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.

Jack Bishop: A champion bike racer

Sepia Saturday 521 23 May 2020This past weekend’s Sepia Saturday theme brought to mind a story I’ve been intending to write up about a prize winning racer in my Kunkel family.

Family discoveries can come from all sorts of cryptic clues. They may even reveal hidden stories – if we’re lucky. One such came to light over great grandson of George and Mary Kunkel. A cousin recounted how, while still a little girl, she attended the funeral of a young Paterson cousin who had died racing motorcycles overseas. Various searches on this family’s deaths was unproductive – until the three-month gap between Mary Bishop’s son’s dates of death and burial were finally noticed. The internet provided the final loop of the puzzle revealing that Jack Bishop was a renowned pioneer of dirt track racing in both Australia and England in the 1920s and early 30s.[1]

BISHOP Jack grave (2)

Died 20 March 1933, England. Ashes interred Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery 17 June 1933.

 After leaving school, Jack started work in the motor trade. It’s likely that’s where he gained his enthusiasm for dirt bike racing which was a new sport in those post-WWI days. In 1928 Jack Bishop was recruited by AJ Hunting to race in England and along with other Australian racers signed a contract which paid him £5 per week and a return first class voyage. Jack Bishop and the team sailed on the Oronsay from Brisbane, arriving in London on 9 May 1928.[2] Jack was 19 years old and he and all his team-mates listed their occupation as “professional motor cyclist” with their address c/- International Speedway Limited London. Although the Australians made a prominent opening in May 1928 on the dirt tracks at White City and Crystal Palace, the heavy rain made the muddy tracks hazardous and Jack was thrown and received concussion. In July 1928 he was injured in two races which affected his early career in the United Kingdom.

BISHOP Hull Daily Mail 22 August 1928 p3

Who wouldn’t want a box of smoked herring? Hull Daily Mail 22 August 1928, p3

The thrill of dirt track racing appealed to many spectators and the sport became very popular. On 19 August 1929 he was part of an Exeter team who faced the Stamford Bridge team from London in front of a 25,000 strong crowd of spectators. The “red and white” team from Exeter won the race 13-8 with Bishop leading the final lap and team-member, Jackson, covering him.[3] Jack was then the “undisputed champion of the track at Exeter”.[4] There are many reports in the English press about the achievements of the team from Down Under including Jack Bishop. They even received gifts from their fans and I was amused by the one included here.

Jack Bishop became sufficiently famous to have his own cigarette card in Ogden’s “Famous Dirt Track Riders” series. He is described as “a successful Australian rider who came over to England in 1928, Jack Bishop is one of the most daring riders, and his dashing displays are very popular with all the Speedway fans. He has been especially successful when competing in the Handicap events and sometimes when starting from scratch has run through the field and won by a big margin. He has also a number of lap records to his credit both in England and Australia.”[5] 

BISHOP Jack dirt track card

The copy of the Jack Bishop card kindly provided by Gary Milne of Cartophily cards UK.

 There were plenty of thrills and quite a few spills – some that were physically very damaging. In the early days Jack was apparently riding a basic bike which quite likely contributed to the falls. In 1930, on a return visit to Brisbane, he acquired a much more sophisticated bike which was better suited to racing. It was during this visit that he brought his young English bride, Lilian (nee Grist), with him. They’d married in London in late 1929 and although the newspaper report above mentions he already had a son there’s no indication of a child on the passenger manifests for the Jervis Bay[6].

BISHOP The Sphere 2 June 1928 p14

The Sphere, 2 June 1928, p14

Over the next few years Jack pursued a successful racing career in Australia, New Zealand and England. It seems his wife Lilian remained in Australia while Jack travelled and competed. This must have been a lonely life for her with no family to support her, especially when her husband was injured or sick overseas.

Jack later worked under contract to the New Zealand Speedways[7] and was regarded as one of the finest riders in the Dominion. In 1931 he was badly injured there in an off-track accident but by 1932 he had returned to England to race. During this trip Jack became so seriously ill that specialist medical attention could not save his life. He died in England on 20 March 1933, only 24 years old. Jack’s death was reported extensively in both British and Australian newspapers. Only general references are made to his widow and two children.

BISHOP Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping gazette 21 Mar 1933 p12

Supporters and friends made it possible for “his earthly remains to be interred in his home town” by rallying to raise funds. Jack’s ashes were interred in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 17 June 1933 with impressive solidarity and respect from his fellow riders. A sidecar carried the urn with the ashes, contained in an oak casket which was draped with the colours of the Downs Club.[8]

BISHOP Jack funeral Bris Courier 19 June 1933p13

The Brisbane Courier, 19 June 1933 p13

The motorcycle was driven by Jack’s old friend and fellow racer, Cyril Anderson. A car with the relatives followed in the cortege and then behind it, two by two, came motor cyclists, their headlights draped in black. The Club remembers the funeral as probably the first motor-cycle funeral in the world.[9]

Jack’s widow, Mrs Lillian L Bishop, 24, returned to England on the Largs Bay on 25 September 1933. With Lillian was her young son, Daniel J Bishop, aged 3 and possibly named for Jack’s uncle, Daniel Paterson. Lillian and Daniel Bishop’s intended address was 19 Glyn Mansions, Kensington, London.[10] There is only one child on the British immigration records and that reveals another tragedy: just nine days after Jack’s interment, their daughter Patricia’s death was registered. There is no indication that she was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery with her father and I’m left wondering if Lilian took her daughter’s ashes back to England with her.

UPDATE: I purchased the death certificate for Patricia Mary Bishop, daughter of Jack and Lilian. She died in the Mackay Mater Hospital on 26 June 1933 of meningitis and cardiac failure.  Poor little mite. She was buried in the Mackay cemetery on 28 June 1933. What a tragic end to this story. I’ve left a flower for her on FindAGrave. I wonder if one day Daniel’s descendants may find this story and learn more.

Nothing further is known of Lillian and Daniel after their migration “home”. Research so far has been unsuccessful. I would love to hear more of them or make contact with descendants.

The extensive obituary from Jack’s home town. MOTOR CYCLING. (1933, March 24). Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1922 – 1933), p. 10. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

Why not race over to the Sepia Saturday page and see what prize-winning stories have been told?


[1] Such moments are the lifeblood of dedicated family historians because they make the long frustrating hours of searching worthwhile.

[2] Originally from Australian Speedway Motorcycles webpage: Site no longer online.

[3] The history of Exeter-Falcons dirt racing makes many references to Jack Bishop. Also no longer online but this may have replaced it:

[4] Toowoomba Chronicle, 24 June 1933, page 5 contains a detailed report of Jack Bishop’s life and funeral.


[6] Passenger lists leaving UK 1890-1960 at

[7] There is an excellent photograph of Jack Bishop in his racing leathers on the National Library of New Zealand, Timeframes webpage.

[8] Toowoomba Chronicle, 24 June 1933, page 5.

[9] Email from Downs Motorcycle Sporting Club researcher, Garry Luchich in 2007.

[10] UK Incoming passenger lists 1878-1960, BT26, piece 1029, item 1 on

Sepia Saturday: A Pint in the Sun

2004311 : Sepia Saturday 520 Header (16 May 2020)

This week’s theme for Sepia Saturday evoked a particular family memory as soon as I saw it, though I can’t believe it’s twenty years since this enjoyable day out. Our youngest daughter had been on a gap year after finishing uni and had been working at a pub in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire for six months with her partner. When we met up with them in Tuscany, they’d been backpacking for a few months – staying with us in a villa was quite the lap of luxury.


It was so exciting when we met them off the bus: kisses, huge hugs and smiles, and maybe even a tear or two. The Italians from the bus were very approving of this grand display of emotion. We were amused when the  multi-lingual localrestaurateurgave us a quote from his own family gatherings “today you laugh, tomorrow you fight“. Luckily we managed to avoid any major “blues” and had a good time together. By the time we drove into Siena for a look-see we’d even learned to deal with the Italian traffic! To celebrate we sat in the sunshine in the Piazza del Campo and enjoyed a cold beer together. Perfetto!

This topic turned my thoughts to family drinking habits and the role of alcohol. My father had only an occasional beer though he also liked a whisky from time to time. One memorable time, he was watching a Rugby Union match with Mr Cassmob and myself. Mum arrived, busying around, and moved his coffee table. Being engrossed in the match, he replaced his beer glass exactly where it had been previously – only problem being that the table was no longer there. Oops! We were not popular! My mother was never, ever a drinker of alcohol, nor was her father (or presumably her mother) since they’d both signed “The Pledge“. Amazingly I managed to avoid all school encouragement to do the same, so I can enjoy my wine.

Similarly, my father’s parents also never drank alcohol in their old age. My paternal grandfather may have been known to have a beer as a younger man but perhaps not after he married my grandmother who was a staunch Presbyterian.

The following newspaper extract describes my maternal grandmother’s parents’ refreshment rooms in Charters Towers. One might infer from this that the Melvin family were non- drinkers as well (though Stephen Melvin’s brother did run pubs). It’s also worth remembering that in Queensland, and especially the tropical north, there’s little appeal to sitting in the sun with a cold beer, or any other cold drink. Being in a shady, cool place is much more attractive.

Melvin Nth Qld Register 1895 non alcoholic

MESSRS. MELVIN & CO. (1895, December 21). The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 – 1905), p. 65. Retrieved May 17, 2020, from

Perhaps some of the family antipathy to alcohol can be explained by the death of Anne Callaghan who I believe to have been my 2xgreat grandmother from Courtown in Ireland. At first, one wonders how no one noticed she hadn’t returned home but it’s entirely possible the men in the family were at sea fishing. By 1886, my great-grandmother, Anne’s daughter, had already emigrated to Queensland.

CALLAGHAN Anne Death cert 1886

As the advertisements say “Drink in Moderation“.

Why not visit the Sepia Saturday page to see how other Sepians have “hit the grog” and whether they were basking in the sunshine at the same time.

And sometimes, an ice cream is every bit as good as a beer when it’s hot.







A to Z 2020 blog reading and thoughts

A to Z reflection

This year there were 418 bloggers who participated in the April A to Z Challenge – a more manageable number than in some previous years. I liked that they were categorised too, which probably limits which blogs you’re likely to read when time is short, but conversely lets you maximise the benefits. I’ve included my list of blogs I read intensively through the challenge – there’s great content in there.

This was my 5th year participating in the A to Z: you can see the links to previous years at the end of this post in case you’ve got cabin fever and need something more to read.


I like to comment on posts, even if I do a batch at a time (eg on Sundays when no posts are scheduled). These are the things I like, or find frustrating when reading a blog:

  • A “like” button or similar if you don’t have anything profound to add or are short for time.
  • Posts which require completion of a form on each occasion you comment can be frustrating, take more time and can be a deterrent to commenting (hence the added benefit of a like button)
  • Responses to comments are always welcome – otherwise it’s a bit like talking to yourself
  • Many genealogy bloggers were very generous with their time in commenting at different times throughout the challenge or even on each post.
  • A useful tip for those following Australian genealogy/history bloggers is the Facebook group called Australian History Bloggers Fan Group…a one-stop shop for finding interesting blogs.
  • I like that keeps my blogs spam free and I only have to be careful the first time someone comments to confirm they’re genuine. Sometimes it does get it wrong, but luckily one of those bloggers contacted me through Messenger to give me a heads-up.
  • Try to get your images lined up before you start – always assuming you have your challenge program worked out in advance. This can save a lot of time and angst.

Blogs I followed through the Challenge

Genealogy/Family History

Anne’s Family History

Earlier Years

Family History Fun

Finding Eliza

Genealogy Challenges



Molly’s Canopy

The Curry Apple Orchard


Diary of a Dublin Housewife

Best Bookish Blog

The Local Tourists

My previous A to Z challenges

2019 – Snapshot memories of my early married life in Papua New Guinea

2016 – How to pursue an interest in family history or genealogy

2013 – Travels through Australia’s North and Aussie-isms (colloquialisms)

2012 – A genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue


Spanish Flu and Ithaca, Brisbane

sepia Sat 1 MayThis post was inspired by this week’s Sepia Saturday theme of “I am asking you to feature your tributes to all of those who are keeping us safe at the moment by featuring your old photographs of carers of all types and all times”. Admittedly it’s now more Sepia Monday but I wanted to include my discovery of workers who supported the Spanish Flu in a suburb near where I grew up, and near where my grandparents lived at the time. I have no doctors or nurses in my own history from this time so I turned to my good friend Trove.

May 1919 seems to have been the hot-spot of infections although at this time, the deaths seems small compared to what was experienced globally.


Influenza deaths Courier 1919

INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC. FIVE DEATHS YESTERDAY. (1919, May 24). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 5. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from

Soon after this, the suburbs or town Councils started to take action to support the community as people fell ill.

Ithaca May 1919 p2 Daily Mail

WOMENS REALM. (1919, May 28). The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1903 – 1926), p. 2. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from

Ithaca gets busy pt 1 Telegraph 30 May 1919

Ithaca gets busy pt2

ITHACA GETS BUSY. (1919, May 30). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved May 4, 2020, from

Meanwhile activity in neighbouring Enoggera gives a sense of what was happening at the grassroots level.

Enoggera Emergency Corps Flu Courier 3 June 1919

THE WOMEN’S PART. (1919, June 3). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 8. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from

Ithaca emergency work

Metropolitan Area. (1919, June 20). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from

Ithaca kitchen spanish glu

Ithaca influenza epidemic workers, July 1919.

The summary on this photo explains: A large crowd of people who were working as volunteers during the influenza epidemic. The group includes, doctors, nurses, ladies and schoolchildren, pictured outside the Ithaca Women’s Emergency Corps kitchen.

Ithaca workers during the influenza epidemic Red Hill 1919

Ithaca workers during the influenza epidemic, Red Hill, 1919

The State Library of Queensland provides this summary and explains the signs held up by the boys on the window sill: Volunteer workers outside the Ithaca Town Council Chambers during the influenza epidemic of 1919. The Brisbane area experienced an outbreak of influenza in May 1919 and it spread through hospitals in the area. Isolation huts were erected at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds to cope with the epidemic. Cards were issued by local authorities which could be put in house windows if people needed help. SOS for doctors and FOOD if needed. (Information taken from: Town of Ithaca Mayor’s Report, 1919, p. 6.)

Map Ithaca and family

Rather foolishly I hadn’t considered what the Spanish Flu Influenza meant to my ancestors who survived and who apparently remained well. They resided in the spread between the Ithaca Council Chambers (marked Ithaca Hall) and the Brisbane Exhibition Ground (blue marker), which was the influenza evacuation point. My grandfather hadn’t returned to his residence in Bally St from World War I until August 1919. His wife-to-be and her elderly mother and siblings were all living at Guildford St (red marker), fairly close to Ithaca Town Council Chambers. I wonder if we’ll ever know how the Influenza Epidemic may have affected them or their livelihoods. It’s made me realise that I need to research the impact of the epidemic on Townsville where my other grandparents lived. I already know from Trove that my great-grandparents’ house in Hughenden became an isolation hospital.

McSherry hospital Hughenden

Hughenden Notes. (1919, June 18). The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 9, 2020, from


How much more sedate do things look a mere year later at the Ithaca Town Council chambers.


Ithaca Town Council Chambers 1920, 99 Enoggera Tce, Brisbane from Wikipedia.

This image is from a Sydney suburb in New South Wales but it is visually evocative of the current situation.

Kensignton nursesE00025

Image shows the influenza team at the Kensington School of Arts during the influenza epidemic of 1919. With the team is a blackboard listing the nurse, cooks and others on the team. Randwick City Library

My A to Z finale and reflections

A to Z reflection

The end of an A to Z challenge always comes with a sense of achievement as well as some relief at its conclusion. Blogging six times a week on a consistent theme can be demanding of time and mental energy, especially if you start at the last minute as I did this year.

A couple of months ago I’d set out a schedule on the topic of Gratitude which I also wanted to tie into my family history and ancestral lives. Unfortunately, with so many of the words I listed, it was nearly impossible to show them in action in my families. This made me rethink my chosen words and forced some mental gymnastics to remember all the various research discoveries I’d made over the years and how they demonstrated whichever attribute of gratitude I’d chosen.

Did I succeed? I’m not sure but I’m pleased with the stories I presented and how they showed the character and resilience of my ancestors. Not all were “perfect”, certainly not all the time, but they do provide me with inspiration for lives well lived, and forgiveness for times fallen short.

In these times of coronavirus and covid-19, the challenge was a perfect antidote to the uncertainties and social restrictions. Not only did it consume a lot of time (the virtue of starting late this year), it also reminded me that my ancestors had tough times as well and survived and thrived.

I’d like to thank those who followed along and those who commented or shared my posts as well as all those who shared their blog stories through the challenge. My blog reading net wasn’t spread as widely this year (the downside of a late start) but I’ve followed excellent series by fellow family historians and some bloggers from previous years. Thank you for your entertainment and sharing your stories.

UPDATE: A to Z Blog reading and thoughts – a further post.

Looking back a few years I found a post I’d written about the list of things I’m grateful for. It really hasn’t changed that much. Of course it differs from the things my ancestors would have been grateful for, but not entirely.




Is Zen a goal, a gratitude or an attitude?

Z2020Since my underlying theme for the A to Z this year has been gratitude and aspects of it, Zen seems to be the ultimate objective: where we reach a state of calmness and gratefulness that accepts our life as it is.

It’s particularly pertinent in April 2020 as we come to terms with a different life in social isolation from how we normally fill our days. #Iso-Zen might be our goal. For myself I haven’t found my life to be vastly different from usual other than what might be over-dramatically expressed as a reduction in freedom, to just go out, meet friends, have a coffee, go for dinner or for a drive in the country.


Image from Pixabay by Dweedon1

The A to Z challenge this year has been a great way to use my time productively and has provided a focus for the days. My main outings have been to see my mother in her care home and occasional outings for exercise. Fortunately, Australia’s leaders have worked largely collaboratively and put safety precautions in place quickly, so that most of us do not sit in fear each day. That truly is a cause for gratitude.

Zen teaches that once we can open up to the inevitability of our demise, we can begin to transform that situation and lighten up about it. Allen Klein, American author

Zen and Ancestors

There’s no particular way to identify whether my ancestors had reached a zen-like attitude to their lives. Perhaps there’s just the hope that at the end of their lives they were content with what they’d achieved, felt happiness from the ever-expanding family descendants, and were grateful for the joys of their lives. I can only hope they had no great regrets about leaving their homeland or how their lives had turned out. Many had maintained their religious faith which had sustained them over the years.  They’d been determined in achieving their goals and were settled in their locations and had contributed to the growth of our country and their neighbourhoods. I suppose we can call that reaching a state of Zen or contentment.

How do you regard Zen and discover it in your ancestors’ lives?

Well, I believe life is a Zen koan, that is, an unsolvable riddle. But the contemplation of that riddle – even though it cannot be solved – is, in itself, transformative. And if the contemplation is of high enough quality, you can merge with the divine. Tom Robbins, American author.


A zen garden at San Francisco’s Japanese Gardens. © P Cass 2017

Quotes from