Alexander Gordon DAVIDSON was initiated into the Isis-Urania temple in London on 2 November 1901, taking the Latin motto ‘Lux et tenebris’. By this time, the GD administrative records are not noting down what level new members subsequently reached; but he did not become a member of the inner, 2nd Order as far as I can tell.
Alexander Davidson was born to Samuel and Margaret Davidson in January 1860 in Rayne, Aberdeenshire, the youngest of nine children, six boys and three girls. Samuel Davidson was a doctor and also ran a small farm, so on the days of the 1861 and 1871 censuses, his household was a large and varied one: as well as his wife, younger children still living at home, older sons on their Easter vacation from university, a housemaid, a kitchen maid and a nursemaid, it also included two agricultural labourers. Two of Samuel Davidson’s sons followed him to Aberdeen University to study medicine; Alexander Gordon was the younger of the two, graduating in 1881. He registered with the General Medical Council for the first time in 1884 but did not actually pass his MD until 1887. He later gained a diploma in Public Health (DPH). Local councils were being given wider powers and responsibilities to check food and hygiene standards and collect medical statistics, and the DPH was a new qualification, to prepare physicians to take work in this expanding area of employment.
During the 1880s and early 1890s, Alexander Gordon was still living in Aberdeenshire; his father had retired from his general practice by 1881 and Alexander Gordon may have taken it over. Around 1893 or 1894 he married Jane Napier Grant, daughter of Richard Robb Grant who ran an engineering and boiler-making firm in Port Dundas Glasgow. Their first child, Jean Evelyn, was born in Scotland but between 1895 and 1899 the family moved south and settled at 57 Crouch Hall Road north London. I suppose this must mean that Alexander Gordon had found a new job; but I haven’t been able to find out what it was. Alexander and Jane’s two sons were born in London: Erroll Gordon Davidson in 1900 and Archer Grant Davidson in 1902.
Sometime during the early 1900s, Alexander Gordon Davidson accepted a job as medical officer with the Tarquah Mining and Exploration Co Ltd and moved to what is now Ghana. This next bit is rather speculative but it’s possible that he heard of the job through Dr Robert Felkin, who had been initiated into the GD in Edinburgh but by 1896 had moved to London. From 1886 to 1896 Felkin had taught tropical medicine at the University of Edinburgh and when he set up in general practice in London he also acted as medical consultant to firms with operations in tropical countries. I can’t actually prove that Felkin and Davidson knew each other but around 1899 they were both living in Crouch Hall Road, north London and I wonder whether that’s not a coincidence.
Exactly which year Alexander Gordon Davidson took the job with Tarquah M and E I’m not sure. 1903 was the last year in which he was registered with the General Medical Council, so he might have gone abroad at that stage, but I believe he probably got the job in 1906. His son Erroll died in London early in January 1907, and I think the family left Britain soon after.
Perhaps as part of his preparation for life in west Africa, Alexander Gordon Davidson was initiated into the Anglo-Colonial freemasons’ lodge (number 3175). He was certainly a member by 1911. Anglo-Colonial lodge 3175 was founded in 1906, especially to provide contacts abroad and a meeting place in London, for Britons living abroad. He also joined Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in 1911 as a ‘distance’ member, entitled to receive its magazine (which covered aspects of the history of freemasonry) and attend its meetings when in London.
The Tarquah Mining and Exploration Co Ltd played its part in the scramble for Africa. The town and district now usually spelled ‘Tarkwa’ were part of the lands of the Ashanti in the 1890s (they’re now in Ghana) but the area had long been known for its goldfields and was thus being gradually annexed by the British, already well established further along the coast at Accra. In addition, the area had cotton and cacao - it was irresistible to the British Empire. Companies to exploit the gold reserves were being founded as early as 1897 and at the same time, Manchester Chamber of Commerce was hounding the British government for easier access to the area’s cotton production. A railway between Tarkwa and the nearest port, Sekondi, was completed around 1901; it was mostly built by Scottish engineers and surveyors and this might have been how Alexander Gordon Davidson learned of the employment opportunities available on the Gold Coast to those who didn’t mind its climate. In 1905 a regular shipping service run by Elder Dempster was started up, bringing gold but also cotton to the UK; only one ship was involved in it, but she made three trips per year to and from West Africa. In fact, this level of exploitation of the goldfield led to an early spike in finds, followed by a long decline, but Tarquah Mining and Exploration was still in existence in 1924 and still employed Alexander Gordon Davidson in Tarkwa. Although he and Jane, and Jean and Archer were in England on the day of the 1911 census, living at 83 Prince of Wales Mansions in Prince of Wales Road Battersea, they were in the country on a long period of leave. The family did buy a house in Crouch Hall Road, and Jane Davidson was living there late in 1924. The purchase was probably part of a retirement plan, but if so, Alexander Gordon Davidson didn’t survive long enough to live there permanently. He died on board ship on 1 April 1924, returning to West Africa after another period of leave.
Who had Alexander Gordon Davidson known who recommended him for initiation into the Golden Dawn? Normally, when I’ve found evidence that a GD member was a freemason, I’ve been able to assume that it was contacts in freemasonry who were the link. However, I don’t think this is true of Alexander Gordon. GD member Robert Palmer Thomas was also initiated as a member of the Anglo-Colonial lodge number 3175 in its first year, but the two men had probably met through the GD, rather than the other way round. There’s no evidence that Alexander Gordon Davidson was a freemason before he joined the GD, either in Scotland or in England. He had also never been a member of the GD’s Edinburgh temple. However, with some caution (as I have no direct evidence) I suggest that the GD member Alexander Gordon Davidson knew was Robert William Felkin, who lived at 6 Crouch Hall Road during the 1890s and had been a prominent doctor in Edinburgh before moving to London around 1894.
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.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; 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.
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.
Sources specific to Alexander Gordon Davidson:
From the Mormon family history website at familysearch, a brief baptism record for Alexander Gordon Davidson: born 17 January 1860 at Rayne, Aberdeenshire. Parents Samuel Davidson and Margaret née Watson.
Medical Times and Gazette volume 2 1883 p252 Alexander Gordon Davidson is included in a list of people who’d passed “the Second Professional Examination”.
Aberdeen University Review volumes 11-12 1925 p286 a list of obituaries of graduates of the university includes that of Alexander Gordon Davidson. He had died on 1 April  during a voyage from the UK to West Africa. He had passed his MA in 1881, his MD in 1887 and had also taken the Diploma of Public Health (though no date was given for that). At the time of his death he had been working as a Medical Officer in the Gold Coast of West Africa. He had been born at Rayne, son of Dr Samuel Davidson MD, also a graduate of Aberdeen University.
Possible connection with Robert William Felkin:
That they lived in the same street in the late 1890s: see their GMC Registration addresses for that period.
Felkin as a specialist in tropical medicine: plenty on the web and also his obituary in the British Medical Journal issue of 12 February 1927 p309 which specifically mentions his tropical health consultancy work.
Alexander Gordon Davidson as a freemason:
Ars Quatuor Coronatum 2076 issue of 1916 p32 Alexander Gordon Davidson appears in its list of corresponding members, as member of lodge 3175. He had joined Quatuor Coronati lodge 2076 in May 1911, probably during that long leave. His current address was c/o Tarquah Mining and Exploration Co Ltd of Gold Coast W Africa.
The name of lodge 3175, found through Lane’s database, available through the Freemasons’ Library: 3175 is the Anglo-Colonial Lodge, consecrated in London in 1906. Information on this lodge:
The First Twenty-One Years of the Anglo-Colonial Lodge number 3175. The lodge’s motto is ‘hands across the sea’. An un-numbered page at the back of the booklet says that the compilers of it were T J Oldland, J H Hack and H Corp. Publication undated but must be circa 1927.
Anglo-Colonial Lodge 3175: To Commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Lodge. No author. Undated but must be 1956. Page 11-12 has a list of those who signed the petition to the United Grand Lodge of England requesting permission to found the new lodge. Robert Palmer Thomas and A E Waite are both on that list but Alexander Gordon Davidson isn’t. P7 says that 8 new members were initiated as part of the lodge’s consecration ceremony, and 7 other men were initiated during the lodge’s first year. Unfortunately none of the 15 is named in this booklet and there’s no full list of lodge members either.
Alexander Gordon Davidson’s wife Jane, daughter of Richard Robb Grant of Glasgow:
Edinburgh Gazette 18 April 1856 p362 notice issued 30 June 1855 that John Paton had ceased to be a partner in Paton and Grant of Glasgow. The other partner was Richard Robb Grant of Paton, Grant and Co of Melbourne.
Edinburgh Gazette 31 August 1880 p794 a notice announcing the retirement of John Turnbull from the firm of Turnbull, Grant and Jack, engineers, millwrights, iron founders and boiler makers. The firm will continue in business under the management of R R Grant and Henry Jack.
Edinburgh Gazette 24 November 1891 p1326 bankruptcy notices: at an Extraordinary General Meeting held at the offices of Turnbull Grant and Co Ltd of 2 Charlotte St Port Dundas Glasgow, it was agreed that the company’s debts exceeded its ability to pay, so that it would be put into voluntary liquidation. Richard Robb Grant, engineer, and Patrick Hamilton Aikman, chartered accountant would be the firm’s liquidators.
The marriage of Alexander Gordon Davidson to Jane Grant took place in Scotland so I haven’t got full details of it. Probably 1894.
The Record of Old Westminsters covering its beginnings to 1927; vol 1 pubd 1928 p249 Archer Grant Davidson was at the school 1917-19. At time of pubn he was working at the Gold Coast colony of Ashanti for the African and Eastern Trading Co Ltd. B 27 Oct 1902. Son of AGD and Jane Napier dtr of Richard Robb Grant of Hillside Gardens Glasgow.
Most of my information on mining in what is now Ghana came from the Times - I did a sweep covering 1894 to 1924. A note to anyone wanting to follow this up: the town and district now spelled Tarkwa is always spelled Tarquah in the Times of that period. There were hardly any references to the company Alexander Gordon Davidson worked for, the Tarquah Mining and Exploration Co Ltd, so the information I gathered was general rather than specific. I’m quite comfortable with the dates that I suggest, however.
Colonial Reports - Annual Number 725 Gold Coast Report to Parliament for 1911. Published HMSO August 1912. P4 a branch line had just opened linking Tarquah to Prestea. P17 is in a section on exports: there’s a table of exports from the Gold Coast which makes it clear cocoa was far and away the biggest earner; gold was a long way behind in second place. There are no export figures in the table prior to 1907 which I suppose is the first year for which statistics were available. The Tarquah Mining and Exploration Co Ltd was one of only two firms (out of about 8 listed) which had been operating throughout the period 1907 to 1911. The company had a fabulous year in 1908; then output of gold from its field halved inn 1909; it halved again 1910 and 1911 had been very poor in comparison.
The Mining Magazine volume 30 1924 p229 the news section includes the whereabouts etc of people known in the mining industry. A short item announces the death of Alexander Gordon Davidson, who was on his way back to the Gold Coast after a period of home leave.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
15 August 2012