When a group of friends of more than 50 years standing, but now liberally scattered across Greater Sydney decide, in their retirement, that a semi-regular luncheon get-together is in order, where should they gather to reminisce about their shared history? Somewhere central of course, and with history in mind what could be more central and appropriate than The Rocks. And because we enjoy an ale, it was decided that there would be appropriate venues among the many historic pubs there.
The Rocks, named for the sandstone outcrops on the peninsula west of Sydney Cove (now Circular Quay) has a most intriguing history dating from the early convict days. Within a few years of the arrival of the first fleet in 1788 Government buildings started to appear in The Rocks focusing on activities to manage convicts.
Soon after the dawning of the 19th century the Government instituted a system of leases in the area which was expanded in the early 1820s with free settlement and assisted immigration. This led to a population boom that further accelerated with the gold rushes. Business activity naturally increased over this period including the establishment of many pubs servicing the local community and workers from the harbour seafront.
By the late 19th century The Rocks had become run down and overcrowded. There were dozens of pubs that were meeting places for criminal gangs, and the back streets were haunts of prostitutes, such that it had become a typical waterfront slum.
The developments through the 20th century including the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Cahill Expressway past Circular Quay led to demolition of many houses and further proposals for development. It wasn’t until the last quarter of the century that “green bans” and heritage controls took effect preserving many important remnants of the early history of Sydney that we are able to enjoy today.
So to lunch. Our most recent outing included a meet-up at the Glenmore Hotel followed by lunch the Lord Nelson Hotel.
The Glenmore Hotel
A Glenmore Hotel has operated in two buildings in Cumberland Street, continuously since 1837. The first Glenmore Hotel, known as the Glenmore Cottage, was located less than 50m from the current hotel and was demolished to make way for the southern approaches to the Harbour Bridge and the current Hotel was built by Brewers Tooth & Co in 1921.
Although not having quite the long history of other pubs in The Rocks it offers alfresco dining and, from it high Cumberland Street position, fine views of the the harbour and Sydney Opera House from the rooftop beer garden.
The Lord Nelson Hotel
The Lord Nelson hotel on the corner of Kent and Argyle Streets. is reputed to be Sydney’s oldest pub. The building dates from 1836 and was originally built as a home by a William Wells. In 1840 he started converting his house into a hotel and on 1st May 1841 he obtained a liquor licence and called the establishment the Lord Nelson hotel.
These days the hotel incorporates a brewery with a range of brews for every taste. Our group particularly likes their Old Admiral old ale and Three Sheets pale ale with a good meal.
The Hero of Waterloo
An earlier lunch date was at another iconic sandstone pub, The Hero on the corner of Windmill and Lower Fort Streets, Millers Point. This little gem of a pub has real atmosphere with reminders of a notorious past seen in the downstairs cellars with shackles on the walls and the entrance to the supposed smuggler’s tunnel. Legends abound and some say ghosts.
Opening in 1843 the structure also suffered over the years and has been renovated to provide more modern facilities but retain its historic character and charm.
The small triangular site adds to the atmosphere which is cosy and ideal for a drink and nice meal.
The Hotel Palisade next to Munn Street Reserve,
Millers Point was the site of a lunch some time ago, but deserves a mention. Our group together with our significant others made this pub a destination after a relaxing Sunday stroll around the new headland at Barangaroo.
Sitting high on the sandstone ridge, it was built in 1915-1916 to replace an 1880 hotel of the
same name and recently underwent a $5m restoration after being closed for about 7 years. It is named after the palisade fence built between Munn Street and Bettington Street and built in “Federation Free Style”.
It provided a good range of beers and cosy dining.
The Orient Hotel has not yet been a recent venue for lunch but over the years has been a popular meeting place for a beer or something to eat in the tree-shaded sandstone courtyard
In 1842, on the current site of the Orient Hotel at the corner of George and Argyle Street a three-storey residence of ten rooms and a neighbouring single storey shop was constructed on and in 1853 was converted to licensed premises trading as the Marine Hotel. It was renamed the Buckham’s Hotel in 1876 and this was finally changed to the Orient in 1885.
The building has undergone a number of modifications over the last few decades to enhance its popularity to the broader public, added to by its prominent location.
Although the number of pubs in Sydney has declined over the years, there are still many more possible venues in The Rocks and we hope to visit some of them in the future.
One of the pleasures derived from family history research is finding real connections with our ancestors and having something in common such ones looks, similar experiences or personal traits. For me, I have the pleasure maybe even the honour of sharing a birthday with my great great-grandfather, Henry Harrison Briscoe, who was born on 2 June 1798.
Henry was one of the five children to Edward and Elizabeth (Osborne) Briscoe of Cloncunny in Kilkenny, Ireland. The townland of Cloncunny consisted of some 406 acres held from the Earl of Bessborough and where Henry was the middleman landlord holding the largest property and sub-leasing portions out to his tenant farmers. Although the second eldest son, Henry took over the responsibility for the Cloncunny estate from his father because of the early death of his brother Edward (junior) in 1815. Henry ran Cloncunny improving it by draining and reclaiming the bog on the estate so there was no waste land.
On 29 May 1830, the Waterford Mail recorded: ‘Married. Henry Harrison Briscoe eldest son of Edward Briscoe of Cloncunny to Eliza Thomasina, only daughter of the late Col. Thomas Walsh, 56th Regiment’ on 24 May 1830.
Henry and Eliza had a family of six children:
Thomas Anthony Briscoe (1831 – 1831)
Edward William Briscoe (1833 – 1878)
Caroline Elizabeth Henrietta Briscoe (b 1834-1890)
Alfred Philip Briscoe (1835 – 1890)
Henry Harrison Briscoe (1837 – 1912)
Thomasina Marian Briscoe (1845 – 1881)
Like many landlords, Henry served as a local Magistrate and Justice of the Peace and on the county Grand Jury. He was also the first Chairman of the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union when established in 1939 (following the passing of the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838).
Although he was a supporter of the (Protestant) status quo, as a Poor Law Inspector particularly in County Clare the minutes of the Union indicated that he served the community not only efficiently but also caringly and fairly during the Great Famine and until 1852.
Later in 1857 he was appointed as Poor Law Superintendent in Scotland for Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness. In this capacity he was reported to have visited over 10,000 registered poor (paupers) of heads of families, at their own houses throughout the north identifying many who were “improperly relieved.” He remained in Scotland until his death on 14 November 1864 at the age of 66 years.
The following obituary was published in the Inverness Advertiser on 18 November 1864.
‘DEATH OF MR HENRY HARRISON BRISCOE
Most of our readers in the north will learn with deepest regret that Mr Briscoe, General Superintendent of the Poor for the north of Scotland, is no more. About six months ago he was seized by an attack of paralysis, which completely prostrated him, and although comparative recovery was affected by medical science, he never was himself again, speech, memory and motion being all latterly affected, until the end came on suddenly on Monday afternoon last. Mr Briscoe was the very model of a Government official – indefatigable in his work, firm as flint in matters of duty and principle, and kind and courteous to all, the poor pauper equally with the lord of broad acres. Mr Briscoe was, we believe, upwards of sixty years of age, and his wiry frame and weather-bronzed countenance, when last we saw him, gave promise of a very long life; but his incessant and anxious labours, we have no doubt, broke down his naturally vigorous constitution before its time, and brought on the attack under which he ultimately succumbed.’
In the village of Fiddown, which is not far from Cloncunny in Kilkenny, a disused church has been turned into a chapel or mausoleum to the old Ponsonby (Bessborough) and Briscoe families. Among all the commemorative stones is one to our Henry Harrison Briscoe.
The times in which Henry Harrison Briscoe lived were very different to our own, but I like to think that as a public servant he tried his best to do his duty as he saw it.
On 11 June 1836, my great great-grandfather, Richard Robins Warren, was born in Bristol, England but he would live a very full life in Australia.
Richard’s parents were Thomas and Elizabeth (Barnett) Warren. Thomas could trace his roots back to Edwarde Warren in the 16th century Devon where his ancestors lived until Thomas moved the family to Bristol. Richard was born there and baptised in St. Mary Redcliffe church on 7 August 1836.
Although the circumstances are not known, it is understood that Richard emigrated to Australia in 1852, arriving in Port Phillip on the ship Washington Irving at the age of 16 years. It is likely that he was attracted to our shores by the great Victorian gold rush as he is next discovered on the goldfields. Within six years, on 15 March 1858 at Sandhurst (renamed Bendigo in 1891), he married Ann Livingstone the daughter of James and Isabella (Clark) Livingstone. Ten months later, my grandmother Elizabeth was born, the first of their thirteen children. When he married he was a store keeper but within a year he was mining, registering a claim and working at it until at least the mid-1860s, after which he returned to farming.
This was a period of some significant land ownership battles in Australian history. The Land Acts of the 1860s were aimed at breaking the control of the extensive land holdings held by squatters and which involved much of the usable land across Victoria. The battle raged between the wealthy, powerful squatters and those who advocated for small-scale agriculture and housing to anyone who could afford to buy it. It appears Richard was able to take advantage of these land ownership opportunities.
By the time their fifth child James Duncan was born in 1873 he was farming in Marong not far from Sandhurst. A little later in 1877 we see in the Bendigo Advertiser that he was offering for lease a fenced 20 acre Marong property, “bordering on Bullock Creek” with a comfortable weather board cottage containing four rooms, detached kitchen, outbuildings and garden. He was moving to a larger selection, and the 1880 Government Gazette stated that he had been issued a new lease on a selection of 280 acres at Leaghur in Tatchera County located to the south of the Murray River, and to the south west of Swan Hill. He retained that property until 1887 as well as another selection (allotment 36 Leaghur of 169 acres), which he transferred to one George Wilkinson in 1891.
By this time Richard and Ann now had a family of thirteen children of six girls and seven boys.
Interestingly, Richard appears in a number of newspaper articles over time.
One was in respect of his appearance at the Boort Police Court, when a Mr. J. MacDonald proceeded against him for illegally detaining a white heifer. It was claimed that the beast in question was the progeny of a cow belonging to MacDonald’s station at Leaghur. The Warrens claimed that the animal was hand-reared by them and although imperfectly branded, there was no doubt that it belonged to them. The police magistrate said the witnesses thoroughly believed what they had stated. He considered it a striking case of mistaken identity, and, although the decision of the bench might lead to further litigation, the case was dismissed. (Bendigo Advertiser, Fri 11 Jun 1886, page 3).
Another episode occurred after disposing of his Leaghur selection when he seemingly became a boarding house keeper at Swan Hill. Later in 1891 there was a “A Disputed Debt” and at the Police Court. The Bendigo Fruitgrowers’ Cooperative Company sued R. R. Warren to recover the sum of £5 11s 10d, money due in payment for fruit delivered. The result was that the company finally admitted that a misunderstanding had arisen and some mistakes had occurred. The case was dismissed but with costs to the defendant, Warren. (Bendigo Advertiser, Fri 29 May 1891, page 4).
Among his other activities, Richard was a long-term member and official of the Ovens and Murray United District of the Ancient Order of Foresters. The Ancient Order of Foresters, which originated in England in the mid-1700s, established its first branch (Court) in Victoria in 1849. It was set up as a non-profit organisation, the founding principles of the Society being to provide financial and social benefits as well as support to members and their families in times of unemployment, sickness, death, disability and old age. (ANU Archives). For a number of years about 1895, Brother R.R. Warren was the senior auditor of the Court and he was involved in many fund-raising functions for charities.
Business failure in 1895 at Swan Hill, led to Richard being declared insolvent with liabilities of £54 16s 3d and assets of only £34 19s 6d (a deficiency, of £19 16s 9d). He apparently was forced to become a labourer but then in 1897 both his wife Ann and daughter Charlotte Christina died within a month of each other. They were buried in St. Kilda cemetery in Melbourne.
Back in Swan Hill, by 1898 Richard had gained a position as a Government rabbit inspector (or destroyer). Rabbits had become a major problem for farmers in country areas of Victoria (and indeed Australia) multiplying to plague proportions following the release of a handful of animals decades earlier. He apparently worked at this in the Swan Hill area until at least 1903. As a retired civil servant and old age pensioner he moved to Melbourne living initially at 3 Bang Street, Prahran and finally at “Irene” Sycamore Grove, St. Kilda, where he died of senile debility and heart failure on 12 December 1912, aged 76.
A family notice in the Melbourne Age described him as the beloved father of Mrs. Briscoe, and J. R. Warren, and Mrs. C. Johannesen, St. Kilda; Mrs. McCurdy and J. D. Warren, and Mrs. Long, Swan Hill, and R. R. Warren and W. A. Warren. He was buried on 14 December 1912 at St. Kilda Cemetery with his wife and daughter.
For anyone wanting to escape the metropolis that is Sydney there are really only four highways and another minor road out of the place.
To the north, and part of National Route One running around the whole of the continent, is the Pacific Highway that generally parallels to coast all the way to Brisbane. In an anti-clockwise direction and heading more north-westerly is the Putty Road which is very much a secondary road with relatively little traffic compared to the State Highways. To the west is the Great Western Highway heading over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst opening up New South Wales and country centres further afield. In a south-westerly direction is the Hume Highway, the main artery between Sydney and Melbourne where it terminates. It now consists of a dual carriageway without a traffic light between our two major cities. To the south, and our favourite escape route, is the Princes Highway (also part of National Route One). It also roughly follows to coast much of the way and will take you to Melbourne after a trip of just over 1,000 kilometres,
Having a full two weeks available during the school holidays, Jenny and I had planned a road trip via the Princes Highway all the way to Melbourne. In addition to our love of the south coast and our desire to visit Melbourne, we had not previously travelled the Victoria section of the Highway.
Leaving Sydney, the highway starts off as the dual carriageway M6, but once past Wollongong and the increasingly populous Illawarra area the traffic progressively thins out except during holiday periods. This is changing as more people discover the beauty of, and easier access to, the south coast. The motorway now extends almost to Nowra after the recent by-passing of Berry but we chose to take a detour from this new road to stop for lunch at Gerringong overlooking its popular surf beach.
Rejoining the highway at Bomaderry we turned left at Nowra for our first stop-over at Myola on lovely Jervis Bay and just south of Callala Beach.
The Myola village nestles next to Currumbeen Creek across from Huskison and consists of a couple of dozens houses and a caravan park. Our van is less than ten minutes walk along a bush track through the Bangalay sand forest to the white sands and clear water of the bay. This is not a surf beach and except in rough weather the gentleness of the shore break adds to its isolated serenity. A couple of days here and the urban cobwebs just blow away.
The second leg of our trip took us back out onto the highway and down to Batemans Bay. Here we lunched in one of the many cafes that cater for this community of retirees that swells at weekends and on holidays with the influx of Canberrans who flock to their nearest point on the coast. From here we continued down the often windy route through the coastal forests that provide a pleasant driving experience so different from the straightened alignments of the motorways.
Our overnight stop was at Narooma, one of the real gems of the south coast with its picturesque inlet and beaches, rugged coastline and views of Montague Island. This place also has special meaning for me having lived here for five of my early school years. I like to visit Narooma and bring back those long-ago memories, and one day stay here is not really enough.
Stage three of our journey would take us into Victoria but before that we decided to have a lunch of fish and chips at Eden on Twofold Bay. This was the most southerly point on the Highway we had previously reached and beyond here would be all new to us. We launched into the unknown of Victoria taking us through Orbost to where we planned to stop the night and look around in Lakes Entrance. Our short visit only whetted our appetite for a longer stay to be able to take advantage of the many waterways and beaches.
On the last leg of the trip through the Gippsland region the highway veered away from the coast and headed more or less directly to Melbourne. Passing through the country towns such as Bairnsdale and Traralgon we took pleasure in typically the Australian buildings from the federation period and often earlier. As we approached our destination the highway again turned into motorway and finally in suburban Albert Park, the Princes Highway became Queens Road where our home was to be for the next few days.
With only a couple of minor diversions, we had completed our leisurely road trip from Sydney to Melbourne.
On this day, April 13, in 1912 my great grandfather Henry Harrison Briscoe died at his home in East Hills NSW. He now lies in an unassuming grave near his wife Elizabeth in St. Saviour’s Church of England Cemetery, Canterbury Road Punchbowl. However, the simplicity of his burial place belies his birth, the full life he lived and the journey that led him there.
Henry was born in 1837 in county Waterford Ireland into a well-to-do family of Henry Harrison Briscoe (snr) and Elizabeth Thomasina (nee Walsh). He was christened on 27 August that year in Clonmore, County Kilkenny near the family estate at Cloncunny.
Henry Snr was a magistrate in Kilkenny and then an inspector of poor law in County Clare during the later years and aftermath of the Great Famine. He was later appointed as the Inspector General of Poor Law in northern Scotland.
Young Henry was one of six children and the fourth and youngest son. At that time in Ireland younger sons of the gentry would generally not inherit property but rather be provided with careers such as the church, diplomatic corps or the military, and the latter seems to have been decided as young Henry’s destiny.
Henry then appears in the 1851 census when as a 13 year old he was attending a Preparatory Military School at Eltham in Kent. His fellow students included boys from throughout England, several from Ireland and British India plus one from Australia. These latter classmates might, at least in part, explain his future travels.
In November 1855 it was announced in the Irish press that an Ensign commission was purchased for him in the 81st Regiment of Foot (Loyal Lincoln Volunteers).
During this period the purchasing of commissions was common for junior officers such as ensigns or second lieutenants. The army from time to time issued lists of the maximum prices for purchases of commissions and the 1837 edition of the King’s Regulations the price for an Ensign was ₤450 (being approximately equivalent to ₤30,000 today) and this is likely the sort of price Henry’s family had to pay for his commission.
The 81st had been stationed in Kilkenny at various times but was in India when Henry joined the regiment. Henry followed shortly after among “a draft arrived in Calcutta” of 1 Lieut., 2 Ensigns and 53 privates on 10 December 1855. Shortly after, in July 1856, Henry was promoted to Lieutenant with the purchase of that commission, probably for an additional ₤250.
When the Indian Mutiny (otherwise India’s First War of Independence) broke out in May 1857, the 81st Regiment was instrumental in disarming the rebels in and around Lahore in present day Pakistan, in maintaining order and preventing the spread of the mutiny in the Punjab. In 1858, “Captain Chichester, Lieuts. Musgrave, Faircloth, Speedy, Briscoe and Jackson and Qr Master Correll, served in the Eusoofxie expedition” to punish the inhabitants for harbouring mutineers. For his service Henry received the Indian Mutiny Medal in 1859.
On his return from the frontier he married the twenty year old Annie Alice Roberts in Bombay. From her death certificate we learn that Annie had been born in Hydrabad the daughter of Edward Howard Roberts and Mary (nee Rodney). Henry retired from the 81st Regiment in March 1861 when he sold his Lieutenant’s commission. Family stories suggest that for the next few years he worked in a bank or with the East India Company but no evidence of this has been discovered.
In early 1865 Annie developed a lung disease and the young Briscoes migrated to Australia arriving in Melbourne in about April of that year. They lived at 2 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, where Annie’s condition deteriorated and she died on 1 January 1866. The following day she was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery. Annie’s death certificate also indicates that she had a child, another Henry Harrison, who had died but no other record of this child has been found.
It appears that Henry “went bush” soon after Annie’s death as his next appearance is in the 1869-70 electoral rolls for Balranald in NSW. He was recorded as residing in the Darling Back Country at Langawirra [station] some 130 kilometres northwest of Broken Hill. Later from the 1878-79 electoral roll we see he had a leasehold property at nearby Kayrunera [station] in the ‘Darling Back Blocks’.
This was the time when there were great stock runs north of Wilcannia on both sides of the Darling River. Intervening spaces were occupied by itinerant small nomad squatters moving their small flocks from place to place, paying periodic rentals, shearing at the woolsheds of friendly owners and moving their residences from time to time to new country on leased crown blocks. Among these were Abraham Wallace and his sons, H.H. Briscoe and W. Ifould. Henry made his living in this manner, registering a brand for his horses as HHB (conjoined letters with letters) in 1879 at Wilcannia, but he also acquired 225 (one pound) shares in the Great Wilcannia Amalgamated Copper Mining Company (Ltd) operating near Wilcannia.
To supplement his income during this period he also worked for some of the larger stations, as newspaper stock reports revealed:
“Gayer and Hamilton’s sheep in charge of H.H. Briscoe, passed Murtie station on the 10th instant. From Hay we learn that stock matters are exceedingly dull, owing principally to the prolonged dry season.”
“Our stock movements are very limited; the only passing during the week being 6000 sheep, Messrs. Gayer and Hamilton, bound for Morden, in charge of Mr. H Briscoe… Navigation, on the Darling, is stopped at present through the heavy floods coming down from Queensand. The weather continues dry and intensely hot, though we had a thunder shower on Saturday morning which cooled the air for a few hours. The river is rising fast, so we may expect the steamers up shortly”
Earlier in about 1865 Henry had met the explorer Ernest Giles during time the latter spent west of the Darling River in search of land suitable for pastoral use. Giles subsequently led three expeditions into Australia’s unknown western interior between 1872 and 1876. The following reference to Henry was made in Giles’ book of his travels, in relation to a location about 130 km south of Alice Springs:
Friday, 15th November  — I rested the horses at this place to-day and did not move the camp. I walked to the top of the tent-hill, and from there saw, that the creek went through another pass a little to the N.E. of our camp. In the afternoon I rode over to this pass, and found some ponds of water a little to the west of it; a bullock, whose tracks I had seen on the creek, had got bogged here, and was now left high and dry. I called these ponds and pass “Briscoe’s-Pass” and ” Briscoe’s-Ponds,” and the little tent hill I have named “Briscoe’s-Tent,” after Mr. H. H. Briscoe, of the Darling-River, who was living with my two friends, Messrs. Middleton and Rogers, when I last saw him.
It can be concluded that Henry Harrison Briscoe was a long standing and well respected resident of the Darling Back Country. Although he may not have travelled further west to the interior of the continent, his name surely did.
On 1 February 1883 Henry finally remarried as a 45 year old widower to the 24 year old Elizabeth Warren, daughter of Richard Robins Warren and Ann Livingston(e) at the Registry Office in Hoddle Street, Collingwood, Victoria. Elizabeth was the eldest of the 13 Warren children and was born on 5 January 1859 at Huntly, Victoria.
It is not known how the two met but it is likely that the link was the ship Marco Polo that arrived in Melbourne from England on September 1852, and which carried both Henry’s future mother-in-law, Annie Livingstone, and Clara (Harrod) Stewart who had been a resident at Langawirra station.
Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage certificate shows that his usual residence was Wilcannia, NSW where he was an overseer while Elizabeth lived at Lake Leaghur in northern Victoria where she worked as a domestic servant.
Elizabeth was apparently pregnant when they married as their first child, Elizabeth Caroline Marion Thomasina, known as Carrie, was born less than seven months later on 31 August 1883 in Hawthorne, Victoria. They were both living at Smith Street, Fitzroy when they married. Two years later a second daughter, Emily Alice Isabella Livingstone who the family called ‘Sister’, was born before the family moved to country New South Wales.
Henry took up a position in the Cobar area as caretaker at the 64 Mile Tank, South Road. This position was most likely gained through another former resident of the Darling Back Blocks, James Boultbee. Boultbee had resided at Gnalta [station], not far from Langawirra, in the 1877-78 period, and in 1886 he had joined the Department of Mines and Agriculture as Superintendent of Public Watering Places. Henry later named one of his sons Boultbee. Their next child, Alfred Edward Henry Harrison was born at the 64 Mile Tank on 1 November 1886 followed by George Albert Ernest Sidney on 7 May 1888.
During the 1891 census Cobar Henry was in Winbar at the Mulya Government Tank, South of Bourke.
The next family home was at The Rock, 32 km southwest of Wagga Wagga, where Henry was the caretaker of the new Government tank dug in 1892 near the railway line to supply water for the town.
Their fifth child, Arthur William Boultbee Torrance was born at The Rock on 10 September 1892 but unfortunately he died on 2 October the following year. Arthur is buried in a lone grave beside the Old Wagga (Collingullie) Road on the north bank of Burkes Creek. The death of baby Arthur may have been the catalyst for Henry and Elizabeth’s decision to have their other four children baptised together at nearby Wagga Wagga in St John’s Church of England on 14 November 1893. The family photo was taken about that time.
Henry and Eliza’s next child, John Robins Warren Low Briscoe was also born at The Rock on 11 January 1895. However when their next son Livingstone Eugene James Alexander was born on 17 July 1896, it was at Pine Street, Sydney, but the reason for being in Sydney at that time is not known.
The youngest child of Henry and Elizabeth, Doris Daisy Mary Devereux, was born on 7 July 1898 after the family had moved to Tooloora Bore near Walgett. Henry was again the caretaker of a Government bore. On 2 March 1901 another girl, Ethel Josephine Dorothy Agnes Briscoe (Aggie), was born at Tooloora Bore. Her birth certificate shows her as illegitimate with Elizabeth Briscoe, aged 46 years, as her mother and the local 28 year old grocer, Edward James Rhynehart, as the father. The seventeen year old Carrie was “present at the birth” and known to the family as the real mother. Aggie was brought up as the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth. Before leaving Walgett Carrie married a local lad, Edward Ramsden.
It is not known exactly when the family moved to Sydney but a newspaper article on 16 September 1905 identified the address of Mrs. E.G. Ramsden as ‘c/o H.H. Briscoe, Macpherson St., Waverley’. The Sands Directory indicates a H.H. Briscoe in North Sydney in 1907, a Henry H. Briscoe at Newtown in 1908 and a H.H. Briscoe in Moorefields Road Canterbury in 1909. It is very likely that these refer to our Henry. Finally in 1909 Henry Harrison Briscoe was registered as a pensioner in the electoral roll at a 13 acres property where they made their home in Tower Street, Beaconsfield, East Hills.
Henry lived with his family at East Hills until his death from cancer of the liver in 1912, aged 75 years. He was buried on 15 April 1912 at St. Saviour’s Church, Row B, Grave No 61.
On this day, 16 March in 1914 my great-grandfather Alfred Charles Bray died in the Exeter Train Disaster.
Alfred was the son of Harry Cornelius Bray who had arrived in Australia on 26 September 1853 at the age of 6 years with his family from Portsmouth on the barque St. George. Alfred’s mother, Mary Bannatyne (Armitage) also from England arriving with her family as assisted immigrants. Mary was named after the ship Mary Bannatyne on which she was born in the English Channel shortly after leaving Plymouth in 1949. Harry and Mary both grew up in Sydney and were married at St. Lilas Church, Waterloo on 22 Dec 1870.
Harry and Mary lived in the south Sydney area while Harry made a living firstly driving a baker’s cart and later as a van proprietor of carrier. Alfred Charles was the eldest of their eight children and born at the family home at 32 Bullinaminga Street, Redfern on 24 May 1871.
By the time Alfred married in 1894, he was employed as a sorter at the General Post Office and his family had moved to Hurstville where they owned adjoining properties at Woids Avenue and Bellevue Avenue. His bride was Ellen Louisa Cole who was born at Bungendore in the Monaro District of NSW on 22 January 1874. Her parents Frederick William and Ellen (McFarlane) Cole were both born in NSW, at Gundaroo and Raymond Terrace respectively. Frederick worked at several of the larger properties or estates in the Bungendore area including Foxlow, Carwoola and Gidleigh. Here the Coles raised their seventeen children.
Little is known of Ellen Louisa’s early life but it is not difficult to imagine that in such a large family that everyone would be kept busy with the daily family chores as well as contributing to work on the estates where they lived. It is likely that she received a basic education at the school at Gidleigh, establish on the property by the owner Mr. Rutledge for the benefit of his family and the resident staff.
It is not known how Alfred met Ellen but before her twentieth birthday she was in Sydney and they married at St. Thomas’ church, Balmain South on 15 February 1894. The couple initially lived at Hurstville with the Alfred’s family and their first daughter, Levena Mary, was born six months after their wedding on 29 August. In 1897 their second child, my grandfather Alfred Ernest Cornelius, was also born at Hurstville.
By the time their next child, Marjorie Elizabeth Martha was born in 1899, Alfred was working as a mail guard based in Orange. They then spent a number of years in Cootamundra where Daisey Fredrita and Dorothy Grace were born in 1901 and 1903 respectively. Finally the family moved back to Hurstville and the Woids Avenue/Bellevue Avenue property. Here they had three more children with Pearl Louisa born in 1906, Charles Cole in 1908 and Ruby Esther in 1910 but she died after two days.
On that fateful night in 1914, Alfred was at work, as normal in the mail van of the Temora Mail train with 134 passengers on board that left Sydney at 8:10pm. It was a foggy night and the train was running late. As the train approached the station at Exeter shortly before midnight it was thought that the heavy fog obscured the signal. The driver was proceeding at only 13 miles per hour but he was not aware of a goods train shunting onto the loop line, until he was only about 65 yards away and although he applied the emergency brakes it was too late to avoid a disaster. The crash occurred 200 yards north of the Exeter station and although the impact speed was about 7mph in the carnage that followed 14 people were killed and another 26 injured.
In an article compiled by Philip Morton, sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, he explains in part that:
“Postal guard Alfred Bray was at the open door preparing to throw mailbags onto the platform – with his head crushed, he died. The second car, caught between the weight of mail van and engine, and the cars behind, leaped from the rails and drove through the front of the third.”
Alfred Charles Bray was buried on 17 Mar 1914 at Woronora Cemetery, Section J, 0001. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 18 March that Alfred’s funeral was “one of the largest funerals ever seen at Woronora Cemetery”. He was just short of 43 years old. Alfred’s death left Ellen a widow at 40 years of age with one married daughter and the six other children at home aged between 17 and 6 years. Ellen’s father had died 15 years earlier and her widowed mother was seventy and living in Balmain. Luckily she had the support Alfred’s family who were still living at the Hurstville properties.
Philip Morton further tells us that:
“The verdict of the Coroner’s Inquest held at Bowral on March 24, 1914 was that [the Temora Mail driver, Peter] Irwin caused the accident by over-running the home signal. A rider was added that loops should be lengthened or refuge sidings placed at both ends, and further precautions taken during fogs to ensure safety of the public by calling out fog signalmen earlier than was the case. Irwin was committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter.”
At the Goulburn Courthouse in April the jury considered there was sufficient doubt, and Irwin was acquitted.
Alfred’s estate was probated on 17 April 1914 and letters of administration granted to the Public trustee. He died intestate and his estate was assessed at under £700. A claim was subsequently made, on behalf of Ellen Louisa Bray, to recover compensation from the Railway Commissioners for alleged negligence in connection with the death of her husband in the collision. The matter was settled for £1200. The deceased left seven children. The jury allocated compensation of £400 to Ellen, £50 to the married Levena Mary (Hebblewhite) and £125 to the other six children.
Ellen was known as a strong independent woman and she successfully continued to raise her children at Hurstville as well as watching her older son, my grandfather Alfred Ernest Cornelius, go off to WW1 when he was 18 Years old in 1915. In 1923 she was remarried to a widower Walter Clark at 103 Baptist Street, Redfern. She died on 27 September 1943 and was buried on 28 September 1943 at Woronora Cemetery next to Alfred.
In March 2014 a solemn memorial service was held at Exeter station commemorating the centenary of the train crash and a memorial plaque was unveiled, which included the names of people who died in the 1914 disaster.
Once again having just a short visit of three days here was only enough to scratch the surface.
The city of Tokyo is one of the most modern in the world as well as one of the largest. The greater Tokyo metropolitan area with its population of over 36 million includes development all along the 37 kms of motorway beside Tokyo Bay from where the Volendam berthed at Yokohama to the centre of Tokyo.
The city proved to be a wonderful contradiction of skyscrapers and the tradition Japanese gardens, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and the Emperor’s palace.
We were lucky enough to have a night out at a small theatre restaurant. Apart from the delicious cuisine and jugs of local beer the entertainment was delightfully traditional Japanese with a Beatles number thrown in for good measure. The stage was segmented and the different sections were raised and lowered to create constantly changing landscapes across which the performers danced and bounded.
We then took a day excursion from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji. We didn’t see the volcano because of the overcast, and we were told that it is quite a rare event to see the summit (so I bought a postcard instead). We had escaped from the megalopolis that is Tokyo into the country where we visited a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine, walked in some lovely gardens and enjoyed some local cuisine, all the time while our guide, Satoru, gave us insights into Japan’s history and culture.
Our several days in and around Tokyo were most enjoyable but with regards to my Japan visit there is another aspect that deserves my blogging about. Japan has held a special significance, if that is the right word, for me because of my own father’s experience as a Japanese prisoner of war in Changi and on the Burma Railway during WW2. I haven’t harboured any hatred of this nation and its people but it has been like a cloud hanging over my feelings that needed to be confronted.
Accordingly I had been looking forward to Japan and particularly Tokyo to learn about this country and its culture that seemed so very different to my own. Learning more about a country’s history certainly helped in my understanding of their culture (and isn’t that one of the main reasons for, and benefits from, travelling overseas).
As explained to us, Japanese culture emphasises humility and belonging to a group rather than individualism. This is in evidence by the respectful bowing that is the norm in society. Unfortunately this same culture has led to some serious social problems especially in retirement. During a career where employees become so dedicated to their company a large proportion do not have time for other interests, and this becomes a real problem for them when they retire.
Without exception, everyone that I have spoken to that has travelled to, or spent time in, Japan has told me that they are a friendly people.
Following WW2 and the virtual obliteration of Tokyo the world has seen how Japan has emerged as an industrial powerhouse in the modern world, largely based on the efficiency and dedication of the Japanese people.
Japan is also particularly prone to natural disasters but these people have a philosophy, as explained by Satoru, along the lines that “thunder, earthquake, typhoon and an angry father, will pass”. To me it seems that this approach in conjunction with their combination of religions is partly responsible for their philosophy – life goes on after such an event.
In our small minibus on the drive back from Mt. Fuji I can say that I have seldom felt more relaxed, content and at peace. The weather during our visit to Japan has been cloudy and often raining, but on a personal level I feel that the clouds have been blown away.