Continuing on my quest to find out more about the family histories of well known figures I have decided to research the family trees of the members of Pink Floyd, whose music I have appreciated and enjoyed for many years. The origins of the group go back, unbelievably, to 1963 but the Pink Floyd that most of us recognize today have been making music since 1965. They release their debut album ‘ The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ in 1967. They rapidly became one the most influential acts of the 1970’s, kings of the progressive music genre, and one of the most spectacular live acts ever.
The first member to get the treatment is Roger Waters, one of the founder members, vocalist, bass player and recognized leader of Pink Floyd from 1969 to 1985, though Dave Gilmour could argue otherwise! Waters mostly wrote the lyrics for the band in this period, giving the band a distinctive edge to their music. The last two albums he was involved with were arguably the band’s most poignant efforts, especially for Walters because of their autobiographical nature. ‘The Wall’ was a journey that encapsulated Waters’ personal feelings of
abandonment and isolation, drawing much from his experiences growing up and finding that isolation can happen as he experienced adulthood, while ‘The Final Cut’ was Waters homage to his father Eric who died in Italy while serving as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Fusilliers. Originally a conscientious objector (Eric had been driving ambulances during the Blitz at this time) eventually
decided to join up. Waters believed that his father and all those who lost their lives in the war were betrayed because they believed that they were fighting to end the need for countries to go to war ever again. So the timing of the album coming out in the same year as Margaret Thatcher declared war on Argentina over The Falkland Islands provided the opportunity for Walters to make a point about the futility of war. As we will see, Eric was not the only member of his family tragically cut down in his prime.
George Roger Waters was born on 6th September, 1943 at Great Bookham, Surrey. His parents were the aforementioned Eric Fletcher Waters and Mary D Whyte, who were married in the Watford area in the beginning of 1941. Later that year a son was born to them, John D Waters, born in the Hendon area, older brother to Roger. I have speculated what the ‘D’ stood for ‘Duncan’, which I found later from the Whyte family.
In this post I will discuss the Whyte family and in my next the Roger family.
Paternal Family History
Eric Fletcher Waters was born in 1914 at a place called Copley in the county of Durham. Though I have not been able to see his birth record, I am confident that this is true because both his parents’ families are recorded here on the 1911 Census of England. He died on the Italian war front at Cassino on 18 February 1944. His body apparently has never been found. After his death Mary and her two sons moved to Cambridge. She died fairly recently in 2009 aged 96. Eric’s parents were George Henry Waters and Mary Elizabeth Fletcher, and they married in the Auckland Registration District. A quick check on Google maps shows both Copley and Lymesack and Softley were places (I have no idea if they are villages or small towns) located with this district, and are very near to each other, just by a place called Butterknowle. George’s parents are recorded at Lymesack and Softley on the 1911 Census.
William Waters aged 57 born in Sharforth, Yorkshire.
Mary Waters aged 52 born Lymesack and Softley.
George Henry Waters aged 21 born Lymesack and Softley.
Lizzie Jane Waters aged 16 born Lymesack and Softley.
Fred Waters aged 12 born Lymesack and Softley.
Gordon Waters aged 9 born Lymesack and Softley.
Residence: Post Office, Copley, Butterknowle.
William is recorded as a bootmaker dealer, and George a coal miner.
In 1911, Eric’s intended, Mary Elizabeth Fletcher, was tricky to track down and because of this I could not research her ancestry. There is no point assuming with family history. It has to be accurate and backed up with evidence. As I am only relying on internet databases and authentic family trees submissions, I will not write about family history relying on assumption with my research. I will, however, record my hunches and probabilities, but I will not continue any lines of inquiry based on assumption.
Now, I did not research the Fletcher line because of the reasons stated above. I did find a Mary E Fletcher that MAY be Eric’s wife on the 1911 Census that could be her. I found many Mary E Fletcher’s in the North East and unfortunately I can’t be sure which one is the correct Mary. So ends the research on her line. But the one I think is her, I have a strong hunch that it may be a Mary E Fletcher
working as a housemaid at a place called Foxleigh, Copley, aged 19, for a James Beattie, who was a GP, and unmarried. Curiously, there is another Mary Fletcher (with a middle initial which is possibly an F) aged 45, single, and a housekeeper to Dr Beattie. Are they related? Mother and daughter? They are both born at a place called Hunwick, County Durham. This also is not far from Copley, where her future husband hails from. Unfortunately, the handwriting on this entry is quite bad, quite a thick fountain pen was used to fill in the form. Typical GP!
George Henry Waters died on the 14 September 1916, aged just 26. He was a sapper for the Royal Engineers, attached to the tunneling division, no doubt because of his experience as a coal miner.
To make the tunnels safer and quicker to deploy, the British Army enlisted experienced coal miners, many outside their nominal recruitment policy. The desperate need for skilled men saw notices requesting volunteer tunnellers posted in collieries, mineral mines and quarries across South Wales, Scotland and the Northeast of England covering Derbyshire, County Durham, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. In addition, specialist tin miners were also recruited from the Cornish mines mainly joining the 251st Company RE. To
attract the tin miners, a per diem of six shillings a day was offered to underground miners, which was around double to that was being
paid in the mines.
The mining assistants who acted as ‘beasts of burden’ were often made up of “Bantams”, (soldiers of below average height who had been
rejected from regular units because they did not meet the height requirements). Upon the declaration of war in August 1914, William
Hackett applied and was turned down three times at the age of 41 by the York and Lancaster Regiment. On 25 October 1915, despite
having been diagnosed with a heart condition, he was enlisted and sent for two weeks basic training at Chatham, joining 172 Tunnelling
I came across a strange coincidence when I found George’s details on the War Graves Commission web site. Another George Henry Waters, a Corporal with the Leicestershire Regiment, died the following day!
So, this is as far as I go with the Waters line and their associated surnames. There are family trees on the Ancestry site if anyone wishes to find out more on the generations. It is a real shame because I would have liked to explore the Fletcher ancestry, but I would have to look at the marriage certificate to get a clue who Mary’s father was. However, if I have got the correct census entry it may be that Mary was illegitimate and the information on the certificate would not be helpful after all. I tried to find if any other researchers had been successful in finding Mary’s ancestry and I was surprised to find that there wasn’t any. So, it’s therefore a problematic research project for others as well, which some cases can be at times.
Maternal Family History
Roger Waters’ maternal grandparents were Robert Whyte and Beatrix Louisa Roger, who in 1911 were living at 15 Templars Avenue, Golders
Green. What I find interesting is that Roger Waters used his middle name,as his christian name, which originally came from his grandmother’s surname.
Whyte Family History
Robert Whyte was born on 27 December, 1874 at Hampstead, London, the son of another Robert Whyte, a wholesale warehouseman and Jeanie
Whyte, married on 25 September, 1867 at Greenwich. The senior Robert married again after losing Jeanie, at the relatively young age of
41, in early 1885. His second wife was Caroline Sarah Bennett. The children he had with Jeanie were Jessie Duncan (1871), Robert
(1874. grandfather to Roger Waters), George Duncan Whyte (1879) and William (1881). Older sibling Jessie was residing with her brother
Robert and his wife Beatrix on the night the 1911 census was taken (2-3 April, 1911), and she was a secretary at the University of
London. I also found her on a shipping passenger manifest on the ship M.S. Marnix Van St. Aldegonde, arriving at Southampton on 7
July, 1931. I wonder if she was coming back from a visit to her younger brother George?
George Duncan Whyte qualified as a medical practitioner in 1900, qualifying at Edinburgh on 24 August of that year. He is listed on The Medical Register for 1903 as living at 51 King Henry’s Road, Hampstead, the family home as stated in both of the census of 1881 and 1891. When the register re-appears in 1907 he is listed as a doctor at Swatow, China. It is a place just up the coast from Hong
Kong. In fact all the registers he appears in until 1925 has his residence at Swatow, now known as Shantou I believe. It turns out he volunteered to become a missionary for the English Presbyterian Foreign Mission in 1902, and I found a passenger manifest that he travelled back to China on September 29, 1923, on a ship called the Atsuta Maru, a ship that was bound for Japan, but he would disembark at Hong Kong. He barely made it. Some months before he became seriously ill and had to travel back to England for treatment for a condition called Sprue. Today this is called Celiac Sprue, a condition affecting the small intestine, through eating gluten based products. Despite not totally fit to return to his duties, he embarked on the Atsuta Maru and reached Honk Kong in a desperate condition and died there on 25 November, 1923.
His obituary can be found here.
It appears he was married. There is an entry in the FreeBMD index of a George Duncan Whyte marrying a Florence A McCaubrey in late 1914. When I found his obituary there was no mention of a wife, so I thought I must have seen a different George in the BMD. But I tracked down a copy of the China Mission Year Book, published in 1912, which stated that he had a wife. This contradicts the BMD record of a marriage in 1914; I can not find a marriage before this date.
Going back to Robert Whyte and Jeanie Whyte, I could not link them into the same family. Sometimes I come across cousins marrying but I doubt this is the case here. Jeanie Whyte was born at Aldagate in 1843 (according to a family tree on Ancestry) and her marriage record shows that her father was a Robert Whyte, a merchant. He died 7 December, 1869. He was born in Scotland in 1810, and he and his wife Agnes were married in Scotland, probably Ayr. In the 1861 census for Lee, Kent, Robert Whyte states that he was a colonial merchant, which sounds quite exotic. I wonder if he travelled to distant lands as his grandchildren did?
Robert Whyte’s (Jeanie’s husband) father was Thomas Whyte, also a warehouseman, and that is all I can find about him. I did not find him in earlier census, which can happen now and again. But Jeanie’s family tree is available to see on Ancestry.
Parents of Jeanie: Robert Whyte (1810-1869)
Agnes Anderson (1808-1892)
Parents of Agnes: John Anderson (1762-1818)
Jean Paterson (1768-1856)
Parents of Robert (1810-1869): Robert Whyte (3 Apr. 1777-1851)
Agnes Brysson (1786-1847)
(Married 1806, Edinburgh)
Parents of Robert (1777-1851): James Whyt (25 Oct.1717-1791)
Mary Maiben (1740-?)
(Married 13 July, 1758)
Parents of James: William Whyt (1678-?)
Parents of Mary Maiben: William Maiben (1697, Stirling-8 July, 1748, Stirling)
Elizabeth Don (1698-?)
Parents of William Maiben: Robert Raymond Maiben (1650-?)
Jean Johnstone (1651-1680)
Parents of Robert: John Maiben
This is part one of my research into Roger Waters family tree. It has yielded a lot of interesting names, and a lot of information. My next post will be on the Roger family line and the associated families they married into.