Voices of the Past Emerging.

George Alfred Nicoll, my 1st Cousin, 3 x removed. I hear him loud and clear now despite the fact that everything we have been able to discover about him has really been the equivalent to chasing him into a room, just missing him and learning about him from those that were there. Don’t get me wrong, that is fantastic and it will continue in this post but we will also have the amazing chance of hearing George’s own voice. I know, I was so thrilled to discover an actual letter from George that he writes to his father Bruce, from South Africa, whilst fighting in the Boer War. “Spoilers Sweetie!” (If you are one of my 3x Great Grandchildren or Nieces or Nephews? Welcome, nice that you found me after all this time. That little reference probably won’t mean much to you. Look up, River Song, a character on an ancient TV sci-fi show. You will thank me! I would never have admitted it alive, Oh who am I kidding, of course I would have, I’m a Whovian. Watched it religiously when I was a kid in the ’70s. My first Dr was Tom Baker, the fourth. Enough of me, back to George and more importantly for the moment, his wife, Kate.

Kate’s voice wasn’t as loud in the last post but we will be hearing her loud and clear in this one and yes, I’m so excited again, I managed to uncover a letter of Kates’. So we will be hearing Kate’s own voice as well but before we get to that little gift, just a reminder, this is Kate.

Figure 1: Kate Carina May Thorne, Courtesy of National Library of Australia https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/84445655/8801979

I do wish that I could uncover the original of this photo. (It does happen on rare occasions, I’ve had it happen once with one of my 2x Great Grandfathers. Checkout my posts on the family Roadtrip.)

That pose, and what looks like an evening cape with a fur-trimmed hood, the choker necklace, and the jeweled hair clip. This is a woman who appears comfortable in her own skin and unlike so many others of her time, accustomed to money, privilege, and independence. Another quick reminder, Kate is the daughter of a wealthy landowner and longtime local council member. Her Uncle and Aunt are the Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Brisbane at the end of the 19th century. Kate is a published poetess and if that picture above is a clue to anything, that is, that she is a performer. This is the world Kate is accustomed to.

Figure 2: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

Here is another of those kismet moments in Kate and Georges’s story. It is 1897 when Kate attends the reception above. She is 21 years old, her’s and George’s wedding is about 6 years away but look who is also attending the reception at the same time as Kate.

Figure 3: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

Mrs B. B. Nicoll, or if you prefer her own name, Mrs. Jane Nicoll, George’s mother, and aunt to Kate’s best friend Thirza Zahel. Maybe it’s just a coincidence or perhaps this might have been their first meeting where Jane is so taken with this young friend of her niece’s who is talking of studying medicine, that the idea is planted that this could be a good match for her middle son. I’m sure she couldn’t have imagined at this moment, that her other son, 12-year-old Gordon, would end up marrying her niece Thirza. Now that is another story I would love to uncover.

Now you might remember I mentioned in my last post and the one before that about the fact that I had uncovered a report of Kate inventing a machine that helped with the treatment of Consumption and that it was being tested on a large group of patients. Just to refresh your memory here it is again.

Figure 4: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

Here we find ourselves in 1903 again, it is a significant year for George and Kate. So before we can delve into what this invention is I want to look back again so that we can uncover how Kate got to this point. To do that, you all know the drill by now, I hit Trove. This was actually the first article that I discovered that mentioned anything about Kate studying.

Figure 5: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

This was next to reveal itself.

Figure 6: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

It is wonderful to see that “…she had many friends…” and that she “…wrote pretty verses…”, it just has that tone for me of the time, it’s almost paternalistic and yes, I know I’m judging it with my 2020 hindsight. I, of course, had no idea what materia medica was and hadn’t seen the Sydney Herald article mentioned above. Next tasks set. Found it…

Figure 7: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

This has some really interesting information in it to unpack but it is very obvious to me that there are some major themes starting to reveal themselves. Not least of them being that we are discussing exam results from 120 years ago. I mean I would be hard-pressed to find a report card of mine from 35 years ago let alone these tiny scratchings of print that are just pure gold that flesh out Kate’s existence and could so easily have been overlooked. The major theme for me though is, that we are talking about the fact that Kate’s name is even there on the list. Yes, a woman studying a science course, (I did find out what Materia Medica was, I will share very soon) in a technical college 120 years ago. I’m no historical expert but I start to think to myself, this surely must be at a time when this is out of the norm and must have taken an enormous amount of strength on Kate’s part to make it happen.

Kate, like every other woman living in the 1900s New South Wales, had no political rights and very few legal rights. Once a woman married these rights were further eroded. If Kate was to have married George in 1900 she would have been legally obliged to surrender all of her property holdings and any wages she earned over to him. Any children they might have, he would be the sole legal guardian of, not Kate. George would also have the right to remove the children from her care at any time he liked and also would have had the right to legally bequeath their care to someone other than Kate in the event of his death. (https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/womens-suffrage)

It is really important for me to mention here that the above paragraph did not relate to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island women at all. The issue of the history of their rights both politically and legally are enormosly complex. I have just done a couple of hours of reading on the issue and I would encourage you to seek out the information so you can inform yourself. I hope if you are a descendent of mine in the future that you are now living in an Australia that is vastly more progressive and inclusive in relation to our treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People than either mine or Kate and George’s worlds have been.

The Office for Women website from the Government of South Australia really states it the best in relation to how I feel about the issue. “It is important that we acknowledge the hurt, shame and disrespect of this disenfranchising of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the ongoing racism and disempowerment they experience.” (https://officeforwomen.sa.gov.au/womens-policy/125th-anniversary-of-suffrage/aboriginal-women-and-the-vote)

But here is Kate, in 1900 studying at the Sydney Technical College and when you take a closer look at the original examination listing of the extract above, it extends over 4 columns of a full-size broadsheet. In that listing, Kate’s is the only female name printed there in the science courses. The only other female names and there is only a smattering, appear in the life drawing and cooking courses.

I did a search of the examination listings for the four years prior to this list that Kate appears in and in 1899 there is an Annie Praed who gains a 2nd-grade pass in Advance Chemistry and then two women in 1896 who gain 2nd grade passes in Theoretical Chemistry, Alice M Jordan and Laura M Hall and that is it. I know it seems strange but mentioning their names just seems like the right thing to do. I haven’t been able to confirm if these listings are all the enrolments for that time or just a listing of the people that obtained these marks, so it may be that there were more women enrolled but still Kate’s name being the only female one listed is still very telling of the struggle that women were enduring.

I did found out the meaning of materia medica. This from Wikipedia: “…is a Latin term from the history of pharmacy for the body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing.” This means that Kate has passed her pharmacology studies at this time. I also discovered from the Sydney University Medical Museum that this is the same year that Dagmar Berne passes away. She was the first woman to study medicine in Australia in 1885, she was 35 years of age. She is also the 2nd woman ever to register with the Medical Board of NSW in 1895 only 5 years earlier than Kate’s exam results.

These really were pioneering times for women, women like Kate. The museum has the most wonderful picture of some of these women pictured in 1897.

Figure 8: Courtesy of The Sydney University School of Medicine Museum

I look at this and think, might one of them be Kate? Or did she know these women, or they her? I know, its a long shot but this could be the year she starts her study, 1897. How do I know this? Well, you didn’t think that I wasn’t going to try and research the hell out of this, did you? I jumped straight onto the web and looked up the Sydney Technical College. Found out they are still operating, under the TAFE NSW banner now and they had a Museum. I shot off a message.

Basically the ghist was, do you have any historical records of past admissions, extract below.

I’m referring to an amazingly inspirational women named “Kate Carina May Thorne”. She married my 1st Cousin 3x removed in 1903 and became “Mrs George Alfred Nicoll” after that. She was a Poetess, Author, Playwright and Doctor. She apparently developed a new treatment for “consumptive diseases” not long after marrying George and received a huge amount of notoriety which is evident when you do a quick search on National Library’s Trove sight.

Yes, Playwright is new, just discovered that she wrote a play as well. I received this wonderfully generous reply from Helen an Archivist Librarian at TAFE. It is not often that someone will go to this level of trouble for you and I am so appreciative of her efforts.

How amazing was that? I know, unfortunately, no historical records relating to Kate directly but some great general info on the College and how it related to Kate and her studies. Also another door open for potential records with State Archives. I received this follow up message the following week.

I didn’t tear up but I was feeling a wash of emotion for Kate. I’m so happy that a bit of digging on my part has inspired someone else to help keep Kates story alive. I shared everything I had accumulated on Kate with Helen. This is some of the information Helen shared with me. The college where Kate studied.

Sydney Technical College
Figure 9: Courtesy of the State Library of NSW
Town & Country Expose on the college from 1898
Figure 10: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

This is a window directly into Kate’s world at the very time she was there. Picture 8 above is the Laboratory, I’m looking at it imagining Kate working there and willing an image of her to appear.

Figure 11: Courtesy of TAFE NSW

This is Building A where the Pharmacology course was taught. The lower right hand side is where Kate would have spent her time.

Building A
Figure 12: Courtesy of Norm Neill,
Technically & Further Sydney Technical College 1891-1991

The course outline below actually poses more questions about Kate and her studies but it also sheds light on what she potentially was doing.

Figure 13: Courtesy of TAFE NSW

This is a great share from Helen at TAFE. It shows that the subject that Kate completed was actually a third-year subject of the complete Pharmacy course. So this enables us to suggest that Kate started studying in 1897 which comfortably puts her in the cohort of the group of pioneering women in the earlier photo. Check out the volume of work that was required in the Syllabus below, this is what Kate would have undertaken to get to her Materia Medica results in 1900.

Figure 14: Courtesy of TAFE NSW

I think it safe to assume from this outline and the 1st and 2nd-grade results she achieved that Kate was an intelligent, competent, and modern woman of her time, pushing the misogynistic boundaries that governed her life. (I was soon to learn just how correct I was in this assumption.)

Helen shared another great resource that expands this view of the time that Kate was living in. Joan Cobb explains in her book Sweet Road to Progress: The History of State Technical Education In NSW to 1949, that at the time Kate was embarking on her studies a new Pharmacy Act was passed in 1897. The new Act provided for the creation of the NSW Pharmacy Board and stipulated the conditions of registration. To be registered Kate would have had to complete an apprenticeship and have attained a diploma recognised by the Board. The new questions raised, did Kate become an apprentice chemist? If so at what establishment and how did she go about getting that apprenticeship?

I obtained a copy of the 1897 Act and in it this is part of what it stipulated.

Figure 15: Courtesy of NSW Government
( https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/acts/1897-7.pdf)

Just jump to that last line, “…if he” just clarifies what Kate was up against. This sentiment is evident in so much of the material from the time. In the Joan Cobb book mentioned above, she explains that there was an issue between the Board and a gentleman she only identifies in the pages I have as Curruthers. I’m assuming he is a Government official. Cobb presents a quote of Curruthers’ where he is talking about whether a Board suggestion of Government funding to help people enter the profession has merit. He states “…it is not the duty of the State to train people up…I totally differ with you as to it being the duty of the State to help these young men you speak of…”

Back to the Pharmacy Act excerpt above, item 10 referring to the list of Pharmacists to be published. I have searched all of the listings from 1900 -1910 under both Thorne and Nicoll and nothing comes up for Kate. Why? I have put in a request to the NSW Pharmacy Board to see if they have any historical records other than those published in Trove. I can’t imagine that Kate practices without being registered as she comes under some very close scrutiny when she puts out her Consumption treatment in 1903. The new Act also made provision for penalties for fraudulent registration or representation as a Pharmacist either vocally or written. £20 for every offense or imprisonment for 12 months. I have not come across any records to suggest that this course of action ever happened for Kate. The apprenticeship questions will remain unanswered at this time unfortunately but what a treasure trove of info we now have considering we started with that one Trove article.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we would be hearing from George and Kate themselves and we will Kate but we are going to push George back for the moment. Let’s face it he had the whole of the last post to himself so I’m sure he won’t mind. I have also had some unexpected feedback that my posts might be a little long, thank you and I am taking that on board. So instead of the usual 30 odd pictures, I will stop it at 16 for now. This picture below the first of two examples I have been able to uncover of Kates own voice.

Figure 16: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

That is pretty fantastic in my estimates. Kate’s voice is loud and clear now. Here is a 25-year-old woman from undeniable privilege and her main concern is for people working the service industries of her day and the households and shopkeepers of Sydney. It is a big assumption but one I feel confident in making.

This is an opportune segue (did you like that? See 18 posts in, still can’t spell but I’m flexing my oratory skills, booya! people, booya!) into the topic of our next post, Kate’s invention, “The Micro-Cremator”. I have a folder load of gold to share with you and Kate’s Dad, Ebenezer features heavily. No other way to describe him other than, larger than life and I will call it now, obviously very supportive of his young, modern, pioneering daughter. As always, hope to see you then.

Quiet No Longer!

I know, I know, cheesy as with the title but guess what? That is me! I’m not fighting it anymore. And while we are at it, I can’t spell. Grammarly works overtime on this site and sometimes I even break that. After publishing the last post, realised that I had spelled Quiet and Revealed incorrectly in the title of the post no less. Damn, will try to keep on top of it but I did say way back in the first post to please excuse me if this happens, so hopefully you do.

Back to Kate and George and their story. So I have no way of knowing when they actually met but I think we know especially from the connections revealed in the last post that they had plenty of potential catalysts that could have put them in each others path. The one thing we can be certian of is that they marry in 1903.

Figure 1: Courtesy of NSW Govt’ Registery of Births Deaths and Marriages, https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search/result?3

Wow, gobsmacked much? The last column there stating that the PDF is readily available, indicates that the certificate has been ordered previously by someone else. In all my time researching I have never seen this at this stage, only after I have paid for a certificate. Very curious as to who else is interested in Kate and George, but no way of knowing.

Now don’t get too excited this is not Kate & George, unfortunately, but still very lucky to find a photograph of an unknown couple from Ballarat who are posing for their wedding photo in 1903. I know, we have the date, place but no names. From my extensive research of 20min’s Googling, this is very much the style of that early Edwardian. Again it is great to get that sense of what Kate & George may have looked like.

(1903). Photograph, black and white portrait photo with seated man and standing woman – Wedding photo. Figure 1(a) Courtesy of Gold Museum Ballarat https://ehive.com/collections/4819/objects/247920/photograph

Now, I am going to put the breaks on here for a moment because before we move forward from this point in 1903 there are a few things that we need to circle back to for both George and Kate, not least of them going back to the article that suggests that Kate has become some medicinal inventor, and healer of hordes of consumptives. But first George…

As I revealed in the last post, records of his earlier life are non-existent but there were a couple of clues just sitting on his attestation paper from enlisting in the AIF in 1914 ready for me to pick up on.

Figure 2: Courtesy of National Archives of Australia, https://www.naa.gov.au/

Question 11 on the paper refers to any past service George might have had and George gives two answers:

  1. St George’s Rifles, New South Wales, resigned leaving the country.
  2. Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, South Africa, completion of service.

So six days have passed since I typed the above 2 lines. I have been down a deep rabbit hole of information and come up with heaps of knowledge on these two topics and had some really generous help on the way. I will explain when we get to those moments.

I think it is a good idea first, to put up some context, just to help us pin where this information sits in George’s timeline. Of course, we are talking about some type of military service, in case you didn’t read the fine print in question 11 of George’s attestation paper above. A quick reminder, George was born in 1879. In 1899 when the Boer War starts in South Africa he is 20 years of age. At the time we are still a collection of Colonies not yet federated. In relation to the history of the defense of Australia by the British, from the time of invasion in 1788 until 1870, Australia had been garrisoned by British Troops. From 1870/71 the colony was without regular troops, its defense being entirely in the hands of the regular and volunteer forces around the colonies.(https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/71374239)

The Imperial Troops were removed due to the cost of garrisoning and the fact that the Imperial Govt was charging the Colonies a capitation payment for the service. The increasing costs for both the Imperial and Colonial Governments is what led to the withdrawal and the colonies becoming responsible for their own defense. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_forces_of_Australia)

There were a number of different reiterations of colonial defenses, partially paid and unpaid from this time until 1895. This is when volunteer corps were instigated in addition to the few existing colonial regiments and the idea of forming them into a reserve force was proposed. (https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Previousproducts/1301.0Feature%20Article41909?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=1301.0&issue=1909&num=&view=)

Figure 3: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

George is 15 years old at this stage, turning 16 in June of 1895. The next mention I can find of this reserve force is in April 1896. Not to confuse you too much but the article above coincidentally is discussing the issue of feeding into a reserve force and it just happens to be that the organisation they are discussing is called the St. Georges Rifle Club after the area of Sydney it was formed in. The St. George’s Rifle regiment that our George joins and discussed in the article below, is named for the patron Saint of England, chosen by King Edward III in 1350. (https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/st-georges-day-2019-why-2787321)

Figure 4: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

The Scottish company had been around the longest, the Irish one had just been formed not long before this notice went out and from the reading I have done so far, the English company, the “St. George’s Rifles” was the brainchild of the eventual leader of the company, John Cash Neild. He was an Insurance Commission Agent who embarked on a political career at age 30. He was elected to the Woollahra Municipal Council in Sydney and twice served as Mayor. He also had careers as a writer, sectarian and of course citizen-soldier. (Craig Wilcox, 2000, https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)

The article below is an excerpt from the proceedings of the Town Hall public meeting that was advertised in the article above. No mention of Neild at this stage but the description of the “…military ardour of the citizens…” and what follows is gold.

Figure 5: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

Wilcox, 2000, explains in his biography piece on Neild for the senate history page: “…Stung by the establishment of an Irish–Australian unit in New South Wales’ tiny part-time citizen army early in 1896, Neild raised what became the St George’s English Rifles…” Wilcoxs’ piece is accompanied by the most fantastic photo of Neild held in the National Library of Australia.

Lieutenant Colonel John Cash Neild, Figure 6: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, accessed from, (https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)

What a face, I so hope that George had some interaction with him. I can find no mention of Nicoll linked with the regiment anywhere, other than his note on his WW1 attestation papers. There is the barest of mentions about the Officers and a photo of the Non Commissioned Officers but no mention of the rank and file anywhere except in general as a group.

Neild seems to be way ahead of his time in relation to his progressive thinking he demonstrates. Wilcox, 2000, also states that Neild wanted the St. George’s Rifle to be for men of any ethnic background, “…who wished to demonstrate their love of Britain’s flag.” (https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)

I unearthed a couple of small military notices from the Evening News printed just a couple of days after the Town Hall meeting that support this thinking.

Figure 7: Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, Trove.
Figure 8: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

I know this is not George that we are discussing directly here but I think it is the closest thing to giving a picture of the world he was inhabiting and I believe, that it is a rich picture of colonial Sydney one that surprisingly, despite wanting to establish itself as a new player on the world stage is very much still wanting to show its support to the motherland.

Wilcox, 2000 gives a wonderfully colorful picture of Neild and the regiment from this time, again from his piece on Neild for the Senate History listing, “…Sydney soon became accustomed to the sight of Neild’s men, attired in a theatrical version of the uniform of Britain’s regular soldiers, marching from Circular Quay to the Domain to a musical arrangement combining the tunes of ‘The British Grenadiers’ and ‘The English Gentleman’. They were led by Neild himself, tall, broad-chested and affecting a fierce moustache.” I can just see it, especially with seeing the photo of the ‘tache above. Wilcox also shares that Neild was apparently one of only 2 Commonwealth Parliamentarians, along with a Senator Cameron who at the opening of Parliament in May 1901 wore full military dress.(https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)

I found the Gazette piece for the regiment formation on Trove from June 1896, just a month after the Town Hall public meeting. George has just turned 17 years old.

Figure 9: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

There is no way to be certain but with no age restrictions, I wonder if George joined the Corps at this early stage, or did he wait another year until he was 18? There must have been some change in the thinking in relation to who was enlisting as there were some restrictions that came in to play evident in this later notice from 1898.

Figure 10: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

George certainly had no problem with height restriction as his attestation papers from WW1 show rather specifically.

Figure 11: Courtesy of National Archives of Australia, (https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=7996155)

What a fascinating look into Australia, Sydney, and George’s past in the closing stages of the 19th century. I was ignorant of this rich colonial military history and of course George’s part in it but Trove once again delivered in truckloads in helping to flesh out George’s story.

First and foremost, a 4-page pictorial piece from Australian Town & Country Journal, (AT&CJ) dated, Sat 6 Jan 1900. That is 120 years ago! The pictures are phenomenal despite the fact they are digitised copies from an ancient news copy and very grainy, they still manage to give a splendid view of Georges’ world. The pictorial piece was titled, “NEW SOUTH WALES CITIZEN SOLDIERS.–THE VOLUNTEER INFANTRY FORCES.” and gives the reader an in-depth insight into the current military holdings of the Colony at the beginning of the new century and guides the reader through the journey of the recruit (George) into the Corps, specifically in relation to the Scottish, Irish and English (St. George’s Rifles) Companys.

Remember these three Companys made up the Union Regiment which had been in existence for just on one and a half years by the beginning of 1898 when the St. George’s Rifles were moved out of the Union. At the time of the AT&CJ piece, the Companies were well and truly formed into their own regiments. I was lucky enough to find this gazetted notice explaining these changes.

Figure 12: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

You will note the Scottish and Irish stay together and become the 5th(Union) Volunteer Infantry Regiment. We have the addition of the 6th Infantry Regiment, being the (Australian Rifles) and of course George’s regiment which is now known by its new title, the 7th Volunteer Infantry Regiment (St. George’s Rifles) along with the addition of the 1st Aust’ Volunteer Horse, National Guard and Railway Corps.

So back to the AT&CJ spread and George who is now 19 and half years old in Jan 1900. I think this is a good spot to share with you the introduction to the spread, (copy below) I feel it gives context to Georges’ present story as well as giving an insight into the decision he makes, like so many others, to support the Empire and ultimately honouring the new Commonwealth of Australia by fighting in the Boer War.

Figure 13: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

Did George feel this wave of patriotism for the Empire? It is interesting to muse if he held a lone sentiment apart from the rest of his family, to support the war effort. I can find no mention of either of his brother’s joining the Volunteer Regiments, or engaging with the Boer, and none of his Cousin’s either. Mind you, the ones still surviving, attest in 1914/15 for the war to end all wars.

The certainty here, that George is part of the 7th Volunteer Infantry Regiment (St. George’s Rifles) I can imagine him attesting just like these well-dressed gentlemen below in the field opposite St Mary’s, in the Domain or at the regimental field office at Victoria Barracks. The article doesn’t specify their location.

Figure 14: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 30. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324382

As part of the recruiting process George would have then had to have completed some drills with arms, to assess his suitability to join.

Figure 15: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 30. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324382

Once his suitablility was confirmed, which obviously it was, George needed to partake in the swearing-in ceremony. This section of the article shares the actual words that George would have spoken.

Figure 16: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

I am currently trying to source that document, the attestation paper that George signed, from the Colonial Secretaries records at NSW archives but no luck as yet. The “…embryo citizen soldier…” what a description, George that is, would have looked exactly like this completing his musketry.

Figure 17: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 30. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324382

This time the article doesn’t confirm what part of the forces are depicted in this photo, the uniform does however look very similar to these ones below who’s wearer’s are identified as members of the St. George’s Rifles.

Stretcher Bearer’s, Figure 18: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 32. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324384
Nordenfeldt Machine Gun, Figure 19: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 32. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324384

I had an amazing bit of luck sourcing a picture of what the actual uniform looked like from The Mitchell library collection at the State Library of NSW. Check this out,

Figure 20: Courtesy of State Library of NSW https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ocrdrt/ADLIB110575666

A hand-drawn watercolor. I am unable to find any other photograph of the uniform other than the two above this beautiful painting. This is still fantastic to have. Both of the pictures above are taken at the Victoria Barracks, which would have featured heavily in George’s day to day life by this stage. Explanation coming.

This next picture from the AT&CJ pictorial that I would like to share depicts a section of the Regiment formed up in quarter column formation at the rear of the Garrison hospital at Victoria Barracks. Again no way of proving that George was even here, but it is the 7th Infantry in the picture according to the label.

7th Volunteer Infantry Regiment (St George’s Rifles), Figure 21: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 32. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324384

From the numerous parade and drill notices on Trove from 1896-1900 it is easy to come to the assumption that for George to be part of the Corps it required a huge commitment of his time. In addition to the 3months of compulsory training in the beginning of his service, George was expected to give up 3 nights a week of drill training at the Barracks. George was living at Petersham at the time, there was a tram service but not one out to the Barracks.

Figure 22: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

The following photos shared from the NSW Archives site are as clear as a bell compared to the newsprint copies above. Unfortunately they are not labelled as to what regiment are drilling but it is bang on George’s time, 1900, at Victoria Barracks in Paddington and it even features the band and members of the public watching.

Victoria Barracks, 1900, Figure 23: Courtesy of NSW State Archives, https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/ADLIB_RNSW112622336

We are so lucky that they are at such a high resolution, look at the detail when you zoom in on the photo.

Victoria Barracks, 1900, Figure 24: Courtesy of NSW State Archives, https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/ADLIB_RNSW112622336

As you know, I have 5min’s of knowledge on this subject but comparing these uniforms with the other illustrated uniforms I sourced from the State Library, I wonder if they could be one of these options?

Figure 25: Courtesy of State Library of NSW https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ocrdrt/ADLIB110575666

This phenomenal little resource also had this to offer, what the Officer’s who commanded George would have looked like.

Figure 26: Courtesy of State Library of NSW https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ocrdrt/ADLIB110575666

Talking of what people looked like. The public watching the parade give some great examples of what George might have been wearing when not in uniform. Keeping in mind that he is the son of a prominent family at the time. His father is a member of the legislative council and working alongside Edmund Barton and other famous political figures of the time who were working on the Federation agenda. He came from money as the family business, remembering was shipping and steamships in particular. I can imagine that George might have had these particular suits and hats in his collection.

Public at Victoria Barracks, 1900, Figure 27: Courtesy of NSW State Archives, https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/ADLIB_RNSW112622336
Public at Victoria Barracks, 1900, Figure 28: Courtesy of NSW State Archives, https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/ADLIB_RNSW112622336
Man at Victoria Barracks, 1900, Figure 29: Courtesy of NSW State Archives, https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/ADLIB_RNSW112622336

In addition to the nightly drill sessions throughout the week, there were the weekend parade’s through the town which as mentioned previously, were advertised regularly in the newspapers of the day. The notice following is in relation to the Corps very first public parade. I’m choosing to believe that George was already enlisted and partaking in the event. This is 6 months from the time the Corps was established.

Figure 30: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

Georges’ parents, Bruce and Jane are very much still alive at the time. His elder brother, Charles is 25 and his younger brother Gordon is just 15 years of age. I can just imagine how proud they might have been of George and his service. I hope they were in the crowd watching maybe with my 2x Great Grandparents, Georges’ Aunt and Uncle, and the rest of the family. The article below was another great find, it is the day after the first parade and describes in the writers words what they thought of the event.

Figure 31: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

And then to top that off, there was a photo in the Australian Town and Country Journal. The Crown Studios took a photo to mark the occasion. This grainy digitised copy shows the parade that took place 123 years in the past, a photo depicting Georges’ present. That is very special.

Figure 32: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. NEW SOUTH WALES VOLUNTEERS—ST. GEORGE’S RIFLES, 5th (UNION) REGIMENT. (1897, January 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 30. Retrieved July 25, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71289064

Not only did the Regiment train, parade and drill together but they also socialised as a group.

Figure 33: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.
Paddington Town Hall Figure 34: Courtesy of City of Sydney Archives, https://i.pinimg.com/736x/29/d7/0e/29d70ed29b144b6a28e4a98bcfd1ec7e.jpg
Figure 34: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. (1900, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 35. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5324387

Once again how brilliant is it to have a photo? Like all the earlier instances, there is no way to be certain that George even attended this event but it is so close that it is enough for me that I can almost imagine him there. I wonder if he had already made the acquaintance of the intelligent young poetess wanting to study to be a Doctor. Had Kate already started her studies? One thing I can be sure of at this time, is that she visited Sydney in May of 1899, I found this note on Trove.

Figure 35: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

There is no other mention that I can find for Kate in 1899 appearing in a social setting. She did however have a number of poems published in the Queensland press. Fifteen pieces in 1899 that I can find so far. If you are interested in reading some of her work I have created a list on Trove. The link below this title will take you there.

Figure 36: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove. https://trove.nla.gov.au/list/144746

I was excited to see another link appear in the families for Kate and George when I was doing this final search for Kate in 1899.

Figure 37: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

It is a small mention on the Belmont Board meeting. Remember Kate’s father Ebeneezer sits on the board, obviously, as this note confirms but check out who else is mentioned, Mr. J A Zahel. George’s uncle on his mother’s side and father to Kate’s best friend Thirza Zahel who marries George’s brother Gordon. Yeah, it was one of those runs again. Hopefully you are still with me. I feel that fate must have intervened by this stage and helped Kate and George become aware of each other.

This feels like a good spot to take a pause. I know this post has focused mainly on George and his journey into and through the St George Rifles with the barest of mentions of Kate but I wasn’t expecting the volume of information that I was able to uncover for George. This post has taken a fair bit of time digging into different sites and pulling out what was really the odd line of information but then once I pieced together the main facts and the main players the information just poured out. It is amazing to me what I was able to discover from that one line of George’s handwritten print.

My main focus here is to really take the time and weave this information into a cohesive story so that it won’t be lost again. I promise that Kates’ story will continue in the next post as will our dive into George’s time in the Boer War. And of course, George’s story will continue in what I think at this stage will be another separate post, in which we will follow George as he takes those fateful steps that lead him inevitably to his destiny in the hills of Anzac Cove.

A Quiet Couple Revealed

I chose the above title as this is how I felt about this couple when I first started my research. They were almost silent in fact. George Alfred Nicoll and his wife, Kate Carina May Nicoll nee Thorne. Like so many on my family tree, they were a complete mystery to me until I started digging.

George is my 1st Cousin 3 x removed. Youngest son of Bruce Baird Nicoll and Jane Anne Zahel. Cousin to my Great Grandfather William Norman Rupert Nicoll.

Figure 2: Kate Carina May Thorne, Courtesy of National Library of Australia https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/84445655/8801979

Kate is the youngest daughter of Ebeneezer Thorne and Kate Hooppell. Her father was a famous journalist and her uncle was Mayor of Brisbane at the end of the 19th century. Her mother like so many other pioneer women of her time, is virtually non-existent when it comes to the male-dominated historic records.

These pictures are the only ones I have uncovered of George and Kate to date. They are very precious as I stumbled upon them by chance on one of my many Trove dives. From what I have uncovered so far, theirs is an intense, passionate, and short-lived tale. They found each other late in life, married in their late 20’s, had 9 amazing years together, and then both of them were dead by their mid 30’s leaving no children behind to carry on their legacy or memory.

How is that for a start?

It is 105 years and 2 months since George passed on and 107 years and 7 months since Kate but I have been extraordinarily fortunate in the amount of information that I have been able to uncover on them. I have found myself immersed in their world for the last couple of weeks searching, reading, and trying to knit together a cohesive story. But as always, the struggle is how to present it to you. I have decided, their stories can’t be separated so it will definitely be a two-parter.

As you have probably guessed from the photo of George, he served his country and what a service it was.

Figure 3: Courtesy of National Archives of Australia https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=7996155

The above picture is just the top part of George’s Attestation Papers. When I first saw this I was completely ignorant of the significance of the information presented there. Now my heart just swells with pride and at the same time sadness for George as I have come to learn the meaning behind them. Of course the big red “Missing” emblazened on the top is pretty hard to miss but I will come back to that.

The next thing I want to direct your attention to is the date that George enlisted: 23rd August 1914. This is significant as it is only 19 days after Britain and therefore Australia as one of its colonies, declared war on Germany on the 4th of August. This was after Germany ignored Britains written ultimatum that it not violate Belgium’s neutrality (established in the Treaty of 1838) by marching troops through her. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/58200/wwi-centennial-britain-declares-war-germany

The next thing to note is the Battalion that George is assigned to, the 9th. This along with the note on his photo, “B Co.”, place George right at the center of one of our defining moments as a nation. It also enshrines him as one of the many silent heroes who’s legacy, Alex, Xander, Calan and I celebrated this year at the end of our driveway, in pandemic lockdown. Also the 115th anniversary of Georges’ death.

Figure 4: ANZAC Day 2020, Macvean Family Archives

Kate’s own story is no less enthralling than that of George’s. I was really saddened to learn though, that at the time of George signing his attestation papers on the 23rd August, Kate had been dead for 20 months.

Kate Carina May Thorne was born 31st of May 1876 in Queensland, the only daughter and child to Ebeneezer Thorne and Kate Hooppell.

Figure 5: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia

They had one other daughter born in 1874 but she died before her 1st birthday. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that history is so often light on with the details of women in the past and the marking of their life milestones. Despite this, I did manage to come across an obituary for Kate Hooppell, Kates’ mother.

Figure 6: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia

I just love that style of phrasing that turns up in so much of the written content of this time, “… well-known excellencies of her personal character, elicited the sympathies…” Also interesting to note the use of the male honorific once again, in relation to Kate. No mention of her name at all, just Mrs. E Thorne. Did you also notice just how much was packed into Kates’ obit? I could spend pages discussing and unpacking those couple of lines. I won’t, as I have to have a limit as to how far out of the tree I venture but it is by no means any less interesting. I just did a bit of a Google surf and got lost for about an hour. Hugenot family, Bigbury, George Dawson, Factory Girls, and the night and Sunday schools. I believe Mrs. Kate Thorne, nee Hooppell would have been an amazing person to spend some time with. From what I have been able to discover about Kate Carina May, her daughter, it seems like the “…excellencies of her personal character.” of her mother were certainly passed on. Kate is 15 when she loses her Mother.

Kate’s Father, Ebeneezer Thorne is described as a journalist in some of the journals in the 1880s. He was an editor for a Brisbane periodical focusing on agricultural issues. He is rumored to have owned the “Wide Bay News” in the 1870s and he published his own book, “Queen of the Colonies” which discussed the types of assets that Queensland had at the time. He was a longtime representative on the Belmont Divisional Board, the predecessor of the Belmont Council and known to have championed many shared issues for the residents of the Belmont area. (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)

Figure 7: Ebeneezer Thorne, Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au user, sarah12558

There are many mentions in the board’s minute books describing his altercations with other board members and he even at one time instigates legal proceedings against the Chairman of the board for road closures that occurred near his properties. He apparently sells up in 1909, immigrates to New Zeland, and changes his name. His brother, Kate’s Uncle, William, becomes Mayor of Brisbane in 1898. (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)

Figure 8: William Thorne, Courtesy of Instagram account Everywhere History.
Figure 9: Courtesy of National Library of Australia
Figure 10: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Kate attends the Belmont State School in the mid 1880s. She rides a donkey there and back every day and apparently develops into one of the most accomplished equestrians in the district. (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)

I searched for a picture of the school to see what it might have looked like at the time but no luck. This was the closest I could come to, bit sad hey?

Figure 11: Courtesy of Belmont State School https://belmontss.eq.edu.au/our-school

I did however find a wonderful photo of the Walker Family posing out the front of the Belmont Shire Hall in 1900 which is situated on Thorne Street in Carina. Can you see there is a bit of a theme happening here?

Figure 12: Walker Family out front of Belmont Shire Hall, Courtesy of State Library of Queensland, https://digital.slq.qld.gov.au/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?change_lng=en&dps_pid=IE98247

I know this is about 15 years out of Kate’s time but I can imagine that she and her father would have been very well acquainted with this building and it provides a great idea of what they might have looked like at the time. Mr. Walker pictured above was the Town Clerk.

The running theme? The notoriety of the family. Thorne street where the hall is located, named after Ebeneezer and of course this part of Belmont changes its name to Carina named for his daughter, Kate Carina May Thorne, our Kate and the original family homestead.

Carina the homestead was situated on Creek road Belmont. In a Belmont and Bulima Creek Heritage Page post, author John Godfrey shares the reminiscience of an early resident.

Mrs. Grace Mischlewski nee Keenan remembers seeing the home in the 1920s-30s which by then was unoccupied. As a child Mrs. Mischlewski used to play in the grounds which occupied several acres. She recalls a large grove of bamboo, a Moreton Bay Fig and a couple of Bunya trees from which she and her playmates would take the nuts to eat . Grace remembers the home as a large sprawling building of a dirty white colour, from which several later houses were to be built when the home was eventually demolished.” (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)

Carina the homestead remains lost to time as well but I did find a home called Springfield in the same area and of the same vintage. I could imagine that it looked very similar to this.

Figure 13: Springfield at Belmont, Courtesy of State Library of Queensland, https://digital.slq.qld.gov.au/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?change_lng=en&dps_pid=IE133818

This is the site today. Intersection of Creek Road and Nancatta Road. Carina stood somewhere behind that tree line.

Figure 14: Carina Homestead site 2020, Courtesy of Google Maps.

Records of George’s early history are virtually nonexsistant. There are no mentions of his school life or any life events in the press until he is in his mid-20s. (No spoilers yet) He writes on his attestation papers that he was born in Bowral, NSW.

Figure 15: Courtesy of National Archives of Australia, https://www.naa.gov.au/

It is interesting to note that the Attestation Papers don’t ask for a date of birth, just age. Which is very frustrating. Unfortunately for us, there are no records of Georges’ birth that I can find. I have tried every variable of the spelling of Nicoll with no luck.

Figure 16: Courtesy of NSW Gov’ Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages, https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search/births?1

We can reverse engineer an approximate date of birth from the age George states on the paper. If he is 35years and 2 months on the 23 Aug’ 1914, that means his birth most likely was in June 1879. Trove comes up blank as well. I was surprised to discover that none of George’s siblings had a birth announcement. The only notice I could find was one marking the passing of Georges’ sister Lucy.

Figure 17: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

George was born to Bruce Baird Nicoll and Jane Anne Zahel. Fun fact, the Zahel’s and the Nicoll’s have quite a few connections in their shared histories. Janes’ brother Captain Charles Zahel works with Georges’ Dad, Bruce and his brother, George Wallace Nicoll. He sails out the steamship Australia from Scotland to Australia for their steamship company. He, unfortunately, dies shortly after arriving in Australia when a gear from a winch that is being used to unload a steam engine at the dock comes loose, breaks free and strikes him, and a deckhand in the head.

Figure 18: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/13451956?searchTerm=zahel#

In a sad coincidence, on the same day, Georges’ mother, Jane, Capt’ Zahels’ sister is knocked of the ship and falls overboard at the dock.

Figure 19: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/161874568?searchTerm=zahel#

The Mr See mentioned at the end of that article becomes Sir John See, Premier of NSW and also Chairman of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company and negotiates the final sale of all of George’s Dad’s and his Uncles Steam ship holdings on their deaths in 1905. See you get more bang for your buck with this blog, excuse the pun. And wait there is more. Georges’ other Uncle on his Mums side, John Alfred Zahel transfers the licence to the original Belle Vue Hotel in Brisbane to his Dads’ brother, George Wallace Nicoll in 1881.

This Uncle of Georges’ (J. A. Zahel) is married to a woman named Thirza Vick, (who actually established the original Belle Vue building as a School for Girls before they married) and they have a daughter named Thirza Vick Zahel and I discovered her name in a random article mentioned with someone else of importance to George.

Figure 21: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/84121488?searchTerm=%22zahel%22%22thorne%22%22belle%20vue%22

Just a reminder, Carina is of course our Kate. What a find this was, to have all those details confirmed in one small article. 1903 is also the year that George and Kate get married. I know it might not seem like much but when you start with no knowledge at all and then eventually over time and many hours of searching you start making all of these connections, well it is just great. Mind you though they only came about after I finally realise, “…oh I have seen that name somewhere before.” It’s lucky with a name like Zahel, it stands out. Oh, and don’t worry I haven’t missed the whole “…medical student, …treating 80 consumptives and …developing an unknown treatment,” thing. I mean come on, this is an amazing article. We will circle back to these gems soon.

Now the final connection and with a twist, look at who Georges’ brother, Gordon Bruce Baird Nicoll marries the year after George and Kate marry.

Figure 22: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

Yep, Miss Thornes’ “…inseparable companion.” Miss Zahel, and the twist? Gordons’ mother (ie. Georges’ mother) Jane Anne Zahel and Thirzas’ father, John Alfred Zahel are brother and sister. Ewwww,… no sorry, no judgment. This is not the first time I have come across 1st cousins marrying in the tree.

See, I was right, George and Kates’ stories are very much interwoven and there is still heaps more to share. I will, however, give you a break for now, hopefully see you in the next post when Kate and George’s stories really take off.

The Dust of Time Blown Away

This post continues on from my last about how the figure of my 3x Great Grandmother, Christina Russell, Brookman, Strachan was starting to emerge from the dust of time due to the information I was starting to piece together about her life. I mentioned at the end of that post that finding the name of Strachan in the death index from NSW Birth Deaths & Marriages was really a key to unlocking a bit of a waterfall of information. The first wave arriving with her death certificate.

Death Certificate for Christina Strachan
Figure 1: Courtesy of NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages

There is a lot of information there to unpack but first and foremost in the last two columns, this is the main thing I was looking for. Second last column list Christina’s marriages, two of them, the first one in Scotland and second in NSW. Her age wasn’t known for either of them and then there are the names of her Husbands. First one Samuel Brookman, second one James Strachan. Then the names of her children and their status as living or deceased matches with the information I already have in Ancestry. So that confirms it officially, this is my 3x Great Grandmother, Christina Russell.

You might recall if you read my previous post, I mentioned that Christina’s earlier life seemed very sad, look at that last column from her first marriage to Samuel they had 7 children one of them being my 2x Great Grandmother, Agnes Brookman who marries George Cox, and out of all 7 at the time of her death only one remains living. She outlives a son and 5 daughters. Then her second marriage she loses another daughter. I can only imagine the pain she must have been carrying. I know it was a different time and in general, people were much more resilient when it came to losing family members but 7 children in your lifetime? Alex and I lost our second baby, Orson to miscarriage, and I still feel his loss like the day we found out he was gone.

So the other really interesting information here apart from confirming the old reliables we already knew, Germanton, Hillside, 1912, William Russell and Rebecca Barr as her Parents, is that she was 83 years of age when she passed. Christina kicked that life expectancy of 42 years from the last post out of the park. She died of heart failure and senile decay. (I hope that it wasn’t a long time of suffering for her or her family.) That her father, my 4x Great Grandfather was a Contractor. No idea what the specifics of that relates to, will have to investigate. That she was in the Colony for 54 years, this means that she and Samuel immigrated to Australia in 1858. (With this information I have once again scoured the passenger lists for that year and nothing. I cannot match them to any vessel listed.) And finally, Christina still had three children alive at the time of her death, Jean Ross, Martha Lawson from her 2nd marriage to James Strachan and William Brookman, brother to my 2x Great Grandmother Agnes from her first marriage to Samuel Brookman.

Jean Strachan marries James Ross in 1885:

Figure 2: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Martha Strachan marries Alexander Lawson in 1889:

Figure 3: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Christina’s residency, Lela Villa is the venue for both weddings. I so wish there was a photo to show what it looked like but nothing has turned up on this as yet.

Kildrummie, on the other hand, the Lawson family property mentioned above is still in exsistence. The original homestead is long gone but the present one was commissioned in 1944 by the famous writer, collector and historian, Margaret Carnegie. Who also commissions Edna Walling, the infamous Australian Garden Designer to install a walled garden feature that still stands today. Margaret and her Husband, Douglas go on to establish Kildrummie as a prize winning Poll Hereford stud. (https://cdn.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/628754/Carnegie-Margaret-Frances.pdf)

Kildrummie Homestead 2016
Figure 4: Courtesy of Real Estate.com

I know we have strayed a little from Christina’s story here but it is interesting to suppose that she probably visited this property many times in her life. There is another family link to Kildrummie apart from Martha her daughter marrying Alexander Lawson. Christina’s great-grandson, Alexander Douglas Macvean, brother to my grandfather John Hugh Macvean marries a great-granddaughter of James Lawson, Grace Stewart. Note the incorrect name for Kildrummie in the notice below.

Figure 5: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

So, back to the information on Christina. Now that we have it confirmed that she becomes Mrs James Strachan from her death certificate I needed to find when this happened. Remember nothing came up on my online search for a marriage from 1877 onward, when Samuel Brookman dies, so I decide to just put in the search parameters from the time I now know that they arrive in Australia, 1858. Take a look below at what appeared.

Strachan & Brookman Marriage Cert’ Index
Figure 6: Courtesy of NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages

1865? Now that is very interesting. Accounting for mistakes, that is years earlier than the death year of 1877 for Samuel Brookman that comes up in NSW BDM. It might be a coincidence but exactly the same name combination and in the correct district, Wagga, Wagga? Obviously I think to myself that I must have the wrong Samuel Brookman from the death index. If this is the correct record it means that Christina is marrying James Strachan 12 years before her first husband is dead. The best way to try and confirm this is to just order the certificates for Samuel’s death and James and Christina’s marriage. But bloody hell the $33 dollars for an email extract just burns.

With the magic of technology, the certificate has arrived. I’m shocked, it only took 2 days to arrive in the inbox. The last time I ordered it was 3 months.

Marriage Certificate Extract for James Strachan and Christina Brookman
Figure 6a: Courtesy of the Macvean Family Archives

Widow? What the hell? No birthplaces, parents names or occupation and it is definitely 12 years before the 1877 death date of Samuel, if he is ours. The more I try to pin down details the more they keep pouring out at me. Just because I can, I did a bit of digging on Kyeamba and what Inn’s might have been there at the time. Kyeamba is only 30km north of Little Billabong and 46km from Germanton (Holbrook). I found this advertisement from 1866 in regards to the local Inn.

Figure 6a.1: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Amazing bit of luck again that James is named in the ad. Christina and James have been married nearly 9 months by this date. The Inn was built by one of the original European invaders of the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri People, John Smith who is named and obviously placing the advertisement above. Smith was an immigrant engineer who converted his home into the Inn in the late 1830s early 1840s. (Dr Sue Rosen, https://culturallandscapesandroutesnsc.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/hume-highway-northern-final.pdf)

Incredibly the inn is still standing today but is a private property again. This is where Christina and James were living out their lives from the early 1860s to the late 1870s.

The Travellers Joy Inn/Home Hotel
Figure 6a.2: Courtesy of Jon Graham

I was still no closer to answering what happened to Samuel and why was Christina remarried and living in Kyeamba? My next stop was to just hit Trove and widen the search parameters again. Posted below is a screenshot of the search results from Trove with Brookman and Strachan in the mix.

Figure 6b: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Wow, just bloody wow! I know I hadn’t even opened these articles to check but in my mind they were already part of the family, a Boy Bushranger? And what are the odds, just in those couple of lines there are a few of my main details, James Strachan & Mrs. Brookman, married and Inn. I spent probably the best part of the next 48 hours going through all the information this next wave hit me with. I estimate there were 15 -20 separate articles on Christina and the Boy Bushranger. Understanding how the story is relevant and then weaving it into the family story is the tricky part especially when you are making assumptions on lots of sections of it. And as I’m sure you have already guessed, this turned out not to be a problem here. I was soon to discover that this would be the motherload in blowing some more of the dust of time off Christina’s story. (I know, cheesy, but I had to do it.)

Below is the first section of the top article in the above search results.

Figure 6c: Courtesy of the National Library of Australia

As if the Bushranging thing wasn’t excitement enough, sentenced to hang! What a story. Now the problem for me is how to share this story with you. As we all know we don’t live our lives in a bubble where our narrative just continues along in a linear manner. Other narratives intertwine with ours just as we intertwine with theirs. I think it might be appropriate to share with you what the outcome was from all this research and then back it up with the information rather than taking you on the journey of my discovery of it here. That journey I’m thinking really deserves its own post. Having said that the Boy Bushranger referred to is my 3x Great Uncle, William Brookman, brother to my 2x Great Grandmother, Agnes Brookman who marries George Cox.

As I was soon to discover there is much written about William and his case but probably the best piece of information for me in relation to confirming the details of Christina’s story, was this first article I stumbled upon. It is pure gold and I think I will have to retire my often-used phrase, “and you just don’t get this type of detail normally” as I seem to be stumbling on to this type of detail, all the time.

This article presents a number of pieces of correspondence penned by someone with the initials of JS who is part of the community, Kyeamba where we now know Christina and Samuel are living. I initially thought it might have been James Strachan but JS refers to James Strachan in the third person in the article and in a not very flattering light. Then it hits me, the most logical explanation is that it is John Smith the immigrant engineer who settled the area and who’s name appears in the advertisement in Figure 6a.1 above. I also just realised if you take a second look at James and Christina’s marriage certificate in Figure 6a, the top witness signature I think reads John Smith.

I am so grateful to JS for the level of detail he goes into as it just breathes life into Christina at what I can only imagine must have been a devastatingly scary time of her life.

Before I present the article with these pieces of correspondence from JS, I think it would be beneficial to read this earlier article from mid-December 1867, some six weeks before. It gives a great description of the incident as well as providing some context for the content of the correspondence.

Figure 6d: Courtesy of the National Library of Australia

I feel like I’m reading a movie or tv script. These words were written and describe a situation 153 years ago but I feel like I’m right there. The information it contains that helps confirm that this is Christina and her son?, the alias that William uses, William Russell. Russell is Christina’s maiden name.

Now I will take you back to the first article that I mentioned above with JS’s correspondence, here is the copy of the first letter the paper reproduced:

Figure 6e: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

The section missing in the top reads. “…he resisted the constables and shot one in the hand or wrist.” I can only hypothesize that it must have been mortifying for the family to have all these details published in the paper for all to see. Interesting to note the phrase, “…our little community…” and naming Christina from “…our inn…” . I think this adds weight to the fact that John Smith is the author of this correspondence.

Also the fact that JS opinions that James Strachan will do nothing to assist in getting a petition started to have the death sentence commuted. This speaks volumes about James’s temperament and the troubling nature of his relationship with William. The other detail here that wasn’t in the first article is that William was severely wounded. A bullet was fired and hit the ground and ricocheted up and struck William in the neck. Some articles state that it was the Constable who fired and others that it was the other Bushranger, John Williams who fired as he was set upon.

The second piece of correspondence the Empire printed is quite extraordinary. JS talks about Christina directly and what her state of mind must have been. He also gives the most amazing account of Christina’s and the families history which cements all of these whirling details into her story.

Figure 6f: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

See what I mean? How incredible was that. The level of detail he has about Williams situation and the job situations he has been in don’t come from a casual passing. This is someone who knows of the family intimately. Of course knowing how Christina was feeling and what she was trying to do now that her son was under the death sentence is incredible but to now have that level of insight into what their history was is priceless.

Abandoned 6 years ago, means that Samuel left them sometime in 1861/62, this is only 3 or 4 years after arriving in the colony. At this stage William is 10 years of age, his sister Mary is 5, and Samuel and Christina’s 5th child, Margaret has just died, either in childbirth or before her 1st birthday sometime. Their 4th child, Christina died in 1860 before her 1st birthday. The pain must have been unbearable. The other main detail that also confirms this is my Christina, is JS revealing her marriage details to James Strachan and so specific they are too. February 1865, which of course matches with the info from the index search and certificate I purchased, copy above.

How strong Christina must have been, her story sounds so desperate. She has basically given up her 10-year-old Son to strangers in the street. Her youngest Daughter dies and she has to give up her only other Daughter so that she can go out and work. But through all of these bleak newsprint lines, what shines out at me is Christina’s love and loyalty to her family. She is obviously still in contact with both of her children, the fact that she is able to send for her daughter to live with her when she settles at the Inn and the fact that she has communicated what she wants William to do in his situation just shows the type of woman she must have been.

I was able to confirm the death of Christina and Samuel’s Daughters through Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria.

Figure 6g: Courtest of Birth Deaths and Marriages Victoria

You’ll notice another surprise on the death list above. This William Brookman listed at the end is Samuel’s Brother. Agnes Montgomery and Thomas Brookman are Samuel’s parents as well, of course.

Surprisingly the daughter that Christina had to put into care in Melbourne was not my 2x Great Grandmother Agnes but rather another daughter Mary who was born in Scotland and must have made the journey out with Christina and Samuel. I have been unable to find any marriage or death records for Mary. Of course Christina’s death certificate confirms that she has died before her Mother as all 5 daughters are listed as deceased.

You will recall how I stated earlier that the more I try to confirm the details of Christina’s life the more information I seem to uncover. This has happened again in this case of trying to answer why was Agnes not with the family in Melbourne when Samuel leaves them? This will be one of the big unanswered questions in Agnes, Christina, and Samuels lives. But what I can confirm is that Agnes and her brother, Thomas who is older by 5 years were left in Scotland with Samuels mother and step-father. Yes you read that correctly, Samuels parents. I discovered these details in the Census information from 1851 and 1861.

Brookman 1851 Soctland Census
Figure 6h: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

George and Thomasina above are Samuel’s brother and sister. Their father, my 4x Great Grandfather, Thomas Brookman passed away in March of 1834, 6 months before Thomasina was born. I think it would be safe to assume that she was named for her dad. Agnes has remarried to a much younger man Thomas Jones.

I just did a quick Google search and the Canal Inn, not Carol Inn is still standing just up from Lock 16 Camelon.

The Canal Inn Camelon
Figure 6i: Courtesy of Falkirk Herald
The Canal Inn, Camelon
Figure 6j: Courtesy of Geograph Britain and Ireland

The big question the census document above raises for me is, why is Thomas, who is only 2 years of age, living with his grandparents when his parents are married and still in Scotland? They don’t immigrate to Australia until 1858. I found a census listing for Samuel and Christina, the ages match and they are living at Lock 16 in the vicinity of Camelon on the opposite side of the canal to the Canal Inn.

Brookman 1851 Scotland Census
Figure 6j.1: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

There of course is no way to be certain this is my Christina and Samuel but the coincidences are compelling as far as I’m concerned to argue that it is.

Below is a wonderful picture of the Lock from the early 20th century. This picture matches up with Figure 6j above. The building on the right of this picture is the building on the left of 6j only 100 years apart.

Lock 16 Union Canal, Camelon
Figure 6k: Courtesy of Falkirk Local History Society

The copy of the 1861 Census below shows that Thomas and his sister Agnes my 2x Great Grandmother who is now born, are both living with their grandmother and step grandfather. Christina and Samuel have been gone for just on two or three years at this stage depending on when they left in 1858. From my research so far Agnes doesn’t see her father ever again and doesn’t see her mother, Christina for another 22 years when she immigrates to Australia with her husband George Cox and daughter, Christina.

Figure 7: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

Note that they are now in the Union Hotel and amazingly again, this one is still standing too.

Lock 16 with view of Union Inn, 1970
Figure 7a: Courtesy of Flickr User robbi1977
Union Inn, Lock 16, Camelon
Figure 7a.1: Courtesy of British Listed Buildings

It is believed that the Inn was built around the same time as the Union Canal was completed in 1822. It was predominately used as a trading post inn for people waiting for boats to negotiate the 11 lock ladder at Camelon. (http://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/LB31233)

Locale of Union and Canal Inn’s with Lock 16
Figure 7b: Courtesy of Google Maps

This map shows you just how close they were. It is fascinating to think, Samuel was a shipowner employing 11 people, what happened for him to give this up and move he and Christina and some of their family to Australia?

Another mind-blowing fact for me is that 16785km’s away from Forster, NSW, (I just Googled it) two homes where my family’s lives played out over 170 years ago are still standing. I hope I never get Blaise about that fact.

So we now have a picture emerging of Christina and Samuel and their early life in Falkirk, still lots of unanswered questions but what a gift to actually see where they lived and not just have to imagine it. We have confirmed that Christina ends up destitute in Melbourne with 3 children, one child dies, one moves on to a family who can provide for him and one, Christina has to put into care so she can work. She then ends up married to James Strachan and then has to manage the whole bushranging and death sentence issue with William her son. But what of Samuel, Christina’s husband and my 4x Great Grandfather?

I know from my previous searching that the online death index for Samuel Brookman in 1877 lists the death being registered in Hay, which is on the western outskirts of the Riverina district, so still in the area of the family, just. Trove delivered, a number of variations of the same article which start to appear in late February 1877 in the area of Maude and Nap Nap. The map below gives you a bit of an idea of the area. These of course were huge distances back in the late 19th Century. Days of travel compared to the 4-hour trip now.

Map of Maude to Holbrook
Figure 8: Courtesy of Google Maps

This article below describes a very tragic set of circumstances but is absolutely jammed packed with information.

Figure 9: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

What a story. It reads as though it has come straight from the pen of Henry Lawson or Banjo Patterson but how do I confirm that this is my 3x Great Grandfather? I’m missing that link. I decide to go through all the articles in the different publications to see if there is any additional information in some that may have been left out of this one. In my experience so far with comparing articles like this from this era, there can be lots of information condensed down or cut out completely. I notice in two of the other publications this line appears at the end of the article that doesn’t in the one I have above.

Figure 10: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

That one line, “Brookman is said to have stated that he was the father of the bushranger of that name.” What stories were told so that it reached the ear of this correspondent who then decides to mention it in the article? There is no way they could even concieve that 143 years later those few words would be so important to me.

Tangled Lignum
Figure 11: Courtesy of WT Landcare Flora Index

You can just imagine Samuel laying beside a bush like this trying to take shelter from the scorching sun. I think seeing this picture just gives Samuel’s story so much more meaning for me. You can also imagine that this might have been what he and Charles Hopper set out on for really what was to become their death ride.

Man with Horse and Dray
Figure 12: Courtesy of Art Gallery of South Australia

The final piece in this story, Samuel’s death certificate.

Samuel Brookman Death Certificate
Figure 13: Macvean Family Archives

It confirms the details of the article and revels how nothing was known about Samuel at the time of his death. What a sad, lonely and painful way to die. But like so many other times on this journey of discovering who Christina and her family were, my family, this emailed digital certificate raises so many more questions than it answers. And we are still left pondering why did Christina and Samuel immigrate to Australia? Why did they leave two of their children behind with their Grandparents? Why did Samuel abandon Christina and his children in Melbourne? Was Christina aware that Samuel was still alive when she married James Strachan and did Samuel ever try to see William when hearing of his death sentence? I suspect the answers will remain deeply buried in the dust of time.

Now that seems like a good place to end this post, doesn’t it? But I haven’t shared what happened to Christina’s son William, the Boy Bushranger. You might have worked out that he was listed as living on Christina’s death certificate in 1912 and noted as 60 years of age, so safe to assume the death sentence was commuted. How this occured I will share in the future post I mentioned earlier about William and how I came about discovering his story.

Emerging from the dust of time.

As addictive and enjoyable as this family history research is it can be on many occasions the most frustrating annoying time waster. When you hit that brick wall and feel that you just can’t go anymore, that there is nothing else to uncover and the trail is dead cold, just sometimes, I have come to learn that this is not the case. You just need to find a different way of approaching the situation or asking the question in a different form. This was definitely the case in discovering Christina Russell, my 3 times Great Grandmother.

The first I heard of Christina or read of her, was finding a mention of her in an article on my 2 x Great Grandmother, Agnes Brookman Cox’s death. Again noting that I say this with some frequency, like always, but this is an amazing find. It is such a sad little article but the detail that it gives is gold in terms of family history.

Figure 1: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Look at all that information just sitting there about my family since 1896. Information on my 2x Great Grandfather, his profession, their children, what my 3 x Great Grandmother was doing immediately before she died, how she died, what she died from, and where she was from. This is so out of the ordinary, most of the death notices I have found mention date of death and that is it. To have an article like this is wonderful. What was ordinary and is so frustrating to me in 2020 is that there is no mention of Agnes’s name. She is only mentioned as an extension of her husband, “Mrs Cox”. This is one of my biggest struggles in researching, trying not to judge other past social norms from my ivory tower of hindsight. I’m crap at it.

You”ll note the mention of Agne’s Mother being sent for from NSW. This is Christina. When I first read this I wasn’t even aware of what her name was. I was amazed first, that her mother was still alive. Life expectancy back then was not great. (According to the UK Office for National Statistics a newborn baby girl in 1841 only 11 years after Christina was born was not expected to live past the age of 43.) And secondly, that she was in NSW. This meant that Christina had immigrated to Australia as well and not stayed in Scotland. My first stop was Ancestry.com.au to see if there was anything listed. I found this note in Christina’s life details.

Figure 2: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

Now I should explain here that in Ancestry some information automatically populates in when you confirm information from someone else’s tree. I had never seen this entry before but what was really interesting to me was the fact that she was buried at Holbrook, where the Macvean’s were settled and the very curious listing for her place of death, somewhere called “Little Billabong”. You might remember I mentioned in an earlier post this name and that it would have some significance in relation to Christina. Boom! That is my subtle approach showing again, just in case you missed it.

Another thing I wasn’t aware of at this moment was that my Great Grandparents, Alexander and Agnes Macvean had their property, Rooksdale on the banks of Little Billabong. That discovery came as a result of delving into Christina’s story. The link here is that Agnes Macvean, maiden name, Agnes Brookman Cox is Daughter to George and Mrs Cox in the death article above therefor Christina’s Granddaughter. This means that Christina was living in her later life in the same district as her family which is so heartwarming to me as I was soon to discover that Christina’s early life was heartbreaking.

I searched for Little Billabong and found out that it was in the Germanton area (Holbrook). I began my search of NSW Birth Deaths and Marriages and came up with nothing. There was no listing for Christina Brookman or Russell her maiden name. I tried different spellings and still nothing. I searched the Ryerson Index (listing of funeral and death notices) not a mention anywhere. I went back to Ancestry, whoever had entered the details of Little Billabong as the Death place had no source listed for this information. This is where the brick wall came up and stayed there for a while.

There are many reasons why the information might not be coming up, spelling, information wasn’t ever recorded or the records were destroyed. I remember reading about the records that were kept in The Garden Palace complex in Macquarie Street in Sydney that were lost when it burnt to the ground.

The International Exhibition Centre (The Garden Palace) 1880
Figure 3: Courtesy of State Library of NSW
Figure 4: Courtesy of State Library of NSW

This is an amazing story of Sydney’s past which has just been forgotten much too like Christina’s story until I imagine I started digging. I tried searching the Immigrant passenger list in State records. I found only one entry for a Christina Brookman and it clearly didn’t match our Christina’s details. I then thought to myself, did she remarry, did something happen to Samuel, my 3x Great Grandfather. I searched for him in BDM NSW and look what I stumbled onto.

Figure 5: Courtesy of NSW Govt’ Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages

The question was how could I be certain it was my Samuel Brookman? The age fitted with what dates I had for his birth record in Ancestry. This is sort of confirmed from a census record I found that matches with his siblings names and parents.

Figure 6: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

This confirms Samuel’s age as 14 in 1841 which puts his birth in 1827. We are only 5 years out with the BDM note of 45years but that is nothing for the time. We are looking good. So poor old Samuel is gone by 1877. Again making a big assumption that my Samuel even immigrated to Australia. We definitely know that his Wife Christina did because she died here but the only way to be certain is to find their immigration details. Now I have scoured every passenger list and put in every different way of spelling Brookman and there is not a skerrik of information on them at all. Another damn brick wall.

Back to BDM, search for Marriage after 1877, Bride name, Brookman.

Figure 7: Courtesy of NSW Govt’ Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages

Argghhh! Nothing. Now I must admit I left this one for a while until I discovered a new function on BDM, well I thought it was new but then I thought I had never tried it. When searching for details one of the “must be filled details” on their site was the surname of the person you want to search. I wanted to search for any deaths, first name Christina without a surname and see what would turn up. I put it in for deaths between 1911-1913 and it searched. I couldn’t believe it, it started searching. My idea was that if Christina had remarried I could catch her new name this way and match her to her place of death, Little Billabong, and her parent’s names. Big, big long shot but it might work.

Figure 8: Courtesy of NSW Govt’ Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages

Of course, over 10 pages of results as you can see from above. It was potentially going to take some time. I did this sitting in the car one night having just dropped Xander and Calan to Scouts and just started searching. 7 pages in look what jumped out at me.

Figure 9: Courtesy of NSW Govt’ Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages

A Christina, last name Strachan, death 1912 in Germanton, not Little Billabong but right locale and Parents names listed and they matched with my Christina.

Figure 10: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

It is hard to describe the bolt of electrical excitement that runs through you when you make a discovery like this. After months of searching and those damn brick walls and bang it falls into place. It is also the fact that you made the connection by yourself. I didn’t have to pay for someone else’s assistance it was all me. I know, you are probably rolling your eyes but you have to take the wins when they come along.

I ordered a copy of the certificate right there and then in the car, what a time we live in. I then started the searches again this time with Strachan in the mix.

Figure 11: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Wow!, so much information that just confirms that this is my 3x Great Grandmother. Right off there is “Little Billabong”, “Germanton”, the date of death and the mention of a “Mr J Cox” attending the funeral. Remember Christina’s Daughter Agnes Brookman, my 2x Great Grandmother from earlier in this post?, she marries George Cox. This “Mr J Cox” is Josiah Cox their Son, Christina’s Grandson and Brother to my Great Grandmother, Agnes Brookman Cox who marries Alexander Ballantyne Macvean. All these details come together to confirm Christina’s place as my 3x Great Grandmother just from this one obituary article.

I know these are but the bearest of details when you compare them to a peson’s life and the experience’s they live through but this is why I titled this post the way I did. It is like a gradual emergence. You start with barely an outline of the person, Christina in this example and all of a sudden the smallest of details start to coalese into an outline, giving you a starting to point to try and build upon.

I have on many occasions sat with my Nan in her unit, “4B Links House” over the years, and she would disappear into the middle room or her bedroom and return with a wrapped plastic bag of what can only be described as a gift bag of family history.

My Nan, Kathleen Nicoll in her spot.
(The hallway behind her is where she would disappear to returning with a bundle of treasures.)
Figure 11a: Macvean Family Archives

I never knew where she kept them they just appeared and they always had a musty smell to them and would always have a covering of dust that would stay on your hands after handling these treasures. This is the dust of time to me and the smell that comes to me when I am doing this research. I know, weird but I love it and it is such a lovely link back to my Nan now she is gone.

So back to Christina, the next big questions, Strachan, who is he? Why did she marry him, when did she marry him and who are the children they had? I know that none of Christina’s children from her marriage to Samuel Brookman married a Ross so there is obviously another undiscovered branch of the family out there.

And let me tell you there is, the name Strachan, has been the key to some amazing discoveries but wait, spoilers! The rest of Christina’s story, the Brookman’s, and the Strachan’s in the next post.

A Family Reunited

This story I am about to share with you is very special to me and really has changed me as a person. For so long I have felt that I am on this lone journey of discovery in relation to my family, god this sounds so cliched I know but it is true. I’m basically the last in the line that I can find in both the Macvean’s and the Nicoll’s or so I thought. Did you pick up on that hint? Subtle is what they call it.

So going to my old friend Trove, they have this awesome feature where by once you sign up with an account you can start creating lists of information you have found from anywhere on their site. I have set up multiple lists for a lot of the different branches of the family tree. The Nicoll list by far is the most prevelant with over 500 articles saved. One of the additional awesome features I discovered is that you can create a description heading for the list describing what the list is about for other user’s who might be interested. Remember I have said before, family history research is like fishing, you put out the bait and you see what bites. This is a copy below.

Figure 1: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

The only catch to this that I wasn’t aware of, is that if anyone does make a comment on your List, there is no notification that comes through. You can see where this is going cant’ you?

So fast forward to a year later and I get this what I think is a pretty dodgy message on Facebook. I immediately thought it was one of those phishing messages, I don’t have a copy of it to show you but it was from a name I didn’t recognise but the message said that they were researching immigration history to Australia. This stopped me from deleting and I then sent this message.

Figure 2: Macvean Family Archives

I mean come on, why would a Emerita Professor be messaging me? This was the response I received on the 24th April 2019.

Figure 3: Courtesy of Facebook

You can probably imagine the excitement that was building for me after reading this. I jumped straight on to Trove to have a look.

Figure 4: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

I couldn’t believe it, over a month since Viv sent the message on Trove and I had no idea that it was there. This was when she decided to try and track me down on Facebook and I am so thankful that she did. I jumped straight back into Messenger and so it began. An amazing wonderful dialogue of shared discoveries, (again sounds so trite but this is definitely how I feel) about our family. There were no brakes or anything engaged we just both jumped straight in. Often when someone connects with you on Ancestry, in the few experiences I have had, it can be quite impersonal and bit standoffish but with Viv there was nothing like this. Viv is a descendant of James Robertson Nicoll Brother to my 3x Great Grandfather George Robertson Nicoll of the Nicoll Manuscript fame.

James Robertson Nicoll
Figure 4a: Courtesy of Sherrel Godwin (Cousin)

How incredible is that? a picture of James. Now I’m jumping the gun a bit here but Sherrel is now another Cousin we have welcomed into the fold thanks to Viv but I will return to this story at a later stage.

Figure 5: Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

It didn’t take too long to put Viv into the Family Tree and according to Ancestry.com.au she is officially my 5th Cousin. Viv has shared that she has been researching the Family for decades and that it was her wish to set up a Facebook page for others who might be interested in the Family and the immigration aspect. Viv did this and more Nicoll descendants have been discovered.

Figure 6: Courtesy of Facebook

Viv also shared that she was writing an academic blog on George and his Wife Sarah and their immigration journey. Unlike this blog which is at best gossip mag like and visual, (speaks volumes of the author), Viv’s is very much an academic and sociological view on the impacts of immigration through the lens of our shared ancestors George, Sarah and the rest of the Nicoll’s who followed. It is a fascinating read. Copy below and the link. Hopefully you will still be able to find this in 2169.

Figure 7: Courtesy of the University of Edinburgh

I received this message from Viv in October 2019. She and her partner Alan had booked their flights and would be in Sydney late Oct’ early November.

Figure 8: Courtesy of Messenger

We organised to meet. I sent out a message on Ancestry to see if anyone else was interested in coming along. I didn’t let Viv know just incase no one made contact. Had a few responses from people who are actually based overseas and couldn’t make it. No committment right?

I have organised a get together for Saturday 2nd November 10am at Rookwood Cemetery Cafe, right opposite the Function Center. (Just inside the Weeroona Road entrance immediately on the left on Memorial Drive)

Vivienne Cree who is a desendent of James Robertson Nicoll, George Robertson Nicoll’s Brother is visiting from Scotland and would love to meet as many of the Australian Nicoll’s and descendents as possible. Viv is writing an academic paper on Emmigration to Australia in the 19th Century focussing on the Nicoll Family’s journey. Below is the link to her blog on the subject.

You might be thinking that it was a strange place to meet, Rookwood, Australia’s oldest burial ground but Cemeteries have undergone a transformation recently. Most now have Cafe’s and function centres. The Village at Rookwood is a fantastic spot to catch up.

Figure 9: The Village Cafe Rookwood Cemetery

Jan Bond is my Maternal Aunt, Greg Nicoll is her Cousin. He is the Son of my Grandfather’s Brother Douglas Nicoll. Shirley and Lea are descendents of Annie Schofield who married Bruce Randolf Nicoll one of George and Sarah Nicoll’s Great Grandsons. They still live in Earlwood where Blink Bonnie George Wallace Nicoll’s estate was situated. Shirley has vivid memories of visiting the home as to does my Aunty Jan. Such a shame that the home is now demolished and gone.

As above with the addition of our Boys, Xander in the front and Calan on my left. Alex was the photographer for us, very sneaky at not getting into the photos.
Figure 11: Macvean Family Archives

No wait, Xander had a couple more photos from the day and had one of all of us. So will sneak another one in.

As above, with the addition of Alexandra Macvean, behind Xander’s hat and a very close family friend, Carol behind Alex with the glasses and the blonde hair.
Figure 11a: Macvean Family Archives
Back Row: Greg Nicoll, Viv Cree, Jan Bond nee Nicoll, Alan (Viv’s Partner)
Front Row: John Macvean, Shirley Stevenson, Lea Stevenson
Figure 10: Macvean Family Archives

The reunion was fantastic! That Saturday was a beautiful day and we sat and had coffee and bacon and egg rolls and chatted for about 3 hours. We worked out that it is about 118 years since the two sides of the family had seen each other. Viv shared that George and his Brother James were very close from what she had been able to uncover. It was not lost on us the significance of this reunion and how it occured by happen chance.

We then toured around to all the Nicoll graves, they had money back in their day and most have fantastic marbled monuments.

Nicoll Monuments
Figure 12: Macvean Family Archives,
Collage courtesy of, https://www.photocollage.com/

After that we went to a little Cafe on Sydney Harbor and had a late lunch and you guessed it, kept talking.

Nield Park Lunch
Figure 13: Macvean Family Archives,
Collage courtesy of, https://www.photocollage.com/

It really was an amazing experience and all of us reported back that we couldn’t believe how everyone just seemed to click.

It certainly has had an amazing effect on me, a physical connection to that history that really to that point has been a digital experience.

Viv and Alan have very kindly invited us to visit them in Scotland, which was going to happen at the end of this year but the Covid 19 pandemic has put that on hold for the moment. Now that the family has been reunited it will happen.

Cousin Viv and Alan
Figure 14: Courtesy of Viv and Alan
Collage courtesy of, https://www.photocollage.com/

This wasn’t the only family reunion 2019 offered up. Backtracking to March when I turned 50 another amazing reunion happened but this time the link was with the Macvean side of the family. This story coming in a future post.

Uncovering the Family Stories.

Hi, I’m back. It is the 20th Sept’ 2019 and it has been about a month since my last post on the blog. Why am I telling you this? Well George R Nicoll continues to inspire me through his manuscript. As I was reading it recently a few thoughts came into my mind about it, like:

I wished I knew where he was when he was writing it.

What was happening to him and the family on the days that he was working on it? (So much is happening for us in the background when I’m working on these posts.) It seems really greedy doesn’t it when I have the manuscript in the first place.

And the big one, George is sharing all of this personal information about him and his family and that maybe it would be good if I followed in his footsteps and added my own manuscript to the family story. Maybe it’s not just about rediscovering the past but also sharing the present.

Apart from the little I shared in the first posts and the Road Trip posts there is nothing about my story. I know George’s story is one of the building blocks of my own but it might be of interest to add my block in for your interest.

Might as well start now. This is where I’m doing most of the work from,

The Office
Figure 1: Courtesy of Me!

The fantastic geometric design on the walls is Xander’s handy work. This was his room up until a couple of months ago when Alex and I moved into the Hut out the back. Xander is now set up in our old room and we moved the office from the Hut into his old room. Loved the office in the Hut but had to move it as the Neighbours over the back fence have a dog that barks incessently the moment they leave the house for work. The record so far is 6 hours non stop.

You probably noticed the woodfest happening outside the window. One of the jobs waiting for me from when Alex’s Dad trimmed the trees out the back, 3 years ago. I know, I will move it, eventually.

As to what is happening for us at the moment, well Alex is blitzing it at her work. Stress is huge but really developing her management skills with the team that she has and beinging mentored at the moment by her Director. Such a difference to the last Director and Manager she was working with.

Alexandra Macvean at Work
Figure 2: Courtesy of Alex

I just rang and spoke to Alex and asked her to send me a photo, so this is her right now at the time of me writing this. I love this lady so much. I don’t want there to be any doubt on that. When reading George’s words on Sarah his Wife, I had the sense that they were pretty devoid of any warmth. I can’t find the exact passage at the moment but when I do I will share it with you. I don’t want that to be the case here. Alex is the most amazing person in my life, of course the Boys as well but I’m talking best friend, held me whilst snot crying amazing.

At the moment professionally I’m feeling pretty stunnted. Not giving up on my business, Stapleton Mercer Community Services but I don’t have any clients at the moment and I’m down to two shifts this week with the store I’m working with. Just can’t seem to get a foot hold with them after two years. Working casual sucks when you don’t get any work.

You will notice I’m not mentioning any names. Just recently read of a guy who wrote annonymously on a private webchat about the company he was working for in a critical way, they found out and he was terminated. The whole social media thing at the moment is really taking hold. It is standard now to hear people referring to “Their Socials”. I’m trying to think if you are reading this in 150 years time from now, like me with George’s writing what you will be thinking about that statement? Do you still have social media or has it just been intergrated into you internally and now your standard way of communicating?

I wonder if George could ever have imagine a time like I am in now when he was writing. Where his 3x Great Grandson could converse instantly from New South Wales with his 3x Great Grandneice in Edinburgh Scotland in real time on a tablet. When George died it still took months to travel between Scotland and Australia. I just realised if you are reading this in 150 years time it will be 2169, the 200th anniversary of my birth. It is a bit audacious of me to think that a copy of this blog will survive till then but you have to think big.

The Boys are rocking it, Xander is almost 16 and basically the shape of the bloke he is going to be. Calan is 15 and stretching into his final shape. Really noticing the change in him on a weekly basis.

Xander, Calan and John 2019
Figure 3: Macvean Family Archives.

It has been a big month of family history discoveries. Alex the Boys and I did a quick weekend away to Sydney to see these two amazing flicks. Calan and I loved them both, Alex and Xander not so much “It” but they went along for us and the recliner chairs.


Also caught up with Duncan, Gabrielle, Jessica and Patrick, Alex’s Brother and his family.

The Macvean Cannon Clan 2019
Figure 4: Macvean Family Archives.

I spent an extra two days down there to visit the Ancestor’s and to chase up some more leads at the Mitchell Library. I basically just fish on the library sites. Put in the names and see what comes up. I have mentioned before that when you search it is good practice to change the spelling of the name to catch anything that might have been misspelt or misheard. With a name like Macvean, this has been invaluable as it has many forms, M’Vean, McVean, Macvean, MacVean and McVeen.

So just to interrupt, can you notice the change in text colour? So as you can see I started this post back in Sept’ 2019, 6 months ago. Everything after this is what I have put together in the last week of March 2020. The reason it took me 6 months to get back to it is exactly what I mentioned above. Life!

So much has happened to the four of us as a Family in this time that it is nuts. It is just the thing that I was thinking about with George when he was writing his manuscript. I’m not going to try and explain now I will leave the rest of this post for what I originally intended, to share some of the techniques of uncovering the family story.

Of course just to whett your appitite, you have probably noticed from the date we are right in the middle of the global Coronavirus pandemic. We are basically in lockdown and just tonight the PM announced that any outdoor public gathering can now only be with 2 people. Yet they can still come in in herds into the shop and breath all over me as I work, as shopping is an essential service. I won’t be happy if it kills me, you can bet on that. We will now return you to your normal programing.

To the first of the catch’s from this fishing trip. This was a great feeling, discovering this book and what was in it. With the knowledge of the Macvean’s heavy involvement with the Presbyterian Church in the Riverina area, that is Albury, Wagga Wagga, and Corowa, I found a couple of books stored at the Mitchell Library written by Keith Swan about the history of the church in the area.

Swan, Keith., and Presbyterian Church of Australia. Presbytery of Wagga Wagga. The Kirk at Work and Worship : One Hundred Years of the Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1883-1983 / by Keith Swan. Wagga Wagga: Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1983. Print.
Figure 5: Macvean Family Archives

My hope was that there would be some mention of the family in the book, remembering that the foundation stone of the church hall in Wagga was laid by my 2x Great Grandmother Jessie Davina Macvean and that her Husband, my 2x Great Grandfather was an Elder of the church. So it was interesting then that the first piece of family info I came across wasn’t to do with either of them but in relation to Jessie’s Father, The Reverand David Hunter Ballantyne. ( I have been aware for sometime that he was the first Presbyterian Minister established in Albury. I will share more of David’s story in a later post.)

Swan, Keith., and Presbyterian Church of Australia. Presbytery of Wagga Wagga. The Kirk at Work and Worship : One Hundred Years of the Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1883-1983 / by Keith Swan. Wagga Wagga: Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1983. Print.
Figure 6: Macvean Family Archives

At the same time, I was fishing in this book aswell, I know two on the go at the sametime, madness, I came across this fantastic piece on the Reverend.

St. David’s Church. The Albury Kirk Chronicle Centenary Souvenir Issue : 100 Years of Presbyterianism in Albury, 1851-1951; Celebrations April 14 to June 3, April, 1951. Vol. 17. No. 3. Albury?: S.n.], 1951. Print.
Figure 6a: Courtesy of State Library of NSW
St. David’s Church. The Albury Kirk Chronicle Centenary Souvenir Issue : 100 Years of Presbyterianism in Albury, 1851-1951; Celebrations April 14 to June 3, April, 1951. Vol. 17. No. 3. Albury?: S.n.], 1951. Print.
Figure 6b: Courtesy of State Library of NSW
St. David’s Church. The Albury Kirk Chronicle Centenary Souvenir Issue : 100 Years of Presbyterianism in Albury, 1851-1951; Celebrations April 14 to June 3, April, 1951. Vol. 17. No. 3. Albury?: S.n.], 1951. Print.
Figure 6c: Courtesy of State Library of NSW

Now back to the first book again, my next find was about my Great Grandfather, Alexander Ballantyne Smith Macvean.

Swan, Keith., and Presbyterian Church of Australia. Presbytery of Wagga Wagga. The Kirk at Work and Worship : One Hundred Years of the Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1883-1983 / by Keith Swan. Wagga Wagga: Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1983. Print.
Figure 7: Macvean Family Archives

Germanton of course becomes Holbrook and just to remind you Little Billabong is where my Great Grandparents run the Rooksdale Estate.

Now this was a random find and I’m not sure that it relates to the Macvean’s but I definately know that it does to the Nicoll’s. The information above comes from an excerpt in Keith Swan’s book that is a reproduction of the Kirk’s annual report for 1907/08 and in it there is advertising, obviously to help with the cost of production and there just happens to be an add for the College that my Great Grandfather, William Norman Rupert Nicoll attended on his journey to becoming a Marine Engineer.

Swan, Keith., and Presbyterian Church of Australia. Presbytery of Wagga Wagga. The Kirk at Work and Worship : One Hundred Years of the Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1883-1983 / by Keith Swan. Wagga Wagga: Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1983. Print.
Figure 8: Macvean Family Archives

Cooerwull was founded in 1882 by the Scottishpastoralist and industrialist, Andrew Brown, who was also the Lithgow Valley’s first European settler. The school, which was originally intended to be a training academy for prospective Presbyterian ministers, was the first Presbyterian school established in New South Wales... The Academy ceased operating when most of its staff and some students enlisted to fight in the First World War. It then became a private residence, and in 1953 the site was converted into the Catholic, La Salle Academy, which is still in operation today. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooerwull_Academy)

Figure 9: Cooerwull Academy, Courtesy of Green and Gold Rugby

Now this was the find of the day. A mention of my 2x Great Grandmother, Jessie Davina Macvean nee Ballantyne, Daughter of Rev David Hunter Ballantyne and a picture of her and my 2x Great Grandfather, Alexander Macvean. Which was totally unexpected. 59 pages in, this appears.

Swan, Keith., and Presbyterian Church of Australia. Presbytery of Wagga Wagga. The Kirk at Work and Worship : One Hundred Years of the Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1883-1983 / by Keith Swan. Wagga Wagga: Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1983. Print.
Figure 10: Macvean Family Archives

As it states, Jessie is standing on the right of the Minister and then Alexander is standing on the right of Jessie. I have scoured this picture below willing any other family members to reveal themselves to me, I’m sure that there would be more there but again I think their faces are lost to time.

Swan, Keith., and Presbyterian Church of Australia. Presbytery of Wagga Wagga. The Kirk at Work and Worship : One Hundred Years of the Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1883-1983 / by Keith Swan. Wagga Wagga: Presbytery of Wagga Wagga, 1983. Print.
Figure 11: Macvean Family Archives

A quick Google search and here it is in 2011.

Figure 12: Courtesy of Stephen MacDonald
Figure 13: Courtesy of Stephen MacDonald

Then Trove had this:

Figure 14: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

This article below is just brilliant, it describes the ceremony in the picture, how amazing is that?

Figure 15: Courtesy of National Library of Australia
Figure 16: Courtesy of National Library of Australia

State Library of NSW also has an amazing collection of historic pictures in their small pictures catalogue. This is the Church where my 3x Great Grandparents Peter Stapleton and Margaret Quinn married on the 2nd of July 1883 in Bega NSW.

Figure 17: St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church Bega 1890 Courtesy of State Library of NSW.

I then came across this picture of the Evershed Monument in Gipps Street in Bega which my 3x Great Grandfather, Peter Stapleton built. It still stands in the same spot today.

Figure 18: Evershed Monument, Gipps Street Bega. Courtesy of State Library of NSW.

I then came across this very curious, pamphlet on my 4x Great Grand Uncle, Rev Allan Macvean, Brother to my 3x Great Grandfather John Hugh Macvean. From the little I have read so far it seems that the Rev Allan was quite a divisive character in his preaching.

MacPherson, Peter. The Free Church Principles of the Rev. Allan MacVean, of Brunswick; with Analysis / by Rev. Peter Macpherson. Melbourne: Printed by Walker, May &, 1866. Print.
Figure 19: Courtesy of State Library of NSW

Here he is, The Rev Allan Macvean, Presbyterian Minister of Brunswick for over 50 years. He started preaching in a blacksmiths shop in the early 1850’s before there was any money for a church.

Figure 20: Courtesy of Public Records Office of Victoria

My next discovery related to Rev’ David Hunter Ballantyne again but this time in Brighton Victoria. He and the family moved from Albury to Brighton in 1869 where he bacame the Presbyterian Minister of the Wilson Street Church which would become St Cuthberts. I will share what I have been able to discover on David’s story in a future post at the moment I’m just sharing what I found on this one particular trip to the library.

Bate, Weston. A History of Brighton / (by) Weston Bate. Melbourne, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1962. Print.
Figure 21: Courtesy of State Library of NSW
Bate, Weston. A History of Brighton / (by) Weston Bate. Melbourne, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1962. Page 320. Print.
Figure 22: Courtesy of State Library of NSW

It is amazing to find information that directly mentions a family member and as I have mentioned many time before actual photographs of them are gold. The other thing I love is when you find a picture, painting or photograph of an area that relates to their story and especially when you can date it to a time that they were there. These next photos are exactly that. They give you the context to their lives and flesh out that world that they were inhabiting.

Bate, Weston. A History of Brighton / (by) Weston Bate. Melbourne, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1962. Print.
Figure 23: Brighton Train at South Yarra Station 1872

I have no proof that it happened but I wonder if the family rode this train from the city back home after a day in the Botanic Gardens or an afternoon at St Kilda strolling the boardwalks. This is exactly the time they were there.

Figure 24: Brighton Beach 1895, Courtesy of State Library NSW

The Beach is at the end of Park Street that intersects with Wilson Street where the Church is, 1.3kms away. I wonder if any of these people might be relatives or know Rev’ Ballantyne and his family?

My final discovery of the day relates to another 3x Great Grandfather, John Blackwood. He is the Father of Henry John Blackwood, my 2x Great Grandfather who ran Skinners Book Emporium and who illegitimately Fathered my Great Grandmother, Grace Blackwood with his business partners Wife, Jane Grace Skinner. I know right?, full on but back to John.

Central Coast Family History Society , Author. Lisarow Cemetery : Forget Us Not / Central Coast Family History Society Inc. Second ed. 2014. Print.
Figure 25: Courtesy of State Library of NSW

I found out from Ancestry.com a while back that he was buried in an Anglican Church in Lisarow. Had absolutely no idea where that was, finally looked it up and it is on the Central Coast and in actual fact we use to drive past it on every trip to Queensland before the new section of the M1 freeway opened as it is right next to the old Pacific Highway.

Central Coast Family History Society , Author. Lisarow Cemetery : Forget Us Not / Central Coast Family History Society Inc. Second ed. 2014. Print.
Figure 26: Courtesy of State Library of NSW
Central Coast Family History Society , Author. Lisarow Cemetery : Forget Us Not / Central Coast Family History Society Inc. Second ed. 2014. Print.
Figure 27: Courtesy of State Library of NSW

I am so lucky that another very generous 5th x Cousin on Ancestry.com shared a photo of John. Especially when you consider today, the 30th March 2020 when I’m finally finishing this post is the 144th anniversary of his death. What a coincidence!

Figure 28: Mr John Blackwood,
Generously shared by Margarita Carmen

So, if you are interested in your family story, chuck your name into your Local, State or our National Libraries search engine and see what you might catch. See that?, I linked it back to the whole fishing metaphor. I can smell a Miles Franklin award in the wind,… nah, just the curried sausages from last night. Damn!

The Talisman continued…

Continuing on from the last post with the Chalmers line of the family, that is my 5x Great Grandmother Jean and her Father, James, (the Butler from Glamis Castle). Here is a copy of Jean’s birth record, 8th January 1760. It confirms James’s name and who my 6x Great Grandmother was, Jean Reid. I think.

Jean Chalmers Baptism Registration

Of course at this stage there is no way to be certain of any of this, it’s like a jigsaw trying to piece it together and the more marker’s you can find the closer to that certainty you get. I could be wrong on any of these and I’m very happy to hear if someone else has different information.

Take for example, Jean above, I have a couple of markers that are guiding me to that certainty. First off her death registration below.

Jean Chalmers Death Registration

There is gold on this one. First off the names are correct, forget the Jane for the moment, easily mixed up with Jean. Next, the fact that it states that she is the Widow of the late Thomas Nicoll and on top of that, Blockmaker at Dundee. All details that fit with our story. Thomas’s burial details below confirm that he died in 1841.

Thomas Nicoll Burial Registration

The next marker we have is this amazing photo I uncovered on the Find a Grave Memorial site for Jean’s headstone.

Photo courtesy of Mentiplay

The actual inscription reads:

“Erected by George Wallace Shipmaster Peth and Janet Nicoll _( his) Spouse in memory of their __ children who __(died) in infancy also their Son William aged 18 who died at Copenhagen July 30th 1841 Also her Mother Jean Chalmers aged 87 who died July 30th 1847. The Above named Janet Nicoll died 30th August 1880 aged 84.

If you look at the fourth line of text from the bottom, boom! locks us in. “…also her Mother Jean Chalmers aged 87 who died July 30th 1847.” Same name and date as our burial record. Also George Wallace Shipmaster of Perth was married to Jean’s Daughter Janet Nicoll, her death date matches and they had a William who died at 18 in Copenhagen. (Side note, just me speculating: George and Sarah name their first born Son, George Wallace Nicoll, my Great Great Grandfather. I wonder if he is named for George’s Uncle? It appears that one of George’s Brother’s carries his Uncle by marriages name as well. John Spink Nicoll. More about the Spink’s to come.)

I know the link to the baptismal record for Jean is still a little tenuous but the date still fits perfectly now locked in with the death, burial and headstone info. The other markers I have looked at are that Nethermill, which is mentioned as the place that Jean is from in the baptismal record is not far from Glamis Castle where James is Butler to Earl of Kinghorne and Strathmore.


Also there is James’s own baptism record, from 21st Nov 1730. Not only does it confirm the names of my 7x Great Grandparents, John Chalmers and Jean Fairweather but also gives the area they are from as Guthrie.

James Chalmers Baptism Registration

Again, in the same region as where James will eventually work. The fly in the ointment to this same area theory, the only marriage registration details I can find for James and Jean Reid is in Deskford, 100 miles away from the Glamis area. Not to say people didn’t move around then but 100 miles to get married? I’m taking it as a win till I find out I’m wrong.

Last tenuous marker, Jean my 5x Great Nan, just to remind you, (because I know I’m bloody confused) Daughter of James the Butler and Jean Reid above, names one of her children William Reid Nicoll. A custom I have seen many times in my research where one of the children carries the maiden name of the mother.

William Reid Nicoll Birth & Baptism Registration

Damn, do I love the internet! In the time since I typed the above, look what I found below, I’ll tell you and then you look. Janet Nicoll’s birth record this is Jean and Thomas’s Daughter who’s husband was George Wallace all noted on the headstone above. Checkout who she is named for in the 3rd column.

Janet Nicoll Birth & Baptism Registration

That’s right, there is the Reid confirmed. “Janet Reid Gr Mother” refers to Jean’s Grandmother, who was Janet Symson married to John Reid, parents of Jean Reid who married James Chalmers the Butler. So the link to Jean Chalmers baptismal record is no longer tenuous. How cool is that.

Now I know we left George’s manuscript back in the last post but we are following up on the information he provided and we will get back to it in moment but I’m on a roll and thought we might as well follow this line while we can.

The registration details below are for the marriage Banns announcement for John Chalmers and Jean Fairweather for marriage. 29th April 1725 This is James the Butler’s Parents, my other 7x Great Grandparents.

Jean Fairweather & John Chalmers Marriage Banns

This one below is the baptism record for Jean Fairweather my 7x Great Grandmother above. This also confirms my 8x Great Grandfather’s name, James Fairweather but interestingly not the name of Jean’s Mother. To put that into a bit of perspective, that is 81 years before Captain Cook and the First Fleet invade the Great Southern continent.

Jean Fairweather Baptism Registration

Now I can’t be 100% sure on any of this, you’ll note there are no professions noted here or “daughter’s of”. Having said that I think this might be the marriage banns and marriage notice for James Fairweather above with a Katherine Bath. Other Ancestry accounts have this combination together and I can’t find any other combination of names at this time and it fits with the dates. Contracted to marry 9th August 1695. These words were written 325 years ago. That is mind blowing.

James Fairweather & Kathren Bath Marriage Banns

This all gets a bit confusing reading it like this so I have a copy of the  family tree view from Ancestry.com for James Nicoll, George Robertson’s Father so you can see how they all fit in. It is interesting to note that John Chalmers (1703) too has parents names loaded from other ancestry trees but I have not been able to confirm these details as yet.


So now back to the manuscript as I promised, to the Robertson side of the family, this is George’s Mothers side of the Family. I have shared numerous times how much I’m into the research side of things well the Robertson’s delivered and big time.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll

Here is a copy of Margaret’s birth & baptism record, this is George’s Mother mentioned above. Born 1st July 1796, Baptised 3rd July 1796. She was named after her Mother and James’s Sister, Margaret.

Margaret Robertson Baptism Registration

Next is the copy of James and Margaret’s marriage record below. 28th January 1787. Margaret’s Parents and George’s Grandparents. It is great because it confirms Margaret’s Father’s name. George Ogilvie, my 6x Great Grandfather.

Margaret Ogilvie & James Robertson Marriage Banns
Margaret Ogilvie Baptism Registration

And this record above, I’m pretty sure that this is Margaret’s baptism record from the 15th August 1762. Again can’t find this combination of names and dates anywhere else. Note again that it confirms Margaret’s Mothers name, Christian Lieshman. My 6x Great Grandmother.

Christian Leishman Baptism Registration

And here we are almost 280 years ago this time, with Christian’s baptism record from the 18th March 1739 with her parents names noted. Alexander Leishman (Sailor at Newtown) and Janet Reid.

Here is a copy of the family tree from this side to make it a bit easier. Note that Parents for Christian appear in the tree from other ancestry members, these are awaiting confirmation as well.

Now to James Robertson, Watch and Clock Maker. George’s Grandfather and my 5x Great Grandfather.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll

The picture below is of the west end of High Street. The Street to the right that the tram lines are curving into is Reform St and the corner of the block that Campbell Close is on. You can see in the center, that High Street is split into two by the block with the Bovril sign on it. The right side of Hight Street continues on as Overgate and the left as Nethergate. The building with the Bovril sign on it is where James Robertson operates his watch and clock making business, the premises George mentioned above.

High Street, Dundee looking West
Figure 1: Courtesy of Dundee City Archives
James Robertson DD Listing 1809

This entry above is the earliest I can find for James Robertson in The Dundee Directory from 1809 it has no street number listed. The entry below is from 1818, which shows 35 as the premises but the actual number is 44 High Street in later directories. It maybe that the numbering changed. I have seen records of this on many other streets where the numbering has changed but nothing specifically relating to 44 High Street.

James Robertson DD Listing 1818

This one below is from 1829-1830.

James Robertson DD 1829

This one from the 1842-1843 directory. The “late” refers to the fact that James has ceased working as a watchmaker. James doesn’t pass away until 27th Sept 1845.

It took many hours of looking at different sites of old photos of Dundee and then this  gem just appeared . It’s a little blurry but you can just make out the 44 on the wall.

44 High Street Dundee site of James Robertson’s Shop
Figure 2: Courtesy of Photopolis

What a find, I know, I say that a lot but how amazing to see where they actually lived and worked. You’ll note on the top ridge above the windows “watchmaker and jeweller”. There is no way to verify that this was there when James was, this banner refers to a company called “Whytocks” another famous watchmaker about 50 years after James. There is no date on the photo above but it looks to be around the 1890’s- 1900’s.

James Robertson DD 1845

The Dundee Directory listing above is from 1845, the year James dies. The one below is for his wife the year after, 1846.

Mrs Robertson DD 1846

I found James’s death notice, I’m pretty sure the Mrs Thomas Nicoll above is James’s Grandson’s Wife, so this would be his Great Grandson’s birth notice above his death notice, birth and death on the same day.

Figure 3:Courtesy of Newspapers.com

And here is his burial record from Ancestry.com.au It’s such a shame that it doesn’t say “…son of ..” but at least it has “Watchmaker” listed. Like I mentioned previously it is these little details that confirm the information.

Courtesy Ancestry.com.au

The second column above here lists James’s birth place as Brechin. This is interesting as Brechin is in Angus County some 47 miles from Perth where George states James is from. See below.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll

I was unable to find any birth records for James Robertson registered in Perth or Perthshire for the time period that we are after. Now that we know he was 88 in 1845 this puts his birth in 1757. The only entry I could find that fits was this one below:

James Robertson Baptism Registration

Interesting to note, that it’s a bloody long time ago, no Father’s name listed, my 5x Great Grandmother’s name confirmed, Margaret Robertson and place of birth given, Muirside of Quarry Hill. Does this mean that James was illegitimate?

Figure 4: Courtesy of Canmore National Record of the Historic Environment

I can’t find a reference to Quarry Hill unfortunately but still a lot of information lining up. The listing above is for a Farm known as Muirside on the Aldbar estate. It is 2.9 miles away from Brechin. The picture below is the old Chapel in Aldbar. This particular one was rebuilt in the 1850’s from the rubble of a previous chapel that stood there from the 13th Century. Is this the site of James baptism?

Figure 4a: Courtesy of Garyth Jardine

Changing focus here to James’s profession, I did find a reference to a book listing the watchmakers of Scotland compiled in the early 20th century:

Figure 5:Courtesy of Archive.org

I found a possible reference for James and a possible apprenticeship date. He would have been 13 in 1770.


Next is the listing for the only James Robertson in Dundee and the dates fit with our James.


This listing above could be for James’s Father, my 5x Great Grandfather, the dates fit again and there is no other watchmaker listed for this time and the Perth reference fits with George noting that his Father and Grandfather were “…natives of Perth…”. I have not come across any other official listing that confirms his Father’s name or that of his Great Grandfather “…who fitted the music bells of the town churches…” so at this stage I’m just going to say it’s Patrick and welcome him to the family tree. Now back to 44 High Street Dundee. I have found some great pictures of the building.

First off, here is a map to show exactly how close George was to his Grandfather, 44 High St is marked in yellow in the centre and Campbell Close is marked in yellow on the right of Reform and High Street.

Dundee City 1846
Figure 9:Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

The following picture is from an Engraving on steel by Joseph Swan, from Glasgow, depicting the street in 1836. Remember, this is the picture I am using for the headero of this blog.

This is exactly our time period, this is George his Parents and James and his family’s world. James is conducting his watchmaking business from that building just to the right of center, next to the building on its right with the small tower attached to it’s right side. The old Church Steeple sits just behind it with the flag on top. The building on the left side of the picture with the spire on it is the old Town House and if Joseph had of continued his engraving on the right hand side, the next building to come into view would be the building with Campbell Close in it.

High Street West, Dundee City 1836
Figure 10:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr
High Street West, Dundee City
Figure 11:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

There are the stairs on the left hand side of the building going up to 44 High St. There is the building with the small tower attached to it’s right side. You can just make out the wrought iron railing on the top. This building was occupied by General George Monck after the siege of Dundee which began on the 1st of September 1651 and saw up to a fifth of the population murdered by Monk’s forces.

44 High Street Dundee
Figure 11a: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee

Monk was Oliver Cromwell’s military Governor of Scotland and was there to quell the Royalist Resistance that wanted to restore the throne to  Charles the  2nd. After Cromwell’s death Monck became Commander in Chief of all British Forces and basically took control of London and suggested that Parliament should invite Charles the 2nd (who was in hiding in Holland) to resume the throne. Monck was there to greet the King when he arrived home. (https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/m/georgemonck.html)

120 years later James and Family are living and working in the building next to it.

44 High Street Dundee
Figure 12: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 13:Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West End, Dundee
Figure 14: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee

Houdini was in Dundee in 1909, 60 or so years after James was there. But to know that James, George and presumably the rest of the Family walked up and down those stairs on a daily basis for decades is pretty amazing.

High Street West End, Dundee
Figure 15: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 16:Courtesy of Donna Nicoll, Pinterest, Scottish and Proud
44 High Street West, Dundee
Figure 17:Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West, Reform Street, Overgate and Nethergate
Figure 18:Courtesy of Bygone Dundee
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 19:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

Here it is, the building still standing in the 1950’s, 100 years after James time and there is General Monck’s building 300 years after his occupation.

High Street West, Dundee

Figure 20:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

And the following extraordinary pictures are from it’s demolition in the mid 1960’s.

High Street West, Dundee
Figure 21:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

There are the stairs going up to the entrance where the blurry 44 was on the wall in one of the earlier pictures. Right through those windows is where my family’s lives played out.

High Street West, Dundee
Figure 22:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr   

Figure 22:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr   

High Street West, Dundee
Figure 23:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 24:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

Figure 24:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

And here is the exact spot in the 1970’s with the new Overgate centre built on it.

Figure 25:Courtesy of Google Maps.

This is the site in May 2017. Note that the building on Reform Street corner is still there but Littlewoods is gone. The Overgate shopping centre over the top of the street that branched off to the right has been extended. This is the same vantage point as the etching from 1836, just a little further down the street in front of Reform Street rather then from near Campbell’s Close.

I know this is a little out of order but  this gives a great description of the property and what James owned from what is basically the probate notice from 1859.

And to finish on, this is, I think nearly as good as a photo of James. Some of his work that still survives to this day.

Figure 26: Courtesy of wattsantiques.com

Note James’s name on the top dial. James Robertson Dundee.

Figure 27: Courtesy of wattsantiques.com
Figure 28: Courtesy of wattsantiques.com
Figure 29:Courtesy of 1stdibs.com

Figure 29:Courtesy of 1stdibs.com

“Tall red chinoiserie grandfather 8-day clock by James Robertson, Dundee, dated 1785. Gilded finials, dial painted with an angel cartouche and roses in the corners. Chimes on the hour, has date and second hands. Keeps good time.” (1stdibs.com)

Figure 30:Courtesy of 1stdibs.com
Figure 31: Courtesy of 1stdibs.com
 Figure 32:Courtesy of antiques-atlas.com

A late 18th century waxed pine Scottish longcase clock, of simple appearance. The hood has a traditional swan neck pediment, break arch door with turned side columns , it has turned and reeded side pilasters to the trunk and a wavy top door . The dial is a “first period” plain white enamel and raised gilt dial with the name of the maker within the arch, James Robertson of Dundee. Below the dial centre is a small date window and a subsidiary seconds dial above the centre. The 8 day movement strikes the hours on a bell. James Robertson is listed as a maker in Dundee in 1785. (Scotland, c. 1790)A” (antiques-atlas.com)

Figure 33:Courtesy of antiques-atlas.com

This one sold for US$3050.00

Figure 34:Courtesy of antiques-atlas.com

I know I can’t be 100% certain that they are James’s work but I can find no other James Robertson Watchmaker listed in Dundee at the time, which is a good thing. Happy to be corrected if this is not the case but until then, these clocks were made by my 5x Great Grandfather.

Will catch you on the next post when we continue on exploring George Robertson Nicoll’s life and adventures.

The Nicoll Talisman

Just to remind you, in case you are just joining us here, I’m speaking of my 3x Great Grandfather’s manuscript I discovered at the National Library of Australia.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.

I don’t know how to describe it without sounding so trite but holding the manuscript, it is a magical experience, that is the definition of a Talisman so I will stick with that.

I’m not sure it would have the same power if I wasn’t directly linked to the Author. This is my clan and his words are my family history. George inspired me to start this blog, I can only hope that some GGG Grandchildren of mine stumble upon this blog 150 years from now and have the same experience as me with George’s manuscript. I know it will be a digital experience rather than a physical one but hopefully that will ensure that it survives and hopefully jam packing it with photos and documents will make up for the lack of a tactile experience.

I just had a thought, imagine if this post is them finding out about the manuscript, your welcome GGG Grandkids. It will be 300 years old by your time, check it out at the National library, if is still standing. (Hey it is the age of Climate Change, Pack Ice dying and Trump potentially getting a 2nd term, just saying.)

To say that I am loving George’s manuscript and the level of detail he has packed into it, is a bit of an understatement. I’m dishing it out to myself in small amounts to make it last as long as possible. Reading what I have so far has really whetted my interest in George’s world and to really discover as much as I can about him and the family. So, I started digging around online and wait till you see what I have come up with.

I’m just going to jump straight in from the beginning and see what I can find digitally to go with George’s words and build upon the amazing context he has already set out. I’m seeing this like one of those renovation shows where the couple are renovating a Grade 2 listed ruin and the new extension has to sit along side the ancient structure and enhance it, that is my hope here anyway.

Below is a copy of George’s opening paragraph from the manuscript.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.

Below is a copy of his birth and baptism record from Scotland’s People website confirming these details. The third column interestingly records in this case, who George was named after.

Well, I paid for this one, so it’s courtesy of me, via the Scotland’s People website.

Now look what I found, Campbell’s Close in the High Street is still standing.

Figure 1: Courtesy of Douglas MacKenzie/Alamy stock photo. https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-the-sadly-neglected-campbells-close-on-the-high-street-in-dundee-is-137790233.html

“The sadly neglected Campbell’s Close on the High Street in Dundee is a typical Scottish “close”, 1.2 metres wide at the entrance, is a passageway giving access to entrances of several buildings. It features a decorative iron gateway.” (Alamy.com)

High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance on the right under the awning with the 77 on it.
Figure 2: Courtesy Google Maps 2017

This following map is from 1857 confirming the actual position as in the photo above.

Figure 3: Courtesy National Library Scotland

The following photo shows the position in a 3D view. How lucky are we in 2019, 3D? Thanks Google.

Figure 4: Courtesy Google Maps 2017

To plot it correctly, it’s the 5th building from the left hand corner of this row of buildings above. The corner curved building being 1. I confirmed on the Scottish Heritage site called Canmore that the building was built in the early 1800’s obviously sometime before Sept 1824 when George was born. The building immediately to the left of it with the raised yellow chimney in the center of the facade is actually dated from the 1400’s. It is the Dundee Backpackers at the moment.

I had the great fortune of finding this amazing site that has lots of historic photos of Dundee uploaded to it called, Photopolis. After lots of scrolling came across these gems.

High Street, Dundee
Figure 5: Courtesy Photopolis.

I can’t find a specific date for this photo, but I’m guesstimating it is in the 1890’s sometime. Campbell’s Close is the entrance way just to the left of the J in J.P Smith sign. Interesting note, you can just make out the writing on the top rim of the building it says, “The Garden”, this is reputed to be Dundee’s first full vegetarian restaurant. (I would credit this info but I can’t remember or find where I read this, flying by the seat of my pants people!)

High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance under the & between Wilson and Co.
Figure 6: Courtesy Photopolis.

This photo is from 1896.

High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance to the left of the J .P. Smith banner.
Figure 7: Courtesy Photopolis.
High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance to the left of the Kidd & Wallace banner.
Figure 8: Courtesy Photopolis.

Again, no specific date on this but I wonder if it is early 1890’s, J P Smith and Sons have not expanded into the Kidd and Wallace premises as they are in the previous photos.

Figure 9: Courtesy Google Maps 2010

I think this shot is a great one for comparison with the one above in the 1890’s.

Hoping I’ve been successful in showing, how a handful of photos and a couple of maps gives so much depth and colour to George’s first 2 sentences. As an old Irish Friend of mine likes to say, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, 2 sentences. At 300 odd pages of Manuscript hope you are all in for the long haul? Well what a great way to spend the next couple of years, for me anyhow.

Next section of the manuscript:

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.
Dundee Directories listing for 1809.
Figure 10: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

1809! The age of these records and the fact that they are so readily available is phenomenal. The Fifh-market as you can see from the map below runs off the Green market. From my reading it is also known as Shore Terrace. All the listings in the Dundee Directory that I have been able to find place the Nicoll businesses around this area, Green market, East Shore and King William 4th Dock.

Dundee City Docks and Markets 1846,
Figure 11: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Figure 12: Courtesy Photopolis.

Fish Market runs out to the right at the bottom of this picture. The alleyway between the two buildings at the back of the square is Crichton Street and leads up to High Street and then across to the left hand side of the road and Campbell’s Close.

The photo below is looking in the opposite direction from the photo above, towards the Earl Grey dock, to the left you can just make out the Victoria Arch, (which is facing the Fish Market) built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s visit on the 11th September 1844 (George’s 20th Birthday) and on the other side of this is the King William 4th Dock.

Figure 13: Courtesy of Dundee City Archives.

This photo above from another fantastic site, Dundee City Archives on Flickr.

Figure 14: Courtesy Photopolis.

This photo above is from the edge of the Earl Grey Dock (shown in in the previous photo) looking up the Green market and Shore Terrace/ Fish Market going to the right.

Photo below is the other end of the Shore Terrace/Fish Market at the corner of Castle Street. The left of this picture joins the right of the previous photo.

Figure 14: Courtesy Photopolis.
Figure 15: Courtesy Photopolis.

And here we are back at the Green market end, somewhere down that alley to the right of this picture which is Shore Terrace/Fish Market is Thomas Nicoll’s workshop and then James Nicoll.

After all that just found a photo of the whole area.

Figure 15: Courtesy Photopolis.

Of course, we have to keep in mind that the photos are probably around the 1890’s – early 1900’s, so 50 to 70 years after James and Thomas’s time, so there could have been any other number of structures or buildings in the area that they were housed in. But it still gives us a pretty good idea of where they were living and working.

Dundee Directories listing for 1819.

James is mid 20’s in 1819 and obviously out in his own workshop.

Dundee Directories listing for 1822.
Pigot & Co listing from 1837

Looking at the above listing you can see the entry for James, George’s Father, block, mas and pump maker at King William’s dock. I wonder if the George listed above him is our George as he was aged 14 at that time and 14 is listed at the end of his line. James is in his early 40’s now and Thomas, his father is now 80.

Dundee Directories listing for 1846.

Note that the James R, iron merchant, listed under James in the 1846 listing above could be George Robertson’s elder Brother, James Robertson as he was in the iron trade at this stage. James is mid 50’s now and Thomas, his Father has been dead for 5 years.

Heading back to the manuscript now.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.

Here is a copy of Margaret and James’s marriage record from 5th June 1817. I love these original source documents that lock in so many details, blockmaker and watchmaker so we can be certain we have the correct information.

I paid for this one as well, so it’s courtesy of me and again via the Scotland’s People website.

Here is a copy of James’s birth details below. This was an amazing find as it confirms not only James’s birth details but also confirms the names of George’s Grandparents and his Great Grandfather on his Dad’s Mum side of the Family.This was just fantastic.

As above in last.

When you read the next section of the manuscript below you will also see why the info above is so important to us.

George, doesn’t actually refer to his “…Grandmother Nicoll” by name, so we now know that she was Jean Chalmers and her Father who was Butler to the Earl of Strathmore, was, James Chalmers, who George’s Father was named for. Isn’t that just brilliant. (That’s rhetorical by the way.)

And here is Glamis Castle. The ancestral home of the Queen Mother (Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons) and the work place of my 6x Great Grandfather, James Chalmers.

Figure 16: Courtesy The Castles of Scotland.
Figure 17: Courtesy The Castles of Scotland.
Figure 18: Courtesy The Castles of Scotland.
Figure 19: Courtesy Shahbaz Majeed

What a place to live and work and now I have a direct link to this ancient place on the other side of the globe to me. All because George wrote those few lines in his manuscript.

The Earl in 1890 when George was writing the above, was:

Claude [Lyon-Bowes later Bowes-Lyon], 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

Which would make his Grandfather:

Thomas [Bowes later Lyon-Bowes], 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne,

This is the Earl that “Grandmother Nicoll”, (Jean Chalmers) Father, (James Chalmers) was butler to. The problem with this is that Thomas didn’t become Earl until 1820 when James was 90 years of age, if still alive. (I haven’t been able to confirm a death date for James as yet) So I suspect that James was working for the 10th Earl, Thomas’s elder Brother and perhaps his Father the 9th Earl.

Figure 20 Courtesy Insiders Scotland Guide

Pictured above: John Bowes, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (17 July 1737 – 7 March 1776)

This fine looking gentleman below, his Son.

Figure 21 Courtesy Glamis Castle

Pictured above: John Bowes, 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (14 April 1769 – 3 July 1820)

I emailed the Archivist at Glamis Castle (Ingrid) to inquire if they had any details on James and his service. Ingrid very kindly confirmed that I had the Earl’s correct but unfortunately the names of staff were rarely recorded individually in the Factor Accounts (Wages Book).

She did go through the information that she had as she said being butler meant there was a greater chance of James being mentioned but again no luck. Apparently, there is a big hole in the Factor Accounts, for 1785-1863. Still great to now have the name of my ancestor confirmed.

Figure 22 Courtesy of Glamis Castle

I found this wonderful picture in the Castle’s online archives of this staff wedding party in front of the castle entrance. It’s roughly 100 years after Jame’s time so imagine them in Georgian clothing instead of Victorian.

David Allan’s “The Highland Wedding” 1780
Figure 23 Courtesy of Wikimedia

This portrait below was painted around the same time that James was working at the Castle and depicts the style of clothing he might have been wearing at that time.

Young Man in a Fawn Coat, c.1772-3, by Tilly Kettle.
Figure 24 Courtesy of Tate Museum

On another interesting note, James was 15 when the second Jacobite rebellion started in 1745. The final attempt by “Bonnie Prince Charles” to reinstate his Father and the Stuart line to the throne of England and Scotland. And James was living right in the path of the advancing and retreating Jacobite’s and English troops. Imagine the manuscript he would have written.

I find it fascinating that those 5 lines from the manuscript about the castle and George’s Grandmother and Great Grandfather has enabled me to find so much information about them and the time that they were living in. Talk about context.

I know there are no photos of them but to see how they most likely would have been dressed and to read about the times that they were living in and to actually see the places that James and presumably Jean were at, just brings them to life for me.

Road Trip -Final Stage (part 2)

I know, this trip has been going on for months but I promise this is the final, final installment.

Still in Albury Pioneer Cemetery, thought we had no one else buried there and then I jumped online and did a search on the cemetery site before we left and found these members of the family.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery

This is the final resting place of Helen Elizabeth Macvean, nee Griffith. She is my 4x Great Grand Aunt by marriage.


I knew nothing about Helen until I found her in the cemetery search. It did take us a while to count out exactly where her grave was, Xander and Calan found her and it wasn’t just a headstone but a full body stone monolith rising from out of the dirt with that beautiful wrought iron border crowning it.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery

As you can see from the inscription above she was married to Dr Peter Macvean who was my 3x Great Grandfather, John Hugh Macvean’s Brother. (the Macvean who brought us out to Australia.)

Photo courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

They were married on the 3rd of July 1867 at Mount Pleasant Wedderburn. Peter was 38 and Helen 25 years of age.


Completely random find on my part, this is a picture of Mount Pleasant in Wedderburn from the State Library of Victoria and I’m pretty sure it is the residence of Elizabeth’s Uncle, Henry Hunter mentioned above.

Courtesy of State Library of Victoria,

Below is a copy of Helen’s Birth and Baptismal records. This is what I love about this whole process of researching you start with nothing and then with a bit of digging around, a whole lot of luck, a picture starts to emerge out of the mist of a person with a real life story.

You’ll note the Slave and Free People heading, that’s right, Helen was born, 17th Sept, 1840 on a Slavers Sugar Plantation on St Croix, in what was known at the time as the Danish West Indies.

Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

From what I can gather from Census records of the time, Helen’s Father was a Planter on his Brother, David’s plantation estate called Two Williams Estate.

Courtesy of Ancestry.com.au

If you refer back to the Marriage notice above you will see that it states that her Father is from the Whim Plantation in St Croix, Wow, throw that into Google and a truckload of stuff comes up. The house Helen was born in still stands and is now a museum.

Great House Whim Plantation
Interior of Great House Whim Estate, (photo courtesy of Simona Sacri)

The information below, about Helen and her Family comes from the Landmark website on the history of St Croix and reads like a precis of some 19th Century novel. Helen’s Father wasn’t just working for his Brother as the earlier census document indicated.


An evil sadistic slaver for a Father, fleeing the slavery rebellion and the only home she had known, traveling to Ireland from the West Indies and having to come to terms with a life in a country so different from her own. I wonder if Helen ever spoke about her early life, or was it just to painful and full of shame? This is only the tip that I have uncovered but what a story.

I found this obituary for Helen and after reading it I can only imagine what a strong woman she must have been. Having survived the ordeals of her early childhood she then makes the long arduous journey to Australia when she was just 22 with her Aunt, Elizabeth Hunter, to begin a new life in the Colonies.


She marries Peter 5 years later then spends the next 30 years being a Surgeon and Stock Owners Wife in the central west of Victoria and Melbourne. Becomes a Widow at the age of 55 and then spends the next 17 years living in Albury. There is so much in there that is unknown. Would love to find a manuscript that Helen wrote about her life.

Unfortunately I can’t find a photo of Helen but I did come across a picture of the home she was living in when she passed away. It’s not the same as an actual image of her but it gives an anchor for her in the story, seeing somewhere where she would have been. You can almost see her coming out the front door.

Vaucluse on the left and Pembroke House on the right

The final two members of the family we found resting in Albury were, William Hill Macvean and his Wife, Edith Nellie Macvean, nee Hill. William is my 2x Great Grand Uncle, and Brother to my Great Grandfather Alexander Ballantyne Smith Macvean.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery
William Hill Macvean,
Photo Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)
Albury Pioneer Cemetery
Edith & William Macvean
Photo Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

Unfortunately there is next to nothing on Trove in relation to William or Edith. William’s birth notice.


His death notices. Interesting to note that the Tuesday and Thursday listings are for different parts of the Family, I wonder if that was coordinated as neither is duplicated in print on the same day.


Little bit of luck, just found Williams war record from WW1.


He fought in Egypt and France, where he was wounded in action three times. In one of the incidences he sustained a serious shrapnel wound to his right thigh and abdomen. He suffered with scabies and trench fever and was hospitalised a number of times as a result. William also had a number of AWOL’s on his record which resulted in about 2 weeks confinement and multiple days of forfeited pay.

He and Nellie obviously meet in the UK, his war record had a copy of an extract of info from the original marriage registration details.


William enlisted with the AIF on the 21st July 1915. He was initially in the 29th Battalion and was then transferred to the the 39th on the 30th June 1917. He embarked Australia 18th February 1916 and ultimately survived his time in the war but he would not see Australia again until 19th December 1919, when the Ormonde made its first stop in Fremantle, almost 4 years later.

When William did arrive it was into Port Melbourne.


When he disembarked, he was not alone.


Apart from those history laden names in the top of the article, William disembarked on to New Pier at 10am on Boxing Day 1919 with Nellie and their 8 month old Daughter, Jessie Edith Macvean.

I can only imagine how excited the family must have been for his return, take a look at this gossip section listing I found from the Herald.


Again, what a ride and only the tip of the ice berg in terms of their story. Unfortunately (as is becoming the norm on this journey if it is a female member of the family I’m tracing), there is no further mentions of Nellie that I can find. I know she passes in 1982 but there are no death or funeral notices on Trove for that period yet and Nellie doesn’t come up in The Ryerson Index. (Funeral and Death database)

As all four of Jessie and William’s children have passed on as well, I’m really hoping that one of their Grandchildren, if there are any, reaches out somewhere down the track. I would love to know more of their story but it maybe that it is already lost to time like so many others.