I have spent many years researching my family past in an amateur manner, but there were others in my family who also did research, such as Dr. Geoffrey Whittall, my father’s brother who died in 2002. The family saga in Turkey starts with 5 generations before me, Charlton Whittall who started out representing the merchant Mr Breed Co. of Liverpool, England. I have copies of letters sent by Charlton and his sister Mary who remained unmarried but clearly was a remarkable businesswoman with an interest in a ship. More of my ancestors later.
My earliest personal recollections is from aged about 2, when crawling on all fours in my grandmother’s house in Istanbul, but having to stop at the top of the stairs, looking down frustrated. My grandmother Lillian Whittall was known in the family as ‘Willie’, as her husband was William, in the fashion of Mrs William Whittall. The second set of early memories from aged about 4 come from my boat journey with my pregnant mother to England, with the sailors amusing me with paper boats in a basin. This journey was to ensure my sister got British citizenship. Similarly I was born in England, as the capitulations which would have ensured I inherited my parents citizenship had been rescinded in 1922, and my mother on that trip went to England and back without her husband, returning by train.
Before the critical battle of El Alamein I went to Egypt around 1940-1. My family were advised to leave Turkey at the outbreak of the war as the Germans were advancing through the Balkans. A lot of people thus left. We went to Egypt by train, parting at the Haydarpaşa station which was a sad occasion. The men of the family had to stay behind despite the fact that business had stopped. So me, my sister Elizabeth, my young mother and maternal grand-mother formed our travelling group. My father, Hugh McKinley Whittall, thought of applying for the army, then aged about 45, had fought at Gallipoli on the Allied side, won the DSO, yet loved Turkey. His plan, failing that, was that he would go to Rhodesia where his youngest brother William (Bill) had pioneered a cattle ranch. He had shares in this ranch.
He nevertheless got taken by the army to work in intelligence in the Greek Islands and Syria. He was keen on game hunting, so in Syria he spent the war hunting and shooting. He did go to the Greek islands post liberation and observed there were no cats or dogs there, the population almost forced to starvation level. He had to go there as a judge delegating on minor matters, as recalled in his memoirs.
One of the reasons we went to Egypt was because mother had a sister (Yolande) married to a Scotsman in Barclays bank there (Hugh Carruthers), at Alexandria, but it was like out of the fat into the fire, with the war front approaching that area fast. We initially lived with them, then mother arranged her little house. There I was enrolled at the English Girls’ College at Alexandria school, and remember the day when I went to school as usual, had a morning assembly and filed to classrooms. Classmates included Swiss, Jewish and Italians, with the numbers augmented because of the war, though many families also had business interests in Egypt. There were about 100 girls at the school.
Then bells started ringing again, so we filed back to a second assembly which was unusual. The head-mistress, Miss Inman came, we all stood up. She announced the city was being evacuated, the school was closing and that we were going home. Some went by car, some by bus. At home adults were packing up. To keep the spirits up, something patriotic such as ‘I am sure we will be back for the autumn term’ was said. The music mistress, Miss Eskanazi, played something patriotic like the ‘British grenadiers’. We marched out. Some went by car, some including me by bus. At home mother was packing up.
I remember people were burning papers, and smoke was swirling up here and there. Our doctor, Mr Russell shot his dog which upset me, to avoid it catching rabies or starving when left behind. We took the train east to Cairo with my aunt, cousin and grandmother. Uncle saw us off at the railway station, the train was packed, I was pushed through a window, though we had priority places on the train through Barclay’s Bank connection.
In Cairo stayed at the ‘Mena House’, a very grand hotel, and there were a lot of children there so it was a good time for me, including such novelties as riding a camel. We were about to go to Port Said for a boat to South Africa but the tide of war changed and I back to school for the autumn term.
We had a lot of parties, the mothers wanted the girls to meet young men, so sailors were invited. However ranks were never mixed, so the parties were either for officers or sailors. Our local train station was called Sidi Garba and with returning hospital train carrying the war wounded from the front. My mother working within the auspices of the WVO volunteered to some canteen work. I accompanied her, stating at the station handing out refreshments and tea for the wounded. In a similar way, shipwrecked survivors from a torpedo attack would be given refreshments, sometimes in the middle of the night. We also went to hospitals, and chatted up the wounded to help morale, and my presence as a little girl helped this endeavour. In addition there were frequent air raids at night, and we hurried to the air-raid shelter in the garden. If the all clear was sounded later than usual we could be late to school, a bonus for a little child!
War ended and we came back to England on what had been a troop ship. Rules were at night women were advised to wear pyjamas for modesty in case having to rush to life-boats at night. The Mediterranean was pronounced clear but there would always be the odd mine about. I have kept up correspondence with an Italian Jewish girl and a Swiss Protestant girl till today.
We arrived in Glasgow and then via Liverpool to London. I stayed in London at some stage later mother goes back to Turkey. My sister goes to higher education, but I felt too old to start a new school, so went to a finishing school, which was quite fashionable in those days. This was the end of the age of servants, so it was good to learn domestic skills. However I was nearly expelled from the, didn’t like it. Situated at Beckshill-on-Sea, as a rebel I would swim out and from the shore they would shout, ‘come back’. I remember getting very bored doing a white sauce etc. However made a good friend with a girl from the West Indies. After a year’s of this schooling, went to secretarial college, ‘Miss Judson’s’ in London for 9 months, passed, got various odd jobs but kept going back to Turkey, because I loved that country. I loved the outdoors life and the unspoilt countryside there. Had jobs in Turkey, worked with international refugee organizations, part of the post-war chaos as Turkey took a lot of refugees. Also later, in the 1950s, worked for the World Council of Churches, run by Miss June Stoll, an American who married a Turk. A few years later came to England, the community in Turkey was changing, the English community was disappearing as they retired and left. Life was changing as well. In Istanbul the community was able to keep up the old style of living with one or two big houses and some servants, a life style which ended earlier in Izmir or Egypt. So by the 1960s I had moved permanently to London, England, sharing flats with other girls, working for the National Hospital, now called the Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen’s Square near Great Ormond Street, still the prime neurology hospital. I worked there till I retired in the late 1980s.
Note: One of the books recommended by Miss Whittall providing a vivid insight into the life and atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Egypt is laid out in ‘Cocktails and Camels - Jacqueline Carol’ - segment:
The following is an excerpt of a Miss Whittall’s recollections of childhood, penned a few years past:
BACKGROUND IN THE 1930S:
Marble steps, cool in the summer, rose from the front door to the hall where across a parquet floor, behind a curtain, a door opened to a shabby linoleum covered staircase that descended to the basement. Here a dull stone led along a passage, up a few steps, to a little door at right angles to the front door.
So if Osman, that most excellent of excellent of cooks, had to leave his kitchen unexpectedly to answer the front doorbell in a floury or meat-stained apron he could hide behind the big front door as he opened it and disappear through the little door while morning callers were greeted by Marinna in a pink frock and white cotton apron standing, slightly breathless, at the top of the marble stairs or Sultana, slightly flushed, welcomed afternoon visitors from the same height in a black dress with cream frilly organdie apron and cap. Great-aunts and great-uncles calling on my grandmother climbed those stairs, which had no banisters, and looked to me like elegant tortoises.
My sister, four years less three days younger than I was, was still not able to walk properly when, bored with nursery entertainment, I stole down the back stairs to see what amusement Osman in his kitchen could offer me. The garden looked enticing peering from windows at ground level, and the lift rattling to the pantry above could give rides to a small child, and copper pans from England hung on a wall.
But Osman already had a visitor: a fisherman smelling of the sea and the fish it yielded him. About the floor, hitting their claws futilely, pitifully against the unfamiliar dryness of it, crawled crabs, lobsters - I didn’t know their names. I knew they were creatures of the sea and must be returned to it. Osman spoke Greek in the house. “Thalassa, thalassa” [the sea!] I cried pointing to them and amusement on the fisherman’s face turned to annoyance then anger as he sensed the forfeit of a sale. Osman had watched me across the marble-topped kitchen table. Between its painted legs I saw him stoop and pick up a small crab which he held out to me. I shrank from its waving claws and fisherman’s stinging disapproval dismayed me! Briskly Osman tied string round the crab, made a loop at the free end for me to take, found scissors. I knew I must carry the scissors away from me, points hanging down. Out of the back door I fled, up steps on which servants sat under the vine and gossiped on warm afternoons and summer evenings, past the rosemary hedge, the crab-apple tree, the plumbago [an evergreen shrub] that reached up the side of the house to the drawing- room windows.
When the garden gate banged shut behind me I stood alone in the drive for the first time in my life. Mindful of the fisherman’s scorn, I chose not to venture down the cobbled village street, which sloped to the pier where the paddle-steamers called, to leave my crab in water by the wooden landing-stages where fishermen made fast their boats: a relative, a servant or a tradesman might notice me and take me home; and the fishermen would certainly mock me.
I turned right and walking through iron gates shaded by a cypress tree, which creaked in the wind, into an avenue of pine trees, which sighed in the wind, entered my great-grandmother’s property. We called her Garden-Granny because she let us children, cousins of first, double-first, second, third and many times removed orders, play in her garden. A miscellany of mademoiselles, governesses, Frauleins and dadas (Greek nursemaids) attended us and bade us interrupt our games to step forward to greet her when she was wheeled amongst us in her bath chair.
In our games we had endowed the house with (the house had) a ghost so I avoided the path that ran beside it; and the one that zig-zagged gently to the sea - it was in view of balconies and windows. I trespassed flower-beds, squeezed through a hedge and slid down a steep bank. Boy cousins on summer holiday from prep school in England had said it was snake-infested. If a snake came now I would offer it the crab and as the snake stretched towards the crab I would cut off the snake’s head with the scissors. There was no execution and I was in the bottom garden. Rather than cross the disused tennis-court I wriggled through surrounding reeds. The hole in the wall separating Garden-Granny’s land from her eldest son’s through which with giggly girl cousins seeking excitement I’d peered no tramp or gardener or a big, black man (rare still in the country) leaping out to scare me.
Boats were laid up by the opening in the sea wall and I reached the beach. Little waves kept running forward to see what they could claim from it before receding reluctantly to the water’s edge. I placed my presumably eager, enthusiastic and ever-grateful crab on the pebbles and remembered to cut the string. A wave came and covered it and when the wave slid back the crab had gone.
The sea was the Sea of Marmara where the Bosphorus broadened into it and beyond, with a skyline scalloped and pierced by mosque dome and minaret, was Europe.
It was because of my great-grandfather’s grandfather, Charlton Whittall, that I stood, and English-born child on a Turkish shore, with the seeping through my shoes and a crab dangling on a string.
The article below represents Miss Whittall’s research on the early history of the Whittalls in England and Turkey.
Sailors in Liverpool in 1791 celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. This was because at least twenty-seven ships in port were bound for America. Afterwards the “Masters of the American Vessels” among them apologized to the inhabitants of Liverpool in two newspapers for the “licentious conduct of their crews on Monday afternoon ... regretting exceedingly that they had not withheld the indulgence usually given their men that day.” But some of the inhabitants did not resist a reason for rejoicing. One of them was the family doctor.
So when Sarah was brought to bed for the second time he could not easily be found. Her confinement was difficult and the people attending her expected her and the baby to die. 4 July is St Fortunatus’ Day and the doctor arrived to save them. Sarah must have been reminded of him in later years when she smelt drink on her husband’s breath. The boy born to her was not strong. Relatives described him as a “poor, we bairn” [bairn = Northern English slang for child or baby] and did not think he would survive.
Sarah cradled and cuddled her sickly small son and, since she had named her daughter Sarah, called him Charlton, after his father. Carefully, devotedly she nursed him through his many childhood illnesses and he lived till he was seventy-six years old but he did not grow taller than five foot three.
Poor James by his wife had eleven children. He was not poor in the material sense. Oh,no! He owned property in Turkey Street and lived in a fine house in Broad Street. He was poor in grandchildren. On 18 March 1721 the register of All Saints’ Church in the City of Worcester stated that his marriage to Margaret Dumbell had been solemnized and from 1722 to 1739 a clerk entered in that register the baptisms of their babies and always he spelt the children’s surname Whittall.
When the first-born, Francis, was admitted a Freeman of the City of Worcester he described his father as a tobacconist - perhaps a retailer? Certainly James was well to do. He had been a hop merchant and agent for the Leighton family of Shropshire; he drove his own four-in-hand, owned race-horses, won cups at Worcester and Chester races. But five little babies died, middle-aged sons pre-deceased him. Daughter Margaret married late, though she did produce two daughters - but Somners lived in Chester; and Benjamin, the beloved last-born, perished on board HMS Cambridge at the battle of Fort Moro. James remembered by heart the words of the message telling the Lord High Admiral’s Office “That Mr Benjamin Whittall served in the Quality of Midshipman from 24 February to 1 July 1762 on Board His Majesty’s Ship Cambridge” and “received a mortal wound engaging the Moor’s Castle at the Havana” and “expired in an Hour afterwards”. He bahaved with “Care, Sobriety and Diligence being always Obedient to Command”. James remembered with pride that Captain Rodney had mentioned him in despatches when Benjamin Whittall, Able Seaman, served on Board HMS Dublin under his command in the station of Midshipman from the 13 day of May 1757 to 28 January 1759 “During which time he always behaved with Dilligence & Sobriety and always obedient to Command”. James and Margaret cherished these two certificates. Alas, Benjamin! Alas, beloved boy!
George, who also took his oath as Freeman of Worcester, married. Light eyed and laughing he chose for his bride Mary Speed and she brought him controversy over estates in Frodsham and Overton in Cheshire to which she laid claim as a descendant of the Gerrard family, two sons and a Bible. Sir Charlton Leighton (his mother’s maiden name was Charlton) settled on his estates in the year the elder boy was born and stood godfather to him. Mary wrote in her Bible (the Oxford Edition which John Baskett printed in 1727) that her son Charlton was born on 19 October 1764 at 5 o’clock in the morning and in 1769 she added that his brother William was born on 6 October at twenty minutes past four in the evening.
George died in August 1770 so there were no more babies whose names Mary could write in her Bible. They buried George in the tomb of his sister, Betty (who’d died the April before), in the cemetery of Hallow, a village four miles from Worcester. They laid a heavy stone on them and on the stone engraved a ponderous epitaph enjoining the Reader to remember his Creator. There they lie; and “While, the Sun or the Light or the Moon or the Stars be not darkened” the old cemetery, perched on the brow of a low hill, epitomizes all that is peaceful and picturesque.
James provided for his daughter-in-law. In his Will, in his own hand-writing, he gave and bequeathed her the bed on which she commonly slept and also that other bed whereon her sons slept and allt hat belonged to the two beds. And he left her ten pounds per annum for the rest of her life. The only child of his for whom he provided was Margaret Somner. Grandson William was to receive £50 when he arrived at the age of twenty-one. Meanwhile Grandson Charlton was to see that William was properly educated, fed and clothed, and he was left money in payment and payment for his grand-father’s just debts and funeral expenses. And the residue of the estate (£300) went to him.
Charlton had a fair classical education then, like his Uncle Benjamin, he joined the navy. One Saturday, 16 February, he set out from Worcester to go to sea. He travelled (by road, expenses 5/0d) to London, where he bought “4 C Shirts & 3 Pr Flannen Draws” for £1 11 8, “B Cravat thread worsted Gloves & c” for 10/8d, a knife and scissors for 1/6d, “Pockets Books & Quils” for 2/4d and he gave Mr Heming’s servant 1/0d. His total expenses in London were £5 14 2.
He travelled to Portsmouth (by coach for £0 18 0) where he spent £7 1 0 on his uniform, jacket and waistcoat, and 14/0d on a hat and cockade and a chest to put them in cost 10/6d. His sword and belt were £1 17 6. “Things for Trouzers” cost 8/0d, board, lodging, etc, etc, 18/0d, and he had to buy bedding, sealing wax, a tin plate, a nutmeg grater, stockings, comb and hair dressing, and he remembered to buy soap. His rum and brandy were 6/6d and he added another bottle of brandy at 2/6d. He kept these accounts in a leatherbound notebook.
The article below is an abridged version of the piece written by Yolande
Whittall for her local church (St Mary the Bolton) magazine in November 1999.
THE ENGLISH GARDEN - full version
On the Asian shore of the Bosphorus is a plot of land given by the Sultan
of the Ottoman empire to England, known as the ‘English
garden’. On the gates is the sign in Turkish ‘Among those commemorated
here are the men and women who died in war 1854-1856’. The garden is kept
immaculate by Mr Recep Köktürk
in charge for over 30 years, continuing the work of his father. The nearby
big square building over looking the Bosphorus was Florence Nightingale’s
There are graves of nurses who themselves died caring for the Crimean
wounded, Sophia Walford, matron, Barrack hospital, Scutari (Üsküdar)
-1855, Mary Marks, died at the Palace hospital, Scutari – 1855 and Sophia
Barnes all serving at the time when Florence Nightingale was christened
the ‘lady with the lamp’.
Then there are the surgeons also served to relieve the pain; Dr James
A Wishart, staff surgeon aged 33, Edmund Sidney Mason, MD assistant surgeon,
13th Reg Light Infantry, ‘died actively and faithfully discharging his
too arduous professional duties’, Alfred Henry Cherry, veterinary surgeon,
Royal Dragoons, Alexander M Grigor, MD deputy inspector general Army hospitals
died Scutari, aged 45, Edward John Complin, civil assistant surgeon, aged
25, staff surgeon C Hume Reade, etc.
Also the soldiers from that war, Major Robert William Colville, ‘yielding
to the severity of a winter campaign with the allied army before Sevastopol,
died on the passage from Balaklava to the hospital ship at Scutari…cheerfully
terminating his life in his country’s service.’ His ‘bereaved and sorrowing
sister… erected this Tomb as a faint Memorial of his private worth and
excellence’; ‘Henry Croft Singer, Lieut,…killed in collision at sea…on
his return from the Crimea, Invalided…’. A tomb, beautifully inscribed,
is ‘Sacred to the memory of Hon Grey Neville…24…surviving by…6 days his
brother…Hon Henry Neville…killed at Inkerman…to the dear memory of those
so loved and early lost, their sorrowing Family inscribe this Stone’.
Count Amadeo Preziosi and the Englishman William Simpson’s early paintings
of the cemetery show few trees.
Note: The Internet site for the
Maltese painter who became a permanent resident of Istanbul, Count Amadeo
Preziosi (1816-1842 Istanbul-1882)
Now rising above venerable ones Baron
Marochetti’s monument to the Crimean soldiers is visible from the
sea. Four panels between four angels have inscriptions in English, Turkish,
French and Italian. A century later a student of the Florence Nightingale
School of Nursing in Turkey unveiled a plaque on it, ‘To Florence Nightingale
whose work near this cemetery relieved much human suffering…this Tablet
cast in Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Year…has been raised by the British
Community in Istanbul…’
Ahead, where ‘Their name liveth for evermore’ (words from the Bible chosen
by Rudyard Kipling), is the glory of the garden. On the gates, after ‘1856’,
you read ‘1914 – 1918’. Smooth mown grass sets off border and border of
English garden flowers. There are ‘a Musalman soldier of the Great War’,
‘Hindu soldier…Honoured here’, ‘a soldier of the Great War, known unto
God’. Men of HMS Julius, HMS Iron Duke, HMS Benbow, Irish Guards, Australian
Infantry, Royal Naval Air Service, Gordon Highlanders, Norfolk Regiment,
Royal Field Artillery, Indian Army…The altar like stone of Remembrance
names those buried in distant cemeteries, or without graves. On the gates,
after ‘1918’ is written ‘1939 – 1945’.
Once Imperial, now Commonwealth, Sir Fabian Ware’s War Graves Commission
tends also civilian graves, as here. On a tall cross, ‘Sacred to the memory
of Mary Saxton (Janie), the faithful nurse and friend of the Whittall
family for sixty-two years’. She was born in Yorkshire. You will find
many graves belonging to the Whittall merchant family who originated in
Worcestershire. A knight and his lady, ‘James William…born Smyrna 1836,
died Constantinople 1910’…‘Edith Anna’…sons and their wives surround her:
‘William…Lilian…’; ‘Frederick Edwin, CBE, ‘It’s not farewell, beloved,
only good night’. Kenrick Edward…1878-1963; and daughter ‘Florence…widow
of Canon F.C. Whitehouse, Chaplain to the British Embassy and All Saints,
Moda’; a relative ‘Marie Whittall 1847-1948. Their spacious graves, their
great ages denote gracious living. But not all enjoyed longevity. Not
far away is ‘John Reginald Whittall Kernick, aged 7, ‘and the people murmured
and said, - Who hath plucked this flower? – and the gardener answered,
- The Master. – So they held their Peace.’
You find La Fontaines, Benjamin Barker, Harold Madge and an obelisk: ‘Charles
Simpson Hanson, son of John Hanson Esq of the Rookery, Woodford, Essex,…departed
this life…1874…deep in love of his wife, children and grandchildren and
numerous relatives. During a residence of 50 years in this country he
won universal esteem and reverence’. ‘George Baker, born at Totteridge,
Herts. 1822, came to Constantinople …1847, where he died 1905. He was
head gardener at the British Embassy.
Note: It seems Mr George Baker
also had a commercial side as he set up a department
store, near the Embassy, that was successful enough to be continued
by his sons.
You find ‘The remains of Julius M van Milligan, MD, who closed his pilgrimage
on the 1st December 1878. Born 19th of July 1800, graduate of the Edinburgh
university, he joined Lord Byron in Greece and after its independence
settled in the East and served five successive Sultans as Court Physician…and
his son, Edwin: ‘Eminent as an Oculist (eye disease) and an Aurist (ear
specialist). ‘Greatly beloved as a Man.’
There are Jane, 1807-1872, and Georgina, 1818-1877, daughters of Major
Thomas Walsh and Arabella, his wife. ‘For more than 23 years Miss Walsh,
aided by her sister, conducted with sound discretion, unwearied zeal and
distinguished success an institution opened under the protection of Sir
Stafford Canning, British Ambassador at the time, and subsequently established
by the magnificence of HIM Sultan Abdul Medjid. The great object for which
she sacrificed her ease and native home was to offer means of liberal
education to young girls without distinction to race, creed or rank. Her
recompense in dying was the firm belief that the blessing of God which
has so far aided the noble work would continue to rest on its progress
and ensure its invaluable results.’
There are three Miss Lynes who spent their working lives as governesses
in Istanbul. Said a Turkish gentleman to an English resident, ‘Send no
ambassadors, for your Miss Lynes are the truer representatives of your
country’. Nearby, ‘Sergeant William Lyne, Royal Engineers, for 54 years
custodian of this cemetery.’ Florence Nightingale, we are told, saved
his life in her Scutari hospital by delegating a nurse to sit with him
to see he did not choke on his swollen tongue.
‘Charles Nollet, Lieut, RN, late of HMS Albion…died at the Royal Naval
Hospital, Therapia, January 1855’. Sister McKenzie ran this hospital on
the European side of the Bosphorus near the Black Sea. When the cemetery
there could no longer be maintained, graves, Crimean or older, were brought
Notes: Photographs and general
information of hospital and cemetery can be accessed at:
and the information sheet in pdf format issued by the Commonwealth war
graves commission on the Haidar Pasha cemetery can be viewed here:
Over the years, Miss Whittall has visited the Haidarpasa cemetery numerous
times and has gradually built up a listing of names and inscriptions on
tombs in this cemetery, viewable as a work-in-progress listing in pdf
format here: Miss
Whittall is keen to contact people who also have an interest in the cemetery,
for a possible future grouping as ‘friends of the Haidarpasha cemetery’
to assist in the continuation of this work of collation and care.
Ms Whittall also takes a keen interest in the Anglican cemetery in Bornova
in Izmir, where many Whittall relatives are buried, and she has recorded
and photographed many of the tombs.
Yolande is familiar with many of the family names in the civilian section of the cemetery from
her childhood in Istanbul, or from family folklore. She believes the Madge
family came to the city as chartered accountants and the first comer marries
a lady from the Maltass family, one with deep roots in the Levant. There
was a Pat Madge who was a prisoner of the Japanese during WWII and the
experience was so traumatic and he became so thin that his mother didn’t
recognise him on his return. The original Maltass marries into the Icard
Maltass and Marguerita Icard] and a descendant from this line,
Jane Maltass, a beautiful woman, marries a Mr Baldwin. This enigmatic
lady is painted by the leading portrait painter of her day, Sir Joshua
Reynolds [done in 1782] and this painting after being lost, was
rediscovered, and recently [Nov. 2003] a sold
at Christie’s in London for over
£3 million and is now housed in the Compton Verney Trust in Warwickshire - view. There are other names
in the cemetery that hark back to her childhood, such as the Bond name,
a gentelman by that name came to live in Moda in the 1930s.
Another name remembered is May Hamson, who lived on the Prince’s islands in Istanbul a generation older than Miss Whittall. They had a lovely house on Prinkipo with a garden that went down to the sea of Marmara which Miss Whittall visited quite often. May had 2 nephews there, of Miss Whittall’s age group, one of whose name Yolande can remember, Nigel Bane who went to the Sandhurst military academy. This was in the
1930s and Nigel’s mother was a Hamson and father was from the navy. Nigel’s
mother died young and he was brought up by his aunt, whom he would visit
in his brief returns to Istanbul in later years. It was lastly in the 1950s when Miss Whittall saw May Hamson and the surving sister who had a boy, who also went to Sandhurst. - further details on the Hamson family from a book here:
Miss Whittall is also an occasional contributor to the Turkish Culture
drawing from childhood memories and photographs of life in Istanbul. She
is the daughter of Hugh Whittall who died in 1976, marking also the date
of her final departure from Turkey. Hugh Whittall represented the last
generation to maintain the firm established by his grand-father, Sir William
Whittall (1838-1910) who had left Izmir to England, but the disagreeable
climate there caused him to make Istanbul his and his descendants new
Miss Whittall is keen to share recollections and photographs some of which
I have scanned. One of the earlier and precisely dated, and individually
named, on a separate sheet, is a family group photo,
taken over 100 years ago in the December of 1902, outdoors in Moda, with
Sir William Whittall standing at the centre of the large group with his
wife and descendants all around. In those days especially in Turkey photography
was available to a privileged few, however financial constraints did not
apply to Sir William who was even able to ensure the photographers edited
the photo to show absent relatives who at the time could not attend the
shoot as they were in England. The added pair can be spotted only by the
fact that their gaze is in the ‘wrong direction’. This photo also features
Miss Whittall’s father Hugh seated at the front as a young child with
The earlier history of the Whittall family in Turkey is visually recorded
through oil paintings of which Ms Whittall has a batch, including the
original founder of the Levant branch, Charlton Whittall.
Another photo shows Miss Whittall’s father, Hugh
in uniform who fought in Gallipoli like many other Whittalls, showing
their loyalties were ultimately with the ‘mother’ country. He was rewarded
with a DSO for his services in 1915, and Yolande still retains a copy
of the citation. Roland
Whittall who was a first cousin to Hugh, as well as an Australian
relative, driver P.G.Whittall,
both lost their lives in this conflict.
Hugh Whittall was a keen traveller and there are a number of albums dedicated
to photos taken of archaeological sites across Anatolia, though in the
1950s and 60s, when these locations were still virginal with statues still
in place and no guards or other tourists to be seen. There was a price
to be paid for his intellectual curiousity. The photos also show the car
and its Turkish driver who was eventually paid for his services with the
car that became his taxi.
The photo albums also stretch back in time to the 1920s showing Yolande’s
grandfather William on various hunting expeditions mostly on the Asiatic
side of Istanbul in the then barren areas of Alemdag and Samandra. William
Whittall had bought land in Alemdag and built a ‘red
house’ in around 1900s and was used as a country lodge through the
1930s and was sold off after WWII.
One informative shot shows Yolande as a young girl aged 4, in 1933, on
board a liner in the Mediterenean for the birth of her sister, Elizabeth
Ann, thus ensuring like Yolande before
she would have British nationality. Shortly before the abdication crisis
in December 1936, in the September of that year, King Edward VIII of Britain
paid a visit to the community and one of the photographs
shows all the pubils from the boys and girls British school, and the British
community including Yolande, lining the pier of Moda to greet the royal
guest. Yolande also took photos on her simple camera and one memorable
shot shows the staff of the house grouped in the garden. Yolande remembers
their names, (from left), Mehmet the gardener and chauffeur to the ford
car, her father’s batman till the war, Abbas, Osman the cook and sitting
in front, the Greek and Turkish maids, Marina and Sultana.
Yachting was clearly important to the family as there are many shots of
happy days spent boating around the then pristine Marmara sea. There are
revealing shots of Moda bay crowded
with sea crafts, many belonging to the Moda community. An interesting
shot shows ‘Bulwer’s castle’ on Bulwer’s island, Ms Whittall describes
as some ‘crazy ambassadors folly’, a pseudo castle built on a barren flat
island, in the middle of the Marmara sea.
Note: Later enquiries I made with Mr
Andrew Mango revealed, ‘Bulwer’s castle on Yassı Ada (one of a pair of
satellite Prince’s islands, known as Plate in Greek) is no more. I remember
seeing the ruins from the Buyukada ferry half a century ago.’ The John
Freely Guide to Istanbul reveals, the island is the former residence of
Sir Henry Bulwer, British Ambassador to Turkey, where he lived in what
Murray’s Handbook of 1892 describes as a ‘dilapidated Anglo-Saxon castle’
(1p-p.266) . This island was to have a later notoriety as a state prison,
in that it was the location of the military tribunal that during 1960-61,
in a show trial, tried leader and many deputies of the government of Adnan
Menderes it had deposed, resulting in 3 shocking hangings.
The photos of the time show Moda and surrounding area idyllic, compared
to the present sprawl. The house pictures include the building known as
the ‘Tower’, where her great-grandparents,
Sir James William Whittall lived till he died in 1910 and wife Edith Anna
nee Barker lived till she died in 1935. Ms Whittall’s grandparents house
is also recorded in her photo albums.
was also the residence of Count Basil Zharoff (white Russian aristocrat
?), a famed arms merchant who sold weapons all over the Middle East. Zharoff’s
striking mansion, located on the coastal street going up the hill from
Kadıköy to Moda, has been restored and is now used as a branch
of a local bank.
1973 marked the centenary of the establishment of the J.W. Whittall company
of Istanbul and in a group photo
of the Whittall descendants from an evening party, both Izmir and Istanbul
branches were represented including, a cousin of Yolande, Irene Whittall
one of the ladies crouching in front, and the last with the family name
to die in Istanbul in the year 2000.
The founder of the Istanbul branch of the company, Sir James William Whittall,
was painted as a boy dressed in oriental garb by the prominent portrait
painter of the time and a member of the Royal Academy, Sir David Wilkie,
(born 1785) and it turned out to be amongst his last works (he also had
time to do work in Smyrna, such as this)
as he died on board in the Mediterenean in 1841. The event inspired another
famed painter of the time, J.M.W.Turner to paint ‘Peace:
burial of Wilkie’. It turned out Wilkie had done another version of
the watercolour of young James for
his own collection, and its existence was only discovered by accident
by the family in the late 70s when it was offered in an auction. The Whittalls
could clearly afford to commission portrait paintings including for the
earlier generation, the ‘first’ Whittall, Charlton and his wife Magdeleine
nee Giraud, though in this case the artist for the oil paintings is unknown.
However family lore has it that the Wilkie painting was a gift by the
artist to the family who had accommodated him. Among Wilkie’s effects
a picture of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was found.
Miss Whittall retains a copy of a book by Edmund H. Giraud, a relation
of the Whittalls who published a book in 1934 titled, ‘Family
Records - A record of the origin of Whittall families of Turkey’.
The book has a minor section, ‘and a short history of the La Fontaine
family by James La Fontaine’. This book was based on family records which
Edmund was rich enough to hire people for their reading. The book formed
the basis both for Yolande’s compilation of the family tree in 1967 and
Betty McKernan’s (nee Whittall) more extensive family tree compiled in
1996 that is still available for sale. Betty McKernan was also the chief
organiser of the 1999 Whittall family get together in Imperial College,
London to which over 300 arrived from around the world. For many years
Mrs McKernan has acted as the membership secretary of the Anglo-Turkish society,
a London based cultural grouping associated with the Turkish embassy,
From a newspaper (Milliyet) article cutout Ms Whittall presented me, and
I was able to ascertain the date at which she conquered one of the mighty
mountains of Turkey. The peak of Erciyes was reached in the June of 1961,
together with a cousin and a mountaineer, Mr Sydney Nowill, a businessman
in Turkey at the time. At the time, Miss Whittall worked for the world
council of churches and the International refugee association.
1- From Sydney Nowill who has La Fontaine and Whittall background,
I learn of the work of Sydney La Fontaine who was a gifted watercolour
painter. Sydney J.W. La Fontaine (1845-1935), son of James La Fontaine
(b. Boudjah) and Lydia Maltass of Smyrna, married Edith Amelia Whittall1n
and most of his work was from the late 19th century (c.1880?), which unfortunately
were pillaged with the events of 1922, and had to be tracked down to coffee
houses in villages around Bornova, had to be bought back. However later
an eccentric relative Percy Whittall gave away the collection to a dealer,
and now only a few survive. 2 of these are in the possession of Sidney
Nowill, who is himself a painter, one shows ‘Moda
bay’, the other ‘Lice’ currently
known as Ilica a resort 5 miles from Çesme. Mr Nowill believes
there are still relict properties, owned by members of the community,
to be seen here. Another watercolour in the possession of Mr Nowill is
a mid 19th century (c.1860) painting depicting the Golden Horn and signed
by ‘Commander H.R. Correlli’, a painter of whom Mr Nowill knows nothing
about. My subsequent investigations did reveal nothing, and from information
gained from Mr Andrew Mango, ‘A recent, exhaustive study of 19th-century
foreign depictions of Istanbul (Semra Germaner and Zeynel Inankur Oryantalistlerin
Istanbulu / The Istanbul of Orientalists) does not list him.’
2- Another Whittall descendant (from the Sir William, Istanbul side, through
his mother), Phillipa Threadwell, has a few Carrelli paintings in her
possession, a couple in pen and ink and a couple in watercolour. She also
has a Tristram Ellis watercolour of Istanbul dated 1910, a painter of
whom the family again knows nothing about.
There is little on the Internet on this painter, however in the National
Portrait Gallery of London, there is an example of his work that can be
The sitter for that portrait is detailed as Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922),
Traveller, politician and poet, possibly related to the Smyrna consul
(1856-1864) Charles Blunt.
3- The Whittall family were also prominent in the tea growing and processing
industry of Ceylon [modern Sri Lanka] and these have since been taken
over by Keells holdings that run hotels including in a converted former
4- Ms Whittall has recently (2004) donated to the Exeter
university library copy of letters, books and archives relating to
the Whittall family of Turkey (EUL MS 259).
5- To view a simplified family tree of the Whittall family tree and Yolande Whittall’s position in it, click here:
A book recommended by Ms Whitall is ‘Travels
and discoveries in the Levant - C.T.
Newton’, written by a traveller sent by the British museum where he
was the keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities, during the second half
of the 19th century. Published in 1865 in London in two volumes with colourful
descriptions and numerous illustrations, one volume mentions Charlton
Note: Miss Whittall is a member
of the Anglo-Turkish society and a frequent attendee of the lectures held
there. She gave a talk on the Whittall family history in Turkey in 1983,
and the following text is taken from her lecture notes.
Charlton was born on 4 July and there were at least twenty-seven ships
in port bound for America and their sailors celebrated the Declaration
of Independence. Subsequently the masters of the American vessels among
them apologized through the press to the inhabitants of Liverpool in these
words: "for the licentious behaviour of their crews on Monday afternoon,
which had their entire disapprobation and regretted exceedingly that they
had not withheld the indulgence usually offered to their men on that day
of the year".
The celebrations nearly cost Charlton his birth. One Liverpudlian to
participate in them was the family doctor who should have been attending
his mother but he was found and arrived in time to save her life.
The baby born was frail and small and the mother, as she nursed him through
infancy and his many childhood ailments despaired of raising him. He lived.
He lived till he was 76 years old "but he never grew taller than
His father, also called Charlton, after a brief career in the navy, returned
to the family background in Worcester, ran through his patrimony and moved
to Liverpool to seek work as a merchant. But he had a liking for drink
and this often made work unobtainable so his wife, Sarah, took in sewing
to augment the family income. She was determined that her children should
have the best education possible in Liverpool. When her brother-in-law
accused her of semi-starving her children she retorted that she wasn’t
putting everything into their stomachs, she was putting something into
their minds as well. What was put into Charlton’s mind was a good grounding
in English and a fair knowledge of the classics and mathematics. Then
Mr Breed, whose shirts Sarah sewed, took him into his firm as an apprentice.
After four years he was so pleased with Charlton that he decided to send
him to Smyrna to replace his agent there with whom he was not a bit pleased.
Charlton would have known then that Smyrna was the commercial capital
of the Ottoman Empire, that its annual trade movement was nearly £1,000,000
and from agaric to zedoary he could probably have listed all her exports
The family originated in Worcester. Charlton, his brother James and sister
Mary were the first Whittalls to go to Turkey. The brothers married and
had fifteen children between them of whom two sons in each family married
and had issue. So began the Whittalls in Turkey.
The merchants of Smyrna had their warehouses along the quay, they lived
above or in streets behind and most of them had country houses in surrounding
villages. When Charlton arrived in 1809 the plague was raging and he found
the town deserted. Nearly everyone had fled to the country. He did the
same. He went to Bournabat and found lodgings. Later he lodged with the
widow of a French merchant. She had two sons and a daughter.
The captains of the sailing ships brought news and letters.
His father wrote: "I had no fear of your safe arrival. I hope you
will be careful of your health considering you are entirely among strangers;
keep up your spirits and by no means neglect your duty to your Maker."
His mother wrote scolding him for the late hours he kept, particularly
at the Carnival; such late hours would destroy the strongest constitution.
"Regular living", she said, "will, I am sure, agree with
Irregular living or not, Charlton quickly gained the respect of the "business
community of Smyrna which consisted of people of many nationalities.
His father wrote: "Whatever particular national absurdities you meet
with never let the people or the individuals in whom you notice them perceive
that you consider them as such. If you do, you will gain their ill will
without any advantage. I am glad you seem to feel the necessity of being
extremely cautious in all your words and actions for on the propriety
of your present conduct depends the welfare and happiness of your future."
Mr Breed wrote: "You will consider your salary to be from this day
at the rate of £200 per annum for the first year you conduct my
business of the Milo at Gibraltar, Malta, Messina, Palermo and Smyrna;
and for the second year you conduct my business of the Mediterranean,
your salary shall be £250 per annum and advance £50 per annum
to £500. The £40 advanced you here you will consider to be
Mr Breed’s letter was dated 4 July 1811. In that year Charlton formed
his own firm, C Whittall & Company and in that year J B Giraud, a
prominent French merchant in Smyrna, died.
He and his family were Royalists. A cousin of theirs married a soldier
of Napoleon and the family immediately disowned her. But the soldier’s
name was Massena. He became the greatest of Napoleon’s marshalls and riches
and titles were heaped upon him and as his wife became Duchess, Princess
the fortunes of her family declined. They had a ‘conseil de famille’ to
which they invited their cousin in distant Smyrna and they all agreed
to reinstate their errant daughter in "the graces of her family and
they went one step further: they became ardent Bournapartistes.
So in Smyrna J B Giraud was now a Bournapartiste but when he died they
said it was of a broken heart because the British captured two of his
ships entailing a loss of two million francs.
Charlton, took rooms in his widow’s house. Her daughter’s name was Magdaleine
Victoire Blanche Giraud; she was French, she was Catholic. Charlton Whittall
was English and Protestant and a year before the Battle of Waterloo they
married. A year after they gave refuge to a Bournapartiste who was fleeing
from the British, or the Bourbons, or both.
When Napoleon went to Potsdam he went to the Palace of Sans Souci and
entered the library of Frederick the Great. He was accompanied by Marshall
Savary, the Duke of Rovigo. Savary wanted a souvenir of Frederick the
Great and noticing a manuscript in Frederick the Great’s handwriting lying
on a desk he picked it up while Napoleon’s back was turned and put it
in his pocket. He was captured by the British and imprisoned in Malta.
He escaped to the harbour wearing two suits of clothes, his pockets stuffed
with underlinen and one pocket containing the manuscript. A boat took
him out to sea and a merchant ship bound for Smyrna took him on board.
When the ship reached Smyrna the captain went to the owner and said to
him: "Mr Whittall, I have on board a passenger whom I picked up in
an open boat outside Malta and 1 think you should speak with him, for
upon my word, sir, he is a gentleman, although he is a Frenchman."
Charlton went on board and seeing that the passenger was indeed a gentleman
took him home to meet Magdaleine since both shared a loyalty to Napoleon.
The Whittalls sheltered him for many months and in return Savary allowed
Charlton read and copy the manuscript. It was in French and consisted
of Frederick the Great’s advice and instructions to his nephew and heir
on how to govern. Charlton copied it faithfully and the copy is dated
4 July 1816.
Charlton travelled; when he went to Liverpool he took with him his wife
and baby and lots of servants. In 1817 he brought out his younger brother,
James, to work in the firm. He thought James could look after things while
Charlton was away on business, especially if he went to America.
He wrote to his father: "I find James very useful though lately I
have been deprived of his services as he has caught a tertian fever through
exposing himself to the sun and eating unripe fruit. Hitherto we have
lived in my country house, consequently we are forced to journey into
town each day and back every evening. This saves the rent of a town house
which would be £200 per annum. My conveyance is a jackass, James
also has one as he always accompanies me. The road we pass is delightful
and in my opinion the exercise contributes greatly to my health. My country
house is like a palace, its running costs are £500 per annum including
food, clothes - for this I need but one good consignment from England.
But winter is approaching and I will need a town house."
Letters were now going over land. Charlton became a member of "the
Levant Company. He still worked for Mr Breed. James too worked for him.
Charlton wrote to his father saying he had offered Breed & Company
a share in his establishment. "Should they accede to my proposals
the concern will immediately become the first in Smyrna and immense profit
would result. If they refuse I shall have more difficulty in making myself
a reputation, but I don't despair."
Charlton wrote again to his father: "I shall want you to write to
me by post once a month with every possible information such as ships
for the Mediterranean, who the shippers are, what the shipments are, and
give me particulars of every sale of Smyrna produce in Liverpool, such
as madder roots, valonea, figs, raisins, silk, called Prousa [Bursa] silk,
olive oil and the prices of wheat."
Charlton imported Manchester goods, manufactured iron and a shipment of
porter in bottles and coffee.
In 1826 he made his first Will. He bequeathed his "Soul to his Creator,
confident that in His mercy his sins would be forgiven." But his
worldly goods he bequeathed to his mother, sister, wife and children and
listed them as follows:
1- Land in Everton near Liverpool;
2- A house, garden, outhouses and tarlas [fields] in Bournabat;
5- Another house and garden in Bournabat;
4- Some ground in Bournabat;
5- A town house;
6- Furniture appertaining to the three houses;
7- His share of two hydraulic pressing machines;
8- His share of the capital of C Whittall & Company.
But his particular wish was that his children, especially his sons, be
educated in England and that they should go there not later than nine
years old, preferably younger, and remain at school until the age of sixteen.
If his sons were suited- for a commercial career they should be placed
in a merchant’s office in England - nothing was to be learnt in a merchant’s
office in Smyrna, nothing but idleness and impudence - nor for that matter
was anything to be learnt in a broker’s office in England.
So the children went early to school and were cared for in Liverpool by
their grandmother and their aunt Mary. His son James wrote regretting
the loss of an old coin he had brought from Smyrna. His father replied
"Never mind, when you come for your holidays you will find another
coin." Father was right. James found another coin. In fact he continued
to find them all his life. When he died Sotheby’s sold his collection.
The sale lasted eight days. The Hermitage in Leningrad bought some, the
Berlin Museum others and "the British Museum bought 365.
Smyrna in the 1800s was turbulent and lawless and in the grounds of his
office premises Charlton buried a jar in which valuables were hidden against
"fire, pillage and revolution".
In 1855 Charlton received a letter from the Sublime Porte, from the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, signed Rechid:
"We have learnt from H E the Governor of Izmir how willingly and
impartially you have contributed to the efforts of those in authority
in the interests of law and order. You have thus given resounding proof
of your sympathy with the Ottoman Empire and its Government. It is an
honour for me, Sir, as a servant of H. M. the Sultan to express my gratitude
and high esteem for your person."
From 1854 to 1856 Charlton and the British and the French merchants of
Smyrna proved their sympathy for the Ottoman Empire and its government.
Family legend says that the British Government, through the bankers Glyn,
Mills & Co, gave Charlton £2,000 to buy fodder for the horses
in the Crimea. Certainly Charlton’s son, Charlton Arthur, secured many
contracts. And Whittalls must have been involved in the building of Isambard
Brunel’s military hospital at Renkioi on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles.
After the war Charlton’s business developed thanks to foreign money invested
in Turkey and extended over almost all the Ottoman Empire. Charlton himself,
in his business dealings, was known for his truthfulness, fairness and
kindness and the Turks called him the "Küçük, Büyük
Adam" [the little big man].
Forty merchants of Smyrna presented him with a portrait of himself and
a testimonial printed on silk: among their many phrases of praise they
alluded to him as "One who makes noble use of ample means honourably
acquired." All forty signed it.
H. M. the Sultan Abdul Aziz knew about the Englishman and wished to see
him. His yacht, "Sultanieh", bore him to Smyrna, possibly to
the landing-stage for Bournabat. He was accompanied by a brilliant staff
which included Fouad Pasha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and preceded
by a host of servants, including cooks and stewards, and a string of camels
bearing food and table equipment. They journeyed along the road to Bournabat.
This account of the visit is given by Admiral Sir Henry Woods, Pasha,
of the Imperial Ottoman Navy in his book ‘Spun Yarn’. At the
time of the visit he was Lieutenant Woods and he was interested in the
Whittall household as he was to marry in 1870, Charlton’s grand-daughter,
Note: Admiral Sir Henry Woods (1843-1931)
became possibly the highest ranking British man in the Ottoman forces,
and was decorated with both the grand cordon of Osmanieh and similarly
of Medjidieh. He was certainly not unique in foreign subjects rising to
high positions in the Ottoman army and navy as the expertise they brought
was highly valued in an increasingly threatened empire. They came from
a multitude of nationalities, some of whose graves can be located in the
military cemetery of Hasköy, some of whom adopted Turkish names and
Muslim (probably mostly nominal) religion.
Magdaleine being dead, Charlton’s two daughters-in-law received the Sultan
at the gates of the Avenue. They were dressed in Turkish costume and one
of them presented the Sultan with the keys of the house on a silver platter.
The Sultan admired the embroidery on her dress.
The Sultan ate his meal in a private room. It was prepared and served
by his staff but he wanted to know what the other guests were eating and
had the menu brought to him. When he saw that it had his favourite dessert
he asked for a portion. The dessert was pistachio nuts and dates crushed
After lunch he walked in Charlton’s gardens. Charlton had invited every
notable of Smyrna, native and foreign, and he entertained them in marquees
outside his house. The Sultan asked to see the Protestant church which
Charlton had built for the people of Bournabat. Lieutenant Woods says
that he was told that when the Sultan entered the church he uncovered
his head - a mark of respect not yet shown "by Greek and Armenian
After the visit Charlton received another letter from the Sublime Porte,
from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed "Fouad", thanking
him for the agreeable day the Sultan had spent with him and enclosing
two beautiful brooches of brilliants and pearls for Charlton's two daughters-in-law.
Charlton received the Order of the Medjieh - 4th Class.
Wandering tribesmen would come many days journey from Asia Minor to submit
their differences, even their blood feuds, to Charlton for his arbitration.
When they learnt he was dead, they asked to speak with his heirs for they
felt the integrity of the man would descend the generations.
One of Charlton’s grandchildren through his son James, the coin collector,
was the eldest grandchild here, James William, whom Wilkie painted as
a boy, moved to Constantinople, or Istanbul, and founded a family firm
and a family there. He was a keen sportsman.
Edward, was a botanist. He collected wild flowers of Asia Minor and cultivated
them in his garden in Bournabat. The garden is still there in Bornova.
He also had a garden on the Nymph Dag [mountain]. Several species were
named after him, such as Tulipa
Whittallii and Fritillaria
James William published his grandfather’s copy of Frederick the Great’s
manuscript. It was printed in French, just as Charlton has copied it,
with an English translation. At the beginning he gave a brief family history
and at the end, so because he loved them so and/enjoyed recounting them,
he included a selection of his favourite Nas-rettin Hoca stories. He called
the book "Frederick the Great on Kingcraft".
At the end of the Second World War a British Army Officer entered the
bunker in which Hitler and Eva Braun died. He stumbled on a book and picking
it up read "Frederick the Great on Kingcraft, Whittall, Longmans".
History does not reveal whether Hitler in his last hours disciplined himself
to read Frederick the Great’s advice on how to rule or whether he and
Eva Braun consoled themselves with the stories of Nasrettin Hoca.
Mrs Whittall has in her possession a number of family papers, letters
and articles, and she has generously allowed me to view some of these.
The first is a newspaper cutting of the account of the funeral of Yolande’s
great-grandfather Sir (James) William Whittall, who founded the J.W. Whittall
& Co. of Constantinople, detailed below:
The Late Sir William Whittall
The Levant Herald – Wednesday April 13, 1910
The immense concourse of mourners at the funeral of the late Sir William
Whittall yesterday demonstrated that, besides being the leading figure
of the British Colony of Constantinople, the deceased also occupied a
most prominent position in the social, financial and industrial circles
of this city. It would be practically impossible to give the names of
all those present at the ceremony, where the British Colony was of course
very largely represented.
The procession started from the residence of the deceased at 1.40 p.m.
for the Moda Church of All Saints. Only the members of the family met
at the house. The cortège was led by the several Croats in the
service of the family, followed by the small grandchildren of the deceased
dressed in white holding bunches of white flowers. Then came to coffin
covered with the flag of the R.M.Y.C. [Royal Moda Yachting Club] on which
was placed a bunch of heliotrope the favourite flower of the late Sir
The coffin was carried by sailors of the deceased’s yacht the Abafsa assisted
by sailors of M. Gavin Gilchrist’s yacht the Florican and of M. Reginald
Whittall’s yacht the Rosalind. Lady Whittall followed in a mourning coach
which in turn was followed by the sons and daughters of the deceased and
the other members of his family.
The procession winded its way slowly to the church which was crowded with
members of the British colony of Moda and with relatives and friends of
The service was conducted by the Rev. W.S. Laungston-Day M.A. the incumbent
of “All Saints”, assisted by the Rev. F.C. Whitehouse M.A. Chaplain of
Within the altar rail were Mgr. Constantine, Bishop of Dafnoussia, representing
the Bishop of Chalcedon and the Greek Patriarch, a Delegate of the Armenian
Patriarch, the Archimandrite Father Ierothsos, an old and valued friend
of the Whittall family, an Armenian Priest who represented the Armenian
Community of Kadikeui and a Deacon of the Greek Church of Kadikeui.
Three hymns were sung which had been chosen by the late Sir William who
had been chosen by the late Sir William who had given precise instructions
as to his funeral, which he desired to be simple. He had specially requested
that no wreaths or flowers should be sent.
After the short and impressive service, the coffin was placed on a hearse
and was followed by the mourners in carriages.
The children of the Greek and Armenian Schools lined the road outside
On the way to the Cemetery the procession was joined by two Rabbis representing
the Jewish Community.
All along the Kadikeui main road the shops were closed and a great number
of the inhabitants lined the street.
The procession stopped outside the Armenian church of Kadikeui and a priest
came forward and recited prayers whilst the bells of that church and of
the Greek church of St. Euphemia were being tolled.
On the Haidar Pasha road the procession was joined by a large number of
officials of the Anatolian Railway Company.
On arrival at Haidar Pasha the procession was met by the numerous friends
who had come from town in a steamer, specially chartered for the occasion.
It is impossible to give an idea as to the number of these present but
we ventured to think that never has such a large concourse of people been
present at the funeral of any Englishman in Constantinople.
The coffin on being removed from the hearse, at the gate of the Cemetery,
was again borne by the sailors.
The pall bearers were the British Ambassador Sir Gerard Lowther, Mr. H.C.A.
Eyres H.B.M.’s Consul General, Sir Edwin Pears, Vice Admiral Sir Henry
Woods Pasha, Mr. T.J. Maltass and Mr. C.B. Charnaud.
After the service, numerous friends and acquaintances of the deceased
came forward to console with Lady Whittall and members of her family.
The death of Sir William Whittall comes just a year after the movement
which brought about a change in the reign of this country. On that occasion
Sir William opened the doors of his residence at Moda to a great number
of persons who were in danger of losing their lives and many of whom were
present at his funeral. With the pluck characteristic of Englishmen Sir
William unhesitatingly risked his own life and those of the members of
his family in order to protect those who had sought refuge in his home.
The strain was, however, too much for a man of his advanced age and he
was in failing health ever since that memorable day.
Note: According to Yolande Whittall,
Sir William Whittall was knighted for his earlier efforts of rescuing
Armenians [1895 pogroms?], and travelled to the Queen Victoria’s summer
residence of Osborne on the Isle of Wight to receive this honour. He used
his large yacht, the Abafna, to transfer the refugees to larger ships
waiting off-shore. In 1908 Abdul Hamid II was forced to summon a parliament
by the Young Turks movement. He attempted a counter revolution in April
1909, and when this failed he was deposed and exiled to Salonika. It seems
the Armenians also suffered in these convulsions.
The following letter gives a child’s vignette view of life in Moda, written
by Miss Whittall’s father Hugh in 1906 so 10 years of age, to his father,
who was presumably abroad on a business trip.
‘My dear father,
I hope you are well, we are all well. There was a very hard wind and very
big waves. At Prinkipo [the chief of the Prince’s islands visible from
Moda] boat sunk. I don’t know if any one was drowned. Victor saw
it sink, and he says there was a big boat near it – he thinks they were
all saved. I hope you will soon come back to Moda. And I hope you are
having a nice time. We are having a very nice time. Monica [elder
sister] is playing patience. I hope you got the letter I sent you.
A woman jumped into the sea and Bedo caught her out. A hamal [street
porter] was run over by a carriage. Monica and Edna [another
sister] are just going to bed. We have 121/2
piastres. Edna went to uncle Reggie’s to tea. Mother is just going to
auntie Gertie’s to dinner. They are painting your dressing room. I am
doing multiplications of fractions. I did 18 sums in one hour. We have
got for homework to put names in our map of Africa and learn the verses
of William Tell. We have learnt them already. Yesterday the Kadikeui boat
ran into a lighter – they were all saved.
Good night dear father,
Your loving son.’
Notes: 1- Yolande Whittall’s father Hugh did record for posterity the complex history of the various Whittall companies, and the chief players in this extended family, viewable in the privately published book - segment.
2- Another book treasured by Yolande Whittall is a fishing almanac from 1926, ‘Pêche et Pêcheries en Turquie’ a type of survey of all sea and freshwater fish in Turkish waters conducted by an Armenian (Karakin Devedjian - former director of the fisheries of Constantinople), previously owned by a Kenny Whittall, who styled himself as the ‘Earl of Pendik’, because of all the entertaining he did at his cottage by the sea at Kaynarca, Pendik, about an hour by car from Moda. Kenny Whittall’s first wife was Ruth Lawson who was the sister of Yolande’s mother.
3- Click to view further images of the Whittall and allies families, provided courtesy of Philippa Treadwell (née Perkins) with supporting info - and Barbara Jackson of Canada, in 2011.
4- Geoffrey William Whittall was Hugh’s younger brother, born 1906 and
died a couple of years ago in 2002. He was a prolific writer and some
of the topics give an insight to the Levantine world of Moda. The following
article is displayed in full, covering the subject of hunting, written
many years after the period, of his recollections as a youngster then.
SHOOTING IN TURKEY
1912 - 1928
Apart from a brief reference in the family papers to the effect that one
member of the family was killed by a wild boar in 1850, there is no suggestion
that shooting was enjoyed as a sport until the days of my grandfather’s
generation, two members of which Great Uncle Herbert and Grandfather William
were devotees. The former of these two actually accompanying that great
hunter Edmund Selous in his search for wild goats - mouflon - in Asia
Minor. Grandfather William took life more easily, and in his early days
could start shooting after an easy walk from his home in a suburb of Constantinople.
On the other hand I know next to nothing of what went on in Smyrna, except
that my uncle Jim was captured by brigands while out shooting and had
to be ransomed by his father. In Constantinople two of grandfather’s sons,
Uncle Edwin and father, became addicted to the sport.
Uncle Edwin was a first class shot and was the first man to record and
shoot a red deer in Turkey. In my younger days specimens shot by him were
on display in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington. Father took
to the sport from early days and when at work after office hours he would
walk the 10 or 12 miles into the country, to sleep in a Turkish village,
and then shoot over the weekend, returning home on foot on Sunday night.
I do not know whether it was through the influence of her brothers or
of father, or a combination of the two, that Mother became a great upholder
of the sport, although never actually participating, and this so much
so that she held in poor opinion any boy who had no use for a gun.
To father shooting was the breath of life, never suffering discouragement
from any degree of discomfort, and I have often pondered over which came
first in his mind - the actual shooting, or a long day walking, often
under adverse conditions, or an association with the local peasants whom
he greatly loved and who in return loved him. A first class shot at woodcock,
he was not so good in open ground - not that this worried him, for his
main enjoyment came from a day spent in the country.
He was a great collector of equipment and after every trip to England
returned with more and more to add to his store and this meant that he
was never in lack of anything required. I particularly remember two long
and heavy coats, lined with wolf fur, which he had bought in Russia, and
also, if we went camping, there was everything to hand. If he had any
bee in his bonnet it was on the matter of gun safety over which he was
meticulous, the carelessness in the handling of a gun being to him the
greatest of all crimes.
I have made mention of his love of the village peasant, and the respect
and affection was passed over to us boys, so that however wild and unkempt
and rough looking they might be, we never experienced any fear of them,
but at the same time showed them all respect in illustration of the regard
in which Father was held. Sali, an old friend, once walked some fifteen
miles to reach our house because he had heard in Moda that Father was
ill. Father's gun was a Holland and Holland. He also owned a revolver
which hung, I think loaded, by his bedside. This I never heard used.
LIFE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
Turkey is a large country displaying large variety in its physical and
climatic features, extending from high mountains to almost semi-desert,
but with all this my experience of shooting was mainly limited to a small
area on the southern shore of the sea of Marmara, within easy reach of
our house. In this area climatic conditions were fairly stable, with warm
summers and cold winters, the latter often accompanied by heavy snowfalls.
In respect of landscape the sea shore was bordered by a belt of flat land
lying under cultivation or covered with coarse grass and low scrub, brown
and arid in summer. Further inland this flat land gave place to ranges
of low hills, rising at times to 1,000 feet or so. These in general were
bare- topped, with steepish and stony slopes, covered in scrub, heath,
pyracantha and the like, which in places gave way to tall forest, as in
the vicinity of our Alemdagh house or to low oak coppice. Springs fed
streams in the valleys which in places were occupied by almost impenetrable
Father introduced all his five sons to the art of shooting as soon as
they had become capable of holding a gun, the first of which kind being
a simple barrelled 36 bore, followed by heavier as they grew older. I
remember going out with a man called Omk, and shooting my first bird,
shamefully a blue tit. I also remember going after larks, who were attracted
by the flashing lights as a mirror studded bird shaped apparition was
rotated in the sun. I only experienced one mishap, and that when for some
reason or other the gun went off in against my mouth, the resultant kick
damaging my lips. This short experience of shooting then came to an end
with the outbreak of war in 1914, when we all had to leave.
1919 - 1922
The War ended in November 1918, and father returned to Turkey early in
the following year to find the Moda house in reasonably good order. The
same, however, could not be said of the Alemdagh house, it having been
occupied by the military. This was in a dreadful state, with the kitchen
almost needing rebuilding, in consequence of which it could not be used
as a shooting headquarters.
There was added reason for this. The town of Constantinople and the surrounding
area was under the control of the allied military forces, who kept the
city under good control, but this did not apply to the countryside m which
poverty and the lack of legal enforcement led to an upsurge of brigandage,
which rendered the Alemdagh house unsafe for occupation, with Father no
doubt remembering that two of his brothers-in-laws had, in the past, been
captured by brigands with a need for ransom.
In consequence, Father looked out for a replacement in the shape to rent
nearer to the town and in a safer situation and found this in a locally
known as Hamamli stretch of open country within easy reach of the town.
The house he leased stood in open country in a somewhat isolated situation
and had two floors, the upper of which was fitted up for father and his
friends, with the lower rooms for use by the men, and as stabling for
the dogs - all being housed in simple comfort. Except for woodcock in
the winter the shooting in the immediate vicinity of the house was not
good, but daytime excursions further afield could be made by car or cart.
The position in regard to brigands was unusual. In former days father
had roamed all over this part of the countryside, and was well known and
respected in all surrounding villages. In consequence he was a familiar
figure to all locally raised brigands and had no fear of these, the real
danger arising from those entering the district from further afield. In
the course of shooting, Father often came into contact with such men.
One lot telling him that they had seen mother out walking alone, and had
followed her about to ensure her safety.
On another occasion, Ossie and I had become separated from the main body,
and were excited, at the same time on being approached by two men on horseback,
with rifles slung over their shoulders, and with belts of cartridges across
their chests, evident brigands. They stopped by us, asked us where Father
was and told us that on hearing that he was in the neighbourhood they
had come to pay their respects to him.
On another occasion the heads of a band approached Father to ask if he
could get hold of some water proofs for them - they not daring to go into
town - and this he did. The most renowned of these gentry was a man called
Milti - and him we often met, until he was captured. Strangely, while
father was hobnobbing with these gentry, Cousin George Whittall, in the
army, was doing his best to get rid of them.
Soon after moving Father found that there was insufficient accommodation
for friends and relations and so a Nissen hut was erected and divided
by a curtain to separate the sexes, who presumably slept on mattresses
laid on the floor. On one occasion there was a scene of confusion when
in the process of undressing the curtain fell down (or was let down).
Mother loved Hamamli, and especially in the autumn with its black berries
Hamamli became especially popular on the occasion of a boar shoot, when
every space in the Nissen hut was occupied by participants and onlookers
- but of these I cannot write, not having been present.
At this period of time I was only in Turkey during the school summer holidays,
and did little shooting from Hamamli. As against this I loved straying
there, by reason of its lying in open country and also of the dogs. I
will mention these later on, but in the mean time I thoroughly enjoyed
their company and look back on our association with nostalgia. I have
mentioned that shooting round Hamamli during the early autumn months,
was not productive and we had far more fun on day trips to the village
of Samandra which will be described in due course. On these we were often
accompanied by army friends of father’s, who certainly enjoyed these occasions.
As I have mentioned Hamamli did not have much to offer Osie and me in
the way of shooting during our summer holidays, and so we were helped
out in this respect by day trips to Samandra, a village situated in a
stretch of flat land, halfway between Alemdagh and the sea and bordering
on the hills. The routine for such excursions ran as follows. The preceding
evening would be occupied with loading cartridges, with white powder for
ourselves and black for the men’s guns, some of which I would have hesitated
to use. And so to bed, to be woken by father at 3.00am. The lights in
the house immediately making the dogs kennelled in the garden restless.
A light breakfast was followed by all, together with the dogs, bundling
into a car - in very early days usually a T-type Ford, in later days a
large one bought by father. The only signs of life in the town streets
came from the reflection of the car’s lights in cat’s eyes and the journey
usually took about three quarters of an hour.
Arrived at Samandra we would be joined by our two friends, Kara Mehmet
and Ahmet Chaoush, and off we would set in the dark to reach the foot
hills as the sun rose, at which hour we could hear partridges revealing
their presence by their calls. Then would start the slog up and down the
steep, stony scrub covered hills, of which two Keraz Bain and Delmen Bair
in particular. Apart from a mid-term halt at a spring to refresh ourselves,
we would battle on until, close on midday, we left off in the heat of
the day to take on the hour’s walk home, back to the village, to be revived
by the cold beer, drawn and of the well, in which it had lain in a basket
since our departure in the early morning. Lunch then followed, and after,
a rest and return home to Moda. On these day's outings we were often accompanied
by British army officers, friends of father's who thoroughly enjoyed themselves
even on a blank day.
III- POST 1922
Following on the expulsion of the Greeks from Asia Minor, and the signing
of a peace treaty with Turkey, the allied forces quit Constantinople,
which now became known as Istanbul. With this change, security was soon
restored to the countryside, and following this the Alemdagh house was
restored and refurbished. Many of its previous contents having been looted,
with the piano later found abandoned on the slopes of the Alemdagh Hill.
It was now safe to spend nights at Samandra village and this became our
We had at our disposal two houses in which to stay, each offering advantages
and disadvantages. That of Kara Mehmet was single storied and lay in the
centre of the village. It was fronted by a yard, and had no garden. The
warmer of the two in cold weather, it was also the warmer and offering
no escape in hot. Ahmet Chaoush’s house lay outside this village, and
was set in an orchard. It was two storied and in hot weather allowed us
to pick up our sleeping bags and take refuge in the cooler garden.
In the house we occupied a room upstairs, this, as in the alternative
house being fitted with a seat lining the wall on all sides. At night
bedding was taken out of a sort of cupboard and laid on the floor. Meals
were taken out of doors on table and chairs. Toilet arrangements were
primitive but adequate, and I rather suspect that night soil was used
on the fields. One summer we could not stay in Ahmet Chaoush's house as
one of the external, wooden walls had collapsed.
Cooking was left in the hands of Yorgi the Yalanddgi- George the Liar
- our inevitable companion. He was a superb cook, although his methods
may not have been of the most hygienic.
Morning shooting followed the same pattern, but was not confined to the
same area, as now available was a patch of marshland which aroused hopes
of a teal or a snipe, but in the main our chief targets were red-legged
partridges and hare. Often late afternoon, after a sleep, we would walk
the mile or so to Sari Ghazi, to sit under some trees, surrounding a pool,
and await the arrival of doves The atmosphere of relaxation, accompanied
by much chaffing and jeering to greet a miss and so back home as dusk
fell and after the heat and the toil and the sweat of the day to sit in
the quiet of the evening over a glass of beer or raki and discuss the
successes and failures of the day. Kara Mehmet in particular enjoyed his
raki, which made him more voluble than ever. And so as we talked, Yorgi
prepared supper, and enjoying his share of raki, added to the conversation.
In the meantime, men from the village drifted in and so father, sitting
on his chair, was surrounded by a group squatting on their heels, discussing
village concerns and the events of the day, a conversation of which sadly
I could understand little.
On the other hand, it was on such an occasion that Father appeared to
us at his happiest and his best and most characteristic, surrounded by
men whose company he so enjoyed, and who in return held him in all trust
and respect. Today, some sixty years later, this is the picture of father
that I most like to remember. And so to bed and the start of a new day.
Samandra, obscure village as it was, held two points of interest one of
which were some massive ruins of Byzantine brickwork. For the second,
an area of marshland close to the village was the gathering point for
all storks in the district, prior to joining the main body of migration
on its way south. This latter made its first appearance as a small cloud
in the distance, gradually to reveal itself as a long broad line of thousands
of birds, slowly passing overhead; an awesome and unique sight as the
thousands upon thousands of birds slowly passed overhead.
Father had one sad experience while shooting in these parts. He was out
with an old friend, Nazmi Bey, and on coming to a hill each skirted opposite
sides. But on reaching the far end no Nazmi Bey turned up, and father
on going to investigate found him lying dead on the ground, with gun and
dog by his side, an ideal way to die.
Alternatively in the early autumn when a north wind gave promise to a
passage of quail, we would set off early in the morning from Moda and
take a short car ride down the coast where an extensive flat area of low
scrubland formed a favourite landing place for these birds on their passage
south. Shooting here was not as interesting as at Samandra, the countryside
being flat and dull in character, while the actual shooting, demanded
a slow pace of walking, with the birds tending to get up at one's feet
and fly straight ahead. In general offering easy shots, especially with
cartridges loaded with no10 shot. Whereas on the hills we had the world
to ourselves, here there were always large numbers of other sportsmen
and with them there was always a danger of being peppered. Leon Trotsky,
the Russian Revolutionary, was said to have participated on occasion in
this shooting, but I cannot claim ever to have recognised him, that is
if I ever saw him. Whereas on the hills a good bag was a comparative rarity,
this was not the case with quail and especially on a good day. Dick La
Fontaine on one day shot 100 birds, though what pleasure this gave, except
to pride, I cannot conceive.
In the course of these schoolboy holidays we, on three occasions went
on trips away from home. The first of these was after quail at Eregli,
the ancient Heracleum, on the northern aspect of the Marmara. For this
purpose father borrowed an uncle’s yacht, on which we set sail one afternoon,
to anchor shortly before dark. A net was immediately let down into the
sea and next morning we set off at daybreak, to wander over rather uninteresting,
but good quail country, which offered us some quite good sport. There
were several other gunmen on the spot, but also and more interestingly
some were using hawks for the same purpose as us and to my joy and surprise
one of these birds swooped and flew off with a bird which was falling
as I shot it. Apart from the ‘hawkers’ I saw one or two men on donkeys,
each equipped with a sort of shrimp net which was skilfully used to trap
birds sitting tightly. These men must have had astonishing eyesight, the
one I talked to having already caught several birds, live. We eventually
returned to the yacht to enjoy a breakfast of fresh fish, taken from the
recently drawn up net.
Later there was bathing in the lovely transparent sea, followed by lunch,
a short sleep, and a return ashore for more shooting and so back to the
yacht. A truly idyllic day, to return home after a further morning's shooting.
There was very little left of the old town, and all I could find were
mosaics and pieces of pottery embedded in the cliffs.
On another occasion we spent a couple of nights in a Greek house, up the
coast at Kartal. The house garden gave onto the sea, and shooting started
a mere half mile away. On this occasion father was not with us and we
were in charge of Yorgi - feasting on quail pilaff. This occasion proved
leisurely and was only disturbed by the monotonous and endless music arising
from a Turkish wedding across the way.
Our third trip took us further afield to the village of Teperen, south
of the inland town of Afion Karalissac, where we lodged in a Turkish village
house. The organiser of this trip was one Sedat, a voluble but amusing
man who spent much time vaunting his honesty and running down the dishonesty
of all other men in his line. We arrived at Terepen after a longish train
journey and car drive to find that Sedat had found us comfortable lodgings,
which were free of bugs and here we spent three nights. The shooting was
various. In that wide valley there were grey legged partridge in some
abundance, while in the adjacent hills there was a good number of red
legged, while everywhere there was an abundance of hare. Outside of these
there were said to be some sound grouse, but of these I did not see any.
One day, at an hour when thoughts turned to lunch, we found ourselves
some distance away from our village and decided to ask for help on the
way if eggs and bread at one close by. The head man saw that these could
be found and ushered us into a largish room and offered us washing facilities
We sat there waiting patiently and then a man came in carrying a large
bowl of stewed chicken, and (I think) one of rice, and a loaf of bread.
Those were set on the floor in the middle of the room as we all squatted
down and partook of a veritable feast, Under these circumstances to have
offered to pay would have been accepted as an insult, but luckily, we
were able to repay our hospitable and needless to say, poor hosts by presenting
them with some hare. Our stay in Teperen was most enjoyable, in part by
reason of the abundance of game, and also m great part by reason of the
welcome given us by the local people who could not have been more helpful
One aspect of life in the Turkish countryside which interested me was
the local knowledge of springs and of the quality of their water, some
being charted as good and others indifferent or bad. On one occasion I
drank at a spring without asking advice, and paid the penalty by reason
of its content of Epsom salts.
V- MEN, DOGS AND GAME
MEN - To my mind one of the greatest pleasures associated with shooting
in Turkey came from our close association with the men who accompanied
us on our outings.
We had three stalwarts - Yorgi the Yalandgi (George the Liar), who ran
a drinking bar on the water front at Kavi Kem, and Kara Mehmet and Ahmet
Chaoush, who lived in the village of Samandra.
Yorgi lived up to his nickname, never missing an opportunity of coming
out with a good story. Thus he told one that during the War he had looked
after father’s great dog Jibbo, and that the arrival at first sight of
father on his return to Turkey, leapt out of a first floor window to greet
him, whereas father told me that he was met with indifference. Then on
another occasion, while out shooting quail, spent small shot from my gun
bespattered his impressive backside as he was bending over with no apparent
m effects. By next day however, I heard a graphic story of how his wife
had spent the evening extracting small shot from his behind - and this
despite the fact that neither trousers nor his walking ability appeared
affected. He was also an excellent cook, but above all an excellent companion,
with a great memory for the past. Thus I remember him stopping me - at
one point to remind me that it was on this spot that I had shot my first
hare - something which had completely slipped my memory. Also I always
found it interesting talking to him about past experiences, while at the
same time being tolerant of one and my inexperience pointing out our errors
and always prepared to laugh at mishaps.
He enjoyed his raki of an evening, which after made me wonder whether
he drank away his day’s profits. Outside of this he was immensely proud
of the Hammered Purdey gun he had bought for a song in the bazaars as
also of his dog, Bitzu, a bitch of the utmost perfection in his eyes.
He got one very well with our two Turkish friends. Of these Kara Mehmet
was grey haired and of uncertain age, but still vigorous and tireless.
He largely directed our operation - and this very successfully and reliably.
He was a great talker, and especially so of an evening after a few glasses
of raki, which he loved.
Ahmet Chaosh was older and less active, but in contrast to his fellow,
a more gentle and kinder disposition. He could well be described as a
‘dear old man’, whose quiet reminiscences were fascinating. His health
was failing and he died before I had ceased shooting, to everyone's regret.
We usually stayed in his house, except on one occasion when one side had
fallen down. I loved, respected and greatly admired these two old Turks,
and especially so as they held father such regard. In fact Kara Mehmet
attended father's funeral and at the gravestone, threw in a bunch of wild
flowers he had brought from the village. What was particularly impressive
about these men was that despite their ignorance and low origin, they
behaved like gentlemen. Such was their innate dignity that they behaved
like gentle folk in what ever company they were set. In addition to his
un-moslem drinking, Kara Mehmet always appreciated us going shooting during
the fast of Ramadan, for on such occasion he considered he was travelling,
and so allowed to eat and drink in daylight.
DOGS - How these arrived on the scene I do not know but we always had
about six, some from their black and white colouring, evident descendants
of Jibbo I loved these animals and today glossing over their names, Samouri,
Mimik, Ginmish, Kurt, Cedar, Spot, Yell, brings back happy memories. They
were not highly trained but effective under local conditions. I particularly
remember one incident. A pheasant had been shot but could not be found,
and so we went on when to our surprise, Cedar turned up out of the blue,
with the bird in his mouth. I once spent threenights at Alemdagh alone
but with the dogs, thoroughly to enjoy theu- company.
GAME - My experience was very limited so I am limited in what I can say.
Partridge - were of the red-legged variety and present everywhere
m the hills, but never in abundance They could offer very difficult shots
in this terrain, and especially so when walking over the unstable stony
surface of the hills, when a crossing shot at speed, presented problems
to one of my calibre.
Pheasant - were scarce and mainly to be found around Alemdagh, often
only indicating their presence by footprints in the dust on the roads.
They chose thickets to live in. I once got a right and a left to the intense
annoyance of Uncle Edwin's man, who was preserving these for the ambassador
in hopes of a good tip.
Wild Fowl - for these one had to cross to the European side of the
Marmara, to the lagoon of Buyuk Tchekmedje. I never went there.
Quail - A few bred locally, but the majority arrived on passage
south in the autumn, often in large abundance On these occasions they
landed on open country on both sides of the Marmara, with us up the coast
and within easy striking distance. Their arrival brought out innumerable
sportsmen, so that one had to be careful to keep out of their range. Quail
shooting was not particularly fun as the landscape was uninteresting and
in general they offered easy shots, to cause annoyance if missed.
Dove - These were universal, but never very abundant and the same
applied to Snipe.
Woodcock - These we gave rise to the best shooting, but mainly during
the colder months, when bad weather in Russian and elsewhere sent them
I never was able to have a go at these birds, but I managed to shoot one
- probably a native. In bad weather they could arrived in abundance, to
settle in tall scrub and among low trees to render conditions potentially
most uncomfortable, what with cold, damp and thick scrub - all of which
often necessitated snap shooting: Father loved this kind of shooting and
was completely impervious to discomfort At this game he was an excellent
shot requiring speed of action as the birds flitted through the covert
At one time he had bells attached to the dogs’ collars in order to know
where they were or perhaps pointing. This shooting also proved very hard
on boots and clothing, to leave father constantly in search of the ideal.
Once the Alemdagh house had been restored, father used this as his Headquarters,
to take over from Hamamli, and it must have been fun in the house seated
by a huge fire in the sitting room.
Of big game, there were wild boar, and roe-deer, but these required organised
shoots, of which I only attended one to shoot a roebuck. In general the
technique was to put the dogs into a thicket at the foot of a gully, with
the guns stationed on the surrounding slopes. The dogs were of astonishing
variety, extending from what looked like relics to those of much larger
A final word about cooking. The quail were fat and juicy and incomparably
more palatable than those available in this country, while mother made
a woodcock pie, without comparison in the world of game pies.
1- Turkish. Many Turkish men will not kill wounded birds, so that in practice
it was as well to look into the game bags they were carrying, to despatch
any such birds.
2- The area on which we used to shoot quail are today, completely built
over with houses.
Unfortunately Ms Whittall died peacefully on the 28th July 2013, may she rest in peace.
Tribute to Yolande Rodney Whittall (b. 13 July 1929) read by her cousin Betty McKernan née Whittall at the commemoration service held at St Mary the Bolton, London on 11-9-2013
“A treasured member of the Whittall family and passionate custodian of its Turkish heritage”.
There are not many of the Whittall clan who did not know her. Having drawn up the first genealogy of the family in 1966, she was a living encyclopaedia and always had the answer one was looking for. I would not have been able to update the genealogy in 1996 without her unstinting help. Never did I hear Yolande utter anything negative about a family member, and in fact, when I mentioned to her that research I had done indicated that the birth of a son to an ancestor had taken place some 6 months after his marriage, her reaction was “Oh, but they were so young and innocent in those days”.
She was a model aunt and godmother and a very willing and caring baby-sitter: she never forgot birthdays and quite regularly took a troupe of excited and excitable children which she somehow successfully corralled on excursions to London, and to shows such as Charlie’s Aunt and The Importance of Being Earnest. The annual visit to The Royal Tournament was, I am told, as big a thrill for her as it was for her young companions. And later on in life, she supported her great nephews at swimming galas and cricket matches, despite having no understanding or interest in the latter!
Like her father and uncle, Yolande was a prolific writer and recorded family history. During World War II, she spent some years in Egypt, but not much has been recorded about that – it was all about Turkey, the wondrous countryside, the magical sea of Marmara and in particular, the warm natured people. She was not computer literate, yet she contributed greatly to the Levantine Heritage website. Her legendary photograph albums continue to provide material for this website. Yolande was a diplomatic lady who once gave the following tip to one of her fellow Rock & Fell Climbing Club members:
If you are a diplomat and say “yes”, you mean “maybe”
If you say “maybe”, you mean “no”
And if you say “no”, you are no diplomat.
But, if you are a lady and say “no”, you mean “maybe”
If you say “maybe” you mean “yes”
And if you say “yes”, you are no lady.
She loved the great outdoors: she would take part in the family expeditions to Alemdag, where the family went walking and shooting at weekends; she swam the Bosphorus; she climbed Uludağ and Erciyas Dağ in Turkey; she climbed the Matterhorn, an achievement regarded with awe at the time, and from 1990 onwards regularly took to sailing the southern coast of Turkey in the traditional gülets exploring archaeological sites.
Yolande’s interests went beyond the family: on a visit to Istanbul, she went to the War Graves Commission cemetery at Haydarpaşa, studying and recording the epitaphs of the graves of soldiers; and in 1996 she wrote an article called The English Garden about that cemetery – an article which was published in The Clarion, the Parish Magazine of this church; she was a keen walker and was part of the London branch of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club offering the use of her flat for its twice yearly committee meetings; she was a very keen traveller, visiting family and friends all over of the world; she made friends easily and kept up correspondence with them; she supported a number of societies. She loved poetry and classical music and Radio 3 would be on 24 hours a day as quiet background music in her flat.
She was a staunch supporter of the Anglo-Turkish Society, was an active member of its Council for many, many years and attended as many lectures and events as she could. In 1983, she even persuaded (or should I say subjected) the Society to a talk about the Whittall family. And in the days that the Society held an annual ball, she would support it financially regardless of whether or not she could attend.
She loved the garden behind her flat and would admire its view from her flat window. She would often be seen working with the gardener looking after the beds and ensuring that the Whittallii tulip thrived there.
Having occasionally provided me with accommodation, I know she was a wonderfully welcoming hostess. If one had the good fortune to be asked to her flat for a meal, be it lunch, tea or supper, it was always presented using china and silver. I cannot recall ever being served a hot drink in a mug at Yolande’s. She also enjoyed her glass of wine – she once told me that she loved the visits of her nephew, Richard, when they shared a bottle of wine and a meal on the evenings he had to spend in London for business reasons! She had made it a tradition to invite her neighbours on Shrove Tuesday for pancakes and did so for the final time just before moving to Oxfordshire when the friends did the tossing!
This is the picture of the sister, the aunt and great aunt, the godmother, the cousin and the friend that we have lost and whose life we are here to celebrate. I will always remember her with great fondness.
interview date 2002-7