Robert Baird Brash Nisbet was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Horus temple in Bradford in January 1892, taking the Latin motto ‘Ex animo’. A few months later, in September 1892 Robert’s wife Agnes Nisbet was initiated, also in Bradford. Rachel Taylor who later married GD member Joseph K Gardner; and J W S Callie (James) were initiated in the same ritual. Both of them were from Liverpool and both were good friends of Agnes and Robert through the Theosophical Society. Agnes chose the Latin motto ‘Psyche’. Then, in June 1894 Robert’s sister Jean Gillison was initiated, but at the GD’s Isis-Urania temple in London. Julian Levett Baker, Henry Herbert Weltch and Harold N Lancaster were initiated in the same ritual as Jeanie; but I don’t think she had met any of them before that evening. After some uncertainty - the motto ‘Servabo fidem’ is crossed out in her GD records - she settled on the Latin motto ‘Cogito ergo sum’.


All three were keen initiates and I think they did at least some of the study-work together. They certainly worked through it at roughly the same pace: all three of them reached the stage where they were eligible for the GD’s inner, 2nd Order during 1895. Robert underwent that second initiation in April of that year, Jean in August, and Agnes in December. However, Robert and Agnes must have had theirs in Paris, because they had moved there by early 1894. Jeanie probably had hers in London.


As Robert, Agnes and Jean were so closely related, this biography is of all three of them. There was a certain amount of official confusion, during her lifetime and at her death, as to what Mrs Gillison’s Christian name was - Jane, or Jean; but I shall be calling her Jeanie, which I think is what she was called in the family.



Jean-Marc Phillips – much mentioned below – has discovered that Robert Nisbet was initiated as a freemason.


UPDATE to the family section OCTOBER 2020

In 2018 I was contacted by Robert and Agnes Nisbet’s great-grandson, Jean-Marc Phillips, who was researching his family tree. He set out to find where and when Robert and Agnes Nisbet died; and after a search lasting two years, he has sent me their death registrations, which include verification of their dates of birth. So thanks are due to him, for making it possible for me to round off this joint biography, that has lacked a proper ending for so long.



Robert and Jeanie’s parents were Thomas Nisbet and his wife Jane, née Brash. They were both Scottish. They married in Eastwood, then a suburb of Glasgow, in 1847; and only moved to Liverpool after Jeanie - their eldest child - was born. I couldn’t find a baptism for Jeanie and no births in Scotland were registered at the time, but all her census responses suggest she was born, in Glasgow, in late 1847 or 1848. It’s a pity about the lack of official information on Jeanie’s birth: I still don’t know whether she was baptised Jane, Jean, or Jeanie; but clearly she was named after her mother. Robert Baird Brash Nisbet was one of the younger members of the family, born in Liverpool in September 1857. Between Jeanie and Robert were Helen (born 1849), Elizabeth (born 1850), and Alexander (born 1852); after Robert came George, the youngest, born in 1861.


On the day of the 1861 census the Nisbets were living at 39 Upper Hope Place in the Abercromby district of Liverpool. Thomas Nisbet was working in the offices of a shipping firm. I haven’t been able to find out which shipping firm employed him - Liverpool had so many! But the shipping connection was an important feature in the Nisbets lives for the next 50 years or so.


While their children were young, Thomas and Jane Nisbet may have had to be careful of their money but by the day of the 1871 census the family was in a comfortable financial position, with not only Alexander but also Helen and Elizabeth working: this was a family where the women were expected to work - at least until they were married - not just the men. Probably on the strength of all the extra money that was coming in, the Nisbets had moved to 22 Queen’s Road Everton; and - another improvement in their living standards since 1861 - they were able to emply the basic, live-in general servant. Helen was teaching English, possibly in a school; and Elizabeth was employed as a day-governess which I think means that she was employed by a family, working in their home. Alexander was in the middle of his apprenticeship at a ship-broking firm. Robert and George were still at school. Jeanie was not at home on census day; she was in Scotland where (it seems) only the householders were asked to give their source of income; so I don’t know whether she was working like her sisters or helping her mother run their big household. She was at 254 Bath Street in the Blythswood district of Glasgow, visting Jane Binnie, who was either her aunt or her great-aunt (the census transcription was a bit vague on that point). Perhaps Jeanie had gone to see her aunt to give her some good news. In the autumn of 1871, Jeanie got married, to Robert Gillison.



The Gillisons were also a Scottish family; they had come to Liverpool from Dumfriesshire. On the day of the 1851 census they were living in West Derby, Liverpool: Thomas and his wife Jane; and their children Margaret (an important person in Jeanie’s life); James; Susan; Robert whom Jeanie married; the twins Isabella and Janet; John; and baby Thomas. There was one more child to come: William. Despite their large family, Thomas and Jane Gillison were well-to-do or wished to give that impression: West Derby was then a new suburb; and the Gillisons had two servants, not the basic one. The family were still living in the West Derby district in 1861. Though they had left school Margaret and Susan were not listed as having any source of income. It’s possible - probable - that they were not asked whether they were doing any paid work but I think that in fact, they weren’t working: the Gillisons were both better-off financially than the Nisbets and perhaps had a different attitude (more conservative, less practical) to the whole question of women’s work. James and Robert were both at work. James had gone into the shipping industry as a shipbroker’s clerk; in view of what happened later (see below) it’s likely he was working for Joseph Chadwick. Robert had been apprenticed to a tea importing firm. The family had a visitor on census day, a Richard Bell, who ran a ship- and cattle-dealing business. He was probably a business associate of Thomas Gillison, whose source of income I could read this time (I couldn’t in 1851). Thomas Gillison was in business as a farmer and cattle salesman, and in 1862 he was important enough in the local economy of Dumfriesshire to be elected a member of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. On census day 1861 the Gillisons had four servants living in who reflected the family’s sources of income and social status neatly: a housemaid and nursemaid; one farm labourer and a ploughman.


James Gillison, Thomas and Jane’s eldest son, was the dynamic member of the family. In 1878 he and Joseph Chadwick founded the Gillison and Chadwick shipping line, often known as the’drum’ line as they gave their ships names beginning with Drum... The company’s offices were at Mersey Chambers Liverpool when it was founded though by the 1890s they were at 10 Tower Buildings North. The firm was still in existence in 1915. Joseph Chadwick had been in the shipping business since 1872 and although I can’t prove it, I do wonder whether members of the Nisbet family - Alexander, for example - actually worked for him, and then for Gillison and Chadwick. Certainly James’ youngest brother, William, worked for the firm: a merchant seaman, he was master of Gillison and Chadwick’s barque British Sovereign, when it was wrecked and all hands were lost, somewhere off Dunnet Head on 2 or 3 May 1881.


Jeanie’s husband Robert doesn’t seem to have shared the Gillison interest in land, cattle and shipping. He preferred tea and having served his apprenticeship, worked in the tea business all his life. By 1891 he had been promoted to the challenging and delicate job of tea tasting - essentially, assessing quality and preparing blends - and it’s a pity that I haven’t been able to find out who he worked for. My guess, though, is that he worked for a big firm, in which promotion was marked by new job titles and (presumably) rises in pay. Although Liverpool was not as important in the world tea business as London, it did have a lot of firms that imported and sold tea. Amongst the biggest were Edward Billington and Son Ltd. Billingtons still exists but it’s best known now as a sugar importer. However it was founded, in 1858, as a tea and coffee importing concern. From 1864 the firm was based in Liverpool. Rathbone Brothers - another firm known better for other things - also dealt in tea from China and coffee from Brazil; though their involvement in the tea trade ended in 1898. Other firms that Robert Gillison may have worked for imported tea along with other items. Two that I spotted in directories from around 1870 were Adair and Dawson of 73-77 London Road who dealt in Italian foodstuffs as well as tea; and Peek Brotherrs of 21 Harrington Street, importers of tea, coffee and spices.


It looks as though Robert Gillison’s job occasionally took him abroad - perhaps as far as China - because he was not in the UK on census day 1881. In his absence, Jeanie had gone to stay with Robert’s sister Margaret, who had married Alexander Armour. Much more about Alexander Armour below, but here I’ll just say that he owned a firm which dealt in iron; perhaps he used Gillison and Chadwick’s ships for transporting it. In 1881 Alexander and Margaret were living at 21 Percy Street Liverpool and like the Thomas Gillisons and James Gillisons, were comfortably off, employing a nurse and two maids of all work. Jeanie’s stay with them and her visits to them must have had their sad side; because the Armours had six children while Jeanie and her husband remained childless. Perhaps Jeanie and Robert made up for the children they did not have, by taking a close interest in their nieces and nephews; particularly Alexander and Margaret’s third son Robert Gillison Armour (born 1871); and Jeanie’s sister Helen’s daughter Jean Brash Price (born 1879).


I’ll leave Jeanie at 1881, staying with her in-laws and close friends; and turn to her brother Robert. On leaving school, Robert trained and qualified as a book-keeper. There was plenty of work for book-keepers in Liverpool, and he could afford to contemplate marriage and the setting up of his own household by the time he was in his late twenties - of course, by this time he will have been working for nearly two decades. In 1886 he married Elizabeth Agnes Williams, who was always called Agnes. By 1891 Robert and Agnes had left Liverpool and were living in the healthier surroundings of Formby, in Piercefield Road.



Agnes Williams was the elder daughter of Samuel Fletcher Williams and his wife Elizabeth. Samuel Fletcher Williams had a working life sharply different from the usual; it has a very modern feel to it, even, because unlike what was expected of Victorian men, he changed career at least twice. Born in Shrewsbury in 1842, he started out there as a clerk in an auctioneer’s office, probably in the late 1850s. Then he moved on to working as a reporter for the local newspaper; until the late 1860s. Then, in an even more dramatic shift, he joined the Unitarian Methodists and trained as a minister. There were those in Victorian England who felt strongly that you could hardly think of the Unitarians as Christians at all - their very name announced the fact that they didn’t believe in the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; and they also denied the divinity of Jesus. However, because of the kind of person who attended their churches, they had an importance out of all proportion to their numbers.


Samuel Fletcher Williams had married Elizabeth Lloyd, in Shrewsbury, in 1862. Their family, by Victorian standards, was very small: Elizabeth Agnes was born in February 1864, and her only sibling, Mary Emma, in 1867. By census day 1871 Rev Williams had begun his work as a Unitarian minister and had been sent to the Bethlehem Chapel at Newchurch-in-Rossendale (near Rochdale) and the family were living at a house nearby. Elizabeth’s mother, Mary Lloyd, was living with them but they did not have any live-in servants at that time. Mary Lloyd had died by 1881 and Rev Williams had been moved on as well, to Hamilton Road Chapel in the Everton distirict of Liverpool. He and Elizabeth, Agnes and Mary Emma were living at 85 Everton Road Cherton. Agnes and Mary Emma were no longer at school; but they weren’t working either and as far as I know neither of them did paid work before they married - the Nisbet daughters were very unusual in this respect. I don’t suppose Agnes and Mary Emma were idle, however. As the family had only the one general servant, they will have been doing their share of household management. And as the daughters of a minister they would have been expected to set an example to his parishioners with an involvement in charity work. They also will have had to help their mother organise the many meetings that were part of their father’s work. Looking on the web I found two examples of the kind of event I mean - a tea-cum-meeting of ministers in October 1879, and the spring meeting of the Liverpool and North Wales district of the United Methodist Free Churches, which took place over two days in 1882.


I’ve said that Robert Nisbet and Agnes Williams met in Liverpool, but it may not have been at her father’s church services, which may have been rather too Unitarian for the Nisbets’ liking. Robert and Jeanie’s sister Elizabeth had married a Presbyterian minister, Robert Gilbert Flett, in 1872. Robert Flett had arrived in Liverpool from Edinburgh to take up an appointment as a minister. I would imagine all the Nisbets were regular attenders at Flett’s church, and that’s how he and Elizabeth had met; possibly the Gillisons were also in his congregation. Robert and Elizabeth’s eldest child was Margaret Jean Flett (born 1873), probably Jeanie’s god-daughter. It all suggests a close-knit community of Presbyterians originally from Scotland, keeping up the religion of their parents and their youth. But Robert Nisbet married a woman of a very different Christian persuasion.



In February 1885, Robert Nisbet was initiated as a freemason and joined the Hamer Lodge 1393. The Lodge had been founded, in Liverpool, in 1872-73 and by the time Robert became a member, it was meeting in Liverpool’s Masonic Hall, in Hope Street. Hope Street was in the middle of the city’s business district and Robert may have seen becoming a freemason as a part of his business life. Hamer Lodge 1393 doesn’t seem to have been a very active lodge, however, and Robert was not an active member of it, either. Theosophy began to take up his leisure time.



Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Olcott had founded their Theosophical Society in New York in 1874. But until Isis Unveiled was published, in New York in September 1877, the TS did not really have a text that those who were interested could refer to. I haven’t been able to find out when it was first possible to buy a copy in England, but residents of Liverpool - which had such strong links with North America - might have been able to obtain American copies very shortly after the publication date. Isis Unveiled was divided into two volumes. The first - Science - might have seemed to be offering an alternative to Christianity which took account of recent scientific research. The second - Religion - was Blavatsky’s first attempt to offer the West a philosophy based on the religions of the East. Blavatsky has been accused of plagiarism many times, but I’m not sure that her borrowing is relevant, really: to some people, including many people who were initiated into the GD, it offered a way of understanding the world, and the purpose of human existence, when the tenets of Christianity were being challenged as never before.


Theosophy made some headway in London in the 1880s but it reached a lift-off point with regard to the rest of England, late in the decade - just around the time when the GD was being founded - because of two things: firstly the arrival of Blavatsky to take up permanent residence in London in May 1887; and secondly, the publication of her great work, The Secret Doctrine in 1888. In the years immediately after The Secret Doctrine’s publication, membership of the TS in England grew hugely and quickly, with groups coming together to form lodges in every town. In addition, members of Blavatsky’s entourage (though never Blavatsky herself) went on public lecture tours, explaining theosophy to the public. Although each lodge had to have permission to exist from the TS’s headquarters in Regent’s Park, they were self-supporting and self-governing, organising their own programme of talks (usually with speakers chosen from amongst the members), study groups (focusing particularly on The Secret Doctrine which even loyal followers found almost impenetrable) and social evenings. Federations of lodges were quickly established, one Europe-wide, one encompassing the USA, and even one just covering the north of England.


Robert and Agnes Nisbet, and Jeanie Gillison, were important members of the TS in Liverpool. I would suppose they were beginning to investigate the subject of theosophy by the late 1880s, but it does seem to have been The Secret Doctrine that made the difference. They might even have read Samuel Liddell Mathers’ 1887 translation of part of Christian Knorr von Rosenroth’s Kabbala Denudata to which Mathers gave a title in conscious imitation of Blavatsky - The Kabbalah Unveiled. Mathers was one of the founders of the GD.


All these ideas must have added to a general atmosphere of change in the family. Robert and Agnes began their married life by moving out of the city of Liverpool, to 8 Piercefield Road Formby - that was one change. Their two children were born in Formby - Dorothy in 1887 and Kenneth in 1889 - and that’s where the family was on the day of the 1891 census, with a visitor from Birmingham, a friend of Agnes’s, probably - Lizzie Dingley, a music teacher. In January 1891 had come an even bigger break with the past: Thomas Nisbet, Robert and Jeanie’s father, died. Robert, their mother Jane, and Robert Flett were his executors. Though both Roberts were at home on census day 1891, neither Jane Nisbet nor Jeanie was, and I wonder if Jeanie had gone with her mother on some business connected with the estate; though if they had, it was not to a place anywhere in the UK - perhaps they had had to go to Ireland. Robert Jeanie’s husband was staying with his father Thomas Gillison and his widowed sister Susan Hamilton at 3 Dryden Road West Derby, on census day.


In the months immediately after Thomas Nisbet’s death - almost as if his going had released them to do so - Robert (in February) Agnes (in April) and Jeanie all joined the TS; though none of Robert and Jeanie’s siblings ever did so, and nor did Jeanie’s husband. At this point in the TS’s history, all prospective members needed to have two sponsors who were members already, to support their application. The applications of Robert, Agnes and Jeanie suggest there was already an informal theosophy discussion group in Liverpool. In 1892 the members of this group would found the TS’s Liverpool Lodge. In due course, most of them would also be initiated into the GD: John Hill; William Ranstead; Joseph K Gardner; J W S Callie; Mrs J M Stewart Walker; and Sophia Moffat from Edinburgh. Rowland Jevons was an important member of the group; he didn’t join the GD but his sister Eliza did. Two people who joined the lodge after it had been founded also went into the GD: Robert Sandham, and Rev Thomas Appleton Duncan who was a Church of England vicar.


Jeanie was not quite so quick to join the TS. Perhaps she was more shaken by her father’s death than Robert; and in the first few months after his death she may also have been spending a lot of time supporting her mother. She left it until September 1891. She was not quite so committed a member of Liverpool TS Lodge as her brother and sister-in-law either - though I don’t mean that as a criticism of her; Robert and Agnes were exceptionally committed. Robert was Liverpool TS Lodge’s first president and Agnes was the only woman member of its council in its first year (1892); though they persuaded Jeanie to joined its council in 1893. As well as organising a series of public lectures at the YWCA in that first year, the lodge also had a discussion class on The Secret Doctrine - probably a continuation of what the lodge’s original members had been doing before the lodge was officially founded. Also in 1892, Isabel de Steiger (née Lace) started coming to the meetings, back living in her home city after many decades of residence abroad and in London. See my life-by-dates biography of Isabel for more details of her long life in the occult, but here I’ll just say that she brought with her to Liverpool TS Lodge the cachet of having met Blavatsky as early as the late 1870s; and having been a close friend of the woman you can think of as Blavatsky’s opposite number in western esotericism, Dr Anna Bonus Kingsford. Isabel and Jeanie became friends.


By 1893, the lodge was looking for new, bigger rooms and in the meantime, its AGM was held at Robert and Agnes’ house in Formby. The lodge members eventually decided to rent some rooms at 62 Dale Street in the centre of Liverpool, easy for all members to reach. Lodge meetings were held there every Thursday, with one member leading a discussion on a subject chosen beforehand. In 1893 Robert Nisbet took the lead on The Zodiac, Akasha and Astral Light and Karma; and Agnes took the lead on The Aryans. By the end of the year the meetings had moved to Crossley Buildings 18 South Castle Street and a new discussion group had begun, held on Sunday evenings to study The Key To Theosophy.


As if there was not enough change going on in their lives, and as if they were not busy enough already, it was during the first year of the Liverpool TS Lodge’s existence that Robert and Agnes Nisbet were initiated into the GD - the western esoteric alternative to the TS. I haven’t yet found out exactly how - through whom - the GD’s members in Bradford and Liverpool were connected; though I imagine there was not one connection but several, through different people who knew each other through work or friendship, in these two great cities. In both cities the connection between the GD and the TS was very close, with nearly every member of one organisation also being a member of the other.


1893 was Liverpool TS Lodge’s high point. They were able to attract as speakers at the meetings some enthusiastic theosophists from other lodges, Sidney Coryn and William Williams. Sidney Coryn was from south London where his family were very active TS members; his brother Herbert had been one of Blavatsky’s inner circle. Sidney, Herbert and their sister-in-law Jessie Horne were all GD members. William Williams was a member of Bradford TS Lodge and the GD; he had come to give a talk on the Kabbalah, an important text for both groups.


In 1893, theosophy showed how far it had come in only a few years by being represented at the Parliament of Religions, which was held in Chicago as part of that year’s World Fair. Robert Nisbet was one of the members of the council the TS set up to advise its representatives at the Parliament, though I don’t think he actually went to Chicago in September 1893 to attend the Parliament; he’s certainly not on the list of the people who gave speeches at it.


Jeanie - older than Agnes and probably with a more conservative outlook; perhaps more nervous of stepping that far outside the usual female role of listener - didn’t lead any discussions at Liverpool TS Lodge meetings. She had also yet to be persuaded to join the GD although - perhaps under Isabel de Steiger’s influence - she was broadening her reading. She became a subscriber to Borderland, the magazine founded by journalist W T Stead in 1893 after he had become (rather belatedly) a convert to spiritualism. It’s hard to tell, though, how deeply Jeanie was involved in spiritualism and whether she was a medium or just an attender of seances: spiritualism was a rather informal thing; there was a British National Association of Spiritualists by the 1890s but in general, spiritualist groups were small and very locally based; and much spiritualism went on in people’s living room with only the family involved. So there’s a lack of records.


Maybe spiritualism didn’t convince Jeanie in any case: the following year, she did join the GD, where spiritualists and the skills of spiritualist mediums were not particularly welcome. I’m going to speculate a bit, here, because I find it a bit odd Jeanie should give the GD and the publishers of Borderland an address of 14 Freehold Street Liverpool to send their post to. That was her mother’s home, not her own; and it wasn’t either of the addresses Jeanie gave to the TS. The TS knew of her as living at a house called Breffni in the suburb of Egerton Park Rock Ferry; and then at 5 Sandringham Drive, back on the city side of the river.


In addition, Jeanie chose not to be initiated into the GD at the Horus temple as her brother and sister-in-law had been; she opted instead for the London temple, Isis-Urania, and probably went to the initiation ritual from her sister Helen Price’s house in Barnet. Perhaps she didn’t have quite as many friends in Bradford as Robert and Agnes did; but in London she could trade on Isabel de Steiger’s acquaintances in the Order, or even on Isabel herself as Isabel was still making frequent trips there. My speculation, however, is that Jeanie and her husband didn’t agree about Jeanie’s curiosity about other ways of seeing the universe and man’s existence in it: Robert Gillison could just about take her interest in theosophy though he didn’t have much use for it himself; but spiritualism, and the western magical tradition, were a couple of steps too far for him. GD member Florence Maitinski faced similar objections from her husband and William Wynn Westcott in particular was against allowing her to be initiated in the circumstances. However, Mrs Maitinski went ahead and was initiated. And if my speculation is right, so did Jeanie, but she took steps to make sure her husband wouldn’t find out. I end this speculation with a bit of wild speculation: were Jeanie and Robert Gillison living apart when he died? One or two small bits of information make me wonder about that.


Robert and Agnes left Liverpool to live in France at the end of 1893 though they were preparing for the move as early as spring 1892. I have no information on where he worked before that year, but in April 1892 Robert was a partner in the firm of John Robb and Co, printers and stationers, whose shop and offices were at 18 Redcross Street, near the docks and business district of Liverpool.


Jeanie might have decided she would focus her efforts on the TS and wouldn’t bother with the GD herself, if Robert and Agnes weren’t going to be around. However, the TS helped her make up her mind the other way, by all-but tearing itself apart over the direction it should take now that Blavatsky was dead. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky had died in May 1891, while the Nisbets and Jeanie were still coming to terms with Thomas Nisbet’s death. Controversy over who should succeed her didn’t break out at once, but by mid-1894 two candidates had emerged: Annie Besant, who had Colonel Olcott’s blessing; and William Quan Judge, an American who had the support of the American lodges and was also president of the TS’s European federation. The struggle that ensued was not even ended by the death of William Quan Judge in 1894. The result of it was a victory for Annie Besant and her supporters but at a terrible cost: the bitterness of the debate, between theosophists who were supposed to be trying to rise above worldly considerations, caused droves of TS members to resign or drift away; entire lodges closed down for lack of support, including Bradford Lodge; and the lodges in the USA declared themselves independent of the TS in London. World theosophy has not been united since.


Robert, Agnes and Jeanie will all have known Annie Besant as she often visited the north of England on lecture tours and had also been very active in the Parliament of Religions; though they probably didn’t know William Quan Judge all that well. Unlike some members of the TS, including some of their friends, they chose not to get too involved in the battle for supremacy, which became very vitriolic and (in the end) humiliatingly public. And also unlike most people who were members of the TS as the argument began to rage, they did continue to be members of it. Liverpool TS Lodge managed to survive but the TS Membership Registers show clearly just how few new members were attracted to it in the years after 1893. Robert and Agnes Nisbet, and Isabel de Steiger, all deserted it - they went to Paris, she moved to Edinburgh.



As the TS in England limped along, a public laughing-stock, Jeanie in Liverpool and Robert and Agnes in France pursued western esotericism more than theosophy in the late 1890s. The records of the GD’s Ahathoor temple in Paris show that Robert and Agnes were two of its first members and in March 1894 Robert took over as its Cancellarius when his predecessor, Oswald Murray became ill and resigned.


Robert and Agnes may have moved to Paris because Samuel Liddell Mathers was there; the Ahathoor temple was under his personal supervision. If that’s the case, Robert might have arrived without a job. They took Dorothy and Kenneth, and will have needed to find a school for them. And a house or rooms to rent. And I bet neither of them could speak French well - though of course there’s nothing like needing to earn some money, to help you learn. Another way of learning is to teach your own language to those who speak a different language. When he died Robert Nisbet was described as a teacher of English; and perhaps that’s what he had been doing in Paris since he and his family had arrived there.


Moving to Paris to be at what they considered to be the heart of the GD was a big commitment of faith and energy. In 1900, however, Robert and Agnes found their commitment being tested to its limit, by Mathers’ behaviour; and in the end Robert in particular felt he had to choose between loyalty to the Order, and his friendship with Mathers. Mathers’ behaviour was beginning to worry Robert very much indeed in the first few months of 1900 - so much so that he made a quick trip to London to discuss it with senior GD members there. He first went to talk it over with William Wynn Westcott. Westcott - a good record-keeper - later made some notes on what Robert had told him. Robert was concerned on a number of counts. Firstly, that Mathers should tell one person in London (Florence Farr) that the Order had been founded on faked documents; but then swear them to secrecy about it, and refuse to provide any proof. Secondly, that Mather’s wife Mina (née Bergson) was either unable or unwilling to exercise any influence over her husband’s increasingly bizarre decision-making. But mainly - and this was what had caused Robert to decide that a trip to London was necessary - because Mathers had been giving unprecedented privileges to a couple claiming to be long-serving occultists but who were not yet initiated into the GD. He had introduced them to the members of the Ahathoor temple as living proof that the GD’s foundation documents were genuine after all. He had allowed them to be present at a GD ritual; and he had lent them manuscripts of GD rituals. The couple were the infamous Mr and Mrs Horos; and the borrowed manuscripts (never returned) were part of the evidence against them when they were prosecuted in London late in 1901.


Robert had been sufficiently suspicious of Mr and Mrs Horos to ask Mathers whether he had been given any proof that the couple were the people Mathers claimed they were. Mathers had said he’d provide evidence later. When he didn’t do so, Robert had tracked the couple to their hotel; to find that they’d left without paying their bill and the police were searching their rooms. With his fears confirmed, Robert had left Paris to warn the GD in London. After the meeting with Westcott he also saw Percy Bullock, to warn him as well; and to talk over the breach between Mathers and the GD’s senior members in London, who were now running the GD on their own, with Percy as secretary. Thanks to Robert’s prompt action, when the Horos couple arrived in London and attempted to edge their way into the GD there, the London members were ready for them. But damage had already been done to the Order which couldn’t be wiped out merely by Percy Bullock sending the Horoses away; and the trouble was made very public 18 months later.


It’s difficult to see how Robert could have remained a member of the Ahathoor temple after this; perhaps he no longer even wanted to be involved. I would suppose that Agnes was equally worried by what was going on. But he and Agnes do seem to have stayed in Paris. In 1902, they burned their boats with English theosophy and moved their membership to the TS in France; and the GD in England lost contact with them.


For several years my biography of Robert and Agnes Nisbet ended in 1902; but now (October 2020) I am able to say that they spent the rest of their lives in France, and have descendants there and in Australia. Their great-grandson has told me that they became Calvinist Protestants: something that surprised me very much, and was likely to have ended any involvement they might have had beyond 1902 with members of the GD.


Robert Nisbet died in January 1931, at home at 7 rue d’Ulm. I suppose Agnes must have continued to live in Paris all through the Nazi occupation, because when she died, in July 1947, 7 rue d’Ulm was her address.



Jeanie, of course, was a married woman whose husband’s job was based in Liverpool (here I am assuming that my wild speculation above is completely wrong): no going to Paris for more than a holiday, for her.


In 1895, Jeanie was still a committed member of the GD, working towards initiation into its 2nd Order. At the end of that year she was preparing to make what was perhaps a regular just-before-Christmas visit to her sister Helen Price for a week. She wrote to Westcott asking if he could put her in touch with Frederick Leigh Gardner, who at that time was in charge of the GD’s study programme. Jeanie wanted to meet Gardner during her time in London and get some hints on how to tackle the exams she was about to take. I hope she got on with him when they met: Gardner’s abrasive personality and his quickness to take offence had led to a lot of complaints, particularly from the GD’s women.


At the very end of the 1890s, around the time Robert and Agnes moved to Paris, Liverpool TS Lodge started to show some signs of revival; and Isabel de Steiger returned to Liverpool from Scotland. During 1900 Jeanie and Isabel co-sponsored several new TS members. But then, on 11 January 1901, Robert Gillison died, aged only 57. On the day of the 1901 census, Jeanie seems to have told the census official that she had a job. his is one of the small items that make me wonder if she and her husband had separated; although it might mean that Jeanie had had to find a job - as far as I know, the first she had ever had - because Robert was too ill to work. Oh, and alas that I can’t read what she did for a living, other than being a “superintendent” of something. There’s so little evidence of any of the GD’s women members working, and when I come across one piece of evidence, it’s too splodgy to read what this woman was working at! Census day came only a few weeks after Robert Gillison’s death. Jeanie was living with her mother Jane Nisbet at 14 Freehold Street, Fairfield - the address where the GD thought she had lived all along, and which the TS don’t seem to have known about. Pooling their income, Jane and Jeanie were able to afford live-in general servant.


Jeanie’s next three years were tough. Her mother, Jane Baird Nisbet, died in the spring of 1902, aged 78. In the spring of 1904, Jeanie’s sister-in-law and good friend Margaret Armour died, followed in 1905 by another sister-in-law, Margaret Armour and Robert Gillison’s sister Susan Hamilton. In the midst of all this death and mourning, the demise of the GD as originally constituted (in 1903), must have seemed irrelevant and there’s no evidence that Jeanie joined either of its daughter orders. She did keep up her membership of the TS, though, at least until 1906 - she told them her new surname. And in the end, there was a happy sequel to the death of Margaret Armour, née Gillison. In the autumn of 1905 Jeanie married Margaret’s widower, her brother-in-law Alexander Armour.



Jeanie’s second husband came from the same circle as the first: that close group of Scottish-born people from dissenting communities who had gone to live in Liverpool. He ran his own company dealing in iron; and in 1871 had made a patent application in the UK for an “an ammoniacal gas engine” designed by Emile Lamin of New Orleans. However, Armour was more involved in the civic life of Liverpool than other person in that close Presbyterian group. This involvement seems to have been at its height in the 1880s: in the 1900s, in his mid-60s, he may have been scaling it back. Still, as his wife, Jeanie would have been invited to more formal social gatherings than she had been as the wife of Robert Gillison. Armour had been on the boards of Mount Pleasant School and the Liverpool Institute; as late as 1899 he was on the governing committee of Liverpool’s public museum; he was a member of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. He was also active in the organisation and management of presbyterianism: one reference I found seemed to be indicating that he was a member of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of England in 1883 though I wasn’t able to follow it up to confirm it. And he was also a trustee of Lady Hewley’s Charity, which handed out money to the right kind of dissenting minister and might have helped pay the salary of Rev Samuel Fletcher Williams.


Alexander Armour and Margaret Gillison had married in 1863 and had had the typically mid-Victorian large family, though two at least of their children had died young. On marrying Alexander Armour, Jeanie will have become step-mother and step-grandmother to a large number of people; though some of them may not have liked the speed at which their father had remarried - only 18 months or so after their mother’s death. She may have had two of her new husband’s children living with her and her new husband: Thomas and Robert Armour, both unmarried, were both still living at home on the day of the 1901 census and freebmd didn’t have details of a marriage for either of them, between 1901 and 1910. Neither of them were involved in Alexander’s business; they were both working as salesmen in the cotton industry.



Jeanie and Alexander Armour had two years of marriage before Alexander died, in the autumn of 1907, aged 72. His household was broken up and Jeanie didn’t take either Thomas or Robert with her. By 1911 census she had moved into 12 Gambier Terrace, Hope Street Liverpool. On census day, Jeanie was in mourning again: her sister Elizabeth Baird Flett had died the previous summer.


11-12 Gambier Terrace was two houses run together as a boarding house by Mary Scott Simpson. It was very big but possibly uncomfortably crowded nevertheless - 13 lodgers lived there, as well as Mrs Simpson and her servants. The lodgers were a varied bunch though there were no families: men, young women, widows. Most of the widows, including Jeanie, described themselves as having private financial resources - pensions, share dividends etc. Most of the men were working - a physician/surgeon, a dentist, a businessman dealing in goods from Africa. All except one were born in the UK; though most had not been born in Liverpool. Gambier Terrace was one of the older parts of Liverpool, built in the early 19th-century on a scarp above where the Anglican cathedral is now. It was handy for central Liverpool while being above the worst of the pollution. Jeanie seems to have liked it: she was still living there when she died.


Isabel de Steiger will have known Gambier Terrace very well: the house at the north end of the row had been her childhood home. Both women gave up being members of the TS in the 1900s. Jeanie paid her last subscription in 1906 and Isabel finally despaired of it when Annie Besant was elected its president for life in 1908. Isabel moved around a lot in the early years of the 20th century but she also in Tranmere from 1911 to 1914; and finally moved to Rock Ferry in early 1917 and didn’t leave the Liverpool area again. So perhaps the two women were able to keep up their friendship.


Jeanie died, at 11-12 Gambier Terrace, on 22 February 1920.



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.




ROBERT AS A FREEMASON with thanks to Jean-Marc Phillips.

Robert’s initiation: Lodge membership records kept at the United Grand Lodge of England and now available at Ancestry. Some lodges sent in details of yearly subscription payments but Hamer Lodge 1393 didn’t do this. Robert seems to have been asked to join the Lodge as part of a recruitment drive: five new members were initiated in 1885; as compared to seven in the previous eight years.

I checked the UGLE records for John Robb – he doesn’t seem to have been a freemason at all. Jeanie’s two husbands – Robert Gillison and Alexander Armour – were both freemasons but not in Hamer Lodge 1393.

At //, Lane’s Masonic Records shows Hamer Lodge’s warrant issued 1872 and its consecration date 1873.

There was nothing in the Freemasons’ Library catalogue to indicate Robert was an active freemason; the records held by the FML are all to do with the GD.



Plenty about her on the web, of course. See for the important dates in her life - those that can be ascertained, that is.

Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology. I looked at the edition published in 1972 by the Theosophical Publishing House. On its p1 it gives the publication details of the first edition of 1000 copies: New York: J W Bouton September 1877.

The Secret Doctrine: the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy Two volumes were published in London by the Theosophical Publishing Co, 1888. A third volume, supposedly compiled from papers Blavatsky was working on at her death, was published in 1897 and was controversial even at the time.



Theosophical Society Membership Register volume for January 1889-September 1891 p204 for Robert. Sponsors: John Hill, W Gardner. And p214 for Agnes. Sponsors: Robert Nisbet and John Hill. P256 for Jeanie. Sponsors: Robert Nisbet and I A Duncan. This volume also has plenty of evidence of Robert sponsoring other people’s applications for membership. The subsequent volumes show Robert and Jeanie sponsoring people; but not Agnes: Membership Register for September 1891-January 1893; Membership Register for June 1893-March 1895 - though the numbers of sponsorships is very low in this one. Robert does not sponsor anyone in any subsequent volume. Jeanie appears sponsoring 3 new members in the Membership Register for March 1895-June 1898; and 8 in Membership Register June 1898-February 1901, all but one with Isabel de Steiger as a co-sponsor.


The Theosophical Congress held by the TS at the Parliament of Religions. World’s Fair 1893 Chicago Illinois September 15-17 [1893]. Report of Proceedings and Documents. Published TS American Section headquarters, 144 Madison Avenue New York 1893: p10.



Lucifer was the TS in London’s official magazine: edited during the 1890s by Annie Besant and then by Annie Besant and G R S Mead; and published by the Theosophical Publishing Society of 7 Duke Street Adelphi London WC.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume X March-August 1892. Volume X number 56 issue of 15 April 1892 p166. Volume X number 58 issue of 15 June 1892 p340.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XI September 1892 to February 1893. Volume XI number 66 issued 15 February 1893 p517-18.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XII March-August 1893. Volume XII number 67 issued 15 March 1893 p78. Volume XII number 69 issued 15 May 1893 p253.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XIII September 1893 to February 1894. Volume XIII number 73 issued 15 September 1893 p71.

There was virtually no coverage of local lodge news in subsequent editions.



Via the web to Borderland Quarterly Rvw vol 1 1893 p286 a list of subscribers incls Jean Brash Gillison of 14 Freehold Street Fairfield.

Borderland: Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Crystal-Gazing, Hypnotism, Automatic Writing; Quarterly Review and Index. Published London 1893-97: Horace Marshall. Editor W T Stead.



The Kabbalah Unveiled:

See wikipedia on Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, who published volumes called Kabbala Denudata: in 1677-78 and in 1684.

Samuel Liddell Mathers’ translation was of two only of those volumes. The Kabbalah Unveiled was published in 1887 and is still in print. The first edition may have been a small one though; and no one thought to send any of the copies to the British Museum so the British Library still doesn’t have one.


Robert’s job in 1892:

London Gazette 5 April 1892 p2021 in a list of partnerships dissolved: that of John Robb and Robert B B Nisbet, printers and stationers, of 18 Redcross St Liverpool. They had been trading as John Robb and Co.


Robert and Agnes in the Ahathoor temple:

The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986: p39.


Warburg Institute. Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73. Letter from William Wynn Westcott to Gardner, writing on behalf of Mrs Gillison. Dated only 7 December; the year of 1895 seems most likely to me.


Westcott’s two-page account of his meeting with Robert Nisbet is at the Freemasons’ Library, their catalogue number: GD 2/4/4/3. It’s not signed but a handwritten note identifies the handwriting as Westcott’s. It’s dated 15 June 1900.



Robert Nisbet was quite right to be worried about the Horoses; though even in his worst moments I can’t imagine that he guessed what the outcome of their short period observing GD rituals in Paris would be. The Horoses used the rituals Mathers had so unwisely lent them to set up a little Order of their own in Regent’s Park north London. Several young women were lured in. GD-style rituals were used to frighten them into staying, and swear them to secrecy; but eventually one ran away and went to the police. The trial of Dutton and Jackson received massive newspaper publicity. The reports in the Times are very thorough, with exhaustive coverage even of the series of commital hearings at Marylebone Police Court:

Times Friday 11 October 1901 p10: Extraordinary Charge of Conspiracy. The charges against Mr and Mrs Horos at this stage were conspiracy to cheat and defraud a particular young woman of jewellery etc.

Times Friday 18 October 1901 p7 had the first indications that the police were investigating more serious allegations.

Times Monday 18 November 1901 p22 with more charges including some under the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

Times 22 November 1901 p13 it was not until this hearing that the couple’s real names were known. This is also the hearing in which the Order of the Golden Dawn was named in court; and its leader was mentioned by name as well: “Mr McGregor Mathers”. Although the court was assured that the GD was a very respectable organisation; and the impression was given by the evidence that it existed only in Paris; members of the GD in the UK were aghast; and the GD’s name was changed.


All through the commital hearings the couple had been remanded in custody. Eventually the police court sent them to the Old Bailey for trial. It was not until they appeared there that the seriousness of the charges against them became public. Dutton and Jackson could not afford a barrister and conducted their own defence.


Times Thursday 19 December 1901 p4 Dutton was charged with the rape of Daisy Pollex Adams; and Jackson with aiding and abetting that rape. The original charge of conspiracy to defraud was now one of three other, somewhat less serious charges concerning young women who were part of the Horos couple’s supposed esoteric Order.


Coverage of the trial continued in the Times made it very clear to what use the Horoses had put the GD’s rituals. The last day of the trial was reported in Times Saturday 21 December 1901 p14, with the GD mentioned by name again. On the trial’s last day, the defence case was concluded; the judge summed up; and the jury took all of 5 minutes to find both of them guilty. They were both sentenced to prison with penal servitude: Dutton got 15 years; Jackson 7.



The Liverpool Commercial List published Seyd and Co 1883. Entry number 1113.

Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (GB), published by the Institution 1898 pcx Institution member Richard Chubb gives Gillison and Chadwick’s offices as his address.


Gillison and Chadwick and their ships named ‘drum...’:

At, the Maritime Museum at Greenwich has a builders’ model which formed basis for three ships built 1883 on the Clyde by Russell and Co, for Gillison and Chadwick: Drumblair; Drumburton; and Drumeltan. All three were subsequently wrecked on journeys across Pacific: Drumeltan in 1894; Drumburton in 1904; and Drumblair after a collision in 1915.

The Last of the Windjammers volume 1 by Basil Lubbock. Published Brown Son and Ferguson 1927 p256.

There is plenty of coverage of the some of the line’s ships on the web - the ones that were wrecked! In order to minimise the financial damage to them as partners in the business, James Gillison and Joseph Chadwick created a limited company for each ship’s voyage. In the event of a wreck, Gillison and Chadwick then acted as liquidators of the company. Two examples:

London Gazette 5 August 1892 p4452 notice issued 29 July 1892 by James Gillison and Joseph Chadwick acting as liquidators of the steamship company Drumburlie Co Ltd.

And London Gazette 3 April 1900 p2230, liquidators under the Companies’ Acts 1862-1890 this time of the Steamship Drumelzier Co Ltd. Notice issued 30 March 1900.

See for Wreck Reports after investigations by the Board of Trade under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 which ordered that after any wreck, an investigation into the circumstances must be held. For example: the investigation held 1-3 February 1898 into what happened to SS Drummond, owned by the Steamship Drummond Co Ltd of 10 Tower Buildings North, Liverpool. SS Drummond had left Maryport for Bahia Blanca on 24 December 1897 loaded with steel rails and coal. In hurricane conditions off Portugal, her cargo had shifted and the rudder had come off. The crew had been taken off by the steamer Melita Bohlen. Another ship towed the Drummond into Lisbon on 2 January 1898.


James Gillison married Mary Jane Affleck in 1869. Their sons Thomas and James went into the business as well in due course though they did not take it over when their father retired.

James Gillison retired in 1903: London Gazette 21 August 1903 p5298 list of Partnerships Dissolved included that of James Gillison and Joseph Chadwick who had traded as Gillison and Chadwick, steamship owners and insurance brokers; from 10 Tower Buildings North, Liverpool. Joseph Chadwick would be carrying on the business in partnership with Robert Barton Chadwick, as Chadwick and Son.


James Gillison died in 1910.


THE GILLISONS are one of several of the families mentioned in this biography who bought plots in Toxteth Park Cemetery. Via to details of grave inscriptions in Toxteth Park Cemetery. Grave reference H 17 has buried in it:

- Jane Currie (died 1877) wife of Thomas Gillison (died 1892)

- their 2nd son Robert (Jeanie’s husband) who died 11 January 1901 aged 57

- their daughter Susan (died 1905) widow of J W Hamilton.

The gravestone is also a memorial to Jane and Thomas’ youngest son William Gillison, master of the barque British Sovereign; missing 2 May 1881, presumed drowned.

At a few details on William Gillison’s ship, the British Sovereign.



Background information at the website of the UK Tea and Infusions Association.

Website is the home of the Billington Group previously known as Edward Billington and Son Ltd.

Webpages at which holds the papers of the various firms run by the Rathbones. The pages have a good introduction to the manuscripts and the Rathbone family businesses.

A Green and Company’s Directory for Liverpool and Birkenhead issue of 1870.

The Commercial Directory of Liverpool and Shipping Guide issue of 1871.



Her father Samuel Fletcher Williams:

As a clerk in an auctioneer’s office:

The Law Times Reports volume 9 p831 Clarke v Fuller, heard at Shrewsbury County Court.


Rev Williams is described in the sources I found as a Unitarian; though after further investigation, I’m more confused about that than I was before I started:

For what Unitarians believe see the website At some names of notable Liverpudlian Unitarians.

At, William Rathbone IV, anti-slavery campaigner, was both Quaker and Unitarian.

At a series of carte de visite portraits include one of the Rev Samuel Fletcher Williams (1842-1901).

Bethlehem Chapel:

The Methodist Unitarian Movement by Herbert McLachlan. Manchester University Press and London: Longmans Green and Co 1919: p68 has Bethlehem Chapel Newchurch as methodist-unitarian.

At - marriage registers from after Rev Williams’ time there are now in Lancashire Archives. The chapel’s full address was Newchurch-in-Rossendale, which is near Rochdale.

Hamilton Road Chapel: The History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster volume 5 1893 p160 includes it in a list of United Methodist Free Churches. Built 1809 in Hamilton Road Everton.

Amos: the Rev Amos B Matthews, Victorian Methodist Traveller by John Matthews; published 1992 by the Self-Publishing Association, with John Matthews: p122.

United Methodist Free Churches Magazine issue of 1882 p424.

Via to a book Record of Ministers in Lancashire and Cheshire Until 1896 compiled by George Eyre Evans and published Manchester 1896: p88, pp142-43 which covers Rev Williams moves once he left Liverpool: New Hall Hill Birmingham: April 1884 to December 1889. Then Scarborough Unitarian church January 1889 to September 1893. Then Hackney Unitarian church: October 1893 and he was still in post there when the book was compiled.

Elsewhere at Rev Samuel Williams’ later went to work in Calcutta, but his health broke down and he had to return to the UK.


Bye-gones Relating to Wales and the Border Counties issue of 1901 p238 an obituary, which mentions his work as a newspaper reporter.

Probate Registry: Rev Samuel Fletcher Williams died in Brighton on 19 November 1901. None of his family were named as executors.

Mary Emma Williams: at, a list of marriages at St Peter’s Formby includes 10 May 1888: Mary Emma Williams to Howard Prime Bowen, jewellery manufacturer of St Michael’s Handsworth Birmingham. Howard is the son of George Bowen, electroplate manufacturer. LDS film 1849657.



Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number film number 0102929: marriage of Thomas Nisbet to Jane (sic) Brash took place 28 January 1847 in Glasgow. Slightly different information is given at Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 1041057: marriage of Thomas Nisbet to Jane Baird Brash on 23 January 1847 at Eastwood, Renfrew.


I couldn’t see a baptism record for Jeanie and the only one of her siblings that I found was Helen. Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 1042982: baptism of Helen McKean Nisbet, on 1 July 1849 in the Gorbals; daughter of Thomas and Jane.


Robert Baird Brash Nisbet was born in England and so appears in freebmd: July-September quarter 1857.



Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, issue of 1866, on a members’ list: Thomas Gillison of 3 Dryden Road Liverpool, admitted as a member 1862.



Familysearch had the baptism of Robert Gilbert Flett in 1836; son of John Flett and his wife Margaret née Tait.

Via to Harvard University’s History of the Dialectic Society privately printed; undated but the Note at the beginning is dated Edinburgh University 1887. In the list of members p317 Rev Robert Gilbert Flett, a Presbyterian minister, joined 1858.

At the Flett family plot is H 22 FLETT (G.N. 319). The grave contains: Rev R G Flett who died January 1919

Elizabeth Baird Flett (Jeanie’s sister) who died in 1910

And three of their children, who died as infants.



London Gazette issue of 6 March 1874 p1540 in a page of patent applications, application number 517, dated 2 February 1871.

Via genesreunited to issues of the Liverpool Mercury:

Liverpool Mercury 10 November 1885 re Mt Pleasant School.

Liverpool Mercury 21 December 1887 and 20 June 1894 as a member of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce.

Liverpool Mercury 24 May 1888 re Liverpool Library.

Liverpool Mercury 23 December 1890 at a dinner for old boys of the Liverpool Institute.

Via google to Annual Report of...The Free Public Museums published by Liverpool Museum 1899 p2, p42 and p44.

The Congregational Year-Book for 1901 p117 re Lady Hewley’s Charity. The address for applications to its trustees is c/o Alexander Armour at Cereal Court A, Brunswick St Lpl.


At is the page Toxteth Park Cemetery Inscriptions. Cemetery plot I19 (G.N. 363) is that of the Armour family. In the grave are:

- Margaret Armour died 20 May 1904; aged 66

- Alexander Armour died 15 November 1907; aged 72

and two of their child: Alexander Dow Armour died 1869 aged 6mths; and Annie Armour died 1889 aged 8.



Helen married Charles Thomas Price in 1873 and they had eight children. Price was a Londoner but he ran a hardware and ironmongery business which had Liverpool connections - perhaps he was a customer of Alexander Armour. Once married, he and Helen always lived in north London, starting out in Finsbury. In the 1890s they lived in the pleasantly green suburb of New Barnet, at Lytton Villa, Lytton Road. This house was where Jeanie was probably staying when she had her GD initiation; and where she was going to be visiting just before being initiated into the 2nd Order. By 1901, however, the Prices had moved back into London and were living at 39 Leigh Road, a couple of minutes’ walk from where I’m typing this. By this time, their son Charles was working in the family business. The Prices lived in Leigh Road until Charles Price died in 1915. Helen then moved back out of town, and died in 1927 at Glenlea, Woodville Road New Barnet. Jeanie Armour left no Will when she died in 1920; Helen took charge of the Letters of Administration process. She never joined either the TS or the GD.



Copies sent to me October 2020 by Jean-Marc Phillips; together with a photo taken on a beach in 1946 of Agnes Nisbet, her daughter Dorothy Phillips, Dorothy’s son and daughter-in-law, and their son Jean-Marc, aged a few months and in a pram.

Death registration of Robert Baird Brash Nisbet, died 16 January 1931; giving his profession at death; his address; and confirming his date of birth.

Death registration of Agnes Nisbet, died 29 July 1947; confirming her address and date of birth.





24 July 2016

7 February 2021


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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: