Wednesday 4 September 2013

Research: More on the Bekes (Beeks)

Emily and Charles Beke were early travellers in what is now Jordan. Emily was a particularly notable traveller simply as that rarity amongst western travellers up to that point – a woman. But even in 1862 she was not the first known western women to travel in Jordan – Charlotte Rowley had visited Petra with her husband and a friend in 1836 and Mary Ann Roberton Blaine was in northewestern Jordan with her husband in 1849.

The Beke family had also had a member in the region before Charles and Emily. In 1839 Charles’ younger brother, William Beek (he kept the old spelling of the family name), an engineer in The East India Company had worked with the Irishman, George Moore around the Dead Sea ('On the Dead Sea and Some Positions in Syria', JRGS 7 (1837): 456). Various hints point to William having also been to Petra and Jarash at least. William is an interesting character in his own right. A few years earlier he had apparently served as an adventurer in the army of the Persian Crown Prince, Abbas Mirza. It was reported that ‘he led a siege and an escapade against a Turkoman fortress in Khorasan’, in what is now Turkmenistan.

William later appears in Sicily and Italy apparently managing mining operations. An infant son died there as a gravestone from the English Cemetery at Messina in Sicily records:
“William James Beek born 1st December and died 25th June 1840, the son of Ann and William George Beek”.

Another son – Charley, survived to work alongside his father until the 1870s at least and a further son – Reginald Maitland Beek, married a girl in Queensland in September 1888.

A fascinating family and deserving of further investigation, not least for their activities ‘east of Jordan’.

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