Monday, 23 November 2020

Hamwood House

THE HAMILTONS OF HAMWOOD OWNED 352 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY MEATH

HUGH HAMILTON (1572-1655) settled in Lisbane, County Down, during the reign of JAMES I, and was made a denizen of Ireland, 1616.

This Hugh Hamilton married, and had issue,
John, of Ballymenoch;
ALEXANDER, of whom presently;
Robert.
The second son,

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, of Killyleagh, County Down, wedded Jean, daughter of John Hamilton, of Belfast, and had issue,
HUGH, his heir;
Jane, married William Sloane, of Chelsea.
Mr Hamilton died in 1676, and was succeeded by his son,

HUGH HAMILTON (1664-1728), of Ballybredagh, County Down, who married Mary, sister of Robert Ross, of Rostrevor, County Down, and daughter of George Ross, of Portavo, by Ursula his wife, daughter of Captain Hans Hamilton, of Carnesure, and had issue (with three daughters), two sons,
George;
ALEXANDER.
The younger son,

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1690-1768), of Knock, County Dublin, and Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, MP for Killyleagh, 1730-61, wedded Isabella, daughter of Robert Maxwell, of Finnebrogue, County Down, and had issue,
Hugh (Rt Rev), Lord Bishop of Ossory;
George, MP for Belfast, 1769-76;
CHARLES, of whom hereafter;
Anne.
The youngest son,

CHARLES HAMILTON (1738-1818), married Elizabeth, daughter of Crewe Chetwood, of Woodbrook, Queen's County, and had issue,
CHARLES, his heir;
Robert, of Liverpool;
George, of Quebec, and Hawkesbury, Canada;
William Henry;
John, of Liverpool;
Henrietta.
Mr Hamilton was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHARLES HAMILTON (1772-1857), of Hamwood, County Meath, who wedded, in 1801, Marianne Caroline, daughter of William Tighe MP, of Rossana, County Wicklow, by Sarah his wife, only child of Sir William Fownes Bt, of Woodstock, County Kilkenny, and had issue,
CHARLES WILLIAM, his heir;
William Tighe;
Frederick John Henry Fownes;
Sarah; Mary; Caroline Elizabeth.
Mr Hamilton was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHARLES WILLIAM HAMILTON JP (1802-80), of Hamwood, who espoused, in 1841, Letitia Charlotte, eldest daughter of William Henry Armstrong MP, of Mount Heaton, King's County, and had issue,
CHARLES ROBERT, his heir;
Edward Chetwood;
Arthur, of Hollybrook.
Mr Hamilton was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHARLES ROBERT HAMILTON JP (1846-1913), of Hamwood, who married, in 1874, Louisa Caroline Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Richard Brooke, of Somerton, County Dublin, by his wife, the Hon Henrietta Monck, eldest daughter of 3rd Viscount Monck, and had issue,
Charles George (1875-77);
GERALD FRANCIS CHARLES, of whom hereafter;
Frederick Arthur (1880-1962);
Henry John;
Eva Henrietta; Letitia Marion; Amy Kathleen; Ethel Grace; Constance Louisa; Lilian Mary.
Mr Hamilton was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

GERALD FRANCIS CHARLES HAMILTON JP (1877-1961), of Hamwood, who wedded firstly, in 1911, Violet Travers, daughter of Robert Craigie Hamilton, and had issue,
CHARLES ROBERT FRANCIS, his heir;
Esme Violet; Elizabeth Mary.
He married secondly, in 1949, Rosamund Mary, daughter of Maurice Bauer.

Mr Hamilton was succeeded by his son,

MAJOR CHARLES ROBERT FRANCIS HAMILTON (1918-2005), of Hamwood, who wedded, in 1958, Margaret Anne Lanfear, daughter of Captain Simon Ralph Fane Spicer, and had issue,
CHARLES RALPH, b 1960;
Annabel Honor, b 1959.

HAMWOOD HOUSE, Dunboyne, County Meath, is a small Palladian house of the 1764, with a central block joined to little octagonal ‘pepper-pot’ wings by elegantly curved sweeps.

Unusually, one wing contains the main entrance, since the house (as originally built) was reputedly so cold that the family decided to place the hall door as far away from the main rooms as possible.

The removal of the front entrance from the main block creates an interesting internal arrangement with a double drawing-room, unusual in a house of this size.

There is good late-18th century decoration and an interesting family collection, including the intriguing drawings and paintings of Caroline Hamilton.

Hamwood’s builder, Charles Hamilton, acted as land agent for the Dukes of Leinster whose principal seat, Carton, is nearby; and the Duke generously gave the Hamiltons a present of the impressive fights of granite steps leading to the doors in the end pavilions.

Successive generations of the family acted as the Leinsters' agents until the present owner's husband, Charles Hamilton (1918-2005), retired in the 1970s.

*****

MRS ANNE HAMILTON, Major Charles Hamilton's widow, died suddenly on the 4th December, 2013.

She represented the family at a function in Farmleigh House in 2012 honouring the Irish team at the 1948 Olympics in London.

A relative, Letitia Hamilton, was the only Irish medal-winner at those Games, for her painting of a scene at the Meath Hunt Point-to-Point races. 

Anne Hamilton was born Anne Spicer in Wiltshire, England. Her father, Ralph Spicer, had married Mary Graham, whose family lived at Spye Park, near Bromham, Wiltshire, since 1855.

The Grahams were originally from Lisburn in Northern Ireland, involved in the linen industry.

Anne and her siblings holidays at their grandparents’ place at Sallins every summer, and to escape the rationing and austerity England in the years following the 2nd World War, her mother moved them to Carnew in County Wicklow.

In 1958, Anne married Charles Hamilton, who had served in the 2nd World War.

He was a farm estate manager and they lived in County Galway for a period before returning to Hamwood in 1963, following the death of Charles’ father, who was the land agent at Carton House.

Charles also managed the Slane Castle estate for a period.

At Hamwood, they were involved in bloodstock breeding and a pure-bred Charolais herd.

The gardens were also a great treasure and open to the public.

In an interview for the Irish Life and Lore Collection at South Dublin Libraries, Mrs Hamilton was critical of how the Irish Land Commission had broken up large estates and the manner in which they allowed fine houses to decay.

In recent years, she continued to open the gardens and house at Dunboyne to the public.

Mrs Hamilton was survived by her son, Charles, of London, and Annabel, of Paris, and her sister in County Cork.

Her funeral service took place at St Peter’s parish church, Dunboyne, County Meath, followed by burial in the adjoining graveyard.

First published in November, 2017.  Select bibliography: Irish historic Houses Association.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

1st Marquess of Linlithgow

THE MARQUESSES OF LINLITHGOW WERE THE LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN LINLITHGOWSHIRE, WITH 11,870 ACRES

The Surname of HOPE is one of great antiquity in Scotland; and the ancestor of the present family,

JOHN DE HOPE, is said to have come from France in the retinue of Madeleine, Queen Consort of JAMES V, King of Scots, in 1537, and settling in Scotland, left a son,

EDWARD HOPE, who was one of the most considerable inhabitants of Edinburgh in the reign of QUEEN MARY; and being a great promoter of the Reformation, was chosen one of the commissioners for the metropolis to the parliament in 1560.

He left a son,

HENRY HOPE (c1533-91), a very eminent merchant, who wedded a French lady, Jacqueline de Tott, and had two sons; the elder of whom,

SIR THOMAS HOPE, being bred to the Scottish bar, first attained eminence in 1606, by his defence of the six ministers (clergymen) tried for high treason, for denying that the King possessed authority in matters ecclesiastical; and acquired, eventually, the largest fortune ever accumulated by a member of the legal profession in Scotland.

He was subsequently appointed King's Advocate, and created a baronet in 1628.

Sir Thomas left a very large family; from the eldest son of which descend the Hopes of Craighall.

The fourth son,

SIR JAMES HOPE (1614-61), of Hopetoun, a member of the Scottish bar, marrying Anne, only daughter and heir of Robert Foulis, of Leadhills, Lanarkshire, acquired the valuable mines there, and applying himself to mineralogy, brought the art of mining to the highest perfection ever known before in Scotland.

Sir John was appointed, in 1641, Governor of the Mint, and constituted a Lord of Session in 1649.

His eldest surviving son,

JOHN HOPE (1650-82), of Hopetoun, took up his residence at Niddry Castle, the barony of which he purchased from Lord Winton; and he also purchased, about the same time (1678) the barony of Abercorn, with the office of Heritable Sheriff of the County of Linlithgow, from Sir Walter Seton.

Mr Hope, who represented Linlithgowshire in Parliament, 1684, married Margaret, eldest daughter of John, 4th Earl of Haddington, by whom he had a son and a daughter.

Mr Hope having embarked with the Duke of York, and several other persons of distinction, in HMS Gloucester, 1682, was lost in the wreck of that vessel, a few days after going abroad, aged 32.

His son,

CHARLES HOPE (1681-1742), who was born in the previous year, succeeded to the family estates, and was elevated to the peerage, in 1703, in the dignities of Lord Hope, Viscount Aithrie, and EARL OF HOPETOUN.

His lordship was installed as a Knight of the Thistle at Holyrood House in 1738.

He espoused, in 1699, Henrietta, only daughter of William, 1st Marquess of Annandale, and had thirteen children, of whom the eldest son,

JOHN (1704-81), 2nd Earl wedded thrice; and was father of

JAMES (1741-1816), 3rd Earl, who, at the demise of his great-uncle, George, Marquess of Annandale, in 1792, inherited the large estates of that nobleman, and the earldoms of Annandale and Hartfell, neither of which dignities, however, did he assume, but simply added the family name of the deceased lord, JOHNSTONE, to that of HOPE.

His lordship was nominated Lord-Lieutenant and Hereditary Sheriff of Lochmaben Castle.

He wedded, in 1766, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of George, 6th Earl of Northesk, by whom he had five daughters, though no male issue.

The honours, therefore, devolved upon his half-brother,

SIR JOHN HOPE (1765-1823), 4th Earl, KB, PC, then Lord Niddry, General in the army, Colonel, 42nd Regiment of Foot, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, who, for his gallant achievements in the Peninsular War, had been elevated to the UK peerage, in 1814, as Baron Niddry.

His lordship married twice: firstly, in 1798, Elizabeth, youngest daughter of the Hon Charles Hope Weir, of Craigiehall, by whom he had no issue; and secondly, in 1803, Louisa Dorothea, third daughter of Sir John Wedderburn Bt, by whom he had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
James;
Charles;
George;
Henry;
William;
Lewis;
Thomas;
Adrian;
Alicia; Jane.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 5th Earl (1803-43), who espoused, in 1826, Louisa, eldest daughter of Godfrey, 3rd Lord Macdonald, and had issue,

JOHN ALEXANDER, 6th Earl (1831-73), who wedded, in 1860, Etheldred Anne, eldest daughter of Charles Thomas Samuel Birch-Reynoldson, of Holywell Hall, Lincolnshire, and had issue,
JOHN ADRIAN LOUIS, his successor;
Charles Archibald;
Estrella; Dorothea Louisa.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN ADRIAN LOUIS, 7th Earl (1860-1908), KT GCMG GCVO PC, who wedded, in 1886, Hersey Alice, third daughter of the 4th Baron Ventry.

His lordship was advanced to the dignity of a marquessate, in 1902, as MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW.
John Adrian Louis Hope, 1st Marquess (1860–1908);
Victor Alexander John Hope, 2nd Marquess (1887–1952);
Charles William Frederick Hope, 3rd Marquess(1912-87);
Adrian John Charles Hope, 4th Marquess (b 1946).
The heir apparent is the present holder's eldest son, Andrew Christopher Victor Arthur Charles Hope, styled Earl of Hopetoun (b 1969).

The heir apparent's heir apparent is his elder son, Charles Adrian Bristow William Hope, styled Viscount Aithrie (b 2001).

Lord Aithrie served as one of the Queen's Pages of Honour at the 2014 State Opening of Parliament.



HOPETOUN HOUSE, Linlithgowshire, is the ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Linlithgow.

It is located near South Queensferry to the west of Edinburgh.

Hopetoun was built in 1699-1701 and designed by Sir William Bruce.


The mansion was then hugely extended from 1721 by William Adam until his death in 1748, being one of his most notable projects.

The interior was completed by his sons, John and Robert Adam.

The grand entrance hall dates from 1752.

The parklands in which it lies were laid out in 1725, also by William Adam.

The east front centres on the distant isle of Inchgarvie and North Berwick Law.

The walled garden dates from the late 18th century.

In the grounds an 18th-century mound was excavated in 1963 to reveal the remains of the earlier manor house, Abercorn Castle, dating from the 15th century.

The Hope family acquired the land in the 17th century.

Other former seats ~ Raehills, Dumfriesshire; Ormiston Hall, Haddingtonshire.

First published in February, 2014.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Lord Bingham's Theory

The Daily Telegraph published an interview given by George, Lord Bingham, only son and heir of the 7th Earl of Lucan, in September, 2012.

Lord Lucan likely committed suicide by drowning himself following the murder of family nanny Sandra Rivett, his son has said.

George Bingham said he was certain his father wished to "vanish for ever" and died in a small boat which sank to the bottom of the English Channel after drinking whisky and taking sleeping pills.

Lord Bingham spoke for the first time about the mysterious disappearance of his father in 1974. He has been unable to succeed to the titles because a death certificate has not been issued.

In his first in-depth interview about the murder, he insisted he was certain his father was not the killer, though he said that he did hope his father had been involved in some way as it would make him "feel better" about his disappearance.

Sandra Rivett, 29, was found dead at the Lucan home in Belgravia, London, in 1974, after being bludgeoned with a lead pipe.

The nanny's attacker turned on the Countess of Lucan, beating her severely before she managed to escape and raise the alarm at a nearby pub.

Lord Lucan's car was later found abandoned and soaked in blood in Newhaven, East Sussex, and an inquest jury declared that the nobleman was the killer a year later.

What happened to Lucan remains a mystery and he was officially declared dead by the High Court in 1999.

George Bingham, who was in the house with his siblings at the time of the attack, said it was "extraordinarily unlikely" that his father was the killer or paid somebody else to carry out the atrocity.

He believes his father lost all sense of perspective as he became increasingly worried about being blamed for the nanny's death:
"I think Dad felt backed into a terrible corner. I think he chose almost immediately to take his own life. He had such a huge sense of pride and couldn't bear to consider the horrendous storm that was coming. It was his intention, therefore, to vanish ... and vanish for ever."
Lord Bingham added:
"Dad adored boats. He even built a powerboat. As a seaman, he would have known that if you jump from a boat in the English Channel, you will bloat, float and be washed up with the tides. It seems very likely he would have had access to a small motor boat somewhere in Newhaven harbour.
He would have got on board with a bottle of whisky and some pills and taken it out to the 50 metre mark, the point where if you go down you're not going to come back up again, but not so far out that you are in the shipping lane."
The former merchant banker has said he would prefer that to trying to understand why his father had left the family for "no apparent reason".

Lord Bingham continued,
"I've always thought it extraordinarily unlikely my father went into our family home, wandered down and killed anybody with a piece of lead piping for the love of his children, while those very children might well have come downstairs and witnessed this appalling carnage."
He also dismissed the possibility of a contract killer being involved, but added he had no idea of the extent of his father's involvement or his guilt.

First published in September, 2012.

Friday, 20 November 2020

The MacDonnell Baronetcy

This noble family is descended from ALEXANDER MacDONALD or MacDOMHNAILL (c1480-1538), chief of one of the most numerous and powerful clans in the highlands of Scotland.

From him descended

SORLEY BOY MacDONNELL (1505-90), who was seated at Dunluce, County Antrim; and who, in 1573, was made a free denizen of Ireland; but afterwards opposing the government, was subdued; and, in 1586, was again received into The Queen's favour.

His eldest surviving son,

SIR JAMES MacDONNELL, elder brother of RANDAL, 1st EARL OF ANTRIM, married Mary, daughter of Hugh MacPhelim O'Neill, of the Claneboye family, and had numerous issue, of which the ninth son,

SIR ALEXANDER MacDONNELL, of Maye, County Antrim, was created a baronet in 1627, designated of Maye, County Antrim.

He married Evelyn, daughter of Sir Arthur Magennis, 1st Viscount Iveagh, and dying in 1634, left a son and successor,

SIR JAMES MacDONNELL, 2nd Baronet, of Maye, who wedded Mary, daughter of Sir Donough O'Brien Bt, of Dough, County Clare, and had issue,
ALEXANDER;
RANDAL, his successor;
Sarah; Honora; Anne; another daughter.
Sir James died ca 1680, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ALEXANDER, who, in 1644, commanded the forces sent by Lord Antrim to assist Lord Montrose in Scotland, and upon his return, was appointed lieutenant-general of the province of Munster.

This gallant soldier lost his life in 1647 at the battle of Knocknanuss, against Lord Inchiquin. 

He married the Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Henry, Earl of Arundel, and had a son, Randal, who died young.

Alexander MacDonnell died in 1647, and was succeeded by his next brother,

RANDAL, 3rd Baronet, who married, in 1686, Hannah, sister of David Roche, and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
Randal;
John Richard;
Mary; Henrietta.
Sir Randal, when captain of a warship in the service of CHARLES II, achieved the memorable action of Marmora against the Moors.

Subsequently, however, joining JAMES II's army, he accompanied his ill-fated master to France.

Consequently, Sir Randal was attainted, in 1691, and the baronetcy forfeited.

In 1696, Mr MacDonnell's estate was granted to Charles Campbell, in trust for his wife and children.

His eldest son,

JAMES, who, but for the attainder, would have been the fourth baronet, died unmarried, 1728, and was buried in St James's churchyard, Dublin.

His brother,

RANDAL, of Cross, County Antrim, Colonel in the French service, succeeded his brother, but died unmarried in 1740.

First published in May, 2011.

The Queen's Wedding Anniversary

TODAY is Her Majesty’s 73rd Wedding Anniversary.

On the 20th November, 1947, Her Royal Highness THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH, elder daughter of KING GEORGE VI and QUEEN ELIZABETH, married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN).


On the morning of the Wedding, Prince Philip was created  His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. 


Their Royal Highnesses were married at Westminster Abbey and the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh moved in to their new official home, Clarence House.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Kenure Park

THE PALMER BARONETS, OF CASTLE LACKIN, WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MAYO, WITH 80,990 ACRES

THEY OWNED 3,991 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY DUBLIN

ROGER PALMER (alleged to have been the third son of Edward Palmer, of Nayton and Casterton, Norfolk) went over to Ireland and had a grant of Castle Lackin, and many other lands in County Mayo, in 1684.
His signature appears to the address from the nobility and gentry of County Mayo to CHARLES II in 1682. 
The Palmer family had come to Ireland in 1681 from Norfolk, and had acquired lands in County Mayo, where by the end of the 19th Century, they had amassed 80,000 acres. 
THOMAS PALMER, of Castle Lackin, second son of Roger Palmer, of Palmerstown, in the same county, was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROGER PALMER, who was created a baronet in 1777, designated of Castle Lackin.

Sir Roger wedded Miss Andrews, and had issue,
JOHN ROGER, his successor;
WILLIAM HENRY, succeeded his brother;
Sophia.
He died about 1790, and was succeeded by his elder son,

SIR JOHN ROGER PALMER, 2nd Baronet, who married Mary, only daughter of the Rev Thomas Althem, and was succeeded at his decease, in 1819, by his brother,

SIR WILLIAM HENRY PALMER, 3rd Baronet, of Castle Lackin, who espoused Alice, daughter of _____ Franklin, and had issue,
WILLIAM HENRY ROGER, his heir;
Francis Roger;
John Roger;
Charlotte Alice; Augusta Sophia; Ellen Ambrosia.
Sir William died in 1840, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR WILLIAM HENRY ROGER PALMER, 4th Baronet (1802-69), who married and was succeeded by his only son,

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIR ROGER WILLIAM HENRY PALMER, 5th and last Baronet (1832-1910), MP for Mayo, 1857-65.

Kenure Park

The Palmers owned a number of seats, including Keenagh Lodge, Crossmolina, and the ruinous Castle Lackin in County Mayo; Cefn Park, near Wrexham, North Wales; Glenisland, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

Their principal Irish seat (through marriage) was Kenure Park, near Rush, County Dublin, where the estate comprised 3,991 acres.

Lieutenant-General Sir Roger Palmer, 5th and last Baronet, MP for Mayo, 1857-65, was Ellen Palmer's only brother.

He resided at Kenure with his wife, Gertrude Millicent, until his death in 1910.

Lady Palmer survived her husband for many years. She continued to spend much of her time in Kenure (above) until her death in 1929.

There are people in Rush who still remember the parties held in the house for the children of the town.

Sir Roger and Lady Palmer left no heirs, and the property devolved to Colonel Roderick Henry Fenwick-Palmer, who had fought in the 1st World War, and still bore the marks of shrapnel wounds to his face.


He had property of his own in Wrexham, North Wales, and only came to Kenure in the summer.

A plain man, he was not given to living the high life, apart from dining occasionally with friends, such as the late Lord Revelstoke.

He spent a lot of money trying to keep the house in repair.

He was finally defeated by rising costs on a property which was not making money.

Part of the estate had already been sold years before.

He eventually sold Kenure to the Irish Land Commission, in 1964, for £70.000.

Most of the land was divided up among local farmers.

The remainder was sold to Dublin County Council for housing and playing fields.

The woodland was cleared and all that now remains of the trees, which once dominated the skyline, is a small area around the main gate.

The front gate lodge is now the local Scouts' Den.

The gate lodge at Skerries Road belongs to Rush Cricket Club, which has beautifully refurbished it.

The Gate-Keeper's Lodge, the walled garden, the Steward's Lodge, the pond and shady avenues, have all gone the way of the big house itself. Only the portico remains, a stark remainder of what once was there.

The contents of the house were auctioned in September 1964, the auction lasted four days and realised £250,000, which would be over £1,000,000 in present day values.

Socially, Kenure had been a place apart from the ordinary life of the town, but it had been there for hundreds of years, an essential part of the Rush scene.

The general feeling was one of regret and disbelief that it was disintegrating.

As landlords, the Palmers had not been the worst.

However, there had been some evictions, and one action, which is still adversely remembered, was the removal of some of their tenants from their ancient holdings in order to lengthen the main avenue and have the main entrance gate near the town.

Nevertheless the Palmers were in many ways beneficent to Rush.

They gave land for the Catholic and Protestant churches, for a presbytery and for a teacher's residence.

In 1896, when the Catholic church was being refurbished, they donated the seating for the nave, and a brass memorial tablet in the church testifies to this.

A portion of the estate was allocated to the local cricket club, and it was certainly the most beautifully situated cricket pitch in north County Dublin.

Dublin County Council was left with an empty mansion, for which they could find no buyer.

The house continued to deteriorate.

During this time it was rented to a film company and a few films were made there, including "Ten Little Indians", "Rocket to the Moon", and "The Fall of Fu Manchu".

In 1978, after a series of incidents in which the house was vandalized and set on fire, with the inevitable water damage that resulted from the fire engines having to put out the blaze, the house was in a very dangerous condition structurally.

The County Council decided it had no choice but to demolish the house.

Within a few days, all that was left of this once great house was a mountain of rubble, from which the massive portico arose, forlorn and lonely against the sky.

First published in September, 2011. Select bibliography: KENURE HOUSE AND DEMESNE

AB Simon

My Nauticalia  replica of Simon

Simon (ca 1947-49) was the ship's cat who served on the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amethyst.

In 1949, during the Yangtze Incident, he received the PDSA's Dickin Medal after surviving injuries from a cannon shell, raising morale, and killing off a rat infestation during his service.

Simon was found wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong in March 1948 by 17-year-old Ordinary Seaman George Hickinbottom, a member of the crew of HMS Amethyst, the Royal Navy frigate stationed in the city in the late 1940s.


At this stage, it is thought Simon was approximately one year old, and was very undernourished and unwell.

Hickinbottom smuggled the cat aboard ship, and Simon soon ingratiated himself with the crew and officers, particularly because he was adept at catching and killing rats on the lower decks.

Simon rapidly gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors' beds, and sleeping in the captain's cap.

The crew viewed Simon as a lucky mascot, and when the ship's commander changed later in 1948, the outgoing Ian Griffiths left the cat for his successor, Lieutenant-Commander Bernard Skinner RN, who took an immediate liking to the friendly animal.

However, Skinner's first mission in command of Amethyst was to travel up the Yangtze River to Nanking to replace the duty ship there, HMS Consort.

Halfway up the river the ship became embroiled in the "Yangtze incident", when Chinese communist gun batteries opened fire on the frigate.

One of the first rounds tore through the captain's cabin, seriously wounding Simon. Skinner died of his wounds soon after the attack.

The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship's surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night.

He did manage to survive however, and after a period of recovery, he returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new ship's captain, Lieutenant-Commander John Kerans RN.

While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors.

Following the ship's escape from the Yangtze, Simon became an instant celebrity, lauded in British and world news, and presented with the "Animal Victoria Cross", the Dickin Medal, as well as a Blue Cross medal, the Amethyst campaign medal, and the fanciful rank of "Able Seacat".

Thousands of letters were written to him, so much that one Lieutenant Stuart Hett RN was appointed "cat officer" to deal with Simon's post.

At every port Amethyst stopped at on its route home, Simon was presented with honour, and a special welcome was made for him at Plymouth in November when the ship returned.

Simon was, however, like all animals entering the UK, subject to quarantine regulations, and was immediately sent to an animal centre in Surrey.

Whilst in quarantine, Simon contracted a virus and, despite the attentions of medical staff and thousands of well-wishers, died on the 28th November, 1949, from a complication of the viral infection caused by his war wounds.

Hundreds, including the entire crew of HMS Amethyst, attended his funeral at the PDSA Ilford Animal Cemetery in East London.


Simon is also commemorated with a bush planted in his honour in the Yangtze Incident Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.