A numbertaker? Say what?!

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

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

Numbertaker Railway Daily Mercury 8 May 1935 p8

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

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

 

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

Roma St Good s yard 1935

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

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

Roma St goods yard 1951 NAA

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

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

VP Day 1945 Qld Police Museum

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

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

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

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

shunting Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Numbertaker duties

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

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

Dad on his 80th

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

 

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

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

Grandad goes to war: Remembrance Day 2017

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

dinny jim & friend

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

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

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

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

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

Port Sydney AWM 4029449

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

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

 

4105393

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

Railway WWI Goulburn Evening Penny Post 2 Feb 18p4

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

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

 

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

4103895

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

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

Poperinghe 13

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

Peselhoek Poperinghe

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

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

LEST WE FORGET

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

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

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

—————————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] AWM 31. Karmala 306.

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

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.

1st GENERATION

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.

2nd GENERATION

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

3rd GENERATION

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.

BREAKING THE LINK

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.

P1050659

Sepia Saturday: Mr & Mrs McSherry – Diamond Jubilee 1941

Sepia Sat 252This week’s Sepia Saturday image celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dollinger Steel of Beaumont, Texas. We all know 50th events are important ones, whether they’re wedding or business anniversaries, or just birthdays. It has to be said that 60th anniversaries are even rarer, especially of weddings as it takes a youthful marriage and two to tango to a ripe old age.

diamond jubileeMy great-grandparents, Peter and Mary McSherry, reached this remarkable milestone in 1941, and it was widely reported in various newspapers, boldly captioned “Diamond Jubilee” Thanks to the news stories we know that “The diamond jubilee was celebrated with a luncheon party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. McSherry, Alma-street, when relatives and friends were entertained. Rev. Father D. L. Murtagh (an old friend of the family) presided, and proposed the toast of the jubilarians. Rev. Father D. Keneally added his congratulations and good wishes[i]. Not to be greedy, but it would have been wonderful to know just a little more about the day and who was there, and perhaps if they were given any gifts.  One omission which has only just occurred to me is that Peter’s siblings have not been mentioned, though at least one was certainly still alive. There’s some history of family feuding over the decades, so perhaps that was at the bottom of it.

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. My grandfather, James Joseph McSherry is on the left. I have found the caption which was sent with the photo and I’ve added the women’s surnames: left to right standing: Jim, Elizabeth (Lil) Bayliss, Ellen (Ellie) Quinn, John, Mary McSherry, David, Bridget (Bridie) Moran, Peter jnr. Sitting: Annie Jacobson, Margaret McSherry, Peter snr, Agnes Jacobson.

I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain a photo from a cousin of the family gathered on the day. It took me a while to twig that in fact some of them had been “photoshopped” in, probably with earlier photos stuck on to the original. Although all their surviving six daughters and four sons were listed by name, obviously not all had been able to attend. If you look closely you’ll see different flooring on the left, and also quite different dress styles. The gentleman on the left is my grandfather, Peter & Mary’s second eldest child. Standing next to him is, I believe, his sister, Elizabeth Bayliss, wife of Frank Herbert Bayliss.

At a guess I’d say the photo of Grandad may have been taken at a wedding, as to my mind he has his arm positioned as if he’s giving a young woman his arm. It may have been my aunty Mary’s wedding in 1939 or less likely, his sister Mary Ellen’s wedding in 1913. Grandad may also not have had the money to attend the jubilee event, as only a few months later his whole family would move from Townsville to Brisbane and he would commence work at the Ipswich Railway Workshops. His sister Elizabeth may well not have been able to attend either, given she was living “out bush” on Acacia Downs station (property/large farm/ranch). Addendum: see Bev’s comment below, Annie Jacobson seated on the far left was also added into the picture). Although these three were living some distance away, I suspect the real reason for their absence may have been that they were personae non grata within the family.

The newspapers have been very accurate in their reporting of the McSherry couple’s life. Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan were married on 27 February 1881 at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Gorey Wexford, where I was able to see their entry in the marriage register over a hundred years later, in 1989.

The 'Almora', 2000 ton ship. Commanded in 1883 by Captain Franks. Carried immigrants from Plymouth to ports in Queensland. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:78321

The ‘Almora’, 2000 ton ship. Commanded in 1883 by Captain Franks. Carried immigrants from Plymouth to ports in Queensland. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:78321

Peter’s parents and siblings all emigrated to Australia in 1883, perhaps drawn by the expansion of the railway in Queensland. However Mary was pregnant at the time so their departure didn’t coincide with the rest of the family’s migration and perhaps they were also waiting on remittances from the rest of the family. When my grandfather, James Joseph, was just an infant, this little family also set forth from Plymouth on 12 March 1884, heading for Queensland. They arrived in Rockhampton a speedy 49 days later.

McSHERRY Jubilee RKY article56085296-3-001This railway family had a busy time living and working through western and northern Queensland: “Mr McSherry Joined the Railway Department Immediately. His work took him to the west, and he lived for some years at Longreach and various western towns. He became lines Inspector in the Townsville division, also at Hughenden, and was appointed chief Inspector at Townsville in 1911. In 1919 be was transferred to Rockhampton as chief inspector and retired in October, 1930, at the age of 69.

Peter and Mary’s sons and daughters are all listed by name and place, showing how they were scattered around Queensland: “The sons are Messrs James (Townsville), David (Rockhampton), John (Morella), and Peter (Emerald). The daughters are Mrs J. H. Moran (Charters Towers), Mrs A. Jacobsen (Townsville), Mrs E. Quinn (Rockhampton), Mrs F. H. Bayliss (Acacia Downs, Aramac), Mrs O C Jacobsen (Ayr) and Miss Margaret McSherry (Rockhampton)”.

McSHERRY Margaret article56809240-3-001The news stories report that the couple had 10 surviving children  of their 13, but in fact Mary had given birth to 15 children, including two sets of twins, one genetic inheritance I’m certainly glad didn’t come down to me! One set of twins died soon after birth in late 1896/early 1897 and presumably these are the two who weren’t counted in the tally. Three others, including one of the other twins also died very young. Imagine how devastating this must have been for them, though perhaps their strong faith helped them through it. Before Peter died, however further tragedy would strike when he accidentally killed their daughter Margaret when leaving for morning Mass.

At the time of their jubilee, the couple had 25 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren though at least four more were born afterwards. As far as I know, Peter and Mary McSherry saw none of their great-grandchildren from my branch of the family, and had rarely seen their grandchildren.

Peter McSherry’s death on 25 February 1949 cut short their long marriage just two days before they could celebrate their 68th anniversary…just imagine the shared history.

I wonder how many couples manage such marital longevity? My Kunkel-O’Brien 2xgreat grandparents reached 58 years 6 months and my own parents came within cooee of 60 years, thanks to being married youngish and inheriting those longevity genes.

None of my other ancestors have come close to the McSherry diamond jubilee standard.  How have your ancestors stacked up in the compatibility and longevity stakes?

I wonder how other Sepians celebrated anniversaries or gatherings this week…why not go over and join the party?

This is a map of Queensland, showing the  places mentioned in the McSherry story. See below for some sense of distance.

This is a map of Queensland, showing the places mentioned in the McSherry story. See below for some sense of distance.

Distances and a sense of scale:

Townsville to Rockhampton is 721kms

Longreach to Rockhampton is 687 kms

Hughenden to Townsville is a cruisy 385 kms

Hughenden to Rockhampton is 986 kms

Darwin (where I live) to Rockhampton is 2934 kms and today would be a solid two day drive at the speed limit.

References:

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld : 1878 – 1954), Friday 7 March 1941, page 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56085296

Rockhampton Diocese (1941, March 6). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895-1942), page 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106424907.

The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld: 1930 – 1956), Thursday 13 March 1941, page 27 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76252039

Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld : 1885 – 1954), Thursday 3 April 1941, page 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61488169

————–

[i] Rockhampton Diocese (1941, March 6). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895-1942), page 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106424907.

A near miss in Coolangatta: Sepia Saturday 243

Sepia Saturday 243This week’s Sepia Saturday 243 is one of those topics where a personal theme leaps to mind. Every family has its story traditions and family anecdotes, perhaps even about get-rich schemes and near misses.

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

All my life Dad used to tell the story of “the one that got away” in our family. My grandfather who I’ve written about before, worked for the railway all his working life. At one stage, perhaps around 1900-1910, he worked on the rail line that went from Brisbane city to the interstate border at Coolangatta. I don’t know about other countries, but here in Oz, a twin town (as opposed to towns twinned with overseas), is one that has a matching town on the opposite side of the (state) border. Coolangatta is one such town, sitting right on the border of Queensland while across the Tweed River sits its twin, Tweed Heads. One of the quirks of these twin towns becomes obvious with the start of daylight saving each year. Queensland doesn’t “do” daylight saving (no, I’m not going there with that topic!) so for six months or so, Coolangatta is 30 minutes behind Tweed Head. Could be handy if you urgently need shops which close promptly at 5pm.

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Dad told me that while Grandad was working on the Gold Coast railway line they used to fish for stingrays in the river using star pickets…those long metals poles with three sides. Personally I think that was a bit unfair on the fish, to say the least, but it is still a part of local lore.

But the one that got away wasn’t a monster fish, rather the real estate deal that might have made the family fortune. The story goes that he was offered a beach front block of land at Coolangatta for a tiny sum, £100 springs to mind. Given that property on the Gold Coast now sells for seven figure amounts, we were dazzled by what might have been, not to mention the sheer bliss of living within sight and sound of the surf and the ocean. But it was not to be, and perhaps even if it had, Grandad would no longer have had the money to buy the land that our family lived on for 96 years….the turn of the fate wheel.

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Coolangatta has never been the glitzy, glamour (tarty?) queen of the Gold Coast, that role was left to Surfers Paradise. That didn’t stop Coolangatta’s nearby beach, Greenmount, being a big hit with families as a holiday destination. I recall that we had only one holiday at Greenmount, compared with the several we took up the coast a little at sedate but beautiful Currumbin.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Apart from the attraction of sun, sand and surf at Greenmount, one of the big “pulls” during the 1960s was the Porpoise Pool run by Jack Evans at nearby Snapper Rock. It was de rigeur to visit the attraction and see the trained dolphins leap from the pool to catch their fish. (You can see a video here). Afterwards it was almost inevitable to have a photo taken with Sammy the Seal, another feature of the attraction. In this photo of me I would have been about 12.  I remember that rainbow top, which Mum sewed, very vividly especially the texture of the fabric.

Part of the reason our family was able to visit the border towns was because of the railway line. Dad’s annual railway pass made it possible for us to travel close to our destination – an important factor as we had no family car. The lack of a car was unfortunate also because, dare I say it as a loyal Queenslander, there’s some spectacular scenery and beaches just south of the border….an area our own family grew very fond of in later decades… I wrote this story about it a while ago.

It’s always good to know that families aren’t the only ones to have near-misses…Queensland Rail closed the line to Tweed Heads in 1961 and to Southport in 1964, no doubt due in part to the increased numbers of people who owned their own cars. Decades later they had to rebuild the same line to cope with just some of the burgeoning commuter traffic. The one that got away indeed.

Don’t forget to visit the other Sepians to see which beaches they’ve visited or how they interpreted the image.

PS: I’ve just noticed something my sub-conscious may have latched on to earlier. The man in the suit in the foreground reminds me of a photo I have of my grandfather.

 

52 weeks of Genealogy Records: Internal Migration

libraryShauna Hicks has initiated a new 52 week series of prompts, Genealogy Records. We’re only into Week 3 but there have already been some interesting topics: Military Medals, Internal Migration and Probate.

Over the past few years I’ve done several 52 week series: Personal Genealogy and History (2011), Abundant Genealogy (2012) and my own Beyond the Internet (2012). I’m currently signed up for Angler’s Rest’s Book of Me 15 month series as well, with which I’m very much behind. Combined with various A to Z April posts and other daily or monthly posts I’m reluctant to get involved in more as it starts to feel like I’ve got a tiger by the tail.

However Shauna’s topic is a great opportunity to personalise my own stories to her theme so I will probably join in from time to time where the topic is relevant to my own history.  I have such a migration mania that I couldn’t possibly not participate in her second topic, Internal Migration. Whenever I get on the topic of migration it turns into a long yarn, so grab a coffee and a comfy chair, and read on for a while.

THE McSHARRY/McSHERRY FAMILIES

With so many railway people in my family tree, it’s inevitable that they’d be a peripatetic lot. Some moved across vast distances, others only relatively short postings when in their early years.

Image from Office online.

Image from Office online.

My greatest internal migrants would be the Sherry family who arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, from Ireland where they also worked on the railway: the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway line judging on their progressive movement through those counties. On arrival, the patriarch James Sherry, changed most of the family’s name to McSharry. Oral history suggests this may have been to piggy-back on the fame of James McSharry from the railway construction firm, O’Rourke and McSharry.  Who knows whether this is fact or fiction. I suppose it’s also possible that the two families may have been connected but that’s an exploration I’ve yet to undertake.  Whatever the reality it has certainly caused immense confusion when trying to unravel what happened to my own family over the years, especially the mystery of what happened to my James McSharry.

The McSharry family moved from Rockhampton where they arrived, to Maryborough (why?) for a number of years, then back to Rockhampton where wife/widow, Bridget McSharry, settled and ran a boarding house until her death in 1900.

The adult children of this family moved around Queensland in response to work. Early family events revealed at least some of these through death certificates, police staff files, Post Office Directories, electoral rolls, and marriage records.

The eldest son of the family, Peter Sherry, arrived with his family a year after the rest of the Sherry family. Strangely he changed his name to McSherry rather than McSharry. Within weeks of arriving in Rockhampton he had been recruited to Queensland Government Railways and so began his migration around the state. The family spent a long time in Longreach, then moved on to Hughenden and Townsville before being transferred to Rockhampton where they put down roots.

Tracing this family’s internal migration has been greatly facilitated by Trove as it has revealed stories that would otherwise never have been known. I have a full copy of Peter’s railway staff record which tells the bare bones of his positions and postings over the years: a great base for knowing where they migrated internally.

Obviously the children of this family moved with Peter and Mary McSherry in their childhood, but even in their adulthood, the migrations continued. My grandfather James, worked in Hughenden then later Townsville before moving to Brisbane so his children could obtain jobs, or so the oral history goes. Given the move occurred in 1942, mid-war, in the thick of the Brisbane Line concept, I have to wonder whether it was because he was needed to build the railway carriages further from risk of Japanese invasion.

Once again my sources are: railway staff files, Trove, oral history.

THE KUNKEL FAMILY

George and Mary Kunkel, of whom you’ve all heard often, settled in Ipswich after their marriage there in 1857. While there George worked in a number of occupations: servant (pre-marriage), pork butcher and boarding house keeper. To all extents and purposes he was there all the time, after all there were children being born at regular intervals.

Cobb & Co coach from National Library Australia, out of copyright.

Cobb & Co coach from National Library Australia, out of copyright.

It was a court report, that enlightened me differently. While the family was settled, George was also working on the Tooloom goldfields in northern NSW as a butcher. Further reading on Trove revealed that there were regular coaches between Tooloom and Ipswich so plainly he could get home fairly often, perhaps to restock his supplies.

Recently I posted how he’d had a financial setback and this may have prompted their move westward, reportedly working on the railway, or perhaps again supplying meat. The next precise confirmation of where they lived was at Highfields, via the school admission registers and through church baptisms and birth certificates.

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain's Camp at Murphy's Creek.

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain’s Camp at Murphy’s Creek.

A few years later and the family would move a short distance to the Fifteen Mile between Highfields and Murphys Creek where they would take up farming and settle. George supplemented the farm income by working for the railway as a labourer.

Kunkel descendants, many of them railway workers, also moved around south-east Queensland and west as far as Roma with postings as the railway was constructed. One family branch moved to Mackay in northern Queensland and set down roots cane farming.

Records: court reports, school admission records, baptisms and birth certificates, railway staff files, land selection records.

THE GAVIN FAMILY

The Gavins were short-migration people. Denis came from Kildare in Ireland and his wife, Ellen, from Wicklow. They married in Dublin before they emigrated though it’s not known when they each made that internal move.

Bullock dray loaded with wool, Qld 1898. Image from Qld State Archives, out of copyright.

Bullock dray loaded with wool, Qld 1898. Image from Qld State Archives, out of copyright.

On arrival Denis went to Binbian Downs station (per his obituary) as a carrier, then to Dalby, Toowoomba and Crows Nest. Although the distances are short by Australian standards he would have covered a lot of ground carrying wool on the bullock dray from Binbian Downs which is out near Wallumbilla.

Like the other Gavan/Gavin families with whom they interweave, but are unrelated, they remained on the Darling Downs.

Records: Convict records (the Galway Gavins), birth certificates, employment records, death certificates, re-marriage certificates, obituaries, maps, Trove.

THE KENT, PARTRIDGE AND McCORKINDALE FAMILIES

These families were my stay-at-homes. The Kents and Partridges both went straight to Ipswich on arrival as far as I can tell. There they remained until their deaths, though descendants moved around the state.

Highland Gathering Acton Flats: Duncan McCorkindale was a judge of the dancers. National Archives of Australia: A3560, 2882

Highland Gathering Acton Flats: Duncan McCorkindale was a judge of the dancers. National Archives of Australia: A3560, 2882

The McCorkindale exodus from Glasgow commenced with Peter and Duncan’s arrival in Sydney in 1900. Well actually I eventually discovered it commenced with an uncle’s arrival quite a bit earlier. After the death of their father, their mother (Annie Sim McCorkindale) emigrated with the rest of the family excluding one stay-put son, Thomas Sim McCorkindale who’d moved to London. Close analysis of the shipping lists showed that other family members had arrived as well.

Once settled in Brisbane on arrival, Peter joined them, and the family remained there except for country excursions to decimate the opposite in bagpipe and Highland Dance competitions. Duncan McCorkindale moved between Sydney and Canberra where he was part of the teams that built the nation’s capital, and their Caledonian Society.

Records: Trove, shipping lists, BDM certificates, church registers.

 THE MELVIN FAMILY

Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s family was tied to the sea, with generations of merchant seamen. No surprise then that they were born to be migrants, both internal and international.

After the death of his wife, Janet, soon after arrival SGM settled in Ipswich, Queensland where he promptly established a well-regarded confectionery shop. He must have gadded around a bit though because his land portfolio was scattered around the south east of Queensland. But it was his foray into mining that brought him undone, resulting in insolvency and a little jaunt to jail.

Not long after being released from jail, the family moved to Charters Towers which was then experiencing a gold boom. No doubt escaping his notoriety would have been on his mind as well, though the coverage of the trial was so extensive that it would have been known in Charters Towers as well.

Around the time of his second wife’s Emily’s death, SGM started acquiring businesses and land in Sydney and thus the younger members of his family set down their roots in New South Wales. Meanwhile he continued his migrations on a temporary basis, as he travelled back and forth to the UK for business. One such migration became permanent however when he died in London.

Records: BDM certificates, church registers, shipping records, Trove, court reports, gaol records, insolvency records, wills.

THE O’BRIEN WIDDUP FAMILY

I know from my Irish research that the emigrants were keen to follow their own destiny even at the expense of family connections, but the internal migration of Bridget O’Brien (later Widdup) is one that puzzles me.

Bridget (O'Brien) Widdup's grave in the Urana cemetery.

Bridget (O’Brien) Widdup’s grave in the Urana cemetery.

If Bridget was in Ipswich with her sister Mary after their long emigration journey, why did she decide to move south to the Albury area, and to Urana? This has always mystified me, since I knew from her death certificate that she’d spent one year in Queensland.

The possibilities seem to be:

  • She didn’t like the Queensland environment or climate
  • Friends were moving interstate
  • She had met her future husband, John Widdup, on the ship as the story goes so she moved to be with him.
  • Her employer in Queensland relocated and offered her a position elsewhere.

It’s the Whys of family history research that keep us on our toes.

Records: Death certificates, oral history, Trove

So there you have it…the peripatetic wanderings of my families over the years. It has always seemed to me that having made the long journey to Australia, rather than the comparatively short hop across the Atlantic, they were not daunted by further moves if they satisfied their occupation or life goals.

Sepia Saturday 201: History Slips Away

2013.10W.07This week’s topic for Sepia Saturday 201 is houses and fits perfectly with a story I’ve been contemplating for some time. It will also link to my Book of Me stories about my childhood house.

Image from Google Earth, street view: my parents' (left) and grandparents' (right) houses.

Image from Google Earth, street view: my parents’ (left) and grandparents’ (right) houses.

Back in July 2013 my mother sold the house my parents lived in virtually all of their married lives – they’d lived next door with my grandparents for a year before I was born.

Map AG2 40 chains to the inch.

Map AG2 40 chains to the inch.

With that simple move to a retirement unit, all shiny and new, a tiny piece of Brisbane history slipped away. Yes, definitely a piece of my own family’s history, but also an unnoticed change in a near-city suburb. The sale of my childhood home was the final break in our family’s link to the street, after nearly 96 years. In Australian terms this is a quite an extensive association with an area, especially in an urban environment.

Brisbane and Suburbs Sheet S 1917, scale 8 chains to the inch, courtesy Museum of Lands Surveying and Mapping.

Brisbane and Suburbs Sheet S 1917, scale 8 chains to the inch, courtesy Museum of Lands Surveying and Mapping. The Recreation Reserve adjacent became Ballymore Park, home of Queensland Rugby from the 1960s.

You see, back in September 1917, my paternal grandfather was relocated back to Brisbane by the Queensland Government Railways. His railway employment card makes it clear he’d been in Gympie since mid-1911. (I was very lucky to find that card in the old railway offices in Ipswich back in the late 1980s). Family anecdotes tell that Grandad had boarded his young brother Ken with a woman in Kelvin Grove, after all the children had been orphaned in 1901. The carer was later said by Ken to have been quite cruel or at least demanding, but if any of the anecdotes hold water, I’m sure my grandfather can’t have known this or he’d have moved Ken elsewhere. My concern with the stories is that the timelines don’t quite gel for me.

Mackellar Sheet 4 dated 1895 from Museum of Lands Surveying and Mapping.

Mackellar Sheet 4 dated 1895 from Museum of Lands Surveying and Mapping.

At any rate when Grandad moved back to Brisbane he bought a block of land in Bally Street, so perhaps this was indeed were Ken had been living, and how Grandad came to know of it. The Ballymore estate had only been subdivided for resale in 1912 and before that had been called Ballimore – the large block of land where Ballimore House had been remains intact but the house is no more, supposedly destroyed by fire.

A section of the title deeds for my grandfather's first land purchase in 1917.

A section of the title deeds for my grandfather’s first land purchase in 1917.

Grandad’s purchase and title deeds are documented as 13th September 1917 and the block he purchased was re-subdivision 29 of subdivisions 22 and 23 from the original Portion 270 granted to John and George Harris.  The block of land was 16 perches and it was this block that my grandparents gave to my parents after my birth. On 22 October 1917 my grandfather enlisted in the Railway Unit and headed off to northern France.

In December 1920, on his return from overseas, Denis purchased the adjoining allotments, 30 and 31, a combined block of 32 perches block from the woman who was said to have been Ken’s carer. Denis built his house in the middle of the three blocks, but the date of construction is something I still don’t know, though Brisbane Council valuations may help as the valuations should increase around the time of building. My guesstimate is that it was built before my grandparents’ wedding in April 1922.

My grandparents’ house was sold, some years after Grandma’s death, c1980, so around sixty years after Grandad took ownership of the block. It has been substantially upgraded since then, though superficially is recognisable as the same house. I wrote in some detail about it in 2011, as part of the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series, and also here in terms of the red tape surrounding houses. I also worked the electoral rolls over to analyse the history of the street, its residents, and their occupations. You can read the two stories here and here.

1932 Sewerage maps from Brisbane City Council.

1932 Sewerage maps from Brisbane City Council.

I’ve mentioned before that sewerage maps can be incredibly useful – a tip I learned from a talk given by Susie Zada. This area of Brisbane was sewered quite early: the Council approved a budget of £19,167 in February 1939 (thank you Trove!) However the maps themselves predate this by seven years, and since many of the houses in the street are indicated by their names, it will make it easier to link the people on the electoral roll to them, an unexpected benefit. Who’d have thought it was interesting to know where one’s grandparents’ dunny was?

After my parents took ownership of the block initially purchased in 1917, my grandparents’ house was moved a few metres to the right, and my childhood home was built. Over the decades the house was extended slightly, to include a front verandah and carport, and an extension at the rear for a sunroom.

And so, with the sale of all three blocks of land, and the two houses, a link was broken with the establishment of this Brisbane suburb. A small, unremarked part of personal and local history disappeared along with the family’s 90+ year residence in the street. Or as Mr Cassmob puts it succinctly “there goes the last of the originals”.

Meanwhile the mango tree, planted when my father was born 90 years ago, remains sentinel to the family’s erstwhile presence.

This photo of my grandparents' house was given to me recently by my mother. I estimate that it would be in the 1930s as the backyard toilets are still in evidence.

This photo of my grandparents’ house was given to me recently by my mother. I estimate that it would be in the 1930s as the backyard toilets are still in evidence.

There has been a local history published of the area, Herston, Recollections and Reminscences. It adds valuable background to the area’s history something which is lacking for many suburbs. However it also suffers from a lack of footnotes, and a typical omissions of local histories: the tendency to source information from a familiar section of the community. So it’s ironic that my father, who at the time had lived in the area for over 70 years, was not consulted,when he could have added so much.

For example he would easily have corrected what I believe to be an error on page 15, where it is stated that Ballymore House “would probably have suffered several floods before a fire reputedly damaged the interior….and it has since been demolished”. My conversations with Dad confirm that as far as he was aware, the street had never been flooded, making in fact highly unlikely that Ballymore House had suffered flooding since it was on the higher side of the street. The error probably arose because while the tributary of Breakfast Creek is very close in horizontal distance, the height above the creek means any flood waters are absorbed into the parks across the river.

My criticisms are probably churlish given the depth of information provided on the suburb, but it remains frustrating that more could have been added. The wonderful resource of Trove would no doubt have added all sorts of little snippets that would once have been nigh on impossible to find in the newspapers.

Herston, Recollections and Reminiscences, DJ Hacker, DR Hallam, M Spinaze, Brisbane 1995.

Sepia Saturday 192: A life in railway service

Sepia Saturday 192 smallToday’s Sepia Saturday image is “men in braces”, or perhaps working clothes, or newspapers.

In a way my post combines all of these elements. Among my photo collection is a photo of my grandfather taken for a news story.

James Joseph McSherry 1956

James Joseph McSherry 1956

James Joseph McSherry was an incredibly hard worker, having notched up a normal lifetime’s service with the Queensland Railways, building the old red rattlers at the Ipswich Railway Workshops and before that in the Townsville Workshops. Not content to just take his ease on official retirement, he signed up with Commonwealth Engineering (ComEng) to repair 1500 wagons in three years, completing the task (with his team) in two years. I suspect he was a demanding boss probably having high expectations of his working team.

News article JJ McSherry

By the time of this story he was 74 years old and had a staff of 254. Unfortunately the newspaper clipping is not identified by date or name but I suspect it may have been in The Telegraph and would have been sometime in 1956.

It wasn’t as if this was all he was doing either, because as an active member of the Hibernian Society he did lots of carpentry jobs for them and people in need. Even in his late 70s he was painting St Mary’s church West End in Brisbane and the Legion of Mary hostel in Indooroopilly. He was a dedicated worker for the Catholic church all his life, yet on his death there was very little representation at his funeral….sad.

Fab Feb Photo Collage: 2 Feb – Cats, Kittens, Maggie & Cyclones

4 x 7UP collageAnother of my photo favourites! I’m a huge devotee of cats and kittens and have been since I was a little girl, thanks to my father’s equal addiction. All my life we’ve shared our homes with one or more cats. Each one has a special place in my memory. When I was a child, one would always walk to the end of the street with us, and another would come all the way down a couple of blocks to the public phone booth.  Small wonder that Mr Cassmob also met this vital selection criterion for a future partner…neither of us can walk past a cat without saying hello and asking politely for a pat.pauleen norm at picnic bay

A man after my own heart

A man after my own heart

In this early photograph my father and I are in the back yard of the flats where we were holidaying at Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island in 1956. Presumably the kittens just happened to be nearby and we couldn’t resist them. Magnetic Island was one of our semi-regular holiday places, partly because we could get there using Dad’s railway pass, and partly because my mother still had friends there, including her closest friend. I talked about my love for the place in the 52 weeks series.

But back to this particular holiday which has become part of our family’s folklore. You see while we were there in 1956 Cyclone Agnes came through and threatened to blow us all away. The flats were only fairly flimsy fibro buildings with corrugated iron roofs so we were certainly at risk. My most distinct memory is asking Dad to take me to the backyard toilet in the midst of the storm. Why on earth he was willing to do that I don’t know, because I’m sure I’d just have told my kids to use a bucket! I remember the palm trees bending in the wind, like ballerinas touching their toes. Dad always said that the wind gauges at the Garbutt Air Force base snapped in the strength of the wind which fits with the news stories of the day.

Afterwards we were trapped on the island for a few days and I’m told there were no fresh supplies of milk or bread. My memory says that we were evacuated by Army amphibious duck to Townsville but Mum doesn’t recall that at all, so did I imagine it? Soon after we trained up to Cairns where I have a vivid memory of the Barron Falls in full spate, and then travelled to Green Island where the seas were so rough I can still remember the boat dipping into the waves on each side. Story goes that only Dad and the engineer weren’t sick on the voyage. Everyone else was hanging over the side of the boat. Or, as Mum always said, “green on the way over and green coming back”.

R and L asleep at Magnetic Is

Many years later we would take our girls for a visit to Maggie, on a day that was much more tranquil.

On the return trip to Brisbane the Sunlander train waded across the flooded Burdekin River where the waters were lapping the sleepers on the bridge as we crossed. Dad used to say that the fireman pushed away a log that was up against the sleepers only to discover it was a crocodile. A tall tale or true? I don’t have a clue! Mind you, being a fellow railwayman, Dad ofter heard stories that weren’t shared with all the passengers.

Pauleen and cats c1960

Socks' mother was fully-wild, but Socks was the most beautiful cat.

Socks’ mother was fully-wild, but Socks was the most beautiful cat.

This post is dedicated to all my feline friends who’ve given me so much love and affection over the years: Chips, Tammy, Sooty, Tabitha, Pedro, Brandy, Socks, Ginger Megs, Kizzle and Springer. Each had their own distinct personality, but I could wish Springer, my current young furry-friend, would extend himself to a few more cuddles….maybe he’s still in that teenage phase where boys won’t cuddle their families <smile>.

Fab Feb image

Unfortunately Pedro was chased away when we moved to our 2nd Goroka house- by our next cat! We never found out if he wound up as a fur hat or in the cooking pot in a village because we never found him.

Unfortunately Pedro was chased away when we moved to our 2nd Goroka house- by our next cat! We never knew if he wound up as a fur hat or in the cooking pot in a village because we never found him.

Beyond the Internet: Week 47 Police and Railway Staff records

This week I’m writing Week 47 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Police and Railway Staff records.

Archives can be a rich source of occupational records, ranging from publicans to police, railways or business, mariners or teachers. As always which records survive for your area of interest is variable and dependent on historical chance.

RAILWAY STAFF RECORDS

Firstly a word of warning: not all railway workers will have been employed by the government-owned railway even in Australia. Lengthsmen and gangers, the labourers of the railway line, may have been employed directly by large railway contractors such as O’Rourke & McSharry.

Overseas where the railway infrastructure and operations were undertaken by different companies it will be necessary to see if those business records have survived. Findmypast UK has some railway staff records online but others may remain elusive.

The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

Where they exist, railway staff records can be rich in detail. My ancestral ones include dates of birth, commencement of service, progression through the ranks, commendations or penalties, relocations around the region and illness. Some of mine came directly from Queensland State Archives but others were obtained from dusty old card systems in Ipswich long before the Railway Museum was built.

There are also some excellent indexes to Queensland Railway staff and these may highlight the employment of women as gatekeepers or cleaners. It was not uncommon for married women whose husbands had a responsible role at a particular station to take on these duties, or for them to be given this type of work if a husband died at an early age. Government gazettes and parliamentary papers may also list railway workers.

Time does indeed make the heart grow fonder for Qld Rail as it seems the closer in time we are to the person the less likely we are to find staff records. While I have some from my 2xgreat grandfather, two great-grandfathers and my grandfather, my own father’s records were destroyed some time ago even though he retired less than 40 years ago!

Roma St Railway Station -the old shunting yards extended up to and beyond the right corner of this image. Photo taken P Cass about 2006.

Roma St Railway Station -the old shunting yards extended up to and beyond the right corner of this image. Photo taken P Cass about 2006.

These staff records can be used in conjunction with other sources to reveal more detailed information about their specific location location eg while posted to South East maintenance, a man might actually be working in a number of places in that area. School admission records are a great way to track movements within a region. Similarly Trove may provide useful tidbits about their lives.

Other Sources: If you want to know a little more about what life was life as a railway employee, or a member of their family member, this book, Living on the Line, provides first hand oral histories of railway life. You can also search my blog (top right hand corner) for search terms “railway” or “Queensland Rail” for my own experiences in a railway family. Also don’t forget to see if you ancestor was involved with railway operations during either World War I or World War II.

POLICE STAFF RECORDS

 Police staff files are generally even more valuable to family historians than railway staff records (especially if you have policemen in your family!). They include much of the same detail but are more likely to include pages of documents rather than just a card index summary.DSC_1877

I have made significant finds in police files so I’m pleased that some of my family members diverted from serving the railway to the police.

 Character references had to be obtained when applying to enter the police and one for Thomas Kunkel is elusively enlightening. A letter from Patrick O’Sullivan, MLA in Ipswich states that he had known my 2xgreat grandparents “so long and so well”. Had it perhaps been Patrick for whom George Kunkel had worked as a servant in his hotel? Or is this just my imaginings? Ironically nearly 100 years later I would know Patrick’s great-grandson who was the Jesuit priest with responsibility for the Newman Society at The University of Queensland.

Spouse checks: In the old days (not sure when it ended), Police had to obtain permission to marry. They advised the name of the woman they wanted to marry and there was then a character check on that person and her family.  One can only assume that he must have asked his bride-to-be before sending off her name, otherwise the proposal would hardly have come as a surprise!

Thanks to this, I learned that one of my grandfather’s uncle applied to marry a particular woman, whose family provided a glowing reference from Archbishop Dunne, previously their parish priest. What went wrong after that is lost to time, but Thomas never did marry her. Adding insult to injury she married his brother Edward not long afterwards.  Thomas’s performance record had been of a good standard before that but all of a sudden he was going AWOL, being drunk on duty, losing prisoners. Coincidence, I hardly think so.police hat and cuffs

Another relative’s file reveals his problem of “borrowing” a small amount of official money – when he volunteered this information and was repaying it, he was promptly discharged. I can imagine him confessing his sin to the priest and being told to make restitution only to then be tossed out – entirely justifiably, but no doubt distressing for all the family. The timing of this event coincides with his mother, Bridget McSharry, moving to Rockhampton and setting up a boarding house. Around this time or a little earlier, his father, James Sherry, entirely disappears from view – did he desert the family (not in police gazettes) or did he die but his death not get recorded? Was the timing a coincidence? Not sure.

Police staff files are subject to closure periods which may affect your ability to look at all or part of the file.

 Other sources: once again try Trove to learn about arrests or events your ancestor may have been involved with and also look at Police Gazettes or Government Gazettes.

I think you’ll find these sources to be very helpful if you are lucky enough to have railwaymen or police on your family tree.