Euphemia (Effie) Isabella Chaplin (1847-1939), was one of my four great-grandmothers. She was a Skinner before marrying Holroyd Chaplin, a London solicitor, in 1870. Effie’s mother was born Caroline Emily Harding, and her mother’s father, Rev John Harding, was Rector of Glanogwr in Glamorgan, and several other places. The earliest Harding for whom I have a record was born in 1700, but Caroline’s pedigree wound back through the Wyndhams, Howards, Mowbrays, Seagraves and Plantagenets to Edward I.
Effie’s father, Allan Maclean Skinner Q.C. (1809-1885), was Recorder of Windsor in 1852, and Judge of County Courts in South Staffordshire in 1859. From my point of view he was a great guy, because he did lots of family research, and even wrote two books about the family, both of which are in the British Library. His work on family history gave me a head start. He was one of four brothers – the other three all died on military service overseas; one in the Himalayas, one in Jamaica and one (James) in Afghanistan in 1842. His father, Lt General John Major Skinner (1752-1827), helped to fight the rebellion in the Southern US in 1770+, and was Governor of Guadeloupe in the West Indies in 1810 – his roots appear to be traceable back to King Canute by way of the Sir William Tracy who was allegedly one of the six knights who assassinated St Thomas a’Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Allan’s mother Ann Maclean (1773-1864) was born at Ardgour in Scotland, and of course the Maclean line can also be traced way back, though I haven’t been able to verify his claim that she had Robert the Bruce amongst her ancestors. She had an apartment at Hampton Court Palace after her husband’s death, and died in her 90th year.
Allan and Caroline’s children were:
- Clifton Newman Curtis , born in 1834 (adopted), who became High Bailiff of the County Court in Wolverhampton (Allan Maclean Skinner was Judge of County Courts in South Staffordshire in 1859).
- John Edwin Hilary (1839-1894), who was one of the first war correspondents, and covered the Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris in 1870 for the Daily News, as well as other conflicts;
- Anna Cordelia (1840-?) who married a clergyman, Rev Parkes Willy, and seems to have had a penurious existence;
- Caroline Rachel (1840-?) (Aunt Carrie), who looked after her mother, after the latter’s carriage accident, for many years, near Bideford;
- Florance Marion (1842-1918), who married Walter Holden Steward – her daughters Gwendoline and Lilian married two Italian marquises, Strozzi and Burlamacchi respectively;
- Katherine Louisa (1843-?) who married Ashley George Westby – a Captain in the 8th King’s Regiment;
- Maud Elizabeth (1844-1904) who married Colonel Allan Chaplin – he spent many years in India;
- Allan Maclean Skinner (1846-1901) who became Colonial Secretary of the Straits Settlements (based in Singapore) and married Ellen Shelford;
- and Effie, my great-grandmother (1847-1939).
Allan Maclean’s sister, Marianne Skinner (1801-1885), was a colourful character. A friend wrote of her: “I remember being present at an ‘At Home’ she gave. Her rooms were most quaintly furnished, and one seemed to live far, far back in the past as one gazed at her spinet and her old fashioned harp. Her dress comprised a pink silk skirt trimmed with a matchless lace flounce, a low black velvet bodice, a satin scarf of the family tartan – for she was proud of her Scotch descent – open worked stockings, and sandalled shoes. She carried a bag of some beautiful material over her arm, her ‘get up’ being completed by a necklace and old coral medallions and long earrings to match. Her hair was plaited in a small knot at the back, and three lank ringlets hung on each side of her face. She received her guests with a low curtsey, and was the cheeriest of hostesses. There was a great deal of music. but not a single sad air was played. The old lady related anecdotes in abundance, and her great anxiety was to see all the young people who were there happy and amiable. She had a habit of speaking her thoughts aloud, and this peculiarity sometimes caused much amusement. A young lady who had a very pretty voice was asked to sing, and at once consented. The guests gathered round. Our old friend sat near the singer, and commented audibly on the song with delightful unconsciousness, which made it hard for anyone to preserve a grave countenance”.