Men of the Queensland Bush: Sepia Saturday 249

Sepia Saturday 249This week’s Sepia Saturday is about the horse, the cart and the drivers. While my Denis Gavin from Kildare and Dublin worked as a bullocky out west when he first arrived in Queensland I have no photos of him, or his bullock dray. Many of my ancestors also rode the iron rails but today’s photo is of none of these.

This photo is one I included in my Kunkel family history. It was given to me by Dad’s cousin and shows a bunch of dodgy looking blokes hanging around the 20th century cart and horse…a truck. I know my grandfather’s brothers worked as carriers but the cousin couldn’t identify which was her father, Matthew David John (John) Kunkel. If I was guessing I’d say it was the bloke on the front right, and strangely she wasn’t sure…or perhaps he was the photographer. Actually I’d have expected John’s brother Ken to have been with him as they were very close.qld mafiosi men incl john kunkel

But isn’t it a great photo?! All dressed in their Driza-bones and wearing hats with character. The front row are crouched in the typical bushie pose that Dad always took up when waiting for something. Time was I could do it too, but sadly I’m no longer that flexible or agile. The pipes remind me of my grandad who would sit on the back steps of their house tapping the tobacco out, refilling the pipe then having a quiet smoke, looking over the back yard.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

While these men would have probably given anyone in need a hand, you can’t help feeling you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night. I’d place a good bet too that many, if not all of them, were returned service men from World War I. If you recognise anyone in this group, please do comment as I’d love to know about it.

It looks to me like a silo behind the men, which would fit with it likely being taken on the Darling Downs. To the right is a typical old Queenslander house, on stilts, with its two tanks and no doubt a slow combustion stove to cope with the chilly weather typical of winter on the Downs.

Gallop over to see how other Sepians transported themselves this week.

Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings at SLQ

SLQ004If you live within striking distance of Brisbane you might be interested in a visit to see the Queensland State Library’s display entitled Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings, especially if you have ancestry from the Darling Downs.

I saw this exhibition when I was in Brisbane a few weeks ago and was very impressed with the items on display. It reinforces the points I made during the Beyond the Internet series last year about the vast array of resources which remain undigitised, awaiting the determined family historian’s sleuthing.

There were excellent maps on the walls as well as beautiful paintings – I particularly like Conrad Martens’ paintings of early Darling Downs scenes. Then there are the treasured items of daily life displayed in the cabinets.

But what is really tempting for the family historians are the glimpses of books which would be invaluable to anyone whose family were involved with particular stations eg Talgai Station’s ration book (1866-1868) or Glengallan’s pay register or labour book.  Just imagine those early shepherds on Talgai being issued with their rations.

If you haven’t already dropped by SLQ to have a look why not plan a visit this weekend before the exhibition finishes on 21st April: it’s on the fourth floor near John Oxley Library.

If I get to Queensland again in the next couple of months I’ll be equally interested in their upcoming exhibition Live! Queensland Band Culture. Not only might it provide me clues on various family musicians, but there’s bound to be some happy memories of my own tied up in it.

D visits Ireland, Australia and Bavaria

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

D is for Dublin, Ireland

Dublin airport reindeer welcome.

The first time I visited Dublin it was the end of November in the late 80s and Prancer, Rudloph and mates had already taken up residence at the airport. The shop windows were alive with animated Christmas displays, with families stopping by to admire them.

As we walked around town (don’t ask me where now), the fug of peat smoke hung densely over the city and Gypsy women sat on the footpaths begging, their children at their laps or also begging. In the few short years to my next visit there was no evidence of the peat smoke and the Gypsies had largely been banished. Over the decades since, I’ve visited Dublin a few times and seen it change enormously. Not at its heart because take away the lighting and modern clothes and somehow it’s easy enough to imagine it centuries ago.

I’ve thought that my family history links to Dublin were transient, believing my Gavin family had only been there a short while before emigrating to Australia, even though Denis and Ellen had said they’d married there. It’s only recently that I’ve had my first genealogical sighting of them in Dublin. Tune in tomorrow for an exciting second sighting!  Next visit I’ll have a specific area to look at, even though St Catherine’s church in Meath St has recently been gutted by arson.

National Library of Ireland.

Dublin is manna for heaven for an Irish family historian. One of my first stops is inevitably the National Archives of Ireland in its unprepossessing building. The National Library is as magnificent in its architecture as the NAI is not. Its treasures are equally magnificent and when parish registers were not digitised, and mostly unavailable through the LDS church, it was a requisite port of call to try to pin down those ancestors. Visits to the BDM Registry brought forth certificates and helped my searches. The Land Registry and Register of Deeds was a goldmine in those pre-digitisation days. I remember visiting the first time as they pulled down old (green?) books off the shelves and wondering who on earth this person was who’d taken over the O’Brien family’s farm…I found out later when it all fell into place. In their newer building, years later, with steep research and copying fees, I was able to explore the GV revisions in more detail and see the original maps.

Today many of these records are online as Ireland tries to tempt us “home”. I’m thrilled by this increased openness, but somehow sad to know this rich experience is probably one newer researchers will miss. Still there’ll be far more time for sightseeing in Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty…those hilariously, and vulgarly, named statues, the exquisite Book of Kells and the serried ranks of antiquarian books, Trinity College itself, the bookshops, the Liffey’s bridges…….

D is for Dalby, Australia

There were no roads cutting a swathe through the country, no X marks the spot in the sky. The early pioneers relied on learning their environment and following cuts in the trees along the way...their lives depended on their success.

Dalby was to become the home of Denis and Ellen Gavin, formerly of Dublin and originally from Ballymore Eustace, Kildare (Denis) and Davidstown, Wicklow (Ellen). In those early pioneering days, Dalby was a small town which Denis would first have known when he was (apparently) a carrier or bullock driver from Binbian Downs Station near the Condamine. We more or less followed his route last year while en route from Darwin to Brisbane, and I wondered how on earth a newcomer to this country could have successful navigated the unmarked bush to get to and from his destination. As a carrier he would have been responsible for working with a team of bullocks bringing the wool clip into Ipswich and returning with stores for the property, a seven week round journey.  They were tough survivors, our pioneer ancestors…not just the men but the women and children who waited for them.

After the term of his Denis’s contract, the family apparently moved to Dalby where they lived for some time. My great-grandmother, Julia Gavin later Kunkel, was baptised there by Father McGinty. The family’s eldest daughter, Mary, married there and, dying young, was buried in the Dalby cemetery as was their infant daughter Rosanna Ellen. It’s many years since I’ve had the opportunity to visit Dalby other than in transit but I look forward to exploring more of Dalby, and the Darling Downs over the coming years.

D is for Davidstown, Co Wicklow, Ireland

Taken nearly 20 years ago, this is the parish church of Davidstown, Parish of Donaghmore (I hope my notes are correct on this point). I've learned today that this church had not been built when my Ellen Murphy lived there.

My 2xgreat-grandmother Ellen Gavin, who I’ve mentioned above, was born in Davidstown, County Wicklow. Her husband’s ability to calculate age seemed to fluctuate wildly, and probably deliberately, but I find it difficult to believe he’d just fabricate this as the townland of her birth. Just the same I’ve been unable to find her in the Irish records or registers (she had the unusual surname of Murphy!). Since I’ve no intention of paying over E300 to Wicklow Family History Centre, and as her baptism doesn’t appear in RootsIreland, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I’m unlikely ever to know more about her ancestry. (Or perhaps not, more comments to follow).

And just to cause confusion, there’s another townland of Davidstown across the border in Kildare (her husband’s home county).

D is for Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, Germany

Dorfprozelten is a 1000 year old village in Bavaria on one of Germany’s great rivers, the River Main. It’s the birthplace of my George Kunkel (my 2xgreat grandfather) and also another set of emigrants from the village to Australia. You can see more about my research here and here or by clicking on the categories for my blog posts.

The baptismal font in the Catholic parish church of Dorfprozelten.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Dorfprozelten a number of times and it is truly a privilege to do so. Although there have been changes, including the demolition of the inn owned by my 3x great grandmother’s Happ family for centuries, much remains the same. It’s possible to walk down the streets and have a very good sense of what it looked like when George Kunkel lived there. The church is not the same one, as it was replaced in the C19th, but the baptismal font is the one in which he would have been christened. Old photos and local histories reveal the continuity of the village’s community life and I’ve truly felt that I was able to get an insight into his life there, as much as possible 150+ years later.

All photographs from this post were taken by me and are subject to copyright. No copying or reproduction without permission please.