History of Bryson clan

Edward Bull (sitting right) with the part of the Bryson family reunion at Uprising Resort. Picture: RAMA

IN part two of the Bryson Family reunion series, this week, we continue to look into the history of Thomas Baird Bryson and his wife Caroline Bathe Aumbars who lived in Levuka, Fiji.

According to Edward Bull, a member of the family, Caroline, or Adi Karalini (great-grandmother), was of English-Fijian heritage with her Fijian links originating in Nabuna Village, Koro Island.

Mr Bull in his book, titled, A family History of Thomas Baird Bryson and Caroline Bathe Aumbars 1870-2018, Levuka, Fiji, stated his great-grandfather was born on October 10, 1848 to parents John Bryson and Mary MacKinlay in Bonhill, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, with Thomas being the ninth of 11 children.

“There is little information available about Thomas’s earlier years. There are no records of how or when he left Scotland,” Mr Bull said.

“However, a search of ships manifests shows he possibly travelled to the Pacific region in the mid to late 1860s.

“One such manifest shows a 20-year-old Thomas Bryson as a crew member of the boat Armistice arrive in Sydney, Australia on August 28, 1868 from Hokeanga, New Zealand. His age and port of embarkation (Glasgow) details in the manifest make it highly this was the Thomas Bryson.

“Accounts of his movements from there are unavailable. But if this was Thomas Bryson, it is speculated that he then arrived in Levuka, Ovalau between late 1868-1872 as records show he married in Levuka in 1872.

Mr Bull said looking at his great grandmother’s history, she was the younger one of two daughters of William Aumbars and Adi Marica (or Martha) Dikalapo. She was born on March 20, 1856.

“On September 5, 1872, Thomas married Caroline at Vagadaci, Ovalau. The name “Aumbars” have been associated with Caroline,” he said.

“Records are sketchy, but it is said Thomas was gifted the land in Levuka by Adi Dikalapo for marrying her daughter. The land stretched from Vagadaci to the town end of Naisogo Village.

“Between 1873 and 1898, Thomas and Caroline had 14 children. In those days, infant mortality rates were high and six out of the 14 children died in infancy, most before the age of two years.

“By trade, Thomas was a boat builder, a skill learnt in his native Scotland and a skill he was to pass on his youngest son William.

“Thomas built the original Bryson homestead at Muanivatu (also known as Ucuinacula and Bryson’s Point) in the early 1870s. The original house was in a different location to the current homestead, approximately 40 metres closer to the Naisogo end of the property .”

He said his great-grandmother died on September 7, 1921 at the age of 65 and was buried in the Bryson family plot at Draiba Cemetery, Levuka.

“My great-grandfather died on June 25, 1930 at the age of 82 and was also buried at the Draiba Cemetery. Over the succeeding years, most of the land was sold off and what remains today where the homestead is built is known as Ucuinacula,” he said.

According to Mr Bull, William was instrumental in building part of the current Bryson homestead.

“The original design consisted of only two rooms — the large family room and the end room which was the main bedroom,” he said.

“Over the next few decades, the homestead was slowly extended with the kitchen, another bedroom, front veranda and toilet gradually added on.

“The current homestead played a significant part in the lives of many of the older generation Bryson children.

“Over the years, many family members were born in, brought up, or died in the homestead. On February 20, 2016, the homestead was extensively damaged by Category 5 cyclone Winston.”

Mr Bull said the family reunion brought back memories and created new ones during their family reunion for which, every member of the Bryson Family would cherish.

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