A Picture Really Is Worth…But Wait, Words are Good Too!

Victoria Hall 1882
Figure 1: Courtesy of State Library NSW

This is an incredible photo for my family history and one that I thought I would never see properly and in such focus. I literally stumbled onto this one at the Mitchell library. I called up a batch of historic photos on Sydney in a bit of a fishing expedition without even realising that this photo was part of the collection. I had seen a very grainy copy of this photo before in an online mention of the history of Sydney’s theatre’s and also in Trove in an article on the history of Castlereagh Street. So you can imagine my thrill when I turned the page and this was staring back at me. Below is a copy of the Trove article.

Victoria Hall Article 1912
Figure 2: Courtesy of State Library NSW

Look at the difference between the two. When you read on you will see how that difference can really determine the amount of information you can glean from a photo. The article written in 1912 confirms without a doubt where Skinner’s Books was in 1882, and it also shows the building where my Great Grandmother Grace Nicoll née Blackwood was born.

Figure 2a: Courtesy of the State Library of NSW
Dove’s Plan 1880 Figure 2b: Courtesy of City of Sydney Archives

What’s fascinating about this map is that it has nearly all the vendor names that appear in the article above. Skinner’s is not here yet. They will move into no. 73 Davidson Jeweller position on the left of the covered passage.

Incidentally, I found a book by Isadore Brodsky called “Sydney’s Phantom Bookstalls” buried in a second-hand bookstall in Ulmarra, on a recent trip to the North Coast of NSW, and it had a copy of this photo in it as well. Talk about pouring when it rains. You know what I mean.

Of course when I first picked up this gem I didn’t know what to expect. I was hopeful that there might be some mention of Skinners or Harry Blackwood, the Skinner’s sticker pictured on the back cover had me very excited. Apart from finding the photo as above, I found this too.

Sydney’s Phantom Bookshops, 1973, pg 101-103
Isadore Brodsky, University Co-Op Bookshop Ltd Broadway, Sydney
Figure: 8 Courtesy of Macvean Family Library

And there he is, my Great-Great Grandfather, Henry John Blackwood, (Harry) and his business partner Robert William Skinner. And in a bizarre twist of, I don’t know why, Harry after Skinner passes away takes on his persona and becomes known as Skinner as well. I can find no information as to why and can only think that he must have thought that it was good for business to continue on as Skinner.

Harry Blackwood as Skinner
Figure 9: Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

That is a picture of Harry Blackwood not R W Skinner.

Now back to the photograph from 1882. What is really incredible, is that the quality is so sharp and so clear that I was able to zoom in to show the detail on the signage of the building. It clearly shows a sign for Skinner’s Bookstall. The first part of the sign is obscured, but you can see the “Sk” mirrored in the reflection of the store window. Then if you look below on the ground you will notice the baskets of books that Skinner’s (Harry Blackwood) was known for.

Now check out the neighbours.

The detail on this lot is also incredible. The clothes, the hats and the attitude. It would be wonderful to know who they were, but I suspect their identities are long forgotten.

According to the Dictonary of Sydney, the Sydney Punch was an, “…Illustrated satirical periodical with various publishers from 1864 until 1888. Modelled on the English Punch magazine, Sydney Punch was established in 1864 by Edgar Ray, one of the founders of the older Melbourne Punch.https://dictionaryofsydney.org/artefact/sydney_punch

Figure 22: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.
Figure 23: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.
Figure 24: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

The Victoria Hotel is 105 Castlereagh St at this time, and for a while I thought this was the building where my Great Grandmother was born. Grace Blackwood daughter of Harry Blackwood and Jane Grace Skinner née Vaughan. Yep you read that correctly, Skinner not Blackwood. I have a copy of her birth certificate below, check it out.

105 Castlereagh Street
Figure 25: Courtesy of NSW State Library.
Grace Blackwood Birth Certificate
Figure 26: Courtesy of Macvean Family Archives

No father’s name listed, yet Grace is named Blackwood. This remained a mystery for my family for decades. No one knew where Grace or Nanna Nic as she was known was born or when until I stumbled onto some company records at State Archives which then lead me to the above birth record. But first, the photo below shows the actual building where Grace was born. The whole Victoria Hall site was demolished in 1890 and Skinner’s had to move to the new 105 Castlereagh Street site, which incidentally was just a couple of doors up the street, as the numbering changed as well. https://aussietheatre.com.au/features/venue-histories/the-tivoli-theatre

In family history terms, we are so lucky to have this photo. It is the only one I can find of the 105 site and it, of course, is where Grace was born which is significant but it is also the house she grew up in presumably, as they don’t move to their next premises, 119-121 Castlereagh St until 1906 when Grace is 18 years old. But wait, before I show you how I solved this mystery of Grace’s birth and we explore the next Skinners site at 119-121 I have to finish off the story of the Victoria Hall site.

The last of the Neighbours to show you.

Goodwin Bros Signage
Figure 30: Courtesy of NSW State Library.

Then this next article is from 1933 and is a retrospective on D’Arcy and the photo and confirms that it is actually him in that top window. What a find.

Sydney Mail, 4th Jan 1933
Figure 40: Courtesy of NSW State Library.

As I stated earlier, the Victoria Hall was demolished in 1890 and the Garrick Theatre rose in its place.

The Garrick Theatre, 1892
Figure 41: Courtesy of State Library of NSW.

Its a crappy copy of the photo, sorry about that, it is the only one available at the moment. The interesting thing to note is that the Coach builders, Jenners are still there on the right. Where the number 77 is on the awning above, was where the 103 is in the original photo, (look back up to the earlier photos) and the building on the left in this photo is the original Imperial Arcade facade.

It was renamed the Tivoli in 1893, burned down and rebuilt in 1899.https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/collection-items/castlereagh-street-tivoli-theatre

The Tivoli Theatre, December 1906
Figure 42: Courtesy of State Library of NSW.

This photo had no date on it but looking at the dress on the woman on the right it looked early 1900s. I couldn’t help myself I checked out the artist names appearing on the advert boards and look what I found. Trove delivered. Some great stuff and then a quick slap of that, oh yes we are dealing with attitudes 115 years in the past. You’ll see what I mean.

Close up of the Tivoli Advert Boards December 1906
Figure 43: Courtesy of Music Hall Annie Webpress Blog

Then here comes the slap.

Figure 56: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

See what I mean? I was literally shocked when I read it. I had no idea the racist terms were used so easily until I saw this. I’m so glad that I found some wonderful information on Cassie and a great couple of photos of her to share with you.

Cassie lived till she was 92, passing away in 1980. If you want to know more about her click the link below her photo, Find a Grave have a great bio on her.

Back to the Tivoli, it operated until 1929 when it too was demolished.

The Tivoli Theatre, 1920s
Figure 59: Courtesy of State Library of NSW.

In its place the Embassy Theatre was built which opened in 1934 and operated until the late 1970s. Keep in mind we are still on the Skinner’s Books site still.

Now the original, beautiful Imperial Arcade built in 1891 is torn down in 1961 and the modern version put up in 1965.

Figure 64: Courtesy of WordPress blog, Scratching Sydney’s Surface
Imperial Arcade 2008
Figure 64: Courtesy of WordPress blog, Sydney Architecture Archive

The above picture shows that the Embassy is long gone, not sure when that happened. But then in November 2008 the Imperial closed and the whole site was swallowed into what has now become the Westfield commercial towers today.

So a little off the topic of Skinner’s but like I have said numerous times, you get more bang for your buck on this blog. I’ll finish off for now with a quick comparison for you of the site 136 years apart and pick up the rest of the Skinner’s story in another post.

Victoria Hall Site 2018
Figure 65: Courtesy of the Macvean Family Archives
Victoria Hall 1882
Figure 66: Courtesy of State Library NSW

A Lady Doctors’ Motivations.

While writing this post I had the very creative title of “The Micro-cremator part 2” but after going with the flow of the writing this title above seems more appropriate. Don’t worry more of the micro-cremator is coming.

So, no more of the usual beating about the bush, lets get straight into where we left off. If you read my last post, you know we have a scarcity of any hard facts to tell us what motivates Kate to invent the Micro-cremator and to expose herself to the ridicule that she must have known would have been aimed at her, considering the time she was living in. But there are some pretty big clues that I know will help us. This would be Kate’s first motivating factor. (refer photo to the right)

Kate Thorne née Hooppell (1838-1892)
(Kate’s Mother)
Figure 1: Courtesy of Rob Tunnock

Her Mum and her own life experiences. (By the way, how is that for a photo?) Rob Tunnock who so generously shared it with me just happened to stumble onto my blog late last year and sent me a message. His Great Grandfather was our Kate’s cousin, how awesome is that. Back to Kate’s mum, I have discussed in an earlier post some of the traits that were attributed to her from her small obituary but since then I have also discovered a little more about Kate Hooppell (Kate senior). I was stunned to find her listed in the 1841 Census, she is two years of age.

Figure 2: Courtesy of Ancestry.com

This census was taken on the night of Sunday the 6th of June. Kate Senior is 2 years of age living with her parents Robert and Ellen, within a month her own mother Ellen is dead. I can’t find an exact cause of death for Ellen but in early Victorian England Tuberculosis or Consumption as it was commonly called, was one of the leading causes of Adult death. By the time our Kate is studying Pharmacy in 1897 it was responsible for killing 1 out of every 7 people living in all of Europe and the United States. (https://www.cdc.gov/tb/worldtbday/history.htm) (https://livingwithdying.leeds.ac.uk/2017/08/09/top-ten-ways-to-die-in-victorian-britain/)

Figure 3: Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Now if this 1851 Census is the correct census listing for Kate senior, (I’m fairly certain it is) then she is still living with her father Robert, as well as two other family members, two cousins. Catherine, performing as the housekeeper and the other, Anne acting as Kate’s Governess. You will note that Kate’s father Robert is listed as a “…Landed Proprietor…”. This and the fact they also have a servant living in the household lets us safely assume they have money.

My reasoning behind my certainty this is their census?, we have quite a few points that are lining up. The area they are from, Ringmore, Bigbury and Devon all match with the 1841 listing. Kate’s age, she is now 12, 10 years older than 1841. The fact that Ellen is not listed and also the fact that there are no other children listed. I can confirm that Kate senior was an only child.

Figure 4: Courtesy of Billion Graves (Artamon, Photographer)

Next factor that adds to Kate seniors story, her father dies 3 years later in 1854, she is just 15 years of age. I’m not sure what happens to her immediately after this, but amazingly I found her in the 1861 census.

Figure 5: Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Kate senior is now living with George and Catherine Andrews and Kate is listed as cousin. Looking back at the 1851 census we see Robert’s niece Catherine (i.e. Kate’s Cousin) listed as Housekeeper. I bet this is the same Catherine who is now married to George Andrews and who names one of their daughters “…Kate Hooppell Andrews…” listed above. What a wonderful way to show how close they all were. Note also that Kate is 22 years of age and listed as “…Landed Property…” further facts lining up with the previous census.

At this time Kate senior is a wealthy independent young woman who is 9 years away from marrying Ebenezer Thorne, so what does she do? Well her obituary gives us a great clue. It explains that she aligns herself with the ideals of a long forgotten hero of Birmingham, that great industrial city of 19th century England, George Dawson.

Portrait on cabinet card of George Dawson, by H. J. Whitlock Photo, New St., Birmingham.
Figure 6: Courtesy of Birmingham City Council

Remember, I’m talking about clues as to what motivates our Kate, and I’m suggesting her own mother’s history is the number one motivating factor. This is why we are taking this very shallow dive into this relationship with George Dawson. He was a “…non conformist preacher, lecturer and politician.” He was also know to be an “…advocate of free education and also served on the school board.” (https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory_record/112144/george_dawson_1821_to_1876)

George I can only imagine must have been a huge influencing figure for Kate Senior. A young orphaned, unmarried woman who has the means at hand to provide assistance. Her obituary again gives us a great clue as to her civic character. It states that she had…, on second thoughts have a look yourself.

Kate Thorne Obituary
Figure 7: Courtesy of National Library of Australia Trove.

I know I have shared this with you a few posts back now, but I don’t expect you to remember, and I think this gives good context to the discussion. See how it states that Kate has the “…purse and personal efforts…” in maintaining the schools set up by Dawson and that she devoted herself to assisting with the education of the factory girls. I would expect no mean feat for a young woman in the mid-1860s. Imagine the manuscript Kate senior might have written and her collection of correspondence, which most likely was all destroyed once she had passed. There is that ache again for what is lost.

Dawson was known for his philosophy of “Civic Gospel” This explanation from Wikipedia, “…a town is a solemn organism through which shall flow, and in which shall be shaped, all the highest, loftiest and truest ends of man’s moral nature…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_Gospel Dawson obviously passed this on to Kate Senior who has then passed it on to her own daughter. This is most evident to me, in the fact that in 1904 our Kate offers over the patent for the Microcremator to the NSW Government for free, so everyone might benefit from it. This article below is a rare find as it is a letter written for the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald from someone who I suspect had no connection to Kate or the micro-cremator but had an opinion they needed to express about it.

Figure 8: Courtesy of National Library of Australia Trove. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/14917454?searchTerm=fighting%20consumption

I only gave you a clipped excerpt of the article. Click the link if you are interested in reading the whole thing. Mr J. Martin Cleary talks about in his “Letter to the Editor” the fact that at the time, the government had put out the tenders to build a National Library and the lowest one that came back was 77 000 pounds and that if they were considering this sum to house books, certainly they could cover the cost of actually doing something about Consumption? How wonderful for us that he took the time to mention Kate and the Micro-cremator and to mention that they were successful trials that she conducted. I haven’t come across any resources discussing the outcome of the trials as yet, so this is gold. (I know I say that often.) Can you see how were are getting some good data here to support my original hypothesis way back at the beginning of my last post?

Now, just going back for a minute. Scroll back up and check out Kate Senior’s headstone. That wonderful quote from Reverend Mitchell. They are pretty powerful words to be reading about your own mother from our Kate’s point of view. I mean that quote is a story in itself, isn’t it. Why does Reverend Mitchell have the privilege of having his quote engraved on here and there is nothing from Ebenezer her husband or any other family members? It just makes me want to know more.

I was lucky enough to stumble on to a couple of lines about Rev’ Mitchell that just highlights again the type of thinking that our Kate was exposed to. This following quote comes from a blog on the history of Churches in Brisbane. “… D. F. Mitchell was a tall, active Scot, not much of a preacher, but well loved over at the Park Presbyterian Church in South Brisbane, and a very familiar figure. On an occasion I heard the remark that he instinctively knew where there was want for sickness, and that he did not care a two penny – (something not at all clerical) whether they were Christians, Jews, pagans, or “Freethinkers.” ” http://www.chapelhill.homeip.net/FamilyHistory/Other/QueenslandHistory/browne5.htm There is a real trend here with the type of people that our Kate is being exposed to. Reverend Mitchell fits perfectly with the ethos Kate senior came from.

And talking about wanting to know more, the Park Presbyterian Church is still standing. Wow! This I’m sure will be the same church where Kate senior and Kate would have attended. Our Kate was born in Woolloongabba a 20-minute walk from the church or 10-minute sulky ride.

I believe the other main motivation for Kate is the number of people suffering from disease in her life. I know it doesn’t state specifically but her mother’s obit indicates that she was a “…long time sufferer“. We haven’t received the death certificate yet to confirm, but I suspect that she was battling consumption. You’ll remember I have shared a few times the article of Kate and her best friend, Thirza Zahel, George’s cousin living in Sydney and battling life’s battles. I think those battles were with consumption. Then there are also a few articles that state that Kate had consumption and that at one stage her father Ebenezer leaves Brisbane to come down to reside in Sydney to take care of her.

Figure 12: Courtesy of National Library of Australia Trove.

The final thoughts I have on Kate’s motivations are a bit harder to put into words. A bit of a problem as this is a blog that really relies on me being able to do that to some success so that you might have a chance of understanding me. A big ask each time I sit down to this screen, I know, for me that is. Anyhow, here goes.

I think another influencing factor on her motivations might have been the mix of the time that Kate was living in with the societal expectations that were on any woman at that time and really the person that Kate had become because of the exposure of the different civic and social duty philosophies that she had been exposed to. To roll into that, she came from wealth which afforded her the luxury of having her basic needs meet to enable her to work on these higher-order needs. How did I go? Hopefully I’m making sense.

I’m getting into a bit of a routine with my research now in trying to find some supporting literature to fill out what I’m actually talking about in these blog posts. This time this particular gem of a book is really what has got me thinking like this about Kate. Again it is purely my speculation, but it feels like the pieces might fit.

What a find this book was. I have literally made it in 30 pages and already can see so many potential links with what I suspect might have been occurring for Kate. The frustrating thing for me so far is that there is little that I can find that focuses on Australian Women Chemists of the time. This is wonderful even if it is a British focus and I mean technically Kate is at this stage very much British and under the same system only 11 000 miles away.

The Rayner-Canham’s set out in their first 30 pages a fantastic picture of what challenges these pioneer women, such as Kate really faced and that was, the patriarchal view. Whether that be from men or other women who thought they were breaking the bonds of tradition. I know, jam packed first 30 pages but wait there is more. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009)

Some issues they highlight were even starting back at the school level. Having teaching staff that allowed girls the opportunity of studying stem subjects in the first place. This was not the norm. There were male teaching staff that were absolutely opposed to the idea of allowing this to happen for girls let alone to allow them to make it into higher education. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009)

They then describe how the big debate that consumed faculties when women were begrudgingly allowed into these higher education settings was whether their studies focused on pure scientific outcomes such as men were afforded or should it be curtailed to a domestic brand of science to assist women in their duties at home. I mean it is even uncomfortable typing this now in 2021 but also frustrating knowing that women still face many challenges like these today, 120 years later. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009)

The Rayner-Canhams also managed to fit into these 30 pages that there were some factors assisting women as well. Many men at the time were also allies and fought for women to have a place beside them. I think we can probably safely say that Ebenezer, George and his brother’s and father would all have fit into this bracket for Kate and her aspirations. They also suggested that in their research an interesting trend presented itself, that in a lot of the cases it was the women’s complete lack of rivalry for their male counterparts that enabled them to just get on with the job of learning and that they were grateful for whatever assistance these males were able to give them. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009) I have a feeling that Kate may not have fit into this category, but my reasoning for that will become more evident in our next post.

This next clipping from Trove gives in a small way an example of what I have been trying to express to you above and also explains further the title of this post.

Figure 14: Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Trove.

So I feel that with this accumulation of evidence and my ramblings above that we can be confident in knowing what Kate’s motivations were for doggedly pursuing her studies, her research and putting herself to the task of inventing and developing the micro-cremator. She wanted to do good for her community and the people suffering in it and use the skills and knowledge she had in making that come about. She was very much a product of her mother and the attitudes and values she had developed over her life. And I think we can optimistically assume that with what I have shared already in my previous posts of Kate’s story and the micro-cremator that she was successful in her endeavours. The next post will celebrate that success but also show that it came with a cost.

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.

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.

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.

Road Trip -Final Stage. (part 1)

So, last post we left off in Wagga which was, in relation to family history discoveries a bit of a mother-load of information and emotional connections, next stop was Albury.

We arrived about mid afternoon after a three or so hour drive from Wagga of course stopping for morning tea, elevensies and lunch on the way. Have to share that Calan and Xander were doing so well at this stage in showing that they were still interested in what we were doing, by the end of the following day and a couple of hours in Holbrook, not as much.

Note to self and anyone else interested, three days of family history discoveries for 14 and 15 year old’s might be a little too much. (Boys, if you find this in 50 years time, can’t thank you enough for your patience, now stop reading, I’m sure my butt needs wiping, I’m 100 and the contract is still binding.)

The Macveans at Albury Pioneer Cemetery 2018

Of course, I was aware that my 3x Great Grandparents were buried there with my Great Grandfather but didn’t have any information on why this was chosen as their final resting place. After this visit to Albury I think I can hazard a guess as to why.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery

This is the view from the Family Plot, towards the Gate of the Pioneer Cemetery.

The rear of the Macvean Family Plot Albury 2018

The Macvean Family Plot Albury 2018

Another great find, multiple members of the family buried in these two plots. The Obelisk must have cost a fortune but as I’m fully aware now the Family could afford it. It has been standing here in the elements for 125 years.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery 2018

This is my 3x Great Grandparents, John Hugh and Hannah Macvean. Parents of Alexander who I introduced you to in my last post and who is buried at Wagga. John is the Macvean who established us here in Australia. It is believed by some other family history researches that he arrived in Australia on the 3rd of August 1841 but I have been unable to confirm this. There are no shipping arrivals that I can find for this date. The closest I can come to confirming he was here around that time is this mention below.


An unclaimed letter listing from Geelong Post Office. A scan of a few scratches of ink almost ineligible, printed 177 years ago. I keep trying to imagine how people did this before computers, databases and search algorithms. This only came up for me after a number of different permutations on the spelling of the name and leaving out the a and the c just MVean. Here is a picture of my 3x Great Grandfather. There is no doubt that I come from this stock.

John Hugh Macvean, courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

I am also again, so lucky to have this picture of him later in his life.

John Hugh Macvean, Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

This was a real bonus to find in the folder shared by Cousin Sally of ancient Macvean photos. Hannah Macvean nee Hill, my 3x Great Grandmother.

Hannah Macvean nee Hill, Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

I know hardly anything about Hannah but I have a huge admiration for her. She and John married on the 23rd September 1844 in Geelong Victoria.

Courtesy of Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages

Hannah gave birth to their first child, Annie on the 23rd July 1845 and then proceeded to have another 7 children over the next 13 years on stock runs in central Victoria.

Photos courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

I can’t help but notice in the marriage extract above the almost minuscule cross from Hannah’s hand, showing that she couldn’t write. I hope she didn’t feel that small. I can only imagine how strong she must have been to establish and maintain a home for all of those children in the middle of the Victorian bush in the mid 19th century.

The other side of the obelisk is dedicated to their second born Grandson, my Great Grandfather, Alexander Ballantyne Smith Macvean.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery 2018

It is hard to not make the assumption here of how close they must have been as a family. My Great Grandmother and Grandfather and all of his siblings were still living at Rooksdale at Germanton. Alexander’s Father was still alive but his Mother was buried in Wagga yet the decision was made to bury him in Albury with his Grandparents a good 2- 3 hour buggy ride away from Germanton and the family. Alexander died at Meramie Private Hospital in Albury.


I happened to come across a document in the family history folder containing some reminiscences from my Great Aunt Jean Isabel Moffat nee Macvean, my Grandfather’s Sister. Again an echo from the past and few lines that breaths life into their story.

Courtesy of Ross Moffat (Cousin)

I found a picture of the Hospital from 1963 when it was operating as an Inn.


Amazing to see the place my Great Grandfather passed away in. I wasn’t aware of this information when we were on the road trip and unfortunately the building has been demolished. In its place is the Meramie Motor Inn.


I’m sure it won’t have the same feeling as sitting in the church that his Parent’s helped build but I’m still going to go visit next trip to Albury.

The next plot over is the final resting place of Samuel Hill, my 4x Great Uncle, his Wife, Mary Hill, nee Macvean, their youngest Daughter Eliza and their Grandson, Alexander Peter Macvean Cameron, Great Nephew of John and Hannah and 2nd Cousin of Alexander buried next to him.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery 2018

Sad to see the damage to the headstones but very lucky that they are still there considering that they have been there so long.

This photo above is of Samuel Hill. He is actually my 4x Great Uncle by birth and marriage. He is Brother to my 3x Great Grandmother Hannah Macvean, nee Hill pictured earlier in this post and his Wife, is Hannah’s Husband, John Hugh Macvean, my 3x Great Grandfather’s Sister, Mary Macvean, pictured below. (Did you manage to follow that? it was damn hard to write.)

Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

There is no photo I can find at this stage of Eliza but here is her death notice from The Argus.


Alex below, was the son of Samuel and Mary’s eldest Daughter, Margaret. Margaret married a gentleman by the name of John Hugh Cameron and they all lived in Howlong. (Howlong is so the first stop on my next road trip, considering that the whole family came from or settled there.)

Albury Pioneer Cemetery 2018

This is his Mother, Margaret Cameron nee Hill, my 1st Cousin 4x removed.

Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

And here is a picture of her Husband and Alex’s Father, John Hugh Cameron.

Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

The Riverina which Howlong, Albury and Germanton/Holbrook are apart of has really revealed itself as a significant area for my family. A significance that a century and a half later has all but been erased from memory. I’m hoping that these post although shallow compared to the lives they describe go a small way to restoring those memories.

I’m going to end this post here as it is getting a bit lengthy and I still have a number of other family members stories to share from Albury Pioneer Cemetery as well as an Ancestor who’s significance to the area I was unaware of whilst on the road trip and who I only discovered whilst conducting research for my last post. Look forward to sharing that with you soon.

Road Trip continued…

Last post finished on Howlong Station, the property owned by my 2x Great Grandfather but before we change focus, we haven’t quite finished in Holbrook yet. I shared the Parish map of the land owners. Here is a close up of an area of interest.

Courtesy of Woolpack Inn Museum.

This section in yellow crossing the Highway is Little Billabong Creek. Here is another of the Macvean surprises. By chance we found this exact spot on our way out of town.

You can stop on the Southern side of the creek and look straight across to Rooksdale Estate. I haven’t been able to pin down where exactly the homestead was or even if it is still standing but its on the to do list.

This is where my Grandfather grew up, a place my family lived for a quarter of a century and their mark is now blown away into time yet I feel this strong sense of connection. It is such a weird feeling.

Trove delivered again. Came across this wonderful description of the property.


Another advertisement for the sale describes the homestead as having 12 rooms and that the property has been dug out of all rabbits and useless trees. So hope that some photos will turn up sometime.

The Museum at Holbrook had another surprise for us before we left. They have the original Little Billabong school house that my Grandfather went to, in their backyard. It was going to be demolished some years ago and someone had the thought to save it and it is now rebuilt and is part of the Museums exhibitions.

How crazy is that? Funnily enough the Little Billabong phrase I have been aware of since I was a child. I knew it had something to do with my Grandfather’s life but was never quite sure what the connection was. My Grandfather died 2 weeks after my 1st birthday so no first hand knowledge. There is no photo that I can find of the two of us together which is strange considering I was the first Grandson born with the Macvean name. For some context meet my Grandad, John Hugh Macvean.

I love the fact that I am named for this man and carry his Father and Grandfathers name with me.

On an aside, the Little Billabong phrase helped me break through a years old brick wall I had hit in relation to another 3x Great Grandmother, Christina Russell. This one phrase broke through that wall and the information that flowed was incredible. Will post about that shortly.

So between this and the last post, I’d say that Holbrook was pretty good to us on revealing some great information on the family. I will pick up on the Howlong Station thread soon but I want to now move to Wagga Wagga. It is the end of my 2x Great Grandfather’s story (Alexander Macvean Snr) just to remind you, but our first stop on the road trip. For a bit of context, this from Trove.


This was the second find in Wagga,

“Lumeah” in Coleman Street still stands. This is where my 2x Great Grandfather died.

I shared the above picture first as it fits with the article above, but this picture below was our first find at the Wagga Wagga Pioneer Cemetery.

My 2x Great Grandparents graves as well as my 2x Great Grandfather’s 2nd Wife’s grave.

I keep trying to rationalise the act of putting flowers on graves decades old, in a lot of the cases over 100 years old but there is no rationalising it. It just feels like the right thing to do. For me it is knowing that they are right there, 6 or so feet below. This is what it means to pay your respects to your Ancestor’s. Just like when you get to hold some item that you know was held in their hands or stand in spot that you know for certain they stood, it has a powerful spiritual pull for me.

Wagga Wagga Pioneer Cemetery 2018

I wondered this day we visited, (100 years after Jessie’s and 96 years after Alexander’s burials) how long since the last family member made the trek out to this cemetery?

Wagga Wagga wasn’t done with us just yet. I remembered from my readings on Trove that my 2x Great Grandparents were heavily involved in the Presbyterian church and I had the idea that we might go check out the church see if the one they belonged to was still standing.

St Andrews Wagga Wagga 2018

What a find it was. St Andrews Presbyterian, now Uniting Church. Foundation stone laid in 1869 and completed in 1872. (Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga) Mon 28 Nov 1938 page 6)

St Andrews Wagga Wagga 2018

The spire was added between 1911-1915 as well as the School Hall situated right next to the church. (Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga) Mon 28 Nov 1938 page 6)

St Andrews School Hall 2018

So imagine how surprised we were when we came across this.

St Andrews School Hall 2018

This is the foundation stone of the School Hall. This was one of those moments I mentioned above. I couldn’t stop running my hands over the stone. Talk about an Outlander moment, if a tear in the fabric of time was going to happen this would be it. You know I looked over my shoulder right? Only this mob behind me and what a great mob to share this moment with.

The Macvean’s in Wagga Wagga Oct 2018

I of course turned to Trove and found a number of articles that show the link between the family and the Church. Discovered that my 2x Great Grandfather was an Elder of the Church.


Their Daughter Edith married in the church.


Jessie Davina Macvean, my 2x Great Grandmother also had a memorial service held at the church. This section of her obituary below highlights.


There are a number of mentions of her donating money to different war causes and running a number of different tables for the Presbyterian Ladies guild and I think this part of another obituary written on her sums it up nicely. I can only imagine she would have been pretty happy with the description of her below but would probably never have admitted it.


My 2x Great Grandfather also had his memorial service held at St Andrews.


This is my 2x Great Grandmother, Jessie Davina Macvean, nee Ballantyne.

Courtesy of Sally MacPhee (Cousin)

And another shot of my 2x Great Grandfather, Alexander Macvean Snr.

Courtesy of Sally MacPhee (Cousin)

There was a billboard on the outside of the Church and it had the current Pastor’s name and contact details on it. Alex rang him and explained who we were and he invited us back the next day and said he would open up the Church and the School Hall so that we could walk through were the family once walked.

Interior of St Andrews Wagga School Hall
Interior of St Andrews Presbyterian Church Wagga
Interior of St Andrews Presbyterian Church Wagga

I got the chance to sit inside with Alex and our boys for about 15-20minutes and had a good chance to just soak it in. I know it’s nothing fancy but I couldn’t help feeling like I had just found something really valuable.

Final leg of the road trip in the next post.