Monthly Archives: June 2018

Weekend Coffee Share… 11th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s well after midnight here and the dog who was parked underneath my desk, somehow relocated without catching my attention, and another dog, Zac, is parked beside me. Raindrops pitter-patter on  a tin section of roof overhead. Meanwhile, outside the backyard has become something of a wetland, submerged in water. Sitting here at my desk, it doesn’t take much imagination to believe I’m onboard some kind of house boat. Well, the only except being that the ground is steady underfoot and not lilting with the waves.  Thank goodness for that! By the way, the waves aren’t that far from here…just at the end of the street about 700 metres away.

Needless to say, I should be snuggled away in bed asleep, basking away in the warmth of my electric blanket. However, it’s a long weekend and I slept in this morning and had a nap this afternoon. So, I set myself up for this post-midnight moment with you, a cup of herbal tea, my computer screen and the dogs.

It’s so easy to feel reflective, out in the elements with the rain falling all around me. Our house is built more for Summer. So, there’s a fine line between inside and out. Moreover, with the dogs needing to go in, these boundaries merge even closer . Indeed, the back door is open beside me, and I know I should be cold. That it should be closed.Yet, there’s something very refreshing merging with the rain in semi-darkness.

Or, perhaps I’ve finally crossed that fine line into madness, delirium. Drunk on too much poetic thought. A case of Keats.

Oops, I just got sprung. My son just appeared in his dressing gown and found me awake. I’m in trouble. So, I’m needing to pause our coffee til the morning, which could very well extend into the afternoon. I have a feeling that it’s going to be hard to sneak into bed without alerting my husband about just how late I’ve stayed up. But it’s hard. The raindrops almost sound like music and like the pied piper, they’re luring me off into some sort of trance. A trance that should be sending me to sleep, but is actually doing the reverse. I’m firing up on all cylinders. Oh oh!

However, before I head off to the land of nod, what did you get up to last week? How was it for you? I hope it’s been good.

……

It’s now Monday afternoon, and I swear my backside has barely touched my seat after walking the dogs with the family, and already I’m being called away. Last weekend, I bought some daffodil bulbs and my husband’s informed me that they’ve already started to sprout AND he’s putting some good soil in the pot and it looks like the only thing missing now, is me. Humph!

Last week was quite reflective for me. Last week, I shared about my friend’s funeral, and that’s not something you just throw off like a blanket on a hot night. Indeed, I was in the supermarket on Friday and suddenly had this intense awareness of both her presence and her absence, which kind of gripped me. It was strange, too, because I don’t recall ever seeing her in the supermarket. It was just one of those things. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have this conscious awareness of the fleetingness of life, but there’s that temptation or even expectation just to get on with it, and even not to talk about her anymore. Yet, I don’t want to be like that with people I care about, even more so with people I love. Moreover, when I go, I don’t want my loved ones to be crippled, but I don’t want them to pretend I didn’t exist. I want them to build a statue…a place for birds to stop and chat. Perhaps, that’s going a bit too far.

Famous Fights

Anyway, this week I’ve been uncovering all sorts of secrets researching my family history through the online newspapers. I shared two of these stories on the blog. The first was about a fight between Thomas Waterhouse & One-Eyed Bourke in 1857 and the other was  the fractured love story of Ivy and Jack, which ended up in court for breach of promise. That story provided quite an insight into dating around 1910, which was much more supervised that today. Of course, we know that, but it was interesting to see how that all played out.

Valentine 1910

This week, I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers. My take on the prompt, Lover’s Potion was rather influenced by reading the love letters of Ivy and Jack and his betrayal.

Yesterday, I also wrote a post questioning whether most of us feel different and that we don’t belong in some way and also whether that sense of difference and not conforming to the perceived norm was actually a good thing. Had benefits. I put this out there more to get feedback and generate some kind of discussion, so I’d love you to check it out. I’ve just thrown different ideas out there, and haven’t really formed a strong conclusion. Here’s The Struggle to Belong…Or not.

Roti.JPG

Hot Roti made by yours truly and served with babaganoush.

Lastly, I did want to mention that we’re engrossed in Masterchef Australia 2018. We LOVE it and all sit around the TV watching it every night it’s on. While I don’t try to replicate the dishes from the show, I tend to pick out new ingredients or elements to add to what I already make. I was particularly proud of myself on Friday night for making roti or flatbread. I’d watched them making it on the show, and it seemed so easy that I thought I’d have a go. Much to my amazement, it worked and I was so proud of myself. I am very quick to doubt my abilities and really should have more faith in myself. Do you find that?

Anyway, being a public holiday here in Australia and having my husband and kids home, sitting here and the dogs running around, isn’t doing much for my capacity to write. So, I’m heading off., not doubt just in time for them all to take off. They have Gang Show rehearsals this afternoon.

I hope you have a great week ahead and I look forward to popping round to your place for coffee too.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Struggle to Belong…or not!

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

Albert Einstein

For many years, I thought it was just me who was “different”. Didn’t fit in or go with the flow. Of course, I knew I was different, and even had scientific evidence to prove it. Moreover, I’m “creative”  which automatically lands you in a classification all of your own. We’re automatically assumed to be “weirdos”.

At times, I’ve tried to conform, or simply conform enough. However, the older I get and with a burning sense that life is short, I can’t be bothered anymore. You can like me, or lump me. I’m not going to play to your tune.

However, is being myself and not being part of the crowd such a bad thing? Is being authentic actually more important than conforming?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Today, I was reminded of these tensions when I recommended a favourite book of mine, Shel Silverstein’s: The Missing Piece.  It’s been animated here and it is really cute, as well as making some strong philosophical points… Maybe we need to be a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps, being a seeker interacting with and absorbing a full  smorgasbord of life, is better than being fat dumb and happy on the couch.

“A man on his deathbed or after he has been snubbed by his wife may enjoy a few moments of solitude, the rest of his life is a noisy gregariousness. He fears solitude as a child fears the dark, indeed it is a universal dread which one must learn to conquer. A poet learns his lesson generally by finding himself early in life shunned, he is odd. `Why was I born with a different face?’ Blake asked. Genius is fundamentally odd and men hate the exceptional.”

-Jack Butler Yeats

Edward Hopper room-in-new-york

Edward Hopper, A Room In New York.

 

Another thing that got me thinking lately, is that I’ve been hearing loads of people from all different walks of life talking about how they don’t fit in.  Have been the outsider. Experienced some kind of difference between them and the mainstream. Indeed, I’ve heard this so often lately, that I’ve actually wondered whether anyone feels like they truly belong. Indeed, is this sense of not belonging, of feeling different, something that affects the majority and not just the fringe?

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple Inc.

I don’t know. However, I’d like to find out and that’s why I’ve posed this question to you: Do you feel like you belong? Or, do you feel different or unique in some way that shuts you out?

Michelangelo The Creation of Adam close up

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam (close-up)

As for myself, I’m simply starting to believe that I see the world differently, and that’s okay. That I have a way of seeing in between the lines, that has something to offer others whatever that might be. At the same time, I can miss things that are like neon signs to other people. However, that’s why we have community, because each of us has their own unique perspective, and I guess we’re all meant to come together to form a whole. However, too often, people ostracize and ridicule those who see things differently from themselves, instead of embracing their perspective and working out how it could contribute to the dialogue. It’s a pity.

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

–  Oprah Winfrey

There is also value in being your own person, and not just merging in with the crowd. Of not being afraid to stand in your own space, stand up tall, spread your wings and not apologize for being there. Each of us deserves that.

Edward Hopper nighthawks

Edward Hopper, Night Hawks

I’m not sure if all these thoughts have joined together in any kind of cohesive whole. If I was someone else, I’d have my list of points and might even be telling you how it is. However, I am more of a seeker. Somebody who is seeing dim shadows and shapes through the fog and trying to make sense of it all. Trying to make sense of what I think is an important consideration…Does anyone feel like they truly belong in  our modern civilization? That’s probably putting it too strong, but you get my drift and I’m truly interested to read your feedback.

So, I’ll leave you know with the thoughts of Aslan:

“Don’t doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Family History Uncovered… Broken-Hearted Ivy Sues for Breach of Promise.

If you haven’t got stuck into the realms of family history, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Murder, intrigue, theft, broken hearts…I’ve stumbled across the lot, mostly through the online newspapers. Indeed, I haven’t needed to ply elderly relatives with sherry. It’s all been there in black & white, and for better or worse, I’ve been a fly on the wall.

However, while there’s that excitement of stumbling across a bit of intrigue or scandal, I’m also mindful of respecting the people involved. Needing to be understanding, compassionate and above all else, ethical. Remind myself that these details appearing in the news, only represent a brief snapshot of the person’s life. Moreover, the news only reports on the sensational, and not the hum drum everyday. So, it’s far from representational.

This then raises the issue of whether such stories from the past are better left alone, buried in between the lines of text. Or, if there’s any point bringing it all back to life…

My view is, that we can learn quite a lot about ourselves and about life, from the ups and downs of our ancestors and their extended family and social networks. Moreover, since these people share at least some of our DNA, these life lessons are much more tailor-made and geared towards our make-up, and potentially much more relevant than something you’d read in a book. These people might not be us, but they’re at least part of that complex very populated DNA soup, which contributes to who we are.

Yesterday, I went back to 1857 sharing the story of a gripping fight, which took place on Sydney’s North Shore between Thomas Waterhouse, and a menacing thug known as “One-Eyed Bourke”.

Today, I’m sharing another story from my family history treasure trove. Today, I’m bringing you the love story of Ivy and Jack. Well, love story might not be the best way to describe their relationship, because after promising to marry Ivy many times and even after having a baby together, Jack kept Ivy dangling on a string while he started to pursue Paula Muller, who ultimately became his wife. Bastard. Naturally, I’m backing Ivy here, but someone also needs to speak up for Baby Jack as well. Baby Jack’s time on earth was very brief, and at this point I don’t know how long he survived, but it wasn’t long. However, while his father paid for Ivy’s confinement and was at least okay for them to be known as Mr & Mrs Berecry, when it came to actually filling out the registration papers, he balked and baby Jack didn’t get his father’s name. He was registered as “John Wilson” and the space for his father, was left blank. He wouldn’t acknowledge his own son.

Meanwhile, Ivy was left not only with a deep sense of heartbreak, but also the shame of being a “fallen woman”. The sense of limbo of their baby not having his father’s name, and trying to put that right even though their baby was dead.

While you are reading through Ivy and Jack’s story, I thought you ‘d enjoy listening to Phil Davidson singing: Broken Things. It’s

Valentine 1910

I have questioned whether to reproduce this story, and then wondered whether to change the names. However, it’s all there in the online newspapers. It wasn’t told me in confidence. Moreover, this story clearly illustrates just how much our dating culture has changed in a hundred years. I can’t see too many modern daughters submitting to their mother’s wishes regarding who they can date etc. A single parent is now also commonplace. I think it’s important to consider how things have changed. I’d also like my kids to think about who they’re dating, how to treat them and also how they should be treated. While suing someone for breach of promise sounds a bit ridiculous these days, the fact that we can no longer trust a person’s word, is cause for reflection. That’s hardly what I’d call “progress”.

Lastly, I should just point out my family connection with Ivy Wilson. Her mother was my Great Great Grandmother’s sister. We had a John Johnston who married Maria Bridget Flanagan and their daughter, Mary Anne married Thomas Charles Wilson, and had two children Thomas and Emma Ivy Wilson. My grandmother spoke of Mary Anne and how she had a beautiful singing voice.

So, without any further ado, here’s one of the many newspaper reports from the day…

my heart is yours

Enter a caption

BERECRY BACKS DOWN.

LEAVES HIS LASS LAMENTING But Ivy with the Broken Heart

Chases Her Carpenter to Court And Gets a Verdict for £200.

A sanguine-looking young man, arrayed in his working suit, named John Patrick Berecry, a contracting carpenter of Folly Point, was the defendant in an action brought against him at the District Court on Monday and Tuesday, before Judge Murray and a Jury of four, by a young woman named Emma Ivy Wilson of Collins-street, North Sydney, for breach of promise. The jilted one, who was but 21 years of age, three years younger than the loveless swain, claimed £400. Mr. Coyle and Mr. Alroy Cohen, instructed by Mr. J. W. Abigail, appeared for the plaintiff, while Mr. Breckenridge, instructed by Mr. Reynolds, appeared for the defendant. Berecry, in his answer to the plaint, denied the promise of marriage, and said that Ivy Emma was not always willing to marry; and further, that they agreed to rescind the alleged contract. Ivy Emma Wilson, a slender young woman of attractive appearance, living at home with her mother at North Shore, said she was introduced to Berecry by her brother at a picnic at Balmoral Beach at Eight Hour Day, 1907. She was 16 then, and had just finished her education at a girls’ boarding-school. Berecry was invited to a musical evening at her home, and her mother consenting, they kept company for a couple of years. Then, in December, 1909, they became engaged, and he gave her a ring, it being agreed that the wedding would take place on her reaching 21. In January, 1911, she went to Trundle for a couple of months, returning in March. About the end of that month Berecry seduced her, and the intimacy was continued right up to the following November, when a child was born. The infant, however, died shortly after birth. That same night Berecry called at the house, and told both the doctor and the nurse that plaintiff was his wife, but afterwards when a certificate had to be filled in, he retracted it. Some months after this, Berecry keeping her company as usual, she fell ill, and went to the hospital, and afterwards went away to Boggabri for the good of her health. Berecry saw her off. but by this time his PASSION HAD COOLED, for he never wrote to her, nor answered any of her letters. Before this, however, he could write her loving letters a yard long, and one of a bunch ran as follows; — Folly Point, Tuesday. My darling Ivy, — Just few lines to let know that I would wrote before but I was home to late on Monday night from the meeting. I hope you are getting on all right and soon be better for I miss you so no where go and I can’t enjoy myself without you. Now loving Bi Bi you are going to give up dancing and you will tell George that you do not want him any more. I gave up Flo and sis for you and I would give up hundred girls for you if will be true to me. Dear love I am going to keep you to your word and go to church every Sunday for about three years and will go one day Miss Wilson and come home Mrs. Berecry….

I was going up to Tom to-night to help to make some picture frames, but I was too tired. I did not feel too well to day. I was going to come home at dinner time but I stuck to it like a britan all day because I had to. Dear love don’t forget to remind me about a strange letter I got from Melbourne, Now don’t forget and I will tell you all about it if you are by your self it is about the best ever had. That hurt me about what that bloke said when Martin kissed you Sunday, he said he will tell gerry on you it hurt, did you see the look Jane give me when he said it and the other girl too, I felt like kicking him all up a tree. Now I got him set like george for saying that. I was going to tell you on Sunday that your ring is going to be a quid cheaper. It was going to be three pound ten, but it is going to be two pound ten. That for writing that letter for nothing. They have some nice ones for two ten the three ten are to heavy, but it don’t matter what they cost so long as it is for you. Dear love I am foreman of this job I am on for about a month if I don’t get the run before then I will be all right my own boss. What do you think, I am the dreadnaught. Now darling Ivy this Is all I have to say time. — Yours loveing Jack. x x x x x (score or more) all for you, nothing for Flo Mc Enmore.

DP826256

A Love Letter, Simon Charles Miger (French, Nemours 1736–1820 Paris)

Plaintiff, continuing, said that once Berecry. when she was ill, wished her to go with him to a party at a Mrs. Haron’s, and because she didn’t acquiesce, he said, ‘There must be somebody there you are afraid to see,’ and going out, he shortly came back ‘

WITH A REVOLVER and called her a blanky cow. She jumped out of bed and snatched away the weapon, which was found to be loaded ; and a little while later Berecry came back with the excuse that he was sorry. They parted good friends, Berecry mentioning that one of the bullets had been intended for himself. The wedding ought to have taken place In January of last year, but she learnt that he had engaged himself to another. Finally, after a lot of talk, they agreed that the wed-ding should come off on July 12; but one Sunday in June she discovered that he had been meeting one Paula Muller, her rival, and this made her so despondent that she drank lysol. Dr. Hastings, however, pulled her through. Berecry said he merely went to tell Paula that he must give her up, and on July 8 he asked Mrs. Wilson, her mother, to arrange for the wedding, recommending her to go to the Rev. Charles Jones, in Liver-pool-street, and promising to find the money for the ring on the ensuing Fri-day. Mrs, Wilson saw Jones, and arranged that the wedding would be performed by a Methodist minister. Then Berecry objected to any Methodist having a hand in it whereupon she got Jones to arrange with the Rev. Macaulay to marry them, and paid him 5s deposit. The ring was bought, and everything looked lovely this time, but when the hour came, Berecry was sick in bed, saying he had been vaccinated. Plaintiff hunted him up, and asked why he hadn’t sent her word, but he told her to go away and not worry him. However, she stayed talking to him till 10 o’clock, and extracted a promise that he would be married on the Saturday. No wedding took place, however, though Berecry took her to the pictures on the Monday. The next night she watched him meet Paula Muller and walk arm-in-arm with her to a picture show in Lower George-street. After he had seen Paula to the tram, plaintiff asked him what he meant by his conduct; but he denied he was with Paula. He next said he couldn’t give up Paula because he had borrowed £60 from her. This kind of humbugging went on for some time, and then finally his mother, when asked what had become of him, tearfully cried, ‘My poor Jack,’ and said he had gone away, she didn’t know where. She told his mother they were to have been married that night, whereupon the old lady said, ‘How could Jack keep you?’ adding that although he was her son, she could give him a character as the biggest liar in the world. A letter plaintiff wrote to him was as follows. — 42 Collins-street, Nth Sydney, 2/7/1913, Wed., 6 a.m. My dear Jack, — Once again you have driven me to desperation, and I can stand It no longer. You always promised before and after our baby boy was born that as soon as I came twenty-one you would marry me. Now you want to cut me off for another woman. You promised mum and I last night you would marry me in three months. Now, Jack, if you intended to marry me, would you be going away to-night to meet another woman? All I ask you is your name for the sake of your baby and my character. I don’t ask you to live with me or, yes, support me, as most people on the Shore think we are man and wife. If you are frightened of breach of promise with this other girl, what about me, that holds your love letters for over five years. The only thing I can see to do is to get Mr. J. W. Abigail’s advice on the matter, and that I intend doing first thing to-morrow, 3rd inst. Only last Saturday you were quite prepared to marry me at any time in the registry office (or rather you said you were) and me to go away for six months and keep it quiet, not to tell anyone. That I was prepared to do. You have broken your promise to me; I have not broken mine. I am prepared to be your wife at any moment, and ask nothing further from you. Once I poisoned myself for love of you, and through the shame which you have caused me. There is no telling how this will end. I can’t sleep at night. I can’t eat or rest day or night. — Your broken-hearted Ivy.

Continuing her story, plaintiff said she received no reply to this letter. She did not again meet Berecry until August 25, at the Quay, when he laughed at her, and inquired if she was trying to put the father of her child into gaol. He later on begged her not to go on with the case, saying that he had not refused to marry her. On October 10 she again met him, when after inquiring when the case would come off, he said, ‘You are only putting your neck in a sling, because I have not yet refused to marry you. I have lots of witnesses against you, and will put in a bill for £20 for your confinement. You will get five years, and I want my rings back.’ Evidence was called to show that Berecry told others that he would marry plain-tiff as soon as she came of age. Berecry did not give evidence, and therefore the matter resolved itself into a question of damages. And the jury, after a very brief deliberation, awarded plaintiff £200. Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954), Sunday 26 October 1913, page 11

…..

It is interesting reflecting on this situation between Ivy and Jack, because it reminds me about the relationship between Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Munter. In 1892, Kandinsky had married his cousin, Anna Chemyakina. She took care of her husband and moved with him to Germany. However, in 1903 Kandinsky met and began a relationship with Gabriele Münter, one of his students at the Phalanx School. The two became inseparable. Kandinsky kept promising to divorce his wife and marry her, stringing love struck Münter along. Finally, in 1911, Kandinsky returned to Russia, and divorced his wife. Yet, he still didn’t marry Gabriele Münter. Rather, he continued living with her as his lover. Unfortunately, when Germany declared war on Russia in August 1914, Kandinsky was considered an enemy alien and only had three days to get out. Since he couldn’t take much with him, he left the bulk of his paintings and possessions with Münter. The couple rushed to Switzerland and while in Zurich, Kandinsky broke up with her. For two years she urged a reunion. It took place in neutral Scandinavia in 1916, but failed. Well, that’s according to some of the sources I’ve read. Others are less clear about the breakup, suggesting he was still stringing her along. Well, Kandinsky did get married, but it wasn’t to Gabriele Münter. Rather, he married 18 year old, Nina Andreievskaya, and he didn’t tell Münter. Indeed, he only came clean four years later when she received a letter from his lawyer demanding she return his personal effects and artworks. Not unsurprisingly, Gabriele didn’t return all his paintings, and kept these as “moral compensation”. While I’m very surprised Gabriel didn’t burn the lot, she actually kept them safe behind a secret wall in her basement during successive raids by the Nazis and Russians. Kandinsky never saw his paintings again. However, in 1957, Münter gave the stash to Munich, Stadtische Galerie in Lenbach. At least, the survival of this collection was a positive outcome of Gabriele’s grief.

By the way, I should point out that Ivy married Abram Hocking in 1915. I lose track of her after the 1950s where she was living in Newcastle. I can only hope that she moved onto greener pastures and found love and happiness.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Characters in Family History…Thomas Waterhouse Takes on One-Eyed Bourke 1857.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’m passionate about history and research. Moreover, I’m quite the Sherlock Holmes when it comes to delving into our family history. That means that I’m not only a good sleuth, but I’m also obsessed. I pursue these mysteries like a hound.

Yesterday, I came across this gripping tale of rivaling sides of Sydney Harbour coming together in a bare-fisted, illegal fight and as much as I’m a gentle soul who deplores violence, the story drew me in.

Sydney Harbour 1860

Sydney Harbour 1860.

The year is 1857 and Europeans had only been living in Sydney for 69 years, and it was still a fledgling settlement. Indeed, you can take away the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and Sydney Harbour cut the city in half with North and South divided. Indeed, only a ferry connected the North Shore with the city. There was no bridge. Yet, the physical divide was only part of the issue. There was also quite a social divide, resulting in a fairly intense rivalry between the North and South, which at times turned to violence and a need to prove virility and manhood. Without these elements, I wouldn’t have a story.

View Sydney Harbour 1870

View Sydney Harbour circa 1870

To be perfectly honest, my connection to this story is a little tenuous. The story centres on a fight between Thomas Waterhouse from the North Shore and One-Eyed Bourke  from  The Rocks, a notoriously rough area on the South side of the Harbour. I am connected to the Waterhouse family through Jessie McQueen White (mother Elizabeth Johnston) who married Thomas Gerrard Waterhouse, grandson of Thomas Waterhouse and Lucy Huin, who owned the Green Gate Hotel in what is now modern Killara. However, back then, the pub was nothing but a bark slab hut.

Apparently, the Waterhouses were great fighters:

“Fight was the one particular subject of conversation at this place; it was a veritable atmosphere of fight, for the simple reason that the Waterhouses had made their mark in the colonial fighting world, and so had some of their neighbors, and fight was all they thought of.”

 

Anyway, there’s no point me repeating the story, as the newspaper story below provides a gripping account both of the fight itself, and its social context.

Four Sisters in Killara 1909

Four Sisters in Killara taken later around 1909. Their finery contrasts to the dire poverty in The Rocks.

The Rocks

Playfair Street, The Rocks…Image Archives Office.

 

 Our Strange Past by George Blaikie:

“Sydney’s magnificent harbor does not exist, as some rude critics contend, solely to prevent the harbor bridge from looking silly. It also acts as a barrier between the north side and the south side of Sydney.

As you may well imagine, there has been intense rivalry between the two social stratas. Back in 1857, relationships between the two sections were in a particularly bad state. Rough and tumble characters from the Rocks , —spiritual home of the toughies on the south side —strained matters even more by making raids over the water and, in a spirit of high fun, belting up the steady citizens living on the north side.

Toughest and nastiest of the raiders was One-Eyed Bourke, a professional pugilist, who added embarrassment to battery by freely issuing challenges to ‘any man on the north side’ to stand forth and meet him in single combat. Around this time Mr. Waterhouse arrived down from the bush with his eight sons and took over the Green Gate Hotel at Lane Cove.

A strong team of highly experienced bashers called at the Green Gate and had a beer each. They demanded more. ‘You may care to pay for the first round before having more,’ it was suggested.

‘We’re from the Rocks,’ snarled the visitors. ‘We ., gets beer or we takes it.’ ‘Send for young Tommy,’ someone said calmly. The call went out and, soon, into the bar bounded a fresh, handsome young man who looked as though he spent all his waking hours in performing good deeds and eating vitamin Bl. Tommy addressed the Rocks push: ‘Would you gentlemen please retire?’ ‘Yaah!’ chorused the louts. ‘Turn on the grog or we’ll bust this joint up.’ I do not know how many southsiders were involved in this unhappy affair, but I am pleased to announce that clean-living Thomas knocked over every one of them who happened to be ‘ present.

The news spread quickly round the north shore: A champion fighter had risen up in the ranks! When the first rush of rejoicing had calmed, men began asking one another: ‘But is he good enough to accept the challenge of One-eyed Bourke?’ It was regretfully decided that Thomas would be no match for the professional pug. Hope, which had flared for one magnificent moment in the bosoms of the oppressed northerners, subsided.

Over at the Rocks, the I doings at the Green Gate Hotel were carefully analysed. Most popular conclusion was that the bashers Thomas had bounced must have been drunk and defenceless at the time. There was no other possible explanation to the miracle of one northern softie successfully laying the knuckle on several tough southerners. Special representatives from the Rocks went over to the Green Gate to attend to Thomas. They came back bruised and tattered with a story of a soft-spoken toff who moved on his toes like thistle-down and hit with both hands like a trip hammer. Once more hope flared in the northern camp. A deputation of good citizens called on young Thomas. They explained how One-Eyed Bourke had hurled many taunting challenges which no one had the muscle or the nerve to accept. ‘Would you care to accept the challenge, Thomas?’ ‘Certainly, gentlemen,’ agreed Thomas. ‘I’d be delighted. I enjoy a bout of fisticuffs.’

‘In that case,’ declared the deputation happily, ‘we’ll back you for 100 guineas.’ ‘Thank you, gentlemen. Please accept the challenge, and I’ll go into training.’ One-eyed Bourke was both pleased and amazed a hear that he had been taken up at last — particularly with a wager of 100 guineas tossed in for good measure. Bill Sparkes, the then champion of Australia, was imported at considerable expense to the north shore to train Tommy.

Officially, prize fighting with bare knuckles was illegal in Australia in 1857, and the details of the Bourke -Waterhouse battle had to be kept secret from the police. But, as all Sydney was talking of the project, Ted Cowell, of the Water Police, couldn’t help hearing about it. ‘I’ll stop it, if it’s the last thing I do,’ declared Cowell. From early on the appointed Saturday morning almost everyone in Sydney capable of movement began trooping to the Green Gate. By 2 p.m. a great mob milled around the inn. Word came out to them: ‘The ring will be set up at the top of Lane Cove river.’ The ring stakes were being driven when Water Policeman, Ted Cowell, turned up with a crowd of officers. ‘The police! Move to Pearce’s orchard!’ came the cry. The day was hot. Ted Cowell was a very fat gentleman not designed for cross-country running. ‘You’ll go ahead and stop the fight,’ he instructed his officers. ‘I’ll get back to headquarters.’ Eagerly the police went after the crowd. Once out of Ted Cowell’s sight they doffed their caps and took off their tunics. They were as anxious to see the clash of the northern and southern champions as anyone else.

A roar went up as One-Eyed Bourke stepped into the ring cockily. He was a heavily built, vicious looking character with the marks of his trade heavy upon his face. Taking off hat, coat, and shirt he tossed them out of the ring. Stripped he looked a magnificent fighting machine. He was in perfect nick. Thomas Water house hopped lightly over the ropes and waved to his supporters. Quickly he stripped to the buff. He was a good 12 stone but appeared light in comparison to Bourke from the Rocks. His face was fresh and unmarked. The boxers came to the centre of the ring and tossed for corners. Thomas won. Calmly he glanced at the sun and chose to fight with his back to it. Time was called and Bourke came out heavily from his corner. Thomas moved out on his toes, his left fist held well forward and his right across his chest. Bourke suddenly belied his heavy build by leading so fast with his right that Thomas couldn’t dodge the blow and in a moment blood was running from his nose. The Rocks mob cheered, the gentlemen from the north side groaned.’ Thomas backed away and began circling.

Thomas kept dancing until Bourke was facing into the setting sun, then sniped his left hand twice into his opponent’s one good eye. He repeated this manoeuvre a few seconds later. Bourke ignored the blows and continued to move forward. The spectators slowly began to realise that Thomas was fighting to a scientific plan — to close Bourke’s one good peeper. Not one of his scores of opponents in the past had ever thought of trying this tactic on Bourke, and the tough pug didn’t realise what his young opponent was up to until he found he wasn’t seeing him too well. Bourke had to hit out at where he thought the target was and rarely landed a blow. He tried to get in to close quarters and pin Thomas in a corner. The boy was too smart to fall into this obvious and dangerous trap. He kept Bourke at arm’s length.

A left turned Bourke’s head to one side, a right took him neatly behind the ear and he hit the ground. The northerners were now shouting wildly. Their dreams were coming true. There was the terrible, taunting Bourke looking sick in his corner while young Thomas Waterhouse sat up primly on the knee of one of his seconds smiling cheerfully as Bill Sparkes poured wisdom into his ear. These days, referees promptly stop any fight in which one of the contestants starts to show signs of severe wear. In 1857, the fight game was quite different. The mere fact that One-eyed Bourke had been reduced to No-eyed Bourke didn’t result in anyone, including Bourke himself, thinking for one moment that the show shouldn’t continue. The pugilists of those days had peculiarly lasting qualities.

For two hours young Thomas rejoiced the hearts of the northerners by hitting Bourke with every punch he could devise. He knocked the Rocks man down often enough, but he couldn’t knock him out. Dusk came and deepened. At the end of a round Bourke’s seconds came forward with a proposition. ‘It’s almost too dark for the spectators to see,’ they said. ‘What about postponing the rest of the fight until tomorrow morning?’ The mob favoured this proposal and Thomas agreed even though the move was to his disadvantage. Still, one can’t help being a gentleman, I suppose. Next morning, at the appointed time, Thomas and his seconds were at the ring and so was the crowd. But where was One-eyed (or No-eyed) Bourke? Without generally announcing the fact, Bourke had retired from the fight game. That a pretty boy should have trounced him was too much for his fighting heart. Furthermore, his backers had renounced him and decided to call the 100 gns. wager off. It is fair to assume that Thomas won the fight on a technical knock-out even though there was no official result. The The Rocks push ceased coming over the water to sport the knuckle on pleasant Saturday afternoons. And life on the north side has been pleasant ever since.” Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), Wednesday 13 January 1954, page 15

Have you done much research into your family history and have you found any gripping stories you’d like to share? Please leave a message and any links in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Lover’s Potion…Friday Fictioneers

Nobody had ever sent Michelle a letter before. Not even a postcard. Text had become the language of love. Yet, Jerome was different. A poet. Not that she understood any of his writings. He was in her philosophy class, and they kept running into each other until it was a long lingering picnic in Central Park. So, she didn’t think twice, as she inhaled the white powder….a touch of romance. Off to start her shift at the Met, she tucked the letter into her journal. Not even a doubt, she spread its sweet perfume throughout the packed August crowds. A woman in love is an easy target.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Bets wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 3rd June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, the fact that I’ve turned up here on time, should let you know that I’m having a quiet weekend and am not gallivanting around exploring new places, like I was last weekend. Indeed, I probably should’ve held off on some of last week’s news and popped it into this week so I could actually have something interesting to say.

How has your week been? I hope it went well.

Well, it’s officially Winter here now, and I guess that also explains my shift towards hibernation, and wanting to wrap myself up in thick woolly layers. Indeed, we’re all mighty thankful for a warm dog on the lap and they’re also thankful for the added warmth themselves. We don’t have central heating and we actually try not to heat the house at all to keep the electricity bills down and be kind to the environment. Most of the time, it’s not that cold. Mind you, I confess that I do have my electric blanket on low some nights. It feels so good. Despite Winter and the cold, the days are largely pleasantly sunny and I can’t complain too much. It’s actually 17°C or 63°F, which would probably make for quite a nice day out in London. Actually, the weather in London surprised me. It’s actually climbed to 25°C. I wonder if they’re actually enjoying it or starting to complain about the heat?

A few weeks ago, I had a call from my Dad’s second cousin about the family history, and this has launched an effort to try to get “my affairs in order”. Or, to be precise, get my ancestors’ affairs in order. I tend to dump new information into a file and intend to get back to it, but inevitable don’t and the information I’ve dumped might really belong somewhere else. I just put it there so I can find it again. Moreover, some family members warrant a book all of their own and so I’ve accumulated a hell of a lot of information and stories and it is rather overwhelming. It’s only when someone rings up that I’m forced to get on with it and get the chaos sorted out.

1910 circa Suspension Bridge German postcard

Cammeray Suspension Bridge circa 1910

 

My latest family history adventure, has taken me to New Zealand. My 3rd times grandparents John Johnston and Maria Bridget Flanagan (nee Docherty) were married at Invercargill and lived along the West Coast in fairly rugged terrain during the New Zealand gold rush. We went to New Zealand on our honeymoon and visited a few of these places so I am able to visualise their lives to some extent, which sort of brings their lives back to life. They ended up moving to Australia where John worked with his younger brother Alexander Johnston who was a building contractor, who built a beautiful historic bridge called the Cammeray Suspension Bridge. It was quite an engineering achievement in its day. Well, that is quite aside from the fact that the cables were rusting away by the 1930s and the bridge needed to be almost completely overhauled. These Johnstons also trace back to whiskey distillers on the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides. So, there are more than enough stories to tell and it’s been very difficult to wrap it all up and declared it “done”.

I also participated in Friday Fictioneers this week, which is hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s story Babushka had a Russian influence. Not sure where that came from, but isn’t writing like that? All sorts of snippets from all over the place, come together in a kind of dance.

We also went to a funeral on Friday. It wasn’t just a funeral. No funeral ever is. She was a friend, not a close friend, but our boys used to play AFL football together and you do get to know someone standing on the sidelines over a few years. Our boys have also been in the same class for the last couple of years, and while they’re not close friends, there’s that connection from their football days. However, unfortunately the thing that really connected us together is our common fight to overcome severe health issues to see our kids grow up. As much as you can say you’re going to fight it and put up a fierce incredible fight, sometimes you just don’t make it and I guess I’ve really come to believe we each have our time. You might get cancer. You get run over by a bus. You just don’t know.

a million birds take flight

During the burial, I looked up and saw three black cockatoos flying majestically like eagles overhead. They were strangely comforting.

So, while I questioned whether I should keep our coffee share light and chatty or whether I should share the funeral with you, I thought that was also part of my week. That it’s important to share our downs as well as our ups. To acknowledge the passing of a friend, and not just gloss over the surface like it doesn’t matter. It does.Indeed, I also wanted to share that although I expected to breakdown and really lose it at the funeral, I actually found it quite beautiful. It was held in a beautiful, local glass chapel and you look out onto majestic gum trees and the great outdoors…God’s creation. I was really touched by how my friend had touched so many lives through her enthusiastic and loving community involvement, and her particular love and focus was to help kids struggling to learn how to read. So, in her humble everyday style, she changed so many lives for the better and loved her family like a warm Mama bear, and so she will be keenly missed.

So, last week for me was more about rest, recovery and recharging the batteries than climbing mountains and conquering the world. All part of striving for some kind of balance, when we’re always living with so many competing pressures.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. I encourage you to pop round and join us. 

Best wishes,

Rowena