A Mongrel Family – Migrants and Refugees

An obvious feature of our family is that we are all mongrels, by ancestry a blend of four different European countries (Ireland, Germany, England and the Netherlands), with each strand ensconced in South Africa for varying degrees of time. The primary German connection goes back only two generations (measured from myself), the English and Irish link just a couple more, but the Dutch connection goes back many generations (by some lines, right back to the early days of the Cape Colony).

Obviously, these were all migrants. However, as I’ve explored the history, I’ve realized that it goes further than that. “Migrants” come in many forms. Some (eg some of the Irish) may have come as a form of political refugees, from English persecution. Some (other Irish and English) were economic migrants. Some may have simply wanted to escape their families – and at least some were involuntary migrants, forcibly brought to the Cape as slaves.

So, we were “mongrels” not only by arriving from four European countries, but also once in South Africa, by intermarriage, between those of “White” European descent and the slave population, and among themselves, by those of European descent. We should remember that the early days of the Cape settlement, it was very much a slave economy, and the Dutch arrivals were overwhelmingly young males, soldiers and farm labourers. There were very few women, so inevitably, some of the men married or cohabited with the slaves or native women. We can also see from the genealogy that within the “White” family lines, there was intermarriage between language groups. Sarah Williamson Sussens had an English middle name, because her grandmother was English. The Cape “Dutch” were also not exclusively from the Netherlands: some were from France, arriving with the Huguenots or even earlier, and some from Germany (which I was never aware of in school history).

It’s not only the racial/linguistic mixing that continued after arriving in the country, but also further constant patterns of migration. In this, they repeated the story of White settlement across the country. The Dutch originally set up a settlement at Cape Town, then gradually fanned out to Stellenbosch and Paarl, then further afield to Graaf-Reinet and the rest of the Eastern Cape. After the British took control and outlawed slavery, the Boers famously moved North in the Great Trek. Tracing the towns recorded where our antecedents were born, married and died, we can see how their movements exactly mirrored those of the Afrikaans population as a whole.

Similarly, we see a parallel pattern with our Irish/English forebears, who originally settled in Port Elizabeth, before slowly moving into other Eastern Cape towns, and later to Johannesburg or the Eastern Transvaal for the gold rush .

(More detail to follow)


Patrick, Doreen and their Parents.

Patrick and Doreen both grew up or adjoining the Eastern suburbs of Johannesburg, and both attended Queens High School, where I assume they met. (It’s not clear if they were in the same year at school, or a year apart). Their lives however, were very different.

Patrick and the Weldon Family

Patrick was the youngest son of Elsa Wierck, by her second marriage to John Charles Weldon.

John Charles (1878 – 1934) had been born in Port Elizabeth, to a family of Catholic Irish immigrants. However, we don’t know too much of him until he married Elsa Wierck in Johannesburg in 1915, by which time he was already 37. We do know however that like his brother Patrick he served in the Anglo-Boer War (in the Kaffrarian Rifles), and trained as an electrician

At the time of their marriage, they were living in Queen Street, Kensington, but John Charles died when Patrick was just 7 years old, during the depression years. (The death certificate shows that by this time, the. family had moved to Frere St, Bertrams.) This made for a tough childhood; to supplement the family income, Patrick worked part-time after school and Saturdays, both with a paper round, and also selling ice creams at interval in the local cinema. For the same reason, he left school early with only a Std 7, to start work as a clerk in an insurance company – where his sister Peggy was already working, and who had presumably helped to secure him the position.

It’s not at all clear what was the relationship at this time with Elsa’s other, earlier family. Patrick spoke of being raised by a single mother, with Peggy as the oldest taking charge of ensuring he got to regular Sunday Mass and Catechism lessons.

We know more about Elsa Wierck, but there is a puzzle and a surprise. We know that she was born in Hamburg, Germany, in about 1881 (Peggy had a studio photograph of a smartly dressed young Elsa, with “Hamburg” and a date on the back). Later, she moved to London “to enter service”. There she met up with Archibald McNeilage, with whom she then relocated to South Africa and had four children . However, her marriage certificate (with John Charles) has handwritten, “Elsa Lillie (or Lilje) Wierck”, using her maiden name, and gives her marital status as “spinster”. It would seem that she and Archibald were never actually married.

Doreen Sussens and family

Doreen grew up with her parents Clarence and Sarah and siblings on a large property on the South facing slope of a kopje in the village of Bedfordview, just outside Johannesburg, and about 2 miles from the school, to which she had to walk there and back. The property was situated at the end of a long cul-de-sac crossing the early headwaters of the Jukskei river. At this stage of its course, it was not much more than a stream. Without a bridge at this time, it could usually be easily crossed even so – but it was a different matter when the river came down in flood after heavy summer rains. Mom once told me that on those occasions they just didn’t go to school. (She never explained what they did if the flood came after they were already at school, which would have been more common, with Johannesburg’s afternoon thunderstorms).

In contrast to Patrick’s forced involvement in the world of commerce, Doreen’s will have been pretty quiet and isolated, resulting both from the property’s isolation, and her father’s strict religious observance, as a committed Seventh Day Adventist.

Clarence’s family had been in South Africa for a couple of generations, but before that was originally English. He was employed as a local government official, but in his own time was a dedicated builder, who over the years dramatically expanded the house and its outbuildings. He was also an enthusiastic gardener, and planted an extensive collection of fruit trees.

Sarah Williamson, born Bantjes, was originally Afrikaans, from a long line of originally Cape Dutch families, with some lines going way back to the earliest days of the Cape settlement. As a young girl she was one of those held for a time in one of the notorious concentration camps during the (1899 – 1902) Anglo Boer War. Although she was Afrikaans, I never heard Clarence ever speak Afrikaans, and am not even sure that he could. Always the dutiful housewife, she was kept constantly busy every summer dealing with the super abundant fruit harvest, bottling it and making endless jams, subsequently distributed among the family.

Religious issues

Doreen and Patrick were married in 1947 – twice.

We know that Doreen had been raised a Seventh Day Adventist, which was strongly opposed to the Catholic Church, but by upbringing, Patrick was fully committed to his Catholic faith. To be married in a Catholic Church, Doreen had to go through a formal program of instruction, which she did, and was duly received into the church, with a customary church wedding to follow. However, I was told they also had a civil wedding in a registry office, possibly to placate Doreen’s father Clarence Sussens. I do not know in which order these two marriages were done – or which is the one they commemorated as their wedding anniversary, on August 2nd each year.

The early years

I was told that they began their married life in a one-roomed flat, somewhere in the Eastern suburbs of Johannesburg. Some time later, they moved to Bulawayo, before returning to Johannesburg sometime before I was born in 1951. Margaret was born a year later.

Some time in about 1953/4, the family moved to Cape Town. Patrick went ahead alone, to find suitable accommodation, leaving Doreen and the two children to follow later – together with his mother, Elsa. (I have a dim recollection of the four of us in the plane, with Elsa taking care of Margaret).

Cape Town

Doreen told me that she had been getting letters from Patrick about how wonderful and beautiful Cape Town was = but when she arrived in May, and settled into a house on The Highway, Fish Hoek, she was not impressed. It rained for much of the month, making it difficult to get laundry dry, and getting the shopping done required trudging down to Fish Hoek Main Road, then carrying the groceries back up the hill to the house.

They could not have stayed in Fish Hoek too long, because by the time I was ready for school, we had moved to Devil’s Peak in central Cape Town, then on to Vredehoek (where Michael was born).

Soon after, it was back to Fish Hoek for just a year, before a return to Johannesburg in 1960.

Johannesburg, again

By this time, Doreen had clearly gotten over her early distaste for Cape Town. Not long after we were back in Johannesburg, and living in Malvern East, she made Margaret and me get down on our knees to pray a Novena, that we could return to Cape Town.

We stayed in Malvern East (where we were when Carol was born), we moved first to Wychwhood, then on to Primrose Hill. All these previous addresses had been rented houses, always for just a year or two at a time, but 45 Deutzia Rd, Primrose Hill was a house they bought, and stayed at a little longer, before a move back to Cape Town. Both Valerie and Brenda were born while we were in Primrose Hill.

Aunts, Uncles and Cousins

Weldon/ McNeilage families

Patrick had one brother, John Charles (1923 – 89), and one sister (Margaret Lillian, known to us as “Peggy”, 1919 – 90). Both were older than him. In addition, there was his half sister, Katherine (“Kate” 1909 – 2007). from his mother’s first marriage to Archibald McNeilage. All of these lived reasonably closely to us when we were in Malvern East/Wychwood/Primrose Hill). Kate was in Malvern, Peggy in Dunvegan, Edenvale, and Johnny in Benoni, so we saw them from time to time (especially Johnny), and knew our cousins.

In addition to the half sister Kate on the McNeilage branch of the family, there were also Archibald (1903-1941), Elsa (1906 – 25), and William Andrew (1907 – 68). Those dates show that before Patrick was even born, Elsa had already died, and the two brothers were adults who may already have left home. It’s not clear how well he even knew them. He once told me he’d had an uncle who died before he was born – but it wasn’t an uncle who had died, it was an aunt. Whether or not he did know them though, I certainly never met them. Both the uncles lived the later part of their lives in the Eastern Transvaal, and we were in Johannesburg.

Benoni Weldons

Sussens/Barnes/Connolly family

Doreen was the youngest of four – two sisters and a brother. Olga was the oldest, followed by Evelyn, Clarence Aubrey (who preferred to be known as Aubrey). Olga had three sons, Keith (Graham), Kenneth and Trevor, Aubrey three daughters (Jane, Victoria / Vicky and Sarah / Sally , and Evelyn just one daughter, Dawn.

All of these lived for at least a time either with or neighbouring Clarence and Sarah Sussens, Especially when I was also living with the grandparents, I got to know them all fairly well.

Benoni Weldons


Uncle Johnny worked as the Benoni postmaster, and had married Maria Reynecke, an Afrikaans women from Doornfontein (close to Jeppe, where he and his siblings had grown up). In consequence, their children (Johnny, known as “Boetie” when young, Mary and Joan) were completely bilingual. Patrick and John Charles were pretty close, and in the winter regularly attended football matches together every Saturday and some evenings. When they did so, the rest of the families were left together, either at our house, or theirs. In the summer, we also often got together almost every weekend, sometimes for a picnic or braai together. Johnny was just a year older than I was, Mary was Margaret’s age so we often had sleepovers at each other’s home – I would go to them while Mary came to us, or vice versa.

Johnny married an American woman, Galilee Borden, whom I met by chance when still a student, having a meal on Johannesburg station. They told me that Galilee was a Mormon, and Johnny obviously joined the church. I later heard from Mom that he was working as a missionary in Zambia (all young adult Mormon males are required to spend some time as missionaries). He and his family are now living in the North West USA. Just he has the same forenames as his father (John Charles II), making him John Charles III), I see that on Geni his eldest son and first grandson are called respectively John Charles IV and John Charles V.

Mary married a Samuel Brown, who died in 2001. Some time before that, she had herself suffered a stroke at an unusually young age. This was sufficiently serious to have her forced into retirement from work, but did not seem to affect her too badly in day to day functioning. She and her family once came to dinner with Bruce and myself in Kensington, and I did not notice anything particularly awkward in her functioning.

Joan married Chris Aggett, whom I met once or twice, but do not recall anything worth reporting.

All three have children and grandchildren of their own, of whom I know nothing other than what you can look up yourself on the genealogy websites.

John Charles Weldon

Link to Ancestry UK

John Charles *1878 – 1934) was the youngest son of Matthew Weldon and Catherine Quinn. Both were Irish immigrants who had arrived separately, and married in Port Elizabeth, Their other children, three of whom died in childhood, were

  • Margaret (b. 1861, died the same year)
  • Catherine (1862 – 1956)
  • Richard Stanhope (1864 – 1919)
  • Margaret (1866 – 1937)
  • Patrick Matthew (1868 – 1900). Patrick died at Spioenkop, fighting for the British in the Anglo-Boer War.
  • Mary (1869 – 73, the second of their children to die very young)
  • Henry Francis (1871 – 1918)
  • Elizabeth (1874 – 1937)
  • John Flood (1876 – 1877, the third child to die very young – within his first year).
  • Mary / Marianne / Marion (1880 – 1934) Variously known by three variations on “Mary”, she was married three times, and later moved to England, where she was a “musical comedy actress”.

Note the three repeated names. This was a common practice where a child had died – their first name was often repeated for a later child of the same sex, but with a different middle name. So, John Flood was repeated as John Charles.. Also note that Flood, used here as a middle name, was originally the name of Matthew’s mother, Margaret Flood. There were also other (male) descendants who adopted it as a middle name.

This family photograph, which must be from the early 1880’s, shows the full Weldon/Quinn family, including supposed spouses of the eldest children. John Charles will be one of the little children at the back. The man reclining at front right is Patrick Matthew, who died at Spioenkop.

Clarence Sussens

Link to Ancestry UK

The records show that Clarence’s family had been in South Africa for at least a couple of generations. On this father’s side, those records do not go back too far, but on his mother’s side, they go back many centuries to a long history in England, with one line running through Hampshire and a title family in Suffolk way back to as far as the Norman Conquest. Another line leads London, including a Lord Mayor.

Elsa Lillie Martha (Lilje /Wierck) Weldon

Link to Ancestry UK

Elsa was born in Hamburg on October 29 1881 in Hamburg, Germany, to the “Gastwirt” (landlord) Heinrich Willem Lilje and Charlotte Louise Wilhelmina Lilje (born Kӧnig). However, for reasons that are not clear, she was raised by a different family, the Wierck’s.

As a young woman, she left, “to go into service” in London. There is a record of her at an address in Mayfair, where she was listed as “a servant”. There, she met Archibald McNeilage, who she is said to have married about 1902. In 1907 they emigrated to South Africa with the three oldest of her four children. The last of their children, Kate, was born in South Africa, in Zeerust.

In 1915, she married John Charles Weldon, with an address in Queen Street, Kensington. (It’s not clear how the relationship with Archibald McNeilage had ended: he was still alive until the 1950’s). Later they moved to Frere St, Bertrams. With John Charles, she had three further children – Margaret Lillian, John Charles , and Patrick Joseph.

John Charles died in 1934, leaving Elsa a widow to raise three children alone, during the depression years of the 1930’s. Margaret at that time would have been about 15, John Charles II about 11, and Patrick just 7. As a consequence, all the children had their schooling interrupted, either by leaving early to find full=time employment, or by working part-time alongside their schooling, or both.

After all three children had married and left home, Elsa would have been left living alone in Bertrams. At some stage, she must have moved in with Patrick and Doreen, because when the family moved to Cape Town sometime in about 1953/54, she joined us, and until her death in 1954 lived with us in Fish Hoek. I have a few memories of her from that time, and definitely recognise her in this picture:

Waverley &Guildford Cooperation to Counter Funding Cuts.

For over a decade nowocal authorities have been forced to manage significant cuts to their funding from Government The CO.VID pandemic has greatly exaggerated the problem. In Waverley and Guildford, the two “rainbow alliance” controlled administrations have been exploring the possibility of greater co-operation as one way to mitigate these cuts. According to a press release from Waverley BC, both councils are now ready to take formal decisions on this at their next full council meetings, on July 6th.

Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils’ partnership working moves forward

In February this year, Executive Committees at Guildford and Waverley endorsed working more closely together, and with the support of the Local Government Association have been exploring potential options for combining services and administrative functions. This week, both councils discussed these options further and agreed to make a decision on the next step for partnership working at their respective Full Council meetings on 6 July.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic both councils have worked hard to maintain essential services, help vulnerable communities and support their local economies. However, the additional costs of responding to the outbreak have impacted on already stretched council budgets.

A KPMG report into local government reorganisation and collaboration, published earlier this year, highlighted a clear need for neighbouring authorities across Surrey to consider the expansion of existing partnerships to reduce the duplication of services, increase efficiency and provide better value for money. In February, the Local Government Association was engaged to carry out a scoping report on potential savings for partnership working between Guildford and Waverley. The report provided the background for this week’s discussions.

The options could potentially lead to savings and better, more sustainable local services for residents under two separate democratic councils. Savings could include those achieved by sharing a single senior management team, economies of scale in the delivery of some services and increased purchasing power when negotiating with suppliers and contractors.

Leader of Guildford Borough Council, Cllr Joss Bigmore said:

“We are exploring closer working with Waverley Borough Council as a way to future-proof and protect our services to our residents and businesses and keep them local. Our joint budget challenges mean we must explore ambitious plans. A merged set of officers supporting two separate groups of councillors is a model that has been implemented in councils across the country delivering increased resilience in service and cost savings to budgets and is one of the options councillors will now decide on the 6 July. At Guildford we need to find £6millon over the next four years and recent changes by the government restrict our abilities to act in the commercial world to offset substantial reduction in government funding.

“We keep 9% of Council Tax and around 5% of the business rates we collect and despite being on target to achieve £8million of cost savings from our Future Guildford Transformation Programme, we need to make more savings. I think this organisation has performed amazingly well to maintain the services we provide when considered against this brutal funding environment and with the additional response to the pandemic, but it is not enough and we must continue to explore all options. There are natural synergies between Guildford and Waverley, in our communities and geography and we are excited to progress looking at greater partnership working.

He added: “It is time for councillors to make some challenging decisions. I am now confident we can be certain there are significant tangible benefits for both councils and our respective communities to progress further partnership working and to do this at a pace.”

Leader of Waverley Borough Council, Cllr Paul Follows said:

“Local authorities have been forced to manage significant cuts to their funding from Government for over a decade now, and most are reaching the limits of what can be achieved on their own, without having to make some really tough decisions about cutting local services to make ends meet. Even before the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Waverley Borough Council had embarked on an ambitious programme of measures to deliver cost savings and to maximise the use of our assets to increase income. However, we still have a residual budget shortfall of £7.8million over the next four years, so we continue to explore a range of options including collaboration.

“The KPMG report stressed that joint working is the way forward, and it is clear that doing nothing is simply not an option. Cooperation with our neighbour Guildford, could enable us to make financial savings while protecting and even helping us to improve our services, even as other areas are having to contemplate cuts to theirs.

Councillor Follows added: “Local government reorganisation has been high on the Government’s agenda for many years now, and it appears a reasonable possibility that at some point, there will be a move to a Unitary council structure in Surrey. Guildford and Waverley would make a logical core for any such organisation covering our area, and closer cooperation could help demonstrate the effectiveness of that arrangement. Ultimately, we hope to achieve a highly successful partnership, that other local authorities in Surrey will want to use as a model or even join.”

Haslemere Needs Street Trees.

There are numerous benefits to street trees going way beyond their decorative appeal, as the graphic below shows. So it puzzles me that Surrey County Council are reluctant to replace dying or dead street trees – even though their website encourages residents to report these.

When a resident contacted me to complain that the street tree outside his home was dead and needed replacing, I found a facility on the Surrey CC website to report dying or dead trees. However, when I duly reported this to Surrey Highways, the response was somewhat puzzling.

They wrote that ” the problem does not need immediate work”. This is somewhat bizarre, as if a tree does not need replacing when it is dead – when does it need replacing? When I pushed further, I got an answer that was at least more rational, but still not satisfactory. The assessment found that the dead tree posed no risk – by which I assume they mean risk to pedestrians or vehicles.

But this completely misses the point. From the monarch down, we are being encouraged by all levels of government (including Surrey CC) to plant more trees. Why plant more, if we can’t or won’t even replace those that have died?

I suspect that the real answer is that there is just not the money.

If Surrey Highways simply do not have the budget to replace trees, how else can we get this done? One way or the other, it must surely be possible. The Surrey CC website states that under certain conditions, individuals or groups can secure permission to undertake planting themselves. Street trees are important, and I will continue to argue for more trees for Haslemere. Haslemere town council has some (limited) funds available for neighbourhood improvements. This will not be enough to pay Surrey to do the work, but it could be enough to underwrite the basic expenses to secure permission for local volunteers to do the work.