Tag Archives: domestic violence

Step-Daddy’s Little Princess…Friday Fictioneers.

 

“Sweetheart, we love you so much. Pleeeeease come home, ” Sue desperately begged her daughter. “There’s lasagna for dinner… your favourite.”

Alice kept her gaze fixed on the floor, refusing to make eye contact. Seeing her mother again was like soaking in a warm bath, reminding her of how things had been once upon a time. Yet, the anguish in her soul, burned like a red-hot poker. That’s why she jabbed herself with the needles… to numb and forget the unforgivable.

“Alice, Emily misses her big sister.”

The heartstrings tightened until she could barely breathe.

No escape, Alice grabbed her bag.

….

100 words.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Guilty…Friday Fictioneers.

Leaving court, the victim’s elderly mother was propped up by her two strapping sons. Justice served, the violent ex-husband was guilty as hell.

Yet, was I the only one who questioned the verdict? The only one struck by their own guilt?

The writing was on the wall. So, why didn’t we act?

More than once, I’d seen the tell-tale, heavy makeup. Yet, I never tried to wipe it away. Call a spade a spade. Rather, I observed the code of silence, and touched up my own face.

Peeling off this mask won’t be easy, but I’m changing course.

I will survive.

…..

In parenting circles, you often hear the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. However, what you hear less often, if at all, is that it takes the village to keep its citizens safe. Moreover, that we as individuals have a responsibility to look out for each other. To step in, especially when a mate is in trouble. However, where the waters start to get more murky, is when it comes to domestic violence. Interfering in someone else’s relationship is seen as a no-go zone. However, it can reach a point where someone’s life might be at risk and we need to step in. Yet, what are we supposed to do? We’re a friend, a brother, sister, parent…not an expert. The one thing I do know, is that we somehow need to find a way, and a quiet place, to ask the next question. Present yourself as a safe place…a harbour in the storm. That at least leaves the door open for someone to turn to us about a whole swag of issues before it’s too late. Don’t just ask if they’re okay. Follow your gut and never give up.

By the way, I’d just like to add that men can also be victims of domestic violence.

It’s not altogether surprising that I addressed this issue tonight. The body of a young woman was found beside the freeway today, when my Mum was driving up to see us. It drove home yet again why we can’t turn a blind eye.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz 😀 (Thanks, Ted)

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

A Shocking Case of Bigamy.

“Mr Justice Richmond: You have been convicted of the offence of bigamy…Your present effrontery shows that you richly merit the punishment which I shall inflict upon you. I hope that the punishment will have the effect of awakening you more fully than you now appear to be, to a sense of your actual guilt in the sight of God…The sentence upon you is that you be imprisoned for two years…”  

Otago Daily Times, Issue 769, 4 June 1864

On the 8th December, 1864, Alexander John Johnston was found guilty of bigamy in Dunedin’s  Supreme Court, after marrying Maria Bridget Flanagan while still married to Jane Ellen Johnston (formerly Jones). The judgement quoted above wasn’t metered out to Alexander John Johnston. However, it could well have been.  However, because the marriage certificate provided had no official seal of authenticity and there was also a question of Jane Ellen being under age, Johnston was fined and spared the worst.

In hindsight, someone should’ve thrown the book at Alexander John Johnston, and I’m not talking about a lightweight paperback either. More something like one of those huge, leather-bound, Victorian Bibles. Indeed, that would’ve whacked him on the head like a flying brick, and might’ve knocked some sense into him. Not that I’m inclined to violence, but to quote the words of Monty Python: “He’s not the Messiah—he’s a very naughty boy!”

Of course, this is all water under the bridge these days. Well, it would be if John Johnston (as we know him), wasn’t my Great Grandmother’s Grandfather, and we’re descended from the Maria Bridget Flanagan side of the equation. That made it relevant.

This was all very recent news to me. As far as we knew, John Johnston had only ever married Maria Bridget Flanagan on the 14th April, 1864 in Invercargill, New Zealand. His only children were THEIR children. Originally, family stories said that he’d built the North Sydney Suspension Bridge, although that turned out to be his youngest brother, Alexander Campbell Johnston, who also had the contract to build the Bungendore to Queanbeyan Railway in NSW, while John was the licensee of Queanbeyan’s Union Club Hotel before going insolvent. Yet, John’s death certificate stated that he was a “Contractor” suggesting that he did indeed work alongside his brother. So, while John Johnston might not have been a high achiever, our John Johnston was respectable and seemingly a “family man”. As far as I can tell, there were no court appearances, changes of drunkenness. Nothing.

On the other hand, THAT “Alexander John” Johnston was a scoundrel. A cad. He’d even threatened his wife with a knife.

Clearly, the situation demanded further investigation. I am still struggling to see them as anything but two different people…a John Hyde and an Alexander John Jekyll.

Marriage 1 – Jane Ellen Jones, Liverpool, November 1855.

Details about Alexander John’s first family are still coming to light. However, there’s now no  doubt that Alexander John Johnston married Ellen Jane Jones in November 1855 at St James Church, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England. On the marriage certificate, her father was given as Thomas Jones, Master Mariner, and the witness was Margaret Jones, Jane Ellen’s sister. During the bigamy trial, it was mentioned that a James Munro and John Grey also attended the wedding. A Charles Macquarie, seaman, also testified that he was in Liverpool around January or February, 1856 and used to go and see them[1].

It appears that Alexander John and Jane Ellen had two children while living in Liverpool. While I am yet to find the names of all their children, it would appear that their eldest child, Thomas James Johnston was born around 1856-57. They also seemed to have two children born in New Zealand. Jane Ann was born in 1862 and their youngest daughter, Ellen Overton Johnston, was born around 1864 and died in tragic circumstances on the 8th February, 1866 aged 15mths/2 years.

Finding out these details of his first marriage, also revealed that John had been living in Liverpool for at least five years before immigrating to New Zealand, which also placed him alongside the thousands of Irish fleeing the Irish Famine. A Famine which had also hit Scotland hard, including the island of Islay where John Johnston was born on the 12th February, 1826 to Angus and Mary (Campbell) . At this point, his father had been a Whisky Distiller, most likely at the Tallent Distillery on Islay. It seems they could well have been evicted to make way for sheep, which were more profitable.

Alexander John came out to New Zealand probably not long before gold was discovered in Gabriel’s Gully in 1861. Three months later, Jane Ellen and the children came out.  

As time went by, the marriage clearly wasn’t a happy one. In court, Jane Ellen said: “I have not been on very good terms with the prisoner.” This is clearly an understatement because on the 13th June, 1863, she charged him with threatening to stab her with a knife:

“Threatening to Stab—Jane Ellen Johnston I charged her husband, Alexander John Johnston with threatening to stab her with a knife on the 13th inst. The defendant was required to give bond to keep the peace towards her for six months, fined in the amount of £1O, and to find two sureties tor £2O each[2].”

However, there were a few references to the couple going out to lunch or socialising together. So, perhaps it wasn’t all bad…

At the time of the court case, Jane Ellen Johnston and their children were living out in the Leith Valley in Dunedin, beyond the Waters of Leith. I suspect this might have been the family home before Alexander John went off to “Hokitika”[3].

Alexander John Johnston Caught Out.

Being something of a Sherlock Holmes myself, there’s nothing better than tracking the scent of a good story back to the source and its very beginnings.

It surprises me that Jane Ellen Johnston wasn’t the one who dobbed Alexander John into  police. Rather, it was Charles Bond, Baker of Rees Street Queenstown & Arthur’s Point Shotover, and a Mrs Jenkins, who could well have been a hotel owner in Queenstown. Mr John Foster, formerly a publican at The Arrow Goldfields, near Queenstown was also involved, and it almost seems like a citizens’ arrest.

On the 3rd September, 1864 Detective Constable Robert Lambert, who was stationed in Queenstown, arrested Alexander John Johnston in King Street, Dunedin on a charge of bigamy. He was accompanied by a Mr John Foster, formerly a publican at The Arrow Goldfields, near Queenstown. Johnston then asked him to accompany him to a woman’s house in the Leith Valley, Dunedin. There were two children playing outside and Lambert asked Johnston whether they were his. He said they were. When they arrived at the house, he said: “Jane, I am taken in charge. I am going to gaol.” She asked what for. Detective-Constable Lambert replied: “It was for bigamy, and I further explained the charge to her.” Lambert pointed to Alexander John Johnston (the prisoner), and asked if he was her husband. She said he was. Lambert asked if she had a marriage certificate, and Jane Ellen handed him the document she’d been given when she married Johnston. Alexander John, seemingly being quite the smooth talker, tried to sweet talk Jane into letting him off. Indeed, he repeatedly asked: “Jane, my girl, you won’t prosecute me.” Detective Constable Lambert replied that if she is his wife, she can’t give evidence against him. Lambert then went outside with Alexander John where he denied that the woman was his wife. So, he took him inside again and asked Jane Ellen again if she was his wife. Again, she repeated that she really was married to the prisoner. On the way to the station, the prisoner again denied that the woman was his wife. Detective Constable Robert Lambert took Johnston to the watchhouse where he gave the name of Alexander John Johnston.

Supreme Court on the 8th December, 1864

The case ended up in the Supreme Court on the 8th December, 1864 before His Honour Justice Richmond. Alexander John Johnston was indicted for bigamy, by intermarrying with Maria Flanagan, while his wife Jane Ellen Jones was alive. Mr Howorth conducted the prosecution; and Mr Wilson appeared for the prisoner.

Here are the various witness statements:

Ann Rugg (formerly Jones) – Jane Ellen Johnston’s Sister & wife of James Rugg, carpenter, Dunedin:

“My maiden name was Ann Jones. In 1855, I was living in Liverpool with my father and mother. There were three brothers and two sisters besides. One sister was named Jane Ellen and the other Margaret. Jane Ellen is now sitting here in Court. I knew the prisoner in England. About nine years ago, in a November, he and Jane Ellen left father’s house to get married. My sister Margaret, James Munro, and John Grey went with them. They went about ten and returned about twelve o’clock. I asked my sister if she was married, and she said “Yes,” and kissed me. The prisoner lived in father and mother’s house for four months and always acknowledged Jane Ellen as his wife. My sister Margaret is not here. St James’s Church, Toxteth Park, is in Liverpool. The prisoner was here before Gabriel’s digging broke out; and three months after that, he sent for my sister. They have four children.—By Mr Wilson : I am now 22 years old.”

Charles Macquarie, Seaman:

 “I know the prisoner and Mrs Johnston. I was in Liverpool about January or February, 1856, and I was accustomed to go and see them. They were living as man and wife. The prisoner often admitted to me, at that time, that he was married. They had then been recently married.”

 Rev Benjamin Drake : Congregational Independents, Invercargill

“I am a minister of the body called Congregational Independents, at Invercargill. I am the Benjamin Drake mentioned in this Gazette notice, as authorised to solemnise marriages. On the 14th April last, at Invercargill, I married the prisoner and Bridget Maria Flannagan, who is the woman now called before me. What is handed to me, is a copy of the register which I myself made. Mr Wilson objected that the indictment charged marriage with Maria Flanagan ; while the evidence and the certificate showed the name to be Bridget Maria. The Judge: That is amendable, and I should allow amendment[4].

Mr John Foster, formerly a publican at The Arrow Goldfields, near Queenstown.

Foster generally corroborated the evidence of Lambert. He had known the prisoner for about two years; and had known him living with Jane Ellen, the woman in Court, as man and wife. By Mr Wilson: Out of the woman’s presence, the prisoner had denied that she was his wife.

Dunedin Gaol

Dunedin Gaol -Alexander John Johnston’s home away from home.

The Verdict

On the 8th December, 1864, the jury found Alexander John Johnston guilty of bigamy. However, sentencing was postponed until the 12th December, 1864. The Judge said he should not pass sentence because the “document produced, and admitted by the Court, was not admissible in proof of the first marriage, inasmuch as it did not purport to be a copy of an original register, signed by the person authorised to make it; and that cohabitation being only presumptive evidence of marriage, was not admissible in a case of bigamy. He (the Judge) should therefore reserve a case for the opinion of the Court of Appeal as to the sufficiency of the evidence on which the prisoner was convicted. He should take bail Johnston in the sum of £1OO, and two sureties in £5O each. The condition would be, as prescribed by the Court of Appeal Act, that Johnston should surrender in the judgment of the Court when called upon. Johnston would be remanded to custody until he had completed the recognisances.[5]

The Second Wife…Maria Bridget Flanagan.

At this point, I haven’t read the actual court transcripts to see whether Maria Bridget Flanagan appeared in court. However, she gave birth to their first child, Angus Johnston, on the 6th January, 1865 in Dunedin. So, while this court case was in progress, she was heavily pregnant, which must’ve made a rather strong statement to the court. Moreover, while she was concerned about “her husband” who could well have been sent to gaol for up to seven years, she would also have been very concerned for the future of her and her child. As it turned out, the judge didn’t throw the book at Alexander John Johnston. However, while he was only fined, he was kept in jail because they couldn’t pay the fine and I currently don’t know how long he was there.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Maria Johnston heavied William Christian, whom they’d been living with in Invercargill, to pay the fine. He refused. So, on the 10th December, 1864 Maria took him to court accusing him of stealing a wooden box containing a silk parasol, a piece of silk and a petticoat which she had left in his care. However, the truth of the matter came out in court and the case was dismissed:

Charge of Theft.— William Christian, a colored man, was charged, on the information of Maria Flanigan, with stealing one parasol, one petticoat, and one piece of silk her property, on or about the month of September last — Maria Flanigan, or Johnston, stated that she was married in Invercargill about eight months ago to Mr Johnston ; they were living with the prisoner. She and her husband left for Queenstown, leaving in the prisoner’s care a box, in which were a quantity of articles, including one silk parasol, one petticoat, and one piece of silk. A few days ago she met the prisoner in Dunedin, and when she asked about her box, he said it was left in Invercargill. _ she had reason to believe that the goods were in Dunedin, and, a search warrant having been served, the petticoat and piece of silk were found in prisoner’s house, but in a box which had formerly belonged to Johnston. Detective Farrell stated that he put the warrant into execution, and found the goods produced in an unlocked box in prisoner’s home. There was no attempt at concealment. Prisoner’s wife stated that she kept the goods as she had a loan on them; Johnston having been due her money. Mr Ward, for the prisoner, stated that the facts of the case were that Johnston left his boxes in Invercargill in prisoner’s charge as he owed him £l5. When Johnston was apprehended on a charge of bigamy, Maria Flanigan asked prisoner to became bail for him, and when he refused she threatened to do something to him and when Johnston was convicted she trumped up the present charge against the prisoner. The Magistrate said the charge was a trumpery affair. There was clearly no felonious intent on the prisoner’s part. He was discharged.” Otago Witness, 17 December 1864.

New Zealand’s Divorce Laws in 1864.

When you think about this case of bigamy these days,  you naturally ask why he didn’t get a divorce. While we might be aware that divorces weren’t so easy to obtain in years gone by, prior to 1867, anyone wishing to divorce in New Zealand had to apply to the English courts. Of course, you don’t need to be Einstein to realize that you’re looking at mission impossible.

In 1867 New Zealand passed its first divorce law: the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act. The act allowed either husband or wife to seek a divorce, but the grounds on which they could apply were very different. To gain a divorce, a man only needed to prove adultery on the part of his wife. But for a wife to get a divorce, her husband had to commit adultery plus sodomy, incest, bestiality, bigamy, rape or extreme cruelty[6].

While we’re on the subject of divorce in 1864, I thought just throw in this snippet about the duties of marriage in New Zealand in 1850:

“In 1850, the duties associated with marriage appeared to exist largely to protect the institution of marriage itself and the morals of society, rather than the individuals involved in the union. A husband had a duty to maintain his wife, they had a duty to live together, and sexual intercourse was a duty.[30] Each party also had a duty not to have sexual relations outside the marriage.[31] After marriage, a woman lost her identity in that she could not own property, enter into contracts, or sue or be sued; this indicates that marriage was about more than simply regulation of sexual relations.[32] There were also more consequences for a woman who committed adultery, on the rationale that if she had children that were not her husband’s, they may inherit his property wrongfully.[33] The stark contrasts to the twenty-first century notions of individual choice are captured in Matthew Bacon’s             Abridgement, which states that:[34] …marriage is a compact between a man and a woman for the procreation and education of children; and it seems to have been instituted as necessary to the very being of society; for, without the distinction of families, there can be no encouragement to industry, or any foundation for the care of acquiring riches.”http://www.nzlii.org/nz/journals/NZLawStuJl/2014/9.html

What Became of Jane Ellen Johnston?

Alexander John’s departure left Jane Ellen Johnston as a single mother with four young children under ten living on the outskirts of Dunedin.

On the 8th February, 1866 while Jane Ellen was weeding the garden with her two other children, their eldest son, Thomas James Johnston aged nine, climbed up high and reached for her gun, which she kept loaded for her own protection. Indeed, she’d only had it a week, a gift from a concerned friend.  Jane Ellen hears the explosion, and sees Thomas running towards her. In a scene she no doubt replayed for the rest of her life, she finds Thomas has accidentally shot his baby sister, Ellen Overton Johnston and she is dying. Desperately, Jane Ellen somehow gets the baby to the hospital, but is told the situation is hopeless. So, she bundles her up and takes her to die at the home of a friend.  At the inquest, Jane Ellen referred to herself as “Jane Ellen Johnston” and said that her husband had “gone to Hokitika”.  That, in other words, he’d gone off to the diggings. No one challenged her with the truth.

In 1873, Jane Ellen Johnston married Edward Williams. He appears to have been an Insurance worker at York Place, Dunedin, 1883-91. They went on to have at least two children. I would like to think they lived happily ever after.

Jane Ellen Williams passed away at Christchurch Hospital on October 8th, 1921. While her notice in the paper says she was aged 72, online she was said to be 85 which seems to be more likely:

WILLIAMS—On October 8th, at the Christchurch Hospital, Jane Williams, late of Oxford street, Lyttelton; aged 72 years. Press, Volume LVII, Issue 17290, 31 October 192

John Johnston & Maria Bridget Flanagan

In 1865, Alexander John Johnston became the Licensee of the Argyle Hotel in the Arcade, Dunedin, and it seems that they lived on the premises. The Argyle Hotel was more like a bar, and unlike most hotels at the time, didn’t have accommodation for travellers. However, it did have “concert rooms”[7].

It is starting to look like Alexander John Johnston and possibly Maria Bridget, could well have been entertainers and were involved in something like the Minstrel Shows they were later involved in at Queanbeyan. I don’t know if they operated the concert rooms at the Arcade Hotel or whether theirs was separate, but this reference could well describe the nature of their concerts:

Cunningham G Boyd was the licensee of the Arcade Hotel, which had music and dancing. The Arcade Hotel was described: At the Resident Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday morning, Mr Commissioner Branigan applied to the Bench to withdraw the permission previously granted by Mr Strode to Mr C. G. Boyd, of the Arcade Hotel, to allow singing and dancing in his licensed house. The evidence of several witnesses went to prove that the noisy nature of the “negro entertainments” given at this house, combined with the disorderly character of the persons who resorted to them, made it a serious cause of complaint in the neighbourhood. The application was granted[8].

At this point in time, trouble seemed to follow Alexander John. After already being found guilty of bigamy and doing stint in gaol while raising bail, In August 1865, He sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment with hard labour without the alternative of a fine for assaulting DT Dyer who was executing his duty as a bailiff of the Resident’s Magistrate’s court. Indeed, he threatened him with a pocket knife.

9th August, Alexander John sold his interest in the Argyle Hotel and like hordes of other hopefuls; they headed to the Hokitika gold fields. By this stage, the son Angus had died aged three months and a daughter, Margaret Ellen was born in 1865.

From this point on, they are living on the West Coast in between Greymouth and Reefton. I am still trying to nut out what they were doing there. However, I did find a letter written to the Editor of the Grey River Argus dated 4th December 1866:

A SERIES. OF GRIEVANCES.

(To the Editor- of the Grey River Angus,) Sir — From your well known reputation as a defender of the injured, I beg to trouble you with a grievance, or rather a combination of them. I am a carpenter and .contractor, and have been well known to many persons connected with this and the Canterbury Governments. On a late occasion I saw tenders called for by tho authorities here, for a canvas tent. I tendered in the usual way, and appeared at the time appointed to see if my tender had been accepted. To my surprise the constable in charge coolly told me that my tender was not accepted, adding that if I had tendered £10 lower than anyone else he would not have given me the work. I then .looked out for a stand in the only street surveyed, and I went to the same constable to see if my business license, which I got in October last at Cobden, would give me a right to take up a site, and was told that it would not; but, at the same time, the constable offered to sell me a section which he held; for L3O. By what, right he held it I do not know, but perhaps you might be able to enlighten the public fat this place on the subject;’ as I- and many other businessmen cannot understand members of the police force being allowed, to take advantage of their position to get information and take up not only one but twenty sites, to the detriment of legitimate business men. That this has been done, is well known to every person in this township. A few days ago a man was drowned, the body being afterwards recovered. I and my partners spoke to the constable in charge respecting the burial, and the reply was that I before the Government would spend 5s in matter, they (the police) would bury it in a sack. On my remonstrating, I was told that if I interfered any further I should be locked up. Unfortunately the local head of the Government (Mr Kynnersley) is away, and I and many of my follows are compelled to submit to injustice; I sign my name, and can bring abundance of witnesses to- prove all (and more) than I have stated. A. J. Johnston, Late Undertaker, Greymouth. : Brighton, December 4[9].

Was this my Alexander John Johnston? It very well could be. Later on, he is not only the licensee of a hotel but his death certificate said he was a contractor. Being a carpenter and contractor, could well have brought him into contact with James Angus who also moved from New Zealand to New South Wales in 1879 and went into partnership with Alexander Campbell Johnston, John’s younger brother. The connection almost stitches together now, but not quite.  

In 1879, John and Maria Johnston and their five surviving children boarded a ship bound for Australia. They don’t surface again until 1885 after his brother, Alexander  Johnston, was awarded the contract to build the Bungendore to Michelago Railway section of railway on 27th May 1884. John becomes the licensee of the Union Club Hotel in Queanbeyan. He is 58 years old.

Above: Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 – 1904), Tuesday 16 March 1886, page 3

Performance Queanbeyan 1886

An advertisement for a minstrel show held in Queanbeyan on Boxing Day 1886

Much to my delight, I also found that the Johnston family performed in amateur Minstrel Shows in Queanbeyan. It seemed that John Johnston sang, daughter Lizzie played the piano and also acted in a romantic farce and son, John played the violin…a talented family. Of course, this form of entertainment came straight out of America, and it’s been evident they spent time with African Americans in New Zealand who could well have introduced them to this musical form.

1910 circa Suspension Bridge German postcard

The North Sydney Suspension Bridge.

By 1892, John and Maria Johnston were living in Sydney, when his brother Alexander was the contractor who built the North Sydney Suspension Bridge. While it is believed that John Johnston contributed to the bridge in some way, he did write a publicity piece which was published in the newspaper in 1895.

John Johnston died at Sydney Hospital 28th November, 1897 aged 70 years. Cause of death was malignant disease of the oesophagus. He was buried in the Presbyterian Section, Rookwood Cemetery with his sister, Elizabeth White.

Maria Bridget Johnston died on the 19th November, 1915 at her home in 42 Colin Street, North Sydney. She was 79 years old. Cause of death was Diabetes and exhaustion. She was buried in the Roman Catholic Section, Gore Hill Cemetery, St Leonards.

Knowing what I know now, I can’t help wondering whether it was poetic justice. That John Johnston and Maria Bridget who went to such great lengths to be together in life, have been permanently separated in death. It’s just a thought.  

Conclusion

“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.”  

Edmund Burke

Clearly, the case for Alexander John Johnston isn’t good. He was a bastard. A cad. He not only married Maria Bridget Flanagan while still married to Jane Ellen, he flatly denied Jane Ellen was his wife, even in court. Yet, he wasn’t above rolling on the charm, and asking her not to prosecute him and send him to gaol. In hindsight, I think he missed his calling. Alexander John would’ve made the consummate politician…just deny, deny, deny and the mud will fly away.

This isn’t the man our family knew, and despite all of this pulling  apart and peering into every nook and cranny, I still don’t want to let go of the illusion. Or, at least the hope, that he might have changed his ways.  

Personally, finding out about this second family over in New Zealand, has opened up  Pandora’s Box. Maybe, it shouldn’t. After all, this all happened over 150 years ago. The water has flowed under the bridge and it is gone. However, when it comes to these Kiwi cousins, I feel there’s something of a scar, or even a wound, which needs to be acknowledged. Just because he left that family more than a husband and fifty years ago, that’s not to say the consequences didn’t trickle down through the family for many years afterwards, especially given the very tragic death of Baby Ellen. After all, these people aren’t characters in a novel. They were real.

Naturally, I also have to spare a thought for Maria Bridget being heavily pregnant with her husband in court and in gaol. The stress would’ve been phenomenal, and money was clearly very tight. No luxury of decorating the nursery for the baby. I also have to question her role in all of this. Did she know about “the other wife” when they got married? Maria strikes me as a strong character, and I doubt Alexander John could pull the wool over her eyes. Then again…

Strangely, I’ve even spared a thought for Alexander John languishing away in gaol not knowing where the money was going to come from to get him out. Do I feel sorry for him? Not at all, and yet there’s still this little niggle. Perhaps, it’s because despite all evidence to the contrary, I still don’t believe he did it and this entire situation still feels more like a novel than anything from my own family’s past. 

Yet, I am also conscious that everyone has made mistakes. That each of us sinks deeply into our imperfection, and has crimes of our own. They might not be so monumental and impact on the lives of so many people in such a big way, but does that give us the right to play judge and jury when those around us stumble or even fall? I think not. However, we need to learn from these collective mistakes, and refine the rough diamond which dwells within each of us to produce a gem. That radiant spark which is incredibly tough, but ever so beautiful.

That is my dream.  

References

[1] Otago Daily Times, Issue 792, 9 December 1864.

[2] Otago Daily Times, Issue 464, 16 June 1863

[3] Otago Witness, Issue 742, 17 February 1866

[4] Otago Daily Times, Issue 792, 9 December 1864

[5] Otago Witness, 17 December 1864

[6] https://teara.govt.nz/en/divorce-and-separation/page-1

[7] Otago Daily Times, Issue 1121, 25 July 1865

[8] Otago Witness, Issue 717, 25 August 1865

[9] Grey River Argus, Volume III, Issue 142, 8 December 1866

 

The Boss

The Boss was THE Boss. No one dared challenge company policy, which demanded staff only used triangular paperclips, not the usual ones with rounded ends. Despite our degrees, our role wasn’t to question why. Actually, we weren’t there to question anything.

That came much later, when I found a photo of him and his wife in the paper. She’d fled with the kids, charging him with domestic violence. His former secretary, I remembered how her office was chaos, and his was anal.

Sure, opposites attract. Yet, somehow I knew, that using the wrong type of paperclip, must’ve caused their demise.

……..

This has been another contribution to  Friday Fictioneers  hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields. Photo prompt Copyright Claire Sheldon.

I would love to hear your comments on the whole opposites attract thing too. Most people I know, marry their opposite and yet it is also fraught with tension. 

xx Rowena

Colette…Friday Fictioneers.

“Colette, ma Cherie. Je t’adore! Ma belle…”

Oh! How the mighty have fallen!

The glass smashed against the mirror and champagne dripped over her shattered reflection. Almost blurred beyond recognition, yet still there…along with an anguish so intense, it burned. Filled her veins with such fury, she had to let it out.

Showered in roses. No broken bones. No bruises. Then, there were the gates. The constant surveillance. Always breathing down her neck, following her every move. She couldn’t breathe.

“Mrs Windsor, back to bed. Your husband’s on his way.”

Colette smiled. The staff were always so obliging.

Rowena Curtin

This was another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

 

Working Class Boy-Jimmy Barnes.

This morning, I finally finished reading Jimmy Barnes’s harrowing memoir: Working Class Boy. As much as I could write about the book, Jimmy Barnes summed up his reasons for writing the book so well:

“I want people to read this because I know there are other people out there, just like me. People who think they’re alone in life and that their cards have been dealt and that there is nothing they can do to change anything. That’s how I felt too for a long, long time. I nearly killed myself because of it. But now I know there’s always time for change and there’s always a better path. You just have to look for it.

This book was my first real step in looking for hope.

Peace and love

Jimmy”[1]

In many ways, Working Class Boy echoes Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and it has been a great read with meaningful insights on living with adversity. Jimmy’s world was brutal. Not that he throws blame. It was what it was and he shares that journey with a dark wit and philosophical insight you’d hope for from a songwriter, who releases the cry of the heart through music. Working Class Boy covers the ins and outs of his tough and brutal childhood and is something of a prelude to his second book, which will cover his career.

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Our family meeting Jimmy Barnes at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar.

Jimmy Barnes was born as James Swan on the  28th April 1956 in Cowcaddens, Glasgow, Scotland and went on to find success as the front man for Australian rock band Cold Chisel. From there, he has also had  a very successful career as a solo artist.  He grew up in a violent, impoverished family where his father blew his pay packet on alcohol, leaving his mother scratching to feed the family with whatever she could find. Not that she was an angel.  She could throw a punch along with the best of them and was as tough as nails. He writes:

“Mum was tough, too. Sometimes I think that she thought she was tougher than Dad, which might have been a mistake. When she physically fought with my dad after he came home drunk with no money to feed us, she was the one who wouldn’t back down. She would throw herself at him, hitting him with anything she could get her hands on. Night after night she was the one who ended up battered and bruised on the floor, not him. But she just kept getting up.[2]

She even did childbirth tough:

“I was born in that very kitchen. My granny made my mum scrub the floor with a brush to take her mind of the contractions. It killed two birds with one stone. She didn’t notice the pain as much as she had a clean floor. [3]

In 1962, when Jimmy was 6 years old, his family immigrated to Australia settling in Adelaide. Unfortunately, things for the family didn’t improve with a change of scenery and their battles continued. His mother left his father but finally returned marrying Reg Barnes, the guardian angel who stepped in and loved those children like his own.

Yet, his demons pursued him and he was gripped with fear. He takes us into this space throughout the book but most poignantly in the Prologue:

“From the moment I start to drink, I feel absolutely nothing. When I first started taking drugs and drinking, I found the fear that had filled me since I was small almost disappeared. The fear of not being wanted. The fear of letting my guard down. The fear of letting anyone in. The fear of being found out. The fear of not being worthy. The fear of looking into my own eyes. It was gone. All of it. As long as I stayed smashed.[4]

While the book definitely delves into his dark side, there was also love joy, and family and it wasn’t all bad. There does seem to be a glimmer of hope there somewhere, which may just be the fact we know “Barnsy”not only survived but also had a great career and family. He became a success.

So, the book has a very strong tension between the public success of his music career juxtaposed against a brutal childhood Barnes was blessed to survive. It is probably this tension which gives the book much of its force a long with Barnsy’s down to earth, personable wit. After all, you feel like you’re sitting down having a yarn together as you read his story and get to know the man inside the rock legend.

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At the book signing.

While I would recommend Working Class Boy to anyone, I would particularly recommend it to men battling with depression or adversity. Despite its horrors, it really is an uplighting story of success against incredible odds…a great Christmas gift.

Have you read Working Class Boy or have a Cold Chisel of Barnsy story? I’d  love to hear from you.

xx Rowena

 References

[1] Jimmy Barnes, Working Class Boy, Harper Collins, Sydney, 2016 p 358.

[2] Ibid p. 11.

[3] Ibid p 13.

[4] Ibid p I.

Mega Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You might want a cool drink this weekend. It’s warming up around here and we’re enjoying some glorious Spring weather.

It’s not every week that I can tell you that something’s happened. I’m not talking about my usual staring at the waves or up into the clouds and finding peace, joy and harmony in the trees.

No, indeed.

I’m talking about some pretty extraordinary stuff. Not that I’m showing off because I was just in the right place at the right time, which I’ve got to tell you is a bit of a rarity for me…especially when all this happened at our local beach an hour from Sydney. We’re not a backwater but we’re hardly Mecca either.

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The kids learning to surf.

Wednesday morning, the kids started a three day surf course. I was really excited about this as I have a secret passion for surfing, even though I’ve only caught a few waves in my life time and they were lying down. Yet, I loved that sensation of surging through the waves. Wow! My husband has also been interested in learning to surf and so we bought a board when we were in Byron Bay a few years ago but it’s never seen the beach and has been filed away in the deepest, darkest recesses of the garage…a doomed holiday “romance” of sorts.

So, the kids are lined up on the beach learning how it’s done on the sand before they hit the surf. I’m taking a few photos and follow them down to the water.

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That’s when I spot a group of Tibetan monks on the beach. They’re dressed in their robes. The same coloured robes as the Dalai Lama. Not only that but they’re all lined up carrying surfboards.

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Blessing the Beach.

That’s right. There was a group of Tibetan monks at our beach going surfing. Well, not quite going surfing yet because they were giving a blessing for the beach, posing for photos and talking to the media. Then, they changed into board shorts and life jackets before they headed out.

I’ve written two posts about their visit:

Accidents, Blessings & Tibetan Monks at an Australian Beach.

The Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia

Backtracking a little, that morning I had a nasty fall at the shops and sprained my ankle and tore a hole in my knee. There was no one around at the time and I must admit it would’ve been really good to have someone help me get up. Even better, just imagine if those monks had found me. They could’ve carried me back to the car and blessed me on the way. What a shame! That would’ve been fantastic!

But, I’m Tonka tough. I kept going.

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The Family with Jimmy Barnes at Book Bazaar.

Saturday morning, was planned excitement. Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes was at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar, signing copies of his book: Working Class Boy. I’m currently reading the book and love loving it even though it’s heavy, emotive, dark and very much like Angela’s Ashes. I’ve actually found it pretty hard finding out the back story behind the man. A man who is as Australian as Vegemite. Pretty much every Australian “of a certain age” has a story about Barnsey and or Cold Chisel.

Anyway, meeting Jimmy was pretty nerve-wracking. Not because I was nervous or shy but because I was desperate to get a good photo of him and ideally him with us for the blog. However, I knew they were  expecting 200 people through in 2 hours and they had at least 3-4 queue cops on duty. In the past, I’ve found that while they talk about embracing social media, bloggers don’t even rate a spot at the bottom of the pecking order. I just had to hope. Pray. Usually, the long lens comes through, but queue cops can show no mercy. When you’ve had your allocated 30 seconds, you get the boot.

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This queue cop wasn’t wearing the official t-shirt and looked like he was in the wrong side of the globe.

However, unbeknown to me, I had two magic tricks up my sleeve. I’d at least read some of his book and I showed compassion. Who wouldn’t? He might be a famous rocker now, but once upon a time he was a little boy living in a war zone and as a Mum, I wanted to pick up that little boy, give him a huge hug and a Matchbox car.

Here’s the full story: Jimmy Barnes: What do you say when you meet a rock legend?

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Jimmy Barnes signing our books.

Being a complete and utter dag, I sad as much to him as he was signing the book and made a connection. Just because your famous, it doesn’t mean you don’t need people to care, listen to your story and give a damn.

So, I’ve felt like I’m sitting on Cloud 9 after those outstanding experiences this week and yet, at the same time, the cough is more repetitive and less productive than even though my lungs are clear. My ankle is still swollen and badly bruised from the fall but doesn’t really hurt…the ups and downs of life.

This weekend is also “Bathurst”. That is the “Bathurst 1000”…a 1000km race around Mt Panorama with such thrills as “Hell Corner” “Forrest’s Elbow” and “The Chase”. I don’t think any of this track is what you’d consider “safe”. It’s definitely a case of “maniacs only need apply”. Another aspect of Bathurst is the intense rivalry between Ford and Holden. Will Davison & Jonathon Webb won this year and yes they were driving a Holden!

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one and I’ll be trying to visit everyone for  coffee.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at https://parttimemonsterblog.com/  and you can click through to the linky here

xx Rowena