A Brief Resumť of the

Hessey Allanson Family

in Greytown

Hessey Hawxby Allanson, the son of Francis Booth Allanson and his wife Ellen (formally Hawxby) of Pietermaritzburg was born in Bridlington, Yorkshire on the 22nd October 1871 while his parents were on a return visit to the old country from which they had departed ten years earlier. Francis Allanson who had then sailed on the barque "Airies" arrived in Port Natal on 9th July 1861. While Ellen Hawxby together with her mother Ann, sister Isabella and young brother George took passage on the sailing ship "Nipsiquit" and disembarked in Port Natal in 1862 almost one year later. Francis Allanson and Ellen Hawxby, who made their acquaintance in Pietermaritzburg , were married by proclamation on November 7 1864; after which they settled in Colenso before returning to Pietermaritzburg with their first two daughters.

One of a family of seven, Hessey Allanson grew up in Pietermaritzburg where his father, a currier (specialist in the treatment of leather) by profession, became a transport courier and business man. Hessey was educated at Maritzburg College (originally The Boys Model School)after which he was indentured as an apprentice druggist to Mr Fuller of Pietermaritzburg. In later years he opened his own chemist shops in both Pietermaritzburg and Port Shepstone.

In the early 1920's, he together with his wife "Bibi" (formerly Alice Gebbett) moved to Greytown for reasons of health, where the family for many years owned the chemist shop and adjoining bottle store on the corner of Okes and Pine Streets.

On arrival in Greytown the Allansonís first settled in the only double storey house in Gordon Street (renamed Voortrekker Street, in 1938 in commemoration of the Great Trek), which was later referred to as the "Leuchars" house by the towns people, as it was here that Lady Leuchars, the widow of Sir George - an early wattle and timber baron - later lived with her companion and fiend, Miss McKenzie, until her demise. The Allanson family at this time comprised two daughters and a son - Elma, Joan and Hessey Booth - the children from Hessey Allansonís first marriage to his late wife Alice Elizabeth (Caldwell) who had passed away a number of years earlier. It was here in the Leachares house that a son Andrew was born to Hessey Allanson and his wife during October of 1924 - there being no hospital or nursing home in Greytown at that time. The birth was attended by Dr Wessels who was assisted by nursing Sister Frances Adendorff (the District Nurse), together with Dr Herbert Allanson, the fathers brother from Pietermaritzburg , and who was later to become a leading physician of Guys Hospital, London. Notwithstanding some complications, the delivery was successful!

It was during this period that Bibi Allansonís two sisters, Rose and Millie Gebbett, who were living in England, decided to join their relative in the Union of South Africa. On arrival both settled in Greytown where Rose, a qualified bookkeeper, was employed by the Greytown Bottle Store and Millie, similarly qualified, secured a position with A. Ross & Co., a general dealer store - then similar in many respects to our present day supermarket - until such time as she moved to Durban at a later date. Rose, remained in Greytown where she finally assumed ownership of the Greytown Bottle Store and who, after a number of years of spinsterhood married Dr Vincent Tonkin, a widower and local dentist during the early years of the war. After a laps e of several years, following the death of Dr Tonkin, Rose met and married Mr Walter Sluman, a farmer from the Muden district.

Hessey Allanson, besides being a most capable druggist, was also recognised by the gardening fraternity of Natal as a horticulturist of repute where, in recognition of which he was awarded a trophy as early as 1908 by Sir Mathew Nathan, then Governor of the Colony, for his achievements. However, it was his love and passion for gardening which was to be accountable for his death at the relatively early age of sixty four in the December of 1936. A plaque will be found in his remembrance attached to the lectern in the St James Church of England, Greytown. The funeral service was officiated by the parish Vicar, the Reverend Harold Harper, whom it was found, during subsequent family research, to be directly related through his Hawxby lineage.

It was while working on various hybrids of the Chrysanthemum flower that Hessey Allanson contracted an allergy for which no antidote was found and although all further contact with that species of flower was avoided he was unable to rid himself of the very severe effects caused this health thereby. This at a later stage took the form of a large and persistent abscess amassed in the area of the lungs, resulting in prolonged suffering and which necessitated frequent admissions to the Sanatorium in Pietermaritzburg. It was through this persistent allergy that the decision was taken to forgo the ownership of the chemist shop, which was subsequently acquired by his assistant chemist Mr Cyril Ware. To provide for this forfeiture, a decision was taken to purchase the local News Agency and Stationery shop and as well as an adjacent ladies dress shop (later) which it would then be possible to manage with the help of his wife during periods of Mr Allansonís encumbrance. It was also arranged at that time for Rose Gebbett to assume ownership of the Greytown Bottle Store.

Mrs Allanson was, during this period, appointed local correspondent for The Natal Witness, and as a result of which she was brought into contact with, and became interested in civic issues while reporting on local council affairs. Thus it was that her interest and involvement in Greytownís administration rapidly developed. Thus influenced, Mrs Allanson succeeded during elections in contesting a ward thereby enabling her election to a seat on the town council within which se served until the outbreak of the war, and during which terms of office she had the distinction of becoming the first woman to be elected as mayor of Greytown.

Hessey Allansonís malady now required frequent surgery, and the ever increasing periods spent in the Sanatorium constituted a tremendous strain on the family finances. IN addition to which there was the expense of raising and educating a young and rapidly growing son. Consequently, with the ultimate demise of Hessey Allanson in 1936, in order to realise costs, many family possessions of value were disposed of, together with the corrugated iron clad cottage in Voortrekker Street, where the family then lived. The property was, until her death, finally occupied by Miss May Stevens - piano teacher and organist to the St James Church. Among the items surrendered at this time were many books of literary value collected by Hessey Allanson during his lifetime and thought to be included amongst which, may have been the family bible.

Following the death of her husband Mrs Allanson together with her son took occupation of rooms in the Plough Hotel Annex situated above Davy Simpsons Mens Outfitters (at whose establishment a Monatic shirt would have been sold by Mr Simpsonís son Hamish, for the then princely sum of seven shillings and six pence!) The Plough Hotel was at that time under the patronage of a Mrs Swales, whose son, Lt. Edwin Swales, S.A.A.F. (1945) was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Shortly after the outbreak of war both Mrs Allanson and her son Andrew enlisted with the armed forces in which they served for the duration of the war, thus ending a chapter of their lives spent in the very pleasant Natal midlands village of Greytown.

On conclusion of hostilities Mrs Allanson established a business in Newcastle - also of which town she was for a period to become mayor - eventually returning to Greytown many years later. Alice (Bibi) Allanson passed away in Pietermaritzburg on the 19th July 1973.

A great deal of research has subsequently been carried out into both the Allanson and Hawxby family heritage here in South Africa as well as in Yorkshire, dating back to the early 1700's. However, much valuable detail with regard to family history and pedigree is, more often than not recorded in the family bible; the Allanson family bible being no exception and which is recollected to be a large leather bound illustrated publication secured with a brass clasp. The bible is of great intrinsic value to the family and the possession of which, with regard to the families heritage, inestimable. Any assistance in securing the return of the ALLANSON BIBLE to its rightful ownership and place at the family hearth will be most greatly appreciated.