The topic for Week 31 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Grandparents’ House. Describe your grandparents’ house. Was it big or small? How long did they live there? If you do not know this information, feel free to describe the house of another family member you remember from your childhood.
The recent sales promotion for my grandparents’ house classed it as “more charming than George Clooney”! Cute as this caption is, for me the old home – not the gentrified, renovated one- is better than George Clooney any day. It still lives for me and so many of my childhood memories are linked to it that I’ve already posted on it under the 52 weeks topics of Neighbours, Sound and Home so today I’m going to be a bit less emotional and more factual.
It was a reasonably large high-set worker’s cottage with three bedrooms, dining room, breakfast room, pantry, kitchen and bathroom. I’m pretty confident that the toilet was an addition following the Council’s introduction of town sewerage in 1939. I have a recollection of a back-yard “dunny” but it must have been just the structure as I have no memory of it being used. My family tells a funny story of my grandmother’s family’s arrival in Brisbane in1910. Coming from Glasgow they were unfamiliar with the arrival of the nightsoil carter (aka dunny collector) and when the brothers heard loud noises they came out, guns raised, thinking they were being robbed…but it was of something they’d hardly have wanted to keep!
The style of my grandparents’ house is known as a Queenslander built of weatherboard. As I’ve mentioned before it had verandahs on two sides, one aspect of the house that’s survived largely intact. The sunroom looked out through large sliding green and white windows to the garden beyond and the mango tree planted when my father was born (it is still alive nearly 90 years later). The sash windows were a lovely walk-through feature. Nowadays the outside of the house looks similar enough to its original style (apart from colour!), though the ground-floor area has now been enclosed for bedrooms and living. In the “old days” it was a traditional Queensland house with tar-painted battens enclosing the downstairs with room for the old car, washing area and “workshop” area. Under the verandahs there were tubs of lush maiden-hair fern, blue hydrangeas and staghorns (not the animal variety).
The electoral rolls show my grandfather residing in the street before he went off to World War I in 1917. The story goes that he lived in the street prior to that, renting a room with a woman who I believe may have also been paid to look after his young brother (they were orphaned when my grandfather was 21 but the youngest only 2) – oral history tells me her house was next to the block my grandfather bought. I can find this woman on the Post Office directories though she doesn’t appear in the Electoral Rolls in this area[i]. Grandad travelled with the railway and lived in different places, but I understood that this street was his home base. An old property, Ballymore, had been sold and subdivided in 1912 so presumably he took advantage and bought the block when this occurred. This post has made me realise I need to research the land titles documents when I’m next in Brisbane so I can track the timelines.
I assume Grandad had the house built when he returned from the war and prior to marrying my grandmother. My grandparents named their house after the street my grandmother where my grandmother lived as a girl in Glasgow.Funnily enough her step-sister’s family[ii] had also lived in the street soon after arriving in Australia, and it’s said the husband worked as an ironmoulder on the iron lacework of Ballymore House (fact or fiction?).[iii] Give or take a few years, my family has lived on this street for close to 100 years and while many of the names have changed, there is a core of families who have long been part of the area’s history.