Clement Lindley Wragge

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Clement Wragge, circa 1901

Clement Lindley Wragge (18 September 1852 – 10 December 1922), was a meteorologist born in Stourbridge, Worcestershire, England, but moved to Oakamoor, Staffordshire as a child. He set up the Wragge Museum in Stafford following a trip around the world. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and in 1879 was elected Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society in London. To the end of his life, he was interested in Theosophy and spiritualism and during his tour of India, met with Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, founder of the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam who had claimed to be the Mahdi, the messianic redeemer awaited by Muslims. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sought him out in New Zealand to ask for his views on spiritualism before writing 'The Wanderings of a Spiritualist'in 1921. After training in law, Wragge became renowned in the field of meteorology, winning the Scottish Meteorological Society's Gold Medal and years later starting the trend of using people's names for cyclones. He travelled widely giving lectures in London and India, and in his later years was a reliable authority on Australia, India and the Pacific Islands.

Early years[edit]

Wragge was originally named William, but this was changed to Clement (Lindley was the name of his great uncle). He lost both of his parents at a young age: his mother at five months and his father, Clement Ingleby Wragge at five years. He was raised for a number of years by his grandmother, Emma Wragge at Oakamoor, Staffordshire who taught him the rudiments of cosmology and meteorology. He became an avid naturalist at a young age, being surrounded by the beauty of the Churnet valley. His formal education was at Uttoxeter Thomas Alleyne's Grammar School.[1] Upon the death of his grandmother in 1865 his Uncles decided that he should he move to London to live with his Aunt Fanny and her family in Teddington. There he later boarded at the Belvedere school in Upper Norwood and at the end of his education he improved his Latin in Cornwall. He then followed in the footsteps of his father, studying law at Lincoln's Inn. He also attended St Bartholomew's Hospital alongside medical students to watch operations. Wragge travelled on the continent of Europe extensively with his Uncle William of Cheltenham. His second cousin was Clement Mansfield Ingleby a partner in the family law firm Ingleby, Wragge, and Ingleby (which later became known as Wragge & Co of Birmingham), and who became famous for his Shakespearean literary writings after he left the family legal partnership to pursue his scholarship. At the age of 21 he could now control his destiny and came into his inheritance left to him by his parents. He decided to take eight months break from Lincoln's Inn to visit the Egypt and the Levant.

In October 1874 Wragge together with a friend Gaze Hoclen departed London on a Thomas Cook tour travelling to Paris by rail and on to Marseilles, where he sailed to Egypt on the 'Neiman'. He travelled up the Nile and took part in an archeological dig. He then toured Palestine, Jerusalem and the Holy sites, where he met a group of Mormons who interested him. He promised to visit their new city being built at Salt Lake in the American West. After much deliberation, he decided not to return to England with his friend and booked a passage through Cooks on the 'John Tennant' via India to Australia, then sailed from Newcastle, Sydney in late August 1875 across the Pacific to San Francisco. Once in San Francisco he travelled by rail across the wild west to Toronto via Salt Lake City. Whilst in Salt Lake City he met briefly with Brigham Young as was his right as a visitor. Later, he wrote a number of articles about Mormons and their religion. In Toronto he met with his cousin Edmund Wragge who became a famous railway engineer in Canada, South Africa and England. He returned home to Oakamoor to face his Uncle George (of Ingleby, Wragge and Ingleby solicitors) who now had Oakamoor Lodge as a country retreat from his practice in Birmingham and was very displeased with his behaviour. He made the far reaching decision that the Law was not for him and he surrendered his Articles and was trained as a Midshipman at Janet Taylor's Nautical Academy in London. In 1876 he sailed to Australia as a 'Middy' working his passage to Melbourne. he was a good singer and enjoyed the sea shanties sung when hauling up the sails.

He visited his Ingleby relations in Adelaide (Rupert Ingleby QC) and obtained a position with the Surveyor-General's Department in South Australia, participating in surveys of the Flinders Ranges and Murray scrub land. He married on 13 September 1877 Leonora Edith Florence d'Eresby Thornton (her much older sister was married to Rupert Ingleby) and returned to Oakamoor, England on the 'Hesperus' in 1878 with his wife, where he went straight to his lodgings in Oakamoor.

Meteorology[edit]

Wragge needed experience in weather reading so he set up two weather stations weather station in North Staffordshire in 1879 at Oakamoor railway station for low level readings,and a high level station at Beacon Stoop in the Weaver Hills in North Staffs, not far from Parkhouse farm, Farley, where he moved after a time at Farley Cottage. These readings were made continually until 1883 and the results were sent to him at Ben Nevis when he was in Scotland. He became a prolific writer and was a weekly contributor in the Cheadle Herald newspaper from 1879-1885 and Good Words and the Midland Naturalist, who supported his work.He became a firm friend of W.H.Goss the porcelain manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent, a fellow member of the North Staffordshire Naturalist and Archeological Field Club. After proving his scientific worth the secretary of the Scottish Meteorological Society selected him to set up an observatory on the top of Ben Nevis Wragge climbed the peak daily to take readings, while his wife took comparable readings from sea level. For an unbroken series of observations from 1 June to 14 October 1881 he was awarded the Society's Gold Medal. After a second series of observations were undertaken in 1882 a Summit Observatory was opened in 1883. Wragge applied for the job of Superintendent, but was unsuccessful, possibly because he had a growing family and it needed someone to spend weeks away from home.He decided to return to Australia and left taking his wife, his now famous, faithful dog 'Renzo' and his cat who caused some havoc on the voyage.

Wragge's wife Leonora gave birth to a daughter, Leonora Ingleby, (later renamed Emma) in Oakamoor 1878 and Clement Lionel Egerton in 1880 . His third child Rupert Lindley was born in August 1882 in Scotland. Wragge left for Australia soon after in 1883. His first male child, Clement Lionel Egerton who was born in Farley, Staffordshire in 1880, would later enlist with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment of the First Australian Imperial Force and die from wounds at Gallipoli on 16 May 1915.[2]

Wragge settled on the outskirts of Adelaide, South Australia. He established the Torrens Observatory at Walkerville, and another at Mount Lofty. In 1886 Wragge was the founding member of the Royal Meteorological Society of Australia.

Wragge in his garden at Capemba, Taringa, circa 1902

In 1886 Wragge was commissioned by the Queensland Government to write a report on the development of a meteorological organisation in Queensland that could help stem the shipping losses from cyclones. The Government was impressed with his work and on 1 January 1887 he was appointed Government Meteorologist for Queensland. Within three weeks of his arrival in Brisbane, 18.305 inches of rain fell, earning him the nickname "Inclement" Wragge. [3] Wragge built a home, Capemba, at Taringa.

He quickly caused disquiet amongst meteorologists and astronomers from the other colonies (of Australia) when he started producing charts and predictions not only for Queensland, but for other areas of the continent. He further inflamed them by inscribing his reports Meteorology of Australasia, Chief Weather Bureau, Brisbane and by claiming that while he and his staff were engaged entirely in meteorological research, weather men in other colonies were government astronomers whose time was also filled with postal and telegraph duties.

In the 1880s and 1890s Wragge set up an extensive network of weather stations around Queensland, and developed a series of storm signals to be used upon telegraphed instructions from Brisbane to Cape Moreton, Double Island Point, Sandy Cape, Bustard Head, Cape Capricorn, Flat Top Island, Cape Bowling Green, Cape Cleveland, Cooktown, Thursday Island and Karumba. He also set up an international service with New Caledonia, by which he received data on the newly laid cable from Noumea. Between 1888 and 1893, Wragge trained Inigo Owen Jones who became a renowned long-range weather forecaster.

In 1895, Wragge set up a weather station near the summit of Mount Wellington, Tasmania, and 1897 established another on Mount Kosciuszko. He also attended international conferences in Munich (1891) and Paris (1898 and 1900).

Wragge was also responsible for the convention of naming cyclones. His original idea was to name them after the letters of the Greek alphabet but he later used the names of figures from Polynesian mythology and politicians. Politicians to have cyclones named after them by Wragge included James Drake, Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. Other colourful names he used included Xerxes, Hannibal, Blasatus and Teman. After Wragge's retirement, the practice of naming cyclones would cease for sixty years.[4]

In 1898 Wragge began publishing Wragge's Australian Weather Guide and Almanac, which contained not just meteorological information, but contributions on geology, bush craft, agriculture, mining, water supplies and postal information. In an effort to break the drought of 1902 he purchased a number of Stiger Votex Cannons, which were supposedly able to bring rain from the clouds. Test firings at Charleville on 26 September were unsuccessful. Wragge was not there to see the actual experiment, having left town after an argument with the local council. Today, two of the cannons are on display in Charleville.[5]

Wragge resigned from the Queensland Government in 1903 when his funding was decreased following the Federation of Australia.

Later years[edit]

Wragge in his later years in the gardens at Birkenhead.

Wragge travelled for a number of years after finishing with the Queensland Government. In 1904 he visited the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Tahiti to examine local fauna, and wrote a report on caterpillars and paper wasps for the government in Rarotonga.[6]

He applied unsuccessfully for the job of (Australian) Commonwealth Meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology in 1908 before returning to New Zealand. He lived for a time in Dunedin before settling at 8 Awanui Street (previously named Arawa St and prior to that Bath St), Birkenhead, Auckland with his "wife" Louisa Emmeline Horne, an Anglo-Indian theosophist. There he founded the Wragge Institute and Museum which was later destroyed by fire, and also the well known visitor attraction - Waiata tropical gardens.

During his tour to India in 1908, Wragge met Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who had claimed to be the Promised Messiah foretold in the Bible and Islamic scriptures. The dialogues between the two are recorded in the Malfoozat, the discourses of Ghulam Ahmad. Some of his followers believe that Wragge had converted to Islam and stayed a Muslim until his death. Proof of his conversion is cited by Ahmadiyya Muslim scholars in the form of letters written to Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, a companion of Ghulam Ahmad, by Prof. Wragge after his meeting with Ghulam Ahmad at Lahore.[7] However more personal family records suggest that Wragge remained a theosophist up until his death in 1922.[8]

Clement Wragge died on 10 December 1922 in Auckland from a stroke.[9] His son by his natural wife Louisa - Kismet K Wragge stayed on as "First Officer" of the Wragge Institute.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ NLA Redirect Service at nla.gov.au
  2. ^ http://www.aif.adfa.edu.au:8080/showPerson?pid=332587
  3. ^ "TOWN TALK.". Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald & General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 - 1908) (Qld.: National Library of Australia). 1 March 1887. p. 5. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  4. ^ BoM - Tropical Cyclone Frequently Asked Questions at www.bom.gov.au
  5. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/westqld/stories/s1041097.htm
  6. ^ Cook Islands Biodiversity : The Myna or Ruin in Early Rarotonga at cookislands.bishopmuseum.org
  7. ^ http://www.alislam.org/library/pm694.html
  8. ^ Wragge family papers, Auckland Institute and Museum Library
  9. ^ "MR. CLEMENT WRAGGE.". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 11 December 1922. p. 5. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 

Sources[edit]

Cheadle Herald and Midland Naturalist/ J Williams

External links[edit]