U for Under the Ground

I was able to write nearly all of my A to Z before April as I knew I would be going on a road trip sometime in that month.  However I was stuck on the letter U.  Somehow it didn’t fit in with anything I had written.  There was nothing left to write!

Murray Pines Cemetery  Film Victoria

My husband suggested Underground as in tunnels and dugouts in wartime but suddenly all I could see was a funeral*.  A crowd of people gathered at a cemetery.  The newly turned soil was red and glistening after a light shower.

Then my mind turned against it.  Ted can’t die yet. I have written all the posts to Z and they are mainly about him.  

I was pulled back again to the funeral.  I started to recognise some of the people.  There was Amy, head bowed, leaning on her son’s arm.  Her three daughters stood close as if to shield her from grief.  There were representatives from the RSL, the Golf Club, local council members and even a politician.  Many were blockies and their families who had known Ted since the Soldier Settler days.  My mother and father were standing at the back of the crowd, near the gate.

A man was reading at the graveside:

Ted gave his best to the community and was always ready to help a lame dog when the occasion rose.

What was my father thinking?  He was worried.  Ted had been his mentor.  It had been Ted’s idea that he start up the irrigation business and his advice and contacts had been invaluable.  He felt as if he had been set adrift.  Now that supplies had dried up he would have to move on, back to Sydney and somehow start again.

The man continued:

He was a most colourful personality, born a real humorist, a great entertainer and an intensely human character.  He radiated vitality and charm.

My mother was thoughtful.   Life was complicated.  She had admired Ted’s  Joie de vivre, although she didn’t know what that meant until he told her.  Now there was the child to love and nurture.  The sense of loss gave way to determination.  This child would grow up with an education.  She would have two parents to love and care for her. She would never be left with strangers who didn’t want her as Elsa had been.  Across the crowd she saw the tall figure of Dr Bothroyd.  She felt confident he would never disclose her secret to any living soul, not even her husband.

On an occasion like this I am tempted to ask – what were the qualities which endeared him to so many people?  In the first place I would say he had a strong, abiding, dominating sense of public duty.  He had the genius of common sense.  He possessed simplicity, courage, self denial and tenacious devotion up to the last moment of conscious life to work, to duty, and to service.

Elsa looked at her husband.  She took his arm, smiled and whispered softly, “Let’s go home to our baby”.

  • This is purely a piece of fiction and is only roughly based on actual fact.



T for Tree (family)

IMG_8496As my daughter jokingly said, “the family that spits together stays together”.  We were gathered in my son’s apartment in Canberra.  My son, daughter and son-in-law were all valiantly trying to put enough saliva in the tube to reach the line after which a blue solution was  added and the whole thing sealed and posted to Ancestry.

Only a few week’s later I had two new matches on Ancestry.  They were correctly identified as my son and daughter.  I then checked with Denise and sure enough they had appeared on her matches as well.  That confirmed the fact that my match had not been a mistake.  My children also had a number of matches and DNA Circles on my husband’s side and after my recent discovery were pleased to see he was their father!

My father’s ancestry was from England and Northern Ireland.  Assuming that Ted is my biological father then it is interesting to find out where his ancestors originated.  Going back one generation his father and mother were both born in Victoria, Australia.  Ted’s paternal grandparents, William and Mary, both came from England and emigrated to Australia in 1864, one year after their marriage.  His maternal grandparents met and married in Portsea, Victoria in 1869 but they were both born in England and emigrated to Australia at different times.

If you examined my DNA map in A for Ancestry you would have noticed a dotted circular area marked in Southern England.  This indicates that I am genetically linked to this area through my DNA.  Let’s look at where Ted’s grandparents were born.

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William was born in St Marylebone, London.  His wife Mary was from Barking, Essex.  Ted’s maternal grandparents were John from Lambeth, London and Fanny from Portsea, Hampshire.  The map shows that they are all definitely from Southern England.  The only ones on my mother’s side who are out of the circle are the Robbie family from Aberdeen and Emma Moore from Bedworth, who is just outside.

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The red markers are Ted’s family.  The green markers are from my mother’s side.

There is a puzzle surrounding Ted’s grandfather William.  He and his younger brother were born after the death of the father of their brothers and sisters.  He and his brother may have been adopted or they may have had the same mother as the others and a different father.  It is quite possible that they were the children of a relative who died but as Mary already had a large family and was a widow an extra two mouths to feed would have been a difficult undertaking.  She died when William was 13 but he lived with older siblings before some or all of them emigrated to Australia.

Photo of the ironclad HMS Warrior (1860) with the tide in.

I have some more information on him. After he and his wife arrived in Hamilton in 1863 off the “Golden Land” he remained there the rest of his life except for a short visit to the Mt William Gold Rush.  In London he had been a shop hand, a sailor in the North Sea with a trawler fleet and an employee of the Victorian (London) dockyards where as a riveter he helped build the “Warrior”, the first iron ship in the Imperial Navy.  In Australia he was a blacksmith and carpenter.  His wife died 27 years before him and at the time of his death he was living with his son Thomas*, a bootmaker.  Thomas was Ted’s father.  

John, Ted’s maternal grandfather, arrived in Portland, Victoria with his family on the Athona in 1853, aged nine. Sixteen years later he married  Fanny.  He was a powerfully built man and  first occupation was pit-sawing with his father, cutting the timber for the construction of the old Portland jetty.  He moved on to wool-pressing and loading ships in Portland.  For the last 22 years of his life he lived in Hamilton and died at the age of 67.  His daughter Jane Eliza married Thomas and was Ted’s mother.

John’s wife Fanny came to Australia as part of a twelve month Servant Scheme supervised  by a Miss Rye. The vessel “Atalanta” departed London via Plymouth England 18th April, arriving at Portland Victoria 4th July 1867.  Each girl was placed as a general servant in separate homes.  Fanny was placed at Gawler Street, Portland.

Article from the Argus 5 July 1867

The Atalanta which arrived at the heads on Tuesday last, came up the Bay last evening and anchored off Sandridge. She has brought nearly 400 Government passengers and warrant passengers, a number of them having come out under the auspices of Miss Rye, and it is satisfactory to state that they arrived in satisfactory health praising doctor, captain and matron. The Atalanta left Plymouth April and has made a very favorable passage. In the channel very rough weather was met with and several days after. The ship crossed the equator on the 22nd day out.

I found some personal information about Ted’s father Thomas. He was very good at sport, particularly running and bike riding and this was blamed for his heart problems later in life.   However, with the wisdom of the 21st Century, this would seem unlikely.

Thomas was short, with pale blue eyes and blond hair.  His daughter said he was always quoting poetry and stories he had read and he was very proud of his children’s musical abilities. 

He was apprenticed as a boot-maker and his brother William, as a chemist. Thomas said he would like to have been a chemist, but he was not given a choice.  When the family moved to Mildura (following Ted), he bought a house on one of the blocks,but did not work the property himself, employing workmen to tend to it. His son Henry* eventually took over the block when his father died.  The house was divided into two, with Henry and his family living in one section and Jane Eliza in the other.  Thomas opened a shoe shop in Red Cliffs with a partner and sold it to him when he was ready to retire. He died of heart failure when he was in his early sixties after a long illness.

I was fortunate to be given some information by Jane* on the person who was my biological paternal grandmother.

Jane Eliza was born in 1869 in Portland, Victoria and  attended Mr Hill’s school in North Portland until she was 14, after which she went to “Greenmount” to work as a servant.   She visited Portland every year during the summer and so did we (Jane).

Greenmount in 1958?     Built in 1853      Victorian Heritage Database

 I remember as a child going to “Greenmount” a very imposing, but also scarey bluestone, dilapidated house , and she would tell us about the servant bells downstairs and what each room was used for, which fascinated me.   It had a long formal drive, wild gardens, convict quarters (convicts were there for a short time) and in 1957 was bulldozed to erect a Shell depot.   It stood on a hill across the swamp from the Portland Gardens, and the Shell depot was not an improvement.   Portland unfortunately let many of its beautiful old buildings go.

The family moved to Hamilton in Jane Eliza’s  later teenage years, living not far from the Turner family. Her brother William struck up a friendship with Thomas Turner and they became mates and best friends until William died aged 19.  During this time Thomas met Jane Eliza and they married in 1890, when he was 19 and she was 21.

She was short, under 5′ in height, with hazel eyes, brown with yellow specks and straight brown hair.   In her later years she needed a walking stick to get around but she was bright, cheerful and an inveterate talker.  She had seven children, ran a house, cooking all meals each day, plus working in Alf’s shoe shop, keeping the books and having a social life when she could.   Eventually she had two maids who did the housework, washing and sometimes looked after the children as well.   She was the image of a perfect grandmother, cardigan pockets stuffed with lollies to give to a good grandchild, embracing them to her ample bosum, jiggling them up and down on her knee singing nursery rhymes, songs and reciting poems. Her strong and lively personality is still remembered fondly by older members of her family.

  • Not their real names


S for Sandhills


Over 20 years ago I visited Mildura and saw the remains of “Big Lizzie” in a park at Red Cliffs.  I knew she played an important part in the clearing of land in the area but now reading  her story has taken on new significance.  Thanks again to Mary Chandler for her chapter entitled “A Most Remarkable Lady”.

It all began when Frank Bottrill observed camels carting wool into Broken Hill from outlying stations.  When a steam tractor was used for the same purpose it became bogged in the drifting sand so Frank decided to design something that would work in that environment.  In a backyard in Richmond, Melbourne, he built his traction engine with the help of A.M. McDonald.  She was 34 feet long and had two wagons of 32 feet.  3,000 gallons of fuel were carried on the vehicle and she trundled along at two miles per hour.  Bottrill had invented an improved road wheel in which a series of flat bearers rotated with the wheel and provided a track for it to run on. Somewhere on the vehicle he built a house for his wife and in 1915 they set off for Broken Hill.

What a sight she must have been crawling through Melbourne’s streets. She looked like a half tank, half house, belching smoke and trailing two wagons.  She travelled 174 miles  before stopping in Kerang for six months where Bottrill could not refuse a haulage contract.  Frank moved on, this time proving he could handle the Hattah sandhills.  Two years after leaving Melbourne, Big Lizzie arrived in Mildura.  The Murray River was in flood so she was unable to cross to the NSW side and so travel on to Broken Hill.  Frank found work for her carrying up to 899 bags of wheat at one time. 

Source: Museums Victoria


After WWI Frank obtained a contract to help with clearing 15, 000 acres at Red Cliffs.  A combination of hooks and steel cables were used to pull up to eight stumps out of the ground at a time. By 1924 her work was completed but Frank was doomed not to make it to Broken Hill.  He was asked to travel to Glendenning Station, west of the Grampians, so packed up his wife and cow and headed south.  Here he stayed until 1928 cleaning up sawn red gum trees which went off to Melbourne as blocks to support tram tracks.  Then the engine was sold to a quarry and the rest abandoned.

Big Lizzie lay rusting in a paddock until 1971.  Mary Chandler, the author of “Against the Odds” spent many a childhood holiday clambering over the decaying remains.  The Red Cliffs Jubilee Committee successfully returned Big Lizzie to Red Cliffs on a low loader and now she has been restored and placed in Barclay Square.

big lizzie1
Giant 60 hp oil engined tractor/truck Big Lizzie at Red Cliffs, Victoria, Australia.

I wondered what happened to Frank Bottrill.  He and his wife had no children. He worked as an engineer, a mechanic and a blacksmith in various locations.  He established the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Mildura and returned to that city in 1953 to die at Base Hospital.  The Australian Dictionary of Biography says of him “independent, modest, of strong build and unusual endurance, Bottrill was a vegetarian and teetotaller; he had a rich bass singing voice. His favourite book was the Bible.”

R is for Red Cliffs


George and William Chaffey had chosen the Red Cliffs area for the first Mildura settlement but had to abandon the idea as there were no pumps to lift the water to such a great height.  Thirty four years later it was felt technology had improved and mistakes of the past could be avoided. The country to be offered to the ex-diggers was reputed to be some of the richest land of the north-west.

Gangs of men started first on the thirty acres required for the nursery where the young grape vines would be grown. 800 men were divided into 30 gangs.  The men had tents but were too tired to prepare proper meals after a hard day’s work.  Boarding houses sprang up supplying cut lunches and evening meals.  Mail arrived by train in bags rolled down the hill as there was no station.  Despite the hard work endured by the men a football club was formed and the men played against the other towns, returning by train, jumping out and rolling down the hill like sacks of mail.  Surprisingly only one sprained foot was reported.  There were no doctors, nurses or dentists in the settlement and the journey to Mildura was long and torturous over unmade tracks.

To obtain a block of land Ted and other applicants had to obtain a qualification certificate with references from a minister of religion, a school teacher and a government authority.  He was then grilled by a board in Melbourne and when considered suitable presented himself to the Land Board in Mildura and was allocated his 15 acres. He was then handed over to Jim Bailey who assigned him to a gang.  The temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, there were flies and dust and no sign of a settlement.  Many turned around and went back to Melbourne.

For a few months there were no police in Red Cliffs.  Two-up, sly grog and all sorts of gambling were commonplace.  With the arrival of women it was felt a police presence was needed.  Constable Bill Winterton, six feet tall and eighteen stone, commanded respect after his arrival on April 21.  When at first the men stood up to him he took off his coat and challenged them to a fight.  No-one took up the challenge.

Feeding the men was still a problem so two large mess halls were built.  The men had one pound a week deducted from their wages.  This proved successful and the food was of good quality.  One day the men turned up and there was no food waiting for them.  The staff had all caught a train to Melbourne with four hundred pounds of the men’s money to put on the Melbourne Cup.  They lost the lot and from then on the mess was run by State Rivers.

Ted Turner was popular with the other ex soldiers and at night eight or ten men would gather round his tent, singing and yarning until all hours while he played his violin.

There were many setbacks of course.  Most 1921 planting were lost due to lack of water.  Then rabbits arrived, followed by huge sandstorms caused by clearing so much land.  The men learned from their mistakes and the town grew.

A lending library was established with donations, followed by the establishment of a literary society.  Children were arriving so a school began in the old woolshed.  The teacher was a blockie who thought he had left his former profession for good.  A doctor started visiting three times a week.  As well as football,  a cricket team was formed  and a tennis club began.  From nothing a community was emerging.

Everyone liked to tell a funny story, especially Ted Turner.  When the Reverend Fettell, an ex-digger, was to be transferred to Bendigo, Ted told the following story. Mr Fettell used to assist Ted in issuing shares in the Red Cliffs Co-operative Society.  A Dr Zimmer attended at the same office three days a week.  One day a woman arrived and immediately went into great detail about her ailments.  Although they tried to stop her outpouring she kept going to the end and then asked what they advised her to do.  “See a doctor, madam”, was the joint reply.

Q for Quest for Water

The use of the water from the  Murray River to expand the settlement of Mildura predates Ted’s arrival in Red Cliffs but is important in understanding what brought him there.

Mildura’s first residents included the Latje Latje and Yerri Yerri people.  Their population was relatively large as there was an abundance of food in and around the Murray River.  The first Europeans to arrive around 1857 brought sheep to graze on the rich pasture.    A major drought from 1877 to 1884 prompted Alfred Deakin (before he became Prime Minister) to visit irrigation areas in California.  There he met the Canadians George and William Chaffey. George came to Australia in 1886 and selected a derelict sheep station known as Mildura to be the site of his first irrigation settlement.


Dr Hamilton-McKenzie completed a Phd thesis titled “California Dreaming: The Establishment of the Mildura Irrigation Colony”.  She paints a picture of the men behind Mildura’s irrigation settlement as misguided dreamers.  First she points out the major differences between California and the Mildura area.

We didn’t have the river systems that California had – we’re the driest inhabited continent in the world. Our Murray Darling Basin is a drainage system, it is not a system that is actually rejuvinated by melting snows, as America is, as California’s system is.

I thought I’d check that out and found melted snow contributes less than 5% of the water in the Murray.  (Murray Darling Basin Authority)

Statue of William Chaffey in Mildura

The Chaffey brothers invested money into preparing and irrigating blocks of land for sale.  Many English settlers were attracted by a red book called The Australian Irrigation Colonies, promising much more than it was able to deliver.

After the initial success of early irrigation development work William began construction of Rio Vista in 1889. The Spanish name Rio Vista (River View) reflects the Californian influences found in the house.


Disaster struck.  The bank crash of 1893 left the brothers in a serious financial situation.  Everything that could go wrong did and many people just up and left their land.  The Chaffey Brothers firm ceased operation in 1895 and George returned to the United States.  William, however, stayed on in Mildura and worked hard to see the irrigation projects continue.

In 1889 William’s wife Hattie died of pneumonia shortly after the birth of their sixth child. The baby died soon afterwards and was buried, with his mother, close to the old homestead. On William’s final visit to America, he married his first wife’s niece Hattie and brought her back to live at Rio Vista. Six more children were subsequently born to William and his second wife. Sadly, their first child, Lillian Hattie Chaffey, died in infancy, aged only five months.  Tragedy continued to haunt the family. Their second son, Edward Lamport Chaffey, drowned in an ornate fountain in front of Rio Vista in 1897, aged 18 months.

The shattered parents had the fountain removed, and re-installed at its present location, in the Deakin Avenue centre plantation at the intersection with Eighth Street.

The fountain was moved to Deakin Avenue

William led a relatively successful and productive life in Mildura and became mayor in 1920.  He died in 1926 while Hattie remained living in the house for twenty-four years until her death in 1950.

It was this seemingly misguided scheme surrounded by personal tragedy that sowed the seeds for Ted’s arrival in Mildura.

P for Paris

Now we have travelled back in time to the last year of WWI.

On New Year’s Eve 1917 Ted and friends arrived at the Gare du Nord by train from Péronne. They were driven to the YMCA at Penenepe Barracks and given breakfast and a lecture.


dest gare
Le Gare d’Est, Paris. (Not Gare du Nord but you get the idea) Cherylg (fightingthekaiser.blogspot.com.au)

In France, the YMCA made arrangements for rest and recreation centers where particularly American soldiers could leave the front and relax away from the fighting.

Then they were free to take the metro to the Place de la Republic where they booked rooms at the Hotel Moderne.

Clean and refreshed they walked the streets, visiting Les Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb before dancing the evening away at the club.

The first day of 1918 saw Ted exploring Notre Dame Cathedral, strolling across bridges and around Place de la Concorde and Champs Elysees. A concert in the evening was followed by a dance and games.

Galeries Lafayette a few years earlier

It is hard to imagine it was 100 years ago as the next morning was spent at Galleries Lafayette and Au Printemps to look at the shops.  Then it was off to the Arc De Triumph followed by an afternoon at the Alhambra where Ted met some rather nice people.

On the afternoon of the 3rd Ted and his friends visited the Louvre and “The Big Wheel” (demolished in 1920).  At the casino that evening Ted was impressed with Gaby Deslys and found the “staging and dressing very fine.  Also the dances”.  Gaby Deslys died in 1920 of influenza at the age of 38.

It was the next day at Versailles where Ted became eloquent in his admiration.

“Versailles … surpasses anything that I have ever seen.  The rooms at the palace were simply gorgeous and the views and landscape magnificent…best of all I liked the Gobelin Tapestry work”.

Ted was able to translate the French signs and explanations to his friends in the Chamber of Deputies.

Versailles I (Vertical) Wall Tapestry – French Chateau Tapestry
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Jeanne-Marie Bourgeois,Folies Bergère

That evening Ted and a friend went to the Folies Bergère.  He says, “the show was very dressy and the theatre promenade very fine.  At the interval the hall is packed with crowds of the demimonde* who are painted and powdered like dolls.”

Wikipedia  *The term was often used as one of disapprobation, the behavior of a person in the demimonde being contrary to more traditional or bourgeois values. 

The foyer of LÓpera, Paris. Cherylg (fightingthekaiser.blogspot.com.au) found this postcard in an antique shop in Oatlands, Tasmania. It was dated March 1918.

The next day’s highlight was the opera Hamlet which had marvellous scenery, singing and music. The orchestra contained 100 instruments and Ted thought the Grand Hall was a magnificent piece of architecture. Walking down the Rue de la Paix Ted recognised the fashion icons of Paquins and Worths.  At the Bois de Boulougne he watched thousands skating on the ice.  Lunch was at the Pyramides after which he booked seats for Aida.

Maximilien_Luce-La_Gare_de_l'Est_sous_la_neige-1917Arriving at the Tuileries Ted and his friends went sliding on the ice to the great amusement of the onlookers. 

Aida that night “was beautifully staged and the whole play a grand piece of singing and art”.

It was snowing all the next day when Ted and his companions walked to the Corner of Blighty*.

Miss Lily Butler opened a very popular leave club for men in Paris called A Corner of Blighty in Paris for Our Boys from the Front.  This club was particularly popular with servicemen from Australia. 


In the Place de la Vendome, in central Paris, it ran for two years.  There was no charge for its services and Lily Butler and her group of forty five female volunteers also arranged outings for groups of the men.





Ted was having a “rattling time’. Lunch at Cafe Boulant, then to the Olympia and sleeping at the Hotel Lafayette.  It was the last day so Ted bid a sad farewell to Paris and went off by train to Péronne in search of his unit.

O for Obstetrician

This is rather a large leap from sailing home across the Pacific with Ted in 1919 but that is the nature of A to Z.  It takes you where it wants with the letter of the day, a bit like a Ouija Board.  This is the only place I can  write about my mother’s favourite doctor who has been referred to as “a formidable Mildura institution”.

I felt I knew a lot about him before the DNA results came through.  My mother often talked about him as the  doctor she visited when she found she was pregnant.  She was impressed with his qualifications and his professional manner.  He may have seen both my parents before my conception to determine why my mother had not become pregnant but any speculation is pure fiction because we will never know what really happened.  He did bring me into the world however so I thought I would pay him this tribute.

John Strahan Bothroyd’s parents were both teachers and he attended a different school every year of his primary education.  After attending Scotch College in Melbourne he graduated in medicine at the University of Melbourne.  Before arriving in Mildura he worked at Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital and Royal Women’s Hospital up until 1931.  To further his studies while based in Mildura he made the long train journey to Melbourne many times to obtain qualifications from the Australasian College of Physicians and the Australasian College of Surgeons.  During World War 2 he was a Squadron Leader and Specialist Surgeon in the RAAF.

It is said in his obituary that he was one of that group of early specialist trained doctors who chose to live in provincial areas and in doing so established medical standards there comparable to city based practice.

hospital 2
From a Pictorial Souvenir of Mildura  GV and WR Hiscock Newsagents

According to N Fleming, who wrote in his College Roll, Bothroyd is credited with some revolutionary ideas for his time. He performed a novel technique of open prostatectomy with tonsillectomy instruments, explored internal fixation of fractures  and realised earlier than most the inherent risks of smoking. He took a delight in being difficult with people he thought were incompetent.  Nevertheless he cared for his patients with meticulous attention.

He would have known Edward Turner as he was on the hospital board and their two families also later became related through marriage.  That is all I know and the rest is conjecture.  His name is one of the few clues I have of my conception and birth in Mildura.

For whatever reason, thank you Dr Bothroyd for helping me come into the world.