Z is for Also Sprach Zarathustra

Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 – Strauss

Richard Strauss composed this stirring music which introduces Stanley Kubrick’s  2001: A Space Odyssey.  It is followed by Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz as a space vehicle circles the earth.

One family story I wanted to confirm or deny concerns Australia’s first astronaut, Philip Kenyon Chapman.  I was told and always believed that he was part of the family and descended from Eva and Robert.  Looking at his birthdate of 5 March 1935 he could be a grandson but however much I have searched I can’t find a connection AND time is running out.

In the 1960s his story filled me with excitement as space travel was tantalisingly close.  I have decided that whether he is related or not I will tell his story because it is an interesting one.

Before heading off to be an astronaut Philip was involved in the 1958 Australian National Research Expedition in Antarctica,  receiving the British Polar Medal.  Born in Melbourne, his parents moved to Sydney and he attended Parramatta High School.  He learned to fly at the University of Sydney, as a member of the University Squadron of the RAAF.  His uncle Norman was active in the aviation industry and helped establish many outback routes for QANTAS.

220px-Astronaut_Philip_K_ChapmanThe Australian Womens’ Weekly of Wed 6 Sep 1967 has a feature article on Philip Chapman, saying that he will be the first Australian to orbit the earth and quite possibly the first to land on the moon.  Aged 32 at this time he is described as a soft-spoken, pipe smoking physicist.  He had just been appointed a scientist-astronaut in the U.S. Space Program.

He said, “To land on the moon is the dream of every astronaut.  To be realistic, though as a scientist-astronaut rather than a pilot-astronaut, I can expect to be assigned  to orbital flights concerned with research rather than with lunar landings.”

Philip applied for  American citizenship in 1961 because he knew he had found his life’s work and it meant spending the rest of his life in the United States, where space research was so advanced.

His wife retained her Australian citizenship.  “If I am killed”, said Philip, “I would like to think that Pamela would feel free to go home to her family.  If she took out U.S. Citizenship she might find that more difficult to do.”

Dr. Chapman was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967. After initial academic training and a 53-week course in flight training at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, he was involved in preparations for lunar missions, serving in particular as mission scientist for the Apollo 14 mission. Because of the lack of spaceflight opportunities for scientist-astronauts in the 1967 intake, Dr. Chapman left NASA in July 1972.

chapman_philip_2In 2003 Philip Chapman wrote:

The Failure of NASA: And A Way Out

by Philip K. Chapman

Sunnyvale – May 30, 2003

I was in Mission Control when Neil Armstrong announced that the Eagle had landed. The applause was unexpectedly muted as we were all overwhelmed by the significance of the moment. Nobody had any doubt that Tranquility Base was the first step in an expansion into space that would drive human progress for centuries to come.

We had of course all seen the 1968 Kubrick/Clarke movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the facilities depicted there seemed entirely reasonable. In our lifetimes, we expected to see hotels in orbit, translunar shuttles operated by commercial airlines, and settlements on the Moon. Only the alien monolith was questionable.

None of this has happened.

Phil ChapmanPhilip Chapman is still living in the United States and has led a busy, active life despite not having gone into space.  He worked with Peter Glaser, inventor of the Solar Power Satellite and has been involved in the development of space based solar power.  He is now retired but still publishing opinion pieces, some quite controversial, on scientific issues.

The more I read the more I doubt we are related.  His father’s name is Colin and his uncle is Norman.  Those names have not appeared in my version of the Robert/Eva Chapman family tree.

Oh well!  Another myth shattered. Not that it matters.  It has been fun exploring the stories of my family but I will be very pleased when this last post goes up and I can sit back and relax with a glass of  Sieur d’Arques Aimery Crémant de Limoux Grand Cuvée 1531 that I have been saving for the occasion.  That’s what it says on the bottle so I will try it and see if it lives up to its grand name.

Y is for Young Love

Robert William Chapman by unknown photographer 1931 State Library of South Australia

I strongly suspected but now have confirmation that the men in my family were not the most stable, reliable, wealthy or long lived spouses for their unfortunate wives.  One successful union, however,  was that of Eva Maud Hall and Robert William Chapman.

Eva’s brother Walter (my grandfather) was working at the Newport Workshops in 1888 when he may have come across a smart, young university graduate who was working for a contractor on railway construction work.  How Robert met Eva will always remain a mystery.  She was 20 years old and the daughter of the drapers George and Sarah Hall of Williamstown.  The wedding took place in that same town on 14 Feb 1889 after which the couple moved to Adelaide and Robert became an assistant lecturer in Mathematics and Physics at Adelaide University.

The couple had eight children but little more is known about Eva except that she was a university wife and became the first president of the Wives Club.  According to her obituary she was largely responsible for the interest of the club in the Mareeba Babies’ Hospital.

I give full marks to Eva for her choice of husband.  Although born in England, Robert’s parents were from Melbourne.  His father, Charles was a currier, a specialist in the leather processing industry.  In 1876 the family returned to Melbourne where Robert attended Wesley College and the University of Melbourne.  It was between university studies and his appointment at Adelaide University that he met Eva.

The achievements of Robert Chapman are too numerous to list here.  He was responsible for promoting the professionalism of engineering and held the post of Professor of Engineering and Professor of Mathematics at Adelaide University alternately between 1907 and 1937.  He also taught mathematics at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries and instigated joint courses  between the two institutions.

His interests were varied.  He researched the structure of timber, metals and concrete.  Tidal behaviour and astronomy were other passions.  He consulted with the South Australian Government on bridges, roads, jetties, railways and breakwaters.  He wrote many books on these subjects.

This  description of him makes me think he might have been a good husband and life partner.

He had a faculty, amounting almost to genius, of being able to recognise the fundamental essentials in almost any problem.  This along with the great gift of humility, made him an excellent teacher and endeared him to his students.

By Philip Fargher  This entry was first published in S.A.’s Greats: The men and women of the North Terrace plaques, edited by John Healey (Adelaide: Historical Society of South Australia Inc., 2001).

Photo of Robert Chapman by Walter Scott-Barry 1937 State Library of South Australia

To top it all, the year after Robert retired, in 1938,  he was knighted, so Eva became Lady Eva Chapman.  Talk about a knight in shining armour!

Of course life is never all smooth sailing and tragedy struck in World War 1 when their son Lieutenant Charles G Chapman of the Royal Engineers was killed in Mesopotamia at the relief of Kut.  The other two serving sons survived the war and all were gathered to celebrate the Golden Wedding at the Oriental Hotel in Adelaide in February of 1939.

According to the Adelaide Advertiser 18 Feb 1939 the sons at that time were Chief Engineer of the South Australian Railways,  Deputy Engineer for the Adelaide Corporation, Engineering Surveyor on the Goolwa Barrage, a Dentist in Clare and the owner of a “hydraulic sluicing claim” on the Bulolo, New Guinea.  The two daughters of course are not even named, but take on their husband’s names and have no role other than wives!

Eva was 73 when her husband died at the age of 75.  Four years later she too passed on, after a life which appears to have been fulfilling and rewarding.  In a time where women’s lives revolved around the nature of the man they married, Eva was one lucky woman.

X is for 10 (in Roman Numerals)

When I was 10 my father died of a heart attack.  Although it was a traumatic time I still had my mother, stayed in the same house and went to the same school.  Life went on much as before.

wedding amy grace
James Jones Curry and Amy Grace King 1911

For another 10 year old, the death of his father was to have far greater repercussions.  The father was James Jones Curry, son of the Andrew Curry who came to Australia at the age of 17 eventually to become Mayor of Merewether.

Born in 1886 James became a master butcher by trade and in 1911 married Amy Grace King.  They had five children.  The eldest, Elaine was born in 1913, followed by Nita in 1915, Wallace in 1917, William in 1920 and Betty in 1925.

James appears in a group photograph for the Central Mission Football Club who were runners up in the 1907-08 Wednesday Competition.  It was noted that this was the last year before Rugby League was introduced so it must have been Rugby Union.  He is in the front row on the far left.

Curry Rugby

In 1912 James  is looking very smart at the Butchers’ Picnic.  He is the treasurer and is seated behind a bag of money in the front row.


Time passed by and now James is posing with the Sydney Male Voice Choir at La Perouse.  It is 1925 and he has a butchers’ shop in Surry Hills.  He is in the middle row leaning forward.

Curry choir

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 3.03.53 PM
A 1926 Cadillac

James would do unexpected things like hire a Cadillac for the day and drive the family across Sydney to Palm Beach.

His son Wally told of the day his dad was locked in the cold room along with the meat.  He called for help but no-one heard him.  How long he was in there is not recorded but he was traumatised afterwards and according to Wally, never the same again.

By 1927 they were back in Newcastle.  James had a butchers’  shop in the Junction.  On January 8 1928 James went missing.  According to the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate of Monday, 9th January, 1928 a Mr Finch called to the family home on Sunday, searching for Mr Curry and was told he would be at the shop as he had left at 11.30 in the morning. Mr Finch went there about 5.45 pm but front and back doors were locked.  He gave the back door a hard shove and it flew open.  He could see nothing but a hat and a gabardine overcoat on a box.  He went back to the Curry house feeling concerned and returned to the shop at 7 o’clock with two other men.  They found the lifeless body of James at the back of the shop near the ice room, hanging by a piece of  rope.

Curry House
The family home

The family story is that the dinner Amy Grace had prepared for James was buried in the back garden of the house in Turnbull Street, Merewether where the family lived.

The Newcastle Sun (Tues 17 Jan 1928) reported that the brother of James, John Curry, a commercial traveller, told the court that his brother had to undergo an operation and also that business was bad.  Another report from The Sun(Mon 9 Jan 1928) says:

Curry was said to have been in ill-health for some time, and had been advised to undergo a major operation.

There does not appear to have been an autopsy or a doctor’s report on his state of health so we will never know what caused him to take the drastic steps which left a widow and five young children.  What happened next is also hard to understand from a mother’s point of view but if the financial situation was as bad as James had said maybe it was the only solution.

Andrew Curry was a respected elder in the Masonic Lodge.  James was also a Mason so when Wally and his bother Bill were offered positions at the William Thompson Masonic School in Sydney, Amy Grace must have felt this was a way for her sons to get an education and also reduce the household expenses.

According to “Find and Connect”:


tn_William Thompson Masonic SchoolThe William Thompson Masonic School was the brainchild of William Thompson who was the Liberal Party member for Ryde from 1913-20, and Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons from 1914-24.

Thompson’s aim was to establish cottage homes for orphans. Land was purchased at Baulkham Hills in 1921 and the first stage of what was originally known as The Masonic Orphan Schools was opened on 11 November 1922. In recognition of Thompson’s leadership and service to the project, the school was later renamed William Thompson Masonic Schools.


Wally recalled setting off for Sydney on the steam train with his little brother, Billy at his side.  He had nothing bad to say about the school and often talked of his experiences, but the boys found it hard to be separated from the rest of the family after losing their father.

They both left school as soon as they could and tried many jobs before they found their niche in life.  Billy went off the World War 2 and returned, eventually becoming an ambulance driver.  Wally became Manager of Bradford Insulation in Wollongong.  Always a staunch Freemason, Wally spent much of his life raising funds for disadvantaged children and was an Old Boy of the William Thompson School.


W is for Walter Sydney Hall

Walter is my other  grandfather about whom I knew little.  Married to Myrtle May Hall for eight  short years before she took off with her daughter, I feel a bit sorry for him left alone in his house at 80 Railway Crescent, Williamstown.

It wasn’t the first time Walter was left alone.    In 1898, when he was 28, he married Hannah Simmonds.  They had no children  and Hannah died from a painful illness in 1910.  Until this month I did not know of her existence.

80 railway
80 Railway Crescent, Williamstown

My grandmother’s description of Walter Sydney Hall  is strangely enigmatic. “Walter, your father, was in the Newport workshops at 15 years and was still in the same employ when he died at the age of 62 years.  47 years in the government workshops – only ever had the one job in his life – and had never been to court in his life.  His one failing was he gambled every thing he ever had and finished up on the wrong side.”

Walter was the 9th of the 12 children of George Hall and Sarah Drake, who owned the drapery shop in Williamstown.    It would have been 1885 when he began work at the Newport Workshops.

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 7.22.57 PM
Newport Workshops 1920s
The Newport workshops were the Victorian Railway’s main workshops for just over a century. The later buildings reflecting growth, particularly during 1902-1928 in the period of modernisation,
expansion and the production of locomotives, demonstrate this subsequent important period of development. For many of those years the Workshops were one of Victoria’s largest and best equipped engineering establishments, with up to 5,000 employees on site, building and maintaining steam locomotives and other rolling stock, and also making tarpaulins and other basic stores for railway use. Newport Workshops even made many of its own machine tools, a task which required a high level of technical expertise.


Victorian Heritage Database Report “Newport Railway workshops”

For some reason Walter left his home in Williamstown to live in Stawell in the year of 1915.  He is listed as a Railway Employee and is residing at the home of Mrs Owens in Napier Street, Stawell. This was a fateful move for it was in Stawell he met Myrtle May Lock.


When Myrtle married Walter she was 20 and he was 46.  With the wisdom of hindsight it seems Myrtle’s reasons for marrying were  far from romantic.  She was already an accomplished dressmaker but Walter had a house and from his photos wasn’t too bad looking so why not?

Elsa was born in August 1917.  There are no photos of her taken with her father although there are a number of her with her grandmother Christina and cousin Hayden. Myrtle was very ill after the birth so Elsa was fed Glaxo formula and won a competition as a “Glaxo” baby.  It was considered desirable in those days to have a chubby baby.

The Glaxo baby (my mother)

I thought at first the reference to Walter’s  gambling habit may be a figment of my grandmother’s imagination until I saw a stream of articles on Trove on that very subject.

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 5.44.12 PM
The Age, Melbourne 25 Nov 1907

It is rather surprising that 15 years later gambling was still rife in the Newport Workshops.

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 5.54.27 PM
The Maitland Daily Mercury Thu 13 Jul 1922

Did the gambling at the Newport Workshops use up all the money Walter earned?  When Kay says he ended up on the wrong side what does she mean?  She said he had never been to court in his life so it is hard to imagine what made her leave Walter.  The following advertisement appeared in the Williamstown Chronicle in 1925

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 4.47.45 PM
Williamstown Chronicle Sat 5 Sep 1925

Walter died in 1933 at the age of 63.  His  obituary says that in his younger days he was a champion Australian Rules footballer for Williamstown and was popularly called “Dolly” Hall.  It is sad to think he ended his days alone, poor and in bad health.  The funeral took place from the residence of his brother Henry Hall, Yarraville to the Williamstown cemetery.  Pall bearers were old football colleagues.  No mention is made of his former two wives or his one child, Elsa, my mother.

V is for Vegetarian

The only relative on my father’s side that I ever met apart from his mother, was Les Bailey, Linden’s cousin.  Adelaide Ridgway was Ella’s sister, born in 1864, eleven years before Ella.  She married Charles Bailey in 1886 and had four children  including Leslie Owen Bailey who was born in 1890, seventeen years before my father.

Bailey 1945
Les Bailey with the Hopewoods

I actually got to meet this much admired relative in the flesh one day around 1959 when we drove to Hopewood in Bowral.  I was told this was a home for war orphans who had excellent teeth because they ate good food and had no lollies or sugary drinks.  When my dentist filled all my decaying molars with amalgam my father was beside himself with rage as I would now never rival the children of Hopewood.

The meeting was brief.  We drove the truck into the sweeping driveway.  Les Bailey talked a while and we drove away.  Maybe my father told him we were now living in the area but I never saw him again.

Hopewood in 1942

Years later Les Bailey hit the headlines.  He had died by that time (in 1964) and was no longer considered to

be the wonderful reformer he once was. He was accused of mistreating the orphans and even of keeping them from their rightful parents. Using information from the “Find and Connect” site I have tried to convey his controversial  legacy.


Above is  a digital copy of an image reproduced on 30 August 2012 from Jack Dunn Trop in A Gift of Love: The Hopewood Story.

In the late 1930s L.O. Bailey, a wealthy lingerie and clothing manufacturer, decided to test his ideals of ‘natural living’ and ‘natural health’ by conducting an experiment.  He founded the Youth Welfare Association of Australia (YWAA).  Bailey gathered 43 male and 43 females from unmarried mothers from 1942 until 1951 and raised them at Hopewood, and at smaller institutions in New South Wales, using his principles of ‘natural health’.

The 86 ‘Hopewood Children’, or ‘Hopewoods’, were told they were orphans and raised as ‘brothers and sisters’, although they were not adopted, or legally fostered. Bailey fed them all a vegetarian diet of mostly raw food, never allowed vaccination and avoided modern medicine. He recorded their progress, with assistance from doctors and dentists, and published widely about the success of his methods.

‘Hopewood’ was a grand mansion, built in 1884 for Ben Marshall Osborne, who named it after his own son, Hamilton Hope. The YWAA converted the flower gardens to vegetable patches to feed the children, closed in the verandahs and converted the stables to The Pavilion, to make room for the children. The new Hopewood Home was officially opened by Acting Prime Minister Frank Forde in November 1944. A full-time staff was hired and Bailey and his assistant, Mrs Cockburn, visited weekly.

The Hopewood diet was of food ‘in its natural state’: milk, salad vegetables, fruit, nuts, dates, honey, dried fruits, linseed and wholemeal porridge, bread or biscuits, cooked vegetables, molasses, wheat hearts, prunes, cheese, soya beans, treacle, eggs, butter and unpolished rice.

There were problems of course.  Getting adequately trained staff who would not abuse the children was difficult.  The children had to attend school and from there they would pick up germs and become sick.  Then as they became teenagers there was the problem of what to do with them. They were moved into group homes, in Maroubra, Manly, Narrabeen, Mosman and Canberra. Some of these children remained under supervision, but as one woman who grew up in Hopewood reported to the Senate Inquiry Into Institutional Care, girls were also sent out as servants, or placed in the Convent of the Good Shepherd. By the late 1950s Bailey had stopped publishing about the children’s health. By the early 1960s, the only children left at Hopewood were boys who were studying or running the dairy.

Bailey died suddenly in 1964, but his ideas continued to be promoted by Mrs Cockburn. The YWAA gave Hopewood, together with money for its restoration, to a Catholic order, the Society of St Gerard Majella.

Bailey’s ideas live on in the Natural Health Society, which maintains a strong stance on vegetarianism and against vaccination, and in Hopewood Retreat, a vegetarian health spa.

Hopewood is now a bespoke wedding venue.

Although the Hopewood children grew up close, it seems that rifts have developed in the group over time. While some Hopewoods feel certain they were loved and raised well by ‘Daddy’ Bailey and his assistant, Florence ‘Madge’ Cockburn, others recall abuses and feel exploited by Bailey’s experimentation. Some have found adult life to be extremely challenging, leaving a sad legacy for their own children and grandchildren. The differences in the memories of the Hopewoods is a source of pain and confusion.

As with many institutions it seems that all was not as it seemed at Hopewood and the children were not prepared adequately for life in the real world.  Les Bailey has fallen from grace as revered benefactor to the perpetrator of a failed eugenic vision of a new order.

U is for Uncle Phillip

My grandmother Kay writes:

Uncle Phillip Lock and wife toured the world and were presented at Court and also were presented to the Pope personally at the Vatican which is one of the greatest honours a Protestant could have bestowed on them.  Ethel had rosary beads twisted around her arm under the sleeves of her frock from shoulder to wrist to be blessed by the Pope – from people who knew she was to be received by the Pope she considered that would be the quickest and easiest way to get the business over – just roll the sleeves up.

So who was Phillip Lock and how did he get to be so successful?  I found in his obituary that like his younger brother Reuben Benjamin Lock he started work as a fish dealer.  His life must have taken a dramatically different turn because at one stage he was the owner of the magnificent Werribee Park.  He also resided at The Manor, Werribee for many years. The manor is described thus:

The … house ‘with its elegant interior and beautifully laid-out gardens became one of the show places of the district – the centre of entertainments, picnics and garden parties, as well as being the head of a farming and grazing property’.

Werribee Manor 1
The Manor, Werribee

The Manor, built in 1889, was the home of Captain Percy Chirnside.  It was sold to grazier Philip Lock in 1923 and later bought by Mr Galvin who left it to his niece, Mrs Hayes.  The Manor burnt down on 25 July 1966.  City of Wyndham Heritage Study 1997

Mr Lock was regarded as one of the best judges of horseflesh in Australia and while at Werribee, established a stud at which he bred many useful horses. He was associated with the horse racing trade to South Africa and India.  Weekly Times Melbourne Sat 7 May 1938 Mr Phillip Lock Dead

After having six children, his wife Annie died at the age of 48.  Phillip married Ethel Robertson in 1920 so she is the person who supposedly wrapped the rosary beads around her arm.  Shipping records show they attended the wedding of one of Phillip’s sons in the USA in 1924, sailing from Southampton to New York.  Presumably they sailed from Melbourne to Southampton and may have stopped off in Rome.

The only connection I can make with the Catholic Church is the fact that when he bought Werribee Park in 1921 he subdivided the land and sold the building on to the the Catholic Church to establish the Corpus Christi College.

Werribee Park Mansion

His eldest son George must have had a fearsome  argument with him because in March 1829 Phillip signed an agreement  to allow George £43 6/8 a month if he took up his residence outside Victoria and not in NSW within 100 miles of the border. The contract was broken in July 1930 and so the two were battling it out in court.  Phillip had ceased paying George because George was spending more than the specified 43 days in one year in Victoria.  This was four years before Phillip’s death and must have been a terrible strain on his health.

I think my great grandmother Christina married the wrong brother but then if she hadn’t married Reuben I wouldn’t exist!

T is for The House That Hugh Built

Hugh Muirhead was my husband’s grandfather.  He rarely made the newspapers because he was not a “colourful” character like some of my raffish ancestors.  He did however make a huge difference to the people around him whether it was his family or the  people trying to build  homes in his neighbourhood

Hugh’s grandfather was also Hugh.  He was born in Glasgow in 1834 and came to Australia to settle in Clarencetown, where one of his children, Robert, and Elizabeth Burns had a son called Hugh Burns, born in 1889.  In later life Hugh was mortified to discover  that his parents married the year after he was born.  Elizabeth was the daughter of the Master Mariner James Burns and Isabella Muirhead.  The Muirhead name comes from two different parts of the family and it seems way back they were related.

Sarah Jane on her wedding day aged 17

Hugh married Sarah Jane Barrett in 1911.  She was the youngest and ninth child of John Barrett and Sidney Walbran who came out to Australia on the “Nineveh” in 1879.

Hugh’s father was a carpenter but for the first nine and a half years of his working life Hugh was  a sawyer at the Neath Colliery.   The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate 18 Feb 1914 said:

Mr Hugh Muirhead … was entertained prior to his departure  by the mechanics of Neath Colliery at a social evening in the Denman Hotel, Abermain.  Mr W Ross, on behalf of the mechanics, presented Mr Muirhead with a travelling bag and spoke in eulogistic terms of him, both as a citizen and a workman.  They were sorry he was going from their midst, but wished him every success in his business undertaking… Mr Muirhead, in reply, thanked them for their kindly remarks and handsome present, and would always remember the happy times at Neath.  He was going to Thirlmere to start a business in which he hoped to better himself.

Family lore talks of a sawmill at Bargo (near Thirlmere).  Hugh had been married for three years and had a son Sidney, born in 1913, before he headed off to new territory to try his luck.

Florence Leona (John’s mother) was born in the Cessnock area in 1916 so the family had returned from the sawmill venture by that time.

Benita was born in 1919, Jean in 1925 and Roberta in 1933. Betty joined the family in 1929.

I can find no further record of Hugh’s whereabouts until 1934 where he is living in Burwood Street, Kahibah with his wife and son Sidney who is listed with them on the electoral rolls.  Not mentioned but at home would be Flo, Nita, Jean, Betty and Bobbie.

In 1934,’35,’36,’37 Hugh lives in Kahibah and is a carpenter.  From 1949 onwards he lives at 46 Wollombi Road, Cessnock.

truck3My husband talks of the house in Kahibah where he and his brother lived in the 1950s.  Hugh and Florence’s husband Wallace Curry built the house from the ground up.  They felled the trees and milled them before transporting them to the block and using them to build a two bedroom plus sunroom weatherboard house.

The house is almost finished
Family moved in with Grandma (Janey) on the porch
John standing in front of his childhood home 67 years later (different owners) 

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 6.14.08 PMI mentioned earlier that Betty arrived in 1929.  She was a baby and had just lost her mother, who was a distant relative of the Sarah Jane.  Her father, Jim O’Connell, was the subject of a newspaper article in the Sydney Sun, 7 May 1929.

Betty became part of the Muirhead family and was one of  very close band of sisters who grew up together in the tough times of Newcastle in the 1930s and 1940s.

Below I have one of my rare photos of Hugh Muirhead with Betty and Janey on Betty’s wedding day, supplied by John’s cousin Suzanne. It seems he was more often behind the camera than in front of it.

FullSizeRender (1)

There are so many people  who go unrecognised and pass on, largely forgotten.  Hopefully this blog will continue the legacy of Hugh Muirhead  for many generations to come.

S is for Stevengraphs Bookmarks


When I was a child we had in our possession a bookmark embroidered with a poem called ‘The Old Arm Chair”, by Eliza Cook.  I thought  my grandmother told me that it was a sampler made by one of my great grandmothers and I admired the tiny letters, marvelling at the detail.

One day I took it to school to show the sewing teacher.  She held it in front of her critically and announced that it was machine made.  To make matters worse she accidentally ripped it in half.  She quickly stuck it together with sticky tape and handed it back in a hurry.  Too scared to tell my mother I hid it away in a book.

The funny thing is I found it the other day when searching through memorabilia.  Taking another look I realised it was machine made so now with the benefit of Google I was able to find out its origin.

It was made by weavers in Coventry who made silk ribbon pictures.  This made me think it could have belonged to Emma Moore who lived in Bedworth.  The interesting thing about silk weaving is that the industry crashed in 1860 after employing 45% of Coventry’s population.  Thousands left the area because of unemployment but it was a young master weaver called Thomas Stevens who set up his own factory producing bookmarks, cards, badges etc.  The bookmarks first appeared in August 1862.

old rocking chair

Whatever the story behind the bookmark the people who bought it have long gone but it is funny how some things stay in the family and are never discarded.  I will have to make sure it doesn’t disappear into a book for another forty years.

R is for Reuben Benjamin Lock

I knew little  about my great grandfather Reuben Benjamin Lock when I started the A to Z.  Two Royal Doulton Whisky containers are the only  visible reminder of his existence.   Why is he buried in an unmarked grave?  Why are there no photos of him in the old family albums?

On the right is “Admiral of the Fleet” and the other is Tony Weller’s “Beware of the Viddeys” – Tony marries an uncommon pleasant widder but lives to regret his imprudence and warns other to beware of the Vidders (widows).

My grandmother said her father brought home the Royal Doulton Whisky containers full of Dewar’s blended whiskies each Christmas.  They were presents from clients and have stayed in the family for over a hundred years.

Reuben was the fifth son of Emma Moore and Henry Lock, born in Warracknabeal, Victoria in 1872. Although I have been told almost nothing about him I have been able to trace his whereabouts from Census records, Sands City Directory and Trove.  My grandmother Myrtle (known as Kay) followed him around Victoria along with her mother, brothers and sisters until she left home to marry Walter Hall.

Reuben’s unusual name makes it easier to find him in historical records.  In 1895 he married Christina Cameron Robbie, daughter of the artist William Robbie.  She was 20 so had obviously left her home in Mount Gambier after her father went off to Western Australia to find gold.

Reuben is listed as a Fishmonger in Stawell at the time of his marriage.  It must have quite humiliating for the young bride Christina when the following incident occurred, recorded in the Victoria Police Gazette, July 31, 1885.

Reuben Lock._ A warrant of commitment has been issued by the Stawell Bench against Reuben Lock for 14 day’s imprisonment, in default of payment of 20s., fine, for furious driving.

Description:- Fish hawker, about 26 years of age, 6 feet 2 inches high, medium build, fair complexion, dark hair, dark moustache and sideboards, erect gait, very loud voice; generally wears dark clothes and a black soft felt hat; drives a spring cart.  Is supposed to have gone to Nhill.

I had to smile when I read that he was speeding in a “spring cart”.  I wonder did he have to serve that sentence of 14 days imprisonment?  Also, although I don’t have a photograph the police description is almost as good.

The next year my grandmother was born in Elmhurst, Victoria, some 53 kilometres from Stawell.  Much to my surprise I found the next child Daphne, was born in  Glanville, South Australia.  This was where William Robbie lived in 1884 and Christina had attended school for seven months.  Maybe she had happy memories of the time she lived there and suggested to Reuben they try their luck in a new place or more likely she had family in the area.   Sadly Daphne died when she was a year old.  The place of death is listed as Glanville but Reuben’s residence is St Arnaud which is back in Victoria 75 kilometres from Stawell.

In 1900 when Ruby was born they were living in or near Benalla, Victoria which is some 335 kilometres east of Stawell.  Charles, the next child, was born in Ararat, Victoria, 31 kilometres south of Stawell in 1902. In 1903 both Reuben and Christina are listed as fishmongers in Camperdown, 159 kilometres south of Stawell.

The last child, Claude, was born in Warracknabeal in 1905.  This is 262 kilometres north of Camperdown so Reuben must have moved again in that period between 1903 and 1905.  He was listed in the Sands City Directory in Camperdown again in 1906 and ’07.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 3.31.11 PM
1.  Warracknabeal  2. Stawell  3. Elmhurst  4. Glanville 5. St Arnaud 6. Benalla  7. Ararat  8. Camperdown  9.Ballarat  10. Dimboola  11. Terang  12. Wodonga  13. George Street Melbourne 14. Kooyong  15 Surrey Hills

In 1909 he was a fishmonger in Warracknabeal but in 1914 he is living in Stawell and is now listed as a “dealer”. The Stawell News and Pleasant Creek Chronicle of 25 July 1916 reports that Reuben is fined 10/- after a verbal fight with a neighbour who was also fined 10/-.  Mention is made of his wife, two sons (who were accused of using their shanghais against the neighbour) and a daughter, whose presence resulted in toning down of the language.  This is the year my grandmother Kay married Walter Sydney Hall and escaped the tumultuous life of Reuben Benjamin for the peace and quiet of 80 Railway Parade, Williamstown.

The Argus of 20 Feb 1917 reports on “Fires in the Country”

Stawell, Monday.-In Stawell West, at 11 o’clock this morning, an eight roomed dwelling with detached kitchen and breakfast room, owned and occupied by Mr Reuben Benjamin Lock, was gutted by fire.  Mrs Lock smelt something burning in the kitchen and gave the alarm, but owing to no water being available, the flames could not be checked.  The brigade, in putting the hydrant on a 12in. main, broke the lug off the main, and could only get a stream of water for some time.  Had they got a supply of water at first, it would have prevented the flames getting into the main building.  The house was insured for £200 in the Norwich Union, and the furniture for £150 in the New Zealand Company.

After reading this I recall my grandmother talking about the “Great Fire” that burned the family Bible with all its family history.

Christina1 (1)
Christina aged 51- one year before her death.

1920 sees Reuben in Ballarat as an “agent” and 1921 to ‘23 in Dimboola, also as an “agent”.  1924 sees a change in occupation.  He is now a “fruiterer” in Terang.  Christina dies in 1926 while still living in Terang.  Reuben goes  back to his old stamping ground of Camperdown and is again a fishmonger.

1931 sees him as a “fisherman” in Wodonga, which is on the Victorian/NSW border opposite Albury, divided from it by the Murray River.  It was while living here that a court case “A Domestic Tangle – Hopes of Peace” was reported in the Wodonga and Towong Sentinel on 25 April 1930.  I was astonished to find  that Reuben had married again after his wife’s death.  Christina died on 21st January, 1926.  According to the courtcase Reuben married Rosemary Emma Lock on the 11 Sep 1926.  Rosemary testified that they went to reside at Terang.  A month later she left on account of his treatment and went back to work.  She said they had disagreements on private matters.  About six weeks before the court case she met him in Albury and asked to let bygones be bygones.  She wanted to move back in with him but he said this might be awkward as he had a woman living at his house.  A few days later the woman agreed to leave and Rosemary returned.  Reuben refused to take down the photo of the woman who had just left.  At this stage the judge decided to continue the case behind closed doors.  Apparently the two left the court together.

In 1937 at the age of 65 he is a labourer and living in George Street, Melbourne.  One would hope that he was able to retire soon after as he is listed as a pensioner in Kooyong in 1943.  He died later that year at the age of 72.  His Death Certificate states he was a fishmonger, dying from Arteriosclerosis and Coronary Thrombosis.  He is buried in the Church of England Section of the Box Hill Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Looking over Reuben’s life it is possible to imagine why the family ignored him in death.  My grandmother wrote in my autograph book when I was a child:

I cannot help who my relations are

But I can pick my friends.


Q is for Queen Victoria’s Stockings

My maternal grandmother may have had an artist on her side but my other grandmother had Queen Victoria’s Stockings!

Ever since I was a small child the stockings filled my imagination.  Ella said that one of her Willoughby ancestors was a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria.  A little bit of research revealed to me that the only people to fill those positions were Duchesses, Countesses and Baronesses.  I did read that the Queen’s undergarments were distributed to various members of the household, including servants, housemaids etc. so it is possible that the stockings came into the family that way.

The next step is to determine if they are genuine.  I have a photo of a pair of stockings from the Victoriana Magazine and compared it to mine. What do you think?

The stockings above are mine and the extract from an online article in Victoriana Magazine is below. http://www.victoriana.com/Royalty/queenvictoriaunderwear.htm

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 4.31.55 PM

My stockings have a V on them, not a VR so who knows?  Only an expert could tell.  The feet also look awfully big!  I was told the brown marks were from oils the queen rubbed on her legs but there are a lot more brown marks than there used to be!  Also they were the white stockings worn before the death of Albert as she wore black from then on.

What is of more interest to me is the woman who brought the stockings to Australia.  Her name was Mary Willoughby and she was born in Andover, Hampshire, England in 1836.  The 1841 Census has her living in Winchester Street with her parents Charles, 45 (Labourer), Sarah, 35, and siblings Sarah,10, Daniel,6, Martha,2 and Rebecca,8 months.

The next time she appears is at her wedding in 1857.  It was significant that she married on 24 March because it was only three week’s later that she and her new husband John Ridgway left England forever on the ship “Aloe” bound for Sydney.

John Ridgway appears in the 1841 Census aged 5, living with his parents, John and Joanna, sister Kezia,13 and brother George aged 8 who incidentally left on the “Aloe” with the newlyweds 16 years later.  Their house is in Nash, Whaddon, Buckinghamshire.  He is hard to find in 1851 but is now living with his married sister Charlotte Tims, her husband and son and is an agricultural labourer.

The wedding took place in Nash, Buckinghamshire.  Where was Mary Willoughby in 1851?  She wasn’t at home and would have been 15 years old.  Was she in service at some great house?  Is that how she came by the stockings?

Life for the couple after their arrival in Sydney can be mapped by the birthplaces of their children.  Between 1858 and 1861 three children, Alfred, William and Frederick were born in Campbelltown, a village 57 kilometres south west of Sydney. They then moved to Picton, another even smaller village 93 kilometres south west of Sydney.  Here Adelaide, Arthur, Beatrice, Charles, Sydney and Ella (my grandmother) were born.  There was only one more child after Ella, a boy named Sydney as the other Sydney died at age 3.


I found that John leased his property in Picton so he didn’t own land.  He was able to secure a contract with the Picton Railway Station to supply billets for a number of years.  I imagine this would involve felling and sawing timber.  Whether it was used for sleepers or for fuelling the steam engines I’m not sure.  John died at the age of 60 but his wife, Mary lived to be 95.

Mary W
Mary Ridgway nee Willoughby

In shaky handwriting on the back of this photo is written, “To my Dear Daughter  With love December 26 1921.  Mary would have been 85.

Andove High street

Mary’s daughter Adelaide was probably the first in the family to return to “The Old Country”.  She sent several postcards to her mother dated August, 1928 of High Street, London Street and St Mary’s Church Andover.  She wrote:

Dear Mother, I am spending a few days in the little town you were born.  And as I walk through the place I wonder if you have walked there too.

London Street

Mary never returned to England.  I wonder how different her life would have been if she had stayed in Buckinghamshire with her new husband instead of jumping on a ship?   Australia did not offer the easy life some might have imagined but the next generation included an engine driver, stationmaster and  a baker who travelled with CSR to Fiji for 18 years.  I think some of the family stayed in the Picton area but that is an area for further research.