Tag Archives: Daddy

WWI – Gallipoli: When Daddy Didn’t Come Home. Brenda Taylor’s Story…

So often when we reflect on Gallipoli, we hear of the men who sacrificed their lives. However, there’s another side to the story. That is the children of the dead and wounded men, also also paid an enormous, and mostly silent, price. Fortunately, the children’s columns in the newspapers provided a space where children would occasionally provide a glimpse, into this world.

Landing At Gallipoli- Charles Dixon

On Sunday 30th July, 1922 a letter by Miss Brenda Taylor, aged 9, of Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt was published in Sunbeams, the children’s page in the Sun Herald. Sunbeams was edited by Ethel Turner, author of the Australian children’s classic:  Seven Little Australians. A regular feature on the page was called “When I Grow Up”, and children wrote in gorgeous letters talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brenda wanted to be a nurse:

Sister Pratt

A NURSE

“When I grow up I would like to be a nurse, so that I could look after poor sick people. If there happened to be another war I would go and look after the wounded soldiers. My daddy died of wounds at Gallipoli, where there were not enough nurses to look after the soldiers. I would love to wear the nice clean uniform of a nurse, and be in the children’s hospital amongst the little sick babies, as I love babies, and I don’t like to hear them crying. When I see the returned nurses with their badges I feel sure I am going to be one. I hope little girls will want to be the same so that there will be enough nurses for the poor soldiers if any more wars begin.

— Souvenir Prize and Blue “Sun” Card to Brenda Taylor (9), Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt — a little girl gallant enough, after her loss, to want to continue in the footsteps of her heroic father[1].”

Just to place young Brenda’s letter in context, there was also a letter from an ambitious crime-fighting detective:

TO MAKE CRIMINALS SHIVER

When I grow up I am going to be a detective, and gain fame, I will unravel mysteries that have baffled the greatest detectives of the world. If It is necessary for me to disguise while working on any case, my disguise shall be so complete that even my closest friends will not recognise me. First I will start In Australia, and when I’ve cleaned that of Its criminals, I will then proceed to London, and in disguise I will visit the slums of that city and learn what I can about different criminals, then gain their confidence, and arrest them in the act of pulling-off some of their greatest robberies. I will always play a lone hand, as you cannot rely on the police, who are generally blunderers. If any criminal defies me, I shall engage him In a battle of wits, and in the end I think I shall succeed in handing him over to the law to receive his punishment. Never shall I quit a case without unraveling it satisfactorily. Many people shall thank me for the services I have rendered them, and for me this will be sufficient reward. My name will spread throughout the world, and every criminal and wrong-doer will shiver at the mention of it[2].

There was also “Wanderer” from Bondi who’d decided to become a novelist rather than a pirate:

“NOVELIST RATHER THAN PIRATE

In the earlier stages of my life I entertained wild hopes of becoming a pirate; imagining myself, with a three-cornered hat tilted precariously on one side of my head, ordering men to get strung up the yard-arm, or to walk the plank. Lately, I have realised the utter insignificance of that career, as I will not be able to find a suitable crew, and if I did I would soon be hunted down. My present scheme for the future is to become a composer of prose and verse. I will live in a creeper-covered cottage in a quiet country town, there to pursue my work (perhaps I might marry by then, but that will not make any difference— only that the “star” boarder will have to seek a new residence). So as to have some varieties about the place, I will keep a few cows and a small stock of poultry. In the woodland dales I will compose my stories, and. now and then poetry. I hope to become gradually famous as a novelist. Then— and then only, will the zenith of my ambitions be attained— Blue “sun” Card to “Wanderer” (13), Bondi[3].”

Exploring Brenda Taylor’s Letter Further

Of course, young Brenda’s letter is heartbreaking. It was one thing for young, single men to sacrifice their lives for the Empire. It was quite another for family men with responsibilities and dependents to sacrifice theirs. Young children were left without fathers, wives without husbands, and were left to bring up the children alone. To put it in very simple terms, Daddy was never coming home.

Naturally, I wanted to find something out about her father’s war service, such as which unit he was in, and what happened to him. This is easy enough if you have a name. However, her father wasn’t named in the letter, and I couldn’t just search the service records for: “Brenda’s Dad”- no matter how powerful Google might be.

At the same, identifying a soldier with minimal information isn’t an impossible quest, especially now that so much information is available online. Indeed, these days, the difficulty is knowing when and where to stop. After all, we now have the whole wide world right at our finger tips and sometimes, as in trying to nut out Brenda’s letter, we need to draw on all of that. Even then, there comes a point when you realize, that you have to walk away without the answer. Indeed, that’s where I’m at with Brenda’s story. I still can’t be sure of who Brenda Taylor was, and don’t know her father’s name either. Yet, I haven’t given up. Storytelling is a collective process and hopefully these efforts will just be the beginning.

Yet, on the other hand, part of me wishes I could turn back the clock, and just appreciate Brenda Taylor’s letter at face value. Left well enough alone, and not asked who her father was, and tried to find his service records. After all, it’s such a heart-touching story. Here’s a little girl who lost her beloved Dad at Gallipoli when she was roughly two years old. That’s a serious loss, and I don’t feel comfortable questioning whether her story was  true, and doubting the sincerity of a child.  Of course, I want to be a believer.  Hug this little girl who has lost her dad wholeheartedly without any of these lingering doubts.

However, any researcher worth their salt knows not to accept anything at face value. We have to ask the questions, accept the answers, and then somehow determine what we weave together into our version of the story.

So, despite a day of going backwards and forwards along time tunnels back into the past, I still don’t know the name of Brenda Taylor’s father, and can’t be entirely sure he died of wounds at Gallipoli or back at home. 

A False Alarm

Initially, my efforts to identify Brenda Taylor were going quite well. NSW Births deaths and Marriages had a Brenda Beatrice Taylor born in 1915 in Mudgee to parents John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. They were married on the 17th February, 1910 at St. Paul’s Manse, Mudgee. This “G” might’ve been a “George”, and at a stretch, Brenda’s father might’ve been John George Taylor Service Number 7050. He was born at Newcastle-On-Tyne England, and was living at 2 Bay Street, Balmain, which isn’t too far from Leichhardt. However, he wasn’t a great fit. He’d enlisted on the 1st November, 1916 and clearly didn’t serve at Gallipoli. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs M. Foster, not a wife. There was also no mention of daughter, Brenda, either. However, marriages go awry, and he wouldn’t have been the only family man to have fled the home front for the front line without leaving a paper trail.

However, then I found the wedding notice for John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. Brenda’s father was actually a John Gavin Taylor, not a John George. So, that knocked John George Taylor 7050 out of the picture. Further research was required.

There was no other Brenda Taylor on the horizon, although the age of this Brenda Taylor didn’t quite match up. To be 9 years old on the 30th July, 1922, she needed to be born around 1911-1912. However, I couldn’t find an alternative born in NSW or Victoria. So, I persisted and found some good background stories.

Brenda’s mother, Beatrice Brownlow, had been born in 1889 to Samuel Brownlow and Agnes E. Bridge in Coonamble, New South Wales. Samuel was known as a “first-class horse trainer”, which sounded rather exciting:

A Veteran Trainer.

Sam Brownlow Re-appears on the Scene.

To the majority of Mudgee racegoers the name of the above well-known trainer will be quite familiar. The older sportsmen in particular will re member those grand old days when the then champions of the turf, such as King of the West, Eros, Myrtle, Reprieve, Prism, Contessa, &c. , met in battle array on the old course, and memories of Brownlow come back to them fresh and green. And now once more, after a fairly long absonce from the actual scene of turf warfare, Sam has come forth, like a giant refreshed, to renew his former occupation. The old spirit asserted itself — it was too strong for him to resist, and it is a strange coincidence that he will have under his care a horse which he trained a few years ago — I refer to Mr. J. C. Gunnell’s Nimrod. Sam has trained many good horses, notably King of the West, Myrtle, Eros, and Contessa, all of whom won races for the late J. D. Little at Randwick and Hawkesbury. When King of the West won the County Purse (now called the Rowley Mile) at Hawkesbury he was ridden by Tom Donoghue, who is now training in Mudgee. Brownlow once had private training stables on Bombira Hill years ago, where a good string of horses were located. He also went to Queensland with that great horse, Beadsman, with whom he won a great number of races there. Space will not permit of a lengthy description of our old friend’s many succeses as a trainer. We will simply say that he is a first class trainer, and has commenced with Mr. Gunnell’s horses, Nimrod and Grand Stuart, who are being prepared for the Mudgee meeting[4].

By now, the story was building nicely – layer up on layer up on layer. Yet, there were still some nagging doubts. These Taylors were based in Mudgee, and as yet I hadn’t found a link to Leichhardt, Sydney. Moreover, something else was glaringly missing. Aside from Brenda’s letter, there were no memorials in the newspapers honouring her father’s sacrifice on the battlefield, and this was unusual. Of course, there were families that kept it quiet, but they were few and far between. That also made me nervous.

Then, came the clincher. I came across the obituary for Brenda’s mother, Beatrice. She died on the 25th December, 1943 in Mudgee and it clearly mentioned that she was the “wife of Mr. J. G. Taylor, of Windeyer”, and also referred to her “bereaved husband”. Brenda’s father, John Gavin Taylor, was still alive[5].

Either Brenda Taylor’s letter wasn’t true. Or, there was another Brenda Taylor.

Brenda Taylor 2.0

I had one last search in the online newspapers at Trove. This time, I came across a wedding photo for a Brenda Taylor who married John Richard Keeffe at St John’s Church, Parramatta in 1938:

“Mrs. J.. Keeffe, formerly Miss Brenda Taylor, of Harris Park, who was married at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on February 5. Misses Violet Keeffe, Ivy Taylor and Emily Keeffe are the bridesmaids, and Valmna Sweeney the flower girl. Photo. by McEnnally Studio[6]

I cross-referenced this with NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and found her listed as “Evelyn Brenda Taylor”. Would this finally be the clue which unraveled the mystery? Could I finally construct a solid trail from nine year old Brenda Taylor of Piper Street, Leichhardt to her father who really did die of wounds sustained in those early days at Gallipoli?

Not yet.

The closest I’ve come to finding an Evelyn Brenda Taylor is a Brenda Evelyn Taylor, who was listed in the 1911UK Census. She was 2 years old and was born and living in Rawreth, a village and civil parish in the District of Rochford, Essex, England, located between Wickford and Rayleigh. She was living there with her father, Edward Taylor, aged 23 born in Leatherhead, Surrey and was a Farm Labourer; and her mother, Alice May Taylor, was 21 from Chipstead, Surrey.

Could this be the right family? Did they migrate to Australia, and this is the very same Brenda Taylor who wrote into the Sun Herald on the 30th July, 1922?

I still don’t know, but I’m hoping that someone out there can help me set the record straight. I’d really love to know Brenda’s story – the whole story.

If anybody could shed any light on this, I’d really appreciate your help. I don’t have access to Ancestry which would most likely help.

Lastly, I should mention that this is fall of a broader project where I’m researching WWI through the letters of WWI soldiers, and exploring their family history nad lives before they went to the front.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References


[1] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2

[2] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2

[3] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2

[4] Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Friday 4 August 1899, page 18

[5] Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1943, page 5

[6] Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 9

Starting Over – Friday Fictioneers 17th September, 2020.

Dan couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted an almost new, wooden high chair sitting beside of the road. It had been sent straight from heaven, landing right at his feet. Although a new job would’ve been better, it was still an answer to prayer. He said nothing to Jess, and wrapped it up in a huge, pink bow. Dan didn’t have a TV, and didn’t worry about the news. Never found out what had happened, and how that high chair came to be sitting beside the road. The chair didn’t share its tragic secret either. It was starting over.

….

100 words. This week’s photo prompt has kindly been provided © Roger Bultot

This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. https://rochellewisoff.com/ Please forgive my clumsy links here. I’ve been forced over to the new block editor and am lost in the undergrowth. I am improving but still have a lot to learn.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…7th September,2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend CoffeeShare!

This week,I’m just going to keep it brief because time’s gone up in smoke and it’s really late and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and wake up with the birds (I mean kids) and get myself back into more regular sleeping hours. You might recall that I’ve mentioned all this before, and the struggle continues. Being in lock down along with Winter colds and lethargy haven’t helped either. However, now that Spring’s arrived, I feel a new lease of life and the need to get the show back on the road.

Yesterday, was Father’s Day. Rather than repeat myself, you can read more about it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2020/09/07/making-do-fathers-day-2020/

By the way, I apologise for some of my formatting difficulties For those of you who aren’t familiar with WordPress, they’ve changed their editing processes completely and I’m unable to find quite a few features I depend on and I don’t really feel like wasting a lot of time trying to nut out this system I don’t like. I’ve noticed a few of you aren’t happy about these changes either. So, perhaps we should start a revolutions.

Anyway, I might try to get back tomorrow to flesh this out a bit more.

In the meantime, I hope you and yours are keeping well and safe. This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I almost forgot to mention that we sent our once beloved family car off to the wreckers this week. She’s been with us for 19 years, and drove us home from our wedding and also brought the kids home from the hospital when they were born along with numerous holidays, commutes to work etc. You can read more about that here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/farewell-to-the-family-car/

Yesterday, was Father’s Day here and rather than repeating myself, you can read more about it here:

Making-Do Father’s Day 2020.

Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. While for some, particularly in Western Australia where life in almost back to normal, it might have been business as usual yesterday, for us it meant not going down to Sydney to see my Dad “just in case”. This wasn’t particularly upsetting, because we saw my parents a few weeks ago and intend to go down in a few weeks when everyone’s not out and about quite so much. We just wanted to be cautious. After all, you can’t uncatch covid, and you can’t uncatch giving it to someone else. Moreover, when a few of you are highly vulnerable, caution is the better side of valour, as the saying goes.

Meanwhile, during the week people were asking what we were doing for Father’s Day as though it were New Year’s Eve. You can’t just “do nuffin” or “stuff all”, not even when you’re a dad of a bub and all you want to do is sleep for eternity. Gee, in retrospect that now seems particularly harsh. I’d be much nicer to Geoff in hindsight, and even let him put up his feet for the day rather being so exhausted myself, that it was still action stations. We also had the added complication, that I was critically ill much of the time our kids were small, and it wasn’t easy. Indeed, we were parenting in a constant storm. However, we weren’t the only ones, and there are even more battlers out there now what with Covid and everything that goes with it. I give all you mums and dads of young bubs a huge shout out today. Hang in there if you’re finding the going is tough.

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, that Geoff and I were back there juggling newborns. Soon, one of these days, Geoff and I might become empty nesters. This is both something you look forward to and dread as a parent, much like your kid getting their driver’s licence. You’d love them to drive themselves around, so you can hang up your taxi plates. However, you want them to drive inside a very protective plastic bubble. Indeed, let’s make that a concrete-reinforced bunker!

Anyway, our kids are now 16 and 14. Without any hesitation of a doubt, they were much more enthusiastic about Father’s Day spirit when they were in pre-school, and it pretty much got left to me to save the day. I probably should’ve rallied some time last week to get them motivated, but I was lost in a covid fog. Actually, I was touching base with the kids’ teachers. No physical contact allowed for most of this year and the wheels have fallen off and I’m just trying to get the full picture (even if it does fall into the “You don’t want to know department”, as in my daughter’s algebra result).

Anyway, at least Geoff had a chance to watch some car racing today, and the two of us went for a quick bush walk right on sunset. There were some real explosions of colour in the trees and I did take some photos, but more as a reminder to head back today to do them. After all, it’s Spring here and we’re stepping out of hibernation albeit wearing mask and gloves in crowded areas.

My sympathies to people in Melbourne and anyone else who celebrated Father’s Day in lock down. There’s no point trying to put too bright a spin on lock down. It is what it is, but hopefully the numbers will come down and you and yours will be okay. Anyway, we’re thinking of you.

Well, now I’ve finished my toasty, I’ll beheading back to the lookout to explore those stunning flowering trees. It’s amazing how motivating it is to have a beautiful Spring day where the air’s just filled with balmy light. I’m almost on top of the world.

So, was it Father’s Day yesterday in your neck of the woods? Did you do anything to celebrate? Or, perhaps it was more a time of reflection, disappointment or regret. If so, I’m thinking of you. Our day ended hit the downward spiral after dinner. So, we know all about less than perfect special days. Indeed, it’s often these special days which seem to turn out the worst.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena