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It was as a child that Bernard Hall first heard tales of his great-great grandfather, an Irish man of the cloth who eloped with a nun. Later he came across an obituary for Dr. Tancred, and became curious about the many questions surrounding his ancestor. Was he the Doctor of Divinity from Trinity College, Dublin, who became Rector of the Priory Church of Christchurch in Hampshire? Did he then spend two years in Belgium before emigrating to the Cape Colony with his wife and three children in 1842? Did he become a champion of civil rights, campaign for self-rule at the Cape, and become a member of the first Cape Parliament in 1854?
The search for answers took the author around Ireland, England, France and South Africa. He discovered there were many flaws in the obituary account as new stories about Dr. Tancred emerged. Events had been sanitised or glamourised, invented or were missing. But had he discovered the truth, and what in the end are ‘the facts’? Were Tancred’s descendants cursed in perpetuity on account of his sins? Were they related to the Yorkshire family of a Baronet? And were they the rightful owners of a ruined castle?
One fact that can be confirmed is that Tancred’s grandson was the first cricketer to carry his bat in a Test Match. But that is another story
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