Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review; Life and death in the Age of Sail

Life and death in the Age of Sail:  The passage to Australia
Written By Robin Haines.

A Paperback book, originally published in 2003.  This edition was published in 2006 by the University of New South Wales Press Ltd. 
ISBN 0 86840 898 0
SAG Reference: A3/21/43
365 pages in total, including Introductory Pages, Contents, Acknowledgements, Abbreviations, Preface, Introduction, Body, Endnotes, Bibliography and Index
The book includes some Illustrations and a Map of emigrant routes
Have you even wondered about your ancestors’ journeys from England to Australia? Would you like to know what it was really like?  Then you will enjoy reading the numerous accounts of voyages from emigrant’s letters, which are contained in this social history.

Robin Haines aims to examine the “health and mortality outcomes of voyages to Australia” and to also determine how the authorities made changes “to improve the comfort and reduce the risk of death on board government-chartered ships”.  She brings the journeys to life through the letters and journals of numerous migrants “who speak to us across the centuries”. 

The book begins dramatically with the heart felt grief of a mother, Sarah Brunskill, who writes to her parents back home about the loss of her two young children within a fortnight of each other, during the long journey from Plymouth to South Australia.    As the book continues, we find out more about Sarah’s despair, faith, courage and future expectations, through her emotional writings.  She was one of many to record accounts of children who were “thrown into the deep” through portholes.  

Robin Haines has uncovered a large number of informative and poignant letters, which tell moving tales of the settlers’ experiences, to family back home.   In addition, the author has also located and analysed many diaries relating to the migrants’ journeys. 

These letters and diaries give us a rare insight into the conditions, thoughts, dreams, illnesses, heartache, despair, activities and social interactions encountered on many voyages from UK to Australia.  The words, thoughts and emotions of the emigrants transport us to another era.   Little did they realise that their words would be read my many and have an impact on complete strangers over 150 years later.   As a family historian, I found the letters to be enthralling and they evoked a range of emotions, including sadness, happiness, surprise, understanding and anticipation.  I could visualise the on-board scenes on many occasions.

It is evident to the reader that Robin has researched the content of this book thoroughly, which is also supported by the extensive list of sources contained in the Endnotes and Bibliography.   These sources, perhaps unintentionally, provide a large number of new potential research avenues for family historians.

At times, Robin has also provided us with a further insight into the lives of the emigrants and their family once they were established in the Colony. 

When the book was written, Robin Haines was a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of History at Flinders University, South Australia.  It is likely that it was her association with this State, which resulted in the large majority of the letters relating to immigrants to South Australia.  Personally, I would have preferred to see a more balanced approach to the other States but understand that many records in other States were not as extensive or may not have survived.

The statistical analysis, facts and figures are a necessary addition to support the emotional opinions and layperson perspective of the letter writers.   However at times, I found that the book was written for a more scholastic audience than the average family historian, especially the Preface and Introduction.   Periodically, I found it necessary to consult with a dictionary to determine the meaning of words (eg miasmatical, nomenclature and victualling), which could have been written in alternative words more suitable to a non-academic. 

After the initial high impact enticement, of the opening paragraph of the Preface, I was left waiting for numerous pages until I again became enthralled in reading about the experiences on voyages.   Therefore I was left wondering as to Robin’s intended audience.  Was the book written for research academics, students or family history researchers?    I came to the conclusion that different aspects of the book would appeal to a diverse range of readers.

The index is thorough so the reader can easily determine if your family or a particular ship is included.   However the index does not include details of the (limited) pictures, which are primarily from the Illustrated London News. 

This book gives us a greater understanding about the conditions and experiences of migrants from UK to Australia in the 1800s and early 1900s, including mortality rates and their changes over the decades, which are discussed in detail.  The letters and subsequent analysis also provide an interesting insight into the social differences between the various “classes” on-board.   The reader will also find that the letters provide a different perspective about some common beliefs and disprove some common misconceptions. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in finding out more about the migration of UK residents to Australia and the health and social issues that they faced.  However, I also provide a warning to “keep reading” as I compare the book to their voyages; there are times when it is fast paced and very interesting but then other times where it is becalmed and you want to get off.  Overall, you will be glad that you stayed on for the entire trip!

So I am left wondering; why didn’t the emigrants catch and eat more fresh fish?  Surely this could have reduced illness and potentially mortality rates on-board?


This book review was an assignment for the Society of Australian Genealogists Certificate Course in Genealogical Research 2014

"Gunyah" one Sunday Morning 1930

Sadly, I don't actually remember my grandfather smiling.  He didn't seem to have much time for children.

Therefore the photos below have always appealed to me.   In the first photo, my grandfather, Gordon Walker, has a half smile on his face; a gentle look.  To me, it seems that the lady must be someone he knows well and respects or cares for.

I cannot remember who allowed me to copy the photo but my notes indicate that on the back of the photo was written "Gunyah" one Sunday Morning 1930 and then in another person's handwriting "Gordon and Frank Walker"

Do you think the unknown lady didn't want her photo taken? Or was she shading herself from the sun?

Gordon and Frank Walker
"Gunyah" one Sunday Morning 1930
I wanted to know more about "Gunyah", which is aboriginal for a humpy or small shelter made from bark and tree branches, according to wikipedia.

Unknown Lady with Frank and Gordon Walker
Gunyah 1930

I soon found that "Gunyah" was the home of Gordon and Frank Walker's grandparents, Samuel and Elizabeth Mottram.  The death of Samuel Mottram was reported in the Maryborough Advertiser two years earlier.

The Maryborough Midlands Historical Society provided me with the following;

Maryborough Advertiser
Friday 27th July 1928
Death - Mottram 

Old Resident Passes - At his residence, 'Gunyah', Dundas Road, Maryborough, the death occurred yesterday of Mr. Samuel Mottram, who had attained the advanced age of 83 years.  The deceased, who was well known, resided at Havelock for many years, in which district he was associated with mining pursuits.  He leaves a widow and adult family.  The funeral will take place this afternoon at 3 o'clock for the Timor Cemetery.

The probate notice then gave me a more precise address; 19 Dundas Road, Maryborough.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848 - 1957)
Thursday 14th March 1935 - page 1
Source: Trove
The old miners cottage remains;

19 Dundas Street, Maryborough 

So is the lady in the top two photos Elizabeth Mottram?  
By 1930, both Gordon and Frank Walker were living over 300 kilometres away in Moe, Victoria.  Therefore it seems that it may have been a family function?  Frank does seem fairly well dressed and Gordon likely rode up on his motorbike (I know it is his motorbike from other photos and the number plate).  Or was Frank and Gordon's mother there too?  Mary Walker (nee Mottram) is the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Mottram.

Is this Elizabeth Mottram?
Or is it her daughter Mary Walker (nee Mottram)?

Mary Walker (nee Mottram), her mother Elizabeth Mottram, sister Madeline Mottram
Grandchildren Betty and Bob Walker (children of Frank Walker)
Approximately 1933 based on the ages of children
Elizabeth was living with her daughter Madeline before she died in 1934, age 80.
Do you think that either Mary Walker (nee Mottram) or her mother Elizabeth Mottram (nee Gourlay) look like the lady in the first two photos?

Elizabeth and Samuel Mottram
Pre July 1928
This post was prompted by Sepia Saturday

Friday, September 19, 2014

Playing in the back yard

Do kids even play in the backyard today?  They seem to prefer playing computer games?

I don't remember my grandmother ever talking about toys.  In her writing she does not talk about her childhood, except her 6 years at school and when she writes "You weren't allowed to kill roos in those days, but no one said you couldn't chase them and it was great fun".  It seems that most of Gran's "play" time was with the animals on the farm.  Gran had to grow up quickly as she left school young to help out her mother around the home.

June 1919
Eva Pilgrim (age 8) on the farm
Many of you would have seen the photo below previously, but it is a wonderful example of the toys of days gone by.

Christmas Day 1928
Margaret Mayberry and Lorna Pilgrim (Grand Aunt)
Notice below the ripped pants on the boy on the left and the short pants of the other two boys.  My grandmother wrote; "In Horsham, Thursday was pay day and also remnant day and I nearly dressed the nips on remnants.  I could manage the lining and pop hole on the boys pants, but hanged if I could manage the fly.  Those day boys wore shorts pants till about 13 or 14.  It saved mending"

1940 - Horsham
John Clark, Don Scott (Uncle), Gwenda Clark, Des Malone, Jean Scott (Aunt)

This got me thinking about the toys that I liked to play with.  I had a Sindy doll, but was secretly disappointed that "Santa" did not bring me a Barbie.  My favourite doll was "Lisa",  It was a big thing that her eyes blinked.  I made her so many clothes.  I remember that I made her a Guide Uniform and received a badge for my efforts.  I think that I still have Lisa and some of her clothes including her Guide Uniform packed away in a box.

The Swing set below was made by a friend of my fathers.  The seat was wooden, with metal edges.  It hurt if you stepped in front of it when someone was swinging! You only walked close to someone swinging once and were very careful thereafter!
My father repainted the swing set and and replaced the seat with a plastic one for my kids when they were little. They loved it as much as I did.  It then went to my sisters kids.

1971 - Kyneton
My sister and I with a family friend in the backyard
1974 - Stratford
My sisters, brother & I playing in the backyard.
I am the taller one with my back turned
My daughters loved her Barbies.  My husband made the dolls house below from a kids wardrobe.  Danielle spent hours playing with it.

My son loved his Toy Story toys and Lego.  Then his Uncle introduced him to Super Mario and as a 19 year old, he is still playing computer games (Xbox)!  Unfortunately, I can't locate a photo quickly.

My daughter

What was your favourite toy?

This post was inspired by Sepia Saturday.  Please click for more posts.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

One Lovely Blog Award

Thank you Alona from Lonetester HQ  for nominating  me for the "One Lovely Blog Award".

I write my blog posts to record my family history research and photos for other family members and future generations.  However, it is wonderful to be recognised by fellow bloggers.  I will always be thankful to Alona as she inspired me to commence blogging in 2012 when she initiated the  Family History through the Alphabet Challenge.

The Rules for the "One Lovely Blog Award";
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog
  • Share Seven things about yourself - refer below
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!) - also listed below
  • Contact your bloggers to let them know that you've tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award

Seven things about me (that you may not know)

  • I can't help myself, I always plan things.  Always have!  I remember as a child, planning in advance how many jobs that I needed to do to save enough pocket money for a particular toy.  I really do believe that you make things happen by planning.  I can't remember ever doing anything spontaneously.  Does that make me boring? Or organised?
  • I am progressing on my Genea-Bucket List and am currently planning a trip around UK to complete family history research on my ancestors.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • I am totally uncoordinated and have no sense of rhythm but would love to learn how to dance.  
  • Since I was a child, I have always liked doing puzzles and still do at least one or two puzzles every night (Sudoku is my current favourite).  Maybe that is why I enjoy family history so much? It's the hunt and solving the puzzles that I enjoy!
  • I cannot sing and haven't tried since my son, at 2.5 years old, told me to stop singing nursery rhymes as I sounded like "a strangled crow".
  • I cannot cook......well I don't cook......and am very lucky to have a wonderful and supportive husband who does all the cooking and most the cleaning.  
  • I love to travel.  Through planning, budgeting and saving, I have been fortunate enough to visit 21 different countries (and have plans in place to visit a further 5 countries within 12 months). As long as I am physically able to, I will continue to travel and regularly complete review on Tripadvisor.

15 Blogs I read regularly

I subscribe to many different blogs (I was surprised to see that it is over 100!).  I work full time (over 55 hours most weeks) so am always behind in my reading and do not always comment (sorry). I deliberated whether to participate in nominating blogs as there are so many good blogs (with many already being well recognised). I don't want to offend anyone who I omit.  I think Pauleen was very smart not to nominate.  However I have decided to nominate blogs that may be lesser known to my followers and those who have been very inspirational to me.  I apologise if your blog is not listed below but there are so many good blogs out there that inspire me and I cannot list them all. 

In no particular order;
  1. Yes, Virginia, There is life after retirement - I first started reading Denise's blog during the 2013 A-Z Challenge.  I really enjoyed reading about her travels and new places.  I continue to follow and read her posts.  She is articulate, intelligent, often amusing with some wonderful everything that I enjoy.
  2. 5000 Poppies - I want to draw attention to this blog. The organisers are planning on "planting" a field of poppies in Federation Square Melbourne in April 2015, to commemorate all Australian soldiers.  I have made a start but aim to crochet poppies (before March 2015) to remember each of the ANZACs in my family tree.  There will be a future blog post about this.
  3. My Grave Place - Bill takes photos of cemeteries and churches around UK.  I enjoy his photography and hope to one day take photos of the cemeteries in UK where my ancestors lie.
  4. Spud's Daily Photo -  This is Bill (above) again.  He takes photos from around UK.  As I intend on visiting UK one day, I am always interested to see the sights. I enjoy taking photos too so appreciate good photography, which is natural and shows day to day images.
  5. Travels Through my Past - I feel that Liz's blog is similar to my own, remembering ancestors and recording family history for future generations. 
  6. Craft Gossip - In particular the crochet patterns - I like to crochet (when I get time) and have this site bookmarked. 
  7. Postcards Then and Now - I always enjoy looking at before and after posts and this is a very interesting and easy to read blog
  8. Family Tree Frog -  Alex is well known to many but I felt that I needed to include her as she writes the way I would like to.   To me, it seems that she writes the way she would speak.  She is interesting and amusing and although I have never met her, her writing makes me feel that she is an old friend.
  9. Edes-Orban Family - This is a relatively new blog for me but I have enjoyed reading about Hungarian and Romanian Family History and want to read more.  I have family from this area, which I have not yet started researching.  Yes, I really do need to reduce the length of my blogs as it seems that the blogs that I read are all shorter, succinct but interesting.
  10. Many of you would already know fellow geanea-blogger Jollett etc but I must also include Wendy's blog as I read it regularly and always enjoy it.
  11. Memorabilia House - Alona nominated me via her Lonetester HQ blog and I nominate her right back for another of her blog posts.  What a great idea to have a blog especially dedicated to the history or family memorabilia.  I have started to catalogue them but one day would like to do the same thing as Alona.
  12. Yvonne's Genealogy Blog - Yvonne's post are well researched and easy to read.  I tend to write too much in my posts but Yvonne has the ability to make a post inclusive and interesting but short enough to read quickly.
  13. Avoca during World War 1 - This is a new blog by Ann but one that I am following.  I am interested in anything to to do with Australians in World Wars and as I have family who came from near Avoca, these are posts that I want to read.
  14. From Helen V Smith's keyboard.  Helen is very well known but I include her here as I find her very inspirational.  Helen works full time but somehow manages to be very active in the genealogical community.  She has assisted me several times with research and inspired me to commence doing studies in genealogy, which I am enjoying immensely. Thank you for your support and assistance Helen.
  15. Sepia Saturday - Last but definitely not Least.  Sepia Saturday would have to be my favourite blog post on the internet so I need to include it.  Such a wonderful inspiration for so many of my posts.   I have been inspired and challenged to research and blog about so many tops that I would not have otherwise, except for the weekly Sepia Saturday prompt.  They are such a wonderful and friendly group of members. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Memories of the Vagabond

The Vagabond as I remember her growing up
The wedding boat in 1997

 When the Beach or holidays are mentioned, I think of the Vagabond.

The smell of diesel always reminds me of the Vagabond.

The Vagabond was a big part of my childhood; most weekend and every school holidays.  She was built in 1958 by my grandfather and uncle and passed to my father, when Granddad died.

The Vagabond had a distinctive chug chug chug sound, which could be heard for miles.  I remember my Nanna listening out for it and then I would follow Nanna into the back yard, where she would look out to check if it was returning.  She would then start cooking for the men returning from fishing. I was only 6 when she died, so it is an early memory.

My Grandfather and Uncle took 2 years to build the Vagabond, which was launched
 4th October 1958.
You can read more here.
As a child, I loved it when dad would get up close to the Entrance of the 90 Mile Beach.  I really liked it when the boat would rock furiously in the waves.  I remember mum yelling at me to get inside the boat as I would be on the side and hold on to the railing with no life jacket on (maybe this was the first indication that I would like theme park rides?).

My grandfather, Gordon Walker aboard the Vagabond

I have many vivid memories of the Vagabond;
  • When we drove into the Beach, the Vagabond was always moored in a prime position, across the channel from the jetty.
  • The first time I saw a dolphin was when I was aboard the Vagabond.  I thought it was a shark!
  • Dad holding me and letting me steer the boat but I couldn't see where we were going
  • Pretending to steer the Vagabond from the rudder at the back of the boat
  • Getting my fingers pinched in the cables that controlled the steering that ran along the side the boat
  • Jumping up on the seat when a Flathead was flapping around as I didn't want to get spiked.
  • Leaning over the side and washing bait from my hands by using the the water coming out the side of the Vagabond from the bilge pump.
  • My mother's panic when my little sister (who was only a toddler) had fallen off the jetty and was in the water between the jetty and the Vagabond.  
The life jackets were similar to these
Image Source:
  • The old dirty life jackets that were stored in the Bow, which smelt like diesel. We only wore them when we were playing in the water.  We would try (always unsuccessfully) to sink or go under the water wearing them.  Even multiple kids sitting on them would not sink them!  A lot of fun trying to sink them!
  • There was no toilet aboard the Vagabond and we would need to to into the cabin, shut the door and use a bucket for a toilet, which would then be emptied overboard.
  • Sitting in the sun on the engine box reading a book when the Vagabond was running.  It was very warm, noisy and rattled/vibrated.
  • I liked to sit on the "Flying Bridge" when the Vagabond was motoring (but Mum didn't like it). I don't think anyone could ever tell me why it was called a "Flying Bridge" as it just didn't make sense to me.
  • Rowing from the jetty to the Vagabond and then swimming and diving from the boat.
  • Holding my breath and swimming under the Vagabond.  Initially the width and then the length as we became more confident. Don't think Mum and Dad knew about this.

The Vagabond's maiden voyage
4th October 1958
Gordon Walker and his sons on the Bow
  • The Vagabond being up on the Slips, having barnacles removed and being painted.  It seemed so much bigger out of the water.
  • Asking Dad to change the colour and being told that "Marine Orange and White are safest and easily spotted from the air in an emergency"
  • Being told to stop winding and casting, winding and casting and to wait patiently for a fish to bite
  • Trying to get out of the dinghy into the Vagabond  with one leg on each boat, the tide separated the boats and I did the splits, falling into the water, fully clothed.  I seem to remember this happening to a cousin too?
  • Feeling guilty that my daughter got sun-burnt the first time we took her on the Vagabond (she was only a baby)
  • My sister getting married aboard the Vagabond with my son and daughter in the wedding party.  We watched on from the jetty
I am sure that I will add further memories and find photos in future.

The Vagabond in 2013
New Owner, New Mooring, New Colour
Just not the same!

This prompt was inspired by Sepia Saturday.  Please click to read more posts.