Sepia Saturday: A story of threes

Three Girls Taking Tea : SEpia Saturday 526

This week’s Sepia Saturday theme brought back a fond memory of meeting up with friends, and work colleagues, at Burnett House in Darwin for a high tea.   I was stunned when I realised 14 years had flown past, and writing to get my mates’ permission to publish the photo set up a flurry of chat on Messenger. Sadly, we’re now scattered to the corners of the country, miles apart.

Pauleen Karen Candis 2006 crop

The Dream Team minus Ben.

High Tea at the National Trust property was a real treat back in those days, with a variety of home cooked cakes and scones, and Anna’s delicious lemon curd tarts. On this particular day we got adventurous and had bubbles as well as coffee (or was it instead?). The laughter was not down to the bubbles however, rather our ability to giggle our heads off when together. Our IT guy was included in what we called the Dream Team but being a bloke he just wasn’t in to High Tea.  In the Dry Season it was common to have to share a table and the woman sitting near us looked at us as if we were demented.  Ah, special memories.

Throughout high school I was part of a trio of friends who stuck together over the four years, and for two of us, when we went on to university. Sadly our work and life took us far away from each other and the connection faded. I don’t have a photo I can share without their permission but this is my recognition of their importance in my life through those years. Thanks Maria and Sue for those special times and your friendship.


From Queensland, Sydney and Ireland, three bloggers met at Kew.

When I started blogging, I could never have imagined how many friends I’d make from near and far. Some I’ve been lucky enough to meet at conferences, and in November last year three blogging buddies met up to tour Kew Gardens’ Chihuly exhibition. What a treat it was to spend time with these friends, Sharn from Sydney and Angela, the Silver Voice, from Ireland. You wouldn’t credit that we’d rarely met in person…we had such fun and we were in awe of the magnificent glass displays. The grey weather certainly didn’t dampen our spirits.

three sisters up close

Three sisters (our three daughters) in front of the iconic Three Sisters formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, 1988.

The theme of three continues to my own family with three daughters. Three very special, clever, gorgeous women. Looking at this photo I see that it was during my applique phase and was during our trip to Sydney for the Bicentennial celebrations.

Norman Pauleen and Joan at Smiths Farm

Dad, me and Mum at my aunt and uncle’s farm at Upper Brookfield.

And where did it all start? Perhaps with being an only child and part of a family of three, not the larger dynamic groups that most kids grow up with. It had its advantages but it also had its downsides…I’d have loved to have siblings to grow up with, to play (or argue) with, and now to share memories.

Joan Pauleen and Norman Kunkel query Anzac Sq

What a pouty face! Bookmarked between mum and dad. Mum always liked to be nicely turned out and this was the era when gloves and hats were de rigeur for a trip to the city.

I wonder how other Sepians have approached this week’s topic…why not skip over and check out their stories.

Sepia Saturday – of Casses and Cats

Unknown Man With A Large Dog On His Head (Sepia Saturday 525)

As this week’s picture clearly show, our pets dominate our lives and we are happy to let them do so. Much as we love both dogs and cats, our family is not skilled at training dogs, not having had enough experience. This is a long yarn, so pull up a chair, a coffee and cuddle a cat – or a dog. Hopefully there are a few chuckles here to amuse you.

Peter and cat Toowong 1969

Mr Cassmob loves cats as much as I do.

In our 50+ year history together, cats have been a focus of our lives. I think we may have had one year where we were cat-less but I truly can’t imagine my life without one. Since we’ve moved to the coast we see far more dogs as their subordinates take them for a daily walk along the esplanade. We do love seeing them and realise our exercise regime would get a boost with a dog but wisdom has prevailed.

When we were first married we lived in my in-law’s house in Milne Bay, while they were on another posting to Port Moresby. They had a dachshund and a very old black and white cat. Tinka the dog could tiptoe up the hall to our bedroom on the pads of her paws then, when discovered, would clomp back down the hall, claws out. Her other favourite trick was finding the tissue box and shredding tissues all over the floor. Once the old cat died, we got a young tabby of our own. Tabitha loved nothing better than doing a flying leap into the air to catch a magnificent tropical butterfly. Fun mornings were waking up to a floor scattered with shredded tissues and butterfly wings.

Peter and Les Wewak with Tinka mid 1974

Mr Cassmob (right), his dad and the Tinka dog in Kavieng, PNG.

Tabitha also provided me with a memorable moment when she thought I was an appropriate place on which to deliver her kittens! I awoke to a kitten emerging towards my face. My own new-minted motherhood was not enough to spare Tabitha a sudden relocation to the floor! Not long after we were suddenly posted to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Tabitha and all but one of her kittens went to the local boarding school where we knew the principal well. Pedro the kitten came with us to Goroka and he and our eldest daughter, an infant, were great mates.

Some time later, at house #2, Pedro would be frightened off by the cat next door, Brandi. We never found him again, and we’ve always suspected that he may have wound up as a warm hat for someone, or in the cooking pot because there was a village nearby.  PNG could be tough for both owners and pets – little/limited access to vets, employer-dictated relocations, and permanent departure to Australia (going finish). In the latter case, it was traditional to hand your pets on to anyone else who’d take them. This is how we wound up with Brandi as our own pet and came to love her deeply despite her dismissal of Pedro. It’s also how we wound up with a cattle dog, called Whisky by her first owners. (We were tempted to get a bird and call it Bacardi).


Cass girls on our swing Gerehu 1976

Whisky with our daughters in Port Moresby.

Whisky had a story all her own. Her first family were neighbours in North Goroka (our house #1 there). We had a village behind us and a squatters’ camp down the end of the street. Whisky disappeared when she was just a pup then just as suddenly emerged one day as a fully grown dog. When that family left, we acquired her and she lived with us until we went finish some six years, three houses and another town, later. For the rest of her life she would have an addiction to mackerel pike tins – a typical food for the villagers. It may be why she deserted her adopted parents after we left, and went to the village with one of the staff whom we’d employed briefly.

Our lovely Brandi cat

Our beautiful girl, Brandi.

Brandi had her own adventure when she was attacked by a pack of Labradors just outside our house. Any other breed of dog and she’s never have survived, and we’d probably have had a savaging when we rescued her. She lay in shock in the lounge room for some time but recovered. It was an extremely sad day when we had to take her to the vet’s to be euthanised when we were going finish – there was no one we knew who could take her and at the time the quarantine period was very long (a year?). Voluminous tears were shed. To top it off we went to a child’s birthday party just days later, and they showed a sad movie about a cat…our family needed lots of tissues.

Louisa with Socks and Balloon 1978 Xmas

Balloons are fun!

When we got back to Australia, we had a small cat waiting for us. We’d picked her out when visiting my family earlier the same year. She was a very pretty cat, grey with white paws so we called her Socks – so innovative! She was such an affectionate cat which was surprising as her mother had been completely wild. The vet thought Socks’ dad was a travelling Burmese hence her fur and colouring. We had her for about 10 years before she contracted cancer and had to be put to sleep – again amidst many tears.

Socks was a tough little cat, dismissing a Doberman from our yard and giving our second cat no illusions about his place in the world. Ginger Megs arrived when he was chased up a large gum tree on our property by dogs. When they left, he couldn’t quite figure out how to get down, so he reversed a bit then jumped a very long way – you could see his shock absorbers bounce! Socks made his position clear by giving him a swipe across the chops and never letting him come up the steps to the bedrooms. Ginger Megs (aka Gemma as in PM= Pip Emma, GM=Gemma) was a lovable boofy cat, very large and quite clumsy. Had we know his personality earlier we’d probably have called him Garfield. He thought he was trim, taut and terrific and would balance precariously through ornaments on a shelf or along the edge of a full bath. He too became a victim of cancer and yet more tears were shed.

Pauleen and ginger megs

Nothing like a little cat compression during an afternoon nap. Gemma was no feather-weight.

Kizzle was a co-habitant with Gemma and inevitably won her place in our hearts. She fought off feline flu when she was only a tiny tot and lived to 18 and moved with us to Darwin….did she have some words to say about the flight when we picked her up!


Cats and Christmas Trees: Kizzle.

She was in a sad state when we went on an overseas trip in early 2006 and in hindsight we probably should have had her put to sleep as a kindness though it felt more like it would be a convenience. Sadly our daughters bore the brunt of taking her to the vet for the needle and then burying her in our back yard. We got the phone call when we were in England. Again, more tears and a two-person wake remembering her little habits and happy times.

We had planned to have some cat-free months to regroup, but in those days I’d go to the local shopping centre to look at the pets at lunch time – always a pick-me-up. This little furball stole my heart and became part of our family in mid-2006. Although he promised he’d give me cuddles, it’s taken 14 years to get him to sit on my lap -admittedly he is now a big boy. We gave him the name of Springer because as a youngster he had the habit of kung-fu-ing you as you walked past. He has the fluffiest tail and would trot along with it in the air like a banner, so he also got called Trotsky or Banner Boy.

He grew up with our grandchildren in Darwin and still knows them when they visit. Just a few months older than our eldest grandson, he would get very jealous when Lachie would have toys on the floors and Springer would often be found squeezing into a Fisher Price farmhouse after Lachie had gone home! Springer was no more enamoured of his flight between Darwin and Brisbane than Kizzle was in the other direction. Springer’s Great Big Adventure nearly broke our hearts as we feared many outcomes, none good. As I write, he’s sleeping on one of his many “beds” around the house. As empty nesters now, he’s extremely spoiled, even for a cat.

springer cuddles

It’s very true that our beloved pets steal a part of our hearts but they give us untold love and entertainment.You can read about my early life with cats here, and how a cat helped my family history here.

Do go over to Sepia Saturday and read the stories by other Sepians.

We loved Turkey, in part because of how they look after, and indulge cats – not just their own but others. If you love cats, you might enjoy Kedi, a short movie about Istanbul’s cats.

Daughter #1 with her great-grandmother’s and great-aunt’s cat (left) and her grandmother’s cat (right).



Sepia Saturday: Of schools and tennis

Tennis Players (1920s) Unknown Subjects and Location

Sepia Saturday this week is all about imposing buildings and a very ladylike game of tennis. It seems apt therefore that it immediately brought to my mind, the Catholic High School I attended with its emphasis on ladylike behaviour – sadly I’ve let that fall by the wayside over the years.

All Hallows 1988

This photo was taken of the school in 1988, closer to when our daughters attended than when I did. At the time I was there the top floor on the right contained the concert hall which we approached by a slightly winding wooden staircase. Woe betide us if our heavy shoes made a single sound as we progressed up the floors….ladylike behaviour, remember. And in a divergence, equally heaven help us if any noise or disturbance distracted us from the speaker, play or concert that was being performed on the stage. I’ve thought since what an unfortunate training it was for the modern age where being alert to one’s surroundings can make the difference between life and death in dire circumstances. I don’t suppose the nuns could have imagined such things in the mid-1960s.

I did play on the courts in this image once or twice, goodness knows why. My tennis skills were very mediocre and I was not keen to exhibit my inadequacies to any nun or the other students who passed by.

Similarly another set of courts was directly below my classroom in Years 9 and 10. Strangely I have no memory of ever hearing the ping of tennis balls on a racquet. The prevailing sense from that classroom was the strong smell of hops from the brewery across the road, and my cousin’s teacher slamming the blackboard to the very top when she was in a cranky mood.

Hallowian 1stT 1964 p4

A sketch of the school grounds from the informal magazine, The Hallowian. There’s no indication of who the artist was. It’s certainly changed enormously since then. Nor did I know we were in the University wing.

I first learned to play tennis in late primary school. I have no real idea how that came to pass, but I imagine the local school was letter-dropped or similar, as a number of kids from my school learned on someone’s backyard court nearby for a while. Our teacher was Daphne Fancutt who had been a Wimbledon Finalist in the 1950s. As I grew a bit older I caught the bus and tram to the Fancutt courts at Lutwyche. My inadequacies certainly didn’t improve in a competitive environment and a fellow student from school was somehow teamed with me. He was a very good A-standard player, despite having to deal with the results of  polio, I on the other hand, was P for Pathetic.

While I occasionally attended (to watch!) major tennis competitions at Milton, and even have a signature in my teenage autograph book from Aussie Legend, Rod Laver, I was happy to leave tennis behind well before I left high school. In early adulthood I learned to play squash which I enjoyed much more. I’ve never been a very sporty person even though I walked everywhere until my 20s as we didn’t own a car.

I was delighted to find this 1934 painting of the All Hallows’ Convent on the State Library of Queensland website this morning. It was painted by William Bustard and published in The Queenslander newspaper.

I’ve also found that the library has two gaps in its collection of All Hallows’ annual magazine: 1941 and 1951. Since I have inherited the 1941 edition from my mother and have already scanned her class photo I’ve offered the magazine to them. Perhaps someone else has the 1951 edition.

Why not go across to see where the other Sepians have lobbed their tennis balls this week?

all Hallows' SLQ 1934

Illustrated page from The Queenslander annual, November 6, 1934, p. 23
William Bustard 1894-1973 ; Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

If at first you don’t succeed….a Kunkel mystery

This photo was discovered being used as a backing to another picture. It’s not in great shape and with some Photoshop skills I could probably improve it…however that’s not my strength.

What I do know is that my grandfather, Denis Kunkel, is in the centre of the photo with an older man’s hand on his shoulder. Another man, front left, looks very like my father so I can only assume (yes, I know) that he’s a Kunkel relative. I have a hypothesis on the young woman beside him but….

It’s very likely that the photograph was taken on the Darling Downs in Queensland where Kunkel and Gavin relatives lived. However, I don’t have a clue who the people are, or why they’re gathered. Is it an extended family group, or perhaps a society of some sort?

I keep hoping someone will recognise one of their relatives in the photo and let me know. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again“. Please let me know if you even think one of them might be someone you know.


Mystery photo includes Denis Kunkel: are the other people Gavin family members?

Crazy Month of May – pandemic experience responses

A week ago I thought it might be an idea to share a meme so we can record our experiences during the current pandemic. Here are the questions. Randy Seaver of Geneamusings also suggested it as the topic for this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun meme – thanks Randy! The responses from that will be in two parts – one this week and one after next Saturday.

I’ve listed all the blogs that have responded and the links will take you direct to their answers. If you haven’t visited them before, why not explore some of the other posts and leave a comment?

Ancestral Discoveries Part I* and Part II

Canada Genealogy or Jane’s Your Aunt * Part I  and Part II

Curry Apple Orchard

Deb’s World *

Earlier Years

Empty Branches on the Family Tree Part I* and Part II

Family History Across the Seas

Family History Fun

Family Tree Frog

Geneamusings *and Part II


Lacie’s Genealogy Blog Part I* and Part II

Lois Willis Genealogy and Family History Part I and Part II

Lone Tester

My Tapley Family Tree

My Trails into the Past Part I and Part II

Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Test Patterns

Tracking Down the Family

Under the Nut Tree Genealogy *

Writing my Past

The blogs marked with an * have responded to questions 1-10 and will complete the remainder this weekend…now updated in red. Do go back and check out the rest of their answers

For an Irish perspective you may wish to read The Silver Voice’s posts about life in the covid-19 cocoon. Thanks Angela for letting me include these here.

Thanks to all those who’ve joined in. If I’ve omitted to list your blog, my apologies –  please send me a message and I’ll rectify it. It’s still not too late – if you want to link to my original post I’ll add your response here. It’s been interesting to see how differently it has affected each of us, as well as some commonalities.

Sepia Saturday: Windows and heritage

sepia Sat 7 June

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside. Denis Waitley, American author. (

nora bodyke

This beautiful lady is Nora, my third cousin once removed. Over forty years ago, she visited the home of her great-grandmother (my 2xgreat grandmother’s sister). The home was in the townland of Ballydonaghan, near the town of Bodyke in County Clare.

It was thanks to an oral history tip from a Kunkel cousin that I learned about Nora and her sister in Sydney. I was lucky enough to visit them while on work trips initially and more recently on any trip to Sydney. Over the years Nora has shared so many family stories, provided me with photos and funeral cards, and linked me to the US branch of our O’Brien family. I am truly indebted to her, and for this reason I asked her to launch my Kunkel-O’Brien book in November 2003.

Nora was a trail blazer in her career as a woman clerk with the New South Wales public service as well as serving with the WRAAC Citizens Army Force, eventually rising to be a Captain. This is her entry in the Australian Women’s Register. She is as smart as a whip as well as being a kind and generous person, and I’ve been privileged to have her in my life.

NORA STUFF 097 (2)

Nora’s Irish cousins and mine. We’ve been lucky enough to meet a couple of times when our travels have taken us to Ireland. If you’d like to read more about Hanora(h) Garvey nee O’Brien, you might like this blog post.

The Garvey family in Sydney remembered their ancestors in a stained glass church window at St Peter’s in Surry Hills.

Garvey windows crop

Nothing on this window gives a clue that John and Honora Garvey lived and died in Ireland.

Keep creating new windows from which to look at your world. Never accept your current view of the world as the only view. Let new awareness help you to alter your view and motivate you to be the force of change in your life. Don Shapiro.

Why not pop over to see what other Sepians have found when they’ve peeked out their windows?


Crazy month of May 2020: my responses

My suggestion was that this meme might help preserve some of our experiences during the 2020 pandemic.

Here are my responses. I’ll collate everyone’s later in the week.

What are you most grateful for during this covid-19 crisis?

I’ve had a recurring mantra of gratitude that my mother is being well cared for and safe in her nursing home; that we returned to Australia on 7 March, ahead of the virus spread in India and before Singapore’s 2nd wave; that I have a roof over my head and that all our family have kept their jobs; that we are all well; and that our national cabinet has listened to the experts and taken action to keep us all as safe as possible. I’m very grateful to find Australia at the bottom of the coronavirus stats for infections and deaths, and high on the testing. I’m also very grateful to have Mr Cassmob beside me through all this.

What have you missed most during the full or partial lock-down?

I don’t feel like life has been too tough during the phases of lock down. By day 13 of my self-imposed quarantine (before the government made it mandatory) I was getting a bit stir crazy not being able to go out but got over it. We’ve concluded we lead pretty boring lives most of the time 🙂 I’ve most missed meeting up with friends and family.

Has your hobby sustained you during this time?

For sure. There’s always so much to do with family history – photos to scan, heritage items to sort, blogs to write, learning to be done. Inspired by the Legal Genealogist’s office organisation, I made a start and then got side-tracked by scanning which only led to more mess. My big task right now is to clean up my genealogy database which is in a tangle thanks to my ineptitude, computer crashes, programs no longer supported etc. I hope to have that sorted by mid-July at the latest, working one letter at a time – I’m up to the Ds.

What changes have you seen in your life over May 2020?

It was sad when we couldn’t just drive to the nearby beach – they closed down the access roads to the esplanade. Just seeing the beach is sustaining and soothing. I’ve been limited in times I can visit my mother, have been temp scanned each time, and sanitiser is everywhere – in short the aged care home has done a great job of being proactive and communicating with family.

We’ve bought more take-away coffees than ever before, just to help our local favourite stay afloat. I’ve even gone back to doing my own pedicures – gasp – the hardships!

With the Queensland government’s decision to permit movement locally, it’s allowed us to escape the feeling of being too confined. First stage was a 50km radius from home, then 150km and now anywhere in Queensland.

Have you been exercising more or less?

Much the same, which is to say, nowhere near enough. Now that the weather is colder, walking on the cold sand or wading at the water’s edge just doesn’t have the same appeal.

One thing I realised I’ve missed is that in Darwin we could go for walks along the waterfront and through the park…no need to get the car out.

Has the refrigerator been your friend or foe?

The refrigerator is always my friend but I’ve acquired an addiction to cookies and cream ice-creams 🙂

Have you been participating in virtual gatherings with friends or family?

A bit but not that much more than usual – it’s been about the phone calls.

Have you taken up new hobbies during the lockdowns?

Nope. Family history keeps me busy and I can’t quite imagine how people manage other time-consuming hobbies like quilting. I also can’t quite face the extra “mess” that might ensue. My other “hobby” is sorting out mum’s heritage items which pretty much come under family history as well.

Are you cooking or gardening more?

I’m blessed with a husband who loves to cook but I have made a cake or two – any more and I/we would only get fatter. We’ve also now got lettuce, tomatoes, onions, capsicums, more herbs, and eggplant growing…a little more than usual. Our fave coffee shop has also given us coffee grounds for the garden. Win-win.

Have you shopped more or less? Online or offline?

I‘m not a big fan of shopping so haven’t felt deprived by the lack of open shops or an inability to potter around Sunshine Plaza (ugh!). I’ve ordered a couple of things online and too many e-books from Amazon as I’m reading a book most nights (I don’t like the program the library uses for ebook loans). Offline, as I mentioned, we’re supporting our local coffee shop beyond our normal level – they are so friendly and efficient we wanted to help them keep their jobs. Our initial grocery orders were online as we needed to stock up after our holiday, but recently they’re short trips into the stores.

What have you found to be the strangest change to your life?

Not being able to just meet up with a friend for coffee and the structure around nursing home visits.

I am usually found searching various travel sites online and that’s pretty much disappeared. I’m used to that now but it was odd in the beginning…so why don’t I have more time? Oh yes, all those books I’ve read 🙂

How pathetic is it that we’ve missed being able to go on local jaunts to look at prize homes and see new suburbs?!

Have you found the changes and experience stressful/anxious/worrying?

Not really. I’ve felt confident that we’ve been well protected one way and another. There’s only been once or twice that I’ve felt discombobulated, rather than anxious etc. I was a bit concerned when I got what you’d normally say is “just a bug” but had the tonsil-tickler-test at the doctor’s direction, mainly due to concerns about mum. Luckily it was negative though I stayed home until I felt better again.

Update: I’ve realised that the biggest stressor for me during the past three months has been seeing mum’s health deteriorate since she had a stroke not long before the pandemic hit. She’s been very independent until this year so it’s a big change for her and for us with her care.

How have the closures affected your local community?

As we live in a tourist area, it’s been sad to see the decimation of businesses, especially coffee shops and restaurants. Our local “village” has lost, permanently or temporarily, a lot of shops. Our go-to lunch restaurant has closed indefinitely. On the upside, it’s been interesting to see how businesses have adapted quickly, putting up perspex barriers in front of the sales counters (perspex manufacturers must be making a mint), and providing medical scripts delivery and pickup. It was strange to see all the local playgrounds cordoned off so it’s nice to see kids on swings etc now.

Have in-person meetings been replaced with virtual meetings via Zoom, Skype etc?

Caloundra Family History has been very responsive thanks to the efforts of some members and meetings are all rescheduled as Zoom meetings. I think the societies that haven’t taken the chance to explore online meetings have done themselves, and members, a disservice.

Do you enjoy the virtual meeting format?

I’m actually enjoying the Zoom etc meetings. Our Caloundra society’s Share, Show and Tell fortnightly sessions are great and I hope they continue – so much more opportunity for sharing and learning with more time, rather than in our formal monthly meeting. I’ve also been able to attend a GSQ DNA meeting rather than have to drive to Brisbane, which never seems to happen. The massive availability of free webinars has been a fantastic learning opportunity to hear speakers world-wide. Of course, you miss the chance to just hang out with genimates but that will come – in due course.

Are you working from home instead of in your usual place of work?

Home is my usual place of work since I’m retired – another thing to be grateful for, along with having my own dedicated office space.

Have your habits changed over the past months?

Yes, due to not being able to catch up with friends, though the phones, and emails, have run hot over the months as we’ve kept in touch with each other. Especially in the earlier months of covid-19 (March-April), phone calls were a big time-ticket on my daily agenda. I still don’t exercise enough, and somehow I’m reading far more – a book completed most nights, albeit mostly my crime novel addiction. Of course I could be more productive and head to the study but I don’t enjoy sitting at the computer for lengthy periods as much as I once did. The change in the cat’s habits have affected me – he’s finally learned he can sit on my lap – which of course means I’m pinned down until he’s ready to move….it’s only taken him 14 years!

in the last six weeks or so I haven’t been devouring the covid-19 stats and reports with the same level of obsession on a daily basis as I did in March-April, but the sheer scale of the continually increasing numbers is overwhelming. Selfishly, I’m grateful that Australia and New Zealand have been well protected.

Have you had to cancel travel plans for pleasure or family?

Sadly, yes. Our early May travel to Darwin for a grandson’s birthday and a long weekend camping had to be cancelled. I can’t wait until the border lockdown to the NT is lifted and we can go give them all a HUGE HUG.

Do you think you’ll be able to travel in 2020?

I’m thinking that travel within Australia will definitely be possible, and maybe New Zealand. Whether we do the latter now, or not, remains to be seen – we’ve been before but have been talking about going to see family across the Ditch “soon”. Meanwhile, a few nights near the Darling Downs in a B&B with a fireplace might be on the cards in the near future – we can justify it as keeping local businesses afloat. The furry feline’s luxury accommodation has been re-opened so that’s no longer a problem. I’ve been thinking I need a trip to Rockhampton for family history so that might become a 2020 activity. With covid stats around the world, nowhere else on my bucket list is looking appealing.

Have you/others been wearing masks when out and about in your area?

Most people are not wearing masks as they’ve not been deemed necessary. I’ve mainly seen them in doctors’ surgeries.

Will you change your lifestyle after this experience?

Hmmm…I’m not sure. As I’ve mentioned our lives were fairly routine before and we’ll likely go back to that, meeting up with friends/family for meals or coffee. We need to be more strategic about what we want to achieve, and that includes travel. I’m grateful we’ve had the chance to travel so much in earlier years, so it won’t be too sad if we have to curtail our future plans. I’d like to say I’ll exercise more and get fitter, but I’ve said that many times. I hope to maintain a sense of gratitude for all the wonderful aspects of my life, especially the people.

It’s been interesting to reflect on the lifestyle changes over the past few months and during May as we move back towards more usual day-to-day activities.

We have been so fortunate in Australia that we’ve escaped the horrors experienced in other countries with covid-19 despite the economic consequences. It must have been such an horrific experience for those who’ve lost family and friends and not able to farewell them with traditional ceremonies. So many people have borne the brunt of the horrors and challenges from the health professionals to shop staff to the unacknowledged workers who keep our societies functioning. We have much to be grateful for.

Sepia Saturday: Railway maintenance

Sepia Saturday 522 30 May 2020One of the things I like about Sepia Saturday is that it makes you think about how the image might relate to your family’s stories. This week’s image just didn’t ring bells for me even though there are farmers on my tree. It took until Sunday for me to have a lightbulb moment. I may have no photos of my farmers but I also have lots of railway workers who I’ve written about before.

When we travel by train we tend to give little thought to the men who built the lines or who maintain them. Both sides of my family were involved in building Queensland’s railway lines and then maintaining them. George Kunkel, my 2xgreat grandfather certainly followed the construction of the line between Ipswich and Toowoomba but the jury is out on whether he was selling meat, or actually helping with construction. His son, another George, was a railway ganger so responsible for the lengthsmen working on a particular stretch of the line. My grandfather was actually born at a railway camp outside Dalby in what can only have been pretty primitive conditions for the women, as “home” was usually a canvas tent.  On my maternal side, the men worked the line between Rockhampton and Longreach.

Railway knocking sleepers into posn Qlder 4 Feb 1899 p214

(1899, February 4). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 214 (Unknown). Retrieved June 1, 2020, from

These were hard, physical jobs especially during the heat of a Queensland summer or the chill of an outback winter where it does indeed get cold. Hospital records at Queensland State Archives offer testimony to the hazards of the work for the men in the tropics as so many fell ill with tropical diseases.

Railway Camp The Week 21 nov 1913

If this was 1913, just imagine what life was like in the 1850s-1880s. AT HOME, RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION CAMP, LOWER BURDEKIN. (1913, November 21). The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), p. 20. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from

Trove also offers insights into the experiences of the men if you search by a generic phrase like “railway ganger” or” railway maintenance”. You don’t need to find you specific family name if you can gain information about their lives on the line from newspaper stories. This article gives an excellent insight into the tasks of railway maintenance. Drilling down to search for illustrated articles can provide images from the times as well. I’ve been adding stories to my list “Qld Railways” which is public.

Murphys Creek railway camp The Week Qld

No title (1912, October 18). The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), p. 20. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from

From my personal experience, I remember when we’d be travelling to Townsville on the Sunlander train, dad (another railwayman) would always throw out a newspaper or magazine to the men working beside the line. I remember that they’d have a lean-to and a billy on the fire, but whether they lived in tents close by or travelled on one of push-pull cars to a more distant location I just don’t know.

Railway loading ballast Qlder 4 Feb 1899 p214

(1899, February 4). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 214 (Unknown). Retrieved June 1, 2020, from


Thank you to Sepia Saturday for making me think more about these men, even if it’s taken me until Monday to get my thoughts organised. You can head over to the link to see what other bloggers have dug up about their families.

railway CAMP south coast line The week 1909

My grandfather worked on this line. RAILWAY, CAMP, SOUTH COAST LINE (1909, January 15). The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), p. 25. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from


Crazy month of May 2020 meme: pandemic experiences

Image by Devanath from Pixabay

In the past we’ve done the May Music Meme 2012 and the May Movie Meme 2016. It occurred to me that perhaps we should have a meme which captures our response to the hopefully-once-in-a-lifetime May that we’ve just navigated….it might be a way to preserve the tip of our experiences. Remember that many blogs are being archived in Pandora so perhaps this is a way for our descendants to learn about our experiences during the covid-19 crisis.

If you’re so inclined, why not join me in completing this meme. Be as brief or lengthy as you like and feel free to add more than one response to a question.

What are you most grateful for during this covid-19 crisis?

What have you missed most during the full or partial lock-down?

Has your hobby sustained you during this time?

What changes have you seen in your life over May 2020?

Have you been exercising more or less?

Has the refrigerator been your friend or foe?

Have you been participating in virtual gatherings with friends or family?

Have you taken up new hobbies during the lockdowns?

Are you cooking or gardening more?

Have you shopped more or less? Online or offline?

What have you found to be the strangest change to your life?

Have you found the changes and experience stressful/anxious/worrying?

How have the closures affected your local community?

Have in-person meetings been replaced with virtual meetings via Zoom, Skype etc?

Do you enjoy the virtual meeting format?

Are you working from home instead of in your usual place of work?

Have your habits changed over the past months?

Have you had to cancel travel plans for pleasure or family?

Do you think you’ll be able to travel in 2020?

Have you/others been wearing masks when out and about in your area?

Will you change your lifestyle after this experience?

Since it seems I conjure up one of these memes every four years, you and I will be free now until 2024. I’ll collate the responses into a blog post next week. If possible please link back so I know you’ve memed along with me.