My thoughts on David Malouf’s A First Place

David MaloufI’ve just begun an e-book of short stories, A First Place, by David Malouf. Absorbing stories written by Australians always seem slightly disorienting, so accustomed are we (or is it only me?) to reading books whose settings are elsewhere. Which came first, the sense that “other is better”, leading to the exodus of much of Australia’s talent, or the relative weighting of other and local?

One story, A First Place, is about growing up in Brisbane and how its particular topography and lifestyle defines not only who we become as adults, but how we think. That certainly gave me pause for thought, and I can’t decide the merits of the case, but is that because it’s part of me?

Brisbane is a hilly city – not mountainous, just hilly, where travelling by car or foot anywhere involves the negotiation of hills. From a large-scale view, the hills are not so obvious, it’s when one is on the ground that it becomes so much more apparent. One of the earliest things a Brisbane learner-driver has to come to terms with is hill starts in a geared car. After nearly two decades of living in flat-as-a-tack Darwin I sometimes forget I have to change gears or use more power when going up a hill. Our geography does change our daily patterns.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Malouf posits that the topography of the city means “it shapes in those who grow up there a different sensibility, a cast of mind, creates a different sort of Australian”. The hilliness of the city means that its residents miss the long vistas of flatter cities like Adelaide or Melbourne. They become accustomed to new views at every rise, and this may make them restless in the absence of variety, as well as precluding a clear map of the mind. I’d suggest it might also inculcate a sense of mystery in the same way that a door into a garden, rather than shut you out, makes you more curious what lies behind…or is that, once again, the Brisbane girl in me? He’s certainly correct that it gives the legs a good workout, especially if you grew up relying on Shanks’ pony to get you everywhere – something that’s noticeably absent from Darwin’s flatness, and the laziness that tropical humidity generates.

He also talks about the river’s unusual snake-like twisting through the city: one of the reasons the flooding a few years back caused so much damage, as it has in the past. Add to that the relative lack of bridges forcing the traveller to negotiate twice as many suburbs as a direct route would allow.  The river conspires to shut off vistas as do the hills, but I think it also opens up a sense of a city of two sides on both banks.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges, two of which are new.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges -the one in the centre is a new pedestrian bridge, called the Kurilpa Bridge (or the Knitting Needle Bridge as I do).

Now that the river has become an active character in the Brisbane landscape with the arrival of the City Cats (ferries) along with the riverside walkways, it does open up the city in a different way. In much the same way as the hills, it makes you wonder (if you don’t already), what is round the next corner. No wonder a river tour has become so popular over the past decades.1113 Brisbane river and ferry stop

The hills and river combine in a story my father has handed down. I often wondered whether it was something he’d made up, even though it made eminent sense, until a friend whose father was also a born-and-bred old Queenslander confirmed the same story. In the pioneering days, the drays would travel across the city along the ridges of the hills when the river was in flood. My father did much the same when my cousin’s house was in imminent risk of flooding back in 1974, helping him to get his belongings up to the ceiling before the flood hit (reaching very close to the ceiling – two floors).

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane's heritage sites.

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane’s heritage sites.

As Malouf says, Brisbane has a radial design, striking out from the city centre. In the days when few families had their own car, this meant that setting out on a journey could make two suburbs seem immeasurably far apart, and mystifyingly disconnected. This is how I experienced visits to my grandfather at Buranda from Kelvin Grove, or family friends at the outside reaches of Mt Gravatt. It wasn’t until we acquired a car, or until I travelled more by car, that the geography of the city started to make sense in a quite different way. The CBD of the city may be suitably laid out in grid-fashion (and flat) but not the rest of the place. Motorways (and bus lanes) cut through suburbs like knives now, but the new tunnels and underpasses generate a lack of knowledge of the landscape above, until one pops out, bandicoot-like, at the other end, hopefully in the right place, or somewhere you recognise and can navigate from.

Although not in a very hilly street, the home my grandparents lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Although not in a hilly street, the home my grandparents once lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Malouf also has a theory that Brisbane’s tree-house-like homes, built on stilts to accommodate the hills and introduce breezes, affect the psyche of those who grew up there.  His argument is that their openness, with doors always ajar, introduce an element of not-seeing, not-hearing as appropriate to the circumstances. The timber of the building moves in a way that brick structures do not, and are more vulnerable to climate as well as protecting the family from it. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with his thesis on the effect of Brisbane (or more accurately, tropical, housing). It seems predicated on a particular type of house, the old Queenslander with its encircling verandahs rather even than post-war timber housing, and certainly not on the more modern brick bungalow or two-story house. On the other hand, doors are only shut here because of air-conditioning so perhaps he has a point.

“Under the house” is a different world from that above where all serious living takes place. Home of the household washing machine, tubs, wringer or boiler, Dad’s workbenches and the kids’ play area, it has a sort of wondrousness about it as well as a daily practicality. It offers the chance to explore what Malouf calls “a kind of archaeological site”, hosting as it does all sorts of odds and ends that have found their way to rest there, as well as on-going practical items. This space certainly features prominently in my childhood memories of both my own home and that of my grandparents next door. I used to love using my grandfather’s vice to crack the Queensland nuts (now known as macadamias) which grew on our tree. Usually enclosed by timber battens, “under the house” is both open and yet secure. Surely this experience is different from those for whom a basement may serve similar functions?

Malouf asks himself “what habits of mind such a city may encourage in its citizens, and how, though taken for granted in this place, they may differ from the habits of places where geography declares itself at every point as helpful, reliable, being itself a map”. I suspect it gives your internal GPS such good training that ever after you are more able to understand other places.

The Brisbane River approaches the city from the west.

The Brisbane River flows out to Moreton Bay -you can see the Gateway Bridge here, dwarfed by altitude. Very kind of the pilot to take the river and city route that particular time -doesn’t happen frequently, and then you have to have the camera ready too.

If a good writer’s goal is to make one think, and challenge our internal assumptions, then Malouf has achieved this for me today.

Have you thought about the impact of the geography of where you grew up? Do you think it has affected how you see the world psychologically and emotionally, your habits and sense of the world’s geography.

Book: A First Place, David Malouf. Random House 2014. A collection of personal essays and writing from David Malouf to celebrate his 80th birthday. This includes the following short story: A First Place. 1984 Blakelock Lecture.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

3rd Blogiversary: Brainstorming Family Folklore

Today is my 3rd blogiversary and rather than reiterate why I blog, which I’ve written about before, I thought I’d tap into my community of Genimates around the world for some brainstorming on a research challenge.

By the way, if you would like to participate in my blogiversary gift competition, why not pop over now to my blog post now and say G’day.

McDonald family folklore

Now, returning to my puzzle: A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend if I could prove or disprove family folklore that his McDonald family were at Glencoe when the massacre occurred. Being of a cynical disposition my first thought, was “not a chance”! I did say it was unlikely to be able to be proved but I’d see how I’d go tracing the family, working backwards. Luckily I was also given a bundle of Australian certificates which were very helpful. So I set to work determinedly to try to pin down as much as possible before Christmas.

I’d been told there were some likely trees on Ancestry, but being fond of recreating the wheel as well as being cynical, I set forth under my own steam to confirm ancestry. This worked well for a while as I quickly found the whole family’s immigration to Queensland in 1862, interlinking this with the family’s presence in the 1841 to 1861 censuses. The head of the immigrating family was Peter McDonald with his wife Ann nee Gard(i)ner and their six children along with Peter’s brother John.

Peter McDonald family in Queensland

In Queensland I traced the family’s life events through the online indexes and cemetery records and hit road blocks with electoral rolls, wills and school enrolments. Other options would be worth exploring (e g hospital records, land records) but only at the archives in Brisbane. Peter was impoverished at the time of his early death in 1870 and while there is one will at QSA, they have confirmed it is not for this man. Trove also gave me an interesting snippet about Peter’s death. Peter’s second wife, with whom he emigrated, died in 1864 only a couple of years after their arrival.

The Brisbane Courier, Friday 14 October 1870, page 2.

The Brisbane Courier, Friday 14 October 1870, page 2.

Census records

The census records told me of the family’s migration around the UK:  from Greenock (1841) to Bradford, Lancashire (1851) then Bury, Yorkshire (1861). Helpfully my friend’s direct ancestor had been born in London and the parish was nicely specified on the 1851 census and less specifically on the 1861 which took place within the year the family emigrated. I also found what I was reasonably certain was the birth of Ann Gardner McDonald on FreeBMD which could also be ordered.

Peter’s UK marriages

Peter McDonald’s death certificate had confirmed his parents’ names and this tallied with the presence of people with the same names in his Greenock household in 1841 (no relationships stated, as we know). His certificate had also alerted me to his first marriage which I found via ScotlandsPeople. As his second wife (with whom he emigrated) had been born in London like their daughter, I initially checked for their marriage in England via FreeBMD.

No luck there so back to ScotlandsPeople (SP) where I found it in Peter’s home place of Aberdeen, parish of Old Machar. Ironically having just been checking Ancestry’s online trees, I’ve found that Peter’s marriage to Ann Gard(i)ner is also referenced in the English records –the banns were published in April 1848 at St George the Martyr in Southwark, which begs the question of how Peter came to be in London[i]. There are certainly families with Ann’s mother’s maiden name of Sangster in Aberdeen so perhaps she’d been visiting Scotland when she met Peter. Searches for Peter’s first wife’s burial were unsuccessful but that is inconclusive given burial records are the least reliable of all the pre-civil registration records.

Looking for Glencoe

Originally my goal was to go backwards in time, hoping I’d be able to find Peter’s McDonald family residing nicely in one parish for a long time, perhaps enabling me to reach some conclusions about the possibility of whether they’d been in Glencoe in the late 17th century. No such luck! This is a family that moved, then moved, then moved some more. On the up side, they kept gravitating back to/near the Old Machar parish in Aberdeen.

 Peter’s parents

Peter’s father is shown as Daniel McDonald on Peter’s death certificate and mother as Elizabeth Martin.  This is the couple who were living with Peter’s family in 1841. Searching SP and Family Search might reasonably have been expected to turn up their marriage, but despite using wildcards, no joy! Logically they might have married in Old Machar as this was Elizabeth’s home parish. Were they not part of the established church? Did they not pay the fee to register their marriage? Were they married in the old Scottish tradition without a church service? Were they perhaps Catholic….no. Was my search incorrect in some way? I also checked the English records given their propensity to flit around…again zip.

Daniel was also known as Donald McDonald as Family Search and SP reveal the births of at least some of their children. This Daniel/Donald interchange is not a great worry as these are common Gaelic aliases. Unfortunately without their marriage date, and not certain I have all the children (there appears to be at least one gap), I can’t confidently use naming pattern conventions either. Nor does son Peter seem to entirely stick with them with his children.

 Are you still with me?….or have you hit the snooze button …..zzzzz.Snooze

 1851 census: Peter’s parents

Back to the 1851 census: luckily Daniel and Elizabeth were both still alive and living back in the Aberdeen area. Unluckily Daniel’s place of birth looks like Miffee, Perthshire on the census forms (shown the same way on Ancestry and Findmypast transcriptions). Google search for Miffee–no outcome, or anything close. I posted to the Family Search forum and also the RootsWeb Aberdeen forum where someone kindly pointed out that FreeCen’s transcription has this edited as Methven. Try as I will I can’t get Methven from the written form but perhaps the enumerator just didn’t know how to spell it or couldn’t get Daniel’s pronunciation right. One possibility is that it might even have been Muthill?

Extract from the 1851 census providing Daniel McDonald's place of birth.

Extract from the 1851 census providing Daniel McDonald’s place of birth.

 Death of Peter’s father

Fingers crossed I hoped for an 1855+ death for Daniel/Donald…only to miss by a couple of months! So near and yet so far! I did find his burial in the churchyard of the Old Machar parish in November 1854. On the plus side the ages for Daniel are reasonably consistent so I searched SP for Perthshire under D*, and came up with too many hits for confidence. Fewer for Methven, and so I have a tentative birth for him with father Donald (no mother stated) when the family lived at Lonleven (Loanleven). However I would be reluctant to use this as definite. Nor does the family continue to appear in the Methven parish registers for more than a brief period, so it’s unlikely it’s their home parish. If there had been a mother-father/husband-wife combination I might have had a better chance of picking them up elsewhere but with Donald McDonald…..

 Death of Peter’s mother

Elizabeth lived well beyond her husband’s death and after flitting back to Greenock where it appears to be her living with a daughter and son-in-law, Jane Seal*, she dies back in Old Machar parish in 1866 of “irregular habits” – in the workhouse. Her certificate reveals her parents and from this I could find her baptism, but of course this goes nowhere to establishing the McDonalds potential association with Glencoe.

If I were in Scotland I’d be hastening towards the Kirk Session records for Old Machar for both Daniel and Elizabeth to see what they might reveal about the family’s history. Ditto in regard to the workhouse records available through the Aberdeen Archives. Ditto in regard to Valuation Records.

Across the various records Peter’s UK occupations are listed as wool comber (1839), wool carder (1841), file grinder (1848), wool scourer (1851), and machine guider (1861).

What have I missed? Is there a stone I’ve left unturned, a blind spot I’m not seeing? I keep wondering if they may have come across from northern Ireland but as yet I haven’t fully explored that option for which I have no evidence or justification. I’m sure I’ve left some information unstated but otherwise it would be a treatise.

Any brainstorms welcome, please.


[i] Ancestry’s London Marriage records, as alerted by the Wilkie family tree on Ancestry. http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/13694603/person/343643346?ssrc=

No quibbling over Q

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). There really was no quibbling as to what Q was for….

Q is for QUEENSLAND and Q150    

Queensland is Australia's north-eastern state.

Queenslanders are a proud breed, as fiercely loyal to their state as to their nation. Like the little sibling made good, Queensland was formed in 1859 when the former district of Moreton Bay separated from the colony of New South Wales. My own Australian ancestry is almost entirely Queensland-based though with business or kin links into New South Wales.

The arrival periods of my Queensland immigrant ancestors.

Queensland (Qld) celebrated its 150th anniversary of separation in 2009 with many festivities but also many Q150 projects to commemorate the state’s heritage. Believe me, if you were a family historian you had a busy 12 months across 2008/09. I’ve been planning to talk about a few of the genealogical projects for some time and now’s my chance.

GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OF QUEENSLAND (GSQ)

GSQ undertook two projects in 2009.

PROJECT 1 was an update of the bicentennial Pioneer Muster of people resident in Queensland between 1859 and Federation in 1901. This had two parts: the construction of a database from the names submitted in 1988 and an update with new names. Many volunteers work hard to bring this to fruition. So far a CD is available with 12,000 names and it’s anticipated another will be forthcoming.

Pluses:

  • A readily searchable database of names of Queensland pioneers rather than the three volumes which had no doubt been languishing on the bookshelves.
  • The ability to link up with other family researchers.
  • The 2009 versions are likely to contain more information as the internet has made research more accessible. However by preserving the 1988 work, the entries of researchers from the time is also available.

Weaknesses:

  • It would have been great if the database had been searchable by place as well as name. This would have been perfect for anyone wanting to undertake a One Place study or simply to learn more about the people who lived in the same place as their ancestors.
  • CD#2 is still outstanding no doubt due to the sheer volume of work involved.

PROJECT 2 for GSQ was a book of 400 stories about the early Qld pioneers.

Pluses:

  • I liked the thematic approach to the stories, clustering stories of people with similar backgrounds or occupations. This made it easier to see similarities and differences.

Weaknesses (for me):

  • Like short stories, I found it frustrating to only get a canapé size bite of information about families. Limited visuals.

The link to these publications is here.

QUEENSLAND FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY (QFHS)

QFHS’s Q150 project was Queensland’s Founding Families, the stories of people resident in Queensland prior to Separation in 1859. It includes approximately 16,000 names.

Pluses:

  • QFHS had a requirement of proof of residency prior to 1859, making it more stringent.
  • With its focus on Pre-Separation Moreton Bay, this publication complements GSQ’s Separation to Federation database.
  • The stories were limited to three pages which gave the writer sufficient scope to tell the family’s story and add some illustrations.

Weaknesses:

  • None for me but perhaps the book is too expensive and too heavy for anyone who doesn’t want to use the CD.

Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society (TDDFHS)

TDDFHS’s Q 150 project was to gather stories on a representative sample of people buried in the now-Heritage Listed Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. The book’s title was Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery: Our Backyard and it includes some very interesting yarns.

Also worth mentioning in the context of the above databases and publications, thought not Q150 focused, is TDDFHS’s publications of the Darling Downs Biographical Registers: Part I to 1900 in two volumes, and the recently released Part II up to 1920.

Once again, if you have any interest in, or ancestry from, the Downs these publications are well worth tracking down in your local genealogical or research library.

State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

The Storylines Q150 project has only recently come to my attention and it’s well worth a look if you have an interest in Queensland.

I investigates Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld)

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) and today’s post explores interludes in Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld, Australia).

I is for Ireland

As soon as I arrived in Dublin in the late 1980s there was a sense of recognition, a realisation of how much like the Irish we Australians are in so many ways…the sense of irony, mickey-taking, disregard for authority. At the same time it seemed unfamiliar because I’d expected the inflexibility and conformity learned from my life in an Australian Catholic school and church with Irish nuns and priests, and a stern Irish-born grandfather. It was a delight to discover that Ireland was full of joie de vivre and craic (good fun) as well as the darker, more morose side with which I was familiar.

Allihies, West Cork on the Beara Peninsula

Without the urge to learn more of my family history I may never have visited Ireland, and so would have missed out on far more than adding leaves to my family tree. Ireland fulfils so many stereotypes that you’ve heard about: the green patchwork fields, the distant blue hills, old stone cottages, the soft rain, and the quirky sayings and greetings that seem quintessential yet somehow difficult to remember when you leave. Coming from Australia with its wide open spaces and vast distances, it’s easy for a tourist to think “ah I’ll get there in no time” but everywhere there are those signposts that can all point to the same place, via twisty Irish roads that only change how much time it takes you to get to your destination. Despite the number of times I’ve visited I still make the mistake of not allowing enough time!

Beautiful Achill Island, Co Mayo. © P Cass 2006.

Over the years we’ve visited 20 counties and each has its own beauty. Despite my Clare ancestry I have to say my favourites are the rugged, more isolated areas: Achill Island (Mayo), Beara Peninsula (Cork), the wide-open spaces in south-west Donegal, tragic site of many evictions, and the steep cliffs near Dun Choin by Dingle (Kerry).

Over the decades as the Celtic Tiger stirred, and then roared, the social atmosphere has changed. There was cash to splash and everyone was busy, busy. There was a brashness to life, in Dublin especially, that I didn’t really like…it had turned into a typical big city (or perhaps I’d got used to living in a smaller city). In the rural areas people remained both friendly and reserved, much as always. The standard of living had improved which made life more comfortable for people…the decades and centuries of disadvantage were slowly being turned around. It’s sad to think that the Irish people are now going through such difficult times.

Wherever you go, there is that essential kindness and welcome that the Irish share with the visitor. It’s a grand place to visit and if you have the opportunity it’s well worth going. Even if the trip doesn’t uncover specific family history, you’ll get a much better sense of the place and its people, and, intuitively, the loss your ancestors experienced when they left it all behind.

I is for Inishail (Scotland)

Inishail is part of the combined parish of Glenorchy and Inishail in Argyll, Scotland. Inishail lies over the hills from Inveraray and borders the starkly beautiful Loch Awe. The MacArthurs and Campbells are powerful in this area, and history abounds. I’m not planning to talk about that here but if you want to investigate further you might find this linka helpful starting point.

Highland cattle near Cladich, Argyll. © P Cass 2006

My interest in Inishail parish arises because my 2xgreat grandparents, Duncan McCorquodale (various spellings) and his wife, Ann Campbell lived there for about 50 years, apparently having moved across the Loch from Kilchrenan parish. They both appear in the 1841 census, and Duncan in the 1851 census, living in Drimuirk. It took some work locating this little hamlet as it’s rarely indexed on maps. My starting point has been the village of Cladich which in its day, was on the drove road for cattle to Inveraray and points south and west. The long haired Highland cattle are still a feature of the area, and of a local estate. In the colder months, when we tend to visit, the clouds hang low, and the mist filters through trees draped in moss and lichen…dimly among the trees appears a woolly Highland cow. It can be kind of spooky.

Drimuirk by Cladich, Parish of Inishail, Argyll. © P Cass 2010

On previous trips I’d estimated from maps where Drimuirk was located, and taken photos, but this time I was given a great privilege…the opportunity to “walk the land” where my ancestors lived. At ground level, and with local help, I could see that what had seemed random rocks were actually the remains of the rude cottages of the long-ago residents of Drimuirk. Of course I have no idea which of the small handful of house foundations was theirs, but I like to imagine it was the one with the view over the loch and where the travellers could be seen coming over the hills. Afterwards I read the Kirk Session records for the parish, and found a reference to the “small house” of Duncan McCorquodale. The reiteration of “small house” suggests that even by the standards of the day it must have been tiny, yet there’d have been half a dozen people living there at times. You can read my post about it here. I’m forever grateful to have been given this chance to see what remains of this little settlement.

Dorothy Wordsworth passed through the area in 1803, around the time my family came to the area to live. She describes the children of the Macfarlane family thus: The children, after having collected fuel for our fire, began to play on the green hill where we stood, as heedless as if we had been trees or stones, and amused us exceedingly with their activity: they wrestled, rolled down the hill, pushing one another over and over again, laughing, screaming, and chattering Erse (Gaelic)…[i]Reading this it’s so easy to imagine my own great-grandfather playing with his siblings in this way.

Genie tip: when searching for Inishail, also try spelling it as Innishail, especially in archive searching, which will add to your results.

I is for Ipswich (Queensland, Australia)

View over Ipswich, March 2012, with St Mary's Catholic church prominent. © P Cass 2012

Ipswich is the place where my Melvin, Partridge, Kent and Kunkel families first settled in Australia. New immigrants would sign work contracts and then travel by boat up the river system to Ipswich from where they  would be dispersed to the most distant reaches of the Moreton Bay settlement, as happened with my Gavin family and most of the Dorfprozelten immigrants who came to Moreton Bay. No doubt the employers were keen to keep them on the move before the immigrants had any idea of just what they were taking on, and how very isolated many of them would be.

Those who came to Ipswich to live and work arrived in a small but bustling town with minimal, but developing, infrastructure. They quickly became part of the social fabric of the community and could, if they wished, make their mark there. William Partridge worked as a carpenter, George Kunkel ran a boarding house in Union Street with his wife Mary and also a pork butcher’s establishment, before they moved west with the railway construction. Richard Kent was an older man when he arrived and remained a labourer as far as I can tell, though he’d run a public house in England. Stephen Melvin arrived later, in the 1870s, and before long was establishing himself with a well-regarded confectionery shop(s) and factory.

My families were on opposite sides of the religious divide with the Kunkels attending St Mary’s, the Catholic church, and the others associated with the Anglican or Methodist churches at different times. Despite this it would have been difficult for the Kents, Partridges and Kunkels not to be aware of each other in such a small community through the 1850s and 1860s.

A well preserved Ipswich home.

One of the interesting things about doing family history from those early days of Moreton Bay/Queensland, is how often you come across someone whose ancestry lies in the same places as yours…not all that difficult when the European population was so small. I wonder from time to time, whether these distant links are part of why we instantly “click” with some people and others, without doing a thing, get our backs up. It intrigues me that much the same thing can happen with people whose names I find bobbing up in the overseas parish registers of my families…kind of weird really.

Ipswich for a long time was a coal mining town and continued to be a place where new immigrants could afford to settle. Ipswich suffered in the 2011 floods, a history which has repeated itself over the centuries. These days it’s throwing off its former social disadvantage and promoting its history, of which there’s a wealth. If you ever want to see fantastic examples of vernacular Queensland architecture, Ipswich is the place to go. Perhaps precisely because it was economically depressed for quite a while, there are wonderful examples of old Queensland homes with deep verandahs, mostly set on stilts to keep them above the flood waters.

I’m looking forward to having more time in the future to re-explore Ipswich and its historical treasures: the churches, the railway workshops, the architecture and the cemetery.

I ships for East Clare immigrants

Irene (1852) [7] + 7 from Ennis; Ironside (1863) [9] and Ida (1864) [9]

A to Z 2012 Challenge

My nod for today is Catherine Noble’s blog about writing. I especially liked “D for Dedication”.


[i] http://www.ourscotland.co.uk/ebooks/recollectionsweek3.htm. Recollections of a tour made in Scotland AD 1803 by Dorothy Wordsworth. August 31st, 1803.

Second Gavin Sighting in Dublin….Shocked speechless

There I was Dutifully writing my D is for Dublin post and reflecting on my Gavins and their links to Dublin, Davidstown and Dalby. “Perhaps I should have another look at Irish Genealogy”, I thought to myself, “in case new records have been uploaded”. Well, there hadn’t been, but I put in a search for “Denis Gavin Dublin” anyway and was stunned into silence when a marriage entry came up for a Dionysius Gaven and Elleanora Murphy at St Nicholas in Dublin! Heart beating, afraid to believe it really might be mine, I thought I’d best check that Dionysius was indeed the Latin form of Denis. Google took me to a Flemish (!)-Latin translation and, instinct confirmed, I clicked to see the original entry in the church register. No place of origin, occupation or parents but I have no doubt this is their marriage as Ellen appears as Eleanor in her immigration record[i]…perhaps that’s how the priest certified their application for emigration assistance.

The witnesses to their marriage on 23 February 1851 were Jacob and Maria Hughes (so possibly James and Mary Hughes, or indeed Jacob and Maria). Given their names were written this way I’m working on the assumption that they were a couple. I’ve not come across their names in other family references so perhaps they were friends rather than family…but worth keeping an open mind. I also checked to see if they had witnessed Mary Gavin’s baptism at St Catherine’s Meath St…but no, that was a Rose Moorehouse.

So which church of St Nicholas was this? So far I’ve had a preliminary skirmish through Google etc etc, and have reached the tentative conclusion that it was St Nicholas of Myra rather than St Nicholas Without. However I’ll need to do more thorough research to be confident of having reached this conclusion.

Let’s assume for the moment that it was St Nicholas of Myra in Francis Street. This church is only a few blocks from St Catherine’s Meath St, which was recently gutted by arson, and where Denis and Gavin’s first child, Mary, was baptised 10 months after their marriage. (Another detour, this church was supposedly built in 1852, so was this where she was baptised?) Although there’s nothing to say where the Gavins were living specifically, it’s probably safe to assume it was somewhere close to both these churches. This meant they were living in the Liberties of Dublin, which one site suggests was a locus for those fleeing the Famine…obviously I have some more homework to do.

One thing leading to another, as it does with family history, I discovered that the parish church of Davidstown was erected after Ellen left, and that she would have belonged to the parish of Dunlavin…I’ll grant you these things are ever so much easier to discover on the internet. Dunlavin parish is now part of St Nicholas of Myra so it leads us full circle. More research and more homework and they even have a family history link on their web page. Alleluia!

I confess that I haven’t always put as much effort into this family after my early years of Irish research: my 1992 visit to the Wicklow Heritage Centre and the church at Ballymore Eustace had proved expensive (former) and futile (both).  Tempting leads disintegrated as I explored them, and Dublin was just a challenge too far pre-digitisation and indexation. Foolishly I had thought that Denis and Ellen had moved there not too long before emigrating but how wrong I’ve been proven to be. All of which just confirms that revisiting our paperwork, and sometimes checking our online searches, is well worth doing. Another lead I can follow is that on his second marriage, Denis declares his father to have been a huntsman. This suggests to me that he may have been employed on an estate…again another research lead but one which didn’t leap out at me when I was an inexperienced researcher.

A further clue also leaped out at me as I trawled my Gavin folder: Denis and Ellen had a daughter Rosanna Ellen, born Dalby, who died as an infant. Was she named for Rose Moorehouse who witnessed daughter Mary’s baptism in Dublin? Was Rose Moorehouse a relation after all?

So my participation in the A to Z 2012 challenge has certainly paid off for my family history offering new research paths and giving me a gold-plated “hit”…after 25 years of searching. You can see why I was rendered speechless at least temporarily….I think I needed to wake up and find it was all true…oh happy day! And now I’ve got lots more sleuthing to do as well…bonus!

After a quick dip back into FindMyPast Ireland, was it my Denis Gavin who had a cheque, two watches and wearing apparel stolen in January 1855? Or was this the fellow who was on the Griffith Valuations in the Parish of Chapelizod, Dublin?

SOURCES:

Irish Genealogy baptisms

NSW Immigration records

Queensland birth marriages and death certificates for this family.

On site research of microfilms National Library of Ireland.


[i] The Board Lists on film 2469 (State Records NSW) give more information as to surviving parents and their place of residence.

52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 27: Vacations on Maggie

The topic for Week 27 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Vacations. Where did your family go on vacation? Did you have a favorite place? Is it still there? If not, how has the area changed?

Beautiful Arthur Bay on Magnetic Island, not Rocky Bay as I mistakenly thought.

My family’s favourite place for holidays was Magnetic Island off Townsville in North Queensland. Magnetic Island, or Maggie as it’s known to its fans, was named and “discovered” by Captain Cook when his compass headings were apparently distorted by the island’s geology.

My father got a railway pass annually due to his railway employment so we would travel by train to Townsville on the Sunlander, though it would always be an off-season holiday. Ironically I’ve just read that “the Sunlander was introduced with great fanfare in June 1953….built by Commonwealth-Engineering (Com-eng)”[i]. After my grandfather retired as a carpenter-foreman from building carriages for Queensland Government Railways (QGR) he went on to work for Com-Eng. I wonder if he supervised the building of any of the Sunlanders we travelled on?

It seems unlikely now, yet I still feel sure that the first time when we went up there, it was on a steam train as I recall the grit, open windows, etc…more research required on that. Perhaps we travelled on the Sunlander’s precursor, the Sunshine Express, but I don’t think my early memories are that good. I guess the distance from Brisbane to Townsville to be about 1000kms (actually over 1300kms) but it took nearly two days to get there. We left from Roma Street Station in the early evening of one day, arrived at Bundaberg for breakfast the next morning. We would pull into Rockhampton for lunch on that day and Dad would dash over the road to a superb fish and chip place –one of those childhood memories where nothing else ever seems as good, especially those potato scallops! I talked briefly about this on another post.

Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island with Townsville in the distance in 2008.

The afternoon train trip would be boring in the extreme as we travelled through the St Lawrence area and what I would call open scrub with nothing to alleviate the tedium. Sometimes along the way we’d see the railway workers’ tents where they were working on the line and it was a ritual to throw out the most recent paper so they’d have something to keep them going. With a family full of railway workers this was an important contribution to ensuring these isolated workers were kept in touch with what was happening in the world.
Then towards the end of the day we would pass through the cane fields at Sarina, near Mackay, and depending on the season would see the cane fields being burnt off with the red glow in the sky and the distinctive, not very pleasant smell of molasses and sugar cane by-products.[ii] At the time I had no idea that there was one branch of the Kunkel family living
in the area and closely involved with the sugar industry. I’m not sure my father knew either.

Our train compartment was neat and compact with a basin and three bunk beds: during the day the bottom two would be converted into a regular train seat but in the evening the guard (?) would come and set the room up. The toilet was at the end of the carriage and I was quickly taught the protocol that one must never, ever, use the toilet while in a station no matter
how desperate the situation! I remember too being aware that Dad was among colleagues while on the train. While we usually took some food with us, each train stop brought people flooding into the railway refreshment rooms on the station – another family link as my mother’s family had been involved in this business in the late 19th century.

A nice overview image of Picnic Bay with the new jetty, the old enclosure and with the wreck in Cockle Bay visible. Image 0009650 from Townsviille City Libraries.

On the second morning we’d pull into Townsville station with that typical motion sickness, body-continuing-to-move experience typical of long distance travel. Almost always there’d be friends there to meet us and they would take us to the Hayles ferry terminal where we’d catch the ferry to Picnic Bay, which is where we always stayed. Life was simple then and the
holiday accommodation was basic and usually built of fibro. My mother’s first objective was to ensure everything was pristine and clean and then we’d settle in for a relaxing holiday. There were no theme parks, rides etc etc to be had, just lots of fun in the sun.

My parents climbing up from Rocky Bay

Dad and I would often go fishing either off the ferry jetty or row out in a dinghy where we’d catch magnificent reef fish even though we weren’t that far out. We’d all go for long bush walks to different isolated bays which were inaccessible by road: Geoffrey Bay, Radical Bay and our favourite, nearby Rocky Bay. We’d sing bush songs as we went along and quite
regularly encountered a snake or two along the track. Magnetic Island is renowned for its koala population even today and it was common to see them up in the gum trees along the tracks –though they weren’t all that easy to spot. Other times we’d go on the bus to Horseshoe Bay and collect cowrie and olive shells (makes me cringe to think now, from an ecological point of view). You also had to be very careful of stonefish and cone shells both of which could be very deadly so I learned to keep my eyes peeled and watch where I put my feet. This became the basis of my teenage fascination with shells.

The swimming enclosure at Picnic Bay with the Hayles ferry arriving at the jetty. Image 0009635 from Townsville City Libraries available for public coping.

The most popular bays for accommodation had swimming areas with shark proof enclosures and now stinger-proof nets), though I don’t recall  hat as an issue when I was a child. These enclosures were quite large, and so were like a very large swimming pool. As I got older and could swim better I could swim out to the timber enclosure and walk along the perimeter before jumping back in and swimming back to the beach. One of the nice things about Magnetic Island is that it has casuarina trees and other shade (including an ancient fig tree) along the beach front so that you could sit in the shade without getting burnt, rather helpful with my Celtic colouring.  Sometimes we walked over to one of the bays where Mum’s relations, the Melvins were said to have had a guest house. Mum had also holidayed at Magnetic Island as a child so it was a family tradition really. Friends would come over to the island for a couple of days and visit and we kids would all build sand castles etc…simple pleasures.

The Barron Falls in 2008 but as I remember them as a child.

Life wasn’t always an idyllic escape on the island. On one trip when I was still quite young there was a reasonably severe cyclone (I’m pretty sure it was Cyclone Agnes, a category 3) and we had to stay in our accommodation while it blew over. I remember being very scared and seeing the palm trees “touching their toes”, bending over and dancing in the wind. We were cut off for a few days after that but eventually they sent in Army amphibious ducks to take people off the island because the ferries couldn’t get across. On that particular trip the north had masses of rain and I remember the Barron Falls in full flood when we visited my aunt in Cairns just after the cyclone. Then on the train home, with the Burdekin River also in flood, I have a distinct memory of the river lapping at the railway sleepers while the Sunlander crept its way across…some years ago I came across a photo of this crossing: the driver must
have had nerves of steel.

Maggie is still there of course and while parts of it seem lost in time, other parts have become very glossy and upmarket. Nelly Bay which in the earlier 20th century was a resort area, then in my time a rather unimpressive mangrove-y bay, is now the ferry catamaran terminal with high-class resort apartments right on the water overlooking the terminal. A sad reminder of the hazards of early Queensland immigration, the gravestone of little James Dryden on Magnetic Island.The open-air bathroom design means you need to make sure that you time your shower when the ferry’s not due or you’ll frighten the tourists! Some of the formerly deserted and isolated bays have been opened up, not really a good thing as the construction work has savaged the landscape. However the island is heavily treed and there are still many koalas and birds. Picnic Bay, once a hub of activity for the island, has become a sleepy backwater since it lost the ferry.

The island remains incredibly popular with Townsville people for weekends and holidays and is even within commuting distance. It also has an active backpacker presence. Are the changes for the best? I don’t really know, but those childhood memories are precious reminders of how things were once upon a simpler time.

This gravestone reminds us though, that times were not simple in the early days of Queensland’s immigration. James was the son of Andrew Dryden and Elizabeth Lilico. They had another seven children born in Queensland (Brisbane and country) including another child called James McVane Dryden who was born in 1890. Jim Fleming has published his great-great grandfather’s diary from this voyage – it certainly seems to have been an exceptional and dramatic journey, including a reference to little James’s death and tales of near-mutiny and quarantine. One’s heart goes out to these poor immigrants on such an horrendous start to their new life in Australia.


[ii] Graeme Connors has a great song, Let the Canefields Burn, on the difficult life on the cane fields relevant to family history as well. This YouTube video has images of the burn-off.