PART 2 - THE SALVATION ARMY
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
I started to tell you about my Great Grandfather in Part 1. His name was Frederick St George de Lautour Booth-Tucker - rather a mouthful! As I said, he married my Great Grandmother, Emma Booth, who was the daughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth. Emma was actually his second wife. The first dying during a cholera epidemic in India.
It became a tradition for the men and women marrying into the Booth family to adopt the surname as part of their own. Fred, as he was known, was born in Monghyr, India, where his father was based, as a Deputy Commissioner of the Indian Civil Service. Fred was sent to Cheltenham College here in England but returned to India to work with his father as an Assistant Commissioner, once his schooling was complete.
While on leave in England, and against his parents wishes, he joined the Salvation Army in 1881. He worked temporarily in the legal department at the International Headquarters in London, before returning to India (Bombay) to work among so many of the poor people. Fred saw the caste system as his main obstacle in getting the “word” out there so he replaced the “Army” uniform with saffron robes and assumed an Indian name - Fakir Singh - meaning Lion of God. He was very popular with many of the outcast society and is said to have converted thousands of people.
Fred and Emma had nine children, one of them being my grandmother, Lucy Mina, born in 1894. Sadly three of them died during infancy. My nana was born in London, but I don’t know about the others. Emma also became ill while in India so the family returned to London where she recovered. They were then appointed as Territorial Commanders of the United States in 1896. Nana would have been two years old.
I did a quick bit of research, contacting the National Headquarters here in London and also in the US.
Now, in 1903, Fred and Emma were entertained at the White House by President and Mrs Roosevelt. Emma attended a private reception given in her honour by Mrs Roosevelt which was also attended by about 50 ladies of Washington society.
Tragically, Emma was killed in a train crash on her way to join Fred when he was in Chicago. Nana was a wonderful grandmother and often told us some amazing stories from her childhood. One she told was that, while at the White House, she came down with chicken pox and had to stay. The US Salvation Army could neither confirm nor deny this story! Only that her parents were there.
Another story she told us was of another uprising in India when she was a child. She and the other children were hidden in big square wicker baskets and were carried out, through jungle, to safety. None of us grandchildren know if this was true, or maybe it was her dad, Fred, it happened to, who would have been five years old when the 1857 uprising occurred. We’ll never know!
What we do know is that nana was sent to a “finishing school” in Switzerland in her teens. She returned to London and at some stage during the First World War, she worked at the War Office. I’ve no idea what she did, but my siblings may chime in here and enlighten me? Nana married my grandfather, a New Zealand soldier, she met in London and moved to New Zealand (Wellington) unable to boil an egg! She managed and became a proficient cook, always spoiling us when we visited.
The saddest thing for Nana was that she never returned to England and never saw her family again, apart from one sister that made the journey to NZ. There’s a whole other story! My Great Grandfather, Fred, and my Great, Great grandfather William Booth are both buried here in London at the Abney Park cemetery, where so many of the Salvationists are now also buried. I went and visited their graves, a few months after we arrived here in 2018. It’s an amazing place. I was told just the other day that one of William Booth’s books was the “blue print” for the social welfare system here in the UK.
There endeth the history lesson! Are you still awake??