Captain James Ogilvie-Grant was the 11th Earl of Seafield, Chief of the Clan Grant and husband of Mary, Countess of Seafield, of Cullen House, Banffshire, Scotland.
In 1890 Christchurch was the home of a young Scottish earl and chieftain just 14 years old, poor, and almost unknown in Canterbury society.
He was James Ogilvie Grant, the 11th Earl of Seafield, Viscount Reidhaven, Baron of Deskford and Cullen (in the Peerage of Scotland), Baron of Strathspey in the Counties of Inverness and Morayshire (in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, which entitled him to a seat in the House of Lords), Baronet of Nova Scotia (a title created in 1625), and chief of the large and once powerful clan Grant.
It is an interesting family. Some of its members were of strong character and of high philanthropic ideals; some carried tremendous responsibilities; and some wielded power over the lives of others far distant.
The story is one of great wealth and of poverty, all interwoven on the tapestry of the old world and the new.
There had been a series of tragic deaths in the Seafield line of inheritance-four in seven years. The seventh earl, the 'Good Earl' died at Cullen House in 1881. His only child, Ian Charles, a bachelor aged 30, inherited the titles and the vast Scottish estates, but in three years he, too, was dead of the same illness. He bequeathed all the Seafield and Strathspey estates and wealth to his mother, the Dowager Countess Caroline. The titles, without property passed back a generation to a distant relative in Ireland, his uncle, Sir James Ogilvie Grant, who became the ninth Earl of Seafield at the age of 71.
The ninth: Earl died in June, 1888, and the New Zealand strands began, for the titles descended to his elder son, the Hon. Francis William Ogilvie Grant, who had come to New Zealand in 1870. Frank Grant, as he was known then, had bought a farm near the property of his Irish relative at Cloon-Evan, in the Waiareka Valley, North Otago. On Cloon-Evan, Major Evans, head of a devout family, had built a tiny chapel called Little Bethel, in which, in 1874, Frank Grant married his cousin, Nina Trevor Corry Evans, the Major's only daughter. Little Bethel has long since become a barn. It is still there on Cloon-Evan, almost hidden by other farm buildings. Inside, it is easy to see, and to feel, it as a chapel, with its high-gabled roof and its low, wide-open windows, now replaced with wire netting.
Frank Grant took his bride to' his farm, which later became known as Haydowns. There, in, 1876, James Ogilvie, was born, the first of their seven children. Frank Grant was well liked and respected by his neighbours and friends, but he was no farmer. Eventually, he lost Haydowns and all his money as well.
The Grants had to go to Oamaru to make a living. They lived in a tiny cottage in Eden Street, and Grant set up as a land and estate agent in Itchen Street. But this venture also failed. He did labouring work around the countryside, on the wharf, in Joseph Smith's store, and even served as a bailiff. Mrs Grant did domestic work to help balance the budget, for life was hard for the Grants. Frank never seemed to earn enough to cope with his growing family.
The neighbours were helpful and kind. They liked Mrs Grant. One, Mrs Ward, told her granddaughter many years later that Mrs Grant had possessed a strong character and had been a 'woman of charity', even in her times of adversity. She had joined the newly-formed Salvation Army, had marched with the 'Sally' soldiers, and had even carried the flag.
The plight of the Grants worsened when Frank's health began to deteriorate. Then, in 1888, came the startling news of Frank's inheritance of the titles. He became the tenth Earl of Seafield, his wife became
Countess Nina, and his oldest son, Lord Reidhaven. The rest of the family were the Hon. Trevor Ogilvie, the Hon. John Charles (Don), Lady Caroline Louise, Lady Ina Ellenora (Tiny) and Lady Sydney Montagu (twins), and Lady Nina Geraldine.
The embittered Dowager Countess Caroline back home in Cullen sent them only a small sum of money, but it enabled them to live in a better house, and to distribute 'Something among the poor in Oamaru. She sent James a small pennyfarthing bicycle for Christmas; but no invitation came to visit the ancestral home.
It was thought that James should be educated to his future status in life, so, with the help of friends, the family managed to send him to a private 'School for Gentlemen's Sons' at French farm, Akaroa. Many leading New Zealand families sent their sons to French Farm (so called because it was, on ground where earlier, Captain Lavaud of the corvette L'Aube had set his sailors to grow vegetables and plants while 'protecting' the small French colony at Akaroa). French Farm School was opened in 1876 and run by Thomas Southey Baker, B.A. (Oxon), a man 'of remarkable athletic prowess and an unblemished character,' according to his daughter, Eleanor S. Baker McLaglan.
French Farm, was run on unusual lines. The boys received a classical education and looked after the well-worn cricket pitch; but they also learned sailing, boating, fishing, and bushcraft around the hills and sheltered bays. James must have enjoyed his stay there, but it was interrupted by the death of his father, who lived only six months to enjoy his status as the Earl. So, on December 3, 1888, James Ogilvie Grant became the eleventh Earl of Seafield.
His father was accorded the most magnificent funeral that Oamaru had seen.
Thursday being the usual half holiday, all businesses were closed, and an estimated 5000 people were out to take part in, or to watch, the impressive ceremony. A Scottish newspaper reported that "it was poignant that he was buried so far away from the home of his ancient family and the mausoleum where rest the remains of a long line of ancestors.'
Some Oamaru people said that if he had remained plain Frank Grant, his funeral would have been devoid of magnificence. But there is no doubt he was respected for his unassuming and kindly manner. The headstone still stands in the Oamaru cemetery, and clearly records his name and title. With him are buried two of his children, Lady Ina Ellenora (Tiny) and the Hon. John Charles (Don), both of whom died in 1893.
When James became the eleventh Earl he was only 12 years old. Countess Caroline demanded that he be sent to' her at Cullen House, but his mother refused, because the Dowager was old and embittered
I by the loss of her only child, and had kept the ninth and tenth Earls away from their ancestral homes. The Dowager held the lands and the wealth-the boy had only the titles. ,
In 1890, James was enrolled at Christ's College. From there, he went on to Lincoln College. The knowledge of agriculture and forestry would prove useful if he ever had to manage the Seafield estates, for the sixth and seventh Earls had planted more than 31M Scots pine, larch, and hardwood trees in large areas of the estates in Banffshire, Morayshire, and Inverness-shire.
When James was 22, he married, in June, 1898, Mary Elizabeth Nina Townend, the eldest daughter of Dr H. J. Townend, J .P. of Christchurch. After a few years, they left for overseas, and their only child, a daughter, Nina Caroline, was born on April 17, 1906, in Nice.
They spent some time with relatives in Ireland, and then went to Banffshire, where they were allowed to live on the estate. But Countess Nina was still at the helm, and James was given no responsibility in the management. The old Dowager was well pleased with the child, mainly because she had beautiful red-gold hair, like the Dowager herself, and also like the Ogilvie ancestors.
After the Dowager died in 1911, James demonstrated his ability to manage the estates, which had become exceedingly wealthy from timber cut from the 'Good Earl's trees.'
But World War I intervened, and another life of the Seafield lineage was cut short. James went to France as a captain with the 5th Battalion of Cameron Highlanders, and was killed by a sniper in November, 1915.
The name of James Ogilvie Grant is amongst those which you will see as you wander nostalgically around the Memorial Hall. Few of us knew anything of him. We are indebted to Mrs Walker for putting a face and a personality to the name. Source: 1977 Lincoln College Magazine
Date of Death12 November 1915KeywordsGreat WarWorld War OneRoll of Honouractive service