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Family tales about the Grewars

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Two Grewars

THOMAS BERTIE GREWAR (Nylstroom) * 23:09:1880 at Holfontein, Richmond † 17:11:1968 at Vaalwater, Nylstroom x 27:04:1911 in Johannesburg to Annie Caroline Armstrong, d/o Robert Armstrong and Anna Carolina AURET † 12:02:1973.

Bertie went to school in Grahanstown where he matriculated in 1898. In 1901 he obtained a certificate in land surveying. In the meantime he was a surveyor at the Limpopo River from 1905 till 1915. He then went to the farm "Zandrivier", near Vaalwater in the Waterberg Mountains where he became a full time farmer. He died there on his farm.

ROBERT ALAN GREWAR * 03:06:1912 at Randfontein.

Robert first went to Mrs Farrant's farm school togethers with her children, Rupert and Kay, and after that to the Rosebank High School in Johannesburg. After school he joined his father on the farm Zandrivier (Sand River) where they were farming with tabacco, maize and other crops. He died on 15:07:1997 at Graaff-Reinet. He got married to Elsie Violet Dix on 16 December 1947 at Winterton, Natal. She was born on 28:08:1917 at Winterton as the youngest daughter of Arthur Ernest Dix, who was born in London in 1874, and Emily Jeffreys English, who was born on 30 September 1877 on the farm Byrne Valley, Richmond, Natal.

Another version of the Grewar family history

This is the version about the Grewars received from Andy and Denese Grewar of Grahamstown.

The Grewar family in South Africa is descendants of David McKenzie Grewar (or GRUAR). He was born in Linlithgow, Scotland in 1796, the son of John Grewar who appropriately was a brewer, and his wife Janet (née McKenzie). According to family tradition, David McKenzie Grewar was apprenticed as a shipwright in Kirkcudbright, Dumfriesshire. Early in 1817, at the age of 20, David and his brother John Grewar joined Captain Benjamin Moodie's party of 200 Scots artisans to settle in the Cape of Good Hope.

Moodie's was the first large party of British settlers who came to the Cape Colony. Benjamin Moodie (1789 - 1856), Captain in the Leigh Militia, was the eldest son of James, the ninth Laird of Melsetter, the family estate in the Orkneys, which was at that stage deep in debt. Benjamin Moodie hoped to save Melsetter by initiating a scheme of assisted emigration to the Cape.

He seems to have heard of Colonel John Graham's idea to populate the Zuurveld with Scottish Highlanders. Graham had visited the Highlanders while on home leave in 1813, after the 'sweeping' of the Zuurveld under his command during the Frontier War of 1811/1812. He apparently had permission to find out whether any Highlanders were interested in migrating to the Cape.

In 1816, Moodie wrote a memorial to Lord Bathurst of the Colonial Secretary, outlining his proposal for a scheme to settle members of the Highland 'agricultural classes' in the Cape Colony. Although this proposal received no encouragement, Moody spent several months in the south of Scotland during 1816 and 1817, recruiting suitable candidates for the scheme, preferring young, single men of good character, laborers or artisans. Many of them were refugees driven off the land of the Marquess of Stafford near Edinburgh to make way for sheep farming.

Moody hoped to obtain assistance from the British government for the costs of their passage to the Cape, where he intended employing the best of these laborers on his own land, hiring out the others. From the more than 1 500 who applied in the space of a few weeks, Moodie has chose 200 men, entering into written contracts with each regarding the terms of their 'apprenticeship' with him. He then set about finding a means of transporting them, eventually entering into an agreement with a visiting Cape Town merchant, Hamilton Ross, which secured their passage.

Early in 1817, together with Moodie and their fellow apprentices, John and David Grewar sailed for London from Leith, near Edinburgh. In March, Captain Moodie and 52 of his party sailed for the Cape on the 'Brilliant', and his brother Donald oversaw the embarkation of a further 49 apprentices on the 'Garland', and about 90 on the 'Clyde'.

The 'Garland' left London for the Cape on 6 May 1817, and arrived in Table Bay at the end of August. The 'Clyde' sailed at the end of May and arrived on 27 September. In November 1817, John Grewar signed a promissory note in Cape Town to repay Moodie 350 rixdaalders, within a year 'for value received', the costs of passage for himself and his brother. Moodie noted that he was employed as a cooper in Wale Street. His earnings were clearly better than those of William Jacobs, for example, a laborer working at Myrtle Grove, Cape Town, who promised to repay Moodie 302 rixdaalders within three years.

Soon after arriving in the Cape, Benjamin Moodie had acquired the farm 'Groot Vaders Bosch,' near Swellendam. But his plans to establish himself as a wealthy landowner soon foundered. His plea for financial assistance from the British government had been ignored, and worse still, Hamilton Ross, the agent with whom he had made a verbal contract to share the costs of the venture, failed to meet his obligations.

Moodie thus found himself having to try to recoup all his costs from his apprentices. But to compound matters, the Scots artisans soon realized the acute shortage of skilled craftsmen and artisans in the Colony and some broke their written agreements with him, while others took up to ten years to repay their debts.

In July 1818, when Moodie had been in the Cape just under one year, the family home Melsetter was finally sold. His youngest brother, John Wedderburn Moodie, had by that time joined him in the Cape, and Donald, a naval lieutenant, also came out after their father's death in 1820. John Moodie returned to England after about 10 years in South Africa, and wrote a book about his experiences. Benjamin and Donald Moodie both became prominent members of their communities.

Benjamin in the Western Cape, and Donald, who married Sophia Pigot, in the Eastern Cape and later Natal, where he became Colonial Secretary. Their grandsons, Thomas and Dunbar Moodie, eventually led a trek to Rhodesia where they founded the town of Melsetter.

DAVID GREWAR was given permission to remain in the Cape Colony on 30 March 1818 (PR list No. 2147). This meant that two respected members of the community were prepared to stand surely for his future good behavior. As noted above, John Grewar apparently worked as a cooper in Wale Street, Cape Town, for a while. In 1820 he was reported in Wynberg as being among those of Moodie's men who were moving around without passes from the authorities. He apparently left Cape Town some time after this for Australia, and founded another branch of the family there.

Unfortunately we know little of David Grewar's subsequent life and movements, except that he finally settled in Uitenhage, where according to his death notice in the Cape Archives, he was a wheelwright. In 1831 he married the young JOHANNA MARAIS, daughter of Christoffel Marais and Maria Dannhauser. David and Johanna Grewar had 12 children - five of whom died in childwood. Their youngest, Thomas Jones Paterson Grewar was to be the father of Thomas Bertie Grewar.

It would be interesting to know why David McKenzie Grewar gave his youngest son the names of 'Jones Paterson.' The tradition among both the Scots and the Dutch families of naming children after their grandparents, parents, and great grandparents can clearly be seen in many of the genealogies. This sometimes goes so far as including the family name as a given name. It also appears that children were sometimes named after friends of the family, or of course after various persons admired by a parent for some reason, including characters in literature. But the names 'Jones' and 'Paterson' seem unusual, as they are both normally found as surnames. Thomas Bertie Grewar, always known as 'Bertie,' seems to have been named after Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

Information about the Scots immigrants brought to South Africa by Captain Moodie can be found in The Moodies of Melsetter, by Edmund H Burrows (Cape Town/Amsterdam:Balkema, 1954). The Grewar genealogy was originally compiled by Ds Sam Murray of Jeffreys Bay, and published in Familia, the journal of the Genealogical Society of South Africa. Information about the name Grewar comes from an article in The Scotsman, 'Changes in the Glen' by Alasdair Steven (date not known), and from Surnames of Scotland, by George F Black (New York, 1946).

The Grewars from Australia

Mary (Grewar) McLaren of Glenisla, Scotland, wrote in 2002:

My sister Pamela McGregor stays south of Perth in Western Australia. She made contact with Geoff Grewar, a Member of Parliament in West Australia. Geoff told Pam that they are not the descendants of David's brother, John Grewar who probably resided in Perth in 1817. Without giving dates and other details about his ancestors, Geoff said his John Grewar was married already when he left Scotland. He had seven (7) children. They came from Forfar in Angus, Scotland. His two daughters stayed behind in Scotland, but the five sons accompanied him and his wife when he migrated to Western Australia.

(c) Peter Murray, 2005. Last update 2008-01-12.