John Morrison (1855 – 1915)

John Morrison was a Manxman. Our Morrison family came from the Isle of Man, not from Scotland as would commonly be assumed, but from that small dot in the middle of the Irish Sea with its rich Celtic and Viking history. He was christened at St. Anne’s parish church on July 23, 1855.

By way of digression, the name St. Anne is a example of the Anglicisation of the Manx culture which over the centuries was similar to that occurring in Scotland and Ireland. The parish was originally named for St. Sanctain, a 6th-century Manx bishop, said to be a disciple of St. Patrick who originally came from the north of England. The name seems to have become confused with St Ann(e) once memory of this obscure Saint had disappeared. Today it is generally known as the parish of Kirk Santan.

St Sanctain’s Church

Another example of Anglicisation relates to the name Morrison which only came into common use on the Isle of Man from about 1800 when surnames also became more stablised. Ancestors of our Morrisons were known by many variations over the centuries including MacGilborr in the 16th century and then tending to be recorded as Mcillvorrey and later Mylvorrey. John’s grandfather was born in 1788 as Patrick Mylvorrey but he died and was buried in 1862 as Patrick Morrison.

Little is known of John’s early life. He married Margaret Christian at the age of twenty-five and raised a family of five children, with another dying in infancy. He worked as a fisherman for a number of years and then as a railway plate-layer, until at the age of about thirty-five he turned to gardening. By 1891 he was living with his family at Kentraugh Mill presumably at the Kentraugh estate where he worked as a gardener for  about the next twelve years. The owners of Kentraugh had included the notable Qualtrough and Gawne families. As well as the outdoor staff the large household sustained up to 12 indoor servants – governess, butler, housekeeper, footmen etc.

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation Institute suggests that Kentraugh appears to have been an older five-bay farmhouse that was enlarged in the period 1815–1820 to become one of the island’s premier estates. The Kentraugh “villa” was built of freestone, taken from the quarries of Mostyn, Denbighshire, North Wales. A noble colonnade extended along the entire front of the building, “upwards of ninety feet, supported by eight massive columns of the Ionic order.”

The various owners of Kentraugh were known as keen agriculturalists. A 1842 guide to “the Isle of Mann” described Kentraugh as possessing “the most extensive shrubberies and hot-houses in the Island” and the 1846 Slater’s Directory noted that “the gardens and pleasure grounds are delightfully laid out.” 

Kentraugh House and Grounds 1969, Photographic Archive, iMuseum, Isle of Man

Gardeners were very well respected and much sought after by the Gentry, often they moved from family to family probably for better pay and maybe a larger garden and to have men working under them.

By about 1903 John had become gardener at Government House, “Bemahague” in Onchan, which was the home of the Lieutenant Governor Lord Raglan. Bemahague, originally a farm, was supposedly built between 1820 and 1830 and extended in 1904 (after purchase by the Government). The house commanded “a fine view of the whole bay” and the grounds covered approximately 12 hectares some of which is lawn and gardens with most of the rest being grazing land.

There may have been an earlier building at Bemahague because a July 2004 Manx National Heritage Library article refers to it in a Mutiny on the Bounty connection. “On February 4 1781 at the Onchan parish church, William Bligh, later commander of the Bounty, married Elizabeth Betham, whose family lived at Bemahague, Onchan.”

This photograph is indeed Government House in the Isle of Man and is published in the book ‘Governors of the Isle of Man since 1765’ by Derek Winterbottom and is captioned Bemahague in the 1880s. ( National Library of Ireland on The Commons: Photographer: Thomas H. Mason)

John showed his flowers at all the Chrysanthemum shows in Douglas and Castletown where he won prizes every time, and an example is seen in comments on the 1908 Chrysanthemum Show in Douglas, that appeared in the local newspaper: ‘Mr. J Morrison the Governor’s gardener made a big step forward in this section and by his wins must have made his Excellency a proud visitor at the Show.’

John must have been a very respected man as this would have been one of the most prestigious positions on the island to be the head Gardener for the Governor.

John is believed to have died in 1915 and buried in Onchan cemetery.


                                                      **************************************

Road Trip

In December 1966 two nineteen year olds undertook a road trip from Sydney to Adelaide, Melbourne and back to Sydney.

The recent discovery of letters and postcards written during those travels brought back back many fond memories.

Our Journey

Read about our road trip on my new page “1966 Road Trip” (see site Menu).

Norma Beryl (Bray) Morrison (1920-2005)

On this day, November 28, ninety-nine years ago my dear mother, Norma Beryl Bray, came into this world.

A young Norma

Born at Hurstville, she was the first of two children to Alfred Ernest Cornelius and Clarice Belle (Bryant) Bray. At about the age of two the young family moved to Restwell Street Bankstown when Alf qualified for a War Service home following World War 1. Bankstown was still a developing suburb at that time and Restwell Street was initially a strip of concrete pavement with no shoulders of kerb and guttering running down from the railway station.

Norma used to recall fond memories of growing up in Bankstown with her best friend Jean two doors away, her brother Doug and the school just up the hill. Recreation included the girl guides, mushroom hunting and family picnics to the Georges River or on trips on Alf’s old motor launch that he kept at Picnic Point. As a teenager Norma developed an interest in swimming when the new Bankstown Olympic pool opened in 1933. This later turned to competitive diving and she was a contender to represent in the Commonwealth Game, until an accident at home. Her father had fired buckshot at rats in the backyard and hit her in the knee. This sapped her confidence and she didn’t return to diving.

After graduating from the Domestic School she learned typing and shorthand and worked in the City. In her social life she enjoyed evening dances either locally or in the City at venues like the Trocadero. She was “stepping out” with her boyfriend Ernie “Skipper” Jordan at dances and watching him play football.

Norma was 20 years old when WW2 broke out. Ernie tried to enlist in the army with his football mate Alf Morrison, but his widowed mother was ill and needed his assistance. Later he decided to join the navy and was assigned to the HMAS Sydney. The sinking of this ship in November 1941 and loss of Ernie was devastating to Norma and she took quite a time to recover. It almost certainly influenced her decision to join the WRANS in October 1942. She was an early enlistment in this new service, number WR120, and spent the next four years as a cook at HMAS Harman at Canberra and later as a Petty Officer at HMAS Rushcutters in Sydney.

WRAN Norma Bray, WR120

After the war she teamed up with Alf Morrison who had returned to Bankstown after three and a half years as a prisoner of war in Changi and on the infamous Burma Railway. They were married on 13 July 1946 and were united for 49 years until his death in 1995 raising four children.

Norma and Alf’s Wedding, 1946

Alf was a carpenter and built the first family home at Auburn Road Yagoona. The family moved to Narooma on the NSW coast for five year before returning to Sydney where Alf built a home at Sutherland were they lived for the next ten years. During this period Norma raised her children, supplemented the family income when necessary and looked after Alf as health problems, resulting from his wartime incarceration, started to surface.

Norma and daughter – First baby born in Crown Street Women’s Hospital in 1949

As they approach retirement, the decision was made to move to Sawtell on the NSW north coast where Alf built their final family home. With the two younger children finishing school, Alf finally retired with a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) pension. This was not an easy period for Norma but she renewed her interest by becoming a Guide Leader and embracing “outside” fishing.

The couple’s final house moves were to the Central Coast where after trying to cope in their own home, they moved into the Lake Haven Masonic Village. Alf’s health condition was progressively deteriorating but they were able to undertake some overseas travels to Singapore and Thailand proving both a joy and therapeutic to both of them. Norma made several very close friends at the village and she threw herself into volunteering at Legacy for which she was later commended. Lake Haven was the venue of many family gatherings for Christmases and birthdays for her dispersed children and growing number of grandchildren.

Norma and Alf in Singapore

Alf died in 1995 at the age of 79 years and in Norma’s ten final years she enjoyed many holiday trips with her Lake Haven friends. She was dearly loved by her family and friends for her selfless approach to life.

Today the ashes of both Norma and Alf lie together with commemorative plaques at the Toukley RSL gardens. Although somewhat “out of the way”, her children often stop to say hello.

 

Cruising the Pacific

After leaving Kona we looked forward to five days at sea before reaching Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango). Five days at sea with nowhere to go and nothing to do – not really.

This cruise in the western half the Pacific Ocean starting in the northern hemisphere, at Hawaii, the most remote island group in the world, crossed the equator (and the International date line) heading generally southwest in the South Pacific to home.

With temperatures in the mid to high twenties (Celsius) it is easy to succumb to a routine of just relaxing next to one of the two pools, lying on a deck chair, catching a passing waiter for a cold Hawaiian beer in between eating, eating, Happy Hour and more eating.

But there is also a lot to do and while I do not like to subscribe to simplistic slogans, I would like to think that I could finish the cruise fitter not fatter even considering the many temptations.

Routine is always important, isn’t it? So starting the day with a visit the Fitness Centre each morning was good before deciding how best to enjoy the day. Among the available daily options chosen were: lectures by excellent speakers on a series of astronomy and relevant history/geography topics, Microsoft workshops with lessons on the various software, movies and variety shows in the large World Theatre, the string quartet plus piano at the Lincoln Center Theatre (in association with the New York Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), and more.

We have a number of excursions ashore lined up during our stops at the various islands and we are presented with talks about each one so that we can make the most of our visits.

As I type, the string quartet is playing a series of movie classics including “Windmills of my Mind”, “The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and Star Wars themes. Next I will pick up Jenny from reading her good book before repairing to the back pool for a swim, possible drink or two, maybe more reading for a while and generally relaxing.

Cruising at sea is about relaxing but that doesn’t mean doing nothing all day…

Visiting Hawaii

Our Pacific holiday started in Hawaii, visiting for the second time after some six years absence.

Waikiki and Diamond Head

There is an almost infinite number of ways to spent one’s time on the archipelago that is the Hawaiian Islands. Having briefly visited most of the major islands on our last trip, on this occasion we opted for a relaxing stay in Honolulu at Waikiki.

Arizona Memorial

Waikiki is all about tourism with its beaches, hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. The most popular tourist attraction is Pearl Harbor with the Arizona memorial and “Mighty Mo” (the battleship Missouri).

“Mighty Mo” Missouri

The sunken Arizona is a war grave to hundreds of servicemen and naturally a hallowed site to Americans, as Gallipoli and the Western Front memorials are to Australians. Any visitor would be touched by the tragedy of the event commemorated. I had visited the Arizona previously and was equally moved on this second visit. The tour of the Missouri was the first time for me.

The battleship Missouri is the impressive vessel in itself, but also its decks witnessed the ceremony of the signing of the Japanese surrender in 1945. Our tour guide explained how despite the Japanese fears that this event would herald harsh recriminations by the United States and the Allies, General Macarthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, essentially just proclaimed an end to hostilities and a future peace.

Japanese Surrender 1945

Among those present on board in Tokyo Bay that day representing Australia was General Sir Thomas Blamey. One of the officers representing the United Kingdom had only days before been released from a Japanese prisoner of war camp and was present despite his weak and emaciated condition. The symbolism of his survival through the horrors of that captivity was particularly poignant for me because my own father had spent three and a half years in Changi and on the Burma Railway.

Back to relaxing in Waikiki. In addition to morning swims at the beach we enjoyed the hotel pool with its café and the nearby Maui Brewing Co. restaurant and bar. We sampled a number of restaurants and a delightful sunset dinner cruise complete with Mai Tais and Hawaiian entertainment. There was also the obligatory shopping, seeking shoes, beach and golfing wear.

There always seems to be something happening in Honolulu. We were told the Waikiki has many street parades and during our visit the colourful rainbow “Honolulu Pride” parade attracted large numbers of participants and spectators.

Honolulu Pride parade

After several relaxing days in Honolulu we boarded the MS Noordam for our 19 day island-hopping cruise back home to Sydney.

Day 1 – Lahaina, Maui

We opted for a submarine excursion to view the coral reef and old ship deliberately sunk off the coast. The distinctive native yellow tang and larger parrot fish were among the multitude of sea life living off the coral reef and the artificial one provided by the ship. It was an exciting experience diving to 130 feet in the purpose-built craft.

This was followed by a snack of delicious calamari and French fries washed down with some local beer and a Singapore Sling.

Then there was more swimming in one of the ship’s two pools, followed by happy hour, dinner and finally a pleasant session with a string quartet plus piano playing classic ballet numbers.

Day 2 – Kona

Like yesterday there was a shuttle service of the ship’s tenders to and from the island. Today we joined a glass-bottomed boat trip over the in-shore reef and got an even closer look at the sea life through crystal clear waters.

A short dip at the man-made beach near the pier was followed by another visit to the local lunch spot overlooking the shore where again we chose calamari with a different local beer and Pina Colada.

Another swim was enjoyed on board on our return. We set sail during “happy hour” saying goodbye to Hawaii as the clouds rolled across and the mountains behind the town and a bright rainbow rose from the shoreline appearing to wish us well on our voyage home.

Goodbye to Kona and Hawaii

After another delicious dinner we finished another enjoyable day by again listened to the string quartet this time playing their “American Songbook” highlighted by Rhapsody in Blue.

Bathurst Connections

Together with millions of other Aussies I recently tuned in to watch some of the Bathurst 1000 motor race. I like many viewers am not a devotees of Supercars but still get a lot of enjoyment out of this “great race”. It is a unique event mainly because of the challenging circuit at Mount Panorama which is a public road when not used for racing. The Mount Panorama Scenic Drive on the outskirts of Bathurst was opened in 1938 and the first motor race was conducted that year.

Mount Panorama, Bathurst

Bathurst was the first inland settlement in the British colony of New South Wales, proclaimed in 1815 at the end of Cox’s Road over the Blue Mountains. It was named by Governor Macquarie after Henry Bathurst, the then Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. Henry was the third Earl Bathurst and hailed from Bathurst Manor in Sussex.

Until the “great race”, the city’s main claim to fame was probably the discovery of gold in the area and becoming the centre for Australia’s first gold rush from early 1851. The Bathurst 1000 has certainly brought further prosperity to the City.

Well, back to the 2019 race. This year the winner was one of our antipodean cousins, Scott McLaughlin, with fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen coming second. It was again a most exciting and spectacular race with the cross-Tasman rivalry only being overshadowed by that between Holden and Ford.

The rivalry across the “ditch” between the two nations, who could be accused of being obsessed with sport, extends to almost all codes including cricket, sailing, rugby league, soccer, netball, but is usually epitomised by contests on the rugby field. The World Cup currently has the public’s attention but it is the annual Bledisloe Cup contests that continually embodies this local rivalry. The Bledisloe Cup trophy was donated in 1937 by Lord Bledisloe the Governor General of New Zealand, so that this competition started at about the same time as racing at Mount Panorama.

Bledisloe Cup on display in Sydney 2014

Lord Bledisloe, an avid rugby fan was President of the Lydney rugby club near his family home in Gloucestershire, a position he held for some 70 years until his death. He took his passion with him to New Zealand and surely would be happy with what he started.

Lydney was near the ancient hamlet of Bledisloe, which is recorded in the Domesday Book during the reign of William the Conqueror and which gave its name to his title. But the interesting connection is that Lord Bledisloe’s name was Charles Bathurst, a relative (second cousin three times removed) of the namesake of our wonderful City.

Sydney Metro Northwest OR Public Transport Pub Lunch

Does a group of retired civil engineers who have known each other for some 55 years need an excuse to meet for a pub lunch? Of course not, but having other elements of common interest for the get-together can certainly add to the enjoyment of the day.
Previous lunches have tended to be city-based and focussed on heritage aspects of our beautiful Sydney (see my blog of 18 June 2018). However, for our latest outing it was proposed that we give it more of an engineering theme with an on-site inspection of the newly completed Sydney Metro Northwest.
Coming from all over the metropolitan area as we do, a convenient rendezvous and starting point for our excursion was the Occidental Hotel in York Street near Wynyard. We have visited this establishment previously and enjoyed the atmosphere in this 1850s building. When all assembled, refreshed and our gold Opal cards in-hand we set off by train to Chatswood where we were able to merely cross the platform to board the waiting Metro train.
The train itself was like one continuous carriage with no internal doors. It sped along at 80 kph through the tunnel section of the trip and we were able to easily walk to the front of the train to check on the driver, but he/she must have been on a coffee break. There was a staff member aboard and she performed an excellent public relations role, answering all our questions and assuring us that she could take control of the train if ever required.

A Metro Station

The Elegant Skytrain

Once out of the tunnel the train could travel at up to 100kph along the elevated “skytrain” section while we enjoyed the vista of north-western Sydney all the way to the end of the line at Tallawong station.
After giving the rolling stock our tick of approval we detrained at Rouse Hill to get a closer look at the appointment of that modern station and the construction of the elevated structure as it swept away to the west above Windsor Road.

Windsor Road at Rouse Hill

A short stroll along that road brought us to the old heritage listed stone building that was the “Mean Fiddler Inn”. Dating from the 1820s and variously known as the Royal Oak Inn, the Queens Arms Inn and the White Hart Inn, it served as a popular watering hole between Parramatta and Windsor/Richmond.

The Mean Fiddler

Now known simply as The Fiddler after “cleaning up its act” (Daily Telegraph 25/10/2014) for being known as New South Wales’ most violent pub. Today it caters for the local community and is much more family friendly. We lunched and enjoyed the Irish pub atmosphere complete with Guinness pie, amidst the historic eclectic decore.
Our luncheon outing was completed by retracing our steps to the City.
We were all greatly impressed by the both engineering and operational aspects of this new public transport facility, and looking at the planned future expansion of the network it promises to be a big step towards meeting Sydney’s transport needs.