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.

 

The Marco Polo, “Bully” Forbes and the Livingstons

The Marco Polo was in its time called the “fastest ship in the world”. She was a 1625 ton three masted clipper ship built by James Smith and Co. of St. John, New Brunswick in Canada and launched in 1851. In 1852 she was bought by James Baines of the Black Ball Line and refitted for passengers specifically for the Australian packet service of assisted emigrants.

Thomas Robertson (1819-1873) Courtesy of State Library of Victoria

The Illustrated London Times described the Marco Polo: “her lines fore and aft are beautifully fine…she has an entrance as sharp as a steamboat [and a] bottom like a yacht; she has above water all the appearance of a frigate”

The master engaged for the Marco Polo was Scotsman Captain James Nicol “Bully” Forbes. The first voyage to Australia departed from Liverpool on 4 July 1852 and on board were my Scottish 3x great-grandparents James and Isabella Livingston and their five children.

Extract for Marco Polo’s passenger list

The Marco Polo sailed from the Mersey bound for Melbourne in July 1852 with some “930 government emigrants” on board, 661 were Scottish, and arrived at Hobson’s Bay in Port Phillip 68 days later on 18 September. The ship almost immediately returned to England arriving back in Liverpool on Boxing Day, after a 76 day voyage; the whole return trip being less than some ships took in the trip to Australia.

The regular “Admiralty Route” to Australia consisted basically of following the 39th parallel across the Indian Ocean after replenishing supplies at the Cape of Good Hope. This provided mariners with a single straight course to steer. In the first half of the nineteenth century the voyage from England to Australia averaged 120 days. The length of the journey was a deterrent to many prospective emigrants.

Clipper ships, like Marco Polo, as well as being able to attain high speeds under ideal conditions were also able to make progress when most vessels were becalmed (in the equatorial doldrums of the Atlantic). However there was another factor that contributed to Marco Polo’s record breaking voyage. Instead of following the Admiralty route Forbes adopted a course based on Towson’s “great circle” theory.

John Thomas Towson was a scientific examiner of masters and mates at Liverpool. He realised that because the earth is a sphere the shortest route between two points on the earth was in fact a curve and not a straight line. He termed this curve the “great circle”.

The apparent direct route across the Indian Ocean (following the 39th parallel) was longer than the “great circle” route which in practice became a series of chords on that curve. Adopting this required great skill using both the sextant and the chronometer so that would masters know precisely when to alter course (along the next chord). In 1847 Towson’s published his “Tables to Facilitate the Practice of Great Circle Sailing” and he was awarded £1,000.

The great circle to Australia led into Antarctica and hundreds of kilometres south of the Cape of Good Hope. In practice this was modified due to the extreme weather conditions, big seas and the risk of collision with ice bergs. However the winds of the roaring forties and to further south also made progress much quicker.

Bully Forbes was not the first to use Towson’s theory with Captain Godfrey in the Constance in 1850 ventured far south following Towson’s theory and reached Adelaide in 77 days. Few other such voyages followed until the record voyage of the Marco Polo after which the great circle route became more the norm especially in the rush by emigrants to get to the Victorian gold fields.

“The Marco Polo completed the round trip to Australia a total of twenty-five times in the fifteen years after the first voyage bringing around 150,000 immigrants to Victoria.” However, “Bully” Forbes virtually ended his master’s career in 1855 when attempting to set a record for the voyage to Australia in under 60 days in the 2600 ton Schomberg. This ship that he captained ran aground on a sandbar near Curdies River at the approach to Bass Strait.

My Scottish Livingston ancestors James and Isabella, who sailed on the Marco Polo, hailed from the village of Laroch in Argyllshire where their five children were born. James had been employed in the slate quarries in the Ballaculish area.

Why James decided, at the age of 47 years to leave home for Australia with his young family might never been exactly known, the Victorian gold rush had started and he received assisted passage.

The voyage to Australia was known to be an arduous one, but at that time many people, and probably the Livingstons, were conditioned to hardship.

One emigrating couple (from Somerset) wrote:

“The conditions [on the ship] were clearly not intolerable…if you lived on 7s 6d a week in a cottage built of mud and straw with an earth floor and a thatched roof, relieving yourself at the bottom of the garden into a pit with a rough seat bench over it, drawing your water from a well which might be several hundred yards away, and cooking your food over an open fire”.
(Basil Greenhill and Ann Giffard)

There was a measles epidemic on board. 52 people died, 46 of whom were children under four years of age.

The following are extracts for Marco Polo’s passenger list showing: Livingston family: James, Isabella and young children,
and, single male: son, James.

It appears that both James and Isabella “reduced” their ages in these records possibly to meet eligibility requirement of assisted passage.

After arriving at Port Phillip on 18 September 1852, little is known where and how they lived, although it is likely that headed for the gold fields. Only a few years later in 1858, their daughter and my 2x great-grandmother Ann was married to Richard Robins Warren at Sandhurst (now Bendigo) and in 1863 James registered a mining claim there.

In later life James and Isabella lived at Kerang in northern Victoria and are buried in the local cemetery in unmarked graves. They lived to the ripe old age of 80 and 88 years old respectively.

References
*Charlwood, Don, “The Long Farewell: A history of the first migrations to Australia”,
1998, Burgewood Books, Warrandyte
*Empire (Sydney, NSW: 1850 – 1875), Wed 29 Sep 1852 , Page 2 , MELBOURNE SHIPPING.
*Western District Families – Stories of Pioneering Families From the Western District of
Victoria, https://westerndistrictfamilies.com/tag/marco-polo/
* Thompson, John, “Hell or Melbourne in 60 days”

Our Joycie Violet

You may not have met our Joycie Violet.

She started life in 2010 at Valley Heights with Chinese ancestry but the ability to adjust well to our Australian way of life, and now residing happily at Picnic Point.

She loves our summer months but arguably looks her best at this time of year. Today is an especially fine sunny winter’s day at 22 degrees and with a gentle breeze. So, as I sit on the deck I can enjoy the golden shower of leaves that make a golden carpet where there was green lawn. Joycie Violet’s close neighbour (Crepe) Myrtle has lost her beautiful pink flowers and then her bronzed leaves some time ago and stands naked. Now it is Joycie’s turn as her vibrant green coat turn golden and then falls. Joycie always seems to cling onto her coat as long as possible and the warmer-than-usual autumn appears to have further prolonged her desire for modesty.

This magnificent, much-loved centre-piece of our small yard, grown from a stick in the Blue Mountains now surpasses her progenitor as a fine example of her species.

Within a short time she will also stand completely unadorned and allow the winter sun to intrude into her domain. Her carpet of leaves will be cleared away, maybe before grandchildren can rake them into piles for jumping into. This fun has provided some connection for these children to the great grandmother they never knew.

Our Joycie Violet is a gracious lady and a fitting reminder of her namesake Violet Joyce Bruce who left us nineteen years ago.

Link

antoinewalsh

Anthony (Antoine) Vincent Walsh

At this day, 22 January, in 1703, my 5th great-grandfather Anthony (Antoine) Vincent Walsh was baptised in the cathedral in Saint Malo, Brittany France. In terms of my own family history he is quite a significant and controversial figure.

The city of Saint Malo, where he was born, is definitely on my list of place I wish to visit. It is situated on the English Channel and on the right bank of the estuary of the Rance River. It is described as having the old walled city standing on a granite islet that is joined to the mainland by an ancient causeway and by an avenue bridging the inner harbour. The city was named for Maclou, or Malo, an Irish monk, born in what is now known as Wales, who fled to Brittany, making his headquarters on the island in the 6th century. Saint Malo Cathedral church is the city’s centrepiece dating from the twelfth century and with its spire still the tallest building in the city.

stmalo

Saint Malo

Saint Malo was a long way from the traditional Walsh family home in Kilkenny. Anthony’s Jacobite grandfather James had forfeited his estates of Ballynacooly in the Walsh Mountains in about 1665 in the face of protestant William of Orange’s war in Ireland. Anthony’s father Philip, had been a merchant in Waterford, but then established himself in Saint Malo by about 1685 as a shipbuilder. He came to prominence being recorded as having transported the defeated King James II on board his ship from Kinsale, County Cork to France in July 1690 after the Battle of the Boyne and the unsuccessful bid to reclaim the throne of England. This started the family connections to the Stuarts and was Anthony’s heritage.

Antoine served in the French navy before settling in Nantes, which had emerged as France’s chief slaving port and where there was a large close-knit Irish community. In 1741 he married Mary O’Shiell, a French-Irish businesswoman in Nantes.

In 1744 he commissioned a new French privateer the Du Teillay  of 18 guns, in Nantes. She played a central role in the Jacobite rising of 1745, ferrying Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) to Ardmolich with supplies and funds to support his cause.

doutelle2

‘Action on the 9th of July 1745 between the Lion of 60 guns, Captain Percy Brett / and the Elisabeth of 64 guns, the Doutelle [le Du Teillay] in the distance making / her escape with the Pretender on board./ Painted for Admiral Lord Anson’. Inscription by the painter, Samuel Scott(1702-1772)

In recognition of his support and his noble Irish ancestry, in 1745 James III bestowed upon Anthony the title of Earl Walsh.

Much has been recorded and written about Antoine and the life he led as a successful merchant, a major figure in the slave trade and wealthy sugar plantation owner in the Caribbean. He was instrumental in the triangular trade between Europe, Africa and the French West Indies in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue.

‘Aeneas McDonald describes him in 1745 as “an eminent merchant of Nantz … This Mr. Welch chiefly trades to Martinico. He has 24 merchantmen and provateers” (The Lyon in Mourning, Scot. Hist. Soc., vol. i, p.293)’

In his book Murder, Mutiny & Mayhem: The Blackest-Hearted Villains from Irish History, Joe O’Shea‘s suggests that this exiled Irishman:

“…had personally bought and sold over 12,000 African slaves and launched 40 cross-Atlantic slave voyages. He was the greatest – or worst – of the Irish-Nantes slavers…”

He died at Cap Francais, San Domingo (now Haiti), on 2 March 1763 and his Jacobite peerage passed to his second and only surviving son, Antoine Jean Baptiste Paulin Walsh.

Today it is difficult to reconcile his slave trading with our world. But while not excusing it, those were obviously different times when it seems to have been viewed almost as a legitimate business activity. It is ironic that his grandson Thomas Walsh (see my post of August 28, 2017) would father a daughter with a descendant of an African slave.

Thomas Speechley at Currambene

Bush walking and family history are not often commonly associated. However on my morning walk along Currambene Creek off Jervis Bay I revisited a favourite site of mine which has both local and family history significance.

During summer I look forward to visiting Myola and as well as enjoying the delights of Jervis Bay, I take at least one morning walk though the neighbouring bushland. From Myola Road, I head along Catherine Street that runs north past the last house following Currambene Creek until the sealed pavement comes to an end near the local boat ramp. Beyond that point the dirt track is generally passable only in a four wheel drive vehicle used mostly by free campers along the creek. My walk route is generally triangular and after leaving the creek the track heads towards Callala, again rutted with evidence of trail bikes. The final leg is a well maintained fire trail back to Myola Road.

Recent rain had helped the breeding of mosquitoes but even these don’t really detract from the pleasure of listening to the chorus of cicadas that spasmodically rose to thunderous proportions ensuring that even on the cooler morning it was a reminder of summer.

About five minutes walk past the boat ramp there are a number of pine bollards beside the track marking the path to the lone grave of six year old Thomas Speechley who died over a hundred years ago. If you weren’t aware it was there you would miss the notice erected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service about the site. Along the path past the notice, the grave sits within its bush setting with clear evidence of regular visits.

Finding the grave site

About the Grave…

There it is

The grave provides a glimpse into the history of the area and the Speechley family and is a place I visit every time I take this bush walk.

Thomas Speechley

A lot has been written about Thomas’s grave and by googling him you can find details of his tragic death as well some local and aboriginal history of Currambene.

I have distance Speechley cousins in my own family tree and one day I will delve further into that family to see if I have a connections with Thomas’s family.

Edward Leech and Malmsbury

While on a recent family history road trip in Victoria, which was otherwise unfruitful, I saw the turn-off to Malmsbury (some 86 kms north-west of Melbourne), alerting my genealogical antenna with its connection with my great-great Grandfather, Edward Leech.

Some time ago I was contacted by Susan Walter, who was undertaking a PhD thesis entitled ‘Malmsbury Bluestone and Quarries: Finding Holes in History and Heritage’. During her research Susan came across the 1861 birth record for Martha Elizabeth Leech at Malmsbury and finding my family website where my Leech family is identified, she took the trouble to email me. At the time I had no idea that Edward and his family had lived anywhere else but Sydney after their arrival from England, but more of that shortly.

Of course I took that turn-off.

The connections were due to Edward being a stonemason and the building of the Malmsbury railway viaduct using the local bluestone. The viaduct is a significant historic structure and was the largest masonry arch railway bridge in Victoria at the time. It has 5 spans totalling 100 meters long and is 25 metres high. The dark blue granular basalt, or bluestone, quarried in Malmsbury was used widely on important buildings throughout Victoria including Parliament House.

Malmsbury Railway Viaduct

The bridge itself was part of the railway line connecting Melbourne and Bendigo over the Coliban River where prospectors used to cross on their way to the Castlemaine goldfields. The viaduct itself was constructed between 1858 and 1860 with the railway opening in July 1861.

All the documentation relating to Edward Leech refers to him as a stonemason. He was born in 1812 in the Herefordshire village of Wellington where his father Anthony Leach was also born. Wellington is 51/2 miles north of Hereford on the Leominster Road and seems to have had a relative static population over the years of between 600 to 700 people. Its parish church dates from the 12th century and has been added to over the centuries. There is a quarry less than a mile from the village which probably gave Edward his living.

No other record was found of him or his family in the area. He is not found in the 1841 or 1851 censuses and it is assumed he moved to the London area where on 1 August 1852 he married Martha Thwaites at Kennington in Surrey, although according to informant, Edward on the NSW birth certificate of his daughter, my great grandmother, Emmelina it was at Camberwell in London.

On 30 September 1854 he departed from the Port of London on the ship Queen of England with Martha and daughters Mary Jane and Anne bound for New South Wales. The family reached Sydney on 9 January 1855 and when Emmelina was born on 30 August 1856 they were living at Maryland, Camden, County of Cumberland. The Maryland homestead and outbuildings are historically significant and some are made of stone masonry. It is not known whether Edward was involved in their construction.

Being a stonemason and it is assumed that work on the Malmsbury viaduct took him and the family to Victoria where baby Martha Elizabeth was born on 14 February in 1861.

Soon after the new daughter and the opening on the railway the “Leich family”, in August 1861, is recorded on local shipping aboard the Wonga Wonga from Melbourne back to Sydney. By 1864 home was at Botany Road, Waterloo where Edward lived until he died on 19 September 1877. Within two years Martha was also dead. They were buried next to each other at the Necropolis, Rookwood Cemetery. Of their four daughters two were already married and Emmelina and Martha Elizabeth were wed in the year of their mother’s death.

In his will Edward again referred to himself as a stonemason and living at Leechs building, Botany Road, Waterloo. Can it be construed that he was successful at his trade over his lifetime?

 

Alfred Ernest Cornelius Bray (1897-1968)

On this day, 22 June in 1968, Alfred Ernest Cornelius Bray passed away at the Repatriation Hospital, Concord, NSW, Australia, aged 71 after serving in two world wars, being heavily involved in sport, and the RSL movement, starting up his own business while with his wife Belle raising two children. One or my regrets is that I didn’t get to know my grandfather better.

 

Alf Bray

Alf was born on 3 March in 1897 at Hurstville, NSW, the second child and eldest son of the eight children of Alfred Charles and Ellen Louisa (Cole) Bray. Growing up in Hurstville as a youngster he played rugby union but then converted to rugby league which became his passion.

His father was a railway mail guard which probably enabled Alf to get a position as a clerk with the NSW Railways at Railway Yards. However in 1914, at the age of seventeen is father Alfred Charles Bray was one of fourteen people killed it the Exeter rail disaster (see my post if March 16, 2018). This caused considerable problems for his mother Ellen and her family.

Alf was now the male head of the family but just over a year later at the age of just 18 years, in August 1915, he enlisted in the AIF answering the call of mother England to fight in World War 1. Sailing from Sydney in December and after training in Egypt he arrived in France in March 1916 part of A Company of the 3rd Battalion. He served in France and Belgium at the Somme, in Flanders and many other theatres until 22 June 1918 when at Strazelle he was caught in a German gas attack. He was seriously injured and after treatment in Boulogne, convalesced in England for a period before returning to his unit and final back to Australia in February 1919. Alf kept diary throughout the war years and it is now held by the NSW State Library. While in Flanders he bought a souvenir pewter broach of the coat of arms of Ypres and which he later gave to his wife.

Ypres WWI Souvenir

He returned home and lived with his family at Woids Avenue, Hurstville before marrying Clarice Belle Bryant on 16 October 1919 at Kogarah, took up his position of clerk in the Railways and a year later their daughter Norma Beryl was born.

His war service entitled him to a War Service home and in early 1923 the family moved to their brand new home in Restwell Street Bankstown. The following year a son, Douglas Arthur was born. He also transferred to the railway sheds at nearby Punchbowl and under doctor’s orders walked to and from work to further help with recuperation from his gas-affected lung problems.

At Restwell Street created a family home making maximum use of the back yard. He laid out paths separating garden beds where he grew vegetables and flowers. He built fish ponds, aviaries, and there was garage that he used as a workshop. Norma would recall how he would arrive home from work, have a cup of tea and then spend all evening until dinner in the back yard or garage. When I was only young we would enjoy visiting Nana and Pa and exploring the back yard with their silky terrier, Skippy.

He encouraged and supported both children in sports with Norma taking up competitive diving while Doug raced bicycles. There were also plenty of family outings, a favourite being boating in his cabin launch on the Georges River.

His own sporting activities had started when he played rugby union but in 1915. He soon transferred to rugby league with the Penshurst R.L.F.C. in the St, George Competition. After the war he took up the whistle, becoming a referee in 1923, and he officiated in the Canterbury-Bankstown Competition until 1933, and was the Hon. Secretary of Canterbury-Bankstown Referees’ Association in 1929. In 1936 he became Secretary of the Canterbury-Bankstown Junior League, and then on the Committee of the District Club when they won their first premiership in 1938. He replaced Frank Miller as Canterbury-Bankstown Club Secretary in 1939 until WWII intervened (refer The Rugby League News July 1, 1939).

Alf’s war experiences also generated a deep interest in supporting his fellow war veterans. He was one of the instigators in the establishment of the Bankstown Sub-Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSL) in October 1928 and was its first President. He remained in the role until 1933 and was a member of the State Executive of NSW in 1932-3. When a Women’s Auxiliary was also formed, Belle was its first Secretary.

The RSL Club started at the top of Restwell Street in a tin shed near the railway line but meetings were also held on the Bray residence in Restwell Street with Belle baking cakes for supper. The RSL members assisted out-of-work men during the Depression. Working out of Alf’s garage, scrap pieces of timber from timber yards were made into toys for Christmas presents such as wheel barrows, school cases, chairs, etc.

He again volunteered for service when World War 2 broke out, enlisting in July 1940 claiming he was born in December 1900 (giving him an age of 39 years instead of 43). . He served as a Temporary Warrant Officer training recruits at Dorrigo, Uralla and Armidale but was discharged “being medically unfit for further military service” in October 1944, no doubt as a result of his WW1 injuries.

After the war he decided to pursue his passion for gardening and on resigning from the Railways he established Bray’s Bankstown Nursery which operated in the Bankstown CBD in Fetherstone Street for many years.

Alf and Belle finally retired to Toukley on the Central Coast of NSW where they he enjoyed their last years together and he continued to propagate plants while his son Doug took over the nursery business. On his death he was cremated at Woronora Memorial Park and a plaque placed on the Wall of Remembrance in Row 16, Panel R.

Bankstown RSL 70th Anniversary

At the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Bankstown RSL in 1998, Alf’s service to the Club was also commemorated and a special certificate of appreciation presented to his daughter.

Although he had lived a full life, my Pa still died too young surely shortened by his war experiences, and at the same age I am today. I share a common regret with many family historians, after having discovered some details about an ancestor that I didn’t have a chance to get to know my grandfather better.