Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. Unfortunately, my parents have colds so we couldn’t go round to see them. However, we were able to focus on Geoff and went to Church as a family for the first time in about 18 months (due to covid) and out for dinner to a fabulous local Indian restaurant. We couldn’t finish it off, and brought the leftovers home so the east will continue tonight albeit more of a nibble. Indeed, I’m about to head out to buy some more chicken to cook up with my leftover sauce.
Did you celebrate Father’s Day where you are? I also understand that it’s a day of reflection and grief for many so if that’s you, I send you a hug and my thoughts.
As you may recall, Geoff and I went to Bathurst what is like three weeks ago now, and I’m still in the very early stages of writing up about our trip here on the blog. I’m also wanting to write some freelance articles as well, but decided to write these posts for the blog first and use them as a launching pad.
However, my third post about a trio of marble sculptures in Machattie Park has become very complicated taking me down numerous deep and meandering research burrows without really feeling confident about the basic facts like who made the sculptures, and how they came to reside in a fernery in a park in Bathurst 200 km WNW of Sydney. My quest has taken me back to the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 where a swag of nations set up camp and showed of their national achievements. In addition to the main exhibition hall in the Garden Palace a separate art gallery was built and two out of three of these sculptures were displayed there and bought by the Art Gallery of NSW who went on to loan them to the city of Bathurst to put in their you beaut park with the band rotunda and massive fountain. By the way, the sculptor was Giovanni Fontana who was a well-known Italian sculptor at the time, who was commissioned to produce a number of public sculptures in Sydney. So far, I’ve been able to trace back the providence of two out of three of the statues but the third one is eluding me and I’ve lost myself down so many rabbit burrows as I said just trying to put the basics together, that I’ve ended up terribly lost and confused to the point of losing what I actually know. Have you ever experienced that?
Meanwhile, the other big news around here, is that Miss sprained her ankle last Friday night at dance. When it happened, they all heard a loud snap and they were really concerned she’d broken it. I missed a call from an unknown number just as I was meeting up with friends, and that turned out to be her dance teacher. They rang Geoff instead who was at home and so he drew the short straw of taking her to Gosford Hospital for hours on end while we waited and prayed for a verdict and I was going through all her dance commitments in my head and wondering how bad this was going to be and the implications of it all. I was also rather concerned about how she was responding to all of this psychologically. For a mere mortal, a sprained ankle is a painful inconvenience but for a ballerina, it can so easily feel like the end of the world. However, fortunately the timing is fairly good and she doesn’t have anything big right away. Her dance teacher has also referred her to special physio, which is probably going hurt us more in terms of the bank account, but you do what you’ve got to do.
Miracles do happen! We are experiencing two consecutive days of sunshine and I’m almost beside myself after that eternity of rain. I’m surprised I’m not outside soaking up some rays, but I have a few things to do, and even in Autumn the midday sun can be a bit much, and I’ll head out later this afternoon.
So, what tickles your fancy? Tea, coffee or something more exotic?
How was your week?
Last week, was pretty incredible for me.
The excitement and dramas began last Monday night when we received a surprise call from our son onboard the Young Endeavour. He wasn’t allowed to use his phone onboard and they had no WIFI access, so we weren’t expecting to hear from him at all while they were away. Of course, that should’ve alerted me to something being wrong. However, he was in good spirits and it wasn’t one of the “Navy Higher-ups” calling on his behalf to say he’d fallen from the top of the mast and was incapacitated. However, the news wasn’t good and I should’ve been expecting the clanger. That morning, they’d all had covid RATs, and three of the youth crew known as “youthies” had tested positive and had to leave the ship. Fortunately, they’d already arrived in Sydney and were docked off Watson’s Bay at the time. So, although their journey was cut short, they did manage to complete the journey from Geelong to Sydney. The news hit the crew hard, as even in those brief seven days they’d bonded really well and had become one. Obviously, there was also the question of whether the rest of them would come down with it either onboard or when they arrived home. Golly, don’t you hate how covid just has to go and rain on your parade?!! Meanwhile, there were even implications for us parents. We wouldn’t be allowed on the base to greet the ship and be a part of their disembarking ceremony, although we could watch them land from the nearby Coal Loader Wharf which had a breath-taking view across the Harbour towards Balmain and Birchgrove (we were out of sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.) My parents and our daughter were all planning to be there. However, Dad is having an operation today and had to pass a RAT and be well) and our daughter has a lot of school assessments and dance commitments. We’ve managed to avoid covid so far, and were hopeful that him being triple vaxed and the power of prayer would spare him (and it did). Meanwhile, we cleared out the caravan in case, but he’s mostly been confined to his room.
Of course, for a storyteller like myself, the return of the sailor was a bonanza and fortunately he was really chatty and didn’t object to a gazillion questions from mum, while I was hastily writing down everything he said as close for word to word as I could. I’m a pretty rapid notetaker so I was more than up for the task. Then, we rang my Dad who sails and so was well versed to ask him pertinent sailing questions and I jotted all his replied down there. By this stage, I had pages of notes and was feeling pretty chuffed. However, this was only the beginning and I’m now behind and have pages to type up. I had another win when he got onto Google Earth and took me on the journey from Geelong to Sydney and telling me stories of what happened along the way. Unlike his mother, he has really good navigational skills, and he was very specific abut where they’d stopped. Btw I thought you’d love to hear that they were moored near Taronga Park Zoo on their last night, and he could hear the elephants trumpeting, especially at 8.00am for some reason and he could also see the seal show.
However, the return of Popeye the Sailor wasn’t our only news this week. We actually had quite a busy weekend. On Saturday, it was Open Day at the dance studio and they gave us a sneak peak into the excerpt of Swan Lake they’ll be performing at production later this year. Miss also performed her new ballet solo for the first time, and it was also her first time wear her new tutu. I was absolutely dazzled, although it seemed strange because I’m so used to the old ballet solo and it’s a very different look. It will be really good to see it when she competes in the competition in a few weeks’ time up on stage and under lights.
That afternoon, I drove up to Long Jetty about 30 minutes or so away where my cousins were holding their studio opening. Gina and Katie are sisters. Katie’s business is Mudita Collective https://www.mudita.com.au/. I must admit it’s funny seeing my younger cousins all grown up and a real businesswoman. This is how she describes what she does: “Inspired by nature’s earthy tones and bohemian vibes, Mudita bursts with femininity and whimsical feels. All of our fabrics are ethically sourced and produced by talented artisans.” Meanwhile, I quite fancied this article from her blog about salvaging your old clothing and turning it into beeswax wraps. I see so much beautiful fabric at the charity shops in clothing that’s too small for me. It’s often really cheap, and I have bought a few pieces with grand ambitions of rebirthing them. So, perhaps making these beeswax wraps might be the way to go. You can read about it here: https://www.mudita.com.au/blogs/mudita-blog/upcycle-your-old-clothing-with-beeswax-wraps
Meanwhile, Katie’s sister, Gina’s business Ginagee Creations has a completely different vibe. This is how Gina describes herself:
“Ginagee creations is a reflection of my creative journey. This forever evolving array of hand-crafted pieces started from a very young time in my life where I was drawing, sewing and crocheting. The more I created, the more I was able to learn and grow as I explored new techniques and ancient crafts. I have not stuck to one particular idea or craft. I am constantly expanding and trying new things to make unique creations. Combined with a deep passion for mother earth, I also source as much sustainable, local, recycled, second-hand materials as I can, so I leave less impact on this precious land. It also allows me to bring a second life and a story into my handmade treasures.” https://www.ginagee.com.au/
Yesterday, the action continued when I went for a picnic on the waterfront with some friends. It was wonderful to see them again.
So, as you can see, I’ve been out and about a lot more this week, but with covid still around, this will probably be more the exception than the rule.
This morning, the awful news hit that Aussie cricket larrikin, Shane Warne, had passed away aged 52 – the same age as yours truly and even a few months younger. The news hit me like an electric shock. I didn’t burst into tears or anything like that, but it just felt so incongruous that this larger than life character could suddenly be “all out” without any warning.
Moreover, while 52 is just over a half century, I’m telling you it’s still young. It’s not enough runs…especially as he has three kids who need their dad, and his parents didn’t need to bury a son either. However, the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was only 44 when he died in 2006. Crikey, that was sad and it was so hard to tell our son, who was only three at the time. He loved watching his DVD of The Wiggles at Australia Zoo.
Warnie had a special place in our family. When our children were very small, my brother was a Warnie tragic and it became a point of connection between the kids and their uncle. For one of his birthdays, we bought my brother this choice find from eBay:
On a personal note, I find it bit hard to believe that Warnie has passed away, while I’m still here with all my health problems. However, it’s always confronting when someone your own age goes before you. Indeed, it can almost feel like death came ever so close and only just passed by your door.
Our family sends our deepest condolences to the Warne family, especially his three kids, Mum and Dad and brother. Must be hard also not getting that chance to say goodbye. Actually, just gut-wrenchingly hard.
Jesus might’ve been born in a manger, but at least he knew who his parents were. Better known by her flamboyant stage name, Susie Sunshine, Julie was mortified to discover she’d been found abandoned as a baby in the back of a 1956 Morris Minor parked outside Middleham Motors, Woy Woy and her genetic identity was an unfathomable mystery. Known as “The Valentine’s Day Baby”, she was conceived in May 1961, but still no idea. However, technology had improved. She’d finally found the courage to order a DNA testing kit. Now, the truth lay in the envelope on her desk.
Can anybody come up with any suggestions for Julie’s fictional father? I’ve left a trail and it’s not that difficult to follow. If you look at the map down below, It’s on the NSW Central Coast in between Sydney and Newcastle.
Pregnant, Alicja had flown from London to Kracow to consult her dead father. An intense man, he’d been a Polish fighter pilot in the famous Kosciusko 303 squadron. After years in exile, the iron curtain had lifted, and he’d died in his beloved Kracow. Thoroughly English, Alicja was a stranger here. Yet, despite longing to be plain “Alice”, she still held onto the Polish spelling.
Strolling through Main Square, she didn’t see the oncoming tram. However, an invisible force shoved her to safety.
Somehow, she would stay.
Yet, could she?
Four years ago, I met Roland in our local bookshop. His father was a Polish bomber plot in WWII, and he came from near Kracow which somehow managed to survive the war without being bombed to smithereens. I have been helping Roland research his father’s story and being in distant Australia, I decided to visit Kracow via Google Earth the other night. It was exquisite. Have you been there? It’s definitely on my bucket list. an interesting aspect to this research is that my Great Great grandmother was born in what went on to become Poland and she was till alive when my mum was a child. I looked up the village she came from some time ago, and didn’t relate to it at all. Meanwhile, I am hoping to find a bakery which makes Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll). Or, I might have to try baking it myself. Soon, I’ll have to start calling myself Rowski!
Meanwhile, I have recently started a second blog, where I’m exploring English-Australian novelist Ethel Turner, who wrote the classic “Seven Little Australians”. However, so far I’ve been showcasing some of her other writing. Here’s the link:
So often when we reflect on Gallipoli, we hear of the men who sacrificed their lives. However, there’s another side to the story. That is the children of the dead and wounded men, also also paid an enormous, and mostly silent, price. Fortunately, the children’s columns in the newspapers provided a space where children would occasionally provide a glimpse, into this world.
On Sunday 30th July, 1922 a letter by Miss Brenda Taylor, aged 9, of Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt was published in Sunbeams, the children’s page in the Sun Herald. Sunbeams was edited by Ethel Turner, author of the Australian children’s classic: Seven Little Australians. A regular feature on the page was called “When I Grow Up”, and children wrote in gorgeous letters talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brenda wanted to be a nurse:
“When I grow up I would like to be a nurse, so that I could look after poor sick people. If there happened to be another war I would go and look after the wounded soldiers. My daddy died of wounds at Gallipoli, where there were not enough nurses to look after the soldiers. I would love to wear the nice clean uniform of a nurse, and be in the children’s hospital amongst the little sick babies, as I love babies, and I don’t like to hear them crying. When I see the returned nurses with their badges I feel sure I am going to be one. I hope little girls will want to be the same so that there will be enough nurses for the poor soldiers if any more wars begin.
— Souvenir Prize and Blue “Sun” Card to Brenda Taylor (9), Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt — a little girl gallant enough, after her loss, to want to continue in the footsteps of her heroic father.”
Just to place young Brenda’s letter in context, there was also a letter from an ambitious crime-fighting detective:
TO MAKE CRIMINALS SHIVER
When I grow up I am going to be a detective, and gain fame, I will unravel mysteries that have baffled the greatest detectives of the world. If It is necessary for me to disguise while working on any case, my disguise shall be so complete that even my closest friends will not recognise me. First I will start In Australia, and when I’ve cleaned that of Its criminals, I will then proceed to London, and in disguise I will visit the slums of that city and learn what I can about different criminals, then gain their confidence, and arrest them in the act of pulling-off some of their greatest robberies. I will always play a lone hand, as you cannot rely on the police, who are generally blunderers. If any criminal defies me, I shall engage him In a battle of wits, and in the end I think I shall succeed in handing him over to the law to receive his punishment. Never shall I quit a case without unraveling it satisfactorily. Many people shall thank me for the services I have rendered them, and for me this will be sufficient reward. My name will spread throughout the world, and every criminal and wrong-doer will shiver at the mention of it.
There was also “Wanderer” from Bondi who’d decided to become a novelist rather than a pirate:
“NOVELIST RATHER THAN PIRATE
In the earlier stages of my life I entertained wild hopes of becoming a pirate; imagining myself, with a three-cornered hat tilted precariously on one side of my head, ordering men to get strung up the yard-arm, or to walk the plank. Lately, I have realised the utter insignificance of that career, as I will not be able to find a suitable crew, and if I did I would soon be hunted down. My present scheme for the future is to become a composer of prose and verse. I will live in a creeper-covered cottage in a quiet country town, there to pursue my work (perhaps I might marry by then, but that will not make any difference— only that the “star” boarder will have to seek a new residence). So as to have some varieties about the place, I will keep a few cows and a small stock of poultry. In the woodland dales I will compose my stories, and. now and then poetry. I hope to become gradually famous as a novelist. Then— and then only, will the zenith of my ambitions be attained— Blue “sun” Card to “Wanderer” (13), Bondi.”
Exploring Brenda Taylor’s Letter Further
Of course, young Brenda’s letter is heartbreaking. It was one thing for young, single men to sacrifice their lives for the Empire. It was quite another for family men with responsibilities and dependents to sacrifice theirs. Young children were left without fathers, wives without husbands, and were left to bring up the children alone. To put it in very simple terms, Daddy was never coming home.
Naturally, I wanted to find something out about her father’s war service, such as which unit he was in, and what happened to him. This is easy enough if you have a name. However, her father wasn’t named in the letter, and I couldn’t just search the service records for: “Brenda’s Dad”- no matter how powerful Google might be.
At the same, identifying a soldier with minimal information isn’t an impossible quest, especially now that so much information is available online. Indeed, these days, the difficulty is knowing when and where to stop. After all, we now have the whole wide world right at our finger tips and sometimes, as in trying to nut out Brenda’s letter, we need to draw on all of that. Even then, there comes a point when you realize, that you have to walk away without the answer. Indeed, that’s where I’m at with Brenda’s story. I still can’t be sure of who Brenda Taylor was, and don’t know her father’s name either. Yet, I haven’t given up. Storytelling is a collective process and hopefully these efforts will just be the beginning.
Yet, on the other hand, part of me wishes I could turn back the clock, and just appreciate Brenda Taylor’s letter at face value. Left well enough alone, and not asked who her father was, and tried to find his service records. After all, it’s such a heart-touching story. Here’s a little girl who lost her beloved Dad at Gallipoli when she was roughly two years old. That’s a serious loss, and I don’t feel comfortable questioning whether her story was true, and doubting the sincerity of a child. Of course, I want to be a believer. Hug this little girl who has lost her dad wholeheartedly without any of these lingering doubts.
However, any researcher worth their salt knows not to accept anything at face value. We have to ask the questions, accept the answers, and then somehow determine what we weave together into our version of the story.
So, despite a day of going backwards and forwards along time tunnels back into the past, I still don’t know the name of Brenda Taylor’s father, and can’t be entirely sure he died of wounds at Gallipoli or back at home.
A False Alarm
Initially, my efforts to identify Brenda Taylor were going quite well. NSW Births deaths and Marriages had a Brenda Beatrice Taylor born in 1915 in Mudgee to parents John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. They were married on the 17th February, 1910 at St. Paul’s Manse, Mudgee. This “G” might’ve been a “George”, and at a stretch, Brenda’s father might’ve been John George Taylor Service Number 7050. He was born at Newcastle-On-Tyne England, and was living at 2 Bay Street, Balmain, which isn’t too far from Leichhardt. However, he wasn’t a great fit. He’d enlisted on the 1st November, 1916 and clearly didn’t serve at Gallipoli. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs M. Foster, not a wife. There was also no mention of daughter, Brenda, either. However, marriages go awry, and he wouldn’t have been the only family man to have fled the home front for the front line without leaving a paper trail.
However, then I found the wedding notice for John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. Brenda’s father was actually a John Gavin Taylor, not a John George. So, that knocked John George Taylor 7050 out of the picture. Further research was required.
There was no other Brenda Taylor on the horizon, although the age of this Brenda Taylor didn’t quite match up. To be 9 years old on the 30th July, 1922, she needed to be born around 1911-1912. However, I couldn’t find an alternative born in NSW or Victoria. So, I persisted and found some good background stories.
Brenda’s mother, Beatrice Brownlow, had been born in 1889 to Samuel Brownlow and Agnes E. Bridge in Coonamble, New South Wales. Samuel was known as a “first-class horse trainer”, which sounded rather exciting:
A Veteran Trainer.
Sam Brownlow Re-appears on the Scene.
To the majority of Mudgee racegoers the name of the above well-known trainer will be quite familiar. The older sportsmen in particular will re member those grand old days when the then champions of the turf, such as King of the West, Eros, Myrtle, Reprieve, Prism, Contessa, &c. , met in battle array on the old course, and memories of Brownlow come back to them fresh and green. And now once more, after a fairly long absonce from the actual scene of turf warfare, Sam has come forth, like a giant refreshed, to renew his former occupation. The old spirit asserted itself — it was too strong for him to resist, and it is a strange coincidence that he will have under his care a horse which he trained a few years ago — I refer to Mr. J. C. Gunnell’s Nimrod. Sam has trained many good horses, notably King of the West, Myrtle, Eros, and Contessa, all of whom won races for the late J. D. Little at Randwick and Hawkesbury. When King of the West won the County Purse (now called the Rowley Mile) at Hawkesbury he was ridden by Tom Donoghue, who is now training in Mudgee. Brownlow once had private training stables on Bombira Hill years ago, where a good string of horses were located. He also went to Queensland with that great horse, Beadsman, with whom he won a great number of races there. Space will not permit of a lengthy description of our old friend’s many succeses as a trainer. We will simply say that he is a first class trainer, and has commenced with Mr. Gunnell’s horses, Nimrod and Grand Stuart, who are being prepared for the Mudgee meeting.
By now, the story was building nicely – layer up on layer up on layer. Yet, there were still some nagging doubts. These Taylors were based in Mudgee, and as yet I hadn’t found a link to Leichhardt, Sydney. Moreover, something else was glaringly missing. Aside from Brenda’s letter, there were no memorials in the newspapers honouring her father’s sacrifice on the battlefield, and this was unusual. Of course, there were families that kept it quiet, but they were few and far between. That also made me nervous.
Then, came the clincher. I came across the obituary for Brenda’s mother, Beatrice. She died on the 25th December, 1943 in Mudgee and it clearly mentioned that she was the “wife of Mr. J. G. Taylor, of Windeyer”, and also referred to her “bereaved husband”. Brenda’s father, John Gavin Taylor, was still alive.
Either Brenda Taylor’s letter wasn’t true. Or, there was another Brenda Taylor.
Brenda Taylor 2.0
I had one last search in the online newspapers at Trove. This time, I came across a wedding photo for a Brenda Taylor who married John Richard Keeffe at St John’s Church, Parramatta in 1938:
“Mrs. J.. Keeffe, formerly Miss Brenda Taylor, of Harris Park, who was married at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on February 5. Misses Violet Keeffe, Ivy Taylor and Emily Keeffe are the bridesmaids, and Valmna Sweeney the flower girl. Photo. by McEnnally Studio”
I cross-referenced this with NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and found her listed as “Evelyn Brenda Taylor”. Would this finally be the clue which unraveled the mystery? Could I finally construct a solid trail from nine year old Brenda Taylor of Piper Street, Leichhardt to her father who really did die of wounds sustained in those early days at Gallipoli?
The closest I’ve come to finding an Evelyn Brenda Taylor is a Brenda Evelyn Taylor, who was listed in the 1911UK Census. She was 2 years old and was born and living in Rawreth, a village and civil parish in the District of Rochford, Essex, England, located between Wickford and Rayleigh. She was living there with her father, Edward Taylor, aged 23 born in Leatherhead, Surrey and was a Farm Labourer; and her mother, Alice May Taylor, was 21 from Chipstead, Surrey.
Could this be the right family? Did they migrate to Australia, and this is the very same Brenda Taylor who wrote into the Sun Herald on the 30th July, 1922?
I still don’t know, but I’m hoping that someone out there can help me set the record straight. I’d really love to know Brenda’s story – the whole story.
If anybody could shed any light on this, I’d really appreciate your help. I don’t have access to Ancestry which would most likely help.
Lastly, I should mention that this is fall of a broader project where I’m researching WWI through the letters of WWI soldiers, and exploring their family history nad lives before they went to the front.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Friday 4 August 1899, page 18
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1943, page 5
 Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 9
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. While for some, particularly in Western Australia where life in almost back to normal, it might have been business as usual yesterday, for us it meant not going down to Sydney to see my Dad “just in case”. This wasn’t particularly upsetting, because we saw my parents a few weeks ago and intend to go down in a few weeks when everyone’s not out and about quite so much. We just wanted to be cautious. After all, you can’t uncatch covid, and you can’t uncatch giving it to someone else. Moreover, when a few of you are highly vulnerable, caution is the better side of valour, as the saying goes.
Meanwhile, during the week people were asking what we were doing for Father’s Day as though it were New Year’s Eve. You can’t just “do nuffin” or “stuff all”, not even when you’re a dad of a bub and all you want to do is sleep for eternity. Gee, in retrospect that now seems particularly harsh. I’d be much nicer to Geoff in hindsight, and even let him put up his feet for the day rather being so exhausted myself, that it was still action stations. We also had the added complication, that I was critically ill much of the time our kids were small, and it wasn’t easy. Indeed, we were parenting in a constant storm. However, we weren’t the only ones, and there are even more battlers out there now what with Covid and everything that goes with it. I give all you mums and dads of young bubs a huge shout out today. Hang in there if you’re finding the going is tough.
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, that Geoff and I were back there juggling newborns. Soon, one of these days, Geoff and I might become empty nesters. This is both something you look forward to and dread as a parent, much like your kid getting their driver’s licence. You’d love them to drive themselves around, so you can hang up your taxi plates. However, you want them to drive inside a very protective plastic bubble. Indeed, let’s make that a concrete-reinforced bunker!
Anyway, our kids are now 16 and 14. Without any hesitation of a doubt, they were much more enthusiastic about Father’s Day spirit when they were in pre-school, and it pretty much got left to me to save the day. I probably should’ve rallied some time last week to get them motivated, but I was lost in a covid fog. Actually, I was touching base with the kids’ teachers. No physical contact allowed for most of this year and the wheels have fallen off and I’m just trying to get the full picture (even if it does fall into the “You don’t want to know department”, as in my daughter’s algebra result).
Anyway, at least Geoff had a chance to watch some car racing today, and the two of us went for a quick bush walk right on sunset. There were some real explosions of colour in the trees and I did take some photos, but more as a reminder to head back today to do them. After all, it’s Spring here and we’re stepping out of hibernation albeit wearing mask and gloves in crowded areas.
My sympathies to people in Melbourne and anyone else who celebrated Father’s Day in lock down. There’s no point trying to put too bright a spin on lock down. It is what it is, but hopefully the numbers will come down and you and yours will be okay. Anyway, we’re thinking of you.
Well, now I’ve finished my toasty, I’ll beheading back to the lookout to explore those stunning flowering trees. It’s amazing how motivating it is to have a beautiful Spring day where the air’s just filled with balmy light. I’m almost on top of the world.
So, was it Father’s Day yesterday in your neck of the woods? Did you do anything to celebrate? Or, perhaps it was more a time of reflection, disappointment or regret. If so, I’m thinking of you. Our day ended hit the downward spiral after dinner. So, we know all about less than perfect special days. Indeed, it’s often these special days which seem to turn out the worst.
Nobody believed me. Not even my own mother. It was 1941. Yet, the Kennedys were already an institution, inscrutable, and you could sense the Camelot legend peculating in the wings.
Of course, I could never say they’d made a mistake or got it wrong, especially when it came to one of their own. Yet, I’d nursed Rosemary Kennedy before and after the procedure, and knew her as she was. Such a beauty. I’d heard the rumours, but there was no justification. It was a crime.
Every week, I took her flowers, but her father never came. He didn’t make mistakes.
Please don’t ask me how a photo of an asylum reminded of the tragic story of Rose Mary Kennedy, who was given a lobotomy in 1941 at her father’s request and spent the rest of her life in one. To read more about her story, you can click HERE.
Just to account for my absence last week, I stumbled across yet another extraordinary family story and I’ve had to fully immerse myself in the details before I could even begin to understand or explain what happened.
In my last post, I wrote about my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner. Well, I’ve always known that her father was a Merchant Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company. However, I’ve known almost nothing about where he went and which ships he served on. So, I was quite excited to find a random newspaper reference online which placed him on a collier called the Dilkerawhich crashed into a small steamer, the Wyrallahin The Rip off Port Melbourne in 1924. He was Second Mate and a witness at the inquiry. Six men tragically lost their lives when the Wyrallahsank and many of them were married with young kids, so these deaths hit particularly hard. Daddy wasn’t coming home. It’s been quite interesting reading the inquiry reports in the newspapers and realizing just how fine a line there was between those who lived and those who died and even the fact that the accident happened at all. Indeed, if you only tweaked a few details, they would have remained two ships passing in the night.
Meanwhile, I’ve had a crash course on shipping protocols, geography, technology. While Melbourne’s one of Australia’s largest cities, I’ve only been there a couple of times and if I had to describe the city, I would’ve mentioned the trams, the Yarra River, fine dining, art exhibitions and the rag trade. I’d never thought of the sea port, even though we sailed out of Port Phillip two years ago when we caught the Spirit of Tasmania across Bass Strait and through this very same Rip which has claimed quite a few lives over the years.
Now, I’m trying to assemble all of the pieces and write the story.
As soon as he walked in, Jan was at peace. The boy with the cuckoo clock heart, had finally found his tribe in this museum of intricately carved clocks. No longer an outsider, they even shared the same heartbeat.
Unable to afford a human heart, his father had found a mysterious cuckoo clock at the local market, which he prayed would save the life of his beloved son. Yet, although the operation was a success, there was a strange side-effect. Dvorak’s American Symphony played like a broken record in his head.
At last, he understood. It was all about the house.
This morning I was reading was reading in the Good Weekend about Keith Austen’s visit to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Although I’ve been to London, I haven’t been to this museum and it was simply something interesting to read about while having my morning cup of tea and bowl of porridge. Unfortunately, coffee’s verboten as part of my daily ritual these days and I restrict myself to cappuccinos in cafes once or twice a week, where I also allow myself two spoonfuls of sugar, which are also outlawed. Mind you, just to be deliciously inconsistent, chocolate in whatever guise it arrives in, is allowed free reign. I mightn’t have the most agreeable digestive tract and I might be generously proportioned, but I’m not on life support yet. I deserve a few of life’s simple pleasures.
In between mouthfuls of porridge and sips of tea, I read about what could possibly the world’s most tragic tribute ever produced by a grieving parent. Following the death of his infant son Patrick, famed English doll maker, Charles Ernest Pierotti, made an incredibly life-like replica which is on display in a glass case at the V & A.
“To me the creepiest exhibit is also one of the most beautiful. It’s a pecularly life-like doll which lies in state in a glass cabinet, a wonderfully realized baby boy with curly blond hair and pale blue eyes. He is wearing a simple, embroidered christening gown. Then, you read the label: “Wax-headed baby doll, about 1900. Patrick Enrico Pierotti died as a baby. His father, the English doll-maker Charles Ernest Pierotti, made the dollas a portrait of him.”
Charles Ernest Pierotti: Patrick Enrico Pierotti. Photo: V & A Museum.
A quick Google search, took me straight into the V&A vault and I could almost reach out and and hold baby Patrick. Feel the weight of a thousand tears and their family’s grieving hearts. Most of us know someone who has endured the grief of losing a baby, or perhaps we have been there ourselves. It’s a shocker…an angst without end.
Interestingly, however, the online catalogue describes the doll in clinical detail without a drop of emotion:
“Wax portrait doll of a young male caucasian child, with blue glass eyes and blonde human hair curls inserted into the wax. It has a pink poured wax shoulder head, with a stuffed cloth body. The doll is dressed in in a long white cotton gown, with ribbon and a whitework trim and rows of tucks. There is also a cream carrying cape of cream patterned cotton, lined with cotton, trimmed with lace and ribbon ties. Long petticoat of coarse linen and whitework, a second petticoat of cream flannel. The chemise is of white linen.”
That I found creepy.
I needed to give this baby more than just a name. At the very least, a start and finish and if I could possibly ever find out, a cause of death. While child mortality was commonplace at the turn of the century, when it came to baby Patrick we have a such a life-like replica which is still in mint condition 118 years later, that I felt he deserved a word story as well as just an image.
Above: Dolls made by Charles Ernest Pierotti Photos: V & A Museum.
So, I put on my researchers cap and headed off in search of a date of birth, a date of death, which I fully expected to find during that period. However, I found nothing. Nothing official to acknowledge that baby Patrick Pierotti was ever here.
I have to admit, that I’m a bit surprised, especially when this doll made in his very likeness is in the public eye. Surely, I’m not the only one who has probed a little further and asked these questions? So, now I’m off to contact the V & A Museum of Childhood and see if they can shed any light on it, and I’ll keep you posted.
There’s something for you to digest over your breakfast or whichever meal is next on your agenda. It’s rapidly creeping towards dinner time here and I still don’t feel like I’ve fully woken up yet. It’s a miserable, rainy Saturday and after doing my morning errands, I returned to my PJs and had a balmy nap with my electric blanket on. Life is good. That said, it could be a bit more productive.
PS While researching this story, I came across an excellent post at Diyala’s blog regarding Momento Mori: What is it? where she’s produced a very haunting piece of art featuring this baby doll.