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John Sydney (Syd) Whyte (1899-1970)


Born in the 19th century, he was given his middle name after the Australian city his parents remembered so fondly. As a young man he was very disappointed to miss out on service in WWI, where his two older brothers did so well as officers.  At 18, he was apprenticed by his uncle William to a Forfar law firm, but was extremely bored by the “dry environment”. He had always loved numbers and wanted to be a banker.  So at 19 he applied for and escaped Forfar to work as a clerk in the offices of the British project for the Lower Aswan Dam in Egypt.  In the 1902’s he went to work in Eastern Nigeria (Port Harcourt and Calabar) for the UK company managing the large groundnut plantations.  He greatly enjoyed the colonial life and after marrying “Attie” in 1938 returned there with her.                               


Syd and Attie has known each other as children in Forfar, and  met again when they were both back in Forfar from their respective travels in the mid 1930’s  They enjoyed the colonial lifestyle in Nigeria but this came to an abrupt end with the arrival of the Second World War.  Attie returned to the UK pregnant in December 1941.  Syd followed on the last ship out of West Africa in 1942.  In the UK he was required to do compulsory “war work” based in Glasgow for the duration of the war. 


After the war, life during the 1940-60’s was very difficult and challenging for them. His career prospects were seriously derailed and he was now in in his late 40’s.  Potential employers ignored his foreign management experience and he found it difficult to get an established management job.  He finally found accounting and office management work with the Danish Bacon Company - first in Edinburgh, then Glasgow and finally in Newcastle.  He rose to become a branch manager, but was never comfortable with the world of company politics and commercial gamesmanship. Investments inherited from the Whyte family brought extra income and security over the years and the little extras to family life, like a Humber car.  He was a keen soccer fan (Hearts) in Edinburgh.


He retired in 1965 and they moved to a lovely cottage next to the castle on the Cortachy Castle Estate in Angus,

and then latterly to a small house (Kilmun) in Forfar.  He died at home in late 1970 from lung cancer that spread

to his brain - he had been a heavy cigarette smoker most of his life. 

His wife

Agnes “Attie” Eliza Osler (1902-1985).   She was the eldest child of David Osler (1860-1937) and Eliza Jane Grubb

(1873-1954).  See “Osler Family History”.


Their children

Attie may have had a miscarriage of twins in 1940, but no details have been found.  In March 1942, after coming back especially early from Nigeria by ship, she gave birth to their only child John Robert.  She was almost 40 when John was born. He was the only Whyte family child of his generation.


For almost 100 years Dundee was the global center of the jute industry.  

Although the spinning and manufacturing moved to India, Dundee and Scotsman continued to play a pivotal role (Thomas Duff in Dundee and Don Brothers & Buist in Forfar) in the industry probably up to WWII. 

His siblings 

- Mable Moffat (1892-1955). She became a nurse, latterly in Newington, Edinburgh. She was unmarried.   

Gertrude (Gerty) Briggs (1894-1953)  She was unmarried and looked after her father in the family house (Broombank) in Forfar after her mother died in 1930 until his death in 1948.  She died in Edinburgh.  

- William (Will) McLean (1895-1950)   During the First World War he served as an officer in the Machine Gun Corps.  With key Dundee/Angus contacts he built a career for  himself in the jute industry in Calcutta, India for 26 years.  He married Jean Ross Shaw from St Andrews and they fully enjoyed the Indian colonial life - they had no children. He did well financially and retired in 1948 as the General Manager in India for Thomas Duff, the Dundee-based managing agents for the industry. He died soon after and Jean went back to India to marry old Scottish friend of theirs ‘Scotty” and they later retired to Devon.  I had frequent contact with my Aunt Jean and Scotty (lovely man) who went to the same Edinburgh school as me.  She died in Cupar, in 2003 at 96.    

- Alfred (Alf) Campbell (1897-1963)  During WWI he was an officer in the Black Watch, was severely wounded in the back, and awarded the Croix de Guerre (avec Palm).  Between the wars he, with help from his brother Will, kept the family leather & shoe business (John Whyte & Son) going as best they could in a rapidly changing marketplace. He married Edith Osler (younger sister of Attie Whyte) in 1935 - they had no children. 

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