Chocolate delights

According to Geneabloggers, today is International Chocolate Day and ties in with the blog hop What’s your Chocolate which was scheduled for Monday 10 September. I only read about this blog hop yesterday on Denise Covey’s L’Aussie Writer blog. I know I’m late but it sounded like too much fun to miss out on.

When I was a child I was told my mother’s grandfather had a chocolate factory. As delectable as that sounded it seemed as likely as a Golden Casket win….or Lotto in today’s “money”.

However sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction and as Stephen Melvin was indeed a confectioner with a factory it seems likely that he did indeed produce chocolates as well as other sweet treats. Unfortunately that was long before my time but can you blame me if I have a genetic claim to a sweet tooth?

As I child my chocolate choice was Cadbury’s with its ubiquitous milk chocolate in a purple metallic wrapper:  the type of choccie factory I imagined my ancestor owning. One of the treats I liked was a chewy bar of minty toffee coated in chocolate called a White Knight and a similar one which had a musk centre, not to mention the popular Clinkers.

Nestles, note – not Nestlé, was the competing company to Cadbury’s and in those distant days it had acquired none of today’s multicultural nuances.  My favourite in their range was their Golden Rough, a round delight of chocolate and coconut. These days all I can taste is the copha…has the recipe changed or my taste buds matured?

Then as a teenager there were Maltesers for the theatre, Jaffas for rolling down the floor at the movies, and the toffee-centred Fantales with their snapshots of movie stardom. Later, when working, I was infamous for my 5pm run to the dispensing machine for a Cherry Ripe (mm, mm) or Bounty (mmm) to go with my Diet Coke: I still maintain the calories should have balanced each other out. There’s a “chocolate+ coconut = yummy” theme emerging here. I loathe Turkish delight chocs and don’t think much more of super-sweet cream fillings with strawberry or orange.

It was when we lived in Papua New Guinea that I acquired a taste for European chocolate. Bizarrely all sorts of Swiss and Belgian delights arrived fresh from across the oceans while the Australian chocolates, and especially Easter eggs, seemed inevitably to be stale with a white coating.

I’ve never really looked back from my luxury chocolate tastes and much prefer these to any other, except perhaps upmarket hand-crafted ones. Do you think that’s my great-grandfather’s inheritance to me?

This blog hop was hosted by M Pax, Laura Eno, Brinda Berry and Ciara Knight. Thanks guys it was fun to have this sweet walk down memory lane.

E explores Edinburgh and Ennis

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).

E is for Edinburgh, Scotland

Sunset lights up Calton Hill. © P Cass 2010

This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas.  A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” Alexander McCall Smith, 2006

This quote was written on the side of an inner-city building when we visited Edinburgh again in 2010 and I imagine that Edinburgh is one of the places many people would have on their bucket list. I’m not entirely sure that I feel completely at home there…it is beautiful, or perhaps imposing, but the greyness of the buildings is always something of a shock coming from a sunny country full of blue skies.

Still I love walking on the streets and hearing the skirl of the pipes, even if it is rather touristy. I’d be more than happy to have the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for a while….imagine being able to sit in the archives as often as you like, or to see those days where the skies are a beautiful blue!

Despite having visited a few times over 40 years, I’ve rarely played the tourist. My time has invariably been occupied in the various family-history-related repositories. Thanks to the wonderful online access provided by ScotlandsPeople (SP), my most recent visit “freed” me a little to have a look around. I think I should have shares in SP as it’s by far cheaper to obtain digital copies of original records so that a real visit can be so much richer (hmm perhaps richer is not what I mean!). On my last visit I spent happy hours in West Register House (now closed) where the staff were wonderfully helpful and I could trawl kirk session records to my heart’s content…I’m looking forward to them becoming available online.

I loved the words on this memorial to a recent mariner who lost his life at sea. The words are the essence of what we aim for as family historians. Click on the photo to read the words.

Apart from the joys of archives, I have another reason for visiting Edinburgh. My ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and his ancestors before him, lived in Leith which is Edinburgh’s port. Once, not all that long ago, it was a bit rough, ready and run-down but these days gentrification has come calling. There are expensive apartments being built near the Water of Leith, two Michelin-starred restaurants, and historical monuments including one honouring Australia’s, and Leith’s, Governor John Hunter. What remains constant in my visits are the grey skies. Only once or twice have I seen glimpses of blue skies, even though there’s evidence on the internet that such days exist…I’m sure they can’t all be photo-shopped. I love having a link to this earthy port with its tough maritime industry to which my family contributed for a very long time. Many of my ancestral family members are buried in the South Leith churchyard but of course, not being wealthy, I’ve found no gravestones. How coincidental that having just logged into my family history program, I’ve discovered today is the 158th anniversary of the birthday of my Leith-born ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

This was one of those rare sunny days between the grey so we went to the Botanic Gardens instead of Leith …what was I thinking to not put family history first!

One of the luxuries of our last visit was visiting the Impressionist Gardensexhibition which was wonderful. The Botanic Gardens had a related theme with certain areas of the Gardens highlighting aspects of some of the paintings. We really loved it and had a great time wandering for hours. Actually this was a beautiful “blue sky” day so perhaps we should have prioritised Leith instead of just having fun.One evening we took a trek to the outskirts of Edinburgh to hear a great traditional band, Fiddlers Bid, from the Shetlands. The music was fantastic, but some of the commentary was lost to us in the broad accents.

We also wandered around the old town looking for where another ancestor had lived and saw this sign. I’m not entirely sure I understand what it truly means, but I know I really like it…Alastair Grey himself does have an explanation of it here. Will Scotland vote for Independence I wonder?

My husband is a die-hard rugby union fan, as am I, and we love to watch Scotland play if for no other reason than to listen to Flower of Scotland and belt it out in our lounge room. Sadly the playing infrequently lives up to the music. I had a Scottish rugby union jersey for the 2003 World Cup which I wore in Ireland…I kept wondering why people were looking at me strangely. Mind you, I can get behind Ireland’s Call with a similar level of enthusiasm.

E is for Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland

Ennis has no direct links to my Irish ancestry but oral history suggests that at least my 2xgreat aunt was familiar with Ennis, but whether before or after her sisters’ departure for Australia is unknown. Broadford, their home town, was on the Bianconi route between Limerick and Ennis so perhaps they were able to travel to Ennis for the markets or similar.

For me, Ennis is the home of the Clare County Library and the adjacent Clare Local Studies Centre. I’ve sung their praises so often in my blog so there’s little need to repeat myself and yet I can’t resist. What a great job these people do, and how wonderfully innovative and creative they can be because of the forward-thinking of the powers-that-be above them. Thanks to them Clare family historians are infinitely better served than those with ancestry in other Irish counties. Thank you, I love using the site and I loved visiting in person even more!

It’s funny the things that stay in your mind about a place: the truck jammed under a bridge on the way into town; the welcome and helpfulness of the research staff at the Local Studies Centre; finding the death certificates for my Mary O’Brien’s parents even without known death dates; the river that runs beside the centre of town so that you can have lunch in a café and watch the swans go by; the old narrow streets with their medieval feel; the school kids hogging the footpath as they do the world over; an anniversary dinner in the Old Ground hotel; updating my suite of topographical Irish maps; ginger bath gel for the unheard-of travelling luxury of a hot bath; cash deliveries to the banks complete with machine-gun-toting security guards and multiple armoured vans (this chicken colonial chose to duck into the Vodaphone shop…I’m sure there was something I needed…or not).

I’d love to show you some of my own photos of Ennis, but for the life of me I can’t find them, so have a look at what they have to say at the official website. I think the next time I visit I might take this rather intriguing walking tour…we think Mr Cassmob’s Clune ancestors may have come from Ennis, perhaps we’ll learn more.

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 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.

Fearless Females: The tragic stories of Julia Kunkel and Janet Melvin

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how this affected the family?

There are two tragic deaths of young women in my family tree. One was my maternal great-grandfather’s first wife, Janet Melvin nee Peterkin and the other my paternal great-grandmother, Julia Celia Kunkel nee Gavin.

Janet Melvin nee Peterkin

Janet Melvin’s story is a truly tragic one. Last Friday, 2nd March 2012, was the 135th anniversary of her death. Janet set sail for Australia from London on the Woodlark in October 1876. With her were her husband Stephen and infant son Lawrence, aged 4 months.

The family were all when the ship arrived in Moreton Bay in January 1877, but not long after Janet fell ill. She died on 2 March 1877 at Peel Island, in quarantine. I feel so sad when I think of her courage in making this voyage then knowing she would leave her infant son motherless. I was consoled that her husband and son were still with her on Peel Island when she died, and she wasn’t entirely alone. Janet had just turned 22.

Janet’s son Lawrence survived this early tragedy but I’m told his father tended to favour him above his other children – hardly surprising under the circumstances. My family descends from Stephen’s second wife Emily nee Partridge.

Julia Kunkel nee Gavin

Julia Kunkel saw more of life perhaps than young Janet but she also died young, at only 42, in what I feel was a particularly gruesome way. This was her obituary:

OBITUARY: Darling Downs Gazette 21 November 1901

We sincerely regret to have to record the death of Mrs George Kunkel, wife of the respected railway ganger of Geham, and daughter of Mr Denis Gavan (sic), of this town. The deceased was born in Dalby and was 42 years of age, and leaves a husband and 10 children to mourn the loss of a good wife and mother. Deceased, who had been ailing for some time, came in about a week ago to consult Dr McDonnell, who found her to be suffering from a serious internal disorder and at once pronounced the case to be hopeless. On account of the weak state of her heart, the doctors could not administer chloroform and had to perform an operation without its aid. Although the operation was a success, the patient’s constitution was too weak to make the recovery and she gradually sank and expired at 3.45 on Wednesday morning. The husband is at present also in a poor state of health.  Deceased throughout her life has been a particularly devout adherent of the Roman Catholic Church.  The deepest sympathy is felt for the bereaved husband and children in their terrible loss. The funeral leaves Mr D Gavin’s residence off Seaton St at 2 o’clock this afternoon.

Each time I read this I am horrified anew at the prospect of her being operated on without anaesthetic because she had a weak heart. Her husband died only five weeks later on Christmas Day 1901 leaving their children orphaned.

The impact on the family was significant because while some were old enough to be self-sufficient, they took on some responsibility for the younger ones. Over the years the siblings became alienated for different reasons and the younger ones in particular seemed to suffer the loss of their parents the most. I often wonder if my grandfather’s marriage at a rather late age wasn’t influenced by seeing what happened to his mother.

Julia Kunkel was laid to rest with her mother in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 21 November 1901. The full story of Julia and George Michael Kunkel is told in Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting her grave site, so the timing of this post is particularly apt. One of my family history “bucket list” items is to put a grave stone on her grave which she shares with her mother and a friend.

Guess who’s coming to dinner…my ancestors.

Julie over on Angler’s Rest totally inspired me to write this post in her story for NaBloPoMo on Relatives. Thanks Julie for the inspiration!

I’d love to welcome my earliest Australian ancestors to an early evening dinner party so I could get to meet them as real people. I think it would have to be a typical outdoor event, under the shade of a spreading Banyan tree or a Moreton Bay fig so everyone felt at home. We’d have long tables and folding chairs. I’d buy some brightly-coloured melamine plates and drinking glasses to match pretty place mats and napkins (of course).  Hurricane lamps with lightly scented candles would light the tables so the mood was familiar and cosy, and I’d hang some lamps from the trees.

To welcome everyone we’d have a good malt beer to honour my Kent family who were Hertfordshire publicans…before they became Methodists…and some spring water for those who were traditionally abstemious. Thinking on my maternal 2x great grandfather, William Partridge from Coleford, I think we’d need a good Gloucester cheese to go with the beer.

We would have to serve roast pork in honour of my Bavarian 2 x great grandfather, George Kunkel, who was a pork butcher. Instead of slaving over a hot oven in the kitchen we’d cook the pork in our Weber Q – would that seem familiar to them or somewhat wondrous? George also made his own wine and so we’d drink a white wine similar to that traditional in his birthplace…and again that spring water.

The pork would be accompanied by crispy roast tatties for my Irish ancestors, Mary O’Brien Kunkel and the Gavin and (Mc)Sherry families, and, come to that, my Highlanders, the McCorkindales. We might even introduce them to multi-cultural 21st century Australia with an Asian-inspired salad as an accompaniment.

While we ate we’d play some Scottish reels and Irish fiddle music to cross the cultural borders of my ancestry. How much nicer it would be to have a real fiddler play rather than a 21st century i-touch and if our feet wouldn’t stop tapping, we’d dance a quick reel in the twilight. There are so many questions I’d love to ask my ancestral visitors about their lives…another reason to keep that wine and beer flowing. I think they’ll be glad to escape by the end of the night!

McCorkindale brothers informal jam session. Gift of a family member c1988.

Dessert would certainly have to be spectacular to impress my pastry chef ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, with perhaps a real Aussie pavlova (great pic) decorated with King Island cream and superb fruits like passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and fresh summer berries. Maybe we could even buy some delicious Haig’s hand-made chocolates to see if they match SGM’s standards…I’m realistic here, I couldn’t make them myself.

As this wonderful inter-temporal gathering came to a close, I would ask one of my McCorkindale great-uncles to play Auld Lang Syne on the pipes, and with a wee dram, toast the courage of these ancestors who came to Australia. I’ve nary a doubt I’d share more than a few tears as I farewelled my guests who’d visited all too briefly.

I raise my glass to all my Aussie immigrants: George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien, Denis and Ellen Gavin, Annie Sim McCorkindale and her adult daughter Catherine, Peter and Mary McSherry/Sherry and their son James Joseph, Stephen Melvin and later his mother Margaret Gillespie Melvin/Ward/Wheaton, James and Bridget McSharry/Sherry, Richard and Mary Kent and their adult daughter Hannah and her future husband William Partridge.