Uniforms and uniformity

U2020It will seem strange in some countries that our otherwise obstreperous country is not averse to uniforms in schools. (Mind you we also don’t venerate those who wear uniforms either).

I’m very grateful that when I went to school, both primary and secondary, I wore a uniform every day. State run primary schools didn’t always have uniforms, though they do more often these days. State high schools were much more likely to require a uniform to be worn. As I went to a private Catholic school, we were only allowed to wear uniforms and to a proper standard, at that. What did uniforms offer us?

Pauleen at primary school c1959

At primary school, perhaps about aged 9 or 10. I can still feel the texture of that tie. Can you see my right eye has two shades?

  • A sense of solidarity (and the obverse, the alienation of others, isn’t something I favour)
  • No opportunity for status plays by labelled/expensive clothes
  • A uniformity of style and identity among those who wear the uniform
  • No need to think about what to wear every day
  • A sense of pride in your school, its history and its achievements
  • And when travelling on the bus you knew which boys went to which school <smile>
  • Our school had a fairly modern uniform, for the time, and responds to changing fashion unlike some schools which have maintained the same uniform for generations.
  • The downside was that past pupils recognised your school and if you were not wearing your gloves or hat, or were generally being unruly, you would be reported quick smart – these days I sometimes roll my eyes when I see how current pupils are dressed but I’m not into dobbing them.
  • These days, my school offers what they call ‘plain clothes days’ and the girls who choose to do this have to pay a gold coin donation ($1 or $2) towards a particular charity. Sadly, there are always those girls who want to display their designer wear on these days, or at school fetes.

Think of all the other places were uniforms are worn: military, police, doctors, nurses, sports, clubs, some shops and restaurants, men in suits at conferences….

When I was 13, I would come visit my aunt and uncle in New York. I decided I wanted to live with them after seeing my cousin’s school. Honestly, I just wanted to go to a school where I didn’t have to wear uniforms, and my mom said okay. Priyanka Chopra, Indian actress.

Here is my photo journal of some uniforms that have been worn in my families.

My dad at primary school, aged about 9 or 10 and (right) in his railway uniform as a young man. He had to wear blue serge trousers and jacket throughout the year, with a blue shirt. He would have funny anecdotes about how drivers would suddenly behave on the road because they thought he was an off duty policeman.

Uniforms weren’t required at his primary state school. It wasn’t uncommon for kids to not wear shoes – it was the sub-tropics after all and it was also the time of the Depression. Grandma made sure dad was spick and span in a white shirt (back row). Kelvin Grove state school c1930.

Kelvin Grove State School children c1930

Kelvin Grove State School children c1930

As you can see below things were different at my primary Catholic school not far from Kelvin Grove…a fair degree of uniformity evident, with minor variations. St Joan of Arc, Herston c1956.

St Joan of Arc

This photo includes at least two classes from my primary school. c1956

My mother’s First Communion class had a certain uniformity – they were plainly required to dress to a certain standard. She made her communion at St Mary’s Church, Townsville on 18 June 1933.

Joan McSherry 2nd girl rt front

By the time mum was at high school at St Pat’s in Townsville, the uniforms were plainly rigorously enforced. It struck me looking at this, how much my cousin looks like my mother as well as her own. Mum had blonde hair here while my Aunty Bonnie had red hair.

Joan McSherry St Pats TSV back left

When mum moved to Brisbane from Townsville, she attended the same school that I would late attend and subsequently our daughters. Interesting to see the change of uniforms.

Joan Kunkel AHS 1941

All Hallows’ School, Junior (Year 10) Class. Mum is 4th from right in second front row.

At high school: I did occasionally change my hair, and look demure. Unlike boys’ schools we all wore the same uniform and didn’t have honour blazers for sport or prefects. 1966

Pauleen a prefect at AHS

I went to a Catholic school, so of course we had to wear uniforms. My only form of expression was in shoes and the style of my hair. Camille Guaty, American actress.

Actually we had no choice in shoes, and our hair had to be above the collar, and above all, tidy.

I even wore a uniform at the weekends when I attended the Girl Guides at Newmarket.

 

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We have no photos of Mr Cassmob’s primary school classes or uniforms, but this is one from when he attended Nudgee Junior as a young lad.

43 Peter Cass Nudgee uniform Jan 1960 at Essendon

Before the family moved to Papua New Guinea, Mr Cassmob’s father was an educator with the Royal Australian Air Force. I think this photo of him sharing his uniform cap is so cute and plainly so did the small boy while his sister looks a bit indignant.

My mother-in-law’s school plainly also had stringent rules for their uniforms.

63 prob Kaye Edwards 3rd fm Left 1940s

While the war years were confronting, they also had some side benefits. My O’Brien/Garvey cousins in Sydney got to meet their Garvey cousins from the USA when the US troops were stationed there.

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Well, the thing about my high school, which I loved, is that we had uniforms. But whenever we had a free dress day, it was prep-ville, with sweater vests and polo shirts and khakis and Dockers. Vanessa Lachey, American entertainer.

So what’s your vote? Are you in favour of uniforms or not? Do they make daily life easier or suppress individuality?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel genes

T2020Those who know me well, are familiar with my love and obsession of travel. As a child, I never really expected I’d have the opportunity to travel the world but I’ve been so fortunate.  I’m so very grateful to be able to see amazing places and learn a little about peoples’ lives in other countries.

Where did this travel gene come from? Firstly I think Aussies are often infected with this itchy-feet disease – perhaps it comes from all those hardy pioneers who travelled to the far side of the world. More recently, my mother had an interest in aircraft and travel from the war years, but again, never expected to be able to travel beyond our shores. My own interest was fostered by a neighbour who would send or bring me back treats from her overseas travels. And then there’s my great-grandfather Melvin. His ancestors, and hence mine, were merchant seamen for many years, sailing out of the port of Leith in Scotland. That urge to explore must have been carried down the DNA.  He has a double responsibility in my genes: the travel bug and the love/addiction to all things sweet from chocolate to cakes. After all, he was also a confectioner par excellence. Can I blame him for my ageing waist line?  I thought you couldn’t fatten thoroughbreds but it turns out I was wrong! But then again, I’m more mongrel than thoroughbred.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. Maya Angelou, American poet.

Ancestors and Travel

Aorangi maiden voyage The Sun 9 Feb 1925 p1

RIDES A GALE (1925, February 16). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 1 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved April 22, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222943347

My great-grandfather, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, was an inveterate traveller. He took sea voyages like I catch the Qantas “bus” – well I do in normal times. If all the news reports are indicative, he thought nothing of jumping on a coastal steamer between north Queensland and Sydney. He also made journeys to Britain where he no doubt saw his brother, John, while also making contacts for his confectionery import business as well as purchasing supplies.

I wonder if the most exciting voyage he undertook was on the Aorangi’s maiden voyage in 1925 from Southampton to Los Angeles and San Francisco via the Panama Canal. From there the ship sailed to Honolulu, Suva and thence New Zealand before arriving in Sydney.

Did he think it was a grand adventure to be on this voyage, or when the storms hit did it raise memories of the much-lauded Titanic, only 13 years earlier? After sailing regularly between Leith and Scandinavia across the North Sea, I’d expect he may have been fairly pragmatic to rough seas.

While I’m not that partial to taking sea voyages on cruise liners, when I’m on stormy seas I do like to be in the open with my nose into the wind. I’ve only taken two cruises and suspect that may be “it” for me, especially after all the coronavirus dramas on board, but I am willing to tolerate those tedious long haul flights in economy for the privilege of travelling the world. In fact, one of my “losses” in lock down or social isolation in this pandemic, is the disinclination to dream of future travel plans.

Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection. Lawrence Durrell, British writer.

Did your ancestors like to travel and is this something that’s been passed down to you?

Header image : Aorangi,  State Library of South Australia

Photograph from the Arbon-Le Maistre Collection of ships, mostly from the 20th century. No known copyright restrictions

 

 

Serendipity, Skills and Talents

S2020Serendipity (that magic conjunction of different thoughts and outcomes) has been a gift for which I’m very grateful. How else to explain my start in family history? I had been visiting a historical-themed event in William St, Brisbane with our youngest daughter when we came across a tent promoting the Genealogical Society of Queensland. On a whim I decided to join up – I think mainly because I was curious about the origin of my Germanic surname. And there, in that moment of serendipity, commenced a thirty-year love affair with discovering the stories of my ancestors. It’s kept me sane in difficult times and has always presented a challenge or two along the way. Even within this journey there are moments of serendipity where one person’s snippet of information marries up with another and a whole new discovery is made. A whole circle of friendship around the world has come from this journey, as has the opportunity to connect with cousins and family I’d known nothing about previously. What’s not to love?

Serendipity is the stardust sprinkling our research.

P McSherry Longreach brass bandSerendipity is one of the chief joys of our wonderful Trove. Now we can discover family stories that we’d have had no chance of knowing. Previously our newspaper searches, via microfilm, were targeted at the big-ticket events in our families’ lives: births, engagements, marriages, deaths, funerals, obituaries. Suddenly hidden pockets of our ancestors’ lives came out of obscurity. Today I want to share with you some of the skills or talents of my ancestors that I’ve uncovered. Thinking about this topic has made me realise how little we know even about quite recent ancestors like grandparents. I know with mine, they were “elderly” when I knew them (ie about my age now). Even though one set were neighbours, I realise how little I am aware of their hobbies or special things they liked to do. Perhaps I was just being a self-centred child/teenager, or perhaps after decades of working hard they just didn’t have the energy for hobbies.

The concept of serendipity often crops up in research. Serendipity is the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things that were not being sought. I believe that all researchers can be serendipitous. Akira Suzuki, Japanese scientist.

Serendipity, skills and talents

Are you already tired of hearing about my 2xgreat grandfather, George Mathias Kunkel? We’ve learned that he made wine, was a skilled pork butcher and grew export-quality oranges. But really, how much of that is personal? You’ve read in this series that I interviewed his granddaughter Annie and the stories she’d shared. Imagine how surprised I was when transcribing her oral history interview with Cameron McKee to learn something entirely new about George.

He was a clever man and he could take a pocket knife and carve a thing. We had a pen handle carved from a bone. It was a perfect thing with a folded hand on the end of it like that on the end of it.[i]

It’s a small thing but I was thrilled to discover it. My imagination takes me on a journey to think he may have learned this while on the sea voyage to Australia – or even if he’d been a crew member. Maybe one day another round of digitisation will reveal all.

Cameron asked Annie about their parties and who would provide the music:

Tom Kunkel …. they were up north on the cane farms but the crushing would be finished and they could come down for Christmas. The oldest, Bernard…Tom’s oldest brother, Bernard Kunkel, he played the accordion. Mr Chapman (a local from the earliest days pioneering Murphy’s Creek) played the violin generally.

Annie also mentioned that Tom Kunkelhad a terrific memory and he had an amazing store of good clean jokes, humorous things that happened in his life”. Even recounting this she was chuckling at the memories.

Another of the Kunkels (but which, and where is that note?) was also reputed to tell stories and give poetry sessions at various functions.

Partridge William colonial timbers Qlder 17 Dec 1870 p12

Newspaper reports of Agricultural Exhibitions (sometimes called Shows in Queensland) can often provide insights into an ancestor’s talents, skills or interests. This can be helpful for the women in our ancestry as the displays usually included “women’s work”.

I was quite tickled to find this story about William Partridge which evoked memories of a ruler I had at school, made up from different timbers:

Mr. Partridge’s colonial woods were exhibited in a handsome glass case (quite likely also made by him, as he was a carpenter). They were forty-five in number, and represented nearly all the woods of Queensland, and were most tastefully arranged and varnished. One piece of scrub vine particularly attracted our attention; it is twisted, and forms a pretty fancy stand for the table.[ii]

Stephen Melvin often garnered attention for his shop displays or entries in an Agricultural Exhibition:

Of preserves there were but few, mostly well gotten up in small glass tumblers with metal capsules, and looking quite tempting. The successful exhibitors were Mrs. J. Scott, J. A. Jackes, and Sophia Spressar and 8. G. Melvin.[iii]

Mr. Melvin had a very enticing display of confectionery- about the best ever seen here-and there was no lack of purchasers of his toothsome compounds[iv].

MELVIN Laura Nth Qld Reg 5 June 1899 p27

Aunty Mary's tiny doll

This tiny doll is in an “egg” about 3inches long.

At the annual exhibition of the Towers Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Association, my grandmother, Laura Melvin, then a young girl of 11, was highly commended for her doll with handmade sailor dress and cap.[v] Making doll’s clothes was a love she shared with my aunt who maintained her interest throughout her life and had a wide collection of dolls whose faces she’d “made up” and the outfits she’d sewed. I’m not a fan of decorated dolls but I do like this tiny one that came to me from Aunty Mary – can you imagine the patience that the clothes took to crochet?

My mother did some crocheting and embroidery but she preferred sewing and other crafts like decoupage and flower KUNKEL Joan recipe prize WWarranging. Her attention to detail was precise and every seam (clothes or decoupage) had to be perfectly aligned and matched. She later turned her skills to home handywoman activities like painting and wallpapering. I have plenty of patience for family history, but none at all for DIY.

I was intrigued to find that mum had won a prize when her recipe was published in the Australian Women’s Weekly – thanks Trove![vi]

Without Trove, our family would never have known that Peter McSherry played brass instruments and taught the Longreach band. Similarly, some of the Partridge family also played instruments – yet another skill or talent that hasn’t reached me, sadly.

I’ll leave you with this story of a massive cake made by Melvin and Sons in Charters Towers in 1919…most likely by the sons, since Stephen Melvin had relocated to Sydney by then. Sadly, the text is hard to read but there’s no doubt it was a whopper! Just imagine – six tiers of which the bottom tier was 15 inches in height, and weighed 420lbs. The whole cake was decorated with icing and flags (presumably a patriotic note after the war).  Mr Melvin (which?) claimed it as a record for Queensland having only been surpassed nation-wide by Sargent’s of Sydney. Interested residents were invited to see the cake within the shop because it was too large for the window.

MELVIN record cake 13 Dec 1919 p4 Nth Miner

Absurd quantities of eggs and fruit went into this super cake.

 

Also true: In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts. Peter McWilliams, American Writer.

Have you made intriguing discoveries thanks to Trove or other digitised newspapers?

Did you inherit your ancestors’ skills or talents or have they passed you by?

 

Quotes from brainyquotes.com

[i] Oral history interview Annie Kunkel with local historian Cameron McKee c1984.

[ii] Mr. Partridge’s colonial woods were exhibited in a handsome glass case. They were forty-five in number, and represented nearly all the wood* of Queensland, and were most taste fully arranged and varnished. One piece of scrub vme particularly attracted our attention ; it is twisted, and forms a pretty fan<y stand f r the table.

[iii] The Ipswich Show. (1882, December 16). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 856. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19788354

[iv] IPSWICH. (1882, December 25). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 5. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3409131

[v] TOWERS. PASTORAL, AGRICULTURAL, AND MINING ASSOCIATION. (1899, June 5). The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 – 1905), p. 27. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84407477

[vi] Prize recipes (1952, June 18). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 38. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51595521

Of Reading and Religion

R2020Reading for me is like food and water – an essential experience in life, and one I can’t imagine being without. I’m so grateful to my dad for sharing his love of reading with me. Not because we shared books but because I saw his example of reading being a pleasure even though, in retrospect, I suspect he was somewhat dyslexic. Similarly, I love seeing my grandson being immersed in a book and not lifting his eyes when the end is in sight.

My mother was never much of a reader which is strange because she liked to write some poetry and little children’s stories. To her, reading was a waste of time away from tasks and hobbies, unless it was reading something religious. Dad combined both by bringing me bible story comics when I was sick.

Religion is a hot button topic for many people and a source of great contention for many people. These days I’m sitting on the barbed wire fence on the topic even though (or because) I was firmly embedded in the Catholic religion when growing up.

Pauleen newspapers 1980s (2)

Weekend reading in the pre-digital era.

 

Ancestors and Reading

Maryborough Chronicle 17 Oct 1878

Nord Australischer Glaubenseifer. (1878, October 17). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), p. 3. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148529577

I wonder whether reading was important to any of my ancestors. I can’t imagine not being able to read as many of my early Irish ancestors couldn’t. It seems likely George Kunkel could have read at least the news because he was a regular signatory to government petitions, yet would he have had any German literature available to him? Did he subscribe to the German language newspaper, Die Nord Australische Zeitung, which was published in Australia or could he not afford it? Luckily at least some articles found their way into the local English newspapers. Did family members perhaps send him a book or two? Was there a German-language lending library anywhere or did he bring a couple of books with him when he emigrated? So many questions and so few answers. The reality is probably that all of my immigrant ancestors were so busy working long hours to establish themselves that the hobby and pleasure of reading just didn’t fit into their day.

I think, too, that they cultivated the power of memory more than perhaps we do. Dad could rattle off verses of poetry, whereas that was a skill beyond me. Did they learn them at school and never forget?

We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain. Roberto Bolano, Chilean writer

Ancestors and Religion

Sandon church and pub

Sandon Church of England where my Kent ancestors worshipped,  and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

Mostly religion is much more clear-cut for my ancestors: they fitted neatly into mainly two categories. The Irish were Roman Catholics and the Scots were Church of Scotland or later Presbyterian. A couple wavered between Baptist, Methodist and Church of England. Ironically, my maternal, Catholic, branch includes as many non-Catholics as Catholics, while my non-Catholic paternal side has just as much representation of Catholics.

True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness. Albert Einstein, German physicist.

Kilmorich Parish Church.

Kilmorich Parish Church at Cairndow where my McCorkindale ancestors worshipped. My great-grandmother Isabella’s grave is on the right side of the path.

The truly sad thing is how religion could divide families. My father was a non-Catholic and I am appalled now to think how much he was humbugged, including by me, to come to the Catholic church with us and how his entire home environment was filled with Catholic iconography. On his death bed he told me he wasn’t religious but he had faith. Amen! My grandfather refused to attend his daughter’s wedding in the Methodist church in Brisbane, Dad’s cousins reportedly would not attend his wedding in the Catholic church or act as groomsmen. My paternal grandfather, from a long line of Catholics, lost contact with most of his siblings after he left the church so that while I have myriad second cousins on that line I knew nothing about them until, by coincidence, one was in my class at high school and recognised my surname. Similarly visits by my grandmother’s Presbyterian siblings and children generated angst if I jumped the fence (literally and figuratively) to go and see them. I’m so grateful that second cousins on both my Catholic and Presbyterian lines have reached out over the years and we’ve regenerated the links and friendships that were lost. If all that reads very cynically you can see why I sit on that barbed wire fence today.

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. G.K. Chesterton, British writer.

Ancestors, Religion and Community

New and Old Catholic church Murphys Creek DDG 15 June 1895 p5 and 6

FUNCTION AT MURPHY’S CREEK. (1895, June 15). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 5. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article171383494

In those very early days of pioneering settlement, families played a huge role in bringing churches to their communities. Similarly, the clergy of all denominations rode long miles across the colony to visit their parishioners, sometimes marrying couples and baptising their children at the same time. Oftentimes, the members of all churches contributed to funds for the building of another church…they were all in it together to develop their communities.

Lists of donations to church building were published in the newspapers and while I was lucky enough to find some pre-digitisation, Trove has certainly made it so much easier to find them and get a sense of where they fitted in the community’s financial structure.

Community gatherings celebrated the opening of churches and of course the women were pivotal in organising and feeding people at these events.

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The old decommissioned church from Murphys Creek now on a rural block at Upper Laidley. Photo copyright P Cass 2011.

I was surprised how often I’ve blogged about religion over the past 10 years but you can find any by entering “religion” in the search bar on the top right of the page. Perhaps the most relevant is another post here or religion in Papua New Guinea here.

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader.

 Religion played a pivotal role in my life for many years and reading has been a constant thread thoughout my life.

Was religion an important part of your ancestors’ lives?

And for the family historians who love to unearth an epitaph for their ancestors – an amusing, ironic quote:

Reading the epitaphs, our only salvation lies in resurrecting the dead and burying the living. Paul Eldridge, American educator.

 

 

 

Queenslander!

Q2020One of the things I’m inordinately and illogically proud of is that I am a true maroon Queenslander. All but one of my immigrant ancestors arrived in Queensland and remained here, being part of the communities that built up the colony and then the state.

Queen Victoria signed the Letters Patent to make Queensland a separate colony from New South Wales on 6 June 1859, the date which would become Queensland Day and on 10 December 1859, Governor Bowen read the proclamation of separation. Queensland has also played a key role in the foundation of the Australian Labor Party, from the time of the shearer’s strike at Barcaldine in 1891. Our unofficial national song, Waltzing Matilda, was composed just up the road near Winton by poet Banjo Paterson. To this day there are slight regional variations in the words and music.

Queenslander023 (2)

This is the ribbon I take to genealogy conferences.

ANCESTORS IN QUEENSLAND

I am grateful to all my ancestors who immigrated to Queensland and proud that I have eleven ancestors who were here pre-Separation: eight were immigrants and three had been born in the colony before December 1859. I’m going to focus on my direct line of ancestry rather than the whole family who came.

IMMIGRANT FAMILIES

General Hewitt Dec 1854 MBC 30 Dec 1854

CHRISTMAS RACES. (1854, December 30). The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861), p. 2. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710495

Richard Kent and wife Mary Camp (3xgreat grandparents) and family including my 2xgreat-grandmother, Hannah Kent from Sandon, Hertfordshire arrived in Moreton Bay on the General Hewitt on 16 December 1854. Just imagine their shock arriving in the heat of a Queensland Summer. English.

Denis Gavin and wife Ellen Murphy (2xgreat) with daughter Mary. My great-grandmother Julia was born in 1859. Denis and Ellen arrived at Moreton Bay on the Fortune on 8 December 1855. Denis came from County Kildare and Ellen from County Wicklow but they married in Dublin and emigrated from there. Irish

SINGLE IMMIGRANTS

 George Mathias Kunkel, one of that well-known immigrant breed, the swimmer…after thirty plus years I still don’t know how he got here. George came from the village of Dorfprozelten in Bavaria and he married Mary O’Brien in Ipswich Queensland in 1857. Bavarian. George and Mary’s son, George Michael Kunkel, my great-grandfather, was born in Ipswich in 1858.

Map_of_Queensland_at_Separation_in_1859

Map of Queensland at the date of separation, A.D. 1859[1], s.n.>, 1859 CLICK to see it enlarged.

Mary O’Brien from County Clare, Ireland arrived in Moreton Bay, I now believe, on the Florentia on 25 April 1853. Oral history records that she emigrated with her sister Bridget and was six months at sea. She was only 16. Irish.

William Partridge from Coleford, Gloucestershire arrived on the Fortune on 8 December 1855 – the same voyage as the Gavins. William married Hannah Kent in Ipswich. English.

LATER IMMIGRANTS

Stephen Gillespie Melvin emigrated on the Woodlark from Leith near Edinburgh, Scotland in 1877, and married Emily Partridge, daughter of William and Hannah. Scottish. His mother, Margaret Gillespie/Gilhespy also later emigrated. (born Northumberland) English.

James Sherry (aka McShArry) and wife Bridget Furlong arrived at Rockhampton on the Melpomene on 20 January 1883 with their large family. Bridget came from Kings County (Offaly) but James’s origin is a mystery. Irish.

James and Bridget’s eldest son, Peter Sherry (later McShErry) and his wife Mary Callaghan arrived in Rockhampton with their two small children, including my grandfather James, on the Almora on 5 May 1884. Peter was born in Tullamore, Co Offaly and Mary came from Courtown, Wexford. Irish.

POST FEDERATION IMMIGRANTS

My widowed great-grandmother Annie Sim McCorkindale arrived on the Perthshire with her adult family on 24 June 1910. My grandmother, Kit, was part of the family migration. Scottish.

INTERNAL MIGRATION

I’m also proud of my immigrant ancestors that they moved beyond the coastal strip into the less developed areas of the colony/state, building railway lines and growing communities. You can read about their voyages of internal migration in this post. Over the decades they lived in Rockhampton, Boguntungan, Longreach and Winton in the central west; Townsville, Hughenden and Charters Towers in the North; Maryborough, Ipswich and Brisbane in the east; and Toowoomba, Highfields, Dalby, Condamine and Murphys Creek on/near the Darling Downs.

At a time when the topic of immigration can be contentious and bring out the worst in people’s attitudes, I’m very grateful for what my own immigrant ancestors have brought to this state and country.

Where did your immigrant ancestors arrive?

 

 

The Price of Peace

P2020It may be that, on a daily basis, I take our country’s peace for granted rather than give thanks for it. Yes, it has things that could be done better or differently, but overall we are indeed the Lucky Country when it comes to peace. Yes, I am aware that our Indigenous Australians paid a high price when the country was settled and since. However, many people have come to our shores to find peace and safety, escaping persecution or wars. I certainly don’t subscribe to the “if you don’t love it, leave” philosophy. I often wonder whether people with those bumper stickers would immediately leave their spouses/partners the minute they had a disagreement. So, yes, I give thanks that we live on an island continent far from many of the world’s trouble spots.

bottle tree plaqueBWcrop

The memorial plaque for James Thomas Paterson on Roma’s bottletree planting in honour of its World War I Diggers

Since we became a nation in 1901, and even before, our people have been involved in wars, largely to support the Empire of which we were a part. Many of our people paid a high price: loss of life, incapacity and physical handicaps, loss of family members, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, loss of human potential. As so many were lost on foreign battlefields with little chance that family members would ever be able to visit their graves (where they even exist), the role of war memorials has played a huge role as a locus of bereavement and recognition of service. Is there a town in the country where one can’t be found? I suspect not.

Maintaining peace can be as strenuous as winning a war. Margaret MacMillan, Canadian Historian.

Ancestors and the Price of Peace

It seems likely that most Australian families have members who volunteered to serve or were enlisted. Perhaps mine is somewhat unusual because with so many railwaymen in protected or essential service, branches of the family tree had little or no representation. It’s for this reason that I’ve been less inclined to engage with Anzac Day ceremonies because I feel like a fraud.

It wasn’t until I lived in Milne Bay in the early 1970s that the full sense of the war in Papua New Guinea became clearer to me despite previously reading books and poetry about it. I wrote about that here. Similarly touring the Western Front in Europe brought the loss to humanity overwhelmingly evident.

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The memorial overlooks Milne Bay: a far more tranquil scene than 77 years ago.

Each year the Australian and New Zealand genealogy bloggers typically post a story about ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. You can see some of mine by searching in the box in the top right.

The price of peace paid by my families include the deaths of James Paterson[i] (grandson of George and Mary Kunkel) and James Gavin[ii] (grandson of Denis and Ellen Gavin) during World War I. Hugh Moran[iii] was taken Prisoner of War in Italy and Germany during World War II for several years. William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel was Missing in Action in the Korean War and his family never knew what happened beyond the firefight when he was captured.

It’s hard to imagine what their families went through both during the war and afterwards. Letters found in the service records can be heartbreaking.

Personal thoughts

medal3 cropMy paternal grandfather served in World War I, however I have no memory of him ever attending an Anzac Day service, although he was a member of the Returned Servicemen’s League/

As a child, I remember seeing men with war injuries (missing arms or legs), selling newspapers on the street corner. Or men hitting the bottle or drunk – drowning their memories no doubt.  We came to a better understanding of the Bombing of Darwin once we moved to the Northern Territory to live.  Or realising that my husband would have “won” the national service lottery for Vietnam if his official place of abode during university hadn’t been Papua New Guinea.

I remember Dad telling me that he couldn’t attend the Victory in the Pacific celebrations in Brisbane because he was on shift with the railways at the time. Or hearing a (very) little about his knowledge of the Battle of Brisbane.. the conflict between Australian servicemen and the Americans who were based here and thought to be “overpaid, oversexed and over here”. I’ve also realised I need to ask mum what she did on VP day.

VP Day Brisbane

Victory in the Pacific celebrations Brisbane from awm.gov.au. Out of copyright.

It’s also interesting to observe that the practice of having cadet corps in high schools seems to have largely disappeared over the decades. When I was at high school many schools, and I’d suggest all private schools, had their own army or air force cadets.

Those families with serving men and women across the decades will have quite a different experience from mine. It doesn’t change that I am very grateful indeed to live in a peaceful country,  thanks in part to the high price that has been paid.

You can read some of my past posts for Anzac Day or Remembrance Day by using the search bar on the top right of this blog, or the drop down categories box– something else to do in our covid-isolation?

What is your families’ tradition of military service and what price was paid to gain peace?

For some sources to use when searching for Australian Military History and service.

Australian War Memorial

Commonwealth War Graves Commission for deaths and places of burial or memorials.

National Archives of Australia: Attestation documents digitised for WWI service people and some for later conflicts.

Quote from https://www.brainyquote.com

[i] 05 April 1917 Age 28 VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL http://cwgc.org

[ii] 19 July 1916 Age 30 RUE-PETILLON MILITARY CEMETERY, FLEURBAIX I. K. 39.from http://cwgc.org

[iii] https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=4850146&isAv=N

Ordinary People

O2020My ancestors were all what might be termed “ordinary people”, none achieved great heights of achievement other than to work hard, raise their children well and engage with their communities.

It’s not that I have the Australian distrust of “Tall Poppies“, simply that my research means that I’d be shocked if I’d found a field of poppies in my family tree. As you know I’ve been sharing quotes from the Brainy Quote website with most of my posts but today’s search was both disappointing and depressing, offering mainly dismissive concepts of any community’s grassroots people apart from only a couple I endorsed. Instead I’m going to indulge myself and add a quote from the Acknowledgments to my own family history, Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Kunkel book cover cropThere are two ways to look at a family tree, as genealogy (the begets or begats of the Bible), or as the story of families living in a particular period of time and experiencing all the challenges of the period, influencing their family life and outcomes, just as they play their individual or family role on the greater stage of history. The names of the so-called “little people” are rarely recorded in the history books but they are the cannon fodder of wars, the workers who build a nation, and its railways, the families who make up its people.

So let me introduce you to my ancestors, those “Ordinary People” whose lives led progressively to my own.

Paternal line

Maternal line

You can see why this quote resonates with me and why I write this blog:

I want to keep telling stories of ordinary people. Margot Lee Shetterly, author

Do you descend from a line of “Ordinary People” or do you have “Tall Poppies” in your family forest?

Do you love telling the stories of your ancestors?

NATURE’S GLORY and DRAMA           

My 2020 Gratitude vision board has several pictures of the beauty of nature and especially flowers, which I love. I’m very grateful for the magnificent scenery where we live. When we lived in the Northern Territory I loved being out on the open road with vast spaces to the horizon. The grandeur of the Wet Season skies and the drama of the thunder and lightning.

It’s easy to forget that nature has two sides of the same coin – beauty and grandeur and the fierce threat of more dramatic weather events like this season’s devastating fires in Australia, or floods, or fire, or drought. It’s hardly surprising that one of our national poets, Dorothea Mackellar, captured this so well.

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

Of drought and flooding rains

I love her jewel sea

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me

DSC_0099

There were no roads cutting a swathe through the country, no X marks the spot in the sky. The early pioneers relied on learning their environment and following cuts in the trees along the way…their lives depended on their success.

ANCESTORS and NATURE

I often wonder how our immigrant ancestors coped with the vast differences from their homeland, what Mackellar refers to as “The love of field and coppice, Of green and shaded lanes, Of ordered woods and gardens, Is running in your veins”.

Bullock dray 1898 QSAIt seems inevitable they must have found the upside-down seasons, the severe heat (in those dresses!), the weather extremes and the sheer open spaces to be fierce, or perhaps even frightening. How did they learn to navigate their way through native bush with no formed roads?  My 2xgreat grandfather, Denis Gavin had to navigate his way to the market with the wool clip when driving drays from Binbian Downs near the Condamine soon after he arrived in Queensland. Or the Bavarian immigrants sent to the bush to be shepherds on isolated stations (think ranches). No longer part of a small village community to be alone or with two or three others….it drove some to take their own lives.

Did they learn to love the country as they learned to grown crops and plant orchards under such different conditions? My Kunkel ancestors called their property Valley View. Vastly different from Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s view in County Clare, or George Kunkel’s view in Dorfprozelten. Did they look out at the sunrise and learn to love the grey of the gum trees, the laugh of the kookaburra and enjoy seeing other indigenous wildlife, birds, and bush. They were certainly wise to select land adjoining a then-well-flowing creek so it would take time before the perils of drought would affect them.

Valley view home Kunkel

And what of my (Mc)Sherry great-grandparents fresh off the ship from Ireland and off to work constructing railway lines in the heat of Queensland’s outback. It’s mind-boggling really and gives me a deep respect for what they did and gratitude for their hard work, courage and example.

NATURE’S FEROCITY

My ancestors may have eluded the fear of Famine but the ferocity of Australian weather must have sometimes tested their faith.

McSHARRY John drowned Morning Bulletin 8 Mar 1887

The Morning Bulletin, ROCKHAMPTON. (1887, March 8). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52067794

The family of James and Bridget (Mc)Sharry/Sherry  arrived with eight of their children in central Queensland in 1883 and paid a high price for their decision. Within only six years, three of the children had died, two from what might be called events of nature. Their daughter Margaret McSharry/Sherry died in Rockhampton in 1884, aged 12, of shock from burns. The newspapers are silent on what caused the burns but most likely a kitchen accident. Son John McSharry/Sherry, aged 19, attempted to cross the flooded Claude River in March 1887 while working as a labourer on/near Mantuan Downs station. As a young Irish-born lad it’s extremely unlikely he could swim so attempting this was rather foolish and he paid the price. The inquest gave me more complete details.

 

Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich January 1887

Unidentified (1887). Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich, January 1887. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

On 22 January 1887, the Queensland town of Ipswich was deluged by a severe flood. Some said it was the worst in European memory, others that it was only exceeded by the 1864 flood. At the time of the 1887 flood, my ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, had a confectionery store in Ipswich as well as various other business interests. Trove documents that “The (Bremer) River was in flood, and Melvin, who had been assisting to remove goods from a store (his?) which was surrounded by water, got into the vortex on the edge of the roaring current. Livermore swam out at great risk, took Melvin by the collar, and brought him back to the building in safety. The current was running very strong. Awarded a bronze medal.” Thomas Shadrach Livermore had saved Stephen’s life – and meant that I am here today, as my grandmother was born in 1888. Even though Stephen had been a merchant seaman in early years it’s highly likely he couldn’t swim at all.

 

 

Annie Kunkel spoke of a fierce storm that occurred while she was a schoolgirl at Murphy’s Creek[i]:

 

Hailstorm murphys creek 1915 Telegraph

Hail storm (1915, December 11). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 7. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article177194730

I’ll never forget the time of the big hailstorm. Oh it was terrific, it was our break up picnic, there’d been a drought I think….Terrific storm came, we were alright in the morning. Oh, we were all huddled in that old school and this terrible storm, and I think the windows were smashing round us and everything and the poor horses were over in this paddock. I can remember seeing them. There wasn’t much in the way of shelter from trees or anything. It was something to remember. And then this terrific flood came down. You know that old railway bridge over from the school, that old wooden railway bridge, it might have been replaced since, but it was pretty high. But Les Handley walked that with a raging flood underneath it to go home round through the paddocks to tell his mother that they were alright. It had been shocking, shocking. The railway man had to come to shovel the hail away from the doors of the hotel and some of the houses before people could get in.

 

Annie had a remarkable memory and whenever I’ve checked what she’s told me it’s been proven to be accurate. The Daily Standard described four feet of ice at Murphy’s Creek railway station from this storm.

 

Murphys Creek drought Bne Courier 24 Apr 1877 p3

Telegraphic. (1877, April 24). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 3. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1363085

George and Mary Kunkel had been half-way through paying off their land selection when a drought hit. They must have been so grateful to have had the Fifteen Mile Creek as a boundary to their property. As with Australia more broadly periods of drought followed by heavy storms and flooding, or cyclones in the north, seem to be almost inevitable.

 

Almost all of my ancestors had property affected by fires but not attributable to nature but rather to the hazards of open fires or the flammability of the buildings. The bush fire (below) which raged through the Murphys Creek area occurred after George Kunkel had died but his widow and sons and family were still living in the area.

Bushfire M Ck Dec 1918 p5 DDG

BIG BUSH FIRE. (1918, December 6). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176354338

With my McSherry families living in Central and North Queensland there’s no doubt they’d have experience the wrath of a cyclone or two in their lifetimes. Unfortunately, I can’t find a news story that mentions them. However, when I was a youngster holidaying at Magnetic Island off Townsville we were caught in Category 4 Cyclone Agnes as it roared through the area at 89 mph or 143kph. Dad always said that the gauge at Garbutt had snapped with the force of the wind, so perhaps the speed reached was even higher.  I wrote about the experience here.

There’s little doubt that our Aussie ancestors had to be resilient when encountering nature.

What natural events did your ancestors experience in their lifetimes? Did it have a long-term effect on their well-being or their economic survival?

 

Cyclone Agnes TSV Central Qld Herald 1956

WINDS REACH 89 MILES AN HOUR TOWNSVILLE STRUCK BY CORE OF CYCLONE (1956, March 8). The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 – 1956), p. 6. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79261437

 

 

[i] Conversation with Cameron McKee, Murphy’s Creek local historian, c1984.

Money matters

M2020When I list my gratitudes, it would not occur to me to count money, in and of, itself. And yet, things I am grateful for definitely require a level of financial security, and before I retired, it would have included a good job with a decent salary. So yes, money does matter. It’s given me the roof over my head, transport to move around, food on the table and in the pantry, an education, books and the opportunity to travel.  I’ve been very fortunate indeed.

ANCESTRAL “WEALTH” and WILLS

SGM probate notice GG NSW

PROBATE JURISDICTION. (1927, July 8). Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 2001), p. 3462. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223007129

It’s fair to say that affluence has not been part of my family inheritance given my working-class background. Only one ancestor came close to passing on his hard-won wealth. Stephen Gillespie Melvin, my maternal great-grandfather, started his life in the hard streets of Leith, the port for Edinburgh. After he emigrated he built up his business through his skills as a confectioner, then got himself in strife thanks to thinking he could dabble in coal mines….seriously?! He rebounded and moved to Charters Towers establishing a successful business before moving to Sydney in later life. Over the years he travelled back and forth to England, and possibly Scotland. I attribute my love of travel and chocolate to his genes! When he died, he left a sizable estate but had decided to leave it to his grandchildren after the death of all but one of his children. In the interim, he left the property and estate in the care of a trustee company. It may have seemed logical enough at the time but in the forty years before they inherited, the value of his assets had diminished significantly. Nevertheless, when the time came round, the bequests certainly benefitted his grandchildren, and their children. Stephen’s estate shows the importance of searching widely: his will was written in London and was relevant to both Queensland and New South Wales. The conditions and interpretations have been widely debated among the descendant family historians.

I have found no will or intestacy for my other great (or great great) grandparents, Denis Gavin, William or Hannah Partridge, Annie Sim McCorkindale, or George Mathias and Mary Kunkel.

GMK2 probate

Advertising (1902, January 4). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 7. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19144087

While my great grandfather George Michael Kunkel was “only” a railway worker, he had protected his family by contributing to an insurance policy and benefit societies. When he died, just six weeks after his wife, he left an estate of £433 that would have helped support his young family (aged 21 to 2 years). The estate included nearly £70 in the government savings bank, £200 in a life insurance policy and another £76 in the Railway Service Friendly Benefit. Their living priorities were reflected in the property left behind: £47 for a harness and saddlery and only £18 for household furniture and effects, £3 for a water tank and £12 for a moveable hut.[1] It is sobering when we think of how much we believe we “need” in our own daily lives.

George Michael’s younger brother, Joseph Francis Kunkel, was also a railway worker but he had purchased land at Pickenjennie near Wallumbilla. His estate comprised 149 acres of land[2] with a three bedroom weatherboard house, and a three-wire fence, all valued at £102, cash £1, five horses £8, six cows £6, 10 steers and heifers £2/10/-, a dray and harness £5 and household furniture of £5.[3] There were severe drought conditions in the west at the time and before the administration of the estate was finalised, four of the horses, two of the cows and four of the heifers had died, significantly affecting the value of the estate. The debts for the estate totalled £60/19/- and included medical and legal expenses as well as what appears to have been the cost of the timber from building the house.

Although I’ve found no will for my great-great grandparents, George Mathias and Mary Kunkel, this is probably because he had already transferred the family property at the Fifteen Mile to his youngest son, Edward. Dad told me that his father, Denis, the eldest grandchild of the eldest child, had been offered the property but had declined. Hence at death there was no transmission of property by death and there would likely have been only a small transfer of money involved with probate not required.

Searching Trove’s newspapers and Government Gazettes can reveal probate notices for your ancestors’ estates. Failing that, you may find the sale of property being advertised after the death of the family member. This is how I learned about Peter McSherry’s (my great-grandfather) property in Rockhampton. Any of these successes will help unfold more stories of your family. You’ve got to love Trove and all it’s offered us….I go back to the pre-Trove era and trust me, it has been a world-class addition to our research tools. Do make sure you register and use the tags and lists facilities to keep track of your research – you can even make them private if you wish. And while you’re there, why not make some text corrections, and give back.

I love discovering wills, intestacies or deceased estates because they can give you wonderful insights into your families’ lives. I’ve been fortunate with some English and Scottish wills but from the distant past. And don’t forget -it’s not all online – head off to the relevant archives to see the documents for yourself. Touch your ancestor’s words and signature – it’s a privilege and a buzz.

INSOLVENCIES OR BANKRUPTCIES

Partridge insolvency 1873

Judicial Affairs. (1873, March 29). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 2. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27275280

Once again, our friend Trove comes to our aid. It’s hardly surprising, given the challenges of new colonies, precarious government finances, and severe weather conditions, that so many of my ancestors (and possibly yours), fell into debt. Add to that their potential lack of literacy skills may have compounded their risk.

My carpenter ancestor, William Partridge, seemed to be in a revolving door to the courts for insolvency. Some of it was probably beyond his control. He cites some of the issues: general depression in the building trade, inability to realise property, pressure of creditors, losses caused by floods in destruction of building material, and by depreciating value of realty.[i]

Family stories had indicated that George Mathias Kunkel and family had moved west with the construction of the railway line to Toowoomba, suggesting there was no other work for him. Trove revealed that in fact his Ipswich business had fallen on hard times and his assets had been sold. You can read the story here.

Earlier I mentioned that Stephen Gillespie Melvin (or SGM as I call him), had got himself into hot water in Ipswich, including but not worst, insolvency. You can read more about this drama here. In this case, his father-in-law, William Partridge was on the other side of the insolvency ledger, being owed money and ultimately helping SGM.

It’s well worth searching for any references to your families’ money matters and seeing what emerges.

Have you gained insights into your families’ financial status through researching wills, intestacies or newspapers?

 

money-bag-3404322_1920

 

[1] Queensland State Archives: SRS4486- 3- 466. SCT/P466 560/1902. Microfilm Z1670. The executrix of the estate was Mrs Elizabeth Gray Marks and the solicitor was James Stodart Dods of Toowoomba.

[2] Refer also Queensland State Archives: RSI14153- 1- 126. Box 689. ORV/6817; C/456 Crown Lands card indexes 1916-1920 (Entry AF491).

[3] Queensland State Archives: S9779  Intestacy J F Kunkel. Microfilm Z216.

[i] Meetings of Creditors. (1892, May 7). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 871. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19823611

Love and the Law

L2020What the world needs now is love, sweet love[i]… Perhaps that’s more true than usual in these uncertain times of a pandemic. However, we’d probably mostly agree it’s what all of us hope for in our lives, whether it’s platonic, passionate, familial or of friends. Certainly, in my own life one of the key gratitudes I have is for the love I’ve received from Mr Cassmob, my family and my friends. Love makes life so much richer. The rosy glow of early courtship may pass but with luck the love continues and a happy life ensues – not one without its ups and downs, but overall satisfying.

Peter and Pauleen leaving wedding

Love’s young dream, still going strong after 50 years, despite the ring fidgeting.

When researching our family history we often start looking for marriages to follow the ancestral lines of those who begat us. For me, that’s the bare bones of genealogy – the framework on which we pin the names and dates of those who’ve been pivotal to us being on earth. What comes next is building up the stories that we find until we get some sense of them as people. It seems strange in some ways to think of them in that first dizzy dose of love, but one assumes that they probably felt much as we did when it happened to us. Some cases may have been pragmatic decisions of religious or personal compatibility, financial stability, loneliness and distance from family and those factors may have played a part in their relationship. Unfortunately, without a diary or journal we have no way of getting an insight into their love. So, we are left looking at the photographic newspaper records of the wedding and the celebrations by friends and family. Longevity of marriage might be relevant, but not necessarily an indication of love’s endurance.

Wedding at Murphys Creek low

This 1910 wedding of one of George & Mary’s grandchildren was held at their home at Murphy’s Creek. William Kunkel is the young lad on the left. This family had lost both parents within six weeks in late 1901. Photo kindly provided by a family member from this branch.

Love falls apart

Unfortunately, the anticipated happiness and compatibility doesn’t always happen, love disappears, and the marriage falls apart. Desertion, domestic abuse, bigamy or divorce may follow. In the earlier days of “blame game” divorce, the story of a marriage’s disintegration was played out in court and in public through the newspaper coverage. Trove certainly brings all the lurid details to light, but we do have to be careful when researching these stories, especially if you don’t know which of the local newspapers are likely to be scurrilous or salacious. It always pays to read each and every news article to distil the data and the anomalies. Let me give you one example from my extended family.

Agnes Kunkel Truth 13 Jan 1929

DRAMA OF LOVE (1929, January 13). Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954), p. 13.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198312619

Agnes Eileen Cronin[ii] married William Thomas Kunkel on 27 October 1915 at Toowoomba: she was 19 and he was 23. The marriage apparently fell apart and Agnes left the home in 1921, relocated to Brisbane and changed her name to Dorothy Edwards. She subsequently bigamously married a man called David Scott telling him she’d been born in Toronto, Canada (not Queensland), and her father was James Edwards, perhaps to explain why she would have no kin at the marriage. Kunkel filed for divorce in early 1929 and it came before the court in April 1929.

Anyone from Brisbane knows the reputation of the old “Truth” newspaper which definitely falls into the scurrilous category. The reporting was sensational bordering on hysterical. The defendant’s barrister claimed that Agnes had been forced to marry William when she was 15 and that he was 20 years older, as well as making assertions about his character and behaviour[iii].

Other newspapers carried more considered reports of the trial but one of the interesting things, to me, is that William’s photo was used in many of the articles. It was if he was the one under judgement and not his wife being tried for bigamy and desertion. Different reporters focused on some different points or added extra from the trial that had not already been reported. In a strange twist to the tale, Agnes’s mother even defended her son-in-law saying that he’d never known him to strike his wife and that the separation had arisen from money matters.

W T Kunkel divorce Telegraph 30 Juy 1929

Kunkel Divorce (1929, July 30). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 3. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182979161

After much to-ing and fro-ing, including referral to the Attorney General, the divorce was resolved in William’s favour. The couple’s respective ages at marriage were formally recognised by the court and Justice Macrossan acknowledged that William’s reputation had suffered as a result of the mis-reporting[iv]. The decree nisi absolute was confirmed in November 1929 and soon afterwards William remarried. Both Agnes and William must have been relieved to have this behind them and for their “dirty linen” to no longer be broadcast through the news and a general topic of conversation in the community. I can find no reference to Agnes after the divorce under the surnames of Cronin, Kunkel, Edwards or Scott, nor any trees on Ancestry. I wonder what her daughter was called and where they went to live after the divorce. Did Agnes change their name again?

I suppose I’m a tad biased myself and feel for William, one of my grandfather’s younger brothers. He lost both parents within six weeks in 1901 when he was only a lad of nine. Later his son Robert would be Missing in Action in Korea, never to know what had happened to him.

While Rod Stewart’s advice on the matter of love and the law is pertinent to this case, perhaps it’s not very wise:

Only a fool permits the letter of the law to override the spirit in the heart. Do not let a piece of paper stand in the way of true love and headlines. Rod Stewart, Scottish musician.

When you discover something like this through Trove, it is worth following up in the official documentation of the court[v] and the judge’s notebooks[vi] where they have survived. I’ve done this with my grandmother’s divorce following the story in the news but more importantly in the trial documents.

The departure of love and the involvement of the law is sad and can be a human tragedy. We need to feel empathy for our family members and treat their misfortunes with respect.

Have you seen examples of great love, or the loss of it, in your ancestral families?

Have you acquired a list for post-isolation research, as I have, while doing your A to Z challenge or reading?

——————————–

Quotes from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/

[i] A popular song from 1965 with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach. First recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon

[ii] Birth and marriage registered as Agnes Lillian Cronin, daughter of James Patrick Cronin and Helen/Ellen Leonard.

[iii] DRAMA OF LOVE (1929, January 13). Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954), p. 13. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198312619

[iv] HEART-BROKEN MOTHER SPEAKS AGAINST DAUGHTER (1929, August 4). Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article203921305

Also Kunkel Divorce (1929, July 29). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 6 (5 ‘O CLOCK CITY EDITION). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182975879

[v] Item ID 1669670, Queensland State Archives, Kunkel v Kunkel, Court transcript (Civil), shorthand. Also Item 1669639, Court transcript (Civil) (hopefully not shorthand!) Also Item 1669757.

[vi] Series 18554 at Queensland State Archives. Also Item ID 99975, Judge H Macrossan notebooks 1927-1929.