Family members reunited in South Queensferry by tragedy

Trevor Whittley and his cousin Lonnie Kauffman.
Trevor Whittley and his cousin Lonnie Kauffman.

A family reunion more than a century in the making took place on Tuesday in South Queensferry to remember ancestors who perished in a ship collision in 1887.

South Queensferry man Trevor Whittley (63) met up with his American cousin Lonnie Kauffman, and the pair visited Queensferry Museum to see a model of the ship their relatives perished on.

Model of the S.S.Kapunda in Queensferry Museum

Model of the S.S.Kapunda in Queensferry Museum

In February 1887 the SS Kapunda collided with another ship while on route to Australia, with nearly all 300 on board perishing, including Morris Whittley and his family.

Morris Whittley had a brother, Henry, who joined the army and fought in the Zulu Wars. Henry then emigrated to the USA where he became an evangelical preacher. On Tuesday, Henry’s great grandson Lonnie Kaufmann, from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, made the trip ‘home’ to Scotland to meet his cousin Trevor for the first time.

Trevor said: “It was great to see Lonnie and his family. It’s five generations ago they departed Scotland. My mother and father were there as well so that was good.

“I have known about this part of the family for about 20 years but this is the first time he has been to Scotland.

“I got a cryptic message from his sister saying he would be in ‘Queensberry’, so this meeting materialised.”

Trevor was delighted to show Lonnie the model ship.

He said: “We had a great lunch at the Hawes Inn together, reminisced about the family. He didn’t know much to be honest, as his father died young, so didn’t pass on too much information. So I was able to fill him in. He was delighted.

“He was gobsmacked by the museum, particularly the model of the ship. It was about 12 years ago when I discovered that model, right under my nose in the museum, after searching everywhere for information. A shiver went down my spine that day.

“It was just great to bring him together with all of that. A lot of it was new to him.

“This was his first opportunity to come here to visit Scotland, so it was a really enjoyable day for us all.”

Trevor, a member of the Queensferry Heritage Trust, is keen to promote Queensferry Museum, which opened in 1951. He said: “Being a small provincial museum it’s not as well known as it might be.

“Despite the fact there is a lot of visitors here, a lot of them are still diverting to other parts of Scotland.

“It’s difficult for Queensferry to compete, even though they land here.

“The heritage trust has a brief to preserve heritage but also develop it further to let people know what’s here in the museum.

“I think I lived here for 20 years before I even discovered the museum. So we are trying to raise the profile.

“Everytime I go in there I find something new. I hope the stories behind the pieces, like my family’s story, will help stimulate interest.”