Forman Family – Two Memorials

Monday, April 13th, 2020

1st FORMAN MEMORIAL in Epsilon

Forman Family Memorial - First Memorial

Forman Family Memorial – First Memorial

 

In memory of ISABEL wife of J.R. FORMAN
born 7th March 1824, died 3rd July 1896,
JAMES RICHARDSON FORMAN Civil Engineer
born 29th January 1823, died 8th July 1900,
their son ROBERT HALL FORMAN Colonel R.A.M.C.
born 2nd November 1854, died 16th February 1928,
their son WILLIAM FORMAN born 1870, died 1930.

 

ISABEL HILL (1824 – 1896) was the third daughter of Charles Hill of Greenock and married James Richardson Forman (see below) in 1847. They had 10 children, the first four born in Glasgow, followed by three in Halifax, Nova Scotia and another three in Glasgow. Isabel died in Ratho, Midlothian, Scotland on 3rd July 1896 and was buried in Glasgow Necropolis.

JAMES RICHARDSON FORMAN (1823-1900)

James Richardson Forman

James Richardson Forman

He was a native of Nova Scotia whose prosperous family had emigrated in 1780 from Coldstream, Berwickshire. James had moved to Glasgow in 1841 to commence an apprenticeship under the civil engineer Neil Robson (d. 1869 and buried in Glasgow Necropolis, Epsilon compartment). After his apprenticeship he was appointed Resident Engineer on the Wilsontown, Morningside and Coltness Railway in 1845, then under construction and subject to serious difficulties between the Company and the contractor. Having completed and equipped that railway, he remained as Manager till 1851 in which year he was appointed Manager of Glasgow General Terminus Railway a position he held for 2 years.

He returned to Nova Scotia In 1853 and was appointed as Government Engineer for the province, a position he held for six years during which he was responsible for the building of the 40 mile railway track from Halifax to Windsor. The track opened in June 1858, but following a change of government in Nova Scotia, for political reasons, James was dismissed in August 1858.

James returned to Glasgow in 1860 and on joining Robert Robson (d. 1889 aged 32 and buried in Glasgow Necropolis, Epsilon compartment) joined the partnership as Robson, Forman and M’Call. This partnership was particularly involved in the development of railways in Scotland including the Greenock and Ayrshire and Wemyss Bay Railways, the Blane Valley line, the Busby and East Kilbride, Stobcross, Kelvin Valley, Milngavie and Aberfoyle Railways, and the Gryffe Waterworks upriver from Bridge of Weir.

The 1871 Census shows James R Forman aged 48 (Civil engineer, born in Canada) living at No 10, Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow, with his wife Isabella (47, born in Canada), daughter Margaret (22, born in Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire), son Charles (18, a medical student, born in Glasgow), son Robert (16, an art student, born in Canada), daughter Florence (14, scholar, born in Canada), daughter Ida (13, scholar, born in Canada), daughter Ethel (9, scholar, born in parish of Govan, son George (7, scholar, born in Govan), daughter Blanche (5, scholar, born in Govan), son William (1, born in Govan) The four youngest children, born in Govan, were presumably born at Belhaven Terrace which despite being on the north side of the Clyde was in Govan parish. In addition, William Grieve, an 18 year old Canadian born nephew who was a medical student was living with the family.

The family was obviously well off as six servants are also recorded:-  A ‘butter’ domestic, Mary Ann Cook (28, born in St Quivox, Ayrshire), a cook, Elizabeth Mills (35, born in Dunoon, Argyllshire), a housemaid, Margaret Campbell (23, born in Glasgow), a laundress, Ann McDonald (27, born in Glasgow), a nurse, Elizabeth Tainsh, Nurse (28, born Trinity Gask, Perthshire) and a sewing maid, Ellen Morton (22, born in Edinburgh).

Later in life James concentrated on other interests as Chairman of the Aberfoyle Slate Quarries Company and as a Director of the Edinburgh American Land Mortgage Company (EALMC), the latter of which he was Chairman for about 19 years (Ledgers and registers for EALMC for 1878-1956 are available at Glasgow University Archive Services). He was also a Director of the Arizona Copper Company and since 1880 he lived at Craigpark, Ratho, Edinburgh, where he was Chairman of the local School Board and Parish Council. The 1881 census records the following living there:-

James R Forman aged 58 (Civil engineer), his wife Isabella (57), daughter Florence (24), daughter Ida (23), daughter Ethel (19), son William (11, scholar). In addition a 20 year old unmarried English born niece, Francis M G King Hale, was living with them.

The family still employed six domestic servants:- Catherine Harvie (32, upholsterer, born in Midlothian), Jane Kidd (29, cook, born in Edinburgh), Margaret Stewart (27, table maid, born in Linlithgow, West Lothian), Alice Wood (28, maid, born in Scotland), Marion Kirk (18,house maid, born in Kirliston, Midlothian) and Mary Ann Fleming (20 year old kitchen maid born in Wigtownshire).

ROBERT HALL FORMAN Colonel R.A.M.C. (1854 – 1928), son of the above was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 2nd November 1854 and Licenced by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Faculty of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow in 1877.

He had a long career as a surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His full title was Col. Robert Hall Forman MB.MCh. LRCP. Ed.LFPS. Glas. and he spent many years in India. His military records confirm that he was appointed Surgeon on 6/3/1880 in Bengal, Surgeon Major in Bombay 6/3/1892, Lt. Col. 6/3/1900 in Bombay, Brig. Surgeon Lt. Col. 6/1/1905 in Bombay. In 1896 he was Medical Officer in Charge of the Station Hospital, Belgaum  and in June 1908 he was appointed as Principal Medical Officer (6th Poona) Division.

Prior to going to India, he was a surgeon in Edinburgh and was also in Glasgow in 1887and 1891/92. In 1911 he was listed as a retired Surgeon Colonel on full pay. In 1913, he acted as Physician and Surgeon at the Royal Hospital, London on behalf of RAMC Territorial’s 2nd London Division

India had a very strong Masonic organisation and a considerable Scottish involvement. On 27th March 1908, Brother Col. Robert Hall Forman was installed as Grand Master of ‘All Scottish Freemasonry in India’. His time in office increased the number of Lodges from 39 to 50 with new Lodges being constituted in Elysium at Simla, Pavaghad at Godra, Imperial Brotherhood at Bombay, Hanthawaddy at Inseen in Burma, Sir Charles Napier at Hyderabad, Nicopolis at Vizianagram, Forman at Bombay, St Andrews at Lahore, Beaman at Bombay and Vindya at Dholpur. Lodge Hope & Sincerity at Ahmedabad was resuscitated.

During his regime, he visited all the Lodges except two; one of these was Lodge Heather No. 928 at Munnar, as access to Munnar was extremely difficult and time consuming in those days. The other was likely to have been Inseen in Burma.

WILLIAM JAMES GRIEVE FORMAN (1870 – 1930)

William Forman was a Civil and Electrical engineer and is recorded in the 1891 census as being a 21 year old ‘Boarder’ in Hillhead St, Glasgow with Mrs Georgina Easton, a widow and retired teacher of 57 years of age born in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, plus a domestic servant, Elizabeth Closs, 18 years old and born in Rosehall, Lanarkshire.

He lived for part of his life in Kilmun Cottage, Kilmun, Argylleshire and later at Springfield, Breigden, Lanacken-Limbourg in Belgium where he died on 10th March 1930 leaving his wife Marion Ina Inglis or Forman of Springfield as executrix of his will, which was recorded in Edinburgh on 28th August 1930 with a value of £1,162. 9. 10.

 

2nd FORMAN MEMORIAL in Epsilon

Forman Family Memorial - Second Memorial

Forman Family Memorial – Second Memorial

In memory of
CHARLES DE NEUVILLE FORMAN
born 10th August 1852,
died 8th February 1901,
ANNA BLYTH GIBSON his wife
born 3rd September 1854,
died 17th October 1906,
ROBERT HANNAY FORMAN
born 15th November 1887,
died 24th May 1890,
HILDA CHRISTINA FORMAN
born 8th November 1881,
died 31st December 1890
CHARLOTTE OXENBOROUGH RUSH
beloved wife of ARTHUR N FORMAN
died 7th March 1923 aged 23 years,
MARY ISABEL their infant daughter
born & died 19th Feby 1923

 

CHARLES DE NEUVILLE FORMAN

Charles De Neuville Forman

Charles De Neuville Forman

 

Charles was born in Glasgow on 10 August 1852, the eldest son of James Richardson Forman (1823-1900; see first memorial above).

He was educated at Glasgow High School and then private schools in St. Andrews, London and Edinburgh, after which he attended Glasgow University.

Charles served his apprenticeship from 1867 to 1872 with his father’s partnership Forman &McCall (Neil Robson, no longer a partner) after which he worked with James Deas, the Clyde Navigation Trust’s engineer and with him, was involved in the planning and construction of Glasgow’s Queen’s Dock.

Charles returned to Forman & M’Call in 1874 as a member of staff and became a Partner in 1875. He was heavily involved in building railways –

In 1878 the 12 mile line from Maryhill, at that time near Glasgow, but now part of the Glasgow to Lenzie and Kilsyth.

In 1884 the Strathendrick and Aberfoyle Railway, opened. This resulted in the development of summer residences in Aberfoyle and the opening of a slate quarry on the Montrose Estate.

During this period work also proceeded on the following railway lines:- Kilsyth to Bonnybridge, New Monkland and Yoker.

The most famous and technically challenging design and construction Charles undertook was the magnificent West Highland Line linking Glasgow to Fort William (100 miles / 161 Km). This line required an Act of Parliament and Charles was the expert witness. The Act was passed on 12 August 1889 and construction started on 23 October 1889 and the line opened on 7 August 1894.

The Glasgow to Dumbarton and Helensburgh line had already been built by Neil Robson (died 1869 and buried in Glasgow Necropolis, Epsilon compartment) so the new West Highland Railway began at the Craigendoran Junction towards Garelochhead, ran along the north west shores of Loch Lomond to Crianlarich where it formed a junction with Caledonian Railway’s Callander to Oban railway, using the same track as far as Tyndrum. From Tyndrum the West Highland line climbed onto and over Rannoch Moor, including the remote station of Corrour (1,269 ft / 387m above sea level) beside Loch Ossian. From here the line continued northwards to Spean Bridge and Fort William – see below for the story of the construction of the West Highland Line. An extension of the line was made to Banavie Pier situated at the western end of the important Caledonian Canal. [This canal runs between Loch Linnhe on the west coast and the Moray Firth on the east coast of Scotland. It was constructed by the famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telfer and passes through Loch Ness and three other lochs in ‘the Great Glen’. Construction took place between 1803 and 1822 and includes the longest series of 8 locks in the UK, known as ‘Neptune’s Staircase’. Construction also included 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges].

Royal Assent was granted on 31 July 1894 for an extension to the West Highland line from a Banavie Junction to the fishing port of Mallaig. This section opened on 1 April 1901 and includes the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, visited by thousands of Harry Potter fans each year. A steam engine still operates from Fort William to Mallaig (2020).

 

Map showing the routes of the Glasgow Central Railway and the Lanarkshire & Dumbartonshire Railway on both of which Charles worked

Map showing the routes of the Glasgow Central Railway and the Lanarkshire & Dumbartonshire Railway on both of which Charles worked

In 1890 Charles commenced work on the Glasgow Central Railway which opened in 1896. This line connected the Lanarkshire coalfields to Glasgow’s Queen’s Dock for the Caledonian Railway Co’s system opening up an underground city and suburban line for Glasgow and an extension to their Dumbarton line.

Tunnel under St Vincent Crescent, Glasgow 1896

Tunnel under St Vincent Crescent, Glasgow 1896

The creation of the underground section was no mean engineering feat as it had to avoid disruption of surface traffic, underground sewers, drains, water and gas pipes, electric cables and necessitated underpinning many important buildings etc. It was considered one of the most important engineering undertakings of its time.

The joining up of the Lanarkshire line to the Dumbarton line allowed considerable industrial and domestic development along the north side of the Clyde in response to the ability to move coal and steel from Lanarkshire. It was not easy work and involved tunnels and city work.

Lanarkshire & Dumbartonshire Railway

Lanarkshire & Dumbartonshire Railway

Bridge over Dumbarton Rd at Clydebank 1897

Bridge over Dumbarton Rd at Clydebank 1897

In addition to other minor works, at the time of his death, Charles was working on an extension of the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway so as to allow coal and steel to be moved to Ardrossan port, Barrhead and Paisley.

The Invergarry to Fort Augustus line was also being worked on after many attempts to obtain approval for an extension of the West Highland line to Inverness but was not approved.

Charles had also campaigned vigorously politically against the Clyde Navigation Trust’s monopoly of the River Clyde and power to construct docks. After 3 Parliamentary sessions, the Renfrew Dock and Harbour Extension Bill was passed. This campaign on top of his already heavy work load proved too much for him and his health deteriorated. His last work was in conjunction with Sir John Wolfe Barry, K.C.B. working on the Ballachulish extension of the Callander and Oban Railway.

In the summer of 1900 he suffered an attack of paralysis while in Spain but continued his work. However this attack was followed by further ill health and in 1900 he was forced to give up working and look for rest abroad. He died on 8th February 1901 at Davos Platz, Swizerland at the tender age of 48.

Charles was commercially and politically greatly respected for his vision of the future requirements for mass public travel and even today (2020) people owe him great respect for his contribution to the railway system around the Glasgow area.

ANNA BLYTH GIBSON (1854 – 1906)  – wife of CHARLES DE NEUVILLE FORMAN (see above), was born 3rd September 1854 and died 17th October 1906. Charles and Anna were married in Govan, Glasgow on 13 Sep 1880.

ROBERT HANNAY FORMAN (1887 – 1890) – Son of Charles and Anna was born 15th November 1887 and died in childhood on 24th May 1890.

HILDA CHRISTINA FORMAN (1881 – 1890) – Daughter of Charles and Anna was born 8th November 1881 and died in childhood on 31st December 1890

CHARLOTTE OXENBOROUGH RUSH (1800 – 1923) was the first wife of ARTHUR NELSON FORMAN. Whom she married in Edinburgh in 1920. Charlotte died on 7th March 1923 aged 23 after the birth of their daughter Mary Isabel Forman.

MARY ISABEL FORMAN – infant daughter of Arthur & Charlotte Forman was born & died 19th February 1923. Mary Isabel was their second daughter.

[Arthur Nelson Forman (1889 – 1962), husband of CHARLOTTE OXENBOROUGH RUSH (see above) was the son of Charles Forman and ANNA BLYTH GIBSON (see above) is not mentioned on the memorial. The following in italics is from the Glasgow University records with additions in (brackets)

 (Educated at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh) Arthur Nelson Forman graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc in April 1913 and won two Sporting Blues in 1910.

Arthur was born on the 1st of May 1889 in Stirling. His father, Charles Forman, was a Civil Engineer and Arthur appears to have been following in his footsteps, taking courses of Natural Philosophy (Physics), Chemistry, Higher Mathematics and Engineering. Arthur was also a member of the rugby club, playing as either scrum-half or fly-half. Arthur did well and won two sporting blues awards, one for Rugby and one for Fives, in 1910.

During the First World War, Arthur served as Captain in the (85th Field Regiment of) Royal Engineers and entered the war in Salonika (now Thessaloniki/Thessalonika) in February 1916. An international force consisting of British, Serbian, Russian and Italian units, among others, fought against Bulgarians and Austrians in this little known campaign. Originally it had been intended for a British-Franco force to aid the Serbs in their fight against Bulgarian aggression but by the time they landed in late 1915 the Serbs had already been defeated. An attempted Bulgarian invasion of Greece was driven back and fighting continued until 1918.

Arthur served with distinction, earning both a Military Cross and a Croix De Guerre in addition to his service medals of British War Medal and Victory Medal. The Victory Medal was awarded for personnel who served in a theatre of war and the British Army Medal awarded to those who served abroad. The Military Cross was awarded for gallantry during operations and the Croix De Guerre was a medal awarded by the French Government in order to recognise acts of bravery.

Arthur worked as a Civil Engineer after the war and he died on the 16th May 1962 in the town of Callander.]

CONSTRUCTION OF THE WEST HIGHLAND LINE for The West Highland Railway Company

Engineers:          Forman and McCall                         Contractor:         Lucas and Laird

The construction of this railway line was exceptionally complicated because of the lack of roads and the crossing of large areas of semi fluid peat bog across Rannoch Moor. The first sod was cut on 23rd October 1889 and the contractors gathered together 5,000 Irish labourers to lay the track. Work progressed until August 1891 when a dispute between the contractor and owners ended up in Dumbarton Sherriff Court. The Contractor claimed that more money should be paid for removal of boulders than other spoil. The Sherriff founded for the owners but by that time most of the Irish labourers had moved to work elsewhere. Work commenced again in October 1891 but only after a negotiated settlement and recruitment of a new labour force consisting of Highlanders, Irishmen, Poles and people from other countries. It was tough and dangerous work and there is a burial ground near Arrochar where 37 men who were killed during construction are buried with a memorial plaque added in 1991.

Memorial plaque added in 1991

Memorial plaque added in 1991

The particularly boggy 10 mile / 16.093 Kms section of the line across Rannoch Moor was still to be constructed and to begin with, equipment and material sank into the semi-fluid bog. This major problem was solved by creating rafts of brushwood, ash and turf allowing the railway line to ‘float’ across the moor.

The next problem was that by 1893 the West Highland Railway Company was running out of money and was only saved by a Mr Renton who was a wealthy director of the company which allowed the line to Fort William to be opened in 1894 and the 40 mile extension to Mallaig, which had been started in 1897 to be completed in 1901.  The contractors for this section were Simpson & Wallace and Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons)

The 100-mile Craigendoran to Fort William section was completed in 1894 and the worst snow storm of the century happened in 1895 resulting in two engines being stuck in the snow at Glen Douglas.

Two engines being stuck in the snow at Glen Douglas (1895)

Two engines stuck in the snow at Glen Douglas (1895)

The 40-mile Fort William to Mallaig extension was begun in 1897 and was completed in 1901.

The West Highland line is considered one of the world’s most scenic routes and still (2020) runs a steam train on the Fort William to Mallaig section crossing the famous Glenfinnan viaduct given major publicity in a Harry Potter film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G20ooYEBviw#t=1680 Glasgow – Fort William – Mallaig Cab view film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sseOyOne7oI Fort William to Mallaig steam train 1959

Joseph Leask Flett

Friday, May 19th, 2017

François Foucart

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Napoleon’s Knight in the Glasgow Necropolis

Contributed by Gary Nisbet

It is not generally known that there is a veteran of Napoleon’s Grande Armée buried in the Glasgow Necropolis in Scotland. This was François Foucart (1793-1862), who settled in Glasgow after the end of the Napoleonic Wars as a celebrated fencing master and teacher of gymnastics.

Foucart had served as an officer in Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, and was a veteran of the Russian campaign of 1812. At some point he was appointed a Knight of the Légion d’Honneur, which is represented by a finely carved replica of the medal on the front of the monument which stands over his grave in the Necropolis. Little is known about his early life or his years in the army, or why he should have settled in Glasgow, but it is certain from his success there that his decision to move to Scotland was an entirely happy and prosperous one.

He was born in Valenciennes, Department du Nord, France, in 1793 (although his gravestone erroneously gives his year of birth as 1781). He was the son of Louis Foucart, a former military officer and brewer, and his wife, Celestine Flamand. Details about military service in Napoleon’s Grande Armée are scant and it is unfortunate that he left no written account of this with which to verify when he enlisted or the regiment he was first attached to. It seems, however, that he followed his older brother Noel (1791-1862) into the infantry and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. He was most probably the Foucart mentioned in the memoirs of Sergeant Adrien Bourgogne, in which he is identified as the Barrack-Master who was taken prisoner in Russia. It is also probable that he is the Foucart listed amongst the wounded officers of the Regiments D’Infanterie Leger in Martinien’s Tableaux, par Corp et par Batailles, des Officiers Tués et Blessé pendant Les Guerres de L’Empire (1805-1815), in which he is recorded as being wounded at the Battle of Raab on 14 June 1809, when he was a Sub-Lieutenant, and also at the defence of Astorga, on 11 July 1812, by which time he had been promoted to Lieutenant.

The other details which have been recorded, and which form part of his family tradition (i.e. that are as close to a personal memoir that we have from him), are confirmed in an account given by his son, Dr Louis Foucart, which was published in The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, when Louis was promoting the founding of a gymnasium in the city in May 1861.

He stated that his father ‘had been engaged in all the great engagements which took place from the siege of Burgos down to Waterloo, and in the course of his campaigning had received seventeen wounds’. He also pointed out that his early physical training had stood him in great stead for his old age; so much so that by 1861, when he was in his 80s (actually his 70s), he ‘could still vault over a 5ft (1.5m) bar, and walk a day’s journey with any man of sixty in New South Wales’.

Extolling the virtues of physical fitness and the benefits of the gym-honed physique, he cited his father as a perfect example of what could be achieved through a life devoted to gymnastics and physical training. It was this, he asserted, that was responsible his father’s survival in the retreat from Moscow, when men of lesser overall fitness succumbed to the ardours of the long march and freezing cold that no-one had envisaged or had otherwise prepared themselves for:

‘In the disastrous Russian campaign in 1812, it was found that the men who bore up the longest, and who suffered least, were men of 5ft 8ins (1.73m) in height, with dark hair and broad chests, and who had been noted for their skill and activity at the gymnasium. These men, in a great many cases, survived the terrible sufferings of the campaign, while those of heavy, massive build were carried off.’ Their suffering and losses had not been in vain, however, as:

‘[t]he necessity of cultivating muscular powers became so evident in France after the close of the great war in 1816, that Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis Philippe had all of them maintained the gymnasium as one of the most useful institutions in the country. Under the supervision of Marshal Soult, a gymnasium had been erected in which 10,000 troops could be daily exercised… and there was also another for civilians in the Champs-Élysées, at which there were no-less than twenty four professors employed’.

It is not clear whether François Foucart was directly involved in the setting up or in teaching at any of these gymnasiums. However, it is evident that he was determined to export this French revolution in physical fitness overseas, and to establish his own gymnasium and fencing academy in the lands of his former foes in the United Kingdom.

He appears to have arrived in Britain around 1818, after becoming a Professor of Fencing at the Royal Academy of Paris when his military career ended in 1815. He settled first in London, and then briefly in Ireland, before finally settling down in Glasgow around 1823-4, when he founded ‘The Glasgow Fencing, Gymnasium and Orthopaedia Institution’. He is listed in the Glasgow Post Office Directory as a fencing master for the first time in 1825.

He later became a Professor of Fencing and Gymnastics at the Andersonian University (now University of Strathclyde) at 178 George Street, where he rented a large room in the university’s Old Grammar School building (on the site of the present Royal College). This was near the birthplaces of two of his Peninsular War adversaries: Sir Colin Campbell and Sir John Moore, both of whom are commemorated with bronze statues which stand in George Square, close to the site of Foucart’s gymnasium.

Andersonsian University, George St. Foucart's first fencing academy and gymnasium

Andersonsian University, George St. Foucart’s first fencing academy and gymnasium

Foucart is mentioned in the university’s Minute Book covering the period 1832-39, in which the matters concerning him were of a relatively trivial nature, such as arranging to have his gymnasium whitewashed, the amount of rent he was required to pay for the room (£18 per annum, or £15 if he couldn’t quite afford the higher sum) and the number of pupils attending his classes in fencing and gymnastics. By 1837 they numbered 58 young men and women from the best families in Glasgow and the surrounding districts. He appears for the last time in the university’s records in February 1839, by which time he was involved in establishing a new fencing academy and gymnasium in the recently built Victoria Baths Building at 106 West Nile Street.

Victoria Baths Building, 106 W.Nile St_Foucarts second fencing academy and gymnasium

Victoria Baths Building, 106 W.Nile St – Foucart’s second fencing academy and gymnasium

This was a time when sword fencing was a much more popular sport than it is today, and when swordsmanship was regarded as an art to be taught as part of a young gentleman’s education. Foucart was particularly successful in popularising this branch of the martial arts and regularly held public demonstrations of his own and his pupils’ swordsmanship to great acclaim in the town’s Assembly Rooms in Ingram Street. These ‘assaults’ (as they are called) always attracted ‘brilliant assemblages’ of fashionable society eager to be thrilled and entertained by Foucart’s skill with the rapier and sabre, and they were rarely disappointed by the spectacles he mounted. For the winner of his pupils’ bouts, a light sword donated by Foucart would be their prize.

The press, too, were delighted by his displays, which became a highlight of the sporting calendar of both Glasgow and Edinburgh, and they reported enthusiastically on the events and the excitement they generated. The assault held for the anniversary meeting of Foucart’s pupils on 18 April 1829 was, according to The Glasgow Herald, ‘one of the finest ever witnessed’. In Edinburgh he participated in the annual assaults presented by Monsieur George Roland, another French émigré who established the finest fencing academy in the capital. In February 1830, Foucart and Roland’s duels mesmerised their audience, with Foucart being reported as giving ‘more reason than ever to admire his irresistible impetuosity’.

The high regard in which he was held by the Glasgow press is evident by the way they promoted Foucart and his enterprise soon after he set up in the city. On 28 September 1827, for instance, The Glasgow Herald offered him encouragement by publicising his venture in an article which focused as much on his character as it did on his skill with the sword and the benefits that his gymnasium and fencing academy would bestow on the younger population of the city:

‘Our readers will perhaps recollect, about a month ago, the unostentatious, unpretending advertisement of M[onsieur] Foucart’s, who has now for three or four years taught fencing in this city. They will also perceive that he advertises again today, and they will excuse us for particularly calling attention to his seminary. Both as a master and a gentleman, M. Foucart is most deserving of encouragement, and it would give us pleasure if the encouragement he may receive in the present session should be of that description which will ensure his permanent sojourn among us. We fear that hitherto he has had all those difficulties to struggle with which are almost inseparable from an attempt to tread upon new ground, but we earnestly hope that the period is at hand when his enterprise and perseverance will be rewarded. – For the introduction of gymnastics, as applicable to the science of fencing, the public of Glasgow are indebted to the zeal of M. Foucart. Already can he boast of several pupils whose feats afford ample evidence to how great a degree the powers of the muscles can be increased by a systematic course of training; and this not only from the age of boyhood to puberty, and onwards to manhood, but even after the formation of the body appears to be complete and confirmed. Thus, with the use of the foil, in which he is universally allowed to have few competitors, has M. Foucart combined an exercise which is acknowledged to have the happiest influence in improving the vigour of the constitution as well as that of the body. Of fencing itself, as a means of promoting health, while it confers grace and agility, everything commendatory has been said, and by the highest medical authorities… We shall only add that, we earnestly call upon our young townsmen to give their support to the professor of an art which enjoys advocates so distinguished; and which has been pronounced by no less an authority than the immortal Locke himself to be an essential part of the education of a gentleman.’

By 1852, with his business now a great success, and with his son, Auguste, as a partner and instructor, Foucart assiduously promoted the health-enhancing aspects of his work and introduced new equipment devised by his doctor son, Louis, with which to facilitate the results in improving bodily strength and alleviating physical infirmities in both sexes. In The Glasgow Herald of 29 October 1852, they announced:

‘Messrs Foucart have resumed their courses of practical instruction to ladies and gentlemen in the art of training and developing the human frame, and in preventing and correcting bodily distortions, and promoting health by their system of gymnastic exercises. Messrs Foucart have also much pleasure in announcing that they have added to their stock of apparatus, and will give instructions in proper the use of Dr [Louis] Foucart’s newly registered Spinal Rectifier and Chest Expander, which instrument has been patronised by the royal family, and received the approval and recommendation of the leading [London] surgeons. The institution is under the inspection of the most eminent of the medical profession in Glasgow…’

Foucart’s popularity amongst the higher echelons of Scottish society is best exemplified by his participation in the famous Eglinton Tournament of 1839. A spectacular recreation of medieval pageantry and jousting which involved the crème of Scottish knightly nobility as participants and spectators, as well as thousands of onlookers from the general public. Foucart would have been required to don medieval attire and give his best performance in the displays of swordsmanship that were intended to enthral his audience and remind them of the chivalric glories of ages long past.

Memories of Foucart’s own more recent martial past in the service of Napoleon and his Imperial Guard would have been sharpened by the presence at the tournament of Prince Louis Napoleon, the future Emperor Napoleon III, and Jean-Gilbert-Victor Fialin, later Duke of Presigny, the prince’s most ardent supporter in the cause of Bonapartist restoration in France. One can only imagine the content and excitement of their conversation (if they did actually meet) about the Napoleonic era in which Foucart had distinguished himself in action and suffered numerous wounds to become a Knight of the Légion d’Honneur in the reign of the prince’s legendary uncle, Napoleon I.

It does not seem, however, if the future emperor recalled Foucart’s entitlement to the St Helena Medal, which was awarded by him to Napoleon’s former veterans in 1852. His name does not appear in the existing records of the medal’s recipients, and Foucart never made reference to it himself, but it was an honour that he was entitled to without question.

Foucart must have been quite a character in his day and he was certainly popular amongst his students and the public alike. Amongst his students were the poet William Motherwell and the dramatist James Sheridan Knowles, who modelled the hero of his Monsieur de l’ Épée on him in 1838 (both writers are also buried in the Necropolis). It is also claimed that he was the inspiration for the hero of Alexandre Dumas’ romance Le Maître d’Armes in 1840, although it is known that this was actually Dumas’ own fencing teacher, Augustin Grisier.

Foucart’s life in Scotland was by all accounts indeed happy and prosperous, and he was blessed with a long marriage and loving family. He and his Belgian-born wife, Lambertine Levelly (1791-1877), were married in London, in the church of St John the Evangelist, Westminster, on 26 July 1818. They had at least four children: Louis, who was born in France during a brief return to Foucart’s homeland in 1820; Virginie, and Milenie, both of whom were born in Ireland; and Auguste, who was born in Glasgow in 1833, and who followed his father’s profession as a fencing master.

The family lived at various addresses in central Glasgow. As early as 1826, the Foucarts lived in a ‘Cottage Style’ house on the east side of Portland Street, which had a garden extending to 373 yards around it. The house and land were put up for sale and advertised as ‘admirably adapted for building’ in the ‘Subjects To Be Sold’ section of The Glasgow Herald for 1 May 1826. The house and garden has long since vanished, presumably having been redeveloped soon after they were sold.

The Foucarts had by then moved to 239 George Street, where they lived throughout the 1830s. They later moved to 5 St Vincent Place, staying there for a decade from 1842. At this time the family home also doubled as a doctor’s surgery, which was run by Foucart’s son, Louis, who had recently graduated in medicine and surgery at Glasgow University. The census returns for the street in 1851 reveal that they were well enough off to employ a live-in house servant, Sarah Stewart. After Louis left home to practice in London, the family finally settled down at Falkland Place, 4 St George’s Road, in 1853.

François Foucart died at his home on 26 June 1862, at Falkland Place, 4 St George’s Road, Glasgow, of acute bronchitis, which he had suffered for about a month. He was buried in the Glasgow Necropolis at 2pm on 1 July, in lair 60 of the cemetery’s Upsilon section, which was purchased for £16, the funeral being undertaken by Wyllie & Lochead.

His last Will and Testament, of 7 March 1862, offers evidence of his prosperity. To his beloved wife he left £5557, 9 pence, the value of which included shares in the Clydesdale Bank, the Bank of Scotland and the Glasgow Gas Company, as well as a collection of silver plate. A year later, in 1863, the high esteem in which he was held amongst his friends and former pupils was attested to when they erected the monument that stands over his grave today. As well as the carving of Foucart’s Légion d’Honneur on its front, they had a long eulogy inscribed, which was composed by James Sheridan Knowles, and taken from his play Monsieur de l’ Épée:

‘Talk you of scars? – That Frenchman bears a crown!

Body and limb his vouchers palpable;

For many a thicket he has struggled through

Of briery danger, wondering that he

Came off with even life, when right and left

His mates dropp’d thick beside him. A true man,

His rations with his master gone – for he

Was honor’s soldier, that ne’er changes sides.

He left his country for a foreign one

To teach his gallant art, and earn a home.

I knew him to be honest, generous,

High soul’d, and modest, every way a grace

To the fine martial race from whence he sprang.’

Francois Foucart Monument

Francois Foucart Monument

Legion d'Honneur Carving

Legion d’Honneur Carving

This was not, however, the end of Foucart’s enterprise in promoting health and fitness, or the fame garnered to his family’s name. His son, Auguste, later left the city to set up gymnasiums in Liverpool and Sydney, Australia, where his brother, Louis, had set up as a doctor. Louis, having already established his medical credentials in Scotland, later moved to London, where he became indelibly linked to the life and death of one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, Sir Robert Peel. His association with him was brief, however, but of the utmost importance and renown, as it was Louis who happened to be close by when Peel was thrown from his horse and very badly injured on the evening of 29 June 1850. He attended to Sir Robert until he died in the evening of 2 July.

Later, Dr Louis Foucart moved to Sydney, Australia, where he became the Government Medical Officer of Health and Quarantine Officer at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). He lived in Rozelle, and owned land in the appropriately named nearby district of Waterloo. He eventually retired to England, where he died at Lucan House in Ripon, Yorkshire, on 25 March 1899.

Back in Australia, it was Louis who was responsible for notices of his father’s death appearing in Australian newspapers in 1862, such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Argus in Melbourne. This meant that François Foucart became as well known in the Southern Hemisphere as he was in Scotland at the time of his death. There is even a Foucart Street and Foucart Lane in Sydney. Although these were named after Louis, they also continue the association with his father and the great era of Napoleon and his Knight who rests thousands of miles away in the Glasgow Necropolis.

Foucart Street, Sydney, Australia (photo by Rod Tacey)

Foucart Street, Sydney, Australia (photo by Rod Tacey)

Sources:

Baptism Record, François Foucart, Valenciennes, St Jean, 11 August 1793.

Cottin, Paul (ed.) Memoirs of Seargent Bourgogne 1812-1813, New York, 1899.

Martinien, A., Tableaux, par Corp et par Batailles, des Officiers Tués et Blessé pendant Les Guerres de L’Empire (1805-1817), p. 441.

Sydney Morning Herald: Sydney Gymnasium, Thursday, 6 May 1861, p. 5.

Mitchell Library, Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1825-1867.

Strathclyde University Archives, SUA: OB/1/1/4, Andersonian University Minute Book 1830-1894, pp.41-222.

The Glasgow Herald: Fencing and Gymnastics, 28 September 1827. pp. 11.

Scotland’s People Death Print, RD: 644-06, Register of Death (François Foucart), No. 263, p. 88.

Mitchell Library, TMH32/5/2: Glasgow Necropolis Internment Notice Book, 1 July 1862.

Mitchell Library: Glasgow Necropolis Burial Register, 1859-1897, Microfilm, Spool 2.

Scotland’s People, Wills and Testaments, SC3, Confirmations, 216-217 and 610-612.

Black, James, The Glasgow Graveyard Guide, Edinburgh, 1992, Necropolis, No. 12, p. 45.

Sydney Morning Herald: Family Notices, Saturday, 23 August 1862, p. 1.

The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria): Deaths, Thursday, 4 September 1862, p. 4.

 

 

 

 

 

James Bell Foulis

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Adrian Andrew Forrester

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Ernest Cole Fleming MC

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Malcolm James Henderson Fleming

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

William Finlay

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

John Alexander Findlay DSO

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

James Warden Falconer

Saturday, June 28th, 2014
 
 
Back to top