Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Caithness, James Ernest (1839-1902) 2

James Ernest Caithness married Eugenie Sarah Henrietta Westmacott on 11 December 1877 in Paddington, London. His father is given as James Ramsey Caithness a Merchant and hers John Guise Westmacott a Surgeon. John Guise was the grandson of the renowned sculptor Richard Westmacott senior (1747-1808) and nephew of the very renowned sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott (1775-1856). James Ernest Caithness had done well for himself.

James Ernest and Eugenie Caithness had nine children. The eldest Hilda was born in Calcutta in 1878. James was up to something in India. In 1882 Sir Rivers Thompson, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, came up with the idea of an exhibition in Calcutta to promote products from the British Empire. The Exhibition was held on 4 December 1883. One bronze medal was received by ‘the honourable J E Caithness member of the General Committee’.

Calcutta International Exhibition 1883-84 bronze medal

Apart from being on the Committee for the Calcutta International Exhibition (1883-84) James Ernest Caithness played a very important part in the early 1880’s as a member of the Legislative Council of Bengal. In 1895 James Ernest Caithness is mentioned as being a ‘past master’ of the ‘Calcutta Trades’ Association’.

James Ernest by 1895 had become the Senior Partner of the firm Cooke & Kelvey. Based at 20 Old Court House Street, Calcutta and also in Simla they are described as being ‘pearl and diamond merchants, jewellers, gold and silversmiths, watch and clock-makers….’  They also had an outlet at 150 Leadenhall Street, London.

Cooke & Kelvey's premises in Calcutta

It may be just a coincidence but during the late 1860’s and onwards diamonds were being discovered in South Africa: on 8 August 1870 the Cape and Natal News mentions a ‘Humansdorp party’ including a Mr Caithness leaving for the diamond fields 70 miles north of Hopetown. In 1873 a Captain Caithness, possibly a relative of James Ernest, donates a ‘collection of stones from the diamond diggings’ to the Library and Museum Committee in Southampton, later to be incorporated into Southampton University.

James Ernest’s uncle, Edward Bear Ridges (1825-1906) was working in Calcutta at the time as a Partner in the firm Dykes & Co (Coach Builders). It was perhaps Edward Bear who helped his nephew get a job at Cooke & Kelvey. Edward’s brother-in-law, Robert Thomas Cooke (1831-1914), was the Co-Founder of the Company. 

One of Cooke & Kelvey's historic Indian timepieces

James Ernest Caithness and his uncle Edward Bear Ridges were also neighbours in Ealing when they were in England - living in very substantial houses called ‘Berriedale’ and ‘Orchard Dene’.

James Ernest Caithness died on the 16th February 1902 leaving a pregnant widow and eight children. A mariner’s life was definitely not for him and who could blame him? He left his widow £70,000 and I think some of that paid for the hats his daughters wore at the wedding of his second child Ethel in 1905.

The wedding of Ethel Caithness to Walter Sirr Sheldon 25 February 1905

Guest post by Tom Sheldon 2 x g grandson of James Ernest Caithness

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