Tag Archives: Reflection

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

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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 .

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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)

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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

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Finished Map

Completed Annotated Map

I chose my paternal great-grandparents, Archie and Jane Rowley, as the subjects for this map. Glasgow is the place of my childhood, and so I chose to draw with children’s crayons.

Archie worked in the shipyards, and the shipyards dominated Glasgow. Family lore painted him as a drinker and they moved twelve times in seventeen years. I represented these things with whisky spilling into and further polluting the Clyde, and an oversized passenger liner ensnaring the city and polluting the air.

Jane had twelve children, I marked each birth and joined them chronologically. A pattern emerged correlating with the Glasgow Underground which was open in their life time. I represented the nearby stations as mouths swallowing and spitting out lives.

Two births did not fit the pattern, fifth child Allan, born in Perthshire and ninth child Alice, born outside the underground network and away from the Clyde Shipyards. Allan died of Tuberculosis in the nearby Royal Infirmary at this time. Contemporary maps (1914) show a “Poorhouse” at this address. I had a strong emotional reaction to these discoveries and it changed the mood of the map. I broke the line at each of these places and drew tears and broken hearts spilling onto the ground and increased the darkness of the sky. I left the gardens brightly coloured and incongruous with the rest, but signifying that all was not doom and gloom.

I would enjoy expanding this piece to a three dimensional work, giving each of the elements a deeper more significant treatment.

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Another new blog

A rhetorical question: Can one have too many blogs?

For some years I have been amassing information about my family history. I have reached a critical mass – that is, the amount of I formation I have is too great to be understood in a single, two dimensional array.

University of Tasmania to the rescue. I have enrolled in a unit, Introduction to Family History. It requires some reflective journalling, so here I am.

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