A numbertaker? Say what?!

It’s funny how when writing about ancestors in the past, it seems easy to be objective and base stories on discovered facts. When writing about more recent people and events, the concern is a lack of objectivity. Having said that, I’ll continue with the story of Dad’s working life which will inevitably be from my perspective more than anything else.

Growing up in a railway home, you are aware of two things: the dominance of shift work and its impact on eating and sleeping habits, and the dangers facing the railway workers from day to day. Having read several railway staff files for family members, the department could be unforgiving with mistakes, fining men for any errors (however minor), and occasionally remunerating them for an innovation.

Numbertaker Railway Daily Mercury 8 May 1935 p8

Fair dinkum…this was honestly a response we heard. 1935 ‘Local and General.’, Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), 8 May, p. 8. , viewed 28 Nov 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article173191490  

It’s likely that Dad started as a lad porter in the Queensland Railways, straight after Grade 10 and just before the beginning of World War II. He had brief stints in Landsborough and on the Gold Coast line, however he spent the bulk of his 50 years of railway service in Roma Street. Once he gained appointment as a numbertaker the rest of his working life was in the Roma Street (aka Normanby) shunting yards and he was working there by the mid-1940s. The usual response is “an undertaker??” No, though it could be argued there were times when the railways could have done with that occupation. In fact, a numbertaker is quite different and is also known as a tally clerk in some services.

 

To this day I’m uncertain about the exact responsibilities of a numbertaker but my understanding is that his duties included checking the weight distribution of wagons and the sequence in which they were loaded, so goods could be off-loaded in the correct order. He could add columns of figures up, quick as a wink, in his head and I saw him do this many times. In fact, when I was struggling with mental arithmetic in Grade 3 or 4 it was Dad who managed to make me understand it, rather than the nun who taught me. The next level up in the ranking was a shunter, and Dad never wanted that job given its high risk. Whether something deterred him when he was young I don’t know, but I do know is that even as a young girl I knew when he’d come up devastated because some young bloke had lost his life or his limb during a shunting accident – and the significance of the injured man trying to feel his leg(s). During his life with the railway he saw this type of accident, and worse, more frequently than anyone would like.

Roma St Good s yard 1935

1930. New Goods Yard at Roma Street Railway Station, c 1936, Queensland State Archives

Apart from the hazards of the shunting yard in and of itself (an occupation I’ve read in a journal is more dangerous even than mining underground), there was the lack of what we’d know as Occupational Health and Safety today. The men wore heavy navy blue serge uniforms which of course which made them nigh invisible at night or in bad weather. There were no high visibility jackets available at the time. Similarly, there was no arc lighting over the yards, rather the men carried a special type of kerosene lamp as they went about their duties. Imagine, if you will, these hazards combined with criss-crossing train tracks and the sheer tonnage of trains around them especially as they got further into their shift with associated tiredness. At a minimum they worked an eight-hour shift, walking between Roma Street and the Exhibition grounds. My mind boggles at how many kilometres and steps he’d have notched up on a Fitbit of today. In the 1970s, when he was in his 50s and we lived in Papua New Guinea, I remember there were many times when he worked extended shifts, sometimes as long as 16 hours. It has taken a long time, but I no longer get anxious with late-night phone calls –  when we knew he was on shift it could strike fear in your heart.

Roma St goods yard 1951 NAA

1951. Cities and towns – Brisbane’s main railway goods yards near Roma Street Station, the main suburban line terminal. National Archives of Australia, out of copyright. The photo was probably taken from the bridge across to the Grammar Schools. The huts on the right hand side are where the men had their smoko breaks.

During the war, the railways were a reserved occupation but before his death Dad told me how he’d had to supervise Italian POWs working near Corinda station. They would start early and work like crazy so they could “chill out” once they’d finished their duties. He always said that had he gone to war he’d have like to have been with the Ambulance Corps…he saw enough accidents that he knew he could cope.

VP Day 1945 Qld Police Museum

Brisbane Victory Celebrations – World War II, VP Day 15 August 1945, Queensland Police Museum.

Somewhere among my notes, he told me once about talking to a policeman about the events of the Battle of Brisbane. When the war finally ended, Mum told me he was pretty peeved to be on duty and unable to go into town to celebrate with the crowds.

Although Dad had learned to drive a car as a young man, we didn’t own a car until the late 1960s. He rode an ungeared pushbike to and from work every day….add that to the Fitbit tally! He would stop at the corner of our street before the hill, and wave goodbye – again part of that “you never know what will happen” concept.

All that fitness probably helped him a great deal aerobically and offset the effects of smoking at the time. However my own view is that his years on oxygen with emphysema had as much to do with coal dust in the yards as smoking. He caught pleurisy when he visited us in PNG in the early 1970s and our friend, the physician, said he had the worst lungs our friend had ever seen – full of coal dust.

shunting Flickr

This wonderful photo gives a clear idea of why a worker’s lungs might be full of coal dust. Image from Flickr of a PB15 class locomotive shunts the Roma Street railway yards at the Normanby end.photographed late 1960s. Image by Leonard J Matthews, Creative Commons.

I mentioned the shift work which dictated our family activities to some extent. No air-conditioners then to offset a hot summer’s day in Brisbane when sleep was needed, and heaven help anyone who made lots of noise or who hammered on the door. Probably just as well we didn’t have a phone either! Throughout Dad’s working life, at least as I was growing up, his shifts rotated through 6am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm and 10pm to 6am. He would then do three weeks of 2-10 in sequence, making it difficult, surely, to adjust the sleep patterns. Nor was there a regular weekend for family outings. Of course they also worked hail, rain or shine and he swore blind that he’d seen snow flurries on the night shift in June 1984 when we were in New Zealand, hoping for snow.

Crowds and police in Edward Street infront of the Trades Hall during the Railways Strike Brisbane 1948

“St Hanlon’s Day” march and railway strike was held near Trades Hall on Edward Street, 17 March 1948. Evocative of the scenes of “right to protest” marches, Brisbane, 1966.

Dad was a strong union man though his union was not a large one. He could be vocal about expressing his opinions at the meetings, or so I’m told. It’s hardly a wonder, given the abysmal standards of OH&S. When the contentious 1948 St Patrick’s Day railway strike took place, Dad witnessed what happened, though I believe he was not marching. I wonder if any of his Kunkel cousins were on Police duty that day. He would use this experience to warn me against political marches in the 1960s “if I ever wanted to have children”.

The breaking point for Dad came when they introduced computerised systems. This was all too much for him and he decided it was time for retirement. The men gave him the gift of a recliner, funded from their soft-drink machine purchases…a gift that gave good service as ill-health overtook him.  He also received a Railway service medal.

Numbertaker duties

This is an extract of a submission to get an upgrade to the numbertakers’ pay rates. It gives some idea of the complexities they might be dealing with.  (personal archives)

Eventually the coal dust and cigarettes took their toll and he had repeated bouts in hospital. Each time I returned to Darwin, I thought might be my last farewell so when the final farewell came, the impact was less of a shock. I had managed to catch a flight with minimal time and spent the last nights with him at the hospital along with my other half, and one of our daughters.

Dad on his 80th

Dad on the Kookaburra Queen for his 80th birthday. He’ll probably haunt me for including this photo, but for me it highlights his blue eyes – his DNA bequest to two of his great-grandchildren. Snowy white hair like his mother, but when he was young he had jet black hair and a red beard.

 

On the national stage, those few days were eventful: Kevin Rudd, and the ALP, were elected into federal government ; the Northern Territory government got a new Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, and the long-term asbestosis campaigner, Bernie Banton, also died.

The Normanby goods yard and the men’s mess room are no longer there. The men’s smoko sheds have been overtaken by a bus interchange and Grammar School buildings.  Classy apartments are on the site where dad worked, and the beautiful Roma St Parklands look out over what was once a maze of shunting tracks. Next time you pass by along Countess St, or visit the Parklands, give a thought to my dad and his colleagues who gave their lives to the service of Queensland Rail and successfully delivered freight the length and breadth of Queensland.

Remembering Norman Kunkel

Today is the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. His death went unremarked in the wider world as he was always a loner and never cultivated a friendship circle but of course for me it was a sadly memorable event. In most ways those 10 years seem a long time ago, so much has happened in my own life since, and yet he was such an integral part of my life. It’s time to share a little of his story, both work and personal.

Norman Kunkel had turned 84 not long before his death. He’d been born in a private nursing home on Butterfield St, Herston and his parents planted a mango tree in the corner of their yard when he was born. There was always a superstitious sense that if the tree died, Dad’s days would be numbered, and yet it is still there, growing more healthily than it had done for some years. His parents were old to be having their first child in that era with his father being 43 and his mother 36. Norman would remain an only child and apple of his parents’ eyes.

29 Bally St c1930s_edited-3

This photo of the house where my Dad grew up. The photo would be c1930s as the backyard toilets are still in evidence. It’s difficult to see but there’s a horse in the foreground.

It is unusual, in this day and age, to find someone who has lived in one area for all their life, but Dad took this rather to an extreme.  With brief exception(s), he lived on the same block in Kelvin Grove his entire life, first in his parents’ home and then in the home that was built after I was born when my grandparents subdivided their land. He knew so much about the area, and the people who lived there, yet it was difficult to get stories from him – my best discoveries came when I was writing the family history of the Kunkel family.  I only wish I’d been able to extract more stories from him over the years. Mum called him “Elastic Jack” because she thought he exaggerated a yarn (common enough with story-tellers, I suppose). In retrospect it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, but when on a roll he could be very funny. He had a very particular view of his German heritage which I suspect my Kunkel research discoveries threw into chaos. I now wonder if his German surname, unchanged through two world wars, affected his and the family’s response to their heritage.

Dad’s social network as a child focused on his mother’s siblings and their children. While he may have met his maternal grandmother, Annie Sim McCorkindale, he would have had no memory of her, since she died before he turned three.  Growing up, Norman was closest to his cousin Isabelle who was only a few weeks older than him. I have many photos of the two of them together and I’m thrilled to have recently reconnected with Isabelle’s daughter, my second cousin.

Isabell Bryson and Norman Kunkel c1927

Dad with his cousin Isabelle. Both these cane chairs are still in the family.

Sadly, Dad had little knowledge of his Kunkel cousins, of whom there were many. My grandfather had had a falling out with his siblings, reportedly over religion, and only two uncles came to visit from time to time, and perhaps also their children, one of whom was lost in Korea. I suspect Dad knew more about his Kunkel 2xgreat grandparents than he shared, both frustrating and ironic given my paternal grandfather was their eldest grandchild.

Kelvin Grove State School children c1930

Kelvin Grove State School children c1930. Dad is 4th from left in second back row.

Dad attended the Kelvin Grove State School for his primary schooling. It was the closest to his home and many of the stayers in the area were kids he’d attended primary school with…handy one time when some boys threw stones at me en route home from the Catholic school. Dad was round totheir father, quick as a wink, and it never happened again. I’ve been lucky to inherit many school photos from those days. In high school he ended up at Brisbane State High School at West End. He was never a good scholar and yet he was a prolific reader all his life – a love he shared with me. A fond memory is that whenever I was sick he’d bring me special comics or books home to read.

Norman Kunkel v young

Dad in his railway uniform as a young man.

As a teenager Dad joined Queensland Railways, like his father and many other Kunkel family members. Ironically while I have staff files for many of my ancestors, there is none available for Dad as these have been destroyed. It’s likely he joined first as a lad porter but for decades he worked as a numbertaker in the Roma Street goods yard, of which more anon. He worked shift-work for many years and our family life revolved around accommodating these constraints.

There was no tennis or golf, cricket or football, in Dad’s off-duty time – he’d got quite enough physical exercise during his shift. Instead he did the standard things men did in those days: mowing the lawn, mending shoes, and keeping the yard tidy. Unlike many families of that era, there was no vegetable patch in our garden and no chook yard. I have a distant memory of Dad having to kill a chook one year (probably for Christmas) and it running around, headless. He’d have hated that as, looking back, I can see that he hated killing fish or chooks, and, only once, having to drown some kittens in the nearby creek.

Norman Kunkel

Dad and his roses – an early colour photo thanks to a family member who brought the film back from the USA.

He grew beautiful roses in the front garden, the most prolific of which was a red rose called Roundelay and one I loved that was pink striped (name?). Gerberas held a fascination for him and he grew magnificent double gerberas back when singles were the norm (oops a name pun there!). He would order them and the roses in from a nursery in Bundaberg.

Having lived near a tributary of Breakfast Creek all his life, he was familiar with the hazards of snakes and taught me early how to deal with them – a skill that proved handy many times. When I was very little we would fish in the creek but all I remember catching was the odd catfish. However, whenever we went to Magnetic Island on holidays, Dad and I would go fishing, either off the jetty or in a dinghy which he’d row out into Picnic Bay. There we’d catch delicious tropical fish like coral trout, rock cod, rainbow trout etc, and yet somehow I picked up his reluctance to having to kill them. I liked to be Daddy’s girl and go fishing, but it’s not something I’ve continued into adult-hood, for the same reason as him.

He loved the bush and he, Mum and I would often go bush-walking especially when on holidays. From him I learned the names of birds and some plants. They were special times as a family.

norm and joan at picnic bay1

My parents climbing up from Rocky Bay,

One time I came home from Girl Guides very upset about something and Dad’s advice has stuck with me down the decades “don’t always turn the other cheek”. This was so contrary to my religious education that it truly caught my attention. Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself.

Dad also shared his love of cats with me – a love that has continued throughout my life. We were never without one when I was a child, and only for one very brief period as an adult. They are a fundamental part of my well-being.

pauleen norm at picnic bay

One of my favourite photos – Dad, me and kittens on holidays at Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island

When they were planning to build the Ballymore Stadium in the 1960s, familiar to Rugby Union aficionados, Dad was up in arms battling all the powers that be. It was ironic that after it was built he became a dedicated rugby fan (helped a little by his daughter’s new boyfriend!). He was never much of a drinker, but he liked an occasional beer or whisky, which led to a funny story one day when we were all engrossed watching a game on TV and Mum moved his coffee table as she tidied.

Reading, flowers, cats, fishing, snake avoidance and the bush: all great gifts but the greatest he gave me – apart from his love – was the opportunity to have the best possible education. With mum’s committed and dedicated support, this was truly a gift that has kept on giving. It wasn’t always easy for them, with limited finances, but they made it a priority for which I’m grateful to them both.

Thanks Dad, for everything.

Why not come back to read the story of his working life, and how it contributed to his death.

Grandad goes to war: Remembrance Day 2017

One hundred years ago today my grandfather, Denis Joseph Kunkel, was at sea en route to England thence  to the war in France.

dinny jim & friend

James Edward (Front left) and Denis Joseph Kunkel (centre) and unidentified friend or relation c 1917.

He had volunteered with his younger brother, James Edward, on 22 October 1917[1] probably as part of a push at the time to recruit qualified railway workers to work on the lines to the front in the north of France. I wrote about his life-long railway career some time ago. Denis would join the Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company and given the rank of Lance Corporal.

We don’t know why Grandad left it until 1917 to enlist, as his much younger brothers had already joined up along with their cousins and he had already lost two cousins in the carnage of France and Flanders (James Gavin and James Paterson). Perhaps he was older and wiser, or perhaps he’d been reluctant to serve in a war against Germany while his Bavarian-born grandfather was still alive. Perhaps it wasn’t until the call for railway expertise that he thought he could contribute. We will never know.

At the time of his recruitment Dinny was already living on the Ballymore Estate where I’m told he was renting a room at 33 Bally Street.  His attestation records document that Dinny was aged 37 years and 1 month, 5ft 6inches tall[2], weighed 165lbs, had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. His chest measurement was 36-39 inches. He had a scar on his right thigh and another on his left knee. He was regarded as medically and dentally fit. Denis gave his religious denomination as “None” though a later notation has been made to suggest that on the rolls he had given Church of England as his religion. From a family point of view this is interesting because his parents, and grandparents, were devout Catholics. Family anecdote tells that he had a major falling out with the clergy out west (obviously pre-dating his enlistment) and he never returned to Catholicism.

Denis left Brisbane by train for Melbourne and was accompanied by his brother, James. Gossipy war news was part of the journalism of the day and on 5 November 1917, The Toowoomba Chronicle reported that “On Tuesday’s troop train, Privates James and Denis Kunkle (sic) passed through Toowoomba for the front. They are sons of Mr Geo. Kunkle of Toowomba and well known in this district. They are also nephews of Mr Gavin, of Pechey, who has five sons[3] at the front”.[4]  Their much younger cousin, Anne Kunkel, who was only a child at the time of the war, remembers that the Murphy’s Creek school children would see long trains with “carriages of khaki-clad young men going off to war” as they passed through en route to the south. She also remembered meeting Dinny at some stage when he returned safely from the war.

Port Sydney AWM 4029449

This photograph shows the interest of the men in the Crossing the Line ceremonies. Image by C.W.L Muecke, copyright expired. Image J06289 Australian War Memorial.

Denis sailed to war on the ship Port Sydney which left Melbourne on 9 November 1917. I was fortunate that there was an enthusiastic photographer on board, documenting some of the sights and events along the way. Today I’ve also discovered a digitised copy of The Limber Log, a souvenir journal on the voyage edited by Lt H Garland. (As it’s under copyright, those who are interested will need to follow the link). It includes references to the joy and pangs of the departure, the sad death of one of the railwayman soon after leaving Colombo, and his burial. Many of the comments will raise eyebrows today with their political-incorrectness and racial slurs, but it’s well worth a read if you had relatives on this voyage. At the end of the journal, they included a Roll of Honour of all the men on board, including one Corporal, Kunkel, D J.

 

4105393

Unidentified soldiers, probably British, grouped around two 12 inch howitzers on Railway Hill used to support the Australian troops. The howitzer in the foreground is mounted on railway tracks, which allowed it to be moved to take up different positions along the railway line. Note a railcar on the right and piles of sandbags in the background. Australian War Memorial image E04615 out of copyright.  While this is an Allied weapon, there would have been similar on the German side.

Railway WWI Goulburn Evening Penny Post 2 Feb 18p4

1918 ‘The Railway Unit.’, Goulburn Evening Penny Post (NSW : 1881 – 1940), 2 February, p. 4. (EVENING), viewed 11 Nov 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article99019997

My father recalled that Denis, as part of the ABGROC, was responsible for taking the heavy artillery to the Front along the railway line, unloading heavy weaponry, then quickly re-hitching the engine to make good their escape before the German’s “Big Bertha” gun could get a “line” on them.  The 49th Battalion’s historian tells us that the Australian military had railway lines as extensive as those of the British.[5] The threat may have been very different from that experienced by the front-line troops who had to go over the dugouts, but having heavy weapons taking a line on a large piece of rolling stock would surely have made the heartbeat race! The railways were pivotal to the movement of men and supplies and the railwaymen played their part, however mundane, and largely forgotten.[6] The war diaries provide a surprisingly rich description of life for the members of the ABGROC.

 

A few years ago we did a tour of the Western Front and I asked if it was possible to visit Poperinghe, near where my grandfather had worked at Peselhoek. At the railway station, I went down the platform looking for someone to speak to. My first reaction was to speak in German (hmm, perhaps not a good idea), and as my French is very poor and my Flemish non-existent I was dithering about what to do. Along came our tour guide and did the obvious: spoke in English to the railway worker we saw.

4103895

Ellarsyde. Broad gauge and light rail tracks and rolling stock at a railway yard near Ypres. On the far left some wagons are standing on the heavy gauge rail tracks; on the adjacent light rail tracks are several sets of flat cars, some loaded with building materials. On the right are some locomotives. Australian War Memorial Image C01384 out of copyright.

In a bizarre Who Do You Think You Are moment, the gentleman went into his office and then handed me about six photographs taken around 1917-1918, as well as talking to me about where the lines went. I was beyond thrilled and quite blown away by it. The guide swore blind he had not organised it, and as he was very chuffed with what I’d got, to this day I don’t know if it was serendipity or pre-arranged. Either way I was extremely happy to have a better sense of where Grandad had been during the war.

Poperinghe 13

Poperinghe Railway Station near the time when my grandfather served there.

Peselhoek Poperinghe

It has to be said, that compared to many, Grandad’s war was a short one, less than one year, although he did not return to Australia until August 1919 on board the transport ship Karmala. It seems the men had a fairly lively time of it on the way home with a wide array of activities. An orchestra was established and dancing took place every night. An on-board newspaper was established called the Karmala Kuts.[7] No doubt Dinny, who liked a good joke, rather enjoyed the railway-based story which appeared in Vol 1 No 2. Sports were held daily and chess, bridge and drafts competitions occurred. The men also had four lectures from the ship’s master who had been a member of Scott’s polar expedition. Education classes were also offered. Yet again the men were given gifts from the Comforts Funds with 1000 pairs of socks distributed. The ship stopped at Cape Town, Fremantle and Adelaide on the way home. “The people of Cape Town were very kind to the men who had a splendid time there with picnics, dances, motor trips etc”.[8] It is difficult to imagine in this day and age how mature men would respond to such simple pleasures. Denis disembarked in Melbourne on 17 August 1919. His military service was at an end.

To the best of my knowledge, Grandad never went to Remembrance Day ceremonies, though he was elderly when I knew him and perhaps did so when he was younger. His service medals and his RSL membership badge have been safely preserved in the family. As far as I know no photographs of him in uniform have survived.

LEST WE FORGET

Check out the treasures to be found at the Australian War Memorial including war diaries, photographs and personal diaries. I wrote about them here.

Are you looking for the service records of your WWI soldier? You can search through this link (select WWI) where they have been digitised.

There are also often letters/stories home in the local newspapers of the day. Our good friend Trove may have the answers.

—————————-

[1] The Courier-Mail, 23 October 1917, p. 8 reports on the previous day’s volunteers including the two brothers. Denis Kunkel’s service number is 2311.

[2] This was atypical of the Kunkel height genes.

[3] Sons were James, Stephen, Patrick Joseph, George and John Joseph. James was killed in action in the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916 and is buried in the War Cemetery at Rue Petillon, near Fleurbaix. He is remembered on the War Memorial in Crows Nest.

[4] Toowoomba Chronicle, 5 November 1917, p. 5.

[5] F Cranston, Always Faithful: The History of the 49th Battalion, Boolarong Publications Brisbane, 1983, p. 18.

[6] “Any activity out of the ordinary, such as …a light railway at work… served as a tonic for the Diggers”. D Winter, Making the Legend: The War writings of CEW Bean. UQ Press, Brisbane, 1992, p. 154.

[7] AWM 31. Karmala 306.

[8] AWM7. Karmala 4. Report on the Karmala 17 August 1919.

Monday Memories: Flying and travel

postcard-1242616_1280Yes, it’s Tuesday, but unfortunately my internet was on strike yesterday.

This (Monday) morning, I was reflecting on the changes over the decades to flying and travelling internationally (and domestic).

My mother-in-law had a mantra which we maintain: “tickets, passport, wallets, kids”. Now that the latter are adults and we’re empty nesters, we can automatically tick one box at least. Of the other three, perhaps passports have changed the least, but we’ve seen a great many other changes. I wonder how many you remember?

1974 Europe tvl001.jpg

Many of our early international trips were on Boeing 707s.

  • Tickets were multi-leaved flimsy documents and each page or leaf covered one sector of your flight booking. As you checked in, that leaf was torn out.
  • You were checked in by real humans -some scary (if you were worried about luggage allowances) and some all smiley and happy. The check-in process didn’t yet make you feel like a rat in a maze.
  • The in-flight cabin crew were usually men and women but the women were always young and beautiful. Qantas was renowned for having many male stewards. Of course there were no female pilots on any of the airlines at the time.
  • Economy was still cattle-class but at least it hadn’t progressed to chicken-coop-class (3C) where your knees are against the seat in front (if you’re more than 5ft 4ins) or your hips are wedged against the armrests (if you’re not a stick insect any more).
  • You were plied with large meals at every turn and received a glossy printed menu for each meal. The rationale that it’s better to have small, infrequent meals seems to have a lot less to do with health, than business economics.
  • There were no long-haul flights per se. Aircraft had not yet been developed to fly Australia to Europe in two hops, or even one, with the new Dreamliner. Our most memorable trip in 1977 was Port Moresby, Manila, Bangkok, Karachi, Teheran, Rome. Kangaroo flight indeed. It got very tedious when you’d just got your kids to sleep then had to wake them up at that transit stop.
  • In-flight entertainment was a whole other ballpark. The crew would offer you a variety of newspapers and magazines – of course the women were automatically offered “women’s” mags and the men the business papers and magazines. You carried the books you thought you’d read en route but obviously weight was an issue. Tiny packs of playing cards were sometimes handed out and the children got kid’s packs of colouring books etc. If they were lucky they were (rarely) taken up to the see the flight deck.
  • FrommerYou carried your Frommer’s “Europe on $5/$10 a day” because there was a limit to how much pre-planning and pre-booking you could do in advance. What’s the internet? What’s a computer?
  • If you worried about safety it was more to do with weather and potential crashes (especially flying in Papua New Guinea). While terrorist attacks happened in those days, they seemed less of a threat than they do since 9/11….or perhaps the powers-that-be have hyped up this fear.
  • Smoking was permitted on the aircraft and even when there was a no-smoking section it did little to improve the overall air quality.
  • Alcohol was free (I think) and many people made sure they took advantage. I was not impressed with the family behind us en route to Rome when the couple drank and drank, leaving their children to pester those in neighbouring seats.
  • The toilet facilities had toiletries even in economy – but then I guess they were long flights!
  • You received a proper in-flight pack of socks, eyeshade, ear plugs and toothbrush.
  • You could carry water through check-in and on board.
  • You had no clue where you were between transit stops – there were no in-flight maps or camera in the aircraft nose etc – but you looked out the windows and gained a sense of the world. I still remember flying over vast tracts of north-west India into Pakistan and seeing little villages lit-up in a sea of darkness.
  • There were no in-flight TVs (or streamed to an iPad – what’s that?) hence no music, TV shows, movies, games etc.
  • There were no eye-scanners at Passport control.
  • Vaccinations were still required for smallpox and cholera, even for trips to Europe.
  • International flights were something many people could only dream of because of the expense. We were lucky that our PNG employment conditions enabled us to convert our Australian flight entitlement to a (partial) overseas fare.
  • We’ve paid for cheaper fares and accessibility to overseas flights with many of the economic cost-cutting measures the airlines have implemented: fewer meals, more squashed seats, paying for checked-in luggage etc.
  • Of course the truly brave souls, including some of our friends, backpacked from London to Australia through many of the countries that are now international hotspots.

After 30 odd hours you arrived

  • On the ground in Europe, your passport was stamped as you crossed each border. If you were on an overnight train, you were regularly woken by immigration and train officials for ticket and passport inspections. This could get very tedious.
  • You had to check you had visas for the relevant countries you were visiting and also, for us, re-Entry Permits back to Papua New Guinea.
  • Every country had its own currency so it gave your mental arithmetic a work-out. Credit cards took weeks for payments to be processed. You carried travellers’ cheques as there were no ATMs or bank cash cards.
  • 1974 Europe tvl035 (2)You wrote aerogrammes home and sent postcards, not emails. If you needed to get in touch with home, you went to a large post office, booked an international call, and were sent to a particular cubicle.
  • You took slides or photos and sent the film home to be developed.
  • And when you flew back into Australia, before you could disembark, two men would come up the aisles with spray cans aloft spraying any wayward insects that had tried to hitch a free ride to Australia.

I did a rough tally of the airlines we’ve flown with internationally since 1974: Qantas, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Scandinavian (SAS), Air Nuigini, Malaysian, Philippines Airlines, Royal Nepal, British Airways/BOAC, United, Air Canada, Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Japan Airlines (JAL), SwissAir, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Jetstar and others I’ve probably forgotten.

I’ve only flown Business internationally twice: once when we went finish[i] from Papua New Guinea and on a Los Angeles-Brisbane flight in 1989, thanks to a dodgy move they tried on. I look at the cost, then at what we can use that for in other travel and back to chicken-coop-class we go. Maybe one day when we’re older and grey-er.

What are your memories of those flights of our youth? Fond and rose-coloured, or tinged with horrors?

[i] “Going finish” was the term used by expats in Papua New Guinea when they left the country for good. It could be a very emotional and pivotal time for each family.

National Family History Month 2017

First of all many thanks to Coordinator of National Family History Month, Shauna Hicks. She does an amazing job single-handed but with great financial support from the Sponsors. Did you submit your interest in winning one of the excellent prizes? I did and we’ll all know the outcome soon.

The month has seemed quite crazy and reflecting on what’s happened that’s no surprise. What did I get up to?

On a personal note it was very exciting to meet up again with one of McCorkindale 2nd cousins after “only” about 55 years. We had a great chat and are looking forward to meeting again to swap more stories and family information.

Learning Opportunities:

During the month I indulged in quite a few:

  • Two days of the Unlock the Past Roadshow in Brisbane, with the focus on Scottish/Irish records by Chris Paton and German/European research by Dirk Weissleder and local speakers Helen Smith and Rosemary Kopittke. Not only did I learn heaps but got to hang out with genimates and meet new people as well. Thanks to My Heritage for the discount special from the Roadshow, and Rosemary for revealing its benefits.
  • At the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society, I was able to hear Janice Cooper’s thought-provoking talk about citations and how to assess sources. Lots to think about now the month’s dust has settled. The Society also launched the third volume of their “Our Backyard” books which tell the story of some of the people buried in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery. If you have ancestors on the Darling Downs you really need to look at the books they’ve published…they’re excellent.
  • Caloundra Family History Research Inc (CFHRI) had two presentations from members of Genealogy Sunshine Coast: one on DNA and the other on Google Photos and its usefulness. It seems that I’m progressively getting to grips with DNA for genealogy as it sometimes even makes sense! There was lots of potential in Google Photos and I’m going to have a play with it to see how I can use it to my advantage with both my family history and One Place Studies.
  • The Noosa library service hosted a presentation by Judy Webster at Cooroy Library on Court Records in Queensland…a subject that always offers many research opportunities and we benefited from Judy’s extensive archival knowledge. I was sorry that my jaunts to Brisbane and Toowoomba meant I missed the first two presentations this month by genimates Carmel Galvin and Shauna Hicks.

My contributions to NFHM:

  • I presented my talk on “The marriage of family and local history” in Toowoomba. It had a focus on my One Place Study, Murphy’s Creek which was well known to most attendees as it’s just down the range from Toowoomba.
  • Yesterday I was the final speaker in the Noosa library Services NFHM program. My topic was “Writing your family history…things I learned along the way
  • My genimate Alex from Family Tree Frog set us a NFHM weekly Blog Challenge which tested our creativity in telling our families’ stories.
  • Alona from LoneTester blog presented us with a meme: An A to Z of Ancestral Places. It was an interesting one to complete and a good reference point to follow up on research, as well as comparing notes on the overlap of places with our mates.
  • Jaunting around the Darling Downs gave me an opportunity to revisit some of my ancestral places in person. I had a good chat to the historian at the Woolshed at Jondaryan where my ancestor, George Michael Kunkel, worked for a while as a lamber.If you had ancestors who worked or lived there, the historian would like to hear from you at this email.
  • Of course we never go past Murphy’s Creek without visiting my Kunkel ancestors at the cemetery and later on a recce of the Fifteen Mile where they lived.
  • I rejoined the Genealogical Society of Queensland where I started my research in 1986. After my long sojourn in the Northern Territory it was time. I was amused that my new membership number is a scramble of my initial membership but in the thousands, not hundreds.

All in all, August has been a great month for family history…no wonder I feel a bit weary.

Now it’s time to focus on the living family and spend some time with them. Happy days.

 

 

 

 

The Three Rs of Genealogy

Revisit record reviseThis is a re-post of one of my submissions to the Worldwide Genealogy blog nearly three years ago. I thought it might be worth a re-share here for National Family History Month 2017.

As family historians we need the traditional three Rs of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, after all how else to locate our families’ records, write their stories and calculate and cross-check their ages, dates of births, deaths and shot-gun marriages.

But today I’m going to propose that another three Rs are also needed for our family history research.

REVISIT

Traditional wisdom suggests we maintain a research register/spreadsheet which documents every record set and document we’ve checked in the course of our research, either online or offline. This practice, or some variation of it, is certainly helpful to ensure we don’t waste valuable research time searching the same records again and again.

However, I’d argue there’s a benefit to visiting at least some of the records more than once. Certainly we should revisit those documents we’ve stored in our files, databases or trees.

Why?

Because I firmly believe that research findings, and our perception and understanding of them, are not static. The documents themselves will not change but the research “glasses” we’re wearing will certainly change how we see the detail on them.

shutterstock_137910917

Shutterstock Image ID: 137910917

What we know of our history changes over time, either incrementally or in large leaps forward. Things we haven’t noticed about a record will suddenly leap out at us as having a new or additional meaning. The significance of names will become clearer as in the interim we’ve learned of family connections. If we only look at the record the first time we find it, and don’t squeeze it for every single drop, we run the risk of missing the key to a brick-wall breakthrough.

And then there’s the one-time search of a particular record set, especially online. I’m sure we’ve all had searches that we’ve rejected as unsuccessful on one occasion, only to revisit the search and see, with those new glasses on, something important that turns it into a relevant record for our research.

And what of looking at adjoining pages to see who’s living nearby? We used to do this automatically when searching offline but the downside of an online search is that it takes us straight to our ancestor’s document and tempts us just to exit to the next search without checking out the broader context.

RECORD

Each of us has our own way of recording our family history. Most will keep at least key information in family history programs or trees, either online or offline. Others have their own family websites. Others again will publish the family’s story in a book. It’s probably a fair bet that the participants of this Worldwide Genealogy blog are also writing their family history online ie writing a genealogy blog. I’ve noticed that when we say “blog” people sometimes conclude we’re just playing around on the internet, telling others what we had for breakfast etc. Some time ago I wrote a post suggesting that we should start reframing how we refer to our blogs, by “telling it how it is” and saying we write our family history online.

Blogging is a great option for recording our family’s history and revealing the grassroots of history by contextualising it within the broader framework of traditional history.

I feel sure that the centenary of World War I will produce many micro-stories of the impact of war on families and communities as well as the contributions made by individuals on both sides of the military fence. This reveals a more nuanced tapestry of history than the big-picture, important-people version that we all learnt at school. It also exposes the sheer scale of war’s impact at the grassroots level. We can do the same for so many aspects of our family history by revealing more about a community, which in turn might lead to a One Place Study.

Blogging also provides a less threatening way of starting to document a family history rather than the daunting prospect of writing a book. From a personal perspective blogging suits my approach to a narrative recording my family’s history and allows me to add new information to the family history I’ve published. Of course to a large extent I’m preaching to the converted on this topic.

REVISE

Having identified and documented your research findings, do you look at what you’ve actually written or recorded? Do you check you’ve not leapt to conclusions and blipped over an assumption you’ve made? You know what they say about assumptions…

I recently wrote a story on my blog about my research into the Callaghan family of Courtown near Gorey in Wexford. In my research I’d looked at the 1901 and 1911 census records from the National Archivesof Ireland online. The family comprised head of house, David Callaghan, son David, daughter Bridget, daughter-in-law Kate and grandson, another David. Even though it was staring me in the face, I made a stupid mistake and jumped to the conclusion that Kate was son David’s wife whereas it was very clear she was a widow. If I hadn’t gone back to revisit the document, and review what I’d written, I’d have left myself following an incorrect research trail and potentially led others astray as well. A really stupid beginner’s error despite years of experience. You might be interested in my post about the success, the surprise and the assumptions stupidity.

I certainly hope I’m not the only one to make such a silly mistake which is why the revisit, record, revise steps are so important. We need to do them in a cool moment not while we’re in the thrill of the hunt for more data and excited by each new discovery.

RECAP

revisit record revise circular_edited-1Of course with so many records coming online it’s tempting to just keep searching for new and fascinating titbits about our families. Still we’d be wise to stop every now and then, and revisit what we’ve written or recorded in our family trees.

Revisit those documents we have stored, look again at that photo we’ve been mystified by, and assess whether there are certificates we need to purchase,  microfilms to be ordered in or another avenue of research to be explored

Record each new discovery and assess what its impact is on the discoveries we’ve made before.

Revise our assumptions and family links. There is a constant flow between revisiting, recording and revision.

How do you approach your research and do you use any of these steps? Have you made silly mistakes that needed revision?

No glory for the Melvin family

NFHM AlexThis week is the finale in Family Tree Frog’s NFHM blog challenge and the theme is “Power without Glory”. Sadly, my family branches are singularly lacking in powerful people – at least beyond their own kin. So let me tell you another story about last week’s ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and the events that would turn 1887 into his family’s annus horibilis.

In last week’s post we saw how Stephen had been rescued from the flooded Bremer River in Ipswich on 22 January 1887 by Thomas Shedrick Livermore. We also learned that by mid-year his business was in liquidation. What came between those two events and indeed what followed?

MELVIN Qld Times 23 Sept 1886 p8

1886 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 23 September, p. 8. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122559893

In September 1886 Stephen G Melvin had instructed Elias Harding Jnr to offer the contents of his confectionery plant and sawmill for sale[i], due to the expiry of his lease. Was he already feeling a financial pinch? Had he over-extended himself? How would he continue his business without these assets? It doesn’t quite make sense.

Stephen meanwhile advertised a property for rent[ii] and his wife Emily advertised for a general housekeeper[iii]. Perhaps the family was living beyond their means and SGM (as I call him) had over-extended himself financially.

By March 1887, the case of Hunter v Melvin and Finch[iv] was about to be heard in civil sittings of the Queensland Supreme Court on a claim “that partnership accounts be taken”. This case was to be heard by His Honour Sir Charles Lilley. Little did SGM realise that he was now on a very slippery downward legal slope.

The proceedings of the court case were extensively reported in the newspapers – one of the benefits of reporting on legal matters is that the journalist has to record accurate details. The jury found in favour of the plaintiff, J Hunter. Based on the decision and the testimony heard, Justice Lilley declared “he was strongly disposed to exercise my summary power by committing them for perjury – very strongly indeed.”[v]

MELVIN Qld Times 31 Mar 1887 p5 crop

1887 ‘BRISBANE.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 31 March, p. 5. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819744

The “them” to whom the judge referred were all those who had sworn to their testimony, now found to be invalid: the defendants Samuel Finch and Stephen Gillespie Melvin and witnesses Harry Jackson, Stephen Wilson and Susan Wallace. They were bound over on recognizance of £100 to appear in court the next day on a charge of perjury. The ground must have felt like it moved under their feet, and perhaps SGM felt he was back in the maelstrom of a flood, though this time is was a flood of legal issues.

The perjury case became a cause célèbre, widely reported in newspapers around the country. It was interesting that it was in Ipswich that those charged seemed to have a lot of support.

MELVIN Qld Times 27 Sept 1887 p5

1887 ‘THE PERJURY CASES.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 27 September, p. 5. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122824946

The individual cases were heard in the Supreme Court in September 1887[vi]. I was particularly interested that Melvin’s barrister, Mr Lilley (not the judge) had submitted testimonials from 13 ships from when Stephen first went to sea at age 16, until he came to Ipswich. These testified to Stephen’s good character – how I wish I could see those documents but they don’t appear to have been retained by the court. Lilley also stated that he had been requested by those who knew the prisoner to extend to Melvin, and one other prisoner, the provisions of the Offenders’ Probation Act[vii].  Notwithstanding this, at the completion of the trials His Honour, Mr Justice Harding, passed the following sentences: Finch five years, Melvin five years and six months, and Jackson three years. Wilson and Wallace had been found not guilty[viii].

As you might imagine, at this point I was thinking “but what on earth happened?” Within that sentence period of 5.5 years Stephen Melvin’s wife had four children including my own grandmother. Something must have transpired as I also knew he’d been in Charters Towers within that time frame, so I kept hunting.

MELVIN Oct 8 1887 p8 extract The Week

1887 ‘The Perjury Trials.’, The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), 8 October, p. 8. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182629807(extract only)

No sooner had the judge’s sentence been passed than a petition was circulated in Ipswich to gain a remission of the sentences[ix]. This arose because there were jury members common to the cases, who believed that they had been provided with different testimony across the five trials. Ultimately the petition went to the Queensland Executive Council[x].

And then on 12 December 1887, the judgement was passed: After a careful consideration of the petition praying for a remission of the sentences on Melvin, Finch and Jackson, recently convicted of perjury, the Governor in Council yesterday decided to accede to the prayer of the petition. The prisoners will therefore be released forthwith[xi]. The prisoners were then brought up from St Helena prison and released. St Helena is an island in Moreton Bay, a short distance from Peel Island where Stephen’s first wife, Janet Peterkin Melvin had died on arrival in 1877. As best as I can ascertain, the remission of their sentences did not come with the overturning of the guilty verdict, which must have been a difficult shame to carry, but at least Stephen was free and could go home.

Plan of St Helena 1887

Queensland. Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Votes and proceedings of the Legislative Assembly during the session of 1887 1887, Plan of the island of St. Helena, H.M. Penal Establishment, Queensland, Government Printer, [Brisbane] (Click to enlarge)

What a Christmas present that must have been for all the Melvin family! The arrival of my grandmother, Laura, nine months later is probably a clue <smile>. It had been a torrid year for the family and I’m sure a lot of pressure fell on the shoulders of Stephen’s wife Emily with the support of her father, William Partridge: parallel to the trials, they were dealing with liquidation of the business and the award of the bronze medal to Mr Livermore.

MELVIN July 16 1888 p6 Courier

1888 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 16 July, p. 6. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3480414

The legal process of sorting out contracts continued progressively through 1888[xii].  William Partridge provided financial support to the family as evidenced in news reports.

A further by-product of the trial was the amendment of legislation….now if only I could locate my notes. While I have used newspaper articles to tell this story, I have also traced the clues through a myriad archival sources at Queensland State Archives. Although I reviewed these documents with an open mind, I felt the initial case seemed very much a case of “he said, she said” so I can only assume there was some non-verbal indications of guilt. How I sometimes long for an Aussie Legal Genealogist to demystify the legalese.

A family case of minimal power and no glory at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] 1886 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 23 September, p. 8. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122559893

[ii] 1887 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 26 March, p. 2. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122823758

[iii] 1887 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 1 March, p. 2. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122824339

[iv] 1887 ‘The Brisbane Courier.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 21 March, p. 4. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3465267

[v] 1887 ‘BRISBANE.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 31 March, p. 5. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819744

[vi] 1887 ‘Perjury Trials.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 27 September, p. 4. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201025066

[vii] 1887 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 16 September, p. 3. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3478852

[viii] 1887 ‘THE PERJURY CASES.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 27 September, p. 5. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122824946

[ix] 1887 ‘The Perjury Trials.’, The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), 8 October, p. 8. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182629807

[x] 1887 ‘LAST NIGHT’S PARLIAMENT.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 8 December, p. 3. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819651

[xi] 1887 ‘The Perjury Cases.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 13 December, p. 4. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article174766614

[xii] 1888 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 16 July, p. 6. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3480414

Genea-learning and touring

We’re not long home from a week of genealogy indulgence…what’s not to like about genie-adventures? Especially when they take you on a road trip!

First up was two days at the Unlock the Past Roadshow in Brisbane with Scottish/Irish guru Chris Paton, German expert, Dirk Weissleder and local speakers. Learning new strategies and sources for research is always fun and even better when you get to catch up with genimates. The Roadshow is heading to other cities too, so you might want to consider booking.

270px-Qld_region_map_2

Image from Wikipedia.

From Brisbane we ventured west towards Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. We were no sooner on the Darren Lockyer Way[i] when my spirits soared with the wide open vistas of the Lockyer Valley and the sense of moving away from the urban coastal belt. Don’t get me wrong – we love where we live near the coast, but this trip made me realise how much I’ve missed being away from the open spaces we used to enjoy in the Northern Territory.

We made our way up the Range via the obligatory ancestral route through Murphy’s Creek and a wander through the cemetery saying g’day to my Kunkel 2xgreat-grandparents and great-grandfather.

20170810_112159

The renovated Kunkel grave at Murphy’s Creek.

However, on this trip we also made time to lunch at Spring Bluff Railway Station. Of course we’ve known forever that it’s there, but there always seemed to be other priorities. I imagine it’s busy on the weekends but it was tranquil on a lovely mid-week Spring-like day. With the burst of warm weather, the flowers are coming into bloom early.

On Friday, I toddled off to the Catholic Diocesan Archives in Toowoomba where I’d made an appointment. I’ve rattled on many times about the benefits of checking parish registers for additional information…it’s amazing how much you can discover.

Lockyer and Toowoomba

This Google map could be called “Ancestral Pathways” as it lists so many towns and settlements where my family lived, worked and died.

Golf (or surf) widows are a common phenomenon, but for a few days Mr Cassmob got another large dose of being a genealogy widower. His Aussie ancestry is all from Victoria so there was nothing specific for him to follow up. However, he’s had lots of practice with my meanderings and this just one more. We tried to balance some of the genea-obsessiveness with touring options we haven’t taken up before. Our wander through the Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland was a delight! Some of the trees were already in blossom, azaleas were starting to peek out and the landscaping is beautiful – definitely on the agenda to see it again a different season.

20170811_141000

Japanese Gardens at USQ.

Saturday was spent at the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society. I love that it’s aptly located adjacent to the enormous Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery (search burials here). The Society launched its third volume of Our Backyard, containing stories of those buried in the cemetery. Most are submitted by family members but some have been researched by society members. My submissions for Kunkel and Gavin family members, plus a few Germans, are in Volume 1. The Society has some great publications if you have Darling Downs ancestry. They are also very good at catering for their remote members.

After the book launch, and morning tea, we were treated to a very thought-provoking presentation by Queensland local and family historian, Janice Cooper. Janice encouraged us to think about scrutinising our sources and their merits, as well as seeking the content and analysing them for our conclusions. Very much worth listening to and something I’ll be revisiting.

A speedy AGM was followed by lunch. I was the post-lunch speaker and presented on The Marriage of Family and Local History as applied to Murphy’s Creek and using a variety of sources, of which it’s impossible to cover the whole spectrum. Like most marriages there might be offspring – and a One Place Study is one of them. I found it interesting to talk to a group familiar with the township and my mention of the former publican, Mr Bloom, certainly grabbed one member’s attention. My thanks to the society for giving me this opportunity.

20170814_102242

After our few days in Toowoomba we’d decided to stay out of town for the next couple of nights and booked a delightful cottage adjacent to the Ravensbourne National Park. It was chilly at night but we were cosy inside with a gas fire and it was a pleasure to wake up to the sound of kookaburras and honeyeaters in the grevilleas beside the deck.

Touring the area, we visited the Woolshed at Jondaryan as it was decades since we’d last been there. I’d known for some time that some of my relatives had worked there but we met up with the historian to see if he had any new information – strangely that included the letter I’d sent him with Kunkel and Gavin details many years ago <smile>. I’ve brought away some print-outs so that I can send him further information on some of my other interests eg Stephen and Mark Gavin. The station ledgers have been preserved for long periods of time, especially in the earlier times, largely because the property was in the same hands for a long time. You can check out the list of names in Mr Eggleston’s book or write to him at the Woolshed if you think your ancestor worked there. Don’t forget to provide him with some details of your family to add to his database.

Jondaryan was an enormous property back in its day and you can read some of its history on the website. Merino sheep were its forte and my great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel worked as a lamber for a few months in 1875, paid £1 a week. Lambs were valuable assets and hence the role of the lamber was important -he had to watch over them to protect them from animal marauders, help the ewes if there were difficulties with birthing and generally ensure the lambs well-being.

The Woolshed has some wonderful old buildings, not least being the woolshed itself which is the largest oldest still operating anywhere in the world. However, I was most interested in the shepherd’s hut since this is the type of accommodation inhabited by some of the early Dorfprozelten immigrants during their first employment contracts.

Along with sightseeing we enjoyed a yummy lunch at the Woolshed’s cafe: meals with bush tucker ingredients. We’ve also flagged Jondaryan as somewhere it would be good to camp – but perhaps not at a busy time. Nearby, the little Anglican church, St Anne’s, is simple yet beautiful so of course I had to buy the book on its history.

An error in navigation took us back to Murphy’s Creek which was fine as we wanted to check out the Fifteen Mile again. It was interesting to see that the old Kunkel property seems to be being expanded and now I’m dying of curiosity to know what’s happening and if it’s changed hands again.

DSC_0233

The old Horrocks’ barn – in a state of collapse, and the brick chimney of the house behind.

I also took a current photo of the old Horrocks’ barn, which appeared in my slideshow for the presentation. It is now “on its last legs” so I was pleased to take some photos while I could. As always the nearby cows looked on suspiciously, as they’ve done on every occasion when I’ve driven there.

All in all, a wonderful short holiday: learning + genealogy + genimates, balanced with touring on the Downs and chill-out time with Mr Cassmob.

[i] Named after a popular footballer who shares his surname with the region. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/rugby-league-legend-darren-lockyer-honoured-with-a-stretch-of-road/news-story/dee213cd3bb5c255d5430b3e6405a9e4

Flooding rains: Ipswich 1887

NFHM AlexThis week’s topic in Family Tree Frog’s NFHM Blog Challenge is All the Rivers Run. Australia alternates between extremes of weather as illustrated by the famous poem by Dorothea Mackellar: My Country[i].

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

And drought and flooding rains.

This is just one story of my ancestors’ experience with the dramas and dangers of flooded rivers. Some resulted in fatalities, others in property losses, but this is the most well-covered in the newspapers, and also a story lost (or hidden?) by the family.

Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich January 1887

Unidentified (1887). Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich, January 1887. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

On 22 January 1887, the Queensland town of Ipswich was deluged by a severe flood. Some said it was the worst in European memory, others that it was only exceeded by the 1864 flood. The newspapers document that it had also passed the level of the 1841 flood[ii]. It would not be the last time the town was hit, as even in recent years Ipswich has been inundated by enormous flooding.

At the time of the 1887 flood, my ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, had a confectionery store in Ipswich as well as various other business interests. He had worked hard to establish himself after the tragedy which accompanied his arrival in the colony when his first wife, Janet Peterkin Melvin had died in quarantine on arrival. He had won prizes at the local Agricultural Show[iii] and established a surprising portfolio of property…almost certainly to the overall detriment of his balance sheet.

MELVIN SG location shop

1886 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 27 April, p. 6. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122553790

The 1887 flood came powering in just days after the 10th anniversary of Stephen’s arrival on 18 January 1877, not exactly an auspicious anniversary. Perhaps he was already feeling down, remembering his young wife’s death, or perhaps he was increasingly aware of his precarious financial position.

 

MELVIN Telegraph 8 July 1887 p3

1887 ‘Royal Humane Society.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 8 July, p. 3. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201023744

It was through news stories about the Royal Humane Society Awards that I became aware of Stephen’s near-tragedy. Trove documents that “The (Bremer) River was in flood, and Melvin, who had been assisting to remove goods from a store (his?) which was surrounded by water, got into the vortex on the edge of the roaring current. Livermore swam out at great risk, took Melvin by the collar, and brought him back to the building in safety. The current was running very strong. Awarded a bronze medal.”

Stephen’s courageous rescuer was Thomas Shadrach Livermore, a 26 year old blacksmiths’ labourer[iv]. (Following his entries in Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages it appears his correct name was Thomas Shedrick Livermore). The stories place Stephen’s age as 45 years but this overstates his age, as he was born in 1854 in Leith, Scotland.

Naturally I returned to Trove to search newspaper dates closer to the event to see if I could find the rescue mentioned. None seemed to match the award details exactly, however this one stood out for me:

Qld Times 25 Jan 1887 p5 MELVINWe have heard of some acts of recklessness and even foolhardiness-in fact, one was so glaring, on Saturday last (22nd January), in Bremer-street, that many persons who were witnesses of the scene thought the man referred to was trying to commit suicide, and said it was not worthwhile venturing their lives to save his. However, two men went into the river after him, and dragged him out of the water, and thus saved him from drowning, though he almost drowned one of his rescuers in the struggle.[v]

 Perhaps I’m misjudging my ancestor, though while there are anomalies in the report, it fits with other factors affecting him at the time. Perhaps it really was an accident and he got caught in the vortex, which makes sense if he was trying to evacuate his store. In his earlier life he had been a merchant seaman, and it was common for them not to be able to swim.

MELVIN Qld Times April 1887Only a few months later in 1887, Stephen’s estate had gone into liquidation, as detailed in a news story[vi]. He specifically cites the impact of the flood on his business[vii]. I’ve also referred to the Insolvency files at Queensland State Archives, and Stephen’s holdings of property were quite amazing for a relatively recent immigrant. It’s also interesting to see that his father-in-law, William Partridge, was one of his creditors. These events were not to be the end of Stephen’s annus horribilis but those stories will keep for another day.

There was much made about the proposed presentation of the medal to Thomas Livermore including a description of the medal.

MELVIN Qld TImes 3 Sept 1887 p5On the obverse of the medal is depicted a female figure, representing Australasia, in the act of placing a wreath on the head of one deemed worthy of honour, while around is stamped the motto, ” Virtute paratum.” The Southern Cross above fixes the locality as being in the Southern Hemisphere. On the reverse is the name, date, etc., and a wreath supposed to be composed of eucalyptus and laurel leaves. The Police Magistrate is directed to present the medal and certificate to Mr. Livermore in as public a manner as possible; but he has not yet fixed a date for this ceremony…[viii]

Personally, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Thomas Shedrick Livermore. Had he not saved my great-grandfather from the flooded river, my grandmother, mother and I would not have been here, nor would seven other branches of Emily Partridge and Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s family.

I certainly hope that the medal has been preserved in the Livermore family, along with the story of their ancestor’s bravery. The presentation was held on Tuesday 6 September 1887[ix] and the Police Magistrate Mr Yaldwyn rightly summed up Mr Livermore’s courage when awarding the medal[x].

Telegraph 8 Sept 1887 p3 crop

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[i] http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm

[ii] http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819295

[iii] The Ipswich Show. (1882, December 16). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 856. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19788354

[iv] Queensland Births

1862 C385 Thomas Shedrick Livermore George Mary Ann Haydon

 

[v] 1887 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 25 January, p. 5. , viewed 17 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819289

[vi] 1887 ‘Supreme Court.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 11 July, p. 2. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201021946

[vii] MEETING OF CREDITORS. (1887, April 30). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 6. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3468421

[viii] 1887 ‘LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 3 September, p. 5. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122820644

[ix] LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS. (1887, September 6). Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), p. 5. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122821625

[x] Our Ipswich Letter. (1887, September 8). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 3. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201023537

The orphaned Kunkel children

NFHM AlexIn Week 2 of Family Tree Frog’s NFHM Blogging Challenge, Alex asks us if there were secrets in our families, or were there tales of the Depression. However, as this week’s book, Careful He Might Hear You, focuses on an orphan and what happens when his aunt comes to take care of him, my thoughts immediately turned to my Kunkel orphans.

In November 1901, my great grandmother, Julia Celia Kunkel nee Gavin, died of a post-natal complication.  Just six weeks later, on Christmas Day 1901, her husband George Michael Kunkel died of a heart attack. All of a sudden their ten surviving children were left orphaned.

george &amp; julia possiblyADJ

I believe this MAY be a photo of Julia Gavin and George Michael Kunkel, based on dress styles, family resemblances and that it was with a group of Kunkel family photos.

The children and their age at the time they were orphaned were:

Denis Joseph Kunkel born 23 September 1880 at the 40 Mile Camp, Dalby (my grandfather), 21 years

Mary Ellen Kunkel born 7 December 1881, 20 years

Julia Beatrice Kunkel born 9 July 1883, 18 years

George Michael Kunkel born 18 October 1884 died Jimboomba 1 May 1899

Bridget Rose Kunkel born 9 July 1886, 15 years

James Edward (Jim) Kunkel born 6 June 1889, 12 years

Elizabeth Ann (Lily) Kunkel baptised 26 January 1891, 10 years

William Thomas (Bill) Kunkel born 7 November 1892, 9 years

Matthew David John (John) Kunkel born 28 April 1894, 7 years

Kenneth Norman (Ken) Kunkel born 27 August 1896, 5 years

May Camellia Kunkel born 30 April 1899, 2 years.

The children were therefore split roughly into two groups, with the eldest three being of working age and the younger six ranging from toddlers to being almost of an age to work. There are some variations compared to the ages on the death certificate but that’s unsurprising given the level of stress and grief. What on earth happened to all these young children? Their father left an estate of £433, thanks largely to a life insurance policy, which must have helped a little.

dinny jim &amp; friend

James (left), Denis (Centre) and unknown friend/relative c1917.

My grandfather Denis never talked about these horrible early days, though oral history from my parents said that he had contributed to the children’s upkeep (debated by others) and that he had maintained young Ken at a woman’s house next to the block of land Denis bought in Kelvin Grove. Ken’s descendant told me that she had treated Ken poorly and he’d run away. Having said that, I remember Ken visiting my grandfather in his old age – he would turn up in his van, covered in health food signage so he obviously still felt some affinity with his eldest brother.

What else could I learn? I turned to the school indexes prepared by Queensland Family History Society which are also available through Find My Past. While I had some of this information, even more is being indexed, which is very helpful when you haven’t a clue where the family might have gone. Even better, many of the school admission books are being digitised by the Queensland State Archives, as I’ve discovered today.

My earlier notes record that Jim Kunkel was enrolled at Wallumbilla State School[i] in January 1902 and left in Sept 1902. This suggests to me that he had been taken in by his aunts and uncles, either the Paterson or the Lee family who lived at Pickenjennie and Wallumbilla respectively. I’ve also been told that Jim worked for them on their farms as he would have done at home. Oral history revealed that Denis helped Jim get a position as a lad porter with the railway in 1911. Around the same time, Jim would become a part-time competitive boxer, before marrying and having a large family.

Julia Kunkel

Julia Kunkel

Mary Ellen Kunkel had married in June 1901, before her parents died. She had three children but the marriage was not a success.

Julia Kunkel worked as a domestic and in a hotel though she also lived with her grandparents at Murphy’s Creek for some time and her wedding reception was held there. I wonder whether some of the smaller children also lived there with them, at least some of the time. Unfortunately, the Murphy’s Creek School Admission Registers are only available from 1907 so we can’t know for sure. Julia married in 1910 and had a very large, happy family.

Although Bridget Kunkel was 15 when her parents died, she no doubt missed her mother’s guidance. She worked in hotels and sadly had two children out of wedlock, one of whom died in a baby farm at New Farm in Brisbane. Family secrets have a way of coming out when one visits the archives and explores the indexes for civil registrations.

While Bill Kunkel was enrolled, with his siblings, at the Geham State School in the final year of his parents’ life, there is no indication of whether he continued his education beyond 1901 and if so, where. Nor do we know with whom he lived until of age to go out to work. He too joined the railway (the family business), as a lad porter in Warwick in 1913, aged 21 (seems old?). He remained with the railway for the rest of his life, but tragedy struck when his son Robert (William Rudolph) Kunkel was reported Missing in Action in Korea in 1952. Bill and his wife Rosetta never got over their loss. Bill was one of the few siblings to stay in touch with brother Denis, who had some sort of falling out with the rest of them, reportedly over religion.

ken kunkel

Ken Kunkel

There is a mystery surrounding the younger children, Lily, John, Ken and May. Lily, John and Ken are enrolled at Laidley state school[ii] in 1902, but no family members are known to have lived there, and the registers didn’t enlighten me when I looked at them years ago. The only familiar name I could find was that of Elizabeth Marks, who had been named Executrix of their father’s will. Young May appears in the index of Laidley admissions in 1904 and John in 1906. Who were they living with? Time for some more research.

In between times May appears in the registers for Crow’s Nest[iii] school (1905 and 1908) and also Pechey[iv] school (1905). Lily also appears on the Crow’s Nest admissions register in 1902 and John at Geham[v] in 1903 and 1905. These seem more able to be explained. The children’s maternal grandfather, Denis Gavin, lived at Crow’s Nest around this time, and their uncle James Gavin, worked for the railway (yes, again!) in Pechey.

john kunkel off to war

John Kunkel

I have no record of where young Ken went to school though if the oral history is correct I would expect at least some of his education would have been at Kelvin Grove state school.

John’s daughter told me that her father hadn’t received “any” education and had no shoes until he was 14. John had been fostered out and worked hard as a dairyman for his foster parents, though we have no idea who they were.

Annie Kunkel, a younger cousin to all these Kunkel orphans, told me that Bill Kunkel had spent a “good bit of time with the grandparents” at the Fifteen Mile, Murphy’s Creek, and perhaps all of them came and went at some time.

Lily and May Kunkel

Lily and May Kunkel

May Kunkel would have been only 13 when she was enrolled at the Cooran state school[vi] near Pomona in 1912. Her guardian was a baker in Cooran and the only entry on the electoral rolls for a baker in Cooran is a James Hubert Jordan. This name means nothing to me in the broader family context so I’m left wondering if she had been sent to work there. At the time he would have been 66 years old and appears not to have had a wife living with him. A mystery indeed. May married at only 17 years old but her marriage failed fairly quickly…hardly surprising given the emotional turmoil she’d lived through at such a young age.

The death of their parents had a significant impact on these Kunkel orphans. The younger ones seemed to have been taken care of by relatives mostly but moved around regularly – hardly a settled life. Apparently the older ones survived with fewer emotional scars, but the younger group certainly did it tough. Ken and John remained good mates throughout their lives, enlisting in World War I together alongside their Gavin cousins.

[i] Queensland State Archives Item ID637218, Register – admissions, state school

[ii] Queensland State Archives Item ID635275, Register – admissions, state school

[iii] Queensland State Archives Item ID625192, Register – admissions, state school

[iv] Queensland State Archives Item ID639187, Register – admissions, state school

[v] Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 28004

[vi] Queensland State Archives Item ID639824, Register – admissions, state school