000 troops.  The article didn’t give her name but I now know this was Kathleen (Catherine), more about her below and she will have her own separate post.

Now who was Captain J G Dunlop?   The article gave a few clues of where to look for information about him.  From family names in the Dunlop/Delap family I assumed that the J G stood for John or James George and that he was the son of one of Sarah Jane’s brothers who had either remained in Ireland or migrated to America.  A search of Irish birth indexes did not uncover either of these name combinations.  The next step was to look at the South African and British military records.   There was a J G Dunlop who served in the South African Constabulary (C Eastern division) during the Boer war.  He joined up in about 1900 as he was awarded the 1901 and 1902 South African medals.  He was a captain in the Irish regiment, regimental number 191.  During the Boer War he was in the Cape colony and the Transvaal.  This was sourced from the medal rolls online at the National Archives UK (TNA) via their search engine Discovery, but the documents still only gave his initials.

Then I came across his World War l (WWl) medal card which gave his full name as John George Dunlop – a Captain in the South African Irish Regiment and a Captain in the Irish Guards.  He enlisted for WWl in South Africa in October 1914 and was ultimately presented with the victory medal in Pretoria.

There were a number of entries in  the London Gazette for him including when he was promoted from Captain in the South African Infantry to Lieutenant then when he  relinquished his commission in the Irish Foot Guards (dated 19 November 1920).  This said that he retained the rank of Lieutenant.   However there was a later addition saying  that  he retained  the rank of captain rather than lieutenant.   There was possibly another entry referring to him on 28 August 1931 under the Regular Army Reserve of Officers.

His marriage certificate was found on family search, a copy of the original from South Africa.  He married Winifred Mary Brenchley, a thirty-four year old spinster from England at St Peters church, Vryheid, Natal, South Africa on 10 December 1932.  He was a 49-year-old bachelor, said to be born in Ireland and a civil servant.  This gave him an approximate date of birth of 1883 in Ireland.  His wife, Winifred  was born 7 August 1898 to Fredrick Elisha Crofton Brenchley, a manager, and Emma Mary.

Meanwhile I searched online for South African genealogy documents and found that the main South African genealogy website, ancestor24 had been removed as it had been bought by  ancestry, however there is still no sign of the records being made available again.  On another South African site, South African Ancestry Research I found what appeared to be the death certificates of John George and his wife Winifred Mary.  I ordered  them both.   The site said they would take about 11 days.  Meanwhile I contacted a number of researchers recommended on the National Archives of South Africa website as I had found the references for John George Dunlop’s South African constabulary record and his will.  Not hearing back from any of the researchers I contacted a researcher recommended at a talk on South Africa at the International Settlers Group at the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV).  She responded that night despite being at London’s Heathrow airport about to board a plane back to South Africa.  One of the other researchers did eventually contact me, she had been on holidays.  However I’ve never heard from the others!

I  received the death notices from the website genealogy source  for both John and Winifred.  Both of which gave a lot of information.  They also found other files for me for which I paid an additional amount and received them two nights later.  Excellent service.

John George Dunlop’s death notice  confirmed that his parents were Francis Wilson Dunlop, youngest brother of Sarah Jane , and his wife Mary Elizabeth Graham.  What was surprising was that John’s father Francis was said to have died in America.  Unfortunately the entry only said America not where.  John was 70 when he died and a retired civil servant.  The certificate gave where he lived in Hospital Hill, Johannesburg.   It gave his date of death and where and when he was last married.  He had no children and as his parents were no longer alive his surviving siblings were listed.  This revealed more previously unknown information.  From this I found his sister Kathleen Hesketh-Ross, a widow, and a stepbrother, Robert James Vance.  Stepbrother was news to me!  It also said that he had left a will with a moveable estate that exceeded 300 pounds.  His sister Kathleen had signed the death notice, was present at his death in Durban and was the sole executrix of his estate.

Similarly his wife’s death notice gave information about her background and brothers, all deceased.  What was interesting was the location of her normal address which was Sutton in England.  She died the year after John and we could assume she’d returned to England after his death or was on holiday.  But this wasn’t the case.  She was living in England and died from a fractured skull after being hit by a car while crossing the road.  Very sad.

John’s will made interesting reading.  He left all his clothes, personal effects, curios, trophies and one thousand pounds to his half-brother Robert James Vance of Carnshannagh, Raphoe, Donegal.  He was still living in the local area that the Vances, Dunlops, Grahams and McKnights came from.  His typewriter, stocks and shares were left to his sister, Kathleen Anne Hesketh-Ross.  She inherited 11,676 pounds.  There was a debit of 116 pounds for the cost of his divorce!  He left his wife one shilling as she was in possession of her own income fully protected by an anti-nuptial agreement.  From his will I also learned that his sister Kathleen was living at the Premier Mining Hospital in Cullinan.

The other South African researcher I engaged has been very good in sourcing documents that firstly I requested then offering an extra one or two she found.  I received John’s Boer War constabulary file, his divorce petition, Kathleen’s divorce petition, her husband’s WW1 South African file, and am waiting for Kathleen’s death notice, her sister’s death notice and another file about her husband.

John’s Boer War file was interesting reading.  It gave his place of birth as America which would explain why neither he nor his three sisters, Ethel, Mary or Catherine (Kathleen) have so far been found in the Irish civil registration indexes.  It seems the family may have migrated to America after the marriage of Francis to Catherine Graham in Raphoe, Co Donegal on 31 March 1874.  They probably had their four children in America, then Francis died after which Catherine returned to Ireland with either three or four of her children.  There has been no trace of Ethel so I am assuming she died when she was very young.  I haven’t yet been able to find any trace of them in America nor traveling to or from there.

Back in Ireland the widowed Catherine married Mathew Vance, a farmer,  in 1887.  She had a further two children with him, both sons, Robert James born 20 February 1888 and William Marshall born 27 July 1890.  Sadly Catherine died on 12 September 1899.  In 1901 Matthew only has his two sons he had with Catherine living with him.  There is no sign of John, Mary or Catherine.

From John’s constabulary enlistment papers it emerges that he was living in Dublin in 1900 and working as a gardener.  He said he was born on 27 August 1880 in America and the documents give us a physical description of him.  He was 5 foot 11 3/4 inches tall with blue eyes,  brown hair and he weighed 10 stone 9 pounds.  He gave his sister’s names as Minnie and Cassina.  He said he could ride, shoot and swim.  When he obtained his riding and shooting certificate it said he was a fair rider and a good shot.  He gave his next kin as his sister Miss M Dunlop, c/- the Hon. Mrs. Verdeker, Castleshane, Co Monoghan.     His file was quite thick as it contained letters regarding his two sisters.  Apparently during the Boer war the  men were able to bring out their wives or fiances.  As he had neither he requested to bring out his two sisters, Mary and Kathleen (Catherine) from Ireland.  This gave me the address where the girls were living and I was able to  find them in the 1901 Irish census.  They were working for a Kathleen Vereker of Castleshane in Co Monaghan.  Mary was 20 and a lady’s maid, Catherine was 17 and a kitchen maid.  They were both said to be born in Donegal.  Interestingly Catherine was still going by the name of Catherine but a year later she had assumed the name Kathleen that she went by for the rest of her life.  Presumably she was influenced by working for Kathleen Vereker.  The girls traveled from Londonderry to Belfast, then Belfast to London, then to Durban, South Africa from Southampton on board the Braemar Castle in 1903.  John gave their names as Minnie Elizabeth and Kathleen Ann.  Sadly Mary (Minnie) died in Pretoria in 1906.  All I know was that she was working as a nurse.  I am waiting for her death notice so will give an update once I know.  Kathleen’s life will be for another posting.

John George Dunlop was featured in the 1933 Who’s Who of Natal and therefore we have a photo of him.  It’s a bit grainy but better than nothing.

John George Dunlop

From the article I’ve learned a bit more about him.  It confirms that he was the only son of Francis Dunlop of Cooladerry, Donegal.  He was awarded seven medals for his military service.  Beyond being a civil servant he was also a free-lance journalist and lyric writer.  He was a member of the Author’s Society in London and had lived in Natal since 1923.  It also mentioned his recent marriage to Winifred.  From his divorce petition it is apparent that their marriage was not a happy one.  It seems they were unable to have children which brought great unhappiness to both of them.  They also argued all the time.

The divorce papers give a summary of his working career.  He joined the South African civil service in 1923 and was transferred to Vryheid, Natal where he remained until 1934 when he was transferred back to Johannesburg.  He was there until the outbreak of World War ll (WWII) when he enlisted with the South African Army.  He was engaged on active military service until 1944 when he returned to Johannesburg.  He was then appointed an agent for the High Commissioner of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland and served in the administration office in Johannesburg.

At the request of his wife, Winifred, he traveled to England in 1946.  He says his intention was to stay temporarily but he was there until December 1953.  He says his prolonged stay in England was due to him discovering in 1946 that he had  glaucoma.  He had two operations and was advised by his medical advisers that travel by ship would be dangerous as he could need another operation at any time.  Bear in mind that he was writing this to justify why he had spent so much time in England and was petitioning for divorce in South Africa.  He said that he had never intended to live in England permanently and that he much preferred living in South Africa with the weather in England being detrimental to his health.  He also said that from injuries sustained in WWII he had contracted dysentery and was hospitalized in England on numerous occasions.  He had left England in December 1953 and intended to make South Africa his home.  He was then unemployed but looking for work.  His wife had refused to travel back to South Africa with him, saying ‘that she would never live in South Africa again’.  His petition was dated 5 February 1954 and he died on 11 July 1955.

I’m still intending to find out more about John George Dunlop and his family.  I would like to know where the family was in America and more details about his time in South Africa and during both wars.  His sister Kathleen also had an interesting life and, as I have mentioned,  will be the subject of another blog entry.

Does anyone have any further information about him or this family or any photos?  I’d love to hear from you.

Sources are available for all the information contained in this article.

©Lynda Collier 2014

4 thoughts on “Who was Captain J G Dunlop?”

  1. Hi Lynda , Alexander McKnight married Matilda Elizabeth servante. Their daughter Margaret Beatrice is my nana. She married thomas ormand McGrath and had 14 children. Margaret Enid McGrath married Brian cardwell and I am their daughter. I’m not sure if your the Lynda I met at Hugh 80th or Aileen’s place


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