Robert Temple - Author of The Sphinx Mystery
Jennie Kyle

My Great-Great Aunt Jennie Kyle. She was born 1841 and died January 13, 1912. She and her sister Rachel Kyle (born 1843, died January 4, 1929, known in the family as ‘Aunt Dick’, of whom no identified photo survives) never married. They devoted themselves to bringing up the three orphaned children of their sister Sallie Kyle Temple, my great-grandmother, who died at the age of 32 of diabetes, and whose husband Oliver H. Temple (my great-grandfather) died only a few years later, largely of a broken heart at losing his wife. My grandfather Robert Kyle Temple and his younger brother Tom and his sister Mary thus had Aunt Jennie and Aunt Dick as their ‘parents’ for most of their childhood and youth. Aunt Jennie and Aunt Dick were strict with discipline, and would never let my grandfather over-indulge his whims. He had a passion for bananas, but he was told he must show moderation in all things, and he could never eat more than one or two at a time because it would constitute over-indulgence. He rebelled at this, and when he reached the age of 21 and ‘became a man’, he went down to the Cincinnati docks and defiantly bought an entire bunch of bananas from South America which had come in on one of the river boats. He then took these to some private place, where he sat down to devour the whole bunch, out of revenge for his childhood of frustration at Aunt Jennie and Aunt Dick’s strict rationing and moderation. He got through about twenty bananas before he found he could not go any further, and then was violently sick. For the rest of his life, he could never touch a banana, and was ‘cured’ of this passion. By looking at Aunt Jennie’s face, you can imagine her saying when she learned of this: ‘Tsk! Tsk! Robbie, you are a silly boy! That is what over-indulgence in anything does to a person!’

The Kyles had for hundreds of years been very restrained in their behaviour and were strict moralists, even writing a few obscure early books on the subject. They produced many Presbyterian preachers, going back to their origins at the Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland (opposite the Isle of Skye), and then continued during their time in Ulster, before our branch of the family moved to Pennsylvania in America from Ulster in 1720 and 1722. It seems that the Reverend Ian Kyle Paisely, the Northern Ireland politician, is a descendant through his mother of the Kyles related to us who remained in Ulster, as that is what he told my mother, who knew him in the 1960s when he was in America. Our branch of the Kyles in America produced several politicians, the highest ranking perhaps being United States Senator James H. Kyle, born in 1854, who was Senator for South Dakota in the 1890s. I do not know whether Senator Jon Kyl, presently United States Senator for Arizona, is related to us or not. (It is well known that the Kyls and the Kyles have the same origin, but it is unlikely that he is from our branch of the family, in my opinion, for the alteration of spelling would have had to occur within the past 150 years for that to be the case.) There were also various politicians, senators, etc., from the family at the state level in various states, too numerous to trace. One of the phenomena which has occurred in my lifetime and which has caused me extreme astonishment is the sudden rise in popularity of the surname Kyle as a first name for both boys and girls, epitomized by the cute Australian girl Kylie Minogue, who is a pop singer. This all seems to have come about because some Kyle descendants took to using the surname as a first name to signify their maternal descent, and it was considered attractive and began to spread to people who had no relationship at all to the Kyle Family. I am fascinated by the waves of fashion of first names, and their origins. I have personally known two people whose own unusual first names led to a proliferation of ‘copies’. The first was Tallulah Bankhead, whom I knew well when I was young. Whenever I meet a young girl named Tallulah I have to laugh, because she and her parents could not possibly imagine the full implications. Far more widespread, however, are all the hundreds and thousands of girls named Hayley, most of whom appear to be in Britain. None of them realize it, because no young person these days seems to know anything at all about what happened more than five minutes ago, but they are all named after the actress Hayley Mills, who is one of the dearest friends of myself and Olivia.


© Robert Temple 2009-2022