Saturday, 6 October 2007

Dr Savin of Chaotong

Dr Savin was born at Faversham in Kent, England in 1864. His father was a devote member of the Bible Christian Church which was a powerful influence upon his son, Lewis Savin. As the boy grew up he was trained for and entered the teaching profession.

About 1885 the Bible Christian Church started work in Yunnan, west China. It soon became clear that for the health of the missionaries, and the Chinese, trained medical workers were required. But no qualified doctor could be found, Yunnan suggested another planet. Lewis Savin was looking at the ministry, an appeal was made and eventually he was persuaded, after qualifying as a doctor, to go to west China.

Seven weeks by liner to Shaghai, 600 miles up the Yangtse river to Hankow by river steamer, 400 miles furhter up to I-Chang by a still smaller steamer, and then several hundreds of miles by chinese junk . The river journey ended at Sui-Fu, some 1800 miles from Shanghai. From Sui-Fu it was two weeks of travel over the Yunnan Mountains, before reaching the mission at Chaotong. A journey of six months from England to Yunnan.

Arrived he had to go through the prelimary struggle with learning the Chinese language. There was no hospital, practicaly no equipment, and only small supplies of medicines. Nor was he settling in a district where he was wanted or welcome. To the Chinese all missionaries were foreign devils. Chinese doctors and vendors of native medicines spread fanastic and malicious rumours. For example as infanticide was common, baby girls were thrown outside the city walls. Foreign doctors it was aserted, and widely believed, collected the bodies to use them for their medicine.

Doctor Savin never got used to the dirt and squalor of Chinese life, the foul strench of the street, the lice and other insects. Yet at any time day or night he would give his very best attention to the poorest, most ragged or the most disreputable patient. Often going out at midnight to try and save some life, where there had been opium swallowed by a would-be suicide or an outburst of quarelling ending in the mutual slashing of knives. Always with these calls there was the possiblity that it was a trap to lure him onto darkened streets where his Chinese medical rivals could remove so powerful competitor.

What won him the respect of the common people was his quite but confirm refusal to allow Chinese notions of rank interfere with hospital arrangements. At first it was demanded by the Chinese that poor patients be turned out of his hospital to make room for those of higher rank as this was Chinese etiquette. But Dr Savin would not turn out a poor person even for a Mandarin of the highest rank.

In 1912 and for several years after Chinese life went up in the flames of revolution. Law and order disappeared. War Lords enriched themselves by indiscriminate murder and plunder, fighting each other for the spoils. Chaotong was threatened again and again, but at last an actual battle was fought outside the city. The War Lords did not bother with any army medical corp. But Dr Savin and his hospital now had a high reputation. So the wounded soldiers flocked there. The hospital built for 100 patients was besieged by thousands. It had been almost imposible to get supplies through because of the nationwide anchary. So all day long and far into the night the doctor struggled with the disorderly mob, many of whom had wounds turned gangrenous. Somehow, amid the hundreds of surgical cases and operations, one of his hands received a slight scratch which turned septic. As a result Dr Savin, soon died from typhus, it was the year 1918.

Source: Writing by C N Mylne (Sch. of Oriental & African Studies, London)

Monday, 1 October 2007

Good News From Australia

To the Editor of the Bicester Herald


The following letter addressed to myself and Mr Thomas Savin, of Launton, from the village formed by a portion of my late flock, who were assisted by me to emigrate to Australia about six or seven years back, will interest many in your town and neighbourhood.

Muddy Creek, Hamilton, 10th August 1860

My Dear Brothers

I write to inform you that I had your letter on the 18th of June. I hope this will find you all well, as it leaves us at present. Give my love to all my brothers and sisiters, and tell them I have purchased 51 acres of land, freehold property, I have got the deed in my box. I gave John Freeman, one hundred pounds for his share. He has bought another piece, 24 acres. I have ploughed 33 acres. I have sown 25 of wheat, and 8 of oats and the rest is grass. It is all fenced in. A good home I have got thank God. It is a fine country. I never felt better in my life

We have, at the Chapel, which we have built, on Sunday, preaching in the morning and afternoon, and a prayer meeting at night; and school for the children, one hour and a half in the morning and afternoon. My son John is married. He is a carter, and earns a good bit of money- £3 or £4 a week. His team and dray are worth £100, and he has got money in the bank. He is going to buy a farm when the bill is passed at £1 per acre.

My daughter Mary and her husband, have 120 acres of good land of their own, freehold property. My son Wiliam is working for them, for 30s. per week, and his grub; £3 a week in harvest and his grub. What do you think of that ? Tell Launton young men of that, they will say, "We don't believe it is true." Tell Mr John Fenemore I have a good farm. I sow one bushel and a half of wheat to the acre, and two bushels of oats, and it grows as high as my head, and then we reap it. Tell John Shirley and John Young I ave found Australia better than all the books told me. I have a goodfarm, and had 4000 bushels of oats last year.

My dear brother, I have made my fortune ! but if I had stopped in Launton, I should have been starved to death. The longest day is the 21st of December, and the shortest 21st of June; harvest in January. When the snow is on the ground at Launton, tell them your brother is carrying his corn. I have had four crops of wheat off my land, besides stubble every year.

No more, at present, from your affectionate brother,

Samuel Savin

Source: Bicester Herald 23 Nov 1860

Sunday, 23 September 2007


We have already met Andrew Savin with his story of survival of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Remarkably he has another tale to tell.

In 1946 Andrew after returning home to Rumania decided to finish his studies. He married in 1948 and had a son two years later. They all lived in his in-law's apartment which was not unusual as there was a housing shortage. As an "oppositionist", his past political activity was recognized by the Communist Party which had come to power after the war, but he was not fully trusted because he was not of peasant or worker origin, but middle class. Also as he had continuous correspondence with his sister, who emigated to Israel in 1951 then onto Canada, and had contact with Americans when they liberated him from the concentration camp at Buchenwald, the Party were often checking up on him.

However as a propagandist for the party and after many requests in 1967 he was allowed to visit his sister in Canada for three months. He could see for himself the better life enjoyed in the Western countries as during this time he also took a trip to see his uncle in NewYork and travelled back via Paris and Rome. Everybody was telling him to remain in Canada but he could not just leave his family to fend for themselves back in Rumania. However after returning from Canada he was not regarded as politically trustworthy and therefore was demoted at work.

In 1968 the Soviet army marched into it's eastern block ally Czechoslovakia because Russia was fearful of the liberal policies being introdued there. In October Andrew, his wife and son separately obtained tourist visas for Czechoslavakia. He only told one other person of their real intent, to escape to Canada, via Austria. They travelled by car through Hungary on the way to Czechoslovakia but before crossing the Czech border tried the Hungary-Austria border. There the Hungarian customs officer took their passports, stamped them, so it was recorded they wanted to pass over the border, but then turned them back. Andrew knew that when they returned to Rumania and had to deposit their passports with the police, they would know about their intention and therefore would never get another chance for a visa to leave Rumania for any foreign country.

They drove to Czechoslovakia but were told by a Czech friend that the border with Austria was controlled by Russian soldiers. They tried two small border checkpoints on minor roads but were not even allowed to get close to the border. Before finally crossing back into Hungary they tried the last border station at Bratislava as Andrew by then did not care about the outcome. There was a long line of Austrian and German cars. Andrew's car was the only one with a licence plate from an eastern country. It took hours to advance to the checkpoint. The custom officer asked for their passports, looked at them and said "You Rumanians what the hell do you want?" Andrew stuttered in German that they would like to go home through Austria. The officer went inside an office with their passports. Meanwhile his wife and son scolded him "It will happen the same as at the Hungarian border, another stamp in our passports" They were scared to death. After 15 minutes the officer came back, told them to spend their Czech money at the border shop, gave back their passports and pointed them to the direction of Austria. They grabbed supplies at the shop and drove off fast to the Austrian border checkpoint where, without getting out, showed their passports to the Austrian officer. He waved them to pass as Rumanians didn't need a visa to enter Austria.

They drove a couple of kilometers further, then stopped at the road side, got out and lay on the grass, not believing they were in Austria. But why had the Czech officer let them through? They could only presume that he had sympathy with Rumanians because Rumania was the only eastern country who were against the Russians when the Soviet army earlier that year had taken over Czechoslovakia.

They drove to Vienna and found a friend of Andrew's sister who gave them help and money. Five months later they left for Canada, their Canadian brother in law acting as their sponsor for the emigration.

Source: Dreaming and Survival, M.I.G.S. (A. Savin)

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Return of Colonists

In about 1868 John Savin, his wife and three children with a large number of families from NewYork, Pennsylvania and some of the southern states, led on by glittering promises of the agents of the Brazilian Colonization Society, assembled in New York and emigrated to Brazil. They were given to understand, on leaving for Brazil, that each man was to be presented, on his arrival at his destination, with a tract of land and a small house, and that all would be furnished with steady and renumerative employment.

After three weeks delay in Rio Janerio they were forwarded to the colony of St. Catherine, 150 miles from the city of that name. On reaching the end of their journey they found that no provision had been made for them and that all was a wilderness. The agents appointed by the Brazilian government to superintend the affairs of the colonists were employed at nine dollars a month, neglected their duties, gave very little labour to the colonists and so grossly mismanaged affairs that great want and suffering prevailed from the first establishment of the colony. It was useless to cultivate sugar cane or any other product for the market, as that was 150 miles distant, with no means of comunication, except by launches on a treacherous river, and as there was no employment to be had the colonists were reduced to the extremities of want.

Finally, after enduring their hopeless circumstances for two seasons, in which time many left for other parts of South America, most of the colonists abandoned the wilderness and set out for home. In coming down the river their launches were capsized, resulting in the loss of nearly all their baggage. On reaching St. Catherine's the American Consul procured transportation for them to Rio, Where, after some delay, they were placed by the Brazilian government on board the British steamer "Rakaia", chartered for the purpose, and sent to New York. They reached this city utterly destitute, and the Commissioners of Emigration declining to have anything to do with them, they gathered their bundles and boxes together and slowly dispersed. About fifty people are left at the colony in Brazil, who will leave as soon as possible.

Source: The NewYork Herald 23 Feb 1870

Night of the Invasion

In 1942 Fred Savins with his wife Evelyn and children Lola, Ronald and Kevin were living on a farm at Lennox Head, near Ballina, New South Wales, Australia. It was in the middle of World War Two. At the time tension was high because the Japanese were off the east coast of Australia and Fred had been told they could invade anywhere at any time.

Fred was a member of the Volunteer Defence Corp and had to patrol the headland and beaches at night and keep check that others living in the area had their windows covered so that house lights weren't visible from the sea. If there was a landing, Fred was under instructions to destroy all manner of food, vegetable meat etc., turn on all water taps, let the animals out and clear them away from the shoreline. Nothing ws to be left for the Japs to utilize. Evelyn also learnt to drive the family car so that she could gather up the children, grab a few belongings and leave the area as quickly as possible.

One summer night while all the family were in bed, a wild storm blew up and there was a very heavy downpour. The farmhouse, like many built back in that era, had a wide verandah around three sides and there was no fence around the house.

Suddenly there was a lot of heavy trampling on the wooden verandahs. Fred's first thought was "this is it, the Japanese have landed". Fred stuck his head out through the bedroom window to check out the commotion. He thought he might as well have his head cut off right then instead of in the bedroom.

Fortunately Fred kept his head and much to his relief it wasn't the invasion but a lot of frighten calves coming in out of the heavy rain.

Source: Savins in Australia (GH &IF Savins)

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Imperial Justice

In May of 1976 Richard Savin with his fiancee was en route for Pakistan where he had a work contract. They crossed the border into Iran by car at Tayebad. At this time The Shah of Iran was ruling the country as a despot with a repressive hand.

Vehicles were being searched, in the bay next to them a Landrover's interior was pulled apart and wrecked, but nothing was found. An official walked around Richard's car three times then asked them to take all their luggage out. "I want to look" he said, but he didn't look, "Doesn't matter" he then said. Looking up to Richard the official said "Mister you have hashish". He walked around the car again kicking each wheel as he went. "It's in this wheel and this wheel and this wheel". The search crew came dragging a large hydraulic jack, a wheel was taken off, the tyre seal broken on one side and lifted clear of the rim so that a hand could be slipped in. The officer then pushed his hand in up to his wrist. "Yes hashish mister". Richard was suddenly looking down the barrel of a gun as he stepped forward to look for himself but was jerked up short as someone snapped on a cuff, so he saw nothing.

A smuggling charge was trumped up, but why? Was it revenge for the run-in he had with a police officer earlier who had stopped them, looking for a handout of money, but got none or the argument he had with some locals for overcharging him for some bread taking advantage as he was a foreigner or something else, he never found out.

In due course Richard was taken to the notorious Vakil Abad jail, but his fiancee was set free. Despite being only five years old amenities in the prison were broken and delapidated. The food was meagre, the place was totally unhygenic and stank, occasionally he was beaten by the guards, all prisoners suffered from lice. Richard was taken ill a few times, once seriously with hepatitus but recovered in the prison hospital despite it only having out of date medicine. But being one of a few europeans he was treated better than the other prisoners, especially the political prisoners who were routinely tortured. He did receive some visits from the British embassy but there efforts were ineffectual.

In August Richard was taken to trial and assumed the boys in prison were exaggerating about court proceedings. The whole process seemed to be carrying on without concern for his presence. The judge started to read out the charge in Persian. In desperation he grabbed at the man next to him who turned out to be the translator. The judge paused, looking irritated and said "What is it?" in perfect English. Richard replied "I'd like to know what is happening here" and then pointed to various officials wanting to know who they were. One was his lawyer. "Well get him over here because he cannot defend me unless he knows what the defence is". His lawyer reluctantly came over to him and was given a transcript of his defence. The judge decided he would conduct the trial in English. "Where is the evidence?" Richard asked firmly but respectfully. The judge frowned "We do not need any evidence" and waved the pink paper I'd signed at gunpoint. "Here is your confesssion.You have signed it". "But you will see from the signature it was signed unread and under force" Richard protested. "Doesn't matter " said the judge. "What about the State's witnesses" the judge looked mildly shocked "Will the State not even prove my presence at Tyebad. "Why should we" objected the judge "it is you who must disprove". The judge left the room to consider the findings. "That was a very good try" the interpreter conceded. "Do I have any chance?". The interpreter laughted, "You cannot win in this court. Everybody is guilty. You will get two years and a fine". The judge returned "You are guilty. Two years plus fine". It was back to Vakil Abad prison.

Then in October 1978 Richard is set free, along with a few others, after two and a half years in prison. No explanation from the prison authorities was given nor did the British embassy have any idea why. For five days they were allowed to do what they liked in the city then Richard was recalled by immigration he was to be deported and therefore locked up in conditions as bad as the jail. On the fourth day of incarceration he was questioned by two secret police about his contact with the political prisoners and their organisation Mashad in Vakil Abad. Getting nowhere with this line of questioning he is punched to the ground by one of the police, they leave. The next day he is released and under escort put on a train going to the border, then handed over to immigration. At the border Richard's passport is inspected, "Where is your car", the official pointing to the place in the passport. "It was confiscated" replied Richard. "Without the car you cannot leave Iran". Through a side door appeared the two secret police, the reason for the charade. "It is an offence to leave a car without paying could get 5 years for this.......who do you know in Mashad?" Richard was exhausted and replied "Beat me up, shoot me, do what you like". Half an hour later one came back, gave him his passport, "Go" and shoved him through a door marked Turkey.

Source: Vakil Abad- A Survivor's Story (R. Savin)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Servant Gets $20 million

A former Czecho-Slovakian immigrant chambermaid, who was making the beds and sweeping the floors in the $6 million, seventy five room mansion of Frank W Savin, retired stockbroker at Port Chester, New York, three years ago, is mistress today of his $20 million fortune ($240M in todays terms), as a result of his death from an appendicitis operation on Tuesday. Mrs Savin who left the servants' quarters on Jan. 8, 1937 to become her employers fourth wife, has at her command eight Rolls Royces and two other expensive limousines, a team of twenty servants and the right to call the palatial home her own.

But how long she will remain at ease in this queenly state is problematical, for the legal pot has started to boil with the claims of former wives, cast-off children and others who the old broker left in the wake of his kaleidoscopic 79 years of his life. The present Mrs Savin, formerly Anna Mary Schieis, 47, who became a domestic in the mansion on the Sound 17 years ago and remained to become the bride of her boss has first claim. But before her proper heritage canbe determined, the courts probably will have to go back through the entire stormy history of Savin and weigh the claims of two disinherited natural children, two foster children and the near kin of three former wives.

Savin started from scratch, having been cut off with but $1 by his father a wealthy sea captain. But he quickly built this up through real estate and stock investments, and when he married the beautiful Arriba Wheat of New Haven in 1871 he was reputed to be on the highway to wealth.

His first wife obtained a legal separation in 1898, charging him with being "coarse, tyrannical, brutal and inhuman" after he had thrown out and disinherited their two children Frank W. Jr. and Josephine after they were taken to court for mistreating a servant.

Savin next married Mrs Sarah Hamilton West , who later was exposed as the Sadie West of the Lexow investigation of vice and gambling in New York. When she died in 1911, he buried her in an unmarked grave beneath the tennis court on his estate, but his third wife compelled him to exhume the body and bury it elsewhere.

The third Mrs. Savin was, like the fourth, a servant in his house. She was Mrs. Sarah M. Treadwell, the housekeeper. She died in 1925. During this union, the broker adopted Muriel Elizabeth Withnall, a 4 year old orphan. And he also adopted Charles Ely Monroe, the former Mrs. Treadwell's brother-in-law. Monroe, to whom Savin gave his own name and referred to as "my only son" and Muriel, who also took Savin's name, lived at Port Chester throughout his fourth marriage.

Source: Chicago Tribune 2 Jan 1930

Sunday, 26 August 2007


In 1938 Andrew Savin a 16 year old boy from a Jewish family living in Rumania was sent by his parents to a high school in the nearby town of Tg Mures, to extend his education by two more years. The Second World War broke out, Hungary allied to Germany and the part of Rumania where Andrew lived was annexed by Hungary. Anti-Semitic laws were introduced forcing him out of his high school education so he returned to his home town. The only job he could get was carrying wood in a lumber factory. Whilst in Tg Mures he participated in the Zionist movement and did the same in his own town. He collected money to pay for food for political prisoners. In spring 1941 he was interrogated by the police and beaten. Many others were arrested as communists. They let him go home but in July he was taken to an internment camp for 13 months, then sent home, but had to report to the police daily.

In May 1944 all Jews were ordered to leave their homes and Andrew's whole family were sent by train to a ghetto in Szasaregen. A month later the ghetto was emptied and everyone was marched to the railway station. There the police squeezed them into cattle trucks. For more than a week they travelled, with the doors only being opened once a day. It was a hot June and several people died from dehydration. Their journey ended, they had arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp.

They were let out of the trucks but were beaten by German soldiers. Men and women were separated. Then a group of S.S. officers, "the selection committee", pointed out individuals who were marched away towards the tall chimney with dense smoke rising from it, this was the last time Andrew saw his mother. All their hair was shaved off, they were given prison clothes to wear, slept in barracks ruled over by prisoners who beat them, and food was a cup of watery soup. Work during the day was mostly road construction. Two weeks later Andrew at his father's insistance enlisted for a work transport, his father stayed behind, they parted forever.

Andrew was taken by freight train to the Buchenwald camp and then transferred to Bochum in the Ruhr and assigned to work in an ammunition factory. His job was to remove with long pliers red hot bomb shells from the furnace. It was very hot work, with liquid given only twice a day which was not enough to replace lost fluids, few survived more than four weeks. Andrews life was saved from inevitable exhaustion by his finger being broken so he was transferred to working on a lathe.

The Americans started to bomb the factories and many prisoners died this way. Andrew was assigned to a group of prisoners who, guarded by a German soldier, were walked to the city to defuse unexploded bombs. The soldier waited outside the cordoned off area. As soon as they were out of his sight the prisoners searched the houses for food eating as much as they could. Some were killed disarming the bombs but the drive of hunger was a stronger instinct. The winter was bitterly cold and many perished as the calories they ate were less than their work burned.

In March the Allied forces were approaching so the transports were rushes back to Buchenwald. Andrew was put to work in a stone quarry and for no reason the S.S. guards would shoot prisoners in the head. Early April as the American army neared groups of 5,000 prisoners were marched out of camp into the forest and the S.S. killed them by machine guns. Andrew was in one such group but on the way leaving the camp he was dragged away by a senior member of the resistance who changed the identification badge on his coat to a red triangle which meant a non-Jewish political prisoner. Over 50,000 Jews were executed in the last few days, only 20,000 were alive on liberation.

11th April 1945 mid morning the resistance with arms attacked the German guards, at 4pm American tanks entered the camp. Medicine and plenty of rich food was received from the Americans, nevertheless many perished from dysentery. Andrew stayed in the camp May and June to gain his strength then with a two week journey by lorry and train returned home to Rumania.

Source: Dreaming and Survival, M.I.G.S. (A. Savin)

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Silver-tongued Swindler

Around the year 1790 there flourished among the residents of Bethel township, Pennsylvania, USA a noted swindler named George Savin. He was a man of talent, possessed a winning address and was a thorough master in quick and correct discernment of character. This enabled him for a long time to prey upon the purses of his credulous neighbours with impunity. The following is from a legal case at Harrisburg Assizes October 1798 before Justices Yeates and Smith which will explain the character of his swindling operation. Ironically it is not George Savin who is on trial but an un-named defendant who appears to be in league with him.

The plaintiff declared that whereas George Savin was indebted to him for £100, the defendant promised to accept him as his debtor instead of George Savin on 2nd of July 1790 promising to pay him the said £100 within six weeks or sooner. The evidence from the trial is thus:

Savin was an artful swindler, and gulled a number of ignorant persons to deliver to him various sums of gold and silver, under the pretence that he would double the amount by some chemical process in a short period. He first received, as if reluctantly, some small sums, and delivered to these people in his so called bank a few days afterwards genuine Spanish dollars, apparently new, doubling the sums which they had paid him. When his fame was sufficiently known and the avarice of the weak people in the neighbourhood was highly inflamed, he soon got into his custody considerable sums and then decamped privately in the night from his haunt, a retired (secluded) place 12 miles from Reading, and concealed himself in Dauphin county.

To his latter hiding place he was pursued by the plaintiff and one Francis Umbehocker, two of his dupes, who offered a reward for apprehending him. The person whom they made use of for this purpose ingeniously held out to the defendant the lure of having £200 in specie (coin) at home, ready to be put into Savin's bank, if he (Savin) should come to his house and receive it for multiplication. Some strong suspicious circumstances were shown against the defendant as being in connection with Savin. The latter first came to the house, in pursaunce of the scheme, about ten o'clock at night of the 2nd of July 1790. the plaintiff and Umbehocker lay concealed in the barn and were notified of Savin's presence. On their appearance Savin was alarmed, and desired them to walk upstairs with him. On a signal the defendant also appeared, and some altercation occurred; but afterwards on being informed of their respective demands, he became security for Savin's appearance at his house the next morning before day. Thither they all cameon the 3rd of July, 1790, and the defendant promised to pay the plaintiff his demand against Savin, £100, within six weeks from that time, or sooner, and as Savin owed to Umbehocker $303.11, to pay him $100 down, and the residue on the Tuesday following, at the same house in Dauphin county. Whereupon Savin was set at liberty.

Source: History of the Counties of Dauphin and Lebanon (Edge)

Lavedan Hermit

Saint Savin was born at Barcelona some time in the 8th century. Shortly after his birth, his mother was left a widow, and devoted herself with assiduity to his education. She directed her labour to form his young mind for God rather than for the world.

As he was born in a high position, it was considered desirable to finish his learning by residence in foreign countries and his mother conscented that he should pay a visit to the court of his noble uncle Hentilius in Poitiers, France. On his journey he avoided the highways of great cities, and sought his lodging generally in the Benedictine monasteries. In due time he arrived in Poitiers where he was cordially received by his uncle. As a mark of his confidence, Hentilius place Savin in charge of the education of his son and heir. He resisited all the temptations to pleasure which surrounded him in the luxurious court, and labourered to inspire the mind of his pupil with the sentiments of piety and charity.

The result of this teaching was a desire by his cousin to devote his life to the sevice of God in a monastery. With this intention he left his father's house secretly and retired to the Monastery of Liguge. Upon learning this intelligence his mother sought Savin at once and implored him to bring back to her her son. But he replied that he too had left a mother by whom he was adored, that he had renounced the most brilliant prospects, that he too had abandoned the world and he never could advise another to hesitate at a sacrifice which he himself was about to make. He hastened to the monastery and with his cousin entered the novication and during these three years they subjected themselves to all the austerities of the cloister, its obedience, its silence and its poverty.

The ascetic spirit of Savin was not content with the simple monastic rule ; it aspied to higher things and sought for greater perfection. So he bade adieu to his cousin and the monastery, traversed France in the garb of a pilgrim, living by the alms which he begged until divine spirit directed him to the valley of which he was ordained to be patron and benefactor. In the valley of the Lavedan there existed a monastery and was received by its abbot and told him he desired to be retained as the hermit in the vacinity. He built with his own hands a small hut which the abbot frequently visited Savin in his solitude, seeking intsruction and edification from his example.

Savin sufferred much during the summer from thirst, the little spring which supplied him being dried up by the excessive heats. On one occasion, in seeking to allay his thirst at a neighbours well, he had to cross the meadow of a person called Chromasse. This man, irritated at seeing a beggar, as he thought, trespassing upon his land, sent his servant to drive him away, severely injuring Savin. However according to legend God took vengeance and the man who had assaulted him became possessed by the devil and his master struck blind. But Savin implored the Lord to relieve the afflicted transgressors. Thereupon the servant was delivered from the demon but his master, Chromasse, was condemned to remain blind for many years until touching the saint's body after death, he miraculously recovered his sight. Having thus failed to slake his thirst, striking the rock with his staff, there issued forth an abundant stream which continues to flow to this day.

As Savin progressed in holiness the fame of his sanctity extended throughout the country. Whenever any misfortune befell shepherds on the mountains they resorted to him, certain that his prayers would protect or relieve them. A priest was one day crossing the bridge near Pierrefitte, when suddenly he and his horse fell into the torrent. Savin happened to see the accident from a distance and prayed for the deliverance of the drowning man, whose horse in desperate effort reached the bank.

When Savin died his body was removed from his hermitage and deposited in a tomb in the abbatial church. Subsequently it was removed to the apse of the church where it remains today.

Source: Lives of the Saints (Baring-Gould)

Friday, 24 August 2007

Mercurial Millionaire

One of the most important men in the development of the early Welsh railways was the colourful character Thomas Savin of Oswestry in Shropshire. His Savin ancestry can be continuously traced back in the county to the seventeenth century, with the earliest surviving record of a Savin in Shropshire being an entry in the 1672 Hearth Tax return at Muckleton.

Born in 1826, Thomas was the son of John and Mary Savin of Llwynymaen and in 1847 started his first commercial venture in partnership with Edward Morris as a mercer, draper and grocer, until 1858.

The following story is often recited to demonstrate Thomas’s impetuous and impatient nature, which was both his making and undoing. Whilst still a draper he travelled to a Welsh border market town to sell his wares. It was the custom here for the farmers not to look at any other business until the livestock had been sold. But Thomas could not wait and so he rushed into the arena and bought a thousand sheep to end the livestock market.

Thomas Savin soon became acquainted with a Mr. David Davies, a highway contractor and became his partner in several important railway undertakings. The first of these was the railway from Llanidloes to Newtown, but before this was finished they completed the Vale of Clwyd line in 1858. They then completed the Oswestry and Newtown line in 1862, contracted for the Newtown to Machynnlleth line, which was finished in the same year and another line from Brecon to Merthyr. They also promoted a line from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth. But Thomas was not content with this and insisted embarking upon extensions to Pwllheli. He had a grand scheme of building luxury hotels at Aberystwyth, Borth and Aberdovery with the idea of offering package tours. But Davies could see that Thomas Savin was overstretching himself and dissolved the partnership in 1860.

In 1863 Thomas was elected Mayor of Oswestry, made a Lieutenant in the Montgomery Rifles and in 1864 appointed Captain of the 15th Shropshire. By 1866 he appeared to be at the pinnacle of his success and was familiarly known as “Savin the Millionnaire”. His net worth was more than a million pound sterling which is equivalent in today’s real terms of fifty million pounds. There was even speculation that he would enter into Parliament. The Cambrian Railway works were at his insistence constructed in his home town of Oswestry bringing much wealth to the borough and it was credited with doubling the population. However his continual acceptance of shares, instead of cash, for payment meant that he simply ran out of readily available money and went bankrupt in that same year.

After his failure Thomas took no further part in railway building but continued with his coal mining and limestone quarrying interests. But he still showed his vigour in a series of lawsuits, in particular with respect of the damage his traction engines did to the local highways which were publicised nationally by many references in The Times newspaper. In 1871 he was appointed an Alderman for Oswestry, an office he retained for the rest of his life and was also a Magistrate.

He died in 1889, aged 62, survived by his wife Elizabeth whom he had married in 1852, and two sons. His estate upon his death was only valued at £104 and 10 shillings.

Thomas Savin with his unconventional style, self promotion, involvement in railways and other businesses, challenges in the courts and rise at one time to great wealth could said to have been the “Richard Branson” of his day.

Source: Thomas Savin, Shrop. Family History Journal, June 2003 (A. Savin)

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Soldier of Fortune

From favoured aspirant to the throne of Bulgaria to the glad acceptance of a position as a street car conductor in Chicago, or from the proud position of one of Russia's most profligate millionaires to that of marker in a Chicago billard hall, would seem to cover the possible range of one man's career yet that of Count Nicholas Savin, a Russian nobleman, comprises not only this, but includes a trip to the mines of Siberia for the third time to don a convict's garb, which he will now in all probability wear to the end of his life. Surpassing as it does about everything either fiction or history for adventure, monumental money getting in variors ways, and equally monumental money spending, the astonishing career of Count Savin, spreading as it does all over the world, is, to say the least interesting.

Count Nicholas Savin scion of one of the most ancient families of Russian nobility, was born in 1858, as the youngest son of the head of the house at that time. His upbringing was that of the ordinary Russian aristocrat of the old school, and at the age of 20 he entered the smartest regiment of cavalry guards, with the rank of cornet, the lowest grade of officers in the Russian army. Early in life Count Savin had remarkable experiences for his three elder brothers died one after the other, in a short time, making him sole heir to the vast family estates. His father died soon afterwards, and he entered into possession of his patrimony at the age of 22. At the time his property was estimated to consist of 100,000 acres of land while his invested capital was figured at $5 million ($125M in todays terms)

Feeling secure in the possession of all these riches Count Savinbegan a life of the most reckless sort. He rented a magnificant house on the Boulevard des Italiena. He was an expert in getting from women in society. men too lent him money freely for he had a wonderful knack of inspiring them with the utmost confidence in his own integritty and in his power to repay loans of any magnitude. French noblemen, wealthy manufacturers, financiers, politicians, writers and actors all fell into the trap and supplied money which they never saw again. But Count savin's victims were not limited to French circles. On several occasions he joined the circle of the favored few who associated with the Prince of Wales, now King Edward VII of England, during that royal personage's visits to Paris. The last time he met the Prince of Wales he asked him point blank for a loan of $1,000 and Edward gave him the amount in bank notes there and then.

Count Savin did not confine his efforts to these limits. he became a Russian spy and sent highly cloured military secrets to the Czar all of which emanated from his own brain. At the same time he was in the pay of the German, Austrian and Spanish governments as their official spy in Paris. At the time that he was in the pay of four Europeans governments this extraordinary man was a member of a Russian nihilist association the headquarters of which were in Paris, and he possessed the full confidence of the political conspirators. who had not the slightest idea of his official connections.

Thanks to his high social position, it was easy for Count Savin to manipulate a desrable matrimonial venture. He married the Countess de Lautree, daughter of a French nobleman, who received a dowry of $500,000. the count immediately busied himself in getting rid of his wife's money and succeeded admirably. The countess, after three years of martyrdom secured a divorce.

Paris now became uncomfortable for the count. To avoid open exposure he went to Berlin where he repeated this Parisian maneuver; thence to Vienna, Rome, Madrid and Copenhagen.

Towards the end of 1892, when he was 34 years old, Count Savin assumed the name Count Lautree de Toulouse and went to the Balkans to secure new adventures in that troubled region. At the time Prince Ferdinand was in high disfavour with his subjectsand the count conceived the brilliant scheme of becoming Ferinand's successor for the throne. He became intimate with the great Stambuloff and actually hoodwinked that wily staeman into aiding him in his plot. Here, however, fate intervened. The count went to Constantinople to secure the Sultan's assent to his attempt on the Bulgarian throne. While there he was recognised by a Russian secret service spy.

Source: South Jersey Republican- 30 Jan 1904