Trove does it again – Bridget Widdup and the Florentia

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 - 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 – 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

Our good friend Trove has done it again!

I mentioned in my East Clare post last week that I was waiting on a new release news story which looked tantalisingly optimistic. It’s now been released and has exceeded my hopes.

Regular readers will recall my excitement back in late December when I found a clue to my Mary O’Brien’s immigration in an advertisement for her sister, Bridget. Since the family’s oral history has them both arriving in Australia together I thought I’d hit the jackpot.

Hours of research online and in archives in Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane had left me none the wiser in terms of hard evidence, and if anything doubting whether even Bridget had come on this sailing ship. Nowhere was there a mention of her name and my hopes plummeted. I felt like the prince trying to make that glass slipper fit.

O'BRIEN Advert Florentiaarticle13011791-3-004

This new death notice and obituary once again opens up the research and reveals so much more. It tells of:

  • Bridget’s arrival in Queensland (also mentioned on her death notice)
  • Arrival on the Florentia (a confirmation of Mary’s advertisement for her)
  • Relocation to Sydney. Her death certificate mentions 1 year Qld, remainder in NSW, so she probably left Ipswich for Sydney some time in 1854.
  • Arrival in the Urana area with Mr James Broughton to work on Cocketgedong[i] Station, on Billabong/Billybong Creek, near Jerilderie, probably around 1857-58.
  • Arrival in the town of Urana before it was surveyed. “Urana village was laid out in 1859” according to Bayley[ii]. Urana was proclaimed a town on 6 May 1859 and gazetted on 10 May[iii]. This roughly fits with when Bridget was believed to have married John Widdup, who would become the town’s poundkeeper, a role Bridget took on after his death in 1876.
LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

There is some oral history that suggests Bridget worked as a children’s nurse which would fit with the birth of Emily Church Broughton in Sydney in May 1858 and Mary B on 25 April 1860. This would tally with Bridget’s move to Cocketgedong especially if she had been working for the Broughtons in Sydney. She’d certainly have been well qualified in this role having been the eldest of the eight O’Brien children. The impact of women arriving in the district was among the subjects discussed in this interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 May 1858[iv].

Of course the question remains why Bridget left Ipswich and her sister, having journeyed so far together. To the best of my knowledge there were not yet any relatives in Sydney. Perhaps she just didn’t like the Queensland heat and dryness. Certainly it can’t have been the isolation as Urana was far more isolated.

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 - 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 – 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

So here I am, back pondering the mysteries of the Florentia migration and again I’m left with the following questions.

  1. Did Mary and Bridget emigrate together?

All the oral history suggests the two young women came together. Annie Kunkel’s usually reliable information fits with what’s now known of the Florentia’s voyage. Furthermore I’ve re-read the notes I took at the time and see that she refers to them on an “old sailing ship”. I’d blipped over the “old” previously but it particularly fits with what’s known of the Florentia which had made voyages to Australia as a convict ship in earlier decades.

  1. Why would Mary advertise for her sister on the Florentia if she didn’t arrive on it?

This question now seems to be answered. I have two different sources citing the Florentia which gives me confidence that Bridget at least arrived on that ship. It only had one voyage to Queensland, in 1853. Earlier ones to other states would have meant the women were too young to travel alone, so I’m now happy to place Bridget on this ship. But why is she not mentioned anywhere in the records?

  1. Were they unassisted passengers?

I can find no evidence or mention anywhere that there were paying passengers on board the ship. It was an old ship and less likely to provide suitable cabin accommodation for anyone other than the captain and surgeon. However, is it still possible that it offered cheap paying accommodation to two young women? The records, as always, are focused on the assisted passengers and there was enough kerfuffle about the voyage that the assisted may have gained no recognition. Or am I clutching at straws?

  1. Were they assisted passengers?

As I mentioned I’ve looked at all available passenger lists for this voyage. There are no single women named O’Brien other than the daughters of Daniel O’Brien who I mentioned in the earlier post. I’d checked them out years ago because of the family’s on-going connection to Mary O’Brien and the Kunkel family. However, once again I married each girl off, and checked their deaths until I was sure none of them were actually our Bridget or Mary. Case closed there.

  1. Were there substitutions or impersonations?

As implausible as this sounds it is not impossible. State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW) makes mention of it:One practice which frequently occurred during this period was the taking on of an alias in order to obtain passage. This happened in cases where passage had been denied under the correct name; in these instances, the assumed name was often the maiden name or the name of a person with whom travelling. In other instances, an immigrant assumed the name of a person to whom a passage certificate had been granted. An example of this is Joseph Golding who came in place of John Mahon. In these cases the lists usually record the person under his/her correct name with a reference to the alias (or assumed) name. (always assuming they actually came to light)

I’ve also found manipulated records, and impersonations, in the East Clare database I’ve built up, though they are only the ones which have come to light, as per the SRNSW examples above.

It seems logical that if the O’Brien girls had taken up other passengers’ tickets/permits that they’d (a) have to have been Irish and (b) most likely have been from Clare or nearby eg Limerick or west Tipperary.

I also eliminated from consideration single women whose married siblings or single brothers were on board, just because that would have required more extensive collaboration.

Similarly two young women in their mid-teens were unlikely to be able to pass themselves off  as women over thirty.

It really does defy logic, and Irish propriety, that the girls would have been languishing on the docks of Plymouth hoping to catch a ship to Australia until some other young girl(s) changed her mind about the voyage.

  1. Checking the single women

Over the past weeks I’ve been researching the single women on the Florentia.

Even eliminating the English and Welsh women from consideration there were still lots to investigate and I set to by looking at potential marriages via Queensland’s online BDM site. If I found one that seemed plausible I traced the death and compared the parents listed with those provided on the shipping lists.

Again and again I hit brick walls, often not even finding marriages at all. I also checked the NSW BDMs, just in case, because some of the immigrants had stated they had relatives interstate. Eventually I had to give this away due to the overall ambiguity, but if any reader had ancestors arrive on this ship I’d love to hear from them.

CONCLUSION

Glass_slippers_at_Dartington_CrystalTo be honest I’m still floundering, though I’m now much more confident that Bridget was on board the Florentia when it arrived in Queensland in 1853. However, was she an assisted or unassisted passenger? Did she/they come out under someone else’s name? There is a suggestion in the local history of Broadford that some young people were assisted to emigrate and perhaps that’s where the clues lie. Perhaps the girls came out as privately funded passengers but on a very old ship, with perhaps a cheap rate.

Frustrating as this is, without Trove I’d still have no clues about their migration as I’d exhausted other avenues many years ago. My gut feeling for some time has been that they came out as unassisted passengers so perhaps that was the case on Florentia.  I’m still walking around with that glass slipper in my hand looking for a perfect fit but will it ever happen? Digitisation has saved my research and perhaps will do so again.

Other posts on this topic:

Have I cracked it?

Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien

Was it all fun and games on the Florentia?

Mixing my metaphors: macadamias and glass slippers.

[One day I may manage a short post!]

[i] Also known as Cocketygong, Cockegong from Trove reports. Cockejedong Creek was a tributary of Billybong or Biallabong Creek: Billabidgee, History of Urana Shire. Bayley, WA. Urana Shire Council 1959, page 59. For overseas readers, the word “station” here does not refer to the railway but an extremely large rural property. In American terms it would be called a ranch.

[ii] ibid, page 75.

[iii] ibid, page 23.

[iv] I was alerted to this by a reference in Bayley, op cit, page 22. Although not referenced in the book, Trove picked it up immediately when I searched by the phrase used.

Trove Tuesday: James Morton of Ballymena, County Antrim and Grafton, NSW.

My East Clare Emigrants blog has been neglected since the cruise but today I was determined to add a story, and the one I’d selected was about Mary Ann Morton, nee Massy. One thing led to another, as it does, and eventually I also followed up her husband, James Morton. An Irishman born in Ballymena, County Antrim he didn’t fit on the other blog so his story makes a good one for Trove Tuesday, despite the less pleasant aspects of his history on Australia’s frontier. Perhaps he was pre-conditioned by his service with the New York Rifles in the Mexican War of 1847. Which goes to show how Trove can help our American cousins as well as the Aussies. I did like that he had known Fred Ward, aka the bushranger Thunderbolt. Apart from the confronting aspects, wouldn’t you like a family obituary with this much detail, though yet again, puzzlingly, there is no detailed mention of family.

DEATH OF MR. J. MORTON. (1924, March 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16142344

DEATH OF MR. J. MORTON. (1924, March 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16142344

But this obituary is incredibly complex and talks of the conflict between the Aborigines and white settlers on the frontiers of Australia in those early days. The language, and more so, the behaviours are confronting but are a part of our history.

A Great Old Pioneer. (1924, March 18). The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 - 1942), p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125965563

A Great Old Pioneer. (1924, March 18). The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 – 1942), p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125965563

Continued from the Obituary above.

Continued from the Obituary above.

Another few bricks tumble on Trove

George Kunkel

George Kunkel

It seems that this past few days have been a voyage of discovery. First I think I’ve cracked the mystery of my Mary O’Brien’s arrival even though there’s some archival searching to be done, then a repeat search of Trove for George Kunkel turned up another gem! And yes, this should have been a Trove Tuesday post, but then again it’s no longer Tuesday.

The first snippet I found was an advertisement in the North Australian newspaper of Saturday, 14 July 1866:

THIS DAY-AT 2 O’CLOCK. In the Court of Requests, District of Ipswich. WILSON v. KUNKEL. TAKE Notice that HUGHES & CAMERON have received instructions from the Bailiff of the Court of Requests to sell by Public Auction, at the Residence of the Defendant, East-street, THIS DAY (SATURDAY), the 14th Instant, at 2 o’clock sharp, The following GOODS and CHATTELS, the property of the Defendant in the above cause, seized under execution, unless the claim be previously satisfied : article123331889-3-001 Kunkel

1 handsome Carriage, 1 Cedar Table (Pine Top), 5 Chairs, 2 Forms, 1 Dressing Table and Cover, 2 Clocks, 2 Pictures, 1 Decanter, 1 Cruet Stand, 6 Tumblers, 1 Butter Basin and Glass, 3 Chimney Ornaments, 1 Double Cedar Bedstead, 1 Single Cedar Bedstead, 1 Box. 10 Stretchers, 1 Toilet Table, 3 Looking-glasses, 1 Jug and Basin, 2 Washstands, 2 Dressing Tables, 6 Mattresses, 4 Pillows, 2 Blankets, 1 Counterpane, 2 Plates, 4 Dishes, 1 Pine Table, 1 Pine Bedstead and Mattress, Crockery, Househlold and Kitchen Utensils, &c., &c.

Terms Cash on the fall of the hammer. No Reserve

It was around 1866 that the Kunkel family appeared to have headed west with the new railway line to Toowoomba. It’s believed George worked on it, but perhaps another possibility is that he was working as a butcher supplying the men, just as he did on the Tooloom goldfields.

Perhaps this explains why the family needed to move. If the proposed auction of their belongings proceeded on that Saturday, surely the family would have been left with little to support daily life. What I find interesting is that the sale focuses on his household belongings. Did he no longer have any business assets? While it was generally required that a man be permitted to keep the equipment needed to do his job, surely there would have been something else to sell than the beds from under their bodies.

There’s another “spin” to this, too, because when George and Mary’s daughter Elizabeth (always known as Louisa) was born in March 1866, George states his occupation as “boarding house keeper”. It seems he was following on the skills learned at his mother’s knee and generations of Happs who ran Das Goldenes Fass inn back home in Dorfprozelten.

Perhaps the reason there are so many assets listed here is because they were part of the boarding house rather than the family’s own. Nevertheless it’s clear they were reasonably well fitted out for a working class family with five children.

All those questions aside I wondered what had brought George to this point. I’d never found a bankruptcy case or a liquidation order against him.

Queensland Times, 7 July 1866 UNDEFENDED CASES There were forty-five undefended cases on the sheet, of which a great many were disposed of out of Court or dismissed from non-appearance of the parties. Verdicts were given for plaintiffs in the following cases, with costs as appended. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123333099

Queensland Times, 7 July 1866 UNDEFENDED CASES There were forty-five undefended cases on the sheet, of which a great many were disposed of out of Court or dismissed from non-appearance of the parties. Verdicts were given for plaintiffs in the following cases, with costs as appended.
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123333099

Further research of Trove revealed at least part of the cause. George was being pursued for dishonouring a £6 promissory note as well as the cost of goods purchased (but presumably not paid for!) of £8 2s 6d. In both cases Wilson was claiming 5 shillings costs, so another £1 to add to the original £14/2/6.

It seems apparent that George had got himself into financial difficulties perhaps by being over-extended in his business arrangements. Their son Thomas was born circa 1868, and his birth and baptism are the only ones I cannot find from the 10 children. My conclusion is that somewhere soon after this financial debacle in mid-1866, the Kunkel family started westwards for the Darling Downs. They later took up a selection at Murphys Creek in 1874. They would never live in Ipswich again, though their granddaughter expressed the view that it was a shame they’d left there, presumably not knowing the reasons why, or echoing something she’d been told as a child.

Trove Tuesday is a theme created by Amy from Branches, Leaves and Pollen blog.

Dad’s and Mum’s Neighbourhood Reminiscences on Trove Tuesday

I was mentioning last week how Dad had lived in the street in Kelvin Grove his whole life, and had memories stretching back decades. Some years ago I asked him a little about it. There was a time when he would “clam up” and not tell stories like this, but when I wrote my family history, he realised I did really want to know more about life in the suburb. I’ve used Trove extensively to see if I could track down more information on what he told me. After starting this story I also had an extensive conversation with Mum to clarify some of the comments, and she also added information.

So here are his brief reminiscences, with my own comments, or follow up research relating to it. Mum’s conversations last week are included in green.

An image from SLQ looking towards Kelvin Grove (but which part?) http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

An image from SLQ looking towards Kelvin Grove (but which part?) http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

When I was young you could catch a feed of prawns down the creek (Enoggera Creek) and when it was mullet season, you could just about walk across the creek across them.

When Pauleen was young we sometimes caught catfish in the creek. Perhaps the floods washed the creek clean in the earlier days considering there was more industrial waste going into it. Mum used to sometimes call Dad “Elastic Jack” when he started telling tall tales, like walking across the creek on the mullet.

When Pauleen was a child, the mangroves were quite dense and the wretched lantana held sway over the creek banks.

Hayes had a dairy[i] and willed all the land to the council for the public. The dairy was located where the Mynor cordial factory was (at the bottom of Gould Rd). He used to run all the cows on Ballymore where the rugby union is now and a bit over the other side of the creek. The creek used to dogleg over the road and they cut it straight for flood mitigation. There was a weir over the creek across from Ballymore until they straightened the course of Breakfast Creek (technically Enoggera Creek) after the 1974 floods. The Commonwealth paid 60% and council and states paid the rest and the council was supposed to maintain it (presumably the land).

Flooding around Enoggera Creek Windsor 1893 (1)

It seems likely this was Henry Thomas Hayes as he’s mentioned in a Trove newspaper article as a dairy owner though the electoral rolls record him as a labourer of Gould Rd.

Enoggera/Breakfast Creek is tidal to the weir at Bancroft Park on Kelvin Grove Road and has a history of flooding and drainage problems that has led to flood mitigation measures including widening, straightening and dredging.[ii]

The bakery (Hassetts) in Butterfield St, was a family bakery –it was there when Dad was twelve (mid-1930s) because he went over on the pushbike.

In fact, in later years Dad and I would ride over to buy bread –the smell was heavenly and you would pull a bit out of the soft part in the middle…yum! Mum says this was often during the school holidays.

Mum remembers that someone used to come around selling clothes props.

There was a vegetable farm down where the NARM (sandshoes/sneakers factory) was, where the new Post Office depot is now. They used to call them Chinese market gardens. Mum says there was also one across the creek where it flooded as well as at Stafford.

This is interesting because a health inspection refers to the terrible conditions of Chinese abattoirs in this area.

This dairy, Ozanne's, was in nearby Ashgrove but shows what must have been a similar mix of rural and urban. c1920 http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/36908896

This dairy, Ozanne’s, was in nearby Ashgrove but shows what must have been a similar mix of rural and urban. c1920 http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/36908896

Another dairy (was owned by) Hicks, where the baseball and Italian Clubs are now (in Newmarket, near where Pauleen used to go to Girl Guides). I was surprised to learn how many dairies were in the area, but it makes some sense in that pre-pasteurisation era. I still remember getting fresh milk from the dairy at Samford where we camped with Guides.

On the flat opposite Bally St, another bit of a dairy, owned by a couple, McShea and Vowles. In Pauleen’s time this area flooded whenever the creek flooded heavily. Mum says there were also Chinese gardens there in her time. 

Mum also said that there used to be a horse track, with fencing, in the middle of Ballymore Park then in the 1950s every time you caught the bus there would be less fencing there, until it all disappeared.

Hayes used to pick up all the old produce in Roma St. One day Dad saw him with the old big draught horse pulling the dray and he (Hayes) is asleep and the horse was leading the way. At the railway the horse went straight up, round the policeman, up College St and into the railway stables, while the policeman watched with all the traffic stopped.

One of the Kelvin Grove tanneries circa 1890, SLQ http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

One of the Kelvin Grove tanneries circa 1890, SLQ http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

Johnston’s tannery was in Bishop St and there was one over in Finsbury St and another one where the retirement development is near Catholic church (in Newmarket?). This one was possibly Granlund’s.

I remember the smell of the tannery quite vividly, but not pleasantly. It was okay except when the wind came from the west.

There has been some debate about these tanneries on the various websites but Queensland Places has this to say[iii]: Away from these public uses Kelvin Grove developed a landscape of Queenslander houses, most of them within half a kilometre of the tramline. Those further away were closer to Ballymore Park. Kelvin Grove Road had shops and a picture theatre (1912) (which Pauleen remembers). There were a couple of tanneries down Bishop Street near the creek, and the area is still industrial.

Dad got in a row with the tannery and council because he couldn’t breathe – “they used to release all the muck from the tannery when tide went out. Sent a diver up the pipe to near Bancroft Park and it was that tannery that was putting the muck down the pipes so there was a big kerfuffle”.

There was a big tannery at Stafford near where the shopping centre is (this coincides with a conversation on the web). There used to be a beautiful swimming pool (natural) at Kedron Brook until the tannery came along. 

An 1873 newspaper article praised the Kedron Brook tannery owned by J & G Harris (I wonder if these were the same people who obtained the initial land grant on the Ballymore estate?)Or was the tannery that Dad mentions a different, newer one. Either way the Council took exception as this report indicates. A 1934 newspaper story takes a different view with one MLA wondering why the tanneries had ever been allowed to empty their waste into Kedron Brook.

A fellow had a mirror factory down Bishop St for which they use cyanide to do backing of mirror (Bishop St was hardly a salubrious place to live, and it was good thing we didn’t catch many fish!)

Finney (Isles) and Ure had a carriers where the garage is on Herston Rd (cnr of Kelvin Grove Road). There was a paddock at the endof Picot Street for the Clydesdales and they took them along the creek near the Chinaman’s gardens.

via Trove: sale of property in 1929, large house in Herston Rd, one street off Kelvin Grove tram line. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21373382. This follows Hubert Finney’s death –papers refer to him as ex-Alderman. He and Ure were members of the Master Carriers’ Association.

Mum recalls that she was told euchre parties were held in the house across the road, to raise funds for the church and school.

Perhaps these are not profound recollections but they add some personal flavour to the local history, and offer stories that would otherwise disappear. I’m just sorry I didn’t “pump” him for more.

The Lawrence family had a tiny shop at the end of Bally St in Dunsmore St. They also ran the bus to Fortitude Valley until the Council took it over

I also asked Dad who lived in the street when he was growing up and have since compared the names with those on the electoral rolls with great success, though he add some additional snippets to add. This may be the content of a post another day. My childhood friend still lives in the street behind ours and my guess is that her family has the longest continuous for the two streets, perhaps shared with one other family. I wonder if her father passed on any anecdotes to her?
Trove Tuesday is a blogging theme created by Amy of Branches, Leaves and Pollen, revealing just how incredible a resource this is, even when making comparisons with oral history.

Sepia Saturday and Trove Tuesday: Two for one on picnics

Sepia saturday 190There I was, thinking of the myriad picnic photos I could use for this week’s Sepia Saturday 190, when I had a sense of déjà vu. A quick search of this blog and I realised I’d posted at some length on this very topic during the February Photo Collage Festival. If you’d like to read what I had to say about family picnics back then, here is the link.

I thought I’d have an early mark for Trove Tuesday and see what was on offer for picnics near Murphys Creek, Queensland where my Kunkel ancestors lived.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

This image of Charlie and Alice Patrick and their family is from the State Library of Queensland (copyright expired). Are they setting off on a picnic or some other more formal event? The image is taken near White Mountain, very close to the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile.

And then there are picnics with a purpose. I’d guess that most Aussie school kids have been on picnics and things were no different in earlier times.  One school picnic I remember in particular, took us to Stradbroke Island across Moreton Bay, however privacy prevents me from sharing the photos with you.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

And then there were the church picnics:

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

When I went searching Trove I had in mind a particular image of boys swimming au naturel in Lockyer Creek near Gatton and Murphys Creek. Imagine getting away with taking a photo like this today!

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

The newspaper gave me a different perspective of what seemed like youthful fun. Mr Gill, another resident of Murphys Creek was upset that his cows were disturbed by the boys swimming in the creek –or was it that they were nude? I love the Council response: the boys could keep swimming so long as they were appropriately attired. Do you wonder if Mr Gill and his cows were satisfied by this outcome?

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences.

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences. Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Wednesday 7 February 1923, page 8

And then there’s this lovely 1896 report of a cricket competition between the Toowoomba men and the Murphys Creek team, and ancillary picnics. The fifteen mile route by horse is likely the one through the Fifteen Mile where the Kunkels lived, or perhaps it’s the more direct route down the range? And what on earth does he mean by “the blackboy in the waste paper basket”?

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Do have a look at the Linky Lists on both themed topics to see what other bloggers wrote about this week.

Trove Tuesday: Joseph Francis Kunkel

This evening I learned through my TDDFHS membership emails that the Western Star and Roma Advertiser newspaper (published in Toowoomba, Queensland) is in the throes of being digitised by Trove. With three branches of my Kunkel family living in that area at the time (Paterson, Kunkel, Lee), I immediately hotfooted it to the computer to check it out.

Today’s post tells the back story to the death of Joseph Francis Kunkel, the second son and second child of George Kunkel and his wife Mary, nee O’Brien. Contrary to the newspaper report, only George was German-born while Mary was Irish. He was indeed born in Ipswich though by this time his parents had been residing in Murphys Creek for some time. A cautionary warning to check multiple sources!

The death of Joseph Francis Kunkel, Western Star and Roma Advertiser, 28 August 1897, page 2.

The death of Joseph Francis Kunkel, Western Star and Roma Advertiser, 28 August 1897, page 2.

The previous information I had from the death certificate was that Joseph had died of “acute parenchymatous hepatitis[i], pyaemia and syncope” and had been ill for 10 days. This certainly appears to contradict the news report which says he died of inflammation of the lungs having caught a cold while on duty. The paper calls him a “fine strong man” whose death is attributable to the adverse condition under which the railway gangers worked. Joseph was only 37 when he died leaving his wife and six children to fend for themselves. It’s quite likely that penicillin would have saved his life, if it had been available at this time.

While Joseph was the first of George and Mary’s children to die, only a few years later his older brother would also die of a heart attack due to “valvular and fatty degeneration of the heart”.

Joseph had been very active in the establishment of a school in the small settlement of Poybah (aka Pickenjennie) and had served as the committee secretary. It’s nice to know that despite his early death, he made his mark on the education of the local children.[ii]

Through my offline research I also know that Joseph’s estate included 149 acres of land with a three bedroom weatherboard house and a three-wire fence, valued at £102. He had only £1 cash, five horses valued at £6, and 10 steers and heifers £2/10/-, a dray and harness £8 and household furniture valued at £5. By the time all the debts were cleared his estate had lost more than half its value.

With each release of newspapers digitised through Trove, more snippets at grassroots level, come to light. Even though I assiduously pursued as many research opportunities as I could only 10 years ago when I wrote this family’s story, every day brings new micro-stories that make that history so much richer. I knew that Joseph had died in Roma and been buried there, but this story would have been a fine complement to the other information I had on him.

I’m looking forward to seeing even more of the stories that are close to being finalised for the Western Star, some that I already know about from other sources, and some new ones.


[i] Synchronous with acute massive liver necrosis.

[ii] Queensland State Archives, Pickenjennie State School PRV8807-1-2209 (Z2204)

(iii) Queensland State Arhives, Intestacy JF Kunkel.

Trove Tuesday: Let’s go ice skating

Image from Microsoft Images online

Image from Microsoft Images online. Just seeing this photo makes my heart beat faster.

A year or so ago I wrote how ice skating was one of my teenage pleasures. At the time I could find little about the origins of an ice rink that existed at Mowbray Park, South Brisbane in the 1960s. Those searches had left me unsatisfied so with today being Trove Tuesday it seemed only logical to have another trawl of Trove.

Brisbane is of course a sub-tropical city, so one might wonder when someone took on the challenge of building an ice rink. I personally knew of the Mowbray Park one which was definitely open in the 1960s, but when did it start and how long did it last? Thanks to Ice Skating Queensland I now know this rink closed in 1967.

Trove is silent on this rink other than a couple of photos here and here (copyright and reproduction rights apply) because of course the digitised papers don’t go that far forward. The images reveal that Brian Crossland, then a recent immigrant from Blackpool, was the manager of the rink in Brisbane while fellow English immigrant, Terrance Wright, maintained over 500 pairs of skates. That’s a lot of skates so it suggests they must have been doing a reasonable business while it lasted.

Sadly the reality of my skating never matched my imaginings. Image from Microsoft images online

Sadly the reality of my skating never matched my imaginings. Image from Microsoft images online

I did wonder if perhaps the Mowbray Park ice rink was built on the site of a former roller skating rink that had also been in Melbourne St, South Brisbane. It could be a pretty dodgy rink at times, with strips where the ice melted regularly –rather like skating on icy corrugated iron at times.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643

Architectural drawing of a proposed ice skating rink in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland  http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643

Had Brisbane ever had an ice rink before Mowbray Park I wondered? Trove was more helpful with this query revealing there had been grand plans for an Ice Palais in Wickham St, Fortitude Valley opposite McWhirters in 1938. Trove gave me the proposed building design (above), Council approval, and an advertisement. Sydney had its Glaciarium and Brisbane obviously thought it was time to get in on the fun (or more likely the profits).

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41006705

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938.  ttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41006705

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731079

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731079

So why was Brisbane suddenly so keen on ice skating? Turns out the whole country had gone ice-mad in response to the popularity of Sonja Henie (as per this larger Trove article). Sonja was a beautiful Norwegian ice skater turned movie star. It was interesting to see her skate in this YouTube video but also surprising to see the dependence on spins and relative absence of jumps, revealing just how much more athletic figure skating has become over the years.

Sonja Henie made the cover of Time Magazine in 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sonja Henie made the cover of Time Magazine in 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

With Brisbane’s Ice Palais scheduled to open in April 1939, it seemed logical that the rink might have been still around when my mother arrived from North Queensland a few years later. I gave her a call, and no, it wasn’t something she could recall either. I’d been pretty astonished to read about this proposed ice rink near my old stomping ground in the Valley where we shopped regularly. If it had survived it might have been there when I was a child, which it surely wasn’t. It’s possible that the sheer cost of such an ice rink meant its construction was delayed. From this story in The Courier Mail it’s clear to see that it was a very expensive investment.

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731156

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731156

The public were still keen to get out skating and a clue in The Courier Mail’s Answers to Correspondents column gives the next clue to the Palais. (17 February 1939)

The Courier Mail 17 February 1939

The Courier Mail 17 February 1939

Trawling Trove month by month through 1939, I could find no further evidence of this grand plan. What happened? Could they not raise sufficient funds? If so then the declaration of war in September 1939 would likely have hammered the final nail in their plans…there’d have been no capital investment money for frivolities like ice skating rinks or Palais.

Instead the focus seems to have turned to entertainment, as it sometimes does during war-time to keep the spirits up. And one of the promotional stories provides the first confirmation that the Palais had not (yet) been built.

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40887629

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40887629

Ice revues were popular and just as entertainment events like Disney on Ice have especially set-up ice rinks, so did these revues held at the old His/Her Majesty’s Theatre. I thought it was interesting that the revue was timed to coincide with the annual Ekka when all the country people were in town, thereby maximising the potential audience.

The Courier Mail 16 November 1939.

The Courier Mail 16 November 1939.

The Courier Mail 8 August 1940, page 15http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40926899

The Courier Mail 8 August 1940, page 15
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40926899

And so it seems Brisbane’s hopes for an ice rink, or Ice Palais, expired for another twenty years until the Mowbray Park rink seems to have opened.  In the interim, there were two proposals to combine ice skating with other sporting facilities.

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49312310

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49312310

Then in 1953, there was a bid for a combined swimming pool and ice rink complex at Mt Gravatt. I’m reasonably sure this never went ahead but would be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong.

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51079376

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51079376

After the Mowbray Park rink closed in 1967, another rink opened in the north-eastern suburb of Toombul in 1971. I did know of this rink though I never skated there (these were my PNG years), but I had completely forgotten about it until reminded by Ice Skating Queensland. My recollection now is that many (all?) of the professionals at the later rink at Acacia Ridge came from there.

Perhaps it was thanks to improved technology that made it viable to open an Olympic standard rink in the sub-tropics with Iceworld at Acacia Ridge. We had not long returned from Papua New Guinea and we embraced this different and fun activity, making Iceworld our home away from home. It also has fond extended family memories as my cousin and his family joined us in our devotion to the sport. Our smallest bear spent lots of time as a toddler at the rink –she’d sit in her pram on the sidelines while I attended women’s classes, and as each woman reached that side of the rink they’d talk to her. And then there were the dawn training sessions with our older daughters until the constant recurrence of their ear infections meant we gave it up. Lots of happy memories!

And then there were costumes to make as well.

The two eldest at Acacia Ridge c1981. And then there were costumes to make as well.

As we found during a Brisbane visit, outdoor rink is set up in King George Square in June each year for their new Winter Festival. It seems to be proving very popular with lots of people having a ton of fun. (By the way, cold in Brisbane doesn’t mean much below 10C)

I still say if Jakarta, Singapore and Dubai can have indoor ice rinks, there’s no reason (other than that pesky money) why Darwin can’t! The fact that I’d probably break my neck these days is beside the point.

The ice rink in Jakarta's Mall Taman Anggrek. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The ice rink in Jakarta’s Mall Taman Anggrek. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn about your home city from Trove? I picked up all sorts of clues about Brisbane’s roller skating rinks, but that’s a story for another Trove Tuesday.

Trove Tuesday is an innovative idea by Amy at Branches, Leaves and Pollen.

Trove Tuesday: Christopher Robinson

While we were visiting Samarai in the Milne Bay District (PNG) a couple of months ago we saw the memorial which appears on Tropical Territory today. Apparently there was quite a lot of conflict over it when it was erected, and couldn’t be placed anywhere else so it was eventually placed on Samarai even though there was no specific connection.

Mr Cassmob remembers his father saying the miners (why??) wanted to have the comment “killed by the missionaries” on the memorial and that the Robinson issue was about the killing of some “natives”. Now plainly this was all quite intriguing so I turned to my good friend Trove to see what it could tell me about the background event.

My Trove reading suggests that there were a number of complicating factors surrounding this event:

  1. In 1901 Australia became an independent federation and nation.
  2. In 1902 Papua, or the British Protectorate of New Guinea, had become the responsibility of Australia
  3. In 1905, it became the Territory of Papua.
  4. Australia’s federal election in December 1903.

The events we’re looking at straddle this time frame and affect how they was seen.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/918589. The Advertiser 19 March 1903.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/918589. The Advertiser 19 March 1903.

Early in 1904 Christopher Robinson, a Brisbane solicitor, was appointed acting Administrator and Judicial Officer of British New Guinea, pending the implementation of legislation formalising the Territory of Papua under Australian control. Soon afterwards Robinson set sail on the ship the Merrie England, to the Gulf Province (west of Port Moresby) where two missionaries, Rev James Chalmers and Rev OF Tomkins, had been massacred on Goaribari Island (now in the Gulf Province, PNG) in 1901. On the face of it this was not unreasonable, but in the event, the local people approached the ship, firing arrows from their canoes, apparently in retaliation for the arrest of some of the men believed to have taken part in the killing of the missionaries. Shots were fired from the ship and an undefined number of “natives” were killed. This “Goaribari incident”, as it was euphemistically called, occurred in March 1904. While one could hardly expect the ship’s crew to ignore being fired at, it appears that the response was ill-considered and due to panic.

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

Robinson’s reputation was under a very dark cloud as a Royal Commission of Enquiry was instigated, of which Judge Murray (presumably Sir Hubert Murray) was in charge. Shortly before the enquiry commenced, Christopher Robinson put a gun to his head and killed himself, leaving behind a note which was not released (according to the papers). It is through the reports of the enquiry that we learn that at least eight men were killed, three possibly by Robinson.

Perhaps the simple fact is that, with no prior experience of New Guinea, or of the risks associated with working there, he simply panicked and imagined himself massacred as had been the missionaries in 1901. This in no way excuses what happened, whether by him or by others, but he was also human, and perhaps in fear of his life after the decision to capture some of the locals who may/may not have been part of the original massacre.

Western Mail, 17 September 1904 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3767552

Western Mail, 17 September 1904 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3767552

When we lived in Papua in the 1970s, 70 years later, there were patrol officers who had encountered tribes meeting their first white men, and where cannibalism still occasionally occurred. From the local side they felt betrayed by what had initially seemed like a positive interaction with the Europeans. In short, a major conflict of culture and loss of judgement, with consequent loss of life.

Discussions around the event were very much focused on Australia’s image, and the need to see it as not condoning the hapless killing of the very people under its protection.

Christopher Robinson’s body was returned to Australia on board a boat accompanied by a missionary Mr Jekyll, who had been present at the killings, a coincidence which seems quite ironic to me.

The mystery of why the “miners” blamed the missionaries remains unknown, as does the question of why the memorial to Christopher Robinson is on Samarai Island many miles from where the “Goaribari incident” occurred, but, also ironically, not far from Killerton Island where missionaries had been cannibalised. It’s also ironic that it remains on an island which is now entirely settled by local Milne Bay people yet they tolerate its presence.

The full story behind this event would merit further investigation as well.

Some Further Reading

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld) 23 June 1904

The Register (Adelaide, SA ), 24 June 1904.

Kalgoorlie Miner 5 May 1904

The Register (Adelaide, SA) 14 September 1904 “The Merrie England began it”.

The Mercury (Hobart) 14 September 1904

Trove Tuesday: The hazards of well-sinking

TOOWOOMBA. (1866, July 7). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved September 25, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20308490

I’d venture that well-sinking isn’t something most of us think too much about these days. In the pioneering days ensuring that your farm had sufficient water was critical to survival.  With no piped water for humans or stock, buying a block near running water like a creek (but not too close because of floods), was often a key consideration. Alternatively you might have to build a dam or a well.  Trove stories reveal that accidents to well-sinkers were frequent and often fatal.

Thanks to the indexes of the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society many years ago I found the story of the death of young Peter Conroy which I mentioned recently in my MI post. Of course these days it’s easier to find the same story via Trove. The newspapers in those days tended to graphic prose with all the gory details so I read how Peter’s brains were hanging out and his bones broken when the jumper they were using faulted.

Stephen Gavin was able to get his leg into the bucket so that he could be pulled up to the surface when help arrived. Peter died of his injuries but Stephen survived though his health was affected.

I suspect that Stephen Gavin was Peter’s relation, possibly his cousin, nephew or brother-in-law. My working hypothesis is that Peter is the brother or nephew of Annie Gavin nee Conroy, with whom he’s buried.[i]

Importantly, the newspaper story, and a nearly illegible inscription on the grave shared with the Gavin family, are the only traces of his death. Peter’s burial does not appear in the Drayton cemetery burial registers which commence later than his death, nor can I find his death indexed in the Qld BDMs. Without the work of TDDFHS, and later Trove, this man’s life in Australia would have gone completely unremarked.

Peter Conroy is not the only man to lose his life in this way and a quick search of Trove brings up other fatalities from well-sinking.

CORONER’S INQUEST. (1859, February 28). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved September 25, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87987337


[i] I told the story of this gravestone in the TDDFHS publication Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery, Our Backyard, 2009, page 85.

Trove Tuesday: a little boy wins a prize

Yesterday I came across this little snippet on Trove about my grandfather’s younger brother George Michael Kunkel. He had won a prize at the Beenleigh Show in September 1895 for “a home exercise book for children under 10”. Now this would be a delightful but comparatively unimportant find in the normal course of research events. However it meant much more to me than that because George would die, aged just 14, less than four years later on 1 May 1899.

Can’t you just see him sitting at a table in the railway camp, writing his evening homework in his exercise book by the light of a kerosene lamp.

Just imagine his excitement to have won that prize – I wonder whether it involved just a certificate or if there was some practical item or money. It warms my heart to think of his pride in his achievement. I’m so pleased that this young boy experienced success in his short life.

Trove Tuesday is an initiative of Amy from Branches, Leaves and Pollen.

Citation: 1895 ‘THE PRIZE SCHEDULE.’, The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), 14 September, p. 520, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21635886

Biographical Background

George Michael Kunkel was born in Toowoomba on 18 October 1884 and conditionally baptised there on 10 December 1884 with witnesses Thomas Iain and Annie Iain. Why his baptism was conditional I don’t know but I suspect he was not a well child and may have had some physical disability. It was certainly nothing to do with his parents’ religious standing as George and Julia were dyed-in-the-wool committed Catholics. The mathematical among us will already have realised that George was already 10 when he won the prize. Again his possible disability may have had something to do with that.

Little else is know about George other than that he attended the Logan Village school in the early 1890s.  Oral history suggests he was buried at Jimboomba but I have been unable to verify that. Perhaps it’s time I bought his death certificate.