ROBERT McCLELLAND CAVAYE
Robert McClelland Cavaye: born
Robert McClelland Cavaye was born in
Separated from his West
Indian family, Robert was brought to
Robert is perhaps named
Loughborough House, Brixton in
1825. Demolished in 1854, it stood at the bend in what is now
With Robert was still at Loughborough House,
his brother William
implored him in letters from
In August 1827 Robert’s
father died in
It is likely that Robert's early nursery work
was to the west of Edinburgh (his first wife Mary Black came from Corstorphine parish) and intriguing that a '
In this letter Helen Cathcart becomes Robert's guardian after William Cathcart's death:
Letter to Mr Robt Cavaye at the Revd Thomas Willet's, Loughborough
The letter is stamped "Nov 1827" and "Paid".
Edin 16th Novr 1827.
I received your
letter two days ago and shall be very happy to accept the office of becoming
your guardian. The legacy left you by Mr Cathcart, you cannot receive till the
15th of next May when you may depend upon my seeing it properly secured for
you. But before the legacy tax is deducted and the necessary expenses are
deducted you will only receive about £2,200 which at 4pr cent will only give
you an income of £84 yearly, and which from your want of experience in the
world and never having had money to pay out I fear you may consider this sum to
be inexhaustible. But believe me it will not go far in supporting you.
Therefore it will be necessary that you should practise every piece of economy
in your port [on your part?], and if you will be advised by me, you will put
yourself entirely under the guidance & protection of Mr Willet who I think
most highly of. He is a truly sensible, respectable, character. The late Mr
Cathcart had a high opinion of him, and by a letter which I saw from your
Brother to Mr C- soon after his arrival in
I remain Dear Sir
Yrs very sincerely Helen Cathcart.
Robert's entry to the
profession of nurseryman was referred to in one of the letters from his brother
Letter to Rev. T. Willet,
2nd. May 1828
We were duly favored with yours of the 22nd. ulto regarding the determination of Mr. R. Cavaye now to follow out the profession of a Nurseryman and Seedsman and have communicated its contents to Mr. Dickson of the house of Dickson Brothers here and he says that he is still willing to receive Mr. Cavaye as an apprentice for three years on the conditions mentioned in our letter to you of 9th February last but he has requested us to state again more particularly to the young man that he admits of no distinction of persons in his employment and the same rule is applied to all whether the most common labourers or Gentlemen's sons. They are all while in his employment common Gardners and the slightest breach of duty is attended with instant dismissal. Mr. Dickson says that he thinks he could procure a similar situation for Mr. Cavaye in the Nurseries of his brother and nephew at Chester if he should prefer England to Scotland but there the rules are exactly the same and the apprentices have not the same opportunity of attending classes.
Mr. Dickson further states that he has a family of eleven children and we think he said nine of them sons, three of whom are already bred or breed to his own profession and that he did not doubt more of them will follow their example and he must of course establish gardens in other parts of the Kingdom all of whom must have a certain capital and with so many he will run aground and therefore it will become an objective with him to establish some of these young men in partnership with others who have capital and in this way he says if Mr. Cavaye is attentive and makes himself master of his business his capital may be an inducement to him to make him a partner of some of his sons but in the meantime he is not to look forward to such connection as whatever his fortune may be it will be of no avail unless he is steady - honourable and versant in his business.
If Mr. Cavaye is to engage in this profession at all he must begin now as this time is the season when having the summer weather before him he will become inured to the open air before the Winter commences which is the trying season for outdoor work to persons not accustomed to it.
Has Mr Cavaye ever consulted his Brother
We are for your moobd.(?)
Hunter, Campbell & Cathcart
Eventually Robert Cavaye took up residence at Northfield Cottage, Jock's Lodge on the road between Edinburgh and Portobello near where Cavaye & Dickson had begun a new nursery and almost opposite the Piershill Cavalry Barracks, an excellent source of manure for the horticulturalists. In the words of Old and New Edinburgh: “These barracks form three sides of a quadrangle, presenting a high wall, perforated by two gateways, to the line of the turnpike road. The whole surface of the district round them is studded with buildings, and has only so far subsided from the urban character as to acquire for these, whether villa or cottage, the graceful accompaniments of garden or hedge-row. ‘A stroll from the beautified city to Piershill,’ says a writer, ‘when the musical bands of the barracks are striving to drown the soft and carolling melodies of the little songsters on the hedges and trees at the subsession of Arthur's Seat, and when the blue Firth, with its many-tinted canopy of clouds, and its picturesque display of islets and steamers, and little smiling boats on its waiters, vies with the luxuriant lands upon its shore to win the award due to beauty, is indescribably delightful’’”. The local churchyard at St Margaret and St Triduana, Old Restalrig has some interesting monuments to the cavalrymen, some of them like that to Toussaint, with West Indian connections.
Edinburgh–Newcastle trains via the East Coast route to
In these Piershill years, Robert may have spent a lot of his time in yarning with the cavalrymen from the barracks. Whenever he went out, his children recalled, he took great care of his appearance and was particular about his top hat and cane.
The 1841 Census shows
Robert's family as follows: Parish of
Robt. Cavaye aged 30, Independent Means. Not born in Scotland
Mary Cavaye aged 20 Not born in Scotland
aged 9 months
Susan Blackie aged 20, Female Servant
-next door on one side
lived Andrew Robertson aged 60, Independent not born in
-on the other side was Harry Shaw aged 40 an Englishman, late Lieutenant in the Army, with his family including son Byam Shaw aged 5. [Too early for Byam Shaw the well-known artist and illustrator, who lived 1872-1919]
The 1851 Census shows
-at No 2 Jean Hay Head of Family, unmarried aged 50, Landed proprietor, sempstress, born Kirkcaldy
-then 2 houses uninhabited; then at No 3:
Robert Cavaye, Head, married aged 42, Annuitant, born West Indies, British Subject
Mary Cavaye, wife, married, aged 30, wife, born Corstorphine, Midlothian
William Cavaye, son, aged 10, scholar, born Edinburgh
Robert Cavaye, son aged 9, scholar, born Edinburgh
-next door at No 4 lived Widow Wood, house proprietor, aged 51, and her family.
The 1861 Census shows the
Cavaye house (4 rooms with 1 or more windows) as
R McL Cavaye, Head, married, 54, Landed Proprietor, Born West Indies, British Subject
Margt. Cavaye, Wife, married, 24, Born Ireland
Robert Cavaye, Son, unmarried, 19, Turner, Born
James Cavaye, Son,3, Born
Mary Cavaye, Daughter, 1, Born
Charles Cavaye, Son, under 1 month, Born
James Mac avoy, Boarder or lodger, married, 23, Private, 13 L. Dragoons, Born Ireland
Mary Macavoy, ditto, wife, married, 27, Born Ireland
Isabella Smith, lodger, married, 24, Soldier's wife, Born England
Mary Smith, her daughter, 5 months, Born
-next door, at No 1 (same-sized house) lived Wm. Tweedie, 65, a retired baker, and his wife.
The 1871 Census, in the registration district of South Leith, shows
Northfield Cottage (4 rooms with 1 or more windows, 3 children 5-13 attending school) as follows:
Robert McLellan Cavaye, Head, married, 65, annuitant, b. West Indies, Port Royal
Margaret Cavaye, wife 33, annuitant's wife, b. Ireland, Co Armagh
James Cavaye, son, 13, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
Mary Cavaye, dau, 11, scholar, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
Charles Cavaye, son, 10, scholar, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
George McL. Cavaye, son, 8, scholar, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
Margaret Cavaye, dau, 5, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
Robert Cavaye, son, 3, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
Jane Cavaye, dau, 2, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
William H. Cavaye, son, 7 months, b. Edinburghshire, Sth Leith
also Mary Harris, Lodger, married, 23, soldier's wifwe, b. Musselburgh (1 window)
Sarah Horton, Lodger, married, 17, soldier's wife, b. England, Morpeth (1window)
also at Northfield Cottage, but as a separate house, was the McEvoy family, with Patrick, the Head aged 35, an Agent for a Wholesale Artificial Flower and Feather works.
-And on the other side was Margaret Anderson, a Dressmaker and Widow from Kirkcaldy aged 71, and her daughter Elizabeth.
The photograph shows Robert McClelland Cavaye with his second wife Margaret Boyd and their children (Robert’s second family) not long after the 1871 census was taken. Two more children were yet to come, Andrew and the short-lived Louisa. In 1876, suffering an asthma attack soon after Louisa’s death, Robert McClelland Cavaye cut his throat, dying from exhaustion and loss of blood after six days.
Cause of Death: Exhaustion produced from the result of a self-inflicted wound in the throat. Dr. A H Balfour, Portobello.
After Robert’s death, his older brother General William Cavaye oversaw the finances of his widow and helped find positions for his children. They remembered being sent to wait outside the cottage when the General’s carriage arrived from Royal Circus.
Robert’s son Andrew Cavaye & his family