Lieutenant Donald Moodie, RN

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About Lieutenant Donald Moodie, RN


Royal Naval Officer, 1808-1815; Acting President of the Government Bank at Cape of Good Hope; Colonial Secretary to the Natal Government, 1845-1849; First Speaker of the Legislative Council of Natal, 1857

Donald Moodie is the third son of Major James Moodie of Melsetter and his wife Elizabeth Dunbar. The Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval reported his date of birth as 25 June 1794, but he did not say where he was born. The Moodie Book, p. 74 It has been suggested that he was born at Melsetter in Orkney, Scotland, but there is no record of his birth or baptism in the old parochial register of Walls and Flotta there.

Death and Burial

Donald Moodie died on 27 August 1861. He is reported to have died at Pietermaritzburg in Natal, South Africa. The Moodie Book, p. 79


Donald Moodie was buried in the Moodie family plot in the Church of England Cemetery (aka Voortrekker Cemetery/Commercial Road Cemetery), Chief Albert Luthuli Road (formerly Commercial Road), Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.


"We deeply regret to record the death of Donald Moodie, formerly secretary to the Natal Government, and in later years the first Speaker of the Legislative Council, who died at his residence on the 27th Sept. in his 67th year. The funeral was attended by a large concourse of friends, dignitaries and citizens. " [Cape and Natal News ,Sep-Dec 1861]


Donald Moodie married Eliza Sophia Pigot on 29 March 1824. She was the second daughter of Major George Pigot. The Moodie Book, p. 74 They were married at Grahams Town in the Albany district of the Cape Colony. Image of Marriage Registration

Genealogical Accounts

  1. The Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval, The Moodie Book etc. (privately Printed, 1906), 132 pp.


Name: Donald Moodie.

Variations of the name: Moodie, Moody.

Origin of the name: Moodie is a Scottish surname, possibly of Norse/Celtic origin, which is believed to be based on the Germanic word ‘Modig’ or ‘Mutig’ indicating someone who is bold, impetuous or brave.

Birth date: 25 June 1794.

Birth Place: Melsetter, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

Date of Death: 27 August 1861.

Place of Death: Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa. Buried in the Moodie family plot in the Church of England Cemetery (aka Voortrekker Cemetery/Commercial Road Cemetery), Chief Albert Luthuli Road (formerly Commercial Road), Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Parents: (3rd son of) Major James Moodie, 9th Laird of Melsetter, and Elizabeth Dunbar.

Marriage: Eliza Sophia Pigot, daughter of Major George Pigot (9th Dragoon Guards).

Date: 29 March 1824; Pigot Park, Albany, (near Grahamstown), Cape Colony, South Africa.


  • Sophia Eliza ‘Sophy’ Moodie (b. 15 May 1825, ‘Pigot Park’, Albany, Cape Colony; d. 20 Jan 1860, Pietermaritzburg, Natal);
  • Catherine Jemima ‘Minna’ Moodie (b. 11 August 1826, Port Francis, Cape Colony; d. 29 Sept 1860, Pietermaritzburg, Natal);
  • (William James) Dunbar Moodie (b. 13 November 1827, Port Francis, Cape Colony; d. 13 June 1903, Bournemouth, England);
  • George Pigot Moodie (b. 22 January 1829, Grahamstown, Cape Colony; d. 2 Nov 1891, Rondebosch, Cape);
  • Donald Hugh Menzies Moodie (b. 22 April 1830, Grahamstown, Cape Colony; d. 7 July 1911, Pietermaritzburg, Natal);
  • Charlotte ‘Lolotte’ Mary Moodie (b. 8 February 1832, Grahamstown, Cape Colony; d. 17 May 1888, Pietermaritzburg, Natal);
  • Benjamin Charles Moodie (b. 11 November 1833, Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony; d. 21 Aug 1858, Pietermaritzburg, Natal);
  • Richard James Frederick Moodie (b. 23 January 1835, Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony; d. 1 Feb 1836, Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony);
  • John Bell Moodie (b. 6 February 1836, Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony; d. 11 July 1876, Pietermaritzburg, Natal);
  • Duncan Campbell Francis Moodie (b. 24 January 1838, Cape Town, Cape Colony; d. 11 Feb 1891, died at sea);
  • Frederick Walter Octavius Moodie (b. 26 September 1839, Cape Town, Cape Colony; d. 20 June 1840, Cape Town, Cape Colony);
  • Caroline Maria Mackenzie Moodie (b. 13 September 1841, Cape Town, Cape Colony; d. ?);
  • (Edith Jessie) Georgina ‘Ina’ Moodie (b. 10 November 1842, George, Cape Colony; d. 20 March 1927, Camberley, England);
  • Alfred Harding West Moodie (b. 29 December 1846, Pietermaritzburg, Natal; d. 18 Feb 1882, Pietermaritzburg, Natal).

Occupation: Naval Officer, Farmer, Author, Colonial Civil Servant


  • 1808 – joined the Royal Navy as a first-class volunteer.
  • 1811 – became a Midshipman.
  • 1814 – served in Mediterranean during Napoleonic Wars.
  • 1816 – made a lieutenant, retired on half pay, returned to Melsetter to look after blind father (brother Benjamin led an emigration scheme to the Cape in 1817 followed shortly afterwards by brother John; brother Thomas was in India with the East India Company).
  • 1820 – Donald stopped at Cape Town on his way to Bombay, India, and decided to remain in South Africa; allocated some land, with his brother John, on the eastern frontier and tried his hand at farming.
  • 1825 – Acting Magistrate at Port Francis on the Kowie River, Eastern Cape.
  • 1828 – Clerk of the Peace for Albany, and Acting Resident Magistrate of Grahamstown.
  • 1830 – appointed Protector of Slaves for the Eastern Division of the Cape Colony (position ceased to exist after emancipation of slaves in 1834).
  • 1834 – employed by Sir Bejamin D’Urban to research, translate and transcribe early Dutch records concerning the relationships between the settlers and the indigenous peoples.
  • 1840 – the government stopped supporting his research and Donald became the Acting President of the government bank in Cape Town.
  • 1845 – appointed Colonial Secretary to the newly formed Government of Natal (duties also included those of Colonial Treasurer, Registrar of Deeds, and Postmaster).
  • 1849-1851 – worked closely with the Byrne Settlers to Natal.
  • 1852 – forced out of office after clashes with the Governor Pine; hoped to return to historical research but failed to gain government sponsorship.
  • 1854 – Magistrate, Umvoti.
  • 1856 – elected to the first Legislative Council of Natal.
  • 1857 – became Speaker of the first Legislative Council elected under the Charter of Natal.

Notes, References, Sources/Links, Family Trees etc:

  • Christopher Saunders, Moodie, Donald (1794–1861)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 4 March 2013]
  • Dark Bright Land by V M Fitzroy (published 1955 by Maskew Miller Ltd, Cape Town)
  • A History of Natal by E H Brookes and C de B Webb (2nd edition, 1989, University of Natal Press) (p 56)
  • South African Genealogies, Heese/Lombard (Volume 5, Page 664)
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Lieutenant Donald Moodie, RN's Timeline

June 25, 1794
May 15, 1825
Age 30
Cape Colony, South Africa
August 11, 1826
Age 32
Cape Colony, South Africa
November 13, 1827
Age 33
South Africa
January 22, 1829
Age 34
Grahamstown, Cape Colony, South Africa
April 22, 1830
Age 35
Grahamstown, Cape, South Africa
February 8, 1832
Age 37
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa
November 11, 1833
Age 39
Graaff-Reinet, Cape, South Africa
January 23, 1835
Age 40
Graaff-Reinet, Cape, South Africa