Catherine Amy Passingham was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London in its early days, in October 1889.   She took the Latin motto ‘In te domine speravi’.  She didn’t follow up her initiation; perhaps because she was living in Devon at the time and couldn’t get to meetings.  In September 1892 she must have been asked by the GD’s administrators whether she still wanted to be a member, because there’s a note on her papers saying that she did.  However, she resigned in May 1893. 


This is one of my short biographies.  There may be more information on Mrs Passingham out there, but it will be in Leeds University archives, record offices, the local papers in a large number of towns...  I’d need to be on the spot to look at them, and I’ve had to admit that life’s too short! 

Sally Davis

July 2016


My basic sources for any GD member are in a section at the end of the file.  Supplementary sources for this particular member are listed at the end of each section.



This is what I have found on CATHERINE AMY PASSINGHAM, née STAPLE (sometimes given as StapleS but I think Staple is correct).



Not much.



Yes, and it’s likely that she was invited to become a member of the GD because of the people she knew through them.



Catherine joined the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1884, almost as soon as it was founded.  She and her husband were living at Milton on the outskirts of Cambridge at the time. They had a lot of acquaintances at the University, including some of the SPR’s founders.  The SPR held monthly meetings in London, some of which Catherine must have gone to because there’s evidence that she knew some of the other members.  She will have been acquainted with Dora de Blaquière, Violet Tweedale and Lina Rowan Hamilton, all of whom became GD members; Lina wasn’t a member of the SPR herself, it was her husband, Colonel Gawen Rowan Hamilton, who was the member.  Catherine definitely knew George Frederick Rogers, through the Theosophical Society as well as the SPR; and he was also a Cambridge University student.  Catherine’s most enduring Society friendship was with Clara Jeffreys of Glandyfi Castle; they seem to have still been in touch in 1902.  Mrs Jeffreys never joined the GD but her daughter Florence Wynne ffoulkes did.


The SPR encouraged members to send in accounts of their psychic experiences.  In the first volume of its Journal, there’s an account Catherine had sent in, of a strange story told to her daughter Mrs Gillig - actually a typical psychic tale of one person hearing the voice of someone who was dying somewhere else.  In 1890, Catherine also donated to the SPR’s library a book that had impressed her - Mary Boole’s Logic Taught by Love.   Despite the number of times she changed address in the ensuing decade, Catherine kept up her SPR membership at least until 1901.



It’s often difficult to find out whether GD members were actively involved in spiritualism; it was a very locally-based, even family-based interest and has left few records.  If Catherine considered herself to be a spiritualist medium, it was only in a minor, and non-professional way.   It’s likely that she was interested in spiritualism and probably attended séances; but her membership of the Society for Psychical Research shows that she wanted to know, at the very least, how spiritualist phenomena actually worked; and perhaps, even, to face the fact that most of them could be explained in rationalist terms and were not communications from the dead.


I’ve said already that it was difficult for Catherine to get to meetings held in London, once she left Cambridge.  However, in January 1894 she was in London and went to one of the conversaziones organised by London’s spiritualist umbrella group, the London Spiritualist Alliance. The centrepiece of this particular meeting was a talk on the Rev Stainton Moses’ spiritualist experiences.  Also there that evening were quite a few people who were initated into the GD at one time or another, and perhaps Catherine knew some of them: Alice Gordon; Arthur Lovell; a “Miss Moffat” who is probably Sophia Moffat; Charles Lloyd Tuckey, an acquaintance of George Frederick Rogers; Constance Wilde; and the siblings Henry, Charlotte and Margaret Wright. 


W T Stead began to publish an esoteric magazine in 1895, the review he called Borderland.  Catherine was a keen reader of it while it lasted and shared Stead’s hope that through the magazine, like-minded people could be brought together in locally-based groups all over the country.  When the names of people willing to join such a group were published in Borderland in January 1895, her name was on the list for Devon.  Perhaps she was able to set up just such a group in Exmouth; but she left England soon afterwards and probably lost touch with the other Borderland readers that she had met.  Borderland wasn’t a success as a business venture and ceased publication in October 1897.



Perhaps I should have started with this, as Catherine’s longest-running and most active esoteric commitment was to the Theosophical Society (TS).  Theosophy was also the only venture into esotericism that Catherine shared with her family - her husband and two of her daughters were also TS members.


Catherine and her husband George Augustus Passingham are listed in the TS’s membership registers as having joined between 1889 and 1891.  News items in the theosophical magazine Lucifer make it plain that they were both members by late 1888, when they and their eldest daughter, Amy Gillig, were all helping to draft the rules of the TS’s new Cambridge Lodge.  Catherine served as the lodge’s first president, with Mrs Gillig as its secretary.  The lodge had at least one Indian member, a Mr C V Naidu, who was probably a university undergraduate.  George Frederick Rogers of Gonville and Caius was another member. 


The Passinghams left Cambridge early in 1889 and had moved to 11 Morton Crescent, Exmouth, by 1891.  As part of a lecture tour in November 1892, Annie Besant gave a talk on theosophy at Barnfield Hall in Exeter, a talk that Catherine had probably organised.  A few days later, Catherine and another senior member of the TS in London, Countess Wachtmeister, held a talk and discussion on theosophy in Exmouth.  After the talks, the Passinghams tried to set up a TS lodge in Exmouth. There were not enough interested people in the town, but they did manage to form one in Exeter.   Catherine’s daughter Adelaide was secretary of the Exeter Lodge in 1893-94. 


Another result of the visit of Mrs Besant and Countess Wachtmeister to Devon was Catherine being recruited to play a small part in the Parliament of Religions, held as part of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.  A sub-section of that Parliament was a Theosophical Congress and Catherine was a member of the Congress’ English advisory committee; other members included Annie Besant, Colonel Olcott and A P Sinnett.  Some English TS members went to the Congress as delegates but I don’t think Catherine was one of them. 


In the period 1894-96 the TS worldwide tore itself apart over who should lead it and in what direction after the death of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.  The TS in England was particularly badly hit, with the closure of most of its lodges as hundreds of members resigned, or let their memberships lapse.  One of the consequences was less news of local lodges in the TS’s magazines, though information in the TS’s membership registers indicates that the lodge in Exeter closed down.  During this turbulent period, in 1895, the Passinghams moved to Ireland.  It was difficult to keep up with the TS under those circumstances.  George Augustus Passingham’s membership of the TS in England lapsed in 1897 and, as he never renewed it, his decision to stop paying his yearly subscription must have been in response to the schism.  Catherine, however, kept her membership going through that crisis, one that followed it in the early 1900s, and a third in 1908, before finally resigning in 1909.  


A thread - only a thread - running through spiritualism and theosophy (though not through western magic as far as I know) was a debate about whether or not serious spiritualists and theosophists should eat meat.  As early as 1885, Catherine had become a subscriber to the magazine The Dietetic Reformer, which turned into the Vegetarian Messenger in 1887.  A regular contributor to both was Thomas Allinson MD, founder of the Natural Food Company and campaigner for what he called hygienic medicine and birth control.

Perhaps Catherine and her family were vegetarians.




Journal of Society for Psychical Research volume 1 1884-85 p156 and p478-79.

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume II 1884.  London: Trübner and Co of Ludgate Hill.  Pp317 begins the list of members as at December 1884. 

Journal of the Society for Psychical Research volume 4 1889-90.  Just noting it is for members only, it’s not on sale to the general public: p264 donations to the library.

See wikipedia for some information on Mary Everest Boole (1832-1916) mathematician and feminist.  Boole’s Logic Taught by Love - London: Francis Edwards 1890.

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume 9 1893 and 1894.  Published Lo by Kegan Paul Trench Trübner and Co; for the Society.  p386 Catherine’s current address is Lanina,

Llandyssil, Cardiganshire.

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume XI 1895 p618 Catherine’s current address now is Fermoyle, Castle Gregory co Kerry.  

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume XV 1900-01 p502 Catherine is still a member, at Lake House, Prestbury nr Cheltenham.



Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research.  Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Volume 14 number 681 Saturday 27 January 1894 p38.

Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index volume 2 1895.  Editor, W T Stead.  Editorial office: Mowbray House Norfolk St WC; publishing office 125 Fleet Street.  Volume 2 number 7 January 1895 p88-92 Catherine is at 11 Moreton Crescent Exmouth (actually it’s Morton without the ‘e’).


Seen on the web: The Dietetic Reformer 1885 p280 Catherine was a subscriber at her Milton address. So also was another future GD member, the Rev Thomas Travers Sherlock. This was the only issue of the magazine I’ve been able to see.  Issues of the Dietetic Reformer 1872-76; and its successor, the Vegetarian Messenger 1887-1935 are at Leeds University.  I can’t justify the expense of going there to go through them though I think it’s likely I’d find more GD members’ names in the lists of readers.


See wikipedia for the career of Thomas Allinson. 



Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889 to September 1891 pp126-127.  George Augustus is “lapsed 12 97"; Catherine is “Resigned 14.1.09".

Theosophical Society Membership Register September 1891-January 1893 p221, p250.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine   Published by Theosophical Publishing Co at 7 Duke St Adelphi volume III September 1888 to February 1889; issue of 15 October 1888 p105 news section. 

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Pubd by Theosophical Publishing Co at 7 Duke St Adelphi. Volume IV March to August 1889 issue 15 March 1889 p83.

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

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine September 1892- February 1893.  Published London: Theosophical Publishing Co 7 Duke Street Adelphi.  Volume XI number 64 issued 15 December 1892 p342.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine September 1893- February 1894.  Published London: Theosophical Publishing Co 7 Duke Street Adelphi.  Volume XIII number 73 issue of 15 September 1893 pp71-72.




Catherine Amy Staple was born in Exmouth in April 1840, the elder child of John Staple and his wife Sarah.  She had one brother, John Charles, born in 1844.  A quick online search produced evidence of people called Staple living in and around Exmouth in the 18th century, who may be ancestors of Catherine.  A Richard Staple was paid for building and maintenance work on the parish church and vicarage in the 1730s.  A John Staple and his wife were living in the town in 1780.  I also saw plenty of men called John Staple, living in Devon, in the 19th century; part of a wider clan with that surname.


Catherine’s father had been born in Withycombe Raleigh on the outskirts of Exmouth.  He trained as a surveyor and in the 1850s was employed as clerk of works at Dorchester Abbey.  On census day 1851 John Staple, Sarah and John Charles were living in a house in the abbey precincts which went with the job.  They were keeping house modestly with just the one general servant.  However, they were paying for Catherine’s to attend the boarding school run by Anne Kellaway and her mother at Knapp House, Milborne Port Somerset.  There were 12 pupils at the school, including Catherine, with ages ranging from 4 to 14.  Three women taught there, one of whom as an assistant only; only one of them was a specialist, a music teacher.


John and Sarah Staple had been elderly parents and by 1861 John had retired and moved back to Exmouth.  1851 was the only census on which I could identify John Charles Staple.  He was, apparently, alive in 1875 and living in Brompton; but I haven’t been able to trace him.


On census day 1861 Catherine and her parents were living at the Manor House in Withycombe Raleigh.



Sources: census 1851-81.

Memorials of Exmouth published Exmouth 1872 by William John Wesley Webb: p125.

Exmouth Milestones, a History by Eric R Delderfield.  Raleigh Press 1948 p196.




In 1863, Catherine married George Augustus Passingham.  Later in his life, George Augustus published a genealogy of his family.  Mention was made in it of his descent from Passinghams in Cornwall and Merioneth, but George Augustus went back in detail only as far as his grandfather, Colonel Jonathan Passingham of the 37th Foot (died 1835), who established his branch of the family in Heston, Middlesex in the early 19th century.


Colonel Jonathan and his wife Prudence had a large family.  George Augustus was a son of their third son, another Jonathan, who married a cousin, Ellen Passingham.  George Augustus was the second son of Jonathan and Ellen; born 1842 in Heston.  There were also several sisters including one, Augusta Louisa, who went to Italy and entered the Roman Catholic Trappistine Order’s convent at Perugia.




The Visitation of England and Wales volume 18.  Privately printed 1914; editor F A Crisp: pp57-61.



Catherine’s husband had a private income which was enough for them to live comfortably on - though not extravagantly - for most of their married life.  Perhaps that was what persuaded John and Sarah Staple to allow Catherine to marry him when she was 23 and he only 21.  In the late 1860s and into the early 1870s he also earned money from a business based in Cambridge in which he was joined with his elder brother Jonathan.  It was a very modern-sounding business, a gymnasium where young men at the university could learn fencing and practice other athletics skills.


George Augustus’ main passion, however, was mountaineering and it looks like he gave up his association with the gymnasium in Cambridge because it was restricting his time in the Alps.  He was known even while at Oxford University as a gymnast, and during the 1870s he gained a reputation amongst climbers as a man able to tackle the very toughest ascents and to do them in one long day, rather than sleep out on the mountain-side overnight.  In the 1870s and early 1880s, Zermatt was his favourite base.  In September 1872, with Dr Clinton Thomas Dent of St George’s Hospital and their local guides, he made the first successful ascent of the south-east ridge of the Rothhorn from the Zermatt side.  In 1879, at the third attempt, he became the first Englishman to climb the west face of the Weisshorn.  And in 1880 he climbed Obergabelhorn.  However, in the 1880s, after the death of his most trusted guide, Ferdinand Imseng, George Augustus began going further afield to climb.  He had already done one year in Norway.  Later went several times to the the USA.  When not actually climbing in Switzerland, George Augustus was keen on shooting chamois.  When he was older he developed a passion for salmon fishing, in Scotland and (seeing where they lived from the 1900s) on the Wye.  An outdoor man. 


Catherine accompanied her husband when he went abroad to climb; but she was never a climber herself and remained down in the valleys - presumably with the children - while he went off.





Britain and Japan series Volume 2 Biographical Portraits.  By Ian Hill Nish for the Japan Society of London.  Published Folkestone Japan Library; I couldn’t work out which year!  Section p154-155 the Mutsu family.  It has passing references to the gymnasium and to George Augustus as a mountaineer.  It also mentions an article, maybe more than one, written by George Augustus and published in The Alpine Journal.  Jonathan Passingham’s daughter Ethel married a Japanese man.  The author of the book is a descendant of theirs.

For my Grandson: Remembrances of an Ancient Victorian by Sir Frederick Pollock.  London: John Murray 1933: p21 refers to the gymnasium, which he attended as an undergraduate.  A biography of Pollock: Sir Frederick Pollock Bart 1845-1937 by Harold Dexter Hazeltine p237 says that Pollock was elected a member of the Alpine Club in 1867.

The Alpine Journal volume 9 August 1878-May 1880, numbers 61-68.  Editor Douglas W Freshfield.  London: Longmans Green and Co.  Issue of February 1880 pp427-31: The Weisshorn from Zinal by G A Passingham.  George Augustus’ only published piece of writing is an account of the first ascent of the Weisshorn from Zinal, which he made with the Swiss guides Ferdinand Imseng and Ambrose Supersax in August 1879.  Anything but triumphalist, it’s a practical description of how the climb was done, and a warning to future climbers of the dangers they would face. 

The Alpine Journal volume 30 February-October 1916 number 211 pp65-70; p185; and opposite p66 and p179: In Memoriam George Augustus Passingham, by J P Farrar.  George Augustus’ reputation was such that his obituary was included in the Journal despite the fact that he had never been a member of the Alpine Club.

Wikipedia for John Percy Farrar 1857-1929.  He was the son of a doctor and born in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire; though his obituary of George Augustus doesn’t read like one written by a friend.  In 1883, Farrar became the second Englishman to climb the west face of the Weisshorn.  He was a long-time editor of The Alpine Journal; President of the Alpine Club 1917-19; fund-raiser for the Everest Committee from 1921. 

Wikipedia again, for Clinton Thomas Dent 1850-1912.  Dent was one of the family which ran Dent and Co, the Hong Kong and China-based import/export business.  If I’ve worked this out correctly, Dr Dent was a first cousin of GD member Vyvyan Dent, though they may not have known each other very well as Vyvyan Dent spent almost all his life in China.

Above the Snow Line: Mountaineering Sketches between 1870 and 1880.  By Clinton Dent, as vice-president of the Alpine Club.  London: Longmans Green and Co 1885: p35-53.  Unfortunately the book has no index so I may have missed other references to George Augustus in it.

The climb is mentioned in The Valley of Zermatt and the Matterhorn: A Guide by Edward Whymper.  London: John Murray 1897.   Chapter IX: Zermatt and the Matterhorn p151; with the ascent’s exact date.

Ancestry has several entries into the USA made by George Augustus Passingham; and one arrival, in August 1888, in Madeira.  I imagine these were mountaineering expeditions.




Catherine and George Augustus Passingham began their married life in Exmouth where their first two daughters were born: Amy Passingham in late 1864; and Inez Ansell Passingham in the summer of 1866.  In between those two births came a death, that of Catherine’s mother Sarah, in late 1865.  Shortly after Inez’s birth, the Passinghams moved to Cambridge, in time for their last child, Adelaide Passingham, to be born there in the summer of 1867.  The move was to allow George Augustus and his brother to set up the gymnasium; but it might also have been influenced by John Staple’s decision to remarry.  His second wife, Hyppolita Josephine, may have been French (I think; he certainly didn’t marry her in England); she was also 29 to his 71, in 1871.  John Staple died in 1875 and his widow soon remarried.


On census day 1871 Catherine, George Augustus and their three daughters were living at 5 High Street Milton, a village on the road from Cambridge to Ely.  George Augustus described himself as a “teacher”, so I’m assuming he was still involved in the gymnasium business at the time; though this was the year the Passinghams began going to the Alps for the summer and early autumn.  Perhaps in preparation for this, they were housekeeping on a very small scale on census day: despite having three children under seven, they weren’t employing a nurse or a cook, just the one general live-in servant. 


On census day 1881 Catherine, George Augustus and Amy were not in the UK.  It seems a bit early in the year but perhaps they had already gone on a mountaineering expedition.  A friend from Devon, Catherine Yelverton, was looking after Inez (15) and Adelaide (13) at 3 Cambridge Road Milton. Inez answered the census official’s enquiries as head of the household; she told the official that her father was a “retired gymnast”.  The Passinghams’ financial situation had improved since 1871 and they now employed two servants. 


Sources: census 1871, 1881

The Alpine Journal volume 30 February-October 1916 number 211 pp65-70: In Memoriam George Augustus Passingham.




All three of Catherine’s daughters married graduates of Cambridge University.  One of them was a university graduate herself, though not from Cambridge.


Amy Passingham continued the family trend of marrying young.  In 1883, when she was 19, she married Charles Alvin Gillig, who was 20.  They had two children in their three years together, but then separated.  Amy got a divorce, in South Dakota, in 1891.  In June 1892 she married Edward Armitage, someone she must have known while the Passinghams still were living in Cambridge.  They had three children and lived at a house called Green Hills, at Tilford near Farnham in Surrey.  Edward Armitage was an active freemason even in his undergraduate years, and will have known GD member George Frederick Rogers through Isaac Newton University Lodge number 859, of which they were both members.   


In her father’s Passingham genealogy, Amy’s first marriage wasn’t mentioned.  However, George Augustus and Catherine can scarcely have pretended it hadn’t happened: the Gilligs’ son Charles William was living with them by 1891 and probably continued to do so until his death.  By census day 1891, Charles William Gillig was being known as Charles William Passingham.  It’s possible that George Augustus and Catherine also took in Charles William’s sister Margaret Amy Gillig; though there’s no census evidence for that, in fact I can’t find Margaret Gillig (later Passingham) on any census to 1911.



Adelaide’s marriage is another that isn’t mentioned in George Augustus’ Passingham genealogy.  I can’t remember how I came across evidence of it; but I know it was quite by accident.  Adelaide married solicitor Henry William Saw in May 1902, at Aberdovey, near where Clara Jeffreys (Catherine’s acquaintance from the Society for Psychical Research) lived.  Henry Saw had graduated from Cambridge University in 1887, so he and Adelaide are likely to have known each other from that time, when the Passinghams were still in Milton.  He did his years as an articled clerk in Saw and Son, his father’s firm in London; and qualified in 1893.   


For all that she had probably known her husband for many years before she married, Adelaide’s marriage lasted no longer than her sister Amy’s.  The divorce was heard in 1905 (in camera - I wonder why?)  Adelaide had not had any children.  And unlike Amy, she never married again.  She died, in Ampthill Bedfordshire, in 1954, and left such a large personal estate that I’ve been trying to discover where she acquired it - without success.



Compared to the ups and downs of her sisters’ married lives, the middle sister Inez’s life was positively tranquil.  She married William Stuart MacGowan in 1889, after he had found work as assistant master at Cheltenham College.  They stayed married, and had three children.  William MacGowan taught at Cheltenham College until 1902 when he was appointed Principal of St Andrew’s College at Grahamstown in the Cape Colony.  He held that appointment until 1908 or 1909.  He had been ordained while at Cheltenham College and after he and his family returned to England, he worked as a curate in various churches in London before being appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Kingsway, in Holborn, in 1919; he was still in post when he died in 1939.


William was a prominent freemason both in England and South Africa. 



Sources for Catherine’s daughters:


Armorial Families volume 2 1929 p1506 .

The Passingham genealogy with its editing-out of two marriages which ended in divorce:

The Visitation of England and Wales volume 18.  Privately printed 1914; editor F A Crisp: pp57-61.



Freebmd, which shows that Amy’s children Charles William (1883) and Margaret Amy (1885) were both registered as Gillig.

A few details of the marriage, at The Green Bag volume 18 2001 p310: Charles Alvin Gillig was an American citizen.  The Gilligs got a deed of separation 1886 and never lived together again.  Mrs Gillig qualified as a teacher of cookery in 1889.


Amy was probably well off out of the life of Charles Alvin Gillig:

The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony by Stanton and Ann Dexter Gordon.  London and New Brunswick New Jersey: Rutgers University Press 1997: p241 which covers 14-25 May 1883.  Footnote1, actually about Charles Alvin’s brother Henry.


Charles Alvin Gillig is the compiler of Charles A Gillig’s London Guide, a publication aimed at US travellers.  Published London: Gillig’s United States Exchange 1885.  Via google I saw a reference to its 14th edition,  published 1900; and one from 1902 but I didn’t see any later editions.  I also saw one reference to a follow-up work: Tours and Excursions in Great Britain,  published 1888.


Times Wednesday 2 June 1886 p11 originally published in London Gazette Tue 1 June 1886: a bit more about C A Gillig’s business affairs.

Familysearch has tax assessments Charles Alvin Gillig; in Westminster 1888-91; and then in St Martin in the Fields from 1893.


There’s a 2nd marriage for him, registered Strand 1899.


Probate Registry 1915: Charles Alvin Gillig’s personal estate amounted to £97.

London Gazette volume 5 1915 p4944 creditors’ notice after the death of Charles Alvin Gillig.  There were 177 executors!

Times Fri 21 May 1915 p2 creditors’ notice giving several addresses for Charles Alvin Gillig during his lifetime, including the National Liberal Club.


Charles Alvin Gillig accepted the legality of Amy’s 1891 divorce at the time.  Several years later, wanting to be rid of a second wife, he challenged it:

A Selection of Cases on Conflict of Laws volume 1 editor Joseph Henry Seale.  Harvard University Press 1927 p26 reporting that Charles Alvin Gillig had been in court in South Dakota bringing a counter-claim against his wife’s allegations of cruelty and desertion.  The court had accepted Mrs Gillig’s account of the marriage’s break-down.

Law Reporter issued by the Law Times office; volume 94 1906.  This was a snippet and I couldn’t see a page number.  An English court had declared that by bringing the counter-claim in 1891, Charles Alvin Gillig had accepted the legality of her South Dakota divorce.


Seen via, The Elyria Reporter of Elyria Ohio, issue of 22 February 1906 p5.  A more detailed report on what Charles Alvin Gillig had been trying to do in 1906: he had been trying to get his second marriage declared null and void on the grounds that he’d never been legally divorced from his first wife.  Judge John Gorrell Barnes rejected Gillig’s arguments and so the South Dakota divorce stood.


Worried about the legal status of her three children with Edward Armitage, Amy Armitage clarified the issue by bringing a case under the Legitimacy Act 1858:

The Law Times Reports of Cases Decided in the House of Lords New Series volume 94 1906 p614.

The Times Law Reports and Commercial Cases volume 22 pp306-07: Armitage v Attorney General (Gillig Cited).  This report gives the exact date and place of Amy’s marriage to Edward Armitage: 30 June 1892 in the cathedral of St John Evangelist, Denver Colorado.


Amy’s second husband Edward Armitage:

Visitation of England and Wales volume 18 1914 p61 as the 5th son of Rev Francis James Armitage, vicar of Casterton near Kirkby Lonsdale.

Alumni Cantabrigiensis Abbas-Cutts part 2 p70 citing Times 15 March 1929.

Use the ‘search the collections’ facility at to find a very detailed account of Edward Armitage’s busy life in freemasonry.  Here I’ll just mention:

Ars Quatuor Coronati volume LXII part 1 pp137-138: an obituary of Edward Armitage, WM of Quatuor Coronati Lodge number 2076 1913-14; contributor of two articles to the journal; and lodge treasurer from 1922 until his death.  There are discrepancies, however, between this obituary and Alumni Cantabrigiensis as to his year and place of birth.  Having taken a look at freebmd, I’m not at all surprised there’s some confusion.  The birth registration of an Edward Armitage April-June quarter 1859 in the Axbridge district of Somerset looks more likely than the alternatives.

The Freemasons’ Library catalogue has a couple of works by Armitage:

Catalogue of books in the library of the Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Rite; 33 Golden Square. As compiler.  Printed London: Spottiswoode and Co 1900.

Robert Samber.  Printed Margate: offices of Keble’s Gazette 1898.  This had originally been published in Ars Quatuor Coronati.

Although I have found virtually no information on Amy’s elder daughter Margaret Amy Gillig, I did find an obituary of her husband, a distinguished geologist and academic.  See an entry for William Bernard Robinson King 1889-1963.



William Stuart MacGowan was of Scottish descent.  He appears somewhere in the pages of

See // (which uses Burke’s Peerage as its source) for Rev MacGowan’s two marriages (the second, as a widower in 1937), and for his and Inez’s three children.

At some detailed information on him, though without sources, particularly focusing on him as a language specialist and on his time in South Africa.

African Review volume 31 1902 p190, p534 the announcement of his appointment as Principal of St Andrew’s College, Graham’s Town South Africa.

Alumni Cantabrigiensis; via google so no volume number but p265 in that volume.

British Library has two works by him:

A Second German Reader and Writer originally published 1888; 7th edition 1900.  Published by E A Sonnenschein in its Parallel Grammar Series.

The Religious Philosophy of Rudolf Eucken with an introduction by Eucken.  London: David Nutt 1914. 

At WO 339/50547 information on his first World War service, as 2nd Lt Manchester Regiment 1914-22.

At DOC/P82 TRI1.pdf, the list of archives held at LMA: items from Holy Trinity Kingsway Holborn include one letter dated 1924 from William Stuart MacGowan, home address 10 Middleton Road Golder’s Green.

The All English Law Reports 1942 p310 evidence in a Chancery Court case heard December 1941 included MacGowan’s date of death: 6 July 1939. 

Visitation of England and Wales volume 20 pxxx short obituary.




As a student at Bedford College: census 1891.

Via the web, reached National Portrait Gallery site with photo of her c1890 taken by Evelyn Tennant Meers, with a note saying that Adelaide was “associated with 29 portraits” - presumably all photos by Meers.  I think you can now (July 2016) see this photo online.

Her husband Henry William Saw:

Alumni Cantabrigiensis A-C volume 2 p429.

The Law Students’ Journal volume 14 1892 p64.

The Solitors’ Journal volume 75 part 1 p279.

Probate Registry 1949.  Details here show that he married a second time and had children.  He died in December 1948.

The marriage:

Via genesreunited to Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette issue of 29 May 1902.

The divorce:

The Law Journal volume 39 1905 p551 list of forthcoming cases in the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty division includes Saw v Saw otherwise Passingham; to be heard in camera (I wonder why!)

Times 29 October 1954 p10 Wills and Bequests.




The Passinghams brothers’ gymnasium business must have been given up by 1889 because George Augustus and Catherine left Cambridge early that year.  They lived in several different places over the next decade, but none were anywhere near Cambridge.  Their immediate destination was Catherine’s home town and on the day of the 1891 census they were still living in Exmouth, at 11 Morton Crescent on the Esplanade.  At this time Adelaide was studying at Bedford College London University; but as census day fell during the Easter vacation, she was at home with her parents.  I couldn’t identify Amy Gillig or her daughter Margaret on that census; I suppose they were in the USA or on the way there, in search of Amy’s divorce.  Amy’s son Charles William Gillig - now with the surname Passingham - had been left with George Augustus and Catherine.  Catherine was managing the household with a cook, a housemaid and a parlourmaid.


The Passinghams lived in Exmouth until 1895, I think; though with a break in 1893 when they spent some time at Llandyssil in Cardiganshire.  Then they went to the west of Ireland, to Castle Gregory where they rented a house called Fermoyle.  I’m not sure how long they stayed there, but they were definitely back in England in 1900, staying for the summer at Westgate-on-Sea.  By census day 1901 they had moved again, to Charlton Kings near Cheltenham.  Their daughter Inez and her family were living at 2 Earlston, in Cheltenham.  On the day of the 1901 census Catherine, George Augustus and Charles William were living at Lake House on Mill Street in Charlton Kings.  I suppose Adelaide - not yet married - was normally living with them but on census day she was not in the UK.  The Passinghams were managing with one fewer servant than they had 10 years before: they now only employed a cook and a kitchen-maid.


The MacGowans left for South Africa later in 1901 and though I don’t think the Passinghams stayed much longer in Cheltenham themselves, there’s a gap in their addresses.  I can’t find them again until 1909, when they were living near Cambridge once more, but on the other side of the city, in the village of Toft, at the former rectory, then called Toft Manor.  Charles William Passingham died at Toft Manor in January 1909, aged 26; and the Passinghams left Cambridge for the last time.


During the gap in addresses Adelaide Passingham had left home to be married (1902) and returned home after the marriage failed (before 1905).  On the day of the 1911 census, she was living with Catherine and George Augustus at Berrow House, in the village of Berrow near Ledbury in Worcestershire.  George Augustus, filling in the census form as head of the household, gave his daughter’s surname as Passingham, and described her as an unmarried woman.  He and Catherine had changed their in-house staff slightly again.  They still had their cook, but instead of the 1901 kitchen-maid they had reverted to having a housemaid.  They probably had a local woman coming in to do cleaning by the day.


The three Passinghams were still living at Berrow House when George Augustus died of a heart attack in July 1914.  Catherine and Adelaide then moved from Berrow to Eastnor in Herefordshire, to a house called Woodside, where Catherine died in April 1918.


Sources: census 1891, 1901, 1911.  Freebmd.  Probate Registry 1914, 1918.

The Alpine Journal volume 30 February-October 1916 number 211 pp65-70: In Memoriam George Augustus Passingham.



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.




24 July 2016



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: