General William Cavaye: born Jamaica 1802, died Edinburgh 1896


William Cavaye was born in Jamaica and was christened in Kingston under the surname Cathcart. He was the son of William Cathcart, a Greenock Jamaica merchant, and Claire Cavayé, a free mustee refugee from Haiti. Their story was recently told in Dorothy Cavaye’s book “Need a Body Cry”


Leaving behind his mother and younger brother, William was sent to England by his father in 1808 when he was about six. He sailed to London in the Tullock Castle. With arrangements for his upbringing initially in the hands of relative Mr George Bogle, he attended Bentleys School until 1816.


Loughborough House, Brixton in 1825. Demolished in 1854, it stood at the bend in what is now Loughborough Road.


When his younger brother Robert arrived in England to join him after their mother’s death, they attended Willett & Edwards' Loughborough House School, Brixton, Surrey till 1818.  Then William was placed in the East India Company's service. There was almost no contact with his father, who appears not to have acknowledged himself as such. Young William's family affections focussed on his brother: "we have only each other in the world", and he wrote to him regularly from India, where colleagues were dying and the future seemed bleak.  Concerned that Robert might come to India he tried to persuade him not to allow this to happen, for his brother's health's sake and to protect William’s own new identity.  They must tell the same story: born in Kingston on Thames not Kingston Jamaica, drop the accent from Cavayé and  pronounce it Ca-vey. William's letters were written several ways across the paper. After William Cathcart's death in 1826 two aunts, Helen and Isabella Cathcart of Edinburgh and Portobello, began to take an interest in the orphaned young men.  William did not know until 1827 that Mr William Cathcart was his father, or so he said.


William Cavaye was Commissioned Ensign in the 11th Bombay Native Infantry 1818, he became Lieutenant 1824 (some refs say 1818). He served with 21st Bombay Native Infantry in the field force in Kutch in 1825-26. He became a Captain in 1828, serving with the Parkur Field Force in 1832-33. William was made a Major in 1836, was present at the taking of Balmeer, served in Upper Sind, and above the Bolan Pass in 1840-41.  William Cavaye became a Lieutenant Colonel 1846, a Regimental Colonel in 1852, General Officer East India Company Army in 1854, Major General Her Majesty's Indian Forces in 1856, Lieutenant General Her Majesty's Indian Forces in 1866, General commanding Bengal, Madras and Bombay armies in 1870, and retired in 1877. The General spent his retirement in Edinburgh, his household having lived there from the 1850s.  


"General Cavaye, who is believed to be the oldest officer in the Army, died at 12 Royal Circus, Edinburgh, yesterday.  He entered the service in 1818 when he was gazetted to the Bombay army.  He served in the operations at Kutch in 1825, with the Bulwer field force in 1832, and in the Afghan war in 1841.  In 1870 he was raised to the rank of general, and was retired seven years later.  Five of his sons have been in the army, and at present there are still three of them serving Her Majesty.  The eldest is Colonel William Cavaye, late Adjutant-General, southern district; another is Major Cavaye, of the Scottish Borderers; and the third is Captain Cavaye, 79th Highlanders.  Lieutenant Cavaye, of the 24th, was killed at Isandula, where he fell along with five companies of his regiment, when the British camp was surprised by the Zulus.  Last year, at the advanced age of ninety-four, General Cavaye, who is a native of Mid-Lothian, was driven to the poll in Edinburgh to record his vote at the general election."

Some of William Cavaye's letters from India follow:


"To Robert Cavaye Esqre, Loughborough House, Brixton, Surrey, To the care of J. Willett Esqre, England."

The letter is stamped "India Letter Dover" and "Feb 1828".

Camp Bhauj* 26th July 1827

[*Bhuj, scene of 2001 earthquake, some three hundred miles north west of Bombay.]


My dear Robert,

                 I was very much pleased in getting a letter from you dated the 7th July 1826, but from its being so long coming I did not get it until March 1827. I imagine some unnecessary delay must have taken place in sending it out which from proper knowledge might have been avoided. In last[?] you tell me that you are sorry that I did not get your letter of March 1825. I assure you no person can regret that circumstance more than myself, do therefore be kind enough to ascertain immediately what is the best plan of sending a letter to India so that in future no miscarriages may take place. I have been endeavouring to find out which is the best way. I am told that a person has only to pay the postage to London when the letter will be almost sure of reaching its destination, but should you be in London the best thing you can do is to take the letter to the Foreign post office. I wish you to be particularly careful on this point and always tell me in your letters the date of the letters you receive from me so that I may always know what remains unanswered and also your direction. You must not think that I wish to find fault with you by telling you the above, my intention is to avoid if possible the probability of my losing your letters which to me would be a great annoyance. Directly I got your letter I wrote to my agent in Bombay to ascertain from the post office if there were any to my address and also to endeavour to procure for me a five £ note or an order to that amount on a London banker. He answered that he had made inquiries and that there was not a letter for me, that no notes were to be had in Bombay or any person give me an order for so small an amount. I am extremely sorry that you should have been disappointed in not getting the money. However by the time you receive this letter I have no doubt that you will have left Loughboro' House and my wish was only to give you a small sum to enable you to have the same comforts as other boys, well knowing that when at school we were both badly off for money compared to the rest. I see you call Mr Cathcart Cathgirt, pray never make this mistake again. You also say that you have only seen him three times since I left school. You ought to have told me if he spoke any thing about me or if he has either in his letters or when he called upon you ever said that he had heard from me & be kind enough in your next letter to let me know if he has ever said anything about me. I have written him four or five letters and to this day have never had an answer to any of them. I cannot imagine what can be his reason for not writing. I have never to the best of my knowledge ever given him reason to be annoyed with me and I am much hurt in consequence of his silence. If there is any cause I should like to know.

       You say he has been trying to get you a Cadetship for the last year and that he wrote to Mr Willett to know what you would like to be. I suppose long before his you have received my letter dated the[?] April 1826. When I wrote that letter I at the same time sent one to Mr Cathcart explaining in the same way to him what I had said to you about coming out to this country, and telling him that I thought you would be much more comfortable at home; but in case of his sending you to India that no mistake might arise as to name, and I see by your letter that you are not aware of what I told you in my last, that is sooner direct or call me Cavaye, Lieut Cavaye without the mark over the letter e. I should hope by the time you get this that Mr Wm Cathcart will have told you to discontinue it.

       I am sorry to hear that the school has so few scholars, of course that [there?] can only be one or two boys who were at Loughboro' House with me. I recollect both the Keares's[?] very well, however you might have told me what had become of my old friends - Alfred Francis and some others. Should you ever meet Francis remember me to him. I was very glad to hear that you had been very comfortable for the last two years. You say you have got the corner study, do [you?] mean the one which was formerly belonged to Reese? I wish you had also told me what class you are in and what Latin & Greek books you are reading, do not forget this in your next letter.

       I can easily imagine that you are tired of school and anxious to get away. You say [you?] derive some pleasure from a piece of gardening ground which you have (is this the reason that you wish to be a botanist. If you really wish to be one I would not wish to dissuade you from it but had I been in your situation I should have said one of the professions, either a lawyer or clergyman and I should have preferred the latter. However, on this subject please yourself, and I have no doubt that Mr Cornerford can give you much better advice about this than I can. I hope that whatever you are you will prosper. I am now first Lieutenant of my Regiment and I hope in one or two years to be a Captain. Promotion in the Bombay Army is now very slow. Indeed I am very fortunate compared to those officers who came out twenty years ago, many of whom did not get to be Captains until they had eighteen and upwards years in the service before they were Captains, and unless there is something done to induce the old officers to retire those who now come out will be still worse off than those who came to India twenty years ago. I know that it is very difficult to provide for young gentlemen, but see what Mr Wm Cathcart can do for you and endeavour to please him as much as possible. If he wishes you to come out do not oppose him, but endeavour to do all you can to get into the Bombay or Bengal Cavalry which is by far the best Military Service in India.

       Be kind enough to [write?] Mr Cornerford with my respects that I had the pleasure of receiving his slip[?] of paper for which I am infinitely obliged and had I thought you would receive this at school I should most certainly have done myself the honour of writing him a few lines in answer to those he so kindly sent me. Pray do not forget to tell him this. I really entertain the greatest respect and esteem for him. I am desirous that when you leave school that you should cultivate his friendship. Should I ever be so fortunate as to return to England I shall without doubt do myself the pleasure of calling to see him. I wish you also to ask Mr Willett to excuse the liberty I have taken in sending this letter to his care.

       The Regiment I belong to expect to leave Bhaaj after the rainy season, that is about November next. It is [not] certain where we shall go, but most likely to Baroda in Gujerat. It is a very unhealthy place. However I have been very fortunate since I have been in India, I have only had one fever in November last which only lasted a few days, and with care I hope to escape the diseases which people contract in India.

       I hope to hear from you often and I expect you to write whenever you have an opportunity. Never mind how short your letter is, if it is only to tell me that you are in the land of the living. You must bear in mind that you are my only brother and we must endeavour to keep up as great a feeling of friendship as we possibly can, and this can only be done by letters and I am sure when you know the pleasure it gives me to hear that you are getting on well you will not deny me the gratification of hearing from you. You may be certain that I shall keep up a regular correspondence. Let me know what you wish me to write about. I have avoided saying anything about the Country as you can get much better information from books than I can give you. As to getting promotion or making fortunes in India in these times of peace it is totally out of the question. Those days have passed long ago, the merchants are the only people who make money now.

       I have expected the letter which you promised to write me for the purpose of letting me know what you are to be. Pray let me know all about it. I am exceedingly anxious to know what profession I shall find you [in?] if I ever return to England.

       When you again see Mr Wm Cathcart be kind enough to give my respects to him and ask him to be good enough to tell you if he has ever received my letters. I am deeply grieved at never having heard from him, and am very anxious to know if I have possibly given him any cause of offence. I do not therefore like to write to him often as he may think that I am taking a liberty for which he has not given me the slightest encouragement. I have nothing more to say, and must conclude with the hope you will not delay answering this letter and that it will find you in the best of health and spirits, believe me,

My dear Robert

Your ever affectionate brother

Wm Cavaye.

Do not forget to send me your address.

My address is as follows: Lieutt Wm Cavaye, 21st Regiment Bombay N.I., To the care of Messrs Forbes & Co Bombay.


Another letter:

"To Mr Rt. Cavaye, To the care of Mr Dickson, No. 32 South Hanover St., Edinburgh."

The letter is stamped "Forwarded by Forres & Co. Bombay", and "India Letter Gravesend". It is postmarked, indicating its arrival in Britain in October  1829. In another hand is written "J Protector (?) Fo. 24."

Deesa, May 8th 1829


My dear Robert,

                 I had much pleasure in getting your letter dated the 7th of July last about two months since. I was absent from Deesa when it came which I imagine was the cause of its not reaching me earlier. I was happy to hear from your letter that Miss Cathcart had been kind enough to undertake the office of being your guardian, she certainly deserves our gratitude for this act and I sincerely hope your conduct will always be such as to deserve her approbation. I have just received the letter she was kind enough to write me in October last and shall do myself the pleasure of answering it in a few days.

Although for many reasons I would rather have seen you placed in a liberal profession still I am very glad that you have left school and put in a respectable line of life by which if you are industrious and careful of your character you may in time acquire an independency. I hope you still like your situation; from what I have heard you are very fortunate in being placed with so good a man as Mr Dickson. Pray my dear Robert bear in mind that the best thing a person can acquire is a good reputation without which you will never be able to get on either with satisfaction to yourself or anyone else. Be careful what company you keep for most people judge of a man's character by it. This is the time for you to make good acquaintances, for generally speaking the friends we make in youth are the most faithful. Endeavour to gain the esteem of Mr Dickson by every honourable means in your power for by your present conduct the world will judge of you hereafter.

       You will be happy to hear that I was promoted to a Captain as far back as last August. This increases my pay and relieves me from many disagreeable duties. However, still my salary is not sufficient for me to save much, in fact no person in India under the rank of a Major, unless he has a good staff situation, can make money. As I have not interest (which is generally got by letters to the Governor or Commander in Chief from high authorities in England) I cannot expect ever to be on the staff unless by some fortunate circumstance which is very unlikely to occur. I have acted on the staff frequently but never could get myself permanently appointed. The present Commander in Chief Sir Thomas Bradford intends going to England early next year, he was formerly Comdr in Chief in Scotland for some time. I intend visiting Abu next month, it is about forty five miles from this and is thought among the natives a place of great sanctity. The principal part worth seeing is a famous and beautiful Hindoo temple situated on the top of a mountain, it is one of the very few Hindoo temples of celebrity which escaped destruction when the Mohammedans conquered India.

       Do you know what has become of Mr Cornerford (?) since he left Loughboro' house and where Mr Nisbett (?) is now living. I should always be most happy to hear accounts of both of them. Always when you write give me your directions so that no mistakes may occur and also in your next let me know Mr Dickson's Christian name. You may in future expect to hear from me oftener and I am certain if you were aware of the pleasure it gives me to get a letter from you [you] would write more frequently. Never mind how short your letter is only write. Very few people in Britain are interested about Indian affairs but every information from a person in England to a person in this hot climate is very acceptable.

We have many school friends in this country. Pontardeal [?] who was at Loughboro with us and now an officer of the horse artillery is here and in good health. I am still fortunate enough to keep my health altho the thermometer in the house [where] I am now writing is ninety five and is likely to be upwards of a hundred before the rains commence which will be early in July. I have nothing more to tell you but to give my respectful regards to both the Misses Cathcart , and with every wish for your prosperity and happiness in life Believe me  My dear Robert

Your affectionate Brother

Wm Cavaye.


My address is Captain Wm Cavaye, 21st Regt. N.I., To the care of Messrs. Forbes & Co. Bombay.


Another letter:

"Mr Robert Cavaye, To the care of James Dickson & Sons, No/32, South Hanover Street, Edinburgh"

In another hand is written "per 'Earl of Eldon'". The letter is stamped "Dec 1831" and "India Letter Penzance".

Dessa 23 July 1831.


My dear Robert,

                 Miss Cathcart has no doubt told you the cause of my not being able to write to anyone without feeling the injurious effects which it has on my eyes. They have been bad for some time and are now very weak, but I am happy to say getting gradually better. Bad eyes is not uncommon at this place and I shall think myself fortunate if I get well without the trouble and expense of going to Bombay for change of air and advice. With the exception of my eyes I have enjoyed my usual good health.

       The last letter I had the pleasure of getting from you was dated the 28 July 1830. I do not know if you have written any since. If you have I have not been so fortunate as to get them. The last accounts I had of you were from Mr Cambell who told me that he had seen you lately and that you were then quite well.

       I am sorry you do not like that part of your business which obliges you to travel about etc[?]. This is no doubt unpleasant, however if you only reflect for a moment you will find that there is not a profession or business of any kind which has not its disagreeable parts and which to a beginner will always feel irksome. You must endeavour to reconcile yourself to these things and always bear in mind that what necessity requires you to do had always be better done with a good grace - and a cheerful willing manner will always be pleasing to those with whom you may be employed.

       By the time you get this letter I believe your time will be out. I do not know what you intend doing and am consequently very curious to hear whether you intend remaining in Scotland or going abroad. All this must depend upon yourself. I should hope that by this time your conduct has been such as to make some people interested about you. You can consult them and have the benefit of their experience and judgement on this (to you) important subject and by them determine as to whether you had better go on with your present business or not. In my opinion (generally speaking) all changes are bad and most people had better continue in that which they commenced. But pray reflect seriously on the subject and not allow yourself to be led away entirely by your inclination, unless you have every reason to suppose that you will succeed.

       I imagine that you have ere this seen Captn Hugh Cathcart of the Bengal Army. I do not know if you ever saw him previous to his touring England. He is a son of the late Mr Hugh Cathcart who you must recollect; he called upon us twice or thrice at Loughboro' house. He (Captn C) promised to make a point of seeing you and letting me know how you are getting on. He is a person with whom I  was at school for many years and to whom I am very much attached. I am certain that he will be most happy to give you any assistance in his power and you can place any confidence in him, so do not be backward in communicating any thing to him as to your wishes etc[?] for altho' he has not interest or sufficient income to get you all in the world still as a private friend he may be of great use to you.

       I am glad that the Misses Cathcart continue kind to you and hope you do all in your power to keep them your friends. I feel their kindness much more both to yourself and me on account of its being voluntary and particularly so from their being the first and only relatives (if I may call them so) who have ever paid me the slightest attention. I hope I shall have the pleasure one of these days of thanking them personally for their kindness - pray give my best respects and regards to them. I wrote Miss C a letter about a month ago or upwards which I hope she has received.

       It is very uncertain when you will see me. I have at present my good health; beside the time a person stops in England he is obliged to make up again on his return to this country. The expense for passages to and from India is very great and our English pay when on Furlough is not sufficient, so you see I am obliged to take every thing into consideration. However I am not in debt, which is the case with the greater part of the junior officers of the Army, and should my health require me to take a change I shall not hesitate in returning to England, or when it appears to me that after three years at home that my prospects will be better on my return, for I should be unwilling to come back again and not be better off.

       I am still junior Captain of my Regiment and do not expect to be a Major for the next ten years. My promotion has been slow, however, I cannot complain as the one just above me has been eight years in the service longer than I have and the one below me twelve years in India and still a Lieutenant. Promotion throughout the Army is now very bad, we have many Captains who have been six & twenty years in this country and who will not be Majors for some time yet. As to myself promotion is all I have to depend upon, not having the slightest interest with the Commander in Chief or Governor, I have not any chance of ever getting a staff situation. We are all now very anxious to know if the Charter is to be renewed or not. If not of course we shall all be turned into the King's Army. To those at present in the service it will not I suppose [?]  make any difference, but those coming after will no doubt suffer considerably.

       The weather is now excessively sultry and unpleasant. The cloudy sky of the monsoon has been a great relief to my eyes and I hope the next time I write I shall be able to tall you that they are well. I have not any thing more to say to you. I hope this will find you happy and well. If you see Captn H. C. give my best regards to him & tell him that I wrote him a short time ago. Trusting my dear Robert that you will send me an early answer to this letter. Believe me to be

                                                       Your Affectionate Brother

                                                                 Wm Cavaye.


Another letter:

The handwriting in this letter is much larger and more sprawling than that of previous letters - fewer words are fitted on to a line, and William's usual economy with paper is not to be found. This, coupled with the bad spelling and a more colloquial turn of phrase, suggests that the letter has been dictated to a friend. There are three addresses on the letter, two of which have been crossed out:

1 Rt Cavaye Esqr, To the care of Mr Thomas Dickson & Sons, 32 South Hanover Street,   Edinburgh.

2 Mr I.O. Turnbull, 26 Pitt Street [or, perhaps, Pilrig or Pirrie St]

3. J Summerville Esqr, Broxburn By Uphall.

The final address is to Robert Cavaye Esqr. at James Summerville's Esqr.

The Letter is marked "Pr 'Lady Nugent'", and "June 1833", "India letter Dover".


Deesa 2nd February 1833.


My dear Robert,

                 I had the pleasure of getting your letter of the 20th May last three days ago. I have also heard from Captn Cathcart frequently since he has been in England. I was happy to hear that he had been kind to you, he is a person for whom I have a very great regard. If you carry your intentions of going to America into effect I hope most sincerely you will prosper to the utmost of your wishes. You have of course made up your mind to rough it for the first two years. This I believe falls to the lot of all people going to a foreign country. Had I to begin the world again I would prefer going to the New World to coming to India. You do not say to what part of America you are going. Pray let me know this in your next. I am glad to hear that you have so warm a friend in Mr Thomas Dickson and that you will always get on well together.

       I have just returned from Field Service in the little desert about eighty miles from this when both Cavalry and Infantry were sent to destroy the strongholds of the Robber-bands which infest this part of the country. Our long marches in deep sand and only getting salt water pills made it anything but an agreeable service, and I am sorry to say that I have returned from it with a Rheumatic complaint which I am afraid I shall not be able to get rid of without a change of air to Bombay or to some place on the sea, but not to England if I can possibly avoid it.

       You cannot expect any news from me, I shall be very anxious about you so pray do not forget to write on the receipt of this, your plans, how you like your new life and country, how you are getting on and what prospects you have. I need hardly say that it is very desirable to use great caution on your first going to America neither to be in a hurry in carrying your plans into effect or to despond from meeting with difficulties at starting. Industry and perseverance will no doubt overcome all obstacles. Be kind enough to give my respectful regards to the Misses Cathcart and believe me my dear Robert

Your Affectionate Brother

Wm Cavaye.


Another letter:

This one is addressed: "To Rt. Cavaye Esqr to the care of A Campbell Esqr WS, No. 5 North St David Street, Edinburgh."

"Post paid in Madras" In another hand is written: "4 Ship Postage 9 Indand Do 22 nd Feb.y 1836."

The letter is stamped: "Out Station Madras 26 FE26 1836", "India Letter Portsmouth" and "B. 30JY30 1936".


Ootcamund Neilgherry Hills 22nd Feb.y 1836


My dear Robert,

I have not heard from you for a very long time and I suppose you say the same of me. It appears from a letter which I had the pleasure of getting from Miss Cathcart some time ago that you are anxious to have a line from me, and altho' I have little or nothing to tell you, I write to show that I am willing to comply with your wishes.

       I did expect you would have given me an account of your trip to America and I should have been in total ignorance of your having been there and returned had not Miss Cathcart kindly informed me of it. I am desirous of knowing all your proceedings there so when you have inclinations (for you have plenty of time) let me hear from you on the subject.

You have been told I suppose that I went last year to the Mahabaleshwar Hills (thirty miles from Mihar and a hundred from Bombay) sick. I am sorry to say that they did not do me much good from my not being able to stop there long enough, for no one can reside there during the rainy season. So I have been compelled to come here which are [?] much colder and higher than any we have got on the Bombay side. These are under the government of Madras and nearly eight hundred miles from Bombay. I shall in all probability remain in these another year and if not then well I fear I shall be obliged to return to England. I am from many circumstances much averse to it, but unless I take some decided means to recover my health my constitution will be ruined forever. I have been unwell for the last four years and have had wretched health for the last eighteen months.

       I am sorry to hear that you are still in Edinburgh an idle man. It cannot be beneficial to you residing in a large city with nothing to do. It would I am certain be much better for you were you to live in the country away from temptations which you must be exposed to in Edinburgh. How do you employ your time? Unless you read much I do not know what you can do with it. Now if you were to reside in the country you might find employment in many harmless diversions. I should be glad to hear of you boarding with some respectable farmer, or a poor clergyman would be better for most likely you would be able to derive from him much useful and instructive information. I hope at all events you are not joining any Political unions or bothering yourself about Politics which seems so much to occupy the thoughts and time of many who do not understand anything of the subject and who are only used by others for their own selfish purposes.

I intend writing to Miss Cathcart in a short time and to send the letter by the overland route so that it may arrive before you get this. Pray be guided by any advice that you may receive from the Misses Cathcart. I am certain that they feel an interest in your welfare and will continue to do so as long as you conduct yourself properly. Give my kindest regards to them.

       I am now Senior Captain of the 21st Regt and shall almost to a certainty be a Major in five years and a half, perhaps before.

Direct my letters to the care of Messrs. Forbes & co Bombay. Believe me my dear Robert

Yours affectionately

Wm Cavaye.



Another letter:

The letter is addressed: "Rt. Cavaye Esqr care of A Campbell Esqr W.S. N.5  St Davids St., Edinburgh."

In another hand is written  "G. H. C. S. Hugh Lindasy". It is stamped "INDIA", "London 31 Dec 1839".


Poona 25th October 1839

My Dear Robert,

       I have not heard from you for I think the last six years and not having heard from Miss Cathcart for nearly a year I do not know what has become of you. I suppose you have seen all the papers regarding our doings in this country, so it would be useless my going into them. The army is now on its way back from Cabaral[Kabul?] and the Bombay part is expected to arrive about Christmas.

       I am still an invalid without anything particularly the matter with me, and hope after three or four years residence in a colder climate to be very much better. It is impossible to say when we shall meet, but my present intention is to be in England in the summer of 1841 when you will see [?] a sample of a yellow faced grey headed old Indian. I would even stop longer in India were I not certain that there is not any probability of getting well without a change.

       I wish you would tell Mr Campbell when you see him that I wrote to him about twenty days ago and also to Miss Cathcart. I am sorry to say that I have not heard from the latter since Der 1838. I hope that neither her or my letters have not miscarried.

       I am anxious to know about you, and expect you will give me an early answer to this letter. If you send it by steamer I shall most likely get your reply in forty days from Scotland. I wish you would let me know if the Misses Cathcarts' address is 138 or 98 Princes Street.

       I have not anything more to tell you. This month is the most trying month in the year and I am happy to say that I am getting thro' it much better than I expected. Give my kindest regards to the Misses Cathcart and Believe me my dear Robert

Your affectionate Brother

Wm Cavaye.



When did William become a Major General?  The official list says: General Officer East India Company Army 1854, Major General Her Majesty's Indian Forces 1856.  But he described himself as Major General when he registered his son Frederick's birth in Edinburgh on 19 October 1855, while the East India Company was still extant.  He also described his own birthplace as "Kingston, Surrey".  Incidentally, William had been present at this birth on 11th October (though whether in the house or in the room is unclear), and he brought the baby to the Registrars on the 19th.


William Cavaye and Isabella Hutchinson had married in Edinburgh in 1845. Isabella was the daughter of the East India Company Army’s Major T.F. Hutchinson (1788-1831) and Isabella Hepburn Mitchelson (1798?-1853) and so had maternal Midlothian and Berwickshire antecedents. Another of the Mitchelson sisters was married to John Hunter DD, (1888-1866) Minister of the Tron Kirk in Edinburgh.



William and Isabella’s first child had been born in Edinburgh (William Frederick, Abercromby Place 1845) , the next five in India (Isabella Charlotte, offshore at Malabar 1846; John Hunter, Assurghur Fortress 1847; Charles Walter, Rajcote 1849; Archibald Willoughby, Rajcote 1850; Henry Kennett, Deesa in Gujurat 1852), and the next six in Edinburgh again (Arthur Astley 1853. After their return from India, the family may have lived at Blackett Place Newington.  This was certainly where Frederick was born on 11 October 1855. (Isabella is given as aged 36 when the baby was registered on the 19th).  Perhaps the family plot at nearby Grange Cemetery was bought at this time.  The family moved into 12 Royal Circus some time between then and early 1861   It has a delightful pendentived (domed-arched) entrance hall, as the agent might well have remarked.  This elegant circus of houses on the northern edge of Edinburgh's New Town had been designed and supervised by William Playfair in 1820-23 when William Cavaye was starting his soldiering in India, and his father William Cathcart was living comfortably at 135 George Street at the top of the hill.  The new circus "enhances and harmonizes..both in architecture and situation" said John Britton in 'Modern Athens'  in 1828. "It is all dependent on perfect proportion and on the precise execution of the flat surfaces and barely projecting edges which Playfair's supervision achieved."  said the authors of 'Buildings of Scotland'  in 1984.  The Cavaye house at 12 Royal Circus is south-facing (just as William's father William Cathcart’s house in George Street, his aunt Elizabeth Cathcart Ritchie's magnificent house at the centre of the north side of Charlotte Square, and his aunts Helen and Isabella Cathcart's in Princes Street had been).


However favourable the house, William and Isabella were not destined to live in it together for long.  We can follow the household over the next forty years.  See how the General describes his birthplace.  "Never allow you were born in Kingston Jamaica" he'd told his younger brother Robert, "say Kingston on Thames".  In each census, William maintains this birthplace fiction; across town at Jocks Lodge, brother Robert tells the truth.  Perhaps Isabella never knew.


Census: 12 Royal Circus 1861 (20 rooms with one or more windows)

William Cavaye male, head of household, married , aged 58,  Major General  army E.ast India Company. , born England

Isabella Cavaye female, wife, married, aged 42 [*]

William F. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 15, scholar, born Edinburgh Midlothian

John H. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 13, scholar, born East Indies

Charles W. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 11, scholar, born East Indies

Archibald W. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 10, scholar, born East Indies

Henry K. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 8, scholar, born East Indies

Arthur A. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 7, scholar, born Edinburgh, Midlothian

Frederick N.W. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 5, scholar, born Edinburgh, Midlothian

Alexander C. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 4, born Edinburgh, Midlothian

Caroline F. Cavaye female, daughter, unmarried, aged 1, born Edinburgh, Midlothian

George R. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 6 months, born Edinburgh, Midlothian

Alsie Alison female, visitor, unmarried, aged 26, daughter of landed proprietor, born England

Ellen Alison female, visitor, unmarried, aged 25, daughter of landed proprietor, born England

Rachel Bowder female, servant, unmarried, aged 23, domestic servant, born Elie, Fife

Mary McKenzie female, servant, unmarried, aged 23, domestic servant, born Ireland

Mary Dinsmuir female, servant, unmarried, aged 27, domestic servant, born Edinburgh, Midlothian

Margaret Anderson female, servant, unmarried, aged 26, domestic servant, born Bannockburn, Stirlingshire

Mary McKenzie female, servant, aged 23, domestic servant, born Peterhead, Aberdeenshire

Jane Murray female, servant, unmarried, aged 45, domestic servant, born Thurso, Caithness

   In the next houses: at Number 8 was John Brown, 43 year old US born British citizen and family, including his wealthy mother-in-law: he was a Captain in the 1st Royal Lanarkshire Militia.  At Number 10 was William Dickson, Actuary and Accountant; at Number 14 was Ann P. Denniston, Fundholder, born Jura, Argyll


Census: 12 Royal Circus 1871 (26 rooms with one or more windows)

William Cavaye male, head of household, widower, aged 68, General H.M. Forces active list, born England

Archibald W. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 20, Bank Clerk, born East Indies, Bombay Presidency

Henry K. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 18, passed, waiting for a commission, born East Indies, Bombay Presidency

Frederick N.W. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 15, scholar, born Edinburgh, Newington

Alexander H.B. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 14, born Edinburgh, Newington

Caroline F. Cavaye female, daughter, unmarried, aged 11, born Edinburgh,

George R. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 10, born Edinburgh,

Robert R. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 6, born Edinburgh,

Henrietta R. Goodison female, Governess, unmarried, aged 41, Governess to Family, born Ireland

Margaret Watt female, cook, unmarried, aged 41, Cook, domestic servant, born Whitekirk, East Lothian

Christina Methven female, servant, unmarried, aged 23, Table Maid, born Kennoway, Fife

Isabella Ross female, servant, unmarried, aged 21, House Maid, born White Hills, Ross-shire

   In the next houses: at Number 8 was Helen Johnson aged 52, teacher, her sister -also a teacher, another teacher and Madeline Verner, Governess from Alsace, along with 10 girls boarding as scholars and 4 servants.  At Number 10 was William Dickson, aged 60 (no profession, independent means) with his family. At Number 14 Royal Circus, in the former Dennistoun house, was Richard Sidey and his family.  He was a retired settler from Australia.  Some of his children were born in New South Wales, some in New Zealand.  Maybe they influenced Henry K. and Frederick N.W. Cavaye to seek their fortunes there.


Census: 12 Royal Circus 1881 (20 rooms with one or more windows)

William Cavaye male, head  of household, widower, aged 78, General H.M.I. Forces retired list of 77, born England

Archibald W. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 30, employed in Union Bank of Scotland, born East Indies

Robert R. Cavaye male, son, unmarried, aged 16, scholar, born Edinburgh,

Caroline F. Cavaye female, daughter, unmarried, aged 21, born Edinburgh,

Mary Lothian female, servant, unmarried, aged 28, Lady's Maid, born Perth, Perthshire

Jessie Milne female, servant, unmarried, aged 30, Cook, Table Maid, born Boyndie, Banffshire

Isabella Grant female, servant, unmarried, aged 27, Cook, born Edinburgh

Elizabeth Cook female, servant, unmarried, aged 24, House Maid, born Wick, Caithness

   In the next houses: at Number 8 was Annie Balfour, an Orkney-born widow with her sea captain son, family and servants.  At Number 10 was William Dickson, aged 70, retired Secretary to Assurance. At Number 14 was the 73 year old William Kerr, Justice for Roxburghshire, and his family.


Census: 12 Royal Circus 1891 (20 rooms with one or more windows)

William Cavaye male, head of household, widower, aged 89, military retired General H.M.India Forces, born England

Mary Lothian female, servant, unmarried, aged 36, Housekeeper (Domestic), born Perth, Perthshire

Agnes D. Annan female, servant, unmarried, aged 30, Cook (Domestic), born Lochee, Forfarshire

Margaret McLean female, servant, unmarried, aged  25, Tablemaid (Domestic), born Loch Broom, Ross-shire, speaking Gaelic and English

Isabella Gunn female, servant, unmarried, aged 35, Housemaid, born Wick, Caithness

   In the next houses: at Number 8 was Anne Balfour, a Sandwick, Orkney born widow aged 74 with many boarders -21 people in all.  A boarder was Henrietta Crooks, scholar aged 17, born Jamaica.   At Number 10 was George Mackintosh solicitor aged 64 and his wife Christian.  At Number 14 was the 60 year old John Mackenzie, W.S.


12 Royal Circus


wall stone near west side of Grange Cemetery


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