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Lady Gertrude Agnes (Gittens) Cameron (1854- )

This is the first of our Gittens ancestors that I have found who has been elevated into the nobility of English society with the title of Lady. I though I would pass along a little bit about her for your interest.

Barbados parish map
Barbados parish map

The Future Lady Gertrude Agnes Cameron was born as Gertrude Agnes Gittens on March 18, 1877 in British Guiana. She was the daughter of Duncan Ostrehan Gittens Esq. and Margaret Amanda (Smith) Gittens. She was one of two girls born in this family. Her grandparents were John Hamlet Gittens, Esq and Ellen Hinds Clark who were a wealthy and influential Barbados family who owned at least two plantations, Oldbury and Applewhaites, in the Parish of St. John.
Lady Gertrude’s grandfather was the Hon. Rev. John Hamlet Gittens, B. A. who has a very interesting background. The Hon. Rev. John Hamlet Gittens, B.A. was a planter, a politician who was a senior member of the Executive Council of the Government of Barbados, and a clergyman. He received a B.A. degree from Cambridge University, England and was ordained as a Deacon in the Anglican Church in Bristol on October 6, 1810. He returned to Barbados and served the church in many roles but most notably as the Rector of St. John’s church (1821-1845) a span of 25 years. Interestingly, his son George Duncan Gittens was also an Anglican minister who succeeded his father as Rector of St. John’s Church in 1847 and stayed at the church until 1862, some 15 years.

Lady Gertrude married Sir Donald Cameron (1872-1948) in 1904 in Guyana which was then called British Guiana. Sir Donald Cameron was a member of the British Foreign Service and he and Lady Gertrude subsequently spent many years in Africa where Sir Donald served as a Colonial Governor in Nigeria.

The following excerpt is from a book written by Harry A. Gailey titled “Sir Donald Cameron Colonial Governor”. The excerpt provides a glimpse into the personal life of Lady Gertrude.

“Cameron was married at the age of thirty-one just before leaving Guiana for his new position in Mauritius. The future Lady Cameron was Gertrude Gittens, a resident of Oldbury, Barbados. Despite much later speculation that Cameron’s marriage was not totally satisfactory, it was a union which lasted almost forty-five years. That Cameron was devoted to his wife seems clear from a close reading of his book or a perusal of his first will written when Lady Cameron had been ill for some time and was then hospitalized. It is undoubtedly true, as many observers have noted, that Lady Cameron was a quiet, introverted woman who much preferred to remain in the background and who did not thrive on the many social functions that the wife of a governor had to perform. She appears not to have been Cameron’s intellectual equal, but there were few who could make this claim. As Governor of Tanganyika, Cameron tended to invite certain couples over and over to small informal parties at Government House. In most cases the wives were charming and witty and the governor obviously enjoyed their company. But there was never a hint of scandal and it is obvious that Cameron’s marriage was at least satisfactory. Thus the charge by Sir Edward Grigg that Cameron was a lonely man during the crucial years of 1926-27 must be measured by an understanding of the different interpretations of the term lonely. The Camerons had one son, Geoffrey Valentine. To Sir Donald’s great sorrow, his son who was then Legal Secretary to the Malta government was killed in an aircraft which disappeared in the Mediterranean in May 1941. This tragedy obviously affected Lady Cameron greatly and her condition which later required continuous hospitalization can be said to date from the loss of their only son.”

(This Blog was edited on December 8, 2010 to correctly identify Lady Gertrude Agnes Gittens as the daughter of Duncan Ostrehan Gittens and his wife Margaret Amanda Smith. Many thanks to Harold Hart for bringing the correction to my attention.)

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