Gen. James Farrell Pennycuick





Other sources

  1. 'The Pennycuicks', notes written and compiled by James A.C. Pennycuick and Janet Buchanan (.pdf file) [pages 47-49]
  2. Lieut.-Col. J. Pennycuick, CB, KH, A Memoir, by W.S. Sampson (Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, winter 1974)
  3. 'Pennycook History Booklet', information on many Pennycook ancestors, compiled by Colin Pennycook of Glasgow
  4. Handwritten notes by James A.C. Pennycuick
  5. Correspondence with Ted Howard, researcher at Alberta Family History / Genealogy Research

Family trees

Pennycuick FT
Family trees of the Pennycuick, McDonald and Farrell families

Other information

Alick Pennycuick - murder area map


Alick Pennycuick - map of the murder area in the O'Brien case, 1900
Alick Pennycuick - clipping 18 Aug 1901


Alick Pennycuick - newspaper cutting about the O'Brien case, St Louis Post Dispatch, 18th August 1901
James Farrell Pennycuick


James Farrell Pennycuick, 1858

Portrait belonging to our family

Life and career

James Farrell was the second son (and, later, after his elder brother John died young, eldest son) of Brigadier John and Sarah Pennycuick. (An early edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography wrongly gives his first name as John.1) He was born in 1829, at sea, possibly on the James Sibbald, which was returning from India and reported a birth on board.ii He followed in his father's footsteps, choosing a military career based in the colonies. After boarding school in Coull, Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire with his younger brother Alexander,iii he attended the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich (which trained officers for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers) and entered the Artillery in 1847.3

After the death of his father at the Battle of Chillianwala in 1849, he arranged for the sale of the family home in Perthshire, as stipulated in his father's will (see the page on Soilzarie for details). At around that time he lived in the 'Grace and Favour' apartment provided for his mother in Hampton Court Palace, along with others of his family (see the page on the Farrell family).

His first posting was in the Crimean War, where at the battle of Inkerman in 1854 he took command of a battery after two senior officers were wounded, securing his promotion to major. In the Indian Mutiny (1857-58) he saw action at the relief of the Lucknow residency, the battle of Cawnpore, and the siege and capture of Lucknow in 1858 under Gen. Colin Campbell (of Chillianwala fame). While at Lucknow, he may have met the future father-in-law of his brother John, Stephen H.E. Chamier, at the time a captain in the artillery. In the 2nd Anglo-Chinese War (2nd Opium War) of 1856-60 he was involved in the capture of the Taku Forts, the surrender of Peking and the subsequent sack of the Summer Palace. He was awarded the CB in 1869.2 His final promotion, to general, was in 1886. He died two years later in London, aged about 59. (See accounts by James A.C. Pennycuick for fuller details of his military career.i,iv)


James Farrell married Jane Martha, daughter of William Rutledge of Farnham Park, Victoria, Australia, in 1861. The wedding was in Port Fairy, conducted by the Rev. James Farrell, the first Dean of Adelaide, who was James Farrell Pennycuick's uncle.4 (Not to be confused with the Rev. James Farrell (snr.) (1759-1834), who was J.F.P.'s grandfather.) At the time of the wedding he was described as "Lieut.-Gen. James Farrell Pennycuick RA, CB, of 22 Linden Road, Bedford, England, and of the Junior United Service Club, London, formerly Laird of Soilzarie and Logie, Perthshire, Scotland, reputed head of the ancient family of Pennycuick, of that Ilk, Co. Edinburgh".5 The basis of this supposed connection between the Pennycuicks of Penicuik and of Soilzarie is open to question. (The 'Logie' referred to is Wester Logie, the farm near Clunie where the James's uncles Charles and James were born - see page on the Brothers of Brig. John Pennycuick.)

James's father-in-law, William Rutledge, born in Ireland in 1806, was obviously a colourful, forceful but likable character, according to an online biography (written by his daughter).6 He sent Jane Martha to school in England, but in fact she and James met on a ship sailing between India and China. The story goes that he decided to marry her before they had even been introduced.i

Although James didn't actually live in Australia until some years after his marriage, he was part of a growing Pennycuick diaspora in Victoria. Four cousins had already emigrated there - Janet (Jessie) Stirton (daughter of Charles Pennycook) and James Pennycook's children Helen, Alexander and Ann, who came over on the London in 1853 - all of whom lived fairly near each other. In addition, William and Andrew Kesson Pennycook (sons of James) emigrated to New South Wales and Queensland respectively. (See page on the Brothers of Brig. John Pennycuick.)

James and his expanding family lived initially in India (the above address in Bedford was perhaps only a pied-à-terre), as can be pieced together from the birthplaces of his children (see details left): Byculla is a southern suburb of Bombay; Seetapore (Sitapur) and Bareilly, in the present-day state of Uttar Pradesh, were the sites of British garrisons near Lucknow; and Nynee Tal is a beautiful hill station in northern India, near the Nepalese border. After India the family moved to Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia (see photo below), where Charles was born. The last child, Ada, was born after the family had returned to England. There were five other children (Edith, Maude, twins James and Charles, and Hugh Baker) who died young. After James's death in 1888, his wife Jane lived in Hove with the younger children, and died there in 1926.

James Farrell Pennycuick and family
James Farrell Pennycuick and family

Top row: Ruth, Jack, Granny Rutledge, Jane Martha + Charles, James Farrell, Edith

Bottom row: Maude, Elliott, Alick, Ethel

Photo (ca. 1876-7) in possession of Stuart Sampson


James and Jane's nine children were born in India, Australia and England. Some lived for a while in England, with James's sister Margaret in Bideford, Devon, or with their mother in Hove. Six of them attended Bedford Modern School (a boarding school catering for the children of servicemen abroad) in the 1880s. But almost without exception they flew the nest and emigrated to various parts of the Commonwealth - only Edith and Ada died in England. Some details from the notes by James A.C. Pennycuick and other sources are summarised below. I'm also grateful to Ted Howard in Calgary for his hard work and insights, and for putting me on the trail of Alick Pennycuick.v


Born in Byculla, she stayed near the family home in Warrnambool, where she married a Scot, James Gill, who was the son of a watchmaker.


Born in Seetapore, India, she lived in England, working as a hospital nurse, and died in Southwark at the age of 42.


Born in Bareilly, she lived with her mother in Hove for a while before emigrating to Colorado, where she married George King.

Alick Pennycuick


Sgt. Alick Pennycuick of the North West Mounted Police


Alick Pennycuick, the eldest son of James Farrell, worked for the mounted police of north-western Canada (the NWMP, now the RCMP), where he was highly regarded for his detective skills, earning him the sobriquet 'the Sherlock Holmes of the NWMP'.7 Born in 1868 in Bareilly, he went to school in England with his brothers Jack and Elliot (see below). He attended Sandhurst, hoping to join the 24th Foot, but got into debt and had to resign (he was 'seconded' in 1890). He fled to Canada and in about 1892 joined the Mounties in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he worked for 15 years, establishing a reputation as a star detective.

In December 1899 Constable Pennycuick, then stationed in Fort Selkirk on the Yukon River, was put on the trail of George O'Brien, on the run for murder. Alick's observation skills, including detailed hand-drawn maps (see above left), led to O'Brien's conviction and execution in August 1901.8,9 His next celebrated case was that of Ernest Cashel, an outlaw and later murderer who had escaped custody in Calgary. Sergeant Pennycuick (as he now was) led the pursuit in the winter of 1902-3, and after Cashel was captured for the second time, helped gather the evidence to secure a conviction for murder. Days before his execution, Cashel escaped again, but was recaptured and hanged in February 1903.10,11

In August 1907, Pennycuick was appointed Chief of Police in Fernie, British Columbia. He only held this post for a short time however: in June the next year he was discharged for 'non-performance of duty'. The exact circumstances are unclear, but probably relate to gambling. (A similar episode had happened in 1903 when he was arrested while absent without leave.) He went to work for a coal company, but sadly died of pneumonia a few months later in September 1908.v,12

Jack Pennycuick


Jack Pennycuick in 1915


Born in Nynee Tal, India, he went to school in England with his brothers Alick and Elliot, where they had difficulties fitting in, as their mother tongue was not English but Hindustani.i,iii After school he travelled to Queensland, Australia, where he worked training horses, and met his cousin Sybil, whom he later married. He served in the Boer War and World War I, where he was wounded by a Turkish bullet at Gallipoli: the bullet had been deflected by a piece of his father's watch chain that his mother had sewn into Jack's uniform for luck.14 He returned to Australia and married Sybil (whose mother was Susie Rutledge) and settled in Penshurst, Victoria, where he became a horse breeder. His daughter Sue, a nurse, who died in 2009, sold the fine portrait of Brigadier John Pennycuick to the Hamilton Gallery in Victoria.


Also born in the hill station of Nynee Tal, he went to school in England with Alick and Jack (see above), before emigrating to the USA in 1889, where he lived in Custer, Colorado, and died in 1901.


Following a similar path to her brother Elliot, she emigrated in 1886 and also lived in Custer, where she married Colin Fraser MacKenzie. Colin was also born in India of Scottish parentage. They had three children and lived in Wyoming.


Born in the family home at Warrnambool, Victoria, he also emigrated to the USA where he married twice: he lived with his second wife Helen in Wyoming.


Born six years after Charles, in Cheltenham, she worked as a nurse in the British army. She appears several times on the US passenger lists (either for work or visiting the Pennycuick diaspora in the western United States), but died in Brighton in 1964.