Miss Daisy Frances King: I wish I’d known you better

Some weeks ago, Lorine from Olive Tree Genealogy posed this topic as part of the Sharing Memories series: People I wish I’d known better. Of course the first thought is all those family members who I know only from documents and deductions, and if I’m lucky the odd photograph. However I guessed that wasn’t the real intent of the question, and my next thought was “Miss King”.

Three little mementoes sent to me by Miss King and treasured for decades.

When I was a young girl, there was an “elderly” spinster living in the house across the road. While I thought she was old, in reality she was perhaps not far past retirement when she came to live in our street. My memory tells me dimly that sometimes I would be invited over for a cold drink and I suppose a biscuit. I faintly recall lots of quality furniture in the house and the story went that she was well off. I suspect she possibly wasn’t all that well off as she had worked as a typist or secretary throughout her life.[i] Having been trawling through Trove I’m wondering if perhaps she is the “Miss Daisy King” who was secretary to the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce.

Daisy Frances King was born in early 1885 in country Queensland to parents Nathaniel Irvine King and his wife Emily Sloane[ii]. Daisy had three sisters and one brother. School records suggest they lived in Marburg c1894 before later moving to Brisbane.

The reason Miss King has a special place in my memories down all these years is because of her kindnesses to that young girl who lived across the street from her. Miss King travelled overseas a few times and each time she brought some small gift back to me which I’ve treasured to this day: a little Welsh dragon, a Japanese-print handkerchief and a miniature Chinese doll.

I never dreamt that one day I too would travel to Ireland.

In my memory box I also have a postcard which she wrote to me from Ireland. On the postcard she wrote: Dear Pauline, I am sending this from Ireland where a number of donkeys are used for carrying light loads. This dear little fellow is taking a rest in the field. Hope you are very well. From D F King.  The postcard was sent while she was overseas for an extended trip in 1958, and I’m guessing the Welsh dragon probably dates from that trip too. However the other two treasures may have been from a different trip.

In those days it was impossibly exotic for people to travel overseas. The only other people we knew who did so were my “rich” relations in Far North Queensland and that was partly business travel. My mother had always wanted to travel but perhaps it was Miss King who fanned the flame. If so, you’ve seen from my A to Z posts just how successfully the fire was set.

Another special memory I have of Miss King is that she took me to the ballet at Her Majesty’s Theatre when I was still quite young, perhaps 10 to 12 years old. I think it was Swan Lake that we saw but I’m not certain, I just remember the beauty of the costumes and the dance. No doubt I was on my absolutely best behaviour.

It astonishes me somehow that this lady, very similar in age to my grandmother (another of her neighbours), was so very kind and generous to me. The electoral rolls suggest Miss King lived in the street for about 15 years, but I don’t think this is correct. A young family with a child arrived when I was in my early teens or even a bit younger, so Miss King must have moved before then. My mother tells me Miss King went to a home and that after she died her nephew inherited the house. Miss King died in Brisbane in 1973, when I was living in Papua New Guinea, perhaps this partly explains how I didn’t know what had happened to her.

I feel quite shamed that I did not reciprocate her many kindnesses to me by staying in touch. Perhaps the happy memories I’ve had of her all these years go some way to redressing my omissions.

Thank you Miss King for your generous spirit. I wish I’d known you better.


[i] Electoral rolls 1913-1969.

[ii] Qld BDM indexes.

Z zzzzs through Zöller and Zurich

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). This is the final post in the series.

is for zzzzzz

After a solid month of posting from A to Z, I reckon it might be time for a short nap. I’m pleased to have achieved my goal of documenting some of the important places in our distant family history, as well as more recent ones. Thank you to everyone who has followed along on this journey. I’ve appreciated your support and comments throughout.

Z is for Zöller, Zoller, Zeller, Ziller

This Bavarian family name has so many mis-recordings and spelling variations that they’re known in my household as the Ziller, Zeller, Zollers. Throw in Tiller, Seller, Sellar, Sellars and you can see the research dilemma. Thank heavens for wildcards!

I have an interest in this name because three of the Dorfprozelten families I research were named Zöller. They were:

Joseph Zöller and his wife Anna Rosina (nee Neubeck) and children Oswald 12 and Carl 8 arrived in Melbourne on the Boomerang on 11 May 1855, and from there were transshipped to Moreton Bay. The family settled in Toowoomba.

Franz Ignaz Zöller and his wife Catherine (nee Beutel) arrived in Sydney on the Peru on 23 May 1855, with “their” children Joseph 10, Caroline 7, Michael 4, and Maria 1. They too were transshiped to Moreton Bay to take up their employment there. Further research and collaboration with family historians, and assistance from the Dorfprozelten local historian, has now established that Joseph and Caroline were in fact the Ignaz’s nephew and niece, children of his deceased brother. Ignaz and his family first lived south of Brisbane near Beaudesert and later on the Darling Downs.

Franz Michael Zöller arrived in Sydney on the Commodore Perry on 26 April 1855. Franz Michael’s wife, Maria (nee Krebs) had died on the voyage so he had the care of their children Oswald 11 and Maria 3. Eldest son John, 19, appears to have been contracted out independently in Newcastle soon after arrival. Michael and the other children remained in Sydney.

In addition a single woman who arrived independently was Maria Rosalia Günzer aka Mary Rosalie Zöller, the illegitimate daughter of Franz Ignaz’s brother and sister to Joseph and Caroline mentioned above.

I’ve written about the ones who came to Queensland in Queensland Family History Society’s Q150 publication and presented a paper on the Dorfprozelten immigrants at the 2006 Australasian Congress of Genealogy and Heraldry in Darwin. The paper is published in the proceedings for those with an interest in these families.

Z is for Zurich and the end of winter (Switzerland)

When we first travelled to Europe all those years ago, one of the most exciting events we happened upon was the end of winter festival in Zurich. Pure beginners’ luck! I don’t know if it still occurs but it involved the members of the ancient guilds parading through the streets, women throwing flowers to them or racing out to give them a kiss, and culminated in the burning of a snowman’s effigy to symbolise the end of winter. Somehow we found some new mates who shared their beer steins and toasted the end of winter with us.

Turns out this festival still exists (logically why would it not-it’s been going for nearly 200 years) and is called the Sechseläuten festival, (normally held on the third Sunday and Monday in April) and and the snowman is called the Böögg. Isn’t the internet a wonderful place!

Today I thought I’d share some of those images with you in this slideshow.

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Finally the Dry Season!

Yes we’ve all been a bit over-eager thinking the Dry Season was coming early but:

The dragonflies were out in force weeks ago (sign of the Dry)

The boats are back in Fannie Bay and the sailing classes have started

The Open Garden program has started (really looking forward to this!)

The grandchildren already reckon the pool is too cold (it is 22oC after all)

The air conditioning is no longer required by 10am

We look for long sleeves and trousers in the mornings (it is 22oC after all)

The skies are vivid blue and the ocean aquamarine

Finally the lightning, thunder and downpours have stopped

Yay!! It’s the Dry Season – no rain, cool weather, lots of fun events around town.

Woo hoo! Bring it on!

Hellooo the Dry Season

Yes, I know it’s a beer ad, but it’s clever, and this is Darwin after all.

New Gavin family blog

Long-term followers of my blog will have read many posts about the Gavin family, either searching for them in Ireland, their links to the convict Gavans, or the young men who went to World War I.

Thanks to my recent posts and last year’s Anzac Day post, a 3rd cousin has got in touch with me. She holds many photos of her branch of the Gavin family and we’re hoping we can sort out some blanks on photos we each have. She’s been inspired to start her own blog and has put up some wonderful photos of the young Gavin men in uniform and their parents. I’ve been thrilled to finally put faces to the names of these people I’ve known about and been researching for so long. Louise also has lots of family anecdotes so it will be interesting to learn more about the family through her stories rather than just through documents.

I’m really hoping I may yet be able to put names to some of the faces on  this Wordless Wednesday photo.

This is the link to the Gavin Coman blog. Why not pop over and have a look at the photos and say g’day to Louise.

Y yearns for Yass and Young

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). 

Y is for Young and yearning for gold (New South Wales)

Chinese lions guard the entrance. © P Cass 2011

Many years ago my father told me that his great-grandfather George Kunkel was at the goldfields of Lambing Flat or Captains Flat in far south-eastern New South Wales. When I started researching my family history, this was one of my early investigations. I soon found that the discovery of gold at Captains Flat didn’t occur until 1882 and it seemed impossible that he would have been gold-digging as the family would have been busy establishing their farm at the time.

Lambing Flat near Young might have been more of a possibility as it had opened earlier, 1860, but even so the family were then in Ipswich with George working as a pork butcher and Mary was having a child most years. Now much as I loved my father he wasn’t always what you could call a “reliable witness”, as he had a tendency to either tell you nothing at all, or turn the story around. On the other hand, he was the only child of his father, who in turn was George Kunkel’s eldest grandchild, so perhaps there was truth in there somewhere.

Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young. © P Cass 2011

On a driving trip in 1994, I visited the Lambing Flat Museum in Young and finding nothing, mentally filed this story as improbable if not impossible. Perhaps George really had been on the Victorian goldfields which would have fitted with his approximate arrival in Australia.

Some years later, new indexes were created of Queensland’s earliest Equity cases in the Supreme Court. Accustomed to searching indexes and finding nary a mention of the Kunkel surname, I nearly fell off my chair to find him mentioned. Soon after I visited Queensland State Archives to look at the relevant documents and was thrilled to find that not only was George Kunkel a witness to the case, but the defendant, Carl Diflo, also mentions that he knew George in the old country (Bavaria) and that he was a pork butcher on the Tooloom goldfields not far over the border in New South Wales[i]. Eureka!

The Galloping Horse overlooks the tranquil lake. It is a replica of an original found in a Han Dynasty tomb. © P Cass 2011

It seemed I had the root of the story about George’s adventures on the goldfields. He hadn’t been digging for gold but was pork butchering for the men, probably a more reliable way of earning money. On top of which, this had all occurred in 1859, when birth records etc suggest he was safely ensconced in Ipswich. Another interesting by-product from this court case, is that while the other Germans needed translators, there is no indication that George was given or required one. I doubt his English was so much better after being married to an Irish woman for only two years, so perhaps he’d been able to speak some English when he arrived. Questions, questions.

The birds at the Lambing Flat Gardens were keen for a feed and this black swan followed us around. I thought his tail feathers were just gorgeous. © P Cass 2011.

Perhaps George really had been at some of the other goldfields but I’ll probably never know. Still the family stories stay in my mind, so when we X-Trailled into Young last year en route to Canberra we made a point of visiting the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden on the outskirts of the town. The site commemorates the Lambing Flat Riots when the European miners turned against the Chinese who were on the goldfields in one of Australia’s most severe race riots. Nowadays it is a peaceful park perfect for families to spend a few hours relaxing. However there is another perspective put forward in this article which I found most interesting albeit somewhat strident.

Y is for Yass (New South Wales)

I have no genealogical connection of my own to Yass but I do have an interest in the Irish Orphan Girls who came from East Clare to Australia around the end of the Great Famine. The community and authorities of New South Wales were already objecting to being sent Britain’s rejects from its workhouses and especially these young Irish girls who were perceived to be ignorant and dirty Irish peasants with loose morals. So as the Thomas Arbuthnot arrived in Sydney on 3 February 1850, with its 193 Irish orphan girls, there was already great deal of resistance and antipathy to them. In this context, the achievements of the ship’s Surgeon Superintendent, Charles Edward Strutt, and the girls he’d delivered safely to their new country, were even more remarkable. Strutt had insisted that cleanliness was vital and also ensured the girls were well treated on the long voyage. Such was their affection and respect for him, that when he asked for volunteers to accompany him to Yass where there was a need for 105 servants, 130 girls wanted to go with him. And so they set forth on yet another long journey, loaded on 15 drays with their belongings[ii]. One of the girls on the dray may have been Mary Hurley who was employed at nearby Burrowa. Her sea chest made the journey from the Gort Workhouse in Galway to Sydney, probably on the drays to Yass thence to Burrowa, and 161 years later was an iconic feature in the Not Just Ned exhibition in Canberra.

As the girls and Strutt steadily made their way to Yass, all the newspaper commentary was negative: they did not want these ignorant Irish Catholic peasants in their community. Strutt was clever though, they stopped before they came into the town and the girls got into their best clean clothes so that when they arrived they looked the picture of cleanliness and tidiness. Within days, the community tide had turned and the girls were welcomed whole-heartedly.  Even then Strutt continued his care for the girls, ensuring they were placed with good employers and visited them all before leaving. What a remarkable man! No doubt these young women form the foundation of many an Irish-descended family in the Yass area.

In writing this synopsis of Yass and the orphan girls I’ve drawn heavily on two books, Richard Reid’s Farewell my children and Barefoot and Pregnant Volume 2, by Trevor McLaughlin. If you have an interest in these immigrants, these books are essential reading. There is also an online database for all these orphan immigrants here.

I’d be interested in hearing from descendants of any of the orphans from East Clare in particular eg Scariff, Bodyke, Sixmilebridge, or Kilseily/Broadford.


[i] Kiesar v Diflo. Queensland State Archives, Supreme Court records. SCT/U1 1859-1860

[ii] Reid R, Farewell my children, pages 150-152

Beyond the Internet: Week 17 Hospital records

This is Week 17 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week the topic is Hospital admissions and records, which can be surprisingly useful.

I’d love it if you wanted to join in and tell us about your successes with these records, or share your experience, especially if you live overseas and use different set of records. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Hospital notices

In the early days of settlement some hospital boards published their statistics annually and included the names of patients who had died. This can be useful where death indexes prove difficult.

As an example: Francis (Franz Ignaz) Zöller died on 28 April 1862 from phlebitis suppuratoria in Toowoomba Hospital as reported in the Darling Downs Gazette (DDG).[1] The death index is for Tiller.

Similarly, depending on the “chattiness” of the newspaper, you may get ambulance reports of family members being taken to hospital for injuries large and small.

These examples highlight a couple of things: (1) even though the DDG is on Trove, the name doesn’t come up. Would you look nearly a year after his death for information? (2) the value of indexes provided by the local family history society.

Hospital Admission Books: Where to find them

If you are researching in Queensland, you are in luck. Judy Webster’s excellent site provides indexes to some of the hospital admission records held by the Queensland State Archives. QSA also has some indexes available. Judy also has some useful background information about the costs to patients’ families. If you have Queensland family history, do have a thorough browse of Judy’s site as it’s full of information, and she also has a great book you can buy, which I’ve found very useful.

How do you do check the records if you want to do this yourself? Well go to your state archives catalogue (usually online these days) and search by the name of the hospital. Be careful that the name of the hospital you know it by today, may not always have been its name eg I initially searched for “Royal Brisbane Hospital” but using “Brisbane Hospital admissions” is what gives results.

Also keep in mind that you may be wise to search the mental asylum records as people were admitted for a variety of conditions from post-natal depression to full psychosis. Once again, Judy Webster also has indexes for Qld while the Public Records Office of Victoria has some of their records available online to download and browse. Use this link for mental asylum records at State Records of NSW.

Hospital records: What might you find

Reasonably obviously this is likely to change over time, however some early admission records provide wonderful information about the person’s immigration, place of residence, next of kin and the like. A few years ago I browsed these records looking for details on anyone from East Clare or for any clues to my Germans, and there is a wealth of information in them.

An example: Thanks to Judy’s index, I easily found the admission record for Carl Diflo to Brisbane Hospital. Carl Diflo was admitted to the Brisbane Hospital on 17 November 1856 and discharged on 29 November 1856.[2] I believe this is the man I research among my Dorfprozelten immigrants. The age stated is not correct, but he is a German Catholic and the surname is very unusual. Carl was suffering from rheumatism and severe pains in his feet. He had been living on salt meat for more than a year in the bush. This lets me deduce a fair bit about his early life in Moreton Bay after arrival in 1855.

For various reasons the Diflo family had a terrible time in Australia and his daughter Phoebe Nevison was also admitted to the Rockhampton asylum with what seems to be post-natal depression. Her file includes details of the cost of her care, and a letter from her husband explaining his difficulty in paying as well as providing information about his work and their children.

Military Hospitals

Following on from the various Anzac Day posts, it’s worth considering where our relatives were sent to recuperate from war injuries, and how they were treated.

This post from Helen Smith is an excellent example of how different sources of information can be used to reveal more of their experience in the military hospital.

Next week: Benevolent Asylums


[1] Deaths in Australia, Volume 2, extracted from The Darling Downs Gazette August 1860-Dec 1865, Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society Inc, Toowoomba, 2002, page 31 (Ziller). Darling Downs Gazette 5 March 1863, annual report, page 3. Qld Death certificate 1862/C000089 indexed as Tiller: Francis Tiller, son of Peter Tiller and Magdalene Villers, consistent with the names of Franz Ignaz’s parents.

[2] Queensland State Archives Item ID2903, Case book,  Microfilm Z1626, page 509.

X is for X-Trailing into the distance

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

Since we got our Nissan X-Trail about four years ago, it’s taken us on some long adventures, though to be honest its 4WD facility hasn’t had much of a workout.

Heading for ruin, but I loved this old building seen en route to Townsville. © P Cass 2008.

The first long trip we took in the X-Trail combined genealogy and travel very nicely. We drove to Cairns in Far North Queensland visiting family sites such as Hughenden, Charters Towers, Townsville and Ingham along the way. Many were the cemeteries we explored for family plots and photos. We also visited a whole raft of family history centres, mining them for the indexes specific to the area. Oh yes, and we did have a holiday, exploring Magnetic Island which I used to visit as a child, and the mountains-to-reefs of the Cairns area. All in all we had great fun, and a very productive time indeed.

Peter's grandparents' gravestone in the Ouyen cemetery. © P Cass.

The longest trip the little X-Trail has achieved was Darwin to Tasmania (Tassie) via Adelaide and Melbourne. I think we notched up around 9,500 kms on that drive which was to celebrate a “special” birthday for us both. Despite the long drive Darwin-Adelaide, we had a lot of fun in the holiday sector of our journey. We ate lots of great fresh food in Tasmania, drank equally good wine and whisky, saw the yachts from the Sydney-Hobart race and admired some wonderful natural scenery. Of course what is any trip without a genealogy aspect, so we stopped along the way at a couple of places in western Victoria where my husband’s family has links: Ouyen, Horsham and North Laen.

A view in Oatlands showing the historic windmill. I loved that the stone walls near it were restored by women who learnt the skills. © P Cass.

In Tassie we visited the town of Oatlands where my husband’s convict ancestor spent some of his sentence. Oatlands has a wonderful array of old Georgian buildings and we fell in love with its vibe. A visit to the archives in Hobart revealed a few more clues about his ancestor and eliminated a possible migration record for my O’Briens.

Last year we drove Darwin-Brisbane-Canberra return and had quite a lot of genealogy fun. The timing of the trip was for us to attend the Not Just Ned exhibition and for me to enjoy three days of fun at Shamrock in the Bush 2011. As always, archives, family history centres, and cemeteries featured in our itinerary as well as seeing the countryside looking very green and lush after the early 2011 floods throughout the west.

The Murphys Creek railway station, of importance to the Kunkel family history. Murphys Creek was severely affected by the 2011 floods. © P Cass

On St Patrick’s Day 2011, we took Ms X-Trail for a quick skip down the Stuart Highway and I wrote about the scenery and the birds we saw here.

The X-Trail has given us a ton of fun, as well as a solution to the “X is for…..” conundrum.

W wanders around the world

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

W is for West Drayton (Nottinghamshire, England)

West Drayton church where John Cass was buried. © P Cass 2006

My husband’s Cass ancestors were in West Drayton in the early 19th century where his 3x great grandfather, John Cass, was a teacher. John and his wife Suzannah had married in Southwark, London, so presumably there was a reason for them to relocate. We visited the small village in 2006 but didn’t manage to find out any more about the family’s life or work in West Drayton. We did hit it lucky with information for John Cass’s widow in Retford and Moorgate, thanks to a kind gentleman in West Drayton who referred us to the local library.

If any of my English readers have home-grown tips on how to pursue this further, I’d be very pleased to hear of them.

W is for Wewak (Papua New Guinea)

Another guest post from Mr Cassmob in the A to Z series on the places he lived in Papua New Guinea. Although we visited there for a weekend while we lived in Goroka, our memories of it from that time are hazy.

The beautiful crushed-coral beach at Wewak. © P Cass

Wewak is the capital of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea where I lived at Brandi High School, 9 miles outside Wewak, when his father was Headmaster there in the late 1950s. The school – dormitories, classrooms, kitchen – was built on the river flats. All the buildings were on stilts 3-4 feet high, so that when the river overflowed after heavy rains, the floods ran under the buildings, across the soccer fields and down to the sea. From the Cassmobs’ house high on the hill, they looked out over the school and the jungle to the black-sand beach, where the incoming waves created an unremitting 24-hour roar which was deafening at first and then merged into the background.

This was the time of Indonesia’s konfrontasi with Malaya. Australia expanded its defence capabilities, including construction of airstrips in theSepik mountains and building a new barracks for the Pacific Islands Regiment at Moem Point between Wewak and Brandi. This meant goodbye to lazy Sundays picnicking on Moem Beach and snorkelling over the coral reef 10 yards offshore.

W is for Würzburg (Bavaria, Germany)

Rococo splendour in Würzburg. © P Cass

Würzburg is the home of the archdiocesan archives for the Catholic church in the Franconia region. I’m sure in my short visit I only scratched the surface of what was available, hampered by language as well as time. However among their holdings are the parish registers and family books (Familienbücher) for the various Catholic parishes. Würzburg itself is also a pretty city with lovely old buildings to view, but what is sight-seeing when family history opportunities await. I also visited the general archives in an attempt to find out whether there were any military records from the 19th century, or departure permissions, but I was told (I think) that there were none. Of course we may have mutually misunderstood what the other person was trying to ask/convey.

W is for Wales (United Kingdom)

My Partridge family hover around the Welsh-English border and my 3x great grandfather states his place of birth as Monmouth (county or city, is the question). I believe I’ve found the correct baptism in Monmouth itself based on naming patterns and if so, I do indeed have links to Wales. We passed round the perimeter of Monmouth on a recent visit to the UK but didn’t have time to sightsee.

W is for Wallumbilla (near Roma, Queensland)

The Paterson and Kunkel families lived in the small settlement of Pickenjennie on the outskirts of Wallumbilla, while another set of relations, the Lees, lived in Wallumbilla itself. There have been Kunkel descendants in or near the town since the late 19th century.

If you have an interest in Wallumbilla I can recommend these two books:

Onward with Honour: Wallumbilla Primary School history by Roslyn Stemmler, 1993

Prickly Pear Frenchman by Roslyn Stemmler, 2009 ( I get very jealous of Roslyn’s collections of letters)

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Bretonneux: Lest we forget

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. Today’s post is both historical and genealogical, as in Australia and New Zealand we celebrate 25 April as Anzac Day, commemorating the landing at Gallipoli and all the Australian and New Zealand military contributions since then. Tying in the with Trans-Tasman Anzac Day challenge I’ll also talk about the effect of one soldier’s death.

Villers-Brettoneux war cemetery and Memorial on a foggy, freezing winter's morning . © P Cass 1992.

On a freezing cold morning in late November 1992, we set forth from Amiens on a pilgrimage to the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. Despite the national significance of the site to both Australia and France, our purpose that day was personal. We’d come to see the name of my grandfather’s cousin, James Thomas Paterson, on the Memorial’s large wall, among the names of those whose bodies were never found.

Villers-Brettoneux © P Cass 1992

So dense was the fog that we drove straight past this immense Memorial without seeing it and had to turn back. Perhaps it was the fog and the crunching of ice underfoot as we walked the cemetery that brought me undone. I sobbed for those men lost so far from home, who had fought in conditions such as these, to which mostly they were unaccustomed, fighting for duty and a cause they believed in, for a people in a foreign land. As we wandered among the immaculately kept graves, the French gardeners worked respectfully to ensure the final resting place of the soldiers buried in the cemetery section was kept immaculate.

Part of the Memorial wall at Villers-Brettoneux which lists the names of the soldiers with no known grave. © P Cass 1992

Slowly we approached the Memorial at the back of the site, and its vast list of engraved names: the one you see in Anzac Day TV broadcasts. There are 10,765 names on that wall[i]; 10,765 Australian Diggers fallen in France but with no known grave; 10,765 men whose names are engraved in the hearts and minds of families who would never be able to visit their grave. Imagine the sheer loss behind those numbers if you can.

Let me tell you a story behind just one of those names. James Thomas Paterson was the grandson of Bavarian-born George Mathias Kunkel and his wife Mary O’Brien. James’s parents were Archibald and Catherine Paterson. When James was a lad, his family moved from Stanthorpe west to Pickenjennie near Wallumbilla where his father purchased land and worked on the railway lines by day. By the time of the big droughts in the 1910s, James was working as a farmer. Times were tough and that may have contributed in some way to his decision to join the war effort in World War I.

Jim had already served with the Roma Commonwealth Light Horse (a militia force) and there’s no doubt he felt a strong sense of duty to join up, as he made his wife-to-be promise before he married her that she would not stop him joining up. The recruiting train steamed into Wallumbilla en route to Roma on 17 August 1915, and the local men were encouraged to enlist[ii] through meetings and appeals for troops. Jim was not among those who signed up immediately but he left Wallumbilla by train on 27 August to enlist. Days later the small town held its Patriotic Day celebrations, attended by 500 people and raising £140 for the war effort. Paradoxically the Dalby recruiting officer complained that “it was a serious thing that the sinews of the country were going away in such shoals”[iii]when Brisbane men were not pulling their weight.

Wedding photo of James Paterson and his bride, Lizzie Cahill, kindly provided by their grandson.

James married Lizzie Maud Cahill on 1 November 1915, shortly before he was to leave for the front. The Toowoomba Chronicle[iv] reported on their wedding in detail and Jim’s grandson has provided a copy of the wedding photo to the AWM.  Oral history reports that while Jim had some money set aside, Lizzie insisted they splash out a bit.

Initially posted to the 25th Battalion, Jim was absorbed into the 49th on arrival in Egypt and was transferred to the Western Front, via Marseilles, in June 1916.  Jim copped a Blighty, a wounded elbow, at the Battle of Mouquet Farm near Thiepval.  Returning in December 1916, he was probably in time[v] to celebrate Christmas behind the lines with his battalion including snowball fights, building snow kangaroos in lieu of snowmen, and partaking of the Australian Comforts Fund’sgood tucker and treats.

James Thomas Paterson's daughter, grandson and great-grandson at his memorial tree in the Avenue of Heroes, Roma, 2002. Photograph courtesy of the family and used with permission.

It was a shocking winter in northern France in 1916/17 with arctic conditions and thunderstorms. In April the allied forces attacked the German front line and during this battle James Paterson and C Company were attached to the 50th Battalion. During the assault of 5 April 1917, half of C Company were killed or injured, including James Paterson. As Lizzie followed the news at home over that Easter weekend, she would have had no inkling that her husband had been killed. There is no record on the file of when she was advised of his death but it wasn’t until late May that James’s death was confirmed. Lizzie’s nomination for Jim’s Roll of Honour entry says simply “Man’s Duty”.

The couple had a daughter, born in late July 1916. Jim had insisted that she be given a good Aussie nickname, and so Elizabeth Maud (Mary) came to be called Cooee as a young girl. Although Jim never met his daughter his family believes he did see her photograph. Imagine the tragedy of a man never seeing his child before he dies, and his child only knowing her father through his photograph and her mother’s stories.

Lizzie was a petite redhead in appearance but she was strong and determined, supporting her daughter through her hard work as a station cook. She continued to write to the Army seeking further information and any of her husband’s effects for their daughter. How wonderful that although this man died in the service of his country, Jim’s family line continues through his daughter (still alive) and her family.

James Thomas Paterson's plaque in Roma's Avenue of Heroes.

Of course a death like this also affects the whole family. We know nothing of how Jim’s parents took the news of their son’s death but it would have been a great shock and his mother died of cancer six months later. From oral history we know that his grandmother Mary Kunkel was not told of her grandson’s death, protecting her from further sadness as her husband had died only a few months earlier. Jim’s brother Dan Paterson joined up soon after Jim’s death. Dan’s own experience and that of his brother meant that he hated war, and eventually burned his own Light Horse uniform, plumed hat and all.

The town of Roma in western Queensland planted an avenue of bottle trees in honour of its fallen World War I heroes.

Towns throughout western Queensland felt the losses of their men keenly. Every town and village had contributed men to the war effort and most had lost one or many. Each town commemorated them in different ways. Roma’s memorial was different. The town planted rows of bottle trees, one for each soldier lost in the war. James Thomas Paterson was one of those men whose sacrifice was remembered in this way by the community and by his family.


[i] Various numbers are cited in different sources. I have used the number from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

[ii] The Brisbane Courier of 23 August 1915, reported that as of that date 109 fit men had been recruited from this recruiting train.

[iii] The Brisbane Courier, 2 September 1915, page 7.

[iv] The Toowoomba Chronicle, 2 November 1915, page 6

[v] While he left for France on 4 December 1916, the records show him rejoining the unit on 6 January 1917, hence the uncertainty.

U is for Urana and Ubud

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which), but sometimes like today it involves a simple travelogue as well.

U is for Urana (New South Wales, Australia)

Urana's Soldiers Memorial Hall, another type of war memorial. © P Cass 2004

My 2xgreat-grandmother Mary O’Brien from County Clare, and her sister Bridget, reportedly travelled to Australia together around 1852-53. Bridget’s death certificate indicates she had spent one year in Queensland so it appears they both came to Queensland first to settle and work. However Bridget then moved to New South Wales, though the reason why is unknown. It does seem strange that she left her sister behind to move a further 1500kms away. Perhaps she’d already met her husband-to-be and went interstate to join him. Like Mary, the story is that they met their future husbands on the voyage over, a not uncommon tale. Unfortunately as I can find no record of their arrival I can’t even begin to verify or reject the story.

A typical Australian country shed with corrugated iron and a windmill overlooks the lake at Urana. © P Cass 2004

Bridget apparently married John Widdup in Albury on the NSW-Victoria border around 1858 (not on the NSW indices) and around 1864 they moved from there to Urana in the Riverina district between the two great rivers, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee. In 1866 the town had been in existence for seven years and had two hotels, the Urana and the Royal, several dwellings, “a post and telegraph station, two large stores, a police station and a lock up, and a church”.[1] The stores serviced the squatters as well as the shepherds and boundary riders who managed their stock.[2] Even in 1872, the town’s population was only 100 people with a periodic influx of shearers. I do find it interesting that both Bridget and her sister Mary chose to live their Australian lives in fairly small communities, perhaps drawing on their experience is the distant townland of Ballykelly, Parish of Kilseily.

John Widdup was the town’s pound keeper, responsible for wandering stock, but he also played an important role as Chairman of the Board in the establishment of the Urana School. Bridget was no doubt kept busy with their large family. Oral history also suggests she may have been a local midwife.

Bridget O'Brien Widdup is buried with her daughter Louisa Luckie in the Catholic Section of the Urana Cemetery. © P Cass 2004

John died in Urana on 29 February 1876, aged 48 years though strangely his death is unrecorded in the registration books. He was buried in the Church of England section of the Urana cemetery. Although united in life, they were not united in death as his wife Bridget lies in the Roman Catholic section. Their religious separation in death makes me suspect that religion was a major issue in their marriage.

The Widdup family settled permanently in Urana, and nearby areas including Narrandera, and to this day there are family members living in the area.

U is for Ubud (Bali)

Bali is just a hop, skip and jump from Darwin so it tends to be a short-stay holiday for many Darwinites. Due to its general reputation as a young Aussies’ party place, Bali had never been on my travel list until we came here to live. There’s so much more to Bali than partying, and I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface but the stand-out features are the friendliness of the people and their focus on religious practices.

Ubud is perfect for “chilling out” as you can do a bit of browsing, but also enjoy the cooler weather that comes with being in the mountains. Ubud is the setting of the Love segment in the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love, but personally I haven’t seen any Brazilian eye-candy hanging around.

We both love the gardens, tropical flowers and statues so I thought I’d just include a slideshow of some of these (but you get the Urana ones first).

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