The Laings.

This is a file on the family background of three members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The first two are sisters: Cecilia Macrae and Florence Kennedy, daughters of Samuel and Mary Laing. The third is GD member Agnes Cathcart, née Baxter, who was a first cousin of theirs.

My basic sources for any of my GD member biographies are in a section at the end of the file. Supplementary sources for this particular member are listed at the end of each section. However, a lot of the information on the siblings of Cecilia and Florence has been sent to me by Ernie Pollard, who has married a descendant of one of them. He has been researching the family for several years. Many, many thanks to Ernie.


Records of the Laing family in Orkney go back to James V’s time but I’m only going to start with Samuel Laing (1780-1868), known as ‘of Papdale’, the family home he inherited in 1818, to differentiate him from his son, who had the same name. He was grandfather of all three GD members.

Samuel Laing of Papdale had a varied career: he served in the army in the years just before the Peninsular War; he managed various businesses owned by relatives. Back on Orkney he made a fortune from the kelp industry and helped developed Orkney’s herring industry; before losing a lot of the money he had made, trying to establish himself in politics. He’s best known now for his last careers, as a travel writer and commentator on the European political and social scene; and as translator of the Icelandic sagas of Snorri Sturluson.

Samuel Laing of Papdale married Agnes Kelly in 1809. They had two children: Elizabeth Dorothy, mother of Agnes Cathcart; and Samuel, father of Cecilia Macrae and Florence Kennedy. Agnes née Kelly died in 1812 and her sister Mary came to manage the household and act as mother to the children.

Samuel Laing of Papdale travelled a great deal in Europe at different times in his life. He spent 1799-1801 in Germany, learning the language well and establishing a connection with Germany and German culture that his son’s family continued, at least to the 1880s. His time in the army took him to Portugal and Gibraltar. In the early 1830s he stayed in several different places in France and Germany so that daughter Elizabeth could learn both languages. In the mid-1830s, he was living in Norway; where he began his saga translations. After his son had graduated from university, they travelled around Europe together.

Samuel Laing of Papdale began work on an autobiography. He got as far as 1856 but it was left unfinished when he had a severe stroke. Its final paragraph recorded the marriage of his grand-daughter, future GD member Agnes Baxter, to Robert Cathcart of Pitcairlie. Samuel Laing spent his last years living in Edinburgh with his daughter Elizabeth Dorothy Baxter. He died at her house, 4 Lynedoch Place Edinburgh, on 23 April 1868.


I’ve drawn heavily on the book and online article below - both by R P Fereday:

The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780-1868 edited and with supplementary information by R P Fereday. Bellavista Publications 2000. Dedicated to the group of local residents who saved Papdale House from being knocked down and used for road-making in the 1960s. Fereday says that there are very few records in Orkney on the Laing family. He was using a manuscript copy of Samuel Laing of Papdale’s autobiography, owned by Molly Somerset, a descendant of Cecilia and Florence’s elder sister Mary Eliza, who married Edward Kennard.

Seen at Samuel Laing of Papdale Orkney: A Kelp-Laird’s Political Ambitions 1824-1834 by R P Fereday.

Some of Samuel Laing of Papdale’s publications, found in the British Library catalogue:

1836 Journal of a Residence in Norway in the Years 1834, 1835, 1836. London. BL has later editions of this.

1839 A Tour in Sweden. London.

1842 Notes of a Traveller on the Social and Political State of France etc. London. BL also has later editions of this.

1844 The Heimskringla; or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway. Volume 2. SLP as translator from Icelandic of Snorri Sturluson. I didn’t see volume 1; maybe the BL doesn’t have a copy.

1850 Observations of the Social and Political State of the European People 1848, 1849. Longman Brown Green and Longmans

1852 Observations on the Social and Political State of Denmark. London.

1899 The Heimskringla... Volume 3. 2nd edition London: John C Nimmo.

ELIZABETH DOROTHY BAXTER née LAING, the elder child of Samuel Laing of Papdale, and Alice née Kelly.

Samuel Laing of Papdale’s daughter married Henry Baxter of Idvies in two separate ceremonies in March 1834, one in Edinburgh and one at Kirkwall in Orkney. The marriage pleased her father: the Baxter family of Dundee was wealthy, and both families were Whig/Liberal in politics.

Henry Baxter had graduated from Edinburgh University in 1817 and qualified as an advocate; during the 1830s he also acted as a Church of Scotland Commissioner. He had succeeded to his father’s estate at Idvies in 1833.

Elizabeth and Henry had two daughters, Agnes and Mary, before Henry died in August 1837. After his death Elizabeth, Agnes and Mary lived not at Idvies but at a house called Bangholm Bower until 1844 when they moved into Edinburgh so that the two girls could go to school. Both daughters inherited money from the Baxter family: their grandfather noted that they had £30,000 each as a marriage portion.


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

Seen at Samuel Laing of Papdale Orkney: A Kelp-Laird’s Political Ambitions 1824-1834 by R P Fereday.

Henry Baxter and his family:

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 Henry Baxter as representative of Forfar in 1834.


Scotland-ODM GS film number 1066694: marriage of Henry Baxter to Elizabeth Dorothy Laing 9 March 1834 in Edinburgh.

Scotland-ODM GS film number 990505: marriage of Henry Baxter to Elizabeth Dorothy Laing 20 March 1834 at Kirkwall, Orkney.

Via to the Perth Courier of 3 April 1834: marriage announcement.


Samuel Laing, father of Cecilia and Florence, was the younger child of Samuel Laing of Papdale and his wife Agnes née Kelly. He was born in Edinburgh on 12 December 1812. After some time at grammar school in Houghton-le-Spring, and lessons with a private tutor, Samuel went to St John’s College Cambridge in 1827, graduating as second wrangler in 1831 and being elected a fellow in 1834. While he was training as a barrister, he also worked in Cambridge giving maths coaching. He was called to the bar in 1837, at Lincoln’s Inn. Although he described himself to the 1851 census official as a barrister, he was also the managing director of a railway company by that stage and his business involvement was always more important than his legal practice.

After a short period travelling in Europe with his father, Samuel Laing went to work as private secretary to the president of the Board of Trade, Henry Labouchere. In 1842 he moved within the Board of Trade to become secretary to its railway department, the start of fifty years of involvement in the law and finance of railways, and of investment in railways and other new technologies. In 1844 he persuaded the Liberal government to have a clause in their Railway Act forcing companies to have third-class carriages with fares no higher than 1 penny per mile. It led to a huge rise in the number of people using the railways, from which the British economy as a whole and Samuel Laing personally both benefited. After a few months in 1860 as financial secretary to the Treasury, he was sent to India by the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, to take charge of its finances; he was in India from 1860 to 1862, or possibly as far as 1865 (my sources differed on that point). During the period there was a great turnover of men at the top in India, that Samuel Laing will have had to deal with: Viscount Canning was governor-general until March 1862; he was replaced by the Earl of Elgin who was in charge until November 1863; for the next two months two men did the job temporarily before Sir John Lawrence took office in January 1864.

Samuel Laing was an MP; for Wick from 1852 to 1857, 1859-60 and 1865-68; and then for Orkney and Shetland 1873-85.

The railway company Samuel Laing was associated with for longest was the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway; he was made chairman of the Company in 1848, stepped down when sent to India, and took the helm again in 1866, staying in charge until 1894. In 1852, he and his deputy-chairman, both living in the Sydenham area, helped set up the company that moved the crystal palace from its original 1851 exhibition site in Hyde Park, and built a railway so that people could travel easily from London to see it at its new, Crystal Palace home. He was also a director of the Great Eastern Railway Company, at least in the 1860s; the General Credit and Finance Co, at least in the 1880s; the Railway Share Trust Ltd; and the Railway Debenture Trust Ltd.

It was inevitable that Samuel Laing’s involvement with railways should bring him into contact with Robert William Kennard. R W Kennard was a member of the banking family, partners in Denison, Heywood and Kennard, but he didn’t work for the bank himself. He invested in railways and also in two works (at Falkirk and Blaenavon) that supplied high quality iron and steel for the building of railways. The Laing and Kennard families were friendly by the 1860s and became family when the Laings’ daughter Mary Eliza married the Kennards’ son Edward in 1870. A new company was formed in 1879 to run Blaenavon iron and steel works - the latest in a series of companies known as Blaenavon Company Limited. Samuel Laing was an investor in it and became its first chairman; later his shares passed to other members of his family, and his son-in-law Charles Colin Macrae was a director.

Samuel Laing’s investments were not confined to railways. In the late 1850s he put money into firms laying cables for telegraphs. Through these companies he will have known Ernest Bunsen, John Molesworth and John A M Pinniger; relations of all three of those men later joined the GD. He was also on the board of Scottish Widows Mutual Life; and on the management committee of the Royal Scottish Corporation, of Fetter Lane.

Scaling down his business and political involvement in the mid-1880s Samuel Laing began to write more. Most of his publications up to that time had been short works, often printed editions of lectures or contributions to particular political debates. The books published in the last decade of his life tackled different issues. He had long been one of the Rationalists - not an official society, more a loose group of people (the men are the ones whose names are known) committed to scientific enquiry and to bringing new approaches to old problems. Samuel Laing may have been the eldest of this association of like-minded thinkers. Thomas Henry Huxley was an important, vocal member with a very high public profile. Huxley’s one-time student, Edwin Ray Lankester, was the most prominent of the next generation. Lankester in his turn taught the likes of H G Wells... and so on. With more time on his hands, Samuel Laing began to publish the results of many years of discussions with this group.

His publications included three pamphlets on Ireland and two works arguing for agnosticism. His book Problems of the Future (published in 1889) contained essays on a range of subjects from astronomy to finance. The essay on mesmerism showed that he had read some at least of the recent publications on the subject; but he was not convinced that its effects were genuine. In the essay on spiritualism he admitted to having gone to one seance in his life, but said that he had left it with no desire to go further into the subject. Spiritualist phenomena seemed to him to be too easy to fake, and he was critical of scientists like William Crookes (a GD member) and Alfred Russell Wallace for believing so easily that the dead are communicating with us.

Samuel Laing had always had an interest in evolution and the origins of Man - hence, probably, his friendship with T H Huxley. In 1866, back from India and spending the summer at Stromness with his family, he took part in an archaeological dig, in which human remains were found, and what sound like some grave goods. He published an account of the dig at the time, including in it some notes on the human remains by Huxley. In the late 1880s Laing went into the question further, publishing two works which put into lay terms the latest scientific thinking on the origins of Homo sapiens.

Many of the ideas Samuel Laing was expressing in these later books were controversial - when looking through the British Library catalogue I came across several pamphlets issued as angry ripostes to them. After Samuel Laing’s death, several were re-issued in cheap, mass editions by the Rationalist Press Association. A book on the history of the RPA suggests that Samuel Laing may have put money into the RPA. It did have a number of wealthy backers including Huxley, Herbert Spencer and Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell), all identifying themselves as agnostics.

Samuel Laing died at his home in Sydenham on 6 August 1897. His personal wealth at his death was £96000-and-odd; using the formulas on website, that equates to £65 million in modern terms.


The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780-1868 edited and with supplementary information by R P Fereday. Bellavista Publications 2000. Dedicated to the group which saved Papdale House from being knocked down and used for road-making in the 1960s.

Oxford DNB volume 32 p229.

Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen via google where volume numbers aren’t given; p77

Wikipedia for a list of governor-generals and then viceroys of India.

The archaeological dig: Times Fri 31 August 1866 p7 quoting a report originally in the Orkney Herald.

In business, taking 1867 as an example year:

Some of the many appearances of Samuel Laing in the business columns of the Times that year. I was looking at 1867 to see if Cecilia Laing appeared in the Social Columns at all: she was of an age to be making her debut. However, the Laings don’t seem to have bothered with a court presentation for her.

Times Sat 5 January 1867 p3f notice from Scottish Widows’ Fund; Samuel Laing MP as a member of its London honorary board.

Times Wed 13 February 1867 p10 Money Markets and City Intelligence: Samuel Laing elected a director, and deputy chairman, of the Great Eastern Railway Company.

Times Wed 26 June 1867 p10 Railway News. A reference to Samuel Laing as chief negotiator in the attempt to merge the London Brighton and South Coast Railway with the South Eastern Railway.

Blaenavon iron and steel works:

History of Technology vol 11 by Norman Smith pubd 2016 and already up on google: section cldn see p numbers The Kennards and the Crumlin Viaduct. Crumlin Viaduct was blt by the Kennards. Rise of Kennard family began 18th cent w John Kennard who ran a bank in Lombard St. Robert William Kennard was John K’s 2nd son ((perhaps the first is the John Peirse Kennard mentioned above)): 1800-70, ironmaster, railway financier ((he must know Laing)), partner in Denison, Heywood and Kennard later the Consolidated Bank. RWK got into railways 1830s when he invested ((big time)) in iron-smelting: he bought Falkirk Ironworks and Blaenavon Ironworks which made high-qual wrought iron. Supplied ironwork f railways. He also had a depot at 67 Upper Thames Street. He was a director of Northern and Eastern railway and other railways.

In South Wales Coal Annual 1907 p105 a ref to the current Blaenavon Company Ltd having been formed in 1879 w Samuel Laing as its first chairman.

Stock Exchange Yearbook 1882 p247 lists the current directors of the Blaenavon Company Ltd: Samuel Laing who is chairman; J Brand; A C Kennard; H J Kennard. E F Quilter; W Smith; Capt F Pavy.

Investment in early cable-laying and telegraph companies: in a biography of John Watkins Brett, seen at

// which is a History of the Atlantic Cable and Undersea Communications. Written by Steven Roberts. Samuel Laing was on its board by 1857, by which time it was the largest telegraph company in Britain. Its other directors at that time were John Watkins Brett;

Arthur Anderson chairman of P&O; and Lord de Mauley. In 1853 Brett had set up a company to undertake cable-laying for the French government. Directors of this were Samuel Laing; Ernest Bunsen (a relation by marriage of GD member Albertina Herbert); John Molesworth (a relative of GD member Hilton Molesworth); and Napoleon III’s brother, the Comte de Mornay.

Solicitor for John Watkins Brett in his various enterprises was John A M Pinniger, father of GD member George Cope. John Pinniger changed the family surname to Cope in order to inherit an estate in Ireland.

Moving the crystal palace to Sydenham:

Website doesn’t give sources but is a lcl hist group. A/c put on website 2004 re Crystal Palace High Level Line blt to bring pp from London to area after the crystal palace itself was moved there. Co formed 1851 w 9 directors, 4 of whom lived in the area incl Samuel Laing who had moved there in 1847; and Leo Shuster of Penge Place who was deputy chair of the London Brighton and S Cst Railway at the time, succ as its chairman when SL retd 1855.

And others: Debrett’s HofC and the Judical (sic) Bench 1884 p110 lists SL as ((currently)) a dir of the Lo/Br/S Cst; Genl Credit and Finance Co; and of the Sydenham Crystal Palace Co.

Times Wed 1 December 1897 p10d.

See wikipedia for more on Thomas Henry Huxley and Sir Edwin Ray Lankester. They were both much younger than Samuel Laing: Huxley was 1825-1895 and Lankester was 1847-1929.


Some of Samuel Laing’s publications are in the British Library catalogue although the BL seems to be lacking some first editions: of The Modern Zoroastrian (1887); and of Modern Science and Modern Thought (1889).

1849 Railway Taxation. Westminster: Vacher and Sons.

1855 Vindiciae Palmerstonenses. By Vindex [Samuel Laing]. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.

1862 Lecture on the Indo-European Languages and Races. Calcutta: no details of the publisher.

1866 Pre-Historic Remains of Caithness...with Notes on the Human Remains by T H Huxley. London: Williams and Norgate.

?1885 Agnosticism and Christianity. A Lay Sermon. London: Watts and Co.

1886 A Sporting Quixote. London: Chapman and Hall. Perhaps this is a novel.

1886 Irish Land and Home Rule. London: National Press Agency.

1887 A Visit to Bodyke; or the Real Meaning of Irish Evictions. London: Irish Press Agency.

1888 Coercion in Ireland. London: National Press Agency.

1888 The Modern Zoroastrian. London: no details of the publisher. BL also has a revised edition 1904 London: Watts and Co.

1890 The Antiquity of Man. A Paper. Brighton: Southern Publishing Co.

?1890 An Agnostic View of the Bible. Issued for the Propagandist Press Committee. London: Watts and Co.

1891 Modern Science and Modern Thought. London: Chapman and Hall. BL also has a revised edition 1903.

1905 Problems of the Future. Revised edition London: Watts and Co. I didn’t spot the original issue.

1909 Human Origins. London: Watts and Co.

A hostile review of Samuel Laing’s Problems of the Future:

Light: A Journl of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Issue no 466 Sat 7 December 1889 p584 review by “M.A.I.”: Mr Samuel Laing on Spiritualism.

The Rationalist Press Association:

Blasphemy Depot: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association by Bill Cooke. An official history, published by the RPA 2003.

Death and funeral:

Times Sat 7 August 1897 p1b death notices.

Times Wed 11 August 1897 p8a the Court Circular page: an account of the funeral. A lot of acquaintances were out of town for the summer; amongst those who sent apologies for being unable to attend was Baron Rothschild.

There was nothing in Times about his Will but there was coverage of it in The Railway News volume 68 1897 p442.


Samuel Laing, father of Cecilia and Florence, married Mary Dickson Cowan in August 1840. Though the marriage took place in Paddington, both families were from Orkney and had known each other for generations. From Samuel Laing of Papdale’s autobiography it looks as though Samuel and Mary were also distantly related by marriage: the autobiography mentions an Isabel Laing (born 1735) who married a Captain Cowan.

Mary Dickson Cowan was the daughter of Captain Malcolm Cowan RN (1788-1833) and his wife Elizabeth Degraves of Edinburgh. Malcolm and Elizabeth married in Marylebone in 1807 and always lived in London - Elizabeth was still living there in 1851. They had four sons and Mary, the only girl and middle child, born in 1819.


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

At the Shetland Family History database: family history information on Malcolm Cowan and Elizabeth Degraves.

At there’s an article Captain Cowan’s Sails: pp181-186, by Y M Capper, a descendant of Malcolm and Elizabeth Cowan. It gives details of Captain Cowan’s naval career and his design (1805) for a sail that was easier to reef.

At at Public Record Office; General Office of the Admiralty Accountant General. File reference ADM 45/2/495 is an application from Malcolm Cowan’s executors for money owed to him by Navy at his death which had taken place on 1 March 1833.


They had the typical mid-Victorian family: large, and with several children who died young:

- Samuel born 1843 died 1870

- Malcolm born 1846

- Robert probably born late 1847/early 1848; died before 1861, probably 1858

- Cecilia Mary Bruce the future GD member, born 1848

- Mary Eliza born 1850

- Agnes born 1851

- Florence Elizabeth the future GD member born 1853

- Francis Kelly born 1854 died 1874

- Theresa Margaret later always given as Theresa Uzielli, born 1855

- Henry Rudolph born 1858.

Samuel Laing and Mary lived in a number of different places during their married life; depending on the season, whether Parliament was in session, and presumably other factors as well. They continued to live in the Brighton area until the 1890s, off and on. They also rented houses in Sydenham from the 1840s to the 1890s, though they were never at home in Sydenham on census day. From time to time they also had houses in central London.

Samuel and Mary Laing were in Brighton on census day 1851, at 37 Montpellier Crescent, and the list of people in their household that day also shows two other characteristics of their life: wealth - as indicated by the number and type of servants they employed; and visitors - they were a very hospitable couple! Their visitor in 1851 was a Scottish woman, Miss Elizabeth Traill, aged 27. There were no men on the Laings’ household staff at this stage in the century; instead, in addition to the cook and one housemaid, they had a nurse an under-nurse, a sick nurse and a wet nurse, to look after Mary and five children aged four or under - Malcolm, Robert, Cecilia, Mary Eliza, and Agnes who had been born less than a month before. The eldest child, Samuel, was also at home.

On the day of the 1861 census, Samuel Laing was in Calcutta. Mary Cowan Laing and her household were in Edinburgh that day and Mary may have chosen to live in Scotland throughout her husband’s tour of duty in India. Mary Cowan Laing’s older sons were away on census day but Cecilia, Mary Eliza, Agnes, Florence and Theresa, and the younger boys Francis and Henry were all at home. Also listed was Sabine Reigammer, aged 34 and born in Kirkwall Orkney. Her relationship to Mary as head of the household is a bit of a puzzle - she is listed as a sister, but Mary did not have a sister and Samuel had only the one, Elizabeth Baxter; so I’m not sure who she is. Mary Laing was keeping house with five female servants; they must have included a cook and one or more housemaids and probably a nurse, though the tasks of each servant are not specified.

On census day 1871 Samuel and Mary Laing were back in Brighton at 1 Eastern Terrace, Kemp Town. The changes to the family over the last decade had been great. Some of the children had married; one was away visiting; some had set up their own households; and the eldest had died a few months before, leaving a widow and posthumous child. However, Samuel and Mary’s son Francis and their daughters Agnes, Florence and Theresa were at home, and they also had three visitors, Edith Boulderston, Ann Heartley and a man incorrectly written down as Marmaduke B Sampston - Sampson is the correct spelling. Marmaduke Sampson was someone Samuel Laing knew through his business connections: employed at the Bank of England for a while, from 1846 to 1871 he worked for the Times newspaper, probably as a financial correspondent, and was also consul general in London for the states of Argentina and Bolivia. He was on the committee which raised the money for the London Homoeopathic Hospital; through that committee he will have met Mr Rosher and Dr Charles C Tuckey, whose sons later joined the GD.

The servants in the Laing household on census day 1871 were indicative of how wealthy the Laings now were. Samuel and Mary now employed three men - a butler, a footman and a page; male servants cost a lot more than female ones however skilled and experienced. Another step up in financial and social terms was the presence of a ladies’ maid. There was also a cook, a housemaid, a kitchen maid and a scullery maid.

On census day 1881 Samuel Laing was in Buckingham, visiting his daughter Theresa and her husband Arthur Byass. Mary was at the Laings’ house in London - 5 Cambridge Gate Regent’s Park - with Henry Rudolph, now working as a stockbroker. Though the number of family members living at home was at its lowest for several decades, the Laings still had a staff of eight: butler, footman, cook, lady’s maid, two housemaids, kitchen maid and scullery maid.

By 1891 Samuel Laing was as retired as he was prepared to be, though he still described himself as working as the chairman of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway - a fact the census official was probably well aware of, as the conversation was taking place in 9 Brunswick Terrace, Hove. He and Mary were still housekeeping on a lavish scale, employing seven servants to look after the pair of them.

When Samuel died, in August 1897, he and Mary were at their house in Sydenham. Mary went to live with her eldest daughter, GD member Cecilia Macrae, after she was widowed, and died in 1902.

Sources: census 1851-91.

Marmaduke Sampson:

Because of his connection with homoeopathy, he’s on Sue Young’s web pages: She says of him that on money matters he had more influence than Queen Victoria.

Probate Registry 1876.

THE OTHER LAINGS - siblings of Cecilia and Florence; and first cousins of Agnes Cathcart. I include short notes on them because I found the family interesting. Only Cecilia and Florence Laing joined the GD.

SAMUEL LAING, the eldest child. 1843-1870

After going to Harrow School, Samuel was the only son of Samuel and Mary Laing to follow his father to Cambridge University. He started at his father’s old college, St John’s, but later transferred to Trinity College. He graduated in law in 1865. He trained as a barrister at the Inner Temple and was called to the bar in November 1866.

In August 1869 he married Martha, daughter of Thomas W Riddel Webster. He died in the spring of 1870, aged 26, a few months before his only child - another Samuel Laing - was born. Ironically, given the views of his grandfather, Samuel Laing born 1870 became a Church of England clergyman.


Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen via google so I don’t know the volume number, but p77 of that volume.


Malcolm followed his elder brother Samuel to Harrow. He then went to Sandhurst military college, where was an outstanding student, coming first in his class of 1864. He joined the 14th Hussars in 1865 as an ensign but had no real interest in a military career and retired from active service in 1870, having only reached the level of Captain. In such a wealthy family, he had no need to work for money and doesn’t seem to have done so after 1870. He inherited his father’s estates on Orkney and from 1892 was the Lord Lieutenant of Orkney and Shetland, but that’s an unpaid post. Like his sisters Mary Eliza and Theresa, he was primarily a sportsman; though he didn’t share their interest in hunting, preferring horse racing, shooting and fishing.

He wasn’t in the UK for the censuses of 1881 and 1891 but by 1901 he was living at 18 Queen Street, just north of Piccadilly. His was a bachelor household, with just a cook/housekeeper and one general servant; but perhaps he was not at home very often. Like most of the other Laings, he was not in the UK on census day 1911.

Malcolm never married. After some months of illness, he died at his house in Queen Street Mayfair, in December 1917. He left legacies to some of his servants and to his nephews. He left the property in Orkney to his younger brother Henry Rudolph, who also received an annuity of £500 per year.

Sources: censuses 1881-1911; probate registry 1918; Who Was Who volume 2 p600. Will and one Codicil of Malcolm Laing, details sent by the Laing family historian. The Codicil was prepared in August 1917 when Malcolm was in the Northern Nursing Home at Aberdeen; it was witnessed by his brother-in-law Charles Colin Macrae.


I’ve mentioned in my account of Samuel Laing that his daughter Mary Eliza Laing married Edward Kennard. The marriage took place in 1870. Edward Kennard was the youngest son of Robert William Kennard (1800-1870), financier, investor in railways and owner of iron and steel works in Falkirk and Blaenavon. After R W Kennard’s death, Samuel Laing invested in the Blaenavon works and the two families ran the works between them until about the 1920s, with Cecilia Laing’s husband Charles Colin Macrae succeeding to Samuel Laing’s share; and Edward Kennard and his older brothers succeeding to R W Kennard’s share.

Mary Eliza and her youngest sister Theresa shared a passion for hunting; a passion not shared by the sisters who joined the GD, Cecilia and Florence. Edward Kennard was also a hunting fanatic and by 1891 he and Mary Eliza had a country house at The Barn, Little Bowden near Market Harborough, in the excellent hunting country of Leicestershire.

Edward Kennard died in the summer of 1910.

Mary Eliza and Edward Kennard had two sons, Lionel Edward (born 1872); and Malcolm Alfred (born 1876) who was best man at the wedding of Cecilia and Charles Colin Macrae’s son Frank, in 1910. Neither of the sons went into the Kennard family businesses. Lionel Edward joined the army, and Malcolm Alfred the navy. They both died before their mother, possibly as a consequence of serving through the first World War. Lionel Edward died in December 1919; and Malcolm Alfred in 1934. In 1910 Malcolm Alfred married the gloriously-named Favoretta Walterina Ingram, daughter of Walter Herbert Ingram (1855-88). Her father had died before she was born, supposedly as a result of tangling with a cursed Egyptian mummy – he had been trampled to death during an elephant hunt. The Kennards and the Ingrams were already related by marriage – see Henry Rudolph Laing, below.

Mary Eliza was the only child of Samuel Laing to have any writing published. Charles Godfrey Leland, who met the Laings in 1870, described her as a “sporting” novelist. As ‘Mrs Edward Kennard’ she wrote four books, all published in the late 1880s, in Canada.

Mary Eliza died in Leamington in 1936, leaving personal estate of £56409/0/7. Samuel Laing of Papdale’s biography was eventually inherited by her descendant (or possibly descendant-in-law) Molly Kennard.

Sources: census 1891, 1911; probate registry 1910, 1919, 1934 1936.

History of Technology volume 11 by Norman Smith published 2016. I read this via google and couldn’t see the page numbers. For other information on the Blaenavon works, see the section on Samuel Laing.

I was told the story of Favoretta Walterina Ingram by the Laing family historian. But see for an online account. Walter Herbert Ingram was a son of the founder of the Illustrated London News.

Mary Eliza as author. The British Library only has her books in microfilm versions. They were all published in Toronto by the National Publishing Company. The dates of publication are uncertain.

?1888 A Crack County

?1888 The Girl in the Brown Habit

?1889 Matron or Maid

?1889 Landing a Prize: A Novel

Memoirs by Charles Godfrey Leland “(Hans Breitman)”. 2 volumes. London: William Heinemann 1893. Volume 2 p261 which covers the Lelands’ visit to Brighton in August 1870, just after Mary Eliza was married. I don’t think the Lelands met Mary Eliza, they just heard of her by repute.

AGNES LAING 1851-1933

Agnes is the odd Laing out. She married Charles Albert Leslie Attila French in 1873. Charles French’s family owned land in Galway and the estate of Ballybay in Monaghan, and Agnes spent most of the rest of her life in Ireland. Agnes and Charles had two sons, a second Charles Albert Leslie French (born 1876); and Cecil Francis French (born 1879). The younger Charles Albert Leslie French joined the British army and was stationed at Aldershot in 1901. Cecil Francis French trained as an artist at the Royal Academy and at von Herkomer’s School in Bushey. However, he exhibited very few works and is better known now as a collector of Pre-Raphaelite art at a time when few people were interested in it. After his death (in 1952), items he had saved from oblivion were distributed amongst the major Pre-Raphaelite art collections.

At some point - probably when Eire gained Home Rule - Agnes and her husband moved to England. They settled in Leamington Spa, near where Mary Eliza Kennard may already have been living. Agnes’ husband Charles French died in East Leamington in 1929; and Agnes died at Thornbridge, 42 Kenilworth Road Leamington Spa in June 1933.

Sources: freebmd; censuses 1881-1911 - she doesn’t appear on any of them in UK; probate registry 1929, 1933.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has nothing on Agnes’ husband but in volume 20 p973 there’s a short entry for a Robert French 1716-79, landowner in Galway; member of a family of Anglo-Norman origins.

Geneal and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage Burke 1868 pp305-07.

Geneal and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry Burke 1871 p784 Charles French’s mother Emily Eleanora Wilhelmina Leslie; only surviving child and heiress of Charles Albert Leslie of Ballybay county Monaghan.

Familysearch Ireland-EASy GS film number 255953: Charles Albert Leslie son of Charles Albert Leslie French and Agnes Laing French. Baptised 24 February 1876 at Kildare Ireland. At information, though without sources, saying that he he married Idonea Mary Mina daughter of Jocelyn Henry Watkins Thomas.

Familysearch Ireland-ODM GS film number 256022 re b of Cecil Francis French on 7 March 1879 in Dublin.

On Cecil French and his art collection:

Familysearch tax assessment lists: Cecil Francis French living in the St George Hanover Square district 1911 and several years previously.

Website // has a few details of his career.

RA Contributors 1769-1904 volume 3 Eadie to Harroden p169 one work only by Cecil French, exhibited 1902.

RA Exhibitors 1905-70 volume 3 E-HAR has no entry for him at all.

Website has the most detailed information. Works that he had owned are now at the William Morris Gallery, Guildhall Art Gallery, Leamington Art Gallery and the Watts Gallery Guildford, amongst others.

THERESA LAING, registered at birth as Theresa Margaret but at her marriages as Theresa Uzielli. 1855-1943.

Theresa, the youngest of the five Laing sisters, made two very wealthy marriages.

The first took place on the same day her eldest sister Cecilia married Charles Colin Macrae; in July 1877. Theresa married Arthur Byass, whose father had made a fortune as a partner in the Gonzalez Byass sherry importing firm. Arthur’s elder brother Robert Byass ran the firm after their father’s retirement in 1870; but Arthur also had a substantial stake in it.

Theresa and Arthur had two daughters: May (born 1878) and Kathleen (born 1881). Both Theresa and Arthur were keen on hunting (keen is probably understating it). In the years after they were first married they hunted with the Duke of Grafton’s pack. On census day 1881 they were at their house at The Mount, Chandos Road Buckingham, where Samuel Laing was visiting them and their daughters. To serve the four of them plus their visitor the Byasses employed a housekeeper, lady’s maid, nurse and nursemaid, two housemaids, a kitchen maid, two scullery maids and a footman; and for the horses, two grooms, two stable boys and two other stable staff.

By census day 1891 the Byasses had moved to North Hall, Norton near Daventry in Northamptonshire. There, the stable staff had their own household. Employed in the main house were a butler, two footmen, a cook, a lady’s maid, three housemaids, a dairy maid, two laundry maids, two kitchen maids, and a scullery maid. A man called Walter Faber, who described himself as a brewer from Northampton, was visiting them on census day.

The Byasses had probably moved into Northamptonshire to be nearer the Pytchley Hunt. On genesreunited I could see some references over the next few years to Arthur, Theresa and their daughters attending the Hunt’s social functions. Theresa’s daughters got married on the same day in 1904. May married James Sidney Mason; they were living in Market Harborough on census day 1911 with their son. Kathleen married Douglas Knyvett Courage; he died in 1920 and I think she married again.

Arthur Byass died suddenly, in the spring of 1910. By census day 1911 Theresa had left North Hall and moved nearer her daughter May, to Bosworth House, Husband’s Bosworth near Market Harborough. She had scaled down her household a little, to just five servants.

Theresa Byass married for the second time in 1915 and I think her husband may have been the man who was visiting her and Arthur on census day 1891: Walter Vadasour Faber. Walter Faber died at Thornby House, Thornby Northamptonshire in 1928.

Theresa Faber herself died in Scotland in August 1943, leaving personal estate alone of £487,640/13/2. Kathleen, wife of George Graham Middleton was one of her executors; I take it this is Theresa’s daughter Kathleen.

Sources: census 1881-1911; probate registry 1910, 1929, 1943.

Gonzalez Byass:

See its wikipedia page and its own web pages as

Investors’ Chronicle 8 January 1870 p37: announcement that the two partners in the firm will be taking their sons - including Arthur Byass - into partnership; and that the firm will now be known as Gonzalez Byass and Co.

The Statist: A Journal of Practical Finance and Trade volume 39 1897 p652 issue of 24 April 1897 has a list of the current major shareholders in the firm, and the estimated value of their shareholdings. The single largest shareholding was that of Robert N Byass £159,090; Arthur Byass had £55000; B W Kennard and others to sum of £130,000, the ‘others’ possibly including members of the Laing family.

Royal Blue Book: Fashionable Directory and Parliamentary Guide 1908 p700 has a business address or flat in London for Arthur Byass at 25 Jermyn Street.

On Arthur Byass:

Web pages is the Northern Isles Family History site; information on Arthur Byass is included by virtue of his marriage to Theresa Laing.

Marriage announcement: Shetland Times 14 July 1877.

Hark Away: Sketches of Hunting, Coaching, Fishing etc by Frederick Feild Whitehurst. Tinsley Brothers 1879 p49, p316.

Times Thurs 26 May 1910 p1 and again Fri 27 May p1: short death notice for Arthur Byass.

HENRY RUDOLPH the youngest of the Laing children. 1858-1941.

Henry was the only one of Samuel Laing’s sons who had a career in investment. He and his friend Fletcher H G Cruickshank founded the stock-broking firm Laing and Cruickshank in 1882. Later, Cecilia Macrae’s son Frank Laing Macrae joined the firm.

It is likely that the rest of the family didn’t know about the most important relationship in Henry’s life for many years after it began; for a very Victorian reason – the woman in question was from several rungs further down the long ladder of 19th-century social class. Bridget Maria Barnard was born in Great Amwell in Hertfordshire in 1855. Her father, James, had moved to Hertford by 1871 and was running a clothing shop there. On the day of the 1871 census, James and his wife Elizabeth had nine children living at home, aged from 18 years to 7 months: Bridget was the third of the six girls; and there were three boys. Victorian social mores made it very difficult for a Henry Laing to meet a Bridget Barnard on anything other than an employer/servant basis, and perhaps that’s how the relationship began. It had developed, however, by census day 1881, a day on which Henry was at home with his mother: in December 1881, Bridget gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Florence Maude.

The relationship continued through the 1880s. Henry and Bridget may have been able to live more openly as a couple when they were able to spend time at a house Henry had at Costello in Galway, but were more discreet when they were in London. Maybe Henry was waiting for the right moment to tell his parents? Or – worse – for them to die so that he could make the relationship with Bridget public, and legitimise his daughter, without shocking them. After 12 or more years, however, the right moment had still not arrived and Henry’s patience ran out: he and Bridget got married in a registry-office in February 1893. In the next few years they moved several times around the Sloane Street/Belgravia district, funded by some killings Henry was making on the stock market. They settled into 5 Cadogan Gardens Chelsea, in 1902.

In 1906 Florence Maude married Collingwood Ingram, grandson of Herbert Ingram, founder of the Illustrated London News. By this time both Bridget and Florence Maude were accepted by some at least of Henry’s siblings: some went to the wedding and more gave gifts – especially of jewellery – to the bride. The wedding reception was held at 5 Cadogan Gardens, with Bridget as hostess.

There’s a wiki on Collingwood Ingram who was an ornithologist and plant collector, an authority on the Japanese flowering cherry, and creator of the well-known garden at The Grange Benenden. Two of Florence and Collingwood’s children - Ivor Laing Ingram and Mervyn Jeffrey Ingram - were staying with Henry and Bridget on the day of the 1911 census, while their parents were in Leicestershire for the foxhunting. Bridget was coordinating two sets of servants that day: a cook, two footmen, two housemaids and a lady’s maid probably worked for the Laings; and the Ingrams had lent the Laings a nurse and a children’s maid while their sons were in residence.

As the adverts’ small print tells us – share values can go down as well as up. Henry seems to have lost his touch with shares – or his interest in them - in the years before World War 1 and began to lose money rather than make it. Though he was still listed as a director as late as 1927, he had stopped being involved in Laing and Cruickshank on a daily basis many years before. He and Bridget moved to Mundesley in Norfolk. Henry was left an annuity by his elder brother Malcolm when Malcolm died in 1917 and that may have been his major source of income through the 1920s and 1930s. Malcolm also left him the Laing family properties in Orkney, but these were sold to their tenants in 1919. Henry died in January 1941, while staying with the Ingrams at The Grange; Bridget had died in 1935.

Sources: census 1901, 1911; probate registry 1936, 1941.

City of London: The History by David Kynaston. 2012. In chapter Playing the Game p113. Apparently Laing and Cruickshank were on their way to a poker game when they decided to go into the stock-broking business together.

Laing and Cruickshank: the First Eighty Years by R F Pearson and A D B Smith. Printed privately, published 1968.

The Directory of Directors 1927 p902.

Bridget Maria Barnard: Familysearch England-ODM GS film number 104 2051 IT 2; census 1871-1891. Birth certificate 1882 of Florence Maude Barnard. Probate Registry 1936.

Marriage certificate of Henry Rudoph Laing and Bridget Maria Barnard. I’m not sure how many of either family were in attendance: neither of the witnesses look as though they are related to the bride and groom. Although you can understand why Bridget might have entered into an unmarried relationship with a man rich enough to keep her in comfort, she might still have been cast off by her family.

There’s coverage of Florence Maude and Collingwood’s wedding in the Lady’s Pictorial issue of 27 October 1906 p657. The Lady’s Pictorial was owned by the Ingram family.

Wiki on Collingwood Ingram. He also collected netsuke; his collection is now in the British Museum.

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.

For the GD members who were freemasons, the membership database of the United Grand Lodge of England is now available via Ancestry: it gives the date of the freemason’s first initiation; and the craft lodges he was a member of.

To take careers in craft freemasonry further, the website of the the Freemasons’ Library is a good resource: // Its catalogue has very detailed entries and the website has all sorts of other resources.

You can get from the pages to a database of freemasons’ newspapers and magazines, digitised to 1900. You can also reach that directly at

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.


26 July 2018

29 June 2023

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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: