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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Stephen Sarkies Stephen: The Dirty Divorce


She was young, with a family background of money. He was handsome, eligible and charming with no money at all. What could possibly go wrong?

Background to the divorce between Mary Stephen and Stephen Sarkies Stephen


Beyond the walls: “I Didn’t Seduce Her”

In January 1885 a young Armenian named Stephen Sarkies Stephen was apprenticed to a firm in Howrah, Calcutta earning Rs30 a month as pocket money. He worked with them until February 1886. All his living expenses were paid for by his guardian. At the time he started work, he was lodging with the Galstaun Brothers, one of whom was Simon Arratoon Galstaun. It was in the January of 1885 that Stephen met Noori a 15 year old Muslim girl. Noori lived in Tiretta Bazar Street next door to him and the Galstaun’s.  During the course of their developing friendship, she generously gave Stephen gifts, such as a gold watch and a chain. A year later, in January 1886 they set up home together in Eden Hospital Lane, but Stephen insisted: “I did not seduce her.”

Stephen stopped receiving any allowance from his guardian in April 1886 because he could see that Stephen was not working. As well as jewels, Noori had given him large gifts of money which he had accumulated until it reached Rs 10,000. This he advanced to Mr. Thaddeus on the mortgage of a colliery at Asansol; and subsequently after Noori and Stephen married a further sum of Rs 14,000 was advanced by him to Mr. Thaddeus on the mortgage, Stephen obtained all the money from Noori.[1]

Noori gave birth to their daughter, Vartini on the 23 November 1887 in Calcutta, the baby was named in honour of Stephen’s own mother Vardini, and she was baptized on the 29 July 1888 at the Armenian Church, Calcutta[2].

Baptism record for Vardini aka Rose Stephen
Vartini went on to be known as Rose. In the register there is a short note that says in Armenian: “Daughter of Noori, a teenage girl living at Mr. Stephen Sarkies Stephen’s house.” Having been living together for nearly 3 years, he and Noori, married in 1888. Just one day before the wedding, on the 17th October 1888 Mohamedan Noori[3] was baptized into Christianity at the Armenian Church Calcutta, and given the name Mary George. She was 18 years of age.

Baptism record of Noori
In a nod of acknowledgement to her appointed Godfather George John Amirkhan, she took his Christian name as her surname. He was an Armenian and good friend of Stephen’s. Noori was now known as Mary George.  George John, as he was more commonly known, was also one of the witnesses at the wedding. The other witness at the wedding[4] was Martyrose Sarkies Stephen, Stephen’s brother.  It is interesting to see the baptism of baby Vartini (Rose) in the Armenian Church baptism register and just two entries below that is the baptism of the baby’s mother Noori. I dare say not many children can boast they were baptized before their own mother.

Marriage record of Mary and Stephen Sarkies Stephen
What possessed the young 15 year old girl to live with a man 10 years older is unclear, there’s nothing in available records to suggest she was ever a servant of any kind. Far from it, what is clear, is that as a young girl she was well off, and Stephen took full advantage of that. At the time of the marriage she expected furniture, carriages and horses and all the trappings of a respectable married woman. What she got was Rs14,000 which was part of the money she had previously given to him earlier in their relationship, it wasn’t exactly the gilts and gold she was hoping for.

The marriage was pretty well destined for failure from the start. In December 1889 she left her husband taking her two year old daughter with her, and went to live in Humayon Place.  On the 12th December she began proceedings for a divorce, alleging that he had committed adultery on several occasions since their marriage, and had treated her with cruelty. Stephen did not appear in Court to defend the suit nor try to clear his name. It was decided by the Courts ex parte on 23rd January 1890 with the nisi being granted that Stephen, after his marriage with Mary, had committed adultery and treated her with cruelty, as alleged in the petition of Mary.

However, he realised he could attempt to get money and property from her by submitting a counter-claim citing “collusion” between them. The counter-claim became a dirty fight. He was penniless, out of work, and being pressured by his mother to provide a regular income for her because she also had no money. Mary became an easy financial target.

Using an ill-judged moment in Mary’s early transition from single to married, Muslim to Christian,  Stephen submitted to the Court that after their wedding Mary became acquainted with a Mr. Creet, and at her request he was asked to teach her English. After a time, besides visiting Mary and Stephen’s house for that purpose, it was alleged Creet used to visit it at all times, and up to a late hour in the night as a friend. It was further alleged that in December 1888, during Stephen’s absence from the house, she allowed Mr. Creet to put his arm around her neck and kiss her, on learning this, Stephen thrashed Creet and turned him out of the house. He went on to say that Mary and Stephen made up together the very next day agreeing that Mr. Creet should be forbidden from visiting the house again. Mr. Creet, it was claimed, was guilty of various other familiarities with Mary. That on several occasions in January and July 1889 during Stephen’s absence from the house, Mary visited Mr. Creet at his private residence. In November 1889 she left her house with a view to going with her mother to Dacca for a fortnight, but in reality, stayed in Calcutta and instituted a suit for divorce against Stephen, of which he knew nothing until he was served with the summons. How much of the liaison with Creet was real or not, no-one will know, but it was a useful piece of leverage for Stephen.

The collusion he claimed was that allegedly an agreement had been  entered into between them, that if Stephen would promise not to appear and defend the original suit, Mary would make over to him a house 31-1 Theatre Road belonging to her, subject to an existing mortgage of Rs14,000, and would leave him the custody of their child. It was further alleged that Mary threatened that if he did not agree to collude, she would revert to her former religion of a Mohamedan, and would not part with little Rose, but would bring her up as a Muslim. Whilst waiting for the suit to be heard Stephen consulted his attorney, Mr. Gregory, with regard to the carrying out of the agreement. He went to see Mary’s attorney, Babu G.C. Chunder, who said she was not willing to make the transfer of the house before the decree had been obtained. On the 28th January 1890, Mr. Gregory again saw Mary’s attorney, who then refused to make the transfer, but offered to give Stephen Rs 10,000 out of Rs, 24,000 advanced by Mary on a mortgage of a colliery at Asansol. This offer was refused by Stephen.

A decree was granted dissolving the marriage with the usual clause: “unless sufficient cause could be shown to the contrary within six months from the date of decree.” On the 1st of May 1890 Stephen made attempts to have the decree absolute granted, making the assumption Mary would give in at the last moment and comply with his wishes.

Lining up against Mary, and clearly in full support of Stephen were affidavits submitted by Mr. George John, the gentleman who had stood as Godfather at the baptism of Mary to Christianity, he claimed there was corroborative evidence as to Mary’s promises in the event of Stephen not defending the suit, and her threats in case he should do so.

Also aligning with Stephen, was Aratoon Simon Galstaun. His affidavit likewise set out the alleged promises and threats of Mary, and stated that she told him that if she got a divorce she would “marry someone who was far better than her present husband.”

Further support for Stephen came from Mr. Galstaun Gregory, in his affidavit he stated that on the 15th January 1890, Stephen with Mr. Malcolm and Mr. J. Galstaun called on him and informed him that his wife had agreed to transfer a house in Theatre Road to him, and instructed him to act for him in the matter. However, he was later informed by Mary’s counsel she had not yet made up her mind. On the 21st January he saw Gonesh Babu, under the instruction of Stephen and in his company.  Babu G.C. Chunder said that Mary was willing to make the transfer, but he could not advise it being done pending these proceedings, and would consult his counsel on the subject. Mr. Gregory thereupon told Gonesh Babu that he had nothing whatever to do with these proceedings. On the 28th January 1890 he had another interview with Gonesh, when the new offer of Rs 10,000 was made.[i]

Assuming that these facts were as stated in these affidavits, it was contended that a stronger case of collusion could not possibly be made out. The Judge ruled further investigations into the alleged collusion had to be made.

Mary’s counsel, Mr. Henderson stated that under the order of the 5th of May his client was required to clear up the question of collusion.  She had in accordance with this order filed a number of affidavits dealing with the matter. Counsel was proceeding to read that part of Mary’s affidavit which dealt with the purchase and subsequent history of the Mary’s house in Theatre Road, when Mr. Pugh (counsel for Stephen Sarkies Stephen) objected that these matters were not material. Mr. Henderson submitted that what took place as to this house before the suit was brought was relevant as throwing light on what happened with regard to it afterwards, but the Court upheld the objection. Further lengthy discussions took place as to whether or not there had been collusion between Stephen and Mary. A decision was arrived at by Justice Wilson, who said:

“ there was no evidence of collusion existing except the uncorroborated evidence of Stephen.” Justice Wilson also gave a withering summary of Stephen Sarkies Stephen: “……..the respondent is flatly contradicted  by both attornies; and in view of the disgraceful character of himself which he himself has given, it is impossible to believe his evidence. Mrs. Stephen’s evidence is supported by several of his witnesses, but her husband’s is contradicted by the witnesses on both sides, including his own attorney.”

In his poverty-stricken condition, with his mother asking him for financial support, he simply saw one last money-grabbing opportunity from his beleaguered wife. He had tried his utmost to get the Courts to believe she had “colluded”, but he failed.

It was always thought that Stephen Sarkies Stephen started his own coal mine from a dowry he received[5], but the evidence in the divorce case unequivocally shows the money and intelligence behind the operation was Mary. She appears to have had a natural commercial head on her shoulders. In a male dominated industry, it was Mary who had purchased three perpetual leases of surface and sub-soil rights that had originally been granted to coal miner, Joseph Chater in 1887.

Let that sink in for a moment. An 18-year-old female who happened to be Muslim, had purchased a coal mine. A couple of years later, she also had the foresight to purchase land and property in Theatre Road, Calcutta. She was, by all accounts, ahead of her time; a very smart young lady.

The mine was called Mouzah Ghoosick in the district of Raneegunge. As we have already seen, during the course of their divorce hearing, Stephen confirmed that he had only a small job in Howrah and that he didn’t work whilst he lived with Mary and he was living off a small amount of interest from the Rs14,000 loan she had given him. This he had subsequently passed to Thaddeus Stephen. More of him a little later.

After she had successfully defended herself in Court, Mary took custody of the child Rose and equally important, she kept ownership of the coal mine.

New Beginnings


In 1892, Mary (Noori) married a gentleman by the name of Creet[6]. I would hazard a guess it was the same gentleman Stephen had alleged she had got close to. Who could blame her? Escaping from Stephen, who had robbed her of her childhood and was bleeding her dry financially and living off her without any kind of job must have caused untold anxiety to her. It was, of course, far more the “norm” for young teenage girls to become brides at 15 at that time, but it still must have been psychologically difficult and frightening. particularly because she was having to endure an intimate relationship with him at 16.  In December 1901 Stephen married for a second time to Mariam nee Sarkies, witnesses at this marriage were Stephen’s brother Martyrose Sarkies Stephen and Mariam’s brother John Seth Sarkies.

Her relationship with Simon Theodore Creet appeared to be a much happier one. Baby Vartini aka Rose took Simon’s name and officially became known as Rose Creet. In February 1893 Mary gave birth to a son, Theodore Simon Creet; a half sibling for Rose.  Unfortunately, Mary was not destined to see her children grow up, she died in Simla in September 1900 aged just 31 years. Her burial record states the cause of death as gastritis, not a condition we recognize as a killer in the 21st century, one wonders if there were other underlying health issues. Certainly, something had been awry for some time because Mary made her Will on the 12th February 1900 at her Ghoosick Colliery Kalipahari near Asansol. Perhaps the family had travelled to Simla to escape the summer heat and give her a change of air. It ended up being her last resting place. Rose was only 12, her half-brother Theodore, a mere 7 years of age. Did Simon Creet have a conversation with Stephen Sarkies Stephen about the future well-being of Rose I wonder? Was there any debate as to where and who she would live with? If so, the outcome was clear, Rose continued to live with her step-father and half-brother.

Just over a year later, in December 1901 Rose’s natural father Stephen had remarried to Mariam Sarkies with whom he went on to have at least nine children, all in Calcutta. They were:
Pearl – 1902
Sarkies – 1904
Chrysanthemum – 1906
Sampson – 1908
Seth – 1909
Ruby Rose – 1911
Violet – 1913
Iris – 1915
Unknown – 1918

Mary was very clear in her will about the future of her coal mine. It was to be put into Trust to allow Simon to work it for the duration of his lifetime. He could: “….receive and enjoy the rents income and profits thereof for his own use and benefit he paying all ground rents royalties and other outgoings in respect thereof and keeping the said property in reasonable repair”.  Mary also decided what should happen to her colliery after the death of Simon. “…..after the decease of my said husband I declare that the said colliery shall be sold and the sale proceeds thereof shall go and belong as to a half share thereof to my son Theodore Simon Creet, and as to a quarter share thereof to my daughter the said Rosie Stephen now called Rosie Creet and as to the remaining quarter share thereof to my brother in law Arratoon Creet…..”

Having said that, Mary didn’t want to bind the family into selling the mine after the death of Simon, a further “get-out” clause made it easy for the family to decide what to do with it, in their own time.  

“….And also that at the death of my said husband my trustees shall have power at their discretion to postpone the sale of the said colliery for so long as they shall think fit without being liable for any loss or depreciation that may be occasioned thereby and that if at the death of my said husband any of my said children abovenamed or referred to shall be under the age of twenty one years and the sale of the said colliery shall be postponed my trustees shall have full power to work the share or shares of such minor or minors of and in the said colliery and to carry on the said coal mining business in conjunction with the owner or owners of the other share or shares to the best advantage and shall apply the profits thereof for and towards the maintenance support and benefit of the said minor or minors till he she or they shall respectively attain twenty one years of age without being liable for any waste or loss occasioned by such working….”

Extract of Mary's Will
Simon Creet remained a widower and a single parent to Rose and Theodore for the next 6 years. He did go on to remarry Amy Ringham aka Victoria in Folkstone, Kent with whom he had a further six children; step-siblings to Rose and half-siblings to Theodore. 

Marriage record of Simon Creet and Amy Ringham
In 1913 Rose married Leon Aviet Creet, probably a cousin or nephew of her step-father Simon.  All indications are that Rose had little or no contact with her natural father Stephen. 

 
Marriage record of Leon Creet and Rose Creet
The marriage certificate shows her father as Simon and witnesses were Simon and Victoria. They both put their residence at the time of marriage to be Kendra Hall in Pampisford Road, Croydon[7].  Influenced by coal, Simon had named the house after the Kendra Coal mine he was so familiar with. It was, after all, a product of his successful career in India.

The family lived a comfortable and enviable lifestyle. The house was certainly large enough to accommodate bride and groom pre-wedding. The elegant Kendra Hall had 18 rooms. Ten bedrooms each with dressing rooms, two staircases, a 40ftx20ft lounge fitted in oak, three large reception rooms, a winter garden, conservatory, a billiard-room, numerous offices, large stabling as well as a garage and a separate staff cottage. The grounds extended to eight acres and contained an orchard and a paddock.[8] The family immersed themselves in local social and political activities. Victoria was a great supporter of the Women’s National Liberal Association in Croydon, and often held meetings and summer garden parties to help promote them.

A garden party at Kendra Hall was held in support of the Croydon Liberal and Radical Association

Simon Creet owned the Ghusik and Muslia Collieries at Kalipahari. they consisted of  three mines; (1) Baraboni which was managed by Simon’s nephew, Minas Creet; (2) the Ghusik mine was managed by Simon’s brother Arratoon Theodore Creet, his assistant managers were another nephew, Peter John Peters and the young Leon Creet, who used this as his place to gain valuable experience in mining; (3) Muslia, the third mine was managed by a non-family member[9]. Simon oversaw the whole mining operation as General Manager. He employed over 400 workers below ground, nearly 300 of them were at the Ghusik mine operation alone. Above ground there were an additional 300+ workers, with 200 of them working at Ghusik.

Leon followed the Creet family into coal mining, and it probably wasn’t lost on either him or Rose, that the Ghoosick[10] mines he worked had originally been in the possession of her Muslim born mother Noori, the family business started by Mary’s (Noori’s) early foresight had given her daughter and son-in-law a comfortable living. 

Leon became owner of the East Satgram Coal Company Ltd, and in 1945 produced a healthy 45,500 tons of coal[11]. He was also manager of other mines, such as Bogra Coal Limited, and Bolompore Coal Co Ltd[12] with additional involvement in others.


Simon and Victoria emigrated to Canada settling in Beamsville. As well as moving his whole family, he also took along his aging uncle, Thaddeus Stephen. This is the same Thaddeus Stephen who had received money from Stephen Sarkies Stephen in 1886, which had originally been Mary (Noori’s) money. Thaddeus went on to become a teacher at the Armenian College & philanthropic Academy in Calcutta for a number of years. Prior to settling in Canada, Thaddeus had moved to England and lived with Simon’s family. His wife, Regina nee Shircore, appears to have stayed in Calcutta where she died in 1926. Thaddeus died in North America in 1923 and is buried in Beamsville the adopted home town of Simon and Victoria.

Thaddeus Stephen was buried in Beamsville, Canada
Mount Osborne Cemetery, OGS#3384 (prev Clinton) Beamsville, ON
image by James Wagner
https://canadianheadstones.com/search-item.html?psid=667563

When Leon reached his 60’s, he began travelling regularly between India and England where Rose lived permanently. Initially they rented in Kensington Court, London, but from the early 1950’s, they purchased 140 Westbourne Terrace, near Paddington in London.

It would become a property whose walls could tell some stories, if they could speak. And, curiously, speak they did.

Good Friends Come in All Mediums


Rose and Leon rented some of the rooms out. One of the first people to take a tenancy was a man called Leslie Walter Flint who moved into the house in 1953[13] following the death of his wife Edith. Leslie was a well-known spiritualist. For Rose, what may well have started as a mild interest, even curiosity turned into something far deeper and more meaningful for her. Leslie stayed in the house up to and including the time of Rose’s death. In those 20 years, Rose, Leslie and another tenant Bramwell Rogers (Bram), all became exceptionally close friends. Rose often sat for Leslie during his spiritual readings, and over the years, they became more like family to her. I have been very fortunate to be in touch with “The Leslie Flint Trust”, and have discussed the relationship Rose had with Leslie at great length. Commenting on her they said: “Rose had her own direct line to the spirit world through Leslie's work, almost her own resident medium.”  Rose became a devoted follower of spiritualism, and in some of the many sittings she did with Leslie she would regularly speak with Stephen Ward. You may remember the Profumo affair from the 1960s, Ward was a friend of Christine Keeler, a Svengali figure in her life, who had introduced her to John Profumo. The end result of the whole ugly situation was the tragedy of Stephen taking his own life. The Leslie Flint Trust said: “Rose spoke to Stephen Ward through Leslie many times.”

Rose was also able to speak with her brother Theo who had died in September 1933 in Luestringen, Germany[14]. Remarkably there is a Leslie Flint recording of Rose talking with the late Theo. I reproduce the transcript of the conversation below, with permission of the Leslie Flint Educational Trust[ii]. You can listen to the recording on this link. Rose’s conversation with Theo starts at approximately 4:33.


Theo:
Hello Rosie.

Rose:
Oh, hello dear.

Theo:
It's Theo.

Rose:
Yes...darling.

Theo:
I can come for a few minutes.

Rose:
Yes.

Theo:
I just wanted you to know that I was here tonight, you know, in the meeting, like.

[Creaking]

Theo:
I want you to come and speak to me on your own.

Rose:
Oh right, I will.

Theo:
I can't very well say things to you now. I mean, because it isn't permitted in this circle...

Rose:
No.

Theo:

...to discuss personal things, but I hope you will come and speak to me, so that I can talk to you alone, you see?

Rose:
Yes...

Theo:
So perhaps you can arrange it?

Rose:
Alright.

Theo:
All my love. And Mummy sends her love to you.

Rose:
Oh, all my love to her and to you darling.

Theo:
Thank you.

Rose:
And I hope I shall be able to speak to you very soon.

Theo:
I was wondering...if you could manage to come on your birthday?

Rose:
Oh, I'll try.

Theo:
God bless. Goodbye.

Rose:
Alright. Goodbye dear.




140 Westbourne Terrace.
140 Westbourne Terrace circ 1956. Image courtesy of Collage. The London Picture Archive[15]
Rose’s kindness of nature is remembered by one her tenants, Nick Hartley, now living  in South Africa,[16] but who lived briefly at the house as a young man.

"…..I lived there in the first floor flat, when Leslie Flint went to America in 1971 to promote his book Voices in the Dark.  I was interested in spiritualism and was a member of his home circle. I was asked to stay in the house as sort of man about the house. I worked in London and spent many evenings after work on my way up too my flat with Rosie, I always knew her as Rosie.

I always remember her sitting there in the lounge in a wing back chair when I came home from work. I always stopped to chat. She was very kind to me. Paid for a maid to clean my upstairs flat every Thursday and clean sheets were left at the bottom of the stairs always with a packet of 30 Embassy cigarettes. She also smoked as I think did Leslie. I could only afford to buy 10’s, so 30’s were very extravagant. I am sure the little rent I paid didn't cover the maid and laundry and cigarettes and gas and electricity I think it was 4 pounds a week all in. That was my first trip to England when I was 18 years old…..
She called me and every one “darling"…very posh….”come inside …sit .....tell me what you have been doing.”

There was a large grand piano in the lounge and a man called Mischa de la Motte[17] used to visit and play for her as she was too old. She had a passion for Chopin…. "


Leon died of coronary thrombosis at their home in 140 Westbourne Terrace, London in July 1960 with Rose by his side. She died there in September 1973. There were no children. Her adopted family of Creet’s had long migrated to Canada; she wasn’t in touch with any of her half-siblings (from her father’s second marriage), her family, as far as she was concerned, were right there, in the house with her. She had no immediate family, Leslie and Bram were the closest. Leslie stayed with her until the end, and a few days later registered her death, He knew enough about her to know her maiden name was Stephen.

Leon's death certificate

Rose's death certificate

Rose Creet. Owner of 140 Westbourne Terrace. Landlady of Leslie Flint.
Image courtesy of the Leslie Flint Educational Trust
In his will, Leon naturally left his entire estate to Rose[18].

Snapshot of Leon Creet's Will
As a widow, she continued to supplement her income by renting out rooms in her house. There no real financial need to do so, it was more for companionship in the house than anything else. When she died, Rose specifically requested that she be cremated at Golders Green crematorium three days after her death. She left the entire valuable property at 140 Westbourne Terrace, to her long-term lodger and good friend, Leslie Walter Flint with Bramwell (Bram) Rogers receiving a £5,000 legacy. Leslie had been lodging with her and Leon for at least 20 years, occupying the ground floor and basement whilst Rose lived on the top floor. There was only one family bequest in her will, her late husband’s nephew Mario Creet in Canada to whom she left £5,000[19]. There were a couple of small bequests to friends; one to Louise Sumner who was to receive Rose’s piano and sheet music, and one to Mary Coffey who inherited all Rose’s wearing apparel, furs, jewels, trinkets and ornaments. This bequest would have included the jewelry Rose had been left by her own mother Mary.  The residue of her estate, including the freehold of her house, was bequeathed to Leslie. It was the ultimate act of kindness to a dear and caring friend and seemed fitting he should continue to live in the house that had long ago become home to him. She requested the death duty due from the property be taken from her estate, thus relieving Leslie of the financial burden to find it. This amounted to in excess of £40,000.   For years, Leslie Flint had lived on the ground floor of the sprawling mansion, which included the rather sumptuous basement cinema from where he ran The Rudolph Valentino Memorial Guild. His private readings and seances were extremely popular, and apparently, he had lengthy conversations with Valentino. He would also regularly show films in the private cinema. [Rose receives an unnamed mention in the book Silent Players as ‘the elderly lady owner of the property’][20].  For further information about Leslie Flint I recommend visiting the Leslie Flint Educational Trust website.  They have diligently digitized Flint’s archive of books, photographs, readings, recordings and much more.

Snapshot of Rose's Will
Flint continued to live there with Bram, for a number of years until his health became fragile.

140 Westbourne Terrace circ 2007. Now known as Brunel House, previously Trinity House. It is a Grade 2 listed building.
Image: Wikipedia: Stephen McKay
Around 1987, Leslie sold up and moved to Brighton with Bram. Both men benefitting financially from Rose’s generosity, and they enjoyed life by the sea in a large house only a stone’s throw from the bracing water front. Bramwell passed away at their 6 bedroomed property, 5 Princes Crescent, Brighton in 1993, leaving an estate valued in excess of £97,000 whilst Leslie Flint passed away in 1994, also at the Brighton property. His estate was eventually valued at in excess of £470,000. By leaving him the freehold of 140 Westbourne Terrace, Rose had ensured Leslie and Bramwell were financially secure for the remainder of their days.

When you listen to Leslie’s recordings, there is no trace of Rose’s past coming through in her beautifully clipped English accent, and I am sure it will be a surprise to many of her distant Armenian cousins that her voice is now immortalized in the digital archive soundtracks of a most extraordinary spiritual medium, Leslie Water Flint.[21]

And yes, the walls of 140 Westbourne Terrace did speak. Through the medium of Leslie, and they told many stories.

To undertake divorce proceedings in the 19th century one required money and confidence. To do it in India as a young woman who hadn’t long converted to Christianity, one required an enormous amount of self-belief and an extraordinary amount of steely determination. Mary dug her heels in, withstood a community rounding on her, fought for the future of herself and her daughter Rose, and won. The coal mine was a prize she was never going to give up. She could not have known that Rose would benefit so well from that legal fight. Mary’s strength and resolve shaped Rose’s future. Neither of them could predict their paths but their actions had a far-reaching effect and an enlightening conclusion.


Sources
Ancestry.com
Archive.org
Armenian Church Kolkata, Birth/Marriage/Death Registers
British Library
British Newspaper Archive
California Digital Newspaper Collection
Canadian Headstones.com
Deceasedonline.com
Digital Library of India
Families in British India Society
Find A Will, Government Website
Findmypast.co.uk
Forces War Records
GRO
Hathi Trust Digital Library
Historic England. National Heritage List for England
Hong Kong newspapers online
Leslie Flint Educational Trust
Liz Chater’s Private Archive
London Gazette
London Picture Archive
National Archives Kew
Newspaperarchive.com
Newspapers.com
Papers Past. New Zealand newspapers online
Scotlandspeople.com
Singapore newspapers online
Trove. Australian Newspapers online
Qatar Digital Library
Wellcome Trust Library


[1] 13 May 1890 English Overland Mail
[2] Armenian Church Baptism Register 1674
[3] Armenian Church Baptism Register No. 1676
[4] Armenian Church Marriage Register No. 508
[5] Armenian Settlements in India by Anne Basil p.83
[6] They married on the 5th February 1892 at the Methodist Episcopal Church, Calcutta
[7] Another Armenian merchant lived just two houses away from the Creets. Minus Stephens, originally from Ispahan, but a successful merchant and business partner of Stephen, Paul & Co., in the London, Singapore, Straits Settlements lived in a similarly large house called “Lynscott”, Pampisford Road.
[8] Sales particulars in the Surrey Advertiser June 1915
[9] The Chief Inspector of Mines Report 1908
[10] The mine has various spellings: Ghusick, Gusick, Ghusik
[11] Indian Coal Statistics 1944/45
[12] Thacker’s Indian Directory 1920
[14] BL: Will-Administration L/AG/34/29/179/232+233
[16] Recollection retold to me via email with Nick Hartley https://www.hartleymanor.co.za/  who was introduced to me by the Leslie Flint Education Trust
[17] I am grateful to the Leslie Flint Educational Trust for confirming Mischa’s name and supplying background information on him
[18] The Will of Leon Creet
[19] The Will of Rose Creet
[20] Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film. Anthony Slide. (2002)


[i] I am grateful to Karen Mkrtchyan for his endless patience at my requests to help transcribe some entries written in Armenian, which, quite frankly, look like they’ve been written by a spider with a broken leg. Not only is the writing invariably difficult to read, the quality of the copies I provide him are so incredibly poor that I often think it is all a hopeless cause. Yet, somehow, he manages to piece the words and sentences together and between us, we are able to make some sense of something that looks completely nonsensical.

[ii] My gratitude also extends warmly to the Leslie Flint Educational Trust for allowing me to use some of their archive material and for sharing the stories from their records on Leslie Flint and Rose Creet. Their help with background information, context and understanding of Leslie and his work has been invaluable to me during my research of this story https://www.leslieflint.com/

Incidentally, Simon Creet’s niece Liska, daughter of Arathoon Theodore Creet and his wife Maud, married into Scottish aristocracy. Liska and Patrick were married in Asansol, close to the family coal mine at Ghusick. Her husband, Sir Patrick Ian Keith-Murray inherited the family seat in Aberturret in Crieff. In the 1960s/70s their only child, Sir William Patrick Keith-Murray, struggled to make the estate pay for itself and found himself forced to sell large tranches of land to balance the books and pay taxes. The Keith-Murray’s can trace their lineage back to the royal Stuarts, carrying the connection proudly through the years. Liska’s sister Olive went to live with her in Scotland after the death of their parents. Olive died in Crieff in 1984 whilst Liska died there in 1993.

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing piece of research. Extraordinary detail. You are doing a fantastic service to Armenian history in India with your work. You should be offered funding for what you are doing. Can’t wait for the next one.

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