Fred David Graham, responding to a Query in Thuppahi from Debbie Northway**
There are quite a few mentions of people named Northway living in Ceylon in the 19th century and early 20th century in pamphlets and books like Lewis J. Penry’s List of Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon, of Historical or Local Interest, With an Obituary of Persons Uncommemorated. Also Harry Storey’s A Ceylon Sportsman’s Diary, William Sabonadière’s The Coffee Planter of Ceylon (1866), The Ceylon Almanac and Annual Register for the Year of Our Lord 1855 (p.345), Herbert Wright’s Hevea Brasiliensis or Para Rubber: Its Botany, Cultivation, Chemistry and Diseases (1908) and Charles Edmond Akers’s The Rubber Industry in Brazil and the Orient.
British planters at a tasting of Ceylon tea at the tea estate
Apparently, someone named Northway designed a rubber tapping knife and developed a more efficient method of tapping rubber (the Northway system). There’s mention of a child born to Mrs. Northway in 1837 (Parbury’s Oriental Herald and Colonial Intelligencer, Volume 1, 1838), and The London and China Telegraph (1864) has a passenger list showing a Mr. and Mrs. Northway heading to Ceylon from Marseilles.
In Speech on the Affairs of Ceylon, in the House of Lords, April 1, 1851, George Byng (7th Viscount Torrington and former Governor of British Ceylon) mentions someone named Northway among a list of signatories to a letter addressed to him and dated Kandy, August 17, 1850. More recently, Aeroplane and Commercial Aviation News (Vol. 76) mentions James Arthur Charles Northway who was born in Ceylon, moved to England, settled at Bath and began flying with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Northway became a flight instructor at the Cotswold Aero Club in 1935.
So are any of these Northways related to Debbie Northway? I hate to clutter up your inbox with snippets of text about the wrong Northways. But it’s a rare enough name–I’d never heard of it until I read your email–that I’m betting at least some of them have to be relatives.
There are 1,139 people in the United States with the last name Northway, making it statistically the 25,448th most common last name in the US. I’d say chances are good that that name is as rare in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. My moniker is a tad rarer: There are 730 people in the United States with the last name Callander, making it statistically the 36,189th most common last name in the US. And yet I managed to find and date a woman named Ginny Callander, who always referred to herself as my blond cousin. If we were related, we must have been a hundred times removed (her family left Scotland for the New World in the 1670s). Ginny was older than me and died shortly after her 64th birthday in 2013.
** My Note, 18 July 2022:
Dear Friends, Debbie Northway in Australia is seeking information on the Northway lineage in British Ceylon. If any one of you can aid her, please do so. I have told her that there wasa Northway family who knew my pater TW and that they were probabl planters in the Baddegama area…… Michael
MEMO from HARRY SOLOMONS in Sydney in response to The Editor’s Appeal, 18 July 2022: