Basil

 

Oh God, not again, who is it this time?”

Sarah looked at the envelope, the only typewritten letters she ever received were from the army. She walked outside the general store, put her basket down and sat down on the top step, staring at the envelope as if willing it to disappear. The townspeople kept an eye on her, but no one interfered, almost every family in the district had had their fair share those letters.

She took a deep breath, turned the envelope over, slowly opened the flap and removed the contents. She was an expert at this now, she could look slightly to the side of the envelope with unfocussed eyes, carefully unfold its contents, and take one more deep breath before focussing on the words.

“REPORTED SERGEANT BASIL HENDERSON WOUNDED WILL ADVISE ANYTHING FURTHER RECEIVED.”

“Basil” she said to the air, shaking her head. The nearest onlooker, nodded politely and quietly passed the name on. Everyone understood.

“Thank God John did not live to see this.  Four sons fighting in someone else’s war, Edward dead, George, Basil and Leonard, I’ve lost count of the letters.”

The shopkeeper, her best friend had come out to comfort her. “He’s a tough li’l bugger, you’ll see.” She sat beside her.

“Remember that day he disappeared?”

Suddenly they were both back in time.

 

 

She groaned as she rolled out of bed. She had barely slept. Lack of cloud cover made the night colder than usual, but for once, farmers were praying for it to not rain. Some of the men had continued to search throughout the night with a slither of a new moon reflecting only just enough light. Sent to bed at midnight, she had woken up every time one of them came in or out.

It was barely first light and already people were streaming in from the town. It was the second day. For the children, it was like a carnival, as whole families turned out to help. The women manned the kitchen and watched the children while the men and every boy over twelve, were out searching in rotation, on foot and on horseback. Thomas and Isaac had already left with their father.

 The atmosphere was surreal; her mind and body had disconnected to stop her from thinking about who they were searching for or whether he would be found. Her calm exterior belied the fact that she was on the verge of hysteria. She took charge of the kitchen, making sure that everyone had enough to eat and drink, and sending refreshments on horseback out to the search parties.  The hours passed.

She looked up to see the face of her best friend in the doorway.

“Sarah Henderson, if you don’t sit with me and take tea, you will feint with exhaustion, and then what use will you be to Basil when they bring him home? The dark rings around your eyes have dark rings around them.”

She had six other boys, four born on this very farm, and she had never lost one. For the first time since they had moved to the farm, she wished they had stayed keeping shop, in the township where no one could ever get lost.

 Suddenly she was back there, having tea with her friend.

She could feel the sawdust under her feet; smell the soaps, spices, fruits, wafting in and out with the breeze; hear her friend’s raucous laughter; and feel her face redden as meaning dawned on her innocent mind.

Sarah, Sarah,” the sound of her name bringing her back to life.

Outside was ominously silent. They went to the door and saw a man on horseback riding like the devil towards them. Sarah’s legs gave way as she swooned, it took several of the women to coax her back into the sitting room.

He burst through the door, red faced from the wild ride and with tears streaming down his dust encrusted face, he could hardly speak. Someone thrust a glass of water into his hand and he took a great gulp and then a great gulp of air.

“They found him Mrs Henderson, they found him. And the wee tyke is fine! Can you believe it?”

He was too choked with emotion to say any more. Outside, there were wild shouts of hooray and long piercing whistles, men, women and children whooping with relief. Even the dogs, sensing something, were barking.

 

 

“Oi, is anyone looking after this shop?”

The two women, jolted from their daydream, breathed sharply in. They looked at each other

“Yeah, he’s a tough li’l bugger, he’ll be fine”.

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Solemn Grandure

On the ninth of February, 1895, a man known only as a “Special Reporter” described the scene of a recent bush fire, perhaps this was how John Davis may have felt that night.

He wrote:[1]

“Having left Echunga after sunset, I had at least one advantage of travelling in the dark. The innumerable burning logs and trees which mark the extent of the devastation caused by the recent fire presented a scene of solumn grandeur not easily to be described. For many miles in every direction these brilliant glaring objects shone with an intense ruddy light, which, in the deep silence and solitude of the forests, was most imposing to behold.”

It could not be easily described, because to describe something, is to equate it to some similar thing already seen and known. These early Europeans would have been used to seeing a bright star-lit night, something that amazes many modern people accustomed to light pollution. They would not have been used to seeing a brightly lit landscape, unless they had recently arrived from Europe, Adelaide was yet to have universal street lighting. Few if any would have seen fireworks and no one could imagine have imagined flying, let alone the visage of city lights far below.

No, the scene facing this nameless reporter would not have been easily described. It would not have been easily forgotten either. The landscape, many locals escaping with only the clothes on their back,[2]  having lost their entire life’s work, and some who lost their lives. Everything changed, and all in a matter of a few short days.

___________

[1] 1859 ‘MACCLESFIELD.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 11 February, p. 3. , viewed 03 Feb 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49897242

[2] 1859 ‘No title’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), 8 February, p. 3. , viewed 03 Feb 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article788749

Fire

In 1859, John and Rosa Davis had been married for nine years[1]. had four young children,[2] and lived in Macclesfield, South Australia, a colony less than thirty years old. [3].  In February of that year, a bush fire ravaged the area and several lives were lost.

There are no less than ten contemporary newspaper accounts. The damage caused by the fire was so widespread that detail about individual losses is lost. An Inquest into the fire lists J Davis (among others) simply as houseless.[4] It found, “That the fire originated in a section belonging to Mr. John Heyward, near Echunga, but by what means it was started, there is no evidence to show.”

In 1859 rural Australia, communication was by post and printed newspapers. There were no fire engines, motorised or electrical devices, no weather reports, or warning systems. The Bureau of Meteorology.[5] and even the clichéd outback radio were more than fifty years away.

One can only guess at how this could have been experienced by these European inhabitants.

 

[1]Australia, Marriage Index,1850, p 160, Vol 14 John Davis and Rosa Sophia Marry Wills (http://www.ancestrylibrary.com/ retrieved 31 January, 2017)

[2] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished, p 83.

[3] Tourist Information Distributors, “Exploring Adelaide: Brief History” (http://www.exploringaustralia.com.au/history.php?s=adel retrieved 3 January, 2017)

[4] 1859 ‘MACCLESFIELD.’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1867), 12 February, p. 5. , viewed 03 Feb 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96494916

[5] Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, “Centenary of the Bureau, A hundred years young” (http://www.bom.gov.au/inside/centenary.shtml retrieved, 3 January, 2017)

Layers

Thirty-eight and fifteen Robert St, Glasgow. My great-grandparents Archie and Jane Rowley lived here, and raised twelve children from 1911[1] until their deaths in 1932[2] and 1942[3]. Today it is a car park in a light industrial area, a candle workshop and retail outlet.[4]

I do not see the carpark. I see nineteenth century tenements, taking their shape from the road. Covered in black grime, dirty dusty windows, filthy grimy footpath, few cars and much horse dung. Children everywhere, playing, laughing, running, fighting, talking, shouting, screaming. All in the melodious tones of my mother tongue, music to my ears, indecipherable to outsiders.

Two streets away, the shipyards overshadow all of Glasgow. It fills the air; with still more noise, hammering, welding, scraping metal; smells, acrid, dusty, foul. Its smoke, clouds everything with underworld, ghostly dimness.

This is my inherited memory, layering the landscape, in ways that only family can. The shipyard disappears taking the pollution, noise, and jobs. Next, the tenements, children and adults. Progress is what it is, the sun is bright here now, in the carpark of the candle factory.

[1] Scottish Birth Register, 1911, GROS Data 646/02 1851,Georgina Marion Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 18 October, 2012)

[2] Scottish Death Register, 1932, GROS Data 644/24 0628, Rowley, Jane  (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 17 August, 2012)

[3] Scottish Death Register, 1942, GROS Data 644/24 0628, Rowley, Archibald (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[4] “Robert Street, Glasgow, Scotland.” Map. Google Maps. Google (https://www.google.com.au/maps/ : accessed 12 December, 2017 .

Emigration – Why would you?

John and Julia Kidd emigrated to Australia sometime between 1907, when Clarissa was born in Durham, England[1] and 1913, when Selwyn was born in South Australia.[2] After extensive research, no record of either departure or arrival can be found.[3]

One thing that records cannot reveal, is what motivated this nineteenth century couple to emigrate to the furthest reaches of the British Empire, and rebuild their lives in a primitive and isolated foreign land. This question fascinates me, perhaps because I never received a satisfactory answer from my own parents.

There are several questions to research before attempting an educated guess. Did John have no extended family? Emigration meant a loss of connection with the extended family, but John was one of seven children, had seven aunts and uncles and presumably numerous cousins.[4] Clarissa’s extended family are yet to be researched. Were they young and just starting out? They were both in their forties, with three young children.[5] Were they poor? John was raised in a household with two servants,[6] and the eldest son, (his father’s estate was worth £8,484 15s 3d)[7] he must have been moderately wealthy.

So, middle aged, with a growing family, and moderately wealthy, not the kind of young-ambitious-nothing-to-lose stereotype that I had in mind. This leaves me wondering about the timing, (1907 – 1913). Were they politically savvy enough to foresee the world’s first global conflict?

There is much more that can be researched before making an educated guess about what motivated John and Julia Kidd to emigrate to Australia.

 

________________

[1] England & Wales births 1837­2006 Transcription, (http://www.findmypast.com/ :accessed 26 March, 2016)

[2] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished. p 81.

[3] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished. P 76

[4] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished. P 77-78

[5] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished. p 81.

[6] “England and Wales Census, 1871”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VBZ2-S1G : 24 July 2015), Pearson W Kidd in entry for Jane Bell, 1871.; “England and Wales Census, 1881,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/Q271-FQXD : 19 August 2016), Pearson W Kidd, Bishop Wearmouth, Durham, England; from “1881 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : n.d.); citing p. 19, Piece/Folio 4993/145, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey; FHL microfilm 101,775,382.

[7] England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1883, Pearson Ward Kidd (http://www.ancestrylibrary.com/ retrieved 11 January, 2017)

Basil

Sarah looked up from the pot she was stirring, to see the face of her best friend in the doorway.

“Sarah Henderson, if you don’t sit with me and take tea, you will feint with exhaustion, and then what use will you be when they bring Basil home. You have black rings around your eyes.”

Sarah’s mind raced,

‘Oh, God, now she’s said it. The very thing I’ve had been trying to avoid for the last twenty-four hours. Basil. Two years old, and wandered off into the bush, in short pants and a shirt, the whole town out looking for him.’

She had six other boys, four born on this very farm, and she had never lost one. For the first time since they had moved to the farm, she wished they had stayed keeping shop. Suddenly she would have given anything to be back there.

Outside was suddenly silent. From the door, they saw someone riding like the devil towards them. Sarah’s legs gave way, as she swooned. It took several women to coax her back into the sitting room.

He burst through the door. Red faced from the wild ride, and with tears streaming down his dust encrusted face, he could hardly speak. Someone thrust a glass of water into his hand and he took a great gulp and then a great gulp of air.

” They found him Mrs Henderson, they found him. And the little tyke is fine! Can you believe it?”

Sarah feinted.

References:

1893 ‘ARDROSSAN.’, Yorke’s Peninsula Advertiser (SA : 1878 – 1922), 21 July, p. 3. , viewed 19 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216732788

1885 ‘ARDROSSAN.’, Yorke’s Peninsula Advertiser (SA : 1878 – 1922), 17 February, p. 3. , viewed 19 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216321047

The Saga of Clarissa KIDD

My children’s paternal great-grandmother, Clarissa Emma KIDD has been extremely difficult to trace. I found a website created for the descendants of Mr Thomas Henderson[1] but it is sparsely referenced and not accurate. I also found two family trees with a Clarissa in Ancestry Library[2] and again the information was sparsely referenced and less than accurate.

One showed no spouse, the other showed a spouse, and one child. I decided to compare the Henderson family tree with this second one, recording it in my workbook[3] as an “interview”.

I needed to connect the two Clarissa KIDD records, I moved to her parents and siblings and found they had emigrated between 1907 and 1913. I tried in vain to find them on a passenger manifest. On Trove[4], I started scouring the newspapers for birth, marriage, and death notices. Finally, I found a death notice for Clarissa’s father, that listed his wife, Julia and surviving children as Fred, Les, Clarrie, and Selwyn.[5] Encouraged but needing more I widened the search parameters and found his Eulogy.[6] His birthplace coincided, the year of his arrival placed approximately 1909, the list of children this time written formally gave his daughter’s name as Mrs C Henderson.

With three separate connections I can now be confident.

[1] http://home.iprimus.com.au/flbest/henderson/1.htm

[2] http://person.ancestrylibrary.com/tree/49735217/person/28205264143/facts and http://person.ancestrylibrary.com/tree/27084358/person/13901798702/facts  

[3] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished p 73-77.

[4] http://trove.nla.gov.au/

[5] 1931 ‘Family Notices’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 10 March, p. 10. (HOME EDITION), viewed 04 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129925392

[6] 1931 ‘EARLY SOCCER PLAYER’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 12 March, p. 11. (HOME EDITION), viewed 04 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129923799