Passing of the Pioneers

It’s a bumper January Passing of the Pioneers. So much bigger than I’d planned. But I’ve found some interesting pioneers’ obituaries this month and it was hard not to want to learn a little more about them. The sixteen pioneers are now included on the Western District Families Pioneer Obituary Index.

HERBERTSON, Robert – Died 23 January 1879 at Portland.  Robert Herbertson was born in Scotland and travelled to Tasmania in 1830.  He married fellow Scot Isabella Bailey in 1834 in Tasmania and they arrived in Portland in 1841.  They eventually moved into a house in Julia Street and Robert worked as a builder and hotel keeper.  Robert built the Steam Packet Inn (below) in 1842 and it is now one of the oldest surviving buildings in the state.

183

STEAM PACKET INN, PORTLAND

The Herbertsons also ran a drapery store.

"Advertising." Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876) 4 Feb 1843: 2. .

“Advertising.” Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876) 4 Feb 1843: 2. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71569036&gt;.

In 1843, Robert opened the Union Inn and in 1847, the Britannia Inn and built shops and houses in Julia Street. Robert purchased land on the Bridgewater Road and built Briery (below). From Robert’s obituary in the Portland Guardian that was in 1867, however the report on the home found at the Victorian Heritage Database gives the date at around 1850.

BRIERY, PORTLAND 1958. Photographer Colin Caldwell. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72633

BRIERY, PORTLAND 1958. Photographer Colin Caldwell. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72633

Briery was definitely built by 1867 as Robert had the house and land up for lease.

"Advertising." Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876) 16 Jan 1868: 3 Edition: EVENINGS. . .

“Advertising.” Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876) 16 Jan 1868: 3 Edition: EVENINGS. . <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64689157&gt;.

In the days before his death, there was a fire on Bridgewater Road near the farm. Robert’s over-exertion helping to fight the fire most likely led to his death.  Isabella Robertson died in Portland in 1883.

WILSON, John – Died 3 January 1906 at Portland. John Wilson was born around 1826 at Glasgow, Scotland and arrived in Portland around 1853.  He went on to the diggings but returned to the Portland district, dairy-farming at Lower Bridgewater.  John’s property The Lagoons was one of the district’s largest and most successful farms.

TWOMEY, Edward – Died January 1907 Melbourne.  Edward Twomey was born in Ireland around 1836, the son of John Joseph Twomey and Margaret O’Conner.  John Twomey took up large amounts of land around Penshurst which he divided into Kolor (below), Banemore and Langulac and passed it on to his sons.

026

LOOKING DOWN ON KOLOR FROM MT. ROUSE NEAR PENSHURST

Langulac, south of Penshurst, came under the charge of  Edward Twomey in 1882.  Three years later, Edward announced his engagement to New Zealander Mary Ellen Josephine Cantwell and in 1887 Edward and Mary married.  They went on to have five children.

 

"Family Notices." Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939) 24 Jul 1885: .

“Family Notices.” Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939) 24 Jul 1885: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145711723&gt;.

Edward enjoyed horse racing and was one of the earliest trustees of the Hamilton Race Course.  He bred and raced horses, with his greatest success coming with Mermaid, winner of the 1871 Sydney Cup. Mermaid was a daughter of King Alfred, the great Western District sire imported in 1854 aboard the Severn by Rifle Downs owner Richard Lewis.

Edward Twomey was a devout Roman Catholic.  He attended the fist mass in the Western District according to his obituary, however most of the congregation were his own family.  He was also a great supporter of the St. Josephs Catholic Church at Penshurst.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/233158

ST. JOSEPHS CATHOLIC CHURCH, PENSHURST. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/233158

In search of an interesting story about Edward Twomey, I found an article published in the Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser on 10 December 1864.  It alleged Edward rode past the Presbyterian minister lying injured by the roadside without offering help. Edward wrote a lengthy “Letter to the Editor”  denying the claims and Donald Cameron, presumably the Donald Cameron formerly of Morgiana, also wrote the following letter defending Edward.

"ORIGINAL CORRESPONDENCE." Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (South Melbourne, Vic. : 1860 - 1870) 17 Dec 1864: 2. Web. 7 Jan 2016 .

“ORIGINAL CORRESPONDENCE.” Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (South Melbourne, Vic. : 1860 – 1870) 17 Dec 1864: 2. Web. 7 Jan 2016 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194723320&gt;.

At the age of seventy-one, Edward went to Melbourne for medical treatment.  He died there and his body was returned to Hamilton for burial at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.  A service was held at Hamilton’s St Mary’s Catholic Church. Mary died in 1926 aged sixty-two at Penshurst and is also buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.

210 (2)

TWOMEY FAMILY PLOT, HAMILTON OLD CEMETERY

EVANS, Edward – Died January 6 1915 at Ararat.  Edward Evans was the son of Ararat butcher John Pritchard Evans and was born around 1865.  In time, Edward took over his father’s butchery. In 1889, he married Emily Harricks of Ararat.  Edward was a member of local A.N.A and a vestryman at Ararat’s Holy Trinity Church of England (below).  He developed Bright’s Disease in 1913 which took his life at age fifty.  Emily, a son and two daughters were left after his death, with Emily dying in 1949 aged eighty-six.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/58321

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH OF ENGLAND, ARARAT. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/58321

SANDRY, Alice – Died 18 January 1916 at Hamilton.  Alice Sandry was born in Cornwall, England around 1848.  She arrived at Portland with her parents William and Anne and three siblings in 1853 aboard the Eliza.  In 1869, Alice married William Arnott and they lived in Gray Street, Hamilton. Their residence was most likely at the grocery store William ran close to Thomson’s Iron Store. Alice and William went on to have nine children and for a time, William was a Hamilton Borough Councillor.

On 9 May 1887, Alice and William’s nine year old son Frederick died as a result of an accident.  On the day, he was travelling in the wagonette of Frederick Giles, storekeeper of Giles & Dunn Beehive Store at Hamilton. Mr Giles was a passenger and, as he often did, he allowed Frederick’s older brother Archie to drive. They were going to the Wannon store of Giles & Dunn. During their journey the pony stumbled throwing Archie and Mr Giles from the wagonette.  The pony took fright and bolted with Frederick holding on for his life.

Found with a severely broken leg, and with no witnesses, it was thought Frederick had attempted to jump clear but his leg wedged between a tree and the wagonette.  Taken to the Wannon Inn, amputation was the only option.  Frederick went into shock as a result of the operation and died at his parents home. The Portland Guardian published a lengthy account of the accident on 11 May 1887.  The Horsham Times provided a report on the inquest published on 13 May 1887.

In 1898, William’s grocery store became a part of John Thompson & Co in Gray Street.  The Arnotts then moved to Cox Street, Hamilton.

"Established August 1842. The Portland Guardian,." Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953) 21 Dec 1898: 2 Edition: EVENING. Web. .

“Established August 1842. The Portland Guardian,.” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 21 Dec 1898: 2 Edition: EVENING. Web. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63675021&gt;.

 

In 1899, William was declared insolvent owing over £800 and he died the following year.  Alice’s probate file indicates she retained ownership of the Gray Street property and Thomson’s rented it from her.  She also owned her house in Cox Street.

"Family Notices." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1873; 1914 - 1918) 19 Jan 1916: 4. .

“Family Notices.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1873; 1914 – 1918) 19 Jan 1916: 4. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120409938&gt;.

Alice was buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery with William.  Three of their children were remembered on the headstone, Frederick and two infants, George who died in 1879 aged six months and Norman who died in 1886, two months short of his second birthday.

arnott

O’BRIEN, Patrick – Died 20 January 1916 at Hamilton.  Patrick “Paddy” O’Brien was born in Ireland around 1831. He eventually arrived in Hamilton and became one of the great characters of the town.

"DEATH OF AN OLD HAMILTON RESIDENT." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1873; 1914 - 1918) 21 Jan 1916: 4. .

“DEATH OF AN OLD HAMILTON RESIDENT.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1873; 1914 – 1918) 21 Jan 1916: 4. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120410087&gt;.

Paddy married Mary Harritty* in 1865 and a daughter Bridget was born in 1867 at Portland. They then settled at Hamilton and another daughter Margaret was born there in 1871. Paddy worked as a gardener and the family lived in Cox Street close to the corner of Gray Street.  He was a devout Catholic, attending the St. Marys Catholic Church (below) and was a member of the local Hibernian Society.

ST MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63342

ST MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63342

In 1881, tragedy struck the O’Brien family. Ten year old Margaret drowned in the local creek, the Grange Burn on 14 October.  There was a large turnout to follow the funeral cortege to the cemetery.

"A PRACTICAL VIEW OP THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT." Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 - 1954) 22 Oct 1881: 16. Web. .

“A PRACTICAL VIEW OP THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT.” Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954) 22 Oct 1881: 16. Web. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170023451&gt;.

Mary died at Hamilton in 1907.  At the time of Paddy’s death in 1916, The Hamilton Spectator wrote, “He may best be described as one of the identities of the town, that being the term generally used where one is well known, and yet perhaps, so so far as his personal history is concerned, not so well known after all.”  How true.

* While searching records for Patrick O’Brien and his wife Mary, I found several variations of Mary’s surname.  The Victorian Marriage Index has Harritty, but I also found Garraty, Haraty, Harty, Harrity, Heroty and Harety on entries for births and deaths. As Paddy was most likely the informant on those occasions, I suspect his thick Irish brogue resulted in the many variations.

TATLOCK, Thomas Henry – Died January 1918 at Hamilton.  Thomas Tatlock was born in on 13 January 1834 and christened on 23 March 1834 at the British Chaplaincy in Hamburg, Germany.*  His father  was Englishman Thomas Marriot Tatlock and his mother, Scot Margaret Turner Rolland. Another son, Francis Rolland Tatlock was born in 1835 and christened in Hamburg the following year.  After their marriage, Thomas Sr and Margaret had moved to Hungary where Thomas ran a successful pottery works.  Due to unrest in Hungary the family moved into Austria and then, as the christening records show, on to Germany.

Moving forward around twenty years and Thomas Henry Tatlock arrived in Victoria around 1853 and joined the mounted police force.  He was in Ballarat during the Eureka uprising in 1854 and worked with the Gold Escort. He was later stationed at towns including Casterton, Woodend and Port Fairy. In 1865, Thomas married Mary Ann Scarsbrick and a daughter Ellen was born at Port Fairy in 1866.  However, Ellen died aged seven months and was buried at the Port Fairy Cemetery. In 1875, while working as a Senior Constable at Casterton, Thomas was appointed Customs Officer with the Customs and Excise department based in Casterton. As Inspector for Licensed Premises and Liquors for the Customs and Excise Department, he based himself at Hamilton around 1880.

During the 1880s, there were some sad times for the Tatlock family.  Mary Ann died in 1883 aged thirty-eight from complications due to childbirth as did their baby Lillie.  In 1884, Daisy Nellie Tatlock died aged five and on June 3 1887, Thomas’ son “of about four summers” Herbert, died of diphtheria.

 "Hamilton." Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953) 6 Jun 1887: 2 Edition: EVENING. Web. .


“Hamilton.” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 6 Jun 1887: 2 Edition: EVENING. Web. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65408722&gt;.

In 1890, Thomas married again to Margery Atchison.  Thomas was a member of the congregation at the Christ Church Hamilton and was involved with the Hamilton Pastoral and Agricultural Society.  He was a renowned judge of flowers, poultry and dogs at district P&A shows and was an importer of Black Orpington poultry.  The Tatlocks lived in Gray Street and later Griffin Street. Thomas’ and Mary Ann’s son Alfred Tatlock born in Port Fairy in 1868, went to become one of Hamilton’s leading citizen’s as business owner and Borough Councillor.  Thomas’s second wife Margery moved away from Hamilton after Thomas’ death and died in Warrnambool on 7 May 1938.

*”Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:ND14-PZK : accessed 12 January 2016), Thomas Henry Tatlock, 23 Mar 1834; citing ; FHL microfilm 576,997.

MURRAY, Isabella – Died 27 January 1924 at Warrnambool.  Isabella Murray was born around 1852 at Summer Hill, Allansford, the property of her parents James Murray and Isabella Gordon. She married Walter Stephen Helpman in 1877 and they lived at Warrnambool.

"Family Notices." Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926) 16 Aug 1877: 2. .

“Family Notices.” Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1926) 16 Aug 1877: 2. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article150470511&gt;.

Walter was a Colonial Bank manager running branches at Koroit, Port Fairy and Warrnambool. Isabella kept herself active in the community.  She was a part of the Ladies Benevolent Society for thirty years , including time as President.  Hospital fundraising and the Red Cross, serving as treasurer for five years, were some of Isabella’s other works.  She was also concerned for the welfare of the  aboriginal community at Framlingham and extended her kindness to them.  As the sister of politician, John Murray who became Premier of Victoria, she had a strong interest in politics, helping to campaign at state and federal level.

HUNT, Caroline – Died January 1925 at Brighton.  Caroline Hunt was born around 1848 and arrived in Australia in 1853 with her parents. Her father was one of the Wimmera’s first settlers, residing at Rosebrook Station.  In 1866, Caroline married William James Carter. William Carter held North Brighton run until 1888 after purchasing Tarrington Estate in 1886.  William died in 1904 and Tarrington Estate was sold in 1909, but the Carters retained ownership of the Tarrington homestead until after Caroline’s death.

HEDGES, Elizabeth – Died 14 January 1942 at Portland. Elizabeth Hedges was born in Ballarat in 1882.  She became an art teacher and moved to Melbourne.  She married Francis Caine of Bridgewater in 1914 and they lived there until 1921 when Francis purchased land at Kongorong, South Australia where they established the property Mona Park. While in Kongorong, Elizabeth was organist at the Kongorong church.  Around the age of fifty, Elizabeth began suffering ill health and Francis decided to sell Mona Park and bought Cammis near Sandford. The couple enjoyed holidays at Portland.  In 1941, Elizabeth’s health was still failing and since she always felt better on seaside holidays, Francis bought Burswood at Portland, built by Edward Henty in 1855 . Elizabeth only enjoyed the home for seven months before her death. Another obituary for Elizabeth, written by a resident of Kongorong, was published in the Border Watch on 22 January 1942.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/336832

BURSWOOD, PORTLAND. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/336832

 

FIELDER, Annie Matilda – Died 16 January 1945 at Camperdown.  A daughter of William Fielder and  Matilda Greer, Ann Fielder was born at Cobden in 1877.  In 1903, Annie married William Florence and they settled at Camperdown.  Annie was a member of the Camperdown branch of the Red Cross and Life Governor of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind.   She was also a member of the Camperdown Country Women’s Association and the Camperdown Ladies Auxiliary among other things.  Annie also attended the St. Paul’s Church in Camperdown (below).

stpauls

ST PAUL’S CHURCH, CAMPERDOWN. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63204

MONK, Samuel – Died January 1948 at Cobden. Samuel Monk was born at Connewarre in 1861 and arrived at Cobden four years later with his parents George Monk and Sarah Stenson, early pioneers of that district.  In 1885, Samuel married Patience Silvester.  In his early working days, Samuel made a name for himself working on the roads and was highly sort after by road contractors.  He then turned to farming around 1907 and continued in that pursuit for almost forty years.  Samuel was the oldest surviving member of the original Cobden Football Club and at the time of his death, his son Lesley was the club president. Samuel was a devout Anglican and a member of the Colac Turf Club.

FITZGERALD, John Cunningham – Died 3 January 1950 at Portland.  John Fitzgerald was born at Portland in 1864 to John Bryan Fitzgerald and Mary Birmingham. Mary’s first husband Walter Birmingham owned Mullagh near Harrow with David Edgar. Edgar lived at another of their properties Pine Hills and the Birminghams at Mullagh.  Walter Birmingham died in 1850, and Mary took over Mullagh.  She remarried in 1851 to John Bryan Fitzgerald and John ran the property.  One of his workers was Johnny Mullagh, who went on to tour England with an Aboriginal team in 1868. Johnny was born at Mullagh around 1841.

The homestead at Mullagh (below) was built around 1864, the year of John Cunningham Fitzgerald’s birth.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/232035

MULLAGH HOMESTEAD, HARROW. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/232035

In 1893, John C. Fitzgerald married Eliza Anne Silvester.  They lived at Mullagh with John taking over the running of the property from his father.  They eventually moved to Portland.  John was something of an amateur meteorologist and enjoyed contributing rainfall observations to the Portland Guardian. John and Eliza did not have any children.

COWLEY, Albion – Died 1 January 1951 at Tandarook South. Albion Cowley was born at Cowley’s Creek on 25 April 1878 and attended Cowley’s Creek State School. In 1904, he married Mary Ann Love and in 1911, they moved to a property at Tandarook. Albion was an elder of the Jancourt Church and taught Sunday School there.  Mary Ann, three sons and five daughters survived him.

DAVIS, Robert George – Died 21 January 1952 at Camperdown. Robert Davis was born at Scotts Creek around 1880 and lived there until he was twenty-one.  He then moved to Jancourt buying property from divided Jancourt Estate.  Robert married Emily Dunstone in 1905. He was a member of the Jancourt Presbyterian Church and was correspondent for the Tandarook State School.  Robert remained at Jancourt until around 1951 when he retired from farming and purchased a property at Camperdown.

SILVESTER, Serena Owen – Died 26 January 1953 at Camperdown. Serena Silvester was born in 1867 at Camperdown to pioneers William Silvester and Harriet Owen. William Silvester built the second house in Cobden, then known as Lovely Banks.  Serena attended the Cobden State School.  In 1886, Serena married William Wilson.  The year before, her sister Patience married Samuel Monk (above). Serena was a congregation member of the Cobden Presbyterian Church and a member of the Ladies Auxiliary and the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union. William Wilson died in 1937.

 

 

From Six Bob Tourist to Souvenir

This is the third year I have posted for the Trans Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge.  For 2013, I share the story of Leslie Herbert Combridge.

When Billy Hughes spoke to the people of Australia on January 21, 1915, something must have stirred inside Les Combridge.  It may have been pride, anger, guilt or simply his sense of adventure.

lc8lc9lc10

"WE WANT MORE MEN". (1915, January 22). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73915492

“WE WANT MORE MEN”. (1915, January 22). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73915492

On February 2, he travelled the 40 kilometres from Grantville to Wonthaggi and enlisted in the Australian Infantry Forces.  He had nothing to lose.  He was 18½ and working on a farm in a rural area so the chance to get out and be paid to see the world must have been some incentive.  Why wouldn’t it be an adventure?  The papers were full of stories of soldiers enjoying the sights of Egypt, the Great Pyramids and the market places.  Besides, it probably would be all over by the time he got there.

WANTED—100,000 MEN.—STILL THEY COME. (1915, January 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 7. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1488026

WANTED—100,000 MEN.—STILL THEY COME. (1915, January 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1488026

After enlisting with his father’s consent, Les was assigned to the newly formed 21st Battalion.  After training at  Broadmeadows, the Battalion left Port Melbourne on May 10, 1915 aboard the HMAT Ulssyss.

This article from the Euroa Advertiser by “One Who Witnessed It” describes the arrival of the troops at the dock, boarding and departure.

lc3

lc4

lc5

DEPARTURE OF A TROOP-SHIP. (1915, May 14). Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920), p. 2. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70371657

DEPARTURE OF A TROOP-SHIP. (1915, May 14). Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 – 1920), p. 2. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70371657

That account was a little different to that of A.M McNeil in his book The Story of the 21st He writes

“Embarkation was quietly carried out.  There was no fanfare of trumpets, and that night we slipped from the pier, down the bay…” (p. 7)

HMAT Ulysses  Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NO: PS0154. Photographer Schuler, Phillip Frederick Edward  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0154/

HMAT ULYSSES. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NO: PS0154. Photographer
Schuler, Phillip Frederick Edward http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0154/

A.R McNeil  described the voyage as “smooth” and a highlight was the arrival at the Suez Canal.

“…glorious trip through Suez Canal in daylight.  Here we saw troops on active service for the first time, as the “line” was then right on the Canal bank (p8).

Egypt lived up to the reports back home

“Our first stay in Egypt is one of our happiest memories,  In spite of the heat, and the not too good tucker, we enjoyed our time off thoroughly”  “Cairo 20 minutes by electric tram and the sights, sounds and smells of our new surroundings interested us”. (p.8)

HINDMASH PATRIOTIC FUND. (1915, January 23). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59302494

HINDMASH PATRIOTIC FUND. (1915, January 23). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59302494

Private Dusting of Portland, with the 21st, wrote home of the sights he had seen at Columbo, Port Said and Cairo.  Like others, he was keen to get to the Dardanelles.

lc15

Soldier's Letter. (1915, August 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63974309

Soldier’s Letter. (1915, August 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63974309

Bugler G.  Barett wrote of the training the 21st Battalion were carrying out before they moved on to Anzac Cove.  The food was good too, and a 8 pence a day allowance allowed for extras like tinned fruit and pickles.

lc17

Our Men at the Front. (1915, August 21). Brighton Southern Cross (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75045296

Our Men at the Front. (1915, August 21). Brighton Southern Cross (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75045296

It was during this time that the term “Six Bob a Day Tourists” evolved to describe the Australian diggers.  They could earn six bob a day and see the World.

"SIX BOB A DAY TOURISTS.". (1915, June 7). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), p. 3 Edition: THIRD EDITION. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81003870

“SIX BOB A DAY TOURISTS.”. (1915, June 7). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), p. 3 Edition: THIRD EDITION. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81003870

Despite the sightseeing, the boys were keen to get into action and on August 30, the 21st boarded the Southland bound for Anzac Cove.  On September 2, 1915, the troops of the 21st Battalion, including Les Combridge, got their first taste of the reality of war.  A German submarine torpedoed the cruiser and the call came to abandon ship.  Men rushed to life boats, some spent hours in the water while others drowned and they would be noted in history as the victims of the first Australian ship struck by a torpedo.  There were 14 casualties in total.

Men of 11 Platton 21st Battalion C Company IMAGE COURTESy of the Australian War Memorial.  ID No. A00746 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00746/

Men of 11 Platton 21st Battalion C Company IMAGE COURTESy of the Australian War Memorial. ID No. A00746 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00746/

The Southland after the torpedo attack.

The Troopship Soutland.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Id No.A00737http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00737/

The Troopship Soutland. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Id No.A00737http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00737/

Neil C. Smith in the Red & Black Diamond: the History of the 21st Battalion mentions letters home were censored after the event and the story was not officially released until two months later.  This article from November 15, 1915 was one of the first reports of the attack.

lc12

THE GENERAL'S PRAISE. (1915, November 21). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), p. 1 Section: First Section. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57829146

THE GENERAL’S PRAISE. (1915, November 21). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), p. 1 Section: First Section. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57829146

After their rescue, the 21st Battalion spent a couple of days at Lemnos Island in the Aegean Sea.   They then resumed their journey to Anzac Cove and their next big adventure began.

21st BATTALION AFTER ARRIVAL AT GALLIPOLI, MARCHING UP MONASH GULLY.  Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial ID No: A000742 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00742/

21st BATTALION AFTER ARRIVAL AT GALLIPOLI, MARCHING UP MONASH GULLY. Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial ID No: A000742 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00742/

Letters home described the rough terrain and the risk of Turkish snipers. At some of the posts, ropes raised soldiers up and down the steep embankments.

Our Boys at Gallipoli. (1915, December 14). Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 - 1918), p. 1. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95346962

Our Boys at Gallipoli. (1915, December 14). Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 – 1918), p. 1. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95346962

Private Fred Ware of East Gippsland also wrote home of the terrain and gave an account of the trip on the Southland.

SOLDIERS' LETTERS. (1915, December 24). Gippsland Mercury (Sale, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: morning. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89277160

SOLDIERS’ LETTERS. (1915, December 24). Gippsland Mercury (Sale, Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: morning. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89277160

Les Combridge, with C Company, found himself stationed at Steele Post.  He  would stay in the trenches for weeks.  Steele Post looks as though it was one of the posts where ropes were necessary.

STEELES POST, GALLIPOLI 1915.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No:  P01580.015 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01580.015

STEELES POST, GALLIPOLI 1915. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No: P01580.015 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01580.015

Conditions were harsh.  From the 21st Battalion Unit Diary on September 13, 1915 –

“Trenches infected with vermin, fleas and lice…Sanitary arrangements with regard to this Section need particular care and every endeavour is being made to perfect same”

This was no holiday.

On September 21, Les was charged with disobeying am NCO, the first of several charges during  his years of service.

On September 30 the Unit Diary recorded that,

A large percentage of the men are suffering from diarrhea of dysentery …This Battalion has been in the trenches for 23 days...”

On that day, Les was charged for being absent from his place of duty.  Maybe he was making use of the limited sanitary arrangements available to him, given the diary entry for that day.

Another charge for Les came on October 18 of sleeping at his post while sentinel, but he was found not guilty.

During December 1915,  as blizzards began to hit the coastline, the 21st Battalion was evacuated from Gallipoli with the other Australian troops and they began to make their way back to Alexandria.  They spent some time at Imbros Island and Christmas and New Year at Lemnos Island where Christmas billies from home were enjoyed.

On January 4, 1916 they began the last leg to Alexandria.

When the 21st returned to Egypt, they spent time on the banks of the Suez Canal but when the 2nd Pioneer Battalion was raised soon after, Les joined their ranks on March 16, 1916.  They sailed for Marseilles, France and began to make their way to the north of France, by train and foot.

After arriving in Morbecque, France on March 31, 1916,  the Pioneers received a demonstration about Poison gas and Weeping gas as recorded in the  2nd Pioneer Unit Diary.  They were now at the Somme, preparing to do the work the Pioneers were formed for, while still fending off the perils of war.

The Chief Engineer of the Australian Pioneers wrote of the work the 2nd Pioneers did near Ypres. He mentions the Battalion had suffered heavy losses.

The Chronicle. (1918, July 20). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681288

The Chronicle. (1918, July 20). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681288

Colonel E.J.H. Nicholson wrote of the Pioneers in 1919.

lc32

lc33

Nicholson had the greatest respect for the pioneers and considered the 2nd Pioneers “the most respectable, steady, well conducted battalion…”

lc34

AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS AND PIONEERS. (1919, May 16). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 7. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62198709

AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS AND PIONEERS. (1919, May 16). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 7. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62198709

2nd Pioneer Battalion near Bapaume.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No:  E00343 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00343/

2nd Pioneer Battalion near Bapaume. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No: E00343 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00343/

The work of the Pioneer Battalion was described in the Williamstown Chronicle.    The Pioneers were give the nickname “Souvenirs” while the Engineers were “Ginger Beers”.  The “Souvenirs” not only had to do  hard labouring work but were prepared to fight if need be.  They often worked with gun fire and bombing going on around them and as a result there were often casualties.

lc37

lc38

A PIONEER BATTALION. (1918, July 13). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681256

A PIONEER BATTALION. (1918, July 13). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681256

On July 14, 1916, Les was transferred to the newly formed 2nd Tunnelling Company.   On July 19, near Fromelles, the 2nd Tunnellers detonated a mine, the largest in its’ operational history, designed to shield the 32nd Battalion as they moved across No Man’s Land.

NEWS OF THE DAY. (1916, July 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1023967

NEWS OF THE DAY. (1916, July 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1023967

Les only had to endure digging underground for two months because on September 30 he moved back to the Pioneers, then at  Le Torquet, to continue digging above the ground.

On October 18, Les racked up another offence, charged with drunkenness.  As a result he lost two day’s pay.

On January 27, 1917  Les took sick and was transferred to hospital by the 13th Field Ambulance.  They took him to Allonville and the 39 Casualty Clearing Station.  He was then transferred on to the No 14 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne where he recovered from mumps.

Out of hospital, Les marched into the 2nd Australian Divisional Base at  Estaples on February 24, 1917, marching out again on February 27, 1917 to re-join the 2nd Pioneer Battalion on March 3.

From June 9, 1917 Les spent some time training with the 5th Army Musketry School and on August 4 he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

The 2nd Pioneers moved on to Ypres in October, 1917.  The following photo shows the 2nd Pioneer doing what they did best.  During the months of October and November, 1917 at Ypres the Battalion built water channels, stables and constructed a plank road as seen below at Chateau Wood.

2nd Pioneer building plank road at Chateau Wood, Ypres, Sept 26, 1917 Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NOl P08577.002  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P08577.002

2nd Pioneer building plank road at Chateau Wood, Ypres, Sept 26, 1917 Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NOl P08577.002 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P08577.002

An article in the Cairns Post on December 29, 1917 included stories from the front.  One of those mentioned was of a Sergeant from one of the Pioneer Battalions, lying injured in hospital.  The Sergeant described the work his Battalion were doing on the roads near Ypres.

lc28

BATTLE STORIES FROM THE WEST FRONT. (1917, December 29). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40273100

BATTLE STORIES FROM THE WEST FRONT. (1917, December 29). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40273100

In July 21, 1919 the work of the Australian Pioneer Battalion was remembered in this article from the West Australian.

lc30

ENGINEERS, PIONEERS, AND TUNNELLERS. (1919, July 21). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27611735

ENGINEERS, PIONEERS, AND TUNNELLERS. (1919, July 21). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27611735

On  November 2, 1917, Les was wounded, receiving a bullet to his right elbow.  The injury was described as severe.   The 3rd Australian Field Ambulance,  then stationed in Wippenhoek, took him to the 3rd Casualty Clearance Station.  The 2nd Pioneer Unit Diary states that one “OR” was wounded on that day.

The following day, Les was transferred to the 5th General Hospital at Rouen France, but it was necessary to move him to England and he arrived at the 5th South General Hospital at Portsmouth on November 8.

On Februay 8, 1918 Les  was  transferred to 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford for just under a week.  Patients with war related nervous conditions were treated there.  Then on to Weymouth, Dorset to convalesce until his departure on April 10, 1918

So Les was on a ship home.  But what was going on at home, who had he left and who had arrived?

ON THE HOMEFRONT

Les Combridge was the son of Herbert John Combridge and Jane Wyatt.  Jane passed away in 1909 at Grantville,  presumablyas a result of childbirth leaving Les, aged 12 and Horace Claude (known as Claude), aged two,  the only children remaining from five pregnancies.

In 1913,  Herbert married widow Sarah Hade (nee Jackson), already a mother of a large family.  In February 1914, Herbert and Sarah welcomed Verena May.  When Les left Australia 12 months later, Sarah was pregnant again and in July 1916 Harold Herbert was born.

Herbert had given his son his consent, maybe with even a hint of envy.  In 1916, after the age for enlistment was raised, the then 43-year-old Herbert himself enlisted.  After a short time at Royal Park, he was discharged due to a weak heart.

It seems that in each story I write for Anzac Day, rumours made their way home about the welfare of a soldier abroad.  The Combridges had their own taste of this, leading to Herbert writing to the  Army requesting information about Les.

On August 30, 1915, Herbert penned a letter to Colonel Hawker.  At the same time, in Egypt, Les was three days away from boarding the Southland to Gallopoli.

“…I have had one letter from him since he arrived in Egypt and since then I have not heard there is two other families around here had sons went away at the same time and they have sent letters home stating that my son lost the use of his legs since he landed and then contracted pneumonia and was to be invalided home and as I have not heard from him I thought you may be able to give me some information about him as I am anxious and if he is unable I think some one ought to let us know I have only him and a lad of 7 years out of 5 from my first marriage losing 3 and his mother in a few years so trusting you will do me the kindness of letting me know what you can about him…”

Herbert writes with little punctuation but the worry he was feeling is not lost.  He mentioned the children and wife he lost and the thought of losing another after such a short time must have been excruciating.

On September 7, 1915, a Lieutenant H Mackintosh, officer from Base  Records, responded to Herbert to ease his mind  somewhat.  He advised Herbert that no official notification had come through about Les, but if Herbert was to send any evidence he may have to the contrary with the full details of the informant etc etc.  A typical government letter.

Herbert replied, to let Lieutenant Mackintsh know that Les had since written and all was well.  He had been in hospital with pleurisy and bronchitis but had returned to his Company.  He went on to thank Mackintosh and apologised for the trouble he may have caused.  He explained:

“..,it was sent to two different parties about him and I thought if he was to be sent back I ought have heard…”

On November 16 1917, two weeks after it occured, Herbert received the notification he had expected two years earlier.  Les had been wounded.  It was two weeks later, on December 1, that he learned that Les had been shot and was in the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth.  Almost two weeks later he heard that Les was improving.  It was looking like Christmas 1917 would be a little happier than was thought at the beginning of the month.

Herbert’s next official notification of Les’ health was mid March 1918.  Les was “progressing favourably”.

When Les returned home in May 1918, he reunited with his father and Claude and met his two-year old brother for the first time.  His step mother was pregnant again with a third child to Herbert.

POST WAR

In September 1919, Les married local Grantville girl Myrtle Rose White, daughter of Culmer Thomas White and Alice Elizabeth Hunt.  On November 12, 1920 their first child, daughter Mavis Ayleen was born at Wonthaggi.  Over the next 16 years, they would have a further three girls and a son.

Les farmed first at Grantville and  later took up a property “Hazelbrook” at nearby Alumurta .  He became involved with the Blackwood Forest Football Club.

COUNTRY NEWS. (1926, April 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 26. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3746499

COUNTRY NEWS. (1926, April 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 26. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3746499

By 1937, and almost 20 years after his return from Europe, it seem that Les had got on with his life.  But on June 28, Les died suddenly at Wonthaggi from heart failure.  He was only 40 years old.

' OTHER DISTRICTS. (1937, July 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 21. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11115412

‘ OTHER DISTRICTS. (1937, July 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 21. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11115412

The loss of Les at such a young age must have hit hard.  Myrtle had the five children, aged from two to 17 and a farm.  Also Herbert was faced with the death of yet another child.

How do I know about Leslie Herbert Combridge.  He was my great-grandfather.  His eldest daughter Mavis was my Grandma and never in the 39 years I knew her, did I realise how much his death had an effect on her.  Not until I started reading newspapers at Trove, that is.  Then I found  “In Memoriam” notices she had submitted, right up until 1947, 10 years after his death,  herself then married and raising a family, living hours away from her beloved Bass Valley.

(1943, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 10. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page625813

(1943, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 10. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page625813

(1944, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 12. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page628551

(1944, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 12. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page628551

Family Notices. (1947, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 11. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22436539

Family Notices. (1947, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 11. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22436539

I can’t say how much WW1 played a part in the premature death of Les Combridge, but given the work he did, particularly with the Pioneers and the exposure to gas in France and the overall wear  the conditions must have had on a body, it cannot be dismissed.  Although with Herbert’s weak heart, hereditary factors were also at play, but Herbert, who didn’t serve, lived to 66, dying 18 months after Les, in 1939.

The places Les went read like a Contiki itinerary, but the hard working Pioneer was no tourist and for the most time, the sights he saw would be unforgettable but for all the wrong reasons.  His time spent collecting his nerves at Dartford before his return to Australia giveing some clue to the mind-set he was in but how much this continued to be a part of his life is not know.  If it was still there he must have kept it deep inside .

The early death of Les robbed him of time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He gave so much of his heart to Australia, there was little left for his family.

LEST WE FORGET

SOURCES

Australian War Memorial

Finlayson, Damien (2010). Crumps and camouflets : Australian tunnelling companies on the Western Front. Big Sky Publishing, Newport, N.S.W

MacNeil, A. R & 21st Battalion (A.I.F.) Association (Melbourne, Vic.) (1971). The Story of the twenty-first : being the official history of the 21st Battalion, A.I.F. 21st Battalion Association, Melbourne

National Archives of Australia

Smith, Neil C (1997). The red and black diamond : the history of the 21st Battalion 1915-18 (1st ed). Mostly Unsung Military History Research and Publications, Gardenvale, Vic

Trove Australia

Trove Tuesday – Buried Treasure

For a family historian, great-great-grandfather Culmer White is good value because he liked to write a letter.  On  Trove Tuesday 2 October, I shared a letter Culmer wrote to the papers thanking the Reverend who married him to Alice Hunt.

Only months before his death, an article in The Argus of 13 January 13 1938, stirred up memories from almost sixty years before when he was only twenty-two. His memory may have failed him a little as you will discover.

Firstly some background into the story.  In July 1877, a Martin Wiberg stole over 5,000 freshly minted gold sovereigns from the steamer Avoca on a trip from Sydney to Melbourne.  He was not initially suspected and was able to cart the sovereigns, hidden in bars of soap, close to Inverloch, Gippsland.

In October 1878,  police captured him, only to have him escape again while supposedly leading them to his stash of sovereigns.  In May 1879, police caught up with him again  and he served out his term in Pentridge, which was only around four years.  He was then believed to have drowned in the sea off Inverloch after his boat was found.  In 1897, his name hit the papers again when a Melbourne resident on holiday, made conversation with him in  Sweden.

And so to Culmer’s letter published in The Argus on 22 January 22 1938.  It was one of two letters on that day devoted to Wiberg’s case.

cw3

LETTERS FROM THE EDITOR'S POST-BAG. (1938, January 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 20 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11142515

LETTERS FROM THE EDITOR’S POST-BAG. (1938, January 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 20 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11142515

Culmer wrote when he checked back in his ledger of 25 September 1879 he found the job for Martin Wiberg.  On this date, Wiberg would have been in Pentridge after his recapture.  Maybe it was an error while writing the letter and he really he meant 1878 at which time Wiberg was still at large as he was arrested for the first time in October 1878.  Prior to his first arrest, Wiberg would have moved the sovereigns, but it is unlikely he would have done that during his second stint on the run in 1879.

While I was going back over this letter for the purpose of this post, I thought I would check if there were more “Letters to the Editor” on the Wiberg matter, hoping there may have been a rebuttal to Culmer’s letter in the following weeks.  A rebuttal did come on February 12 from J.T.M. of Canterbury.  He began by criticising the other letter published on the same day as Culmer’s.  He then turned his attention to Culmer:

THE EDITOR'S POST-BAG. (1938, February 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 18 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11148112

THE EDITOR’S POST-BAG. (1938, February 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 18 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11148112

This story has so many twists and turns and newsletters from the Inverloch Historical Society in 2000, state that a local man, Samuel Laycock, may have been an accomplice to Wiberg.  One day, some day, when I have time, I will put all the articles about this case on a Trove list.

It doesn’t matter that Culmer’s memory may have been fuzzy, the article once again demonstrates his lovely style of letter writing and good on him for keeping ledgers for over sixty years.  I wonder where they got to?  It also confirmed for me his presence in Gippsland during the late 1870s.  He married Alice in 1881 at Fern Hill, Gippsland.  Before I found the letter, I didn’t know where he was prior to 1881 or when he arrived in Australia from Kent.  I have found some newspaper articles that have lead me to believe he may have “jumped ship” in 1875, but I’ll save that for another Trove Tuesday.

Of course, when I found Culmer’s letter I sent a copy to his granddaughter, my great-auntie Jean and like the previous letter, it brought back fond memories of her grandfather.

Trove Tuesday – From the Heart

Not only do I have Western District families, I have West Gippsland families.  The Combridges, Hunts and Whites resided around Grantville and Wonthaggi.

My great great grandfather was Culmer Thomas White, born in Thanet, Kent, England in 1857.  Culmer  descended from the Culmer and White familes, well-known in Kent for their boat building businesses at Broadstairs.  The two families came together around 1714 when John White married Mary Culmer.  Culmer’s father, great grandfather and and gg grandfather were all named Culmer White.  There are several other Culmer’s including my gg uncle Culmer William White and William Culmer White, Culmer’s 2nd cousin 1 x removed, who also immigrated to Melbourne, and his son Culmer Reuben White.

Almost everything I have found in the newspapers about Culmer Thomas White has been a treasure.  None more so than this heartfelt letter written to Reverend Henry Howard in 1927 which was then passed on by the Reverend to the West Gippsland Gazette.  Culmer was 70 at the time of writing.

Rev. Henry Howard. (1927, July 5). West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic. : 1898 – 1930) , p. 1 Edition: MORNING.. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68643758

It is a touching letter as Culmer gives his thanks to Reverend Howard, shows his pride in his children and expresses his feelings at that time in his life, happy but at times lonely.

Culmer’s wife, my great great grandmother, was Alice Elizabeth Hunt, daughter of  William Henry Hunt and Margaret Beatty, immigrants from Middlesex, England.  Alice was born at Chilwell, Victoria in 1857.

Culmer died in 1938 at Wonthaggi and Alice in 1940 at Bass.  They are buried together at the Grantville cemetery.

Culmer and Alice’s youngest child, Myrtle Rose White, married Les Combridge in 1919.  They had five children, four daughters and one son.  One of those daughters was my Grandma, Mavis Combridge, later to marry Percy Riddiford.

Grandma passed away in 2007, but I did get to ask her about her grandparents Culmer and Alice, prior to her death.  She told me the story of how she and her three younger sisters would stay at their grandparent’s house.  Culmer would pick them up in a horse and cart and they would sit in the back as he drove them to his house.  He was a “lovely man” according to Grandma.  As is the way, there is still so much I would like to ask her about them.

I am very lucky as I still have a living link to Culmer and Alice, via my great Auntie Jean.  I have also spoken to her about her grandparents and she reiterated Grandma’s words that Culmer was a “lovely man”.  When I found this letter, I printed it out and sent it to Auntie Jean. She was thrilled.  I have sent her some of the other articles I have found about him and she has enjoyed being taken back in time.  I wish Grandma could have seen this wonderful letter.