Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 10: Aunty Emily

4 x 7UP collageToday’s post is an absolute pleasure to write. The lady featured in this photo is my great-aunt Emily, sister to my maternal grandmother, Laura. Emily was Laura’s younger sister, the next in line, born in Charters Towers less than two years after her to parents Stephen Gillespie Melvin and Emily Partridge.Aunty Emily Williams nee Melvin

Sadly my grandmother died in her sleep from a heart attack when she was only 64. Our family was on holidays at the coast at the time, so you can imagine what a terrible shock it was to everyone. I’m pleased that I still remember small things about her, which is surprising given I was quite young.

Her sister Emily had lived in Cairns for a long time and memory tells me we’d seen her there perhaps on the eventful cyclone trip. However around 1960 or so, she moved to Brisbane where she lived at New Farm for a while. I have clear memories of meeting her with Mum and going to New Farm Park to look at the spectacular roses. Whenever I visit the park now I inevitably think back to those special days with her.

Aunty Emily became my default grandmother, showering me with love and affection and buying me special treats.  During Lent when she couldn’t buy me chocolates or lollies she would buy me teacups and I treasure these even though they have no commercial value. You might want to look at this photo of an Easter egg cup she also gave me. I associate her with lavender and violets and I’m not sure whether these were her fragrances.

Tiny teacups from Aunty Emily.

Tiny teacups from Aunty Emily: I’m saving them for my grandchildren.

Emily had two sons from her marriage to John Arthur Williams, and I think one grandson who was ill. I guess Mum and I were also daughter and granddaughter substitutes for her. Aunty Emily was one of those truly lovely people who you occasionally have the privilege to meet. I don’t remember her ever being nasty in any way, and always being kind and tolerant (as evidenced in part by her acceptance of our religion even though it wasn’t hers).

Aunty Emily's entry in my autograph book.

Aunty Emily’s entry in my autograph book.

Later on Aunty Emily had a stroke and went to live with her son at South Brisbane, on the former Expo 88 site at South Bank. In those days the docks were still there and I recall the building as being quite old with steep steps inside. She used to have to massage her hand using those stress balls which are now quite popular. A few years later she must have returned to Cairns to live, perhaps because that’s where another sister lived. She died there in December 1965 and is buried in the Martyn St Cemetery, separated in death as I suspect she was in life. At some point I was given a cameo and a filigree bracelet of hers with a matching pair of earrings. Again no commercial value, but very special to me because it came from her.

 Aunty Emily remains one of my most treasured family members: one of those people whose memory gives you a warm glow.

This story has reminded me that I need to do more research into this branch of the family.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

C is a very busy letter…

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).

C is for Clare, Cairndow, Coleford and Charters Towers

It looks like C has been a busy letter of the alphabet in our family, and that’s without going into names!

C is for County Clare, Ireland

County Clare is my 2xgreat grandmother’s home place and her granddaughter remembered her saying always that she was “Mary O’Brien from Co Clare”. I talked a little about Mary in “B for Ballykelly” so I won’t detour here. Because I’ve never managed to locate her immigration records despite years of searching, I started looking at all the migration records for O’Briens from Clare to Australia. One thing led to another, and the next thing I was researching the immigration of anyone from East County Clare, with a focus on the baronies of Tulla Lower and Upper. This has been a pretty interesting voyage including clerical intrigue to ensure young parishioners could come to Australia during the American Civil War era. This research project has been languishing a little, while I decide “where to from here” but I’d love to hear from anyone who comes from the Clare parishes east of Ennis. You can read more about my interest here.

Kilmorich Parish Church at Cairndow. Isabella’s grave on the right side of the path is starred.

C is for Cairndow, Scotland

Cairndow aka Cairndhu is one of my favourite places. It’s a tiny hamlet near the head of Loch Fyne in Argyll, Scotland and close to Ardkinglas, which we’ve already discussed. Although I had done lots of family history homework before I went to Scotland in the late 1980s, Cairndow hadn’t come up, so as we came off the highway we took the left turn and headed further down the loch to Strachur, another ancestral site. Some time after my return, while roaming through my old memorabilia I found a postcard from my paternal grandmother’s belongings. On the front it had an image of the church at Cairndow and on the reverse the notation “Doesn’t it put in mind of puir old Scotland”…you might imagine my frustration.

Pauleen visiting with Isabella. Daffodils planted on her grave, but snow still on the hills

Eventually I found out that the Cairndow church pictured was the final resting place of my paternal grandmother’s grandmother, Isabella Morrison wife of James McCorkindale (love the way Scottish women kept their identity!). The little church at Cairndow is actually the Kilmorich Parish church and is an absolute delight. It rests below a Scottish hill covered in bracken, heather or snow, and is hexagonal in shape with a small tower. Inside it’s simplicity itself, probably typical of Presbyterian churches, but I find it so much more soothing than ostentatious cathedrals of any denomination. Inside the door there’s an ancient baptismal font from the late 15th century. Just outside the door as you leave the church, on your left as you walk down the path, you will see Isabella’s grave. The inscription at the base is beautiful “My star of life is set, I await the morning sun”.  I often wonder if the daffodils we planted on her grave one early spring, burst forth anew each year, echoing her hope of eternal life.

Not much happening in the World on this particular morning in 2008… I spy an NT X-Trail. You can see the different styles of architecture remaining today.

Charters Towers, Australia

Charters Towers, the town they called The World, was a boom mining town of the late 19thcentury and it was there that my great-grandfather and his family repaired to rebuild both his reputation and their fortune after various family disasters in southern Queensland. Stephen Gillespie Melvin established refreshment rooms in Gill Street, with a confectionery factory behind. It was a family business and Stephen was supported by his wife Emily and children. Charters Towers lost its economic oomph when mining ceased to be such a key industry after World War I, and this probably helped preserve the significant number of heritage buildings. Sadly the Melvin’s shop was not one of the current survivors…it was demolished decades ago.

The Melvin grave (2008) makes its own social statement in the Charters Towers cemetery. Easily the largest and most ostentatious of my family history gravestones.

The cemetery is a family heritage site Stephen’s wife, Emily, and his mother, Margaret nee Gilhespy/Gillespie, are both buried there and remembered with a rather ostentatious gravestone.

C is for Coleford, England

Coleford is a market town in the Forest of Deanin the very west of England not far from the Welsh border. Although my 2xgreat grandfather on my maternal side, William Partridge, was born in London, his family subsequently lived in Coleford, Gloucestershire. It seems the family’s roots were not in Coleford specifically but rather the general area. William’s parents John and Eliza Partridge are buried in the cemetery there. While the town doesn’t excite me, or speak to me greatly, the surrounding areas can be quite beautiful and one wonderful place to visit is the Cathedral of the Forest.

The tower in the centre of Coleford is the remains of a C19th church.

This is a fantastic website for anyone with Forest of Dean ancestry: Forest of Dean Family History.

Fearless Females 15: A “six-word” tribute to Emily Melvin

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. March 15: Write a six-word tribute to one of your female ancestors.

Emily was a courageous, dedicated, loyal, hard-working Queensland-born pioneer.

Fearless Females 13: Moments of Strength – Emily Melvin

Emily Melvin (nee Partridge) with her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, probably c1906-1910.

In honour of Women’s History  Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. This post is my response to Day 13, Moments of Strength.

Emily Partridge was the second wife of Stephen Gillespie Melvin. His fist wife, Janet Melvin, had died fifteen months earlier on Peel Island shortly after arriving on Australian soil.

The year 1887 was to be an annus horribilis for Emily and her family, a year of many moments demanding courage, determination and loyalty. Emily was still only a young woman of 28 but she needed all the strength she could muster.

1887 started with a major flood in Ipswich, Queensland in which her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, nearly drowned. Some newspaper reports suggest he was trying to move goods from his bakery and confectionery store, but given the year’s subsequent events I do wonder if it was an accident. A young man, Thomas Shadrach Livermore, was awarded a bronze Humane Society medal for saving Stephen from the flooded Bremer River.

No sooner had the family recovered from that fright, than Stephen was involved in a legal case over a land dispute to develop a coal mine, in which he was one of the defendants. Around the same time his business went into liquidation, no doubt partly due to the court case and perhaps also due to stock losses from the flood and his over-ambitious expansion plans. Stephen lost the court case and the judge charged him and four others with perjury believing they had given false evidence at the land case trial. At the subsequent trial Stephen was found guilty and sentenced to 5½ years gaol. Two of the others were also found guilty while the remaining two were declared not guilty.

Throughout these terrible times, Emily would have had to keep her young family of five children together and her spirits up. The evidence suggests that she was supported in this by her parents, William and Hannah Partridge. Her family had been in Ipswich since the early days and it’s likely she found the whole experience bewildering and shameful. Her family were staunch Methodists and the Melvin business had had a good reputation, so it surely must have been humiliating to be in the public gaze in this way.

We can barely imagine how Emily felt when her husband was sent to gaol for those long years. I’ve read the trial papers in detail and I certainly felt that the evidence was ambiguous: very much a case of “he said, she said”.  Fortunately for the family, Stephen was granted a remission of his sentence after appeal to the Queensland government executive. Thanks to this, 1887 Emily’s annus horribilis ended on a positive note and the family could start to regroup. Emily’s courage and determination had been rewarded. Emily and Stephen’s reunion must have been celebratory as my great-grandmother Laura was born in due time after Stephen’s release from gaol.

Emily continued to work with Stephen to rebuild their business and some years later she bravely relocated with him to Charters Towers to start afresh. Emily went on to have another 8 children with Stephen 6 of whom survived to adulthood. She must have been both emotionally and physically strong.