About Jack Sparkman
The Sparkman Family in South Africa
What I have been able to recall and discover about my forebears,
by Jack Sparkman East London South Africa 14 June 1979
It was on 24 January I953 that I became interested in learning about the Sparkmans who were the forebears of my grandfather - Arthur. Unfortunately my father had died before that time, so I could no longer draw on his memory, but using some of the information contained in his old scrap book, I started on the search.
Firstly I wrote to the Postmaster of Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom (from which office my grandfather had retired as Postmaster in 1911) seeking details from his personal file, but was informed that it had already been destroyed. I then communicated with my second cousin, Dorothy Micklam of Portsmouth, with whom my father had stayed when he returned to England on a visit in 24 November 1948 after my mothers death. Dorothy and I had been corresponding from time to time after that visit as I had learned that she and her husband Bill Micklam were keen on philately, as I was, but never raised the question of ancestors until 1955. On 26 June 1955 she wrote that up to the moment I have made no progress in regard to your late relatives and am afraid I might not be very successful. You see, all the Burial Grounds and offices were heavily bombed during the War years and countless headstones smashed beyond repair and hurled quite long distances, also many of the records were kept in the offices which were destroyed.
Anyway I will do my best to help. I can tell you this - your father was my first cousin, (thus making you my second cousin) in view of the fact that his mother (Grandma Sparkman - nee Levett) was my father's sister, so you see I am related to you on your grandmother Sparkman's side and know nothing about the Sparkmans, with the exception of grandfather Sparkman (Arthur), who was my uncle and with whom my sister and I spent many happy holidays at Farnham when we were children.
Incidentally Dorothy Micklam, the writer, was in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRENS) during the First World War and, in the next, her niece- Dorothy Barley serving as a Company Sergeant Major in the A.T.S. - was mentioned in dispatches for her excellent work at the Portsmouth Combined Headquarters at Portsdown Hill (overlooking the harbour) on the staff of General Dwight Eisenhower, whilst assisting in the planning of the invasion of Europe.
Notwithstanding the information contained in the foregoing letter, the Superintendent of the Portsea Cemetery, St. Mary's Road, Kingston, Portsmouth was able to give some details on the dates of death of Arthur Sparkman and his wife and her parents.
Later I was able to obtain from Somerset House, London a copy of the Marriage Certificate of Arthur Sparkman and Emma Ann Levett and this gave the name of Arthur's father as John Sparkman (Pier Toll Collector).
It was shortly thereafter that I became a Country Member of the Society of Genealogists, London, England. This organisation obtained a copy of the Census Record of 1861 for Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, giving the details of the family of John Sparkman and this document included therein the name of Arthur, who was born at Binstead, Isle of Wight, England. While this research was in progress I was able to obtain copies of the Death Certificates of John and his wife Mary, from Somerset House, London and a copy of their Marriage Certificate from the Registrar in Southampton.
By the time I had obtained the Census information it was into the year 1970. Very slow progress and, as the Society of Genealogists had to handle so many enquiries for other searchers, I felt that I might do better if I turned to a professional searcher in the hopes that more rapid progress would be made.
The services of Mrs. Pamela Peskett of Winchester, England were recommended to me and I am happy to say that our association has produced good results without a great deal of travelling being necessary on her part because the Hampshire Registry Office is situated in Winchester. A wealth of detail has been forthcoming from the transcripts and the originals of Parish Registers lodged at the Registry. As a result thereof a direct family connection (with confirmatory photographs of entries in Baptismal and Marriage Registers) back to John Sparkman, christened in Botley Parish Church on the 13 March 1680/ 1. ( This year date reflects the Julian Calendar, before the adoption of the present Gregorian Calendar system in 1752).
In addition to the foregoing, there is a good chance of connecting John with two earlier generations but, as yet, no confirming evidence has been located, but I am hopeful that the link will be found. The greatest stumbling block is that the Registers for Botley, Hampshire, United Kingdom, with which the branch of the family of mine appears to be connected, have not survived prior to 1679.
It has been a surprise to me that links going back 300 years have been found because my fore bears were humble folk, whose pedigrees would not have found their way into Burke's Landed Gentry or other similar works. If it had been so, the task would have been made much easier, as it would have, had arms been granted to one of the ancestors, in which case great detail could have been obtained from the College of Heralds in London.
Consequently there are few details of the life of the early generations available from which I could compile a Family History. Nevertheless I have done the best I can with the names, dates and places (together with some details of towns and villages as these people would have known them) until my grandfather's time, when more is known than in the case with his predecessors.
With regard to what I have written about my father, the reader will find that I have enlarged on the descriptions of the ships in which he travelled. This I feel is appropriate because of his great love of the sea and ships. He was never happier than when he had the opportunity of visiting harbours and, perhaps being able to board one or more of the craft moored there. He had his own pet name for the pastime "Wharf -ratting". Furthermore, the long history of the "KILDONAN CASTLE" I justify by virtue of the fact that this vessle brought both my father and my mother to their new life in South Africa, or as it was known, the Province of the Cape of Good Hope.
Jack Sparkman 10 July 1910 – 1 November 2009 – My Dad
A Tribute to his Life
Delivered at a Memorial Service in St John's Anglican Church Oxford Street, East London, South Africa
Dad was many things to many people during his long and successful life, but first and foremost he was my Dad.
During the first 2 years of my life Dad had to content himself with the occasional snapshots of his son, while he was away in Egypt and Italy during the 2nd World War serving in the Engineering Corps.
Never one to shirk what he felt were his responsibilities to his family, his church, his employer and his country, Dad was always the person I felt I could turn to for advice, even during my rebellious teenage years when I felt that I knew everything and thought that I was really fully equipped to solve the world’s problems.
To this day, I struggle to recall a time when his voice was raised in anger, even when I crashed his car into the rear of our neighbour’s car, Dad responded by engaging his problem solving mode and not his mouth and NEVER his hand. He was the epitome of patience, with a dry sense of humour, fond of puns and a play on words and a wonderful handwriting that he retained right up to the last letter he wrote to me on 26 October this year.
Mom and Dad were married in St Johns Church and it is fitting that we are gathered in the same church, where he worshipped, to bid farewell to Dad, Jack or Sparky and Daddy as he was known to a full spectrum of people, most of them here present today.
Dad commenced with the Standard Bank in Aliwal North after Matriculating from Dale College, and he served in Bloemfontein before being transferred to East London by the Bank.
Dad declined further transfers, choosing to rather settle in East London and afford Mom and I a stable home. I remember him once jokingly saying with his tongue placed firmly in one cheek, that unlike most Bank Officials who were frequently transferred, he chose not to accept further transfers as he said that too many transfers caused you to end up in a Bank house, with a house full of damaged furniture from the moves and sometimes with a semi-illiterate family due to the frequent change of schools.
He was a keen cricketer and rugby player at school level as well as club level and he did everything to encourage me to take part in sport – which plainly never interested me at all. To this day I cannot recall detecting even the slightest hint of disappointment coming from him, to his credit. He was always proud of me through thick and thin, and when his only Grandchild Michael showed an interest in Cricket, Dad was soon busy bowling balls to Michael, in our back yard in Durbanville as well as on the lawns across the stream from The Valley at Berea Gardens. The sporting instinct which skipped my generation manifested itself in Michael and Dad hungrily followed Michael’s fortunes on both the Cricket and Hockey fields each week.
As we are gathered here today to bid farewell to Dad, I cannot help but remember a story he told me about an episode while on relief duty as Acting Bank Manager in Phillipstown. As fate would have it, a celebrity in the district passed away and as was customary, the significant persons in the community were requested to be pall bearers, and as the Bank Manager was away, it fell to Dad to fill the void and to act as a pall bearer.
As the pall bearers approached the grave, and because the deceased was a rather large man, Dad, slender as he was, was struggling to keep his footing at one end of the coffin. Well, Dad said the inevitable happened and he lost his footing and was in danger of preceding the coffin into the open grave, only to be saved by the quick actions of the undertaker’s assistant. Perhaps Dad is wearing a wry smile on his face as he hears his story re-told and perhaps, as with this episode, he would be saying, I am fine, there is a Steadying Hand at my side now and I am fine – don’t worry.
Mom and Dad made a fine couple, but in nature were totally different but compensated for one another. Mom’s impetuousness was calmed by Dad’s quiet analysis before acting, while Dad’s quiet ways were sometimes turned upside down by Mom’s enthusiasm and their synergies can now again be combined into the formidable team that I remember growing up with. Thanks Dad - for firstly being there for me, - for believing in me, - for encouraging me, - for supporting me, yet allowing me the latitude to walk my own path, - for advising me yet never lecturing, and most of all – just for being the most wonderful Dad over all the years right up to your 99th birthday and beyond.
Penni, Michael and I will always remember you fondly, each with our own memories seen from our own vantage points, Father-in-law, Grandfather and Dad.
Rest in Peace.
Jack Sparkman's Timeline
July 10, 1910
East London, EC, South Africa
November 14, 1911
Baptised at Sea
November 1, 2009
East London, EC, South Africa
November 3, 2009
East London, EC, South Africa
King William's Town, South Africa