Gratitude for Gifts

Gifts may seem a very materialistic focus for our gratitude, but are they really? What we’re thanking the giver for, is their time and thoughtfulness in choosing something they think we’ll like or need. Quite often a gift may have an ordinary cash value, but an extraordinary emotional value simply because the person has found something that truly speaks to you. So for every gift you receive, gratitude is the appropriate response.

My favourite childhood (and later!) gifts were books, some of which are still on my shelves with the gift-giver’s note inside. A birthday or Christmas just wasn’t “up to snuff” without one, so this quote made me smile.

I do give books as gifts sometimes, when people would rather have one than a new Ferrari. Dean Koontz, American author. (no contest, surely?!)

book gift021

This book was a gift from my great-aunt. I’d bet I’d finished it before my January birthday.

As a child, many of of us were taught to write thank you notes on receipt of a gift. This matter of etiquette seems to have largely gone out of fashion – though I have one friend who unfailingly writes a formal and polite card of thanks. Instead we now telephone or email our thanks.

I’m very simple when it comes to gifts, so the best ones that I’ve received have love as their main intention. I appreciate everything. Adriana Lima, Brazilian model.

Ancestors and gifts

 

If you’re really lucky your ancestors lived in a place where the local newspaper was gossipy and the correspondent sought out the details of events, or knew the people well. Those stories can give you wonderful insights into your families’ lives. You may know local names from post office directories, electoral rolls, census enumerations (not in Oz) or land maps but you are unlikely to have any true sense of the people’s closeness or the extent of their friendship. News stories can help reveal these links of FANs. And they’re a wonderful source of information for those undertaking One Place Studies. Australian researchers are so very fortunate to have Trove, our free digitised source of newspapers, photos, diaries etc which let us tag, list and text-correct the digital stories. Very much a focus for our gratitude as it’s revealed so many hidden stories which had been lost in the pre-digital era.

Wedding gifts

Plant Savage Wedding DDG 30 Jan 1912

WEDDING. (1912, January 30). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 8. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18319416

Ada Savage married James William Plant of nearby Geham at the Murphy’s Creek Presbyterian church on 17 January 1912. The festivities were extensively reported but so were the list of gifts. I love that even the children gave their own gifts and I’m curious who did the shopping and where. Did they travel on the train up to Toowoomba to search out special gifts? Who would have thought that Kunkel would be mis-reported as Hunkel. The Ganzers were Dorfprozelten connections of my 2xgreat grandfather, George Kunkel and the Tomkys children’s widowed mother married James Kunkel. After many years looking at Murphy’s Creek I can recognise many of the names mentioned in the news story, and their role in the community.

Mary Elizabeth Gavin farewell gift

SOCIAL. (1917, April 10). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 9. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20163205

 

Farewell gifts

This is a delightful story of recognition for long public service by my great-grandmother’s mother and father. Typical of the times Mr Gavin responded on behalf of his wife. This was not their only service as five of their sons went to World War I, and one, James Gavin, was killed at Fromelles.

Enlistment gifts

It was common for the young men, enlisting in World War I from their home district, to be given a gift by one of the community organisations.  Typical gifts were wallets, watches, brushes, or small monetary gifts. Reading these with the knowledge of hindsight, it’s sad to think how many of these men never returned. Perhaps the wallet found with James Gavin’s body was the one given to him at Pechey. The first news story needs to be read with a fair degree of caution as the details seem to be inaccurate in terms of the names.

Jack Gavin, below, was not a member of my Gavin family but his family and mine kept “tripping over” each other on the Downs – it took a while to untangle the threads. Jack was also killed in action.

Gavin boys WWI

PRESENTATIONS. (1915, September 13). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 8. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20059598

 

Jack Gavin

Our Volunteers. (1915, September 15). Western Star and Roma Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1875 – 1948), p. 3. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article98166240

Have you used reports of events or gifts presented to extend your family history research?

Do you perhaps have a special gift that’s been handed down through the family?

Have you left notes on special gifts or items for your descendants, so they know their origin and why they are special to you? Or are  you like me and have it on your “to do” list?

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

 

Battle of Fromelles: In Memoriam L/Cpl James Augustus Gavin KIA

Last night most of us slept peacefully in our beds, but ninety-five years ago a fierce and bloody battle was raging in France. That night Australia suffered a truly terrible loss of its young men akin to that at Gallipoli. Among the Australians readying for action on the evening of 19 July 1916 were my grandfather’s cousin, 30-year old, Lance Corporal James Gavin of the 31stBattalion and Lieutenant Colonel Walter Edmund Hutchinson Cass (54th Battalion), my husband’s grandfather’s brother (ie his great-uncle). Before the night was over James Augustus Gavin would be dead and Walter Cass would be emotionally damaged by all he’d seen, despite being a professional soldier and survivor of Gallipoli.

Capt Dexter (left) and Lt Col WEH Cass (right) at Gallipoli. Photo J02530 from Australian War Memorial no longer in copyright. Walter Cass looks remarkably like my brother-in-law in this photo (or vice versa).

This battle on 19th/20th July 1916 became known as the Battle of Fromelles. This quote from HR Williams of the 56th Battalion is indicative of this battle’s ferocity in which 5533 men were killed, wounded or missing:

“Men who had fought on Gallipoli from the Landing to the Evacuation, admitted freely that Fromelles was the severest test they had seen.”[i]

James Augustus Gavin was 29 years and 3 months and a stockman when he enlisted on 9 July 1915. He was 5 feet 11 inches with a dark complexion, gray eyes and dark hair. He was the son of James Gavin and Mary Elizabeth Drift and was born at Jondaryan on the Darling Downs on 20 March 1886. Five of their sons, including James, joined up and served in World War I, along with four of the boys’ cousins from the Kunkel family. Four of the younger cousins (Stephen & Patrick Gavin and John & Ken Kunkel) travelled together to Europe on the same ship the Port Sydney in 1917. This family seemed to have good networks with the newspapers and snippets would regularly appear in The Toowoomba Chronicle or the Darling Downs Gazette.

Enlistment photo of Photograph of James Gavin in The Queenslander of 2 October 1915, page 24.

Disembarking in Marseilles only a month earlier, Fromelles was to be James’s first and last battle: his service record lists him as “Killed in action” in the field, France. His family was perhaps fortunate that his body was recovered unlike many in massed graves whose names are only now being identified through DNA. James Gavin was buried in the Rue Petillon cemetery by Rev James Green, a Methodist chaplain attached to the 14th Brigade (of which Cass was part). Although coming from a staunchly Catholic family it’s likely his parents would have been grateful that his interment was prayerful and blessed.

Captain Green referred to the Battle of Fleurbaix (his name) saying it “will probably be found to be the most expensive battle ever fought by the AIF and the most desperate”. He describes the 20th July as follows: “our bearers at the risk of their lives, were bringing in our men…we had a sad day of helping the wounded and burying the dead”. It seems likely that James Gavin’s body was among those recovered and interred that day.[iii]

Trove has again revealed the news in The Brisbane Courier 12 August 1916, page 7: CROW’S NEST, August 11. Cablegrams have been received through the Defence Department stating that Private Eddy Richardson, of Glenaven, was killed in France on July 6, and Private James Gavin, of Pechey, near Crow’s Nest, was also killed. Both lads were well known and most popular in the district. The late Private Gavin was one of three brothers who enlisted.

 The local newspaper published this telegram under “obituary”: Died Flanders: On 19 July No 482, Lance Corporal J Gavin, 31st Battalion. Please break news through Roman Catholic clergyman to Mr J Gavin at Pechey and convey deepest sympathy King, Queen and Commonwealth Government on loss the relatives and army have sustained”. Major Darcy.[iv]

After the war, families were asked to nominate what they wanted on their son’s gravestone. James Gavin senior’s initial nomination was[v]:

L/Cpl James Gavin's gravestone in Rue Petillon cemetery: the family's inscription can be read.

A sorrowing people cried aloud

That they were of their hero proud

He helped to build his country’s name

And died in bringing her to fame.

As this exceeded the army’s maximum letters, the family then nominated:

Though nothing can the loss replace

A dear one taken from our side

Rest in peace.

Even this exceeded the army’s limit so “rest in peace” was removed and the final inscription resolved.

The location of James Gavin's grave in Rue Petillon cemetery November 1992.

In November 1992 my husband and I made a pilgrimage to see the graves of the two family members killed on the Western Front: James Gavin at Fleurbaix and James Paterson remembered on the  Villers Brettoneux memorial. James Gavin’s grave is situated in the Rue Petillon cemetery (formerly called Eaton Hall cemetery) amidst tranquil rural French farms. A farmer passing by nodded as we looked through the cemetery, perhaps an informal acknowledgement of the Australian contribution. Although the location is now so peaceful, the glutinous dirt in the adjacent fields provided an insight into the horrendous conditions the soldiers fought through in many battles. I don’t know whether any of his direct family have had the opportunity to visit his grave but it was a privilege for us to remember him in this way.

James had left his meagre possessions to his sister in a basic army will. When returned to Australia via the Beltana in 1917, his belongings were his identity disc, wallet, photo, metal wrist watch and strap, and a religious book. His mother seemed to be under the impression it had been sent to her as she mentions “a mother is always anxious to fit (?) any little token to remind them of the lost one”. Similarly the family had to follow up the medals which had been issued to James posthumously: the Victory Medal, the 1914-15 Star and the British War medal.

James and his brothers are remembered on the Crows Nest memorial in Queensland. Like many other World War I soldiers from Queensland, his photo was included among those in The Queenslander newspaper (John Oxley library now has an index of these but I don’t believe it’s online).

For many years the Battle of Fromelles was comparatively unknown by the Australian public, perhaps seen as a defeat because of the necessary withdrawal, however over the past twenty or so years I’ve seen it gain a higher profile. Now that DNA is being used to identify the bodies of Australian soldiers in massed graves and they are being laid to rest, it is gaining its rightful place in Australia’s ANZAC history. Anyone with an interest in this battle will gain many insights from Corfield’s book Don’t forget me, cobber with its warts and all analysis.

I haven’t done much on this family for a while and have only just discovered a reference to these brothers on the archived Australian Light Horse forum. Posted by Louise Gavin it says “I have photos of George, James -also of the 5th light horse on the move in Egypt, captured turkish gun and a few more. I also have a print (60 x 40 cm) my

In Memoriam: Crows Nest Memorial to those who gave their lives in World War I.

great uncle George brought back in 1919 of the Shellal Mosaic. I have a War Relatives medal as displayed on the AWM website of the WW1 badge and four bars for the five brothers also- presented to my great grandmother on the Prince of Wales visit to Toowoomba in 1920.” Louise if you’re out there please get in touch, I’d love to make contact and hear more from your side of the family. I have a large group photo which I suspect includes Gavin family members but I can’t identify them though my grandfather, Denis Kunkel, is one of the people in the image.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again,
They sit no more at familiar tables of home,
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime,
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires and hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the night.

As the stars shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are stary in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

                                             Laurence Binyon

Quoted on http://www.lighthorse.org.au/


[i]From his book, The Gallant Company 1933, referenced in Don’t Forget Me Cobber, page 127.

[ii] Australian War Memorial, War Diary 31st Battalion, 8th Brigade, Appendix D, page 9.

[iii] R S Corfield, Don’t forget me Cobber: the Battle of Fromelles 19/20 July 1916: An Inquiry, page 361.

[iv] Darling Downs Gazette 15 August 1916, page 4, column 6.