Staring at the Harbour

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(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.

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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

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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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A Notorious Gang Member

On 4 June 1870, The Manchester Times summarised a court case that had reached a verdict on the previous Monday. The detail of the article is here. It details the chequered criminal history of my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Butterworth, and his half brother, Edward Lavery!

That was to be my blog post – a description of this one point in Thomas and Edward’s history which had landed them in gaol. A few clicks later and I’m yelling across the room (to uninterested family members), “I’ve found another convict!!”

I thought that the major crime in Thomas’s life was in 1870, the year the article was written. The year he was sent to Portland Gaol. Not so. Thomas’s life of crime was so prolific I can’t imagine how he ever found the time to paint.

Thomas, the son of Robert Butterworth and Ellen Lavery, a painter by trade, was born in c1837. According to the newspaper article, he began his life of crime in 1854 and was arrested almost annually up to 1860 when he was convicted, along with his brother, at Preston for 6 years. This led me to comment to my husband, “Lucky they had ended transportation, otherwise I wouldn’t exist!” But they hadn’t – they were still sending England’s finest to Western Australia and that’s where we find Thomas in 1862. Bound for the Swan River aboard the convict ship, The Norwood.

norwood-1862-inquirer-25-jun

1862, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 25 June, p.4

The records state his name is Thomas Lavery, alias Butterworth. He is 22 years old; can read but not write; he is married with one child; he is a painter; his behaviour since conviction is described as “V Good”, “Good” and “Indifferent” on the voyage.

There is a record stating that he was discharged on the 7 August 1863 and he was sent to Perth. He received his ticket of leave 24 Aug 1863 from Fremantle. In 1864, he was transferred from Perth to the Swan River Settlement. He received his conditional pardon on 28 April 1865. He was employed as a labourer, woodcutter, shoemaker and general servant. A list of his masters is below (as best I can make out):

  • E Perusa w 3/- 07.04.64 Left 29.04.64
  • Entered service of A Taylor at 20/- Left 28.06.64
  • Entered service of W Liddelow 29.06.64 at 20/- ?? (sick?) 28.07.64
  • Entered service of C Pereina 03.08.64
  • Discharged 07.09.64 and sent out (with?) depot
  • There is a note stating that he was sent to York in 1865

How Thomas returned to the UK, I don’t know. With a conditional pardon, I doubt he was allowed. In any case, what I do know is that he is appearing in front of a magistrate again in 1870 (having hooked up with his brother and mates) and is sent to Portland Gaol where he is listed in the 1871 census.

What happened after Thomas was sent to Portland Gaol? I used to think that he had died in prison however, a discharge document for a man named “John Jones” grabbed my attention. John Jones is being released from Parkhurst Gaol in 1889 (he had been sentenced in 1880) and hailed from Birmingham. The side note states that his alias is Thomas Butterworth and sometimes Lavery. His occupation is a painter.

I still need to work out the rest of his chequered life – I doubt that it will be an easy task. He was a man who spent the majority of his life in gaol.

A man who unlikely knew his son nor saw his wife again.

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Letters to “Gentlemen”

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On my deck …

I have been busy trying to find details of an illusive ancestor George Brown in Durham when I randomly began searching for Reuben Miles at the British Newspapers webpage. Voilà! Reuben was a writer!! Better still, so was his wife, Elizabeth.

I know very little about Elizabeth Groves, the wife of Reuben Miles. Now I know she was obsessed with mushrooms and was an avid commentator on the local market scene.

Elizabeth Groves was the daughter of John Groves, a possible chair maker, and was born in c1830 in Bristol. In the 1851 census, Elizabeth is living in Clifton Road with her two sisters, Mary & Anne, or employed as Stay Makers. In 1851 she married Reuben Miles, a gardener who later became a potato dealer. The couple had four (known) children: Reuben, Elizabeth, Thomas and William Henry.

In the newspaper archives of 1866 and 1867, I have found several letters written by Elizabeth Miles that all begin, “Gentlemen, ..”. She has several letters describing mushrooms and how to cultivate them; she discusses the plight of the potato dealer and developing standards similar to those used by corn and flour dealers. She calls for the implementation of a sack engine for the weighing of potatoes. And then there is the mushroom so large it raised a paver.

There are still many questions in the life of Elizabeth however some are answered in one other letter she wrote to the Western Daily Press July 1867 where she describes the narrow escape a lady and her two children had as a bull charged them in the middle of Castle Green. The lady and her children managed to find shelter in a potato store in Narrow Wine Street – I presume the store was owned by Mr Reuben Miles and his wife, Elizabeth.

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Elizabeth died in 1867 at the age of 34.

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