It is a truth universally acknowledged...
18 Jul 2017
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
…that if you want a tenuous link to Jane Austen to tie in with the 200th anniversary of her death then you will find one in the archive.
One of our companies, the General Live Stock Insurance Company, has not one but two links to the author: one of the company's trustees, the Honourable Stephen Rumbold Lushington, lived near her and was a social acquaintance, while one of the company's directors, the Rev. John Papillon, was the nephew of John Rawson Papillon who was rector in the village where Jane Austen lived. The Austen family often joked that Jane should marry the elder John Papillon and it is suggested that he is the basis for the character of Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice.
Austen also famously wrote in Sense and Sensibility: “People always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them.” While we have no evidence in the archive of any of our annuitants living forever we do have a couple of examples of significant longevity.
Charles Pelham Villiers MP sat in the House of Commons from 1835 – 1898 and holds the record for being the longest serving Member of Parliament. He also holds the record as the oldest candidate to win a parliamentary seat having won his last election at the age of 93.
He had an annuity with the Scottish Union and National Insurance Company for £3,500 pa and when his death, aged 96, was reported to the board it was noted that the company had lost £49,395 18s 2d on the policy.
Miss Jane Pearce of Finsbury Square was Commercial Union’s oldest annuitant when she died on the 23rd of October 1949 just 6 months short of her 100th Birthday. Retiring from active work in 1914 she sank her savings into an annuity yielding about five pounds a quarter. At the age of 85 she decided she would call personally at 24 Cornhill (the company’s head office) to complete the necessary forms and receive payment in cash. She presented herself on the 27th day of each quarter, only 5 feet tall, always wearing a tiny bonnet and carrying a large umbrella.
Through the war years she came and when asked if she were wise to risk bombs she replied with spirit “Do you think Hitler can scare me? I sleep on the top floor and shall never take cover from anything that man can do". Early in the war period she announced her intention to go to Oxford Street and do some shopping and asked the correct bus number, when it was suggested that it might be quicker and safer to go by underground from Bank station she replied: “young man I shall go by bus. I am a human being not a mole” the abashed recipient of this correction was the life accountant, himself on the point of retirement.
Finally, did you know we sold our first annuity when Jane Austen was still alive? An annuity was purchased in February 1713 on the life of Catherine Bradshaw. She was aged 34 and the annuity was £10pa. The purchase money, which was paid on 12 October 1713, was invested in “blank Ticketts of the Lottery 1710”.