Roger James Magee
Van Gogh’s peasant gardener Patience Escalier represents very well how I see Roger. A hard life that I particularly see in old age for some reason. Maybe because I first found him in his midyears as father of my great-grandfather, John James, and then followed him through his later years. Only much later did I discover his more mysterious early life.
By the time I discovered that he was born in Norwich I had realised that the Mollett family also came from there, so it was quite a coincidence to find that both sides of my father’s family had been simultaneously in Norwich. The Magees only passed through Norwich though, essentially being Irish in origin and like vast numbers of the population of nineteenth century England, they ended up in London.
I now find, as I write his story that he was a simple labourer most of his life. My image of him as a gardener comes from the first mention I found of him - his son’s marriage certificate which says he is a gardener. Until his old age though, he was simply a labourer - well that what the records state. It just shows how it pays to look at these things closely. The image still fits my vision of him though, even if I now find it is not quite right.
A slightly confused man or did he deliberately set out to confuse? His name varies between James, Roger and Roger James, and his birthplace also changes from Norwich and Shotley Tower to Woolwich. Was he simple, did he suffer from memory loss, or was he just cantankerous? We shall never know of course.
Roger James Magee
born 15 July 1814 Norwich
married Elizabeth Chattleborough 26 December 1838 Norwich
married Ann Berry 19 October 1845 Norwich
died 31 October 1897 Lewisham Workhouse
John James (1847-1915)
Charlotte Eliza (1854-1855)
Parish records for baptisms
Censuses for the years 1841-1891
Son John James’ birth and marriage certificates
Old English from the Teutonic meaning ‘fame’ and ‘spear’. Quite where it came from I do not know. It was not his father’s name. Maybe a grandfather?
Rog, Hodge, Podge
Hebrew, from the same root as Jacob, meaning ‘supplanter’ Another all time favourite name, but I am not at all sure where it comes from in the Magee line.
Jim, Jimmy, Jimbo, Jamey