Slate exportation

Today I spent a while researching a chap called John Scott Huxley. (A family legend has it that they were related to Sir Walter Scott so nearly every male had ‘Scott’ as a middle name. I should add that I’ve found conclusive evidence to support this assertion. Sir Walter Scott was John Scott Huxley’s great great great uncle. The Huxley name comes from the marriage of Sir Walter’s niece Jessie and Colonel Thomas Huxley in 1819. I’d love to know if the Colonel was related to Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog and all round amazing guy…but I digress.)

John Scott Huxley was born in 1885 in Canterbury, the son of a George Thomas Scott Huxley and his wife Emily Charlotte Huxley nee Williams. John’s early schooling was had at the Tonbridge School where he was enrolled as a day boy from 1898-1903.

The family moved around a bit before finally settling down at Dropmore a house in Shortheath Road, Wrecclesham. John, however, wasn’t in the area for very long. He wanted to be an architect and was articled to a surveyor in London for a bit before finding himself working in Breconshire, Wales. By 1911 he was living in County House, boarding with a Mr and Mrs Ford.

He was, for a time, the clerk of works at Breconshire County Council working under a Mr CW Best, the county surveyor of Breconshire. From all reports John was a genial and pleasant fellow and much regarded by everyone.

Then, in 1912, he decided to head for Sydney.

He quickly joined Robertson and Marks, a very well regarded NSW architectural firm in O’Connell Street, Sydney. The firm was started in 1892 when George Birrell Robertson (originally from Dundee) partnered up with Theodore John Marks (born in Jamberoo, NSW). George’s health wasn’t very good and, sadly, he died before John Scott Huxley arrived.

Why John Scott went to Sydney is anyone’s guess but things worked out very well for him there. Actually, in retrospect he may have been better staying there for the rest of his life.

In 1913, John married Kathleen Hewlett, the daughter of the Classical Master at Sydney Grammar School, and they settled down to start a family. Except they didn’t settle down for long.

John Scott and a couple of chums had a great idea. The Sydney building trade was much in need of the kind of slate that only grows in Wales. Of course John had worked in Wales and knew the place rather well. I can only assume that he had also had made quite a few useful contacts while living there. It was decided that he would return to Britain and start the ball rolling on their import/export business.

And so, in February 1914, John Scott Huxley and his wife Kathleen set off back to Blighty. (I did read something in a newspaper piece which claimed they moved back for Kathleen’s health but I’m fairly certain that people didn’t usually move from Oz to Wales in order to improve their health.)

Upon their return, John started putting things in motion. The Welsh slate quarries had been in the middle of a slow down from the turn of the 20th century so I’m sure the promise of international business would have spurred them on a bit.

While conducting business, John Scott also took up a volunteer post as a constable in the Breconshire Special Constabulary. This followed the 28 August creation of the Special Constables Act of 1914. The idea was to fill positions left vacant by police officers going off to fight in the war following the declaration in July.

On October 30, 1914, Kathleen gave birth to their son, John David Scott Huxley and it seems that they all lived happily for a bit. A very short bit. The following spring, John Scott applied for a commission and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant with the 9th Battalion, South Wales Borderers in March 1915.

By January 1916 he had moved on. He had acquired a specialisation in machine guns and was soon off to France with the Machine Gun Corps. In April 1916 he entered the fray and was killed in July during the Somme Offensive.

A fellow officer wrote about his death…

‘He was leading his section up a slope against a wood out of which was coming a most murderous fire from rifles and machine guns. He was absolutely fearless, and exposed himself almost recklessly in encouraging his men. He was shot through the head and became immediately unconscious. His section was completely lost without him, and his servant told me that he felt he had lost his father.’

Likewise, his Captain was equally complimentary adding that, had John survived, he was going to put him forward for a Military Cross. John Scott Huxley was 30 years old.

2nd Lieutenant John Scott Huxley (1885-1916)
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