Rev. Ashton Dibb (1829-1876): A Tamil scholar (Photo courtesy of Kutty Jaskar)

Map of Tinnevelly District (Modified from William Kemm, John Thomas Missionary to South India ( ISPCK, Delhi,2010)

Rev. Ashton Dibb, Emanuel's son, and his family

Rev. Ashton Dibb, the fourth son of Emanuel Dibb, was born in Hull, England in 1829. He entered the Church Missionary College in 1851 and was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of London in 1854.

He went to Tinnevelly, India, in 1855 and was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Madras in 1856. He was married to Mary Jane Thomas, a daughter of the Rev. John Thomas of Mengnanapuram, as his second wife. His first wife was Alice Victoria Stammer, to whom he was married in 1857 at Black town Madras. She died on June 3rd,1859 at Palmacottah.

Rev. Ashton Dibb was stationed at Tinnevelly from 1856 to 1876, i.e. at Dohnavur 1856-1858; Palmacottah 1859; Pannikullam 1859-1860; Mengnanapuram, Sathankulam and Asirvathapuram 1861-1862; Dohnavur 1867-1869; Mengnanapuram, Sathankulam and Asirvathapuram 1873-1876. He later became manager of district and secretary of the provincial council. (Note: He was, for a short time, Chaplain of the Hull Infirmary, England, during 1869-1871)

He was a good Tamil scholar and the compiler of a Tamil catechism including some Tamil tracts. The catechism he translated and published in Tamil in 1862, titled ‘The Old Path’ is still in print even today. He was also a member of the Revision Committees of the Tamil Bible and the Tamil Prayer Book as he attained a high level of theological knowledge.

He was not only scholarly able, but also fervent and devoted to living the evangelical truth. A report in ‘The Missionary Conference: South India and Ceylon, 1879’ pointed out clearly of his selfless works,

“The last three years of his life were devoting to training men for the native ministry. He was fully alive to the difficulties of making the native Church self-supporting, but loyally threw himself into the plans of the (Church Missionary) Society for that end, and ever lived as though his missionary motto was: ‘This one thing I do.’”

Rev Ashton Dibb returned to England in 1876 invalided, after spending twenty-one years in India. He died at the ‘Radley’ Hotel in Southampton on October 15th 1876, just two days after arriving in England and three days before his youngest son, William Reginald was born. Before he died, he appointed his widow, Mary Jane, his elder brother, William Thomas, and Walter James Reed as executors to his will, which worth around £ 1,500.[i]

[i]; google book ‘The old path, Ashton Dibb

Rev. Aston Dibb’s children

Ashton Wilberforce Dibb is Rev. Ashton Dibb’s eldest son. He was educated at Marlborough boarding school in England. After his father died when he was only a teenager, he came to live with his mother in Hampstead, London, and started a job as a Colonial Brokers clerk. Apart from working, he also studied at King’s College, and later at Oxford. Aston Wilberforce finished his theological study at Oxford when he was already thirty years old, in 1892. He was later ordained a priest and finally became a Vicar at St. Michael’s Church, Howden, Yorkshire, in 1907. Rev. Ashton Wilberforce was married to Mary Katherine (nee Wilson) at Beverley, Yorkshire, in 1898. They had a daughter Bertha Margaret Irene born April 28th, 1900. He died in Howden, England on October 4th, 1908.

Alice Margaret Dibb, his eldest daughter, married a high court judge from Bengal, India, Charles Peter Caspersz (1855-1951) on August 26th, 1885. The wedding was performed by her uncle, Rev. John Davies Thomas. They had two daughters: Evelyn M Caspersz (1887-1950), who was never married and had no children; Phyllis Violet Campbell (1891-1974), she was married to Elliston Fauna Campbell (1891-1990), they did not have any children and they are both buried in Sydney. Alice Margaret died in Devon, England on December 20th, 1941.

Rev. Frederick Thomas Dibb (1864-1910) (Photo from Lennox and Addington County Museum, Napanee. Courtesy of Ruth Pringle)

A new house of Frederick Thomas in the village of Bath, Ontario. The photograph was taken in 1903 with him, his wife and their children standing in front of the house.

(Dialogue, A section of the Anglican Journal, June 2010. and

Rev. Frederick Thomas Dibb was the second son of Rev. Ashton Dibb. He was born in India in 1864, but was later sent to boarding school in England. A few years after the death of his father, when he was only sixteen, he already worked as a clerk at Great Eastern Railway while living with his mother at Hampstead, London. He later moved to Canada and took a course at Bishop’s college, Lennoxville, in Quebec.

Frederick Thomas was ordained by the late Archbishop of Ontario in 1892. From that year until 1897 he was a missionary at Ernesttown, and was made Rural Dean of Lennox and Addington in the latter year. Frederick Thomas married Sarah Elizabeth Miller, they had three children Edith Alexandrina (1896-1910), William Hugh Carey (1898-?) and Jessie Evelyn McGillivray (1899-?).

He became acting rector of Bath in 1899 and in 1904 was sent to Deseronto. He undertook a mission at Odessa in 1903, and on the retirement of Rev. Arthur Jarvis, rector of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Napanee, was appointed vicar of that parish. Rev. Frederick Thomas was a strong man, physically, mentally, and morally. He was a vigorous advocate of temperance principles and of all measures leading to better citizenship.

As reported in ‘Dialogue’ the publication of the Diocese of Ontario on June 2010, Jessie Evelyn McGillivray (Dibb) Hall, his daughter, wrote some of her memories of her father for the 100th anniversary of the Parish of Bath in 1987.[i]

“Father was very fond of poetry and also had a great sense of humour. I remember him saying, ‘Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran their rural races.’”

Rev.Frederick Thomas Dibb died in December 2nd, 1910 due to a terrible accident. A local newspaper described the incident.[ii]

“One of the most distressing accidents occurred at the Grand Trunk station on Friday noon last. The Rev. Rural Dean Dibb, accompanied by his wife, little daughter Jessie and his sister-in-law, Mrs. W. C. Smith, went to the station to take the fast train for Kingston.

When they arrived at the depot the mail train was just in and they decided not to wait for the fast train. Mr. Dibb went to secure the tickets, while the others boarded the train. The train started and he rushed from the station and succeeded in catching hold of the handles of the coach, but unable to maintain his grip, was swung under the moving train. Two coaches passed over the unfortunate man’s body, cutting it to pieces before the train was stopped.”



Rev. Frederick Thomas Dibb in the door way of St. John's Church, Bath, in 1908 (Photo from Lennox and Addington County Museum, Napanee. Courtesy of Ruth Pringle)

The Napanee railway station. It might be at this station where the most distressing accident occurred in December 2nd, 1910, in which two coaches ran over Rev. Frederick Thomas Dibb's body. (Photo from Peter R. Snell,

Commander Hugh McNeile Dibb, Rev. Ashton Dibb's fourth child, married Jeanie Agnes (nee Cottrell), on June 16th, 1896. William Reginald, his younger brother, was one of their witnesses at their wedding. They had three children, Kenneth Hugh M’Neile, William Geoffrey, and Frederick Ashton. Two of their children died very young. Commander Hugh McNeile Dibb died on April 14th, 1934 at Lowestoft, Suffolk, England.

Rev. Dibb's youngest daughter, Catherine Irene Dibb married George Ingleton Phillips on October 18th, 1894. Ashton Wilberforce witnessed their wedding. They had two children, George Ivor Phillips and Kathleen Elenora Phillips. Lt.Col. George Ingleton Phillips C.B.E. was remembered as the founder member of the Brother Lodge of Freemasons who initiated the building of St Thomas Church, at Minnis Bay, Birchington, in October 1932. George Ingleton Phillips died in Malta on March 11th, 1936. Catherine Irene died in Kensington, England on February 9th, 1945.

William Reginald Dibb, the youngest son of Rev. Ashton Dibb, later became the first generation of the Dibb family in Siam. His adventurous life and works are presented in the next section.