Alice’s Train Journey Part Two; Northam to Southern Cross 1897

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Victorian Railways photograph of New A 398 leading a B class up Glenroy Bank on the Sydney Express, circa 1900.

Now at Northam, Florrie and Alice were ready to board the train to Kalgoorlie.  They may have been travelling on the newly rebranded Kalgoorlie Express (still commonly referred to as the Coolgardie Express) or they may have been travelling on the ‘mixed’ train which stopped at all stations and pulled freight, so was slower – but much cheaper.

A timetable was published in the ‘Northam Advertiser’ in 1896 which seems to have continued till July 1897.


“Alteration in Railway Time Table.” The Northam Advertiser (WA : 1895 – 1918; 1948 – 1955) 14 September 1895: 1 (Supplement to The Northam Advertiser). Web. 23 Apr 2018

The map below shows that Southern Cross was about the halfway point from Northam to Kalgoorlie.  I have finally found a reference to sleeping carriages.  They may have comfortably slept for some of the time.

Following the railway journey is a convenient way to describe the world that Alice was travelling to, so this part is as much about Western Australia at the time than about Alice herself.

The ‘Western Mail‘ in 1913 has a picture of the Northam rail yards.  Due to copyright restrictions I can’t post it in this blog, but it can be accessed here.

Railway to Kalgoorlie

Railway Perth to Kalgoorlie marking in stops referenced in local newspapers at the time as being on the route. It is a little different to the rail line today.

The terrain around Northam is scrub and low hills. Not quite desert, but no longer forested.  I have only found one description of this part of the journey.  It is somewhat biased, but not inaccurate.
SIR,-That portion of the Yilgarn Railway from Northam to Killeberrin, a distance of about 60 miles, is made to pass over some of the most wretched country to be found in the Eastern districts, being mostly sand plains and some miserable thickets where not even a rat could find a living. The contractor who is building this line has carriages attached for the conveyance of passengers as far as Booracoppin, 51 miles from the Cross, at one pound per head. Fortunately this train does not leave Northam until about ten at night, so that the passengers are not able to see the nakedness of the land. It certainly will be advisable when the Government takes over this line to continue running that portion of the line at night so that strangers may not see what a miserable piece of country they are passing through. When travelling down this dreary line of railway one may cast a reflective glance over the distant landscape and see nothing but a vast sandy desert, and would naturally wonder why a railway was built through such a vile piece of country … This line of railway will certainly be a lasting memento of the errors of the present Ministry, who seem to consider that their opinion and knowledge of the country is supreme.
Yours, etc.,
York, February 5. (1)
There were a lot of stations at which the train would stop only if someone needed to get on or off at them, but Meckering seems to have been a scheduled half hour halt.  Which is odd, it being only 25 miles (40km) from Northam.  Perhaps it was just the mixed train which stopped here for so long.

Hay carting to chaff cutting plant, Meckering, 1933, held by State Library of WA. Some rights reserved .  No changes made.

A ‘special correspondent’ for the ‘West Australian’ in 1896/1897 wrote a very interesting series on the lands east of Perth.  His objective was to describe the agricultural possibilities of the land to encourage pastoral settlement.

DECEMBER 1896:  At the time the Northam-Southern Cross railway was in course of construction, somewhere about 300 men were kept constantly employed.  For many miles they worked over some of the richest land in West Australia, and one would naturally expect that some enthusiasm might have come of them … But they were not of that sort. They worked hard and received their pay every fortnight … No desire to settle on the land seemed to possess them … they were men who had worked at navvying jobs nearly all over Australia. Wherever public money was being spent these men rolled up their swags and went to. As soon as the works were done they rolled up their swags and trikked, as the Boers say, for new pastures where big contracts spelt many navvies wanted. 

Wages are high and the labour market until lately was entirely in favour of the workers. The demands for the goldfields alone brought thousands to our shores. Did
they settle on the soil? Not 1 per cent.(2)
I’ve included that quote to show the demographic that Alice would meet upon arrival in Kalgoorlie, and the discussions occurring at the time.
After Meckering, the train went through Tammin to Kellerberrin.

Kellerberrin. Held by Don Pugh via Flickr. Some rights reserved . No changes made.

This region was still heavily wooded.  A response to the ‘West Australian’ highlights a practice that at the time must have seemed progressive, though with hindsight it’s rather horrifying:
I agree that extensive ring-barking by Government should be undoubtedly remunerative;  but not more than two-thirds of the timber should be killed, and only on every second lot of say 1,000 acres ring-barked, and 500 or so left ; selectors to take a portion of each. Besides, in places where there is much stone and little grass all the timber should be left, so as to secure timber for fencing and fuel, shade, and shelter, and to prevent a repetition of an important mistake, frequently made in the Eastern colonies. (3)
There are very few digital images out there of the scenery on that long stretch between Northam and Southern Cross, but a picture emerges of bushland with occasional farming stations and a lot of wandering men on their own.  There was an Aboriginal population too, some of whom were working for the farmers under what were effectively slave conditions.

 In describing the lands in these districts suitable for cultivation, one is met at the outset with a very peculiar difficulty. The nature of the country changes in a few yards. In one minute one is traversing rich red clay soils, the next he is ploughing his way through heavy sand plains. There is no shape or sense of order in the distribution of the various lands. They seem to be scattered about in the greatest of disorder [but]

this area is intersected by the Coolgardie railway, and has a portion of … rich forest … extending between Merredin and Hine’s Hill. The best way of inspecting this area is to travel by train to Hine’s Hill station, where accommodation is procurable at the railway refreshment rooms located there. The rich lands come right up to the station, but the [best] area begins about two miles away. (4)

View of the Doodlakine Store, Station Street, Doodlakine, Western Australia taken 29 december 2014 by Bahnfrend, some rights reserved under . No changes made.

At risk of labouring the point, I have included another description of the region from ten months later.
There is a new agricultural province opening up in tho east that very few have seen. The men who, carrying blankets, are looking for work know all about it, but the railway traveller who pries no further than the view from his carriage window, sees nothing beyond an almost unbroken line of forest that is bare of grass, monotonous and forbidding. But behind those walls of gaunt eucalyptus that jostle each other for standing room there is activity, development, fruition. The new agricultural province is in the rough, and it is only to be seen under difficulties. There are few roads, no hotels.You should not set out without carrying tucker, a waterbag and a rug. 
At the time of the completion of the Coolgardie railway the settlers between  Meckering and Southern Cross could be counted on the fingers of the hands, if not on one hand. These pioneers were graziers whose mainstay was sheep. They had the whole country side under pastoral leasehold, and only grew crop enough for their own needs, for till the line was made they could not cope to sell anything that could not walk to market on four legs. 
When the Lands Department began to survey agricultural areas there was at first a very baiting response on the part of applicants for the blocks … To-day there are only two blocks on the Meckering agricultural area unalienated, and they consist of sand plain, which is considered worthless. 
… It is anticipated that the Minister … will have the territory surveyed and thrown open for application as Free Homestead Farms and conditional purchases. Going further on towards the Cross there is plenty of unoccupied land at Kellerberrin, Doodlekine, and Hine’s Hill, where some farms have already been established, and fruit trees and vines are doing well, particularly in the vicinity of soaks. But at present Tammin, Kellerberrin, Doodlekine, and Hine’s Hill are to Meckering what 
Meckering was to Northam a few years ago, when graziers had a monopoly of the ground that this spring was green with waving corn. Settlers, as a rule, want to see ground proved before they will go out to new country. (5)
After Kellerberrin came Doodlakine, Hine’s Hill and Merredin where the train stopped for water.  It’s hard to tell with all the black and white photos, but Florrie and Alice were passing through an area of vivid daytime colour.  This land was very different to the impenetrable walls of terrace houses they had left behind in England.

Rest area at Hine’s Hill showing the terrain and climate.,_Hines_Hill,_2014.JPGBy Bahnfrend [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons . No changes made.

A resident of Hine’s Hill wrote a complaint to the ‘West Australian’, giving the most intimate description that I have found of this part of the journey:
SIR,-I wish to draw the attention of the heads of the various Government departments to the several inconveniences to the travelling public on the Yilgarn railway. The first Two-refer to is the disgraceful way the Railway Department cater for the second-class passengers. It is a great infliction to anyone travelling eves a short distance in one of tbsir carriages. How must it be to poor women and children to travel from Perth to Coolgardie? No cushions are provided-nothing of any description but the bare, hardboard, as naked and as hard as the cell of a gaol ! The cost of cushions for each train would not be more than £10. It is a common occurrence for the carriages to travel the greater part of the journey at night time without any light, and this gives an opportunity for criminals of desperate character to commit crime. To obviate this I would suggest that relays, of lamps be kept filled and lighted at Hine’s Hill for the passenger trains. The ladies’ waiting-room at Hine’s Hill might as well be at the Gulf of Carpentaria as where it is. It is impossible for a lady to find it unless shown. The waitresses are too busy attending to the tables to show them, and I have often heard ladies asking the men standing on the platform to show them. The waiting room is found by entering, the refreshment room and travelling along its whole length directly behind the chairs of the passengers seated at table, with scarcely room to pass down. Why not have the waiting-room on the platform, with a notice on the door directly opposite where the passengers leave the trains?  … Another question I wish to ask is, Why do not the Postal Department have a telegraph station at Hine’s Hill? The travelling public severely feel the want of this. The passenger train stops half an hour there for refreshments, while at Kellerberrin, where the telegraph station is, the train stays but a very few minutes, and the passengers have to travel about three chains to the office.
-Yours etc,
Hine’s Hill, October 2 1896 (6)
Descriptions of the terrain become more numerous the further from Perth I look.  The goldfields definitely captured the imagination of Western Australians. There is just one more description of this stretch which is worth adding here.
It has come to our knowledge that a deplorable state of affairs exists on the Government railway line between Northam and Southern Cross, and, in all probability, no improvement will be enacted until some disaster takes place. Our informant is a gentleman well known in the city, who has frequent reason to adopt transit by rail over that line. He says that the time-tables have been suspended between those two stations, and it is now a matter of very common occurrence for trains to meet when mid-way between two stations. The result is that one has to back to the station where the line happens to be duplicated, and allow the other to pass it there.(7)
The refreshment stop at Hine’s Hill was the last main stop before Southern Cross Station.  There were still a few smaller stops, but the train only stopped at them for a few minutes.  There are a few descriptions of this section.
Leaving the Bainding Agricultural Area and travelling west immediately on passing the Hine’s Hill railway station, one comes across a salt lake. This will be found, on close examination, to be part of a series of salt lakes from which one of the branches of the Avon River takes its origin. In a devious manner this chain of salt lakes travels south-westerly ,from Hine’s Hill passing immediately under Mt Caroline. Several large patches of first class forest land impinge on to it … Following the old coach road from Hine’s Hill Railway Station and travelling west, a distance of three miles brings the traveller into a fine forest of morrell, gimlet and salmon gum timber … The bed of the lakes in many places is covered with fine salt bush … (8)
The distance from Hine’s Hill to Southern Cross was 129km (80 miles). The track here was reported to be rougher and the danger of derailment greater.  If Florrie and Alice had travelled through the night they would have woken at Hine’s Hill and would now be stirring themselves ready to see the countryside in the dawn light.  If they were travelling at night, out of the window would be a hard wall of unrelenting blackness.  The peak speed of 16 1/2 miles per hour referenced by Mr Piesse in his speech did not apply to night time travel.
After an optimally eight hour journey – which often actually took ten or twelve hours – Florrie and Alice reached the halfway point on their journey to Kalgoorlie. From this point on they were in the land of camel trains and gold mines, prospectors and brand new or half built infrastructure.  They might have been heartily tired of the travel, but it would have been exciting as well.

Southern Cross, along the train line from Perth to Kalgoorlie.

  1. “THE COUNTRY ALONG THE NORTHAM-YILGARN RAILWAY.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 7 February 1894: 6. Web. 23 Apr 2018 <>.
  2. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 14 December 1896: 2. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <>.
  3. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 14 January 1897: 9. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <>.
  4. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 2 January 1897: 7. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <>
  5. “THE WIMMERA OF THE WEST.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 29 November 1897: 3. Web. 23 Apr 2018 <>.
  6. “RAILWAY TRAVELLERS WANTS.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 7 October 1896: 9. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <>.
  7. “DISORGANISATION.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 21 February 1896: 9. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <>.
  8. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 9 January 1897: 11. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <>

Corporal John (Douglas) Brown No. 568 9th Battalion AIF

Warning – this post is a bit grim and graphic in places.

Douglas James Brown of Bothwell, Tasmania enlisted in Maryborough, Queensland under the name of John Brown.  He served for 22 months in a battalion which fought on the front line at Gallipoli, Egypt and France.  During his service period, Doug aka John Brown received no injuries requiring hospitalization.  He was promoted to the rank of Corporal while serving at Anzac Cove.   On 25th July 1916 at Fromelles, France, No. 568 Corporal John Brown was killed in action whilst participating in a planned operation against the enemy.   His name can be found on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France .

Unfortunately I have no photo of him.

Near Bothwell

Near Bothwell, the home environment of Doug Brown.

Doug was the third of nine children born to John Brown and Sarah Ellen nee Cox.  Born on 18th March 1887 in Bothwell, Tasmania, he was known as ‘Jack’ or ‘Doug’ to his family.  His father was a farm labourer and the family moved often between different properties in the region.  On 14 Feb 1900 when he was thirteen, Doug’s mother died of postpartum haemorrhage.   His father later married Esther Cox, sister to the deceased Sarah.   Three children were born to John and Esther.

Doug was close to his elder sister Esther who married a widower with two children in 1903, and he was a strong influence on Leslie and Doris Reading, his new step-nephew and niece.

Doug’s father could not read or write but the Cox family including his mother and stepmother were literate.  Doug and his siblings could read and write, but there is no evidence of formal schooling.  In adulthood, Doug became a blacksmith.

Doug  volunteered with the pre-war 93rd Derwent Regiment in New Norfolk, Tasmania, where he served for 18 months. This was probably part of the compulsory youth training which occurred in Australia at that time.  He was joined there by his nephew Leslie Reading .  Jack then left the 93rd Derwent Regiment in order to move interstate.


Enoggera Army Camp 1914 By Poulsen, Poul C., 1857-1925 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve lost sight of his movements between his leaving Tasmania and the date of his enlistment.  But he ended up at Maryborough in northern Queensland. Recruitment for the newly created 9th Battalion Infantry opened in August 1914 and Doug signed up at once.  Recruitments were underway for both the Expeditionary Force and the regular infantry.  After attestation and a medical inspection, the new soldiers were all sent on to Enoggera where they undertook the rest of the formalities.

In his attestation papers, Doug stated he had never married.  He was 26 years old, weighed 144 lbs and was 5 feet 6 inches tall. He was brown haired, brown eyed and his complexion was fresh.

On 30 September 1914, Doug’s nephew Leslie Reading joined the 15th Battalion in Hobart, Tasmania.  Leslie’s enlistment was against the wishes of his family. Throughout the war, Doug seems to have felt some responsibility for Les.

After three weeks at Enoggera the 9th Battalion embarked at Pinkenbar on the HMAT Omrah for Melbourne.  It was a quick process.  Lieutenant Colonel Harry Lee was the commanding officer.  The commander’s war diary reports

Embarked during morning and sailed at noon. Weather fine. Stats: 32 officers, 999 other ranks, 15 horses


HMAT Omrah (A5), with the 9th Battalion aboard, lying at Pinkenbar on the day of embarkation.Black & white – Glass original half plate negative. 24 September 1914. Public Domain via Australian War Memorial website C02481

Training began immediately.  The men were allocated emergency stations and on the three day journey to Melbourne they undertook fire drills, bomb drills and inspections.  The war diary reports:

25.9.14  Told men off to five stations.  Heavy swell. Many men seasick.

They reached Melbourne on 28th September and anchored at Williamstown.  No shore leave was granted, but the men disembarked most days to undertake marches. In October they shifted into barracks at Albert Park where training became more intense. After a final inspection by General Bridges, the troops embarked again on the Omrah.

Stats:  32 officers 986 other ranks


HM OMRAH By B. Jefferson (Australian War) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This was a journey of five days. They anchored in King George’s Sound near Albany, Western Australia on 24th October 1914.

On 25th October the medical officer reported a case of measles. Just one.  The soldier was transferred to an onshore hospital. Training continued for the rest of the men.  The training exercises had names such as ‘musketry’ and ‘enemy in sight’.  On the 1st November, they left Albany.  This was the real thing at last for this battalion.

The training continued on board. ‘Enemy in sight’ and ‘Sinking Ship’ are exercises referenced now.  The men probably didn’t know where they were going, but they would have realized they were leaving Australian waters.

9.10.14  Message from HMAS Melbourne re ‘Sydney and EMDEN’

This brief entry was regarding the sinking of the German military ship ‘Emden’ by the Australian ‘Sydney’.

On 15th November the HMAT Omrah reached Colombo, giving Doug his first glimpse of foreign lands.

16.10.14 4.30pm Received from HMS ‘Hampshire’ 2 officers, 2 warrant officers and 40 ratings off EMDEN

16.10.14 Colombo  Placed prisoners under armed guard. Capt. MELBOURNE 9th Infantry placed in charge of prisoners. 

The November diary is missing so I don’t know how they spent that month, but by 2nd December they gave the prisoners back to the HMS Hampshire in the Suez Canal.

04.12.14  7am Arrived ALEXANDRIA.   39 Rank and file sent to hospital with measles.

The Battalion reached Alexandria on 4 Dec 1914 and marched to Mena Camp.  The first job upon arrival at camp was always to build it.  The next few weeks were spent digging and erecting structures.

Colonel Ewen George Sinclair-MacLagan was present with the 9th Battalion from August 1914 and would have been a familiar face to Doug by this point, as were Captain Salisbury and Major J C Robertson.  The war diary shows that all three officers remained very involved with leading and training the rank and file of the 9th Battalion.


9th and 10th battalions in Egypt in December. Doug may have been one of the men in this picture.  Australian War Memorial C02588 Public Domain Lent by Chaplain the Reverend E Merrington Australian_9th_and_10th_battalions_Egypt_December_1914_AWM_C02588 via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Day was spent at Mena. Gifts were distributed to the soldiers.

Across that week between Christmas and New Year, three men died of pneumonia. Six men were sent back to Australia as being ‘ incorrigible or medically unfit‘.

Oh how they trained. Every day they performed exercises, marched, conducted drills.  The following two diary entries are the most relevant in this month.

09.2.14 Reinforcements joined. Strength 32 officers, 1039 Other ranks.

28.2.15 MENA  Received orders to move.  Strength 1081 officers and men.  63 horses. In hospital – 34, In detention – 1, Absent without leave – 8, Effective – 1038

The troops marched to Alexandria and boarded the HMT Ionian.  Then one soldier – Pte J M Davenport – was found with his throat cut.  He was transferred to hospital where he later died.  It’s the first indication of fear in the ranks.  There was no inquiry held so they must have believed it to be self inflicted.

After a three day journey,  9th Batallion arrived at their new camp on the island of Lemnos where they built their camp, a road  and a landing stage. Doug’s first surviving postcard home was sent from Lemnos to his mother in early April.


to Mrs E Brown (From Greece)

Dear Mother,

A line or two to let you know I am alright.  I saw Les the other day, he is quite well. Remember me to all.

D Brown

Anyone with a basic knowledge of war history will know what is coming, but of course Doug and the rest of them did not.  Up until 8th April it was business as usual for the 9th Battalion.

Two relevant diary entries:

8th April 1915 LEMNOS BAY Embarked on MALDA

21.4.1915 6.30pm  Received Brigade inspection order.

I learned through reading the diaries that an inspection precedes action.  Things were about to happen.

On 24-25th April 1915, the 9th Battalion made history by being the first Battalion ashore at Gallipoli, where they unfortunately landed two miles further up the beach than intended. The whole campaign is graphically described in the war diary but it is very long.  I’ll pluck out the relevant bits.

24.4.15-25.4.15   11am . Transferred A + B Coy and Hd 2is Staff to QUEEN steamer slowly to KABE TEPE. C&D Coy travelled per transport MALDA and transferred to KESTRIAN en route. The QUEEN arrived off KABE TEPE at midnight and transferred into lifeboats 1am.

The 3rd Brigade supplied the arriving party which consisted of two Bg from each Bn.  The remaining two Bgs landed half an hour after the convening and were to act as supports. It was decided to land just North of Kabe Tepe.  A Co. on the right and land packs were to be discarded and at trench resupplied.  A & B Cos were to take the truck and afterwards to attack a Bty of guns on Kabe Tepe. The Life Boats towed by a Pinnas(?) moved slowly towards the shore and it was apparent that the N? people has …. keen direction. It was discovered afterwards that we were two miles north of the position intended. The landing was effected under rifle fire and the transfer pressed forward. The enemy gave way and the advance continued.  Turkish reinforcements se.d the rush and our troops were driven back and hastily entrenched on a commanding parter.

Turks attacked again about midnight but were repulsed. The Australians displayed great bravery and held on tenuously. False orders were issued by ..? officers. Attempts were made to reorganize the 3rd Brigade 100 men and 7 officers mustered. The Bn detailed at dusk as covering party for troops entrenching Major J C Rokesbon, Captains Miler, Jackson, Ryder, Fisher, Melbourne. Lieuts Chambers, Paterson, Jones, Brasic, Hounded, Major SB Robertson, Lieuts J Roberts, Heyward, Costain and Rigby killed.

26.4.15   Gallipoli    Whole Division considerably mixed, under heavy rifle and shell fire all day and night, all heavy digging is under fire.  Further attempt to reorganize Bn about 1000 3rd Bn … remained above beach till 1pm.  Bn started as No. 2 … of defence under Col MacLagan Lieut Kev launched.

27.4.15 Strong attack by Turks at 10.30 repulsed

And on it goes, relentlessly, day after day, week after week.  There was no break at all for these guys.  Every day the diary is full of new dead, new attacks.  There was no advance. They held ground, mostly, and their enemy did the same.

13.5.15  Continuous snipering.  1 killed 1 wounded. Total casualties killed 45, wounded 286, missing 179, sick 20. Water Barge sunk with 5 days water supply by shells. 

Doug survived.  His nephew Les Reading in the 15th Batallian lost his life in the first charge and was reported missing on 27th April 1915, but Doug was clearly not aware of this.


A hard hitting photo of Gallipoli. This is what Doug was seeing. Southern Trench in Lone Pine, Gallipoli, 8 August 1915 Archives New Zealand from New Zealand – Southern Trench in Lone Pine, Gallipoli, 8 August 1915 [Graphic Content] By Archives New Zealand from New Zealand [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

19.5.15 Heavy attack by the enemy about midnight repulsed and a renewed attack at 3am. Enemy advanced in close order and some reached our wire entanglements.  At 8am the enemy’s infantry had been driven. A heavy bombardment of our trucks took place until noon.  Casualties 16 killed 25 wounded.  Word received in the evening that more large Turkish transports had landed troops.

20.5.15  At 7pm enemy advanced under cover of white flag and stretcher parties and attacked.  Attack lasted till 8pm.  205 Turkish dead counted in front of our position within 150 yards.   Many were on the forward ridge. Killed estimated 3000 with total casualties 7000.  M G Section, 8th Light Horse attached to 9th Bn.

I’m skipping a lot of entries of similar ilk.  Even with all our movies and books about this time it is hard to get a feel for the true ordeal.  I came closer, reading the handwriting of a man who was in the thick of it.  In this month Colonel Lee was injured and Major Salisbury took charge.

31.5.15 Major Robertson returned to duty and took command.  Strength 835 other, 19 officers no casualties 6 sick.  Two were wounded.

The 9th Battalion spent six months at Anzac Cove, a time of constant shelling, sickness and bad weather.  One postcard survives from this time, dated 8th June 1915.


Dear Mother,

A few lines to let you know I am quite well.  Have not seen Les lately.  We are some distance apart. Hope to see him soon. Hope this will find you all well at home, it is summer here and very warm at times.  Can’t get writing material at present.


We know now that Les was deceased. His body had not been recovered and at about this time the family were informed that he was missing.

australian-troops-charging-a -trench-at-the-battle-of-gallipoli

Australian troops charging a trench at the battle of gallipoli. Public Domain via Shutterstock Photo via Good Free Photos

Further selected entries:

28.6.15  No. 551 Pte J Holloway and No. 1533 Pte J Dowd reported on for meritorious service.  Major Walsh and Capt L Jones wounded, latter seriously.  Lieut Jordan missing.   The missing in B. Co. now almost certain to be killed, it is possible that of the 15 missing in C Co, the party under Lieut Jordan, may be prisoners.

29.6.15 Major J C Robertson appointed Lieut Col whilst in command 9th Bn to date from June 1st.  D.O. No. 11 No. 68 dated 28th June 1915. Arrangements made for parties for recovering dead upset owing to a demonstration against enemy.  Secured five bodies early this morning, shipped off boots and clothing.

7.7.15 23 officers and 368 NCOs and Men are now away at the base wounded. The bulk of these have been away over two months.  The Bn has secured no word of their condition, whereabouts or likelihood of return.  Extension of Y tunnel commenced.

23.7.15  Three cases lately of men cutting off or shooting off fingers the intention being to get sent to hospital.  Case occurred today and arranged with … ambulance to keep the man at ANZAC instead of sending him away. Owing to suspected attack men stand to at the waning of moon and daybreak.

On 12th August 1915, Doug was promoted officially to Lance Corporal.

27.8.15 Effective strength of Bn reduced to 21 officers and 598 other ranks owing to sickness.  Finished up new firing line now building forward bomb pits and entanglements. 

Finally came a day they must all have been waiting for. The end of their scheduled period of active service.

25.10.15 6 months service in firing line completed.

Strength of battalion 19 officers, 536 other ranks including MO  Wounded and missing still absent  11 officers 372 other ranks.  Total casualties since 25.4.15 – 43 officers 1357 other ranks including 9 officers and 142 other ranks killed, 1 officer and 72 missing, 15 officers and 462 other ranks wounded, 18 officers and 661 other ranks sick or injured.

They were still at the front, but their activity began winding down.

29-30.10.15 Both days quiet.  On morning of 30th handed over from T6 to Q1 to 1st Inf Bde Composite.  Co. disbanded and returned to reinforcement camp.  The Bn is now holding from Q1 to Q4.

31.10.15  Quiet. Nothing doing. Completed new snipers dump fort. Strength of Bn 17 officers, other ranks 498, total 515

The record of losses seem pretty dire, but the battalion had  received reinforcements twice during that time.  Of the original 1038, they were actually down to about 200.  Doug was one of those.


14.11.15 At 1000 the 2nd Bn (Lt Col Cass) took over our lines. Bn went into Bivouac on W of Artillery Road.  At 1800 received orders cancelling embarkation of Bn.

I can’t imagine how they felt having embarkation cancelled like that.  But it was only a delay of two days. When the orders came through it was a mad rush.

16.11.15  At 1800 received orders for Bn to be ready to move in 15 minutes.

16.11.15 Marched out of bivouac at 19.30, embarked from no. 8 pier for S S Abassiah.

17.11.15 LEMNOS.  Disembarked at Mudros  at 1000 and marched to Sarpi Camp.

And just like that, they were gone from the front, weak, sick, traumatised and exhausted. It should have been a move for the better.


From the collection ‘Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.)’ / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17. via NSW State Library.


Another postcard from Doug. This must have been over two cards but the first one is missing.  He is clearly talking about Les and still does not know that Les is missing.

Mrs E Reading

From Greece – continuation

… but it is a wonder I have not seen him.  I dropped you a PC to your old address a few days before this so you may get the lot at once.  Goodbye from your ever truly brother D Brown

Things were better in one way, but not in others.

18.11.15 Absorbed 8th reinforcements. Began reorganisation of Battalion.

19-24.11.15 Bn employed in easy preliminary training.  Weather very rough and cold.

They were tottering wrecks of human beings at this point and the commanding officers knew it.  This was a time of attempted recuperation.  Were it not for the weather and lack of supplies, it might have worked.

24.11.15 Lemnos   Busy arranging camp.  Bitterly cold weather.

26.11.15 Remaining units of Brigade arrived this afternoon. Bn had route march two miles. Cold gales blowing making work difficult.  Men feeling the want of warm clothing.

27.11.15 2nd Lieut Gray rejoined. Snow falling. Arranged for purchase of 200 pounds of comforts for men from Store ships. Short route march and organizing.

30.11.15  Lemnos.  Squad drill under squad commanders from 1000 til 1200. NCOs class in the afternoon.  Shortage of blankets remediated. Arranging an entertainment committee for men.

01.12.15 Lemnos.  Building stone wall to protect cook’s lines.  Whole camp placed in quarantine owing to outbreak of diphtheria.

They couldn’t catch a break, these guys. But this was the lowest point.

7.12.15 Rifle exercise. Marked improvement in health. Bn becoming much stronger physically.

Highly successful entertainment by NCO and men of 9th Bn in YMCA recreation tent.  Items most respectful and topical of ANZAC and Sarpi quarantine camps.

Doug sent a postcard home in mid December.


Mrs E Reading

Just a PC hoping you are and family are quite well and that this PC may find you.  I am in good order and still kicking and be back for a good time for next XMAS I hope.

Yours truly,

Brother (D Brown)

Doug spent Christmas 1915 at the camp at Lemnos.  The Battalion received orders to move on 31st December.

But since we are only halfway through Doug’s war experience and this is a long blog, I’ll leave it here.

Doug was later promoted from Lance Corporal to Corporal and was positioned at the front in both Egypt and France.  He was killed in action in France on 25th July 1916 while taking part in a large scale operation that went horribly wrong, resulting in the deaths of 393 soldiers.  Had he survived that day, he would probably have survived the whole war.

His belongings and medals were sent home to his parents, who also requested a photograph of his grave.

His death, and that of his nephew Les, had a big impact in the family.  Both soldiers are still remembered by the family to this day.



Diary Excerpts from:  Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diaries of the 9th Battalion, AWM4 Subclass 23/26 – 9th Infantry Battalion via Australian War Memorial website, accessed 25 April 2018.


Grave Registration Report, Commonwealth War Graves website, accessed 25 March 2018

Lt. Col J C Robertson, ‘Report on operations carried out by 9th Infantry Battalion Commencing 19th July’, insert in the War Diaries 9th Battalion July 1916

Family postcards and letters

Alice Head’s Train Journey Part One – Perth to Northam

Back to Adventurous Alice Part Three

Continue to Alice’s Train Journey Part Two

Skip forward to Adventurous Alice Part Four – A Single Young Woman in Kalgoorlie


Bayswater railway station, c. 1900. It must have looked much like this when Alice’s train stopped there early in her journey to Kalgoorlie. Public Domain. Original held by State Library of Western Australia via,_c._1900.jpg

In May 1897, Alice’s contracted year of employment was over and she was free to follow whatever life path she chose.  Looking at her fellow passengers, at this point they scattered far and wide.  Some married, some headed for the eastern states, some stayed near Perth or Fremantle as single employed women.  Some returned to England and at least two seem to have headed to the United States.  But a surprising number of them went to Kalgoorlie.

By 1897 the big gold boom was at its height. Men were flocking to the Western Australian inland to stake a claim on a gold mine and make a fortune.  Gold actually was being discovered, enough of it that confidence remained high.  A couple of very big mining operations were underway.  Little camp towns were rapidly turning into major business centres.

Hastily erected huts were being replaced by large stone buildings. Miners who were not making it rich – as yet –  found work as labourers on the many constructions.  The train line was opened from from Perth to Coolgardie in 1896 and that town became a city almost overnight.  Inns and boarding houses thrived.  Built of bluestone with high ceilings and grand entrance foyers, the boarding houses were cool in the heat and built with an elegance we don’t see today.  They contained expansive sleeping quarters and large dining areas.

Obviously, domestic staff were required and the business proprietors could pay top dollar.  It isn’t referenced in the history books much, but single women like Alice were also flocking to the gold fields to make their fortunes.

The whole enterprise of gold mining may have sparked Alice’s imagination.  Like all other entry points to Western Australia, Fremantle was full of prospective miners heading for the goldfields.  It would have been a heady dose of optimism after the gloomy and economically depressed London she had left behind.

Did they respond to an advertisement?  Was it word of mouth that there was a lot of work there?

Florrie and Alice Head, Jean Christison, Jessie Gray and Margaret Brown all went to Boulder via Kalgoorlie. There may have been more of them.
Elizabeth Troup married Henry Ernest Wilkinson in Perth in 1897, but then she and Henry also went to Boulder.  Perhaps the seven of them traveled together.
Perth to Northambypaint

Railway line from Perth to Northam in 1897, an approximation based on newspaper references to the journey.

Railway travel was an adventure in itself in 1890s Western Australia, particularly those long rail lines into the outback.  The papers of that decade are full of stories and complaints.

In 1891, the decision had been made to create a rail line to the goldfields.  Competition was fierce between York and Northam to be the ‘starting point’ for the rail journey.  Northam won.  The line from Northam to Merredin was completed the following year, was extended to Southern Cross in 1894, then to Coolgardie in 1895 and finally to Kalgoorlie in September 1896.  It was a brand new track, still full of mishaps and confusions.

At the time that Alice made this trip, there were two different lines involved.  Passengers caught a train to Northam.  The goldfields train began at Northam and was an entirely separate track.  By the end of 1897 the first direct train from Perth to Kalgoorlie was running, but Alice probably travelled a few months too soon to catch this one.  There was a ‘Kalgoorlie Express’ train but before July 1897 it followed the same track as the others and if caught behind a slow train it had to sit at that slow pace.  It was ‘express’ only in that it stopped at fewer stations.

Train timetable

Train timetable Perth to Midland Junction April 1897 “Advertising” The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950) 5 April 1897: 4. Web. 22 Apr 2018 .

Everyone who wrote about these trains agreed on a couple of points.  They were slow – often running hours if not days behind schedule.  They were crowded.  There is one reference in late 1897 to a train of eighteen passenger carriages full of people arriving in Kalgoorlie.  They were unreliable.  Water was a huge issue for the train which ran on steam.  If at any point water was not to be had, the train had to wait for water to be brought from a nearby place.


This image is from Queensland, but shows the process involved and the style of carriage in use when Alice made her journey.,_Queensland,_1890-1900_(4732501438).jpg held By State Library of Queensland, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

A very very long speech was given by the Commissioner for Railways, Mr Piesse, at a Railway Picnic in May 1897.  It must have taken him half an hour to give it.  But he did give some useful details for the family historian of a century later.

There was hardly any necessity for saying much in order to demonstrate the advance which the Western Australian Government railways had made during the past five years, but as he had in his possession a few figures which would tell their own tale, he thought he might claim their indulgence while he submitted them … The duplication of
the line from Fremantle to Midland Junction had been in hand for some time, and the work, he was happy to say, was rapidly approaching completion. Already 19 miles had been duplicated, and before long he hoped to see the full 24 miles furnished not only with a double set of rails but also with efficient signalling and interlocking apparatus

…  some people had stigmatised our trains as being too slow for funerals. Well, he noticed that the other colonies had funeral railways, just the same as Western Australian had …  The speed averaged in Western Australia was 16.5 miles per hour … Therefore, considering the width of gauge here as compared with those in the other colonies, and the fact that the colony had been only five years under responsible government, he thought that Western Australia could justly be proud of holding the second place in Australasia in the matter of speed of her railway trains. (1)

Passengers brought pillows and blankets for the journey, since the carriages were not heated and only first class was cushioned.  There is no indication of sleeper carriages, despite the journey being an overnight trip and up to two days long in the event of track issues.  Alice, Florrie and the others probably boarded at 5.50pm as per the above schedule, settled themselves into their seats and waited for luggage to be loaded and for the conductor to blow his whistle to start them on their journey.

I love railway journeys, so I spent some time researching this one.

The first part would have been exciting.  Journeys always are at the start, but the line from Perth to Northam meandered greatly, following tracks laid down over a decade earlier to service what by 1897 were Perth suburbs.

1896: Rising early in the morning of September 7, we packed up a clean shirt, a piece of soap, and a toothbrush, and bustled to the central railway station. There we arrived in time to witness a typical station scene before the departure of the long-distance train. Among the ladies there was a large amount of flutter and genteel squabbling over the berths to which they were entitled, and we felt indeed sorry for Mr. John Davies, the general manager, who, however, fixed matters with tact, and managed to please everyone, even the much distressed ladies. (2)

After leaving Perth it ran northeast through Bayswater (the picture at the start of this blog post).  By the 1890s the region was well settled.  They would have passed through streets of houses with a few paddocks attached, past a lot of new buildings and trees.  After Bayswater the line crossed the Swan River and reached Guildford, then it was just a short distance to Midland Junction where it stopped to pick up more passengers.

Midland Junction

Midland Station, Western Australia, May 1927

Midland Junction Railway Station, Western Australia, May 1927. W.E. Fretwell Collection Photographs of William Edward Fretwell (1874 – 1958)

Feb 1897:  Sir,- Permit me through the column of your widely-circulated journal, to draw attention to the disgraceful way in which the so called Perth-Midland Junction timetable is adhered to; or rather, is not adhered to. For the advertised 8.35 business train from Guildford to Perth to run to time is now, if not a thing of the past, a very rare exception to the rule. It is in most cases from 10 to 15 minutes and very often as much 25 minutes late .  If it is found that the return journey cannot be accomplished within the advertised time, why not run the 7.45 train out from Perth ten or 15 minutes earlier?  Surely this could be managed, now that the duplicate rails extend to within a mile of Guildford, without any danger of collisions.
-Tours, &c, TRAVELLER. 
Guildford, February (3)

After Midland Junction, the train apparently went to Mundaring – a deviation from the present route.  After Mundaring the line turned northwards and they followed the Avon River for roughly 40 miles (64km) to Toodyay.  This was a very picturesque journey.


Grain train on the Eastern Railway, Western Australia alongside the Avon River. Taken .21 January 2006 by Nachoman-au under the terms of the Version 1.2 . No changes made.


1922:  A three hours’ train journey through stately timber country brings the tourist to Toodyay, the centre of an old-established district and one of the earliest surveyed town sites in the State. Situated on the left bank of the Avon river and nestling amid tree covered hills, Toodyay is undoubtedly one of the most charming inland towns in W.A., and affords tourists ample proof of the wisdom of the early pioneers who, almost go years ago, determined to settle in such beautiful surroundings. The clearness of the atmosphere, due to its high position, marks the district as one of the health resorts of the State …  a quaint, little old fashioned village, but with all the advantages of the new world.

The Avon River, crossed by various bridges, enhances the beauty of the valley and, here and there, are beautifully clear swimming pools … (4)

From Toodyay, the train headed directly south, even veering a little back east, till it reached Clackline.



May 1897:  Disgraceful Railway Accommodation.
“The travelling public and the residents of Newcastle and district are complaining bitterly at the accommodation the Railway authorities provide for travellers between Newcastle and Clackline. The train running between these two places is only provided with one small carriage consisting of one first and two second class compartments, giving seating accommodation to 18 persons, 6 first and 12 second class. The first class passengers are the worst treated. . They pay an increased fare for the privilege of travelling with a greater degree of comfort but, for various reasons, they have often to content themselves with the hard and uncomfortable benches of the second class compartments. One reason may be that more than the half-dozen may have purchased tickets, or it may be that some gentleman may wish to have a quiet smoke on the journey but as the compartment may contain a lady or two he must perforce abstain till Clackline is reached , or retire to the second class division in the hope, often a delusive one, that no ladies are travelling there. On every hand complaints are being made, of the general discomfort experienced by travellers and some alteration is absolutely necessary.” (5)

Uncomfortable carriages weren’t the only issue.

May 1897: A Derailed Tender. — During shunting operations at Clackline on Friday last the tender of an engine became derailed. The mishap caused a delay of two hours to the Coolgardie express. (6)

There were also delays due to special trains which were sometimes attached for officials and VIPs.

After Clackline, the tracks turned directly east.  The train stopped at Spencer’s Brook where passengers from Albany met the train.  Once all passengers were loaded, the train continued on.  Just past Spencer’s Brook they again met the Avon River which they crossed, then travelled the last half hour to Northam, the final destination.


Gala in Northam 1907

‘Gala in Northam, W.A. – 1907’. Public Domain. Via Flickr

At one time, Northam had been the goldfield frontier.  In 1897 it hovered between an outback town and a city satellite town.  Nobody could commute from Northam to Perth for work, but one could certainly make it to the city and back in a long day trip, or in an easy overnight visit.  In the 1890s the town was bustling with through traffic.  The railway had only reached Northam in 1886 but the place had boomed in that eleven years.

Northam was a refreshment stop, so everyone disembarked here anyway.   Alice and Florrie either changed trains here, or were just stopped for an hour for a meal and to stretch their legs.

Whichever it was, from this point on they were heading into a very different country.


January 1897: Trains passing through [Northam] daily are crowded with people returning to the goldfields. (5)


1. “RAILWAY PICNIC AND SPORTS GATHERING.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 14 May 1897: 6. Web. 22 Apr 2018 <>.

2. “TO KALGOORLIE AND BACK.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 18 September 1896: 6. Web. 29 Apr 2018 <>.

3. “MIDLAND JUNCTION TRAIN SERVICE.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 29 December 1897: 2. Web. 18 Apr 2018 <>.

4. “TOODYAY.” Toodyay Herald (WA : 1912 – 1954) 11 March 1922: 2. Web. 18 Apr 2018 <>.

5. “Disgraceful Railway Accommodation.” The Northam Advertiser (WA : 1895 – 1918; 1948 – 1955) 19 May 1897: 3. Web. 22 Apr 2018 <>.

6.  “GENERAL NEWS.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 14 May 1897: 7. Web. 18 Apr 2018 <>.

7. “RAILWAYS.” Coolgardie Mining Review (WA : 1895 – 1897) 26 December 1896: 13. Web. 14 Apr 2018 <>.


John McKinley 1822-1886 (#52 Ancestors – Week 11 – Luck)


Donegal in Ireland. Birthplace of John McKinley

As we all know, it is very hard to research ancestors from Ireland.  Each earlier generation brings new complications and less places where their name might have been recorded.  The sketchy details I have of the McKinley family are hard won and still too meagre to tell us much.  But here’s what I have gleaned:

John McKinley was born in Donegal in about 1822 and was the son of James McKinley.  Nothing is known of his siblings.

John’s grandfather – Mr McKinley – seems to have come from Scotland and only lived in the Donegal region for one generation.  We don’t have a name for him.  We do know, however, that John’s father had a brother Patrick and a sister Mary.

John’s Uncle Patrick married a woman of unknown name and had sons Patrick, Michael, Andrew and James.  Those four were my John McKinley’s first cousins.

John’s Aunt Mary married James McGarvie in Donegal and had children including William McGarvie.

John seems to have grown up with his McKinley cousins somewhere near Meenaneary in Donegal.

Somewhere around 1820,  Aunt Mary, her husband and perhaps some children moved to Enniskillen in Fermanagh.   As a young adult, John also moved to Fermanagh, most likely boarding with his McGarvie cousins.  His cousin William McGarvie was born in the same year as John.


Enniskillen in modern times, still looking very old-worldly. By User: (WT-shared) Plug at wts wikivoyage [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

These were tough times in Ireland. Even without records unique to this family we know that starvation was beginning to bite. Disease was rife in the southern Irish counties, the military was very active, bandit groups were active, work was nonexistent.  Displaced Irish folk were roaming all over the country looking for family to stay with, for sustainable work and for shelter from the harsh Irish climate. People starved.

From Fermanagh, John made his way to the city of Derry in the county Londonderry.

He may have been the John McKinley who appeared at the Antrim Quarter Sessions charged with stealing a quantity of linen yarn at Belfast in 1839.  The result of that court appearance is not known and if that was our John, the case must have been dismissed.  So possibly he was in Belfast then but he was not the only man of that name in the north of Ireland.   What we know is that by the early 1840s he went to Derry.

Somewhere on this journey he met his future wife, Alice Bowles.  They married in about 1842.  Two children, Mary Ann and James Patrick, were born to John and Alice in 1844 and 1846 respectively.

The young family struggled and despaired.

Just about everything we know about this family comes from that generation of cousins, because all the named young people managed to flee to country to a safe home.

The children of Patrick McKinley emigrated to the United States.  Patrick, Michael, Andrew and James settled in Pennsylvania where their name morphed to ‘McGinley’.

William McGarvie emigrated to Victoria, Australia where he was married in 1854.

The cousins emigrated as assisted emigrants but for some reason this option was not available to John. Maybe he was rejected on health grounds or he lacked the skill set required.  It’s a puzzle.

John McKinleys journey

Movements of John McKinley from Meenaneary (near Killibeg) to Enniskillen then to Londonderry.

Then in December 1847 or thereabouts, John McKinley took the gamble of his life, which qualifies him as the subject of a blog about luck.

Details are still sketchy, but John and his wife were arrested for stealing two geese.  As was the system back then, they were placed in a holding cell from the time of accusation, awaiting trial to prove their innocence or receive sentence.

I cannot prove this, but I am pretty certain that this was a deliberate move to achieve emigration from the country.

There used to be lots of stories about convicts having done this in Tasmania.  Many of those stories were the descendant’s way of reestablishing their family reputation in a time when society descriminated against the descendants of convicts.  The ‘deliberate ploy for emigration’ and the ‘he/she stole to save a starving family’ are good ways to deflect shame and dishonour.  I am always skeptical when I hear it.  But once in a blue moon it was true.  If the jury detected it as a motive for crime, they assigned a prison sentence instead.  Or as in the case of John and Alice, they would sentence the husband to transportation and exonerate the wife entirely as acting under her husband’s influence.   Looking through the court records this result was common for husband/wife first crimes.

John and Alice wouldn’t have known this.  Their theft, conviction and sentencing resulted in John facing transportation and Alice facing a life without him in Fermanagh as single mother to two infant children.

The jury deliberated on this one and decided that since neither had a prior record they should be afforded lenience.


Ship Artemisia built 1847. Not used as a convict ship but the same build as several convict ships of 1850. See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

John probably didn’t feel very lucky at this point. The big plan had failed, his reputation was in ruins and the best he could hope for was that he would live while his family would die. It must have been a hard night in prison.

But they didn’t give up.  Two weeks later his wife was back in gaol, having committed an offence on her own.  An anxious wait must have ensued as she was once more kept in the holding cells awaiting trial. Her children were probably with her in the cell.

This time it worked.  Alice received her own sentence.  She and the children were shipped out first.

John languished a whole year in gaol in Fermanagh before the transportation occurred.


The 1836 convict built Ross Bridge crosing the Macquarie River in Tasmania by denisbin via flickr, , no changes made.

Once in Van Diemen’s Land, John McKinley and his wife still had a sentence to serve before they could resume their own life. Their little boy died very soon after arrival, a fact which obviously depressed Alice.  John would not have known of the loss of his child until they met.  Their daughter was safe in the Orphan School where she received something of an education in being a domestic servant.

Both John and Alice were exemplary workers and servants and received their Tickets of Leave in almost record time.  Two years after Alice’s arrival in the colony they were back in the one household.  John gained further brownie points by accepting a position as a constable.

In those days, constables were basically police officers/sheriffs and council inspectors all rolled into one. They were often chosen from among the better behaved convicts with the additional incentive of six months knocked off the sentence as well as better working conditions than they would have as labouring men.  But the job came with animosity from many fellow convicts who maintained an ‘us or them’ mentality, considering the constables to be turncoats and betrayers.

John committed one offense as a ticket of leave constable, probably a genuine mistake. He illegally impounded a horse that should have been left where it was.

John McKinley convict record

Conduct Record John McKinley CON33/1/92 at Tasmania Archives

But finally, after serving only half his sentence, John McKinley received a conditional pardon.  He and Alice, now in their early thirties, settled in Kempton where John continued his employment as constable for the rest of his working life. A large family was born to them.

John McKinleys death

Civil death registration of John McKinley Tasmanian Archives RGD35/1/55 no 757

It was a long hard struggle, but that gamble paid off and changed the family fortunes forever.  Their descendants have lived comfortably ever since.


The Wilmot Arms former hotel in Kempton Tasmania. Built 1843. A part of the new home town of John and Alice mcKinley/McKinlay.  Photo by denisbin via Flickr Some rights reserved . Image unaltered.



The Adventurous Alice Head – Part Three – A Single Young Woman in Western Australia

Continue to Alice Head’s Train Journey Part One

Skip ahead to Adventurous Alice Part Four – A Single Young Woman in Kalgoorlie

Back to Adventurous Alice Part Two – Journey to Australia

Fremantle Australia

Fremantle 1905 1280px-Laying_tramlines

Fremantle 1905. 9 years after Alice arrived but many of the buildings would have been there already. Circa 1905. Public Domain. Digital scan of “Laying tramlines”, RWAHS R1770 in the photographic collection of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society via

Alice and her sister Florrie reached Fremantle with 47 other young women on 22 May 1896.  They disembarked somewhere along Fremantle’s famous mile-long pier and walked in to the shore.  Most of the women were wearing donated clothes from the residents of St Helena (details in previous post)  and only one of them had luggage.  Many of them had lost treasured family heirlooms.  Having left England in a cyclone and survived a ship’s fire, they must all have wondered what was in store for them in their new home.  The old idea that misfortunes come in threes might have been forefront of their minds.

Probably not in the forefront of Alice’s mind though.  She doesn’t show in the records as being superstitious and is remembered in the family as a very level headed and intelligent woman.  Alice’s objective was financial security.  She came from an overcrowded but hardworking home but the number of children would have made life difficult.  It’s just a guess, but she probably did not want to live the hard working life that must have run her mother into the ground.


An approximation of the indoor world of Alice Head. An 1890s Parlour. This particular room was in Queensland but the furniture type and arrangement was equally accurate for Western Australia. Ref: State Library of Queensland

The women stayed in accommodation operated by the United British Women’s Emigration Society. An ambiguous notice in the Southern Times suggests that they traveled by train to Perth and were placed in a government owned boarding house there while they waited for employment.(1)

Either on the first or second day, they were also met with a list of employers who were seeking the service of a domestic servant.  These employers had been vetted to some degree by the UBWES workers, who had already weeded out the less reputable offers.  Under these circumstances the women were probably encouraged to meet with the potential employers on that first day and accept the first reasonable offer.

This year was a little different to the others. Miss Monk needed to purchase new clothing for her charges, which expense is listed in the quarterly accounts of October 1896.


Add emigrants

Advertisement from two years before Alice’s journey.  No doubt the same system applied. (2)


One day, I hope to know the fates of each girl who made this voyage.  I’ve located many of them in the marriage records over the following ten years, but not all.  Quite a few of them probably hoped to marry a wealthy gold tycoon, after wild tales of unparalleled wealth in Australia were reaching England.  Others probably just sought a decent, hardworking husband to help them make a go of the world.

Women’s emigrant ships were known in Australia as ‘bride ships’, and even the United British Women’s Emigration Society annual accounts refers to the large number of emigrating women who find husbands in their new home.   No information has come down in the family regarding Alice’s views about marriage.  Whether this was a year long adventure expected to culminate in a return to England or a lifetime move is also not known.

Two of the women – 23 year old Maud Kirton and 19 year old Lily Downie – were married the year of arrival, failing to see out their terms of passage.  Each of them were married in Fremantle and must have met their future husbands very soon after arrival.

All that I definitely known of the others is that they found employment quickly.


Emu Brewery in Perth Western Australia early 1900s. State Library of Western Australia Pictorial Archive

Alice and Florrie  may have taken work around Fremantle or Perth for that first year with an employer duly approved by the UBWES team. They both vanish from the records for a short time.  They were obliged to work for one year and no doubt Alice did this with her eyes and ears wide open, taking in the opportunities and pitfalls of life in the colony.

Some of the women (for example 19 year old Lizzie Allcock) ended up employed as laundresses for the Western Australia Public Service.  It was secure work and no doubt decent pay, but if Alice found herself in this position she might have worried about parallels with her mother’s life.

One thing she must have heard was that there was money to be made in the hotels. Respectable barkeepers were in great demand.  It looks like a tough job from this distance, without any of the modern health and safety regulations.  It would have brought a girl into contact with dangerous men, smoke filled rooms and probably the sights and behaviours of genuine hardship.  Hotels were generally boarding houses too, so duties would have involved maid work and cleaning, perhaps cooking, perhaps waitressing.

The UBWES may not have been affiliated officially with the Women’s Temperance League, but the two groups shared many common philosophies. It is very likely that no emigrant under their scheme was presented with bar work as an employment option.  In 1896 there was talk in Perth of campaigning for a law to forbid single women from working in licensed premises.

But despite any conjectures, what Alice actually did for work in that first year is not known.  By May 1897 a lot of her former travelling companions were getting married in Fremantle, Claremont and Perth.

Obviously Alice didn’t have enough excitement in her life.  Probably in company with their friends,  she and Florrie caught a train to Kalgoorlie, a journey of about 700km.


Fremantle today.  I felt the blog needed more colour.  By Nachoman-au (A digital photograph taken by myself.) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. No changes made.

  1. “ARRIVAL OF IMMIGRANTS” Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 – 1916) 26 September 1893: 3. Web. 14 Apr 2018 <>.
  2. “DOMESTIC SERVANTS.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 13 March 1894: 2. Web. 14 Apr 2018


The Adventurous Alice Head; Part Two; Journey to Australia

Link to Part One                                                                                              Link to Part Three

Weather report for 17 March 1896, London (1):

Throughout England and Ireland there was a boisterous, squally wind, blowing strongly in many localities … Early in the night temperature fell under 40deg (4.5 Celsius) over about half the country … but it rose quickly before morning, all but a few northern stations standing at from 45 deg to 53 deg (7-11.5 C) at 8am. In the course of the forenoon the cyclonic core moved across Scotland at rather a brisk pace, and shortly after noon it was out on the North Sea off the Aberdeenshire coast, the barometer going up steadily at all our home stations.  The wind was shifting into west and north west in the afternoon … the sea off Holyhead and in the Straits of Dover was running high.  Squally weather reported all round … temperatures from 51 deg to 53 deg (10-11 C) at 2pm. 

The increasing wind reached London early in the night, and up to about midday yesterday the south-west breeze blew hard in frequent squalls, which at times attained the force of a moderate or fresh gale.

This reported ‘breeze’ brought down cranes and pylons, sunk two ships and destroyed the Coroner’s Court in the Police House in Liverpool.  In Scotland and Ireland, the damage was much greater.  It was officially named a cyclone once it reached St George’s Strait.

In the middle of the storms, Flo and Allie had packed, headed for their boarding point and joined 46 other girls for the adventure of their lives.

The arrangement was that the girls were to meet the day before sailing and all sleep at a hostel booked for the purpose near the wharf. (2) . Some were coming from British country regions, a few from Scotland and others from Ireland.

Another paper reported (3)

The emigrants are housed temporarily on their way through London … and often clothed more comfortably with … half-worn garments contributed.

So Flo and Allie would have met their fellow passengers on 16 March 1896.  Even now, their travels were not confirmed.  There was a medical check undertaken upon arrival. Some girls were rejected. A couple withdrew.  Flo and Allie were deemed ‘satisfactory’ and were also up to date with their vaccinations. Presumably after passing the medical inspection they were allocated their quarters for the night.

In the morning they would, I expect, have traveled together to the wharf in a group.

The ship sailed without incident and the passing of the Port Phillip steamer at Ushant was reported on 20 March 1896.(4)

The papers of the UBWEA are held by the Women’s Library Archive at the London School of Economics and are not digitized.  From various oral histories it is known that the girls received organized training while on board.  Miss Monk inspected their needlework, their diction, their posture and their cleanliness.  She ensured they knew how to wear their uniform and she ensured they were in good health.



More ocean

Ocean near Australia

From the diary of ship’s doctor Dr Walter Bridgeford (5):

The Port Phillip left Gravesend on St. Patrick’s Day carrying 48 single girls, migrants for the Government of Western Australia, the matron in charge being Miss Monk . . . . Eleven days later, on March 28th, sighted San Antonio (Cape de Verde Islands), and on the same day entered the Bay of Porte Grande, St. Vincent.  Porte Grande is about two miles wide at the entrance and is the largest harbour in the Cape de Verde Islands. It is well sheltered under high mountains and is the termination of a central valley running throughout the island between two chains of mountains. The anchorage is a good one and sufficiently large, it is said, to accommodate 200 large ships. The general aspect of St. Vincent from the Bay is mountainous, with high peaks. It wears a barren and desolate appearance, the volanic fires of a past age together with the scorching heat of a tropical sun having, in most places, rendered the soil unfit for cultivation.

There are two small churches-one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic, the former being at the time of our visit without a minister ; a very sandy cricket ground ; the usual public square, which is lighted at night and wherein a band plays regularly ; water-works, which are situated in the centre of the town ; the Governor’s palace ; and the barracks. The place is scorchingly hot-92 deg. Fahr. in the shade as I write and there is no vegetation beyond a few trees which have been planted in the streets. The houses occupied by the employees of the coaling companies and the cable telegraph staffs are large and commodious, well lighted and ventilated, and include the luxury of wood billiard rooms.

The natives are black in colour, but black of various degrees of density. Their houses are wretched hovels, a wooden shutter serving the purpose of a window, and dirty sand doing duty for a floor. There are a few stores on the island, an apothecary’s shop, and a building which by courtesy only is designated an hospital. (The water supply is good. Provisions are imported from neighbouring islands ; but notwithstanding the absence of herbage, goats manage to live. We only remained about 20 hours, and left on the 29th to pursue our voyage with 260 tons of coal on deck

Flo and Allie may have had a chance to go ashore.  If not, they would have viewed the place from their ship.  I also wonder if the blatant racism upset them, if they were close enough to notice the different living conditions of the Indigenous people versus the colonials.


Cape de Verde Islands today. By Ingo Wölbern (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All went smoothly until 8th April 1896 off the coast of St Helena.

From Bridgeford’s diary:

On April 8th, however, we learned that the ship was on fire. About a quarter-past 9 at night, and when we were about four miles N.W. of St. Helena, smoke was reported to be coming through the tunnel into the engine-room. The hose was at once got ready.

Meantime the emigrants’ steward reported smoke in the girls’ quarters in abundance. This was in the No. 3 hatch, next to the engine-room. The night being fine and clear, the girls were all ordered on to the poop.

I looked in the baggage room with the second officer and steward, but only to find it full of smoke. Steam and water were at once played into the hold, which was battened down. Several steam jets were played inside from the engine-room, and water was poured on outside.

The heat of the deck was intense. Only one box and portmanteau were recovered, the smoke being too dense to allow of more being brought up. We put the girls up in the saloon for the night, where they were fairly comfortable, which was as much as could be expected, considering the saloon is intended to accommodate 12 passengers only, whereas we had 53.  As the fire was still raging two boats were lowered in readiness for emergencies, and the captain bore up for St Helena, which we reached at 2 o’clock the following morning.

Most of the girls were apparently in their nightclothes and were not allowed back to their sleeping quarters. Another report mentions how Miss Monk was a tower of strength at this time, leading the girls in a prayer and locating blankets for them to use while they waited.  Miss Monk also arranged for tea and sandwiches shortly before dawn which was apparently very welcome.(6)


St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Andrew Neaum [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. No changes made. Attribution required.

Bridgeford’s diary again:

Steam and water had been kept playing in the hold all night. The girls behaved splendidly throughout, there being no sign of panic.  At 7 o’olook the harbour master came on board, and as the fire was still burning, it was deemed advisable to house the emigrsnts on shore. His Excellency the Acting Governor, Mr. Sterndale, very kindly placed the mess-house, formerly occupied by the officers of the garrison, at our disposal. This is a commodious building, situated in the main street, with verandahs on each floor, and only ten minutes’ walk from the landing steps of the wharf.

We utilised two large rooms on the first floor. Behind was an extensive yard, also kitchen, bath, and outhouses, and a plentiful supply of water. Mattresses, blankets, mugs, plates, lockers, and cooking utensils were lent by the Colonial Government military authorities, Emigration Department, and also by the manager of the (Miss Werton’s) Sailors’ Rest.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon the hatchway of the streamer was opened, and the baggage, which was then hoisted on deck, presented a lamentable appearance. Some boxes were still on fire. Others, when opened, showed their contents charred and destroyed, while many were missing altogether.

The loss to the girls was considerable, many of them having disposed of their little all to provide themselves with a good outfit, now found themselves landed at St Helena with only the clothes they stood up in. Besides, all possessed souvenirs of some kind from family or friends which can never be replaced.

The emigrants were landed by half-past 4 p.m. in small boats, the steam tug in the harbour not being licensed to carry passengers. The landing here is somewhat difficult. However, all the girls got ashore safely and without mishap, but looking all the worse for their night of terror, want of sleep and loss of clothes.

The fire in ship was still burning next day when Lloyd’s surveyors went on board. During our stay on the island His Excellency the Acting-Governor and Mrs. Sterndale, and also the wife of the Governor (Mrs Grey-Wilson), called on several occasions to see the emigrants. Many other ladies also called, not a few of them sending fruit and flowers in abundance, while invitations  to ” spend the day ” at their houses on the hills were numerous. It was, of course, impossible to accept all invitations, owing, in some cases, to the distance involved and the difficulty of transport, to say nothing of the heat.

Apparently the ladies of the town donated some clothing to the girls, but there were not many items of spare clothing on the island.  More clothes were donated by incoming ships over the next fortnight.

Flo and Allie must have told their descendants about this unexpected fortnight on a tropical island, but as far as I know the stories have not survived.

Back to Bridgeford’s diary:

One day half the emigrants visited Longwood Farm, at the invitation of Miss Deason, where they were most hospitably entertained. They also visited Napoleon’s tomb, which lies en route from Jamestown to Longwood. The same day the remainder were entertained by Mr. Homagee, the magistrate, at tea and tennis -a sort of garden party. The advent of so many white girls on the island caused some little commotion so far as the local ” Tommy Atkins ” was concerned, the red-haired girls being particularly
cynosured by the natives. In the castle there resides the oldest inhabitant, a Miss Bagley, the housekeeper, who, being bedridden for the last five years, is relieved of her duties by a niece … the old lady requested the matron to send the girls to see her. Miss Bagley has reached the age of 90 years, and had never before seen red hair. Having had a goad look at it, she was delighted, and pronounced it pretty. She also asked her visitors for a “lock,” which request was readily acceded to. 

A visit to the Colonial Hospital was most interesting. Miss Williams, the lady superintendent, resided at Kimberley some years ago, and so had many stories to tell of South África, of which the world is now talking so much.

On April 12 many of the girls attended the communion service at the church, which service was conducted by the Lord Bishop of St. Helena, Dr. Welby, a very aged prelate who has seen 86 summers, but who is still active. The same morning the Bishop held a
service in the moss house.

Every evening between 7 and 9 o’olock crowds assembled outside the mess house to listen to the girls singing and the town being usually very quiet at night, all the officials and principal merchants living on the hills three or four miles away, this proved a pleasant break in the monotony of the lives of those compelled to remain in town.

There is a Salvation Army corps at St. Helena, as there is everywhere, and the soldiers gave us from time to time the benefit of their big drum.

On the 17th, the matron and girls were the guests of the Governor and Mrs. Sterndale at their residence, the Plantation, three miles from Jamestown and 1,800ft. above the sea level. The Governor seat an ambulance waggon which seated six girls, his pair-horsed carriage to seat four, and the magistrate, Mr. Homagee, his one-horsed carriage to seat two, and with the means of locomotion thus provided, the girls walked and rode alternately from the coast to the Acting-Governor’s residence, where they arrived at 11.30 a.m. After inspecting the grounds they attended service at the ” Cathedral,” a small church with numerous mural tablets in memory of varions officers, civil servants and other inhabitants of note who have died on the Island. The rest of the day was spent in eating and drinking and various forms of amusement organised for the occasion, a number of visitors from Jamestown sharing the Acting-Governor’s hospitality.


Photo of Dinizulu with wood badge beads during Zulu civil war. E. E. Caney Photo – Retrieved from Original Photo from the collection of the Killie Campbell Museum, Durban, South Africa.


Bridgeford’s diary continues:

The party returned to Jamestown by 7.20 p.m., escorted by the Acting-Governor and his orderly. On April 20 the matron and one sub-matron and eight girls visited the Zulus at Maldives, a pretty house situated in the valley above the Colonial Hospital, and standing in a spacious garden loaded with tropical plants and flowers. These Zulus were sent here as prisoners of war seven years ago, after a rising in Zululand. There are three princes or chiefs. Dinizulu is a son of Cetchwayo, a fine blackman about 30 years of age, of a somewhat semetic cast of features. He arrived here a naked savage, but now dresses in the height of fashion, dances, sings, plays the piano, and speaks English fairly well. Ndabuko is a brother of Cetchwayo. about 60 years of age, and weighing about 22 stone.

He will not learn English, and is very morose. Tebangani ia a to Cetchwayo, smaller in stature, about 55 years of age, somewhat decrepit, though lively and vivacious in con-versation. He seaks English fairly, but not so well as Dinizulu. These dusky prisoners have with them their wives and families, servants, and interpreter. They were condemned to twelve years’ exile. On the island, however, they live in perfect freedom, but are not allowed to go on board ship without the Governor’s permission. They are in charge of a guardian sent by the Natal Government, but are under the direct orders of the Governor. They received the visitors most courteously. Dinizulu, the least bashful of the three, being particularly attentive, played and sang and regaled all with ” nectar,” a drink made from fruit, and also gave his autograph to each one. An agitation for the release of the Zulus is on foot, led by Miss Colenso, who was shortly expected on the Island, but is not likely to find favour with the Natal Government.
On April 22 we took our departure from St. Helena, all of us extremely grateful to the authorities, from the Acting Governor downwards, for the generous and kindly hospitality which was afforded us during our compulsory sojourn in that delightful island, historically famous for its Napeolonic associations.

The SS Port Phillip finally reached Fremantle on 22 May 1896.  The girls disembarked on Fremantle’s old mile-long jetty and made their way to the accommodation waiting for them.

Flo and Allie were now ready to find employment in their new colony.


Alice’s journey to Australia 17 March 1896 – 22 May 1896


Appendix item – newspaper account of the arrival of the ‘Port Philip’ at Fremantle:


The steamer Port Phillip, of the well known and popular ” Port ” line of ocean traders, put in an appearance at Fremantle at 7 o’clock yesterday morning.  The voyage from London had been an eventful one, the terrible ordeal of a fire on board having had to be faced and mastered.

A departure was made from London on 17th March, and very fair steaming was made to St. Vincent, where a stay of a few hours was made for coaling. The passenger list of the steamer consisted principally of 48 emigrant girls, and the comfort of all was undisturbed until the 8th April.

Shortly after 9 o’clock on the morning of that day the second engineer reported that smoke was coming from the vicinity of No. 3 hold, abaft the engine-room. Inspection showed that the tunnel was full of smoke, and the engineers endeavoured to find the cause of the apparent fire. The first engineer, after a gallant attempt to travel along tbe tunnel, had to desist, and his removal on deck was necessitated owing to the effect which the smoke and fumes had upon him. The second engineer and chief officer following up his efforts were likewise incapacitated, and, as the volume of smoke in that direction was baffling, attention was directed to other parts of the ship. On the next day the fire made itself apparent in the quarters allotted to the emigrants, and a quick clearance of the occupants of that part of the vessel had to be made. Their effects, unfortunately, could not be got out, so rapidly did the fire make progress.

Capt. J. R. Smith, wisely judging that the time for forcible treatment of the danger had arrived, ordered the batch way to be battened down and steam turned into No. 3 hold, with the object of suppressing the fire. This was at a point about four miles north-west of St. Helena. Steam was kept going into the hold for two days altogether, the steamer putting into St. Helena in the meantime. The effect of the steam was immediately beneficial, for the volume of smoke decreased.

It was, however, found that the affects of the emigrant girls had been heated and charred so to such an extent as to render them useless. The result was that many of the girls had to land on St. Helena without full clothing. Here, thanks to the good offices of the inhabitants and the Acting Governor, Mr. Stanley, they were well provided for, while the doctor of the ship, Mr. Walter Bridgeford, Capt. Smith, and the matron, Miss Monk, were assiduously successful in relieving the distress of all the sufferers.

The discipline on board throughout the trying circumstances of this part of the voyage is spoken of by all the passengers in terms of the highest praise, and Capt. Smith and his officers, together with Mr. Bridgeford, were heartily cheered by the girls as they left the steamer yesterday at Fremantle. The delay at St. Helena extended over 14 days. For the remainder of the voyage the weather was favourable. (7)



(1) Morning Post 17 March 1896 ‘The Stormy Weather’ p.4

(2) Willesden Chronicle 14 May 1897 Advertisements p.5

(3) Woman’s Signal 18 July 1895 ‘What Women Are Doing’ p.5

(4) Leeds Mercury 20 March 1896 ‘Mail and Shipping News’ p.7

(5) “VOYAGE OF THE PORT PHILLIP.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 26 May 1896: 7. Web. 3 Apr 2018 <>.

(6) Woman’s Signal July 1897 ‘Annual report of the UBWEA’ p.4

(7) “ARRIVAL OF THE S. S. PORT PHILLIP.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 23 May 1896: 6. Web. 3 Apr 2018 <>.

SRO of Western Australia; Chronological list of Inwards passengers from overseas to Freemantle 1880 – 1898; Accession: 503; Roll: 212


The Adventurous Alice Head: Part One – #52ancestors Week 10 -Strong Women

Link to Part Two

My tree is full of strong women.  Women of courage, ingenuity and independent thought who presented this trait in  a multitude of ways.  I’m very proud of them all, so I had to look hard for one who truly stood out to write into this week’s blog.  And here she is!

Alice Dunstall

My great grandmother Alice Head

Alice was born in London in a working family amidst overcrowding and industry. As a young adult, she emigrated to Western Australia and made the rugged journey from Fremantle to the very wild frontier mining town of Kalgoorlie. Here she met and married a young gold miner and they moved even further from civilization to an outback settlement.  She learned to shoot a rifle, to ride camels and to cope with many privations.  After her husband died in a mining accident she and her seven year old son stayed in the isolated settlement where she ran a boarding house.  She eventually remarried and moved with her new husband to Leonora.  Later they retired to Nedlands.

Her story is too big to tell in one blog post, so I am writing it in parts.  I am using Part One for the Week 10 prompt.


Eucalypt which can be found in Western Australia. Eucalyptus leucophloia habit By Mark Marathon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Alice Head (Allie) was born in February 1876 in Richmond, Surrey, England, the fourth child of Henry and Annie Head.

In the various UK census records Henry has the occupation of gardener.  Henry and Annie were married in 1871 and after a few years of shifting around moved into 10 Wigan’s Cottages in Mortlake in about 1880.   Wigans was a large company with hops and breweries in many locations around London and a lot of residents in that row of cottages were their employees.

Alice’s mother Annie was a laundress. Even as recently as the 1880s women only worked if they needed the money, so most likely the family struggled.  In the 1881 census Alice and her three elder siblings (Annie, Mark and Florence) attended school while her younger brothers Henry and Walter were still at home.  Also in the family were Alice’s grandfather George Doo, and her uncle William Doo.  It was a very full household for what was probably a very small house.

Jumping forward ten years to the 1891 census, the Head family lived at 61 Alexander Rd in Richmond.  The house is here on Google street view  but copyright prevents me from posting an image in my blog.  It was a three story narrow brick terrace house in a world of seemingly endless brick terrace houses just like it, streets and streets of them all around.

Neither George nor William Doo were with them, although both were still alive and living nearby.  Fifteen year old Allie was now working as a domestic servant and was the eldest child at home.  Six younger siblings were in the household.   The second youngest child was two year old Edwin, crippled from birth.


Perhaps Alice’s childhood world was something like this but with more siblings around and more fog and rain? ‘The Laundresses’ .Albert Edelfelt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At what point Allie started thinking about leaving London is not known.  If she was in service in a large household her fellow servants may have talked about it.  There was a great need for female domestic servants in the colonies and some places were offering free passage along with assistance to find employment at the other end. It must have been enticing.  Alice was young and bright and no doubt she saw little future in the dense horizonless world of Richmond, particularly not when she saw the endless toil of her mother’s life with twelve children on top of her work as a laundress.  Alice and her sister Flo obviously put their heads together and dreamed of pastures new.

Emigration schemes had existed in England for hundreds of years, sometimes falling out of favour then, it seems, back when the need arose.  In about the 1880s the United British Women’s Emigration Scheme (UBWE) formed.  The scheme was managed by a team of charitable women in partnership with some churches.  The operation involved vetting suitable women, then chaperoning them to their new colonial home and ensuring that they found work, generally as domestic servants.

The requirements were strict. The women were to be single, aged between 18 and 24, sober, respectable, Christian, with some education and with some experience of domestic work.


Domestic Work 1880s. Religious Tract Society pamphlet

The UBWE annual report (June 1896) says their London office that financial year had received 1666 applications. Of those applications they interviewed 1300.  Among those applicants were Flo and Allie Head. (1)

A public talk in April 1896 described the scheme to interested listeners. (2)

During the ten or twelve years of the British Women’s Emigrant Association’s existence, emigrants, averaging 700 or more annually have been befriended and happily placed in the Colonies, either in Canada, South Africa or Australia  … in Western Australia, women are still at a premium.  A very lively description was given by Mrs Shaw of the rough travelling in those remote districts. 

An article in Pearson’s Weekly further describes the scheme:

I have received a letter … from the secretary of the United British Women’s Emigration Association, in which she requests me to inform my readers that they are on the point of arranging for the passage of fifty domestic servants to the Antipodes. The cost of the journey is, I am given to understand, defrayed by the colony.  Moreover, no repayment is required for this. In return the girls are expected to become parties to an agreement by which they undertake to remain for one year in Western Australia, their wages to commence on the date of their engagement in the Colony. It is not an altogether uninteresting fact that of the last party taken out under the auspices of this association, every single member had obtained a situation within an hour and a half of her arrival. … Wages in Western Australia commence at 40 shillings a month.  Only girls over eighteen, who can be recommended, will be accepted, and those who wish to apply must do so with as little delay as possible at the London offices of the association.

Flo and Allie Head met the requirements, gave notice at their current places of employment and packed their bags. Flo was 20, almost 21, and Allie was 19.  It must have been an exciting time.

The girls each year traveled with a matron who was employed by the Association. Miss Mary Monk was the matron to Western Australia.  She journeyed every year, taking the girls out and returning alone to prepare for the next batch.

I spent ages looking for an image of the ship on which they were booked for the journey. The Steamship ‘Port Phillip’ has a name which makes it very difficult to search.  Instead, I’ve found a public domain image of London at the time that Flo and Alice would have travelled through, heading for their ship.


Fleet Street in London looking east towards St Paul’s Cathedral. Photograph by James Valentine, c.1890. Public Domain in some countries including Australia but not in all.

They departed on 17 Mar 1896, so embarkation was probably the morning of the same day or the afternoon of the previous.  The whole family may have come to the wharf to see them off.

It is interesting to note on the ship’s papers that the ‘Port Phillip’ was legally licensed to carry 50 Statute adults, exclusive of crew, officers and Cabin passengers.  Yet on this journey they were carrying 57 Statute adults.  The journey was expected to take 85 days.  Captain James Smith was in charge.

The girls traveled steerage and their matron, Miss Monk, had a cabin.

On the day of departure, the shipping lanes were congested due to a massive gale in Ireland preventing ships from approaching on their usual runs. In fact, there seem to have been bad gales right across the British Isles on that day. The girls would have been battling the wind as they walked up the gangplank onto the ship at Gravesend.

There is only the briefest mention of the Port Phillip in the shipping news.(4)

GRAVESEND: Tuesday, the Lusitania, from Bermuda, and Ovingdean Grange, from Buenos Aires, passed. The Carthage, from Bombay, passed. The Illovo, from Port Natal, passed yesterday.  The Umbilo, for Port Natal; Warrigal, for Sydney; and Port Phillip, for Fremantle &c; left.

I’ll leave this post here, with Flo and Allie sailing away from the densely populated world they had always known for the unknown.

But to conclude, because I love lists of names, I’ll add the passenger list.  My transcription just has names and ages.  The actual shipping records contain more information.  But it is still interesting to see all the girls.(5)  Flo and Allie probably became very friendly with at least some of them.

Passenger list Port Philip 1

Passengers under Miss Monk on the Steamship ‘Port Philip’ departing Gravesend on 17 March 1896. Page One.

passenger list Port Philip 2

Passengers under Miss Monk on the Port Phillip departing Gravesend on the 17 Mar 1896. Page 2.



(1) Woman’s Signal 25 June 1896 ‘Habitual Sobriety’ p. 6

(2) Western Times 14 April 1896 ‘District News’ p. 6

(3) Pearson’s Weekly 01 February 1896 ‘Let It Be Known That’ p.4

(4) Dundee Advertiser 18 March 1896 ‘Mail News’ p.7

(5) UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 via

The Shattered Marriage of Ann Lovelace: Where There’s A Will #52Ancestors Week 9

Bank of Scotland at 1 Fleet St London

Bank of Scotland at 1 Fleet St London – formerly Child’s Bank

This is the story of two inheritances, two families and two young people living in a world of wealth and hard business.

It all began with the death of Francis Child on 23 September 1763.  It was a tragic cutting short of a potentially illustrious life.  Francis was the nephew of Francis Child, founder of Child’s Bank.  Born into a family of wealthy goldsmiths and bankers, Francis junior went into the family business early.  At the age of twenty six in 1761 he was worth more than two hundred thousand pounds and at that age he became the Member of Parliament for Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire – but he lived in London.

Two years later he was engaged to a wealthy heiress named Mary Constance Trevor and owned a large estate called Osterley.  But in that fateful summer in Buckinghamshire he was struck down in some unknown manner.  It quickly became clear that he was going to die.

The Scots Magazine of 5 November 1763 reported his death.

At Hampden, Buckinghamshire, Francis Childs Esq; Banker in London, Member for Bishop’s Castle.  When he found himself in imminent danger, he made a verbal will as follows. “I give to my brother all estates at Osterley and Upton, and all my other property, excepting 50,000 pounds, to Miss Trevor [only daughter of the Honourable Robert Trevor Hampden … to whom he was to have been married the Thursday after].  20,000 pounds to Mr Thomas Devon, and 20,000 pounds to Mr Robert Lovelace [his two partners].  He attempted to say more, but could not get the words out.

From The Scots Magazine 05 November 1763, ‘Marriages etc’ page 56.

A suspicious modern mind might be inclined to ask questions about this sudden death, verbal will, and the number of people who benefited.  But at the time no one batted an eyelid.  Of greatest relevance to this blog is the two lots of 20,000 pounds bequeathed to Devon and Lovelace, partners with Francis Child in the banking business.


St Mark’s Church at Battersea Rise, Clapham By Edwardx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The two bankers took their money and purchased vast blocks of land at Clapham, newly opened to development.  They each built a showpiece mansion and moved in.  Clapham society in those days, apparently, was elite and exclusive.  It wasn’t actual British aristocracy, they were all self made men.  Plantation owners from the colonies, goldsmiths, mineowners – all of them ridiculously wealthy, creating a new aristocratic world just for themselves.  Clapham in those days, it seems, was beautiful, sparkling new with the best gardeners, roads, bridges and edifices that money could buy.

The unmarried adult children of all those wealthy magnates created a social scene all their own, with dances, balls, picnics and concerts.  They were a new sophisticate, the highly educated children of less cultured, semi-educated parents.

It’s all gone now, apparently nothing remains of their mansions at all.

As banking partners in Child’s Bank and as practicing goldsmiths in a thriving economy, Robert Lovelace and Thomas Devon were both financially comfortable even before the receipt of the Childs money.  But now they were rich. Robert and his wife Eliza had a family of seven children. I have only located two surviving children for Thomas and his wife Ann at the time of Francis Childs’ death.

At the time of moving into their new mansions, presuming they took a few years to build, Ann Lovelace, fifth child of Robert and Eliza Lovelace, would have been aged about 11.

Thomas Devon barely had time to sleep in his new home. He died in April 1767.  All his wordly possessions, and it seems his position in the banking partnership, went to his eighteen year old son George Barker Devon.

It may have been a fond fancy of Thomas Devon that his son might marry a daughter of his business partner and friend Robert Lovelace.  That sort of thing happened a lot in those days.  Young George may even have given such a verbal promise at his father’s deathbed in the heat of the emotional parting.  He was young and stepping into big shoes.  I have a lot of sympathy for George.  It was a big ask of a youngster whose social world was one of leisure and comfort.

George Barker Devon was now an extremely eligible bachelor.  I cannot be sure, but given the marriage bond, the license agreement and later events, I can’t help feeling that he was pressured into this marriage somehow.  He may have promised, but he was too young to know what that promise really meant.  The same goes for Ann.

Maybe it had nothing to do with money.  Perhaps the two fell in love and the marriage was their own wish.  Maybe.

They might have been two spoilt young people used to getting whatever they wanted.


The Morning Walk (Portrait of Mr and Mrs William Hallett), 1785. By Thomas Gainsborough – Websearch, Public Domain, .  (Note: Mr and Mrs Halllett were probably not spoilt youngsters)


On 27 April 1773, 23 year old George Barker Devon and 19 year old Ann Lovelace were married in Battersea by license.  The marriage bond was signed on 14th April 1773 by George Barker Devon, Goldsmith, and Robert Lovelace, Goldsmith of Battersea.   Robert gave consent to the marriage of his daughter, a minor.  The witnesses were Richard Harris Lovelace, brother to the bride, and Ann Devon, probably the mother of the groom unless there was a sister I haven’t found yet.

The happy couple settled somewhere in the parish of St Dunstan’s in Middlesex.  George Barker Devon began working with a new banking partner, William Willis.

Matilda Maria Devon was born in 1775.  Harriet was born about two years later.  Just the two children.


Married State Circa 1780. By W. Proud [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What happened next is unclear. There was a rift. I’m surprised it wasn’t a scandal, but their social circles functioned differently to the aristocracy.   Researching the various young adults who grew up in early Clapham there were a lot of dodgy business deals, corruption, marital affairs, gambling problems, pistol duels and family feuds.  None of it made a stir in London society and they kept it under the radar.

Miss Elizabeth Willis, daughter of the banker William Willis, had a son in about 1782 to George Barker Devon.

I would love to know what occurred now.  What did Ann do?  Did she refuse to accept his betrayal, take her children and fly to her parents’ home in Clapham?   In that era she had no legal right to her own children.  Did she forgive him to no purpose?  Were there other extramarital children that haven’t been found?

The end result however it came about was that George purchased a new mansion and moved in with Elizabeth.  Ann and her two daughters went back to the Lovelace home in Clapham.

George and Elizabeth had nine children together, in all.  Once they were together, George settled down to a lengthy public career.  He was the Remembrancer of First Fruits for several years. He continued as a banker.  His daughters with Elizabeth made good marriages and his sons made excellent careers for themselves as military officers or businessmen.  There is no indication of flightiness in George from this time on.  Elizabeth was known in society as Mrs Elizabeth Devon, despite the absence of marriage.  It’s likely that within five years, nobody outside the family circles remembered that there had ever been a first wife.

Snip of woman

‘Lady Reading in an Interior’ by Marguerite Gérard [Public domain] ca 1796, via Wikimedia Commons

Ann had the money to travel and to live comfortably, but she does not appear in a public record again, only in wills.  She was still married so she could not have another husband.   She had her two daughters and seems to have devoted herself to them.  Her love of her daughters emerges in the wording of Ann’s own will in 1833, written in her own handwriting.  But at this time – she seems to have lived a very quiet life.  Whether she was happy we do not know.

But her father Robert Lovelace – he was livid!  To the end of his days he never forgave George Barker Devon for his actions.  The rift between the families was permanent.

Also, in George Barker Devon’s will many years later there is no mention of his daughters to his first wife.  It’s as if that part of his life never happened.  Yet it seems that George’s sons with Elizabeth Willis knew of their nephew, the son of Harriet Devon and assisted him in his own military career later on.

So to the will that this blog is actually about – the will of Robert Lovelace 1796 (National Archives of London Catalogue Reference: Prob 11/1275) :

I, Robert Lovelace of Temple Bar London, Esquire, do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in manner following:

I will and bequeath to my daughter Ann the wife of George Barker Devon Esquire the sum of five hundred pounds to be paid to her within three months next after my death by my Executor for her sole and separate use and not to be subject to the debts or control of her husband, and my will is that [the recipient’s?] state shall be a sufficient surcharge to my executor. I bequeath to my daughter Dame Elizabeth Stachan the wife of Joseph Walton the annuity of one hundred pounds mentioned in her settlement previous to her last marriage according to the true intent and meaning thereof.  I give and bequeath unto my son Richard Lovelace an annuity or yearly sum to be paid … 

and so it goes on into the distribution of his estates to other family members.  He references trusts with Robert Childs and also a painting of Francis Child bequeathed to his eldest son Robert Lovelace.  The condition of the original will is not great and the handwriting is difficult too.  It looks as though he was stingy with Ann, but Richard Lovelace’s will decades later makes clear that he was managing an amount intended for the maintenance of Ann. Presumably this was to ensure that the recalcitrant husband could not make a claim.

It was purchasing this will that set me on the trail to solving the mystery of George Barker Devon’s marriage to Ann Lovelace but regular baptisms of children with Elizabeth Willis.  There are still mysteries.

But what a story to find in one’s tree!

Frances Richards and the Bible – Heirloom #52Ancestors Week 8


Family Bible first owned by Frances Richards 1829-1874

This week’s prompt was a challenge.  My family just doesn’t keep things at all.

I have a clock from my mother’s side, and a family bible from my father’s side.  That’s it, and I am exceptionally grateful to my mother’s brother and to my father’s mother for giving those items to me while they were alive, because otherwise they, also, would have been lost.

So for this week I decided to write about Frances Richards, a woman who might never have been known to me were it not for her bible.  She lived apparently in such isolation that no record has been found of the births of most of her children.  Were it not for the bible, my great great grandmother Sarah Ellen Cox would have been a brick wall.

Town very near Launceston Tasmania

This is a town just outside of Launceston in 2014 showing the terrain.

The little town of Launceston in northern Tasmania had a population of about 2000 when Frances was born on 2nd January 1829.  She was the first born child of George and  Ellen Richards.

George was a convict holding a ticket of leave, working as a butcher.  This meant that he could receive wages for his work, but had to observe curfew, was not allowed to leave town and might have his ticket revoked if he misbehaved in any way.  I have written a blog post about him already.

His wife Ellen was aged 19 when Frances was born.  Ellen was the daughter of the ex-Captain John Cummings, formerly of the 102nd Regiment.  John was a rather arrogant man, scion of a long line of successful military men.  He was forced to resign after participating in the Rum Corp Rebellion of 1808 and received a land grant at Port Dalrymple in return for his prudent withdrawal.   He brought his wife and three young children.  His wife drowned when Ellen was eleven years old.  The boys were sent off to be educated and Ellen was left behind presumably with a chaperon.  She was eighteen when she married 28 year old George Richards, a man of a very different social class to herself.

At the time of Frances’ birth, Launceston had a population of 2000 and was about 20 years old. There was talk of setting up a printing office for its own newspaper, but that was still in the future.  The ‘Launceston’ section of the Hobart Gazette reported on shipping arrivals and departures at Launceston, and on Criminal Court proceedings which in January 1829 took a whopping fortnight to process.  A lot of the crime concerned either stock thefts or drunken fighting.

Rural scene near Launceston

Rural scene near Launceston Tasmania

Frances was only a year old when her baby brother George was born and died within a fortnight.  He was buried at St Johns, a church only built eight years earlier. But after George came Richard in 1833 and Matilda in 1834, both hearty enough to survive the dangerous early years of life.  George’s sentence was now served out.  As long as he remained in the colony he was a free man.

The family packed up and moved to somewhere beyond Hamilton.

Part of Tasmania 1837

Journey of the Richards family circa 1835 in green.

It sounds easy, but this was a colossal trek.  How did they do it?  Either they travelled overland all the way, or by boat to Hobart and overland from there.  Neither option was easy.  This was a journey of 176km in those days (109 miles) on fair weather roads or horse tracks, through thick forest and with the constant danger of attack from bushrangers and perhaps also from the Indigenous population of Tasmania. It would have taken at least a week, maybe longer.

The above map is in the public domain and was printed in 1837, just a year after seven year old Frances and her family made the trek. Not much is known yet about that event.  They were probably not alone.  Most likely, George was employed in Launceston by one of the men now receiving land grants in the midland areas.  The family probably travelled with their new employer and with the families of other employees.  But until more is known, this is just speculation.

Soon enough the family were somewhere beyond the thriving township of Hamilton in the vicinity of the River Ouse.  Young Harriet Richards was baptised in Hamilton in 1836.

In 1836, parishes and counties were drawn up and gazetted for the colony, in blatant disregard of the large Aboriginal population  already living in the region. (See appendix below for the details regarding the Ouse region where the Richards family now lived. George Richards was probably an employee of one of the referenced grant holders.)

Forest near Ouse

Forest near Ouse where the Richards family lived 1836-1838

The only way to track the family at this time seems to be via baptisms of their children. Susan was born and baptised in 1838 in Ouse, just as discussions were underway for a proper church at the new Ouse Bridge.   In 1839, Esther was baptised in Oatlands. But all later children were baptised at the new St John the Baptist chapel in Ouse.

That wild region was developing its own community by now. I have written about it here.  The original grantees kept their holdings in the arable plains but sold off or leased out the more useless, resource-intensive mountain areas.  These became the home of ex-convict families, most of them wood merchants or shepherds.  Surnames such as Burris, Keats, Harrex, Pearce and Lane began to appear in the marriage and baptism records.  Their descendants still live there today.

Another newcomer to the region was ex-convict Edward Cox. He must have been about thirty when Frances met him.  They were married on 8 November 1847 in the new church, St John the Baptist at Ouse.

CofE Ouse 1992

St John the Baptist, Ouse (taken 1992), where Edward and Frances were married in 1847.

St John the Baptist inside 2015

Inside the chapel of St John the Baptist 2015

They both signed the register with an X.  The witnesses were Edward and Frances Burris.

Frances Cox marriage

Marriage registration of Edward Cox and Frances Richards 1847

The couple travelled around for a bit.  Their first child was a daughter Ann, baptised in Brighton which is towards Hobart Town. No birth or baptism has been located for their second child, Edward George Cox.  But then they moved to Lane’s Tier.

Lanes Tier Rd

Lanes Tier Rd near Osterley, Tasmania

This is the closest I could get to Lanes Tier on my most recent visit. This is the beginning of the road from the road into Osterley.  Somewhere in there was the married world of Mrs Frances Cox, where she cared for her husband and raised a large family.  Ann, George, Christiana and Letitia were the eldest four.

So finally – the topic prompt becomes relevant.  We learned of their births from the family bible.

Family bible

Family bible (click to enlarge)

Someone very thoughtfully arranged stickers with the children’s birth dates on them, stuck them in the bible and gave it to Frances. That’s my guess.  I would also guess that the someone might have been connected to the church or to the wealthy landowner.  Whoever it was has given our family a gift that is still treasured today.  Frances kept this bible safe and passed it on to her daughter.  It is hard to know how old the bible is, but later children are written in pen, probably by one of Frances’ younger daughters.

John Christopher William Cox was born in 1856, the year that Frances lost her mother to dropsy. Mrs Ellen Richards’ burial place is not known but the death was registered in Hamilton.  John’s birth is not referenced in the family bible at all, but luckily he was baptised so we know he belongs.

The place is merely a locality today, but by 1860 there was a bustling little township at Lanes Tier.  It wasn’t a township as we know them today.  There were no shops and the road out of the town was only accessible in good weather.  But they were self-sufficient and populous.

Money at Lane's Tier

In 1873, the residents of Lane’s Tier were unable to meet the amount required to contribute towards a school due not to lack of wealth but simply through lack of actual coin and an inability to transport their produce to a place which would pay real money. “IN CASH OR KIND?” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 7 April 1873: 2. Web. 31 Mar 2018 .

Eleven children were born to Edward and Frances. Christiana died at the age of five, but the rest reached adulthood.

In 1862, Frances’ little sister Ellen had married Thomas Lane, a son of the original occupant of Lane’s Tier.  On 31 October 1871 Letitia Cox married  George John Lane, Thomas’ younger brother.

On 26 January 1874, Frances Ann Cox was the first one in the Lanes Tier community to sicken and die from diphtheria, an epidemic that decimated the little town to such an extent that they never recovered.  An inquest was held.  Of the twelve men who participated in that inquest in the Cox household, eight died within the following two months of the same contagious affliction.  But Frances was first and nobody knew what was ahead of them.  The cause of death as per autopsy was given as quincy.  The next six deaths were recorded as various throat-related inflammations. It was not till a month had passed before an actual doctor was sent to the community to investigate the large number of burials.

Frances Ann Cox

Death registration of Frances Ann Cox

Frances death

The deaths of Frances Ann Cox and her son Edward George Cox, both of diphtheria a month apart, as recorded in the family bible.

This was a long post, but I am glad to write the basic story of a woman who – were it not for this family heirloom – would have been without any sense of reality to me. She was buried at St John the Baptist in Ouse.

Headstone Frances Cox

Headstone of the Cox family. This seems to have been erected at least two years after Frances’ death and the dates are incorrect. The dates in the family bible match the death registration dates. This headstone is close, but seems to have given them all death years of 1875.






In the county of Cumberland.-Parish of Lawrenny.-Bounded on the east side by the river Clyde from its junction with the river Derwent to the northeast angle of a grant of fifteen hundred acres to Mrs. Jacobina Burn, on the north by the north boundary of the before
mentioned grant to Mrs. Jacobina Burn and by a west line (in contiuuation of her boundary) through the Lawrenny estate to the river Ouse, on the south-west by the river Ouse to its junction with the river Derwent and afterwards by the Derwent to the junction of the river Clyde with the said river Derwent. 
Parish of Guilford.-Bounded on the south by Lawrenny parish, on the east by the river Clyde from the northeast angle of Lawrenny parish to a rivulet wich falls into the Clyde, a few chains to the south of that point on the river whence the boundary of John Sherwin’s grant commences, on the north by the rivulet above described and a line in continuation through W. S. Sharland’s land, thence by a line in a north westerly direction to the Shaun ravine, by the Shaun ravine to the river Ouse, on the northwest by the river Ouse to the north-west angle of Lawrenny parish.
Parish of Abergavenny.-Bounded on the south by Guilford parish, on the southeast by the river Clyde from the northeast angle of Guilford parish to a point on that river opposite the division boundary line of Reid’s and Scott’s grants, on the northeast by a line in a northwesterly direction about the distance of four miles and a quarter to a mark, on the north by a west line to the river Ouse, and on the west by the river Ouse to the junction of the Shaun ravine with the said river.
Parish of Amherst.-Bounded on the south-west by Abergavenny parish, on the east and southeast by the river Clyde from the east angle of Abergavenny parish to the division boundary between Allardyce’s and Nowell’s grants, on the north by the division boundary of the two grants before mentioned and by the streamlet running through Captain Clark’s land and a line in continuation to a point about a mile west of the boundary of Captain Clark’s original grant, and on the north west by a line to a point on the Blue hills from the last mentioned point forming the northeast angle of Abergavenny parish.

[The above four parishes form the hundred of Lawrenny.]
Parish of Fortescue -Bounded on the north- west side by the river Ouse and Shannon from the north-west angle of Abergavenny parish to a small rivulet which falls in to the said river and divides the village of Ebrington, on the southeast by the northeast boundary of Amherst parish and a line in continuation of about two miles and a quarter, and on the northeast by a line from the termination of the last mentioned line running through the grant to Thomas James Lempriere and north of Mount Pleasant until it connects with the rivulet, thence by the rivulet running through the village of Ebrington to the river Shannon.
Parish of St. Albans.-Bounded on the south by Amherst parish, on the east by the river Clyde on the northwest by Fortescue parish and a line from the eastern angle of that parish in continuation of its south eastern boundary to the southeast angle of a grant to Miles Paterson by the cast boundary of that grant to its north-east angle, and on the north by a line from the northeast angle of the grant to Miles Paterson, bearing east to the river Clyde.
Parish of Malmesbury -Bounded on the south-west by the northeast boundary of Fortescue parish, on the southeast, and east by St. Alban’s parish to its northwest angle which is the northeast angle of a grant to Miles Paterson, and on the remaining part of the east by a line bearing north on the west by the river Clyde, and on the north by a line bearing east and west.
Parish of Rochford.-Bounded on tine south-east by the river Shannon, from its junction with tho river Ouse to a point” on the Shannon about two miles above the place whence the north boundary of Mrs. Sarah Smith’s grant commences, on the north by a west line from the river Shannon to the river Ouse, and on the west by the river Ouse to the junction of the river Shannon with the said river Ouse.
[The above four parishes form the hundred of Ebrington.]

John Reddan and Mary Ann McKinley – Week 7 52Ancestors – Valentine


Oatlands snipped fix

Oatlands 2014

On the 4th of April 1858, John Reading and Mary Ann McGinty were united in Holy Matrimony at St Paul’s Catholic Church in Oatlands, Tasmania.   According to the register, John was a farmer and a bachelor, aged 38.  Mary Ann was a Lady and a spinster, aged 17.  The witnesses were John Gorman and Sarah Flynn.

Here’s the entry:

Reading McGinty marriage

Tasmania Names website$init=RGD33-1-58p596j2k

It was probably a very pretty wedding.  The historic church of St Paul’s is a grand sandstone building, a place anyone would love to be married in.  Here it is below.


St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Oatlands. V.D.L: first stone laid 9th April 1850 Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts.   Usage of image allowed for non-commercial use only with attribution included.

The topic of Week 9 is Valentine and I struggled to find a good couple to write about. I’m sure there was plenty of love in my family tree, but life was so different back then, I just don’t think they thought about it that much.   Generally speaking, the women needed to marry to have any kind of life at all, whatever their social sphere. The men needed to marry to have any kind of comfort in their life if they were poor, or to fulfil their social obligations if rich.  No doubt love came into it, but looking at paper records for my ancestors doesn’t tell me much about their motivations.

John and Mary were my great great grandparents.

John was born in Tipperary, Ireland as John Reddan in 1820.  This detail comes from later records. His father was Darby Reddan and his mother was named Bess.  He grew up in a time of poverty and conflict and as an adult became a soldier.  His name at attestation was recorded as John Redden.

He traveled to Canada with the 97th Regiment in about 1839.  He spent ten years there.  From the little bit I have read about the 97th Regiment and their experiences, it was very cold, very damp, very miserable.  In 1849 John deserted, was excused, but then deserted again.  He was found, charged with desertion and transported to Van Diemen’s Land as a convict.  His transportation record is recorded as John Reddin.  Upon receiving a ticket of leave after only two years, John became a constable in the Green Ponds region.  He would have met ellow constable John McKinley, who was a transported convict from Donegal.  He obviously also met John’s daughter Mary Ann.


Ruins near Oatlands, Tasmania 2014

John McKinley and his wife Alice came from Fermanagh in Ireland.  A young couple with two toddlers and a completely clean record, they committed a crime together and were tried together.  John was sentenced to transportation, Alice was deemed to have acted under the influence of her husband and was let off.

Alice committed another offence – larceny – days after her release.  This time she was sentenced to transportation.  It is very clear that the plan was orchestrated.  They were transported on different ships a year apart.

Alice and her toddlers Mary and James arrived on the Waverley in July 1847.  Both children survived the journey but tragically James died in the convict nursery at Dynnyrne – a place infamous for its disease and neglect of the children.   Mary was sent to the Orphan School while her mother completed her sentence.

orphanschool record

Orphan School Transcription – original can be found at Archives of Tasmania – transcription at . Brother’s name is incorrectly listed as Patrick on the transportation record.

A fellow passenger on the Waverley was Sarah McTigue, aged 30 from Mayo, Ireland.

As Mary’s orphan school record shows, she was released to her mother at the age of about 7.   The family was reunited as her parents completed their sentences. John McKinley became a constable and was stationed in Kempton.


Kempton in the morning fog.

Also in the region were two other convicts – Peter Flynn who was transported for manslaughter, and John Gorman who was a former soldier, transported for insubordination.

Peter Flynn and Sarah McTigue were married at Oatlands in 1850, while the new church was still under construction.  The McKinley family probably attended that wedding. In 1850, Mary was aged about 8.

Mary must have grown up with John Reading around. He was a quiet man, not much of a talker apparently. He was 5 foot 7 with dark brown hair and blue eyes.  I don’t have a description of Mary in her prime.

A mere 8 years later at the age of 17 – which can’t have been true, she was actually 16 or perhaps even 15 – Mary and 38 year old John Reading were married.  The witnesses were Sarah Flynn (formerly McTigue) who made the crossing with Mary and her mother, and John Gorman, friend of John’s and a fellow soldier-convict.

John Reddan is recorded as John Reading and perhaps he was a farmer.  Mary Ann McKinley is recorded as Mary Ann McGinty and she clearly presented herself well.  ‘Lady’ is an unexpected status.

From all accounts, it was a very happy marriage.  John committed one offense about twenty years later – after five days he closed the gate on a stray cow who had wandered into his paddock and accidentally branded the cow’s calf along with his own.  Several character witnesses reported that he was a law-abiding man who participated in community life.

Tasmanian midlands

House in Oatlands

Twelve children were born to John and Mary.  Their son Thomas was my great grandfather.

John died in 1893 in Kempton, aged 73.  Mary moved in with her son Thomas and his wife.

My grandmother’s eldest sister  remembered Mary McKinley who was her own grandmother and used to babysit her.  She said she was a very old lady in a dark coloured dress who liked to talk.

Mary Ann Reading died on 13 Aug 1919 and was buried at St Peter’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Kempton. No headstone remains.

mary mck bible snip

Mary’s death entry in the family bible (confusing bit of previous entry removed)