Category Archives: Australia

Weekend Coffee Share -18th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Rather than joining me for coffee at my place, today I thought you might like to join me down at the San Antonio Bakery in Kirribilli. It’s right across the road from the stairs taking you up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the way, you might want to bring a bit of sun and the Northern Hemisphere Summer with you. It was a cheek-smacking 15°C (59° F) there today. Mind you, I must have Viking blood because yours truly sat outside this afternoon to soak up the Kirribilli charm, although I did wrap myself up in one of their blankets. By the way, the food there is amazing and I’ve indulged in a few of their delights. Today, I had a sort of nut crumble topping on a Nutella tart. The texture of the topping was fairly complex with a combination of seeds and nuts. The pasty was perfect and you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

Harbour Bridge Stairs

A wet day in Kirribilli. You can just make out the steps leading up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While I was there, I pulled out my notebook and simply started jotting. Kirribilli is a rather rustic part of Sydney with Victorian terraces heading down to the wharf and Sydney Harbour. If you were had bionic strength, you could throw a stone from Kirribilli Wharf straight through the Opera House windows if you were feeling like getting arrested and being rather unpopular.

As I said, I started jotted. A cold wind was blowing straight off the Harbour and round the corner blowing the Autumn leaves in the trees across the road. I was quite mesmerised by the fluttering leaves, although perhaps that was because the rest of me was snap frozen.

Of course, any sensible soul would’ve sat inside, but I wanted to experience Kirribilli. Be a part of it, and feel its breath blowing against my neck, even though it was freezing and giving me a different kind of goosebump experience.

However, my reasons for being in Sydney today weren’t social. After crossing the lung specialist off the list for the next three months, I was off to the gastroenterologist to see if he could do anything to get rid of The Cough. Well, he was full of ideas and conferred with the lung specialist on the mobile and they managed to cut it down to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. It’s not til August so I don’t need to get too excited about it yet. Some people go on a cruise, I’m cruising on off to the hospital. One thing I do know, is that a friend’s wife with MS died of bowel cancer because the early signs were dismissed. It’s important to keep in mind that things can always get worse and not to be complacent or in some kind of la-la land of uninformed positive thinking.

Anyway, aside from all that medical stuff today, there have been some great highlights during the last week.

Firstly, on Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter and friends up to perform in Starstruck at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, about 1.5 hours North of here. This showcases school talent in the performing arts, and our daughter appeared in two dance numbers with the Year 7 dance troupe. I have to be honest and say that during their performance, I only had eyes for her. She was like a twinkling star, and as much as their was that immense pride in watching her perform, I was also dumbstruck. She didn’t get any of this from her father or myself. Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder whether God can be a bit random in how he allocates gifts and interests. That, or he has a very good sense of humour!

scouts prepared

 

Also on Saturday, we dropped our son off for an overnight Scout Camp and something like a 17km hike. That meant he was sleeping in a tent in this freezing Winter weather, which as my Dad would say, puts hairs on your chest. They had to carry everything in, and everything out so it was quite a credit to him. The hike ended at the local tip and the backpack went straight into the car and tales of aching feet, back, neck began to unfold. Clearly, he went to great lengths to avoid going to his sister’s dance concert, and we’re proud of his efforts.

Meanwhile, with our daughter at an evening performance and our son away at camp, Geoff and I ventured out for dinner at Mum’s cousin’s restaurant Talulah at The Junction in Newcastle. This place has become a bit of a rock to me when visiting Newcastle and I think I’ve been there about 3 times in the last couple of years. I remember going up to Newcastle for family get togethers. My grandparents initially lived there, and then we went up to see mum’s aunt and her family and there were 21sts, weddings, birthdays, christenings and unfortunately too many funerals of loved ones who died before their time. The family home was sold years ago, so the restaurant gives me some kind of bearings, and there’s an old piano in there which I wrote into a story a few years back. I don’t know if it came from the family. Or, was simply found beside the road, but it’s over 100 years old and it tells a thousand stories, despite staying silent. There’s also a Cenotaph outside the restaurant where a soldier stands to attention. He looks like he’s standing over the place and looking out for us. Goodness knows we’ve needed it at times. Apparently, the pigeons poop all over him, and doesn’t show him an ounce of respect.

I’m not real good as a food writer, especially when I don’t take notes at the time. However, each mouthful had such a burst of flavour and the meal was very refreshing. The ambiance was also fantastic. Quite aside from the fact that we’re family, Talulah feels like a stylish yet casual family home with appealing paintings throughout and fresh, modern decor. It’s a fun place to be and I could feel the stresses of life fall away, although I was also rather conscious of a growing list of “absent friends”. You can read a review Here

Before I move on from Talulah, I just wanted to share about our navigation difficulties, which you could say are something of a feature of our marriage. Geoff drives the car. I navigate. Unfortunately, this division of labour is driven by necessity, not ability and I have no shame in admitting that I could get lost in our own driveway. However, when it comes to navigating our way through Newcastle, I’m back being a kid in the back seat of the Holden and Dad’s driving through the streets without a map saying he only needs to go somewhere once and he can find his way back again. Of course, this boast was filled with bravado and a bit of cheek, but it was true. Moreover, it did sting a bit as I couldn’t direct Geoff to Talulah using Google maps even though I’d been there three times before. Geoff turned down Darby Street and from there, we zigzagged back and forth desperately hoping to see a spark of familiarity but seemingly driving deeper and deeper into the maze. Both of us were getting frustrated and it came very close to simply driving home, but we persevered. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t have signs set up specially for my visit…”Rowena turn here!” It would’ve made it so much easier.

In terms of blogging, I posted two more family history stories. Firstly, there was Fire in North Sydney…Grandma & the Mosman Bomber. The next one focused on my difficulties to finding my 3rd Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Flanagan’s, name of birth: Digging Up More Family Bones. I’m hoping that by posting this info in my blog, that I might flush out the answers.

Getting these stories written up, is feeling great. I’m gaining more confidence in my ability to weigh up quite a mass of data, and actually get a story onto the page. As far as I’m aware, the data is well researched and documented, which is just as important in my mind as a good story.

Lastly, I wrote a story revolving around food for this week’s contribution to Friday fictioneers: Madame Cuisinier.

Well, I’m sorry for talking at you for so long. Clearly, there’s been a lot on and all the chatter in my head has spewed onto the screen. Thank you for listening and being there for me tonight. It’s much appreciated and I look forward to popping round to catch up on your week.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Digging Up More Family Bones.

The Case of Maria Bridget “Whosywhatsitmecallher”

If I could jump in a time machine right this minute and go back to any moment in history, I’d set the dial for the 19th November, 1915. Or, to be on the safe side, even a day earlier. The place would be 42 Colin Street, North Sydney (Now in modern Cammeray. By the way, the house is still standing).

Obviously, this seems like a totally random time and place to go back to. Indeed, I’m sure many of you would choose to back to a much more significant point in history, and rewrite events for the greater good. Perhaps, you might go back to the 4th April, 1968, fighting to prevent the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Or, perhaps you’d go back to the 28th June, 1914 in Sarajevo and deal with Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife. As you may recall from your high school history lessons, their assassination was the final spark which triggered World War I.

Above: Perhaps you’d like to go back in time and prevent these events.

These are noble gestures, and I commend you. Normally, I would be more concerned about making a valuable contribution to the greater good. However, right now, my needs are simple.

I’d just like to ask my 3rd Great Grandmother to fill out her own death certificate, instead of leaving such an important family document in the hands of her daughter. Unfortunately, she not only left out some significant details, but also included misinformation. Not that I’d go so far as saying she lied. However, the people filling out these forms need to consider the people following in their footsteps, who not only need answers, but also the truth. After all, filling out a death certificate is NOT a creative writing exercise!

wind-from-the-sea

Andrew Wyeth, The Wind From The Sea, which conjures up images of ghosts, absent friends etc.

This brings me back to Maria Bridget Flanagan, who went on to marry John Alexander Johnston and gain another surname. Recently, I posted a story about how a vagrant set fire to her house , after being inspired by the actions of the Mosman Bomber. However, while I was thrilled to bits to stumble across this story, in so many very basic areas of family history research, Maria or Bridget (this seems to vary with the wind) is a very slippery fish and she’s determined not to get caught. The questions remain.

Getting back to her death certificate, it states that she was 79 years old, making her year of birth around 1836. Her father is given as Martin Flanagan. She was born in County Clare, Ireland. She spent 6 years in Victoria before leaving for New Zealand. After returning to Australia, she spent 32 years in NSW, putting their arrival in NSW around 1879. Age at first marriage is unknown and his name is given as __Flanagan. Age at second marriage was 26. Spouse: John Johnston.  These details conflict a little with her marriage certificate, which said she as 23, making her date of birth closer to 1841.

map New Zealand

Maria Bridget Flanagan immigrated from Victoria to New Zeland and Married John Alexander Johnston at Invercargill in 1864.

Recently, I came across this message online:

“Any lister with knowledge of Bridget Maria Flanaghan nee Docherty, aged 23 years, possibly employed in or around Invercargill c.1864. She was the widow of one Quintin Flanaghan and was Ireland-born (County unknown). Not known if he came to NZ or she arrived as a widow. She married from the home of Richard Pilkington, Dee Street, and witnesses were Louis and Alice Cramer, hotelkeeper of Tay Street. Any advice appreciated. https://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/hyperkitty/list/new-zealand@rootsweb.com/thread/USLOAJOWTWJWECJU2ABMXTX3FCIKGWQE/

Well, you would think this message provided great hope, insight, a Eureka moment worthy of jumping out of the bathtub and running naked down the street. Well, I would’ve run naked down the street, if only I’d been able to confirm the details of the message. I haven’t been able to find a Quintin Flanagan, but I have managed to find a Bridget Doherty with a father Martin, but they were living in Kerry. That said, this Bridget’s brother was later living in Ennis, County Clare. It might not be all wrong, but surely Mary Ann Wilson, her own daughter, would’ve known which county her mother came from. Then again, so many things fly under the radar in a busy household, but I would’ve thought it’s an odd thing to get wrong.

Map of ireland_1808

Map of Ireland 1808

In the meantime, I started looking for a Bridget Doherty with a father called Martin who fitted into the right time framework and I did find somebody. There as a Bridget Doherty christened 15th February, 1841 in Currow, Kerry, Ireland and her parents were Martin Doherty and Ellenora O’Brien who were married at the Roman Catholic Church, Castle Island, Kerry. Following on from this, I found an arrival of a Bridget Doherty as an Unassisted Immigrant  onboard The Sultana arriving in Melbourne 1st April, 1858. She was 18 years old, which places her date of birth as around 1840 and in the picture.

However, if you’ve ever tried your hand at this family detective business, you should know that 1 +1 doesn’t necessarily = 2. Indeed, a myriad of random details all need to align. Even then, you might have doubts, and end up with a “cold case”. Of course, you don’t throw your hands in the air and chuck all your research out. However, you also need to switch off, or at least shift, that stubbornly obsessive detective focus. Or else, you’ll go mad. After all, we’ve all heard about those cops who turn to drink after being unable to solve that elusive case of the crim who got away.We don’t want to be next.

When I get stuck like this on one of my people, I usually start sniffing around their known haunts for clues, looking for even the scantest hint of a scent. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky and I’ve found the missing piece. However, there have been a few particularly slippery fish determined to slip out of my grasp. There’s also a point where the records run out. Then, you simply have to accept, that you’ve reached the end of the road.

So, still intent on finding out what I could about this Bridget Doherty, I set the ship into reverse and sailed back across the seas to Curnow, a very pretty town on the Ring of Kerry. I must admit that I felt a bit lost arriving in Curnow, and wasn’t entirely comfortable in my new-found shoes as a “Doherty”. Did they really fit? To be honest, it felt like plucking names out of a hat, and goodness knows which name I’ll be looking for down the track if I’ve got my Bridget wrong. It’s moments like this, that I ask why women change their names just to get married? It makes them very hard to track down, and more often than not, it deletes their personal history altogether. After all, Bridget was a someone long before she became a Mrs!

Anyway, thanks to Google, I found myself in this gorgeous Irish town of Curnow, where she was Christened, and then onto Kenmare where some of her siblings got married. It was in Kenmare that I was in for quite a surprise, although it had nothing to do with finding Bridget’s origins. Rather, it was a case of seeing an almost identical twin.

Above- The Cammeray Suspension Bridge, Sydney, completed in 1892. Below:Kenmare Suspension Bridge Completed in 1841. Perhaps, not identical twins on closer inspection but pretty close.

Kenmare Suspension Bridge

You see, the Kenmare Suspension Bridge, which was completed in 1841, was almost identical to the Cammeray Suspension Bridge built by Maria Bridget Johnston’s brother-in-law, Alexander Johnston, and her husband. Indeed, while Maria as living at The Boulevard, she was only a stone throw away. If this is indeed the right Bridget, isn’t that incredible that she travelled all the way from Ireland to Sydney and then gets to see a piece of home appear stone by stone before her very eyes. Of course, I love the pure poetry of that. The sense of that beautiful bridge, which has provided a link between numerous descendants here in Australia, now connecting Bridget and her descendants in Australia back to her home in Ireland.

If only I could be sure that it’s true!

Just to add insult to injury, I’ve also been able to find out so much about this Doherty family. Details which have eluded me with other branches of the family, where I know who’s who, and equally who is not. This just added salt to the wound, and I can’t tell you how much I was wanting this Bridget Doherty to me mine. Indeed, I was even thinking of bending the facts ever so slightly to make them fit, which is an unforgivable sin for even a novice researcher.

Dromore Castle

Dromore Castle, Templenoe, Kerry.

In the Griffiths Valuation, I actually found Martin Doherty living at Templenoe and his landlord was a Reverend Denis Mahony, who was a rector of the Church of Ireland. He also owned and built Dromore Castle in Templenoe, looking out over the Kenmare River. A keen proselytiser, he set up a soup kitchen at Dromore during the Irish Potato Famine, and preached to the hungry, who came for food at the chapel at Dromore. His proselytizing activities made him rather unpopular. In 1850, he was attacked in his church at Templenoe. On returning to Dromore, he found another angry mob had uprooted flower beds, felled trees and were about to set fire to the castle. It is claimed, that they were only stopped by the intervention of the local priest[1].

As you can see, without any confirmation that she was my Bridget, the story was running away all by itself, and I was like that poor dog owner being pulled along by their dog at an alarming rate, and almost becoming airborne. The story had me by  the short and curlies.

Of course, I had to put on the brakes. Take stock. Find the line between fact and fiction, and not let myself be lured over into dark side. Reject this evil temptation to fabricate the evidence, and do that boring, methodical Police work… going over and over the data again.

“Yes, it is very true, that. And it is just what some people will not do. They conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.”
Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

What was it going to take to find those missing pieces, which would complete Maria Bridget’s story and discern our Flanagans, from our Docherty/Doherties?

Moreover, why does it matter? Is it only the thrill of the chase that leads me on, and nothing to do with who I am, my DNA and genetic heritage? Am I something of a sham?

I don’t know. Hoever, I’ve come so far in such a short time, surely this mystery will be kind to me and let go of her secrets.

Maria Bridget Flanagan, Doherty, Docherty…Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Writing all these details up has indeed been rather helpful. I’m now thinking that more information may have been captured when she married John Johnston. Although I ordered the marriage certificate, it contains very little information. Indeed, it doesn’t contain enough information for a legal marriage. I think that information is out there somewhere. That’s my next port of call. Wish me luck!

 

[1] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2014/06/dromore-castle.html

Fire North Sydney… Grandma & the Mosman Bombing.

Recently, I’ve posted a few stories I’ve come across while researching my family history. This story concerns my third Great Grandmother Maria Bridget Johnston who was living in

On the 12th January, 1907 vagrant Charles McCallum set fire to the home of my third Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Johnston, while they were asleep. This serious crime was said to be inspired by the recent Mosman Bombing Case, and was taken rather seriously by Police. Moreover, it also appeared in newspapers at the time providing all sorts of details not only about the case, but also a snapshot of her life at the time. Naturally, my interest was sparked, and I had to follow the story through from its fledgling beginnings, right through to its combustible finale.

Willoughby Fire Station

Of course, you’d expect such a dramatic story to have been passed down through the family. However, the first I heard of it, was more than one hundred years later, while trawling through old newspapers online. So, now I’m now finding myself reassembling the pieces of what was, dare I say, an explosive story.

Maria Bridget Johnston

Maria Bridget Johnston (Docherty?) was my third Great Great Grandmother, and she was living in The Boulevard, North Sydney near the Cammeray Suspension Bridge at the time. Theoretically, she was born around 1841 in County Clare, Ireland and arrived in Victoria around 1858 where she allegedly married Quintin Flanagan, who passed away. Next, she turns up in Invercargill on New Zealand’s South Island, where she married John Johnston a Publican originally from Islay in the Hebrides, the son of a Whiskey Distiller. The Johnstons and their five children moved to Australia around 1879, and turned up next in Queanbeyan where John Johnston was the Publican of the Union Hotel while his brother, Alexander built the Goulburn to Queanbeyan Railway Station. John, along with numerous other relatives, also had a hand in that. Alexander Johnston then went on to become the Contractor for the construction of the Cammeray Suspension Bridge, which is colloquially known as “Northbridge”. However, by the time the bridge was completed in 1892, the North Shore Land and Investment Company which had hired Alexander, went bust, leaving him unpaid and in possession of the bridge to nowhere. Northbridge was hardly populated at the time.

1910 circa Suspension Bridge German postcard

The Cammeray Suspension Bridge in the early days.

By the way, the Suspension Bridge is a story in its own right. However, as beautiful and as riveting she might be, she’s only getting a fleeting mention here. Family stories have it that John Johnston was also involved in constructing the bridge, and the Sands Directory shows that he did go on to be a Contractor in his own right, although I haven’t come across any of his works.

As I mentioned, Alexander Johnston wasn’t paid for the Bridge, and to recoup some of the costs, they charged a toll for people to walk across it. While it can be difficult to pull apart the difference between family myth and what really happened, there has been talk that Maria collected the toll to walk across the bridge. There’s also been talk, that my Great Grandmother, Ruby McNamara used to collect the toll during the school holidays. There are also others who have been acknowledged in this role. So, it is hard to peel back fact from fiction.

Atlas Suburbs of Sydney 1893-94

Map of North Sydney taken from the Atlas of Sydney Suburbs Published 1893-94. The Suspension Bridge is marked on the map with a red dotted line which is just under the H of Willoughby. Maria Bridget Johnston lived in The Boulevard, just to the right of the bridge. You can also see that the land on the other side of the bridge was completely undeveloped at the time. 

Before we go too much further into the details of the case itself, we need to jump into our time machine and wind the clock back to 1907, when Sydney was a very different place. While at the time of the 2016 census, the suburb of Northbridge recorded a population of 6,347, back in 1907 it was still largely bush. Indeed, at the start of 1913, it only had 25 houses and 112 residents[1]. So, we really are talking about a very small, isolated settlement which was barely a village, let alone a town. Moreover, this Northbridge was far removed from the omnipresent snarls of traffic snaking their way through the modern, urban landscape.

Charles McCallum Sets Fire to Maria Johnston’s Dwelling House.

On the 12th January, 1907 Charles McCallum (77) set fire to the dwelling house of Maria Johnston at Boulevard Street, North Sydney. McCallum, who came from Glasgow, had been living in a nearby camp for about 11 years and worked for several local residents as a gardener. He also used to visit locals, reading the paper to them and discussing current affairs. While he was described as living in a cave, he is also described as living in a tent where he had a table where four kerosene tins were used to make the legs, and also provided storage. The kerosene tins were important in the case, as McCallum pleaded not guilty and Police had to build their case, which was reported in detail in the paper.

While trying to set fire to a house with three people sleeping inside was a serious offence in itself, the gravity of the situation was intensified by a recent bombing in nearby Mosman and there were initial concerns that something sinister was afoot.

The evidence against McCallum went that Police went to Mrs Johnston’s house near the Suspension Bridge:

“The building was a wooden one, and under the floor of the front part of it he found a piece of bagging, a piece of wood, pieces of a pyjama coat, portion of a white shirt, and some handkerchiefs, oil partly burnt, and saturated with kerosene. The weatherboards and lining-boards near the window were burnt, also the blind and curtain. He examined the articles found, and on the piece of white shirt, he saw the name “H. Irving-near the neck. Witness then went to M’Callum’s camp, which was under a rock about 266ds. from the house. He saw accused in bed, and asked him if H. Irving was camped there. He said, “No: he never camped here. He used to live at Redfern, and has been dead four or five mouths.” Witness said, “Did he ever give you any clothing?” and accused replied, “All he ever gave me was two white shirts.” Witness asked accused how did he know the shirts were Irving’s. Accused said, “They had his name on them.” Accused also said that the shirts had been worn out and destroyed long ago. Witness picked up a billy-can and a bag in the camp, and both smelt of kerosene. Accused said they were his, but did not understand how the kerosene got on them, as he never used it. Witness also found a white shirt with “H. Irving” marked on the neck of it, and a handkerchief, both corresponding with the articles found under the house. He picked up a pair of pyjama trousers in a corner, which accused said were his, and had been given to him by Mr. Ricardi. He said the coat had been worn out and destroyed. The pattern and material of these were the same as in the coat. When charged at the police station, accused said he knew nothing at all about the matter, and it was a mystery to him. When witness got to the camp there was another man there, named Henry Rowley. Accused answered ail questions freely. Maria Johnston deposed that she had known accused for nine or 10 years. He had been in the habit of coming to her house every evening, unless it was wet. One night, they had been talking about the bomb sensation at Mosman, and accused said, “There are three or four I would like to do the same to!” He was at her house on the night of the fire, and left about twenty minutes to 10. Since the election he had been talking queerly. Witness went to bed on the night of the fire at 11 o’clock. She woke up at 1 o’clock in the morning, and noticed a lot of smoke. Her daughter pulled her out of bed, and witness saw the fire going up the front window. Afterwards she saw the articles produced lying under the house. She did not see them there before. Witness had trouble with accused about eight years ago. Accused reserved his defence, and was committed for trial[2].”

Ultimately, McCallum was found not guilty and released.

This brings me to the Mosman Bombing Case.

The Mosman Bombing Case.

On January 3, 1907 William Bingham placed explosives under the house belonging to Mrs Mary Rich. Bingham had packed the explosives in a paint tin, which he’d left it in a bag under their house. He had been working for the Rich’s for about five years, but had been fired just before Christmas for misbehaviour. It was noted during his trial, that his actions had led to a similar case in North Sydney (the fire at Maria Johnston’s house). Consequently, he was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, with hard labor, in Goulburn Gaol.

A report in the Daily Telegraph dated Friday 15 March, 1907, provides additional details:

“Mr. Pollock, Crown Prosecutor, in opening the case to the Jury, said the charge against Bingham was that he placed explosives in a dwelling-house, with intent to injure the occupants. If the tin containing them had been knocked there would have been a terrific explosion. Certainly great destruction of property would have resulted, if not loss of life. Bingham had worked for Mr. Rich, of Mosman Bay, for a number of years, but five weeks before Christmas he was discharged for misbehaviour. Previously he had been abusive to Mrs. Rich, who was threatened by him, and she complained to the Police. On January 4 last Mr. Rich, on leaving his premises, saw a bag under the house. He took no further notice of it, but on returning at night his daughter drew his attention to the bag again, and he found it contained a paint tin, which contained several detonators. He removed the tin from the bag to a safe distance from the house, and then with a pair of pincers removed the lid. The tin contained a pound of blasting powder, some sticks of dynamite, and a quantity of gelignite. On January 9, the police arrested Bingham at Neutral Bay, where he was working. Bingham wanted to go into his room, and made a rush to get there. He was forcibly prevented from doing so, and an examination of the room disclosed a revolver, some cartridges, and a length of fuse. Bingham denied all knowledge of the fuse. He complained that Mrs. Rich had threatened to shoot him, and was a dead shot with the rifle. When dismissed, Bingham told an acquaintance that Mrs. Rich had behaved shamefully, and he would do for her. In his defence, Bingham made a statement. He said that he had been persecuted by the police, he admitted that he had been abusive to Mrs. Rich, because he had been drinking. He apologised, and with regard to a threat be only said. “This is my last appeal.” He did not place the dynamite under the house. He had an enemy somewhere. He would like to know who he was. He knew that he made noises when drunk, but he did not put that thing under the house. He was not made of that kind of stuff. The jury, after a retirement of some hours, found Bingham guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy on the ground that at the time of the offence he was not responsible for his action. Asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon him. Bingham said, “I’m innocent. I never put it there. I never saw a stick of dynamite in my life.” Only one offence, a minor one, under the Vagrancy Act, was recorded against the prisoner. His Honor said the crime was a stupid one. The term of imprisonment might be a very long one, and he would have imposed it if the prisoner’s character had not been such as it was, and if he had not been assisted by the jury’s recommendation. In the circumstances, he would not pass a heavy sentence, but be hoped the one he would impose would prevent him from attempting to revenge himself for some fancied wrong. He hoped, too, it would act as deterrent to others. After the outrage someone had attempted a somewhat similar one at North Sydney by setting fire to a house. Bingham was then sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, with hard labor, in Goulburn Gaol. The prisoner, as he was removed, said, “You have sentenced an innocent man.[3]

…..

Reflecting on these happenings just over 110 years into the future, I’m very grateful, indeed, ecstatic to find these details about my Grandmother’s Great Grandmother. They were an absolute surprise, and in so many ways a gift and yet also a reward for many, many years of searching, without knowing what I might find at the end of the proverbial rainbow.  While I don’t believe I have a photo of her and have no idea what she looked like, finding these snippets in the paper has, at least, composed something of a sketch of the world around her, and taken me back to where she lived. Still, I only know where she was at a particular moment in time, and little more. The rest I’ve teased out from the whereabouts of her husband and the births of her children. However, in this scene, she stands alone. After all, it is her house. She owns it. It is a beautiful thing, at least for me, to be able to paint a kind of story portrait of an unknown, almost anonymous woman one hundred and eleven years into the future, and almost give her the breath of life.  It is something that I will cherish, not only as an echo from the past, but also because she is a part of me, and my children will be taking her journey forward. She is in us.

 

[1] http://www.willoughbydhs.org.au/History/Suburbs/Suburbs-Northbridge.html

2. Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1923), Tuesday 22 January 1907, page 10

[3] Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1923), Friday 15 March 1907, page 10

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

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

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