Poppy logo

St Peter-in-the East Church: Robert Basil MACAN (1882–1915)

Robert Basil Macan was born in Oxford in 1882, the son of Reginald Walter Macan (born in Dublin in 1848) and his first cousin Mildred Elizabeth Healey (born in Liverpool in 1859).

At the time of the 1881 census Robert's father (33), who was a Senior Student (Fellow) and Tutor at Christ Church, was staying at 1 Cavendish Terrace, Devonshire Road, Liverpool with his uncle and aunt Robert & Mary Healey and their daughter Mildred (21). He and Mildred were married at St Paul's Church in Lancaster on 25 July 1881 and he moved back to Oxford with her. They had five children there:

  • Robert Basil Macan (born at 8 Norham Gardens, Oxford in 1882 and baptised at St Giles's Church on 21 October)
  • Agatha Perrin Macan (born at 8 Norham Gardens on 17 November 1884 and baptised at St Paul's Church, Liverpool on 5 January 1885)
  • Dorothea Theophile Macan (born at 8 Norham Gardens, Oxford on 14 June 1886)
  • Eric Reginald Francis Macan (born at 8 Norham Gardens, Oxford on 1 August 1888 and baptised at Hoose, Cheshire on 20 September; died at Grove Place, Oxford at the age of 11 on 2 January 1900, and his body was cremated. The burial of the urn containing his ashes on 17 February is recorded in the register of St Mary-the-Virgin Church and probably took place in Holywell Cemetery)
  • Norah (Vernon) Macan (born in Headington registration district (probably at 8 Norham Gardens) on 12 December 1889 but living at Grove Place, Oxford, which was in St Mary the Virgin parish, when she was baptised at St John the Baptist Church on 27 January 1890).

Robert's parents settled at 8 Norham Gardens in north Oxford after their marriage. In 1884 his father was elected Fellow and Tutor in Classics of University College.

Near the beginning of 1890 the family moved to Grove Place in central Oxford.

At the time of the 1891 census Robert (8) and his mother and four siblings were staying with his maternal grandparents Robert and Mary Lucy Healey at 2 Devonshire Road, Liverpool. His father is hard to find and may have been abroad.

Robert attended Charterhouse School from 1896 to 1899.

His only brother Eric died at Grove Place, Oxford at the age of eleven on 2 January 1900.

By the time of the 1901 census Robert (18) had joined the army and was a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal Military Academy, living in barracks at Woolwich. His parents and his three surviving siblings Agatha (16), Dorothea (14), and Norah (11) were staying with his maternal grandmother Mary Healey (65), who was now living at White Barn, Boars Hill (which was then in Berkshire).

On 31 July 1902 Robert was promoted from Gentleman Cadet to Second Lieutenant. On 27 December 1906 he was appointed from the Royal Field Artillery to Lieutenant of the 28th (Indian) Light Cavalry, with that ranking backdated to 31 October 1904.

In 1906 Robert's father Reginald Walter Macan was elected Master of University College.

Robert's eldest sister Agatha was married in 1909:

  • On 1 May 1909 at St Peter-in-the-East Church, Oxford, Agatha Perrin Macan (24) of that parish married Sidney Walter Spooner (31) of St James's, Westminster

At the time of the 1911 census Robert's parents and his sisters Dorothea (24) and Norah (21) were paying a visit to Monier Faithfull Monier-Williams, who lived at Chessington Place, Chessington Surrey. Robert is likely to have been in India, and on 31 July 1911 he was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain in the 28th Light Cavalry of the Indian Army. His sister Agatha was living at 156 Coleherne Court, x with her husband Sidney, who was the manager of the sales department of a rubber company.

Robert's sister Agatha was widowed in 1912: on 10 August her husband Sidney Walter Spooner dived from a board at Frinton into water that was too shallow and broke his back, dying on 31 August.

Robert's two other sisters were married in 1914:

  • On 2 March 1914 at Galle Faco Church, Colombo, Ceylon, Dorothea Theophile Macan married
    John Lionel Symonds Vidler
  • In the third quarter of 1914 in Oxford, Norah Macan married Reginald R. Merton

Poppy In the First World War Robert Basil Macan served as a Captain in the 28th Indian Cavalry, attached to the 30th Lancers (Gordon's Horse). He was killed in action in Belgium on 13 June 1915 at the age of 32. He was buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery (grave ref. I.D.11), and his family paid for the additional inscription “FOR SUDDEN THE WORST TURNS THE BEST TO THE BRAVE”.

He is remembered on the Charterhouse School war memorial and on the St Peter-in-the-East Church war memorial, which is now on the wall of Balliol College Archives (the former St Cross Church). He is also listed as Basil Macan on the Youlbury scout war memorial (wrongly recorded as Maran on the Imperial War Museums' page here).


After the war

Robert's parents

His father Reginald Walter Macan retired in 1923. He died at Broom Hill House, Boars Hill on 23 March 1941, and his effects came to £14,962 8s. 9d. His mother Mildred Elizabeth Macan died at that address on 26 October 1955, and her effects came to £1,485 19s. 2d.

Robert's sisters

  • Agatha Perrin Macan (born 1884), Mrs Spooner, married her second husband Eric Graham Forbes Adam at St George's Church, Hanover Square on 23 November 1918, and they had one child, Christopher Eric Forbes Adam, born in the Kensington district on 12 February 1920. Her husband was appointed First Secretary of the British Embassy in Constantinople in 1923, and died there on 7 July 1925. Agatha Perrin Forbes Adam was living at 29 Holland Park Gardens, London when on 10 September 1956 she died at Chapel House, Spelhurst, Kent. Her effects came to £23,203 12s. 10d. Her son Christopher, who in 1920 inherited the title of 3rd Baronet Adam, died in Richmond on 17 January 2009. He had no children.
  • Dorothea Theophile Macan (born 1886) married John Lionel Symonds Vidler, and they had one son, Hadley Vidler, born in Ceylon on 5 December 1914. By 1930 she was living in Guildford, Surrey. Her husband died in Rye, Sussex on 15 October 1967; Dorothea Theophile Vidler died at Gungarden Lodge in Rye on 1 October 1977, and her effects came to £28,274.
  • Norah Macan (born 1889), Mrs Merton, died in the Abingdon district at the age of 81 near the end of 1970.

See also

© Stephanie Jenkins

War Memorials home    Oxford History home