Mr Mortimer’s Daughters

Once again the Trove digitised newspapers have helped me out.  A casual search of “Mortimer” in The Portland Guardian threw up the death notice of Henry Mortimer published on September 13, 1948. Henry Mortimer was the younger brother of Mary Mortimer, my gg-grandmother who married William Hadden.  Henry was born at Cavendish in 1868 and married Sarah Ann Duggan in 1887.  They had four children, Edwin, George, Queenie, and Lillian.  Queenie died as a baby.  In 1898, Sarah died leaving three children under 11.  The following year Henry remarried to Florence May Hardy and they had a further eight children, Grace, Amy, Beryl, Lance, Gilbert, Gwenda, David, Frances.  Florence died, in 1915, possibly as the result of the complications of childbirth as David was born in the same year.  She was only 38.

Up to that point, I had found that of the female children, Lillian had married Leslie Quarrel, Grace married David Wilson, Amy married John Taggart, Beryl had passed away as a baby and I had not found a marriage for Gwenda.

When I found the notice, there were two things that stood out.  Olive (Amy Olive on her birth record) was not married to John Taggart and Gwen was married. Olive was also known as June Olive just to complicate things.  I had previously found her married name, Taggart, via the death records and on the Australian Electoral Rolls, where I found John William Taggart’s full name.  Who then was C. E. Cara?

Family Notices. (1948, September 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from

Another search of the Australian Death indexes found Clarence Edgar Cara who died in 1947, while a further search of Trove found his notice of probate.

Advertising. (1947, May 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 16. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from

This was most interesting and lead me to the National Archives of  Australia site to search naval records.  I found him there as a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant.  It shows Clarence was born on June 11, 1899 at Penzance, Cornwall (this brought visions of rollicking pirates!), and his wife was listed as June Olive Cara.

At the time of his enlistment in the Reserve, they were living at 65 Victoria Street, Sandringham.  By the time he died in 1947 they had moved to 11 Ebden Avenue, Black Rock, where June later lived with John Taggart.  It states that Clarence had died on April 6, 1947 but no reason was given except that Repatriation had accepted that his death was due to the war and that June would receive a pension.

A Google search of Clarence Cara found him on the Australian National Maritime Museum website.  It listed the registration of Clarence’s Certificate of Competency on December 31, 1920 in Adelaide.

I thought I would search Trove for John Taggart.  I found his and June’s engagement notice.  June was proving she was not one to settle for the local Portland lads. Her fiancé was not just John William Taggart but Captain John William Cray-Taggart of London and Rangoon!

Family Notices. (1949, July 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 6. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from

I also found two notices of Hotel transfer in The Argus.  The first was the transfer of the license of the Yambuk Hotel to John and June in 1950 and the second was the transfer of licence for the same hotel in 1951 by Olive and John to Phillip Harrison.  The 1954 Electoral Roll finds them at back at 11 Ebden Avenue, Black Rock and John’s occupation was listed as Saloon keeper.

HOTEL TRANSFER. (1951, December 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 3 Edition: MIDDAY. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from

Gwendoline Lorna May Mortimer was and still remains difficult to find.  She was born in Hamilton in 1908.  My next encounter with her was the 1931 census, where she was living at the Homeopathic Hospital in South Melbourne which in 1934 became Prince Henry’s Hospital.  Her occupation was home duties.

Henry’s death notice gave the lead to the surname Bos.  I found Gwen on the 1942 Electoral Roll living in Brighton but no other person with the name Bos at the address.  Again in 1954, she is the only Bos living at 24 Spencer Road, Killara, New South Wales.  There are, however, others with the Bos name living in the area.  After searching death records, Trove, and WW2 records, I still have not found Mr A. Bos.  I am suspecting that he may not have enrolled to vote.  I am leaning toward an Abel Bos who died in Victoria in 1970.  I have not been able to find Gwen’s passing.  But the search continues.

Without Henry Mortimer’s death notice, I would not have discovered much of this.  I would not have known of June’s (Olive, Amy) first marriage or of Gwen’s marriage to Mr Bos.  Aside from this Henry’s notice offers the place of residence for his children at the time of his death and names of his grandchildren and great children that would have been difficult to find otherwise. From this information, further searching of the newspapers has given me leads to Naval and hotel records and more.  Thanks again Trove!

The Fastest Ship in the World

On Boxing Day 1852, a clipper ship sailed into the port of Liverpool with a banner draped from its mast declaring it “The Fastest Ship in the World”.  The ship was the New Brunswick built clipper Marco Polo.  The achievement, sailing from Liverpool to Melbourne and return in 175 days, a world record at that time.  At the helm, Captain James Nicol “Bully” Forbes, a colourful and fearless character of the sea and a master of navigation.

Marco Polo Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

MARCO POLO RETURNS TO LIVERPOOL. Image courtesy of the Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Only five months before, 888 passengers, mostly emigrants, boarded the Marco Polo at Liverpool, England for the ship’s maiden voyage to Australia.  Of those, 661 were Scots including my great, great, great-grandfather Charles Hadden, his wife Agnes and sons, William and James.  They had made the journey from Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland to Liverpool, to embark on a new life in Australia.  In the days before the voyage, they would have stayed at the emigrant depot at Birkenhead before being loaded into the ship’s crowded  steerage.  The three decked ship was the largest at the time to sail to Australia and while it had rather plush fittings in some parts, for the assisted emigrants conditions were poor.  The Haddens were likely to have been amidships with the other families occupying a small berth with little privacy.  With the firing of a cannon, the Marco Polo set sail on 4 July 1852 with Captain “Bully” Forbes intent on sailing to Australia and return in under six months.

Forbes had charted a course he was sure would cut the travel time, by way of the great circle route.  This would see the ship sail south down the east coast of South America, and then steering southeast of Cape Town toward Antarctica.  The path was as south as possible without getting too close to ice.  It was here Forbes caught the “Roaring Forties” winds, travelling east until he was able to head north into Bass Straight.  For the passengers, this meant enduring the extremes of weather.  As they passed through the Equator they would have felt the incredible heat, and then freezing cold as they moved into the “Roaring Forties” and “Howling Fifties”.  Also, disease particularly measles was rife below deck.  The crowded conditions at the emigrant depot and then on the ship had seen its rapid spread.  Of the 327 children on board, fifty-two died along with two adults.

MARCO POLO BY THOMAS ROBERTSON (1819-1873). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

MARCO POLO BY THOMAS ROBERTSON (1819-1873). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

When the Marco Polo sailed into Hobson’s Bay on 18 September 1852, the Victorian gold rush was in full swing and Forbes’ greatest concern was keeping his crew on board the ship.  This wasn’t helped when coming into dock as boats surrounded the clipper, reportedly throwing small nuggets on the decks. Other ships’ captains told of not being able to get crew no matter how high the wages offered.

"ON TOM TIDDLER'S GROUND" Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954) 9 November 1932: 15. Web.

“ON TOM TIDDLER’S GROUND” Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954) 9 November 1932

Forty or so ships were causing a log jam  in Hobsons Bay.  Their crews had caught “gold fever” and abandoned their posts.  So resolute to return to Liverpool quickly, Forbes had is own crew imprisoned for insubordination and when it was time to leave for England, he paid their fines and returned them to the ship.  Despite his best efforts, the time spent in port was twenty-four days, although without Forbes’ ingenuity it may have been longer. 


“PORT OF GEELONG.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 5 October 1852:

Seventy-six days later the ship was sailing back up the Mersey, to dock at Liverpool, the world record journey complete.  The feat saw “Bully” Forbes keep the captaincy of the Marco Polo for another voyage to Australia in 1853 with 648 passengers, reduced from the previous voyage because of the learned danger of overcrowding. The ship was extensively renovated before the second voyage and described at the time as an equal to a floating Crystal Palace. 

"Advertising" Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875) 21 May 1853

“Advertising” Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875) 21 May 1853


The Marco Polo and Forbes brought over 1500 immigrants to Victoria in the two trips. Forbes was rewarded with the captaincy of the Lightning which he sailed to Australia in 1854.  From there he captained several other ships until his sea days ended in 1866.  He died in 1874 at only fifty-two years old but he had ensured his name would be remembered in maritime history.

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.  From 1867, she was a cargo ship until 1883 when she was driven on shore at Prince Edward Island, Canada when a bad leak was found during a cargo run.  A sad end for a ship that safely carried thousands of people to a new life in Australia.  

"GENERAL NEWS." Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954) 3 November 1883:

“GENERAL NEWS.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 3 November 1883:

In New Brunswick,  Canada, the Marco Polo is remembered proudly and The Marco Polo Project is overseeing the building of a replica ship. The Marco Polo is not as celebrated in Australia, but many Australians today would have had ancestors arrive here thanks to the speedy clipper.

The Haddens made it through their speedy voyage on the Marco Polo. Records show they left the Marco Polo at Hobsons Bay in September 1852 and made their own way to Melbourne, most likely to the Canvas Town in South Melbourne, a “tent city” for the thousands of  immigrants.  William obtained work on properties owned by the Chirnsides at Cavendish, Mount William, and Carranballac before returning to Cavendish by 1864 and settling.

For further reading about the Marco Polo, the book Marco Polo  The Story of the Fastest Clipper by Martin J. Hollenberg (Chatham Press, London, 2006) has an extensive history of the ship.  Two interesting newspaper articles I found at Trove, tell the story of the Marco Polo and Captain “Bully” Forbes