Acknowledgements & Gratitude

Many members of the family have been so kind to me in this project to record the history of our Molteno family and its related branches. Cousins down the years have dug out things written by previous generations; found old photos; told me stories; and given me endless hospitality. They have been interested in the project, constantly encouraged me, and – not least – been affectionately tolerant of my having made little visible progress for far too long! In particular, Fiona Lorimer (nee Molteno) and her husband Gordon, and Margaret Gibbs (nee Williamson) and her husband John Mike, have year after year (I hate to think how many years!) been my mainstays. Quite simply, this whole project recording the history and recollections of our family would never have happened without them.

Cousins galore!

In addition, I would like to thank the following cousins (and their spouses!).

In England and Scotland Patricia Berridge (nee Molteno), Jan Biggs (nee Molteno) and her husband Peter, Iona Bowring (nee Murray) (who died in 2013), Michael and Penny Bowring, Selina Cohen (nee Molteno), Patricia Greenway, Fiona Leng (nee Murray) and her husband Malcolm, Brian Molteno, Julian Molteno, Jim Molteno-Mills, David Murray, Robert Murray, Robin Soldan and Camilla and Rodger Williams. Also John Barham (not that, strictly speaking, he is an actual relation) who has published a magnificent volume of Alice Greene and Betty Molteno’s correspondence.

In South Africa my Aunty Jocelyn (Jocelyn Morris, nee Molteno), Cynthia Payne (nee Stanford) and Margaret Hemsted (nee Stanford) – all three of whom are no longer alive – and more recently and continuously, Catherine Corder (nee Molteno) who is working on the life of Betty Molteno, Sherrill Hodge, Ceri Mackellar, Stephen Molteno (busy researching, in particular, the life of Sir John C. Molteno), Carin Purnell (nee Syme), John Stanford, and Iona Zietsman.

In the United States a Hawaiian cousin of ours, Mandy Ellis-Ishikawa, who has done a huge amount of work tracking down Frank Molteno’s descendants in Hawaii from the 1840s.

In Australia Jenny Molteno who has used the Internet to remarkable effect in tracking our family down, both the Australian branch and the other descendants of Elsie Rose Lee (nee Molteno). It was Jenny who first alerted me to the fact that some records actually existed in relation to the Hawaiian branch of the Molteno family.

In Kenya, George and Irralie Murray, and their daughter, Rowena Gross.

And my wife, Marion, who, as my head has been more and more in the 19th and early 20th centuries, has always been the interested, sharply observant and sometimes teasing recipient of my enthusiasm!

Finally, if I have accidentally omitted anyone, please forgive me (and blame my ‘senior moments’!).

Libraries and Archives


Jamieson Hall (next to the Library), University of Cape Town

The most important location of materials about the family is the archives at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Library. I first worked there for nearly two months in 1996. I cannot exaggerate the support that its head, Lesley Hart, and her small staff including Yasmin Mohamed, gave me in my endless requests for yet more box files, photostats  (this was before the days of scanning), and copies of photographs. They had this rich collection on the family because my father’s cousin, Kathleen Murray, had for decades collected from her parents and many other relatives letters, diaries, and other writings and documents. It was this large collection (BC330) that she eventually donated to UCT.  Her sister, May Murray Parker, did the same thing (BC314, now integrated into the first one). May’s collection is important, in part, because she was close to her remarkable, if sometimes eccentric, Aunt Betty Molteno and preserved a huge volume of her journals, poems and correspondence. 


National Library of South Africa, Cape Town

Mention should also be made of other smaller collections of family materials. The South African Library (SAL) holds a quantity of Percy Molteno’s papers (MSC17) that were donated by his daughter and son, Margaret Murray and Jervis Molteno. I would like to thank Karel Schoeman at SAL for being most helpful to me.  


Rhodes House, Oxford University

Rhodes House in Oxford has a small collection of Sir John Charles Molteno’s papers. Arranged in 5 volumes, they came to it in the following way. When Sir John died in 1886, his son Percy took over many of his father’s papers. These were stored in the head office of the Union Castle Company in London where Percy was a senior director, in order to facilitate his working on them while writing a biography of his father. Most of the papers were then transferred to a special room at Percy’s London home at No. 10 Palace Gate, W.1. But a small number were accidentally left behind at the Union Castle offices. It seems that they found their way into the hands of a dealer who in turn disposed of them to Rhodes House, as well as a small quantity to the British Museum (Add. MSS. 39299).


Chronicle of the Family, 1913-20 — that most invaluable storehouse


Chronicle of the Family, August 1914 issue

Another invaluable source of stories, extracts from letters, reminiscences and general news about the family were the regular issues of the Chronicle of the Family. This publication was the initiative of May Murray and her cousin, Effie Anderson, both grandchildren of Sir John Charles Molteno. The Chronicle was later carried on by Kathleen and another cousin, Brenda Molteno. It was brought out every four months from 1913 to 1920. A handful of bound volumes survive.







The debt we owe to our forebears and many others today

My research and what appears on this website was also only possible because I was able to stand on the shoulders of those who had made earlier attempts to write about the family.  Percy Molteno commissioned an Italian researcher in the 1890s to glean what could be found in Milan about the medieval history of the family. He also wrote, as I mentioned, a two-volume life of his father, Sir John Charles Molteno. He did research into related families, notably the Jarvis’s, Bowers, and Alports, and wrote short accounts of them.


Percy Molteno in his 30s, about the time he started research into the history of the family in the 1890s

It is also possible that he actually completed in the 1930s his own history of the Molteno family. But apparently only one handwritten copy existed, and this was lost in the post between his Scottish home, Glen Lyon, and London. The loss so disheartened him that he did not try to reconstruct the manuscript. Whether this actually happened, I am not clear; certainly I have found no trace of any draft materials in those of his papers I have seen. But I am told that the great bulk of his personal papers, following his death in 1937, disappeared during the Second World War. There have been other attempts to write the family history. Percy’s great friend, Francis Hirst, a former Editor of the Economist, wrote a full-length biography of him entitled A Man of Principle — The Life of Percy Molteno, M.P. But it was never published. Hirst’s account included a lot not just about Percy, but also other members of the family.


Much more recently, the South African historian, the late Phillida Brooke Simons, whom I had the pleasure of knowing, wrote Apples of the Sun (1997). She drew in part on unfinished research undertaken by Siegfried Stander, and after his death, by Karen Stander. This is a magnificently illustrated history of Ted and Harry Molteno’s growing apples and other deciduous fruit for export from Elgin, but its first three chapters are a history of the Molteno family at the Cape . The book is not commercially available, but copies can be obtained from the Molteno Brothers Trust.


Kathleen Murray in her library at Palmiet River farm, Elgin, 1960s

Lastly, I must mention that in the1950s Kathleen Murray commissioned Dr R. F. M. Immelman, Chief Librarian of the University of Cape Town, to start work on an immensely ambitious three-volume account of the family. Sadly, it was never completed despite the huge amount of work (see BC601 in the UCT Archives) he did on it. But the huge archive of family papers Kathleen built up remains the foundation of any research into the family.

One other member of the family who researched its history was Kenneth Lee. He was one of Elsie Rose Molteno’s sons, and lived most of his life in Hereford. He told his Uncle Herbert George Molteno that he had written over 1,000 letters in the course of the years he spent tracking the family down!

In addition to all these efforts, several family members also constructed the family tree, notably Fiona Lorimer, whose incomparably comprehensive version built on the work done originally by her mother, Islay Molteno. Photographs have been sent me by many members of the family. I have also had the benefit of an album compiled by my grandmother, Lil Molteno, nearly a century ago, and similarly venerable albums in the hands of Fiona Lorimer and Michael Bowring. I am most grateful to everyone for their help. A list of everyone who supplied photos is appended.

Others who have been so helpful

Finally, I would like to thank Leonie Twentyman Jones, formerly of the UCT Library, whose knowledge of its holdings relevant to my research, and continuing interest in my project, have been a wonderful support. Dr Chris Saunders, a historian and friend, has been equally helpful. Over the years, I have attended, and learned a lot from, many lectures organised by the Society of Genealogists. These have alerted me to relevant sources, the use of the Internet, and family history sites. And I owe a debt of gratitude, also, to all those who were directly involved in preparing materials for this website. They include Becky Richings who designed it; Kate Goodacre who, in addition to scanning photographs and proofreading text, patiently taught me how to handle WordPress over many tuition sessions; and Anne Rodford and Ralph Smith who proofread many of the diaries and reminiscences that appear here.

Robert Molteno

December 2013