Clementina Wemyss

Clementina is referred to on a wall mounted monument on the west wall of the graveyard near the back. The monument is dedicated to both her and her sister Anne Weymss:

Anne Wemyss, Daughter of the late William Wemyss Esq of Cuttlehill.
Clementyss relict of the late Hon. Sir James Dewar, Chief Justice of Bombay
Died at Portobello 21 January 1834.

With statutory record keeping not coming in until 1855, tracing Clementina’s life and family has been more challenging but is helped by Scottish Birth and Baptism records, and Scottish Marriage records. It also helps that Clementina’s husband and father were both well-known enough to merit some references in newspapers and periodicals of the time.

Clementina was born in 1805 and baptised at Aberdour Fife. Her father was William Wemyss who is often referred to as William Wemyss Esq of Cuttlehill. Wemyss is a well-known name in Fife and there is a Wemyss Clan. I have not been able to work out if he was connected directly but he did have sufficient income to be able to marry Eleanora Jean Horn Elphinstone Dalrymple in 1790 in Edinburgh Parish. Eleanora was the daughter of Robert Horn Elphinstone Dalrymple General who seems to have been someone of wealth and political influence.  It must have have been an intriguing match as William can be found described in 1796 as being closely involved in turbulent political times as a Whig in the Battle of Kinghorn. He was at the centre of a sometime violent dispute over who would have the responsibility of casting Dunfermline’s vote and is named as one of the main insurrectionists, urging the crowds to riot in defence of his preferred candidate. He and Eleanora had 8 children with Anne being born in 1802. William died in 1809, and his death is referred to in the Caledonia Mercury on the 27th July of that year, noting the “irreparable loss” caused by his much lamented death. It goes on to say he was 

a gentleman to whose intelligence, activity and public spirit the northern counties of Scotland are mainly indebted for.

Clementina married James Dewar in 1826 in Aberdour. He was a barrister, born in Leuchars, Fife. They married in the January of that year and had their first son David Erskine Dewar in the October. The family then moved to Bombay where James became a barrister with the Supreme Court, quickly moving up the ranks to the role of Chief Justice and being knighted along the way. Whilst it is not clear if they took their infant son with them to India, Clementina must have accompanied James as they had two further sons recorded as being born in Bombay. James William was born in 1827, and William Wemyss Methven was born in 1829. James Dewar died in 1830, aged 33. Detailed obituaries for him in both the Gentleman’s Magazine 1831 and the Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany 1831 provide information about his career and about his character. He is described as

tall and well formed, and his countenance was singularly pleasing and intelligent. His manners were particularly graceful and engaging, and his conversations remarkable for their brilliancy…To the humblest individual he was kind and affable. As a husband and father, who shall speak his loss?

There is then no reference to Clementina until her death which is noted in a couple of one line references in Death columns. But these do include the information that is also on the gravestone, that she died in Portobello. With her family background being in Fife, it is not clear why she came here, but she may have had contacts and friends who had also been in India. Although her husband had been a civilian, their social circle in Bombay would probably have included army officers and their families. A Lady Dewar is recorded as living at the Bath House in Portobello in 1834 in the Post Office Directory for that year, so she was perhaps renting rooms there. Her sister Anne appears to have been unmarried and may have joined her in Portobello to help care for her three young children. But she died in 1833, a year before her sister. After Clementina’s death, her three sons were educated in England and remained there. David Erskine Dewar went on to become a vicar in Oxfordshire being ordained in 1850. He died in 1906 in St Leonard On Sea. James William Dewar joined the 49th Regiment. He died in 1861 and is buried in Oxfordshire. William Wemyss Methven Dewar was a landowner and magistrate in Oxfordshire, dying in 1903. With the three sons being orphaned at an early age, the care of them must have passed to other members of the wider family. James’s sister Jessie married Rev Robert Marsham in 1828 and moved to Oxfordshire so she may have taken the three boys or at least overseen their education as all three seem to have a strong Oxfordshire connection. Robert Marsham was Warden of Merton College. This connection both with England and the Anglican church may explain why Clementina’s memorial was placed here at St. Marks. 

Whilst there is a record of Clementina’s baptism, there is no record of her death, and no explanation of why she died. In fact, this is a common thread for people in her family at this time. Even her husband’s lengthy obituary does not have any details of why or how he died. Medicine at this time was still fairly rudimentary so perhaps causes of death were not necessarily known. Or perhaps it was simply more common for people to die at an earlier age and so less remarked on. The introduction of statutory records in 1855 gives us a far more detailed insight into people’s lives as the cause of death often tells us something about how that person lived, and what their living conditions were like. In particular, this raises the profile of women and gives us greater details about their lives rather than solely through that of their husband’s. Clementina’s memorial tablet is referred to in the Fife Herald in 1870 as part of a series about the graves of eminent natives of the district, but even here, the reference is to her husband rather than her:

In St. Mark’s Episcopal Burying Ground, Portobello, a neat marble tablet bears the name of Clementina Wemyss, relict of the late Hon Sir James Dewar Chief Justice of Bombay, who died in 1834. Sir James Dewar was a man of singular ability and his death was deeply regretted both in his native country and in India

At least here we can remember Clementina for who she was and for the hopes and fears she must have had for her sons with her husband dying so young in India and with her own health failing.

Sources
Websites:
Find My Past
The Peerage
Google Books
Fife Herald