A Fatal Wrestling Match

Greta CourtHouse

Greta Court House credit: Google Maps

The man John Rylatt, who was injured at Greta last Saturday in a wrestling bout, died in Maitland Hospital yesterday… Rylatt was 31 years of age, and leaves a wife and two children.
– Singleton Argus, 24 Dec 1898

It seems unfair to post a picture of the old Greta Court House as the main picture to a person’s blog post … in this case it seemed fitting. Almost every newspaper article featuring John Rylatt mentions a session in court. In direct contrast to his father, Alderman John Rylatt – the comparison is not favourable when their names appear intermixed in a list of articles in Trove.

To me, John never really stood a chance. He was the corespondent in the divorce proceedings between my 2x great grandparents – never the hero of the story … always the rascal.

John Rylatt was born to John and Isabella Rylatt in Durham approx 1867. The family travelled to NSW aboard the “Earl Dalhousie” and arrived in 1877 when John was ten year of age. The family appear to have travelled directly to the Hunter Valley and settles in Greta where John’s sister, Mary, was born the following year. Isabella continued to have children every 2-3 years until 1894.

1894 is about the same time that John met Ellen Scarlett. Ellen was married to Henry Scarlett however, he had left Ellen to pursue work in Wollongong and later Queensland (possibly due to the tensions between the miners and mine owners and the hopes of the goldfields). While Henry was away, Ellen gave birth to a daughter. By 1897, Henry had filed for divorce having found Ellen cohabiting with John.

During the 1890’s, John was a miner working in the Greta mines – I assume the Anvil Creek mines as there is a record in the NSW Gazette showing a John Rylatt living at Anvil Creek (though this could be his father). This period was also the time of the Great Strikes and the 1890’s depression.

On 23 January, 1894 the following two excerpts were published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate giving details of the arguments on both sides of the conflict in Greta:

Greta Miners 1

and a few paragraphs later,

Greta Miners 2

Twelve months later, the condition of the miners was described in the Maitland Daily Mercury:

Maitland Daily Mercury 21 Feb 1895

Maitland Daily Mercury, 21 Feb 1895

Times were tough in Greta during this time. There was civil unrest in the form of strikes, conflicts between union and non-union workers and assaults on individuals. During this time, John appears before the courts for drunken behaviour, obscene language and leaving his horse to wander in the street – he was convicted of all of these several times between the years 1892 – 1898 and each time incurred a fine.

By the time of his death, he was likely unemployed (possibly due to his father’s sympathy’s with the unions or even his own), with four children and a wife dependent on his income. (Although the article at the beginning states he has two children, it is to be assumed that Ellen’s children, born during her marriage to Henry, were also living with them).

The manner of his death sums up his personality for me … he was reckless, careless and not entirely responsible, in my opinion. He may have been a better man in better times.

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Hannah Allsop

Previous to this morning, the most remarkable thing I knew about my 3x great grandmother, Hannah Allsop, was that she had born 16 children of which my 2x great grandmother, Charlotte, was number 11.

Hannah was born abt 1823 in Geddington, Northamptonshire. (Her death record states that she was 90 in 1910 giving her birth date as 1820; the 1841 census states she was 18 giving her a birth date of 1823.)

Hannah was the daughter of William Allsop, a labourer. In 1841, William is living in the Kettering Union Workhouse in 1841; his wife, Sophie is living with her children in West St and Hannah appears to be living with her aunts and young cousin (although I may have this incorrect).

Hannah sparked my interest again when I realised that Geddington is the home to an Eleanor Cross. The erection of elaborate crosses in dedication to Edward I’s wife, Eleanor, struck a chord in me when I first learnt of it at university. To know that my ancestors lived in a town where one stood – in fact was at the end of the street in which Hannah was born … well! Was Hannah aware of the history or was the cross merely a landmark she walked past each day.

How the Allsop’s felt about living so close to such an elaborate an expensive structure, I will never know. What I do know is that the family were poor and had been for generations. Hannah’s father, William is living in the Kettering Workhouse in 1841. Hannah’s mother, is living with her grandson in 1851 and described as a pauper. Her great grandfather’s baptismal record states that the family were poor in 1702.

No wonder that Hannah and her husband, John, decided to emigrate to South Australia in 1848.

In the biography I wrote on John West, I described the area in which they settled in South Australia. It was populated by the ‘rough and ready’.

Hannah was pregnant for roughly 35 years of her life her eldest child was born in 1845 prior to them leaving England. Her last, was born after 1879. In notes that I have received from another descendent, Hannah is described as a midwife – what better profession to adopt as she obviously had the experience.

With so little on record, beyond the vital statistics of herself and her children, it is difficult to surmise what Hannah thought of her new environment. Whether the infinite blessings we take for granted were recognisable in the new colony. Whether she missed the culture and landmarks of her home or was happy to participate in the building of a new one.

 

 

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Staring at the Harbour

IMG_3458

(photo my own)

Sydney Harbour is possibly my favourite place to just sit and be. I love the smell, the air, the peace.

I visited Susannah’s Place Museum in the Rocks earlier this year and stood in a room that I suspect my great, great grandfather spent many an hour. It was a room with great views to the Harbour.

After touring the museum, we asked the tour guide if they knew of the Snedden’s who had operated the store at number 64. They were able to tell us a little of Robert’s last years.

Robert & Eliza likely responded to this advertisement (or one similar) from the Sydney Morning Herald in 1930. They had previously run a store in Martin’s Creek and perhaps wished to be closer to their daughter, Margaret who was living in Botany.

Grocery Tender - Snedden

1930 ‘Advertising’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 17 December, p. 11. , viewed 16 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16739451

I was told that Robert, who had one leg due to a mining accident, lived on the top floor of number 64 (pictured below). The stairs to the top floor are at a steep angle – Robert would have been unable to manoeuvre them without assistance. In essence, he was trapped staring either at the street below or across the rooftops to the harbour. Dependent on his wife who was running a business during the tough days of the Great Depression.

I imagine in these circumstances, the harbour loses much of its appeal – although it must have been interesting to watch the Sydney Harbour Bridge take shape.

IMG_3414

64 Gloucester St (photo my own)

In the year of Robert’s death, Walter Jago romanticised Gloucester Street in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Old people at their windows, with the last rays of life meeting the morning sun, see the younger people go by. Occasionally one stops. There is a gift from a better-to-do neighbour; a cloth-covered tray. Such a tray is always beneficent; the white, smoothly ironed cover inspires anticipation, quickens the heart, and evokes gratitude. The formality of bellringing is unnecessary; the windows open to the street; the people outside brush past the people inside or stop to greet them, When they brush past they do so in a sociable fashion, without envy or disdain. There is no class-pride in this street, for here is the equality of heart; here is the outer church of humanity; here is the flesh and blood of self-cultivation.” 

(1934 ‘GLOUCESTER-STREET.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 5 October, p. 17. , viewed 16 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1713)

In July 1934, the following advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Snedden Selling SMH 6 Jul 1934

1934 ‘Advertising’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 6 July, p. 17. , viewed 16 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17080425

On 31st March, Robert had passed away. His death certificate states that he had been suffering from endarteritis obliterans (an inflammation of the artery wall so says Google) for ten years and a died of a stroke an hour before.

The death certificate says that the informant was Alexander Snedden whose address is also given as 64 Gloucester St. I like to hope that he was living with them and assisting his parents in his father’s last days.

 

 

 

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New Horizons in New Tiers

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Clematis growing by the fence

Once upon a time in a classroom far away, a classmate of mine explained how Adelaide was superior to the eastern states as it had not been colonised by convicts. Kim being Kim, I couldn’t let this pass without comment and pointed out that the lack of a convict settlement did not lead to a heritage devoid of a criminal past as the Adelaide Hills had been populated by escaped convicts and other unsavoury characters. Being declared correct by the nodding of the teacher’s head was icing on a delicious cake.

Fast forward several decades, and I find myself googling a town called New Tiers as this is the area my 3rd great grandparents were living in the 1850’s. Google also illustrated that in 1990 my family were living 11kms from where they settled.

The Tiers were described in this 1935 article:

“The Tiers were the rendezvous of some rather ‘tough guys.’ Ticket-of-leave men from New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land (engaged there felling stringy-barks, and cutting posts, rails and palings), out and out cattle stealers, escaped prisoners, and rough but honest bushmen, all helped to comprise the tough class known as the ‘Tiersmen’.
(1935 ‘“THE TIERS.”’, Sport (Adelaide, SA : 1911 – 1948), 3 January, p. 2. , viewed 31 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216264103)

John and Hannah West arrived in South Australia aboard The Marion in 1849. Initially they lived in an area called Fourth Creek. Four years later they were living in The Tiers. I can only assume that the West’s were rough but honest bushmen as there is no evidence to suggest any of the other possibilities listed above. The family lived in the Adelaide Hills (in the Tiers and Norton Summit) for the next 36 years where they raised 15 children.

In Cottingham, Northamptonshire, John’s occupation was that of a sawyer as was his father’s – the only two in Cottingham !! After marrying in Hannah in 1845, the couple settled in Geddington where two children were born to the them. The eldest, Henry died at 3 months.

Throughout the 1840’s there were articles in the Northampton Mercury discussing emigration to the Australian colonies. In Nov 1849, the Bishop of Adelaide wrote a letter to the Guardian providing detail of what new emigrants to Adelaide could expect:
(1849 “EMIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA”, Nothampton Mercury, 24 November, p. 2., viewed 31 Dec 2016, http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0000317/18491124/014/0002?)

  • an emigration would meet with them upon arrival and evaluate their “condition and discipline”, provide guidance as necessary as well as provide them with a fare to Adelaide if the arrived destitute
  • housing is available in Port Adelaide where passengers fail to procure accommodation before being forced to leave the ship (generally after 14 days)
  • passengers can look for employment at the Colonial Labour Office
  • he advised against arriving penniless however, noted that wages remained high and “there is no fear of starvation” and cautioned that South Australia “is no place for weak or unskilled labourers”

I can only imagine that emigration to Australia was a hot topic and this is how John and Hannah learnt of it as neither could write and it is possible they could not read either.

John and Hannah were government emigrants so we can safely assume that they were “sober, industrious, of general good moral character and have been in the habit of working for wages.” (http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/SAassistedindex.shtml).

Unfortunately, that is all I know about John and Hannah’s life in Australia. John died in 1889 and twenty-one years later, Hannah died in Hahndorf.

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Uncle Boop Boop

My great uncle, let’s call him Chuckles, died on Nov 23rd this year. If one was to search the internet for a hint of the man, you would be left with the distinct impression that his only achievement in life was marrying my aunt. However, if you dig a little deeper, you do find glimpses of him and they hint at the full and fascinating life he led.

You will find a photo of him as a bombardier during WWII, newspaper articles describing his time as a journalist in Moscow, a picture of the back of his head at a printing show and, in the records of Ancestry, old high school yearbook photos.

To our family, he was my aunt’s husband and, as a child, the closest I had ever been to anyone foreign. I viewed the two of them as exotic – creatures that flew in every couple of  years for Christmas with presents for all – much more exciting, in some ways, than Santa Claus (although we still loved Santa). He had some weird quirks, was a little distant … and then I would run off and play with my cousins.

Later when my husband and I visited, and later moved, to New Jersey, we had the opportunity to spend quality time with him and, in my mind, this is when Chuckles came to be more than a two dimensional childhood uncle. I saw him in his own, relaxed space. In the town that he loved I was able to get to know him.

He was a man that I rarely asked for an opinion as he would give it with an honesty I was unprepared for. Which meant that when he tasted my first ever Thanksgiving turkey and said that it was good. Well!!! I couldn’t have been more pleased if I had won MasterChef.

Chuckles had a special affection for my children and enjoyed spending time with them. He and my aunt were substitute grandparents for the kids while we were in NJ … and boy, did they lap it up! A walk in the city would always find us in Central Park, on the carousel, followed by ice-cream. Chuckles was never one to shower the kids with toys however, they both knew who to ask for ice-cream. I never heard him say no and there were always supplies in the fridge when we visited.

He noticed their growth in height and marked it by their ability to navigate the dining table in their apartment. When we first arrived, my daughter could walk straight under (and did). As she grew, she still walked under but had to tilt her head to the side. He was a man of detail who loved observing and would say “boop boop” to them as they toddled around.

My memories of Chuckles are not complete without a mention of his folder of takeaway menus. I don’t know that I have ever been so impressed with anything so mundane. The first time it was pulled out was so that I could “organise” dinner. I expected to be handed a pile of menus as they were found from the “junk” drawer. What I received was a folder with each menu in its own sleeve. He then marked our selections to help inform us for next time. To my mind – simply brilliant. To his – logical. It was inspiring – yet not so inspiring that it changed my habits.

Chuckles was a man who loved to scrapbook. He compiled a collection of every article written on my aunt that chronicles her career. I can not even begin to imagine how many periodicals and newspapers he subscribed to and suspect that it was immense. I remember arriving one day to the news that my aunt’s name had appeared in a crossword (from memory, the New York Times). He was so amused and considered that she had officially “made” it.

During our time in NJ, I would frequently receive newspaper clippings in the mail from Chuckles. They would always be on a topic that he thought I would be interested in. They would arrive in the same style of envelope (Chuck Style?) with beautiful calligraphy denoting that the contents were for me. And there would always be more than one stamp. A letter from Chuckles was like a beautifully wrapped gift.

Each Christmas, we would receive a Chuckles made Christmas card telling us what the New Year would bring. Chuckles printed these himself on his own press and distributed them far and wide. Inside would be a slip of paper succinctly detailing what had occurred in his and my aunt’s year. For those keen to know – 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.

Chuckles was very supportive of my efforts to document my family history. He provided me with style guides, resources, data collections and biographies that he (and others) had written. I once asked him if he had a timeline of his life and his career. Unfortunately no.

This piece I have written is not a timeline, it is not a biography nor is it a full picture. It is one girl’s reflection of a man she had the pleasure of knowing. He was quirky, interesting, and thoughtful. A man who’s company I enjoyed.

He’ll be missed.

Boop Boop xxx

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Racing at Kedron Park

james-rylatt-death

Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 2 June 1929

It seems fitting today, Melbourne Cup Day, to write what I know of my 2nd great uncle, James Rylatt.

James Rylatt, the son of my great, great grandmother by her second husband, was a jockey in the 1920’s. He died on 1 June 1929 due to injuries sustained during a race at Kedron Park.

An enquiry was held into the circumstances of James’s death. It was ruled an accident in August 1929 (Bowen Independent, 13 Aug 1929) although allegations were made that jockeys were placing bets and interfering with horses during the race.

A summary of the trial was published in the The Week on 26 Jul, 1929. In this publication, James is described as a “straightforward rider” who “had not complained to the stewards about being interfered with in every race he rode”. It appears that there was a “ring” of jockeys that regularly targeted James during races.

James was survived by his wife Winifred and “children”.

 

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Trying to Make Sense of it All

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