Agnes Cathcart was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at is Amen-Ra temple in Edinburgh.  She chose the Latin motto ‘Veritas vincit’.  It was a busy night at Amen-Ra - Robert William Felkin, his wife Mary Jane Felkin, and Dr George Kerr were all initiated in the same ritual.  I’m sure that Agnes knew the Felkins, at least.  She also had two first cousins who were members of the GD at its Isis-Urania temple in London. 


Agnes was a keen GD member over the next few years.  She studied the texts provided for new initiates, and did the exams that were necessary to reach a point where she could do some practical magic; and was initiated into the GD’s inner, 2nd Order in June 1896.  That second initiation took place in Edinburgh but shortly afterwards, Agnes and her husband started spending the winters in Bath so she began to attend rituals at the Isis-Urania temple as well.  I don’t think she joined either of the GD’s daughter orders when they were founded after 1903, but in 1906 she was still keeping up with the friendships she’d made in the Order.



This is one of my short biographies.  They mostly cover GD members who lived in Bradford, Liverpool and Edinburgh.  There was a lot of information on Agnes Cathcart, even using only the web and sources in London.  There will be more in Scotland but it will be in record offices, the local papers...I’d need to be on the spot to look at it, and I’ve had to admit that life’s too short! 

Sally Davis

February 2016



This is what I’ve found out about AGNES BAXTER CATHCART



Letters from Agnes to Frederick Leigh Gardner survive in the Warburg Institute.  The earliest is dated December 1896 and was forwarded from her home in Scotland to where Agnes was staying in Bath.  Samuel Liddell Mathers had just banished Annie Horniman from the GD.  Gardner was organising a petition asking for Annie to be reinstated.  Agnes was happy to sign the petition and also took the opportunity to return some study documents she had borrowed.  After that, three years went by before she and Gardner made contact again.  A lot had happened in the GD though I’m not sure that Agnes was aware that Gardner himself had been forced to resign in 1897 - if she’d known I’m sure she would have sympathised with him over it. She wrote to him in November 1899 from her country home in Fifeshire, in gloomy mood.  There were other reasons for that (see the Descendants section below) but she was also finding her occult studies difficult, and missing the people she knew through the GD.  At Pitcairlie, she said, “We are here quite isolated from Amen-Ra” where she could at least have heard the latest GD news. 


In April 1901, Agnes wrote to Gardner twice within a few days, lamenting again that she was “so little in town”.  This time she had received recent news of trouble in the GD and was wanting to find out what was rumour and what was true.  She also mentioned her fears for the young British soldiers presently in South Africa (she won’t have been aware that the Boer War was actually drawing to a close).  Agnes’ final letter, written in August 1901, explained that the Amen-Ra temple was “pretty much broken up”.  Agnes was wanting to join a specifically Rosicrucian group and wondering if Mathers’ Ahathoor temple in Paris was still functioning.


Agnes’ letters to Gardner have a rather desponding tone.  I think it was because rumours that the GD might be on its last legs made her fear for the friendships she had made through being a member.  She needn’t have worried though.  One of those friends was Annie Horniman, who was not one to cast people aside lightly.   Annie went to stay with Agnes at her country home in April 1901; and as late as 1906 and with very little time at her disposal, she’d paid a call on Agnes during a visit to Edinburgh with the Irish National Theatre Society.  As Agnes was spending winters in England from the mid-1890s, they probably met on many other occasions.


As Agnes was interested in Rosicrucian ideas and rituals, she would have found conversations with Isabel de Steiger rewarding.  Perhaps a friendship developed, though evidence for one is lacking.  Isabel lived in Edinburgh during the 1890s, was a member of Amen-ra temple and the TS at the time; and thought of the GD as a specifically Rosicrucian order.  However, Isabel left Edinburgh in 1900 and I’m not sure that the other GD members in the city were quite so interested in the subject.  Hence Agnes’ search for a Rosicrucian group elsewhere.


I expect that Gardner was aware that Agnes knew GD members John William and Frances Brodie-Innes in Edinburgh.  It’s curious, though, that she doesn’t mention her first cousins Florence Kennedy and Cecilia Macrae.  They were both committed members of the GD in the 1890s.  Though they may have been the source of the news that was reaching Agnes in Scotland about the GD in London, around 1900.



Warburg Institute: letters to Frederick Leigh Gardner. Gerald Yorke Collection, folder catalogued NS73.

Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume IV 1905-1907.  Editors John Kelly and Ronald Schuchard.  Published Oxford University Press 2005: p429 and p430 footnote 9.



Yes, Agnes was a member of the Theosophical Society for longer than she was in the GD.  She made her application to join in July 1892.  At that time, applications had to be sponsored by two people who were members already. John William and Frances Brodie-Innes were Agnes’ sponsors.  They had founded the TS’s Edinburgh group, and it met in their house.  John William was also a member of the GD - he’d been initiated in London in 1890.  He was a founding member of its Amen-Ra temple, which had many members drawn from the TS in Edinburgh, including the Robert and Mary Jane Felkin.  I’m sure it was through John and Frances Brodie-Innes, rather than through her cousins Florence and Cecilia, that Agnes found out about the GD’s existence.


If Agnes was worried about the GD’s internal troubles, I can’t imagine what she made of the series of very divisive disputes that rocked the TS in the 1890s and 1900s.  She continued to pay her TS subscription and to go to meetings in Edinburgh and London, until 1907, the year her husband died.  She sent in a letter of resignation in March 1909.


Agnes was one of those GD members who used Frederick Leigh Gardner’s informal book-buying service.  In 1901 she told Gardner that was reading A E Waite’s biography of Louis de St Martin, the 18th-century French freemason; perhaps she had bought it through him.  She was asking Gardner if he still had any copies of Annie Besant’s “little handbooks”.  I imagine that even after she had ceased to be an active member of the GD and the TS, her book-buying and reading continued; although there are no later letters from her in the Gerald Yorke Collection, they may just not have survived.



Theosophical Society Membership Register September 1891-January 1893 p122 entry for Mrs Agnes Cathcart.  There’s a note on the entry that she sent in a letter of resignation dated 1 March 1909 though her last annual subscription had been paid two years’ before.

Warburg Institute: letters to Frederick Leigh Gardner. Gerald Yorke Collection, folder catalogued NS73.

See Waite’s book on St Martin via  It’s The Life of Louis Claude de St Martin and Agnes was reading it hot off the press: it was published in London by Philip Welby, in 1901.

The Theosophical Publishing Society printed a large number of works by Annie Besant in 1900 and 1901, early efforts in what later became called the Adyar Pamphlets:

in 1900 Avataras: Four Lectures

in 1901 Esoteric Christianity; or the Lesser Mysteries

                        Death and After

                        Ancient Ideals in Modern Life

                        Thought Power: Its Control and Cultivation

and                   Light from the East, a choice of Buddhist texts for which Annie Besant wrote the foreword.

I don’t think they were available at bookshops.  Most readers bought them through the TS but perhaps Agnes preferred to ask her friend Frederick Gardner for them.






Agnes Cathcart was a member of the Scottish social elite, with family in the landed gentry, the professions and in business.



The GD’s Agnes Cathcart, Cecilia Macrae and Florence Kennedy were all members of the Laing family.  They were grand-daughters of Samuel Laing of Papdale, Kirkwall in Orkney, who made a fortune from kelp production in the 1820s only to lose it to expensive political campaigns and changing Treasury rules during the early 1830s.  After selling his land, Samuel Laing of Papdale left Orkney and embarked on a second career as a traveller and writer on Norway; and translator of Norse sagas.  Agnes was the daughter of Samuel Laing of Papdale’s daughter Elizabeth Dorothy and was named after Samuel Laing of Papdale’s wife Agnes, née Kelly. Cecilia and Florence were daughters of his son, the better known Samuel Laing MP, government financial advisor and writer of popular books on science.


Elizabeth Dorothy Laing, after a period travelling around Europe with her father, married Henry Baxter of Idvies in 1834.  Henry Baxter was born in 1799, the son of John Baxter, a banker and businessman.  He was related to the Baxters of Dundee who owned Baxter Brothers, the largest linen-manufacturing firm in the world for much of the 19th century; though he was not involved in the firm himself.  After graduating from Edinburgh University, he qualified as an advocate in 1828 and also represented Forfar at the Church of Scotland General Assembly.


Elizabeth Dorothy Laing and Henry Baxter were married in two separate ceremonies in March 1834, one in Edinburgh and one at Kirkwall.  They had two children, Agnes (born 10 March 1835) and a second daughter, Mary (born March 1837) before Henry Baxter died, of some kind of seizure, in August 1837. 


Elizabeth Baxter was a very wealthy widow - she had £600 a year as her jointure plus £300 for Agnes and Mary, administered by trustees.  While her daughters were very young, Elizabeth rented a house at Bangholm Bower; but when its lease expired in 1844 she moved to Edinburgh so her daughters could go to school.  By 1847 she was living at 30 Saxe Coburg Place with her father and daughters.  They were all there on the day of the 1851 census, with four servants; and Agnes was probably married from that address.  Her sister Mary married Arthur Charles Pretyman in 1858.  In 1868, the estate at Idvies was sold.




Some information on the Laings of Orkney: see

For the Laing family and Samuel Laing of Papdale:

The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780-1868 edited and with supplementary information by R P Fereday.  Bellavista Publications 2000.  The Autobiography section p51, pp153-176 which includes Elizabeth’s marriage, Henry Baxter’s sudden death, and Agnes’ marriage.  Samuel describes Agnes when a child as “bold, firm and impetuous”.   Samuel Laing of Papdale had a severe stroke in 1864; and died at his daughter’s house in Edinburgh in 1868.


For Samuel Laing of Papdale’s political involvement on Orkney during the 1820s, see R P Fereday’s article on it, at


There’s plenty of information on the Baxter family of Dundee on the web.  See wikipedia and wiki articles on William Edward Baxter 1825-1890; his son George Washington Baxter 1st and last Baronet 1853-1926.  And Sir David Baxter, first (and last) Baronet 1793-1872.


On Henry Baxter:

The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780-1868 edited and with supplementary information by R P Fereday.  Bellavista Publications 2000: p195 footnote 220 for Henry Baxter’s dates; and p196 footnote 226 for the sale of the Idvies estate to John Clerk Brodie.

The Faculty of Advocates in Scotland 1532-1943 published 1944 by the Faculty: p11.

Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland p1031.

Via to an item in Perry Bankrupt Gazette of 28 July 1838 notice issued by 13 July 1838 mentioning Henry Baxter is dead.

The Court of Session Garland by James Maidment, which seems to be a stud book for racehorses. Published 1839 p7: Henry Baxter as owner of a chestnut colt.


Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 1066694; and Scotland-ODM GS film number 990505 for the two weddings of Henry Baxter to Elizabeth Dorothy Laing.

At a marriage announcement from the Perth Courier 3 April 1834.

Familysearch Scotland-VR GS film number 1066691: birth of Agnes Baxter 10 March 1835 in Edinburgh.  Parents Henry Baxter and Elizabeth Dorothy née Laing.  Via to the Perthshire Courier of 19 March 1835: a birth announcement for her, “on 10th inst” [10 March 1935] though without her name.


Marriage of Agnes’ sister Mary: via to the issue of 30 October 1858: marriage announcements on p20 include: on 26 [October 1858] at Idvies, Mary Baxter to Arthur Charles Pretyman, grandson of the bishop of Winchester, youngest son of Rev G T Pretyman Chancellor of Lincoln (I think that means the diocese of Lincoln).


I tried to find information on the death of Elizabeth Dorothy Baxter; but there was no entry for her in the probate registries of Scotland or England.  Ancestry’s probate registry entries for Scotland begin in 1876; and Elizabeth is on the census for 1871 but not that of 1881.  I cautiously conclude she probably died between 1871 and 1875.



Elizabeth Laing had never been to school.  Her grandfather had taught her to read and write himself but she had no accomplishments other than the ability to speak some French and German, which she had learned on their travels in Europe. Samuel Laing of Papdale says that Agnes went to school in Edinburgh from the age of 9.  However, which school she attended and what she learned there are a mystery as Samuel doesn’t mention it.  



The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780-1868 edited and with supplementary information by R P Fereday.  Bellavista Publications 2000: p51, p169. 








ANY PUBLIC LIFE/EVIDENCE FOR LEISURE TIME?  Bearing in mind, of course, that most leisure activities leave no trace behind them.


None other than her esoteric interests. 



Birth to 1837: Edinburgh and Idvies estate.

From her father’s death until 1844: Bangholm Bower.

Aged 9 until her marriage: 30 Saxe Coburg Place Edinburgh; and the Idvies estate.

From 1857: Pitcairlie estate near Newburgh in Fifeshire and - possibly - a house in Edinburgh (though Agnes never mentions one).

December 1896 to January 1897 and thereafter most winters: Brook Street in the Walcot district of Bath.

April 1901: Seaton House St Andrews - they were probably there for the golf.

August 1901: Pitcairlie.

At death: Pitcairlie.



The important person in Agnes’ husband’s family was her father-in-law, Taylor Cathcart.  After working as manager of the Cunningham family’s Grandvale Plantation in Jamaica, in 1823 he married Frances Marcy, a member of another family of land- and slave-owners on the island.  He owned a few slaves himself, at Brustrode Farm.  In 1833 Taylor Cathcart inherited an estate at Pitcairlie, near Newburgh in Fifeshire.  He and Frances had a large family.  Robert, born in Glasgow in 1833, was the second son, but his elder brother died in in 1850 and so Robert inherited Pitcairlie when his father died in 1857.


Sources for the Cathcart family:

Some exhaustive family history details were compiled when the family claimed compensation for the loss of their slaves after the ending of the slave trade.  See, their Legacies of British Slave Ownership pages.  Taylor Cathcart’s Will shows that in addition to land, the Cathcarts owned railway and other shares.

Death of Taylor Cathcart’s eldest son James: Glasgow Herald 23 December 1850: death announcement.

A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry volume 3 1853 pp60-61 shows the descent of the family up to Taylor Cathcart.

Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Men of Fife 1866 editor Matthew Forster Connolly: p110.

Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 1040169 for the birth of Robert Cathcart on 20 February 1833 son of Taylor Cathcart and wife Francis (sic); baptised Newburgh August 1833.  A 2nd baptism record f him: Scotland-ODM GS film number 1042982: in the Gorbals March 1833.



Not expecting to inherit the family estate, Robert Cathcart had originally joined the army.  He fought with the 74th Highlanders in the Kaffir War in 1852; but I think was then called home, as his father’s heir after his elder brother’s death.  He managed the Pitcairlie estate well once he had succeeded to it in 1857, a few months after he and Agnes were married.  He bred Clydesdales; he worked as a magistrate; he was Vice-Lieutenant for the County of Fifeshire.  He was a keen golfer and was elected the Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews as early as 1857, keeping the position until his death.  And he was an enthusiastic gardener, a founder and first president of the Scottish Auricula and Primula Society.



Pitcairlie Estate:

See, the house still exists though it only has 100 acres attached to it now, much less than it must have had in Agnes’ time.  The house earns its keep through holiday lets.  The estate belonged to the Leslie family until the 17th century when the house was built.  It was bought by the Cathcarts in the mid-18th century and the family continued as owners of the estate until the 1960s.

Via to St Andrews Citizen of 8 July 1899: an item mentioning family portraits owned by Mr Cathcart of Pitcairlie [Robert], including one by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  (See Cathcart v Cathcart below; he might be having to sell them.)

A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA by Algernon Graves, William Vine Cronin and Sir Edward R P Edgcumbe published 1901 uses what looks like Reynolds’ appointments diary.  Beware portraits of Earl and Countess Cathcart, also by Reynolds; but in add to those on p1531 a MR Cathcart is mentioned as having a sitting (just the one, apparently); and on p1555 Mr Cathcart’s sitting was February 1761.


Sources for Robert Cathcart:

Cambridge History of the British Empire by Eric Anderson Walker 1963 pp342 et seq for an official account of the Kaffir War 1850-53.

The 74th Highlanders have a wiki page with coverage of their involvement in Kaffir War September 1851 at Kroomie Forest.


Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England volume 25 1864 pxv lists R Cathcart of Pitcairlie as a member.  Just noting that his eldest son, James Taylor Cathcart became a member in his turn: RAS Journal issue of 1907 pcviii.

The Clydesdale Stud Book 1885 p620 lists Robert Cathcart as the breeder of particular named animals; and p701 as on its list of accredited breeders.


Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society of London volume 1 p233 Robert Cathcart of Pitcairlie’s election as a fellow at the meeting of 26 June 1860.

At has some information on the founding of the society, originally published in the Edinburgh Evening News 14 February 1887.  He was elected its first president and was still in post at its 4th exhibition in 1890.

Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening volume 16 1888 p202 an article on the gardens at Pitcairlie.

Robert Cathcart’s death:

Highland Light Infantry Chronicle issue covering January 1905 to October 1907 p95 printing an announcement originally in the Glasgow Evening News of 21 May 1907 but issued at St Andrews: Robert Cathcart had died at his house (that’s Seaton House) in St Andrews “last night”.  Who Was Who volume 1 1897-1915 p91.

On Seaton House in St Andrews:

At it’s part of a Best Western hotel now.  Built in 1864 for John Buddo; architect was George Rae.

At report 2 July 2012 mentions it being next door to the St Salvator Boys’ School built 1880.  With a photograph.



Agnes Baxter and Robert Cathcart were married on 26 November 1856.  Samuel Laing of Papdale considered that Agnes had made a good enough choice; though there’s that about his wording that suggests he thought she might have done better.  He assessed the value of the estate at Pitcairlie as about equal to that of Idvies - about £60,000 - and Agnes had taken to the marriage a dowry of £30,000 (add a nought? - at least one nought - to get a feel of today’s equivalent values) so the Cathcarts would be very comfortably off.  In Samuel Laing of Papdale’s Autobiography there’s no mention of the Cathcarts in his exhaustive account of his friends and extended family.  That’s not to say that the two families didn’t know each other at all; just that they were not close friends and weren’t related.


In terms of Victorian expectations of the wife of a landowner, Agnes did her duty, providing Pitcairlie with an heir, and two spares.  She and Robert had three sons, all of whom were given the name of the grandfather on the Cathcart side: James Taylor Cathcart born 1858; William Taylor Cathcart born 1859; and Alan (or Allen) Taylor Cathcart born 1861.


On census day in 1871 and again in 1881, the Cathcarts were at Pitcairlie.  In 1871 they employed a cook, a housemaid, a kitchenmaid and a maid who waited at table.  Agnes and Robert were there on their own, as it was term-time: all three of their sons were staying with their grandmother Elizabeth Baxter at 4 Osborne Terrace, while they were at school in Edinburgh.  Later in the 1870s the boys went away to England, to Marlborough College. 


By 1881 William had gone to India.  On census day that year James and Alan were at home, though, and the Cathcarts also had Robert’s mother Frances, his unmarried sister (another Frances) and his aunt Mary Hunter living with them. To cope with this larger household, Agnes and Robert were employing a sewing maid, a laundry maid, a dairymaid and a footman in addition to a cook/housekeeper, housemaid and kitchenmaid.


By 1891, James Taylor Cathcart had married.  After beginning to train as a barrister and then changing his mind, he had begun to help run the Pitcairlie estate; which meant that Agnes and Robert had more freedom to get away.  It was perhaps at this time that they began to rent Seaton House, very convenient for the golf course at St Andrews. On census day 1891, however, they were staying at a boarding house in Brook Street, in the Walcot district of Bath. They were in Bath again over December 1896/January 1897; again on census day 1901, in another lodging house on Brook Street; and perhaps spent a month or two there most winters until Robert’s death.  Certainly they were in England enough for Agnes to transfer her GD membership from Edinburgh to the Isis-Urania temple in London.


Though they may have moved south in the spring of 1891 for a warmer climate, Agnes and Robert may also have decided to go where they were not well known, to hide from the consequences of James Taylor Cathcart’s marriage (in 1887) to the heiress Mary Unwin of Wootton Hall in Staffordshire.  Agnes may also have been grateful for the distractions offered by her occult reading and her involvement in the TS and GD; as the disaster of James’ marriage was played out in public.


The bride fled after only a couple of months and wouldn’t come back.  In 1888 the groom cornered her in a hotel in Ashbourne in Derbyshire, and tried to force her to return; and in February 1891 he had her incarcerated at The Priory lunatic asylum at Roehampton, under the 1890 Lunacy Act.  Questions were asked about that in the House of Commons.  The hearing of the case by the Lunacy Commissioners in June 1891 was covered by newspapers as far afield as New Zealand; and I read the outcome of it in the New York Times.  The couple tried twice to get divorced through the courts, but were refused.  Eventually (in 1899) James was divorced by Act of Parliament, a very expensive procedure.  If Agnes’ letters to Frederick Leigh Gardner in the 1890s have a desponding and weary tone, you can hardly blame her.  She will have hoped, I daresay, that the divorce would finally end the long and embarrassing saga; but litigation between James and Mary was still going on in 1902. 



Agnes’ marriage:

The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780-1868 edited and with supplementary information by R P Fereday.  Bellavista Publications 2000.  The Autobiography section p176.


Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 6035516: marriage of Robert Cathcart to Agnes Baxter 26 Nov 1856 at Kirkden Angus.

Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 6035516 for the births of their three sons:

-           James Taylor Cathcart on 2 March 1858 at Newburgh, parents Robert Cathcart and Agnes née Baxter.  NB that there’s a spelling mistake on this one: CathcUrt instead of CathcArt.

-           William Taylor Cathcart on 26 May 1859 at Newburgh. 

-           Alan Taylor Cathcart on 12 May 1861 at Newburgh. 


James’ marriage to Mary Unwin, including the Cathcart Lunacy Case:

Seen via google at Hansard’s Parliamenty Debates volume 351 House of Commons proceedings 6 March 1891 pp433-34, p648: question asked by Dr Fitzgerald MP for Longford South, about the seizure of Mary Cathcart of Wootton Hall Staffs.


A summary of the Cathcart Lunacy Hearing, which may have been the first such enquiry under the new Act, in The Law Reports and Cases in Lunacy volume 2 1896 p690.

Times Saturday 14 March 1891 p4 coverage of court hearing following a request by James Taylor Cathcart to have his wife Mary arrested for paying a man to paste placards denouncing him, on walls near his home in Fifeshire.

The lunacy hearing figured in the Times from Monday 11 May 1891 to 24 July 1891 though I couldn’t find any coverage of the Commissioner’s decision.  See the outcome - that Mary Cathcart was sane and should be set free - at of 24 July 1891 quoting a report from a correspondent in London 23 July [1891]. 

Seen via, in the Dundee Advertizer of 14 December 1892: the Court of Appeal was now hearing Mary Cathcart’s challenge to a legal directive ordering her to pay 2/3 of the costs of the Lunacy Commission Enquiry.


Times Tue 14 March 1899 p9 brief note, with no details: the Cathcart Divorce Bill got its 3rd reading.

Times Fri 28 April 1899 p6 the Cathcart Divorce Bill got the Royal Assent.

Times Thurs 29 June 1899 p10 the divorce was re-heard at Edinburgh Court of Sessions after Mary had appealed against it and been allowed to amend her defence.  Judgement was reserved.


Perhaps the Cathcarts were only divorced in England by the parliamentary Act:

Scottish Law Reporter volume 36 1900 p338-339 report on divorce case Cathcart v Cathcart, heard 18 January 1900.  The petitioner was James Taylor Cathcart of Pitcairlie Fife, claiming desertion by his wife Mary.

Via to Edinburgh Evening News 12 December 1902: report on the continuing litigation between James and Mary Cathcart.



Robert Cathcart died in May 1907 at his house in St Andrews.  Agnes died at Pitcairlie in December 1913.



Robert -  Who Was Who volume 1 1897-1915 p91.

Agnes - Probate Registry for Scotland 1914.  James Taylor Cathcart was her executor.



I haven’t found evidence of any grand-children being born to Agnes and Robert Cathcart.  


JAMES TAYLOR CATHCART inherited Pitcairlie on Robert Cathcart’s death although he had been running it or helping run it for some years by then.

Marlborough College Register 1843-1904 p257.  After leaving Marlborough College James had gone to Christ Church Oxford; graduating BA 1880.

London Gazette 24 March 1885 p1315 in list of army promotions: James was promoted to Major in the 1st Fifeshire Regiment, as of 25 March 1885.

London Gazette 15 August 1890 p4438 James and one other man were appointed deputy Lord Lieutenants of the county of Fife.

Aberdeen Angus Herd Book volume 22 1898, issued by the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society; p611 has James as a member.

Probate Registry Scotland: James Taylor Cathcart died at Pitcairlie 1 May 1935.  There’s also an entry for him in the Probate Registry of England.  Confirmation of his English property granted London 24 October [1935] to William Taylor Cathcart.


A sad footnote to the life of Mary Unwin Cathcart:

See Law Reporter volume 87 1903 p750: another examination of Mary Unwin Cathcart’s mental state, took place in May 1902 to judge whether she was fit to continue to act as executor of her mother’s Will.  The decision was that she was incapable of so doing, and the Official Solicitor’s office took charge of her financial and legal affairs.


WILLIAM TAYLOR CATHCART went to work in India.  I don’t think he married:

Thacker’s Directory of Bengal 1881 p962 William is in it, as assistant manager at the Silcoorie tea plantation at Silchar in the Cachar district of East Bengal.

Thacker’s Directory of India 1885 p1067; and on p331-35 some information about his employer and the plantation on which he worked, in the Directory’s list of tea plantations and plantation-owning firms in India.  At this stage the Silcoorie tea gardens were owned by Jardine Skinner and Co who were also its agents at their offices in Calcutta.  Silcoorie was the biggest of the firm’s plantations in the Cachar district.  E F Skinner was the district superintendent, working with three assistants, William Taylor Cathcart being 2nd of the three.

The tea-growing industry in India then entered a period of rapid growth and change; from which William benefited.

Thacker’s Directory of India 1888 p1177 had William as having succeeded E F Skinner as manager of the Silcoorie plantations in Cachar district.

Thacker’s Directory of India 1901 p1704: William’s original employer had been taken over by Cachar and Dooars Ltd.  William had kept his job, though it had changed and I think he had had to move; he was manager of Cachar and Dooars Ltd’s estates in the Cachar district, with two assistants and an engineer working for him. 

Thacker’s Directory of India 1910 Part 2 p59.  William had moved again and I’m not sure whether his second employer had been taken over or whether he’d been head-hunted by a rival firm.  He was now manager of the Consolidated Tea and Lands Company’s Amrail Division, based at the railway station at Satgaon, Sylhet.  On p152-53 of the list of tea plantations in India: as its name suggests, Consolidated is a big firm, with many sub-divisions answering to an HQ in Khadimnagar.  William was the Amrail Division’s divisional manager, with four managers working for him.  Consolidated had agents in Calcutta, Glasgow and London.

India Office List 1911 p55 lists all the current members of the Legislative Council of East Bengal and Assam, whose permanent president was the lieutenant-governor of Bengal.  There were two groups of members: those who had been nominated to their post (mostly British) and those who had been elected (mostly Indian, although William was one of the elected ones).

1911 was a very good time to be a member of that kind of government body because this was the year the new king George V and queen Mary made their official visit to India.  William might have been asked to attend the great Delhi durbar held during their stay.

The King and Queen in India by Sir Stanley Reed.  London: Bennett Coleman 1912.  William and the other members of the legislative council are listed on p338. And see the visit was from 2 December 1911 to 10 January 1912.

The royal visit probably explains why William Taylor Cathcart was awarded the CIE:

India Office and Burma List 1928 p156 begins a list of all those who have been awarded the Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire - CIE - since the Order was founded in 1880.  On p158 William’s name is with a number of men, British and Indian, who received the Order on 12 December 1911.

Thacker’s Directory of India 1914 Part 2 p66 was the last time William was listed in Thacker’s as an British resident of India.  He was still in the same job as when listed in 1910.

This must be him, I suppose, returning to Europe to fight in the first World War: London Gazette 17 October 1916 p9967 a man called William Taylor Cathcart, described as “late lieutenant in the Surma Valley Light Horse” had been made a temporary Major, as of 18 October 1916.


As James Taylor Cathcart doesn’t seem to have had any children, I think William must have inherited Pitcairlie when James died.

Probate Registry England 1940; entry for William Taylor Cathcart of Pitcairlie Newburgh who had died on 2 May 1940.  Confirmation of his English property granted London 24 July [1940] to Philip George Moncrieff Skene and John Christopher Laidlay.

Via findmypast I saw a reference to a Probate Registry Bengal entry for him, as well; 1942. 

At, William was buried at Newburgh Cemetery.

Who Was Who volume 3 1929-40: p231.  William is the only brother who is listed in Who’s Who.



On his census entry for 1901, Alan described himself as a retired tea planter.  Unlike William, Alan went to Ceylon.

Dundee Courier 20 October 1906 has a reference to Alan Taylor Cathcart as living in Ceylon in 1883.


Alan married Isabella Ginevra Galton, a grand-child of banker J H Galton who had bought Hadzor House, near Droitwich in 1821.  She was related to the evolutionary biologist Francis Galton; to Charles Darwin; and to the Wedgewoods.  I haven’t been able to find out when and where Alan and Isabella were married, but the marriage was being prepared for in 1893:

Cases Decided in the Court of Session issue of 1948 (though I think the case is much earlier) pp457-59.  This was a snippet so I couldn’t see what kind of court case it was; but there was a reference to a pre-nuptial agreement dated 1893 between Alan Taylor Cathcart and Isabella Ginevra or Genevra Galton or Cathcart.


On the day of the 1901 census, Alan and Isabella were living in Martley Worcestershire.  They had no children - or at least, none were living with them on that day.  I couldn’t find them on the 1911 census but they were probably living in Scotland then.


Via to Edinburgh Evening News of 20 June 1905: mention of a legal case in which Alan and Isabella were suing solicitor Charles Thomas Arnold for damages.  The Cathcarts’ address at that time was 15 Coates Crescent Edinburgh.  And via genesreunited to Derby Daily Telegraph of 21 June 1905: coverage of the same case reported that Alan and Isabella were suing Mr Arnold for £1000 each.


Alan does seem to have been very litigious:

Via to Dundee Courier of 17 February 1920: a report that Alan Taylor Cathcart was bringing a case against two trustees - presumably trustees of a fund he benefited from.  The trust must be connected in some way to Alan’s grandfather Henry Baxter, because the two trustees in question are Edward A Baxter of Dundee and George Washington Baxter of Invereighty, both businessmen and both (see Henry Baxter above) members of the Baxter family of Dundee.  Agnes might have been a beneficiary of the trust fund while she was alive.


I couldn’t find any entries for either Alan or Isabella in the Probate Registries Scotland (which goes to 1936 only) or in England.  If Alan was still alive in 1940 he will have inherited Pitcairlie from his older brother William.




BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.  Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.  Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.  The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.  All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.  Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01.  I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.


For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923.  Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972.  Foreword by Gerald Yorke.  Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist.  He has no axe to grind.


Family history: freebmd; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.


Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.


Useful source for business and legal information: London Gazette and its Scottish counterpart Edinburgh Gazette.  Now easy to find (with the right search information) on the web.


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.


Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources.  I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.






Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: