‘Tim’ Shelford and His Daughters


Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes finds watching St Luke XII
In/memory/of/Thomas Shelford C.M.G./late of Singapore/died 12th January 1900, aged 60
Born at Preston Suffolk/died at Guildford Surrey
Also of Jessie Fullarton Shelford/wife of the above/died 29th March 1928. aged illegible
Also of Gwen More Shelford/born 21st Sept 1877/died 12th Dec 1961
Also of/Edith Shelford/died 5th February 1953. aged 73


Thomas Shelford was born on 23 November 1839, the fifth child and third son of William Heard Shelford, rector of Preston, Suffolk, and his wife Emily Frost Shelford, nee Snape, the daughter of another rector. His elder brothers William and Leonard became an engineer and a clergyman respectively, but Thomas was delicate, with a weak chest, and when his father died in 1856, he moved with his mother to Bury St Edmunds. She maintained him and his five younger siblings on income from her properties.

In 1861 or ’62, however, he travelled to South Africa and then on to Singapore, arriving in 1863. He joined a firm of merchants as an assistant, but, by the time of his retirement had become a partner and a significant player in Singapore’s civic and political life. Known to his friends as ‘Tim’, he became in 1872 Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and its representative in the Legislative Council of Singapore and later part-funded the re-launch of the daily newspaper the Singapore Free Press. He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1892, a rare honour outside the civil service and the military

The town hall in Singapore

He married firstly Flora Hastings Lawrie, on 24 December 1867 at St Andrew’s church Singapore.

St Andrew’s church, Singapore

She was the daughter of George James and Laura Lawrie, who are both buried in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Hythe. They had five children before her death on 24 August 1873. She died, aged only thirty-two, while visiting her parents in Ayrshire, shortly after giving birth to a daughter.
‘Tim’ remained a widower for eleven years, before marrying another Scotswoman, Jessie Fullarton Baird in 1876. She was the daughter of Alexander Baird and Margaret nee Cowan, and was born in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, where her father was a cattle dealer and innkeeper.

‘Tim’ Shelford retired in 1897 and returned with his wife and the couple’s two daughters to the UK, where they lived in Guildford.  Apparently his wife and daughters could not adapt to life in the East.  Why he is buried in St Leonard’s remains a mystery. His former parents-in-law, the Lawries were dead and buried in St Leonards, and his first wife’s sister, Annie Adair Mackeson was still alive and living in the town. After her husband’s death, Jessie and her daughters also moved there, living at a house called ‘Holmwood’ and later at another called ‘The Dentalls.’

Mary Gwenmore Shelford (known as ‘Gwenmore’) was born 21 Sept 1877 in Wandsworth, the elder daughter of Thomas Shelford and his second wife, Jessie. Her younger sister, Edith, was born in the Straits Settlement of Malaysia. When the family moved to Hythe after their father’s death, Gwenmore and Edith both became Sunday School teachers at St Leonard’s church, and set up a children’s library there.

In early January 1907, notices appeared in the press announcing the engagement of Gwenmore to the Revd. Frank Hay Gillingham, a military chaplain and first-class cricketer who played for Essex. The marriage never took place. Frank eventually married someone else, but Gwenmore did not.

During the First World War she worked with the V.A.D at the Bevan Hospital in Sandgate as assistant to the Keeper of Linen (her sister Edith) for twenty-six hours a week for the duration. She died in Hythe, where she had been living at the Imperial Hotel. Edith had predeceased her by eight years.

In/loving memory of/Robert Lawrence St Colum Bland/born 22nd October 1905/died 26th January 1907
“Not my will but Thine be done”

Laura, the older half-sister of Gwenmore and Edith had married Captain Robert Norman Bland. They lived in Singapore where Robert was Resident Councillor of Malacca. Robert junior was their third child, and died during a visit to the UK. He and his mother were staying at Saltwood Gardens in Hythe. He is buried next to his grandfather and not far from his maternal great-grandparents George James and Laura Lawrie.


More Mackesons – and a Scottish Poet

The simple gravestone of the founder of Madras Christian College and his wife

In/memory/of/ George James Lawrie,D.D./Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire, born at Loudon Oct. 10th 1796/died at Hythe Feb. 14th 1878

And of Laura Louisa, his wife,/who died at Hythe April 25th 1896/ aged 91 years

George James Lawrie was the eldest son of Archibald Lawrie a minister of the Church of Scotland and Ann M’Kittrick Adair. He won an Exhibition to the University of Glasgow, where he gained his D.D. and became a Presbyter of the Church of Scotland at St Andrew’s Church, Madras (now Chennai) in November 1823.

St Andrew’s Church, Chennai, which was consecrated in 1821

He was Presbyter-in-charge from 1824 to 1839, but evidently found time to travel about the sub-continent and to meet Laura Louisa Ludlow, the second daughter of Samuel Ludlow F.R.C.S., Residency Surgeon of Delhi. The family lived there in a house built by her father locally nicknamed ‘Ludlow Castle’. She married George James Lawrie on 21 Aug 1827 at Calcutta.

‘Ludlow Castle’, Delhi

There, he and a colleague founded a school for boys, which originally had fifty-nine pupils, but has since expanded to become Madras Christian College, with a 365-acre campus and a huge student population.

Part of the present-day campus of Madras Christian College

On 11 January 1839, George resigned his post, and returned to take up the incumbency at Monkton, where he is remembered as being ‘sensible, upright, and kind-hearted, but possessed of a highly-cultured mind.’  Both his father and grandfather had been literary friends of Robert Burns, and George wrote, too, publishing Songs and Miscellaneous Pieces . In 1887 his poetry was used in Modern Scottish Poets. He is credited with having written the song Dae ye mind o’lang, lang syne: the first verse (of many) follows. It is to be sung to the tune of John Peel.

Do ye mind the sunny braes
Whaur we gathered hips and slaes,
And fell among the bramble busses,
Tearin’ a’ our claes;
And for fear they would be seen
We gaed slippin’ hame at e’en,
But were licket for our pains in the morning.

George and Laura had four daughters. The second, Annie Adair Lawrie, married Henry Bean Mackeson of Hythe and some years later her now elderly parents moved to the town to live near her, at a house called The Elms. George died of ‘natural decay’ aged eighty-two, and he and Laura are buried together in St Leonard’s churchyard.


Until the day dawn

In/loving memory/of/Henry Bean Mackeson/born at Hythe Dec. 11th 1812, died at Hythe Feby 29th 1894
Also Annie Adair his wife/born 26th of August 1835/died 26th of April 1913
Also of their daughter/Mildred Adair Murray/wife of/Colonel H.W. Murray/born at Hythe March 13th 1868/died at Hythe October 17th 1964

Henry Bean Mackeson was the youngest son of Henry and Mary Jane Mackeson nee Hayman. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church in the town on 8 January 1813. His father and uncle William were co-owners of Mackeson’s Brewery in Hythe, which they had bought a few years previously. Heavy investment in the business had paid off, and it was now a thriving concern and a major employer in the town.
Henry Bean followed his father into the family business, but it may not have been his first choice of occupation. in the 1820’s Peter Fisher, another uncle, wrote to his father that if Henry ‘be disposed to try the navy in a medical way I will do my best towards procuring him an assistant surgeon’s appointment.’ It was not, however, to be, and once decided on a life ashore, Henry threw himself into Hythe affairs with enthusiasm. Indeed, he appears to have been one of those tireless Victorians for whom nothing was off-limits.

The malt house at Hythe, one of the few remaining Mackeson brewery buildings

Besides running the business, he became a keen amateur geologist and Fellow of the Geological Society, and some of his work was published in A History of the Weald of Kent. He was town mayor nine times, in an unbroken run from 1872 to 1880. He was churchwarden of St Leonard’s church during the years when the vicar, Thomas Hall, was fund-raising and planning the renovations of the church, and his efforts are commemorated on a plaque in the church.

A modern edition of Henry Bean Mackeson’s work

The town council had, until a new town hall was built in 1794, met in the room over the church porch, the Parvis. Here, Henry discovered the ancient records of the town rotting away and had them removed to more suitable storage in the town clerk’s office. He found time to become a captain in the Cinque Ports Volunteer Rifles, and later in life to act as a director of the Elham Valley Railway.

His funeral on 8 March 1894 was attended by the entire town corporation, their pew draped in black, and one of his favourite pieces of music, Beethoven’s Funeral March, was played.

He had married, on 18 April 1860, Annie Adair Lawrie, the second of the four daughters of George James Lawrie and Laura Louisa Lawrie nee Ludlow. She was born at sea off Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her mother brought her back to the UK in 1837, and they were joined by the family soon afterwards, when her father became Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire. She married Henry Bean Mackeson in the church there. They had seven children, including twin daughters. She died in Tonbridge.

Mildred Adair Murray nee Mackeson was born in Hythe, the sixth child of Henry Bean Mackeson and Annie Adair Mackeson and baptised in St Leonard’s church on Easter Sunday 1868. In the same church, in 1899, she married Henry Walker Murray of the Royal Army Medical Corps.. They had a son and two daughters. Mildred travelled with her husband to his various postings, including to Nova Scotia and, his last post before retirement, Gibraltar. Henry died in Tunbridge Wells in October 1942. Mildred died in the Folkestone area.