Thorold Creek, flowing into Brewer Creek
“If we only had a few more men we could play polo, as here it would be quite an inexpensive game and well within the reach of those with only moderate means.”48
R.S. Grant Thorold, better known locally as Captain Thorold, was the first owner of what would (much later) become known as the Royal Antler Ranch, which is located up Dutch Creek.
Richard Stirling Grant Thorold was born 9 August 1868 in London as the first son and third child of Alexander William Thorold Grant Thorold and Anna Hamilton Stirling.
We’ll start with some family history as it really does require some explanation.
His Father’s Side
Richard’s father, Alexander, was the son of Alexander Grant, himself a descendant of the Grant clan in Scotland. The elder Alexander was a “boon companion,” of King William IV, playing an active part in his coronation in 1831,1 but he was also not particularly wise with money. After the death of his first wife, with whom there were no children, Alexander Sr married Helen Thorold, the daughter of a well to do Lincolnshire family based at Weelsby.2
Richard’s grandparents went on to have five children, but it also didn’t take long for Alexander to lose all of the money that Helen brought into the marriage. Her brother, Richard Thorold, began to financially support the family, including moving them to Avranches in Normandy, where four of the five children were born.3
While living in Normandy, it was decided that the eldest son, Alexander (Richard’s father), should seek his fortune abroad. With £1,000 in his pocket from his uncle Richard, Alexander landed in present day Adelaide in South Australia in 1837, at age seventeen.4 His choice of destination was influenced by his godfather, Lord Glenelg, who had been appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1835, and under whose watch the colony of South Australia had been founded in 1836 (the name given to the place where British settlers first came ashore in South Australia, and where Alexander Grant arrived in Australia, was Glenelg).5
Before travelling overseas Alexander had spent some time in the Highlands of Scotland learning about sheep farming, and in South Australia he became a sheep farmer, settling just north of Adelaide alongside an old schoolmate of his, Philip Butler. Both young men were extremely bored by the life, and not particularly successful for the first years.6
After about eight years Alexander invited his much younger brother, Frederick, ten years his junior, to join him. A third brother, James, also joined them, but tragically died in 1853 in the bush while travelling to visit one of the brothers’ properties.7
Alexander and Frederick together formed a partnership, under the name A and FA Grant and, with more funding from their uncle, became well established as sheep farmers. By the end of the 1840s they had acquired a number of sheep runs, including one at Coonatto, where F.W. Stokes was placed as manager and later joined Alexander as a partner.
The firm Grant and Stokes became a leading enterprise in South Australia,8 that is until the government cancelled pastoral leases in northern areas of the territory in 1866 in order to offer the land to agriculturalists (farmers) instead.9 A simultaneous drought made it even more difficult to make money with sheep and, combined with a series of bad investments, Alexander lost quite a bit of money in Australia.
By this time, however, Alexander had left Australia entirely. He had returned to England in 1858 where, on 23 July 1863, he married Anna Hamilton Stirling.10
His Mother’s Side
Richard’s mother, Anna Hamilton Stirling, had her own family ties to Australia. Her father, Admiral Sir James Stirling, was instrumental in the founding of the colony of Western Australia.
In 1827 James Stirling, as captain of a ship for the British navy, reported positively on the land around Swan River, and went on to argue forcefully that a colony should be established there. This argument found favour and, on 18 June 1829, Stirling arrived at the mouth of Swan River to proclaim the foundation of a colony. He went on to be named the colony’s first governor (1829-1839).11
Anna was the fourth daughter and ninth child of Admiral Stirling. She was born in England in 1840,12 although her next eldest sibling, Ellinor, had been born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1838.13 Anna grew up in Hampshire, England.14
By the time Alexander was married he was heir to his father’s estates (his father had passed in 1854), and very soon after was also heir to his maternal uncle Richard Thorold’s estates. In an accident of inheritance, Alexander happened to be the eldest male heir to the Thorold line,15 and after Richard passed in March 1864, Alexander was the main beneficiary.16
He inherited £300,000 from his uncle Richard, as well as the Thorold family estates at Weelsby House in Grimsby. As part of this inheritance, Alexander was required to take the last name of “Thorold”, resulting in his gaining the odd moniker of “Alexander William Thorold Grant Thorold.” Alexander also purchased, in 1881, Cosgrove Hall in Lincolnshire, an estate previously owned by yet another uncle (J.C. Mansel had married Helen’s sister, Frances).17
By the time Richard Stirling Grant Thorold was born, then, he was very much entering a world of privilege. As the eldest son, he spent his early years at Weelsby in Lincolnshire where, on the 1871 census, there were living with the six family members eleven employees, including a butler, a footman, a groom, a Lady’s maid, two nurses, as well as a number of servants.18 Richard’s father was also the local magistrate.
Richard went on to study at Eton, until 1886,19 and at the Royal Military College of Sandhurst, in 1887-88.20 In February 1888 he left the Royal Military College to join the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as a second lieutenant,21 a position that he held until resigning in January 1891.22
An Unexpected Turn
Richard does not seem to have been the favoured son. The same year that he resigned his position with the Welsh Fusiliers, in 1891, his father transferred his property at Cosgrove Hall to Richard’s younger brother, Harry, then an under graduate at Oxford.23 Harry would also be the beneficiary to their father’s other estates upon his death in 1908.24
Richard, meanwhile, became something of a world traveller. He could be found on the 1891 census, at age twenty-three, living with his parents and two of his siblings at Weelsby Hall,25 but he did not stay. In March 1894 he sailed for Adelaide, South Australia.26
Richard’s father, Alexander, had only returned to Adelaide once, in 1883, staying for only a few days to see what could be done in the fallout of his brother (Frederick) having made some poor land investments.27 Frederick, too, had left Australia for good in 1893,28 but his son, William Thorold Grant (Richard’s cousin), remained in Australia for the rest of his life.
In 1894, cousins William and Richard seem to have joined forces in a rather unusual venture. Together they funded a caravan of camels to make a 1,000 mile journey west from Farina, South Australia to Coolgardie in Western Australia (across a desert). The party left in June 1894, with Richard accompanying.29
The trip was successful, and Richard and William would go on to hold gold mining property in the vicinity of Coolgardie,30 with the two later being described as “Coolgardie pioneer[s].”31 According to a later source, Richard “put in about two years [at Coolgardie], with varying fortunes,” although even this seems to have been an oversimplification.32 Richard would travel back and forth at least twice between Australia and England in the year 1895 alone,33 so its unclear how much time he spent on the ground mining. Still, he became known as a resident of Coolgardie, with his return to the town being noted, from England, again in 1897.34
Back to the Military
Richard disappears again from the records until the outbreak of the South African War (October 1899) when he joined the South African Light Horse as a Lieutenant.35 He would return to England from South Africa in March 1902,36 where he became a captain with the Imperial Yeomanry in Lincolnshire beginning on 21 May 1902.37
Like all examples of Thorold’s military involvement, however, it did not last. He officially resigned in March 1905,38 but even before this, in November 1903, “Captain Thorold and party” are mentioned in the Wilmer Outcrop as having spent a couple of days in Windermere before leaving to hunt up the White river.39
This November visit was, according to Richard’s later recollections, his second visit to the area, having crossed over Vermilion Pass from Banff and into the Columbia Valley that summer.40 Deciding on that earlier trip to return for the winter to hunt, Thorold clearly did so that November. According to his later recollections, Richard went on to spend the rest of the winter up Dutch Creek. There, “as I had an outfit of ponies and found they wintered well [I] decided to buy some land.”41
Richard spent the next ten years or so living more or less on this Dutch Creek ranch. The exact borders of this ranch are, unfortunately, unclear. Thorold’s ranch is the precursor to the Royal Antler but, as he purchased the land from the C.P.R. as opposed to the province, and as the land up Dutch Creek seems to have been surveyed on a different land grant system, without the usual land title records, I still remain at a loss as to where Thorold’s Ranch/Royal Antler actually is on a map (I think the owners like it that way).
The Thorold Ranch
In good early twentieth century fashion, however, Thorold did give a unique name to his ranch. In a book published in 1911 listing descendants of King Edward III, Richard’s address is listed both at his familial house in England, and at Craigallochie [sic] BC.42 Likewise, in August 1911, guests of Robert Randolph Bruce note also have visited Thorold’s, “beautiful shooting box, “Craigellache” [sic] situated in the mountains on Dutch Creek.”43
BC residents may recognize the name, although not in the context of Dutch Creek. There is a far better known “Craigellachie” located in the Eagle Pass west of Revelstoke, where the last spike of the CPR was driven in November 1885. Turns out there’s a connection as to how both sites got their name.
Two of the main people behind the Canadian Pacific Railway, company president George Stephen and director/major financial backer Donald Smith, were related to the Grant Clan in Scotland.
According to Grant Clan lore, the clan had been tasked by King Malcolm III to warn the lowlands of Scotland of any danger from the north by burning a beacon on the hill rising above present-day Aviemore. The clan adopted the slogan, “Stand Fast Craig Elachie!”, the clan crest became an image of a burning hill, and the war cry became, “Craigellachie!”
So, during hard times of CPR construction (of which there were many), “Craigellachie” became a rallying cry. The company president, William Van Horne, therefore saw it as a fitting name for the otherwise unassuming location in Eagle Pass where the eastern and western rails of the line finally met.44
Richard Stirling Grant Thorold was also a descendant of the Grant clan, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that he also chose to adopt the clan cry for his own.
A Place of Leisure
Richard’s “shooting box” at Craigellachie was a place of leisure, and the Captain often entertained friends there.45 At the beginning of 1906 the ranch was, “undergoing great improvements,”46 and Richard received a grant in aid from the province for construction of a sleigh road, likely to the property.47
In 1909 Thorold noted that, “the country [is] an ideal place for any Englishman with a small income who is fond of sport.” He goes on to lament that, “The only slack time is in the summer months, and if we only had a few more men we could play polo, as here it would be quite an inexpensive game and well within the reach of those with only moderate means.”48
But Richard also seems to have been trying to make the ranch profitable. Back in 1907 he and John Watson (one of the discoverers of the Paradise Mine) sold “a fine bunch of cattle” in Cranbrook, 49 and in 1909 Richard writes that, “Personally I am engaged in raising horses, and having a good thoroughbred stallion, which I got from Australia last year, hope to breed polo ponies from the native mares of this country. In this way I expect to make my ranch self-supporting, and having no occupation at home it gives me great interest and is at the same time a very healthy pursuit and a good change from England, which country one enjoys a great deal more from having been away.50
It was a bit of a dig at England, but by this time Richard’s parents had both passed (Anna in 1899 and Alexander in 1908,51) and his father’s estate had passed on to his younger brother, Harry.
So Richard took part in Canadian life, joining the Masonic Lodge at Windermere,52 and serving as a delegate to attend the Liberal convention in Nelson in 1908.53 His name was put forward in summer 1911 as a possibility to serve as a permanent officer for a proposed Mountain Infantry Corps in Wilmer,54 and he is also, in 1911, listed on the Canadian Census.55 The last mention found of Captain Thorold in the Valley is at the beginning of May 1914, visiting Cranbrook.56
A Sudden Change of Scenery
When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, however, Richard was not in Canada but in Sydney, Australia. He signed up almost immediately, on August 14, to join the Australian Military Forces. At the time, his address is listed as being in the care of the Bachelors’ Club in Piccadilly, London, and his next of kin as his sister, Constance Mary Cooper, at Grosvenor Gardens in London.57
New Guinea was, at the outbreak of the war, a German protectorate consisting of New Guinea, New Britain, and New Ireland, as well as a number of other islands. Located just north of Australia, the declaration of war by Britain against Germany was an opportunity for Australian expansion. The Australian campaign was a rushed one, with newspapers publishing lists of the names of troops who were departing with the caveat that, “Owing to the haste with which the expedition was organized and despatched,” they might not be entirely correct.60
Australian forces went on to take over occupation of New Guinea in what was the first independent military operation carried out by Australia. Richard went on to play at least a notable part in this action. On October 27, as captain of Company C, he was given the order to sail to Kavieng, the capital of New Ireland,61 to command a permanent garrison of troops there.62 This put Richard in administrative control of the entirety of New Ireland.
A Different Army
The post on New Ireland did not last long, and Richard only served with the Australian Expeditionary Force until 8 March 1915.63 One source states that his commission was then “terminated”,64 but the reasons for his departure remain unclear.
Instead, Richard returned to England in April, where he continued his military service by being appointed temporary major of the 8th Royal Fusiliers in May, just before the battalion sailed for France.65 Once again, he soon departed this command, and once again, the reasons for his departure are unclear (the page of the War Diary of the 8th Fusileers covering his likely departure date is apparently missing66).
Thorold instead took command of the 18th Welsh on 17 January 1916, staying with the battalion in France until he was wounded in January 1917.67
He did not hold field command again, but reappears as Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 2nd Glanmorgan Battalion of the Welsh Regiment in December 1917.68 Richard retired his commission on 27 March 1919.69
In 1922 Richard applied to the British War Office and the Commonwealth of Australia to get war medals (the 1914/15 Star was administered by Australia, with two other medals – the British War Medal and Victory Medal – being given by the British War Office).70
A Thorough Disappearing Act
The remainder of Richard Grant Thorold’s life is, unsurprisingly, fairly mysterious. We see his name as well as that of his sister, Constance, in spring 1925 when the siblings decided to gift to the Western Australian Government a silver cup that had been presented to their grandfather, James Stirling, first Governor of Western Australia, back in May 1833 (their younger brother, Harry, was then still alive, but is not mentioned as taking part in this exchange).71 The “Swan River Cup” is now part of the collections at the Western Australian Museum.72
Richard Grant-Thorold himself was married late in life, on 17 March 1945, at Maisons-Laffitte in France to Simone Demange.73 When he passed away on 2 April 1953, his address is listed in Paris. His probate went to Eric St George Sedall and Cecil Dunstan Webb, both of no occupation, and totalling just over £53,680.74
It’s unknown when the name “Thorold Creek” was attached to the creek up by his former ranch, Craigellachie. Thorold continued to own the property until 1921, when he sold it to W.L. Hawke, and he continued to co-own other land in the vicinity (with R Randolph Bruce) until at least 1926.75