THE WELLS FAMILY
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James Wells,
c1834 - 1924
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Janet Simpson,
1839 - 1910
The Reverend James Wells was Minister of Pollockshields Church, Glasgow, and was Moderator of the Church of Scotland. (I own a pair of silver buckles which he wore on his shoes when in Court dress).
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Silver shoebuckles
worn by Dr JJ Wells.

His and his wife Janet's family:

Jenny (Janet) Wells was a doctor and married Dr Jim Macphail who had started a "Jungle Hospital" in Bamdah, India. He and Jenny devoted their lives to this task. From small beginnings and after overcoming local opposition to the idea of surgical operations, Bamdah Hospital gradually became a well- known centre, particularly for cataract operations.

  • Their son Dr Ronal Macphail joined them in 1925 and carried on the work after his father died in 1929. In 1947 over 8,000 patients received treatment and 6,895 operations were performed in Bamdah Hospital.
  • Russell Macphail became Professor of English and Vice-Principal of Madras Christian College.
  • Jean Macphail married Tom Warren, a missionary teacher who retired to teach in Scotland. Their children are Andrew, Shena and Janet Warren.
  • Ian Macphail went to farm at Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
  • Dr Dugald Macphail lives (1980) at Wokingham, Berkshire, with his wife Margaret and daughter Fiona.
Margot (Margaret) Wells wrote many novels, mainly under the nom de plume of Mary Cleland, which were published by Hodder and Stoughton.

Robert Wells was a doctor with the Indian Medical Service.

ALEXANDER SIMPSON WELLS M.A., M.D. (Glasg), F.R.C.S. (Edin) was educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow Academy and graduated at the University of Glasgow, afterwards studying in Berlin and London. He held resident posts in Glasgow before leaving Britain in 1900 as civil surgeon in the British Forces in the Anglo-Boer War. When the war was over he undertook plague duty at Cape Town and then became assistant to Dr Robert Sharp at Woodstock. In 1903 he started his own practice in central Cape Town, which he continued for over 45 years.

In 1904 his fianc´┐Że Edith Henderson came out with her father from Aberdeen and she and Alec were married in Gardens Presbyterian Church on 21st April. Shena and Jim were born in the little terrace house in Orange Street and then the family moved to New Church Street where Shirley and Russell were born. In 1913 Alec and Edith bought "Aytoun", Kloof Nek Road and lived there until they sold it in 1954 and retired to a flat in Whitehall Court, Rondebosch.

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The Wells children,
c1918
Although Alec was always a general practitioner, he had a special interest in obstetrics and gynaedology, which he practised extensively. In 1917 he began a life-long association with St Monica's Maternity Home for non-Europeans, of which he was medical superintendent for many years. and he took an active part in the training of Coloured midwives and in the conduct of the first ante-natal clinic to be set up in Cape Town.

In World War I he served in the South West Africa campaign. In 1918 he was appointed senior medical officer of the Peninsula Maternity Home and in the following year as clinical lecturer and examiner in Obstetrics at the University of Cape Town, a post which he held for over 30 years. He was honorary medical officer of the Child Life Protection Society at the time of the founding of the Lady Buxtion Hone, and took a great interest in the training of mothercraft nurses. He also served on the committee of the King Edward VII Order of Nurses, the Service Dining Rooms, the Institute of Race Relations and the National Cancer Association.

He played a long and honourable part in the Medical Association of South Africa from the early years as a prominent member of the Cape Western Branch of the British Medical Association. He was Branch President in 1919 and took a leading part in the acquisition, on behalf of the Branch, of the premises in Wale Street where later the building was erected for the head office of the Association.

In 1939 Dr Robert MacDonald joined him as a partner and Alec looked forward to being able to take things a bit more easily, with at least every second weekend off and not having to take all night calls, But he volunteered again when war broke out in September and in 1940 he was commissioned Captain and was stationed at Wynberg Military Camp. After a year there he was released from the SA Medical Corps and was taken on by the Rhodesian Forces and seconded, as Major, to the Royal Air Force Training Camp at Heany near Bulawayo, as Senior Medical Officer. He served there for two years, returning to his Cape Town Practice in 1944. He soon afterwards sold his share to Robert MacDonald and retired.

Alec was a man of strong Christian principles and a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church. He was a teetotaller by conviction and a student of the problems of alcoholism. His only hobby, apart from walking, was keeping abreast of medical advances. He made a lasting mark on the history of medicine in the city and country of his adoption.

Alec's wife EDITH was at school in London and Lausanne and had travelled to India and Egypt with her father and sisters. She and Alec met in Scotland through her friendship with Alec's sister Helen and he proposed to her when on leave after the Boer War. Her father and her sister Emily travelled out with her when she came to Cape Town ro be married in 1904. Edith's school friend from London days, Connie Kent, and Emily were her bridesmaids. Edith was lucky in having Connie's lifelong friendship, particularly as she was from a well-known Cape family, the Beards, and her husband was Professor Kent. The change from the vast home Devanha, outside Aberdeen, to a small terrace house in Cape Town was a big one for her but she adjusted well. She was a quiet, reserved woman, and her only entry into public life was when she was for a short while the Honorary Treasurer for the South African Presbyterian Women's Association. To both Alec and Edith the Church meant a very great deal.

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Edith Boyd Henderson,
1874 - 1967
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Dr Alexander Simpson Wells,
1875 - 1960
ALEC and EDITH WELLS' FAMILY

Shena did very well at school and won a scholarship to the University of Cape Town where she graduated M.A., B.Ed. amd studied further at the Sobonne. She taught at Wynberg Girls' High School where she became Vice Principal and retired after over 30 years there. She did a year's teaching exchange at Blyth, Northumberland, and travelled extensively during her leaves.

Jim was at S.A.C.S. and St Andrews, got his B.E., Ll.B. at U.C.T., spent a further year at Cambridge studying law and was called to the Bar in Cape Town. He was a keen and experienced Mountaineer, skier, yachtsman and was tragically killed climbing Table Mountain.

Shirley, after school at Rustenberg and a BA degree at UCT, got her diploma at St James Secretarial College, London, and spent some months at Grenoble and Munich furthering her language studies. Her first job was with a German firm in the City of London in the Depressio of the 1930s. She came back to Cape Town and spent some months with the RAC and then became Secretary to the Editor of The Cape Times before marrying PAT SINCLAIR in 1937.

Russell was at Bishops, had a short spell at UCT and then joined the Standard Bank. After he and Frieda were married, he was transferred to Pretoria and then to Salisbury where he saw out the rest of his service. He and Frieda were divorced. On retiring he bought Greensyke farm at Ruwa, where he was murdered by intruders in 1983.