Thomas Reid, SV/PROG

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Thomas Reid, SV/PROG

Birthdate: (49)
Birthplace: Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death: January 28, 1839 (45-53)
Cape Town, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Reid and Elizabeth Reid
Husband of Agnes Reid, SM/PROG
Father of Rachel Newcombe; James Thomas Reid; William Reid and Elizabeth Reid

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Thomas Reid, SV/PROG


This information is the result of my research into the Reid family in 1991. It appears that Thomas and Agnes Reid were 1820 settlers from Scotland in Russell's Party who sailed on the Abeona which caught fire and sank.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 highlighted the many problems of society in England. Some 300,000 soldiers and sailors returning from service abroad had to find their place again in civil life. The effects of the Industrial Revolution had also begun to make their mark with cottage industries falling by the wayside in favour of factories. Dissatisfied with living conditions many contemplated emigration.

Influenced by stragetic requirements and the need for a frontier defence force against the Xhosa tribes, the British Government decided to assist those desiring to emigrate to the Cape of Good Hope. Throughout the country prospective emigrants started to form parties under the direction of a leader.

By November 1819 sixty parties had been formed only one of which came from Scotland where initially the scheme had been very enthusiastically taken up.

This party was Russell's Party which was led by William Russell of 48 Bridge Gate Street,Glasgow and consisted of Scots artisans and tradesmen.

The Party sailed in the Abeona which left Greenock on the 13th October 1820.

On the 25th November 1820 somewhere near the equator the Abeona caught fire. The fire was apparently caused by the First Mate Mr Duff who took the candle out of a lantern while in the hold. The flame came into contact with inflammable substances and caused a fire which soon burnt out of control.

A letter from Lieutenant Mudge to the Commissioners of the Navy describes the nightmare vividly: " The attempt to paint the horror of the scene at this moment were vain, the shrieks of the women and children combined with the furious element marching on to devour us, formed a picture of human misery that must rend the stoutest heart".

People started throwing themselves overboard and into the life boats. The survivors kept close to the wreck until daylight in the hope that a passing vessel might see the blazing ship. The 49 survivors found themselves in a desperate plight as they had only a few hammocks to make sails, a damaged compass, a few gallons of water collected during the night by wringing clothes drenched with rain, a few hams and three live pigs which were found swimming about and taken aboard.

Many heroic incidents took place. Parents regardless of their own safety threw their children into the life boats. In the Barrie family eight children were saved while the parents and eldest son and daughter died. A Mrs McLaren implored her husband to save his own life as he was a good swimmer and leave her and their four children to their fate as he could not avert it.

The survivors were rescued by a Portuguese merchant ship the Condeca da Ponte which was on its way from Bahia to Lisbon and happened upon them by pure chance as their course had brought them to the very spot where the lifeboats were.

The survivors departed from Portugal for Greenock in the brig the Royal Charlotte accompanied by Mr Fisher the surgeon. It appears many of the orphaned children were adopted by English families living in Portugal.

Six survivors of the Abeona disaster were given passage to the Cape in HMS Sappho in the following year, and arrived in Simon's Bay in August 1821. They were James Clark, John McLaren, John McLean, Thomas Reid, his wife Agnes and Robert Thompson .It has not been possible to establish with certainty whether the Thomas and Agnes Reid who arrived on the Sappho were Rachel's parents.

What is certain is that Rachel was the daughter of Thomas and Agnes Reid (nee Walker) who were from Scotland and carried on business in Cape Town as collectors and dealers in natural curiosities. Thomas Reid appears in the 1830-1839 Cape Directories. His address is given variously as Church Square, St John St, Longmarket St, Roeland St and zieke-dwars Street also known as Barrack Street.

Thomas and Agnes Reid both died within a short time of each other in 1839. Rachel and her siblings James, Thomas, William and Elizabeth were left to fend for themselves.


M D Nash © The Settler Handbook ( Cape Town, Chameleon Press, 1987) H E Hockly © The Story of the British Settlers of 1820 in South Africa G M Mc C Theal © Records of the Cape Colony


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Thomas Reid, SV/PROG's Timeline

Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
August 10, 1823
Age 33
Age 35
Age 38
Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
January 28, 1839
Age 49
Cape Town, South Africa