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.

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[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

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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.

 

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[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

Sounds and Smells of Glasgow

Archibald Rowley[1], was born in the very small village of Forgandenny near Perth in Scotland. His father, the local policeman died a mere two and a half years after Archie’s birth.[2] Sometime after that, his mother moved her family to Perth, where she worked as a laundress.[3]

The next place we find Archie is in Glasgow in 1891[4], where he is listed as a 19-year-old coppersmith. It is hard to imagine what that change could have been like for young Archie. The 1881 Scotland Census gives the population of Perth as 95,044, and Glasgow as 487,985.[5]

The shipyards would have been incredibly noisy, hot steel, copper, and other metals being poured, moulded, and hammered into shape. Metals would have given off an acrid smell, and close bodies from less than adequately plumbed housing would have been rank. After work, the scene would have changed to a crowded publican’s house where body, urine, smoke and alcohol would combine in that unique way only a pub can smell, and the drunks would variously shout, sing, and fight.

I imagine it would have to be experienced first-hand.
[1] Scottish Birth Register, 1871, Parish Forganenny, County Perth , 0015, Archibald Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[2] Scottish Death Register, 1873, Parish Foganenny, County Perth, 05, Thomas Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[3] 1881 Scotland Census GROS Data 387/00 014/00 0161 Archibald Rowley

[4] Scottish Census 1891 644/13 027/00 022 Archibald Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[5] http://www.londonancestor.com/misc/bc-population.htm Retrieved 22 July, 2016.

Crisis of Faith

A fanciful account

She genuflected, crossed herself, then followed the line to the priest. In a trance, her body seemed a second or two behind her, unattached and out of reach. Her mind, on the other hand was razor sharp.

Hell, hell,” she thought, “what would a bloody priest ken aboot hell? The hardest thing a priest ever had to dae was remember tae speak in English, that monotone, bastardised tongue of the Sassenach. It may as well be Latin, for the way he speaks it, you’d be sure he was sucking on a stane, and if he stuck that nose of his any higher in the air, his heed would fa’ right aff.”

Hell is being married to a man who spends half his life working, and the other half drinking near’ every penny he’s paid. In between one and the other he comes hame only just lang enough to faither another bairn. Twelve bairns, twelve.”

She was at the alter now, kneeling with her mouth open. “Blood of Christ” said the priest.

Blood of Christ, what would a man know about blood, or bleeding.” Her son Allan flashed in her mind, seven years old and coughing up blood, tears running down his face, his eyes bloodshot full of fear. Seven years ago the previous month, and still that face haunted her. “Well maybe some know a little of bleeding.

She stood up, having consumed the small biscuit “Body of Christ”. Her head was swimming, there was a pain in her chest like a knife being twisted between her ribs. She swayed visibly until the woman behind her placed her hand on her shoulder, just enough to steady her.

She shuffled back to her pew. How she had gotten through Christmas she did not know, but three more days and a long drunken night and it would be nineteen fifteen.  “Nineteen fifteen, Glasgow Scotland, that’s where hell is.” She grunted audibly, to the withering glare of her husband Archie.

Annie’s no here again,” she thought, “I wouldnae be either, if I had a choice. Twelve bairns I’ve had. I’ve no’ even finished havin’ my ain bairns, before my bairns are havin’ bairns. My wee Lizzy and Annie’s wee Johnny. The pair of them gasping for air, one would fa’ asleep and the other wake, the whole hoose awake and praying. My bairns, they are. Mine. I’ve nursed and fed, and loved them day and night. What dae I get? I get to watch them thrown out into the street. My first born, cast out into the street like a pail o’ shite, by her ain faither!” Another grunt and another withering glare.

Only a few weeks old and Johnny was gone. Annie putting her first born in the ground, that was hell. Three weeks later, and Lizzy’s gone too. Pulmonary something-or-other the doctor said. Died o’ breathing is what he meant, the pair of them, died o’ breathing.”

Outside the church, Jane surveyed her brood. Why they were so happy she could not understand. Watching them playing on the icy street, she could clearly see that they were happy. She began the short walk home, the children and the husband following after, she couldn’t have cared less, she was numb.

She was making some tea when the two Archies came in. She looked up at them, young Thomas darted out from behind them and let the cat out of the bag.

“Archie’s going to be a soldier. He’s gonnae get those German’s” he crowed pretending to fire a rifle, “He’s gonnae win the war.”

Jane nearly feinted. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph Archie, what are you thinking of.” She blasphemed.

“Leave him, Jeanie, leave him, he’s a man noo” Archie senior said accusingly.

“Me an’ the lads went yesterdae, we enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, we had our medicals and we’ve a’ passed. All I have t’ dae is wait for ma uniform and orders.” Archie junior was beaming with pride.

“Och, Archie, Archie, what have you done?” It was rhetorical, she didn’t wait for an answer. She put her coat and hat back on and reached for the door. “I’m off tae visit Annie.”

She shook her head unconsciously, “I cannae lose another bairn, I cannae, my heart is already broken.” She muttered under her breath as she trudged the short distance through the icy street to Annie’s house. “Nineteen fifteen, a’ the world’s gone mad.”

A Tale of Two Cities

Mary Christina Snedden and Margaret Ann Morrison had many things in common. Mary’s father died when she was young, and her mother had remarried. Margaret’s mother had died when she was young. What they most had in common, however, was Charles Edward Wilcox. They each had seven children, and Charles was registered as the father of twelve of them. He may even have been the father of one other.

Other than birth, death, and marriages, Mary, Margaret and Charles’ lives can only be viewed in ten year slices. Thanks to the Scotland Census, however, much information can be gleaned from those slices.

Mary married Charles in Edinburgh in 1877,[1] he was a Mechanical Engineer and his income would have made them a middle-class couple. It is difficult to imagine therefore, how after only ten years of marriage, Mary came to leave Charles, and live out her life in remote Galashiels on the Scottish Borders, but by the time of the 1891 Scotland Census, that is precisely where she was, working as a birler in a nearby woollen mill.[2]

It could not have been easy for her to leave her husband, and work in a factory, she was not a working class woman. In Victorian Britain women and children and had no rights as individuals. Children belonged to their father and inevitably stayed with him. This was the case for Mary, six of her seven children were, by this time, living in Glasgow with their father.[3]

At what point in time did Margaret enter the Wilcox household? She was not present Ii the 1881 census in Edinburgh.  Charles is not recorded as present on that night either, but he and Mary were together for at least six more years, because their youngest child Jessie, was born in Edinburgh in 1888.[4]

The work of keeping a household running without the kinds of household machinery and pre-packaged food that we take for granted, was back breaking, full time work. It was not possible for anyone to keep house and hold down a job. With or without children, Charles would have had to employ a full-time, live-in housekeeper to replace his wife. Margaret first appeared in documents at this time, 1891, listed as his cousin and housekeeper.

She now had three children who are listed as, Charles’ adopted daughter, and two sons. The oldest son, Alfred is only one year younger than Mary’s youngest, Jessie. Alfred’s birth is registered as Alfred Edward Morrison, with no father, but with the same middle name as Charles. He died in infancy and his death record lists his mother as the wife of Charles Wilcox, who lists himself as the step-father. One could be forgiven for wondering if Charles was in fact the father of this child, and perhaps the reason for the marital split.

Could Margaret have been first employed in the Wilcox household whilst it was still in Edinburgh? Margaret’s first child Alice was born in 1884, in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, probably because Margaret was an unmarried, first-time mother.[5] As a middle-class family with many children, they could have employed one or more servants. In the 1881 census, they lived in a house with only two rooms with windows. This is not uncommon in Victorian times, most working class housing would have had only one such room. What it does show is that, although they were middle-class, they were not wealthy enough to have spare rooms to accommodate a maid and her child. It is Margaret’s child, therefore, that makes it less likely that she entered the house at this time,

For these reasons, I think it is fair to imagine that Mary left Charles before Margaret was employed. Charles fathered twelve children in his lifetime, indicating a consistent sexual appetite, perhaps he was a philanderer, who was publicly caught out. Or, perhaps Charles was extremely violent and Mary feared for her life. After all, she moved a considerable distance from Edinburgh. If she moved away because of the shame that was attached to “desertion” in Victorian Britain, she need only have moved a short distance. She could have lived in Perth which was a large metropolis like Edinburgh.

As an engineer, Charles would have been limited to the highly industrialised cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow in order to gain work. The fact that he moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow, gives reason to believe that he may have done something too shameful to stay in his social circle. Was it sexual promiscuity or violent behaviour? Short of uncovering a newspaper article or a criminal history, we can only guess.

Without good social standing, Charles would have had difficulty in hiring a housekeeper. With an illegitimate child to care for, Margaret would have had difficulty in obtaining employment. This could explain how Margaret came into the Wilcox household. She could have come into service in Edinburgh and then moved to Glasgow with the family.

It is tempting to think that blended families are a modern occurrence but a quick look at family history will soon give another view. Margaret continued to live with Charles and had five more children. By 1901, Margaret’s oldest child Alice, had an illegitimate child of her own.[6]

By 1911, a number of Christina’s children had moved to Galashiels and are recorded living with her.[7]  It seems that, as in modern times, the children of the first partner, were not happy with their new arrangements.

 

 

[1] Scottish Marriage Register 1877 GROS Data 685/05 0426 Charles Wilcox and Mary Sneddon (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 25 December, 2009)

[2]Scottish Census 1891 776/0B 006/00 0031 Mary Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 21 May, 2011)

[3] Scottish Census 1891 644/09 075/09 012 Charles Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 25 December, 2009)

[4] Scotland Birth Register 1888, GROS Data 685/02 0518 , Jessie Margaret Wilcox, (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : Retrieved 24/7/2016)

[5] Scottish Birth Register, 1884 GROS Data 685/04 0313 Alice Lycke MORRISON (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 17 April, 2016)

[6] Scottish Census 1901 644/06 052/00 003 Charles Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 26 July, 2011)

[7] Scottish Census 1911 775/00 013/00 011Mary Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 21 May, 2011)