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
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…
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.
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.