Tag Archives: family history

Weekend Coffee Share – 17th January, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

My apologies. There are slim pickings on the baking front this week after a massive bake-a-thon on Tuesday. Since then, I’ve been trying to minimise the cooking with its inherent mess-making so I can make progress on the house and do some writing. I made a commitment to write in an extended journal this year, and my efforts have been intermittent, and we’re not even out of January yet. Then, when I do write, it takes hours and it looks like I’ll be through what is quite a thick A5 volume by the end of the month. I’ve been holding onto a lot of stuff, and I’m not sure whether it’s good to bring it all back up like this, or not. However, I should put a disclaimer in the front and clarify that this is where I deal with the dark stuff, and I’m actually reasonably okay. Or, at least I was before the teenager got stressed out, and took us on a panic with him. Of course, he rose back up to the surface straight away, but it’s taken us a bit longer.

The highlight of last week was my Great Aunt’s funeral. Not that we actually attended her funeral in person. Rather, because she lived in Brisbane over the Queensland border which is closed to people from Sydney due to covid, we had to watch it via livestream video link.

Our tribute to Aunty Louise – white roses and the Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart I made.

Now, I understand that this is now pretty much de rigeur with funerals nowadays, and perhaps you’ve already been there, done that. However, this was our first time, and there was a lot to consider. We’ve been to what we call “watch parties” on Zoom before where we’ve gone round to a friend’s place to watch a broadcast together in a small group. So, this gave me the idea of driving down to my parents’ place and watching it with them and my uncle to recreate some sense of the family coming together to celebrate my aunt’s life. It took a bit of talking round to get my Dad onboard and we soon delegated all technical matters to my husband who works in IT and I promised to bake, and Dad said he’d pick up dinner. Mum bought some exquisite white roses and equally beautiful dahlias from her exclusive florist. It was all supposed to go so smoothly, but of course, it didn’t. The derailment began when I couldn’t find my oufit in my cupboard and I ended up pulling everything out because I had to wear these new Italian linen culottes I’d bought recently, even though I wasn’t sure which top to wear and the top I’d had in mind was also missing somewhere at large in my wardrobe. From there it only went down hill where I couldn’t find the link to the funeral in my email via my phone and Geoff couldn’t connect his laptop to my parents’ wifi. So, even though the video cable was connecting to the TV, we ended up with all five of us hovering around Dad’s laptop. Each of us could barely see the screen and while there were buttons to operate different cameras, we weren’t game enough to touch anything and so the slide show of photos from my aunty’s life, appeared like a series of small postage stamps on the screen. At this point, Mum wanted to go and watch it on her own laptop where she could actually see something, but we couldn’t get it up and running in time. So, it was just as well I’d done all that baking and Dad had bought some great food, because we felt better after that. Food had brought us together is a way that technology had failed.

All of this would’ve been rather funny had it appeared in a comedy sketch. However, it was deeply disappointing when we were trying to grieve the loss of our much loved aunt, and that’s why I’ve shared our experiences with you and plan to write a more detailed post about watching a funeral online. If you want to do it in a group, you need to treat it like an event. You just can’t rock up and assume everything will go smoothly, especially when your emotions are already churned up.

After the funeral and my massive baking efforts on Tuesday, the rest of the week was fairly quiet. It’s been pretty hot, and too hot for me to go out at the peak of the day. My daughter, however, was more adventurous and warned me over the phone that she’d turned into a lobster at the beach.

Map of Patonga NSW 2256
Above: A local map with Patonga at the centre. We live at Umina Beach and that bit of land jutting out on the far right corner is Palm Beach headland and the lighthouse sits on top.

Then, today I really felt the need to get out and my husband and I drove over to Patonga to go for a walk along the beach and rocks. Being a keen sailor, Geoff was keeping a keen eye out on passing yachts. They always epitomise freedom and escape to me, but I don’t understand the technical nitty gritties. It flies straight over my head as sure as any seagull. For me, it was great just to be outside again and to have that vast sense of almost endless space you have at the beach when you look out to see and there’s nothing but blue for a seeming eternity. I also needed some exercise…a walk…and when I was last in Patonga, I’d walked around the rocks and found some intriguing swirl patterns on the sandstone, which I wanted to check out and photograph again. It turned out that the rock platform also had these swirl patterns and I’ll have to look into them further. Intriguing…

Patonga

By the way, I should’ve mentioned that Geoff was on holidays this week and still has another week of leave to go. It hasn’t really been very relaxing so far, as he’s been working on repairs at home. We had planning to go away to stay with family inland from Byron Bay, but we didn’t want to risk picking covid up on route and any of us getting sick. We tend to go up once a year, and we thought the timing could be better later in the year. –

My feet with these amazing concentric patters in the sandstone at Patonga.

This coming week, our kids (teens) are off to youth camp for a few days with Church and then our daughter is going off to a Young Carer’s camp at Camp Breakaway about an hour away from here. The break will do us all good. Our son is also helping out with sound at camp and also has two DJ slots and he’s really looking forward to that and takes it all very seriously. It’s very important to him, and he seems to be quite good and developing well. That’s a relief in itself because it’s not always easy for young people to find their thing. Now, we just have to hope covid gets lost and the entertainment industry can get back on its feet.

We were in awe of these massive chunks of sandstone which had fallen from the headland, and smashed into pieces. Glad e weren’t standing down below!!

Well, it’s time for me to get 40 winks now, and head off to bed. How has your week been? I hope you and yours are being spared the worst of these dreadful Covid pandemic. Have you been vaccinated yet? How was it? The vaccine, is, of course, our big hope.

This has been another Weekend Coffee share now hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/2021/01/08/welcome-two-in-one/ We hope you might come along and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 11th January, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week I’m going to keep it short and sweet, because I’ve been running around so much today with my teenage kids on school holidays, that I’ve forgotten what day of the week it is.

Well, to be fair, I’m not sure if I ever know what day of the week it is, but it’s much harder during school holidays, especially our extended Summer holidays where we Australians tend to bake in the sun so much, our brain cells get fried. Even if we’re not indoors, the heat can do crazy things to us anyway.

So, I invite you to join me for a rather odd assortment of “snacks”. I’ve been baking all night, because we’re going down to my parents place in Sydney to watch my Great Aunt’s funeral online. She lived in Brisbane and the NSW-Queensland border is currently closed and so we can’t get there. This is a story being repeated right around the world, but it still doesn’t feel right, comfortable or respectful. We’ll all supposed to make the effort and be there in person to pay our respects and also to get together and share stories, photos and ironically usually quite a few laughs. I also find funerals very therapeutic, as you have that shared grief, and it’s really good to come together in that, and I always find I learn so much about the person too.

Anyway, I’ve been busy baking a Macadamia and Caramel Tart, my grandmother’s Bran Cake recipe and also my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits, which I’ve featured a few times on the blog lately. However, they’re only partially cooked at the moment, as I want them to be as close to straight out of the oven as I can manage tomorrow. I loved baked stuff when it’s still hot straight out of the oven. It’s so much better.

In between all of this, I was able to get out on a picnic with some friends. We went out fora paddle in the kayaks and I also played badminton very, very badly with my friend and her son. He’s about nine, and has spent the week at tennis camp. I’m just over 50 with long standing disability and health issues, and to be perfectly honest, I had real trouble even hitting the shuttlecock, and my efforts weren’t helped by the wind. So after failing to discover some lost inner talent, I naturally headed down the comedy route and we had a lot of fun. I joked about hitting it right over the train line, when it took three or four goes to even make contact with the shuttlecock. Indeed, when I reflect back on my efforts, it reminds me of the Swedish chef from The Muppets. I always loved him.

Well, I’m going to head off now.

However, before I do, I just want to mention that the Weekend Coffee Share has changed locations. It’s now being hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/2021/01/08/welcome-two-in-one/ We hope you might come along and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Searching Through the Old Family Photographs…

Why does it take the death of a loved one for us to open up, organize and enjoy the very best of our old family photographs? How could they end up in compete disarray, scattered all over the place, shoved in an old shoe box or ignored? Why don’t we look at them more often? Appreciate them?

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t need to come back here so often. I’d already know.

Then, somebody dies, and all hell breaks loose.

Where is that !@#$ shot from 1947?

Not in any of the easy-to-find places.

On New Year’s Day, my very much loved Great Aunt passed away, and I was back at it again.

Unprepared.

Pages from my great grandparents’ photo album where my grandmother is the little girl.

To make matters worse, I’ve lost the scanner cable, and I have a huge pile of snaps aka precious memories, to copy because, of course, it’s all about the slide show these days, and the old static album’s been thrown back into the ark. Moreover, due to covid clusters in Sydney, the Queensland border has closed yet again to NSW. So, we’re not allowed to go to the funeral, and will be watching it online. This makes the photos even more precious. They’re the only concrete thing we have.

So, I’m currently sitting here with a pile of photos ready to be scanned, and I just know I’ll never be able to put them back where they came from. Of course, this would drive your garden-variety perfectionist round the bend. However, being somewhat more laissez-faire, I’m not that fussed. I’ll just find a few empty pages at the back of a random album, and when I’m preparing for my son’s 21st, I’ll find my grandmother and her three siblings standing in front of Mt Tibrogargon in amongst his baby photos.

My grandmother (second from the right) with her three siblings in front of the rather imposing Mt Tibrogargon (one of Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains) around 1940.

Of course, you’d never do anything like that, would you?!! No! Not ever! All your photos are neatly arranged in chronological order, and possibly even scrapbooked.

However, what I lack in organization, I made up for in presentation and generosity. No one outside these four walls saw the chaos. They just clicked on an email and saw a wonderful, eclectic series of family photos of my aunt, uncle, grandparents, cousins and beautiful memories, and felt the love.

It’s the love and shared memories, which keep drawing me back to these precious photos, and why they’ll always be special. The people may no longer be with us, but the photos continue to keep them close.

Have you shared any special family photos or stories on your blog? I’d love to see them and hear your stories.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Honey Biscuits – My Grandmother’s Recipe.

Today, the forces of chaos which govern my scrambled egg existence, conspired together to prompt me to sort out my Grandmother’s recipe for Honey Biscuits. I am an Australian of German descent on my mother’s side, and my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits were as much a part of Christmas as my mother’s traditional English-style Christmas cake and my Christmas pudding. The biscuits were round with half a blanched almond stuck in the middle like the star perched on top of the Christmas tree. They lived inside big glass jars from another time zone, which always seemed strangely magical (even when they were empty).

These Honey Biscuits were very special, but they were also my grandmother’s thing. I’ve never seen my mother make them, although she’s always been an accomplished cook and was famous for her Sponge cakes, which were typically served with lashings of passionfruit icing and a thick layer of whipped cream.

Not having the recipe until after my grandmother passed away, I found an alternative in a German cookbook my grandparents had given me. These were very nice, definitely German, and were reminiscent of the Honey Biscuits, but were definitely NOT THE SAME!!

I don’t know if that really matters. Or, whether it’s just the spirit of the thing that counts. Moreover, I guess you’ve got to ask at some point whether you really want to keep on eating food from 200 years ago every Christmas just to satisfy tradition. Or, do you try something new? Indeed, do you make Christmas food that you and your current day family actually likes, and is more in keeping with your usual fare?

Being a lover of history, ceremonies and traditions, I’m all in favour of going retro one day a year and having the same old same old. Without the carving of the Christmas ham and the lighting of the Christmas pudding along with my aunt’s Mango and Avocado Salad with cashew nuts, it just wouldn’t be the same. Actually, you can add scorched almonds and shortbread to the list. However, what I really love about Christmas lunch is catching up with the extended family after another year and seeing how everyone’s changed. Or, indeed, how some have stayed the same. I come from a large family too, so that makes for added excitement, a swag of personalities and stories. Moreover, there’s always one of two who enjoy too much Christmas cheer.

However, this year our Christmas will be rather different, as we will be hosting Christmas Day at our place with only my Mum, Dad and possibly brother coming over. This has sent us into quite a tailspin and we’re currently in the throws of carving up an old piano and trying to vacate the loungeroom to get the new floating floor down in time. It’s a nightmare, but at least I now have a pile of cookbooks ready to exit the house.

It was sorting through these cookbooks, which took me back to my grandmother’s Honey Biscuit recipe. You see I found a recipe book from Hahndorf, the German-Australian village in South Australia which my grandfather and three generations before him called home…”Recipes From My Grossmutter”. I also found “The Barossa Cookbook”, which was published at the end of WWII. The Barossa Valley is best known as a wine-producing region, and it’s not far from Hahndorf. So, when it came to sorting out this recipe, I thought this cookbook was almost a sure fire bet. After all, it’s one of those community cookbooks where people contribute their favourite recipes, and their names are printed down below.

Fortunately, although I’ve never made my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits, I do have her recipe and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her make them. However, while this sounds like I’ve got it sorted, the handwritten recipe didn’t inspire me with confidence. Had she left something out? It was also written in pounds and ounces, which always does my head in, and is almost a sure fire recipe for catastrophe.

My Grandmother’s Recipe for Honey Biscuits

1/2 lb Honey

1 lb Sugar

4 eggs

4 teas bicarb soda

a little acid

a few drops of lemon essence

Flour – flour enough to roll out.

After she lists the ingredients, she seemingly inserts herself into the process, and it soon becomes clear that my grandmother is leaving the main road and making her own way cross-country. There’s what the recipe says, and then there’s HER WAY which she introduces as “I use”. She then proceeds to halve the recipe, which seems fair enough, as I reckon the full amount would keep the entire Von Trapp family in biscuits from one Christmas to the next.

However, it’s the next bit which really captures my attention: “I beat the egg whites till stiff, add sugar and beat for awhile then add the yolks and beat again.”

Why does she separate the eggs and beat up the egg whites by themselves? This is what you do for making sponge cakes. However, as I glanced through the other recipes for Honey Biscuits in the Barossa Cookbook, nobody else mentions that. So, why did she do it? Was this her special secret for producing feather-light Honey Biscuits? Or, was she just making more work for herself?

I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to post her recipe on the blog. I need help. Do any of you know why this is so? If so, please explain.

The other thing I’d like to address is what constitutes your authentic German-Australian Honey Biscuit, and how does it compare to the German original? Or, is there a German equivalent?

I thought the Honey Biscuits were a form of Lebkuchen. However, Lebkuchen is more of a spiced biscuit based on ground nuts, where the Honey Biscuits are only lightly spiced, use flour and are as the name suggests, honey flavoured. Apparently, the Honey Biscuit is an adaptation to the Australian context, where German immigrants couldn’t access spices easily back in the day, and in a sense developed their own baking dialect in the same way they came to speak: “Barossa Deutch” (Barossa German). That said, there are variations of Honey Biscuit which are a lot more spicy, and more in keeping with their authentic, German roots.

So, there is this sense of recipes migrating from the mother country and being translated and adapted to the new one, with Australian-Germans putting their own stamp on this old tradition. On top of this, you have people like my grandmother who did their own thing, experimented and adapted. For me, this is very much in keeping with the same pioneering spirit, which saw my ancestors embark on ships for an unknown country on the other side of the world and take a chance.

So, which version of the Honey Biscuit is the real McCoy? Which should I bake and carry forward to my own children?

I wasn’t sure. However, an inspiring solution hit me in the face this morning, after I’d had time to sleep on it. That just like Refrigerator Biscuits where you can make variations from the one basic dough, you can also make a batch of Honey Biscuits where some taste more like honey, and others are more richly spiced. After all, nothing is set in stone – even traditions. They can always be taken forward and adapted with themes and variations.

Have you ever tried making Honey Biscuits and how does your recipe compare to my grandmother’s recipe? Meanwhile, in addition to baking the Honey Biscuits, I’m going to have a go at making authentic German Lebkuchen from a recipe over at Daring Gourmet. She even making her own candied peel and spice mix, so it could be a bit much on top of getting the house ready for Christmas, but isn’t Advent the season of insanity where we always do, spend and eat too much? It’s too late for me to challenge that this year, but January is only round the corner along with an end to 2020. I know for many, that will be the be st Christmas present of all!!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s the link to the “Authentic German Lebkuchen Recipe” if you’re feeling daring.. This recipe is based around ground nuts, has no flour, and seems heavily spiced: https://www.daringgourmet.com/traditional-nuernberger-elisenlebkuchen-german-lebkuchen/

T- Toowoomba, Queensland…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my travel series for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge where we’re taking a virtual tour of Places I’ve Been.

In case it hasn’t already come to your attention, this list of places seems extremely random and looks like something plucked out of a lucky dip. However, trying to allocate a place to every letter has been challenging, and I’ve also tried to give a broad smattering overview of where I’ve been within these constrains. However, I’ve still managed to leave out two entire countries…China and Hong Kong. That does seem a little unfair. However, they had some stiff competition. Well, perhaps I should’ve written about China, instead of Canberra. However, that would also have meant going looking for photos from 1989, and I wouldn’t know where to start.

Today, we’re leaving Sydney behind and travelling up North via the M1 Motorway and veering off at Hexham onto the New England Highway, which is generally known as “the inland route”. Toowoomba is is only 864 km up the road. So, we’ll be there in around 10 hours give or take. However, since you’re travelling with the likes of me, it could take a hell of a lot longer, and they could well be sending out a search party long before we arrive. I’m well-known for stops, which encompasses everything from: “Hey, look there’s a Kookaburra” to multiple toilet stops. I always end up regretting that cup of tea before we hit the road.

So, out of all the cities starting with T, why did I bring you to Toowoomba?

Great Grandparents Haebich mama and kids toowoomba

Toowoomba looking out towards Table Top Mountain in 1948. My mother is pictured front left with her mother, Ruth Haebich (Gordon). The older couple are her parents in-law, Clara and Ed Haebich, from Hahndorf, South Australia. Due to war time restrictions on travel, they’d been unable to get to Queensland for my grandparents and I think this was the first time they actually met my grandmother and the kids.

Well, I could’ve taken you to Terrigal, one of our local beaches. However, we went to Sydney yesterday, and I’m going local tomorrow. Besides, we really liked Toowoomba with it’s panoramic views, crisp mountain air and old-world, country charm. While it’s known as the “Garden City”, it could well be known as Queensland’s “Mountain City”. That said, at a mere 800 metres above sea level, that’s more like a hill by international standards. However, when you live in a country that’s almost as flat as a pancake, you’ve got to be thankful for whatever altitude you’ve got and it doesn’t take much for a mole hill to be reclassified.

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We timed our visit to Toowoomba well and caught some stunning Autumn leaves.

Although we’re approaching Toowoomba from the South, it’s also located 125 km west of Brisbane by road. The estimated urban population of Toowoomba as of June 2015 was 114,622. There’s a university and it also hosts the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers each September and there are more than 150 public parks and gardens in Toowoomba. Considered the capital of the Darling Downs, it’s also developed into a regional centre for business and government services.

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Although I’ve been through Toowoomba onboard the McCafferty’s bus to visit my late grandparents in Ipswich more than I’ve actually stopped off, I’ve actually been to Toowoomba a couple of times and really liked it, the views and the crisp mountain air. I had a friend who lived in Toowoomba who I actually met on one of these McCaffertys bus trips. Finding out we were both writers, we had a lot to talk about. Indeed, I think we talked all night along with the two we palled up with in the seat in front. Anyway, I ended up getting a bit of a tour and really liked the place.

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The Office Building, Concordia College, Towoomba.

I also have family connections to Toowoomba and the surrounding region. My Mum’s two younger sister were both born in Toowoomba while my grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, was Acting Principal of Concordia College in Toowoomba. It was a Lutheran co-ed boarding school , which does seem rather progressive for the times but it was strict. One of my grandfather’s many stories was about how he’d tell the students:  “girls you can be friends with boys, and boys you can be friends with girls, but if we see you pair up, you’ll soon find one of us alongside you.” We’ve always felt this was a very sensible, enlightened approach, especially for the 1940s.

6-Big house or school

A photo of the rear of school taken by my grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, back in 1948 before the world went colour.

Anyway, all of this brings me to a family day trip we had to Toowoomba back in 2010. Back then, our son was six years old and our daughter was four and let’s just say Geoff and I were also a bit younger. We were staying with friends just outside Ipswich and having fond memories of my first visit to Toowoomba and loving the mountains, I thought we’d head up for a day trip. As usual, our trip wasn’t planned and was rather spontaneous. However, I did want to see Concordia College. I’d seen the photos of my mum and her older brother standing in front of the school gate when they were roughly the same age my kids were at the time. There were rows of Bunya trees and it was just a very quintessentially Queensland scene and my mother was part of it.

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My grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, centre stage.

However, when we approached the school office, I never expected we’d be given a tour of the school grounds, and I actually saw my grandfather’s portrait hanging on the wall alongside the other past principles. I was pretty chuffed about that. However, I should also point out that I had Master 6 and Miss 4 in tow,  and while you’d expect a school to be somewhat understanding of young kids, we were there representing my mother’s family. You know the old-style hat and gloves brigade. My grandmother always used to sit perfectly still perfectly still with her hands carefully folded on her lap,  as though she she was sitting on a stage all the time. After all, especially back then, that’s what it was like for a minister’s family. They lived under the microscope 24/7, especially in smaller communities. You either had to be good, or you had to develop a very good veneer.

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Photos of previous headmasters on display in the boardroom. My grandfather’s photo is second from the left. Thank goodness the kids were give the freedom to draw on the white board. Could you just imagine the horror of them drawing on these beautiful and rather stately walls?!!!

However, my kids didn’t know much at all about that, or sitting still. Instead, the college grounds probably seemed like one big playground to them and somewhere to run around. Indeed, to really put you in the picture, when we’d had lunch in a park in town, our son found a dead bat and thought it was absolutely fascinating. Just beautiful!

Above: My mother and her brother at the college in 1948 and our kids in 2020.

However, our tour of the school went really well, and I must commend their Public Relations Officer for being understanding and empathetic with the kids. She was beautiful!!

Jonathon & Amelia Toowoomba

The kids stepped back in time at the Cobb & Co. Museum.

Another great place we went was the Cobb & Co. Museum. If you haven’t noticed by now, we’re rather fond of museums. Moreover, when the kids were small, we were particularly found of museums which knew how to educate and occupy the kids and make learning fun.

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I just had to sneak in this very cute photo of our son with a galah puppet at the Cobb & Co. Museum.

Geoff and I are also serious history buffs and what with my  local German cultural heritage, I was particularly interested to find out more about the early days of settlement. Back then, I didn’t really think too much about how my ancestors might’ve displaced the Aboriginal people or even been a part of frontier conflict. It’s amazing how you can store your knowledge in separate files, and it can take awhile for the information to jump across.

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Our son climbs aboard a kid-sized Cobb & Co Coach in the play area. The kids had so much fun here.

Lastly, I just want to mention a great place we went to on the way up to Toowoomba, the Spring Bluff Railway Station and the Spring Bluff Cafe.It’s really worth a visit and the cafe had incredible old world charm and real artistic flair.

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Just a few stairs up to the very quaint Spring Bluff Cafe, which is housed in the former Stationmaster’s house.

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed our brief trip to Toowoomba.

The A-Z Challenge is now starting to come to an end. I must admit it’s been a wonderful diversion during social isolation, and I’ve loved revisiting all these incredible places I’ve been. It’s also allowed me to collate a lot of personal and collective family memories and has been very productive from that point of view. I’m often so focused on trying to dig up stories from the past, that I can forget to jot down and organize our stories from the present, which probably meant a lot more to the living, that those of the dead.

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Thought you might be needing a hot chocolate for the road from the Spring Bluff Cafe  before we leave.

How are you going with the A-Z Challenge? I’m sorry that I haven’t visited very much. Geoff and I have both found ourselves much busier than usual in lock down and it’s been hard to juggle all the balls in the air.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Maitland Thomas Butler WWI – The Brother Who Missed The Boat.

The research road continues today as we meet up with Maitland Thomas Butler, Maud Butler’s older brother. I introduced you to Maud Butler in a previous post: Jack and Maud.

As you may recall, my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy served in France during WWI and a few months ago I set out to gain a better understanding of what he went through. A sense of moderate urgency was given to the project, because our son will be visiting Europe in a few months’ time on a school history excursion. They’ll be spending ANZAC Day at Villers Bretonneau and I wanted him to be fully informed about our family members who’d served. There were quite a few, especially Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French who was killed in action and he is also part of this project.

Jack Quealy WWI

Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy

My attention initially honed onto an entry in GG Uncle Jack’s service records, which showed he was wounded in action in France on the 28th August, 1916. No further details were given and naturally I wanted to know where he was. This seemed relatively simple at the time with all the resources of the World Wide Web at my fingertips.

However, working this out was a lot harder than I’d expected. The information captured in service records is very scant, and doesn’t include the more detailed information a researcher like myself desperately craves. I wanted to know exactly where he was. Find that X marks the spot imprinted the very spot where it happened. To my way of thinking, I also assumed he had to be injured in a battle, and I wanted to know more about that too, along with who he was with and finding tales from or about his mates. The old adage “somewhere in France” simply wasn’t enough. I had to know more. Not getting terribly far, I widened my search and soon found myself swimming well out to sea without a paddle. However, finally, all this research is starting to develop some perimeters, and is taking shape.

Maud Butler AWM Robert Fletcher

Maud Butler in uniform on board the Suevic 1915.

It was this wider search which introduced me to an entire cast of fascinating characters,  including  ship stowaway, Maud Butler, who I’ve already explored in previous posts. On 22nd December, 1915 she stowed away on board HMAT A26 Suevic dressed as a soldier as a desperate effort to get to  the front and serve as a nurse.  I’d hoped GG Uncle Jack had caught the same ship. However, as I’ve already explained, he’d already left on board the Aeneas two days before…another detail which wasn’t easy to come by via the route I used. Much to my disappointment, Maud and Jack weren’t even two ships passing in the night.

While Maud Butler’s story is gripping and also has a complexity which draws me in, I was going to put her to one side and continue my research into the troops themselves. However, not wanting to leave a stone unturned, I wanted to check out her brother’s service records. You never know. I thought he could also have a story to tell.

Indeed, when you read accounts of Maud’s “adventure”, her brother is almost pivotal to the story. Private Les Spriggs mentioned them both in a letter dated 25th January, 1916 from the Aerodrome Camp, Heliopolis, which was published on Wednesday 22 March 1916 in the Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette :

“…The first day out at sea there was a girl discovered on board dressed in a uniform. She was trying to get to Egypt to see her brother who was wounded in a hospital. She was put off on to a passing steamer[1].

Maud’s brother was also mentioned in a message in a bottle, which was thrown overboard from the Suevic on the way to the front. The following message was written by Mr. Ted Blakey, of Manly, to his mother and found off the Victorian coast.

“At sea, Saturday, December 25, 1915, 4 p.m. My dear Mum,—I am sending this note by bottle from the Victorian coast. I hope you will get this O.K. We have just finished our Christmas dinner—turkey and pork. Everyone on board is O.K. A girl was found on board dressed as a soldier; she was going to fight with her brother at Gallipoli, Oh, well, good-bye for the present.—I am, your loving son, Ted.[2]

Maud openly denied she was simply going to the front to see her brother. Rather, she spoke about her plans to serve as a nurse after her valiant attempts to sign up with the Red Cross and at Victoria Barracks failed due to inexperience. However, she mentions that her brother is at the front:

“It is not correct that I joined the ship just in sport, to see my brother who is at the front,” said Miss Maud Butler. “My object was to do what I could to help. I wanted to join the Red Cross, and I tried very hard to get accepted. When I failed I bought a khaki suit and stowed away…In fact, it was before my brother went away at all,” continued Miss Butler, who was seen yesterday at the rooms of the Young Women’s Christian Association, “that I wanted to go. He has been at the front for six months.[3]

However, as it turns out, Maud Butler’s brother, Maitland Thomas Butler, was nowhere near the front in December, 1915. While I can’t be sure of his exact whereabouts, I suspect he was living at home with Mum and Dad in Cessnock and working as a miner locally. Born 10th June, 1897 at Coen, Far North Queensland, he was only 18 years old at the time and underage. The legal enlistment age was 21 and men needed to be 19 years of age to go overseas. However, they could get parental consent.

Fast-forwarding to 11th April, 1917, Maitland Thomas Butler enlisted, putting up his age to 21 years one month and also incorrectly stated that “Weston NSW” was his place of birth. However, on 12th April he was “discharged underage” from the Sydney Showgrounds. The stated cause was “letter written by mother”. It looks like his mother had hotfooted it down to Sydney and submitted a statutory declaration stating that “my son Maitland Butler is only 18 years of age. He will be 19 years of age on the 10th June 1917.” It seems a bit rough that a letter from Mum could end the dreams of  a grown man. However, having had her young daughter try to flee overseas to the front, Mrs Rose Butler was clearly putting her foot down. Getting her own troops back in order. As a parent of teenagers myself, I have a great deal of empathy for Rose and Thomas Butler and I can’t help sensing the same iron will and determination in the mother, which was found in the kids.

However, just like sister Maud who didn’t give up on her first attempt and boarded a second troopship in uniform, Maitland Butler didn’t give up on his dream of getting to the front either. On 19th September, 1917 he enlisted again. This time he was more inventive and signed up as “Frank Emerson” at West Maitland. On 19th December, 1917 he embarked for the front onboard A38 Ulysses from Sydney and disembarked on the 13th February, 1918 at Southampton, England.  On 7th July, 1918 he was taken on strength in France by the 2nd Battalion from the 26th reinforcements.

During his time with the 2nd Battalion, Maitland participated in the Allies’ own offensive, launched to the east of Amiens on 8 August 1918. This advance by British and Empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as “the black day of the German Army in this war”. In Mid-September they fought around Menin Road, Belgium which formed part of the wider Third Battle of Ypres. Maitland Butler was later gassed on the 25th September, 1918 rejoining his company on 1st October, 1918. I will expand on his war service at a later date.

Up until this point, you could probably say that Maitland Butler’s service record, while not without its moments, fell inside what you could call the range of “normal soldier behaviour” (a variation on what the kids’ high school refers to as “normal teenage behaviour”). However, not unlike his famous sister and her voyage leaving Australia, Maitland Butler landed in hot water coming home.

ss_euripides_lsOn 6th September, 1919 Maitland Butler embarked for Sydney onboard the Euripides. All went well until he went on shore leave in Durban,  South Africa and failed to return at the end of shore leave on the 1st October. A day later, he was reported AWOL when his ship sailed for Australia at 1318. Almost two weeks later, on 13th October, 1919 he reported to the AIF Office and was charged with:

Charge 1. Neglected to obey troopship orders in that he was not on board HT Euripides at 1318 2.10.19 when she sailed for Australia.

2.AWL from 2200 1.10.19 to 1130 13.10.19 to 1130 13.10.19

He was awarded 168 hours detention & forfeit 28 days pay AA.46.2d by Lt Beveridge in Durban. However, he escaped from escort while being taken to civil gaol for safe custody 1200 and was captured a day later and charged with gambling by the civil police. 12th November, 1919 he embarked in Arrest on S.S. “Chepatow Castle” for Cape Town and four days later he disembaked ex CHEPSTOW CASTLE CAPETOWN & reported to the AIF Depot. Finally, on 20th November, 1919 Maitland Butler embarked onboard HT Nestor for continuation of voyage to Australia & demobilisation.

He was home at last.

After touching base with Maud and Maitland Butler to some extent while out on Research Road, I couldn’t help but parallel their contrasting experiences of travelling to and from the front. Maud went to very great lengths to stowaway on board HMAT 26 Suevic masquerading as a man in soldier’s uniform. Then, there’s her older brother, Maitland Butler, going to equally great lengths to avoid getting onto his ship in Durban and coming home. Either way, the two of them no doubt gave their parents some hefty headaches and they could’ve used a Bex and a good lie down. Or, at the very least, a very strong cup of tea.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

References

[1] Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette (NSW : 1900 – 1928), Wednesday 22 March 1916, page 2

[2] Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), Saturday 22 January 1916, page 2

[3] Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 – 1918), Wednesday 29 December 1915, page 5

Services records Maitland Thomas Butler.

Wikipaedia.

Weekend Coffee Share – October 28, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been? It’s now Monday morning here for me, which is my usual time for checking in with you after the weekend is done and dusted. I don’t really have much to offer you this morning unless you like a fresh roll with butter and Vegemite on top. Otherwise, you might have to come back later. I’m currently sipping on my cup of English Breakfast Tea, which I re-heated in the microwave after dropping the kids at school and running through the chemist and supermarket. Turns out yet another prescription’s expired. Humph! This is all too much for a Monday morning, especially after things on the home front blew up last night. Like all families, stuff brews for a bit them blows, but it’s not good when more than one person blows at the same time. It’s hard to know how to divide my attention, and not ignore somebody.

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Last week, we drove up to Queensland for my sister-in-law’s wedding on the Gold Coast. It was a beautiful wedding, especially because they’ve both been through a lot and against the odds, they’ve found love again. We had the wedding ceremony on Saturday at 6.00pm and on the Sunday we had what could be described as a post-wedding wake where we met up for lunch at this historic mill site with a large sprawling cafe and an animal farm. It was not only an occasion of catching up with family. I also had some rather deep and probing conversations with a few people, and experienced that sense of delight and disappointment when you meet someone you connect with but doubt you’ll see again. Meanwhile, we were staying with Geoff’s other sister just South of the border at Nureybar, in the hinterland behind stunning Byron Bay. What with going up for the wedding, we didn’t get to go anywhere else, although it was novel to be in the country listening to fruit bats fighting in the fruit trees at night, which to the city person to me sounded rather sinister and macabre.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

Talking about not getting out and about, that reminds me that our so-called “holiday” was cut short a day after two of the dogs got out and Lady was missing overnight. Geoff had been working on the car to get it ready for the trip and didn’t quite latch the back gate properly. When our daughter went to feed them, she found the gate wide open and Rosie and Lady were gone. Just to compound the difficulties, Lady’s tag had fallen off a few weeks ago and I’ve had a chest infection and hadn’t quite managed to get a new tag. So, while she is microchipped, she didn’t have a tag. Rosie had a tag, but as we later found out, she refused to be caught. So, when they were found on the road, they managed to catch Lady and they dropped her at the vet in the morning and we picked her up. Meanwhile, Rosie arrived back at home about 11.00pm looking absolutely exhausted. She’s a border collie x kelpie and she looked like she’d been running all that time and had well and truly overdone it. While the two dogs were at large, my daughter and I were driving around the streets and stopping off at the beach trying to think like a dog so we could find them. Geoff hit the streets with our other dog, Zac, hoping he’d draw them out. They walked about 10 kilometres without finding any trace of them at all.  It was so eerie being out there. The whole place was just silent. There were very few cars or people out and about although we saw quite a few cats roaming about, their eyes glowing in the headlights. It was like we’d escaped from planet Earth and landed on “Planet of the Cats”. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly wasn’t “Planet of the Dogs”. Ours were nowhere to be found.

That was enough excitement.

Bridget O'Donnell and children

Meanwhile, I’ve been digging deeper into my family history research along with pursuing that burning question…how did they survive the horrors of the Irish Famine? This branch of my family, the Quealy’s, came from Lisheenfroor, Moyarta, Kilrush, County Clare. I don’t blame you if that all means nothing. Lisheenfroor sounded like somewhere out of an Irish fairytale when I first heard about it too. To put it simply, we’re talking about West Clare and if you’re familiar with the famous etchings of the Famine which appeared in The Illustrated London News, 1849-50 that’s the area I’m talking about. It’s been pretty confronting knowing my ancestors went through all of that and I dread to think of what they saw and experienced themselves, and yet this is what I need to know. I can’t turn my back on what happened. It is a part of me.

miss_kennedy_medium

However, none of that pays the bills. It doesn’t help organize the family and keep the household running smoothly either. Indeed, it has quite the opposite effect. It sends me into my research tunnel and the world around me could disappear. Moreover, to be able to write this all up in any meaningful fashion, I need to go into this tunnel and nut things out. Distraction is clearly distracting, unproductive and to put so much energy into the research without grabbling with all and writing it up is somehow self-destructive. I don’t know if you agree with that. Yet, the cost of getting to the end and getting it all finished, if that is even possible, is very high.

If you’re a writer yourself, perhaps that rings true to you too.

That constant tension between survival in the real world versus knowing what you’re made of and striving towards that elusive creative or storytelling goal.

Anyway, perhaps I should’ve stuck to offering you tea, coffee and a Vegemite roll. Perhaps, you’re chilled, relaxed and don’t grapple with these tensions. Indeed, I could easy walk down to the beach and post a very pretty photo of the golden sand and rolling ocean glistening in the sun. Some times, it’s not a good idea to think. Worse to dream. Just stay in your rat-run and not take the blinkers off.

Rowena Pearl Beach 2018

Here’s a relaxed outdoor shot I prepared earlier. It’s me on the rocks at Pearl Beach, NSW and that beach in the distance is home. 

Meanwhile, Lady our fluffy Border Collie x Cavalier who is losing black clouds of fur as we head into Summer has plonked herself under my desk and on my feet. She tells me not to grapple with anything and sleeping through life in your bed is okay, as long as a cat doesn’t move into your territory. She tells me that it’s okay to plunder food off the table or the bench and that being in a little bit of trouble is worth a tasty morsel in your belly. She also tells me that life is too short to wait until you get it right to tell a story. Start telling and the story will tell itself if it wants to be told.

Deary me. I would never have thought that Lady could be such a fountain of wisdom. Trust me. She keeps it a closely guarded secret stashed behind her gorgeous floppy ears and fluffy coat.

I think that just about covers things here. How about you? What have you been up to lately? I look forward to hearing from you.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Rosie and ball

PS Rosie insisted I included photo of her. 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 14th October, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I can offer you a slice of apple pie, which my husband Geoff brought back from Bilpin today. Bilpin, which is known as “Land of the Mountain Apple” is a small town in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

Above: Sunrise at the campground, Bathurst.

Geoff stopped at Bilpin on his way home from Bathurst Supercars Championship. Geoff and our son had met up with family and camped near the track and had grand stand seats.  They were only metres away from the start of the race and the atmosphere must’ve been electric. Nothing beats being there.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I were back home. She had dance commitments and car racing isn’t my scene for that length of time and the cost involved.

 

However, the car-racing contingent had a fabulous time.  Our son was apparently in seventh heaven and gets off on the stench of burning rubber and the roaring thunder of all those V8 Supercars zooming round the track. The oldies were taking a bit too long to get moving in the mornings. So, he’d make his own way down to the track and catch a few extra races. As you can see from the photo, he also managed to meet up with his favourite driver, David Reynolds.

Jon & Dave Reynolds

Unfortunately, the results of the race are currently in limbo after stewards slapped the winning team with a team orders rule breach charge.

Meanwhile, on Saturday our daughter was appearing in her dance school’s dance team production. The production had three different acts and our daughter appeared in two. The first act was their rendition of George Ballanchine’s Serenade. It was so incredible that it almost made me tremble inside. I was mesmerized simply by the way the flowing dresses almost glowed with a luminescence under lights. So much of our modern word is fast moving, but this was much more serene with the movement seemingly slowed down. Unfortunately, after only seeing it once, I can’t remember details only the emotions it roused and this sense of being in absolute awe of how well these young women could dance. I have since watched the New York Ballet perform Serenade (on Youtube of course) and these young women can hold their heads high. Unfortunately, I don’t have any footage to share from our production, but you can click Here to see it performed by the New York City Ballet.

Margaret & Edward Quailey

Margaret O’Neill and Edward Quealy/Quailey. They’re my Great Great Grandparents. 

Meanwhile, in between driving our daughter to rehearsals, I have thrown myself back into my family history research. A few months ago, the son of my grandfather’s cousin got in touch and when I checked my notes, they were in a terrible mess. I’d managed to trace this side of the family back to an Edward Quailey/Quealy who married Margaret O’Neil in New Zealand in 1881 and they moved to Sydney in the next year or so. Anyway, I ordered Edward’s death certificate, and this showed he came from Lisheenfroor, Moyarta, Kilrush County Clare. It also showed that his parents were Thomas Quealy and Bridget Haugh. So, I was able to spend a few days deeply immersed in data without really finding out terribly much. However, it does feel like I got to meet every other Quealy family in the district.

I don’t know what all this research tells me. With this particular branch of the family, they seemingly moved into an Irish enclave in Sydney and their children mostly married people of Irish descent. This makes sense in a way. However, I also have Aboriginal family members and that puts a different slant on things. This Ireland which was transplanted onto the the Antipodes, was Aboriginal land. Well, at least it used to be. BTW we also have an Irish Famine orphan who was brought out to Australia, Bridget Donovan. She married and Englishman and two of her sons partnered with Aboriginal women. So, it’s interesting to see how the immigrant experience can vary. That we’re all individuals. That said, some go with the flow, while others blaze their own trail.

Meanwhile, it’s meant to be Spring here, but the only signs of Spring, seem to be the dogs losing their coats. The pups are largely short-haired and the damage isn’t too bad. On the other hand, we’re surprised Lady still has any fur left. In the last week alone, we’ve brushed off enough fur to create a second dog and what with the cold snaps, I thought she might be wanting it all back. It’s actually been uncharacteristically cold and the guys were freezing up at Bathurst. No doubt, I’ll be complaining about the heat soon enough. It’s no doubt just waiting round the corner.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Retracing the Footsteps of Our Cycling Champion.

On Thursday, I caught the train to Marrickville in Sydney’s Inner West to retrace the footsteps (or should I say wheels tracks) of world cycling champion Cecil Walker, who was my grandfather-in-law’s first cousin. Although I’ve read countless newspaper articles about his career, I also wanted to walk the streets where he walked and cycled to get a sense of the man in his own environment when he was still a fish in his own pond before he leaped into the  big pond of American cycling at the Newark Velodrome.

While reading about his wins was exciting, I’m much more interested in finding out about his early, formative years and what it took to reach the top. How did he do it? Was it just hard work or was he superhuman in some way? I was curious, and this is the sort of insight which could be very helpful to our kids. After all, it’s one thing for a random stranger to be your hero. It’s quite another when someone inspirational shares at least some of your DNA. I thought it could be a mighty encouragement.

Herbert William Brooker Jnr.jpg

Herbert William Brooker, Geoff’s Grandfather with his bike in Tasmania. He seems to look quite a lot like like his cousin, Cecil Walker. 

This is the Cecil Walker I particularly wanted to share with my teenage kids, so they understand that success doesn’t arrive on a silver platter. That it takes hours and hours of grueling hard work, talent, strategy, a solid dose of rat cunning and the X factor to boot whatever that might be. That’s not to overwhelm and discourage them, but its easy for kids to look at adults and not realize what it took to get there. They might not become world champion cyclists but hopefully they won’t end up face down in the mud unable to face another defeat either (Me too!!).

William Joseph Cecil Walker was born in 1898 in Marrickville to parents Catherine O’Maley and Joseph Elezer Walker. His father had a grocery store on the corner of Victoria and Sydenham Roads, Marrickville. Cecil was working in his father’s store and went from making deliveries on his bike to joining the the Marrickville Cycling Club. After a shaky start, success followed success and while he was expected to compete in the 1920 Paris Olympics, he turned professional and left for USA in 1920.

Cecil Walker Maddison Square Gardens

In an interview in 1939, he reflected:

“WHILE I was as keen as a new razor to get a break in the bike racing game in America, I must confess that the main reason for my deciding on a trip to the land of skyscrapers was to escape becoming a “hand” in my dad’s grocery store at Marrickville, Sydney. It was a big gamble. With such mighty Aussies as Alf Goullet, Reg McNamara, Alf Grenda and Frank Corry already holding high places in America, and a brilliant collection of home and European anklers on hand to meet the demands of the cycling fans there, the market of peddling wares seemed very much glutted. However, I figured that if I was eventually to go back to go back to weighing up sugar and butter I would have the satisfaction of knowing that at least I made a valiant attempt to escape such a fate.1.”

Marrickville Station

By the time the train pulled into Marrickville Station, it was early afternoon. As you may be aware, I love going on random walking tours with my camera where I aim for a general direction and follow the lens where it leads. Today, I was aiming to find the location of the grocery store, even though it’s been knocked down. However, I wanted to walk around the block and when I checked out the map, I noticed there was a park across the road. I also wanted to walk along the Cook’s River. Lastly, I’d left a message for a school friend hoping we could shift our friendship out of Facebook and back into the real world. So, even though my trip was rather unstructured, surely something would pan out!!

DSC_3516

More wisdom on the walls of Marrickville than from the mouths of our politicians.

However, as I exited Marrickville Station, the street didn’t look right. I’ve driven through Marrickville before and I’d expected a busy road with loads of multicultural eateries. This wasn’t it. I figured that if I went left I’d end up at the river and if I went right, I’d find the grocery store. However, I didn’t factor in my inimitable capacity for getting lost. Well, not exactly being lost, but not being where I intended to be either. Indeed, I’d got right off the grid.

DSC_3523

These gorgeous pooches from Australia Street Stained Glass eventually posed for the camera.

So, as much as walking around on foot is the best way to explore a place, I was mighty grateful when my friend responded and rescued me from my misguided wanderings in her 4WD. Then, as we’re heading for a cafe, I finally see a familiar site. It’s spot where the grocery store once stood. I recognized it from Google Earth. 

Above: The Henson, Marrickville.

After we stopped off at a cafe for a late lunch, we picked up my friend’s dog and headed off to Beaman Park, which runs alongside the Cook’s River and is actually in the adjacent suburb of Earlwood.

DSC_3580

By this stage, I had no idea where I was. You know how it is when you’re sitting in the passenger seat nodding your head. However, my friend was doing a superb job of taking care of Paddington Bear and showing me around pointing out how these seemingly disparate bits of Marrickville fitted together.

DSC_3627

That was how I found myself deposited at Sydenham Station to make my way home. By this stage it was dark and a large, all but full moon was rising above the tracks and into the night sky.

It had been a wonderful day, even if it went to prove one of my favourite quotes:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” 

John Lennon & Allen Saunders 

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

  1. Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), Saturday 21 January 1939, page 8

Mother & the Stolen Roses…Friday Fictioneers.

“Put those flowers back you dirty, little thief!” screeched the elderly widow, praying at her husband’s grave. “Nothing’s sacred. Little guttersnipe stealing from the dead! Where are her parents?”

I ran as fast as my little legs would go, clutching the porcelain roses close to my chest determined they wouldn’t break. We couldn’t even afford a stone for Mother’s grave, and father had made the wooden cross himself. Yet, Mother deserved the very best, and I fully intended to give her a proper stone etched with all our love when I grew up.

Meanwhile, the stolen roses were it.

….

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 © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena