Saturday Sepia on Sunday – Pipers

I don’t usually participate in the Saturday Sepia posts as I’ve often felt I don’t have enough suitable old photos. However the moment I saw the prompt for #158 I knew I had to take part (even though the photo has been hand tinted). After all it did feature Scottish pipers of which I have more than my share in my family tree.

Duncan McCorkindaleThis photo is of my grandmother’s brother, Duncan McCorkindale. It was given to me by my father’s cousin about 20 years ago and she has recorded the details from the back of her copy – interesting as none of the others have similar notations. I wrote about the McCorkindale brothers, all expert pipers, in my Trove Tuesday post here but on reflection Duncan’s story would deserve a future post as well, but not today.

Duncan and his brother Peter left Glasgow for Australia in June 1900 so logically the photo must have been taken before then. Certainly Duncan looks quite young and his emigration records (and his birth) show his age as 25. Both he and Peter were joiners, an occupation that would lead Duncan to the Australian nation’s capital, Canberra, to help with its establishment and construction, though online reports suggest he had a reputation for severity as a boss.

Along the way Duncan also was instrumental (smile!) in the establishment of the Caledonian Society in Canberra, a judge with their Highland Games in 1925 and 1927, and was an elder with the Presbyterian church.

The meeting commenced at 8 p m. (?) but shortly before that time the skirl of the bagpipes played by Mr. D. McCorkindale were heard in the clear still moonlight and attracted many.[i]

Duncan died a gruesome death in a Sydney road accident in 1928 when he was only 54.

Duncan McCorkindale reverse of pic


[i] Queanbeyan-Canberra Advocate 12 March 1925, page 2

G goes to Goroka, Gorey and Glasgow

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).

G requires grit to get to the end!

G is for Goroka (Papua New Guinea)

Some places are larger than life and offer experiences beyond your imagination. Goroka, headquarters of the Eastern Highlands District/Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one such place. We lived there for a few years in the 1970s arriving from the tiny town of Alotau and being bedazzled by the shops and variety on offer. Before you get the wrong idea, Goroka was not a thriving urban metropolis with glittering shops…not at all, it was just that we’d become accustomed to shopping by post/catalogue, ordering food in by trawler, or shopping at one of the four trade stores in Alotau.

Young Highland women seen around Goroka. © P Cass 1973

Nothing about Goroka was mundane or familiar to anyone who grew up elsewhere (which included me, but not my husband). When you live in PNG, you become accustomed to people wandering around almost naked: warriors in beads and loin cloths, women in beads and slightly larger loin cloths and almost always a child at the breast, men and women shiny with pig grease to keep the cold out, and smelling of smoke from living in a hut with only a tiny gap in the roof for ventilation. We had a village at the back of our government-issued house and a squatter settlement down the end of the street…anything left under the house had a habit of going walkabout. Yet strangely our vegetable patch survived untouched.

Goroka is at 1600 metres (about 5200 ft) and sits among high mountains. It has a fantastic climate: about 21C daily all year, and cool enough for blankets at night. Heaven! The local Seventh Day Adventist Mission at nearby Kabiufa grew fresh vegetables and flowers and we’d drive there each Sunday after Mass to buy up for the week. Until then I’d never eaten broccoli or cauliflower, for example, and these were miniature versions, so cute. We had a great system going where we sent fresh vegetables in an esky to my in-laws on the coast, and they sent us fresh crayfish tails in return. I can’t tell you how much our friends loved us when the flight came in, and how much we all enjoyed the delicious crayfish curry.

Highlands scenery around Goroka © P Cass 1973.

Goroka was accessible by road to other places via the Highlands Highway which was an adventure in itself. We drove to Lae one year with my parents, something of a challenge to our little Datsun 1200. We took day trips up to Daulo Pass or down to Lufa for a picnic: something that always drew a crowd in the Highlands..no chance of going anywhere without someone watching you. On one return drive to Daulo, we came around a corner with a small cluster of warriors running towards us, spears in hand, and “singing”, plainly intent on some stoush or other. We locked the car doors, made no eye contact and kept our fingers crossed. Mercifully they had other issues to deal with and were not interested in us. Payback is huge in PNG, over the loss of a pig, issues with women, perceived slights etc. Best not to be around when that happens!

Wahgi men at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1974

And then there was the Goroka Show! Imagine thousands of warriors in one large football area all dressed in their specific dress-styles, armed with arrows, spears etc, all coming together in peace for a massive singsing (singing and dancing). Truly if you haven’t seen it you can’t imagine it…do click on the link above to get an idea. There was the year when there was a bit of a stoush somewhere on field and the Police let off tear gas and the crowd stampeded, knocking down the fence. Or the year when the mud at the Show came up to your ankles. Shoes were useless and you just had to hope you didn’t catch anything infectious.

Where else would you forever wonder if your beautiful cat had wound up in someone’s cooking pot or as a new hat.

Or the day the helicopter barely cleared the power lines near our “new” house to bring someone into the hospital. As they brought him out on a stretcher, he still had the spear sticking up out of him.  Or the flying in general, in steep mountainous country prone to sudden cloud cover. I could go on…

Queen Elizabeth II visited Goroka in PNG in early 1974. Not a superb photo but can you imagine being allowed to get this close today? © P Cass 1974

In early 1974, Queen Elizabeth II came to visit Goroka, along with Prince Philip and Princess Anne and Capt Phillips and Lord Mountbatten. Nowhere else in the world would you be likely to get so close to royalty, even in those days. As I clicked and clicked, from one location to another, I swear Philip looked at me as if to say “not you again”.

PNG gained self-government in September 1974, and we were a little fearful given how bloody this event had been in many African nations in the preceding decade. Our fears were unfounded and all we heard were some rubbish-bin-lid banging (something of a local tradition) and yelling. This was great because when Independence came along a few years later we were able to fully enjoy it.

G is for Glasgow (Scotland)

I wonder just how many Aussies can trace their Scottish roots back to Glasgow, however briefly. My guess would be an enormous number because Glasgow was the transit point for those displaced from the Highlands and country areas, the source of work in the increasingly industrial age, and a point of departure by bus, train or ship.

Bolton Tce, Glasgow where Duncan McCorkindale died. © P Cass 2010

My McCorkindale family are no different. Duncan McCorkindale left his birthplace at Cairndow on Loch Fyne, to head to Glasgow some time between 1851 (aged 9) and 1861 (aged 19). On the latter census Duncan is living in Central Glasgow (probably Albert St) and is a lodger with the family of Thomas and Elizabeth Logie (also from Argyll). He is listed as a joiner, as is Thomas Logie, which suggests to me that Duncan has already completed his apprenticeship, or perhaps was training with Thomas. In 1864 when he married his first wife, Annie Tweedie Law, he states his occupation as journeyman joiner. Over the years the family moved from pillar to post around Glasgow. It’s hard to know why this was so, perhaps just because of a growing family, perhaps to get work.

Duncan died in 1906 and in 1910, his widow and their children, one of whom was my grandmother, Catherine (whom I wrote about recently here), emigrated to Australia presumably for a better life and to rejoin their eldest sons who’d emigrated in 1900.

An overview of the Glasgow Heritage displays in the Council Chambers. © P Cass 2010.

Until recently we’d never really spent time in Glasgow, rather using it as a transit point like so many of the emigrants. In 2010 we flew into Glasgow and prioritised having a look around. We did the tourist thing and checked out various tourist sights and took the city bus tour. By sheer coincidence there was a Glasgow heritage event, which was really interesting.  This event was held in the Glasgow City Chambers and if you’re ever in Glasgow I can highly recommend taking their free tour just to see the fabulous architectural features. I’d also wanted to refer to some shipping business records in the University of Glasgow Archives tucked away in a funny little building, and fit in a visit to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society who were very helpful. Of course we also did the drive-around checking out the family’s addresses, learned from certificates and censuses. Many of the buildings were no longer standing, demolished and replaced by new businesses, but we did manage to find two of their homes. As always, never enough time, including the opportunity to visit the Mitchell Library, and I wish for a longer visit in the future when we can hopefully afford to stay in the same fabulous B&B…the perfect antidote to jetlag…thank heavens for a strong Aussie dollar.

G is for Gorey (Ireland)

St Michael's Catholic Church, Gorey, Co Wexford where my Sherry family were married and baptised. © P Cass 1992.

Gorey in County Wexford has lots of significance in my McSherry family who lived there for over 15 years. My great-grandparents Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan were married there and their first two children were born there. It was from here that the family would leave for Australia in 1883, a year after Peter’s parents and siblings had also emigrated. James and Bridget McSharry (then Sherry) lived in the townland of Knockina. I’ve recently told the story of Bridget’s life here.

When I visited Gorey in the late 1980s, St Michael’s Catholic Church, was of course a focus. The priest was amazingly kind, and let us peruse the church registers to find the various family events. I wonder if there were any I missed due to lack of experience?

Gorey also has a high profile in Irish history being involved in the 1798 uprisings. I’ve not researched this in detail so will leave that to anyone with a specific interest. Rebelhand’s blog talks about the 1798 Wexford and family history.

I’m following some of my genealogy buddies on this A to Z voyage:

Julie at Anglers Rest who tempted me onto the A to Z path and is posting about her experiences in Australia and her Aussie genealogical connections.

Susan on Family History Fun whose posts I thoroughly enjoy each and every time.

Ros at GenWestUK came recommended by Susan and I’m enjoying learning completely new things…who knew Englishry was a word, I didn’t.

And for a change of genealogy pace here are a couple of new-to-me A to Z blogs I’ve popped into:

Holly Michael’s Writing Straight. Holly commented on my blog posts and I enjoyed looking at her posts. I especially liked that she is “nodding” to other blogs and has inspired me to try this too.

Seams Inspired is writing about sewing terms: lots of memories for me on this one.

Fearless Females #2: Thoughts from a photograph: Annie Sim McCorkindale

The photo which inspired this post is the same as that for the Carnival of Genealogy  post on Catherine McCorkindale for Women’s History Month 2012. It shows my great-grandmother, Annie Sim McCorkindale seated with her daughters Catherine, Jean and Edith around her. Her eldest daughter Isabel is not in this photograph. I’ve estimated the date of this photo at c1900 which makes me suspect it may have been taken to give to sons Duncan and Peter before they left for Australia.  She looks composed in this photograph and I’m guessing she’s holding her bible.

Annie Sim, second wife of Duncan McCorkindale, gives every evidence of being a strong woman capable of dealing with life’s challenges. She grew up on Backrow farm at Bothkennar, Stirling, daughter of James Sim and his wife Ann Wood. The farm had been in the family’s management for generations, though it’s likely they only leased it, but it does mean that she came from a family with rather more money than many of my ancestors. Backrow farm faces the Bothkennar church and school and Annie’s parents are buried in the kirkyard.

As a young woman, Annie defended her father when some hooligans entered the farm property and took her father into the corn fields to rough him up, apparently all because the family dog barked at them.[i] I loved discovering my female ancestor was a feisty woman!

Annie had an illegitimate daughter, Annie Lindsay Sim. I’m waiting on the release of the online Kirk Sessions to see what they tell me about the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s illegitimacy. Annie Lindsay Sim was essentially brought up by her grandparents after Annie’s marriage to Duncan.  I wonder how Annie felt having to care for the two children of her husband’s first wife while forgoing her own first-born child. She did not inherit under her father’s will because he had brought up his granddaughter. However history proves that the family links remained close as we’ll see later.

Family legend tells that shortly before Annie’s husband Duncan died in 1906, her wedding ring came off and rolled across the floor. She went to give him a cup of tea, only to find him dead. Of course these may be only family stories, impossible to verify. Four years after Duncan’s death, Annie and most of her children emigrated to Australia. Her sons, Duncan and Peter, had come to Australia about 10 years earlier, supposedly to separate them from the 2nd cousins they wanted to marry. Annie’s first-born child, Annie Lindsay Sim, who by then had been widowed and remarried, arrived in Australia with her husband Daniel McVey and his family, around the same time. It’s interesting that the whole family, minus one son (Thomas Sim McCorkindale), had decided to make the big move.  Annie Lindsay Sim’s son from her first marriage, Robert Anderson, also made emigrated.

I admire Annie Sim McCorkindale’s fortitude at making this international migration when she was 59 years old. She arrived in Queensland as a sponsored migrant, nominated by Alex McCulloch of Paddington, and documented as “married” rather than widowed[ii].  I’m still trying to work out what the connection was between Alex McCulloch and the McCorkindales.

Annie Sim McCorkindale in her old age, near their house in Brisbane. Do you think this might be the same dress revamped? The chain looks the same to me.

In her old age Annie lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Guildford St, Kelvin Grove. A granddaughter remembered that Annie had blue and white jugs in the kitchen, loved “wee brown eggs” and the family grew a coffee plant and ground coffee (people after my own heart!). It’s safe to assume that Annie would have met my father as an infant and toddler, since she lived quite close to my grandparents’ home. Annie Sim McCorkindale died in 1926, aged 75, and is buried at Toowong Cemetery with an infant grandson.

Annie’s relocation was worthwhile for her adopted country as well as the family. Her descendants made their impact on Australian society in various ways, small and large. Her son Duncan was a foreman at the Kingston joinery works and so instrumental in the construction of Canberra. He also contributed to the development of a Caledonian tradition in Canberra, acting as a judge of the pipers and dancing at the first Highland Games held by the Burns Club in 1925. His early death in 1928 was a loss to the Caledonian community as well as his family. Duncan’s daughter Ida was also worked in Canberra but subsequently vanishes. Annie’s other sons Peter and Malcolm were great pipers and Highland dancers, and although my father said Malcolm was the better piper, his nerves affected his performances. Newspaper reports reveal Peter winning one competition after the other at various Highland or Caledonian games as well as being Pipe Major with Brisbane’s Caledonian Band. (I wonder if there’s anyone still alive who was taught or mentored by one of the McCorkindale pipers). Annie’s step-grandson, Sir Daniel McVey, had a pivotal role in post-war aviation and was also Director of Posts and Telegraphs.

——-

[i] A discovery from the recently released British Newspaper Archives. Falkirk Herald Saturday 14 September 1872.

[ii] Queensland State Archives microfilm Z3985 IMM 132 p57.

Carnival of Genealogy – 116th edition – Catherine McCorkindale

My grandmother, a girl on the verge of young womanhood, looks at us sidelong from her position beside her mother, yet her gaze is direct and intense. I see echoes of myself in this photo, taken when she would have been about 12. This makes it likely that the photograph dates from around the time of the 1901 census, when the family was living at 3 Bolton Drive, Mt Florida, Glasgow. Catherine McCorkindale, second daughter and sixth child of Duncan McCorkindale from Argyllshire and Annie Sim from Bothkennar in Stirlingshire, was usually known as Kit by her family, yet on this census she is called Katie, obviously her childhood name.

Kit and her family were said to move often because with all four of her brothers expert pipers, the noise of their practicing was too much even for their Scottish neighbours! She was always so proud of her family’s Highland heritage, and taught me early to love the sound of the pipes and the music of the reels, even though she generally disapproved of dancing. She passed on her love of all things Scottish (except religion!)…not a good combination with the Irish Catholic ancestry on my maternal side.

As a child, Catherine attended the Cathcart Mt Florida school and among my heirlooms is her hard-bound Merit Certificate from the Scotch Education Department in April 1900, though she is still a scholar in 1901, aged 13.[i] Kit would become a dressmaker like her mother and older sister Belle, but unfortunately no oral history has survived about where or how she worked at this trade in Scotland. I certainly hope she was not forced to work in the inhuman conditions of some Glasgow factories.

Kit’s father died suddenly in 1906 and in 1910 Kit, her mother, and most of her siblings emigrated on the Perthshire to Australia where her two older brothers (and unbeknownst to us, an uncle) had already settled. Catherine and her sisters are recorded on the Queensland immigration cards as domestic servants, arriving as assisted immigrants. The family settled in Brisbane, where Kit is known to have worked for David Jones’ store as a dressmaker. David Jones was one of the more up-market department stores so presumably her needlework skills were good, as evidenced by her lovely wedding dress, which I assume she made. I’m also fortunate to have heirlooms from this time in her life – her treadle sewing machine and pair of silk pyjamas she made.

Catherine met my grandfather at a Christmas party when he asked if he could get her a drink (almost certainly non-alcoholic). I don’t know what year they met but it was possibly around the time of World War I, and it’s thought that my grandfather visited some of her relations while he was serving overseas in 1917-1918.  Even on his return the couple did not marry quickly and it’s difficult to be sure why that was. It may have been due to religious differences because my grandfather was brought up a Catholic. It may have been because he continued to contribute to the upkeep of his youngest siblings, orphaned in 1901. I’ve often wondered if he feared the consequences of marrying young and having too many children – the cause, in part, of his mother’s early death.

Dinny and Kit married in the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, Red Hill on 29 April 1922. None of Denis’s siblings were witnesses and his non-Catholic marriage was certainly a problem for many of them. As a result their social circle revolved around Kit’s family. My grandparents lived in the same house all their married life and were our next door neighbours. I spent lots of time jumping the fence to be with them both and I have very fond memories of my grandmother brushing my hair and talking to me. Her hairbrush (minus bristles) is another of my “treasures”. Catherine lived to see my marriage and the birth of her first great –grandchild. She died on 19 December 1971 aged 84.

This Carnival of Genealogy post was inspired by Jasia at Creative Gene. The challenge was to honour a woman from our family tree by starting with a photograph and telling the story of the photo or a biography of the woman. I chose my grandmother.


[i] Scottish education was compulsory from ages 5 to 13.

Down the rabbit hole with McCorkindales and the tragedy of the steamer Pearl.

Monday’s task was to try to find my grandmother’s niece, Ida McCorkindale and siblings, in the newly released Commonwealth Electoral Rolls on Ancestry. I’ve looked at ERs before for her and her siblings with limited results and I was optimistic that with the wider range nation-wide she’d turn up. This time was both a win and a lose: I found Ellen Sim McCorkindale (initially Nellie) through to 1980 and the probate indexes date her death as 1981. Ida disappears around the end of the 1930s and so far I have not found her in marriage or death indexes. I also tried other subscription sites without any greater success. Brother Duncan is more confusing as there are a few possible ones including a marriage, so yet more work to do on all of them.

Next step was to have another look at Trove to see if anything new had turned up there on the family. This is when the rabbit started sprinting for the hole with me in pursuit. I came across an entry for a Mr McCorkindale drowning in Brisbane on 13 February 1896, and looked at Qld BDM online to see who he was….no entry in 1896.

One thing quickly led to another and I was soon immersed down the rabbit hole with the story of a dramatic river accident in which up to 25 people were missing or drowned, one of them Mr McCorkindale.

The essence of what happened was that the steamer Pearl was setting off with about 80 passengers, much less than its full complement to travel between Queen’s Wharf and Musgrave Wharf at South Brisbane. The river was in flood and there were eddies which the captain, an experienced seaman, said threw the boat off course so they barely avoided the Normanby, and the Pearl crossed the chains of the government steamer, the Lucinda, at which the Pearl crashed, split in two and sank.[i] Its passengers and crew quickly found themselves in the river, some being rescued quickly by the crew of the Lucinda. Others were not so fortunate and were swept away. For some time later bodies were being recovered along the length of the river. Mr McCorkindale was reported as saying to Mr Ballinger, the traffic inspector, “Goodbye, I cannot swim. Remember me to my wife”. He was not seen again and remained on the missing list throughout. When you look at the list of women among the missing, it seems likely that the heavy clothing of the time would have stacked the odds against them. While initial reports placed the missing and drowned at 25 but it has been difficult to find final numbers.

A magisterial inquiry was held a week later on 20 February 1896. One report in particular caught my attention. There had been some South Sea Islander people on board including a woman and two children, one of whom remained missing. However a Tommy Matahbelle was refused the opportunity to give evidence because he was not baptised, hence not a Christian, and therefore could not give an oath and evidence. Application for him to be allowed to provide a statement was also refused[ii]. Legal and conventional but hardly moral justice: no multi-cultural acceptance in those days.

The findings of the subsequent Marine Board enquiry were that the master of the Pearl, James Chard, displayed want of skill in navigating the vessel, and that the steamer was lost through his default. His certificate as a home trade master, and his licenses to take charge of steamers within the limits of any port, were cancelled.[iii]

While this is a sad story, significant enough to generate a telegram from the Queen and the British Prime Minister, what intrigued me was the ambiguity over the registration of the deaths. I checked the list of the missing against the Qld BDM indexes and while the uncertainty over first names made it difficult, it seems apparent that at least some of the missing may not have made it to the death registers highlighting one of the ways in which our family can cause us “brick walls”. Mr McCorkindale turned out to be Archibald McCorkindale per the inquiry reports. His death was not registered until 1922 some 26 years later. I wondered how many others were never documented. Even some of those recovered do not appear in the indexes under the names stated in the papers (eg Margaret McGhie).

1922/F6428 Archibald James McCorkindale

Initial newspaper reports listed 25 missing and dead but progressively bodies of many of the drowned were recovered. The magisterial inquiry is invaluable in providing more detail in regard to those who drowned. Those missing, and a few of those later identified, are included here:

Mr Archibald McCorkindale, late President of the Coorparoo Shire Council.

Mrs Best

Mrs Gould (possibly Emma Eliza 1896/B28991)

Mrs (Janet?) Wilson, wife of James Wilson, Russell St, South Brisbane. Ironically he could not swim, yet apparently she could as she tried to hold onto him until he struck something hard in the water. “I will stick to you Jim, I know you cannot swim”.[iv]

Mrs Nellie Harper, residing with Mr & Mrs Wilson, with her four children, cnr Grey &Russell Sts, body later found[v]. Nellie Harper, born England about 30 years old 1896/B28527. I wonder what happened to her children)

Mrs A B Renton (possibly Mary Jane 1896/B28470), Cordelia St, South Brisbane.

Mrs Pogson, Russell St South Brisbane (not on some lists –could this be Mrs Wilson?)

Mrs Kitty Matahbelle does not appear on the lists though she is mentioned in the inquiry. No registration under this surname.

Miss Ida Newman of Coorparoo (her death, under this name, is not registered)

Henry Archibald Jarman, nephew of Louisa Ellen Jarman (1896/B28534) Aged about 21, he had a lifebuoy which he handed over to his aunt saying “Here you take this and save yourself, I’ll be all right”

Mr H E Williams, Pastoral Butchering Company (registration not found)

Mr A G Williams (possibly George Alfred Foster Williams 1896/B29325)

Miss Marshall, Merton Rd

Harry Guzamai (also listed as Gurosomai/Guzomai). 1896/B29529. The bodies of the mother and another child, about 10 years old, were recovered. The mother was said to be a good swimmer.

Timothy O’Sullivan (9 years) (1896/B2856)(body recovered)

Infant child Priest

Mrs Taylor (possibly missing), an old lady, licensee of the Clarence Hotel, South Brisbane.

Hugh Kerr Colquhoun Morren (body recovered, 1896/B28535. His children Martha and her brother had been returning with their father from their mother’s funeral that afternoon. Both children survived the accident. He left a large family of young children[vi]).

If any of these names are relevant to your family it would be worth checking out the stories on this tragedy to get the full picture. So many evocative stories reminiscent of 2011’s disasters.

Back to task: if anyone knows anything more about Ida McCorkindale, her sister Ellen Sim McCorkindale, or brother Duncan McCorkindale, I’d really like to hear from you. Their parents were Duncan and Ida McCorkindale.


[i] The Pearl was recovered from the bottom of the river on 5 March The Worker 14 March 1896. Image of it apparently in The Australasian. It was apparently set to be repaired.

[ii] The Brisbane Courier, 26 February 1896.

[iii] The Argus, 16 April 1896, page 5.

[iv] Magisterial enquiry evidence, The Brisbane Courier, 21 February 1896. Also initial news reports The Brisbane Courier 14 February 1896 including reference to the Harper children.

[v] The Brisbane Courier, 21 February 1896

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald 15 February 1896.