John Franklin Midgley 's caltrop Arms and crest patent South Africa, 1960. Midgley's of South Africa

1. The earliest Midgley to appear in the records in South Africa was Thomas Midgley born 1807 arriving at The Cape in 1830. He emigrated from Greetland near Halifax with his wife Betty nee Taylor born 1812. They had thirteen children. John born 1833 married Sophia Elizabeth Fuller.

2. The origins of one Midgley branch of South Africa emanate from Hainworth, near Keighley, West Riding of Yorkshire1.
The earliest confirmed record is John Midgley*, farmer and weaver of Hainworth. He married Ann(e) Holmes of Harwood Hill and Slack on 30th July 1759. They had seven children:

Joseph(1) who died in infancy
Mary b.1760
Nathan b.1762, died 1788.
Joseph(2) b. 1766, died 22nd January 1847.
Sally b. 1768.
Holmes(1) who died in infancy.
Holmes Midgley (2) born 1776 died 1850.

Holmes married by banns in the Keighley Parish Register, Martha (Rhodes?) Greenwood, born 1784 died 1855,  both are buried at St. John's, Ingrow.
Martha was the eldest of six daughters born to William Greenwood, farmer of Hainworth.
Holmes and Martha had six children:

William born 1815, died 1890, a butcher of "Wood Bottom", Hainworth.
Anne married Harwood of Bradford.
Grace who entered the weaving trade died at the age of 24, spinster.
Greenwood born 1824 died 1895, a stonemason and later the Master of  Keighley Workhouse.
Betty, a factory girl married Dobson of "Kathan", Knaresborough.
John died at the age of 16.
Greenwood, born 1817 died 1895, married Martha Dilks.

William married Martha Jowitt/Jowett of Keighley, born 1824, died 1881.
They had six children :
Samuel, the eldest, born 1843, died 1908.
Mary married Greenwood.
Martha Ann, married Riley.
Grace married Whitehead.
Sarah Maria, married Walker.
Fanny, married Wignall.

Samuel married Priscilla Greenwood Jacques, born 1841, died 1913.  Priscilla was the great-grandaughter of Col. Henry Jacques a refugee of the French Revolution. Samuel and Priscilla had six children:

Franklin born 9th July 1870 at Keighley, died June 1961 in South Africa, he became a court reporter and Sports Editor in South Africa.
Percy who became a butcher.

Franklin married Ada Foulds, (1878-1968) of South Africa on 13th September 1899.
They had a number of children including John Franklin Midgley, the author of Midgleyana, known as "Jack" to his family2.

Franklin Midgley's Cricket Bowling Machine patented in 1906.
Franklin Midgley's patented bowling machine with the 1935 Springboks

See European Patent Data Base

Franklin Midgley's bowling machine patent

* Notes:
This John Midgley may be:
i) The John Midgley ch. 27th May 1731 of William Midgley, yeoman of Oldfield, whose eldest son Joseph (1724-1765) inherited the manor of Haworth from his cousin David. There is some credence to this as Joseph (b.1724) also had a son Nathan (died 1835).

ii) John the second child ch. 30th April 1735 of nine children to John Midgley, ch. 28th June 1702 and Mary Hodgson, married 27th December 1731. This John Midgley was the eldest of the children born to John Midgley (marr. 20th July 1701) and Ann Holmes (bur. 16th August 1731).

iii) John the third child ch. 21st January 1736-7 of seven children born to William Midgley ch. 3rd March 1705-6 and Isabell Waters. William was the second child of seven children also born of Joseph Midgley and Mary Holmes, married 29th October 1701.

From these possibilities John Franklin Midgley presumes that either Ann Holmes or Mary Holmes was the great grandmother of Holmes Midgley.

See chapters 11 to 14 from Midgleyana relating to the South African Branches of Midgley.

 Recipients of the South Africa 1853 Medal
     Benjamin Midgley, Lieutenant/Adjutant, 27th Regiment
     James Midgley, Sergeant, Royal Artillery
     William Midgley, Private, 45th Regiment

Lt. Col. Stephen Midgley CMG DSO.
Born: 29 May, 1871. McLeay River, NSW, Australia Died:  25 October, 1954. Brisbane, Australia
Lived in South Africa 1900 – 1913.  Soldier, Labour Contractor, Mine Owner and possibly police officer.
Arrived in Capetown, South Africa 24th February, 1900 as a Sergeant with  the 2nd Queensland Mounted Infantry.
Possible police links: Perhaps Transvaal Mounted Police or the British South African Police. This fits with his association with law firms in Australia

1 April 1901.  Stephen joined the Bushveldt Carbineers and Peitersberg Light Horse. Fellow officer of 'Breaker Morant' who was later executed. Delivered Kitchener's dispatches to General Muller in September 1901. March – April 1902: DSO, field promotion and mentioned in dispatches for operations east of Pietersberg. 

1906. Officer in Royston’s Horse during the Natal rebellion. Supplied contract labour from Mozambique to the mines.
Friends/ Associates included:
*      Ivor Thord-Gray.  Fellow officer in Royston’s Horse and lifelong friend.
*      Watt – goldmine owner and fellow officer in Royston’s Horse during the Natal Rebellion – Watt, Midgley and Thord-Gray known as the Three Musketeers. .
*      Bernard Winter (partner in a gold mine – possibly on the Umsweswe River, Zimbabwe).  Winter retired to George in the Eastern Cape.

Returned to Australia 1913 with Blackwater Fever. Served with distinction with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in WW1 on Gallipoli and the Western Front.
His language in Australia was peppered with African vernacular – dingus, Kopje, Toola, Sakabone, wena. One of his favourites was  “ Fungorz Nkoz bizulu” –an oath which is apparently used in court – similar to “So help me God” suggests some sort of police association.

Contact : Stephen Midgley

Jenny Barrit has traced her family tree to Gomersal, Birstall and Cleckheaton. They link with Howard Benson's family tree also described .
Jenny's great-grandfather and mother, Tom Midgley and his wife Martha  Saville moved with their family to South Africa [their family in South Africa is mentioned in chapter 14 of Midgleyana]. Members of the family still live here. See Westyorks and click on the link 'for Gomersal.


As Rob Midgley sees it, there are four reasonably prominent family groupings in South Africa:

1 In Cape Town we have Franklin Midgley’s family. He was a school inspector there and a respected figure, his sons/grandsons are similarly well-known. Guy Midgley is a professor at Stellenbosch University and an expert in climate and development issues. Jeremy Midgley is a professor at the University of Cape Town and specialises in evolutionary ecology and ecosystems.

2 The Durban Midgleys were prominent in the construction industry.

3 Johannesburg: Professor Desmond Midgley of the University of the Witwatersrand was part of the Durban Midgleys who became locally and internationally famous for his work fields of hydrology and water resources engineering. He’s probably the Midgley who has had the most impact and people often ask Rob whether they're related. So he’s well known.

4 Rob's relations were more Southern African in nature. His grandparents settled in Maseru, Basutoland where Percy, Reginald was a businessman and Janet (nee Conyers) became known for her cookery book. Rob's uncle Ernest was District Commissioner in Bechuanaland and received an MBE for his work as Commissioner in the remote area of Ghanzi. Rob's father was a banker in Southern Rhodesia, South West Africa and South Africa. Rob was a professor of law at Rhodes University and later Vice-Chancellor of Walter Sisulu University. Ro's son is head of entomology at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum.

There are other family members who have done well for themselves so it’s perhaps a bit unfair not to mention them as well. 


1. Midgleyana, published Capetown, John Franklin Midgley, 1968.

2. Ian Midgley of South Africa [Franklin Midgley's great grandson].

3. Green  type- from John Midgley of Sandwich, U.K.

4. Prof. Rob Midgley is descended from Midgley of Bierley residing in South Africa. He is a one-time professor in the faculty of Law at Rhodes University who also holds a copy of Midgleyana. See Midgley of Brierley and Bradford.

5. Caroline Watkins  formerly of South Africa is related to Sarah Maria who married Thomas Walker Midgley in the U.K  and also Ada (nee Foulds) and Franklin Midgley who married in South Africa. Ada's sister Lily  Albert Walker in S.A.

6. Brigid Brien also has Midgley connections in South Africa. 

Copyright ©  Tim Midgley 2000, revised 18th June 2024.