Percy Hemery

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Percy Hemery in 1910,photo by Bridgman and Robbins, Bexhill

Percy Hemery 1851–1935 was born in Arundel Sussex on 7 June 1851.

He served in the administration of British Guiana, one of the very few British Empire dominions in South America. His sister Mary had married Benjamin Howell-Jones who owned a sugar plantation in Guiana, and he helped Percy find a post there.

There is a letter from Percy Hemery to his mother, written after his sister Mary’s wedding. It is marked in pencil on the front ‘dear Percy after M’s wedding’ ‘Luton 13/12/76

My dearest mum, I cannot sufficiently congratulate you upon the way everything went off yesterday – your behaviour was truly marvellous, and I can say that, although I cheered louder than anyone, my heart contradicted each cheer, because I felt they must have been positive pain to you. When the Governor spoke I could have blubbed like a baby, and I would if he’d given me half a chance: for I believe I was as near crying as anyone. I went to the office this morning, as if I’d never been away, put on the old office coat, and went down in the safe to get up the books, but it had such a depressing effect upon me that I have been wretched all day.
I have, of course, left some things behind but can get them at Xmas. I shall not be able to bring my cello at Xmas as the rush will be so great, I shall have to come back on the bank holiday, when travelling is awful. I brought away by mistake H?’s tooth brush which I send tonight; and should like mine as soon as possible. Mary behaved yesterday like a beautiful angel from heaven: and Howell like a man: he has actually sent me the form of application for the Colonial and Foreign Bank, its awfully good of him to think of me at such a time. I hope you are not very much done up today, but of course you will feel rather tired. I hope everyone else is pretty fit. Best love and hope to find you allright on Saturday week
Yr more aff son Percy’

Questionnaire

At some point Percy filled in the following questions, which shed some light on his character. It is interesting that he listed Jersey as the place he would like to live. The list is undated.

What is your favourite virtue? – content
Favourite qualities in a man – strength and generosity
In a woman – sweet temper and economy
Your favourite occupation – flirting
Chief characteristic – jovial turn
Idea of happiness – 2000 a year and ‘sweet spot’ to dwell in
Idea of misery – steward of a Jersey steamer
Favourite colour and flower – blue. Lily of the valley
If not yourself who would you be? Father Ignatius
Where would you like to live – in Jersey
Favourite prose authors – Dickens and Macauley
Favourite poets – Scott and Longfellow
Painters and composers – Ausdell ? Cooper Handel Mendelsohn
Favourite heroes – Coeur de Lion Wellington
Heroines – Lady Jane Grey
Heroes in fiction – Alfred Hardy Oliver Twist
Heroines in fiction – Julia Hardy Alice Lisle
Favourite food and drink – oysters and porter
Favourite names – Lucy Alice John William
Pet aversion – bad tobacco
Characters in history disliked – Richard III Louis XI
Present state of mind – hunger and good temper
For what fault have you most toleration – sleeping during the sermon
Favourite motto ‘vivo et spero’

Signed Percy Hemery

Career in Guiana

Percy’s career in Guiana:

  • 1st Clerk Government Savings Bank July 1880
  • 3rd Clerk Treasury Jan 1881
  • Cashier August 1881
  • Chief Clerk (ag) (acting) 1884 –5
  • Acct Government Savings Bank Georgetown April 1888
  • Colonial Bookkeeper (ag) July 1888 – August 1890
  • Secretary cattle diseases commission Oct 1891
  • Asst Receiver General (ag) & Sub Administrator in Berbice 1891

Newspaper cutting re Percy’s becoming Asst Receiver General Berbice, ‘Mr Hemery is the accountant to the Savings bank in Georgetown, and has already 17 years service, and has acted on several occasions as Deputy Receiver General’ (another cutting confirming the appointment 14 September 1897)

  • Deputy Receiver General April 1891, May – Dec 1892, May 1893 – 94, twice in 1895 – 1898. Newspaper cutting 5 March 1897 re three months leave for Assistant Receiver General Berbice, Percy to act as Asst Rec Gen during his absence
  • Asst Receiver General Berbice June 1897
  • JP and Commissioner of Oaths and Affidavits June 1897
  • Sub Administrator General Berbice Nov 1897 (additional)
  • Deputy Receiver General 1898
  • Comptroller of Customs (ag) 22 February 1904
  • Receiver General (ag) July 1906
A musical family – a photo by J Bateman of Canterbury of four of John Hemery’s children playing musical instruments: Kate on piano, Leonora on violin, Percy on cello and Mary on harp. About 1870

Marriage

He married Helen Jacomb-Hood, widow, nee Fairbairn in St Andrews Church, Demerara, British Guiana on 20 April 1907, she was born in Demerara British Guiana on 30 May 1876, the daughter of Patrick Playfair Fairbairn of Edinburgh, a merchant living in Robbs Town and Jane Margaret Fairbairn nee McTaggart of Scotland. Her grandfather was Patrick Fairbairn, 1805-1874, Principal of the Free Church of Scotland, and their ancestors were the Royal family of Scotland, including most of the medieval kings of Scotland.

The marriage certificate is from St Andrews Church, Demerara, British Guiana dated 20 April 1907, the marriage of Percy, acting Receiver General of British Guiana and Helen Jacomb-Hood, widow. In the presence of B Howell Jones and C J Bethune.

A letter from Percy’s sister to his mother, dated 20 April 1907 headed notepaper Bristol House Georgetown, describes the wedding. In his mothers handwriting? at the top is written ‘Historic Day!’

At top: ‘Nellie has promised the list of presents for you and I suppose the cake goes too.’

Letter starts:

‘My own darling mother, the cable has gone and tell you dear Percy is married, it seemed such a bald curt way of telling you just the word ‘married’! Howell and I went straight to the office and sent it after we left the Fairbairns so you ought to get it about 6 pm tonight, we think. Well now let me tell you from yesterday dear Percy after being really a wreck with his heavy cold and cough, and so deaf and wretched, perked up and was feeling at last himself, though its not gone. He and Charlie and Mr Guy Wyatt came to dinner. We had a quiet but nice time he and Charlie very amusing. Howell proposed his health and happiness. They left quite early as we all had to up at dawn, we got to the Church at 5 and twenty minutes to 7! And found Percy and Charlie already there, he wore a dark grey suit and white waistcoat and looked very dear we sat in the pew behind him and Charlie then N, K, and C and then Mr and Mrs Parratt from Berbice, on the other side Mr Fairbairn and the three little step brothers and a very few friends of theirs, none of Percy’s friends except Mr Clement King and two others.
People never go unless its an invited wedding. The minister in gown and hood and bands met the bride at the door and the organ played very nicely she really did look very nice she wore the exquisite lace scarf darling mother on the equally lovely Liberty dress of which you saw a pattern the hat grey, with sort of smoke grey tulle and white lilac with a very pretty spray of leaf grass, dear Percy was very grave and reverent had the ring in his pocket and out to the second the service Mr McNie read from a book, a mutilated edition of ours, but quite nice as far as it went much shorter no psalm or canticles they knelt at what would be the chancel arch very prettily decorated, behind Mr McNie is the Holy Bible covered all over with flowers, and behind that the organ, one sadly missed the dignity of our Altar, and Priests, there is no dignity or reverence about a Scotch Church somehow; the absence of the Altar, its just a meeting house and the atmosphere is not sacred, Mr McNie is a nice man and has a sweet little wife, they signed the register at a table in Church Howell and Charley signing too, I kissed them and then off they went dear Percy gave my hand a great squeeze.
We all dashed off to the Fairbairns and alas heavy rain came on as we got there and has rained ever since pouring, so sad the day began so bright at sunrise. The Fairbairns had arranged out all the presents and cake and champagne Nellie of course went to dash into a travelling dress Katie and Charlie cut the cake and directly Nellie came down Mr McNie proposed their health and happiness and in three or four moments after many goodbyes they ran down amidst rice and little horseshoes, some of which I kept to send you; the carriage had to be shut but we dropt an old shoe on the top as they drove off! She brought one ? scarf to look at close, it is very lovely but please tell me what lace is it Limerick? I am so ignorant. We then had a look at the presents in the place of honor was your epergne it carried me back years to see it, it looked so handsome, the glass I suppose you know has not come, the silver wire frame for flowers to fit over the glass is extremely nice the key did not go to Nellie by Cook with the other box so it has not been opened, and our present has not come out yet, but our family has done nobly all things so good, Vincent’s salver little feet and the ‘key’ pattern border, very handsome and so heavy, Anne’s frame is splendid clock and barometer each side fancy dear old Mr McGacken sending on a little cigar lighter Annie Bowen a sweet little clock silver faced and leather back. Emily and Blanch Dumaresq’s is very nice a silver holder beautifully pierced around the top for holding a syphon it would do for flowers too I think, dear aunt J and Julia’s was charming so handsome and good; a list is being made for you.
The Bells is the next best a dish that makes four dishes! Electro; Mrs Margets four salts silver very nice and a real Irish lace edged table cloth, the Seedorffs tea set is lovely, ‘the Treasury’ gave him a salver with inscription in the centre, a grand presentation yesterday in the Office he was very pleased! So far the Governor and Lady H have given him nothing, Sir Henry Lady Bovell sent a very nice butter dish a new kind with a place for ice under where the butter is. He had no books, no furniture such a pity as his drawing room is rather bare. Charley Bethune came out well so chatty and nice he had not met Nora for years and got on so well with Nora, he Nora and Katie drove from the church together, Chris with Howell and me; Percy had a carriage and pair white horses! It seems so extraordinary to be here quickly writing to you and the wedding over. We got home before ½ past 8 and changed at once out of our highturns into our scrubs and begin to feel now (1 p.m.) very flat and in need of forty winks. Its never ceased to pour so sad for them to be arriving at Rose Hale in such wet.
I keep thinking so of you and Kate talking of it and hoping it has all gone well darling mother you have never been out of my thoughts for a moment, I pray you are stronger and getting over your illness day by day keeping up a little for all our sakes fighting the great weakness I know you must feel, for even very strong people find it very hard to recover from influenza. Every house here has it, Howell still has the cold, and dear Katie has had a touch only two days, but still looks very wishy washy. With Sir Henry and Lady Bovell in bed, and all the 9 Bushes from Mr Bushe down to baby! Nellie was very touched and pleased with all your goodness and thought you quite perfect, so that’s nice! I do not like the photo she had taken at home, it makes her look too big and really older than she is.
April 25th Well the bride and bridegroom are home Howell K and I met them at the station just to give them a welcome at the end of their long journey they look very well and we sent them off with many jokes as to how they enjoyed Venice, Lake Como, mountains etc!! Katie and I slaved all yesterday getting the new curtains up and were there at 8 this morning doing flowers and really the house looks quite posh and pretty Katie dashed to a shop to buy white ribbon and to tie back the mosquito netting the last touch! The breakfast table was already the four silver vases (wedding presents) full of roses and maiden hair, I hope they are pleased. The more I see of the miserable discomfort of a bachelor the gladder I am he is married! servants do nothing tho’ Charley Bethune had everything spic and span. Mr Shepherds curtains were not so. Katie and I are now resting from our labours! The mail will be late tomorrow she has had to go to St Lucia to take Governor there to quell a riot from Barbadoes. Something always happens when I am yearning to get my letters.
April 27th Well letters came last night and I thank God my precious mother that you are gaining bit by bit a little strength; one day up one day down, but still a tiny advance forward, and to hear you had been sitting up in a chair was indeed lovely news and I am so thankful the nurse has proved such a nice helpful woman and such a comfort to you and Kate, my heart ached for you my darling mother when I read you were in trouble that I was not near to be with you. I feel sure the 1st thought you had was a thankful one that God in his love had taken dear Aunt Kate to His rest after all the years of mental and bodily suffering she had had, Kate and I feel so, it makes one happy now to think of her and to believe all that clouded her brain has vanished away, and she
.....the letter breaks off at this point as the rest is lost.

Retirement

There is a little group of papers that document Percy retiring from his job and leaving the colony :

  • A letter from the Government Secretary’s Office Georgetown, Demerara, British Guiana dated 17 October 1910, on his retirement: ‘You have…had a long and honourable career extending over a period of 30 years during the whole of which time you have performed your duties with zeal, efficiency and loyalty.’
  • A letter from the Treasury dated 29 October 1910 with a gift of a photo. The letter reads ‘From your loyal staff’
  • A letter from friends with signatures and an amount of money given for buying a gift for Percy as he is leaving the colony by the mail on the 29th (October) 1910 ‘Mr Hemery’s assistance as a contributor to musical programmes was always cheerfully given’

Newspaper cutting (30 October 1910) ‘Mr P Hemery’s Departure’ ‘A loss to musical circles’

‘The departure for England by the mail yesterday of Mr P Hemery is to be regarded as a distinct loss to musical circles in the colony. Ever ready to give of his best whenever the occasion demanded. Despite the reputation Mr Hemery has required as a good sportsman, it will not be in the domain of sport that he is most missed. Who that has ever seen his jocund form on the platform and have listened to the strains of his splendid ‘cello, as he pensively drew the bow across its strings, can ever forget the scene?’ ‘Ever ready to lend his aid in a good cause and ever willing to oblige, Mr Hemery readily responded, and sometimes at a great deal of inconvenience too, to any invitation where his musical talents were needed. He was popular with the crowd wherever he went and was sure of a hearty round of applause…in the aristocratic Assembly Rooms or a school-room in some outlandish district’

‘Mr Hemery as a Sportsman’

‘A true sportsman’ ‘In his early years he was a fairly good bowler’ ‘on the Bourda ground’ ‘Again, Mr Hemery took as active part…in galvanising into life the now flourishing Demerara Rowing Club’

‘Under the circumstances he richly deserved the hearty send-off accorded him yesterday’

Percy was a very particular person, who checked his watch every morning against a big clock in the house. In later life Helen lived in Ealing and later in a home in Golders Green.

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