Hellyer History

Isabell Stitt (nee Hellyer) b.1854, one of ten children to Frederick and Barbara Hellyer, suggests that the family name has links to Sir. Richard Hellyer, who was a colleague of Watt Tyler and held a lofty position in the Peasant's Revolt in 1381. Watt Tyler led more than 100,000 peasants in a march to London to protest  new tax and to demand an end to surfdom. King Richard II agreed to their demands, but the reneged on his word, and had the Mayor of London hang Tyler and Hellyer at Tyburn (which was a famous London gallows located at the present Marble Arch). 

Philip Hellyer of Porchester b.1715 d.1790 married Mary Adams d.1780 in 1745 and had six children. The youngest, Edward b.1756 married Margaretta Linden in 1784 at Holy Rood, Southampton. He had five sons, to whom he left 20,000 each at his death. One was an artist, one an architect (whose engravings were said to match those of Hogarth), and the others admiralty carvers.

James, the fourth child of Edward, is remembered by Isabell Stitt, his grandchild, as "a fine little gentleman, but what he lacked in inches, he made up in character." Born in 1787, he lived about 90yrs until the early 1880s. He had twenty two children by his first wife Mary Kingsford, who was said to be a beautiful woman who died at the age of 40. He then married Frances Dixon.

His oldest son, Edward b.1811, was a secretary to Captain Fitzroy and Purser on HMS Beagle, the ship which took Darwin on his voyage of discovery. He drowned in the Falkland Islands; it was recorded in the log book, "Poor Hellyer went out this morning to shoot duck, and was seen to disappear beneath the mud flats and was seen no more." Darwin's diary describes finding the body entangled in kelp; "it was evident that he had shot a bird and whilst swimming for it, the strong stalks of the sea weed had caught his legs and thus caused his death."

William b.1812 went in for the law and became Mayor of Portsmouth. He had a tragic death when sparrow shooting with his brother-in-law, on either side of a hedge. Isabell says "The brother-in-law was short sighted and mistook my uncle's head for a bird and gave him a full barrel of shot and killed him."

At least three other sons were apparently carvers, including Frederick b.1821, who carved the figurehead of the Witch Nanny on HMS Cutty Sark, the famous clipper from the Chinese tea and the Australian wool trades. He married Barbara Sole in 1845 at Greenwich, a granddaughter of Admiral Rowley.

James b.1828 d. 1881, the 13th child, married twice. He had two children by his first wife, Ann Wilkins. The second, James, was born in 1857 and he emigrated to the USA in 1872 - to Hoboken NJ on the 'SS America'. He learned the trade of medicine and changed his name to Hartley-Hellyer. He married Mary Elizabeth Hetz and has two daughters. The second, Lillie, born in 1880, was the mother of Ruth Smith (nee Greizfu) who lives in California and remembers her grandfather. Her mother apparently had a very negative opinion of him, both as a father and a doctor. He kept his certificates high on the wall and covered in dust, suggesting they were not really his! 

Frederick and Barbara had thirteen children, including Edward b.1846 who was apparently the carver of the Bishop's throne in Winchester Cathedral; Sydney who was a kindly gentleman, Isabell who married Gordon Stitt but had no children; William Ford - her twin - who emigrated to New Jersey; Thomas, and Frederick, my great great grandfather. Born in c.1848, he married Georgiana Tirrel from Boston Mass., and had five children. Marion, my great grandmother, Arthur, Walter, Edith and Harold. All the children were brought up in the environs of Chicago and, apart from Marion, remained in the USA. My Mother has a portrait of Georgiana, which had to be repaired after my Uncle Thomas accidentally put his foot through it when he was a child. Marion was born in c.1880 in Nagasaki, and married John Liddell in Chicago in 1897 aged 17yrs. 

Admiral Rowley

Mention has been made above of Admiral Rowley being the grandfather of Barbara, who married Frederick Hellyer in c1845. Her mother, Anne Shepherd, Rowley's daughter, was widowed and married again, a man called Daniel Alt. They had three sons, Balsar, Henry and William. Balsar was killed in the Crimean War and Henry died of a fever (according to Isabell). Another version has it that Balsar died while on board a ship off Ashanti - while in the forces, and it was Henry who perished in the Crimean War. According to his daughter's memoirs, William Alt left England in 1852 aged 12 ? to join the merchant service. In 1859 he left the merchant navy to join the customs service in the Far East, but soon became excited about business opportunities in Japan, which was just opening up after the Eido period. He may have been working with the British firm Jardine Mathieson - perhaps with Thomas Glover, one of their agents based in Nagasaki. Alt then established his own insurance and export firm c.1860 and he is said to have carried the policies of Lloyds, Universal Marine, China Fire Insurance among others. He was probably engaged in currency exchange and in the sale of weapons to the Japanese Emperor - an important factor in the emperor's conflict with the Shoguns.

He started a tea export business, and he must have sent word back to his step-nephews in England, Frederick and Thomas Shepherd, as they went out to Japan - Frederick working in Alt's offices in Nagasaki and Thomas becoming a tutor to the children of Daimyo of Tosa. Frederick took a Japanese wife, apparently not an unusual custom at the time, and had c.2 children. When he married his American wife Georgiana, his Japanese family was provided for and he left them a business in the name of Hellyer which still exists. His daughter is said to have been the wife of Admiral Tojo (famous in the second World War). This aspect of Frederick's history was not generally known in the family, but details have been researched recently by Robert Hellyer (great grandson of Harold Hellyer, son of Georgiana). He has been in contact with Viscountess Montgomery (daughter-in-law of the Field Marshall) who is a descendant of the Alt family. Alt House in Nagasaki is preserved in Glover Park with other colonial houses of the late 18th Century. 

Dr. David Hellyer (son of Harold Hellyer) visited Nagasaki a few weeks after the atomic bomb was dropped whilst in the US Navy. People were walking in regular shoes, oblivious to the radiation hazard. He met Japanese Navy physicians and remembers no resentment on their part about the bomb; rather they were amazed by the extent of the devastation and the flash skin burns showing the pattern of the kimonos people had been wearing.

Harold Hellyer was born in Kobe, Japan in 1886. He married Dorothy McLean and had two sons, George and David. He was in the tea business in the orient but had poor health and the family went to live in Switzerland. Rosalind Liddell, my grandmother, stayed with the family when she was a teenager, and later, when she went to Switzerland with Maurice Blower, they were married in the Hellyer's house near Lausanne. The two boys went to school in England for a while. Harold died and Dorothy then married Tom Ripley.

George Hellyer had a varied existence including an adventurous war career as an American liaison officer with British troops in Burma, and a stint in the tea business in Formosa (now Taiwan). He became an officer of the US Information Service and held senior positions in Saigon, Washington DC, North Africa and Brussels. He married Babbie Reagan when quite young and had four children; Marion, Harold, Rob and David. He divorced Babbie, and married Meg Dawson in the 1950s. George died in the early 90s, and Meg now lives in Issaquah, Washington.

David Hellyer went from the family enclave in Riverside Ill. to Washington State in the lumber business. After a few years, during which he was a pioneer in setting up some of the first ski-tows (rope tows) on Mt. Rainier, he returned to Chicago to go to medical school. He was married to Connie Hopkins and had three girls, Connie, Dorothy and Tirrel. He came back to Tacoma in 1948 and set up a practice in paediatrics. This was interrupted by a mandatory return to military duties, but he remained a prominent paediatrician in the area until the 1970s. He published a best selling book of advice to young mothers. As a sideline he designed an A-frame beach cabin in response to a National Magazine competition. Hundreds of his plans were subsequently distributed. When a young man, he had acquired many acres of property close to Mount Rainier. From a simple small cabin which he built by a remote lake, this property was then developed into an Aberdeen Angus Cattle Ranch, and subsequently donated to the local county to be developed as a natural game reserve. This enterprise, Northwest Trek, David's brainchild, is now a huge concern attracting many thousands of visitors. I visited them myself whilst on a training exercise in Alberta, Canada in 1998.

My great grandmother Marion, Fred's oldest daughter, was born in Nagasaki, Japan, before her Father became an American citizen. Therefore she was always British, although she was brought up in Chicago. Travelling to the orient with her Father, she met John Liddell - a Scotsman who had originally emigrated to Canada before joining his brother in a profitable business based in Shanghai. There were four children; Georgie, Jack, Marion and Rosalind. More info in Liddell History.