By all accounts my paternal grandfather was a jolly fellow and a great story-teller. Sometimes, apparently, it was difficult to tell when a story was just a story. Certainly my Aunt Eunice was convinced this story was true, though her older brother, my Uncle George, told me long ago it was just one of the old man’s tall tales.
But here is how I heard it from Aunt Eunice.
Grandpa was the son of Lady Veronica Tait of Canterbury. Lady Veronica was the youngest daughter of Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1868-1882.
English: Archibald Campbell Tait (1811-1882) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Taits were friends and frequent guests on the estate of the Earl of Derby in Lancashire and that is where Lady Veronica met John Turner, the head gardener of the estate. Of course, their stations of life were such that a marriage would never receive parental approval, so they eloped (possibly to Gretna Green), and Lady Veronica bore her gardener husband two sons, dying in childbirth during the second birth. John Sr. soon remarried and his second wife, Mary Logan, not only raised his two older children, but another 8 or 10 of her own.
Mary Logan is listed on my grandfather’s death certificate as his mother, and surely, she was the only mother he ever knew. But when my Aunt Ivy gave it to me, she insisted Mary Logan was his stepmother, not his birth mother.
Aunt Eunice, believing the story to be true, even got in trouble at school for claiming the Lady Veronica was her grandmother. But her mother came and told the teacher that Aunt Eunice was telling the truth. Did my grandmother believe the story too? I’ll never know.
What is certain is that the story is not true. Eunice’s daughter, Verla, and grandson, Wade, did a genealogical study and discovered that the Lady Veronica could not have been more than 11 when Grandpa was born and only 7 when his older brother was born. They did discover the Archibald Campbell Tate, father of Ann Tate who married my grandfather’s grandfather back in 1809. So Grandpa could legitimately claim descent from an Archibald Tate and I can imagine him referring to the similarly named Archbishop as his grandpa.
Interestingly, Archbishop Tait’s prior post was Dean of Carlisle, the place my maternal grandfather came from. It was while serving at Carlisle that he lost five of his seven children all in a few weeks to an epidemic of scarlet fever. Only the eldest, his only son, and the youngest, a two-month old daughter, survived.
The grave of Dean Tait’s five young daughters – geograph.org.uk – 1506954 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)