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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little Mary

"Wellington's grandmother"

On the right (wearing the hat) is Mary Mein, who was apparently the plain one of her family. She married William Proctor Smith in Cape Town, and in 1798 she bore a son, William Mein Smith, who was the architect of Wellington.

Yes, he was the progenitor of our beautiful city.

No one has thought much about his father, let alone his mother, but to my surprise, while going through the journals of an eighteenth century female seafarer, I found several references to Little Mary Mein.

The female seafarer was Lady Anne Barnard, who sailed on the East Indiaman Edward Hughes in 1797, to accompany her husband, "Mr. Barnard," who was to take up a plum job as secretary to the colony.

Formerly Lady Anne Lindsay, she had married beneath her social station, to "Mr Barnard," a man 12 years younger than she, with whom she fell madly in love.  She brought him her noble connections (and the posting as colonial secretary at the Cape) when they married, and he brought her his two illegitimate sons, as they did in those days.  One of the boys, Hervey, sailed with them to the Cape (they were glad to send him back to school in England the following year). Hervey was an independent soul. Lady A tried to control him by setting him the task of keeping a journal, but it didn't work very well.

(I should also note that Lady A used full stops the way Barbara Cartland does, as long pauses in thought and action.  They don't mean that I have missed out words.)

The convoy, which included the Edward Hughes, was delayed in Plymouth, England, after their escort, HMS Trusty, sprung a bad leak, and during the enforced interval Lady Anne went on shore to dine with Mr and Mrs Mein, who were the parents of one of her fellow passengers, Mary Mein, and parents-in-law of another fellow passenger, Dr. Patterson -- who was, by logic, the husband of one of Mary's sisters. And here, in February 1797, is what Lady Anne wrote about the day.

[We visited] "... Mr and Mrs Mein, he, the Agent for Prisoners, and Father in law to Doctor Patterson, a good humoured Scotchman who was making an enormous fortune without any reflection being thrown on him, by his contract for supplying the French prisoners with necessaries which he did so judiciously and at the same time to liberally that good sense was making him rich and good Character kept pace with it.

"Of one thing I was certain, that Mrs. Mein gave us amongst other excellent things, a very uncommonly good but odd dish, A Cornish pye, in which she had imprisoned two fowls, a piece of ham, some sweet breads, apples, two ducks, a large quantity of stuffings, truffles, mushrooms and pickles, the whole having poured into it before it left the oven two quarts of rich clotted cream.  It sounds ill but it was good."

I have already blogged about this pie, but not in this context.  Much more about "Little Mary" to come.

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