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Dr William Munro (Berbice) [1799-1847]

Distinguish from Dr William Munro [1751-1832]. For family tree see William Munro MD on Ancestry (subscription required)

Dr William Munro was born about 1799, probably in Edinburgh, and died in Poplar, Middlesex, on 12 December 1847. In his will [PROB 11: 1848-1849, Piece 2085: Vol. 19, Quire Numbers 901-936 (1848)] made in 1839 he is described as ‘formerly of the colony . . . of Berbice and currently of Viewmount, Inverness’. He had an only brother, Hugh Munro, born in Edinburgh in 1803 and living there in 1839, and William may also have been born there. Hugh had come home from Guyana and was the tenant of the farm of Assynt in Kiltearn, before returning briefly to Berbice in 1836.

William and Hugh were heirs to their uncle, George Munro of plantation Alness, in Berbice.

William married Eliza Katz [born in Berbice c. 1799], with whom he had four children, Eliza, William, Alexander, and Christiana Mary. Eliza Katz was the illegitimate daughter of Wolfert Katz, a Jewish merchant from Bohemia, who had risen from being a pedlar to become the largest plantation owner in Berbice.

Eliza may have been educated in England, like her sister Susannah, and in 1817 she married a James Philo in London, with whom she had a daughter Helen. About 1822 (named as Mrs Philo) she became owner of a share of plantation Philadelphia, and 173 slaves, along with her brothers or half-brothers George and William Katz [Slave Registers].

Neither the date nor the place of her marriage to William Munro is known. They lived at Viewmount, Culduthel Road, Inverness (opposite what is now the BBC Studios), from about 1830 until the mid-1840s, and attended St John’s Episcopalian chapel where ‘in the gallery might . . . be seen the kind faces of Doctor and Mrs Munro, Viewmount, and the elegant forms and radiant eyes of their daughters’ [Isabel Harriet G. Anderson, Inverness before Railways (Inverness, 1885), 108].

Munro's two daughters later married officers who had been stationed at Fort George, Captain (later Colonel) Shervington and his friend Captain Wragge.

Eliza and her husband inherited from Wolfert Katz at his death in 1836. In 1843 Dr Munro made a trip to Guiana and kept a journal which can be read online in the Beinecke Lesser Antilles Collection: Diary of a voyage from Inverness, via London, to Demerara. October 14-December 15, 1843. The journal refers to a number of family members and Highland Scots associated with Berbice including:

His daughter Eliza, to whom as he left England he gave a sovereign to buy toys for 'dear little Mary' and her brothers [Alexander & Hugh].

Mr Reach (Roderick Reach) by then in London

Mrs Warren (Elizabeth Katz), Munro's Berbice-born sister-in-law; and her son Wolfert Warren (appointed chief mate on the Mary, sailing for Berbice, but because he was 'amusing himself' the vessel sailed without him)

Mrs Ansell (Elizabeth/Eliza Munro), the Berbice-born daughter of the other Dr William Munro (1751/2-1832), who asked for news of their property, plantation Fowlis; and her son William Ansell (who inherited Berbice property)

'My dear Hugh' - possibly his brother Hugh Munro (1803-1878) - who accompanied him to the ship


In 1850 the Administrator General took possession of ‘one sixth of Philadelphia, property of Eliza Munro, widow of William Munro, on the grounds that she is absent without an attorney or agent to represent her’. [London Gazette]

In 1871 Eliza was living in Maryon Road, Woolwich with six grandchildren, born to her daughter Mary Christiana and Captain Wragge, and in 1881 she was at the same address, aged 84, with two grandchildren. She died the following year.

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