Head, Francis Bond (DNB00)
HEAD, Sir FRANCIS BOND (1793–1875), colonial governor and author, was son of James Roper Head of the Hermitage, Higham, Kent, by his wife, the daughter of George Burgess, and was younger brother of Sir George Head [q. v.] The family originally were Portuguese Jews named Mendez, one of whom, Dr. Ferdinando Mendez, came to England as physician to Catherine of Braganza. His grandson, Moses Mendez, took the surname of Head on marrying the coheiress of the Rev. Sir Francis Head, bart., of the Hermitage, Higham, and was grandfather of Francis Bond Head and George Head [q. v.] Francis was born at the Hermitage in 1793, educated at Rochester grammar school and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and appointed second lieutenant, royal engineers, on 1 May and first lieutenant on 13 May 1811. He served in the Mediterranean, during which time he appears to have been quartered in Malta, made a survey of the island of Lanzerote, suffered shipwreck off Tripoli, and visited Athens and Rome. He was in Belgium and France in 1815; was employed in surveying the ground about Charleroi during the French advance on the evening of 15 June (Quart. Rev. lxxii. 291 et seq.); was present at Waterloo; and commanded a division of the pontoon-train in the march to Paris. He was afterwards stationed in Edinburgh, and was engaged in hauling down the dangerous ruins, some of the walls 130 feet high, left in Parliament Square after the great fires of 1824 (Papers connected with Roy. Engineers, new ser. iv. 58). In 1825 he retired on half-pay to accept the post of manager of the Rio Plata Mining Association, formed in London in December 1824 to work the gold and silver mines of that region on the faith of a supposed concession from the government of the United Provinces of La Plata. Head, who was to have 1,200l. a year for four years certain, arrived with a staff of Cornish miners and others, crossed the pampas, and visited the gold mines of St. Luis and the silver mines of Uspallata, a thousand miles from Buenos Ayres, to find that they had been disposed of to rival companies, and that the government and the provincial authorities were powerless to enforce the original concession. Leaving his people at Mendoza, he returned to Buenos Ayres, where he received instructions from home to proceed to Chili. Rejoining his party at Mendoza, he crossed the Andes with them to Santiago, and traversed about twelve hundred miles in ferent directions, prospecting mines and drawing up a full report on each. Finding that none would repay working with European labour, he recrossed the Cordillera, again traversed the pampas, and, arriving at Buenos Ayres, paid off his German miners and returned with the Cornishmen to England. His directors, who by this time had spent 60,000l. of the shareholders' money, were furious, and blamed Head, whose salary they attempted to withhold, unsuccessfully. After some loud talk, the luckless enterprise died a natural death. Head published his version under the title of ‘Reports of the La Plata Mining Association’ (London, 1827). The account of his journeys in South America, which were made on horseback with a rapidity that gained him the name of ‘Galloping Head,’ are described in his ‘Rough Notes of Journeys in the Pampas and Andes,’ which has passed through several editions. For his exertions in attempting to get the lasso introduced in the British cavalry, for purposes of auxiliary draught, he was promoted in 1828 from half-pay of the engineers to a majority in the royal wagon train, whence he was transferred to the unattached list. A paper on the condition of South America, sent by Head to the Duke of Wellington, is inserted in ‘Wellington Despatches, Correspondence, &c.’ (vi. 427–32). In 1830 Head wrote a ‘Life of Bruce,’ the African traveller, forming one of the volumes of the ‘Family Library,’ and in 1834 appeared his best work, ‘Bubbles from the Brunnens of Nassau, by an Old Man.’ In 1834 he was appointed an assistant poor-law commissioner in Kent, and in November 1835 was offered by Lord Glenelg the post of lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, in succession to Sir John Colborne, afterwards Lord Seaton [q. v.], with the promise of a baronetcy. Head had no colonial experience, and was opposed to the government in politics. He accepted the post, and administered the affairs of Upper Canada with marked ability at a time of great difficulty, arising out of the bitter jealousies between the provinces. With the loyal militia he quelled an insurrection which broke out in 1837, and taught a sharp lesson to some American ‘sympathisers,’ whose vessel, the Caroline, was fired and sent adrift over the Falls (see Annual Registers, 1837–8, under ‘Canada’). A dispute with the home government as to the restitution of a suspended official led to his sending in his resignation on 10 Sept. 1837. He was relieved in the following January by Sir George Arthur [q. v.] Learning from Sir John Colborne that an attempt would be made on his life if he proceeded by the Halifax route, he travelled direct through the States to New York, where he embarked unmolested and arrived in England 22 April 1838. Head's narrative of affairs in Canada will be found noticed in detail in the ‘Quarterly Review’ (vols. lxiii. lxiv.), and differs entirely from Lord Durham's account in the papers on Canada laid before parliament. Thenceforward Head was chiefly known as a ‘Quarterly’ reviewer, and a clever and versatile, though sometimes inaccurate, writer on general subjects.
Head was made a K.C.H. in 1835, and created a baronet from 19 July 1836. He had the Waterloo medal and the Prussian order of Military Merit. In 1867 he was made a member of the privy council. He married, in 1816, his cousin, Julia Valenza, daughter of the Hon. Hugh Somerville, and sister of Kenelm, seventeenth lord Somerville, by whom he had a daughter and three sons, the eldest of whom, Francis Somerville (1817–1887), was second baronet. Head, an active, well-preserved man, who rode straight to hounds up to seventy-five, died at his residence, Duppas Hall, Croydon, on 20 July 1875, aged eighty-two. His widow died on 23 March 1879. Besides minor works and two volumes of essays on the most varied topics, reprinted from the ‘Quarterly Review,’ he wrote: 1. ‘The Emigrant,’ 1846 (which, in the chapter headed ‘The Hunted Hare,’ describes his return from Canada). 2. ‘Highways and Dryways, the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges,’ 1849 (some of the statements in which, relating to the Britannia and Conway bridges, were contradicted by the engineer, Thomas Fairbairn, immediately afterwards). 3. ‘Stokers and Pokers,’ 1849 (a clear and effective sketch of the difficulties attending the construction, maintenance, and working of a great railway (the North-Western). 4. ‘The Defenceless State of Great Britain,’ 1850 (an alarmist essay suggested by the elevation of Prince Louis Napoleon to the post of president of the French republic). 5. ‘A Faggot of French Sticks,’ 1852. 6. ‘A Fortnight in Ireland,’ 1852. 7. ‘The Horse and his Rider,’ 1860. 8. ‘Comments on Kinglake's “History of the Crimean War,”’ 1863. 9. ‘The Royal Engineer,’ 1869. 10. ‘Sketch of the Life of Sir J. M. Burgoyne,’ 1872.
[Burke's Baronetage, 1870; Quarterly Rev. lxiii. 457–505, lxiv. 476–502, lxxii. 291 et seq., lxxxviii. 510–53; Greville Memoirs, 2nd ser. i. 166–74; Times, 23 July 1875. Some of the details given above are from incidental references in Head's writings. A list of his works is given in the Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books, and some letters on hunting matters are published in the Hist. of the Pytchley Hunt.]