Monday, December 7, 2015

Joseph & Hannah (Moss) Solomon

Joseph Solomon 1780 - `1793

Joseph was one of ten children of Nathaniel & Phoebe Solomon.
Joseph Solomon was born 1780 in England and died 1861 in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
Joseph married Hannah Moss born 1793 in England and died 1858 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Joseph and Hannah were bethrothed in England before they came to St Helena in the South Atlantic for their marriage on 7 July 1814. In 1831 Joseph and Hannah relocated to Cape Town.

Hannah was the daughter of Moshe Moss who had 6 children: 
Samuel Moss, born 1785 in Whitechapel, England and died 1859.
George Moss, born 1790 in England.
Hannah Moss, born 1793 in England and died 1858 in Cape Town, South Africa. Hannah married Joseph Solomon (1789-1861) on 7 July 1814 in St Helena.
Issac Moss, born 18 February 1796 in England and died 15 October 1864 in St Helena. Isaac Moss married Sarah Caroline Merchant Britton (1805-1855) in the Great Synagogue in London on 25 October 1826. (Refer to Isaac Moss & Sarah Caroline Merchant Britton blog).
Phoebe Moss born 1799 and married G Bagshaw 25 April 1822 in London.
Joseph Le Moss ?

Joseph and Hannah had 9 children:
Nathaniel Solomon, born 3 June 1815 and died 4 June 1815 in St Helena.
Henry Nathaniel Solomon, born April 1816 in St Helena and died 27 June 1900 in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa. Henry married Julia Sophia Middleton on 5 December 1839 in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. Julia was born 1819 in Stepney, Middlesex, England and died 18 February in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa.
Saul Solomon, born 25 May 1817 in St Helena and died 16 October 1892 in Kilcreggan On the Clyde, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Saul married Georgiana Margaret Thomson on 18 August 1874.  Georgina was born 1845 in Scotland and died 24 June 1933 in Eastbourne, Sussex, England.
Richard Prince Solomon, born 1818 in St Helena and died 1854 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Benjamin Solomon, born 1819 in St Helena.
Edward Solomon, born 25 December 1820 in St Helena and died 15 September 1886 in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa.  Edward married Jessie Matthews in 1840.  Jessie was born 2 March 1817 in Aberdeen, Scotland and died 31 December 1889 in Green Point, Western Cape, South Africa.
Isabella Solomon, born 1826 in St Helena and died 4 February 1897 in Cape Town, Spouth Africa.
Margaret Solomon, born 1 April 1828 in St Helena and died 25 October in Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa. Margaret married ?Ross.
Rosa Solomon, born and died in St Helena.

In 1822 brothers Henry (6) and Saul (5) Solomon were sent to England from St Helena for their education and stayed with Grandma Phoebe Solomon. There are two suggestions. 1.Their older cousin George Moss (7) accompanied them.  2. An efficient soldier's wife travelled with the boys to London on a troop ship and delivered them to Grandma Phoebe Solomon. They did not return to St Helena until they were 12 and 13 year olds in 1829. They were brought up in a strict Jewish home. Both boys were heavily handicapped, although it would hardly been believed when one considers what they have achieved.  When Henry was 12 years of age he partially lost the use of his lower limbs but walked without difficulty. His brother Saul also suffered most severely. Probably the result of infantile paralysis (polio).

Brothers - Henry (1816), Saul (1817) and Edward (1820) Solomon became prominent citizens in Cape Town, South Africa.

Henry Solomon (1816) was a notable person in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa. He entered the business of "George Greig" as a Book-keeper and Accountant. Henry worked with his brother Saul with printing and  editing work for "Cape Argus" and "Government Gazette". In September 1834 Henry received Baptism into the Christain faith. His example was followed by most of the family.

Henry and Julia Solomon had 12 children:
Ellen Hannah Solomon  born 28 December 1844 in Cape Town and died 22 April 1924 in Cape Town, South Africa. Ellen married Rev James Cameron.
Mary Solomon born 20 July 1848 in Cape Town and died 6 January 1935 in Fraserburg, Northern Cape, South Africa. Mary married Dr. John Henry Brown in 1869.
Alfred Viner Solomon born 26 September 1854 in Cape Town and died 8 January 1910. Alfred married Minnie Pilkington 1878 in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
Henry, Annie, Arthur, Charles, Eliza, Harry, Isabel, Jane and Julia Solomon completed the family.

Henry Solomon 1816 - 1900

Julia Sophia Middleton 1819 - 18 February ?

Saul Solomon (1817) was articled to the Printing firm of "George Greig" and later became Proprietor of  "Commercial Advertiser". Also Printer of "Government Gazette".
Saul became a Member of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa.
1845 Saul was Founder of Mutual Life Assurance Society of Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.
1854 Saul was Member of the first Parliament of Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.
1857 Saul was Founder of "Cape Argus" daily newspaper. 
The career of Saul was most remarkable and as time advances, one marvels at the intellectual and moral strength of that diminutive man whom the circumstances of childhood had so crippled.

Saul and Georgiana Solomon had 3 children:   
Saul Solomon born 1876 in Cape Town South Africa. Saul became a High Court Judge and Barrister.
William Ewart Gladstone Solomon born 1880 in Colonsay, Cambridgeshire, England and married Gwladys Cowper-Smith in 1906 in Tonbridge, Kent, England.  Gladstone became a Figure & Portrait Painter and Biographer.

Saul Solomon (M.P.) 1817 - 1892

Portrait of Georgiana Solomon (nee Thomson) by her son Gladstone Solomon. 1845 - 1933.

Edward Solomon (1820) was a Missionary to the native tribes of the interior of South Africa for 17 years and a Pastor of the Free Church at Bedford for 27 years.

Rev. Edward Solomon and Jessie Matthews had 6 children:
Jessie Margaret Solomon born 6 November 1841 in Hankey, Cape Province, South Africa and died 17 September 1929 in King William's Town, Cape Province, Sth Africa. Jessie married Alexander Welsh.
Mary Hannah Isabella Solomon born 9 July 1843 and died 17 January 1888 in Bedford, Eastern Cape, South Africa.  Mary married Charles Walter Webber on 17 March 1863 in Bedford, Eastern Cape.
Edward Philip Solomon born 10 August 1845 in Phileppolis, Free State and died 20 November 1914 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Edward became an Attorney & Politician in the Tranvaal.
Richard Stuart Solomon born 18 October 1850 in Cape Town, South Africa and died 10 November 1913 in 42 Hyde Park Square, London, England.  Richard married Elizabeth Mary Walton on 21 June 1881 in South Africa.  Richard became a Barrister, Politician and High Commissioner for Sth Africa.
William Henry Solomon born 1852 in Bedford, Cape Province, South Africa and died 13 June 1930 in Ruthin Castle, Ruthin, Denbigshire, Wales.  William married Maud Elizabeth Christian on 31 March 1891 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. William became an Attorney, Judge & Chief Justice of Union of South Africa.
Emillie Jane Solomon born 9 June 1858 in Bedford, Eastern Cape, South Africa and died 10 April 1939 in Southampton, Hampshire, England. Emillie remained single. Her tombstone reads "In loving memory of Emillie Jane Solomon, youngest daughter of Rev. Edward & Jessie Solomon.  Born at Bedford 9 June 1858.  Died in England Easter Monday 10 April 1939.  Beloved by all for her unselfish devotion to family, Church and social life".

Rev Edward Solomon 1820-1886

Sir Edward Solomon (1845-1914) - Attorney & Polotician in the Transvaal.

Sir Richard Solomon (1850-1913) - Barrister, Politician & High Commissioner for South Africa.

Right Hon Sir William Solomon (1852 - 1930) - Attorney, Judge, Chief Justice of Union of South Africa.

Jessie Solomon (nee Matthews) tombstone reads: "In loving rememberance of Jessie Matthews, beloved wife of the Rev. Edward Solomon, born at Aberdeen, Scotland 2nd March 1817 and died at Green Point 31st December 1889".

Rev. Edward Solomon (1820) lived in Bedford, Cape Province, South Africa.

His headstone in Mowbray St Peter's Church, Western Cape, Cape Town reads "In loving rememberance of the Rev.Edward Solomon, born 25th December 1820.  Died 15th September 1886.  For 17 years a missionary amongst the native tribes of the interior of South Africa and subsequently 27 years Pastor of the Free Church of Bedford".

Tombstone of Rev Edward Solomon 1820 - 1886.


Various articles about Saul & Joseph Solomon & their family from various sources.

Brothers Saul (1776-1852) & Joseph Solomon (1780-1861) arrived in St.Helena.  Joseph & Hannah (nee Moss) Solomon & sons, Henry (1816-1900), Saul (1817-1892) & Edward (1820-1886). As told by Mary Brown (daughter of Henry Solomon 1816-1900)

About the year 1796 a young Jew aged twenty landed at St.Helena from an East India Company ship.  He was ill and supposed to be dying, but he rallied and eventually opened up a business in the island where he was joined a few years later by his brother Joseph.  These two young Jews, Saul and Joseph Solomon, established a business which remains at St.Helena to this day.

In 1806 Saul Solomon received a Hebrew Prayer Book by a store-ship from his dear mother.  It is from this prayer-book that the date of Saul’s birth – 1776 is taken.

All we know of their mother is that her name was Phoebe de Metz (1745-1834), the wife of Nathaniel Solomon (1735-1760), she was married at the age of 14, had eighteen children, some of whom died in infancy, was left a widow while still young and died at the age of one hundred and four (I believe it should be 84), she lived in much competency in London, and to her care were sent two little grandsons (Henry & Saul) from St.Helena, but more of this later.

A miniature of this old lady is in my possession, it was bought by me from a grand-daughter of hers, who in reduced circumstances was living in Cape Town. The names of some of Phoebe’s daughters will be found in a letter in this Hebrew prayer-book, which is also in my possession.

In 1814 Joseph Solomon married Hannah Moss, who came to St.Helena from England.  They had been betrothed before he left England.

The business at St.Helena prospered in many ways due to the introduction to St.Helena of Napoleon after Waterloo, and to its being a port of call for the East India Company’s ships both going to and returning from India.  In later years Saul Solomon (b1776) was known as the “Merchant King of St Helena”, but as these notes have special reference to Joseph we shall continue then on these lines.

In the year 1816 was born the eldest son of Joseph and Hannah.  He was named Henry and in 1817 a second son Saul was born.  These two little lads at the ages of five and six were sent to their grandmother Phoebe in London under the care of an efficient soldier’s wife travelling by troop ship.  These two little boys remained under their Grandmother’s care until about the ages of twelve and thirteen.  They were brought up in the strictest Jewish faith.  Some of my Father’s remembrances of this I have given elsewhere. The other children born to Joseph and Hannah were Richard (1818), Edward (1820), Isabella (1826), Margaret (1828) and Benjamin (1819), one girl Rosa died at St.Helena. (Nathaniel was born 3 June 1815 and died 4 June 1815).

In 1831 Joseph migrated with his family to the Cape, where there would be better opportunities for his sons in life.  The two elder were about twelve and thirteen when they returned to St.Helena.

We have in the family two books received by Henry for proficiency in French and for merit, presented to him by the Governor of the Island, in which is inscribed the following:

To Henry Solomon – Reward of Merit.      Signed, Gil Blas. H.C.Head School, St.Helena. 

Presented at the Annual Examination of the Hon.Company’s Head School before the Honourable General Dallas and Council St.Helena on 7th December 1830.

Prizes given to Henry Solomon by the Hon.Governor and Council at the Annual Examination of the Head School  - “Porten’s Evidences” and  “Self Help” on 5th December 1828.

According to the Jewish custom in those days every boy, whatever his social position or future prospects might be was taught a trade, in the case of these elder lads Henry was placed to a tailoring firm known as “Army and Civil Tailors”.  Saul was articled to the printing firm of “George Greig” then I believe printers of “The Commercial Advertiser”, one of the earliest English papers published at the Cape.  Very little is known of their circumstances on their arrival at the Cape. When I was a girl I heard from my maternal Grand-mother Mrs. Middleton, her remembrances of the household in the early days.  She had come from England to the Cape some years before, and remembered the arrival of the Joseph Solomon family, her second daughter (Julia) subsequently married Henry in 1839.  She told me that the silver and house linen brought from St.Helena was very beautiful and  valuable, but during the long illness of the mother Hannah, when she was obliged to be away from her family, there was no efficient ruling hand and much of this was lost and stolen.

I have given elsewhere my personal reminiscences of my grandparents Joseph and Hannah. These few details are written that more may be known by the grandchildren of the subsequent generations.  Had it been foretold that the destinies of this family would have been greatly influenced by the two eldest sons – both of whom were heavily handicapped – it would have hardly been believed. Henry had at the age of twelve lost partially the use of his lower limbs, though he walked without difficulty, probably the result of infantile paralysis from which also his brother Saul suffered most severely.  Both these lads might have become a burden to the family but they forged ahead and by their indomitable courage in surmounting difficulties they have left a record which those following may remember with pride and gratitude.

Henry did not remain long at the trade, but entered the business of “George Greig” as book-keeper and accountant.  The career of Saul was most remarkable and as time advances, one marvels at the intellectual and moral strength of that diminutive man whom the circumstances of childhood had so crippled.  He eventually became the proprietor of the “Commercial Advertiser” and for many years the two brothers carried on the printing and editing work of what is now known as the “Argus Company”.  They were also the printers of the “Government Gazette”.

A third brother, the fourth son Edward (1820-1886) must here be mentioned, but before doing so, we must notice a fact in the life of Henry, which in all probability influenced the lives of the younger members of the family.  In September 1834, three years after their arrival in Cape Town, he received Christian baptism in St.George’s Church, now the Cathedral.  A witness of his baptism being George Greig, his employer. All the other members of the family followed his example.  He, with them becoming members of the Congregational Church, then meeting in Union Chapel, Church Square.  The youngest daughter Margaret (b1828) was baptised by the Rev.J.C.Brown (afterwards my father-in-law) who for a short time occupied the position of Minister of this Church.  He was there during the years 1845-1848 and Henry the first convert to Christianity, died at the age of 85. Almost his last words were “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” and those who were intimately associated with him, his brothers Saul and Edward could testify of that faith that was in them, perhaps especially exemplified in Edward. I have no record to give of Richard and Benjamin, the former died comparatively young (d1854), and Benjamin was chiefly connected with business in country towns. 

Note: I have added the words or dates in brackets so that it can be easily understood who Mary was referring to.  


Traditions and Memories concerning our Grandparents - Joseph & Hannah Solomon.

by Mary Brown (1848-1935), daughter of Henry Solomon (1816-1900).

It is to be my privilege and honour to pass on to a younger generation some information regarding some memories of the Grandparents (Joseph & Hannah Solomon) whose sons and grandsons have associated their names with the history and development of this Country (South Africa), and who nearly eighty years ago made their home in this neighbourhood. 

Why and how they migrated hither, must be told later; it arose out of the settling, years before, of the eldest brother Saul Solomon in the island of St.Helena. The date of this we do not know, but we gather certain facts from an old Hebrew Prayer-book in my possession. 

This states that the said Saul Solomon was born on December 25th 1776, that his first wife (Margaret Lee) died in 1815, that seven children were born of this marriage, all at St Helena except one, Margaret, who was born in London in 1813 at West Square. In 1808 Saul received this same Prayer-book, the gift of his dear Mother by the Europe Store-ship on 4th July 1808.
The story is that as a young man this Saul Solomon (1776-1852) was landed, ill of fever, at St Helena from an East Indian man, bound probably for India, but of this we are not certain.  It was expected he would die at sea, and fearing this, instructions were given to land him at the island, where the vessel also put in for water.  Here he recovered, and seeing the possibilities of trade with the East India Company’s merchantmen which made St Helena a port of call on their outward and homeward bound voyages he began a business.  Thus was established the Commercial House known for years afterwards as the firm of “Solomon & Moss”, which continues to the present day.
Saul Solomon was joined in this business later by his brother Joseph (1780-1861), our grandfather, who was followed by his future wife Hannah Moss (1793-1858) and married probably about the year 1814-1815 as their eldest son Henry was born in April 1816.  (First born child Nathaniel Solomon born & died June 1815). Here the families lived gaining considerable wealth and confidence and owning valuable properties.  It was in the year (some of which still remain in the families of the Solomon & Moss) 1815 that the British Government secured Longwood, St Helena, as the residence of Napoleon and the stationing of French and British officers, in the island not only increased its importance but brought into it much brilliant social life. 

Saul Solomon (1776-1852) known as the “King of St.Helena” was a man of character and influence and various stories were told to us as children, of his kindness of heart, his generous hospitality and his conveying courtesy to strangers.  In those long ago days his house was the centre and the style kept in his household was lavish and luxurious.  By his second wife (Mary Chamberlain b1790) he had a son Nathaniel (1822-1874) and daughter  Isabella (Saul? 1818-1861), these were our father’s (Henry’s 1816-1900) contemporaries and are prominent in our memories of childhood.  Cousin Nat inheriting many of the kindly qualities of his father endeared him to the then younger generation.  Among the stories that specially interested us, as told by my father were these.

Saul Solomon's (1776-1852) house was extravagant and amongst the household property were some valuable silver plates.  On the occasion of a visit of a British celebrity to the island, the Governor desired to borrow this plate for use at a banquet given by him.  "I regret not lending it" said old Saul Solomon "as I am entertaining your guest the following evening and it might be thought that I had borrowed your plate". 
Amongst Napoleon’s ardent sympathisers and admirers was Mr.Solomon (1776-1852), and it is said he contrived at the attempted escape of the Emperor from St.Helena.  The plot was laid, the boat waiting at the foot of a precipitous cliff to convey the illustrious prisoner to an out-lying vessel and a cleverly constructed ladder of silken rope, strong and light, introduced into the island, no doubt in some merchandise and had been conveyed in a teapot from Saul Solomon to Longwood, and received by those in the scheme.  Happily for the peace of Europe when all seemed ready, the “silken ladder” was discovered and the escape frustrated.  These and my father’s talk of the French soldiers, the occupation of Longwood by Napoleon, his death and burial, and being lifted as a little child to see the great man lying in state, the bending of our Grandmother to kiss the dead hand of the Emperor, all made an impression on our minds that never faded.  And he used to tell us how he learned to speak French from the French guard who praised his smartness and memory.
But to return to Saul Solomon (1776-1852).  He was the eldest of four brothers, Joseph (1780-1861), Benjamin (1777-?) and Edward (1774-1855), are the ones of whom we have knowledge.  Joseph and his wife Hannah came to Cape Town from St Helena in the year 1831.  I have this from a letter from my father in which he says “the first person to meet us our arrival at the Cape in 1831 was our old St Helena friend, the father of Captain Anderson of Green Point”.  Thus judging from my father’s birth in 1816, the family of Joseph (our grandfather) remained in St Helena some 15 or 16 years.
The reason for coming to Cape Town was the wider opportunities offered in the Colony for bringing up a family.  When this family consisting of seven children (one Rosetta had died in the island) left for the Cape, our grandfather was in comparatively affluent circumstances, but through investments that were not successful they lost considerable money.  That they had at one time every means of comfort and luxury was remembered by those who knew something of their earlier coming to the Cape.  Much was lost and stolen during a long illness of Hannah our Grandmother, when she was of necessity obliged to be away from her family.  My maternal grandmother Mrs. Middleton told me (Mary Brown, daughter of Henry Solomon 1816) in my girlhood of the beautiful household linen, and silver plate that belonged to the Solomon family, which was scattered and stolen during the Hannah’s absence and the home into which they had but recently settled left to strangers and servants.
Saul Solomon (1776) of St. Helena evidently made occasional visits to England.  In a letter from his brother Edward dated 17th October 1845, Chester Terrace, Southwark, and written to Joseph whom he styles “Brother Joe” he says “Our dear brother, heaven bless him, leaves for your Colony next week; it would be impossible to enumerate the many acts of our dear brother’s goodness, but I will give you a statement of a few. (here follows a list of money gifts to various sisters etc). He has raised a monument of gratitude in the hearts of all the family for his goodness, never to be forgot; indeed he is admired by every person who sees him, or says there goes Saul Solomon of St Helena”.  

An oil painting of this family hero, in Court dress, as presented to Her Majesty Queen Victoria must have been painted about this time.  It is in the possession of Mrs Rachel Godfrey (Rachel Isaacs, daughter of Lenie Solomon), his neice, whose mother was a Solomon (Elizabeth Lenie Solomon 1780) and who is one of the last remaining links of that generation.
Benjamin (1777), the third brother followed Joseph to the Cape, married a Miss du Plesses, had a large family and died at an advanced age.  The fourth brother Edward (1774), the writer of the fore-mentioned letter, remarried in London, and was helped in the education of his sons by the elder brother in St Helena.  He says in writing to Joseph “I am blest with children, I may say matchless, and a comfort in my old age; they are in the Law and thank God doing well”.  The widow of one of these sons who was also a Saul Solomon was living in Bayswater, where I had the pleasure of seeing her in her own home in the year 1901.  Another relative quite remarkable in her way, is the Mrs.Godfrey before mentioned, she was greatly loved by my father as Rachael Isaacs, and was the daughter of Lenie, a sister of Saul and Joseph. Among the benefits conferred on the sister in the family by Saul Solomon in 1845 mentioned by Edward is “to Lenie Isaacs many due to her from our dear mother, God rest her soul ninety pounds”.  Some members of this large family evidently resided at Chatham and Canterbury for “numerous other gifts” were bestowed on them by this “merchant prince of St Helena”.
Amongst the possessions returned and valued by our Grandfather Joseph Solomon, was a portrait in oils of his mother (Phoebe) said to have been painted by Opie.  Most of us older members of this generation remember it.  The stern faced woman with a mob cap and a waist band or apron tied somewhere under her armpits, whom our grandfather delighted to tell us was his “dear mother”, left a widow at forty and who had twenty one children.  Her eyes used to follow us wherever we went, as we entered the big dining room of the house in Long Street, Cape Town, or left it, with a kind of look that she was something supernatural. To this Grandmother my father and his brother Saul, 13 months his junior, were sent from St Helena to London to school and to be educated in the Jewish faith.  Tiny forlorn little creatures, of four and five years, accompanied by an older cousin George Moss, also a child and sent under the charge of a soldier’s wife in a troopship that berthed at St.Helena.
From my father’s recollection of this Grandmother, she lived in what seemed to their childish fancy “great magnificence” but the boyish heart of Henry greatly preferred and became deeply attached to his Mother’s sister, Phoebe Moss, always known as Aunt Phoebe Bagshaw, who lavished on them both affection.  We used to be told how the young Saul Solomon who in after years to make so distinct a mark in his family’s or country’s history appeared one evening in his night clothes at the door of the dining room where Mrs. Solomon (1745-1834) was entertaining a large company to dinner or supper, and how he was carried upstairs by a man servant and the watchman was called in to give him a fright and threaten him with drastic measures if he behaved so ill again.  He was said to be incorrigible as a child, subject to violent outbursts of passion, both he and my father Henry as told me by old Aunt Phoebe in 1867 “had very strong wills”. Wills that served them well in later life when called upon to surmount difficulties before which most men would have succumbed.
These children of five or six were sent to a Jewish Boarding School and were brought up in much severity, as was the custom probably in those days.  From the hot moist climate of St Helena, they were plunged into the bitter cold of a London winter and my father never forgot his, and his brother’s sufferings. With chilblained fingers they broke the ice from the water where they made their morning ablutions. Handicapped physically, but with minds superior to circumstances, these two brothers learned with avidity and developed remarkable mental powers.  They returned to St Helena at the ages of thirteen and fourteen, and accompanied their parents to the Cape in 1831.  As was the Jewish custom all boys were taught a “trade” but in their cases it was purely nominal.  It was during this early period in the lives of each that the principles of the Jewish faith were strictly observed.
A laxity in the religious life of the younger members of the family was due probably to their being no direct means of observing the ritual, feasts and fasts, and the acceptance of Christianity came almost naturally as they drifted more and more into the life of their friends and surroundings.  But the older members remained Jews to the end and the relations and connections on both sides in England have never changed their faith, thought tolerant and reasonable towards those who have.  How strong the impressions of his boyhood remained with my father, may be gathered from the following.  In a letter to me dated November 1893 he writes “I am reading the book “Children of the Ghetto”, a study of a peculiar people.  It is a wonderfully faithful account of the manners, customs and social habits, religious and domestic of the Jews in London.  Jews of all natives that have gathered in the great Metropolis – I cannot tell you with what interest I read every page of it.  How it recalls the memories of my earliest days in England is really wonderful.  The services of the Synagogue, the festivals, the feasts, the fasts; the words in frequent use amongst this people, are all brought to remembrance with a vividness almost incredible.  Scenes pass before one that I had almost forgotten, and I can smell the citrons at the feast of Tabernacles, and enjoy over again the hammering at the feast of Purim, when poor old Haman’s name is mentioned”.
That upon one whom the customs of his people had made so deep an impression, should at the age of nineteen embrace Christianity and lead his younger brothers and sisters in the same direction is a somewhat remarkable fact.  It is said “once a Jew, always a Jew” but the earnest lives as Christians of some of the members of this family is a striking contradiction to this saying.  From the pen of my father I have also this testimony after long fears of life’s experience “Christianity is the miracle of miracles.  No sophistry can dim its power and no rationalism explain its hold upon the human heart, short of the fact that it is God’s revelation of Himself to man.  He that has seen me hath seen the Father”.
And now one has to resort to memories and some of them are very vivid in the minds of us older folk, so vivid that it seems an injustice to our children and theirs to let them pass unrecorded.  I always associate the verses in the book of Job XXIX: 11 to 16, with Grandfather Solomon, because I remember my father quoting them in reference to him years after father sent them to me as his message when I was appointed a member of the Board of Guardians in England.
It was soon after grandfather’s death (Joseph Solomon) when a little memorandum book was found, in which he kept the names of various pensioners, whom unknown to others, he had helped and comforted for years.  A quiet unostentatious gentle old man, he seemed to live in and for his wife Hannah and there is something very touching in the memory of their lives. All traditions, family lies and associations lay in their past, there was a strange isolation about them, and only as it were in secret and at heart did they keep the sacred customs of their people.  In 1847 and before my husband’s father, the Rev.J.C.Brown was the first Congregational Minister sent out by the London Missionary Society to the small Congregation worshipping in Union Chapel, Cape Town.  From him I learned in long years afterwards that he had performed Christian baptism on three of the up-grown children of our Grandfather’s – Margaret (1828-1905), Richard (1818-1854) and Isabella (1826-1897).  Our Grandfather had told him that though he and our Grandmother recognised the attitude of their children towards Christianity and could not resent it, they remained faithful to the religion of their race “but” remarked Grandfather Solomon “This I must acknowledge Mr. Brown.  Christianity has entirely changed my sons Henry and Saul, whereas they were lions, they have become lambs”.
Grandmother had been a beautiful woman in her girlhood judging from a miniature in the family and even after years of worry and climate kept her lovely complexion.  She wore a heavy auburn wig, and held her head on one side as if always listening.  She carried a black satin bag on her arm in which she carried her household keys and her stuff-box, for the old lady took snuff. Was it a greater frailty than the cigarette of the day?  I remember Grandfather used to buy it for her at a place called I think “Storks”, and sometimes she would pass the silver box to him with a delightful air of sympathy and comradeship.
Another memory of old Grandfather was his extraordinary love for children.  Notably those of his “own household”.  There were always some “goodies” kept by him for us “children” and a train of us used to follow him on a Sunday to a drawer on the sideboard where a special kind of biscuit made in the form of a fish or bird with huge white almonds for eyes were given round.  Or in a cupboard or pantry under the stairs, a sort of store place of good things we would have a taste of preserved ginger or “chow-chow”, a variety in those days. Dear kind old man, he used to take us up to the roof of the house in Long Street to show us how his orange trees planted from pips grew in small tubs, and ask us as his sight failed to count the bunches of grapes for him on the old vine in the yard.
Grandmother was very quiet.  She died when I was quite young.  I used to think she was sad because she sighed so deeply.  My father, as were all her sons, were devoted to her and her sudden death was a great grief.  I remember my surprise and distress at seeing my father cry and hearing him say “I shall always miss Mother.  I shall go gently all my days”. There had been a great bond between them, from the time that as a little lad, she lifted him to see the great dead Napoleon to the day when with sighs and lamentation they laid her at rest in the old English Church graveyard on Somerset Road. There remains little to be told further.
The memories of our Grandfather are mingled with those of the later generation, and we see him going in and out of his son’s home in Long Street loved and respected to the end.  He missed his old wife sadly and some years after her death when his sight which had failed for years, was restored by an operation for cataract, his one regret was always that though the Almighty had given him back his sight, he could not see Hannah.
He died at the age of seventy two and was laid beside Hannah in the vault which since that day has received various member of the family and is marked by a small slate slab which notifies “Joseph Solomon’s vault”.
These are days of pedigrees and crests and a passion for “winning glory from things afar, but be it for us and ours to treasure as a possession the fact that we are heirs to an inheritance of men and women who served their day and generation according to the will of God ere they “fell on sleep”.
The grandparents gathered to their fathers more than half a century ago were simple godly Jewish people, who so far as we can learn lived conscientious, faithful and gently lives.  They sought not the great things of this world but did justly, loved and mercy and walked humbly with their God, and sent out into life sons and daughters who passed on a wider, and in an ever widening degree, an influence that has acted and will continue to act on the political and philanthropic life of South Africa in days to come.

Note: The words and dates in brackets have been added by me so that it is clearly understood who Mary was referring to.


You may be wondering why my interest in the Solomon family. I suggest you read my blog on "Doris Moss, Napoleon and St Helena". The Moss and Solomon families were related through marriage. They were in business together in St Helena and were living there at the time of Napoleon's exile on the island of St. Helena.


If you wish to contact the author of the Solomon/Moss Family Archives blogs with comments or further information, please email Joy Olney at -


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