Two hundred years ago …
Friday 2nd September 2022
YPS Founder #3
William Salmond, in contrast to Atkinson and Thorpe, is something of an enigma. In some 20th century sources he is referred to as ‘Colonel Salmond’, but there are no contemporary references to this rank, and indeed no trace of him in Army Lists of the period. He may have been, for a time, a Captain in the Cumberland militia, which scarcely amounts to a military career. To his contemporaries in York, he was ‘William Salmond, Esq.’, a gentleman of means.
Where did William’s ‘means’ come from? He was born, in 1769, in Cumberland, to a well-to-do family. His father, ‘William Salmond of Seaforth, Antigua’ inherited a number of plantations in the West Indies. The family wealth came from sugar and slaves. William senior, a ‘vain idle man’, seems to been a talented spendthrift, who was forced to sell two plantations, then returned to Antigua to restore the family fortunes: but when in 1779 he died suddenly, in Antigua, his widow had to beg her family for money to enable her to return to England.
The family seems somehow to have survived financial ruin and, by around 1800, our William was comfortably settled in York. His widowed mother, and sisters, lived in a house in Minster Yard. In the 1851 Census, sister Julia is still described as ‘landed proprietor, West Indies’. The family, therefore, William included, probably still depended on sugar and slavery – which would not, at the time, have seemed particularly unusual or unrespectable.