Information supplied by John Cairns Townsend's descendants:
His descendants knew that he had run away from home as a boy to join the Seaforth Highlanders, and they had made various attempts to trace his family over the decades, all unsuccessful. (They were looking for a Townsend).
The legends passed down from JCT's widow and daughters (all now dead) to his grandchildren, as far as any of them could remember after so much time, were as follows:
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- According to his obituary, he was 53 when he died in 1926, therefore born about 1873.
- He ran away from home at 16. One legend has him fighting at the Battle of Omdurman at the age of 16. (Since that battle occurred in 1898, he must have been about 25 actually).
- He joined the Seaforth Highlanders in 1895, transferred to the Military Foot Police in 1900 and became an officer in the Egyptian Police Force in 1905, where he remained until his retirement in 1924, marrying and raising 2 daughters in Egypt.
- His daughters Kathleen and Rose had been named after his sisters, and he had at least one other sister, possibly called Beatrice, and maybe another called Joan, but he was the only boy, and the youngest child.
- His daughters were born in Egypt and did not have birth certificates. Their baptism certificates were written in Latin. Kathleen's was written as Catherinae, and Rose's had another 2 or 3 illegible letters after Rose.
- His mother died when he was young.
- One granddaughter thought that he came from Linlithgow, another thought that it was Bathgate, and a third thought Dunfermline. None of these places are within the catchment area of the Seaforth Highlanders.
- He had a very thick accent, and his Hampshire-born sons-in-law could not understand a word that he said.
- His father was a miner. Some of the family thought that he was a mine owner - however, references to "my father's mine" could have meant "the mine where my father worked".
- His father's brother lived next door, both working in (or owning) the same mine. (Note that in those days, a child would have called an adult neighbour "uncle", without there necessarily being any relationship).
- When his daughters asked him why he ran away, he said that it was because there was an accident in the mine, in which all the miners got out but the pit ponies were left underground and all died. He refused to remain in the mining industry. (So he joined the army instead ? This sounds like the story that a man might make up to tell to a little girl who was fond of ponies).
- Another version was that his father remarried after his mother's death, and that he did not get on with his stepmother.
- One granddaughter remembered that her mother (JCT's eldest daughter) had said that her parents were married in a Catholic church in Alexandria when she was 6 (in 1911). She thought that this was because they had previously had a non-Catholic marriage. (No records of it have turned up). His wife was a Catholic, and his daughters were brought up as Catholics, but JCT was not a Catholic.
- Another granddaughter remembered her grandmother saying that when she was married, and when her children were born, JCT had written home from Egypt, but the letters were returned unopened.
- There is a story that after he ran away from home, somebody sent 20 guineas to the Seaforths to buy him back, and when he refused it, he was disowned. (Note - he would have been 22 when he joined the Seaforths, not a runaway child). Later it turned out that this legend actually referred to one of his sons-in-law.
- JCT's elder daughter visited the Bathgate area in the 1950s, taking her youngest son (then a small child). He remembers that she knocked at a door and asked whether anyone named Townsend lived there. She was curtly rebuffed and turned away.
- When JCT's younger daughter died, 2 photographs were found, both dated 1902, with the address of a photographer in Dunfermline. One shows 2 teenage girls dressed in 1902 fashions. The other shows a middle-aged woman in a more old-fashioned dress. (Note - this might have been an old dress). She had never told anyone about these photos. Her daughter thought that they might be JCT's mother and sisters, but it seems to have been a generation later - possibly a sister and 2 nieces ?