The millions of  Pieter Teyler van der Hulst

An item of news has fanned up old rumours about a 5.000.000 English pounds fortune. Until its appearance last week the descendants of an 18th century Scots ship-owner had no thought of great wealth. They were content to tread the rut of daily routine for modest earnings.  Not so now. Dreams occupy their leisure moments. Those rich in imaginative powers nurse hopes of becoming rich in reality.

The news item stated: Mr. John Oataway, Middle Brighton, Victoria, Australia, is reported to have made a claim to the fortune of Pieter Tyler van der Hulst, alias Peter Taylor of Stirlingshire. Peter Taylor died 174 years ago leaving estates worth 5.000.000 pounds in England, America, France and Holland. The fortune itself was not new to the present generation of Taylors and relatives. In the early twenties their parents spent considerable sums and made exhaustive inquiries regarding their claims to the millions without positive results. But at that time their attentions was focussed only on Holland, where, they believed the whole of the fortune was held in trust. No mention had ever been made of estates elsewhere belonging to Peter Taylor. So Mr. John Oataway's claim to  "estates in England, America, and France," as well as Holland is causing a stir amongst the hundreds who, today, claim kinship to Peter Taylor.

And how was this fortune accumulated ? It began with a quarrel in 1709. Peter left his home somewhere in Stirlingshire when relations with a brother became strained. He settled in Holland with his Dutch maternal grandparents who were wealthy land -owners. Peter was thrifty and industrious. He greatly impressed his grandparents. When he changed the spelling of his name to Teyler and added "van der Hulst"- his mother's maiden name - it was hinted that he might succeed them. Sure enough, he did. Later Peter widened his interests, dealing in silks and woolens in addition to shipping and farming.  He married a woman of either Dutch or German parentage and had four sons and three daughters. The children, in later years, left home and settled in Scotland. One of them -Mary Taylor - is known to have married a Scot in Berwickshire and it is thought that her brothers and sisters also wed Scots. It is through these subsequent marriages that many of the claimants in this country have proved their relationship to Peter Taylor. On the year of his death Peter was worth millions and when his will was read it seemed clear that he wished his money to be held in trust for a period. The Taylor Foundation- which exists today in Haarlem - was created. Early claimants had reason to believe that the fortune now worth 5.000.000 pounds was still held in trust somewhere in Holland. But after succesive attempts to recover it, gave up hope.

The years between 1900 and 1920 drew a veil over the fortune. Some of the claimants began to doubt its existence. The "Taylor Millions " got the tag " Mythical Millions " However, documents handed down by certain forbears, not only upheld the fortune as authentic but made it clear that any assets of Peter Taylor, in Holland, at least- had already been disbursed.I saw one of those documents this week. It belongs to Mr. Alexander Hay, janitor of Thomson Street School, Dennistoun, Glasgow. Mr. Hay's father, now deceased, who claimed to be a grandson of Peter Taylor's daughter Mary, produced the document at a meeting of the Taylor fortune seekers in Glascow in 1922. Mr. Hay had written to Holland for information. He was sent a copy of a legal opinion given in 1876 to the German Government in reply to inquiries made on behalf of German claimants to the Taylor inheritance. This stated that in 1784 one Catherine Olthoff had been awarded two Taylor legacies by the Court of Holland - (1) 100.000 florins ; (2) half of the inheritance of Elizabeth van der Hulst which were to be found in the inheritance of Peter Taylor. Her claim to the first legacy was disputed by the Taylor Foundation, but confirmed by the Supreme Court of Holland in 1786.  No appeal was made in respect of disbursement of the second legacy. The Foundation merely asked for proof of Catherine Olthoff's relationship to Peter Tayler.The documents further stated that the inheritance had been duly handed over to Catherine but if this were not so it would be by this time in the State coffers. The Dutch law of limitations of 1852 disposed of all unclaimed estates to the crown. It added that further attempts to secure the Taylor inheritance legally were useless. There was not a single legal ground on which a claim could be made. " All trouble which is taken to this end and all monies employed therefor, seem to us to be waste of time and money " Although Mr. Hay's document virtually halted the quest many of the claimants at the Glascow meeting distrusted the Dutch authorities, believing the document contained false information and that 5.000.000 pounds was tucked away somewhere among the windmills and the tulips. They were suspicious because of a codicil Peter Taylor added to his will a year or two before he died. It contained the condition that his money was to remain untouched for 100 years after his death. Then it should be divided among his heirs. Catherine Olthoff was said to have been awarded the inheritance in 1784 - only 8 years after Peter Taylor's death. And none of the claimants has been succesful in tracing Catherine Olthoff or her descendents. Alexander Hay Snr. decided against further research and the document was thrust into the family chest where it was found an dusted last week by his son after the appearance of the news item. Aleaxander Hay Jnr. told me : My father advised me to spend neither time nor money seeking the fortune. And it never entered my head until I saw the story about the Australian making a claim."  Mr. Hay who has a wife and three children, has no doubt that any Dutch assets of Peter Taylor are beyond recovery.However, like the rest of the present generation of Taylor claimants, he is curious to know if the Australian, Mr. Oataway has uncovered some new clue to estates outside Holland which may be held in trust and easily accesible.  If this be true Mr. Hay, who claims direct descent, is interested in picking up any odd Taylor millions which may be kicking around the corners of the globe.