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.

 

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…

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.

 

Henry Harrison Briscoe (1837-1912)

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.

Early Life

 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.

Military Career

 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.

Australia

 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 [1972] — 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.

giles map

Part of Giles Map showing Briscoe’s Pass and Briscoe’s Tent

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.

hhb family

Henry Harrison and Elizabeth Briscoe and family

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.

hhb grave

St. Saviour’s Church, Punchbowl

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.