Death of an ANZAC Lieutenant

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

As we move through the centenary of World War I, it’s time to put Australia’s war history into a more realistic perspective. We do ourselves a disservice, as well as the men who served and those who lost their lives, when we insist they were brave all the time and were immune to the effects of such a confronting war.  This war fundamentally changed how Australian servicemen saw the home country and gave them, and us, a sense of a different identity.

Today’s Remembrance Day post is a story of one man’s death, only two months before that momentous day on 11 November 1918. Like all the thousands of war deaths, it left the world a lesser place with the loss of talent and ability.

My search for a person to write about happened almost entirely by chance, other than I was looking for men who came from, or enlisted at, Toowoomba on the Darling Downs and who died during the World War I.

[?] PERSONAL. (1916, January 18). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 - 1922), p. 4.

[?] PERSONAL. (1916, January 18). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 4.

Leslie Samuel Buchanan was a one-person ANZAC when he enlisted in Toowoomba on 17 January 1916. He was born in Ashburton, New Zealand about November 1876[i], son of John Edgar and Mary Elizabeth Saunders Buchanan[ii].  On his enlistment papers[iii] he gave his next of kin as his wife, Alice (aka Alyce[iv]) Buchanan of Eleanor St, Toowoomba and noted he had one child under 16 (actually an infant). He was 6 feet tall with grey eyes and brown hair and stated his occupation was “newspaper editor”. His only experience in the military was four years in the volunteer cadets, possibly at high school or university. Initially Leslie enlisted as a private and was attached to D Company, 41st Battalion with the service number 4732. As a newspaper editor his enlistment was publicised far and wide: Farmer and Settler, Moree Gwydir Examiner and General Advertiser, Maryborough Chronicle as well as the more obvious Darling Downs Gazette. Strangely it is the Maryborough article that will become relevant later in the story.Leslie Buchanan article151081572-3-001

PERSONAL. (1916, February 10). Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), p. 15.

PERSONAL. (1916, February 10). Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1932), p. 15. Note: Townsville is an error and should be Toowoomba.

It’s likely it was Leslie’s professional career rather than the cadets that made him a candidate for officer training and the Darling Downs Gazette tells of his committed study to gain entrance to Duntroon Military College where he graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant, gazetted on 1 October 1916. At this point, on 29 December 1916, Leslie was attached to the 13th reinforcements of the 31st Battalion. Gaining his commission had delayed his departure to France by nearly a year and may have saved him from the slaughter at Fromelles – a bloodbath for the 31st.

It wasn’t until 7 February 1917, that Leslie joined the rest of the 13th reinforcements of the 31st Battalion on troop ship A18 Wiltshire ex Sydney en route for England. He landed at Devonport (Plymouth), England on 11 April 1917 and marched into the 8th Training Battalion at Hurdcott, Salisbury, England.

Unidentified (1917). Page 22 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 17 February, 1917. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Unidentified (1917). Page 22 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 17 February, 1917. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Is Leslie Buchanan one of the two officers in the front row, centre?

Lt Buchanan was taken on strength with the 31st Battalion on 13 July 1917 and sent to France via Havre. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant on 11 August 1917 and on 7 August was sent to the 1st ANZAC Corps School in the field.  Less than a week later, on 17 August, he was taken to hospital sick with malaria (and later anaemia), then transferred to the 1st General Hospital at Etretat on 31 August. He remained there until 24 September when he was discharged to the 5th Division Base Depot, fit for active duty.  (I confess that so far I remain confused about these movements and the medical facilities to which he was sent).

From here, on 9 October he re-joined his unit. Less than three weeks later he was taken by the Field Ambulance back to hospital and didn’t re-join his unit, as best I can tell, until 8 December 1917. Leslie had been in France for five months but in hospital for much of this time, and on active service in the field only about four weeks by my estimate. It begs the question why he felt he needed to enlist if his health was not great. Nevertheless he is photographed with his fellow officers from the 31st over Christmas 1917, an image which made its way to an Australian newspaper.

OFFICERS OF THE 31st BATTALION, CHRISTKIAS DAY, 1917. (1918, March 28). The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934), p. 13.

OFFICERS OF THE 31st BATTALION, CHRISTMAS DAY, 1917. (1918, March 28). The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), p. 13. Lt L Buchanan is third from the left in the row standing behind the kneeling men.

AN APPRECIATION FROM BELGIUM. (1918, April 22). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 - 1922), p. 3. Retrieved

AN APPRECIATION FROM BELGIUM. (1918, April 22). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 3. Retrieved

News of his activities in the coming months is discovered through letters home and published in various papers:

Lieutenant Leslie Buchanan, well known in journalistic circles and formerly editor of the ‘D. D. Gazette’ writes to ‘Sirdar’ of the ‘Daily Mail’, as follows: ‘The dawn is just breaking, and Fritz had left us comparatively alone, so I am taking a short spell in my very insecure dugout, having so far dodged the scrap-iron which the Hun heaves at us with very little intermission. Our division has been pretty heavily engaged for the last month, and I have been in the front line practically since the middle of January, but so far we have stopped the Boche on this sector at any rate— and the sector at present, is the most important in France. I’ve had one shave and one wash in a month. We look a queer crew, but that doesn’t matter much when things are as they are. We live in hopes and are still hammering the Hun.’[v] It’s difficult to know when the letter was written as the publication date was August 1918.

Leslie was trained at the gas school in the field on 15 March 1918 and newspaper reports reveal he had taken on additional responsibilities.

 Lieut. L. Buchanan, formerly editor of the “D. D. Gazette,” and now at the front In France, has been appointed by General Sir W. R. Birdwood, editor for the 6th Australian Division of the new magazine, “Aussie” a military official production. The duties will not take Lieut. Buchanan from active service, where he has been for several months past.[vi] 

A MIRACULOUS' ESCAPE. (1918, August 6). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. :

A MIRACULOUS’ ESCAPE. (1918, August 6). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. :

He also found time to report home: Lieut. Buchanan, in which he reports himself as being well and fortunate enough to come through a big engagement without hurt[vii].

Based on unit war diaries Lt Buchanan undertook regular patrols with his men, often in the middle of the night throughout May 1918[viii]. During this period, the Battalion was stationed in the field at Vaire-Hamel for 53 days without relief, said by the CO to be a record for the British units in France. It was during this time that Leslie had an uncanny brush with death, described in the papers as a “miraculous escape”. The story is appended for you and linked here, but the essence is that the only thing which saved him from death was that the bullet, which hit him centre chest, had struck the button on his clothing, stopping it from killing him. Hence the annotation on his file, and also in the message to his wife, that he was “wounded but remaining on duty”.  While he makes light of it in his letter home to his wife Alice, I can’t help wondering if this near miss affected him in the coming months.

There are no notations I’ve found which make adverse comment about Leslie in the war diaries, yet on 3 July 1918 he was court martialled[ix] on two counts: (1) for being AWOL on 4 June 1918 until 7 June when he was apprehended and (2) for being drunk at Cobie on 11 April 1918. Although his plea to both counts was “not guilty” the enquiry found him not guilty of the first count, but guilty of the second. He was demoted and given a strong reprimand. His service seniority was also reduced to 16 January 1917 (not 1916). What is interesting, though, is that the Battalion had arrived on 2 June in Rivery, on relief after their 53 day stint on the front. The Battalion also received congratulations from Brigadier General Tivey for their work on holding an important sector of the line and consolidating it while keeping the German troops contained.

On 23 July 1918, there is a report on a Lt Leslie Buchanan interleaved with “our” Leslie’s file, but the age and unit number are inaccurate. However I can find no other serving officer with this name so perhaps it was him. The findings were that he was suffering from overwork but that “there were no signs of Subuale (??) and no bacilli were found. His temperature was normal. He is gaining weight and in good condition.”[x] The condition had been caused by military service but he was fit to return to duty. If this is indeed him, then perhaps it explains what was to happen.

Leslie was admitted to the 41st Stationary Hospital on 23 August 1918 and sent to the 4th Army Convalescent Depot on 30 August with gastroenteritis. On the evening of 4 September he was seen, by a private from the Royal Hussars, near the villa where he was quartered and taken to his room by two Australian soldiers. They took him to his room around 8:45pm, and removed his tunic, collar and boots before covering him over on the bed. Later, about 10:30pm, a Capt Barclay of the RAF had looked into the room and seen Leslie sleeping[xi].

PERSONAL. (1918, October 14). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 - 1922), p. 4.

PERSONAL. (1918, October 14). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 4.

However early in the morning of 5 September 1918, a body was seen lying on the ground outside the building. Captain Ironside was called in around 7:15 – 7:30am and found it was Lt Buchanan. It was estimated that he had died about six hours previous. The body was then sent to 3 General Hospital for pathology testing. It appeared he had fallen out of a window on the second floor[xii].

A Court of Enquiry[xiii] was convened and witness statements taken including that of Capt Ironside. Pte Edwards of the 10th Royal Hussars had seen the two Australians helping Buchanan where he was collapsed on the ground near the villa. When asked if Buchanan was drunk the Hussar said “he was in a collapsed condition”. What did he mean? Was Leslie drunk, or suffering from the effects of gastro? When the court asked whether he thought Buchanan was drunk, another witness, L/Cpl Dover, also said “he was in a collapsed condition” but that “he was a very moderate drinker taking only one drink with each meal”. Capt Ironside was asked further questions and confirmed he had checked Buchanan’s room that morning after finding his body. The “bed had been slept in, the window was open and one pane had been broken. There was nothing to indicate why this officer had climbed out the window[xiv]. There was no blood in the room and he considered the blood on the body had been incurred when landing on trees below the window. The opinion of the Court was that death had occurred by accidentally falling from the window[xv].

Image from

Image from

Lieutenant Leslie Samuel Buchanan was buried with full military honours at Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, France (Plot 7, Row F, Grave 13).

Unsurprisingly his former newspaper, the Darling Downs Gazette, published an extensive obituary on 12 September 1918 which can be read here as it’s too long to include with this story. However these extracts deserve to be highlighted: ”

“He was a man possessing a big nature, and nothing mean or petty could find countenance with him. His decision to enlist came as a surprise to his friends owing to his having family obligations and holding a position such as he did. His decision once formed, however, was final, his chief   reason being the call of conscience and duty. He stated that he could not from the editorial chair urge the eligible to enlist while he himself was eligible, and he hoped that by his example others would be induced to act similarly“….

“But it was those only who had the fortune to work with him who could value the man at his true worth. His big, generous heart never failed to respond and he was ever ready to extend a helping hand to those needing it . His kindly advice in his professional work was of valuable aid to those on his staff and his experience was always at the disposal of all when the need arose”.

These comments are very similar to those expressed by Cpl HT Hill in his response to Alice’s Red Cross enquiries: “he was very, very popular, keenly musical, well educated and a good soldier and very good hearted“. Cpl Hill, from Bundaberg, had travelled with Leslie on the Wiltshire to England. He said that Lt Buchanan had “gone well back behind Amiens to a school and no more was heard of him. The contention is that he fell from a train“.

 Leslie had served his country and his battle was over, but it was just beginning for his wife Alice. It was to take her several years as she tried to find out more about her husband’s death. Having first been told he died of illness (gastroenteritis), then that he had died from an accidental fall, she was understandably bewildered. By January 1919 she still hadn’t heard “the real cause” of her husband’s death. Somewhat strangely her mother-in-law, living in Windsor, England, seemed to be getting more up to date information that Alice, even though his wife was Leslie’s next of kin.

It didn’t help that Alice’s appeal to the Red Cross only brought more confusion, with one report suggesting Leslie had fallen 1000 feet off a cliff, and another that he may have fallen from a train. The official response was that these reports were “garbled versions based on hearsay”[xvi]. However she says “as you can imagine it has upset me very much[xvii]. She even tried to write to the mayor of Le Treport but the letter had been returned as having insufficient address[xviii].

Like so many other wives, mothers and daughters her pathos is evident even at this distance of time. Here are some extracts from her letters to the Army:

if I should hear from someone who had been with him it might bring me a ray of comfort. I am quite alone here as all my people live very far away[xix]. (Sept 23, 1918)

“All these dreadful weary days of anxiety” … “Since then (Leslie’s death) I have heard nothing from the military department”…”I fully realise the enormous work it must be for you people answering the large number of letters like mine”…”Don’t you think I should have heard from someone from the hospital or his Battalion”. [xx]

“All these differing accounts of his death has (sic) been so terrible”… “I had waited over four long weary months in the most dreadful suspense”.(dated Jan 16, 1918 but certainly 1919) [xxi]

“I have never received any account of the real cause of how he died.” (January 15, 1919)[xxii].

Eventually she received a letter from the Army giving her a synopsis of the findings of the Court of Enquiry, dated 26 March 1919. Whether she gained any consolation, or more anxiety, from hearing Leslie “had (apparently) fallen from a window on the second floor”[xxiii] is something to ponder.

I would give much to hear from someone who was with him toward the end[xxiv] she says when she receives the official memorial scroll and the field glasses she had been chasing up. They had caused her angst because the army assumed they were official issue and would be returned to stores whereas she informed them they were “his own property and a gift from the Darling Downs Gazette of which he was the editor[xxv]. While she eventually received the field glasses, there is no indication that his watch was every returned. Among his belongings were his chess set and the soldier’s friend, the housewife (a simple sewing kit), as well as letters, photos and 11 notebooks[xxvi]. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what was in the latter?

She regularly asks for photos of his grave “Have you received any word re Lt Leslie Buchanan’s grave? I am so tired of waiting[xxvii] (19 Jan 1920)

When they come (at a cost to her of 3 pence a copy), she is again saddened because “it looks so fearfully neglected. Can you please tell me if in time it will be cared for?”[xxviii]

Death of Mrs. Alyce Buchanan. (1930, July 23). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 17.

Death of Mrs. Alyce Buchanan. (1930, July 23). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 17.

Over the years Alice received the Memorial scroll and King’s message (29 October 1921, three years after his death), the British War Medal (16 June 1921), the Victory Medal (8 May 1923) and the memorial plaque (19 December 1922).

While she stayed with her family in Sydney for a while after Leslie’s death, she returned to Toowoomba where she died on 22 July 1930, aged only 48 years. Alyce and Leslie’s only child, daughter Joyce, was just 16 years old. She had been active in fund-raising throughout the war and very much involved in the cultural life of the city. Alyce Buchanan is buried in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery.

Leslie’s name will be projected on the Australian War Memorial during the WWI centenary on these dates:

  • Mon 29 February, 2016 at 11:39 pm
  • Thu 21 April, 2016 at 8:14 pm
  • Sat 4 June, 2016 at 11:53 pm
  • Sat 16 July, 2016 at 9:56 pm
  • Wed 31 August, 2016 at 4:14 am
  • Sun 23 October, 2016 at 11:30 pm
  • Tue 27 December, 2016 at 1:44 am
  • Tue 28 February, 2017 at 2:08 am

[i] An Ancestry tree states his birth date as 17 November 1876. His service record (page 144) states it as 20 November 1876.

[ii] Commonwealth War Graves Commission website,%20LESLIE

[iii] National Archives of Australia Item barcode 3152469,  Service record Lt Leslie Buchanan (148pp)

[iv] She regularly signs her name as Alice, but by the end of her life it is consistently Alyce.

[v] PERSONAL (1918, August 29). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld: 1881-1922) p4.

[vi] SOCIAL AND PERSONAL (1918, April 25) Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld: 1909-1954) page 3 Also reported in other newspapers (one of the advantages of Leslie having been a newspaperman). Interestingly there is no indication in the records that Leslie was the editor of this magazine, rather the AWM and other references indicate it was a Philip L Harris. Perhaps an interesting project for someone to follow up?

[vii] SOCIAL (1918, May 22) Darling Downs Gazette (Qld 1881-1922) p3

[viii] Australian War Memorial

[ix] Buchanan, Lt Leslie service record, page 145. There are summary figures for courts martial at the end of each month’s war diary for the battalion – a far from uncommon incident. You can also search the National Archives of Australia for the term “Court Martial”.

[x] Ibid, page 14.

[xi] Ibid, page 18.

[xii] Ibid, page 16.

[xiii] Ibid, pages 16-26.

[xiv] Ibid page 18.

[xv] Ibid page 23.

The Red Cross reports may be found at–1-.pdf

[xvi] Ibid, page 79.

[xvii] Ibid, page 82.

[xviii] Ibid, page 69.

[xix] Ibid, page 126.

[xx] Ibid, page 57.

[xxi] Ibid, page 82.

[xxii] Ibid, page 54.

[xxiii] Ibid, page 100.

[xxiv] Ibid, page 78.

[xxv] Ibid, page 94.

[xxvi] Ibid, page 91.

[xxvii] Ibid, page 73.

[xxviii] Ibid, page 125.

Lives on the line with Qld Rail

On Friday 31 July 2015, Queensland celebrated the 150th anniversary of the opening of its first train line from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp on that date in 1865. For a colony that had separated from New South Wales less than six years earlier, this engineering feat was quite an achievement and more was ahead with the extension of the line to Toowoomba at the top of the Great Dividing Range.

Unidentified (1865). Official opening of the first section of the Ipswich to Grandchester railway, Ipswich, 1865. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Unidentified (1865). Official opening of the first section of the Ipswich to Grandchester railway, Ipswich, 1865. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

I’ve often wondered if several sets of my ancestors were there, in the background, when the first train puffed its way out of Ipswich that day. After all, the Kents, Kunkels, and Partridges were all living there at the time. It’s even possible that George Kunkel snr had started his association with the railway around this time, but it’s impossible to know.

Without a doubt, life on the line was vastly different to the ceremony held that day to celebrate the first train trip. Men worked hard physical labour in the heat and challenges of the bush. Their wives lived in tented camps, they birthed their children, lost some to disease, managed their households and somehow brought their children up. Catholic priest, Fr Dunne, later Archbishop of Brisbane, described the railway camps as “fly pests”. While the camps offered a variety of facilities, it was down to the contractor, the men and their families to make the best of things. They were surely physically and mentally strong.

1860). Contractor's Yard, Ballard's Camp during the construction of the Ipswich to Toowoomba Railway, 1865. Queensland State Archives

1860). Contractor’s Yard, Ballard’s Camp during the construction of the Ipswich to Toowoomba Railway, 1865. Queensland State Archives

Over the years of blogging I’ve often mentioned I have railway tracks running through my blood stream. It’s certainly true that my ancestors have been involved with the railway almost since its very beginnings in Queensland. Let me give you a summary, working back from me.


Norman Kunkel railwaymanMum: worked as a typiste in the Goods Office at Roma Street railway station and yards. Working there she knew Dad’s paternal uncle, Jim Kunkel.

Dad: started work as a junior worker at Landsborough when he was 16 then later became a lad porter and porter at Central, Maye, Tweed Heads and Roma Street. His service at Roma Street extended for over two decades and if only there had been Fitbits then we might know how many miles he clocked up in his job as a numbertaker (sometimes known as a tally clerk). From Roma Street to the Exhibition grounds multiple times each 8+ hour shift meant he was fit but the hazards of coal dust made a mess of his lungs, compounded by smoking of course. He also told us that he had seen snow falling one winter’s night-shift…a topic that was recently debated on the Lost Brisbane Facebook page.

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.


Paternal grandfather: Denis Kunkel

Not only did Grandad work on the railways all his life, he also served with the Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company during World War I. I wrote his story here for an Australia Day theme.

Maternal grandfather: James J McSherry

My Irish grandfather also had a life-long association with the railway, as a worker and child of a railwayman. He worked as a carpenter in the railway workshops in Townsville and Ipswich. He was a high energy man, and when normal people were retiring he moved across to work for Commonwealth Engineering. You can read some of his story in this newspaper advertisement and also in my post linked above.

News article JJ McSherry


I believe this may be George Michael Kunkel and his wife, Julia Gavin.

I believe this may be George Michael Kunkel and his wife, Julia Gavin.

Paternal great-grandparents

George Michael Kunkel commenced working with Queensland Rail in 1878 (aged 20) though it’s possible he may have worked for a contractor prior to that. Certainly he was working as a lamber on Jondaryan Station in 1875 when he appears to have met his wife.

Julia Celia Kunkel, nee Gavin, was also employed on the railways, working as a gatekeeper.

Maternal great-grandparent

Peter McSherry/Sherry arrived in Rockhampton on 5 May 1884. Ten days later he commenced work with Queensland Rail as a ganger and remained in service with them until 1931 when he retired as a Chief Inspector. His service took him through much of central, western and northern Queensland: to Longreach, Hughenden, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton. My suspicion would be that Peter had already worked on the Irish railway at Wexford, given he was 23 on arrival and his father also worked for the railways there and in Queensland.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.

4th GENERATIONgeorge kunkel BW

Paternal 2xgreat grandfather: George Mathias Kunkel, born Bavaria, followed the railway line west towards Toowoomba but it’s not known if he worked as a labourer or perhaps as a pork butcher and sausage maker, an occupation he’d followed on the Tooloom goldfields a few years earlier. The official records place him “on the books” from June 1875. He continued his labouring work on the line until an old man, living in a humpy near the line while also maintaining the farm at the Fifteen Mile, with the help of his wife, Mary O’Brien Kunkel, and their children.

questionMaternal 2xgreat grandfather: James McSharry/Sherry was working on the Irish railways at the time of his marriage and his children’s births. Given the path of their births it seems evident he was employed on the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford railway. James, his wife Bridget and eight of their children arrived in Rockhampton in January 1883, no doubt something of a shock. James worked for the railways in Queensland but it seems he may have been employed by a contractor. James McSharry (only Peter changed from Sherry to McSherry), is my major brick wall and my most wanted ancestor.


This is a map of Queensland, showing the  places mentioned in the McSherry story.

This is a map of Queensland, showing the places mentioned in the McSherry story.

You can see why I was determined to steer clear of railwaymen when I was growing up! Of course railway employment was considered stable work. It was also often hazardous and peripatetic. Living with Dad I was all too familiar with the dangers faced by the men working in the shunting yards as he would come up shocked and quiet, then tell us of another young man who’d lost a leg, had his guts squashed, or been decapitated (the worst accident that happened).

My other family lines mostly stayed away from work on the railways though the sons of my Gavin line were also railway employees.

I think it’s not too bold a claim to say my families earned their small place in Queensland’s railway history.

Back in 2009 my friend joined me on the Q150 steam train trip from Brisbane to Toowoomba.

Back in 2009 my friend joined me on the Q150 steam train trip from Brisbane to Toowoomba.


Reviewing the Irish registers

The days have ticked along and I imagine many of us have crossed eyes from staring at the digitised Irish Catholic parish registers…I know I have!

Hasn’t the National Library of Ireland done us all proud? What a great program they have that even with all the Irish at home and abroad, the system didn’t crash, nor was it especially slow at the peak periods.

I’ve seen lots of Facebook comments on Irish county pages, celebrating discoveries and I’ve made a few of mine own…and still pondering some of the “missing”. But that’s the content for another post.

Meanwhile I thought I’d share some comments on using the program and then searching the registers themselves, even though the program is very intuitive and easy to follow. I recognise I may well be preaching to the converted here.

  • Try to restrain the urge to only search around a particular date: your ancestor may have “fibbed” about their age but more importantly you’ll get a feel for how that particular priest records events and a better sense of the parish. Were there lots of baptisms/marriages? Did they drop off after the Famine? Were there more marriages with consanguinity relationships? How common was your surname?
  • Check the sponsors as well to see whose events your family witnessed.
  • Some registers are only recorded in English, and some in a mix of Latin and English. You might find this dictionary handy to look up the English name for the Latin, or vice versa. eg William = Gulielmus; Dionysius + Dennis
  • Don’t assume the priest could spell accurately, or consistently! It’s common to see variations of the same Christian or surnames even in the same baptism/marriage entry. Sometimes it’s recorded in their formal name and others in their day-to-day nickname.
  • Try to get a better sense of the townland names for your parish. Use the Griffith Valuation page at AskAboutIreland to search for it. Sometimes to be tricky, the priest may even use a local name for the place…just be grateful that he’s narrowed their residence down more. In this case you may need to try a Google search: you may even find someone doing a One Place Study. This great site was recommended to me by one of my geminate, but I’ve forgotten which one …sorry!
  • Check there are not marriage entries interspersed with the baptisms: I’ve found several where marriages are on one page while baptisms are on the facing page.
  • Don’t forget that marriages usually occurred in the bride’s parish and sometimes the first child’s baptisms. You may need to search in adjacent parishes to find them, but also use the home-place of witnesses for clues. (Tip: Use the map of your county in the NLI program to see which ones are closest).
  • Burial is not a sacrament in the Catholic church (Extreme Unction is). Hence why you will not typically find your ancestors’ deaths in the registers…just give thanks when you do. If the Church of Ireland records exist it is worth checking them for burials.
  • All is not lost if the registers haven’t been digitised. Some may still be in the parish but you can also try these sources:
    • RootsIreland – make sure you go to the county and look at the registers which have been filmed (eg Broadford parish is missing in Clare). Just because the county is green on the map doesn’t mean they’re all there. This is a pay-to-view site after searching, but it’s also given me some events I haven’t found elsewhere.
    • Irish Times
    • FamilySearch: you might want to try this for clues on when your ancestor’s event may have been, remembering that after 1864 Irish civil registration applied to all (in theory at least). You could also check what microfilms are held in the Family History Library just to be sure they’re included in the NLI ones.
    • Consider that sometimes the priest annotated the baptism with the person’s marriage details when they occurred in another parish or overseas. It may be worth searching for this alone, or it may confirm you have the right person. A long shot, but worth a try.

So there you are my tips from sleuthing through some of the registers. I have so many more to follow up. Despite writing this a week or so ago, it’s only just going online now so I hope it’s of some use to people.

Are you going green?

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Image from

Today is THE BIG DAY for Irish researchers as we’re all hoping our brick walls will tumble.

The calendar has turned to 8 July Down Under but it seems we’re going to be waiting until 9 July at midnight for the Big Event. What Big Event? The release of the National Library of Ireland’s digitised images of all the Catholic parish registers they hold!

The NLI has indicated that it is closed until 3:30pm Irish time, so I guess that’s when the site goes live. Which means that here in the Top End I’ll have to burn the midnight oil or wait until the morning. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Image from

Image from

The really important thing to realise is the registers won’t be indexed (unless others decide to do it), and you won’t be able to just search for a name. Knowing the approximate location of your ancestors will be critical, and preferably the townland and/or parish.

If you’re an Aussie with Irish ancestors, have you looked at the name distributions via Griffith’s Valuations? Or do you have the details from the Australian Board Immigration Lists, parish registers, certificates or gravestones? I’m constantly amazed by how people have seeming brick walls when purchasing a certificate, or following up the event in the Australian parish, would answer the question.

Thanks to the microfilms from Family Search and LDS, I’ve already researched my O’Briens from Broadford and some of the Tullamore records for Sherry and Furlong. Both microfilms are pretty shocking I have to say….looked like they’ve been stored in a leaky barn with the chooks. Decades ago during a visit to Ireland, the priest let me work my way through the Gorey Wexford parish registers looking for my grandfather’s baptism and other Sherry family events.

Image from Wikimedia.

So what are my priorities going to be with this new release?

  1. Parishes around Courtown, Wexford (especially Riverchapel) to look for Callaghan family events. After all I also have a good DNA match from adjoining parishes.
  2. Arklow, Wicklow for details of the baptisms of Sherry children as their father worked down the Dublin to Wexford railway line.
  3. Dunlavin Parish, for Murphy and possibly Gavin.
  4. Ballymore Eustace, Kildare for Gavins – when I visited the parish I had no joy getting answers.
  5. St Nicholas of Myra, Dublin for Gavin (even though I have some from the Irish Genealogy website).
  6. St Catherine’s Parish, Dublin for Gavin (ditto above)
  7. Ferbane, Offaly in the hunt for the Furlong family prior to turning up in Tullamore
  8. Another look at the Tullamore, Offaly

Having completed all these (which will only take about five minutes…not!), I’ll have to start looking through the parishes where the Griffith’s Valuations show dense populations of Sherry families. After all, they are really my biggest brick wall, since James Sherry unobligingly disappeared after arrival in Australia. My bet is that his father’s name was Peter or Patrick since the sons’ names seem to follow traditional naming patterns.

So what is your priority list going to be?

Oh for a leprechaun to tell you where your Irish ancestors originated.

Will you be wearing green today?

If you find you’re having difficulties reading the registers you might want to read this post by Irisheyes Jennifer and this background information. Also don’t just look for specific births or marriages (there will be few instances of burials), make sure you have a look at the wider context of the parish. Not only will you get a better feel for how the priest recorded events, and come to understand his writing, you may also find your family as witnesses to other events, possibly indicating kin connections.

If your families were Church of Ireland, you might find this other site relevant.

Above all, let’s have fun with this fantastic release!

DNA Mysteries and Mazes

By Forluvoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Forluvoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite my blog drought and house obsession, I have spent some time on my DNA results which I only recently uploaded to Gedmatch. I had been ambivalent in the past but it is actually very useful, especially for Ancestry results which don’t come with as much info, and for which I have fewer matches (which may change with the spread of Ancestry testing).

Why is it that those with whom you have the best matches don’t reply to your emails?

I’ve resisted putting my family tree online anywhere but have slowly been adding one to Family Tree DNA. (hmm another “bitty” job) Instead I’ve been sending out a horizontal family tree, inspired by a post I read a little while ago. This lets me add my families’ places of origin as well as names.

Which raises another question: why do so few people think place is irrelevant? After all it provides a good clue on where families may originate and overlap especially when the match segment is too great to be explained by endogamous populations.

My best decision in terms of testing DNA has been to get some older generations tested. To my surprise my mother quickly agreed to be tested which helps me know which side of the family my matches occur on. Nora, my 3rd cousin once removed (on Dad’s side) in Sydney also agreed to be tested.

Both of these samples have turned up matches which don’t match me, which is very helpful.

Mum’s sample produced a good cousin match with a lady in Canada, her brothers and an Irish cousin. We’ve narrowed down our likely connection through my Callaghan family in Wexford. Like so many others we’re hanging out for the release of the Irish parish registers on 8 July…only a few days days to go!! (I think some people are in for a shock at just how challenging these images can be to read)

What is bewildering is this particular family’s matches is there’s also some overlap with Mr Cassmob’s DNA – even though his ancestors are not known to come from Wexford or other identified geographic overlaps.

And then there’s the matches with Nora’s DNA. One seems to link to the McNamara family from Broadford Co Clare. I know that my O’Briens were connected to this family in some way, because when one daughter married, the registers show she and her McNamara husband were third cousins.

And the match with Nora to someone with Co Kerry ancestry. Much will depend on where her Kerry family lived. If they were in the north it may not be such a stretch.

Image from wikipedia.

Image from wikipedia.

So DNA testing tends to bring even more questions than you had already it often seems. When you get an obvious match it’s all too easy but the very ones you want to know about are the ones that keep you scratching your head in confusion.

DNA can lead you on a merry trail through a maze to identify your distant kith and kin links.

A blogging “drought”

sad-151795_640I’ve been AWOL lately leaving my blog crying for attention. Unfortunately my mind is completely focused on getting our Darwin house sold and thinking about our proposed move interstate. The same level of obsessiveness I bring to family history has been brought to bear on housing matters.

Having to have everything squeaky clean and spic and span, for our open houses and random inspections, means the study has been cleared of most of my references books, the laptop frequently in its carry bag, and never has my computer desk looked so tidy for more than five minutes! It’s all a deterrent to the usual spread of papers, scribble pads etc that surround me as I research and write. I’ve never aimed to be a Domestic Goddess but that seems to be my current role…who knows I may get used to the decluttered, downsized, super-clean look…or not.

It’s not as if I don’t have lots of “bitty” jobs that I could do to get myself up to date before I tackle bigger tasks later in the year. These include:

  • Scanning more of my note books
  • Tagging and labelling all my photos and checking their in appropriate folders
  • Reviewing my computer folders overall
  • Reviewing long texts I’ve written on some of my families and annotating them with “to follow up” notes
  • Scanning more documents from my hard-copy folders of purchased archive documents or certificates
  • Follow up blog comments and leads
  • Searching new releases of newspapers from Find My Past and Trove
  • Writing shorter posts for my Irish blog

So really there’s no shortage of jobs I could do, is there? I just need to switch focus and get the laptop out of the bag as soon as each inspection is over. Maybe having this checklist here will help motivate me.

motivation 08-07-55-479_640

Preserved in Pandora

I’m thrilled to share the news with my readers that this blog, and two of my others, have been accepted for archiving on the National Library of Australia’s Pandora website.


It is very special indeed to have my blog posts preserved for posterity in this way. My fanciful mind imagines a great-grandchild discovering my meanderings. Wouldn’t that be fun?

I’m also delighted to be in the company of other blogging mates who’ve been Pandora’d for a while.

Thanks to the Pandora team at the National Library!!


Kiva Genealogists for Families – helping others to help themselves

kiva_logoIf no man is an island, then caring what happens in poorer places and countries is important. It’s easy sometimes to feel there’s little you can do to help “solve” world problems. However, there is one strategy that we can all contribute to, according to our means, and that is Kiva. I’ve talked about this scheme often here and especially our team within Kiva, Genealogists for Families, which was started in September 2011 by Judy Webster, a highly respected, long-term Queensland professional genealogist.

We are now up to 301 members and have made 5,484 loans totalling $144,425.

Kiva loans are just that – loans – not hand outs or donations. They help people to achieve their goals through micro-finance lending. As they pay their money back, you the lender can choose whether to re-lend or withdraw your cash. You decide where you wish to lend and for what purpose. Kiva GFF portfolio

In our family we made a conscious decision when we joined GFF that we’d build up our loans so when retirement came along we’d have a portfolio in which the loans repayments would keep on funding new projects. We’ve focused our loans predominantly on African or Asian countries. You might choose quite different countries.

Kiva pie chart

In this small way the Genealogists for Families team feels we’re making a difference to people less fortunate than ourselves.

If you’d like to join us, why not leave a comment and I can send you a link to join.  In the meantime, you can learn more here: the little video about Pedro explains the difference it can make to other families however far away they live from you.

Anzac Centenary 2015: A Gallipoli “Everyman” Victor Joseph Sanders

The man I am writing about in this year’s Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day blog Challenge (commemoration?) is not a relative. Initially I looked for someone who lived close to my One Place Study, Murphy’s Creek, and chose a man about whom I’d write. At midnight last night, something niggled me to look up men from Toowoomba and my decision was made.

9th battalion colour patch

9th battalion colour patch

Victor Charles Sanders was a member of Queensland’s 9th Battalion, one of those men who arrived in wooden boats just before dawn on that first Anzac Day 100 years ago. Before the morning was out, perhaps even before the sun rose fully over the Gallipoli Peninsula he was dead, his life sacrificed in the Empire’s cause.

Vic Sanders, as he appears to have been known, was not a fresh-faced young man, just looking for adventure. He had been born in the Queensland country town of Warwick 33 years and 11 months previously. Although Warwick-born his family had lived in Toowoomba for a while because he’d been educated at North Toowoomba State School[i]. By the time he enlisted, Vic had also travelled beyond Australia’s borders. His Roll of Honour Circular states that immediately before signing up he had been the “manager of (a) plantation in New Hebrides” and his attestation file lists his occupation as an “overseer”.

Victor Charles Sanders stood 5ft 9½ inches tall and weighed 10 stone 11½ lbs: in current measurements, that’s 176cm and 78 kg. He had a dark complexion, possibly from his time in the tropics, and brown eyes and hair. He enlisted on 26 August 1914, and was given the regimental number of 502 and allocated to the 9th Battalion, a Queensland unit. His parents were Thomas Harrison Sanders and Elizabeth Keith Sanders[ii]. At the time of enlistment, Victor listed his mother as next-of-kin, living with her daughter, Emily Elizabeth and son-in-law Charles Fortescue, a jeweller in Toowoomba.

Meanwhile Victor’s nephew[iii], 21 year old Charles Fortescue[iv] had already applied for a commission on 17 August and was also attached, as a Lieutenant, to the 9th Battalion[v]. Later notes in Vic’s file indicates that he was attached to D Company, the same as his uncle and this is confirmed by the Embarkation Rolls at the Australian War Memorial (AWM).

The Transport Ship, Omrah, leaves Pinkenba whart, Brisbane with the 9th Battalion.

The Transport Ship, Omrah, leaves Pinkenba whart, Brisbane with the 9th Battalion. Did Victor’s mother and his sister and husband come to see their sons set sail?

After training Victor and his military colleagues sailed from the Pinkenba wharf in Brisbane on the transport ship Omrah on 24 September 1914, no doubt hastened by the belief the war would be over before Christmas.

While on board they undertook classes and training and when they arrived in Albany, WA, they apparently undertook a training march though I’ve found no reference to that in Trove and haven’t explored the brigade or battalion diaries.

Members of the 9th Battalion on a tender going ashore from the HMT Omrah (A5), for a route march at Albany. AWM Image CO2493

Members of the 9th Battalion on a tender going ashore from the HMT Omrah (A5), for a route march at Albany. AWM Image CO2493

I haven’t pursued what happened to the battalion in Egypt until they embarked on the ship Ionian, firstly to Mudros Harbour.

HMAT Ionian loading to take the troops to Gallipoli. AWM Image A02143

HMAT Ionian loading to take the troops to Gallipoli. AWM Image A02143

The 3rd Brigade diaries tell of the training the men did in preparation for the Gallipoli landing but the men weren’t too impressed and prophetic of what was to happen:

It was a laughable affair (on 19 April). Sergeant Polley was leading us all over the country, looking for the rest of the platoon. We would have been shot, over and over again. After several attempts, the exercise was given up as a bad job so we returned to our boats about midnight.[vi]


AWM Image CO2496. Lt Fortescue is 2nd from right in front row, on board Omrah.

The actual landing would have echoes of this but without the opportunity to backtrack to the boats. However the die had been cast, and the men were to go ahead. They were by turns nervous, excited, frightened…all perfectly normal and reasonable responses. However before they were launched off into the depths of their first battle the men were given hot food before embarkation, fed a decent meal rather than the usual army fare of sandwiches and hard biscuits[vii], thanks to Colonel Brudenell White’s detailed planning.

The Troops on the battleships were woken at 1 am, given a hot meal and a drink while the tows were being got ready, and by 1.30 am were ready for mustering into companies. This operation was carried out with impressive efficiency: no one spoke; orders were given in whispers. The only sounds were shuffling boots and muttered curses as men slipped on the ladders leading down to the boats. But for many, the tension of that still night magnified the sounds.[viii]

A tranquil day at Anzac in June 2014.

A tranquil day at Anzac in June 2014.

The night was still and clear, the sea as smooth as glass, much as it was today on the 100th anniversary of the landing. Unfortunately the moon silhouetted the ships, alerting the Turkish front line, who while they were unsure whether they were war ships or transports, the limited Turkish shore platoons and reserve units were now on standby until the relief contingents could be brought forward[ix].

On the boats, the men were silent awaiting their baptism of battle. To Victor’s nephew, Lieutenant Charles Fortescue, it seemed “the noise of the pinnaces being filled, in the stillness of the night, was enough to make the whole world vibrate”[x].

Major Fortescue, spoke of a solid mass of Turkish bullets and a cacophany of bugle calls. ..However official historian Charles Bean disagreed. He concluded “was the beach the inferno of bursting shells and barbed-wire entanglements and falling men that has sometimes been described or painted?” Turkish artillery, in particular, didn’t start to fire shrapnel until 5.10am (some reports said 4.45 am), or about an hour after the first Australians landed[xi].” Bean’s theory fits with what is known from the Turkish archives: they were hanging on at all costs until they could be supported by relief troops.

Meanwhile the Battalion’s succinct diary reports that “It was apparent that the naval people has missed their direction it was discovered afterwards that we were two miles north of the position intended. The landing was effected under rifle fire and the troops pressed forward. The enemy gave way and the advance continued. Turkish reinforcements saved the rush and our troops were driven back and hastily entrenched on a commanding position. Turks attacked again about midnight but were repulsed. The Australians displayed great bravery and held on tenaciously[xii]. It would be interesting to read a diary by Peter Stewart (378, 9th Battalion) to get a sense of the ordinary soldier’s take on the chaos of the day.[xiii]

The first roll call of the 9th Battalion at Gallipoli a few days after the landing. The lack of numbers makes it more understandable how Vic Sanders' fate could have been unclear. AWM Image JO6121.

The first roll call of the 9th Battalion at Gallipoli a few days after the landing. The lack of numbers makes it more understandable how Vic Sanders’ fate could have been unclear. AWM Image JO6121.

In the midst of this confusion of that first battle by the ANZACs, Victor Joseph Sanders was killed or died. Perhaps he was among those shot before landing, perhaps he was among those who drowned due to the depth of water, or perhaps he died later in the morning as the 9th Battalion made its assault towards Plugge’s Plateau and was lost among the crevices and gullies of those ridges rising up from Hell’s Spit at Anzac Cove.

What is certain is that Victor Sanders was missing in action (MIA) from that first Anzac morning and was never seen again and his poor family was left in a limbo of confusion as to what had happened to him. Initial reports suggested he was MIA (missing in action). Later his cousin, William Sanders (#2430) had written to his father that Vic was in hospital in Lemnos which presumably he believed since no one could be cruel enough to raise such hopes in his family. The fact that Victor was in his nephew’s company and Charles Fortescue didn’t know what happened to him speaks volumes for the ambiguity and confusion of that first Anzac Day.

From Vic Sanders' Attestion File.

From Vic Sanders’ Attestation File.

In August 1915, Vic Sanders’ brother-in-law, Charles Fortescue snr, wrote to his local Parliamentary member, Mr Bloom, for assistance saying “As you can imagine, the women folk are exceedingly worried. From what the wife told me it will evidently be a considerable time before the Department get any information in the ordinary way”. He offers to pay for telegrams to the hospital at Lemnos but the responses remains negative.

Eventually, in January 1918, Victor’s mother received a parcel of his belongings despatched per the Marathon. Included were 4 belts, housewife, photos, 2 knives, pouch, comb, corkscrew, “house” game, 2 notebooks and letters. What a treasure they must have been for his mother and siblings. For them to have survived it seems likely that either his pack was found though his body was not, or more likely, that he left them on the ship in case his number was up.

As the months, and years, passed the questions remained. It’s hard to imagine two families living under the same roof, one proud of their son Charles Fortescue who was awarded his Military Medal and one worrying about the truth of whether their son and brother was missing, in hospital or killed in action or long since deceased.

For me, it was Vic’s nephew, Major Charles Fortescue’s, report on July 11th  1921 that clinches his death “he landed on Gallipoli with the 9th Bn about 4:30am on the morning of 25th April 1915 with the company to which I belonged. No information has ever been received as to what happened to him from shortly after he landed”.

And yet, on 29 July 1921, a letter from the OIC Base Records says “The Imperial War Graves Commission has sanctioned a continuance of the search, and in the event of a more favourable report forthcoming, next-of-kin will be at once advised.[xiv] By then it is too late for his mother, Elizabeth, who died on 25 July 1920 – perhaps she had given up hope of her son returning.

Despite the lack of pleading letters in Victor’s military file (so common among records for deceased servicemen) the loss and confusion is clear. No doubt his mother’s grief remained until her death in 1920.

To my mind Victor Joseph Sanders serves as “Everyman” of the Gallipoli campaign. One of the earliest who landed on Gallipoli’s shores at Anzac Cove, his fate remains shrouded in mystery. He is not mourned in annual In Memoriam notices for continued periods – perhaps his family felt that would jinx his survival.  That the details of his death are unknown even to close relatives highlights the continued ambiguity and confusion of that first day of battle. The length of time until his death was declared by a Military tribunal in France in June 1916 evokes the trauma and tension of his family’s wait.

I’d have liked to find a photo of Victor among the Queenslander’s WWI images, but unfortunately it’s likely he’s among those whose details are obscured in the Queenslander newspaper editions of 3 and 10 October 1914. When I get a chance I’ll check the indexes at John Oxley Library.

Despite the grief his family bore, it perhaps made it easier that he was not married and did not leave behind a widow or child.

Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. P Cass, June 2014.

Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. P Cass, June 2014.

Victor Joseph Sanders is remembered on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, just one of many whose bodies were never found and never laid to rest. He is also remembered on the grave of his mother and sister in the Anglican section of the Drayton Cemetery Toowoomba (though with anomalies in fate and age). It was his eldest brother, JW Sanders, who inherited the memorial scroll and plaque, King’s Message, 1914-1915 Star (#2169), Victory Medal (488) and British War Medal (513). Hopefully they are being lovingly cared for and treasured by Victor’s family to this day.

Victor Sanders E600

Lest We Forget.

The words of modern Turkey’s founder, and a Gallipoli military leader, show respect and consolation for the families.


[i] Australian War Memorial Honour Roll circular–878-.pdf

[ii] Ironically Vic’s mother had connections with the Qld railway line and so was probably familiar with Murphy’s Creek, one of my One Place Studies. Parents details from attestation files and Qld BDM online indexes.

[iii] The relationship is stated in the Roll of Honour circular.

[iv] Son of Charles Fortescue, a Toowoomba jeweller, and Emily Elizabeth Sanders. Awarded a Military Cross for his actions on April 25th-29th during operations near Gaba Tepe “For gallant conduct. He twice led charges against the enemy and rendered good service in collecting reinforcements and organising stragglers”[iv]. (Charles Fortescue, Lt, requested commission 17 Aug 1914, aged 21y 3 mos, jeweller.

[v] Having only just returned from Canberra, it’s frustrating to discover Major Fortescue has private papers held by the Australian War Memorial, including details of the landing at Gallipoli.

[vi] 36 Days. Dolan, H, Macmillan Digital Australia, Sydney, 2010. (ebook location 4156)

[vii] ibid. (ebook location 4717)


[ix] Defending Gallipoli: the Turkish Story. Broadbent, H, Melbourne University Press, 2015.  (ebook location 411)


[xi] Bean, however, didn’t go along with men like Major Fortescue, who spoke of a solid mass of Turkish bullets and a cacophany of bugle calls. “Neither then nor at any time later,” Bean concluded, “was the beach the inferno of bursting shells and barbed-wire entanglements and falling men that has sometimes been described or painted.” Turkish artillery, in particular, didn’t start to fire shrapnel until 5.10am (some reports said 4.45 am), or about an hour after the first Australians landed.

[xii] 9th Battalion War Diary, April 1915. Series AWM 4 Item 23/26/5


[xiv] Attestation file, Victor Joseph Sanders.

“When I was young” geneameme

Alona from LoneTester blog has offered us this fun “When I was young” geneameme and it’s been a pleasure reflecting on the answers.

  1. Pauleen baby book131

    Already there’s a cat :)

    Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby? (ie. baby book, lock of hair, first shoes etc.) Yes, I am lucky to have a baby book, baby photos, bracelet and other odds and ends.

  2. Do you know if you were named after anyone? Quite the opposite – I was named so none of my name included any of my paternal grandmother’s…hence the “een” ending. Ironically Catherine is a name I now know to be threaded through generations of my Irish, German and Scots ancestry.
  3. And do you know of any other names your parents might have named you? Paul,  because I was supposed to be a boy.
  4. What is your earliest memory? Hard to say, I have vague memories of my maternal grandmother who died before I was four and used to bring biscuits when she visited. No specific memory other than that.
  5. HeidiDid your parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you? Do you remember any of these? Yes both read to me. Mum liked fairy tales and Dad would buy me religious comics when I was sick (odd because Mum was the religious one). Mum used to sing around the house and at night would sing “turaluralura”, an Irish lullaby.
  6. When you were young, do you remember what it was that you wanted to grow up to be? I wanted to be a marine biologist until 2nd year uni…just as well it didn’t work out as I get claustrophobic with snorkel masks, let alone scuba diving gear.
  7. Did you have a favourite teacher at school? Sr Gemma in Grade 8 and Sr Mary Benedict for Years 11-12. Both made an enormous difference to my eduction.
  8. How did you get to school? Primary School: Walking – it wasn’t far and we didn’t own a car. Secondary school: bus to Fortitude Valley. University: Bus and tram.
  9. What games did playtime involve? Skipping, tiggy, elastics….??? At home, dolls and dress-ups or guns and cowboys.
  10. Did you have a cubby house? Not a fancy one, but a special play space under the house (remember Qld houses are on stilts), and I’d sometimes build one with old sheets etc under the steps etc.
  11. Cousin Jimmy, me Aunty Mary, Mum and Dad in Cairns.

    Cousin Jimmy, me Aunty Mary, Mum and Dad in Cairns.

    What was something you remember from an early family holiday? The 2.5 day train ride on the Sunlander from Brisbane to Townsville for holidays on Magnetic Island. Throwing newspapers to the railway gangers in their tents by the line. Buying fish, chips and (potato) scallops in Rockhampton. Meeting up with Mum’s childhood friend and her family, and a couple of aunts.

  12. What is a memory from one of your childhood birthdays or Christmas? The smell of the small gum tree that dad would cut from down the creek bank. I remember that my friends were often away for my birthday as it was school holidays…poor me, boo hoo.

    Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

    Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

  13. What childhood injuries do you remember? I was lucky to have no broken bones etc (touch wood!) so one stands out….I cut my left calf on a sticky-out bit on a bike pedal. The family friend in the next street carried me home with it bleeding everywhere then we went to the hospital – strangely I don’t remember how, given we didn’t have a car. I still have the faded scar as a memento.
  14. What was your first pet? Cats, cats and more cats.
  15. Did your grandparents, or older relatives tell you stories of “when I was young ..?” Not really. My paternal grandparents lived next door but they didn’t tell those sorts of stories. Instead my grandmother introduced me to Scottish music, bagpipes and dancing.

    Pauleen baby book 136

    Some things don’t change!

  16. The record-playing part of the gramophoneWhat was entertainment when you were young? The radio I guess, though I don’t remember listening to it a lot until I was a teenager. My grandmother had a gramophone which I’ve inherited (currently being minded by my friend in Brisbane) and I loved checking the needle, winding it up, and playing those heavy old records. Sometimes if you visited a home where they had a piano there might be singalongs but my family didn’t do this much, perhaps because of Dad’s shift work. Otherwise entertainment was books, hence my addiction, one I shared with Dad. Sometimes we’d go to the neighbourhood picture theatre for the movies. I remember seeing Fantasia in the city with Mum and Aunty Emily and being scared silly by all those marauding brooms.
  17. Do you remember what it was it like when your family got a new fangled invention? (ie. telephone, TV, VCR, microwave, computer?) Heck, I even remember when we first got some colour camera film when a “rich” relation brought some back from the USA for us. Until we got a telephone when I was in my mid-late teens I used to have to sit nearby while Mum rang her friend from a public phone box…man they could talk! We bought a Commodore computer for our own family in the late 1980s and a VCR in the mid-1980s.

    One of our first colour photos - Dad among his roses.

    One of our first colour photos – Dad among his roses.

  18. Did your family have a TV? Was it b&w or colour? And how many channels did you get? I remember the neighbours down the next street getting a black and white TV – maybe because they had several children? We got a B&W one when I was in my teens – probably a good thing because we didn’t have any in PNG after we were married. Channels – no idea.Two or three I think.
  19. Did your family move house when you were young? Do you remember it? No, I lived in the same house until I married and Dad lived on the same block his whole life.
  20. Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (, flood, cyclone, earthquake etc) I remember an early trip to Magnetic Island when there was a cyclone and the palm trees seemed to touch their toes. Despite this Dad took me up the back to go to the toilet….probably I was scared….it’s a wonder he didn’t say to use a bucket! We got taken off the island by army duck then a couple of days later we took the ferry to Green Island and as Mum always says “were green on the way over, and green on the way back”. I still remember the boat dipping from side to side, just touching the water. Dad was one of the few who didn’t get sick, but put him on a mill-pond and he’d be violently ill.

    One of my favourite photos - Dad, me and the kittens.

    One of my favourite photos – Dad, me and the kittens at the holiday flat at Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island, where we stayed during the cyclone.

  21. Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory? Tura lura lura, Bing Crosby, Oh Tannenbaum, certain hymns. My daughter still sings turalura to her children. I wonder who Mum learnt it from – perhaps her Irish father.
  22. What is something that an older family member taught you to do? Mum taught me to sew, and must have taught me some crocheting too I think.Dad’s mother had been a dressmaker but as she was already in her late 70s when I was a child, she never bothered sewing any more, though I did enjoy playing with the buttons she had in a jar.
  23. What are brands that you remember from when you were a kid? TAA, Ansett (thanks Alona!), Waltons, McWhirter, TC Beirne’s, those heart-shaped lollies with writing on them (and yes, fags lollies), Persil washing powder, Reckitt’s blue bags, Lux flakes. I’m sure there are many I’ve forgotten.
  24. Some of the lovely shells I still have in my collection.

    Some of the lovely shells I still have in my collection.

    Did you used to collect anything? (ie. rocks, shells, stickers … etc.) Shells and books. (see above) Now I feel very guilty about the environmental impact of shell collecting. Like Dad I still have a partiality for collecting the odd stone that takes my fancy.

  25. Share your favourite childhood memory. Hmm,
    A gift from Aunty Emily.

    An Easter gift from Aunty Emily.

    this is a tough one. We’d sometimes go to a highpoint nearby and admire the city lights or the stars….one of Mum’s much-loved things to do.  Or, at Easter, getting to eat all the lollies one had given up for Lent but kept stored in a jar….time for a pig-out. Getting special treats like tiny cups and saucers from my maternal great-aunt. Visiting New Farm Park with her and Mum and seeing the beautiful roses there. Helping Mum with the cake and biscuit baking on Saturdays….and licking the bowl. School fetes etc etc.

  26. Sport: I was pretty rubbish at sport though I enjoyed informal sprints down the streets with the neighbourhood kids. I also learned to play tennis which I can’t say that I loved…or was very good at. Ditto swimming classes and swimming club at the Valley Pool….ugh.
  27. Music: I learned to play the piano for a while with the nuns at my primary school. I remember playing chopsticks or Elvis Presley’s Wooden Heart on our neighbour’s piano with my friend. We would race to complete it in the shortest time possible -it’s a wonder her parents didn’t throw us out.
  28. Games: Who remembers this game…it seems to be having a resurgence as we saw some in Sydney. And then there was the introduction of hula hoops and yo-yos. And what about board games like snakes and ladders or Chinese chequers?

.Thanks Alona for this trip down memory lane. And thanks Mum for all the photos I have and my own love of photography.