Armoria familia
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Colonel John Graham of Fintry

by Mike Oettle

Sir John James Graham / Sir Thomas Lynedoch Graham

COLONEL John Graham left a solid legacy in South Africa, and particularly in the frontier region where the town he founded in 1812, Grahamstown, became a military, administrative, judicial and educational centre. He married a descendant of the very first permanent settler at the Cape, and among his grandsons two were knighted, one as Secretary of Law of the Cape Colony, the other Judge President of the Eastern Districts Court in Grahamstown.

His arms may be blazoned:

arms of Graham of Fintry

Arms: Or, three piles sable, on a chief sable three escallops or, the whole within a double tressure flory counter flory gules.

Crest: A ph�nix in flames.

Motto: Bon fin.

Two aspects of this coat of arms are typically Scottish:

Firstly the royal tressure (or double tressure flory counter-flory gules; that is, a double red line following the shield outline, crossed by six fleurs-de-lys also red), which distinguishes the royal arms of Scotland from those of the early Scottish kings� kinsmen, the early Earls of Fife, and which has become a mark of royal favour among Scottish families and boroughs.

It has frequently been granted in augmentation, often to commemorate a royal marriage (the king�s father-in-law, brother-in-law or son-in-law would be so honoured, and pass the distinction on to his descendants).

The royal tressure is rare outside Scotland, and is never granted within Scotland unless it signifies a specific royal favour.

To accommodate the tressure, the black chief does not in fact fill the top end of the shield, but is couped � it is set in from the edge on three sides, allowing the red tressure to appear against a gold background.

Secondly, the motto appears on a scroll not below the shield, but above and surrounding the crest. Scottish armigers frequently have two mottos, one perhaps a Latin aspiration, the other often a slogan or war-cry in Gaelic or in Scots (a collective name for English dialects spoken north of the Anglo-Scottish border). This motto, however, is neither; it is in French and translates as: �A good end.�

In addition, the arms contain three scallop shells, symbols of pilgrimage. These shells are found in large quantities on the shores of Compostela, on the Atlantic coast of Galicia in Spain, site of the shrine of the Apostle James the Great[1] who, according to tradition, travelled to this point in his missionary journeys. Three scallops appear in the arms of the Chief of Clan Graham, the Duke of Montrose. The duke�s arms are quarterly, with the simple Graham arms of or, upon a chief sable three scallops or, in the first and fourth quarters. The second and third quarters each contain three roses, symbolising the dukedom.

The mark of difference, marking Graham of Fintry apart from the clan chief (now Graham of Montrose), was originally an indented line of partition between the black chief and the gold field. However, the indentations stretched until they became three black piles, or extended triangles, pointing down from the chief.

About John Graham:
John Graham was born in Dundee, Scotland, on 24 April 1778, the second son of Robert Graham, last laird of the demesne of Fintry and 12th representative of the Grahams of Fintry in Forfarshire,[2] and his wife, Peggy Milne. The Fintry branch of clan Graham is descended from Sir William Grame, laird of Kincardine in the early 15th century and ancestor of the dukes of Montrose (title created in 1707). However, the Montrose branch descends from Sir William�s first marriage, whereas the Fintry branch is descended from the second marriage, to the Lady Mary Stuart, daughter of King Robert III.

John Graham died in Wynberg, Cape, on 13 March 1821.

Commissioned at the age of 16, John joined the 90th Regiment, which had been raised in 1794 by his kinsman, Thomas Graham of Balgowan (later Lord Lynedoch). After two expeditions to France in the late 1790s he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Earl of Chatham and served with him in the Netherlands. He spent three years on Guernsey with his regiment, and was then sent to Ireland in 1803 where he became assistant quartermaster-general.

Following the death of his elder brother in 1799 and his father in 1816, John became the 13th representative of the Fintry Grahams.

He took part (as a major in the 93rd Regiment) in the Battle of Blaauwberg (January 1806), by which Britain again occupied the Cape (the second time the Cape had been seized by Britain). By 26 January he was given charge (as a lieutenant-colonel) of the Cape Regiment. (This unit, also known as the Corps of Hottentots,[3] had been raised in 1804 as the Pandour Regiment under the Batavian Republic. Its members had specifically been permitted under the articles of capitulation to enlist under the British flag. Its officers were mainly white colonists.) The regiment was based at the Wynberg military camp (still in use by the South African National Defence Force today). Graham trained it as light infantry able to render outstanding service in wooded terrain.

Graham was sent in 1811 with his corps, together with British regulars and the assistance of Boer commando members from the Swellendam, Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage districts, to undertake the major military assignment of his career: clearing the 20 000 or so amaXhosa under Ndlambe[4] who had settled in the Zuurveld.

This district, lying between the Bushmans and Fish rivers, had been beyond the colony�s frontiers as proclaimed in 1778 by Governor Joachim von Plettenberg. However, Dutch and British misreading of Plettenberg�s frontier (which named among other boundaries the Great Fish River, a tributary near present-day Cookhouse) led to the assumption that the Zuurveld (not Xhosa territory at the time of Governor Plettenberg�s visit to the frontier zone) was already part of the colony.

Graham succeeded by 1812 in fulfilling his task, and on the deserted loan farm De Rietfontein, previously the property of Lucas Meyer, established Graham�s Town, in the heart of the Zuurveld, as its central military post. The settlement served as a bastion and command post for a string of forts along the Fish River. On 14 August that year he was appointed deputy landdrost (civil and military commissioner) for the Zuurveld, now formally called the sub-drostdy of Albany (part of the drostdy of Uitenhage). He appealed to the former loan farmers of the Zuurveld to return, but was overruled by the Governor, Sir John Cradock, who had other plans.

On 24 July 1812, Graham married Johanna Catharina Cloete (1790-1843), daughter of Roedolph Cloete (1762-1816), of Westervoort (later Great Westerford) in Rondebosch, Cape. They had a son and three daughters. Roedolph was the son of the first Hendrik Cloete of Constantia, Cape, and a descendant of Jacob Klute (or Cloete), from Cologne, the first permanent settler at the Cape, who appears to have landed in 1652 with Jan van Riebeeck.

John Graham�s only son Robert was later civil commissioner of Albany. Robert had three sons, John James (*1847 �1928, see below), Francis George Cathcart (*1853 �1922), and Thomas Lynedoch (*1860 �1942, see below) and several daughters.

All his life John Graham remained a poor man, �all that he earned going to support his parents and nine unmarried sisters�.[5] One sister, Helen Christian Graham, married advocate Hendrik (Henry) Cloete in 1816.

In September 1812 an exhausted Lt-Col Graham left the eastern frontier and with his wife visited Britain on leave. While overseas he again served under his former commander, Sir Thomas Graham, accompanying him to the Netherlands as military secretary and aide-de-camp. In January 1814 he was promoted to full colonel and in March that year he took part in the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom. During his absence from the Cape he proposed the settlement of 500 Highland crofters in the Zuurveld (Albany).

Cradock chose not only to ignore this suggestion but to abolish (as unnecessary) the Fish River forts. This was to lead to the invasion of the Zuurveld in 1819 that resulted in the Battle of Grahamstown.

But even further changes were to come under the new Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, as Col Graham discovered on his return to the Cape in 1815. His post in the eastern districts had been abolished, and in 1817 the Cape Regiment was disbanded (not for the last time).

He accepted the post of commandant of Simonstown, an area including the naval base on the Cape Peninsula�s False Bay coast, although he was in fact based once more at Wynberg. He remained in this position until his death.

In October 1820, Acting Governor Sir Rufane Donkin appointed him first landdrost of the separate district of Albany, but his health prevented his taking this up. He died at the age of 42 and was buried in the Somerset Road cemetery in Cape Town. The cemetery was dug up more than a century ago, and it is not known what became of his gravestone.

A monument was erected in 1912 in High Street, Grahamstown, on the site of the thorn tree where Graham had made the decision to establish the settlement.

Sir John James Graham of Fintry:
Colonel Graham�s grandson John James Graham was born at Wynberg on 21 February 1847, eldest son of Robert Graham and Eliza Anne Grey. He died at Newlands on 17 December 1928. Following his father�s death he became the 15th representative of the Grahams of Fintry.

He was educated at St Andrew�s College, Grahamstown. He won an inter-school competition in the classics in 1864 and entered the civil service as a clerk to the magistrate of Albany. In 1865 he was promoted to the registrar�s office of the Eastern Districts Court at Grahamstown. He served as assistant registrar of the Supreme Court in Cape Town, and was afterward registrar and master of the Eastern Districts Court. In 1878 he became chief clerk to the Attorney-General of the Cape. In 1882 he became Secretary of Law. In �84 he became high sheriff and taxing officer to the Supreme Court, but in �89 again became Secretary of Law, retaining this position (which included control over convict stations and prisons) until his retirement in 1908. In �85 he was appointed to inquire into matters connected with the management of the Breakwater convict station, and in �87 to probe the Clifton convict station.

He received the CMG[6] in 1899 and was knighted KCMG[7] in 1905.

Married to Annie Julia Murison in 1873, he had four sons and a daughter.

Sir Thomas Lynedoch Graham:
Like his brother John, Thomas Graham attended St Andrew�s College, going on to the South African College, Cape Town, and Clare College, Cambridge. In 1885 he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in London, and in the same year was admitted to the bar at the Supreme Court in Cape Town.

After first unsuccessfully contesting the Beaufort West constituency, he was elected to the Cape Parliament in 1898 as a member of the Progressive Party. He was Attorney-General in Sir Gordon Sprigg�s Cabinet for seven months of that year. In Sprigg�s fourth ministry he was Colonial Secretary (1900-02) and in 1902 again became Attorney-General. For a few months in 1902 he was also Acting Prime Minister. In 1904 he was appointed a puisne judge of the Eastern Districts Court, and immediately detached to preside over the Cape Civil Service Enquiry Commission. After Union (1910) he was in 1913 appointed Judge President of the Eastern Districts Local Division of the Supreme Court, and in 1918 he presided over the Union Public Service Enquiry Commission.

Sir Thomas remained Judge President until his retirement from the bench in 1937, aged 77.

In 1891 he married Aimye Ismena Gavin, and had two sons and one daughter.

Armorial usage:
The arms of Graham of Fintry predate the establishment of the Lyon Court, the heraldic authority for Scotland. The arms of various Grahams have been granted or matriculated down the centuries. Matriculation is a form of registration unique to Scotland; it is far cheaper than a grant, and enables an armigerous family to maintain the continuity of its usage while also enabling Lyon Court to keep track of developments within a family.

Robert A Laing of Colington informs me that the Fintry arms appear on seals of 1478 and 1615 (both without the tressure) and in the Workman�s manuscript (also without the tressure). However, cadets (younger sons) of Fintry were using the arms with the tressure at an early stage. Some of these cadet arms were matriculated at Lyon Court. A 16th-century portrait of Sir David Graham of Fintry, by Zuccaro) shows the arms with the tressure.

A matriculation is valid for two generations: in other words for the matriculant and for his eldest son. Younger sons in Scotland must matriculate their own arms, should they wish to display them under Scottish law.

John James Graham would have been entitled to bear the arms of Fintry with a label from his birth, since he was born after his grandfather�s death. I have no date of death for his father, but from that time onwards he would have been entitled to the undifferenced arms of Fintry.

Had his father matriculated those arms, he would not have needed to rematriculate, but having received an English knighthood he might have felt a need to obtain a grant from the College of Arms in London. Either matriculation or a grant from the College would have obtained him an illustration of his arms incorporating the collar of the Order of St Michael and St George around the shield of arms.

Thomas Lynedoch Graham, being a younger son, would automatically have been required to matriculate his arms, since he was not entitled to the undifferenced arms of Fintry. In accordance with the Stodart system, by which Scottish family arms have been matriculated since the 19th century, he would have been accorded one of the marks of a third son in accordance with that system.

It is not stated when he was knighted, but until the 1920s, knighthoods accompanied Judge Presidencies in South Africa, so he would have been knighted in or shortly after 1913. He might also have felt a need to obtain a grant through the College of Arms, instead of the Lyon Office, in which case he would automatically have been awarded the arms of Graham of Fintry with the addition of a mullet (five-pointed star). The mullet is used invariably in England as the mark of a third son, whereas under Stodart this brisure is only awarded in certain generations.

I am informed by The Baronage Press that Major John James Graham of Fintry, born in London on 4 May 1931, matriculated the undifferenced arms of Graham of Fintry with the Lord Lyon on 7 December 1972, and this in fact appears to have been the first matriculation by the actual Graham of Fintry, as opposed to a cadet branch.



[1] James, known in Spain as Santiago and in Hebrew as Ya�acov. He and his brother John (Yochanan) are mentioned in the New Testament as the Sons of Thunder (Boanerges).

[2] Forfarshire, later called Angus, became part of the region of Tayside under the 1975 reorganisation of Scottish regional government.

[3] The term Hottentot, although now recognised as an insulting label for the Khoikhoi people, was at that time commonly accepted, and no other name was known. The rank and file of the regiment could perhaps better be described as Cape Coloured.

[4] Ndlambe ka Rharhabe, right-hand son of cis-Keian Xhosa paramount Rharhabe ka Phalo, who in turn had been the right-hand son of Phalo. Both Ndlambe and Rharhabe were regents for their fathers� much younger Great Sons, Gcaleka ka Phalo (died 1778) and Mlawu ka Rharhabe (�1782), and for the heirs of these men, Khawuta ka Gcaleka and Ngqika ka Mlawu. Each of Ndlambe and Rharhabe attempted to gain control over his father�s paramountcy and failed, but both achieved sub-paramount status.

[5] Quoted from the Dictionary of South African Geography, vol 5 (p315).

[6] Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

[7] Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.


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Sources: Dictionary of South African Biography, volumes I, II and V, editors W J de Kock and D W Kr�ger (Cape Town: Tafelberg/Human Sciences Research Council).

Illustration drawn by Barrie Burr.


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