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).

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.

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 Darling River in a Land of “Droughts and Flooding Rains”

I do not class myself as a “greenie” (a person who campaigns for protection of the environment) but my environmental conscious was pricked when in the last two days two separate news items brought home to me the need for urgent action. I felt obliged to write this blog.

The first item was the latest Australian Story on the ABC called “Cry Me a River” about the plight of the Darling River at Menindee near Broken Hill. The current situation along our once darling river (without capitals) is a result of Government authority decision-making, emanating from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, in conjunction with the current severe drought conditions.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority was established after the millennium drought, regarded as our worst ever drought. The Basin Plan 2012 was prepared under the Water Act 2007 by the Authority. The following is an excerpt from the Plan:

“5.02      Objectives and outcome for Basin Plan as a whole

(1)       The objectives for the Basin Plan …

(2)       The outcome for the Basin Plan as a whole is a healthy and working Murray‑Darling Basin that includes:

(a)       communities with sufficient and reliable water supplies that are fit for a range of intended purposes, including domestic, recreational and cultural use; and

(b)      productive and resilient water-dependent industries, and communities with confidence in their long‑term future; and

(c)       healthy and resilient ecosystems with rivers and creeks regularly connected to their floodplains and, ultimately, the ocean.”

On 24 December 2018, WaterNSW noted on their website that:

“A Red Alert level warning (high alert) for blue-green algae has been issued for the Darling River at Louth and Trevallyn, located in the Far West region.

Both sites are located upstream of the Menindee Lake system where multiple Red Alerts are already in place.”

As we know, the situation resulted in three major fish kills that occurred in the Darling River near Menindee in December 2018 and January 2019. The resultants Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling river system has found that river allocations were driven by politics, and called for a complete overhaul of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It argued that a scientific approach must be taken in determining how much water should be returned to the environment. (new.com.au on 1 Feb 2019)

As the champion of the Australian Story, a young Kate McBride indicated that all the decisions and actions were apparently quite legal but asked the question of whether they were moral. Irrespective there was undoubtedly a failure here in regard to the “outcome[s] for the Basin Plan” and it is only hoped that as a community and nation we can do something about this matter.

The Darling River is of special significance for me because my great-grandfather, Henry Harrison Briscoe lived and worked around Wilcannia from the 1870s. Later with his family he spent several years at other places along its banks like Louth and Bourke. Paddle steamers used had the Darling for river trade (except in drought times) until about 1880 when more reliable roads and railways were established. The river played a significant role in opening up the outback.

During a recent visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales a painting by William Charles Piguenit caught my eye. Painted in 1895 it is called The flood in the Darling 1890, depicting when the town of Bourke was submerged by floodwaters. I understand that despite the current drought there will more than likely be other floods on the Darling, but the difference between the scene in this painting and the present reality was striking.
“The flood in the Darling 1890” by W C Piguenit (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

The Darling will never again be as navigable as it was in those early days, but it still has important social, economic and environmental contributions to make, and on which many rely. I hope we can learn to love our darling river again.

The second item was the United Nations report on the decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, but maybe more about that later…

Thoughts on ANZAC DAY 2019

Today it is 104 years since that fateful day when the youth of Australia and New Zealand, as part of the British force, stormed the beaches of Gallipoli. April 25 is the one day of the year when we stop to commemorate them and all the men and women who served in defending our way of life.

World War 1 ended 101 years ago, with WW2 ending 74 years ago, the Korean War 66 years ago and our “boys” returned from Vietnam in 1975 some 44 years ago. The history of our world, however, is not one of peace among peoples but of conflict and since 1990 Australian forces have been involved in various Middle East conflicts, not to forget a number of peace keeping operations.

Unlike many other countries Australia is not a militaristic nation, and this was the theme of the address of a very eloquent young man at the local Dawn Service that I attended this morning. He stressed how our service men and women were defending our way of life and how as individuals we all have a responsibility to uphold the standards that have, and are continuing to be fought for. He suggested that by emphasising and practicing a sense of community (is that “mateship”) and inclusiveness it would help counteract those who wish to spread division and hate in our society. If this young fellow’s views are typical of the coming generation we will be in safe hands.

Like most of my baby boomer era many of my family and extended family have served Australia. A few of those family members who I particularly wish to remember are:

Alfred Edward Henry Harrison BRISCOE, who served at Gallipoli contracting malaria after which he was evacuated to Cairo, where he now rests in the War Memorial Cemetery.

Alfred Ernest Cornelius BRAY, who as an 18 year old volunteered in 1915 serving on the Western Front where he was wounded and gassed. He again volunteered in in 1941 serving in a training capacity.

Alfred Ernest MORRISON who as a member of the 8th Division was captured following the fall of Singapore in February 1942 spending three and a half years as a Japanese prisoner of war in Changi and on the Burma railway.

Norma Beryl BRAY, who joined the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) in 1942 serving at HMAS Harman and HMAS Rushcutter.

Clyde John Thomas BRUCE, who served in 4 Squadron defending Australia from the Japanese advance in New Guinea.

Violet Joyce TROTT, who was a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment in a vital support role.

The military service of others in my extended family is commemorated at http://morrisons.id.au/ui49.htm

Joseph Banks and Bankstown

It has come to my attention that on this day in, 13 February in 1743, Joseph Banks was born at Westminster, England. he subsequently rose to become a baronet and a very important and influential man.

In Australia he is remembered for accompanying James Cook on his wonderful voyage of discovery, when as a naturalist he presented to Europe and the world many samples and drawings of the varied flora and fauna of Terra Australis. He grew up at Revesby Abbey in the Lincolnshire village of Revesby and along with Banks on Cook’s expedition was an artist, Peter Briscoe, also from Revesby. I wonder whether Peter might be related to my Briscoe family. Among the specimens that Banks took home were examples of the species that now bears his name, the Banksia.

Banks also gave his name to many locations throughout Australia, New Zealand and indeed the Pacific area. In the greater Sydney area my own home town of Bankstown is named for him and his statue proudly stands in the City centre.

Sir Joseph Banks at Bankstown

A few kilometres to the south of Bansktown is the suburb of Revesby which commemorates Banks’s home town.

As time passes and things change across the years, I find it humbling to stop and contemplate the origins and history of where we live…