Robert Baird Brash Nisbet was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
at its Horus temple in
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
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.
SMALL UPDATE FEBRUARY 2021
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
On the day of the 1861 census the Nisbets were
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
The Gillisons were also a Scottish family; they
had come to
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
It looks as though Robert Gillison’s job
occasionally took him abroad - perhaps as far as
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
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
Samuel Fletcher Williams had married Elizabeth
I’ve said that Robert Nisbet and Agnes Williams
ROBERT TRIES FREEMASONRY
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
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Olcott
had founded their Theosophical Society in
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
Robert and Agnes Nisbet, and Jeanie Gillison, were
important members of the TS in
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
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
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
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
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
1893 was Liverpool TS Lodge’s
In 1893, theosophy showed how far it had come in
only a few years by being represented at the Parliament of Religions, which was
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
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
Robert and Agnes left Liverpool to live in
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
THE NISBETS IN
As the TS in
Robert and Agnes may have moved to
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
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
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
Robert Nisbet died in January 1931, at home at 7
rue d’Ulm. I suppose Agnes must have continued to live in
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
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
At the very end of the 1890s, around the time
Robert and Agnes moved to
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
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
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
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.
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; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.
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.
SOURCES FOR ROBERT, JEAN AND AGNES
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 //www.dhi.ac.uk, 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.
HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY
Plenty about her on the web, of course. See blavatskyarchives.com for the important dates in her life - those that can be ascertained, that is.
The Secret Doctrine: the Synthesis of Science,
Religion and Philosophy Two volumes were
ROBERT, AGNES AND JEANIE IN THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
Theosophical Society Membership Register volume
for January 1889-September 1891 p204 for Robert. Sponsors: John Hill,
The Theosophical Congress held by the TS at the Parliament of Religions. World’s Fair 1893 Chicago Illinois September 15-17 . Report of Proceedings and Documents. Published TS American Section headquarters, 144 Madison Avenue New York 1893: p10.
LIVERPOOL TS LODGE
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.
JEANIE AND SPIRITUALISM
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.
IN THE GOLDEN DAWN
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.
TRIAL OF FRANK DUTTON AND LAURA JACKSON alias Mr and Mme Horos.
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 GILLISON FAMILY
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 collections.rmg.co.uk, 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 www.plimsoll.org 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 www.medialinkuk.co.uk 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 www.theshipslist.com a few details on William Gillison’s ship, the British Sovereign.
ROBERT GILLISON IN THE TEA BUSINESS
Background information at www.tea.co.uk/east-india-company-UK the website of the UK Tea and Infusions Association.
Website www.ebsgroup.co.uk is the home of the Billington Group previously known as Edward Billington and Son Ltd.
Webpages at www.liv.ac.uk/library 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 www.unitarian.org: At www.liverpoolhistorysociety.org.uk/liverpool-unitarians-faith-and-action some names of notable Liverpudlian Unitarians.
At www.rathbones.com, William Rathbone IV, anti-slavery campaigner, was both Quaker and Unitarian.
At www.libraryofbirmingham.com a series of carte de visite portraits include one of the Rev Samuel Fletcher Williams (1842-1901).
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 discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk - 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 www.unitarians.org.uk 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 www.ukunitarians.org.uk 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 www.lan-opc.org.uk, 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.
ROBERT AND JEANIE’S PARENTS
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.
THOMAS GILLISON’S SCOTTISH CONNECTIONS
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.
ROBERT GILBERT FLETT
Familysearch had the baptism of Robert Gilbert Flett in 1836; son of John Flett and his wife Margaret née Tait.
Via archive.org 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 www.toxtethparkcemeteryinscriptions.co.uk 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 www.medialinkuk.co.uk 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 MCKEAN NISBET
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.
DEATHS IN FRANCE OF ROBERT AND AGNES NISBET
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.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
24 July 2016
7 February 2021
Email me at
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: