Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trove Tuesday: Maddingly Park

I've mentioned Phil's Great-uncle James Alford before, and probably will again, but in this post I'm discussing an aspect of his life I discovered in the National Library's digitised newspapers on Trove.

In the 30 years since his arrival in Australia James had moved from South Australia to Brighton, Victoria then to a farm at Parwan near Bacchus Marsh for a few years. In about 1880 he moved with his family to Maddingly, across the river from Bacchus Marsh, and they ran a store and hotel there for about ten years.

He quickly established himself as a useful member of the community as evidenced in a newspaper report published when the faamily left for Ballan in 1890.

Bacchus Marsh Express 1 Nov 1890
There's more to James' story but for now I just want to note two newspaper reports of James and Elizabeth's gifts to the town. Across the road from the Alford's store and hotel there was, and still is, a park called Maddingly Park. In the 1880s the council decided to landscape the park and plant the gardens. James Alford donated the iron fence around the fountain and his wife, Elizabeth, donated a substantial sundial. As far as I know both installations no longer exist. I wonder if they're in storage somewhere.

Bacchus Marsh Express 10 Nov 1888
Bacchus Marsh Express 10 Apr 1889
Maddingly Park c1936
Booklet - Bacchus Marsh Centenary Celebrations, Federation University
 Australia Historical Collection

Sunday, August 24, 2014

George Smith is a dam labourer

Part eight: Continuing the transcription of the diary that my great-grandfather, William George Smith, wrote when he travelled from his home in Minyip, Victoria to Western Australia in 1889.

After a short break exploring some areas north of Perth (see previous entries) George went back to spend to more time working as a labourer along the Great Southern Railway that had just opened between Beverley and Albany.

 12/7/1889 Went to the Perth station early to go to Beverly found the train did not leave for there until one o'clock so went to the rifle range & viewed Perth from the highest hill. Left Perth at one, at Beverly at 7. Went onto a raffle at night and lost.
13/7 Left Beverly at 8, at Wagin Lake at two. Had a look at the men working, taking out a dam, blasting it, putting it into drays.
14/7 Fixed up my tent and decided board at the rate of pound a week.
15/7 Started to work at eight shillings a day. The work was pretty hard and awkward shovelling among big lumps of stuff almost like rock.
16/7 Got onto the work a little better but the navvies were very coarse and rough especially at the table, a class of men truly that exists without God in the world.
17/7 I found myself camped alongside an English man, a new chum who comes from Newcastle on Tyne. A very interesting and agreeable companion with a lot of very drool sayings.
18/7 At our dray we have the most comical drivers in the pit. Several times we thought we would get sacked because we laughed so much.
19/7 Getting into work splendid, a real navvie with my knee straps and my shirt undone in the front and hat on three hairs.
20/7 A bobbie on the scene, the men a little scared owing to some of them having a lot of sandlewood [sic] on hand illegally.
21/7 A lot of men working in the dam ploughing and picking. There is no Sunday here.
22/7 We had a long talk with and ex Queensland cockie, a Frenchman who judged the colonies by their results. Reckoned half boiled corn left standing for a few days was good to make fowls lay.
23/7 Two men arrived on the camp from the Horsham district. They had been through Minyip. They said it was the wettest season that they had on the Horsham plains since 1876.
24/7 Their opinion of WA was very bad & they thought of returning to Victoria. They couldn't sight paying one pound a week board. They worked with us one day and left for the north west.
25/7 Heard some very curious yarns about the Blacks in the N. West and also in Queensland. Had a Queenslander with us. 26 men in the boarding house.
26/7 Heard a good deal about Bunbury district. Nearly got hit with falling stones from one of the blasts.
27/7 A very dull and damp day. Reckoned the dam to be finished in a fortnight.
28/7 Paid one weeks work 1/18/6 and a shovel 6/6 (2/5/0)
29/7 Considerable amount of gambling going on in the Camp. It seems it is a general thing among the navvies after pay day.
30/7 This morning an extremely heavy frost. A great argument on religion with the Frenchman.
31/7 learned we were going to shift to the next dam this day week.
8/8 At the drains and making a small dam to catch the sand filter on the main drain into the reservoir. Number of yards in reservoir 14 thousand.
9/8 preparing for shifting. The Boss hurrying the men and horses scooping. They were regular done up.

Horses used in scooping process in NSW. Source
Dam scooping. Source
Wagin (pronounced 'wagon' by locals) today is an agricultural district with cereal crops, sheep and cattle. It hosts the largest sheep show in the southern hemisphere. When George returned to Minyip he was also a cereal and sheep farmer in the Wimmera where his father had selected land. But several times in his dairy he mentions other areas that he was assessing as possibilties but I don't think he had Wagin on his list.

The railway dam that George was working on was near the railway siding at Wagin Lake. The town of Wagin developed near there so the boarding house that George was living in was probably there. Some of the early settlers supplemented their income by cutting sandalwood (legally or illegally). Sandalwood is a small tree that has been a very important part of Western Australia's economy because its valuable oil has been used as an aromatic, a medicine, and a food source. Since the 1880s land clearing and over-harvesting has greatly reduced the natural population of the plant but it is now a plantation timber. It was illegal to harvest it in 1889 and unfortunately it still happens on a large scale.

Sandalwood harvest, 1940s. Source: Wikipedia

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Who is in the window?

The theme photo for this week's Sepia Saturday features fans, national costume, hidden meanings.


I've used the perfect photo that matches the theme in a previous post so instead I'm posting a photo of a wedding group. In it there are two ladies with lacy hats, hiding in the background. They are the mothers of the bride and groom.

Wedding group at Balmattum, 1897 - Margaret McKernan and Daniel Phelan
The mothers, Jane Phelan and Christina McKernan
I've already written a more detailed blog about this particular wedding of my husband's great-grandparents here and in it I posted a more formal photo of the wedding party. For the purposes of this week's theme I'll repost that photo now.

William Phelan and Margaret McKernan with her parents (Daniel and Christina)
at left and his parents (Daniel and Jane) at right.
So I'm trying to imagine the sequence of events. Did the photographer first line up the bridal party and parents for a formal photo? And did he then invite other guests to gather round for the more informal photo? If so, why did the two mothers disappear inside the house and look out the window? (The photos were taken at the bride's home.) Did the photographer instruct them to stand there? If so, why didn't he make sure the groom's father was in the photo as well as the bride's father? Were there two different photographers? A little mystery that will never be solved.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

David and Ellen Leed

When he was in his twenties David Leed was an engineer on the riverboats that plied the Murray River, but that's a story for another day. This blogpost is an account of his first marriage.

Today we visited Kapunda in South Australia and made a point of visiting the Church of England because David,  Phil's great-grandfather, married there in 1884. In the 1800s it was a town that developed when copper was mined in the area. It was also the home of the pastoralist Sidney Kidman. A lot of beautiful buildings from that era survive and the museum is well worth a visit.


In 1884 Ellen Beaumont was 20 years old and living in Kapunda where her father William was a butcher. She married David Leed in the Church of England at Kapunda on the second day of the new year. David was 27 years old. They set up home at Morgan, an important river port on the Murray River. Morgan is about 50 km from Kapunda.

David would have spent many weeks at a time away from home as he worked as crew on various riverboats carrying goods upstream as far as Echuca in Victoria and up the Darling as far as Bourke. David and Ellen's first child was born at Morgan in September 1884, a girl they named Clara Florence, but sadly she died of dysentery three months later. A son, William George, was born at Morgan in March 1886 and some time in the next year the family moved to Eaglehawk in Victoria where David's family was living. (David's mother died in June 1886 so that may have prompted the move.) David and Ellen's second son was born at Eaglehawk in December 1887.


The following year, on 31 May 1888, Ellen died of typhoid. The two little boys were cared for by David's sister Grace until David married again three years later.