Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ooty Well Preserved & Flourishing

The Ooty Preserved post (see below) brought in a number of comments or messages to my personal mailbox and all the credit is due to the drawing skill of Stephen Ponsonby Peacocke which is what that post is about. I publish, as a sort of Post Post Script, the most interesting among the messages received. Firstly, a guest post very kindly written by Mary Winter (3 x great grand daeughter of the artist) at my request.This was intended to be published with the original post but, as it happened, Mary was travelling then and was able to send in the wrie-up only now.

Mary Winter's Guest Post

"My name is Mary Winter (nee Peacocke) Great Great Granddaughter of Stephen Ponsonby Peacocke. I am married with 2 children and currently live in Napier, New Zealand.
30 years ago a Peacocke family reunion was held in New Zealand for the descendants of Stephen Ponsonby & Isabella Louisa Peacocke (nee Brydges) my great great grandparents who came to New Zealand from England in 1857.

Being a teenager at the time, I was not really interested in dead ancestors and I had the rest of my life to meet the rest of the family.Fortunately my father attended the reunion and acquired a copy of the Peacocke family book (compiled by Neville Peacocke).

Fast forward another 20 years and my interest in my ancestors was ignited after reading this book. So this was the clan I belonged to! I wanted to know more of course. The internet was a great place to start, I googled, left messages on ancestry sites, military sites, royal sites and printed out pages of information. One piece of new information always led to another query and another search.

Last year I was browsing the message board of a site where I previously left a message for other people who were researching the name Peacocke. There was a posting from a person saying they had some lithographs by Stephen Peacocke, done while he was in India. I promptly emailed this person, V.Narayan Swami, not really expecting to hear back. How exciting it was therefore when I did receive an email back from him. After exchanging some brief information about ourselves and our common interest - Stephen Ponsonby Peacocke, Narayan offered to have photos taken of the lithographs and email copies to me. I was dumbfounded, would he really he go to all that trouble for someone he does not even know?

Well it seems he was as passionate about the story behind his art works as I was about the Peacocke family history. “I am having them photographed to go on my blog anyway,” replied Narayan. “It is no trouble to email you the photographs.”
I was delighted with his readiness to send me the scans and eagerly awaited the arrival of the email with the photos. In the meantime I posted off a copy of the Peacocke family book to Narayan as he was interested in Stephen’s life in NZ.

The email arrived and I must confess it really was quite emotional seeing the lithographs, I was blown away, they were beautiful, the drawing seemed delicate but the subjects are strong and real, I felt I was looking at someones (my gg gfather’s) thoughts, I was seeing what he saw through his eyes.

All this was a little overwhelming, mixed with the thought that a man I did not know, who lived in another country, who was not a Peacocke had shared my interest in my ancestor. I thank Narayan for his kindly thought in sharing the scans and for making me proud of my great great grandfather for drawing these beautiful images. The lithos sparked a memory that I had seen some drawings as a child, another little search began. I spoke to my brother in the States and he emailed me some of the same lithos as Narayan has, but uncoloured. Also through Narayan’s blog and message board postings I was contacted by a man, Richard Borley, in England who emailed me an image of a miniature portrait of Stephen Ponsonby’s father – I think these lithos are alive and bringing all this together!!!!

Narayan & I were connected by searching for the same information for two very different reasons, I am learning a little about art and India and from him, I’m not sure that he is learning anything from me!!!!! (But he did, he learnt info about the artist otherwise not available to him!!)

I suggested Narayan is now an honorary Peacocke and should attend the Peacocke family reunion which is being held on 24th, 25th & 26th October 2009, in Hamilton, New Zealand".

Thanks, Mary, glad you were able to touch the past in this way and connect with the works of your ancestor. I am sure it always feels good to renew a sense of family and, indeed, of family pride. One more instance of how we can always learn something from old drawings and prints, in addition to their obvious visual appeal.

And here is Richard Borley from England, who Mary mentioned in her post above.

Richard Borley's Message

"Hello. I have just come across your blog when I was looking for information on Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Peacocke of the Third Regiment of Foot and who got married in Bath, Somerset, UK on 11th June 1808 to Louisa Tottenham (Ponsonby).

I have a portrait miniature of Stephen which is by George Chinnery (celebrated artist of various locations in India before he skipped leaving large debts and went on to Macau where he spent 35 years and also ran up huge debts.) and thought to be from C1800 or so.

There is a love note from Louisa to Stephen in the back of the miniature".

That was his first message. Ho ! A Chinnery, I mean a Chinnery, miniature of the artist's father and a Love Note, of the 18th Century, at the back of the pic!! He had a hope if he thought I would let the matter rest there. I applied for more details and Mr Borley replied with a scan of the pic to boot :

"The attached is an image of a portrait miniature of Lt-Col. Stephen Peacocke painted by George Chinnery around late 1779/1800. Certainly it was painted before Chinnery went off to Madras in 1802 and then Calcutta in 1807. Chinnery amassed huge debts in India and left hurridly in 1825 for Macau where he also ran up debts of some magnitude.....but he was a superb artist if an erratic human being!.

Inscribed on the back of the miniature is:-

"My beloved, my adored, Stephen, my idolised and matchless husband, married June 11th, 1808. Louisa Peacock"

As far as I am aware Stephen Peacocke, unlike his son, never went to India but he was involved in the Peninsula War in Europe".

Wonderful news!! It made my day to be able to see what, to me, sight unseen (except digitally as it were), and though as Borley says this artist rarely signed his works, looks every inch a Chinnery. What a lovely, informal study of the callow young subaltern in his Guards uniform! There is the unmistakeable stamp, and more, the skill and the appeal of Chinnery all over it.

And Richard Borley didn't stop there, he wrote :

"Are you interested in William Makepeace Thackeray? I have a portrait miniature ,also by Chinnery also from his time in India, showing his mother Anne and William as a young baby. A beautiful image of a complex time in the family in India".

"The Chinnery of Ann Thackaray, who came from and Anglo-Indian family, and William appears to be painted when the child was about 2. I think this was in Madras. His father died when he was 4 or so and he was then shipped off to England. His mother remained in India and very shortly married a lover from before her marriage.

Whilst the miniature is not signed, Chinnery signed very little, the accuracy
of the miniature and style is confirmed by a known full painting of Ann by Chinnery".

Oooh!! Isn't this the Chinnery to beat all Chinnerys? I would rank it on a par with the Chinnery of the Kirkpatrick children, Kitty and William (see earlier post on George Chinnery's Kitty K) if not higher. A truly great informal study of an exuberant and youthful mom and her child, the famous author to be. And a Madras connection to boot!!

I have reason to be really thankful to Richard Borley, who seems to be a serious collector and is certainly someone I should get to know better as we do have some common imterests. I should also apologise to him for, while he graciously gave me permission to publish his messages and the Peacocke miniature, I have published the Thackeray miniature without requesting his specific permission, hoping he will not mind. Thank you Mr Borley, you also very kindly let Mary and me have the Peacocke scan, I will be writing to you soon.

Nick Balmer's Message

Finally, this from Nick Balmer, who I have mentioned in the first Ooty post :

"Hello VN.

I enjoyed reading your post about Ooty very much. Do you know the date
of the engraving?

It appears that it must be quite an early one in Ooty's development.

My 4 x great uncle arrived there on the 13th of June 1823. He had left
Calicut on the 5th of June. This is the final part of his account.

I can trace the earlier bits of his route using 1953 maps and Google
Earth quite easily. I would love to trek this again, but I don't
suppose it would be terribly politically correct these days to use a
Palanquin as he appears to have done.


Nick Balmer

Nick's 3 x great uncle was Thomas Baber, an East India Company official known for his fair and high minded conduct. At the time Baber's account, below was written he was Collector of Calicut in Kerala, to the west of Ooty. More on Thomas Baber can be gleaned from Nick's blog Malabar Days.

Page 316.

I encamped for the night , on account of my bearers and coolies, who
suffered more this, than any preceding day's journey, in consequence
of heavy rain and bleak winds. From this river to Ottakamund the
distance is about ten miles, from the most part over downs more level
than those on the western side of the river. The whole face of the
country between Neddibett and Ottakamund is decked with the richest
verdure, and watered by rivulets and springs in every direction,
interspersed with patches of jungle in deep glens and vallies. The
productions of these hills are totally different from the lowlands.
Here are white dog-rose, honeysuckle, jasmine, marigolds, balsams,
with out number (tomentosa), hill gooseberry, wild strawberry, Brazil
cherries, viotlet-raspberries (red and white), &c. &c. Many parts are
literally covered with ferns and lichens in great variety. The
climate is most grateful to an European in health, and reminds one
more of his native air than any part of India I have visited.
Arrived at Ottakamund on the 13th of June, where I met with a most
hospitable reception from Mr. John Sullivan, the principle collector
of Coimbatore.

Pages 310-316, Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut,
Asiatic Journal (New Series) III".

There we are. I must now reluctantly turn away from Peacocke's Ooty as we have to look at the founding of Madras, besides which there are the etchings of Balthazar Solvyns demanding attention as well as what Benjamin Robins was upto in Fort St George, Madras in the mid 18th Century. And where is Swati Shresth (see post on the Madras Hunt Map) and her promised post? I have to remind her. More work to do.

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