Saturday, February 20, 2016


Real photo postcard. Miss Dora Langham.
Company: Rhotophot. Photographer: Thiele. Produced in Berlin.
Dear Violet.
Just a line to say that I was never jealous,
Yours to a cinder
Miss Violet White of Collingwood, Victoria received a postcard in about 1908 and put it in her album with a number of other cards she received in the next several years. The message on this one is intriguing. Wouldn't you love to know the story?

Miss Dora Langham wasn't an Australian - she was English. She was a stage actress in the early 1900s but I haven't been able to find any biographical details. Violet White had quite a few postcards of actresses in her collection so the subject must have been popular.

I selected this card to match the theme photo for Sepia Saturday this week. Miss Langham has flowers in her hair (like the lady in the theme photo). And the lady in the theme photo seems to be in a theatre dressing room.

You can see more drama and mystery over on the Sepia Saturday page.

And, as a postcript, just for fun. In the theme photo you can see the photographer reflected in the mirror. Here is a photo of me, reflected in a mirror at Luna Park near Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Self portrait, Luna Park, Sydney
Luna Park, Sydney

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Neil and the Bean

In the first half of the 20th century Neil Phelan's father, Roy, operated a general store in the small town of Mitiamo north of Bendigo in Victoria. Their home was right next door. (I've written about the store, Mitiamo and the family a number of times in this blog and the links are in the tags on the right.) The store had been previously operated by Neil's grandparents, Charles and Euphemia Sims who lived nearby.

Quite a few family snaps were taken in the backyard of the Phelan home and the store and it's interesting to see what is in the background of the photos. In this case I'm looking at a particular car. Neil was photographed in their car, a Bean, in about 1925. He's wearing a pair of sunglasses that must have belonged to uncle Chas Sims I think - he was a bit of a lad. The Bean was owned by his grandfather Sims who bought it new.

Young Neil Phelan in his family's Bean car, c1925.
The Bean and Neil Phelan c1925
The Bean vehicles were manufactured in England. This one could be either the model 11.9 four-seater that started rolling off the production line in 1922 or a Fourteen Tourer, that was produced in 1924. I'm thinking it's the latter but I'm happy to be told one way or the other.
Company catalogue
From the 1919 Bean catalogue.
Neil Phelan, backyard of the Phelan home in Mitiamo c1925.
The Bean car is in the background.
A restored Bean 11.9, England.
A restored Bean Fourteen Tourer, England
This post has been in response to the Sepia Saturday theme photo for this week, a film crew on an Australian beach. I've chose to match the element of people wearing sunglasses.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

James Taylor's aunties

I have written a little about my grandmother's grandfather here. His name was James Taylor and he lived forty years in Eldorado in the Ovens Valley, Victoria where he was a gold miner. He died there in 1916.

James was born in 1831 in the beautiful city of Durham in Durham county, England. His father, a woolcomber, was John Taylor and his mother Ann Coultman. By 1851 they were living in Back Lane, Durham. Quite a few family events, baptisms, marriages and burials, occurred in St Nicholas Church. We visited Durham, and had a coffee in the St Nicholas drop-in centre, several years ago and we thought this loop of the River Wear and the buildings it encloses very beautiful.

Old postcard of the beautiful Durham Cathedral
Back Lane, Durham, England. A loop of the River Wear encloses the cathedral and the
castle as well as the market square and the little St Nicholas church.
Many of the Taylor and Coultman families lived in the St Nicholas parish. 
Durham market square and St Nicholas parish church
Community Coffee Centre, St Nicholas Church, Durham in 2010.
James, aged 20, was working as a hand loom weaver but about that time gold was discovered in Australia and he decided to join in the goldrush. His death certificate states that he arrived in Victoria about 1852 but I haven't been able to confirm that because there are so many 'James Taylor' arrivals about that time.

The next ten years of James' life are a blank but I assume he was mining gold somewhere in Victoria. In 1864 he was mining at Beaufort when he married Ann Chellew (nee Chaundy) there. She was widowed when her husband was suffocated by bad air in a mine. Ann's sister Leah (Raby) was living in the Ovens Valley in northern Victoria and three of her sisters also moved into that area - Emily (Young), Alice (Cameron) and Ann (and James) who were at Eldorado in 1869. James and Ann never had any children (although James had a son with Ann's sister Emily but that's another story).

James Taylor's mother was Ann Coultman, daughter of Richard Coultman and Elizabeth Shafto  I had done some research on her family, who also lived in Durham city, but one day recently I was searching the name on the public family trees on Ancestry and discovered that two of Ann's sisters, James' aunties, had also migrated to Victoria. Well, stone the crows!!!

As we all know, the public family trees on the web are notoriously inaccurate, so I was cautious in accepting the information. Several of the trees claim that Elizabeth's surname was Weaver rather than Shafto but I'm convinced that Shafto is correct. I checked the sources and attached documents and will continue to check as well as try to contact living descendants, but on the whole I think it's probably right.

The two aunts who came to Victoria are Camilla and Elizabeth.

Camilla Coultman was born in 1809 in Leeds and married William Close at Durham city in June 1840. They had six children in Durham before migrating to Australia some time after 1852. They lived at Williamstown across the river from Melbourne. Camilla Close died at Douglas Parade, Williamstown in 1889 and William died there the following year.

Elizabeth Coultman was born at Durham in 1815, married James Thompson at Durham in July 1840 and had four children. They migrated to Victoria about 1852. Elizabeth was widowed in November 1853 when James Thompson died at Maribynong near Williamstown. She remarried the following year, in Melbourne in June 1854, to John Petty. They were living at Sandridge (now called Port Melbourne) across the river from Williamstown when Elizabeth Petty died in 1868.

So, I have a lot of questions.

  • Did James know his two aunts and his cousins were in Victoria? I think he must have done because his parents, his Coultman grandparents, his uncle William Coultman and his family, and his other aunt, Hannah (Baker) and her family were living in the same lane, Back Lane, in Durham in 1851. (Back Lane is called Back Silver Lane on Google Maps.) 
  • They all arrived in Victoria in about 1852 so did they all emigrate on the same ship? 
  • Was he in touch with them or did they ever visit each other? 

I have some work to do.


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