WALTER REYNOLD FOSTER (1859 – 1915)
Walter Reynold Forster was born on 5th, June 1859. He was baptized at St. George Parish Church on 28th, July. Unfortunately, there is not a lot that is known about Walter Reynold. It may be assumed that he had a strict Anglican upbringing and that he attended the same private “elementary” school in St. George that all the children went to.
As the oldest child, he might well have been the first to go to Bridgetown to find work when he left school, although it is not known where he lived. However, he fell in love with Constance Cromartie Leacock who lived with her grandfather and mother in Suttle Street. Walter Reynold and Constance were married in 1885, a year after her mother, Rosilla, died. They were married in St. Michael and it is very likely that the marriage ceremony was at St. Paul’s Church because this was where Constance was baptized and Walter was buried in the cemetery there on 15th, May 1915.
The popular family story goes that Walter was in a regiment in his youth, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, his occupation in 1887 is a “merchant’s clerk” as stated on his son’s, Walter Neville’s, baptism certificate.
When Arthur Reynold, “Kelly”, was born in 1890, the parents’ address was Beckles Road and it appears that that is where the family home remained until 1912 when Walter Reynold and Constance, rented a home in the Military Prison, St. Ann’s, the Garrison. This building currently houses the Barbados Museum. It is here that Walter Reynold died in 1915.
Constance Cromartie Leacock’s background was very different from that of her husband. She was the daughter of George Phillips Leacock and Rosilla Lloyd Cromartie. Although Walter Reynold’s father had worked his way up the ladder to be the manager of a sugar plantation, he was not a landowner and none of his family was influential in commerce. The Cromartie’s, however, were wealthy plantation owners, owning two plantations in St. Philip, Woodbourne and White River. The family was also very influential in the mercantile community. In 1847, Colonel Frederick Maitland Cromartie, the Supervisor of Supplies and Ordnance Stores for the British Army, appointed Joseph Leacock, George Phillips’ grandfather, to be the “Deputy Ordnance Storekeeper” (The Barbadian newspaper of the 4th, Dec 1847)
Rosilla’s story is a mysterious one. There is no baptism certificate to be found for her, for instance. The year of her birth, c.1846, is based on her age given on her marriage certificate. Also, her father’s name is not shown on that certificate. Was she the illegitimate child of Sarah Cromartie (nee Nurse)? There is another more likely answer.
Matthew Cromartie, Colonel Frederick’s brother, lost his wife, Charlotte (nee Lloyd) in childbirth in 1839 when his son, Matthew Henry, was born. Who would have looked after his new born son for him? He must have hired a nurse to help. Is Rosilla the illegitimate daughter of Matthew Cromartie and a nanny? The name Rosilla Lloyd Cromartie suggests that this could have been the case. Rosilla and Constance Cromartie, Colonel Frederick and Sarah Cromartie’s daughter, were obviously very close childhood friends because Constance Cromartie Leacock was named after her.
Rosilla was sixteen years old and three months pregnant when she married George Phillips Leacock in April 1862. George Phillips was a student at Codrington College and intended to follow in the footsteps of his father, George William Leacock, who was a school teacher. The Cromartie family left Barbados for good by 1871. It is noteworthy that Rosilla was not mentioned in either Colonel Frederick’s or Sarah’s will.
The Leacocks lived in Roebuck Street, which was the main commercial street of Bridgetown.
On 24th, July 1863, the following advertisement appeared in the Times newspaper.
GEO. P. LEACOCK
The Subscriber begs respectfully to inform the Public of his intention to open
For young Gentlemen, at which instruction will be given in the Classics, French, and the Elements of Mathematics, in addition to the subjects comprising an ordinary English Education.
Due notice will be given as to the time and place of opening, so soon as he shall have received applications for the admission of as many pupils as will enable him to make a commencement.
Parties who might be disposed to place their Children under his care and tuition, are hereby assured of his utmost endeavours to afford satisfaction, by a conscientious discharge of the duties devolved on him.
Geo. P. Leacock.
I have found no evidence that this seminary was ever opened.
Constance Cromartie Leacock was born on the 7th, September 1863 and was baptized on the 11th, December at St. Paul’s Chapel. When she married the dashing young Walter Reynold in 1885, both of her parents had already died. Her father died on Christmas Day 1880. The obituary in The Barbados Globe on the 27th, December, read:
GEORGE PHILLIP LEACOCK
On Friday evening last at the residence of his father, in Suttle Street, GEORGE PHILLIP LEACOCK, aged 39 years. His remains were interned the following afternoon at St. Paul’s Cemetery, Bay Street.”
Rosilla died in 1884. She was 39 years old.
Walter Reynold and Constance had eleven children; five boys and six girls. One of the girls, Gladys May, died as an infant.
The Fosters must have been very busy parents, interacting with their children in creative and meaningful ways. Constance was a very accomplished pianist and I suspect that Walter Reynold might have played the violin because at least two of his sons, Roy and Donald Vere, played the violin, while “Kelly” played the bass fiddle and the saw! Certainly, the children were encouraged to play music and sing; and the girls, in particular, were also taught art. Auntie Gloria, Cecil’s daughter, remembers Winnie as being a fine painter. The boys were Walter Neville, Arthur Reynold (“Kelly”), Cecil Bertram, Roy Cromartie, and Donald Vere. The girls were Vivian Cromartie, Winifred, Annie Kathleen, Eileen, and the baby of the family, Elsie.
The boys must have participated keenly in many sports, especially swimming, athletics and football. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Garrison area was fast becoming a middle class suburb of Bridgetown. The British troops were withdrawn in 1905/1906, so many of the buildings that may have housed the barracks, hospital, and prison, became available for rent or sale. The Garrison Savannah must have been teeming with boys and girls playing games. Carlysle Bay offered plenty of opportunity for long days spent at the beach swimming and playing. The Fosters would most certainly have been in the thick of things.
Some of the Foster children went to primary school at “Woodville”, Chelsea Road, where Frank Collymore’s grandmother “gave piano lessons and kept a school”. The following extract is from ‘Frank Collymore, a biography’ written by Edward Baugh (page 15):
The school must have had fewer than a dozen children, because the room that it occupied was very small. “I remember the long table running down the centre with the children sitting on either side and the old lady at the head, facing the back door.” (F.C’s diary, July 29th, 1939). He also remembered many of the children very well – the Bynoes, the Fosters, the Richardses, the Waithes, the Sterlings and the Mustors –
“I remember Annie Waithe (correct spelling is Waite), later to be Kelly’s (Kelly Foster’s) wife, then about 11 or so and her two brothers, rather loutish creatures, Freddy and Lennie, with their loud voices and being made to stand on the bench.” (F.C’s diary, July 29th, 1939)
Although all of the children would have received a basic education at private schools, supplemented by learning music and art at home, it appears that only two boys, Arthur Reynold (Kelly) and Cecil went on to further their education at Harrison College, the premier boys’ secondary school in Bridgetown. Two of the girls, Kathleen and Elsie also attended Queen’s College, a school for girls which opened in 1883.
Vivien Cromartie Foster (1886 – )
Vivien was born on 29th March 1886. She immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900’s and married John Jackson. They lived in Poughkeepsie where the descendants of Walter Neville still live today. John Jackson died in 1929 and Vivien married a second time to William, “Bill”, Aldrich. They too lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. Phyllis Foerschner, Donald Vere’s daughter, shared some memories of Vivien. She wrote:
“Although my father spoke of his sisters and brothers quite often, I am more familiar with their names than with dates regarding their births, deaths and marriages. The only sister I recall vividly is my Aunt Vivien. As you know, she and Uncle Bill lived upstate New York (Poughkeepsie). As a child, I remember several visits to their home. They visited with us a few times in our Queens, New York, home a few times. Uncle Bill (William) was Aunt Vi’s second husband (a lovely man) and neither her first nor second marriage produced children. I do remember seeing a photo of Aunt Vi’s first husband on a table at her home. He was an extremely handsome man. I do not know his name. Aunt Vi said that he died from gas poisoning during the First World War. Perhaps Aunt Vi’s relatives in Poughkeepsie can fill you in there. The last time I saw Aunt Vivien I was about twenty years old (1948?). She had an eye operation in New York City and stayed at our home about two weeks before she was well enough to travel. Uncle Bill did not accompany her.”
Although Vivien never had any children, as the oldest of the siblings that immigrated to New York, she must have had a strong stabilizing influence on her younger brothers and sisters who lived in the U.S. When Walter Neville, for instance, immigrated in 1923, he lived in Poughkeepsie, and when he died in 1935, it was Vivien and Bill that paid the U.S$70.00 for his burial plot at Cypress Hills Cemetery. No doubt, when Vere, Walter Neville’s son, made his way to the U.S, he, like his father, would have found a home in Poughkeepsie with Vivien and Bill Aldrich.
Walter Neville Foster (1887 – 1935)
Walter Neville was born on the 8th, February 1887. He was baptized on the 23rd of April at St. Ambrose Chapel in Bridgetown.
His first son, Vere Burtram, was born in the U.S.A in 1911. This would indicate that Walter Neville and Ruby Bourne may have married in 1910. For whatever reason, the young family returned to Barbados shortly after Vere’s birth. Emily Foster, Ron Foster’s wife, shares a family story about Walter Neville:
“Walter and Ruby were here in the US when their first son was born. Vere Burtram Foster was born in a New York City hospital. They returned to Barbados and had two (actually three) more sons and a daughter. Vere was teased and called a Yankee. As the story goes, Walter Neville and some of his buddies bought a ticket for the Irish Sweepstakes and they won. I guess Neville didn’t use it wisely and made a few investments and it became necessary for him to leave Barbados. We don’t know much about him until Vere leaves Barbados and lands in the US.”
Please note, Ronald Foster is Vere’s Burtram’s son.
Walter Neville’s passport shows that he made two further trips to the U.S., one in 1920 and the last in November 1923. His occupation on the passport is “Seaman”.
The 1930 U.S. Census records show Walter N. Foster living in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, NY. His relationship to the head of household is “employee” and it lists his father as being born in Ireland and his mother in Scotland! No mention is made of Vere Burtram, his son, although he must have immigrated to the U.S by that time.
Emily and Ron write:
“Vere must have taken a few trips with the Cunard Lines – when he met up with his father, Neville he had $800 – a lot of money – you could buy a car for $400. I know Neville told him to send it home. Vere did not smoke or drink at that time. It wasn’t until he met up with a couple of Irish men that he took them both up. Neville worked as a doorman or an elevator operator for big hotels or exclusive residents.
Like many they traveled up state for work. There were many state hospitals for the mentally disabled that provided employment. Aunt Vivian and her family moved to Wingdale, NY and found work at the state hospital there.”
Walter Neville spent eleven years in New York before he died in 1935. He never did reunite with Ruby and their children, with the exception of Vere who was born in the U.S.A. Walter Neville was 47 years old when he died.
Clement Lisle Foster (1891 – 1891)
Clement Lisle died as an infant.
Winifred Foster (1892 – )
Winnie, or Aunt Winnie as she is remembered by Auntie Gloria, never married. She had a very good job at a bank and was an independent woman. Her mother, Constance, lived with her for many years in Hastings. When Constance died in 1938, her address was “Beach Gate”, Hastings. Uncle Geoffrey remembers Winnie living at Pavilion Court when he was a little boy (circa 1950). Apparently, Winnie was very fond of art and was quite an accomplished painter.
She accompanied her mother on a trip to New York, probably in 1937, to visit their family who had made the US their home. This visit was referred to by Phyllis Foerschner, Donald Vere’s daughter, in a letter to Barrie. The highlight of the trip was seeing Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist of all time, in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Cecil Bertram Foster (1893 – )
Cecil was born on the 7th of June, 1893. He attended Harrison College from 1908 when he was 15 years old and left in 1910.
Auntie Gloria (Goddard), Cecil’s daughter, told me that he met his wife, Stella Arnold, in Guadeloupe where he worked in the sugar industry. Stella was born in St. Kitts, but she spoke fluent French and she too was working in Guadeloupe at a bank. The young couple actually built a house there, but, unfortunately, Cecil contracted malaria and before they could move in to their new home, they had to return to Barbados.
Upon their return, Cecil worked as Chief Field Officer, assisting with the development of new strains of the sugar cane plant. Auntie Gloria remembers living in one of the apartments that made up the Married Women’s Quarters located along a road that ran behind where the Barbados Museum now stands.
The family later moved to “Woodside”, a beautifully appointed house with spacious grounds. According to his daughter, Cecil was very particular about his work uniform. This consisted of a pair of brown shoes which he polished every day after work, long socks, khaki shorts, a white shirt and a broad brimmed white hat! She pictures him in his uniform leaving for work in the family car, an Overland. Cecil was a very quiet man who loved to read, unlike Kelly, his brother, who was very active in sports, especially football, music and acting in plays.
Kenneth Roy Cromartie Foster (1895 – )
Roy Foster Remembered
In the early years Roy showed an interest in sport and was a keen footballer. Unfortunately, a cycling accident when he was very young caused an injury to his left leg resulting in a permanent limp. Despite this, he later developed considerably skill at lawn tennis – his back hand was said to be unreturnable!
As a young adult he immigrated to America with my aunt Leila where they were married. They did not, however, remain for any length of time in the US and soon returned to Barbados.
He joined the staff of R.M. Jones & Company, eventually becoming a director of the firm where he worked until retirement.
Roy and Leila had no children. However, I lived with them from infancy and was raised as their own. Known always to me as Fossie, Roy was passionately fond of music. He had a pleasing light tenor voice and played the violin, being largely self-taught. Some of my earliest memories are of musical family gatherings where my Aunt Vi, who played and taught the piano, would accompany in performances of songs and instrumental music (Leila also played the guitar). They were fond of late Victorian and Edwardian ballads which were still popular at the time.
Roy’s abiding passion – much more than a hobby – was his collection of gramophone records which continued to grow over the years. He was always changing and upgrading speakers, amplifiers, etc, with the latest equipment. On arriving home after work he would have his ‘tea’, then put on a stack of records- automatic coupling was the latest thing then – and listen quietly while reclining in his favourite armchair, until supper, after which he would turn the records over and continue to listen until bedtime. Thus it was that I grew up being exposed to great orchestras, conductors and soloists. So important was it to him that his listening would not be interrupted, he would not allow a telephone anywhere in the house! To this day it is a mystery to me how, as a businessman, he got away with this even in those more relaxed times!
The impression should not be gained that Roy was in any way a recluse. He did have a social life and in his younger days, as a keen member of Summerhayes Tennis Club, his circle of friends included the Gale family (Val and Louis) and others.
He was an avid reader, owning a comprehensive collection of books, fiction and non-fiction. I remember in the days before I learned to read fluently, his reading aloud to me the Iliad, not a children’s version, but an English translation of the original Greek. It is not surprising therefore that I enjoy reading as much as I do. He had a great influence on me growing up and I regarded him as a loving and caring father. I am forever grateful that through him I was afforded the opportunity to study music in London.
Roy was not a religious man in the formal sense as he did not adhere to any prescribed dogma. Throughout his life he gave help to others anonymously, often unknown to the individual recipients themselves. His core values were simple: Love is better than hate, forgiveness and mercy are better than vengeance, and tolerance is better than prejudice and bigotry. In life we should strive to follow the golden rule in all our dealings with each other – not for hope of reward but simply because of our common humanity.
Annie Kathleen Foster (1896 – 1975)
Annie Kathleen Foster was born on the 27th, October, 1896. She was one of two of the Foster girls that attended Queen’s College. She is listed as a student there in 1912. A note in the school register states the she had previously attended a private school for three years. Her address was c/o Mr. Foster, Military Prison, St. Ann’s, Garrison.
Kathleen married C.L. Abrams who was a magistrate. They lived in Strathclyde. When her younger sister, Eileen, died of cancer, the Abrams looked after her daughter, Ruth. The Abrams had no children of their own.
Kathleen was buried in Westbury Cemetery on August 12th, 1975. She was 78 years old. Her address at the time of her death was Garden Gap, Worthing, Christ Church.
Gladys May Foster (1899 – 1899)
Gladys May died as an infant
Constance Eileen Foster ( 1901- )
Constance Eileen was born on the 21st of February 1901. She was one of the Fosters who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s. She married Percy Reece and they had a son who died as an infant, and a daughter, Ruth. When Eileen and Percy divorced, mother and daughter returned to Barbados. Uncle Geoffrey remembers Ruth living with Winnie at Pavillion Court (1940’s). This might indicate that Eileen was still alive at that time. However, when Eileen died, Ruth lived with Kathleen before she returned to the U.S to live with her father.
Donald Vere Foster (1902 – 1982)
Donald was born in Barbados (26-04-1902) where he worked as a wireless operator before emigrating to the U.S.A. in the early 1920’s.
The following paragraphs are taken from a letter, written to Barrie by his daughter, Phyllis.
“I remember a visit to our home (in New York) by Grandma Foster (Constance) and Aunt Winnie. My father talked about this visit often because the highlight was obtaining tickets to Yehudi Menuhin in concert. They were able to see him perform close up as they were given seats on the stage because the house was full. This event was quite a thrill, as my father loved the violin. After my mother died in 1981, Dad returned to his violin.
In 1963 my parents visited Barbados; my father’s only visit since coming to America. This trip was in quest of getting a copy of his original birth certificate. There was a discrepancy in the date, and he was in need of the right info for retirement purposes. I know he saw his sister, Kathleen, at that time as I have some photos of that visit.”
Elsie Collin ( 1905 – 1962)
Elsie was the baby of the family. She was born on the 12th of October 1905. In 1920, she was in Form IIIB at Queen’s College. She had previously been educated at Miss Ellis’ school which she attended for two years. Her address in 1920, according to the Queen’s College register, was Edlaville in Chelsea Road. Edlaville was the Weatherhead family home at the time, so after Walter Reynold’s death in 1915, Constance must have moved there with her younger children, Eileen, Donald Vere and Elsie.
Elsie married Donald Connor. Unfortunately, I have not been able to learn very much about her life, although Emily did send me information on her death. She died on December 20, 1962, and is buried in South Dover Cemetery, Wingdale, New York.
Certainly, by the early 1920’s, many of Walter Reynold’s and Constance’s children had immigrated to the New York area to make better lives for themselves. The difficulty and hardships that they endured in search of the American dream can be imagined as we read through some of their profiles. There is, however, a sense of strong family bonding that kept the Fosters close together. Vivien, Walter Neville (and his son, Vere), Donald Vere and Elsie made their homes in NY, and raised their families there. Eileen and Roy returned to Barbados; Eileen because she and her husband were divorced, Roy because he and his wife, Leila (nee Spencer), chose not to stay.
Of those that remained in Barbados, Arthur Reynold (“Kelly”) married Annie Waite a year after he left Harrison College and entered the Civil Service. Cecil, after working in Guadeloupe, returned home to continue his career in agriculture. Kathleen became Mrs. C.L. Abrams and Winnie remained a spinster all her life. Constance lived with Winnie in Hastings until she died in 1938. Her address at the time of her death was “Beach Gate”, Hastings.
Constance Foster (nee Leacock)
The Foster Girls
Back Row (left – right):
Elsie Foster, May Stephens (nee Arnold), Winnie Foster, Robert Arnold (May’s brother).
Front Row (left – right):
Mrs. Arnold (mother of May and Robert above also of Stella Arnold who married Cecil Foster)
Kathleen Foster (who married C. L. Abrams)
Constance Foster (nee Leacock) mother of Elsie, Winnie and Kathleen.
Note: This is part 3 of a 4 part series which chronicles the descendants of Samuel Foster, the butcher from St. Andrews, Barbados. The articles were researched and written by Dennis “Denny” Foster who lives in Barbados.