Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Reposting Flowers and Crosses

Sepia Saturday: Flowers and crosses

Two men in suits, yarning in the doorway of a coffee lounge. That's the theme photo for this week's Sepia Saturday. So of course I ignored the men and went with some of the signage on the wall.

On the left side of the photo there is a florists's sign that reads 'Wreaths and Crosses' and I'm following that link in this blog. In World War 1 a relative was sent an album of pressed flowers from the Holy Land and Jerusalem.  There are about 12 pages like those below. The album is about A4 size and has a cover made of olive wood. Some of the pages have crosses, some not. The flowers are in remarkably good condition and retain a lot of colour.

Also during the war a family member, David Ray Leed, was killed in France. This photo was sent to his parents.

David Ray Leed's cross, Rue-Du-Bois Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France
Private David Ray Leed, 23 Battalion,  Killed in Action Pozieres, Somme, France 15 Jul 1916;
Buried Rue-Du-Bois Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France.
About 15 years ago friends of ours visited the cemetery and gave us these photos as well as a pressed red poppy they gathered from a field there. As you can see, the cemetery looks much different now. It's under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Rue-Du-Bois Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France
David Ray Leed's headstone, Rue-Du-Bois Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France
At about the same time, between 1910 and 1920, this postcard was sent to a lady in Melbourne for her birthday. Now why would you put a cannon on a birthday card??? Even if it is covered in flowers.

To celebrate Sepia Saturday's 200th anniversary we have been asked to repost our favourite post. You can see what posts the other participants have chosen on the group's webpage.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trove Tuesday: in which we go for a record

In 1908 Sampson Smith wrote a letter to the Editor of The Argus. His parents, Ephraim and Elizabeth Smith, had just celebrated their diamond wedding. Sampson has done a few calculations and worked out that his grandchildren have four surviving great-grandparents (Ephraim and Elizabeth Smith and Edward and Mary Barker) whose combined ages was 339 years. And not only that, all four were shipmates when they migrated from England on the the 'Flora McDonald', landing in Portland, Victoria in Aug 1852.

The Argus (Melbourne), 18 Dec 1908
I too have done a calculation. My grandsons have four surviving great-grandparents as well. Nan and Pasy (Neil and Shirley Phelan of Kerang) are 90 and 88. Grandad and Hazel (Angus and Hazel Wyllie of Drysdale) are 93 and 81. That's a total of 352 years. But I'm cheating just a little. Hazel and Angus have only been married for 23 years - my mother, Mavis, died in 1988 when she was 61.

But isn't it interesting that diamond wedding anniversaries (60 years) and octogenarians (80 years) were considered worthy of comment in 1908.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Soldiers and Sailors

The theme photo for Sepia Saturday #199 - dressing up for playacting.
I have the impression that the congregation of the Mitiamo Methodist Church enjoyed any opportunity to dress up in costume and entertain each other. (Or, if it's not the church it was the school.) The two photos were taken in about 1940 on the same spot but I'm not sure that they were taken on the same day - Bill Kendall appears in both photos.

Soldiers. From left, Bill Kendall, Barry Twigg and Des Taylor
Sailors. From left, Bill Kendall, Joy Phelan and John Forbes
PS I'm also curious about why the children aren't looking at the camera. Maybe there was another photographer at stage right.

It's showtime over at Sepia Saturday. Take a seat and enjoy the show.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trove Tuesday: Vale Uncle Jim (1868-1937)

I remember the violin on a high shelf in our spare bedroom. And then we children wrecked it. None of us learned to play it, my parents couldn't play it. My mother played the organ in church, we had an organ and a piano (and the ubiquitous wooden recorders) and several of us had piano lessons, but we weren't brought up listening to classical music (or even fiddle music) so I don't ever remember thinking I'd like to learn how to play the violin. Somehow we were allowed to play with the violin instead, so gradually it was ruined.

I never thought about whose violin it was but now I know that it belonged to my father's great-uncle Jim. Dad's older sister, Dorothy, told me that Uncle Jim played with the Salvation Army band in Warracknabeal, playing on the street.

Jim and his siblings were born in South Australia and it appears that the family moved from Mt Gambier to the Horsham and Minyip districts of Victoria in the 1870s. There were four surviving brothers, Robert (my great-grandfather), William, John and James. James was born at Mt Gambier in 1868. He never married.

When he was about 25 James was working on a farm at Kellalac when he was kicked in the head by a horse. The result was a fractured skull (I was told he had part of his skull removed) and brain damage that affected him the rest of his life.

On 30 October 1894 James Wyllie was admitted to Ararat Lunatic Asylum and discharged 13 December 1894 as 'cured'.

PROV VPRS 7427 Nominal Roll of Patients (VA 2841) Ararat 1867-1906 Unit 1.
Ararat (Aradale) Lunatic Asylum, c1880
About 30 years ago I wrote to Aradale to see if they could provide me with any information and was most surprised to receive a little package back. It includes the dates Jim was admitted and discharged and copies of the Victoria Police Reports generated when Jim was arrested. The reports are quite detailed and describe his address, sober habits, that his mania wasn't dangerous to others, that he was quiet in custody and not under restraint. The first report doesn't describe what behaviour precipitated the arrest but the result was his admission to the asylum at Ararat. It must have been a horrible place. I know little about its history but there were about 1000 inmates, male and female in separate wings, and up to 500 staff. It has since closed.

James was admitted again in 1905 according to this newspaper notice...

Horsham Times, 12 Sep 1905
... and again on 6 September 1908. This time he wasn't discharged until four years later, on 1 October 1908. This time the police report records that he led a sober and industrious life at Warracknabeal (where he worked in the flour mill) but was arrested because he 'says he is Jesus Christ, prays on his knees on the footpath and tries to impel others to do the same'. Whilst in the custody of the police he was excitable, shouting and praying and was constrained in a strait jacket.

My aunt remembers visiting Uncle Jim at Warracknabeal with her parents but when they approached the house he would disappear out the back so they would just leave the food and other items and just leave. Eventually, in 1937 when he was 60, the Salvation Army rang the family to say that he was in hospital. When he died he was buried in the Minyip cemetery after a service at Warracknabeal. His house was sold and the proceeds divided between his nieces and nephews.

Horsham Times, 20 Aug 1937
You know what? Now that I know his story I wish we'd treasured Uncle Jim's violin.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Diggers return on the Marathon

It's been a naval month with Australia celebrating the centenary of the Royal Australian Navy, so the Sepia Saturday theme this week is timely.

I've selected a couple of photos from the family's album to write about. In April 1919 Melbourne's Argus newspaper reported that a ship called Marathon had sailed from England with a large number of Australian soldiers on board. The war had been over for five months but there were a lot of diggers who still hadn't made it home, particularly those who were recovering from injuries received on the battlefields of France and Belgium. The newspaper report is quite detailed in that it lists the names of the injured soldiers, the nursing staff and some of the other passengers. The list includes my husband's grandfather, R J D (Roy) Phelan who was recovering from a bad shrapnel wound to his skull. There will be a sad story behind every single name on the 'injured' list.

The Argus, 29 April 1919. Accessed at Trove, NLA.
Roy Phelan, recuperating in England, 1919
It also includes the names of two other Australian soldiers whose photos are also in our family's album so they must have been friends of Roy.

Bill Bateman
Ted Taylor
I don't know who took these two photos because the public wasn't allowed onto the wharf as far as I know. Maybe it was Roy himself because there are several other photos in the album that he took on the voyage home. It's the Marathon tied up at Railway Pier, Port Melbourne. It must have been such an exciting time for the soldiers and their families.

Marathon, Port Melbourne, June 1919
AIF soldiers disembarking from the Marathon, Melbourne, June 1919
Arrival of the Marathon, Port Melbourne. The Argus, 9 June 1919.
The Marathon is mentioned quite a few times in the newspapers in 1919 because it twice carried soldiers to Fremantle, Adelaide and Sydney and it carried several VIPs on board (McCay in particular, listed under 'Other Reasons' on the first newspaper article). And later in the same year it was involved in a collision with a Japanese ship in the English Channel - it was refloated and steamed to London under her own power.

I'm sure the naval historians would have much more to say about the life of the Marathon, but this is the extent of her impact on the Phelan's family history.

I suggest you sail on over to see what others write about this Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Trove Tuesday: In which they danced all night

Wow, they really knew how to party in 1889.

Sarah Yeaman and William Rigby partied with friends the whole night to celebrate their wedding. Auld Lang Syne was sung at daybreak - I'm surprised they found the energy!

Riverine Herald (Echuca) 6 Nov 1889
Pannoobamawm is a farming area near Echuca but you won't find it on Google Maps. Bamawm, Pine Grove or Tennyson are other names used for the area. The Yeaman families farmed in the Tennyson area and Sarah's parents, Charles and Sarah, had a farm they called 'Shadyside'. The house must have been bigger than I thought because the newspaper article states that after the midnight supper the 100 guests filed back into the ballroom to listen to songs and recitations and to continue dancing.

The house had a ballroom? They waited until midnight to serve supper?

Sarah, a sister of my husband's great grandmother, was 25 years old but she had apparently already made a name for herself as an exhibitor at agricultural shows and had won Champion Butter of Australia at the Melbourne Show. Champion Butter of Australia! And her husband, William Rigby, was first President of the local Mutual Improvement Association. I'm not sure what the association was exactly but it seems to have encouraged education etc.

Riverine Herald (Echuca) 1 Aug 1889
William and Sarah Rigby lived in the Tennyson area for a number of years before retiring to Melbourne.

PS Just as an aside. I'm wondering what the bathroom facilities were like at 'Shadyside'. It was November so it was probably warm, one hundred guests for about twelve hours, lots of dancing, supper, fifty or more ladies in their beautiful long and complicated dresses, corsets etc ...
How did they manage?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sepia Saturday: A clearing sale

This week for Sepia Saturday we're asked to highlight a photo that is 'blurred, scratched, undefined, and plain boring'. Easy peasy, I thought. But then I had trouble deciding on which of the many blurred and scratched photos to choose. Not one of them is boring to me because each captures a little slice of time in the life of my family.

I've chosen just one. After the war my parents, Angus and Mavis Wyllie, married and lived on a wheat farm at Laen, east of Minyip in Victoria's Wimmera district. I was three when they decided to sell the farm and move south to greener pastures at Homerton north of Portland on the coast. Dad wasn't a wheat farmer any more, he was a dairy farmer, and he didn't need the wheat farming equipment any more. So he held a clearing sale in February 1952. For several weeks prior to the sale there were advertisements in the paper.

Horsham Times, 25 January 1952 [Sourced at Trove]
Clearing sales are usually held on the property and items for sale are laid out in rows on the ground as shown in the photo. The sales are usually well-attended by neighbouring farmers looking for a bargain. The photo is faint and blurred but I like that it records that event and that it shows how flat and dry the Wimmera is. The farm at Homerton was undulating, lush, with a creek running the length of it and incorporated acres of natural bush as well as pasture. Thirty years later mum and dad held another clearing sale when they sold the farm at Homerton and retired.

Wyllie's clearing sale, Laen, February 1952
You can see more blurry photos over at Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Trove Tuesday: Rhoda, Rhoda and Woodlands

I've blogged about Rhoda Andrew before. She lived a quiet life on her father's farm in country Victoria. For about a year in 1888, when she was 18 or 19, she wrote a diary that has now been transcribed. The diary has provided a number of useful clues in my family history research. Rhoda died of influenza when she was 30 and her mother died a few days later. Her father, who was also ill with the influenza, survived.

On 21 January 1888  Rhoda wrote about her mother, also called Rhoda.
Saturday Jan 21st [1888].This afternoon Kate took Mother out for a drive, the first time since her illness, I am so glad dear Mother is getting better and is able to get out a little; I do hope she will improve, I am sure.
 I was wondering what her mother's illness might have been but then I remembered that I had a copy of a newspaper cutting that someone in the family had kept. It was an obituary of Rhoda's mother that had been published in a church magazine. I've yet to find the source but I think it would have been Wesleyan Methodist or Methodist because the Andrew family were active members of their local church community. The obituary describes in quite a bit of detail the long-term ill health of Rhoda.
In Memorium (Mrs. Andrew)Since I knew the late Mrs Andrew she was somewhat of a recluse, through delicate health, mainly. During her whole life she was a fond and kind mother, a most devoted wife, very charitable and good to everyone; would divide her loaf with any who needed. Several of her babies died in infancy, and she grieved over the lost ones. She often seemed at death's door, from frequent attacks of asthma. Then another complaint gradually grew on her, which disabled her from walking much and getting to God's house regularly, also the necessary change of scene and fresh air. And being unwilling to let a doctor advise and help her she consequently suffered most severely in late years. Though the change of climate into the north improved her so much that there was little trouble with her chest, until that severe attack of influenza some years ago which weakened her so much that she never quite got over it. Not many knew how easily fatigued and how unfit for work she was. But patient and persevering how she would do the part when felt it her duty to do in the home. Through feeble health she did not in the outside public shine as brightly as many. She will, I feel sure, have stars in her crown. She leaves a good name to her children and grandchildren. May they through grace Divine follow in her footsteps and meet at God's right hand.
 M.A. Midgley[Church publication]
So what facts was I able to glean from the obituary?
  • She was sad because a number of her children died. I'm not surprised. She had ten children and only two of them survived childhood. After Rhoda's death at the age of 30 her sister Mary (my husband's direct ancestor) was the only surviving child.
  • She had frequent attacks of asthma
  • She had a severe attack of influenza 'some years ago'
  • She had another 'complaint' but refused to see a doctor
  • The family attended church
From other family information I know that the church they attended was the Woodlands Wesleyan at Central Mologa. The church was just up the road from the Andrew's farm that Rhoda's father and grandfather selected in the mid 1870s. I searched Trove for mentions of Woodlands Wesleyan church and found several articles. In 1877 the church was badly damaged in a wind storm - I think the community must have rebuilt it - and in 1887 they celebrated an anniversary.

McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote), 22 Feb 1877
Kerang Times and Pyramid Hill Gazette, 8 Feb 1887
And the last one I found was about a bazaar to raise funds for a parsonage (possibly at Kerang).

Kerang Time and Swan Hill Gazette, 29 May 1888
Because the last newspaper item coincided with the year of Rhoda's diary I was able to check to see if she had written about the family's involvement in the fund-raising. And sure enough...
Friday May 4th. 
Mrs Hare and J. Wood came today, and of course the baby too, bringing their bazaar things.  
Friday May 11th. 
Mary went to Pyramid in the afternoon, Miss Baker came in the evening. We sat up till late at night, doing Bazaar work. 
 Thursday May 17th 
.Mary had Jane Hiscock over today, to help with some Bazaar work. Jane brought over her contribution.  
Friday May 18th. 
We went to Mrs Innocent's this afternoon for some fruit, and she was not at home, so went on for Miss Baker. We called again as we came back, found her at home this time, but could not get fruit tonight. Mrs I. is coming over tomorrow, so she said she would bring the quinces with her. Miss B. and Mary are working away tonight, for the bazaar, of course. Now I must go and help them, so no more for my "Diary", tonight.  
Saturday May 19th. 
Mrs Innocent came over in the afternoon. We were very busy, finishing baking cakes for the Bazaar. We got cleared away and swept up by night, so that's one good thing done.  
Monday May 21st. 
We washed today. In the afternoon Louisa Hare came up with the dolls she dressed for the Bazaar. 
Thursday May 24th.
Queen's birthday today, Bazaar opens today.  
Saturday May 26th. 
The Bazaar was a great success and I'm so glad. It is nice when a thing is a success.
And finally, for this blog, an entry where Rhoda again mentions her mother.
Monday June 4th. 
Mary and I took Mother for a drive this afternoon. Just up to the Church, we made a Catalogue of the books in the Sunday School Library. We moved the organ, to the other side of the Church, because it is warmer there for the winter, and swept out the Church. So we did a good afternoon's work. No more for tonight. Goodnight.
 And goodnight from me too. 


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