What with it being Robert Louis Stevenson's birthday today, I've been rooting through the archive (extensive as it is) for references and letters between the two men.
It's a much bigger task than I ever imagined and goes far beyond the information I published on line this time last year.
This year my interest was sparked by comments from Stevenson to both Crockett and Barrie, inviting them to come out and visit him in Samoa. These stem from 1893-4. Barrie and Crockett hatched a plan to go and visit him, but the plan never came off. I can't help but imagine what might have happened if they did.
It would have had to be in the spring/summer of 1894. Barrie got sick and that put him out of the picture. And he married the woman who nursed him back to health - Mary Anstell - so if he'd gone to Samoa we can suggest he might not have got married.
For Crockett, 1894 was the year he really became 'hot property.' No fewer than 4 of his works were published in book form and he was busy writing Men of the Moss Hags as a serial for Good Words before its 1895 publication. And of course this was his last year in the ministry. Indeed letters in the archive reveal that the Crockett's moved from Free Church Manse to Bank House in April 1894 'I am leaving the Manse, I fear in time the Kirk also, but that we shall see'… and instead of Samoa, in May 1894 Crockett went off to ‘tramp Galloway’ for 10 days or so' This was in the last week of May. The reason? 'I am writing a long Covenanting story for Good Words next year.'
We can only speculate how different Crockett's life might have been had he taken the trip to Samoa - but I'm intending over the next year to do a lot more looking into this whole 'non' event and the relationships between the men. I promise that by RLS's birthday next year I'll have something more substantial to report, but for this year. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here are transcripts of a couple of letters from 1887 and 1888 written by Crockett to Stevenson. I think they're interesting for a whole range of reasons .I hope you do too.
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Digging through the archive is never dull, though it is time-consuming since one thing leads to another. In this letter of 1897 we discover not only that Crockett has had a cycling accident, but also that he's been sent a consignment of Polish books by W.E.Baillie to read, which he has enjoyed. But who is W.E.Baillie, and what were the books? It may well be that answers lie elsewhere in the archive, perhaps in the folder which contains details of books sold from his library in 1913. Until then... it's a mystery.
To whet your appetite, here's a transcript of the letter, fortunately typewritten which makes it a lot quicker. SRC's handwriting is not the easiest to decipher.
15th May 1897.
Dear Mr Baillie,
I hurt my leg while cycling a fortnight ago, and had to have it surgically treated, so that I received your delightful package of books in bed, and have been reading them ever since. The Polish novels seem very strong, full of character and action. They are a remarkable find to a novelist like me.
Many thanks for the Cleg Kelly poster, which is striking and artistic. I fear our ancient Smith & Elder are not up to date with their methods.
We all remember the bright evening we spent with you. I think it was brightest to myself, because I have had no one to understand my first editions since you left.
My kindest regards to your wife, and many thanks to yourself.
Very Truly yours,
As we approach what would be Crockett's 156th birthday, we are making steady progress archiving his letters. Currently we have logged 160 letters from SRC to a variety of recipients with the earliest being dated 1892 and the latest being dated 1913 We are sure that there are more, in various of the 30+ boxes still to be worked through, and we'll be adding as we go.
Once we have a more complete index we face the task of transcribing letters and digitising them so that they can be read by everyone. This is a massive undertaking and will be a huge resource but progress is necessarily slow - not least because none of us currently has the databasing skills - so we're happy to hear from Raiders Members who have any such skills, and/or anyone who is interested in volunteering to archive, transcribe or set up/ give advice on databases and digital archive architecture.
But to give you an idea of what we've done thus far, you can download a PDF of the index thus far. Over the next few months, as well as adding to the index, we'll be picking 'topics' to look at - so if there are any that interest you in particular, get in touch with us at email@example.com
In August we were out and about, hosting the Inaugural Bog Myrtle Trophy at St Andrews. For more about that, click HERE and HERE
But when we weren't out playing (or watching) golf we've been busy at the archive and thought we'd share some of the letters we've found relating to Crockett and Golf. Along the way hopefully we'll give you an insight into why we think it's an important and interesting project to get these letters digitised and available for you to read online. But that's some way into the future.
Here's what we've found so far:
1894 Crockett writes to Dan Mowatt saying he must learn how to play golf
1895 He spends no fewer than 8 weeks in St Andrews (much of it playing golf!)
1896 Crockett corresponds with Major Pond (among others) on the subject (among others)
1897 Crockett plays in a 3 ball match at the Old Course with Willie Auchterlonie, where Auchterlonie beats the course record
To find out more about the letters, including transcripts, click HERE or go to Explore the Archive section. It's the first tentative steps of a very big project, but worth a look all the same for a taste of what's to come.
Having tidied out a space for the RDJ archive, which now sits in splendour in boxes alongside the IMD archive, it's a question of where to begin. This is a BIG JOB.
We have a small team of volunteer archivists working on the project and have decided to start with creating a database of letters written by S.R.C.
To date we've gone through 100+ letters noting date written, place written, person written to as well as a thumbnail of content. These will form the basis of our letters database which hopefully will eventually become a digitised resource available on the Galloway Raiders website. But Crockett wrote a lot of letters!
It amazes many people how many novels he wrote - an average of 2 and a half a year for 20 years (and that's not counting many other articles) but for me the most incredible thing is to be able to write 10 or so letters a day (obviously not every day) on top of all this.
Many of Crockett's personal letters (to family etc) are lost but his side of the correspondence with a lot of people still exists - from R.L.S to Whistler to John MacMillan among others and these give great insight into his life.
We’ve also been looking through the A.P.Watt archive. This can be useful for trying to 'track' the life of a story from conception to printing. Much about Crockett's life is a mystery and piecing together the chronology if his work can be something of a detective story in and of itself - especially with his posthumously published work. A.P. Watt was Crockett’s agent and the communications between them are extensive. Mostly, of course, they deal with business matters such as contracts, fees and royalties, but there’s a lot more interesting detail to be had in them too. They can help in trying to work out earliest and latest possible dates of writing of some of Crockett's stories (particularly interesting when looking at the innovativeness of his 'style') The communication extends beyond Crockett’s death as his widow and daughter took over his literary estate and so there is information on his posthumous publishings including Rogues’ Island, and information about the film version of ‘Cinderella’.
And lastly, we're going to be working on getting the full 6 episodes of Crockett's last published serial 'Peter the Renegade' republished.
So you can see, it's all go at archive central. But the first lesson of archiving is - there's no short cuts. It's a slow process and we'll be here a while!
It was the first really hot summers day when I set out on the 350 mile, 6 hour round trip from Raiders HQ to the home of Richard D.Jackson in Edinburgh. Regular readers will remember that I never actually met Dr Islay Murray Donaldson, who bequeathed me her full Crockett library and research archive, so I wasn’t taking any chances with Richard. He was hale and hearty and welcoming and an absolute fount of knowledge about Crockett, so we had a wonderful time chatting. His archive is the culmination of many years of research into Crockett’s life and writing which he cheerfully admits was for a time something of an obsession.
Richard has written several introductions about Crockett for the Kennedy and Boyd ‘Kailyard Authors’ series (I’ll never understand why you’d call a series this if you were trying to promote the authors – talk about ‘toxic brand’. Jackson has also given numerous informative talks about Crockett to a variety of groups over the years.
The time, love and money he’s spent on Crockett over the years mean that he deserves huge credit and I think it’s right to say that he’s the leading living authority on Crockett’s life and work – he certainly has plenty to teach me! He’s a self-effacing man however and I’m working on him to try and get him to accept the only honour I feel we can bestow on him, that of Honorary President of The Galloway Raiders.
Richard D.Jackson has also done work on James Hogg, on R.L.Stevenson and the lesser known Janet Stewart. He’s a veritable treasure chest of information on Scots writers and I’m privileged to have met him and honoured to be the proud recipient and curator of his archive. I only hope we can do his work justice in the months and years to come.
With the combination of Richard Jackson and Islay Murray Donaldson’s research archives I’d suggest that The Galloway Raiders now holds the most substantial research archive on S.R.Crockett’s life and works and it will be a pleasure and a privilege (as well as a lot of work) to make it available as widely as possible. That’s our goal. Our volunteer archivists have started work on the boxes – opening which is like opening a treasure chest of goodies – every item is liberally sprinkled with gold-dust.
Sorry it's got no pictures this month, but if you want to feast your eyes, why not visit one of the Galleries - I've put up this month Discovering Crockett's Galloway and Glenhead should keep you busy!
Publish and Be Damned.
I have come to the conclusion that the only thing worse than being an unsuccessful writer is being a successful one! Trying to figure out the intricacies of the contracts between writer and publisher - especially with multiple titles in multiple forms and selling in editions of varying prices is not the kind of job a writer signs up for. No wonder agents handle that kind of thing. But there are all kinds of traps for the unwary. And being hoist on one's own petard seems very likely. I think that speculation in research is inevitable. We can’t escape it, but we should admit to it!
Over the past few months (among many other things) I’ve been looking through the Hodder & Stoughton correspondence and I continue to do so, but this post is very much a work in progress post.
Here’s what I have to share at the moment…
It is most likely that Crockett was ‘introduced’ to Hodder & Stoughton through William Robertson Nicoll, who had championed him to T.Fisher Unwin (who used to work for H&S before branching out on his own)
These days H&S is still a large publishing outfit. They came from a ‘religious’ publishing background (there’s not time here to go into the intricacies and implications of religious publishing in the 19th century)
The first Crockett book they published was ‘Ione March.’ They then took ‘The Banner of Blue’ in 1903 after some considerable back and forth regarding the serialisation rights (again, too long-winded to go into right now.)
Then in 1905 they took ‘Maid Margaret’ and the ‘Cherry Ribband.’ Both of these might fall into the historical romance category.
In 1908 they published ‘Deep Moat Grange’ and ‘Princess Penniless’ which were more contemporary novels, as well as ‘Rose of the Wilderness’ (contemporary set in Galloway) and ‘Seven Wise Men’ (an out and out religious story)
At this point they contracted him for his next 3 novels of ‘historical romance’. I haven’t yet fathomed out exactly which thee were by they published the following:
Love in Pernickety Town
Anne of Barricades
Tatter of Scarlet
Hal o Ironsides
And posthumously The Azure Hand in 1917.
Sounds perfect doesn’t it? But as with everything, there are layers to the story. You need to have a basic idea the way that mainstream publishing worked in Crockett’s day.
The author was paid an advance (in Crockett’s case this was quite substantial – initially £500 per novel which reduced to £400 per novel in YEAR) This sounds great – but you have to bear in mind that it is offset against sales. And more specifically against the author’s royalties on sales. Crockett’s royalties tended to be 3/4d (that’s three farthings) per copy sold, so you can do the math (if you remember £sd system) and work out how many copies of each book he had to sell to make up the advance.
If (and when) he didn’t make the advance, the monies were offset against future publications. Not only is this an administrative financial nightmare for someone to work out, but it means that you can get into the position of being in quite a bit of debt to the publisher and therefore essentially doing some kind of writing on tick to pay off your debt. Crockett got into this situation. Now what I don’t know at this point is how much Crockett started writing to ‘suit’ the publishers or to second-guess the ‘market’. And how much ‘advice’ he was given by publisher and/or agent on what he should write.
Crockett’s detractors tend to suggest that this is one reason that his latter work is bad, or not up to scratch or something. I disagree, and the crux of my argument is that we need to see the writer as a professional in this context. Crockett was a professional writer and it’s not my experience (or indeed likely) that writers (or other professionalos) get worse at their craft the more they practice it. But success bring expectations and writing to pay off money you’ve already spent can mean that what you write becomes compromised. We need to ask ourselves what and where the compromise is.
I think that Crockett had to adapt to write for a ‘target’ audience which might not have been his first choice. But the work he writes (and I’m talking from Deep Moat Grange onwards) is different from… and yet he can still pull The Smugglers, The Moss Troopers and Silver Sand out of the bag. Crockett always experimented, always tried new things. He acknowledged this in his speech at Dalbeattie in 1906 when he said:
I do not need to tell a Galloway audience anything about the rotation of crops. Suppose for a moment that year after year for ten years one of you sowed only one kind of crop. What would be the consequence? The soil would be exhausted. Moreover, before that even, the landlord's patience. (Laughter.) Now, so with books, which are the crops of the mind. You cannot go on producing the same kind of crop. After each book is finished the brain becomes something like cold boiled turnips. To recover its elasticity, to strike fresh that unexhausted soil, one must try a new crop —something as different as possible from the old. There are, besides, for the professional author, not one landlord, but many. Editors and publishers who out of their wisdom desire such and such a crop, and will only pay according to their needs.
So one should realise that novels such as Deep Moat Grange and Princess Penniless aren’t written for the same readers any more than they are written from the same conviction. My suggestion is that right through his life Crockett did still write (and get published) novels which seem to be very personal and close to his heart, but he is also worked to hire and to my mind it’s to his credit that in these more formulaic works he manages to keep his own unique voice and humour coming through.
How we ‘read’ his work depends on our own understanding of the man and his work as well as of the time. For me, Sandy’s Love shows Crockett having quite a dig at the whole publishing ‘industry’ and knowing that he’s had to sell off a vast part of his library to clear his ‘debts’ I’m not surprised. We need to remember that writers are people too. They have lives to live, families to support, problems to deal with (in Crockett’s case a long period of ill-health which, had it been widely known might have threatened any chance he had of getting published again – with all the financial implications that might have)
But my ‘insight’ is really all so much speculation. We can never fully know what happened ‘back then.’ I am piecing together from correspondence, contracts etc and trying to make some sense via the texts themselves but they offer insight and smokescreen in equal measure.
Islay Murray Donaldson outlines a lot of this in her biography and I’m also talking with Richard D. Jackson who has probably forgotten more about Crockett than I will ever know. And I’ll keep on talking, keep on researching, keep on speculating and keep on sharing. I’m not giving a definitive or authoritative view at this point that’s for sure. I’m just sharing the journey with those of you who are interested.
Cally Phillips, May 2015
Dr Islay Murray Donaldson died a year ago this month. I never met her, but through the generosity of her daughter Chris Roberts, I have a very strong connection with her. Last year Chris not only gave me her mother’s personal library (a complete collection of Crockett’s fiction) which now has pride of place on my bookshelf, but also her mother’s complete research archive. This month I thought it only right that I mention the gratitude I feel for the privilege of being made custodian of this library and archive.
The archive contains not only all the research material which went into the biography, but correspondence and most personal, the notes and thoughts compiled over many years in relation to Crockett. I am grateful that Dr Donaldson’s handwriting is much easier to read than Crockett’s! (in the pictures below his may look neater but believe me, it's very hard to read!)
I have only dipped into the many jotters and loose leaf pages of notes – but every time I do so, I come out with gold dust on my fingers. Of course it is nothing like as good as talking to Dr Donaldson would have been – but I’m grateful to have been given the next best thing – open access to her writing and thoughts about Crockett. I have been aware of Dr Donaldson’s biography of Crockett from the late 1990’s (a decade after it was published) and for the last few years a copy of it (I’ve been through a couple!) has been at my side constantly as a valuable resource and latterly aide memoir to all things Crockett. It is a seminal work and sadly went out of publication due to the demise of the Maxwell publishing empire. (That seems somewhat ironically appropriate for Crockett).
I am happy to say that next year Ayton Publishing will be bringing out a new edition of the biography, and it will include an additional chapter on Crockett’s writing for children. So I am currently reading my way through the seven stories Crockett wrote for children and they will be ready for publication this September (scheduled for Crockett’s birthday) and of course Dr Donaldson’s ‘lost chapter’ with her thoughts and arguments about them, is foremost in my mind. I will be writing short introductions to the books but once Dr Donaldson’s revised biography is published, readers will be able to engage even more purposefully with the works.
Her 'lost' chapter opens thus:
It is not surprising that Crockett in the 1990s, looking around as always for new styles in which to write, still very much a child. at heart while his own family was growing up around him, interested in Sunday Schools and work with the young and aware of the new market opened up by the 1876 Education Act and "the immediate creation of multitudes of potential
Among new customers for the bookshop, children, should have turned his mind towards writing for this fresh audience. What is perhaps more surprising is that his books for children should have been so lively, so original, and so little affected -- except in a humorous way -- by his having been a Free Church minister.
Dr Donaldson lists six Crockett books in her chapter – but I have added the posthumous ‘Rogues’ Island’ to the collection, since this is a semi-autobiographical story of Crockett’s own childhood and I felt it fitted in well with the six published during his lifetime.
As I look at the archive and my work schedule for the next 12 months, I am well aware than none of this would have been possible without the hard work of Dr Donaldson and the extreme kindness of her daughter in sharing so much of her mother with me. I thank them both and only hope I will prove worthy of the gifts they have given me.
Cally Phillips, April 2015
This month I started by sorting out some letters. As part of that I found a set of correspondence between Dr Donaldson and Richard D. Jackson who has undertaken a lot of research into Crockett, specifically his letters and biographical historical detail. That led me to get in touch with Mr Jackson, and we’ve started corresponding. More of that anon.
I have got the archives letters loosely categorised in years. The difficulty of working through a set of correspondence without getting side-tracked and diverted was only made easier by the difficulty of reading the handwriting, so while I’ve got them bundled up in year order, I can’t say I’ve gone into depth as to the contents. But there is a letter to Crockett from Whistler! And some interesting letters from his Uncle in Canada as well as letters written by Crockett himself to a variety of people. Not as many as I’d like of course, not comprehensive enough to give a bigger picture. But I believe Mr Jackson has more in his archive and he’s happy for me to access what I need – our main problem is time and distance.
And letters present something of a problem. They can be very revealing but also only tell one side, and bits of a story. But the real problem is that of copyright. I’ve been doing some delving into this. As far as I can work out, the copyright of a letter remains with the writer of the letter. This shouldn’t present a problem with Crockett’s personal correspondence, however there is correspondence which is a bit trickier… the many letters and contracts between Crockett and his agent, his agent and his publishers (especially the correspondence between Crockett’s agent A.P.Watt and his publisher Hodder & Stoughton. Mr Jackson did a lot of work in this area in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – spending quite a bit of money and time tracking down the T.Fisher Unwin Archive and The A.P.Watt archive, or specifically the parts of these archives relating to S.R.Crockett. The problem? These collections are held by academic institutions and libraries, who therefore ‘own’ them, and dictate anyone wanting to use these letters is expected to pay for the privilege. This riles me. They won’t publish them themselves, the best you can do is find some microfiche information for ‘research’ purposes, but try to bring the information into the general arena and you’re expected to pay for the privilege. I think that’s so wrong. I don’t have the money to fight this battle at present.
However, it does stick in my craw that people who don’t feel Crockett is worthy of any real research will hang onto information about him and only see its value as something to sell. I’m seriously at odds with this as a cultural or financial view of things. We’ll never know everything about Crockett, the best we ever can come up with is an educated guess based on evidence gathered from research (and as much from primary source as possible) and I don’t think this should be mediated by the power to pay. I think it should be available to all. So I’m looking for ways round the problem. But I don’t expect there are easy solutions. My position is that the more information we can get out there into the public arena the more chance there is that people will discover things about S.R.Crockett which may enable us to see him and his work in a fuller context.
While delving in the archive though, I came across something that I can share with you this month. It’s a ‘lost’ Crockett if you like. It’s the first part of a serial written in 1914 (and so the last serial that Crockett wrote) called Peter the Renegade. You can read Episode One HERE. It was published in The Grand Magazine (a publication long since disappeared – may not even be languishing in a library anywhere!) and the ‘blurb about it said:
This fine series of stories of the Peninsular War was the last work of the later Mr S.R.Crockett. The Peninsular War is a subject in which Mr Crockett was particularly well informed, and we know that he underook the writing of these stories for the Grand Magazine with pleasure and zest. The series is based upon the exploits of a soldier who, deserting from Sir John Moore’s army, placed himself in command of one of the Spanish guerrilla bands, and on many occasion, helped to turn the tide of battle in favour of British arms.
When I first read ‘Scout Master of the Fourth’ I thought it was going to be some school story… how wrong was I? It’s like a very early ‘Sharpe’ I suppose. I have thus far tracked down the first two episodes. I believe six were published before Crockett’s death. I’m on the case looking for the missing four. That’s the thing with Crockett, one thing leads to another, and another and…
Next month I’ll be back with more thoughts on publishing and specifically my foray into the relationship between Crockett, A.P.Watt and Hodder & Stoughton. I’ve had a cursory look at the contracts and there’s a lot of interesting things to be gleaned from documents which are on the face of it fundamentally dull as ditch water (as is the nature of legal contracts!) I’m sure you’ll be on the edge of your seats till then!
The Archive sits there, somewhat overwhelming. Knowing where to start the process of cataloguing is beyond me, but the most important thing is to start anywhere. So I started a basic collation of items into the boxes, and during my very rough classification (notes, letters, transcripts, articles, documents etc) I came across a copy of Crockett’s birth certificate. At which point it occurred to me that Births, Deaths and Marriages was as good a place as any to start.
With Crockett nothing is simple. I don’t think there is an official document without some kind of error or obfuscation in it. And that’s interesting in and of itself. Anyone who has visited the Crockett memorial at Laurieston will see that the date of his birth is erroneously marked as 1860 (it was in fact 1859) and from this point on in his life nothing seems free from dispute. That original error was made from a census error some time in the 1880's or 90's when record keeping was slightly less careful and DOB less important an issue than we find it today. (I did check it out once to confirm but I've lost my own record of that!) Anyway, from that 'original sin' a lot of trouble followed
Somewhere along the line the birthdate 1860 got copied into a publication and this is the publication which was then used ever after by researchers who thus all got it wrong. I can't imagine what it must have been like to unveil the huge Laurieston monument and see the date wrong. I wonder if Ruth Crockett a) noticed, b) mentioned it or c) cared. I would have. It incenses me to this very day, though I think maybe I should learn to accept that 'fact' isn't what it's cut out to be.
We all have (it seems) a tendency to put rather too much faith in published fact. Even though when it first came out Wikipedia was considered a third rate 'source' it does seem to be in the Trinity of Wikipedia, Google and YouTube for our information sources these days. And the Wikipedia entry for S.R.Crockett is woefully inadequate. I've looked into how to 'edit' it but every time I go through the 'rules' I lose the will to live. So if anyone reading this knows how to edit in Wikipedia, I'd be happy to offer them corrections.
All of this is really works to remind me that primary sources are the best place to go for research and that puts a big weight of responsibility on my head in trying to sort out the fact from the opinion in the research archive in front of me. 'Facts' always need to be checked. And we always need to remember that we may be missing a vital piece of evidence and that the best we can do is probably supposition. So with that in mind, please accept that all the work I do on this archive is intended to offer 'fact' to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing.
You'll also note the quote from Stevenson's poem 'To S.R.Crockett.' at the bottom: 'His heart remembers how.'
But let's go back to the beginning. The archive holds a copy of Crockett’s birth certificate.
From it we can see that the father’s name is left blank. Attesting to his illegitimacy. He is the son of Anne Crocket – note the one ‘t’. The Crockett family in general seems to have been quite flexible about the number of ‘t’s’ at the end of their name.
His name is SAMUEL and his mother’s occupation is Dairymaid. His time of birth is 5.20am and the place, Little Duchrae. The information is attested to by Mary Crocket, listed as ‘nurse’ who was present at the birth. This suggests that his grandmother may have acted as midwife.
The next document we have is Crockett’s marriage certificate from which we see the official details as follows:
The marriage took place on March 10th 1887 (7 years to the day before the publication of ‘The Raiders.’) between
SAMUEL RUTHERFORD CROCKETT and RUTH MARY MILNER.
He is 27 and she is 26 and they are respectively Bachelor and Spinster.
The Marriage took place at the Parish Church in the Parish of Harpurhey, Lancaster.
At the time of the marriage Crockett’s residence was in Penicuik and Ruth’s Moston House, Harperhey.
Father’s names and occupations are listed as David Blaine Crockett (Farmer)
And George Milner (Manufacturer.)
They were married in the Established Church following banns by J. Baker, Vicar of St Johns Blackburn & Leighton, Rector.
Witnesses were John Harford Battersby, Alice Maud Milner, George Milner and John P (unclear).
The elephant in the room here is the name of Crockett’s father. Clearly the surname Crockett could not be correct as this was his mother’s unmarried name. In her biography Islay Murray Donaldson suggests that this was ‘an inexactitude for which he may be forgiven, surrounded as he was by Milners and their kin.’
But what of David Blaine? That warrants much more investigation. The archive holds more information but let’s just say it’s a work in progress to come up with any conclusions!
At the other end of the spectrum, and just as shrouded in mystery, is Crockett’s death. That he died is not at all mysterious. What he died of is the unanswered question. In her research Islay Murray Donaldson wrote to the registers at Ville d’Avignon (in 1974) to request a copy of the death certificate. This document is in French but since it was not standard practice for medical records of cause of death to be held for more than five years, we are none the wiser on that score.
His name is recorded as Samuel Rutherford Crockett and (if my French is accurate) suggests he was a writer, aged fifty three at time of death. His place of birth is given as Auchencairn, Scotland.
The document says he is the son of David Crockett and Mary Crockett and that he is the husband of Ruth Milner and lists Tarascon as the place of death. I think the rest of the document deals with the official declarations and notifications. Certainly it throws up more questions than it answers.
The final document that I’ve found in the archive thus far is a copy of Probate of Crockett’s will. This is a large document which runs to some five pages and comprises an Inventory of Crockett’s personal estate at time of death and the following shenanigans that getting it through probate involved at the time.
In Scotland his estate comprised:
A current account at the Commercial Bank of Scotland, Peebles and one with the Bank of Scotland, Castle Douglas.
The Clydesdale Bank, Penicuik held a number of securities including a range of shares.
He also had a couple of Life Insurance Policies.
And there is ‘household furniture, books and other effects’ at Torwood House, Peebles as well as ‘household furniture and other effects’ at Castle Daffin, Auchencairn.
There is also the value of his literary property - valued by A.P.Watt his literary agent.
He was also in credit with an Edinburgh bookseller.
In England his estate comprised:
Good stored at the Pantechnicon, Motcomb Street and books and belongings in the hands of Sothebys.
The total value of his estate was valued at just under £10,000.
Ruth Milner stood to inherit everything according to a will made on 31st January 1903 It was a simple will which stated: I leave all of which I die possessed to my wife Ruth Mary Crockett. Mr A.P.Watt and Mr A.S.Watt to be sole trustees and executors.
(a role they declined to accept in the eventuality!)
Again, there is much more detail and investigation which can be carried regarding this document – why the Watt’s declined to be executors – why they were listed as such in the first place etc – but until I have more evidence from the archives I want to avoid speculation
To close the circle, Crockett was buried in the family plot at Balmaghie Kirkyard. His name is at the bottom of the stone and when the grass grows I suspect is obscured. It reads Also Samuel Rutherford Crockett. Minister of the Gospel and Novelist. Born at Duchrae in this parish on 24th September 1859. Died at Tarascon, France on 16th April 1914.
For obituaries and comments on Crockett's death click HERE
That's the February update. More in March. I'm going to try and sort out all Crockett's letters into chronological order. Wish me luck. It will probably take more than a month, and I'm bound to get diverted along the way...