Ever since it appeared in the Londoner’s Diary (wrongly) that my grandfather was Archbishop of Sydney (in fact, it was my great-grandfather), I am doomed to be asked about my Australian ancestry. Here is what little I know or have been able to find out about him from the Australian Dictionary of Biography:-
His father was called Richard Snowden Smith, who served in the rifle brigade and fell in love with a girl who could not decide whether to marry him or his best friend. They agreed between themselves (she does not seem to have had any say in the matter) that whichever of them should swim fastest across Guernsey Bay would marry her. Richard won and his oldest son, William, assumed as a middle name the surname of his father’s best friend, which was Saumarez. It’s a Guernsey name. William was sent to school at Marlborough in Wiltshire, a church foundation, was a classical scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, became a fellow and, after serving as chaplain to the Bishop of Madras, became vicar of Trumpington. For a long time, he was Principal of St. Aidan’s, a theological college near Liverpool. Appointed Archbishop of Sydney in 1890, he set sail for the colonies with his seven daughters and my grandfather, Hubert. He must have been strongly evangelical because I once met a very high church Australian who said that it was my great grandfather who had ruined the church in Australia.
He lived at Bishopscourt in the suburbs of Sydney, was a good committee man, liked cricket and botany, wrote poetry (I own a slim volume of poems entitled Capernaum and other poems), led the parade at Federation alongside the Roman Catholic archbishop) and was buried in a grand mausoleum in Waverley Cemetery above Bondi Beach, where I sometimes think maybe I could be buried too. My grandfather, Hubert, was educated at Sydney Grammar School, then at Trinity College, Cambridge, became a clergyman like his father, married a Hanbury cousin, and returned to Sydney, where my father was born in 1911, so he could have taken Australian nationality, as could my two brothers. But my father left Australia left aged two on a boat which sunk and oddly never returned, although he used to correspond every Christmas with his Australian cousins, of whom I assume there must still be quite a number.