Saturday, 27 October 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 44, Prompt: ‘Frightening’ - Historical Fiction

Week 44: ‘Frightening’

One of the writings we had for the University subject - ‘Writing the Family Saga’ was ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and I think this week’s Challenge fits well with this story.
Many of our family trees are full of people who travelled far away from the places where they were born: whether that travel was undertaken willingly or unwillingly!
Adjusting to new spaces and places can be very difficult – and it’s something with which many of our ancestors would have had to come to terms. So how would they do this? What challenges would they face? Were their similarities or differences between their old one and the new one? And how would it make them feel? 

So, this is my narrative about a moment in the life of my ancestor, my great-great grandmother Eleanor Wells.  

‘Will you miss England?’

“You ask me: How do I feel leaving my home country of England?
Well ... I have many feelings and many concerns.  
I have to leave three of my children behind.  The three we’ve buried.  I shan’t be able to visit them anymore.  The grief of them dying was hard, but now … to sail the seas so far away … is even harder.

I wish my husband understood how deep my grief is.  He is so excited about starting a new life in a new land he won’t talk about our loss. 

Of the four children with us, Eleanor, my namesake, is just like me.  We understand each other.  At thirteen she misses her older sister the most.  We always visited the graves together.   On our walk, we collected flowers along the way to spread on their beds.

I am so worried for the rest of our children that they may become unwell on the trip and not survive.  I have heard that there are often deaths on board.

Thomas, my husband is a gardener just like his father was.  But will there be work for him in this foreign land?  I can always do housework or serve in tea-rooms, but will there be gardens for Thomas to tend?

I miss my family already, standing here on the wharf.  My mother,  we were close, how she loved to help me with the children, but she will not be here in the future.  I shan’t be able to walk down the road to see her, to share tea and chat together.

My answer to you is – Fearful  - I am terribly fearful of the whole trip.” 


Whilst looking for reports in the paper on 'Trove', regarding the arrival of the Ann Milne in Victoria, I came across this one and it was quite disturbing to read of the deaths on board during the sea voyage.
Eleanor had every right to be fearful.
There were about 20 deaths on board, of which 17 were infants.  Indeed the young family was very lucky to arrive safely.

PROV:  Index to Assisted British Immigrants 1839-1871. Book 10, p  7. Ann Milne, Jan 1853.

'The Empire', Sydney, NSW; Thursday 20 January 1853, 'Portland Shipping', p. 2

Saturday, 20 October 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 43, Prompt - ‘Cause of Death'

Week 43 Prompt: 'Cause of Death'

The first person who came to mind for this prompt was my Grandmother Violet Maude Cottam nee Palmer.  The reason not to do with the cause of death, but the fact that she died 20 days before I was born, the 6thJuly and my birth 26thJuly.  I totally missed out on meeting her.  I like to think that she had a few words to me whilst I was in utero, because she and my mum were very, very, close, and I would have loved to have known her.  

I have always thought what a difficult time it would have been for my mother.  Grandma and Grandpa Cottam were living with my Mum and Dad at the time in Shepparton, Victoria. 
Mum explained to me that it was easier knowing that she died in communion with God, that it was a beautiful way for her to die. What did she mean by that? 
Well, when Mum went into her bedroom to say goodnight, she found Grandma kneeling, leaning on the bed in the act of saying her prayers. 
Still, Mum was close to having me and to walk in and find her like that – it must have been an awful shock. 

Grandma was 66 years old, not that old really especially now I have passed it some time ago.  
I was named after both my grandmothers, and I always thought to myself I would have preferred Violet ! 

Violet Palmer - as a young girl - family photo

Violet Maude Palmer was born on 16 October 1879 in Belfast Victoria  – the original name for Port Fairy. She was the fifth child of six to Arthur Samuel Palmer and Eleanor Wells, both from the Sussex/Kent area of England. 

Violet was 18 going on 19 when her mother Eleanor died 01 June 1898 and the family all went to different places depending on their work. Violet went to her Aunt Ett’s (Henrietta Carmichael nee Wells).  I have a Needlework Book with Violet’s name and address inside -  North St, Coburg - 18 June 1900 .

Violet 's Needlework Book frontisage

According to the Electoral Rolls, she was living out at her Uncle’s farm  - Henry Wall Palmer at Jindivick in 1903.

When she was 24, residing at Ackland St, St Kilda, Violet married Joseph COTTAM, son of James COTTAM and Eliza SHANKS, on 27 Jan 1904. The wedding was held at St John’s Church of England in Footscray, Victoria.  (Maybe she stayed with a friend that night?)

Joseph Cottam and Violet Palmer - Wedding - family photo

Grandpa and Grandma Cottam lived in the electoral district of Gisborne, Victoria in 1909. Then they were in Kew, Victoria in 1914 (where my mother was born in 1913). They had six children all up - four boys and two girls.
They had moved with the family to a farm at Jindivick, Drouin by 1919 and were still living there in 1925. 

 Two Show Prize cards 1925, for Cooking and Sewing.

Their next move took them north to Numurkah, where they were farming in 1936.  However, by 1942 they were in Shepparton at our place and still there when Grandma died.

Violet and Joseph at their second youngest son, George's wedding.

Violet by her mother, Eleanor's grave 

Joseph and Violet on the farm in latter years.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Week 42 Prompt - Conflict'

Week 42:  Conflict

Thinking of conflict – my first thought was:  has there been a conflict in the family I can write about?  Although there have been some troubles, as in most families I imagine, they’re not really anything to write home about, as they say.

Daughter - Mary Sophia Palmer
So, I looked at some of my ancestors who experienced conflict during their lives.  The one that struck me as worthy of writing comes from a letter written by Mary Ann Palmer to her daughter Mary, who it seems is currently staying out of town at her Aunt and Uncles at ‘The Temple’ farm.[i]

Mary Ann was born in 1813 and died aged 48, in 1862.  
Her daughter Mary Sophia was born in 1842, so would have been ten years old when this conflict happened. 
The young son, John, who Mary Ann mentions would only be 3 1/2 years old.

Following the dissolution of Parliament on 01 July 1852, the United Kingdom general election was a watershed in the formation of the modern political parties of Britain.  The Tory/Conservative party became the party of the rural aristocracy, while the Whig/Liberal party became the party of the rising urban bourgeoisie in Britain. 
Elections were held around the country including Ross on Wye the family’s hometown. Mary Ann writes of the conflict that occurred there with the ‘Blues” voters (Conservatives/ Protectionists) being harassed by the Free Trade supporters middle-class urban industrialists and workers,  the ‘Orange and Greens’.  

The main point of contention seems to have been “The Corn Laws’.  The Blues supported the laws protecting the Landowners’ interests by levying taxes on imported wheat.  The result of these Laws meant that prices were kept high for the cereal producers. 
Conversely, the price of bread was pushed high, rising dramatically meaning the Orange and Greens supported the Anti-Corn Law League. The price of wheat was a very substantial part of the cost of living
The Corn Laws enforced a very high 'protective' tariff against the importation of wheat into England. These high tariffs raised the cost of living and increased the suffering of poor people in England.

The results of the election were extremely close in terms of both the popular vote and the numbers of seats won by the two main parties.
As in the previous election of 1847, Lord John Russell's Whigs won the popular vote, but the Conservative Party won a very slight majority of the seats. However, a split between Protectionist Tories, led by the Earl of Derby, and the Peelites made the formation of a majority government very difficult. Lord Derby's minority, protectionist government ruled from 23 February until 17 December 1852. 

The issue must have been very close to the bone for those in the Ross area as it caused a violent response around the polling stations. 

I have translated the three pages of Mary Ann’s letter as best I can and below is the translation and copy of the letter received from my relative Alun Evans of Wales.

Ross, July 18th, 1852
My dear Mary

I quite expected to have seen you yesterday, but matters went so strangely in Ross and we were told would be much worse towards evening and that we did not dare go out, although we felt anxious about 3 Tons of Powder being left for us at Broad Oak.  I should have written but the terrible excitement disabled me, and I am now obliged to write today to entreat you will not go to the election. We heard it is likely to be a contested election and if you had witnessed the alarming riot we had here you would not wonder.  I feel it a duty to write today to prevent your going out.  We must seek to impose till Wednesday upon Aunt and Uncle’s indulgence in keeping you as we dare not send till after these riots are over.  
They, the navvies, were lying drunk about the road, just able to get up and prevent voters coming in on the Gloucester side. They detained one coachload and a set of excavators hearing it went to Weston Cross smashed every window and door and brought in the voters with shouts.  The Blues sent for a body of constables from Hereford, who attempted to maintain peace, but they were quickly driven from the field over Wilton Bridge.  One man’s ear was cut off and the other so brutally beaten that we are told he died.
At the close of the poll, four o’clock, finding their member was behind the others they snatched the books, threw some in the river and burnt the rest then in a body rushed into the town and began to break the shutters (as we were all quite closed) windows, etc., and getting inside would have gutted the house, but their own …

Page 2.
                                   ... committeemen rushed in and entreated them to desist.  Of course, all who had not voted for the Orange and Green party anticipated insults and as Papa had given his to the Blues, I trembled for the result.  It appears some of his principal friends are offended, even Nathaniel Morgan would not speak to him yesterday. A rumour being about that an organized body would rush out in the night and complete the work of devastation it was thought desirable to swear in all the gentlemen, tradesmen and their workmen or servants as special constables.  Your Papa, Sidney, Mr. TC Powell Halford Shoemaker and seven or eight of the men were sworn in by Mr. Bridgeman in our shop and were to be ready when called for.  However, although we were much excited, (I felt quite ill and so did Miss Wallis) yet we were permitted to pass a wonderfully quiet night.  I heard very little noise after one.
Under the circumstances, you will not wonder that I felt it necessary to write and entreat you not to go away from the Temple.  The navies, foresters, watermen, excavators leagued together to come to each other’s help.
My dear child these sights are awful proof of man’s depravity when left to himself.  Man’s passions once excited are scarcely to be tamed, Oh, that we all walked more with God, prayed and wrestled more, that the mind might be in us, that was in Christ Jesus.
We were very thankful that you were not at home.  John saw a little in the morning, but I would not let him go out after.  I think he is better, but vegetables and fruit try him.  Perhaps I shall be sending a  pair of boots for James by Adam to the Mill tomorrow morning where you will be able to send for them if he wants them.  We sadly want you all home to begin school.  Have you heard of cousins James and Emily again?  I am thankful to say that Papa is well, ... 

Page 3. 
                                 ... he was excited yesterday with the riot and I hope it will prevent his ever voting again.  Your Uncle Sam was amongst it and we have not seen him since.

Now, Dear Mary, advice, seeing what poor helpless creatures we are and how little there is worth our attention here, let us seek more earnestly than ever the peace which cometh all understanding. Oh, to have our affections fixed above, then let the messenger of death come when he may, we shall rejoice to be freed from this life of toil and cares.  
Give my love to dear James, Aunt, Uncle, and cousins hoping Uncle is better.  Papa joins in love with brothers and sisters and cousin John and Miss Wallis.  You must get your cousin or aunt to read this sad scribble as I feel tired and could not stay to write legibly for you, believe me.
Your anxiously Affectionate Mother,
Mary Ann Palmer
Mary Ann Palmer

Mary Ann's letter to her daughter - Lovely writing and wording for that period.
A little of the letter is missing in parts and I have added it in from a transcription.


Articles from local papers regarding the riots: Source 'British Newspapers'


[i]Esau’s older brother John and his wife Ann Palmer lived at ‘The Temple’, Dean Hill, Littledean. This was probably ‘Temple Farm’, an early 18thCentury farmhouse known in 1797 as Solomon's Temple. His family lived there for three decades at least.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 41, Prompt - 'Sports'

Week 41:  'Sports'

I haven’t come across any great sports people whist doing my ‘genea’ research, so once again I will think laterally.

My own family was quite sporty.
Brother Bill had trophies from Haileybury College where he completed his secondary schooling - cross country running, billiards and table tennis.
My sister Fran and I both played school hockey in winter, in summer we did swimming and played tennis. Both of us participated in the Interschool sports each year, in athletics as well as swimming. 
  Shepparton Swimming Pool where our school sports were held.

We were very active at home living on the farm and entertained ourselves most of the time.  We had bike and roller skate races.  We played table tennis in the ‘Big Room’.  Lots of ball games, including ‘Sevens’ against the wall and tennis practice using a tennis ball on an elastic tied to an old iron base.  We swam in the channels and climbed trees. When I think back to it now – it was a great childhood.

Jim Richards and George Pearce - two of my cousins mucking about in the channel

Once we were older and had moved into town we played squash – a fairly new game at the time.  We enjoyed bowling at the new Tenpin Alley.  Mum and I played tennis for the Church comp. and I played evening Badminton in a district comp. which I really enjoyed, as it became a social evening after the games.

When my parents retired to Kingscliff NSW, they played lawn bowls and indoor bowls with neighbours and friends.