The articles on this page have been researched and composed by Family History Detective: Tricia’s Tracings.

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When a Virtuous Life Crumbles - The Search for Simon Dempster

A research request seeking information (and a possible photo) regarding the recipient of a unique handcrafted silver medal, awarded to S. Dempster in 1862.  The decorative six-pointed star-shaped medal was emblazoned with the words “We Strive to Serve”, arching over a centrepiece relief of an early fire engine.  The triangular points displayed a fireman’s helmet and other firefighting implements.  The reverse side was engraved, “Presented to S. Dempster by the Ballarat Cricket Club as WINNER of the Firemen’s Race 26 Dec.1862.”

So who was S. Dempster?  The first confirmed Ballarat sighting of ’S. Dempster’ shows that he had lived in our thriving town from at least December 1858.  The Star newspaper reported on Christmas Eve that, ‘Mr S. Dempster’ had contributed to the refurbishment of ‘The Charlie Napier’, having provided the gas fittings to the theatre.
Further research revealed ‘Simon Dempster’ — who at times also used the name ‘Samuel Dempster’ — was a Scotsman.  Simon was born in 1840 into a family of tinsmiths in the county of Fife.  Parents, Simon Dempster and Helen Beaton baptised their son on 7 January 1841 at Abbotshall.  Seven years later Helen was widowed, so it was she who ran the family business according to the 1851 Scotland Census.  The following year, Helen Dempster made the brave decision to seek a better life for herself and her four children.  Believing they would achieve this outcome by emigrating to Australia, the Dempster family set sail from Liverpool.  Sadly, Helen failed to realise her dream after contracting a fever during the voyage.  She did not survive the journey.  We can only imagine the mixed emotions that young Simon and his siblings experienced upon arriving in Melbourne just before Christmas 1852.  
Under the tutelage of his older brother Andrew, Simon Dempster learnt the trade of plumbing, and specifically, the skills of a gas fitter.  However, during his initial years in Ballarat, Simon worked as a barman at the Charlie Napier Hotel on Main Road.
In Ballarat, Simon embraced the thriving community spirit of a pioneering settlement.  The formation of the Ballarat Fire Brigade was first mooted at a public meeting on 31 May 1856.  However, it was not until the summer of 1857 that brigade volunteers congregated to partake in their first practice session.  They did so on 5 February 1857 at 10 am outside The Star Hotel.
By April 1859, “Mr Dempster”, described as “a member of the Brigade”, attended the weekly meeting of the Ballarat Fire Brigade at the Saloon of the Engine House.  On this particular evening, ‘Samuel Dempster’ proposed the brigade support a forthcoming benefit that was planned at ‘The People’s Theatre’ at the Charles Napier, to help fund his departure for Scotland.
By 1860 Simon had returned to Ballarat where he wed an Irish girl, Jane Judge.  Unfortunately, Simon and Jane had a heartfelt time attempting to establish a family.  Unusual for the time, five years elapsed before we discover a birth registration of a child to this couple – Simey Helen Dempster.  At two year intervals, the Dempster family welcomed the births of two sons; Simon Arthur in 1867 and George Alexander on 21 August 1869.  Sadly the boys did not survive infancy.  Simon Arthur died from dysentery aged 15 months, on 18 December 1868.  George died in 1870 aged just six months.
Throughout the 1860s, Simon was recognised as “an energetic member” of the Ballarat Fire Brigade.  Reportedly, he “took a leading part in the conflagration of Ballarat East”, when an estimated sixty buildings were razed to the ground on 11 January 1861.  The efforts of the fire brigade volunteers ensured the survival of many other buildings, despite serious damage to about forty structures.
Later that year in November, the brigade held an ‘Anniversary Ball and Supper’ at the Mechanics Institute.  A wonderful report of the event printed in The Star newspaper painted a vivid picture of the evening’s activities.  “About ten o’clock carriages and vehicles of every description began to pour their living freights at the door of the Mechanics’ and by eleven o’clock, the large room of the building was completely crowded.”  We learn that, “Dempster and lady” were in attendance.  Supper was supplied at midnight and after speeches, dancing resumed at 2.30 am!
Sporting carnivals were popular occasions on the annual calendar of many organisations on the goldfields.  Volunteer groups such as the Ballarat Fire Brigade relied on these events to raise funds, but also to create an environment of wholesome family fun.  Whilst the program of activities show many events replicated traditional carnival events such as sack and wheelbarrow races, the competitive spirit of fit young men was well and truly addressed by a number of serious battles — whether that be by feats of swordsmanship or the much anticipated 100-yard foot race.
Just two competitors vied for the title of the 100 Yard Race on Boxing Day 1862 – The Ballarat Fire Brigade secretary Charles Dyte, and Simon Dempster.  From a report in The Ballarat Courier, we learn that it was a tightly fought race, and as we know from the star-shaped medal that triggered this research, Simon Dempster was the ultimate winner.
The following year Simon ran from scratch in the Fireman’s 100 Yards Handicap Race but failed to make the final.
Whilst raising his family, we know that Simon continued to work as a gasfitter / plumber in Main Road.  Rate book entries from 1865 and 1867 confirmed Simon paid £3 per annum rent for a shop in Main Road, owned by merchant Richard Cochrane, who also owned the neighbouring shop. 
At this time, Simon remained a volunteer of the Ballarat Fire Brigade.  His diligence to the task was recognised by the residents of Ballarat and credited in a letter to the editor published in The Ballarat Star on 28 June 1867.  It was printed, “And who that has noticed the cool intrepidity of S. Dempster, always to be found at the critical time and place at every fire of any importance, can help wondering that his unassuming manners should have prevented him taking his proper place in the brigade long before this?”
By May 1868 matrimonial problems experienced by Simon and Jane became public.  When Simon threatened to take his wife’s life, Jane petitioned for her husband’s arrest.
Just three days later Simon advertised the sale of his business in Main Road.  It was later revealed in court that Simon had been forced “to sell his business at Ballarat on consequence of his wife’s extravagance”.  After repaying Jane’s debts, Simon was left penniless.
On 21 September 1868 Simon Dempster was recognised for his ten years of service to the Ballarat Fire Brigade when a testimonial was held in his honour at the Earl of Zetland Hotel.  Simon was presented with an engraved silver watch, purchased from Mr Gasser.
Over the ensuing years, the duplicity of character traits of Simon Dempster continued to play out in the press.  We read reports of a community-spirited man who was front and centre at times of horrific disasters as buildings burnt, and of a man who rallied to support friends in their time of need; countered by his wife’s accusations of horrendous abuse inflicted upon her, and the neglect of his daughter.  However, Jane’s moral character was also laid bare.  Believing that he was unable to deal with his wife’s infidelity and her bohemian lifestyle, Simon finally ceased cohabiting with Jane on 22 November 1868.  We can expect it was with a heavy heart that Simon relinquished his position of ‘hose officer’ with the Ballarat Fire Brigade.  Relocating to Melbourne, Simon worked with his brother In Russell Street.
Despite his personal issues and the stress of establishing himself in Melbourne, the philanthropic characteristic of Simon Dempster remained constant.  In April 1869 Simon collected almost £7 whilst in Melbourne, to donate to Mr Carl Franz who had recently lost his house and furniture in a fire.
In February 1870 Jane sued Simon for deserting her and their child.  As was often the situation during the nineteenth century, Simon responded by taking out a newspaper advertisement, absolving himself of any debts incurred by Jane.
It is fair to assume that the Ballarat Fire Brigade was pivotal to Simon Dempster’s sense of well-being.  Simon visited Ballarat on 8 December 1870 to attend a picnic at the Botanical Gardens Reserve, to celebrate the joint anniversary of the two Ballarat Volunteer Fire Brigades.
At the beginning of April 1872, Simon returned to Ballarat declaring his intent to re-establish his business at his old premises in Main Road.  He took a room at Richard Morgan’s Fire Brigade Hotel in Barkly Street whilst making preparations.  During the first week of his stay, it was observed that Simon was in his usual state of health of good spirits.  However, he then suffered from an attack of paralysis that affected his speech and the use of his right arm.  On Saturday 13 April Simon appeared downcast and complained to Mr Morgan that he did not feel well.
After chatting with the Morgan child in the evening, Simon retired to his room in a sober state at 9 pm.  At 11 pm a gunshot resonated through the premises.  When Mr Morgan crushed through the door to Simon’s room, he discovered the limp body of Simon Dempster in his bed, with a revolver wound to his heart.  He passed into eternal sleep within minutes.  Amongst Simon’s possessions was a diary that recorded the comings and goings of his estranged wife, and the names of several people whom she had kept company with.  It was believed that Simon was preparing to divorce Jane.
Departing from the Barkly Street Fire Station, a funeral procession of 25 fire brigade members was led by two members each from the Ballarat, West Ballarat and Sebastopol Fire Brigades.  With Simon’s coffin laid upon a fire engine and drawn by four black horses, followed by a mourning coach with family members, plus an estimated 20 private vehicles, the mourners travelled the course along Main Road, Bridge Street, Peel Street, Market Street, Sturt Street, and Drummond Street, before arriving at the Ballarat Old Cemetery.  Simon was laid to rest at a service conducted by Rev. W. Henderson.
In his will dated 12 February 1871, Simon entrusted his brother to establish a trust fund for his daughter with the funds from his life insurance policy.  The £300 was to become available to ‘Ellen Dempster’ when she attained the age of 21 years.  In the meantime, the accrued interest was to be utilised for her maintenance and education.  To his estranged wife Jane, Simon left her two shillings — a profound message from the grave.  Simon bequeathed his silver watch to his nephew and all other possessions to his brother Andrew.
At the monthly general meeting of the Ballarat Fire Brigade on Monday 3 June 1872, Andrew Dempster presented the brigade with his brother’s medal from 1862.  Upon acceptance, Mr G. Welsh proposed that the medal be maintained in a glass case to be displayed in the brigade room.

Further newspaper reports highlight the chequered life of Jane Dempster, nee Judge, who was embroiled in the brutal murder of her companion Sophia Lewis in 1857, that led to the execution of two chinamen.  Both Jane and Sophia were ‘ladies of the night’.  Within months of the horrific death of her estranged husband, Jane fronted court in Melbourne, a pattern that was to follow on numerous occasions over the ensuing decade.  In 1880, Ballarat’s Constable Kennedy described Jane as “an utterly profligate woman, and a keeper of a brothel of the lowest type”.  We read that the recidivist offender had a brief reprieve from “immoral life” and court appearances when “she married a respectable tradesman at Ballarat, who, about ten years ago blew his brains out due to the conduct of his wife”.

It is tragic to read that Simey Jane Dempster, aka Ellen, suffered from severe trauma as a child.  In November 1875 Ellen was just 11 years old when she attempted to end her life by swallowing the contents of a bottle mixed with creosote and chloroform.  Six years later she was arrested after attempting to drown herself in the Yarra River. 

S Dempster Medal, 1862
Ballarat Fire Brigade Members, 1867

Throughout his short life, Simon Dempster endured unfathomable grief.  Fatherless as a seven-year-old boy and orphaned whilst at sea five years later, Simon had little time to reflect on his situation before arriving in Victoria.  Far from his homelands of Fife Scotland, Simon was plunged into the cacophony and turbulence of East Ballarat as its residents grappled with the aftermath of the Eureka Rebellion.  It was here that Simon learnt life lessons as a teenager, whilst he grew into a man.  It appears that the worldly Jane Judge seduced the naive 19-year-old Simon – a union that was wrought with misfortune.

Thank goodness for the Ballarat Fire Brigade that provided Simon Dempster with stability, comradeship and a sense of self-worth.

Finally, we must return to the initial query regarding possible access to a photograph of Simon Dempster.  The Ballarat Fire Brigade is in possession of numerous images from the early years of the brigade.  Unfortunately, most of these images remain nameless.  Yet within the collection of the Ballarat Historical Society, we can find image 105.80 – a collage of images of 52 members of the brigade dated 1867 – at a time when we know Simon Dempster was a volunteer.  The sepia-toned photograph is in a poor state of repair however, a close inspection shows just one man who proudly wears a star-shaped medal attached to his left lapel.  It is strongly believed that this man was Simon Dempster, displaying his ornate medal awarded at the Boxing Day carnival in 1862.

From Sligo to Melbourne - The Early Sisters

Three teenage girls, 19-year-old Elizabeth, 17-year-old Mary Anne, and 15-year-old Ann (sometimes referred to as Alice), nervously sat aboard the Lady Kennaway as it set sail from Plymouth harbour on 11 September 1848.

The Early sisters were a part of Earl Grey’s Famine Orphan Scheme that operated between 1848 and 1850, enabling the arrival of 4114 Irish girls to Australia.  The scheme was set up in an attempt to introduce young women into the colonies to help balance the sexes.  Importing Irish girls was deemed beneficial to the colonies but also helped to ease pressure on the overcrowded workhouses in Ireland during the Great Famine.  Not all of the 4144 girls were orphans however, the young girls were all destitute and were selected from workhouses.

The Early sisters were born in Sligo, Ireland.  The town and country of Sligo were one of the worst affected locations during “An Gorta Mór” – The Great Famine.  It is estimated that more than 52,000 residents from Sligo either died from starvation or disease or emigrated. 

After a three-month journey, the Lady Kennaway docked at Geelong, Victoria on 13 December 1848.  The ship’s logbook shows that the Early sisters were Roman Catholic housemaids from Sligo.  None of the three was able to read or write.  As was the case with a number of the girls who travelled per Lady Kennaway, their mother was still alive.  We do not know if Mrs. Early was also admitted to the workhouse with her daughters, or if she deposited the girls as she could no longer provide for their support.  We can only imagine how desperate she was, to do whatever she could in an attempt to ensure the girl’s survival.

It would have been a rude awakening for the 191 girls aboard Lady Kennaway as they arrived during the heat of a Melbourne summer.  The Early sisters were assigned to different households on 18 February 1849 and thus were separated from the security of each other.  Elizabeth Early was assigned to G W Bill of Melbourne on a six-month contract.  During this time she was to receive £12.  Mary was assigned to William O’Farrel of Melbourne on the same terms as her older sister.  Ann also remained in Melbourne.  Mrs. Hearndon employed her on a 12-month contract for £8.

The first sighting of any of the sisters after their respective assignments was eight months later.  ‘Mary Ann Earley’ married Thomas Davis on 22 October 1849.  Her wedding was held at St James Anglican Church.

Over the ensuing 26 years, Mary and Thomas produced an extremely large family with a total of twelve children.  We know that Mary kept in contact with her two sisters, as they both fulfilled the role of godparents to her two oldest children.  Older sister Elizabeth ‘Hurley’ was the godmother of John Davis, whilst younger sister Ann and her husband Andrew Carroll were godparents to Elizabeth Davis in 1851.

By 1860 Mary and Thomas had moved to the Woodend / Kyneton districts.  By the end of that decade, they had relocated to New South Wales.  Their third youngest child was born in the registration district of Bourke and the youngest two children at Wilcannia.  Mary and Thomas spent the remainder of their lives in the hot, dusty outback of New South Wales, retiring to Yantabulla.

It was during an extreme heat wave in the summer of 1905 – 1906 that Mary lost her life.  The average temperature in December 1905 was an oppressive 111.7° over ten consecutive days.  Despite a brief reprieve for some days at 92°, the temperature continued to climb, culminating at 120.12° on 7 January 1906.  The impact of the heat had a profound effect on many local residents.   Mary Anne Davis passed away on Saturday, 6 January 1906.  Despite the discomfort of the heat, Mary’s death was not counted as a statistic of the harsh Australian climate.  An inquest determined that she died from old age – Mary was 68 years.

Youngest sister Ann was the next to make an impact on the record books.  Almost 12 months to the day after her arrival in Melbourne, ‘Ann Earley’ married Andrew Carroll at St Francis Roman Catholic Church.  Their wedding was celebrated on 6 December 1849.  At 34 years old, Andrew was more than twice the age of his young bride. 

Like so many of the Earl Grey girls, Ann Early married an ex-convict.  Andrew Carroll was an Irishman, hailing from Dublin.  He was convicted on 26 February 1834 for stealing a watch and was sentenced to a term of seven years transportation to New South Wales.  Sailing per Royal Admiral, he arrived at Port Jackson on 22 January 1835.  Andrew collected his Certificate of Freedom on 16 April 1841.

Ann and Andrew welcomed the birth of a son the following year.  John Carroll was born on 15 December 1851 at Glenelg in central Victoria.  A second son was born four years later.  By 1863 the Carroll family was residing in the Riverina district of New South Wales.  Tragedy befell the family when Andrew died prematurely at the age of 48 years.  Whilst employed at the Gobbagumbalim Station at Wagga Wagga, Andrew sustained what seemed to be a superficial scratch, yet he died from tetanus two days later on 13 June 1863.

Within two years of the death of her husband, Ann began a relationship with a sawyer named Thomas Webb.  Their son, also named Thomas, was born on 31 May 1866 at Hay, NSW.  Ann fallaciously recorded information on her son’s birth registration, stating that she married Thomas in December 1865.  The relationship between Ann and Thomas had failed prior to the end of 1868.  Aged just 38 years, Thomas Webb contracted pneumonia prior to Christmas in 1868.  He died 10 days later on New Year’s Day 1869 at Albury.  On his death registration it is noted that Thomas was unmarried, but he had one illegitimate son.

In fact Ann had remarried prior to the demise of Thomas Webb.  ‘Ann Carroll’ married Thomas Radway in 1868 at Albury.  The Radway family lived in the Albury district for the remainder of their lives.  Ann’s health began to deteriorate in the mid 1890s.  She ultimately met her death whilst ironing at her home in Jindera Gap on 31 May 1898.

The last confirmed sighting of ‘Elizabeth Hurley” was October 28, 1850, when she performed the role of godmother to her nephew, John James Davis.  Whilst the Irish Famine Memorial database records information about a marriage to Patrick Gibbons in 1860 and ensuing death in 1866, this information is incorrect.  The woman who died in 1866 was born in Fermanagh, arrived in Victoria in 1855, and was only 30 years old at the time of her death.  Her brother and his wife were later interred in the same plot as Elizabeth at St Kilda Cemetery.

What became of Elizabeth Early remains a mystery for now.

So did Mrs. Early make the correct decision when she placed her daughters in the workhouse? 

Lady Kennaway
Famine Memorial at Sligo
Yantabulla Cemetery, NSW

Winifred Caulfield

Arrested for stealing and killing sheep during the Irish famine, Winifred Caulfield was judged harshly. The 30-year-old country servant who had no prior convictions and was deemed to be “quiet” stood at the dock in Galway Court on 4 January 1849. Evidence was heard that Winifred committed this offence with Richard Caulfield, Mary Duane and Catherine O’Neill. Together they stole sheep from Tim Lydon. Without hesitation Winifred was found guilty as charged and sentenced to a seven year term of transportation, as were her co-accused.
Upon conviction ‘Winefred’, Mary and Catherine were transferred to the Grangegorman Prison in Dublin, arriving there at 5pm on 3 March 1849. Over three months was endured in this dark, overcrowded establishment. Whilst Mary and Catherine were transported four weeks later, it was not until 22 June 1849 that Winifred was selected for departure to Van Diemen’s Land per Australasia. She set sail from Dublin four days later. Throughout the passage to Australia Winifred was hospitalized on two occasions. During August she spent five days in hospital to be treated for obstipation (severe constipation) and a full week during September for dysentery. Australasia docked at the Derwent River in Hobart on 29 September 1849. She was then transferred to the hulk, The Anson.
Winifred was unmarried. She was a short woman, standing just over 5 feet. Her fair complexion was marked with freckles. Winifred’s black hair framed her oval head with a high forehead and medium sized nose. Dark brown eyebrows shaped her grey eyes but it was Winifred’s large mouth that drew your attention when casting your eyes upon her. I t was also noted that Winifred was an illiterate Roman Catholic woman.
On 3 January 1852 Winifred was received at the Cascades Female Factory. Twelve days later she was transferred to the Brickfields Hiring Depot. It was not until 29 April 1852 that Winifred caught the eye of James Randsley of Fenton Forest and was hired by him. A Ticket of Leave on 27 July 1852 whilst Winifred was residing at New Norfolk.
On 6 September Thomas West requested to marry Winifred. As she did not object to the proposal, permission for the marriage to proceed was granted by the government. Their wedding was held at St Peters, the New Norfolk Roman Catholic Chapel on 5 December 1852, before witnesses Thomas Horton and Mary Cleary. On the marriage registration, Thomas West was described as a 41-year-old farmer. He had arrived in VDL as a convict, but was now free be servitude. It has not been confirmed if Thomas was transported per Sir Charles Forbes in 1830 or per Canton in 1840. These men were of a similar age and both had served their respective sentences by 1849.
Winifred and Thomas spent the evening of Sunday 29 July 1855 with eight friends in New Norfolk. Enjoying too many beverages, the ten party goers
were arrested for public drunkenness. At the New Norfolk Police Court on 4 August 1855, Winifred was found guilty and fined £1. This was the only indiscretion that appeared on her conduct record. On the 7th anniversary of her court case in Galway, Winifred became “free by servitude”.
Soon after receiving her freedom, Winifred and her husband Thomas relocated to Victoria, descending upon the gold fields district.
By 1865 Winifred resided in a tent at Smeaton, south west of Daylesford. On 28 July of that year Winifred provided evidence at the trial of David Young at the Castlemaine Court. Young had arrived at her home seeking work, whilst on the run after committing murder in Daylesford.
On 8 July 1887 Winifred was admitted to Creswick Hospital. She was described as a 77-year-old widow from Smeaton who worked as a house worker.
“Winnifred West” of Kingston was admitted to the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum on 18 May 1888, on the grounds of being “old and infirm”. Upon admission, Winifred declared she was a 79-year-old widow with three children. Her parents were named as ‘John and Winnifred Caulfield’. Winifred stated she worked as a seamstress.
Winifred died at the asylum 18 months later. In the heart of the night 3am on 8 November 1889, Winifred passed away, her cause of death being attributed to “old age and exhaustion”. She was buried the following day at the New Ballarat Cemetery.
Apart from her indiscretion in stealing and killing sheep during the Irish Famine, Winifred lead what could be determined as an ‘unremarkable life’. She drank too much on one occasion but apart from that, Winifred lived fairly anonymously. She could easily have been lost to history. But as genealogists and historians, it is our duty to remember Winifred. She is a survivor of the Irish Famine, a survivor of the convict system, a pioneering woman of Smeaton in central Victoria, and a ‘woman of history’. Throughout ‘Women’s History Month’ we acknowledge Winifred Caulfield.

James Herbert Goldsmith

Described in his latter years as “a filthy looking native of Bullarook with a tawny hide and mane, and possessing a striking resemblance to a Darwinian pet”, Englishman James Herbert Goldsmith was to play a vital role on the goldfields of Victoria 23 years earlier.
Born on 6 April 1824 in Brighton, Sussex, James appeared on the 1841 England Census residing with his parents James, Abigail and younger sister Frances. Like his father, James junior worked as a whitesmith. Despite their young ages of just 17 years, James married Jane Barber later that year on 28 December 1841. Over the next six years, James and Jane produced a family of three children. Samuel Thomas Goldsmith was born in 1842, James Herbert Goldsmith junior in 1845 and a daughter, Mary Abigail Goldsmith in 1847. Tragedy was to befall this family when Jane died on 18 December 1848 at the Brighton Hospital. She was aged just 24 years.
By the time that James Goldsmith set sail for Australia with his three young children, he had remarried. James, his new wife Ann and the three children set sail for Australia per Six Sisters on 20 August 1852. They docked at Geelong five months later on 13 January 1853.
The Goldsmith family spent most of 1853 in Geelong, before leaving for the goldfields of Ballarat. However, they did so before James paid a debt to Leonard Hutchison – a man who was desperate for payment and managed to trace James to Ballarat Flat.
James Goldsmith was a whitesmith although it is likely he tried his hand at gold mining upon arrival in Ballarat, where he situated his family at Bakery Hill. At the outbreak of the Eureka riots, Goldsmith supposedly hid his seven year old daughter, Mary, in a mineshaft for her safety. In The Eureka Encyclopaedia Corfield et al., attribute James Goldsmith as possibly being the first man to fire a shot at the Eureka Rebellion, although this feat has also been accredited to the American, Harry de Longville.
Captain Henry Wise of the 40th Regiment commanded his troops to storm the Eureka Stockade. Upon surprising the miners, Wise sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and a flesh wound to his right thigh. He died from his injuries 18 days later. James Goldsmith reportedly took Wise’s sword during the battle. Years later Goldsmith passed the sword onto George Bentley, a soldier at the rebellion. In turn, Bentley returned the sword to the Goldsmith family, handing it to Thomas Barnett, the man that Mary Goldsmith. In 1911 Barnett donated the sword to The Fine Arts Gallery in Ballarat. It is now in the possession of the Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill.
By 1859 James Herbert Goldsmith operated a sawmill business at The Springs, near Slaty Creek in the Wattle Flat district, north of Ballarat. Goldsmith’s business survived just three years. It was decimated on 23 February 1862 by a bushfire that broke out in the Bullarook Forest after campers failed to sufficiently extinguish their camp fire. The fire spread rapidly and whilst some of the neighbouring saw mills were saved, James Goldsmith lost everything.
James Herbert Goldsmith’s saw mill partnership with Andrew Falls was officially dissolved on 20 August 1863. Despite the devastation from the loss of his business, James remained living in Wattle Flat. He welcomed the marriages of two of his children during 1868 – James junior wed Martha Large and Mary Goldsmith married Thomas Barnett. We know that James continued to reside at The Springs up to at least 1869, as during this year he is listed in the Ballarat Directory as a resident in “Springs”.
By 1877 James Goldsmith had fallen into hard times. When he was arrested for vagrancy in Melbourne in January, it was reported that he “was a filthy looking native of Bullarook with a tawny hide and mane, and possessing a striking resemblance to a Darwinian pet.” He was sentenced to one month imprisonment.
James returned to the Ballarat district after his release. He was admitted to the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum on 12 September 1877 on the grounds of paralysis. From there he was transferred to the Kew Lunatic Asylum in Melbourne. Upon admission on 19 September, it was noted that James was married and had sons and a daughter in the colony however, his family was unknown to the police. Described as a ‘lunatic’, James Goldsmith was a patient at the asylum for two months when he died from an “old disease of the brain and pleuro pneumonia” on 16 November 1877.
James Goldsmith endured numerous hardships during his life. Despite dying as a lonely man in a state institution, all three of his children and nine grandchildren were living at the time of his demise. After the death of James, the Goldsmith family continued to grow, with the births of a further 28 grandchildren. The legacy of James Herbert Goldsmith, the man referred to as resembling a “Darwinian pet”, has proved to be profound – not only within the Ballarat / Wattle Flat districts, but for all of Australia, as James Hebert Goldsmith was the 4x great grandfather of Bill Shorten, the past leader of the Australian Labour Party.

Those who “flew to heaven” 1717 –1736:
A 20-year analysis of burial records at the Parish of St Eustachio, Someo

My family lines are predominately Irish and to a lesser extent English. However, one line is slightly more “exotic” for want of a better word. Following years of generational turbulence in his homeland, and attracted to Australia by the lure of gold, my 2x great grandfather Giovanni Gaspare Batista Caligari, commonly known as Batista, arrived in Melbourne on 9 September 1854. Battista was born in Someo, Canton of Ticino, Switzerland in 1822. He had obviously received news of the fortunes to be found from the 19 Someo men who travelled to the Victorian goldfields during the previous year. Batista was one of 604 immigrants from Ticino during 1854. By the following year, the numbers had swelled to over 2000 Ticinesi on the Victorian goldfields.

Records dating back to 1365 make mention of the Someo churchyard. The current church was constructed during the 16th century. The ornate church was dedicated to Saint Placido in 1578, to Saint Placido and Saint Eustachio in 1591, and only Saint Eustachio in 1931.

The St Eustachio parish burial registers begin in 1717. Penned in Latin, Troy Goss has taken upon himself the painstaking task of transcribing the records from microfilm. From his work, l am now collating a database of the Someo burials in the hope of conducting a statistical analysis of those who were buried in the church graveyard.

It is doubtful that all burials were recorded over the first few years, as only two burials are noted in 1717, one each year in 1718 and 1719, none in 1720 nor in 1721, and just two burials in 1722. The baptism registers do not commence until 1723, so we are unable to compare the six years between 1717 and 1722 to note a comparable ‘thinness’. I believe it would be wrong to make assumptions and statistically inaccurate to do so. With this in mind, my analysis of the burial records range from the first recording in 1717 until the last entry in 1736. Troy has confirmed that 227 names of those who were laid to rest over this twenty-year period appear in the registers.

The most deaths in any particular year were 1736 – 38 bodies were interred in the parish cemetery, almost twice as many from preceding years. In 1733 there were 22 burials with 19 in each year of 1724, 1728 and 1734. So what happened in 1736? Unfortunately the cause of death was not recorded. The only obvious cluster of deaths was during the month of October – eight people died between 1 – 18 October, yet none of these shared a surname, so it is unlikely that there was an infectious disease. Ages of the deceased covered a broad range. Perhaps we will never know just what was happening in Someo during 1836.

Continuing with the 20-year analysis, winter was certainly the busiest time for burials – 27 during the month of February and 26 in January – whilst there were only seven burials in the month of June over the twenty years.

The sexes were basically evenly divided – 112 females and 115 males.

Ages were not recorded on three burial registers. Eighteen babies “flew to heaven” (the term used on the registers) within one month of their birth, including one stillborn baby, and three sets of twins. A further 31 babies died before their first birthday, 10 before their second birthday and an additional 19 children were buried before their twelfth birthday.

At 86 years, Baptista Nicola was the oldest resident to be buried; 85-year-old Margarita Joria, nee Franscionni was the oldest female. If we are to include all of the infant burials, the mean age at death was 31 years. If one was able to survive childhood, life expectancy increased. Disregarding the 78 children burials (for this analysis) and concentrating on adult burials (i.e. those aged 14 years and older) the adult life expectancy of Someo residents was 46 years, five months. By sex, the mean age for adult females was 45 years, three months and for men, it was 50 years, 11 months.

The most common age at death was 35 years. Fifteen people were buried at this age – eight females and seven males. Deaths of young adult women were more prevalent than those of men. 46 people died between the ages of 14 and 35 years, with 26 of these being females. Of these, 21 were married. As mentioned, the cause of death was rarely recorded on the burial registers however, it was noted that two women died in childbirth. Seventeen-year-old Maria Margarita Perinoni died after falling from a cliff in 1730. The only two other recorded causes of death were of 35 year old Petrus Copus who fell from a tree and 40-year-old Guilelmina Pallandini who drowned, both deaths being in 1731.

The St Eustachio parish register records the surnames of 45 different families. During the twenty-year period of 1717 to 1736 the most burials belonged to the Coppi and Righetti families, who each interred 17 family members.

As a comparison, the St Eustachio baptism records do not commence until 1723. Between 6 January 1723 and 22 December 1736, 394 baptisms were conducted in the parish church. So it is evident that the population of Someo was increasing, as the birth rate was considerably higher than the death rate.

It will be interesting to see if there will be major changes over time, as l compile more data into my database and continue with the analysis.

Someo, Switzerland, 2019
Photography by Kate Crews

Someo, a village in the Maggia Valley dwarfed by granite mountains.  Stonework dominates construction, being used for houses and walkways.

The ornate interior of the parish church was painted by Kate Crews 2x great grandfather, Rafaello Righetti.  Rafaello was born in Someo in 1832.  He arrived in Australia in 1853 with compatriots, returning home circa 1868 where he married and produced a family of six children.  Rafaello died at the age of 62, on 18 July 1894.

Ballarat's tenuous connection to the Battle of Long Tan

18 August – Vietnam Veteran’s Day, formerly known as Long Tan Day

Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War spanned thirteen years. During this time almost 60,000 Australian troops served in Vietnam, 521 died and over 3000 were wounded. In what is deemed as the most significant day of fighting involving Australian troops, today we remember the Battle of Long Tan.

For three days between 16 and 18 August 1966 many Australian troops were entertained at a series of concerts. Performing three times each day, Col Joye and 17-year-old Little Pattie, backed by the Boy Joys, entertained the troops bringing relief from the ardours of fighting.

Just four miles away in a rubber plantation, 108 soldiers from D Company, 6RAR endured torrential rain battling against 2500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. It was to be the largest loss of life of Australian troops on a single day. The 6RAR endured the loss of 18 men, aged between 19 and 22 years. A further 24 soldiers were wounded yet the Australian’s prevailed. The outnumbered Australian’s had successfully held off their enemy, who suffered 245 fatalities. It is believed that more enemy bodies had been removed from the battlefield.

Private Victor Roy Grice was one of Australia’s fatalities. Born into a military family on 6 April 1945, both of his parents, Sergeant Roy Victor Grice and Corporal Shirley Evalene Henderson served in the RAAF during World War Two. Whilst the Australian War Memorial records Victor’s birth in his mother’s hometown of Ballarat, the Grice family announced Victor’s birth in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper, stating he was born at Melbourne Private Hospital.

Roy and Shirley married in Victoria in 1944. Corporal Shirley Grice was discharged from service on 13 August 1944.   After Roy’s discharge on 19 June 1945, he relocated his young family to his state of birth, Queensland, where he found employment as a postmaster.

Victor was raised in a loving family at 7 Buckle Street, Brisbane, enjoying the delights of childhood. Formal education commenced on 31 January 1950 when Victor was enrolled at the Virginia State School in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. Being proud of his colouring abilities, at the age of 7 years Victor was delighted to be awarded the winner of the Brisbane Telegraph’s Christmas colouring competition in 1952.

By 1958 the Grice family had relocated to 52 Love Street, Northgate. Victor furthered his education enrolling at the State Industrial High School on 25 August 1959. This school catered for approximately 750 boys aged 14 to 18 years where extra curricular activities included boxing, basketball and gymnastics. The school also had a program for army and air force cadets.

Victor was employed as a store man when he was conscripted to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps on 8 June 1966. Leaving his home at 273 Newman Road, Geebung, Queensland, Victor was allocated Service Number 1730947 and assigned to 6RAR.

After just 73 days service with the Australian Army Victor was killed in action during the Battle of Long Tan. His body was repatriated to Australia and he has been laid to rest at Pinnaroo Lawn Cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland.

George Withers and Susannah Lloyd

So many stories are waiting to be told. The more we research our family history these stories are revealed and can be penned and shared. On this day 189 years ago, my 3x great grandparents married at St Peters Church of England, Campbelltown, New South Wales. Reverend Thomas Reddall wed George Withers and Susannah Lloyd by banns “with the consent of the governor” on 4 August 1830. An 1830 marriage in NSW – yes, let me introduce your to another pair of my convict ancestors.

George Withers was born on 14 October 1802 to John Withers and Hannah Burgess in Greenham, Thatcham, Berkshire, England. The innocence of childhood was crudely shattered by the death of his mother in 1807. George was orphaned when his father died the following year.

At the age of 20, George was convicted of stealing six sheepskins valued at 10 pence. At his trial in Newbury, George was sentenced to 7 years transportation. He was housed on the prison hulk York for three months, before sailing for Australia per Guildford, arriving in NSW on 5 March 1824. It was a voyage that lasted 190 days, considerably long for the time. The passage was interrupted by a two month “stop-over” in Rio de Janeiro, after the ship sprang a leak whilst crossing the Bay of Biscay.   At Teneriffe it was determined that it would be safer to continue to Rio for repairs rather than risk exposure to the Spanish privateers who were active in the area during the hostilities between Spain and France following the ascension to the Spanish throne of King Fernando VII. It was only through the combined efforts of crew and convicts that docking in Rio eventuated. The leak had worsened despite the continuous pumping of water.

George claimed his occupation to be a ploughman and upon arrival he was assigned to Richard Durant In Liverpool. By 1828 George was re-assigned as a labourer to Amos Crisp at Lower Minto in the district of Campbelltown, remaining under Crisp’s employ after receipt of his Certificate of Freedom on 13 April 1830.

George was a free man at the time of his marriage, yet he required the permission of the governor, as his bride was a convict. Susannah Lloyd was born circa 1808 in Manchester England to John Lloyd and Bridget Savage. At the age of 17, Susannah was convicted of ‘larceny from the person’ and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. Six months after her release, Susannah was once again on trial, this time for ‘receiving stolen property’. Due to her previous criminal history, Susannah was sentenced to 14 years transportation.

Susannah arrived in Australia on 27 September 1827 per Harmony with 79 other female convicts. The indent list tells us that Susannah stood 5’ 3 ¾” tall. Her fresh complexion was pitted and spotty whilst her red hair adorned a face highlighted by her brown eyes.

Within months of her marriage, Susannah delivered the first of 13 children over the ensuing 21 years. This child died in infancy, as did her third born. During 1833 George and Susannah moved from Lower Minto to Burrangong Station, adding to the servant roster of James White. The district is now known as Young.

It is interesting to note that Susannah delivered five babies in quick succession between 1830 and the end of 1833. Yet it was five years before the birth of her sixth child. The lapse in time can be explained by investigating her husband, George.

Five years after receiving his Certificate of Freedom George Withers found himself in trouble with the law again. On 6 March 1835 George was convicted at Campbelltown Quarter Sessions for the theft of two pigs. A sentence of three years imprisonment at Moreton Bay was imposed. From the gaol description books, we learn that George stood 5’ 6 ¼” tall. If measurements were correct, he had grown 1 ¼” since arrival in the colony in 1824. He had a fresh complexion with light brown hair matching his hazel eyes. George was considered to be stout and adorned both of his arms with tattoos. George returned to Sydney in 1837 although he was not released to freedom until 12 July 1838.

The following year George and Susannah were reassigned as servants to John Kennedy Hume at Collingwood Station, Gunning, New South Wales. John’s brother, Hamilton Hume, was the famed explorer who travelled overland to Port Phillip with William Hovell, in the route now known as the Hume Highway. John Hume had heard that bushrangers were near Gunning so on 20 January 1840 he rode into town to buy ammunition in preparation of an encounter. Upon leaving the store Hume was confronted by Thomas Whitten and his gang and ordered to put down his weapon. He refused and was shot dead, leaving a widow and nine children.

The Wither’s family continued to grow whilst in the employ of Mrs Hume, a woman who had a profound impact on George and his family. Mrs Hume was a Roman Catholic. Whilst residing on her station, George and Susannah were converted to Catholicism, and in turn, their children were anointed into this faith.

By 1860 George had relocated his family east of Gunning to the plains of Breadalbane, where he and his sons worked as teamsters. A dramatic change of fortune was to enfold with the discovery of gold in George’s paddock in May 1860. Whilst family folklore does not support the theory that George became a wealthy man from the proceeds of gold, it is plausible that some riches were found, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday, September 26, 1862, that George and some of his sons selected crown land in the parish of Gurrunda. George purchased 21 acres; his son Richard purchased 40 acres; George junior purchased 40 acres 1 rood; and Henry Withers purchased two lots, one of 23 acres and the other of 40 acres. As Henry was only 18 years old at this time it is presumed that his father financed his land.

George died of dropsy on 29 August 1878 at Breadalbane and was buried at St. Bridgid’s Catholic Church in Mutmutbilly the following day. A very ornate tombstone was erected at his grave. The inscription reads, “We have loved him during life, let us not forget him after death, God of mercy Jesus bless, Grant him Thy eternal rest”.

Susannah was laid to rest next to her husband in February 1880. Her family erected an equally ornate tombstone, the inscription reading, “Pale death could scarcely find another, So good a wife so fond a mother, In all her actions she was kind, And left her loved ones all behind.” As was the case with George, there are discrepancies concerning Susannah’s age at the time of her death. Susannah’s tombstone dates her age as 78 years; her death certificate dated her age as 80 years; and if the age recorded on her convict record was correct, she would have died at age 72 years.

It is easy to pity convicts who were sentenced to terms of transportation half way around the world for offences that today appear as trivial. Yet for some, the arrival in the new colony provided opportunities that never would have existed by remaining in England. I believe this to be the case with George and Susannah. Together they raised a large family, who in turn also sired very large families. George and Susannah welcomed at least 86 grandchildren and as they had just the one daughter, the Withers surname has become well established in NSW.

Today l pay homage to George and Susannah.

Withers Lloyd Permission to Marry
Withers Lloyd Marriage
Withers Land
Withers Graves, Mutmutbilly, NSW

Gerald Downing aka John James

On this day 102 years ago, my 2nd great uncle died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium.  

Michael James Downing was born on 29 July 1889 in Northcote, Victoria the youngest of 11 children.  His parents, Patrick Downey and Mary Fitzgerald from Waterford Ireland, suffered the loss of three children dying in infancy.  Patrick brought his wife and five children to Australia at the outbreak of the 1879 Irish famine, changing his family name to ‘Downing”.  Michael has a fascinating but very sad story.  He was only 3 years old when his father died and 11 years old when he was orphaned by the death of his mother.  On his mother’s death certificate Michael’s name is recorded as “Gerald”.  

Gerald Downing was one of my ‘brick wall ancestors’.  I struggled to identify him on an electoral roll, nor locate his death – searching under the surnames of Downing, Downey and Downie, and his birth names of Michael James as well as his familiar name of Gerald.  It was by chance that l located his AIF attestation form whilst researching his sister Hannah.  Locating this document was satisfying from a genealogical perspective as so many questions were answered, yet it was heart wrenching on a personal level.

“John James” enlisted with the AIF on 22 July 1915 at Liverpool NSW.   He declared his place of birth as Waterford Ireland whilst his current address was recorded as the Wellington Post Office, New South Wales.  John stated he was 29 years 11 months and worked as a labourer.   Vital statistics were recorded on his attestation: he was 5 foot, 5 ½ inches tall; weighed 154 pounds; chest measurement of 35-38 inches.  He had a ruddy complexion, grey eyes and black hair.  John James nominated his sister, Mrs. W Reid of Maroo, Oakleigh as his next of kin.  It was this information that sparked my interest.  I was compelled to read this 45-page file.

John James was allocated service number 913 and assigned as a private in the 30th Battalion, D Company.  Army records show that his “general character” was “good”.  John’s unit embarked from Sydney on board HMAT A72 Beltana on 9 November 1915, arriving in Egypt after the evacuation of Gallipoli.  Like so many other Australian soldiers, John James exposed himself to gonorrhea whilst in Ismailia.  After 40 days of treatment John was deemed fit for service and transferred to the 47th Battalion on 1 April 1916.  This battalion was raised in Egypt on 24 February 1916, with approximately half of its recruits being Gallipoli veterans and the remainder being fresh reinforcements from Australia.  

On 9 June 1916 the 47th Battalion was transferred from the Suez Canal region to join the British Expeditionary Forces on the western front in France.  John James disembarked at Marseilles but immediately traveled 1000 km north to E’taples in the northern Flanders region of France.  This region shares its northern border with Flemish Flanders in Belgium.  On 5 July 1916 John was transferred to the 4th Division Ammunition Column and was promoted to the rank of “mustered driver”.  The 4th Division was stationed near Armentieres on the border with Belgium.  In early August 1916 the 4th Division moved to Pozieres Heights and was involved in a series of attacks that became known as the Battle of the Somme.  The 4th Division then moved on to nearby Mouquet Farm.  This was a heavily defended German stronghold around Thiepval Village.  The Australians attacked on the night of 13 August.  In ten days of continuous action the 4th Division suffered 4649 casualties.  John James was most likely to have been one of those injured.  On 21 August 1916 he was admitted to the 10th Stationary Hospital at St. Omer with injuries to both legs.  John’s casualty form records his injury as “ICT”, or rather “Inflammation of Connective Tissue”.  John’s wounds were septic.  In his absence the 4th Division was relieved by the 1st Division, which made only slight gains and suffered 2650 casualties.  Mouquet Farm eventually fell on 26 September 1916.  In less than seven weeks in the fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm three Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties.  Of these, 6800 men were killed or died of wounds.  It was a loss comparable with the casualties sustained by the Australians over eight months at Gallipoli in 1915.

After his recovery, John James was sent on a one week detachment with the Trench Mortar School at Berthen, France for training between 23 to 30 September.  He then returned to active service in the Battle of the Somme until this battle officially ended on 18 November 1916.  John remained on duty during the winter of 1916–1917 as the Australian forces garrisoned the line east of Flers.  From there they kept pressure on the Germans by means of small attacks and raids.  However, being a European winter, the main battle was against mud, rain and frostbite.  On 11 December John was again admitted to a field ambulance before returning to the 4th Division Ammunition Column five days later.

The bombardment of Vimy Ridge commenced on 20 March 1917.  It is most likely that John James was involved in this mission.  On 11 April 1917 the 4th Division assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the First Battle of Bullecourt.  The battle was a disaster with the Germans capturing 1170 Australian prisoners.

One month later John James was transferred to the 4th Division Trench Mortar Brigade and reverted to the role of Gunner.   On 7 June 1917 the 4th Division participated in the Battle of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium.   This was a meticulously planned attack envisaged one year earlier.  Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and British engineers tunneled under the German trenches and laid 455 tonnes of explosives.  Simultaneously at 3.10am they were ignited as the opening move in the Messines attack.  A crater 60 feet deep and 260 feet wide was created at the Hill 60 mine, overwhelming the German front–line troops.  The Australian, New Zealand and British troops advanced to find a shattered enemy and managed to overrun the German front–line positions at Messines.  By 6am the Messines Ridge was in British hands. 

The operation was almost totally successful.  Meticulously planned and well executed, the assault secured all its objectives in less than twelve hours, took more than 7,000 prisoners, and suffered a relatively modest 24,000 casualties.  Sadly, one of those casualties was John James.   John’s casualty form tells us that he was injured from gun shot wounds suffered “in the field”.  He died from these wounds on 9 June 1917 in an “Advanced Dressing Station”, operated by the 9th Australian Field Ambulance.

As the nominated next of kin, Hannah Reid was sent a package on 19 March 1918, containing her brother’s “personal effects”.  This included a “religious medallion, rosary, purse, eight religious books, religious card, letters note book cover” as well as his kit store, which included his “safety razor in case, photos, cards, writing wallet, religious book, pipe, brush, letters”. 

On 3 December 1920, Major McLean, the officer in Charge of the Base records, wrote to Hannah asking if John James had “any nearer blood relations”, specifically if parents were alive or if John had a brother or an older living sister.  This information was required for the distribution of medals.  Hannah replied on 17 December 1920 informing the war office that “John Downey” was the eldest brother.  The war office then sought an explanation as to why the brothers had different surnames.  John Downey’s reply, dated 26 September 1921, was fascinating to read.  

“Dear Sir,

I am the eldest brother of the late Gunner J James 913.  His father and mother are both dead.  My sister Mrs. Reid Maroo Street Oakleigh reared him.  Like myself he was rejected for bad teeth but he went to Sydney and enlisted under the name of John James.  I would like to have any Star or Medals of his.  I would also like to know where he was killed.  My sister only got somewhere in France.

Sincerely yours,

J Downey”

Apart from the incredible explanation, it was interesting to see that John, who was born in Ireland, signed his name as “Downey” rather than Downing.  The reply to John’s question regarding the place of death was sent in a letter dated 20 October 1921.  The place of burial was listed, with the comment that John James “was evidently wounded in that locality”.  He was buried at the Strand Military Cemetery (Plot 6, Row A, Grave No. 5), Ploegsteert, Belgium.  This cemetery is situated 4km from Mesen (Messines).  At the Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, panel number 20 is dedicated to “John James”.  Despite learning of his true identity, the Australian War Memorial does not recognize the name “Gerald Downing”.

A memorial scroll was sent to John Downey on 14 November 1921 and he received three medals in 1923 – The Star, British War Medal and Victory medal.  Gerald has been listed on the Oakleigh RSL Honour Board – he is recorded as “G Downing”, not “J James”.  He is also remembered by the planting of a tree at the Oakleigh Avenue of Honour. 

And thus in a confronting manner, l managed to resolve my brick wall query.  By doing so, today l have the honour of paying homage to Gerald Downing aka John James.,

Louis Gordon Ballhausen

Louis Gordon Ballhausen was born in the Ballarat suburb of Sebastopol in 1897 to Donald Ballhausen and Annie Kennedy. He was the youngest of six children.

Donald Ballhausen, known as “Charles”, was a German immigrant, having sailed to Australia from Bremen, Germany on 24 August 1849 per Pauline. He arrived at Port Adelaide, South Australia as an eight-year-old child on 9 December 1849. The passenger list informs us that four adults and four children with the Ballhausen name travelled on this voyage. The adults included Carl Louis, Louisa Kestenbein, Ja Henrietta and Ernest Ballhausen.

Charles Ballhausen was born on 26 May 1841 in Clausthal, Goslar, Niedersachsen, Germany. Clausthal is a historic town in Lower Saxony, located in the southwestern region of the Harz Mountains. Whilst mining commenced in the region during the 16th century, the town is noted for its magnificent buildings. In 1848 Causthal had a population of 14,739 residents.

By the mid 1850’s Charles Ballhausen travelled east to Geelong, Victoria before settling in Ballarat. Charles married at the age of 42 years in 1883 to a woman half his age.   Annie Kennedy was born to Scottish parents in 1862 at Dowling Forest, Victoria. Charles and Annie had the following issue:

  • Charles Donald Ballhausen – b. 1884
  • Ernest Albert Ballhausen – b. 1885
  • John Kennedy Ballhausen – b. 1887
  • Ruby Lillian Ballhausen – b. 1889
  • Peter Leslie Ballhausen – b. 1893
  • Louis Gordon Ballhausen – b. 1897

We know from electoral roll data that the Ballhausen family resided in Albert Street, Sebastopol. Charles was employed as a cab driver.

Despite his Germanic heritage, 28-year-old John Kennedy Ballhausen attested with the AIF on 7 July 1915. John clearly identified as an Australian, responding to the call for single men to enlist. He nominated his father Charles as his next of kin. John stood 5’ 6” tall and weighed 10 stone. His chest measurement expanded from 33 to 36 inches, an indication of his strength to work as a saw miller. John had a dark complexion with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He declared that he was Presbyterian.

John was assigned SERN.2850 and allocated to 6/23 Battalion. He departed Melbourne per HMAT Ulysses on 27 October 1915 to Egypt. John disembarked in Egypt soon after the evacuation of forces from Gallipoli. Upon arrival he was transferred to 58 Bn however, he was hospitalized on two occasions with illness, which interrupted his training. John Ballhausen was well enough to join his battalion when they embarked to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France, arriving in Marseilles on 23 June 1916. Just 25 days later John was wounded in action. Sustaining a “serious” gunshot wound to his left foot, John was evacuated to England. After treatment at Woodcote Park Hospital, Epsom and a period of recovery, it was deemed that John was not capable of returning to active service. He was invalided to Australia on 23 May 1917, arriving eight weeks later. John Ballhausen was discharged from the AIF on 1 September 1917.

Woodcote Park dates back to 1679. It is a stately mansion in Epsom, Surrey, England, that has housed prominent English families. In 1913 the Royal Automobile Club purchased the property. During the First World War, the grounds were used for military training. The camp became a Convalescent Hospital in June 1915.

Two weeks after his son’s attestation, Charles Ballhausen applied to be a naturalized Australian citizen, supposedly to qualify for receipt of an old age pension. Whilst this may have been the overriding intention of the 74 year old, other factors would have contributed to his decision. Charles had lived most of his life in Australia but presumably he would have been concerned about being identified as an “enemy alien”. During the course of the war, 7,000 people were interred in camps on Australian soil. Of these, 4,500 were Australian residents of German descent who were deemed to be “enemy aliens” during the war.

Upon the receipt of a ‘police report of his history and character’, Inspector Sampson of the Ballarat Police Force wrote a glowing referral for Charles, stating he was an “old and respected citizen of Sebastopol. …have known Ballhausen in the capacity of a cabman for over 30 years, and he is all that could be desired as a citizen.”

Charles swore an Oath of Allegiance on 30 August before Police Magistrate, Read Murphy. He was granted citizenship on 7 October 1915. He receive certificate No. 22883.

Louis Gordon Ballhausen was known amongst his family and friends as ‘Gordon’. Gordon followed in his brother’s footsteps and attested with the AIF on 7 February 1916. He stated that he was 18 years and 10 months and was an apprentice hairdresser. Gordon declared that he had previously been rejected due to his chest measurements. He was of much smaller stature than his brother John, standing just 5’ 3 ½ ” tall and weighing 122 pounds. His chest measurement expanded from 29 to 32 inches. Gordon had a fair complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. He and was of the Methodist faith. Captain Crawford, AAMC, rejected this application due to a deficient chest measurement.

Unperturbed, Gordon attempted to enlist again on 10 May 1916. On this occasion his chest measurement was noted as 30-33 inches, which Captain Steele, AAMC, found to be acceptable. Gordon was assigned SERN.2039 and allocated to 39 Battalion. He nominated his mother, Mrs. Annie Ballhausen of Albert Street Sebastopol as his next of kin.

Gordon embarked HMAT Shropshire at Melbourne on 25 September 1916, disembarking at Plymouth England almost seven weeks later. After a period of induction with the 10th Training Battalion Gordon proceeded overseas to France on 4 February 1917. He was taken on strength in the field on 16 March 1917. During a crucial period of battles, Gordon managed to disprove the medicos concerns regarding his stature and fitness to withstand the rigors of war.

The 39th Battalion was occupied primarily in defensive roles in Flanders until the end of May 1917. However, with the onset of the European summer, the battalion was involved in pivotal battles. It is more than likely that Gordon participated in active combat with his battalion in major battles.   The Battle of Messines was fought between 7 to 14 June 1917 and was a precursor to the infamous battles at Ypres from the end of July to 10 November 1917, including:

  • Battle of Broodseinde Ridge on 4 October 1917
  • First Battle for Paschendale on 12 October 1917

From November 1917 to March 1918 the servicemen of 39th Battalion were rotated between the front lines and rear areas, whilst holding the Belgium line over the winter. Gordon remained on active service for 11 months before being granted two weeks leave to England. He returned to the field on 1 March 1918 to participate in the ‘German Spring Offensive”.   Combat took place at Arras, the Somme and in Belgium.

During the European summer of 1918, Gordon was hospitalized for four weeks suffering with pyrexia. He rejoined his battalion on 14 July 1918. It is likely that Gordon fought at the Battle Of Amiens during 8 to 11 August. Gordon suffered his first and only injury when he was wounded in action on 30 August, receiving a shrapnel wound causing a contusion to his right foot. Louis was evacuated to England and treated at Frensham Hill Military Hospital, Farnham, Surrey, for a fortnight.

Gordon was considered fit to return to overseas service by 24 October however, with the end of fighting in sight, he was not dispatched to France. Gordon departed England on 8 January 1919, disembarking in Melbourne on 27 February.

Louis Gordon Ballhausen was discharged from the AIF TPE – Termination of Period of Enlistment – at Melbourne on 6 April 1919.

Upon his return to civilian life, Gordon moved back into his parent’s home. The 1920 electoral roll informs us that Charles and Annie had relocated the family residence to 603 Dana Street, Ballarat. By 1920 Charles was retired from working as a cab driver. Gordon declared he worked as a hairdresser, an occupation that he followed throughout his life.

By 1924 Gordon had moved to Melbourne, residing at 18 Stanley Street, Richmond. Later that year Gordon married Eileen Mary Agatha Woodruff. Eileen was born in Geelong circa 1903. Their only child was a daughter named Norma.

Gordon and Eileen were residing at 15 Mary Street, Richmond during 1925 and 1926.

In 1927 Gordon’s father died. Charles Ballhausen died at the age of 85 years on 1 March 1927 at Ballarat. He was buried at Ballarat Old Cemetery.

By 1931 Gordon and Eileen had settled at 373 Victoria Street, Abbotsford, occupying the premises until at least 1943. It is likely that Gordon conducted his hairdressing business from the street level shop whilst his family resided on the first floor.

In her latter years, Annie moved to Melbourne. She died at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond on 25 November 1939.

By 1949 Gordon and Eileen had relocated to 32 Victoria Street, Windsor. The electoral roll of this year tells us that Gordon had “no occupation”.

It was at this address that Gordon met his death on 11 May 1950, aged just 53 years. Gordon died suddenly from a heart attack, described on his death certificate as a “coronary occlusion”. For a number of years he had suffered with angina pectoris and coronary sclerosis.

After her husband’s death Eileen resided at various properties in South Yarra and Malvern. After 1972 Eileen remarried, to Walter John Toogood. Eileen Toogood died at Geelong on 2 February 1979. She was buried at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery three days after her death. Walter Toogood was interred with her three years later.

Richard Moran's Convict Description List
Richard Moran's Convict Conduct Record

Two Men, One Crime, Same Findings, Different Outcomes

On this day 183 years ago a very interesting trial was heard at The Old Bailey court in London. On 9 May 1836 Richard Moran was indicted for stealing 112lbs. weight of currants, value £3 5s on 2 April. The currants were the property of his masters, John Healey Booth, Ingledew and Co., wholesale grocers of Upper-Thames Street.  Charles Henry Harrod, a 37-year-old failed linen draper who re-established himself as a grocer and tea merchant in nearby Rosemary Lane, Cable Street, was indicted for feloniously receiving these goods, “well knowing them to be stolen”.

Richard Moran was born in 1797 to Pat Moran and Ann Hartford in Dublin, Ireland. At the time of arrest he was a 38-year-old married man with four children residing in Stepney, London. Moran married Mary Fitzgibbon on 3 October 1821 at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. He was able to sign his name however, Mary could not.

Moran worked as a porter in Booth’s warehouse. He had ordered John Warner, a carman (delivery driver) to drop “additional” items off at Harrod’s premises on a regular basis. These items were never invoiced nor paid for. Little did Warner know that Harrod was under investigation by a Thames police officer, James Fogg.

Evidence at trial informed the court that the carman was captured and he duly informed on Moran, leading to his arrest. Learning that Warner and Moran were under arrest, Harrod went into hiding. When he was eventually confronted, Harrod pleaded, “Oh, consider my wife and family, what am I to do? Come up-stairs and see my wife, she is in bed. Oh, what am I to do? Can’t you settle this thing?” When the arresting policeman refused his pleads, Moran’s response was, “Such things have been done, I know, and I will give you 20s if you will let me run out of the house, and I will never be seen in the neighbourhood any more, or any thing you require.”

After agreeing to provide evidence against Moran and Harrod, Warner was released from custody. At trial, Moran and Harrod both protested their innocence. However, it was Harrod who arrived with support. His brother William Frederick Harrod attempted to discredit the arresting officer. Harrod was also supported by 12 character references. Despite this, the judge deemed that both Moran and Harrod had colluded in the theft and were guilty as charged. They each received a sentence of seven years transportation.

Both men were received on the prison hulk Leviathan moored at Portsmouth on 30 May 1836. However, on 1 July 1836 Harrod surprisingly was transferred to a penitentiary. Richard Moran remained on the hulk for six months before being transported to Australia per Sarah.

Richard Moran arrived in VDL on 29 March 1837. (Did he know my 3x great grandfather who was also transported per Sarah?) From the convict records, we learn that Richard stood 5’ 11 ¼ “ tall. He had a large head with a fresh complexion on a well-proportioned face – a normal length nose sat above a normal width mouth. His grey hair matched his grey eyes although his eyebrows remained dark. There were no other distinguishing features.

Moran was ‘almost’ a model convict, only committing one offence that was punished by admonishment. He was granted a ticket of leave in May 1841. Moran received a reprieve from his seven-year sentence in the form of a conditional pardon on 3 November 1842. Conditional pardons were granted to convicts of good behavior.   The “condition” being that they could travel to other colonies within Australia, but not return to England or Ireland. It would appear that Moran was in no rush to leave the colony of his sentence, as he is found on the VDL Ledger of Returns in 1846 and again in 1849. This however, was the last official sighting of Richard Moran. There is inconclusive evidence to link further possible sightings in other Australian colonies.

The fortune of Charles Harrod was totally contrary to Richard Moran as Harrod was the beneficiary of privilege and influence. Charles Henry Harrod petitioned his sentence of transportation with the support of 54 merchants and tradesmen of Cable Street and the surrounding neighbourhood. Three additional petitions were received from 31, 38 and 66 inhabitants respectively of London and Middlesex. The wife of Charles, Elizabeth Harrod, submitted a final petition that was undersigned by 50 inhabitants of London and Middlesex. It was determined that Harrod was not to go abroad and be removed from the prison hulk Leviathan to a penitentiary infirmary until the case be decided. Thus he was transferred to Newgate Prison on 1 July 1836.

The ground for clemency was based upon Harrod’s character. Petition details stated, “The prisoner has maintained an irreproachable character; he has a wife and two young children, all in delicate health, to support; his own health is poor; the evidence of the principal witness for the prosecution was questionable; the prisoner has conducted himself well in Millbank penitentiary; his elder child has died during his imprisonment.”

Additionally six letters of support for Harrod were received from:

  • William Mason, 8 Fore Street, City
  • John Pollard Searle, Tabernacle Row, City Road
  • James Baker, 1 Dorchester Place, New North Road, Hoxton, surgeon
  • James Brown, 68 Chigwell Street.
  • John Hewitt, chemist and druggist, Well Street, Cable Street. This man was Harrod’s landlord. Hewitt offered security for Harod’s future good conduct.

Police report from Superintendent of H or Whitechapel Division, stating that the prisoner had an irreproachable character and that those who informed against him did so out of jealousy.

Presumably the weight of support from the Superintendent of Police had a large bearing on the outcome of the appeal. The long-standing arrangement to purloin goods for his own benefit that Harrod had with Moran was superseded by his ability to conjure backing from influential associates and supporters. As such, Charles Harrod was released from Millbank Penitentiary on 1 May 1837.

Charles Henry Harrod returned to his grocery business upon release. Was it despite of the 1836-1837 blemish, or was it in response to narrowly escaping transportation to Australia that Charles Harrod prospered in his business endeavours? He grew his small Cable Street grocery into an empire of world renown, the famous Harrod’s department store of London.

Charles Henry Harrod
Elizabeth Harrod
Harrod's Store 1849
Harrod's store 1901
Herbert William Smith death 1916
Frederick Walter Smith AIF attestation
Frederick Walter Smith burial details
Alfred Ernest Smith death notice 1892
Clarence Leslie Smith AIF Attestatioa
Errol Victor Smith obituary 1950
Aubrey Lyall Smith burial 1964
Australian Military Envelope with the 1 penny stamp

WW1, The Smith Brothers and Fake News

It was my intention to honour the anniversary of Anzac Day by highlighting a family who suffered multiple losses during the fateful landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. I decided to write about the Victorian born Sussex brothers, Charles (SERN.310) and Joshua (SERN.996) who were both killed during the landing. To put their story in perspective, l hoped to highlight how many Australian families endured multiple fatalities. Looking for statistics, l searched “brothers killed at Gallipoli”. The first result was ‘Six of seven sons of Frederick and Maggie Smith died in WW1’ – – an article by Walkley Award winning journalist Ian McPhedran, the National Defence Writer for News Corp, printed in the Herald Sun on 25 April, 2014.

McPhedran opens his article, “ALMOST a century ago the seven sons of a humble Australian rural couple called Frederick and Maggie Smith marched off to the Great War.  Just one came home and he died under a tram in 1923. The tragic true story of the six Smith brothers killed in action during the ‘war to end all wars’ makes the fictional Hollywood movie Saving Private Ryan look like a picnic. It is also unique in the annals of Australian military history.”

McPhedran continues, “The incredible story has remained secret for almost 100 years and has only come to light due to the efforts of the brothers’ great-nephew, Adelaide businessman and convener of the 2015 Camp Gallipoli national sleep-out, Chris Fox. When he was a lad his maternal great-grandmother Lottie, the only girl in the Smith family of eight, took him aside and handed him her most important possession. It was a one penny Australian stamp that had been attached to a letter from the front written by the youngest and her favourite of the seven brothers Aubrey Lyall “Jack” Smith.”

How could any parent endure such loss? Should l change the focus of my article? Despite a respected journalist writing the brother’s saga, could l retell the story of the Smith family from a genealogical perspective and share it on my website and Facebook page to a new audience? Perhaps the Sussex boys can wait till next year! I began an investigation into the military records of the Smith brothers, whose names all appeared in McPhedran’s article. It took less than 10 minutes to realise that something wasn’t quite right. I have spent three years researching AIF diggers in a cradle to grave study – Diggers to Veterans: Risk, Recovery and Resilience in the First AIF – so l am very familiar with accessing service records. Why couldn’t l easily find the service records for the seven Smith brothers?

I turned my attention to a genealogical search of the Smith family. Parents Frederick Smith and Margaret Jane Hume married in Adelaide, South Australia, on 10 April 1886. On 10 October that year, Maggie gave birth to twins – Florence Hume Smith and Herbert William Smith – in Norwood. The first family tragedy occurred six months later when baby Florence died on 9 March 1887. Referring back to the 2014 article, l noticed an irregularity – McPhedran declared Francis Hume Smith was the oldest brother to go to war. Yet birth records show Herbert William Smith was the oldest and he did not enlist. He was a tram conductor who was killed at work on 3 February 1916.

I have not been able to trace a child named Francis Hume Smith. Was “F Hume Smith” confused with Florence Hume Smith? The 1916 death is a clear anomaly with McPhedran’s article.

Frederick Walter Smith was born on 18 November 1887 in Norwood. Frederick did serve in the AIF. He attested on 14 May 1917, and was allocated SERN.3548, serving with the 1 ALHR in the Middle East. However, after 27 days in the field, Frederick was hospitalized suffering with lumbago. He returned to the field five months later but was admitted to hospital again after just 18 days, being diagnosed with chronic lumbago. Frederick was invalided home on 24 December 1918 and was discharged medically unfit on 13 August 1919. Frederick clearly did not die during service. His death occurred seven years after discharge on 21 September 1926. He was buried at West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

Alfred Ernest Smith was born exactly two years after his brother Frederick, on 18 November 1889. He died before his third birthday from diphtheria on 7 July 1892 at Yongala. Despite what is stated in McPhedran’s article, Alfred clearly did not serve in the AIF. Was Chris Fox adopting Alfred Ernest Smith (SERN.22479) of Apple Tree Gully, NSW to be his great uncle? This man died at Ypres, Belgium on 29 October 1917. He was the son of George and Victoria Smith who resided in Skipton, Victoria, and was not related to the Smith family of Yongala.

Lottie Ellen Smith was born on 16 September 1891 at Yongala. She was the only surviving daughter of Frederick and Margaret. Lottie married Ernest Arthur Hooper on 2 July 1914 in Adelaide. Lottie died age 99 years in 1990. She was buried at Victor Harbour.

Clarence Leslie Smith was born on 29 August 1893 at Yongala. Clarence did serve in the AIF. He was married with one son when attesting on 21 August 1916. Clarence was allocated SERN.6588 and served with 21/10 Bn.   His unit embarked from Melbourne in October 1916. Clarence did not proceed to France for duty until April 1917 and was taken on strength in the field with his unit on 27 April 1917. Just nine days later Clarence was wounded in action receiving a gunshot wound to the foot. He was evacuated to England for recovery however, in England Clarence was diagnosed with a heart condition. He was invalided home on 15 February 1918 and was discharged medically unfit on 7 June 1918. Clarence did not die during service. He survived the war by 52 years, his death occurring on 18 August 1970 in South Australia.

Errol Victor Smith was born on 10 May 1895 at Yongala. I have not found attestation papers for Errol. McPhedran wrote that Errol enlisted under an alias as he was underage, yet he was 20 years old when war was declared. Regardless of whether he actually enlisted, Errol did not die during service. His death occurred on 26 December 1950 in South Australia.

Aubrey Lyall Smith was born on 17 August 1897 at Yongala. I have not identified Aubrey as an AIF enlistee. Aubrey did not die during service. His death occurred on 26 February 1964 in Pinnaroo, South Australia. Lyall was buried at Murray Bridge Cemetery on 28 February 1964.

So to summarise, the Smith family facts are: Frederick Smith and Margaret Hume had a total of eight children, two daughters and six sons. The family certainly endured suffering and tragedy however, to place it in context, their situation wasn’t atypical of outcomes for 19th and early 20th century families in Australia. Their first daughter died at six months, and their third son at two years. Their eldest son died in a workplace accident when he was 29 years. Two sons enlisted, one dying seven years after discharge, the other living to just shy of his 77th birthday. Their surviving daughter lived to the grand age of 99 years. Their two youngest sons lived to 55 years and 66 years respectively.

I find it astounding that not only would an award-winning journalist put his name to an article where he clearly did not conduct thorough research, but also News Corp printed this article without the editor checking the information. Whilst l am not looking to downplay the sacrifice and sufferings of Frederick and Clarence during their respective periods of service, the fact remains that not even one, let alone six of the Smith brothers died during WW1. And of course, the quoted tram death was not only attributed to a son who does not exist (Francis Hume), and reported to have occurred in the wrong year, the death clearly was not an assumed act of suicide contributed to survival guilt.

Additionally, am l wrong to question the story about the stamp? The stamp pictured was in circulation during 1916. It was printed on Military Envelopes that were used for correspondence from Australia to service men abroad. However, McPharden writes, “It was a one penny Australian stamp that had been attached to a letter from the front written by the youngest and her favourite of the seven brothers Aubrey Lyall “Jack” Smith.”  Did diggers send letters or postcards home from France using “Australian” postage stamps? I do not think so.

Chris Fox, the man responsible for unearthing this family story of great sacrifice and the subject of McPhedran’s interview, was a great-nephew of the brothers. Fox was an ex-bankrupt businessman when he became director of Camp Gallipoli. He attracted 40,000 people to attend his 2015 Anzac Centenary events, charging $120 per person to camp out under the stars “just like the diggers did”. His charity sold commemorative swags for $349 and “dog tags” of fallen soldiers for $5 each. Fox convinced the Department of Veteran Affairs to grant his foundation $2.5 million, but more significantly, to use the “Anzac” brand. Fox also convinced corporate Australia to donate and sponsor a further $5 million to his foundation. He reportedly paid himself an annual salary of $150,000 as CEO of Camp Gallipoli. Fairfax media alleged in 2016 that Fox paid “management fees’ of up to $1.5 million to companies owned by his wife and an associate. The RSL and Legacy did not receive promised surplus funds, as there was no surplus after expenses. The Camp Gallipoli Foundation was stripped of its charitable status in December 2016.

The inaccuracies in McPhedran’s article are beyond belief and it is disappointing that it can still be accessed whilst conducting a Google search of “brothers killed at Gallipoli”. I hate to think of how many school children have referenced this article during the plethora of school projects about Gallipoli and WW1. In the age of ‘fake news’ this article clearly fits the definition of a false news story that is sensational in nature. News Corp should be forced to remove it from Internet search engines.

I find the printing of McPhedran’s article sad on so many levels.

A reply from Janet McCalman

As we remember them today, Tricia Curry reminds us of the importance of remembering them with historical accuracy and perspective. During and after the Great War, and it seems still, fraudsters have attempted to exploit the suffering and sacrifice of those who really were there and who really did serve. There was such kudos in being a returned man, both for prestige and employment, that faking it was common. Ex-service badges were stolen and traded on a black market, especially in the 1930s. And our work on the Repatriation files has been somewhat clouded by finding a few who faked their war exposures or manipulated the system to get TPI status when their war service was benign: one TPI fell out of his hammock while his ship was leaving the Heads of Port Phillip Bay. No-one saw the accident and the medical evidence of a head injury was scant. Nonetheless, through persistence he won TPI status and taxpayers were subsidising his life with sales-tax free motor cars.At the same time, men who survived severe wounds never made a claim on the Repat. We did find a relationship between the fatness of a man’s file and his employment in the public service, in particular the Repat Dept itself. Therefore, let’s remember them properly. In the coloured photo below, is the face of a man with shell shock and the fifty-yard stare. It is often cropped and published alone, but it is important to see all the other men with their bodily wounds and that only one other soldier looks shocked. Honouring the dead is through the truth.

The Sunshine Railway Disaster

On Easter Monday 20 April 1908 Thomas Huntington was travelling to Melbourne on a Ballarat train with his mother Lily and younger brother Henry. The train was crowded with passengers returning to the city after their rural Easter retreat. Due to the high patronage, two locomotives drawing a post van, a guard’s van and 11 passenger carriages powered the Ballarat train. Resulting from the extra carriages, the train was too long for the Sunshine platform. The driver allowed passengers at the front of the train to disembark, before proceeding forward along the platform to cater for passengers in the rear carriages.

Despite a delay of 43 minutes upon arrival at Sunshine station, the Huntington’s waited patiently to proceed to Footscray. However, at 10.50pm, disaster struck. Victoria’s most fatal railway accident for the time occurred when a Melbourne bound train from Bendigo collided with the rear of the Ballarat train. The crowded Bendigo train was also drawn by two locomotives, and consisted of a post van, a horse box, a guard’s van and six passenger carriages. It also was running behind schedule, so the driver, Leonard “Hell-fire Jack” Milburn, was instructed to operate as an express service unless passengers needed to disembark. The Ballarat passengers bore the full impact of the collision and accounted for the majority of 44 deaths and over 400 injured people.

Newspapers described the chaotic catastrophe in graphic detail. The Age reported on 22 April, “As the bodies lay side by side, to a number that seemed in the circumstances to defy counting, they presented pathetic sights, before which women fell in fainting fits and from which men slunk away in palsied fear. Heads were crushed in and flattened; necks were entirely, and almost entirely, severed; and livid, blackened, open-mouthed corpses stared grimly towards the heavens, their battered features still showing the contortions of horror into which they had been twisted; or the tortures of suffering experienced at the approach of death’s horrifying spectre. Amongst the rows of death there was the body of a woman, with both her legs from the ankles to the thighs tightly bound in splints and bandages. She had received relief such as could be afforded, but she was dead.”

The Huntington family of 63 Donald Street, Footscray, bore the full impact of the collision. 11-year-old Thomas Leslie Huntington was the youngest fatality whilst his mother was badly injured. Dr. Box informed The Age, “Many pathetic sights were to be witnessed. One was the case of Mrs. Huntington, whom I saw lying on a cushion on the platform, with a very badly fractured leg. She called pitifully for her children, two of whom had been in the train with her, and the dead figure of a little boy only a few yards away.” Lily Huntington’s injury was so severe her leg was amputated on 24 April. The following day she was reported to be in a critical condition, yet to the relief of her husband and other young children, Lily recovered from her injuries.

Thomas Huntington was born in 1896 in Footscray to Joseph Huntington and Lillian Victoria Lucas, the same year as his parent’s marriage. His brothers John Roy and Henry Cyril were born in 1897 and 1906 respectively. Joseph Huntington was a skilled man, holding the trade of a carpenter. After the shock loss of his son and horrific injury to his wife, Joseph relocated his family to 10 Fitzroy Street, Footscray. The family expanded with the birth of two daughters, Gwendolyne Lillian in 1909 and Amy in 1912.

Lily and her children endured further tragedy with the death of Joseph on 20 November 1918. At the time of his death, the Huntington’s resided at 31 Walter Street, Footscray. Joseph was buried with his son Thomas at Footscray cemetery.

John (Jack) Roy Huntington became a blacksmith. Jack attested with the AIF during WW1, and was assigned to the Railway Unit.  After discharge he married Jean Thompson and they set up a home at Tennyson Street, Footscray, residing there until 1951.  They eventually retired to McCrae on the Mornington Peninsula.

Henry Cyril Huntington became a plumber. He lived with his mother and sisters at the family home in Footscray until his marriage in 1938. Henry and his wife Ivy set up their own home at 138 Hopkins Street, Footscray.

Lillian Gwendoline married Herbert James Spark in 1936 and resided in McKinnon.  They had one son.  Lily resided with the Spark family in 1942. Lillian died at the young age of 33 years on 19 February 1943.  

Amy Huntington relocated to New South Wales, marrying Peter Campbell Thurtell in Wagga Wagga in 1938.  By 1949 Lily had moved to Griffith, NSW to reside with her daughter at the Thurtell home. Lily died in Griffith at the age of 79 years in 1951. She was buried at the family plot at Footscray cemetery.

In what seems to be a strange irony the Huntington family had a strong connection to the Victorian railways. Joseph Huntington was a carpenter with the Victorian Railways. John (Jack) Roy Huntington was employed as a blacksmith with the railway department and assigned to the Railway Unit during his service with the AIF.  From at least 1942 until his death on 7 June 1969, Henry Cyril Huntington’s occupation was recorded as “railway employee”.

Joseph Huntington was born in Ballarat in 1870 to English parents John Huntington and Ann Chadderton. John Huntington was born circa 1827 in Oldham, Lancashire, England. By the age of 14, John had followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a miner. John and nineteen year old Ann married on 28 January 1853 in Oldham. Like so many others seeking an improved lifestyle, John, Ann and their son Thomas travelled half way around the world to try their luck on the Victorian goldfields. They arrived in Melbourne in April 1857 per Broughton Hall, and soon after settled in the Ballarat district, where a further six children were born. In 1884 the Huntington family relocated to Footscray. John Huntington suffered from asthma. The condition was so debilitating that John was confined to bed for the last two years of his life. He died age 70, at home in Nicholson Street, Footscray, on 31 August 1897. Ann died at home on 16 December 1907.

Lillian Victoria Lucas was born in Footscray in 1872 to John Lucas and Charlotte White. John Lucas was born in Bristol, England in 1829. Charlotte’s birth was two years later in Guernsey, Channel Islands. It was in Charlotte’s hometown that they married in 1849. John worked as a general labourer, and Charlotte contributed to the family income by working as a dressmaker. A desire to start a family was suspended when their first child died in infancy. On 22 July 1854, John, Charlotte and baby Charlotte arrived in Melbourne per Ontario. Whilst other new immigrants at the time tried their luck in the goldfields of central Victoria, it would seem that the Lucas family remained in Melbourne, where John worked as a carter. Footscray was recorded as the birthplace of nine Australian children, of which Lillian was the youngest. Charlotte died at the age of 55 years on 9 January 1887. John died on 22 September 1901, aged 72 years.

The Sunshine Railway tragedy was the first story by The Age to feature a photograph. 

Ellen CON40-1-2P239 (1)
Ellen Corkery Conduct Record
Corkerry Pat CR (1)
Patrick Corkerry Conduct Record
Catherine Mulgrew - Diadem shipping list

The saga of married Irish convicts and a young famine orphan

Whilst volunteering for the Female Convict Research Centre l was introduced to Ellen Corkery.  Ellen and her husband Patrick were tried on 9 March 1842 at Kerry for the theft of a coat.  They were both found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation.

Patrick Corkery was born in 1803 to Derby Corkery and Johanna Leary at South Raleigh, Kilnamartyra, Cork Ireland.  He was baptized on 27 March 1803 in the Parish of Kilnamartyra.  Known as ‘Cill na Martra’ in Irish, this name mean ‘Church of the Martyr’.


It is likely that Patrick Corkery and Ellen CROWLEY married on 28 February 1831 at the Castleisland Roman Catholic Church, Kerry, Ireland.  Ellen was born at Cashel, Cork.


The following names appear in the convict records: 

  • Derby / Darby Corkery                 
  • Jeremiah Corkery
  • Patrick Corkery
  • Johanna Corkery
  • Mary Corkery
  • Peg / Margaret Corkery
  • John Corkery

Ellen Corkery was received at the Grangegorman Female Prison in Dublin with her nine-month-old son, John.  Her age was recorded as 36 years.  It was noted that she had no prior convictions.


Ellen was transported per Waverley arriving in VDL on 15 December 1842.  Interestingly upon arrival, Ellen stated that she was 40 years old – not 36 as reported at trial.  She declared her place of birth as Cashel, Ireland.  Ellen stood 4’ 11’’ high and had ‘very dark brown’ hair.  It was determined that she had a medium sized head with a broad forehead, ‘greyish’ eyes, a small nose, small mouth and broad chin.  She was ‘very much freckled’.  Upon arrival Ellen stated that she was married with four children but only one child travelled with her – presumably baby John.  There is no further trace of this child in Australian records.  Ellen declared that her husband Patrick had arrived before her.


An interesting remark appears on Ellen’s Convict Indent Report: “Temperance Medal”.  Presumably Ellen carried the medal with her during her voyage to Australia.  The Temperance Movement on Ireland evolved from the work of various social reformers attempting to combat the rise of harmful drinking patterns and related problems during 1830’s Ireland.  Quaker, William Martin, formed the Cork Total Abstinence Society in 1835.  However, little headway was made until 1838 when Capuchin Friar (Catholic Priest) Theobald Mathew attracted thousands of people – Catholic and Protestant – to sign a pledge of abstinence from alcohol.  The Temperance Movement reached its peak between 1838 and 1845, when it is estimated that three million people (approximately half of the adult population) abstained from alcohol.  In addition to taking a verbal pledge and entering their names on a membership roll, each member received a medal.


Patrick ‘Corkerry’ was transported per Isabella Watson, arriving in VDL on 3 August 1842.  Patrick was a 39-year-old farm labourer, standing 5’ 4” tall.  He had a large head with a half broad forehead, a long thin nose, large mouth and long chin. Patrick’s hair was dark brown, his eyebrows black, and his eyes were blue.  He had a fresh complexion although he was slightly pock pitted.  Patrick had various scars on his fingers and shins.


Ellen lived an exemplary life in VDL as no offences are noted on her conduct record.  In 1844 Ellen was assigned to work for James Lucas at Pearson’s Point.  It would seem that Patrick succumbed to hunger which lead to two punishments during his period as a convict.  In August 1843 Patrick spent seven days in solitary confinement after stealing a fellow prisoner’s bread.  The following month he was inflicted with 36 lashes for stealing turnips.  Ellen (Helen) was awarded with a ticket of leave on 14 January 1845 however, Patrick had to wait until 9 June 1846. 


The last official sighting of Ellen was on the VDL Ledger of Returns conducted on 31 October 1846.  Her conduct record provides no clues as to what may have happened to her beyond this date.   Her period of transportation expired in March 1849, yet she does not appear in government newspaper advertisements announcing this news and advising her Certificate of Freedom was available for collection.  Nor does Ellen appear on the 1849 VDL Ledger of Returns.  Neither a registration of her death nor place of burial has been located.


In 1847 Patrick Corkerry made an application to bring three of his children to Australia – Darby 15, Patrick 8 and Peg 5 years.  This is an extremely interesting document.  If ages are recorded correctly, Peg was obviously a newborn baby before Ellen was transported.  As we know from the Grangegorman Prison records, Ellen had a nine-month-old son when convicted.  If Ellen was pregnant, Peg obviously would not have been in Ireland when Patrick made this application.  Presumably he made a mistake with ages of the children.  Nevertheless, it is likely that Peg was very young when her parents were transported, and it is unusual that she too was not sent to Australia with her mother.  Patrick’s second application, dated 18 July 1848, declared that his wife was “dead”.  Phillip Donohoe, Patrick’s employer, supported Patrick with a reference and the application was “recommended” however, there are no available records confirming the children’s arrival in VDL.


Patrick Corkerry was granted his freedom on 9 March 1849.  He stayed in VDL for the remainder of that year, appearing on the 1849 Ledger of Returns as “free”.


1850 Victoria – The following year Patrick travelled to Victoria and like so many other ex-convicts, he married an Irish Famine Orphan who was 30 years his junior.  Patrick and Catherine Mulgrew wed at St Francis church in 1850.


Catherine / Katherine Mulgrew was born in Tyrone, Ireland c1833.  On 11 January 1850 at the age of 17 years, Catherine arrived in Port Philip per Diadem.  The Earl Grey Famine Orphan Scheme operated between 1848 and 1850 and saw the arrival of 4114 Irish girls to Australia.  The scheme was set up in an attempt to introduce young women into the colonies to help balance the sexes.  Not all of the girls were orphans however, the young girls were destitute and were selected from workhouses.  Upon arrival in Melbourne Catherine was hired to McDonague of Merri Creek for a term of 12 months.  He annual pay was £8.


The year following their marriage Patrick and Catherine’s first son, Patrick, was born.  Can we then presume that Patrick’s son to Ellen who carried his father’s name remained in Ireland or was he deceased by 1851?  Patrick and Catherine’s second child ‘Mary’ also shared a name of a child from her father’s first marriage.


1856 New South Wales – By 1856 Patrick and Catherine had relocated to Gundaroo, New South Wales before settling further north in the Boorowa district by 1859.  At the time of the Corkerry family’s arrival, Boorowa had a well-entrenched Irish flavor.  Ex-convicts Ned Ryan and Roger Corcoran had settled the area during the 1820’s.  Ned Ryan encouraged his fellow Irishmen in Australia to settle in the district.  He also actively sought family and friends from Ireland to migrate to New South Wales.


A further six Corkerry children were born in New South Wales.  Patrick was 70 years old when he welcomed the birth of his youngest son James!  Perhaps it was the fitness that Patrick maintained whilst labouring as a shepherd that kept him so virile.  Patrick and Catherine’s issue are:

  • Patrick Corkery         b. 1851
  • Mary Corkery            b. 1853
  • John Corkery            b. 1856
  • Margaret Corkery      b. 1859
  • Peter Corkery           b. 1862
  • Catherine Corkery     b. 1862
  • William Corkery        b. 1870
  • James Corkery           b. 1873

Patrick Corkery suffered a lonely death on Friday 2 October 1874, dying in a sheep paddock.  His son Patrick and employer Mr. Wilding did not discover his body until two days later.


In July 1875 Catherine Corkery laid charges of common assault against Edward Maher.  Mather had objected to Catherine’s planting of a wheat crop on a reserve.  Their argument escalated into Maher striking Catherine on the side of the head.  He was found guilty, fined £1 and ordered to pay 6s 6d costs.


In 1879 Catherine took a second husband, Patrick Carmody.  Their marriage was registered at Boorowa.  It lasted just seven years due to the untimely death of Patrick from ‘dropsical complaint’ at the Yass hospital on 8 November 1886.  They did not have any issue.

Catherine outlived two husbands and one daughter.  She died at the age of 70 on Monday 17 August 1903 “after a lingering illness extending over three months”.  Catherine was buried at the Boorowa Roman Catholic cemetery. 

Patrick Corkery death
Temperance Medal, 1840

“I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks except used medicinally and by order of a medical man and to discountenance the cause and practice of intemperance.”

Sarah Livingston(e) / Lucas

Sarah Livingstone was born in Hobart on 11 March 1853. Sarah was the eldest child of convict parents Charles Livingston(e) per Lord Petre and Mary Sullivan per Australasia.   Her baptism was held at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Hobart on 30 March 1853. After Sarah’s parents moved to Victoria circa 1859, their surname was changed to Lucas. Sarah would have endured a difficult childhood with her father in and out of prison whilst she was a young child. At nine years of age Sarah was the witness to the scalding death of her 17-month sister, Susan, at Coopers Creek near Daylesford and was required to provide evidence at the coronial inquest.

At the age of 17 Sarah Lucas married 24-year-old James Ickeringill. Their wedding was held on 5 August 1870 at the residence of William Henry Hosken, a minister of the Bible Christian church in Daylesford. Sarah’s father had been released from his second stint at Pentridge Prison six months earlier, which enabled him to be a witness to his daughter’s marriage. At the time, both James and Sarah were residents of Leonard’s Hill, near Daylesford. James listed his occupation as a blacksmith.

Sarah and James had 11 children, the eldest three being born at Daylesford. By 1877 the family moved to Echuca. On 29 May 1877 Sarah was convicted at the Echuca Petty Sessions Court for stealing clothing. She was imprisoned for three months at Sandhurst Gaol until 31 August 1877. Sarah’s prison record states that she served her time with an infant, presumably baby Thomas. Sarah was described as 5 foot tall, with black hair and brown eyes, and she had a sallow complexion. She listed her trade as a dressmaker and could both read and write. In 1878 a fourth child was born in Echuca.

By 1880 the family had relocated to Shepparton. Seven children were born in this town between 1880 and 1893. Sarah was forced to bury her eldest son John on 17 February 1891 after his instantaneous death in an accidental shooting incident. John was unloading his vehicle after a two-day fishing and shooting trip to Gowangardie. His double-barrelled muzzle-loading gun caught in his bag and discharged directly into John’s heart. Sarah’s next and youngest child was named in his brother’s honour. Unfortunately, the second John only lived for 21 days. He was buried with his brother in the Methodist section of Shepparton Cemetery on 16 May 1893.

By the turn of the century Sarah, James and most of their children had moved to Western Australia. However, this move to the distant state resulted in disunity amongst the Ickeringill family. The 1903 electoral roll shows Sarah living at 19 Harley Street, Perth. James was not living with her, nor does he appear to have lived with Sarah at any point after this date. On 13 April 1905 James appeared at the Collie Police Court on a charge of unlawfully and indecently assaulting three girls under the age of 13 years. Whilst being cleared of this charge due to lack of evidence, James was then found guilty of disorderly conduct and using indecent language at Worsley on 5 April. For this offence he was sentenced to six months imprisonment at Fremantle Gaol. It was reported that James “thanked his Worship for letting him off so lightly”.

By 1910, Sarah had moved from Perth to 9 Melba Street, Kalgoorlie. Living with her were children Charles, who was employed as a butcher, and Ruby Jane, whose occupation was listed as “spinster”. Presumably, the three younger children, Ethel, Olive and Maurice, were also resident at this address. Also in Kalgoorlie was married daughter Elizabeth, whilst older sons James and Thomas worked as miners at Kanowna, near Kalgoorlie.

James Ickeringill died at Claremont Western Australia on 1 July 1920. He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth.

In 1922 Sarah buried another son who suffered an accidental death. 44-year-old Jim died after a fall from his horse whilst rounding up cattle in Wyndam, East Kimberley. It is interesting to note that as we celebrate Labour Day today, Sarah was the benefactor of £80 collected by the Australian Workers Union after the untimely death of ‘comrade Jim”. Her heartfelt letter of thanks is attached.

Sarah died age 76 years at the residence of her daughter Elizabeth, at 222 Campbell Street Kalgoorlie on 15 March 1929. The cause of death was vascular disease of the heart. Sarah was buried the following day at Kalgoorlie Cemetery.

At the time of her death Sarah had a total of 22 grandchildren. 

Sarah is my 2x great aunt. ‘My family is my story’. Tracing your family history becomes ‘your story’.

Mary Elizabeth Cuthbertson attestation photos
Mary Elizabeth Cuthbertson Roll of Honour AWM
Vyner Brooke nurses after their release from internment, all wearing what was left of their AANS uniforms AWM

Ballarat's connection to Australia's horror on Radji Beach

Mary Elizabeth Cuthbertson was born on 5 March 1910 to William Melville Cuthbertson and Lilian Beatrice Hooper at Stirling, South Australia.  Mary was the eldest of four children.  Before 1919 the family had moved to Caulfield, Victoria and by 1924 they took up residence at “Glen Care”, Gregory Street, Ballarat North.  The family later moved to Pound Hill, Miners Rest.

Mary Cuthbertson became known as “Beth’.  Beth was 29 years and six months when Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced that Great Britain had declared war upon Germany and as a result, “Australia is also at war”.  This announcement had immediate repercussions for the Cuthbertson family.  Beth’s brother Gordon had been a voluntary enlistee of the Militia Forces since 6 March 1939.  By March 1940 Gordon was attempting to join the RAAF as a mechanic.  His application was approved to enable his enlistment on 30 May 1940.  Two months later Beth’s other brother James enlisted with the AIF on 22 July 1940 in Ballarat and was assigned service number V58191.

Beth was a trained nurse at the Ballarat Base Hospital.  Following on from the call to duty of her brothers, Beth attested for the Australian Army Nurses Service on 20 August 1940 at William Street, Melbourne.  She nominated her father as her next of kin, recording his address as 121 Burnbank Street, Ballarat West. 

Beth was allocated service number VFX38746.  She was initially attached to 7th Australian General Hospital (Reinforcement) whilst in military training.  In early 1941 Beth spent time with the 107 General Hospital at Puckapunyal, near Seymour.

We can only imagine her trepidation when Beth embarked HMT “EE” Serial 491 and sailed for Singapore on 30 July 1941.  Disembarking at Malaya on 17 August, Beth was attached to 10 AGH.  The casualty and service form on Beth’s war record notes two periods of leave whilst in Malaya – five days during October and seven days in December.  An entry was made on 22 April 1942 declaring that Mary Elizabeth Cuthbertson was “missing” from 16 February 1942.  Two further blunt entries made years later, make frightening reading.  On 8 June 1944 it was reported, “Missing bel. Killed on or after 11.2.42”.  Almost one year later on 11 April 1945 the final entry declared, “Ref 03/25/44 Now rep became missing and is for official purposes presumed to be dead 14.2.42”.

So what happened to Beth?  Little can be gleaned from her official service record.  Reading the 52 pages, we learn that Beth’s father, Mr. WM Cuthbertson was sent a telegram on 20 December 1945 which read, “VFX38746 Lieut ME Cuthbertson previously reported presumed deceased 14 February 42 now deceased while Prisoner of war 16 February 42.”  On page 50 of the service record we find an undated entry with the horrific message, “DECEASED Died whilst POW Executed by Japanese Ex MS 295/45.”

“POW”, “Executed by Japanese”, should these words be written on the service record of non-combative personnel such as nurses?  Beth did not enlist to fight.  How could it be that she was executed?

The Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour displays a studio photo of Beth in her military uniform.  We learn that her name appears at panel 96 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial.  Beth’s rank is recorded as “Sister’ despite a posthumous promotion to “Lieutenant”. ‘Place of Death’ is recorded as “Banka Island, Netherlands East Indies” and chillingly ‘Cause of Death’ is noted as “Massacred”.

Despite these details not being recorded on her service record, Beth and 64 other Australian nurses were evacuated from Singapore three days prior to the fall of Malaya on 15 February 1942.  The nurses were on board SS Vyner Brooke with injured service personnel as well as civilian men, women and children.  Whilst in the Bangka Strait, their vessel was bombed by Japanese aircraft and sank.  Of the 65 nurses, 12 drowned in the attack.  Understandably chaos and panic ensued during the fight for survival.  Thirty-one nurses were captured and interred as Prisoners of War in abominable conditions – although army personal had presumed that this number was much greater.  Annie Sage, Matron-in-Chief of the Australian Army Nursing Service, was dumbfounded when she only discovered 24 surviving nurses in September 1945, asking “But where are the rest of you?”

It was not until the release of the POW nurses in 1945 that the fate of the others became known.  Eight POW nurses had died in captivity.  However, it was the story told by Vivian Bullwinkel that sent shock waves through the Australian public.

After the sinking of Vyner Brooke approximately 100 passengers including 22 nurses managed to reach Radji Beach, including Mary Elizabeth Cuthbertson and two other Ballarat born nurses, Sister Clarice Isobel Halligan (SN. VFX47776) and Sister Kathleen Margaret Nuess (SN. NFX70527).  However, relief was short lived once it was realised that they had landed on an island controlled by the Japanese.  An officer of the Vyner Brooke convinced the survivors that they must surrender to the Japanese and he walked to Muntok to do so.  Meanwhile the most senior of the Australian nurses, Matron Irene Drummond suggested that the civilian women and children also leave for Muntok.  The nurses remained to take care of the English soldiers who had arrived on the island after escaping their ship that had also been sunk by the Japanese.  The Australian nurses set up a shelter under a Red Cross sign. 

The ship’s officer returned with approximately 20 Japanese soldiers, who immediately separated the men from the women prisoners.  The men were marched along the beach into a headland.  A rally of shots was heard before the return of the Japanese soldiers.  The nurses realised what was happening and understood their own fate when they were ordered waist deep into the sea.  They were machine-gunned from behind.  Vivian Bullwinkel, the only Australian nurse to survive, recalled the Japanese “started firing up and down the line with a machine gun. … They just swept up and down the line and the girls fell one after the other.  I was towards the end of the line and a bullet got me in the left loin and went straight through and came out towards the front.  The force of it knocked me over into the water and there I lay.  I did not lose consciousness. … The waves brought me back on to the edge of the water.  I lay there 10 minutes and everything seemed quiet.  I sat up and looked around and there was no sign of anybody.  Then I got up and went up in the jungle and lay down and either slept or was unconscious for a couple of days.” 

Vivian was eventually captured and was reunited with her fellow nurses to become the 32nd POW nurse from the Vyner Brooke.  However, due to fear of death at the hands of the Japanese if they knew she was a witness to the massacre on Radji Beach, Vivian kept her horrible secret for more than three years whilst captive in a POW camp.  

On 20 December 1946 Vivian Bullwinkle testified at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. The Australian military investigators attempted to find the perpetrators of the Bangka Island massacre. The commander of the unit responsible, the 229th regiment, was serving in Manchuria at the war’s end. The Russians captured the commander but did not repatriate him to Tokyo until 1948. He was gaoled in Sugarno Prison on 6 June 1948 but committed suicide tow days later. His crimes were not brought to trial.

Sister Kathleen Margaret Neuss - NFX 70527

“Guess you will be thinking I’ve gone up in smoke. There is plenty of it about”. (1)

Only 10 days later Kath Neuss was dead; killed on Radji Beach.

Sister Kathleen ‘Kath’ Margaret Neuss NFX 70527, was born on 16 October 1911 at Mollongghig near Ballarat in Victoria. Kath was the second daughter of John Henry Neuss and Mary Catherine Neuss (nee Perry). Kath’s paternal grandfather was George Neuss, a German immigrant and her maternal grandfather was Samuel Perry, a veteran of the Eureka Stockade in 1854.

In 1913, when Kath was 18 months old her parents packed all their possessions, travelled to Sydney by boat, then train to Glen Innes in northern NSW and finally by Cobb & Co coach to uncleared land her father had selected for farming about 32kms northwest of Inverell.

Life was very hard for the young family. Her father had to clear the land and build their first ‘house’ of 3 rooms with an iron roof and walls lined with hessian and papered with wallpaper. The ceilings were also of hessian. Their only water tank was a 500 gallon tank at the side of the house. Kath’s parents called their new home “Kalimna” after the Victorian coastal town where they spent their honeymoon. All water for washing and cooking had to be carried by bucket. Kath’s elder sister Jessie (“Jess”) had also been born in Mollongghip and over the next decade another 4 siblings were born at Inverell.

Kath Neuss was initially educated at Bannockburn Public School. Her father would take Jess and Kath on a horse to school and each afternoon the girls would walk the 4 miles home. During a severe drought in 1915/16 Jess and Kath returned to Victoria for about 18 months and went schools at Mollongghig and Rocky Lead where their respective grandparents lived.

Back at “Kalimna” as the family increased a sulky was acquired which, driven by the eldest child, then took the kids to school. Often the children travelled to school by horse; two to each horse with the youngest in front.

In 1926 Kath sat and passed an examination that enabled her to go to Inverell High School in 1927 and 1928. She would board with an Inverell family during the week and then return home each weekend, travelling by horse and sulky; very tiring for a young teenager. Kath initially wanted to be a school teacher but did not pass the teachers entrance examination; a big disappointment to her. After leaving school she trained as a private nurse in Inverell and then at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, graduating as a Registered Nurse in 1939.

Kath Neuss enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on the 6th January 1941 and was posted to the 2/10th Australian General Hospital. On 4 February the “SS Queen Mary” sailed from Sydney; destination Singapore. On board were elements of the 8th Division AIF and 51 Australian nurses, including Kath who served in Malaya and Singapore. For part of her time Kath was seconded to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital.

In a strange co-incidence, as part of the 2/13th Battalion 9th Division AIF her younger brother Bill had sailed on the “SS Queen Mary” for the Middle East on 20 October 1940. The 9th Division disembarked at Bombay in India and the “SS Queen Mary” returned to Sydney to take the nurses to Singapore. Bill’s pre-embarkation leave in Sydney on 18th October was the last time Kath saw her brother, but letters from Kath in Malaya and Singapore to Bill remain. The last letter to Bill was dated 16th January 1942; exactly one month before Kath died.

Kath was a tall, fun loving and gregarious woman with brown eyes and dark hair. She had a wicked sense of humour, was full of life and her letters home from Malaya and Singapore tell of young woman enjoying her experiences overseas. The nurses had a very good social life and in many of her letters Kath talks about a very close friend Lieutenant Jock Pringle of the 2/18th Battalion. In a letter dated 2 January 1941 Kath wrote

“Jock is still at the Convalescent Depot and hating it still. He too had a move on Monday. I spoke to him on Sunday evening and he was very miserable. Said the medical unit were worse than the police to get out of their clutches. Said they were acting as though it was a concentration camp”.

In a very sad and tragic irony both Kath and Jock were executed by the Japanese, exactly one week apart; Jock on Singapore Island after he surrendered to the Japanese when his composite unit was overrun on 9th February and Kath at Radji Beach on the 16th February.

Kath wrote many letters and about 20 remain and these give a terrific insight into Kath. They almost ‘bring her alive’. In a letter dated 5 October 1941 Kath compared the air force people with the slog of the soldiers

‘The RAAF are entirely different to the AIF. Most of them have been here over 12 months and most of the time in Singapore which is certainly a very artificial city. And naturally they adopt some of its atmosphere and some of its eastern flourish. The right wine with right soup and the right soup with the right fish and at the right time, to say nothing of a spray of flowers to act as a guide to your place. And their ability to guide you onto the rarest dishes is as though they have been used to it for years. Their conversation is rare though as they want to live very much for every moment. One lad I met was being instructed to fly a Hudson and his instructor was in the party. The instructor said that when you flew with ‘Jeep the learner’ he always felt that the “Grim Reaper” was in the cockpit. “No” said Jeep “there’s Lady Luck there too, ready to seduce the Grim Reaper”.

‘Rather a naughty story, but subtle I thought. They are bright lads and never let the show have a dull moment. One lad, I’ll never forget him, ordered an Emu for dinner. The poor waiter unabashed said “We haven’t one Sir”. “Well” said Jacko “you should have one”. He said “Sorry sir we did have one but it’s all used” and went on with his job.”

She was missing out on a lot of weddings of her friends in Australia and on 2 November 1941 she wrote

“Can’t bear to think of many more weddings over there without me being present. You had better wait or there will be a fuss”.

In the same letter Kath wrote

“Had a very gay weekend. The Air Force lads who passed through here the previous weekend on the way to Frasers Hill arrived back on Thursday. Bleating that it was too lonely up there. So Pat and I had the job of comforting them.”

At the time of boarding the “SS Vyner Brooke” Kath was aged 31. Along with Winnie May Davis and her very close friend Pat Gunther, she was ordered amongst the various duties of the Australian Army nurses on board, to be responsible for the forward part of the ship (On Radji Beach P148). When the ship was bombed she “… received a nasty shrapnel wound from the bomb that hit aft. Struck in the left hip, she struggled to walk and had to be helped onto the deck by Wilma and Mona…” (ORB, p.154).

When the time came for evacuating the ship and the second lifeboat was being filled with the elderly, mothers and children and the more seriously wounded nurses, Kath Neuss had to be practically carried all the way into the lifeboat (ORB P159). Pat Gunther gave her tin hat to Kath ‘in case she needed to bail water from the lifeboat, saying, ‘we’ll see you on shore’. (Portrait of a Nurse P21) Kath gave her life jacket to Pat. The rest is history; Pat survived as a POW.

Presumably landing on Radji Beach in the lifeboat, Kath was definitely executed by the Japanese on the beach along with the other Australian Army Nurses. Whether she was amongst those told to walk into the water and killed or whether she was amongst the wounded on stretchers brutally bayoneted to death is unclear. She is remembered on the Inverell Roll of Honour and a tree is planted at the RSL branch in Inverell in her memory.

On 7 April 2018 the story of Kath Neuss will be featured in the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

Principal sources

(1) Letter dated 6 February 1942 from Kath to her sister Jessie (“Jess”)
Family sources and letters from Kath
Public records
On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
Portrait of a Nurse by Pat Gunther


Kath Neuss as a young nurse in Sydney
Kath Neuss with Lieut Jock Pringle of 2/18th Battalion outside the 2/10th AGH. Both would be executed by the Japanese 7 days apart.
Sister Vivian Bullwinkle

Lieut. Clarice Isobel Halligan - VFX47776

“We must all be prepared to take whatever comes……” (1)

Sister Clarice ‘Clare’ Isobel Halligan, VX 47776, 2/13th Australian General Hospital was born in Ballarat, Victoria on 17 September 1904, the third daughter of Joseph Patrick Halligan and Emily Watson Chalmers, who were married in Ballarat in 1898. They had eight children, the first in 1899 and the eighth in 1918. Clarice was the first of the siblings to die on 16th February 1942 at the age of 37 years.

Clarice’s father Joseph Patrick Halligan, started work at Ballarat Brewery and left to join Abbotsford Brewery, in Melbourne. The family at that time lived in a lovely Victorian House in the grounds of the Brewery in Abbotsford. Later on, they all moved to Kew.

Joseph rented stables in a back block, where a horse and jinker (2 wheeled cart) were kept for travel around Melbourne and for Joseph to travel to work. The children had a carefree childhood and played down at the Yarra River in Kew where they swam and bought ice cream from a punt on the River. They all went to school in Kew. They also went for escapades into the expansive grounds of the Kew Mental Asylum.

Clarice was a member of the Church of England. She had very strong faith as shown by a life committed to helping others and her work as missionary in New Guinea. She was Confirmed at the Holy Trinity Church in Kew Melbourne on the 5th August 1917 and her Confirmation Certificate is in the possession of her family.

Her family are very fortunate to have many Certificates of her very extensive training as a Nurse, but the oldest record dates to when Clarice was very young; nearly 12 years old. It is a Victorian Education Department Pupil’s Cookery Certificate dated 30th June, 1916. This is for a Six Month Course of Instruction in the Theory and Practice of Elementary Cookery, Richmond, Vic.

Another Certificate is the Australian Nursing Federation Certificate of Registration dated 3 October 1929 Certifying that Clarice Isobel Halligan, has been admitted to Membership of the Australian Nursing Federation as a General Nurse.

Clarice trained at the The Melbourne Hospital and Women’s Hospital Melbourne (combined training school for Nurses). The family have a Certificate dated 3rd October, 1927 certifying that Clarice Isobel Halligan had been trained at these Hospitals for three and a half years in Medical, Surgical and Nursing and six months in Midwifery.

There is also a Record of Service dated 5th June 1928 from the Lady Superintendent of Royal Melbourne Hospital recording that Clarice worked for three and a half years at this hospital in various men’s and women’s, medical, surgical, isolation, eye, ear, nose and throat wards, on day and night duty, in the casualty and out-patient department and in the operating theatres. She also worked in the gynaecological wards at the Women’s hospital. Clarice clearly had much experience.

Other qualifications included

(1) Training in Mothercraft and Infant Welfare required by the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association, qualifying her to take charge of a Baby Health Centre.

(2) Special course of training in Infant Welfare Nursing.

(3) Registration as a Midwife by the Nurses’ Board of South Australia

In 1934 Clarice went to Papua New Guinea as a Missionary and kept a diary but unfortunately only one now remains in the possession of the family. Paper was obviously in short supply in New Guinea and this diary was written in pencil on her brother’s school work book. It is assumed by her family that she may have written many diaries that were mistakenly thrown out by relatives who did not know that diaries were hidden in between school work. The diary starts with DOGURA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA – 31.07.1934 (DIARY and says

“As you probably know I am one of the newer missionaries, having landed in Papua on the last day of July, 1934……”

From Clarice’s Niece Lorraine Curtis “There are five pages in total of this diary and I am more than happy to send copies to anyone who had relatives living over there. (Lorraine Curtis –

From stories related by relatives, Clarice worked in Melbourne for the Grey Sisters, an Order of Anglican Sisters who looked after poor people in Abbotsford. She then went to Neerim South as the Matron of the local hospital, where her parents went to meet the Doctor who was thinking of marrying Clarice. But for one reason or another Clarice’s parents deemed him unsuitable for marriage to their daughter. Something was wrong with his foot; maybe what used to be called a “club foot”!

According to her Record of Service Clarice joined the Australian General Hospital on 20 December 1940 and was allocated to the 7 AGH. She immediately went on leave without pay and returned to duty on 31 January 1941 and was the attached to the Camp Hospital at Seymour Victoria.

On the 11 July 1940 she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service at the Australian Army Medical Corp Depot in William St Melbourne. She sailed on the 30 July 1941 and disembarked at Singapore on the 14 August 19/41. Clarice had wanted to go to the Middle East but ended up in Malaya. Initially Clarice was seconded with 10 other Nurse to the 2/10th Australian General Hospital at Malacca in Malaya.

Clarice returned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital that was initially located at St Patrick’s School on Singapore Island. Between 21-23 November 1941 the entire hospital was moved across the Straits to Tampoi Hill on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Due however, to the swift progress of the Japanese invasion force, most of the hospital staff was evacuated back to Singapore in late January 1942.

With the 65 other Australian Nurses Clarice was on board the SS Vyner Brooke when it was bombed by the Japanese and sunk on 14 February 1942. Clarice was badly injured by a bomb blast at the same time as Rosetta Wight and both

“ … suffered deep shrapnel wounds to the back of their thighs and buttocks, wounds that penetrated to the bone …. Partially in shock and bleeding profusely, both women were unable to move …”(p.153, On Radji Beach).

Fellow nurses helped her up to the deck and into what would be the second lifeboat to be launched. This lifeboat however overturned as it hit the sea and throwing out most of its passengers out ( p.160, On Radji Beach). Nevertheless, Clarice managed to hold onto the upturned craft. She must have been in excruciating pain for many hours before the sea currents eventually washed the upturned lifeboat and its survivors ashore at one end of Radji.

Clarice’s wounds, whilst bad, were apparently not quite as severe as those of the other two wounded nurses and she was “… able to walk and simply needed some stitching and some medication to be guaranteed a full recovery …” ( p.199-200, On Radji Beach). But there is no doubt that she would have been in agony as she managed to make the journey along the coast to where the first lifeboat had lit a bonfire.

Clarice would have been in real pain during the next two days until the time the Japanese troops arrived at Radji beach. The soldiers proceeded to execute firstly the officers and serviceman and then the crew and civilian men on the beach before in an unbelievable act of totally senseless brutality they lined up the nurses near the waters edge. Clare and the other wounded nurses were on the left of the line facing out to sea. The soldiers opened fire with their machine gun.

Thus ended the life of a woman in the prime of life who had been dedicated to caring for others in pain and suffering.

One the final entries on Clarice’s Official Record states

“Deceased whilst POW. Executed by Japanese”

An example of the impact on families of the uncertainty of their loved one’s fate can be seen in letters on Clarice’s file and her Officers Record of Service at the Australian War Memorial Canberra. Clarice died in February 1942 and it was not until September/October 1945 that her death could be really confirmed, following the release of the surviving 24 Nurses from captivity as POWs. Prior to that the Nurses were ‘presumed killed’ which still gave their families some hope that they were alive.

On 2 September 1944 Clarice’s mother wrote to the Army for “a Certificate, or otherwise a statement of authority” to enable her to sell Clarice’s car. Further correspondence followed and the Army thought her mother wanted a Death Certificate. But her mother wrote on 28 September that

“We don’t wish to apply for a Certificate of Death …… we still have some hope that our daughter may still be alive.”

How sad are those words and any slender hope would be shattered 12 months later.

Undoubtedly, similar sentiments were being experienced by the families of the other 41 Nurses from the SS Vyner Brooke who died during or after the sinking, were executed on Radji Beach, or died whilst a Prisoner of War of the Japanese. And we should not forget the anguish and uncertainty of the families of the Nurses who did return home.

Principal Sources

(1) Letter from Clarice to her parents, written shortly after the war started.
– My story of Aunt Clarice Isobel Halligan by her Niece Lorraine Curtis
– On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
– Michael Pether Researcher and Historian Auckland New Zealand
– Public records

Halligan, Clarice

Joseph McInerney

On 21 February 1862 my 2x great grandfather’s turbulent life came to a tragic end when he died in horrific circumstances.

Joseph McInerney was born circa 1808 in Tipperary, Ireland to Stephen McInerney and Bridget Foley. At the age of 20 Joseph was convicted with his brother Patrick on a charge of manslaughter. The McInerney brothers were found guilty and transported for the term of their natural lives to New South Wales. They sailed per Eliza II, arriving on 20 June 1829. Joseph McInerney was noted as a labourer before transportation. He was 5’ 3 ¾” tall, had light brown hair and dark grey eyes. His right little finger was crooked at the last joint and he had a scar over the corner of his left eye. Joseph was allocated convict number 1189.

Joseph was assigned to work for George Wyndham at Wallis Plains in Maitland in the Lower Hunter Valley of New South Wales. As recorded on the Australian Dictionary of Biography, “George Wyndham (1801-1870), farmer, wine-grower and pastoralist, was born at Dinton, Wiltshire, England, arriving in Australia in 1827. He settled near Branxton in the Hunter River valley, naming his property Dalwood, and began experimental farming. Among crops mentioned in his diary for 1830 were maize, wheat, hemp, mustard, castor oil, tobacco, millet and cape barley. He also planted a vineyard and began wine-making, in which he had long been interested.” His vineyard was to become the respected Wyndham Estate. George Wyndham was also a magistrate in Maitland. He was assigned many convicts. Notably, “he was respected for his leniency to assigned servants in his earlier days, and was himself a hard worker in the field.”

Joseph was granted a ticket of leave on 7 February 1843, but had to remain in the district of Maitland. Joseph received a second ticket of leave passport on 16 December 1845 so that he could travel to the New England district for 12 months, to continue with his sheep shearing work. Joseph received a conditional pardon on 31 December 1847, meaning that he was free to travel around the colony but was unable to return to Great Britain or Ireland.

By 1850 Joseph had relocated to Victoria. On 6 May 1850 Joseph McInerney married Ellen Connors, an Irish Famine Orphan at St Francis Church, Melbourne. Joseph and Ellen began their married life living in Brunswick, where their two eldest children were born. Johanna McInerney was born in 1853; the birth of Joseph Henry McInerney was in 1855. On 5 September 1855 Joseph reported to police the theft of his brown mare. At the time, he stated his address to be Philipstown, Brunswick.

Joseph and Ellen moved to the Castlemaine district where Joseph was employed by Cornish and Bruce, building the Sandhurst railway line. On 4 May 1858 William Cornish and John Bruce won the tender of £3,356,937 to build a double-track railway from Footscray to Bendigo. Cornish and Bruce employed more than 6000 men, and became unscrupulous in their profit making endeavours. They exploited the unemployment in the colony with their irregular payments, attempts to reduce wages, and methods of subcontracting. Even before any work started, they attempted to subcontract thousands of non-union English workmen. Strikes and demonstrations were frequent throughout the build. In November 1860, Bruce forced the powerful Stonemason’s Society to agree to his terms, when he brought 400 German masons to the colony to compete with them. In 1861 the protesting led to violence after Bruce reduced all wages by 2s. per day. Rioting workmen smashed machinery, assaulted overseers and made three attempts to derail trains.

More children were born to Joseph and Ellen in the Chewton district however, the only birth registered was for Bridget ‘McInerny’. Her birth was in 1858 at Forest Creek, which is near Chewton. We can presume that Catherine McInerney was born in October 1859, although her birth registration has not been located. Catherine’s death registration states that she died on 22 February 1860 at Chewton, aged five months.   Another child’s death was registered in 1861. Recorded as Johanna ‘McInnerney’, it was stated that she was three years old, so presumably born in 1858. Possibly this is the same child as Bridget (who was born in 1858) or perhaps Bridget and Johanna were twins. There is no death registered for a Bridget McInerney prior to Joseph’s death in 1862.

Joseph didn’t see the fruits of his labour. The railway line to Castlemaine was opened on 15 October 1862. However, Joseph was killed at work at The Junction on 21 February 1862 by falling earth. He had been standing between a fifteen feet high cutting and some wagons. Without warning, earth and stones fell from above, and he was crushed beneath the rubble. Despite his fellow workers digging him out quickly, the post-mortem showed that he would have died instantly. The bones of his chest were completely crushed and it was concluded that no action could have saved his life. Ellen’s testimony at the Coroner’s Inquest was as follows:

“I am the wife of deceased and live at The Junction. He is my husband and was a labourer on the Railway. He is an Irishman and born at Tipperary. I have two children alive and four dead. I know nothing about the accident. Deceased was brought home dead.”

Joseph McInerney was buried at Chewton cemetery.

Joseph and Ellen’s marriage lasted less than 12 years. In that time, they had 6 children, but only two of these children lived to adulthood.   By the age of 28, Ellen had presumably lost both of her parents, four of her babies, and then her husband!

The Mug Shot

Alphonese Bertillon (1853-1914) was a French police officer and biometrics researcher. He created a system of physical measurements that he teamed with photography to identify recidivist criminals. Bertillon is accredited as the inventor of the mug shot. He believed that our ear shape was a unique identifier. The argument was that men could grow a beard to obscure their chin, but they can’t change the contours of their ear. We are all familiar with the dual photos of the modern mugshot – a side and front profile view of the offender. 
Limited photography of criminals began soon after portrait photos were developed in the 1840’s. At Pentridge Prison, the practice of photographing prisoners who were serving a sentence of six months or longer commenced during the 1870’s. The Parisian Police adopted Bertillon’s techniques in 1883 – nine years before the first crime was solved by the identification of fingerprints. 
Fingerprinting of Francesca Rojas in 1892 in Argentina lead to her confession to the brutal murder of her two children – as her boyfriend didn’t like them. She was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Alphonese’s sense of humour can be seen from the mug shots he took of his son (or nephew – arguments abound over the internet as to the true relationship to Francois Bertillon). Images have been preserved of Francois in mug shot formation, newborn, again in August 1892 that was likely to have been his 1st birthday, and famously in October 1893. 
Alphonese’s own “mug shot” was taken on 22 August 1900.

"No person can tell what he will do when driven by hunger."

Alexander Pearce (1790-1824) has become infamous as the only man to escape from Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour on two occasions. In both instances he entered the wilderness with fellow convicts, and in both instances he was the only man to survive the ordeal.

Pearce was executed on Monday 19 July 1824 in front of a vocal crowd at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land after being found guilty of the murder of Thomas Cox on 16 November 1823. Both men were convicts to the relatively new penal settlement and one would expect that the environment was not immune to hardened individuals. Yet this case was unique and shocked the whole nation, as it was the first case of cannibalism to be tried in this young land.

Pearce was born in County Monaghan, Ireland. In 1819 he was sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing 6 pairs of shoes, arriving in VDL per Castle Forbes. During 1821 Pearce committed four further offences, embezzling poultry, drunkenness, absence from lodgings and stealing a wheelbarrow. For each offence he was punished with lashes – 50 lashes in May, 25 in September, 50 on 26 November, and then just three days later a further 50 lashes. The following year Pearce “absconded into the woods”. Upon capture Pearce was re-transported to the bleak and isolated Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour for a further 7 years.

Six weeks later on 20 September 1822 Pearce and seven other convicts – Thomas Bodenham, Edward Brown, Alexander Dalton, Robert Greenhill, William Kennerly, John Mather and Matthew Travers – escaped from the penal station. However, after 15 days the eight escapees were starving in the wilderness. The exact sequence of events that were to follow is not known. Pearce was the only man to live to tell the story – however, he did so on three occasions, and each version had inconsistencies from the preceding account.

It seems as though it was Greenhill who touted the idea of sacrificing one man so that the others may live. Whether straws were drawn or Greenhill took it upon himself to take his axe to a fellow escapee, is not clear. There was also inconsistencies in Pearce’s confessions as to who was actually killed first – Bodeham or Dalton. However, he declared that all men were required to feast upon their prey, to ensure that all were implicated in any repercussions.

Brown, Kennerly and one other convict immediately fled the group, yet only Brown and Kennerly returned to Macquarie Harbour. Dalton (or was it Bodeham) supposedly died of exhaustion on the journey. Brown and Kennerly were in a dire state and unable to provide details to the authorities. They both died soon after arrival. Brown’s death occurred on 15 October 1822, whilst Kennerly died four days later.

The murder and devourment of their fellow man had set a terrible chain of events. The four remaining convicts could no longer act as a team to avoid capture and the vital link of trust had been sacrificed. Each man was fearful that he would fall prey as the next meal. John Mather became the second victim to Greenhill’s axe. Alexander Pearce could count himself lucky that fate intervened before he felt the force of Greenhill’s axe.   A snake bit Greenhill’s ally, Matthew Travers. Whilst Greenhill initially attempted to assist him whilst he recovered, it became evident that Travers would not recover. Five days after the snakebite Greenhill killed him and he and Pearce feasted.

With just Pearce and Greenhill remaining, tensions ran high. Greenhill was in possession of the axe, so Pearce was fearful of falling asleep to never wake up. Pearce managed to stay awake longer than Greenhill. Pouncing on his opportunity, Pearce grabbed the axe and killed Greenhill so that he may eat again.

One hundred and thirteen days after his escape, Pearce was captured along with two bushrangers. Pearce confessed his cannibalism to Reverend Robert Knopwood. However, this crazed confession was not believed and Pearce was returned to Macquarie Harbour. The premise was that the other escaped convicts were still roaming the wilderness as bushrangers.

Pearce made a second escape from Macquarie Harbour within a year of his return. With him was a young convict named Thomas Cox. Ten days later Pearce surrendered. Food was found in his pockets, but damningly his pockets also contained parts of Cox’s flesh. The following day Pearce was ordered to travel with a party to retrieve Cox’s body. It was reported, “The head was away, the hands cut off, the bowels were torn out, and the greater part of the breech and thighs gone, as were the calf of the legs, and the fleshy parts of the arms. Witness said to the prisoner, “how could you do such a deed as this?” he answered, “no person can tell what he will do when driven by hunger.” Witness then said, “Where is the head?” the answer was, “I left it with the body.” Witness searched for and found it a few yards off under the shade of a fallen tree; witness then picked up what appeared to be the liver of the deceased, and an axe stained with blood, on which prisoner was asked “if that was the axe with which he had killed Cox,” and he answered, “it was.” The fragments of the body were quite naked; near them were some pieces of a shirt, and the cover of a hat. There had been a fire near the body, and not far from it lay a knife, which witness picked up.”

Pearce was tried at The Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land in June 1824. The Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser reported, “The circumstances which were understood to have accompanied the above crime had long been considered with extreme horror. Report had associated the prisoner with cannibals; and recollecting as we did, the vampire legends of modern Greece, we confess, that on this occasion, our eyes glanced in fearfulness at the being who stood before a retributive Judge, laden with the weight of human blood, and believed to have banqueted on human!“

Father Phillip Connolly recited a lengthy statement by Pearce at the gallows. Pearce stated that being overcome with famine he killed Cox whilst he slept.

The Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser reported, “Pearce’s body was, after it had been suspended the usual time, delivered at the Hospital for dissection. We trust these awful and ignominious results of disobedience to law and humanity will act as a powerful caution; for blood must expiate blood! and the welfare of society imperatively requires, that all whose crimes are so confirmed, and systematic, as not to be redeemed by lenity, shall be pursued in vengeance and extirpated with death!”

Meet some "extraordinary" people

An extraordinary case of imposture

Whilst working on the Founders and Survivors project tracing the lives of convicts transported to Tasmania, Australia, l discovered this article printed in The Argus on 4 March 1858, reprinted from the Manchester Guardian:

At the sessions at Stafford, on Thursday an old man named Thomas Beardmore, alias John Mobley, aged 63 years, pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining money and goods under false pretences at Leek and Stone. The circumstances under which the frauds were practised are so extraordinary that we give a brief outline of the facts, as they would have been more fully disclosed if the charges had been investigated by a jury. The prisoner whose real name is John Mobley, is a native of Weston Turvil, near Aylesbury. For some time he has resorted to a series of impostures, his favourite character being that of a returned convict, and in that personation he was described in the Police Gazette of September 2nd as having imposed upon an old woman, named Hannah Duckworth, near Burnley, Lancashire, by representing himself as her son. At a later date, at Leek, Staffordshire, he represented himself to be a man named Frederick Cox, who had been transported about 19 years’ previously. In consequence of the plausible tale he told, and his accurate knowledge of events which had transpired before Cox’s transportation he was kept nearly a month at the house of a married daughter of the convict. Cox’s wife, supposing her husband to have been dead, had married again, and, although it is scarcely credible, the silly woman was so convinced that the prisoner was her long-missing partner that she left the man whom she had married, and lived with the prisoner as his wife. He told her that he was possessed of £1,700, part or all of which he had put into the bank; and upon his statement being questioned, he took the daughter of the old woman to the bank, left her at the door, and on returning assured her it was all right, and that he had drawn £150 on account. The same afternoon he accompanied her to several shops in Leek, where he ordered goods; but the deception being shortly afterwards discovered, Beardmore, fearing the consequences, conveyed himself away from the locality. Soon after this he stationed himself at Stone, where he affected an introduction to one Lydia Hawkins, representing that he was her husband, who had been transported 30 years before. The same kind of astonishing credulity which induced Mrs Cox to take him as her husband operated with Mrs Hawkins; and as he told her of the £1,700 he had in the bank, which he had got as a gold-digger, she began to think the lapses of time might have altered his features and appearance, and for the space of five weeks he lived in the house as her husband; during which period she gave him money and articles of clothing. At length, some grave doubts were aroused in her mind as to his identity and the money he professed to have, and finding the place becoming too warm for him he quietly left and did not return. He subsequently palmed off a similar imposition at Tean, where he represented himself to be a returned convict, named Thomas Beardmore, who 25 years previously had been banished from his country, and he so effectually carried out the deception that not only Beardmore’s relatives, but many of the inhabitants, were imposed on, his altered appearance being attributed to the hardships he had undergone. On Friday morning he was brought up again, and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.

Margaret Mannion - was she the most extraordinary of all the convict women?

The Founders and Survivors project allowed various volunteers the opportunity to research the remarkable lives of numerous convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Many of these volunteers became involved as an extension of researching their own convict ancestry. Those who attended the workshops heard from Janet McCalman that we are privileged to be descendants of a convict, as those who produced a family were certainly in the minority. As a researcher, it is always that little bit more exciting to come across a convict who married and bore children, as this allows us to unearth a grander picture of what their life may have been like, and also, because we know that they are simply one of the few extraordinary convicts who produced survivors.

In my role as a checker of submissions, l was introduced to Margaret Mannion. If the convicts who produced a family were extraordinary, then Margaret was the most incredible of them all. Margaret was transported to Australia aboard the Duke of Cornwall in 1850. This ship transported two hundred female adults and thirty-two children who embarked at Kingston, Ireland from Grange Gorham Penitentiary. The surgeon stated in his journal that “about two-thirds of the convicts were between the ages of twenty and thirty and having been brought up in the country were generally of sound and healthy constitutions. Many of them had been driven to commit offences during the Famine in Ireland, who originally had very good character, when once convicted they were certain of being well fed and taken care of. The remaining third were principally from Dublin and the provincial Towns. Their constitutions were more or less injured by previous disease and intemperate and irregular habits. Being a highly susceptible race they suffered much at first from Grief and depossession of Spirits on leaving their friends and Mother Country.”

Margaret was born in Galway in 1834. She was convicted with her sister Bridget for stealing three cows, and at the age of 16, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land. The four foot 10 inch freckled face illiterate girl, seemed to settle into convict life without any major indiscretions. Records tell us that thirteen months after her arrival, Margaret applied to marry Patrick Mullins per Portenia. Permission was approved, but for whatever reason, the marriage did not eventuate. Just five months later, on 23 April 1852, Margaret applied to marry a free man named Manuel Columbia. This request was not approved.

Undeterred in her quest to find a companion, the records for Permission to Marry, as digitised on the Tasmanian Archives website, show us that Margaret made another request to marry on May 1, 1854. On this occasion, permission was granted to marry the free man, James Mullins. James had arrived per Atlas in 1833. He was transported under a life sentence, but received a conditional pardon on 15 January 1846. It was noted on the permission to marry that Margaret and James married on 29 May 1854. Confirmation of the marriage was also noted on Margaret’s conduct record.

I was introduced to Margaret through a submission made by a descendant, which claimed that she married Thomas Larkin per Blenheim 4, at St Josephs Roman Catholic Church in Hobart Town on 27 November 1854. A record for the permission to marry is the fourth to be indexed on the Tasmanian Archives website, for Margaret Mannion per Duke of Cornwall. This marriage is also recorded on Margaret’s conduct record.

The union of Margaret and Thomas Larkin produced six children over a twelve year period. The first child, James Larkin, was born on 25 June 1854, five months prior to his parent’s marriage. Other children were born in July 1856, August 1858, March 1861, December 1863 and August 1866.

Of course, the question remained, what happened to Margaret’s first husband, James Mullins, and was James Mullins actually the father of James Larkin? A search for the death of James Mullins was necessary. Whilst l was unable to confirm a death for James, evidence showed that he and Margaret produced a family of four children. Their births were in April 1855, July 1859, October 1861 and April 1864. This information confirmed the superwoman status of Margaret, and the records would show that not only was she a bigamist, but she had super powers which enabled her to produce babies with two men at the same time!

So was Margaret really the most extraordinary convict to be sentenced to Van Diemen’s Land? Surely there was a mistake somewhere. The descendent who composed the submission on Founders and Survivors, claimed that she knew nothing of James Mullins. She also recorded Margaret’s death as occurring on 31 October 1867; however, the conduct record lists further offences, dating up to 6 May 1879. Interestingly, these offences were for Margaret Mullins!

I decided to check the Female Convicts Research Centre website. Here l found that Margaret had another descendant who was interested in researching her life; however, this descendant claimed to have been part of the line from James Mullins.

As there was only one convict woman named Margaret Mannion, the mystery deepened. There were spelling variations to Margaret’s maiden name, when registering the births of her children. The first child born to Thomas Larkin showed the mother’s name as Margaret Mannian. The registration of the remaining five children showed their mother’s name as Margaret Manning. The four children born to James Mullins also showed the mother’s name as Margaret Manning. Further investigation of the original records for the women per Duke of Cornwall enabled me to restore Margaret Mannion to the category of “extraordinary convict” rather than “most extraordinary convict”.

It would seem that Margaret Mannion was confused for Margaret Mongan, who was also transported on the Duke of Cornwall. It was Margaret Mongan who married James Mullins. Like Margaret Mannion, Margaret Mongan was born in Galway, although she was five years older. The similarities did continue. Both women were illiterate and both were convicted of stealing cows. To complicate matters even more, there were actually two women named Margaret Mongan transported per Duke of Cornwall. The other was also aged 20 years and from County Galway, but she was transported for killing sheep.

There were over 70,000 convicts transported to Van Dieman’s Land. We have inherited a library of meticulously recorded details about these founders of Tasmania. With so much information available to today’s researchers and genealogists, we must be forgiving of the rare errors made by the scribes. Margaret Mannion was one of the extraordinary convict women who not only was a founder, but also became a survivor – but she was unable to sustain the title of being superwoman, and of being the most extraordinary of all convicts.

Captain Moonlite

On 20 January 1880 Andrew George Scott (1842-1880), alias Captain Moonlite, was hanged at Darlinghurst Prison, Sydney.

Born in County Down Ireland, Scott travelled to New Zealand with his clergyman father, mother and brother in 1861. Scott arrived in Australia in 1867, moving from Sydney to Melbourne before being appointed as the lay reader at the Church of Holy Trinity in Bacchus Marsh Victoria in July 1868.
In March 1869 Scott, disguised in a mask and cloak, robbed his friend L.J. Brunn, the manager of the London Chartered Bank at Egerton. Scott forced Brunn to write a note saying, “Captain Moonlite has stuck me up and robbed the bank.” Scott then signed the note as “Captain Moonlite”. No one would believe Brunn’s accusations that the preacher robbed the bank, and instead, Brunn and the local schoolteacher were arrested. Scott made haste from the Victorian goldfields and returned to Sydney. Being the main witness to the robbery, the police were forced to release Brunn and Simpson after Scott’s departure.
Meanwhile, Scott spent his “earnings” purchasing a boat and commenced to sail to the South Pacific. However, his purchase was made with a bad cheque. Scott was captured and sentenced to 18 months gaol at Darlinghurst Prison.
Upon release Scott was immediately arrested for the Egerton bank robbery and transferred to the new Ballarat Gaol to await trial. However, the walls of the gaol were not secure enough to restrain Scott. Scott made a hole in the wall to the next cell and with his neighbour, they managed to overpower a guard and release all other prisoners. The prisoners then made a rope by tying their blankets together and scaled the perimeter wall. Upon capture Scott was sentenced to 10 years on the roads on 23 July 1872. He received an early release on 18 March 1879.
Eight months later on 18 November 1879 Captain Moonlite lead a pack of bushrangers to hold up the Wantabadgery station near Wagga Wagga, NSW. Over the ensuing three days they captured and robbed all who passed by, holding over 30 people prisoner. When one prisoner managed to escape to alert the police, a shoot out ensued. Two gang members Gus Wreneckie and James Nesbitt were killed, as was a policeman, Constable Bowen. With his situation futile, Scott eventually surrendered and along with his gang was charged with the murder of Constable Bowen. Scott and a gang member Rogan were hanged together on 20 January 1880.
Andrew Scott’s dying wish was realised in January 1995 when his remains were exhumed and reinterred next to Nesbitt’s grave in Gundagai.

Baby Farming in 19th Century Melbourne

Whilst undertaking a brick wall research project into the early life of AIF digger Ralph Phillips, l was confronted with the term “baby farming” and was introduced to Emma Parry. 

Emma was born c1811 in Suffolk, England.  She arrived in Australia as Emma Ames with her 13-year-old son Frederick Charles Ames and 11-year-old daughter Emma Ames.  The bereaved family departed Plymouth per Eliza on 30 November 1852, arriving in Portland Bay, Victoria on 9 April 1853.  It had been a perilous journey with 41 of the 330 passengers dying during the voyage, primarily due to an outbreak of measles.  After disembarking, Emma was hired on 15 April by M Cameron of Portland on a six-month contract for £30 with rations. 

By 1879 Emma Ames was known as Emma Parry, a widow residing at 116 Kerr Street Fitzroy. From 1887 Emma Parry resided at Edina Cottage, 10 King William Street, Fitzroy where she practiced as a nurse.  Like many other older women residing in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, Emma carried on a business as an accoucheuse.  The press referred to these private lying-in-hospitals as ‘baby farms’.  Emma’s reputation as a “philanthropist” amongst “distressed females” seeking a venue to be confined, and / or a house for their baby to be reared or adopted, was to become widespread knowledge to the broader Victorian community in December 1889.  Numerous newspapers reported on the activities at Edina Cottage. 

The Age disclosed that on the evening of Saturday 7 December a poorly dressed girl aged about 16 or 17 arrived at Mrs. Parry’s front door holding a bundle in her arms, explaining, “The little girl had taken very bad”.  When Mrs. Parry enquired of the symptoms, the response was that she didn’t know, but her sister who was outside could answer.  “In a trice Mrs. Parry’s mysterious caller had vanished through the front door” leaving her with the infant in her arms.  Unable to find the girls outside, Mrs. Parry realised that she had been tricked by a clever ruse to accept the unknown baby.  Mrs. Parry went straight to the Fitzroy watch house to inform the police of the incident.  However, as abandoned children are entrusted into the care of a capable nurse, the police sent Mrs. Parry home with the baby girl, estimated to be six or seven weeks old.  The following day whilst nursing the baby, Mrs. Parry noticed some symptoms of twitching so she administered a few drops of brandy and water, and the baby fell into a calm and peaceful sleep.  However, by evening the baby suffered a fit of mild convulsions.  After giving the baby a warm bath, Mrs. Parry ordered a lodger, Margaret Smyth, to take it to Dr. Fyffe.  Upon return, Mrs. Parry administered the prescribed medicine, along with three drops of cough mixture in warm water, believing she had noticed signs of a cold.  The baby appeared to progress favorably until two days later.  On the Monday evening the baby suffered another fit and died in convulsions.  Dr. Fyffe signed a death certificate however, the police considered the circumstances to be unusual, and directed the death to the coroner to conduct a post-mortem examination.  Dr. Henry Maudsley performed this procedure and concluded, “The body was emaciated.  The posterior parts of both lungs were congested.  Death was attributable to inflammation of the stomach and intestines, arising from improper feeding.”  He explained that the observed convulsions were merely symptoms of the diseased state of the intestines.”

Dr Youl conducted an inquest at the city morgue on 17 December 1889.    Evidence was heard that Louisa Thorn had answered an advertisement to adopt a child from Emma Parry in November.  She claimed to have followed instructions to feed the child on Swiss milk.  After a fortnight the child became ill so Thorn took it to Dr. Lawrence, who deposed the child was suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea produced by unsuitable food.  Louisa Thorn subsequently returned the child to Mrs. Parry.  Mrs. Marion Clarke, deputy register of South Fitzroy, testified of her concern of the death of an illegitimate child at Mrs. Parry’s residence 12 months ago from marasmus and collapse.  She stated the deaths of five other infants at the same address had been registered during the year, all from the same cause, except one that was stillborn.  In examination, Emma Parry stated 12 or 13 children passed through her hands over the previous year.  She stated she was known for providing a good home for children.  Over the past 12 months, five or six had died, their mothers had taken some away, and three or four had been adopted.  Evidence was also heard from Georgina Kiddell who lived with her father at Moolart.  She had been confined five times at Mrs. Parry’s, her father making the arrangements for her under the assumed name of ‘Mrs. Bath’.  The first child died at 10 days, the second was adopted the day following its birth, the third and fourth were also adopted.  Georgina paid £5 and £6 fee to the adopted parents.  The fifth child had died.  The Coroner stated, “The matter was a very serious one because a large number of infants were received at the house, and there was very little evidence to show what became of them.  Whilst evidence was heard that many respectable people had adopted babies, neither the mothers of the children nor the proprietor of the house were able to tell where any of them had gone to.”  After a short deliberation the jury delivered their verdict as follows: — “In Fitzroy, on the 9th of December instant, the deceased, Jessie Thorn, died of marasmus from improper and unsuitable food. The jury are of opinion that such houses as that kept by Mrs. Parry should be placed under proper supervision and that proper books be kept of all confinements occurring in them.”

One month later, Louisa Thorn of Rae Street Fitzroy appeared at the Fitzroy Police Court charged with making a false declaration to the deputy registrar of BDM.  Louisa had registered the birth of Jessie Grace Thorn, born 1 August 1889 listing herself as mother, rather than declaring that the child was adopted.  Louisa Thorn was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment at Castlemaine Gaol.

Janet McCalman’s comprehensive study of the Melbourne Lying in Hospital (later to be named the Royal Women’s Hospital) traced the registered live births at the hospital between 1857 and 1900 until death.  Janet revealed an incredibly high infant mortality rate, with 50% of the babies dying before their first birthday.  Of these, 15% had died before 28 days.  For approximately two decades the press had been reporting about “baby farming” nurses such as Emma Parry.     Janet states “the actual murderers among the baby farmers – i.e. women who took in babies for money – were few, but we found that there was an ancient practice of allowing babies to fade away.”  During “the 1880s mortality in LIH babies who were illegitimate reached 80%.  Since they were hand fed and artificial feeding was so unsafe, they faded away from constant gastro and marasmus.  The Infant Life Protection Act dramatically reduced this mortality by policing the private nursing industry fiercely.”

Public concern about the fate of infants increased and ultimately contributed to The Infant Life Protection Act 1890. The legislation was an attempt to regulate the private nurses and their residential establishments.  It empowered police to control the paid children’s nurses and granted them the authority to inspect homes.  Registration was required by all who nursed or maintained infants less than two years of age ‘for the purpose of maintaining such infant for a longer period than three consecutive days’ or ‘for the purpose of adopting such infant’.  The Act was also intended to regulate the work of people who brokered adoptions by taking charge of surrendered infants and matching them with adoptive parents for a fee.  Nurses and possible unscrupulous midwives quickly learnt how to play the new system.  The Royal Children’s Hospital provided official feeding instructions, and registered private nurses would ensure that these were prominently displayed when their premises were inspected.  Those that did end up in court would often recite the instructions as part of their defence.

By 1892 Emma Parry had relocated her residence and business to 8 Duckett Street, Brunswick.  Despite a change of venue, it would seem that the activities continued as they did in Fitzroy, with more births, adoptions and deaths.  On 16 April 1892 Dr Neild, acting coroner, conducted an inquest at the Court House Hotel, Brunswick into the death of Florence Zimmerman.  Florence was born to Janet Zimmerman at the Women’s Hospital on 23 December 1891 and was nursed for two months at North Melbourne.  Mrs. Elizabeth Ryan took charge of Florence Zimmerman on 9 January, receiving 10s per week for its care from Janet.  The baby was thriving until 13 February when Florence was “seized with vomiting”.  Mrs. Ryan took Florence to Dr. Peacock who prescribed medicine and cured the illness. Janet Zimmerman answered an advertisement by Emma Parry on 22 March 1892.  Mrs. Parry agreed to adopt the child if paid £5, declaring she would take good care of it and would permit Janet to see it at any time.  Mrs. Ryan attested that Florence was healthy when the baby left her care on 24 March.  Sergeant Brown deposed that Emma Parry called into the police station on 11 April to report the death of the child the previous day.  Emma Parry claimed she had called Dr Miller to see the child on 9 April, which had been well up until then.  Dr. Neild claimed there were other cases in the district where children died in mysterious circumstances, despite no apparent criminal intention.  He attributed most of these cases to ignorance, predominately arising from feeding unsuitable and indigestible food.  It was attested that Emma Parry accepted money to take possession of Florence Zimmerman into her home, which was described as “a filthy, frowsy house not fit for pigs or vagrant dogs to live in.  In three weeks a strong, healthy, stout child, apparently likely to live, became a living skeleton, with not a shred of food in its body.”  The Jury found Florence Zimmerman died of starvation and neglect wilfully caused by Emma Parry.  They declared Emma to be guilty of wilful murder.   The Coroner Dr. Neild agreed with the jury that Florence Zimmerman had been deliberately starved to death, and committed Emma Parry for trial. Emma received the verdict with intense surprise, moaning she had cared for the dear child day and night.

Emma Parry’s trial was held on 26 April 1892 at the Criminal Court.   Emma’s defence was that the baby died from an inability to assimilate its food.  However, the prosecutor’s argument that Florence Zimmerman was starved to death prevailed, and 79-year-old Emma Parry was found guilty of manslaughter.  She was sentenced to nine months hard labour.  Upon being received at Melbourne Gaol it was discovered that Emma’s right thighbone was fractured, the result of falling down stairs at her home in Brunswick.  She was admitted to the Gaol Hospital, rather than the prisoner cells.  Emma’s nine-month sentence became a life sentence upon her death in the gaol hospital at 10pm on Wednesday 13 July 1892.  Dr Youl conducted an inquest at Melbourne Gaol on 15 July.  Evidence was heard from Dr. Shields that death resulted from old age and debility.  Coronial findings declared ‘death by natural causes’.

The term “baby farming’ conjures images of unspeakable evil and cruelty.  However, to believe that the nurses were trying to help single pregnant young girls and / or find suitable homes for illegitimate and unwanted babies, is just too simplistic.  The clientele of lying in hospitals and private nurses were predominately highly vulnerable women disempowered by poverty.  Desperate single women who without family support had no option but to part with their baby whilst they tried to earn a living.  These social conditions created a market for private nurses / baby farming to develop, which in turn attracted both professionally trained nurses and incompetent rogues.  However, regardless of the level of training and experience, today we can question the likelihood of any well intentioned nurse and her ability to rear children who were prematurely weaned and relied on artificial feeding.  In addition, we need to recognise the issues associated with poor sanitary conditions and the enviable task of nursing babies suffering with diseases and possibly weakened by syphilis.

It is worth mentioning that Frances Knorr aka Minnie Thwaites was the only Melbourne woman to be hanged for activities relating to baby farming at various homes in Brunswick and Carlton.  The discovery of three buried babies in backyards of homes where Frances had resided, led to her arrest.  Frances Knorr stated she took children in to nurse, and accounted for their disposal by saying that she had “adopted then out”.   Frances Knorr was tried at the Coroner’s Court on three charges of murder on 25 October 1893 and was found guilty at the Criminal Sittings on 12 November 1893.  She was sentenced to death and hanged by the neck at Melbourne Gaol on 15 January 1894.

Emma Parry
Emma Parry
Frances Knorr

Hangman Jones

Following on from the above information re the execution of Frances Knorr, here lies the information about her intended executioner.

Hangman Jones, proper name William Perrins was born in Worcester, England in 1837. He arrived in Australia in 1858 and six years later married Mary Duffy. The couple produced two daughters, Elizabeth in 1865 at Vaughan and Sarah in 1868 at Ballarat.

By 1872 William Perrins had run foul of the law. He was convicted at Dunolly on 29 July 1872 for using indecent language and committing assault and sentenced to a term of three months imprisonment at Maryborough Gaol. On 19 May 1874 he was sentenced to another term of 3 months imprisonment for assault. Before his release he appeared at the Maryborough Circuit Court on a charge of receiving. Being found guilty he was sentenced to three years hard labour and was transferred to Pentridge Prison. William Perrins was freed by remission on 6 November 1876.

Using the alias of Thomas Jones, William Perrins was convicted again on 15 November 1883 for the indecent assault of a girl under 12 years of age. The charge related to the assault of Amy Simpkins who had been lured from the corner of Collins Street and Russell Street to the Treasury Gardens. Thomas Jones was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour at Pentridge and received a whipping of 12 lashes.

By 1885 Thomas Jones, aka Thomas Walker, aka Thomas Porter, had become the hangman at Pentridge Prison. Having performed 15 executions, Jones was considered to be an expert in the role. Whilst he stated that he “had not a scrap of chivalrous objection to dealing with the condemned person on the score of her sex” (i.e. Frances Knorr) Jones confided to the prison governor that he struggled with the jeers bestowed by acquaintances. Countered with domestic issues which were aggravated by his excessive alcohol intake, it was determined that Jones reside at the gaol in the lead up to the planned execution of Knorr.

The situation obviously was too much for Jones to bear. On 6 January 1894 Jones committed suicide by slitting his throat with a razor. Several deep wounds were inflicted to each side of his neck and upon a medical examination it appeared that Jones had alternated with his right and left hands. Unlike usual suicides where the front of the neck is sliced, Jones exacted deep wounds in the side of his neck where vital points are situated and as such his jugular vein was severed.

In Flanders Fields

The Significance of the Red Poppy

The Red Poppy, or Flanders Poppy, has been associated with the World War One battlefields of Europe since 1915.  Canadian doctor Colonel John McCrae immortalised the flower as a symbol of remembrance in honour of his friend and former student. Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, was killed on 2 May 1915. In the absence of a chaplain, Colonel McCrae performed Helmer’s funeral ceremony and afterwards penned a poem that has become known as “In Flanders’ Field”. In the devastation of the battlefields in northern France and Belgium, the Australian diggers would witness the red poppies emerge from the blackened soil.  It was one of only a few plants to grow on the barren battlefields. According to soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy was coloured by the blood of fallen comrades, which had seeped into the ground. The British Legion adopted the Red Poppy as the Emblem of Remembrance to honour the dead in 1919.  In 1921 the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia accepted the international convention to recognise the Poppy of Flanders’ Field to be worn on Remembrance / Armistice Day.

The Powell Family Project

The Powell Family Presentation Folder

I have conducted a Single Line Research Project on the Powell Family. Attached is a photograph of the project folder, which was presented to my client. It includes the family stories, a military report, pedigree chart, Ahnentafel Report, descendant reports, printed pdf media files, a source usage report and bibliography. Below is a brief outline of part of my findings.

William Wall Powell a farmer from Herefordshire brought his wife Alice (nee Stock) and baby daughter Gertrude to Australia in 1875. They arrived in Melbourne on 26 February 1875 as unassisted passengers per Whampoa. The family initially lived in Richmond where another son was born later that year. In April 1882 William became the head trainer of the prestigious Norwood Kennels at Alfred Road, Burwood. William died at the kennels on 30 March 1885, leaving 30 year old Alice to rear five young children aged from 1 to 10 years.

Whilst William died at the relatively young age of 53, his father Thomas, a corn merchant, was to live to 86 years. Thomas was severely impacted by the Corn Laws and was declared bankrupt in 1822. However, he turned his life around and sired a large family of nine children. At the time of his death, Thomas had 25 grandchildren; a further eight were born after his death.

Alice Powell remarried at the age of 50, although she separated from her second husband within five years, returning to live with various children for the remainder of her long life. Alice died at the remarkable age of 93 years, as did her youngest daughter. Her father, Charles Stock, a yeoman and prominent resident of Foy, Herefordshire, died age 90 years.

Various men from the Powell and Stock families enlisted to serve their country during both peace and wartime. Of particular note were the Jakeman brothers, Charles James Jakeman and George Harold Jakeman who were grandsons of Charles Stock. Their parents had immigrated from Herefordshire, England to Kansas, USA in 1880. On 13 January 1886 they arrived in New South Wales, Australia.

George enlisted for service during the Boer War in 1902, under the alias of Robert Harman. He arrived in South Africa too late to participate in any action. At the age of 31 George enlisted in the First AIF, as did his older brother Charles. Whilst being allocated to different units, both Jakeman brothers departed Alexandria to join the MEF on the same date, arriving at Gallipoli on 16 August 1915. Charles was killed in action just six days later.

George survived the Gallipoli campaign being a party to the final evacuation in January 1916. Two months later he was re-allocated from 20 Battalion to 51 Field Ambulance and was sent to the Western Front. George was awarded the prestigious Military Medal for bravery in the field on the night of 5th / 6th May. He was gassed in August 1918, spending five weeks recuperating. After three years of service in France, George embarked for England on 9 January 1919. George returned to Australia per Commonwealth and disembarked in Sydney on 12 June 1919. He was discharged fully fit on 17 January 1920.

Arthur Herbert Jakeman, the third son of George Harold Jakeman attested for the Australian Army on 17 January 1941. Arthur was sent abroad arriving in Malaya on 16 August 1941. On 23 September 1941 he was declared ‘missing”. Arthur had been captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war. He was at interred at Changi Camp for 3 years and 5 months. Arthur was liberated from this camp on 5 September 1945, almost four years after his capture. It must have been an enormous relief for his wife Jessie and their two children, but also for his father George, to see Arthur disembark at Sydney on 9 October 1945.

Charles Livingston / Lucas

The photo at right is of my 2 x great grandfather – Charles Lucas.  He was a difficult man to trace, as he was fallacious in providing details when registering births of his daughters.  It was only after discovering his Victorian prison record, of which this photo was attached, that clues were gleaned to unearth his true identity.  These clues ultimately led to Charles Livingston, the VDL convict per Lord Petre.

Charles Livingston was convicted on 24 October 1842 at the Liverpool Borough of Quarter Sessions Court, Lancaster, for breaking into a house with two others and stealing 31 pairs of boots and 15 pairs of shoes.  He was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land.  Charles could read and write and he was considered to be “intelligent”.   Along with only seven others from the total of 238 convicts per Lord Petre, Charles was deemed by the ship’s surgeon to be “monitor of a class very good indeed”.  Despite being able to charm the ship surgeon, within the convict system Charles was a constant offender, his behaviour being reactive and violent.  He was reprimanded with periods in solitary confinement and with hard labour.  On 28 January 1851 Charles received his Ticket of Leave, on condition that he did “not reside in Hobart Town or Fingal district”.

Charles Livingston married an Irish convict woman named Mary Sullivan on 10 May 1852 in Franklin.  Mary Sullivan, whose proper name was Mary Leary, was convicted at County Cork on 28 December 1848, for stealing a shirt.  She was transported per Australasia.  Charles and Mary had three Tasmanian born daughters between 1853 and 1857.

After freedom Charles struggled to remain on the right side of the law.  In 1854 he was fined £50 for sly grog selling.  This was a substantial sum – equating to approximately $7000 in today’s money.  It is not surprising that the following year Charles was declared insolvent when his saw-milling establishment at Huon went bankrupt.  Charles attempted to establish another timber dealership at Bruny Island in 1858, but again, he was forced to declare insolvency.  In April 1859 Charles was in court charged with stealing a square stern boat on January 15.

Presumably on the run, Charles relocated his pregnant wife and three daughters to Victoria, and the family assumed the surname of “Lucas”.  Three more daughters were born in Victoria, the first in March 1860.  The following month Charles was charged with stealing two pairs of boots.  On this occasion he was lucky to be dismissed with a caution.  Charles wasn’t so lucky in 1862 when he was charged at Castlemaine with receiving stolen property.  He received a sentence of three years on the roads.  On 1 December 1865 Charles was convicted of cattle stealing at Ballarat, his sentence being five years imprisonment.  Charles was sentenced to a further period of three years on the roads on 22 July 1872, for once again receiving stolen property.  Charles was finally released from Pentridge Prison on 29 May 1875.

After more than nine years of living alone as a single parent, it is thought that Mary was reluctant to allow Charles back into her life.  Whilst Charles was in prison, Mary gave birth to two daughters alone.  One of these daughters was to die in horrific circumstances aged 17 months.  Susan Lucas had stumbled into the open fire in her mother’s hut, and the kettle of boiling water toppled and scalded her. 

Four years after his release from Pentridge, Charles Lucas died at the copper mining town of Cobar, NSW on 29 December 1879.  According to his death certificate, Charles died from an “overdose of morphine administered by own hand”.  Despite an inquest being conducted one day after Charles died, his actual death certificate was not signed until 6 March 1880 – over two months after his death.  As was the case throughout his life, it seems fitting that after his death, anomalies still continued. 

My 2x great grandfather, the infamous Charles Livingston aka Charles Lucas, was buried at Cobar Cemetery in 1879. Sue Martin has informed me that the cemetery has now been repurposed as a golf course! Of the 74 graves only two headstones have survived. However, a memorial has been placed on site with an inscription of names, age and date of death of those whose remains still lie buried under the fairways.

I hope that the golfers do “walk softly” as they pass over the grave of my Charles.

Heartfelt thanks Sue, for sharing your photos and granting me permission to upload to this website.

The Ballarat Benevolent Asylum

On 6 September 2011 l began trawling through the ledgers of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum hoping to identify any inmates who were VDL convicts.  Over 150 convicts who had travelled to the goldfields after the expiration of their sentence were ultimately identified.  As  the ledgers did not specifically note convict origins or ships to the colony, it was a painstaking task to unearth the Vandemonians.   Here is the story of two of these men, John Grant and James Charles Gunyon.

On 30 November 1857, a meeting was held at the Council Chambers in Sturt Street, Ballarat.  Mr. Oddie, the Chairman of Ballarat West, raised the discussion about the many cases of distress within the region, primarily caused by gold field injuries. He proposed the establishment of a benevolent association, and thus, the Ballarat Benevolent and Visiting Society, later to be known as the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, was formed.  Initially the recipients of aid were visited in their homes, but it was soon realised that an asylum was required.  The Ballarat Benevolent Asylum was officially opened on 20 February 1860.  A study of the ledgers which date from 1860, show that inmates of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum were not merely the old and infirm, but also those who were able-bodied but destitute.  As Ballarat was a popular destination for many convicts once they received their freedom, it is only natural that this study of the ledgers has unearthed numerous men who had been transported to Van Diemen’s Land.


It would appear that the majority of convicts who spent time at the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, were either single or widowed men.  One such man was John Grant.  John Grant was born in 1809 at Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a stonemason. John became a soldier with the 42 (The Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot.  However, he deserted and upon capture was inflicted with 300 lashes.  This obviously did not deter John from deserting a second time in 1833.  John Grant was captured three years later and tried at the Edinburgh Castle on 15 September 1836.  He was sentenced to 7 years transportation. John was admitted to the prison hulk “Hardy” moored at Portsmouth, on 16 November 1836.  John sailed from Spithead aboard “Sarah”, arriving in Van Diemen’s Land on 29 March 1837.

After spending time at the prisoner barracks in Hobart, John was assigned to Molesworth Jeffrey at New Norfolk in 1838.  A dramatic turn of events changed the fortune of John.  John came upon two bushrangers, James Mackay and William Hill, who were both ex-convicts.  They were wanted for the murder of two other convicts, William Trusson and William Clarke.  John Grant befriended the bushrangers in an attempt to earn their trust, before he and his friends Patrick Riley and Absalom Gomme, overpowered the bushrangers in a capture that was bloodless.  John Grant and his two accomplices received a £500 reward, and more importantly, on 29 April 1842 they each received a free pardon with no conditions.

John left Tasmania for Victoria in 1844.  Whilst his initial whereabouts in Victorian are unknown, he was in the goldfields during the 1860s working as a miner.  At the age of 59 John resided at Hard Hills, Buninyong.  He was admitted to the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum on 24 March 1868 due to the loss of his left foot.  He was discharged almost seven months later on 13 October 1868. John had applied to the House Committee to be transferred to hospital, and whilst the application was successful, he was not admitted. Instead he was supplied with salve and medicine and was informed that he would be treated as an outpatient.

John was readmitted to the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum on 5 July 1870. The ground of application was “loss of left leg”.  He left the asylum on 27 October 1870 as he had gained employment to look after a gold claim.  On 4 April 1871 John returned to the benevolent asylum, remaining there for almost two and a half years.  On 2 September 1873 he gave notice and left for the District Hospital to have his leg further amputated at his own request.  John returned from hospital on 26 January 1874.  The ground of application was recorded as “torsion of the left leg”.  He was discharged on 5 January 1876.  John’s final admittance to the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum was on 4 June 1877, suffering from pneumonia.  He died at 8pm on 22 June 1877, the cause of death being confirmed as pneumonia and exhaustion.


Another convict who relied on the services of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum was James Charles Gunyon.  James was born on 1 February 1790 at Kitson, Middlesex, England. He became known as Charles.  Charles married Sophia Robinson on 31 October 1815 at St Bride, Fleet Street, London.  Throughout the next 10 years they produced five children.  Charles worked as a waiter at The Swan, Westminster Bridge, whilst Sophia was employed as a housemaid.  Whilst working on 12 August 1827, Sophia found £85 in bank notes, which she promptly slipped into her pocket.  When arriving home, she gave the money to Charles.  This impromptu decision had dramatic consequences for her family.  Sophia and Charles were both arrested and tried at The Old Bailey on 13 September 1827.  Sophia received a death sentence, which was commuted to transportation for life, in consideration of her five children.  Charles was transported for 14 years.

Sophia and her five children sailed to Australia aboard “The Mermaid”, arriving on 27 June 1828.  Charles arrived two months later on 25 August 1828, aboard “Woodford”.  The four older children were placed into the Queen’s Orphan School, but three-year-old Emma was allowed to live with her parents.  A further three children were born between 1830 and 1837.

Charles was appointed a police constable soon after his arrival; however, continual instances of being drunk and neglect of duty caused him many penalties.  He was dismissed from his service with the police in December 1831.  His problems persisted and he was punished with fines, hard labour on the Bridgewater chain gang and time on the treadwheel.  His conduct record shows a total of nine offences of drunkenness.

Whilst a record of divorce has not been located, it would appear that Charles and Sophia separated prior to 1844.  When their daughter Emma married in 1844, Sophia signed her name as “Sophia Walker”.  She spent her latter years living with James Walker.  Sophia died on 29 July 1866 at Brighton, Tasmania.  She was buried at Pontville St Marks Anglican Cemetery, Brighton, Hobart.  James Walker died 25 February 1870, and was buried with Sophia.

According to the 1841 Tasmania muster, Charles had received a conditional pardon.  It is thought that he travelled to Victoria in 1847.  Little is known about his time there, however, at least in his latter years, Charles worked as a shepherd and lived at Creswick.

Charles arrived at the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum on 1 July 1874.  He was admitted on the grounds that he was old and infirm.  Charles stated that he was 85 years old, native of Barnett, Middlesex, England.  He also stated that he was a widower with six children. It was noted that he was “admitted in a very low and weak state was taken into the hospital ward and never left.”  Charles died at 6am on 27 July 1874.  The cause of death was “ascites and Bronchitis”.  As the main cause of ascites is cirrhosis of the liver, it could be presumed that Charles continued to drink heavily beyond his days of being a convict.

Whilst Charles, Sophia and their elder five children arrived in Australia under duress, it would appear that their descendants adopted a sense of belonging to their homeland. Charles and Sophia had at least eight direct line descendants who responded to the call from their country, and enlisted with the Australian Imperial Forces during World War One.  Of the eight, only five returned from duty.  This included Leslie Ernest Fitzgerald who had been hospitalised after suffering from trench fever; Alfred Edward Jarvis who received a gun shot wound to his knee in France on 9 June 1917; and George Henry Evans who was shot in Belgium in March 1918.  Those that did not return were Tasman Jarvis, who was killed in action at the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915; Richard George Jarvis who was also killed in action at Gallipoli in what we now call “Anzac Day”; and Henry Thomas Jarvis who was killed in action on 9 September 1916 in France.

Ganmain, New South Wales

The venue of my May school holidays to visit my paternal grandparents, aunts, uncle and cousins. Check out the facebook page Historic Ganmain to see some wonderful photos and read stories about this small Riverina town: