The Nicholson’s (Since 1690)


Tough times on earth right now.

Unprecedented times they say. So many words I’m tired of hearing.  Stupid memes, idiots on Facebook, exponential graphs and lots of time on our hands to consume it all.

With all this fear, and death in the air, I thought, let’s write some shit down.

I lost my aunt to cancer late last year, my mom’s sister, Mary Ann. The softest, most awesome woman, always there for a hug or a laugh. Loved a gossip and a chat, someone who I always felt was genuinely happy to see me. Such a warm person. She left behind three strong daughters and a couple of awesome grand kids.

Then just a few weeks ago I lost my uncle to cancer. My dad’s brother. Uncle Trev.  A nicer man you could not hope to meet. In 40 years of knowing him, the only memories i have of him are smiling, joking or saying “Check Up!!!” at the top of his voice. He left behind a strong family of four kids, all with two kids of their own.

Life’s fragile edge, never forgives and never gets easier.

In strange times like these, when every day, thousands of deaths are listed as a news statistic, so cold, so far removed from the people that we lose, and the world seems to be coming to a standstill, a healthy dose of perspective always helps.

So here’s a fun little story, for a change of scenery.

On both sides of my folks family, my grand parents had four kids and those four kids all had two or more kids, and most of those kids have had kids. It’s a big family.

Not many of us know much about our heritage. I didn’t know anything further back than my grand parents. Until this past Christmas holiday, down in Seal Point, on a rainy day, rummaging through my folks stuff…

… I found this.

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A book, with a red cover, The Nicholson Family Tree.

1690 -1986.

What follows is a story about the Nicholson brothers, John and William, of Watton Grange , Yorkshire, England and how they decided to take a chance on the Byrne Settlement Scheme in Natal, South Africa in the mid 1800’s.

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Packing up their families, they set sail from London docks on the ship ‘Sandwich’, on the 20th of April 1850. Their nearly three month journey is covered in summarized excerpts from John’s wife, Harriet’s journal,  describing rats, bugs, malnutrition and rough seas. On arrival in Durban’s bay, stuck in gale force winds and not able to reach the shore for a further 2 days, waiting out what was probably a large cold front.

At this point my imagination runs wild with thoughts of what surf would have blocked their entry into the natural harbor. Mid July… big cold front, sand bar creeping around from the bluff… I’m thinking super bank?

On the 29th of July 1850, the Nicholson’s made shore in Durban. Living in tents near the current city hall, they spent ten days waiting to be allotted their land by Mr Moreland (the Byrne settlers agent).

After a successful scouting mission, they traveled by ox wagon and settled on land on the banks of the Illovo river in the area that is now called Richmond. Over the course of the next 50 years, despite many misadventures, snake bites, murders and wars, the brothers and their children farmed successfully, all over KZN and eventually settling in Underberg, in what is now known as Highlands Farm.

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The book is a comprehensive summary of the family tree, laid out in painstaking detail by Skonk Nicholson, who carefully traced, cataloged and constructed the 34 branches of the family. The book, which my dad received at The Nicholson family reunion in 1986, held the Underberg farm, has drifted from one box, bookshelf to another until now… 33 years later.

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1986 Nicholson Reunion. Blue shirt front row…sulking. Yup, that’s me.

Just looking at this photo blows my mind. It’s incredible to think of the legacy created by those two brothers. I’m fascinated by the guts it took to travel around the world and make a go of it in deep dark Africa. It also makes immigration in our modern world look extremely tame. Perhaps a fresh perspective on today’s challenges.

I’ve attached the scanned PDF of the full story if you’re bored enough to have a look through. I’ve also included the family tree, which is fascinating to only myself, but as I’ve said before, this blog is a way for me to document stuff for my kids to look back over, years from now.  Enjoy kids, you may appreciate it one day when you’re 40 haha.

Click here to read the PDF’s.

Nicholson Family Tree 1

Nicholson Family Tree 2

Nicholson Family Tree 3

Nicholson Family Tree 4

7 thoughts on “The Nicholson’s (Since 1690)

  1. My Dad, John Nicholson, wrote this family tree. I also still have my copy. He spent years putting it together, including a trip to England to meet cousins and collect history. The family reunion was a fantastic event, where we met Trevor, Falicity, Rory, Guy and Warren, I don’t think Wendy had been born yet. We will always treasure those memories!!


    1. Hi Sheena, thanks for reaching out! Please share! I think you are right, my little brother Josh was also a good few years away from existence! I remember small things, i’m sure there was a spit braai! Funny enough I met Sean (Skonk Jnr) at a July work party this past year.


  2. Well said Simon I remember that reunion like it was yesterday and so the years go.. I am sure your little ones will treasure this red book and pass it on for all eternity xxx love makes the world go round ❤️


  3. Hello
    I believe I belong to the South African Tree, BUT in branches 25 to 34, would you be so kind as to post copies of on your site?
    And or send them to me?


    1. Hi Rory, apologies for missing this ! I’m not sure if I took pics of all the tree pages , but my father has the book and I’ve asked him to have a look, and send me the relevant pages. I’m hoping to get a digital copy of the tree, which I will certainly share!


  4. Hi Rory, apologies for missing this ! I’m not sure if I took pics of all the tree pages , but my father has the book and I’ve asked him to have a look, and send me the relevant pages. I’m hoping to get a digital copy of the tree, which I will certainly share!


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