Betty Blunden 1980
I visited Tasmania for the first time at Easter, 1963. During a tour of the island I saw the tombstone on the grave of my great-great-grandparents, William and Ann Hyett, in the cemetery in Sorell. I had been told of its existence by a cousin of my mother’s, Mabel Kennedy.
This tombstone sparked off a desire to find out what I could of my mother’s forbears, the Hyetts. I corresponded with the Archives Office in Hobart, the Tasmanian Lands Dept. and Registrar-General’s Dept. I made three more trips to Tasmania, at Easter ’64, December ’78 and September ’79. The last visit included a stay in Sorell with the family of Alan Newitt, the local historian. Through Alan I met sore old people whose memories included memories of my great-grandfather, Jacob Hyett; memories that are accepted now as oral history. I also met the present owners of land that used to belong to the Hyetts.
In tracing the movements and activities of the Hyetts in Victoria I have been given help by members of the family of my generation and of the previous generation. I have been helped by the staff of the Latrobe Library, and birth, death and marriage certificates have been an enormous source of material.
Betty Blunden, 1980.
1. This is an account of my search for the identity of my mother’s forbears, the Hyetts, and their movements over the last 150 years. The research has been done for my own pleasure, the writing down of the story has been done for my sons, sisters, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews, all the descendants of William and Ann Hyett who are interested in their own origins.
My mother’s name was Elizabeth Mary, her father was William Hyett, her mother was Annie Pearce, Unfortunately, I knew very little of the Hyetts and Pearces when Mother died. She did talk a little of her childhood when we were young, but if I had taken the opportunity to question her when I was an adult she could have told me so much more.
Four trips to Tasmania, talks with my family, with people in Sorell and Nugent, contacts with Government Departments and old family letters and documents have given me a wealth of information. Photographs of every member of the family, with the exception of the first arrival, old William. tell us what they looked like.
I knew that the first Hyetts who had lived in Australia had been farmers in Tasmania. William and Ann were their names. None of their great-grandchildren, my mother’s generation, knew the circumstances of their arrival in Van Diemen’s Land.
My first visit to Tasmania was during Easter, 1963. In preparation for the holiday I went to see Mabel. a cousin of Mother’s. She is the great-grandaughter of Ann and William. This meeting took place seven years after Mother’s death and meeting Mabel was like meeting Mother’s ghost. Mabel and Mother shared the “Hyett Looks”. I use capital letters because that was the way Mother had spoken those words. Different relatives had “the Hyett Looks”. They were all proud to be and look a Hyett.
Mabel has an excellent memory and was a very reliable source of information. She told me “Jacob Hyett was my grandfather. He was born in the English border town of Berwick, about 1829, and came to Australia with his parents about 1837”. This information proved to be incorrect, but I am sure that Mabel and the rest of the family believed it to be the truth.
Mabel went on:
“They were farming people and Jacob was the only child. They selected land in Tasmania near Hobart. The property was near Nugent, fourteen miles from the township of Sorell. It was a very big property. Mrs Gatehouse, an old family friend, told me when I visited Nugent in 1910 that it was Hyett land as far as the eye could see. Jacob went to a boarding school in Hobart. When he was in his twenties he went over to Victoria and courted Miss Elizabeth Warren. My mother, Alice, used to tell me the story of how Jacob would arrive on his chestnut, wearing a red coat, white pants and tan boots; and how proud my grandmother had been. They were married and returned to Nugent. Jacob’s father died later, but his mother lived to be a very old lady. They were both buried in the graveyard at Sorell. I visited Tasmania again in 1913 with my mother. I saw the grave but by then it was overgrown by the bush”.
I also showed Mabel the old family album that had originally belonged to Mary Pearce, my mother’s maternal grandmother. Mabel was able to identify the photo of “the house at Nugent” with her great-grandmother, Ann Hyett, and her grandparents, Jacob and Elizabeth. The other photos she recognized included a seated picture of Jacob with one of his daughters, her Aunt Ellen, her mother, Alice, her uncles William, Walter and young Jacob, and small pictures of William, Annie, the girl he married, and old Jacob. She had been familiar with all these photos since she was a child.
I was in Tasmania for four days during the Easter ’63 holiday. On our way to Port Arthur we stopped at Sorell hoping to find the grave. The old Church of England cemetery is in Forcett Street, a turn to the left just before entering the township. The cemetery is at the end of the street, and we found the Hyett grave at the far north west corner, near a stretch of water called Pittwater. The inscription on the slightly tilted headstone read:
To the memory of
Died 2nd. September, 1876
Aged 76 years.
Ann Hyett wife of the above
Died 24th. February, 1880
Aged 87 years.
From Sorell we drove the fourteen miles to Nugent to see if there was any trace left of the Hyett home. In 1963 Nugent was marked only by an old, dilapidated Post Office and store. A young woman there knew the name Hyett and knew the whereabouts of Redbank. That was the name of the property that old William had willed to his grandson, William Hyett. We were directed to Brown’s place where they would be able to tell us exactly where the Hyetts had lived. Mr Brown told us — “the third property past the Post Office, on the left”. He doubted if there was anything left of the old Hyett house.
No one was at home at the third house, so we knocked at the second house. Mr Ernie Wiggins lived there and he remembered old Jacob Hyett. This Wiggins was the son of the James Wiggins who had leased Redbank sixty years earlier and he had lived there as a child. He had been born in 1893.
“I can remember old Jake well. We leased Redbank, then Tuscan’s piece too, for £43 a year.”
I asked “Wasn’t it £44?’ I had read a copy of an old lease. “Yes, that’s right. I can remember old Jake on the road one day and he said to me he wanted to see my dad. So Dad saw him and it was only to be told that the rent was to be raised from £43 to £44. Dad never forgave me. A pound was a lot of money in those days. Worth £20 today. And money was always short. But somehow we managed to scrape it together every year. Old Jake gave Redbank to some woman...”
“Mrs Sanders, his daughter-in-law. It was actually her property.” “Yes, that’s right. We called her Mrs Saunders. But we didn’t see much of Jake. He only came round once a year to collect the rent.”
Mr Wiggins directed us to Redbank. “The first road on the right after you leave Nugent for Sorell. Redbank is the third property, the last on the road. But there is nothing left of the old house now.” We followed his directions, but there were more than three properties, and this road joined another, so we were not sure which place was Redbank. None of the farms had their names on their gates. There was a surprising number of barns and sheds with shingled roofs and, though the homesteads looked in good condition, the land everywhere looked neglected. It seemed to us that the countryside had probably altered very little over the last sixty years. That was in 1963.
I had been reading “For the Term of his Natural Life” during the Easter holidays and I was very conscious of Tasmania’s convict past. Sorell was not far from Port Arthur. William had been a very early settler. It did not seem too far fetched to wonder if he had been a convict.
After I returned home, I wrote to the Archives Office in Hobart and asked if William Hyett had appeared in their lists of convicts. A few weeks later I received an answer to my enquiry.
“William Hyatt, number 529, was tried at the Warwick Assizes on 30th March, 1822 for “stealing wearing apparel from a dwelling house” and sentenced to seven years transportation. He was by trade a groom and was twenty years of age, 5’ 41/2” in height, had grey eyes, brown hair and was a native of Stratford. His mother lived in Old Stratford, and he had last lived with one, Churden, at Tame in Oxfordshire, and was single. His hulk report was orderly and he had previously served twelve months at Warwick for house breaking. Hyatt arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on the ship Commadore Hayes on the 16th August, 1823. In December 1827, while assigned to Thomas Roadnight, Hyatt was committed for trial at the Supreme Court for stealing cedar planks, but he was found not guilty. He worked in the Austin’s Ferry Road party from this time until he received his pardon in 1829, where he committed several offences for which his usual punishment was to work at the treadmill for seven days. His offences included — making use of insolent language to his overseer, absent from his hut after hours, absent from his party, and neglect of duty in refusing to work.”
There was other information that was not about our William Hyatt, but there were two more paragraphs that were relevant.
In March 1854 William Hyatt had completed the purchase of a hundred acres of Crown Land in the Parish of Thanet. McPhaill’s Directory 1876-78 lists William and Jacob Hyatt, farmers, Ringarooma, Sorell District. In November 1869, Ann Hyatt of Sorell made enquiries in England, through the Colonial Secretary, respecting her children by her former husband, Patrick Carolan.”
Now my search was really on.
I had a genealogist in England who was doing work for me on the Blunden family, so I asked her if she could get any further details on William’s record. She sent me the following information.
“Warwick Assizes, March 30, 1822.
William Hyatt — stealing goods value 28 shillings of Samuel Pratt and goods value 31 shillings of William Jackson.
Puts not guilty.
William Hyatt — Breaking and entering dwelling house of Mr Newman (No proof of stealing his goods.)
Confesses 7 years.”
The genealogist sent me a photostat of the entry.
William arrived in Hobart in 1823, twenty years after it had been established as a convict settlement and he completed his sentence in 1829, a year before Port Arthur was built.
I visited Hobart again the following Easter, in 1964. I was able to get photo copies of William’s convict record and of the letter received in Hobart reporting the “unavailing search” that had been made for Ann’s children by her first marriage. I also obtained copies of William’s and Jacob’s wills from the Supreme Court.
I wrote for William’s marriage certificate. He had married the widow, Ann Carroll at Sorell. On the marriage certificate William’s surname is spelt Hyatt. Both William and Ann were illiterate, signing their names with a cross, so it is not surprising that there are subsequent variations in both the spelling of William’s and Ann’s surnames.
As illiteracy crops up a lot in the first two generations of the family I checked out on the official figures. In Victoria, in 1851 about a third of the population could neither read nor write, ten per cent could read but not write. (Victorian Government Census, 1851). Of all Mother’s family born in Australia I have come across only one who was illiterate. Mary Ann, Jacob’s eldest daughter, signed her name with a cross.
When they were married William was thirty-four years old and Ann was forty. (William’s convict record gives his date of birth as 1802. William himself puts it at 1800. For the sake of simplicity I use the date of 1800.) In 1834, when the marriage took place, the ratio of men convicts to women convicts in Van Diemen’s Land was 13,126 to 1,644 (Archives Office). The ratio of the whole population would have been much the same, so William was one of the fortunate ones to find himself a wife.
The reason for Ann Carroll’s presence in Van Diemen’s Land remained unknown until I paid another visit to Hobart in December, 1978, and was able to spend time at the Archives Office. By then the names of all the convicts had been indexed alphabetically. There were several women named Ann Carroll, but by the information given in their records it was possible to identify our Ann.
Ann Carroll had been brought before the Lancaster/Liverpool Quarter Sessions, 9 July, 1832. She was found guilty of “stealing 6 lbs of butter, 2 lbs of bacon and other articles”. “Gaol report unknown” which means she had no previous convictions. She was a “widow, 4 children”. Her sentence was 14 years transportation. Ann was Irish and it has been suggested to me that the severity of tier sentence may have been a reflection of a current wave of anti-Irish feeling.
She was transported on the ship Jane and arrived in Hobart on 30 June 1833. “Surgeon’s report good” which means that her behaviour on the trip out was satisfactory. On arrival in Hobart she stated her offence was “stealing butter and cheese” and that she was a widow with six children. She was assigned to one Giblin of Hobart. Two months later, on 22 August, 1833 she was brought before the magistrate and found guilty of “drunk and disorderly conduct”. Her punishment was “Wash tub, 1 month” at the Female Factory in Hobart, then to be “assigned to the Interior.”
Her vital statistics have been recorded in another book.
|Name, Carroll Ann||Newry, Ireland.|
|Trade, Farm servant|
|Height without shoes, 5' 2"||Eyebrows, Brown|
|Age, 40||Eyes, Hazel|
|Complexion, Sallow||Nose, Small, sharp|
|Hair, Dark Brown||Mouth, Medium width|
|Visage, Small, narrow||Chin, Small|
|Forehead, Perpendicular||Remarks, None|
Her age, date of arrival, the fact that she was a widow with children, that she was tried in Liverpool, and that she was “assigned to the Interior” in August, 1833, all tie up with the widow, Ann Carroll, forty years old, who married William Hyatt at Sorell on 22 July, 1834, and had a son before the end of that year.
Women convicts were never assigned to unmarried men, so she would have been sent as a servant to a married couple living in the Interior, which in Ann’s case was the Sorell district. Here she met William Hyett and less than a year later became pregnant. The Archivist who was helping me told me that “the authorities liked respectability”, so, with “the consent of the Lieutenant Governor” (necessary because Ann was serving her sentence), she and William were married. She was automatically assigned to her husband. She would have had to appear regularly “at muster” — which was probably her church. Failure to do so would have meant a return to the Female Factory in Hobart. Also entered on Ann’s record — Ticket of Leave, 27.3.39 and Conditional Pardon, 3.11.41. By then Ann had served eight years of her fourteen year sentence. Neither she nor William ever applied for a Free Pardon. It would have been necessary only if either of them had wanted to visit the mainland or return to England. Ann’s pregnancy and subsequent marriage, whether by accident or design, were the only legal means that would release her from serving her full sentence. They did not bring her complete freedom but placed her in a much more desirable situation.
The Archives hold a copy of all Church of England marriage and baptismal records. Ann and William’s marriage is recorded there, but Jacob’s baptism is not. Ann was a Roman Catholic and Jacob may have been baptised in her church. But, as he was brought up in the Church of England, I think it was possible that he was not baptised. The actual date of his birth has not been recorded, but the year, 1834, is given on his own marriage certificate.
I was unable to confirm Mabel’s information that Jacob was educated in Hobart. The Archives hold very old records of some schools but Jacob’s name was not listed. There was a Government School built in Sorell in 1822, so possibly Jacob was educated there. At all events, he was educated and samples of his signature and the writing of his address in Sorell, show a strong, flowing hand.
It was not until 1869, when she was seventy-six years old, that Ann made an attempt to trace the children of her first marriage. She had not seen them for thirty-six years. The letter that was sent to the Colonial Secretary’s office would contain much interesting information. A handwritten copy of all letters sent to the Colonial Secretary by the Lieutenant Governor is held in the Archives. There is a large bound volume of the covering letters which listed the different item contained in each dispatch. It took me three hours to read the covering letters written in 1867, ’68, ’69 but I was unable to find a mention of Ann Hyett’s application. It was a tiring job and I probably missed it. Theoretically, I was told, it should be there. If the reference had been found it would then have been possible to locate Ann’s application, which would be on micro film.
The answer to the application reads:
C. S. Office
2nd November 1869
I have to acquaint you that Lord Granville has communicated to H.E. The Governor the result of enquiries instituted in England to obtain information respecting your children by your former husband, Patrick Carolan.
I herewith enclose for your information copy of a letter from Mr Liddell to the Under Secretary of State dated Whitehall 25th August, 1869, and also extract from the Report Book of Liverpool Central Police Office dated 18th August last. These documents disclose the unavailing search made on your application.
Sgd. B.S. Solly
Mrs Anne Hyatt
The search for the children was made unsuccessful before it started because of the mistaken spelling of Ann’s former name. It was spelt Carolan, instead of Carroll, almost certainly because of Ann’s illiteracy. The fact that the search was conducted in Liverpool, where Ann was originally sentenced, confirms the assumption that Ann Carroll was Ann Hyatt of Sorell.
From various records held in the Archives, I was able to follow some of William’s and Ann’s moves and activities during the years they lived in the Sorell district.
The first document was a census taken 1 January, 1942. It gave the following information:
William Hyett (the first time that spelling was used although both spellings continued to be used indiscriminately for the next thirty years) was occupying a farm at Wattle Hill in the Parish of Canning. (Wattle Hill is nine miles out of Sorell on the road to Nugent.) The owner of the land was Silas Gatehouse. The dwelling house was of wood and building had been completed. Five people lived there — William, Ann, Jacob and two “persons employed in agriculture”, men over the age of sixty. Both these men were single and, like William and Ann, were exconvicts, “other free persons”. All were Anglican except Ann, who was Roman Catholic.
There is one error in the census. A child “under the age of Two” was marked in, by mistake. But the mistake was rectified in the total of single people.
This census return was the first document concerning the Hyetts that included the name Gatehouse. As I knew there were three generations of Gatehouses involved in the lives of the Hyetts, I was interested to find out how they had come to Sorell. The Archives had a folder on the Gatehouse family and this, briefly, is what had happened.
George Gatehouse was in N.S.W. between 1804 and 1810. He returned to England, then migrated to Van Diemen’s Land as a Free Settler “under the sanction of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with an order for land which he received.” He became “a man of substance”, was partner in a mercantile business and built a brewery. Three brothers followed him,
Silas, Clement and William. They all received grants of land. The Chief Archivist explained to me, that before 1830, land grants were made, provided the applicant had the means to develop the land. This applied to both free settlers and ex-convicts. One convict, who had capital, was able to obtain a grant of land before his sentence expired. The usual measure was £1 capital for one acre of land. After 1830 land grants were made only to ex-army officers or to people who had given outstanding service to the colony, as part payment of a pension.
An entry in the baptismal records of Sorell records the birth of Jonas, son of Silas and Harriet Gatehouse on 13 November, 1833. Another son, Silas Crocker Gatehouse, was barn 11 August, 1839. The Gatehouse brothers were contemporaries of Jacob, who was born in 1834, and they became the trustees of his will which was made in 1909.
2. In 1853 or ’54 when Jacob was about twenty years old, he left Tasmania and joined the gold rush to Victoria. There is Mabel’s colourful story of his courtship of Elizabeth Warren, and on 27 February, 1855 they were married in the Church of England Parsonage at Castlemaine. Jacob was twenty-one and Elizabeth twenty. They gave their usual address as Maryborough and Jacob gave his profession as Miner. There was some information on Elizabeth’s background on the marriage certificate. She had signed her name with a cross. She had been born in Camden, Cornwall and her father, Thomas Warren, was a miner. Her mother’s maiden name was Ivey. (Her mother’s first name, Christina, appears on Elizabeth’s death certificate.) Jacob spelt his name Hyett on the marriage certificate and he used that spelling from then on. [Ann Hyett’s maiden name, Magin, is to be found on the marriage certificate of her son, Jacob. – B.B. ]
Jacob and Elizabeth soon returned to Tasmania. My research in the Archives during my December ’78 visit uncovered a lot of information about the family’s doings during the next twenty years. Jacob and Elizabeth’s first child, Mary Ann, (named after Elizabeth’s eldest sister and Jacob’s mother) was born on 20 May, 1856 at “Ringarooma”, Parish of Canning, Sorell. The Electoral Roll for Sorell for that year, 1856, lists Jacob as owning land at Ringarooma, and William as owning house and land at Ringarooma. Jacob lived in William’s house and worked the 450 acre farm that William owned, for the next nineteen years.
During those years Jacob acquired children and William acquired land. then sometimes sold it, until at the time of his death he owned seven lots. His will identified these lots for me, all of them in Prosser Plains: four grants originally purchased by J. Birchall, one grant originally purchased by J. Norton and two grants purchased directly from the Crown, one of 99 acres and one of 509 acres. The Archives had a map of Prosser Plains showing the original purchasers of grants of Crown Land. I was able to find William’s seven lots, all adjacent to each other and adjacent to the grant of 305 acres taken out by Jacob in 1856. Mabel had said “It was Hyett land as far as the eye could see”. Between them, William and Jacob owned 1440 acres.
William had gone through a complicated process before he made his final selection. I found the following information in the Electoral Rolls for Sorell, two Hobart Town Gazettes all of which are held at the Archives, and in the records held by the Registrar-General.
In March 1854 he had “completed the purchase of 100 acres of Crown Land in the Parish of Thanet, lot 274”. In 1858 he owned 444 acres at Wattle Hill, in 1859 “he completed the purchase of 274 acres in the Parish of Thanet”, in 1868 he was living at Ringarooma on a lot of 44 acres. In 1872 he added 20 acres to his home lot. On the Ist September, 1873 he “purchased 509 acres in the Parish of Nugent, County of Pembroke”. This was lot 1756 and is shown on the map. The Hobart Town Gazette for 1875 gave the last relevant piece of information; William owned 64 acres at Ringarooma where he was living, and he owned the 450 acres at Ringarooma where Jacob had been living for the last nineteen years.
Ten more children were born to Jacob and Elizabeth in Tasmania. The Baptismal Records at the Archives gave the birth date of all of these children except Alice. Her birth date I obtained from the Registrar. The children born at Ringarooma, Sorell, were Christina, 3 July, 1857; William, 10 December, 1858; Thomas, 20 May, 1860; John, 14 October, 1861; Ellen, 16 October, 1863; Jacob, 19 August, 1865; Walter, 19 May, 1867; Alice, 13 April, 1869; Edwin, 21 August 1871 and Albert, 4 August, 1873. Edwin, when he was three years old, died, 27 July, 1874.
Christina was named after Elizabeth’s mother, William after Jacob’s father, Thomas, John and Alice after Elizabeth’s brothers and sister, Jacob after his father. The origin of the other names I do not know.
(A comment from Alan Newitt, historian from Sorell: “If you were Roman Catholic you had a child every year. If you were Anglican, you had a child every second year.”)
Young Jacob remembered his childhood at Sorell. He was nine years old when the family left. He told this story to his grandson, Jack Hyett. Jack is of my generation, a socialist, teacher, naturalist, author and this is the story that he passed on to me. On the farm at Sorell, escaped convicts used to come in and work for William and Ann. When troopers came looking for the escapees, the old lady would run up a flag on the flag pole, to “honour” their coming. At this signal the convicts took to the bush and the old man came up to the house.
In 1875, the year after little Edwin’s death and the year before old William’s death, Jacob, Elizabeth and their ten children moved to Victoria. Jacob certainly loved the property because he returned to it. But his children didn’t. Six of them were in their teens when they left Nugent. None of them returned to live there and none of the boys became farmers. I have not been able to find the reason for the move. Maybe it was pressure from the children. Elizabeth was able to live nearer her parents in Victoria but I doubt if that would have been considered a valid reason for the move. It could have been an attempt for the children to cut free of the convict connection. If this were the reason, they were successful. Mabel told me that the land was leased after the family left.
It is possible to date the photo of ‘the house at Nugent’ as some time before 1875, when Jacob and Elizabeth left. It is the only photo I have of Ann and it is a pity that old William was not included. He was still alive then, and I have no photo of him.
Jacob and Elizabeth’s movements in Victoria I have been able to reconstruct from birth and death certificates. They were living in Eureka Street, Ballarat, when Sarah was born on 2 November, 1875. Ten months later on 2 September, 1876, old William died of “catalysis” (a stroke?). He had made his will in February of that year. In it he left everything to his wife, Ann, for her lifetime. On Ann’s death five adjacent lots, 350 acres in all, were left to his eldest grandson, William. If William had not reached the age of twenty-one, this land was to be managed by the trustees of the will, John Murdoch of Hobart Town and Thomas Hayton of Sorell, until such time as William reached his majority. The map of Prosser Plains shows these five lots which cover an area of approximately two miles by half a mile. The Curryjong Rivulet marks the northern boundary for the full two miles except for a little twist it takes through Jacob’s land. (It also acts as the boundary between the Parish of Nugent to the north and the Parish of Canning to the south.) William’s remaining land, two lots making up 608 acres in all, was adjacent to Jacob’s lot of 305 acres, and it was left to Jacob.
One clause in William’s will caused difficulties. He had taken out a mortgage of £150 with Henry Boase Tonkin on the 350 acres he had willed to young William and the 509 lot that was part of Jacob’s inheritance. He “declared” that the mortgage should be paid by his grandson, William and son, Jacob, each paying £75.
Old William died in 1876 and probate was proved in 1897. This coincided with Jacob taking out a mortgage on the 99 acres, presumably to meet this old debt. Jacob did not call on his daughter-in-law, Annie, to pay her share of the debt. He paid off this mortgage on the 99 acre lot during his lifetime. (Deeds Office.)
His convict record gives a good idea of the young man that William had been. Near the end of his sentence he had become fed up and rebellious. His offences were not criminal but acts of rebellion; using insolent language to the overseer, absent from his hut at night, absent from his party and refusal to work. But he was a survivor. He survived his sentence and the bitter punishment of the tread mill. With Ann, he had made the most of the opportunities the new country provided. He was a hard worker and a planner. The buying and selling of his land illustrate an ambition to create a property that could support several farming families and be passed on to succeeding generations. With one son who shared his dream, and six healthy grandsons, he must have felt content.
3. By 1879, Jacob and the family had left Ballarat and were living in Bungaree, a tiny township a few miles along the road to Melbourne. Here, on 16 July, 1879 Elizabeth had her last child, Rosena Maud. After thirteen children, her health had broken and after a three months illness she died of “pneumonia and heart disease” on 22 October, 1879.
Victorian birth certificates give a fair amount of information. No “accoucheur”, that is doctor or midwife, was present at the birth of Elizabeth’s last two children, Sarah and Rosena. In both cases a woman was “witness” a Mrs Wilson at Sarah’s birth and a Mrs Nicholls at Rosena’s. Elizabeth herself took the babies to the Registrar to have the births registered, signing the certificates with “her mark”, a cross. Rosena was two months old when she was registered, and Elizabeth died a month later.
From her photographs, Elizabeth was a strong, good looking woman. The way she stands in the two full length photos, leaning slightly forward, indicates a certain eagerness in her temperament. Some of her descendants, grand-daughters and great grand-daughters, are very like her in appearance, the “Hyett looks”.
Mabel takes up the story.
“When Elizabeth died Jacob was distracted, resorting to drink until the local hotel keeper told him he must pull himself together and think of his family, which he did. Christina had been housekeeping for her father and the younger children.”
Jacob did not return immediately to Sorell. He stayed on in the Ballarat district at least until 1884, when he is recorded in the Victorian Directory as living in Barry’s Reef. This was a gold mining township 35 miles from Ballarat on the road to Kilmore. On the birth certificates of both Sarah and Rosena, Jacob’s occupation is given as labourer, and on his son, William’s marriage certificate of 1881, it is given as horse driver. Whether Jacob was able to provide a home for the younger children, with Christina as his housekeeper, I do not know. When he did return to Sorell the children refused to go. My mother, Mabel, and Jack have all told me that Jacob very much wanted one of his sons to work the Hyett land with him. But they never returned to Tasmania to live.
On 24 February 1880, while he was still working in the gold fields, Jacob’s mother, Ann, died. She was eighty-seven years old and died of debilitas, “old age”. On his return to Sorell, Jacob had the headstone put over his parent’s grave.
Ann’s appearance when she arrived in Hobart is recorded in detail in her convict record. She was an old woman when photographed in front of the house at Nugent, but her features are still finely drawn and feminine. Her hands, folded at her waist, are pretty hands, the shape not disfigured by a lifetime of desperately hard work. It would seem that she would have been an attractive young woman.
She had endured the tragedy of being parted from the six children of her first marriage and she had made the most of what life did offer her. The one personal story of Ann that has survived was told me by Jack Hyett. “The old lady smoked a pipe.”
The wall of the Female Factory is all that is left of the notorious prison. Next to the main entrance is a brass plate with the inscription:
Female Factory Site
Established Circa 1827
To the Convict Women of Australia.
This site of which the wall is an original part was acquired by the National Estate to commemorate International Women’s Year 1975.
When I was in Hobart in December, 1978 my host for a day was Professor Firth, now living in retirement. On a trip to Richmond we detoured to Sorell so I could visit the cemetery there again. Professor Firth walked with me to look at the headstone. It had fallen and was now lying, broken, on the ground. Professor Firth read the inscription. “Hyett. I knew a Hyett. Frank Hyett. I was in College with him. Used to lend him my tin Lizzie when he was taking out a girl.” “That was my cousin. He died ten years ago.”
4. That was as far as my December, ’78 research took me. I came home elated. Then I found that this new information made me more curious than ever.
Where was “Ringarooma, Parish of Canning, Sorell"? Was it a district or the name of a farm? When had William purchased the land that was eventually to be known as “Redbanks"? Who bought William’s two other grants and Jacob’s grant after Jacob died?
I wrote to the Registrar-General’s Department asking these questions and enclosing photo copies of my maps for reference. The Department answered saying it could not help me with “Ringarooma” nor with my other questions, but told me that Jacob had taken out a mortgage on his original grant of 509 acres for £120 with S.C. Gatehouse and J.B. Gatehouse in 1904. They suggested I write to the Lands Department for further information. I asked the same questions again of the Lands Department. They could not help me to identify “Ringarooma” but gave me the following information.
William had purchased the 99a. 1r. 25p. grant in 1851; that Jacob had never completed the purchase of the 509 acre grant and that that land was granted to the Gatehouse brothers in 1918 after Jacob’s death.
The Acting Director-General of Lands suggested that Mr A. Newitt of Sorell, an historian, interested in this area, might be able to help me.
I wrote to Alan Newitt explaining my particular interest. He answered, offering help and suggesting that we meet when he visited Melbourne later in the year. He stayed with friends in Sunshine and I drove over to pick him up. I found the house and drove a little way to turn the car. To my astonishment I had turned the car into Hyett Court. Later I contacted Jack Hyett and asked if there were any connection with the family. The answer was “Yes. Not many years ago that subdivision was made and all the streets were named after early residents of Sunshine. Hyett Court was named after my grand-father Jacob.”
My meeting with Alan Newitt ended with an invitation to stay with him and his wife in Sorell. I gave Alan copies of my maps and took up the invitation in September, ’79.
The four days I spent as guest of the Newitts were enormously productive. Alan had already contacted people he thought could help me. He drove me first to Nugent, passing the Wattle Hill school on the way. It is a charming two-storey red brick building, now a private residence. The inscription on the original foundation stone dated the building November, 1868. The school had been built when Jacob was thirty-four, many years too late for his education, though he had lived in Wattle Hill as a child. William, Jacob’s eldest boy, was ten when the Wattle Hill School opened. He and others in the family probably learnt their three R’s there. The school at Nugent opened in 1882 (Archives), well after the family had left the district.
Wattle Hill is nine miles from Sorell, Nugent is five miles further on, along an unsealed, very windy road. If the children had attended the school at Wattle Hill, I think they would have cut across country or boarded with a family nearby. The country between Sorell and Nugent is very hilly and still largely uncleared. I was there in Spring and the paddocks were a brilliant green. The water in the rivulets was deep. The last of the Silver Wattle blossom was bright in the forest, and the Prickly Moses was in full bloom. Beside the road we saw swathes of white clematis and great clumps of pink and white heath. In cleared land, daffodils that had escaped from farm gardens were running wild.
Our first call was at the old Nugent Post Office and Store. These I remembered from my ’64 visit. They were no longer performing their original functions, and Jimmy Wiggins was living there. Alan spoke briefly to him, but he did not give any information that was new to me.
We then visited Mrs Jean Mason and her daughter Kay. They lived not far away on a property called Fernbanks. Kay grows flowers for the market and her hobby is local history. I asked my usual question, “Do you know where Ringarooma is?” She produced the answer from a scrap book of cuttings about the district. The article had appeared in The Mercury, 1960.
“Naming of Nugent” by W.J. Rowlands. “How and when did Nugent ... receive its name? In Middleton and Manning’s Tasmanian Directory and Gazetteer of 1887, the names of twenty settlers were given as residents in what is now embraced in the Nugent district, which was formerly variously known as Ringarooma and Weedy Hills. Of these twenty, five were given as living in Nugent, seven in Ringarooma, and eight in Weedy Hills.”
Did they know anything about Jacob Hyett? Jean was very young when Jacob had left the district so she didn’t remember him, but she remembered a story that he'd been sweet on the local school teacher, Effie Dodge. Jean suggested we see her sister Myra, who was twelve years older and would remember Jacob. And Kay said she knew where Hyett’s Hut was. It was a few miles away on “Bill” Montgomery’s land. She rang Bill and he offered to show the way. More of that later.
Through Alan Newitt I met three other people, all important to my research, Mrs Hannah Kent, Mrs Myra Mundy and Mrs Barbara Schofield. Both Mrs Kent and Mrs Mundy remembered Jacob and I shall fit their memories into my story chronologically. Mrs Schofield is the current owner of Redbanks which now consists of four of the original five grants that old William left his grandson, William. The fifth lot, Nortons, is owned now by Mr Stokes. He lives in the district but I did not meet him.
I talked to Mrs Schofield in the kitchen of her home in Sorell. There was a great bowl of daffodils on the mantle shelf. She said “The boys were out at Redbanks yesterday and they picked them for me. The daffodils are everywhere, apparently the cattle don’t like them.” While I was there Mrs Schofield rang her solicitor and asked that I be allowed to see the Redbanks documents when I was in Hobart later in the week. This I did and I was able to plot William’s land purchases. I already knew the date of one purchase from the Lands Department —
|November, 1851||William purchased Crown Grant of 99 a. 1 r. 24 p.|
The Redbanks property —
|14.6.1852||William purchased four Crown grants from J. Birchall (300 acres) and one Crown grant from J. Norton (50 acres).|
Birchall and Norton had paid £1 per acre for their grants in the 1840’s, with the exception of one lot of 100 acres for which Birchall had paid £120.
|1.9.1873||From the Registrar-General’s Department — |
William purchased Crown grant of 509 acres.
I could now see that the 99 acre lot with the 350 acres of Redbanks made up William’s farm of 450 acres. He had probably lived there when, in 1852 he had built “the house at Nugent”. I think this timber farm house looks charming with its wooden trellis and creepers across the front of the original cottage. The wing on the left with its wooden shingles looks an addition, and as Jacob and Elizabeth lived there and farmed this property for twenty years, it was probably built to house the growing family.
By 1858 William and Ann were living at Wattle Hill (Electoral Roll). Without the names of the original purchasers of the Crown grants, or the names of the present owners, it was impossible to check on William’s ownership of the land at Wattle Hill, in the Parish of Thanet, or the 64 acre property that he was living on in 1875. We know only that he bought these properties after 1854 and sold them at some time before making his will in February, 1876.
Before leaving Sorell, Alan drove me to the little cemetery. He pointed out a footstone that I had not noticed before. It was a small Gothic shaped slab, with the initials W H and A H. The headstone had not deteriorated any further and Alan agreed that it could probably be repaired with dowels and put in place again. This I organized in Hobart. I also visited Mrs Schofield’s solicitor, the Lands Department, the Deeds Office and the Registrar-General’s Department. I received answers to all my questions and I shall write of them later.
5. To return to the family in Victoria, Elizabeth’s death certificate included the information that she had been buried in the cemetery in Ballarat. As I knew that some of the Pearces, my mother’s mother’s family, had also been buried in Ballarat, Le and I spent a day there in July, 1978. We went first to the “new” cemetery where I handed to the girl in the office a list of the dates of the death of Elizabeth and of her son, William; and the dates of death of four Pearces. Three hours later I was given the position of all those graves as well as that of Thomas Warren who had been buried in the same grave as his daughter, Elizabeth Hyett and his grandson, William. The Hyett/Warren grave was in the Church of England section of the “new” cemetery, Section 3B, No. 33. The Pearces were buried in the “old” cemetery. Thomas Warren had been buried on 8 January, 1892. As our time was running out, we decided to look for the Hyett/Warren grave.
We were given directions and the section was easy to find. We followed the main drive up from the main gates and turned into the third path on the right next to the section marked C of E B. We had been told that the grave was in the third little path on the left and was No. 33. But it was not easy to find. We walked along, reading the tombstones and counting the grassy plots as well as we could. They were not easily distinguishable. And many headstones faced different directions. So we were moving over the graves from one path to the next. There was a sudden shriek from Le and as I turned around she was leaping over the grass with a look of terror on her face. She had stood on a flat tombstone, it had given away and she had felt herself falling. The terror, she said, was because she didn’t know how far she would fall, not because she was falling into a grave. Another fear was for a sprained ankle but that didn’t happen. We went on to the end of the little path but plot 33, which was the one we were looking for, was just grass. Walking back, we read all the headstones. Suddenly Le called out, “Listen. Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth Hyett. Here it is. It is the grave I fell into!” We had miscalculated the grassy plots in our counting.
The grave (it is the ninth tombstone on the left) was marked by four flat grey stones with a marble tablet set near the head. It had been white marble but was now very discoloured. The inscription on the tablet read:
Before leaving Sorell, Alan drove me to the little cemetery. He pointed out a footstone that I had not noticed before. It was a small Gothic shaped slab, with the initials W H and A H. The headstone had not deteriorated any further and Alan agreed that it could probably be repaired with dowels and put in place again. This I organized in Hobart. I also visited Mrs Schofield’s solicitor, the Lands Department, the Deeds Office and the Registrar-General’s Department. I received answers to all my questions and I shall write of them later.
5. To return to the family in Victoria, Elizabeth’s death certificate included the information that she had been buried in the cemetery in Ballarat. As I knew that some of the Pearces, my mother’s mother’s family, had also been buried in Ballarat, Le and I spent a day there in July, 1978. We went first to the “new” cemetery where I handed to the girl in the office a list of the dates of the death of Elizabeth and of her son, William; and the dates of death of four Pearces. Three hours later I was given the position of all those graves as well as that of Thomas Warren who had been buried in the same grave as his daughter, Elizabeth Hyett and his grandson, William. The Hyett/Warren grave was in the Church of England section of the “new” cemetery, Section 3B, No. 33. The Pearces were buried in the “old” cemetery. Thomas Warren had been buried on 8 January, 1892. As our time was running out, we decided to look for the Hyett/Warren grave.
We were given directions and the section was easy to find. We followed the main drive up from the main gates and turned into the third path on the right next to the section marked C of E B. We had been told that the grave was in the third little path on the left and was No. 33. But it was not easy to find. We walked along, reading the tombstones and counting the grassy plots as well as we could. They were not easily distinguishable. And many headstones faced different directions. So we were moving over the graves from one path to the next. There was a sudden shriek from Le and as I turned around she was leaping over the grass with a look of terror on her face. She had stood on a flat tombstone, it had given away and she had felt herself falling. The terror, she said, was because she didn’t know how far she would fall, not because she was falling into a grave. Another fear was for a sprained ankle but that didn’t happen. We went on to the end of the little path but plot 33, which was the one we were looking for, was just grass. Walking back, we read all the headstones. Suddenly Le called out, “Listen. Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth Hyett. Here it is. It is the grave I fell into!” We had miscalculated the grassy plots in our counting.
The grave (it is the ninth tombstone on the left) was marked by four flat grey stones with a marble tablet set near the head. It had been white marble but was now very discoloured. The inscription on the tablet read:
Sacred to the Memory of
Died 22nd Oct. 1877. Aged 42 years.
Died 1st March 1883. Aged 24 years.
“Not lost but gone before.”
Thomas Warren had been buried in the same grave nine years later but his name was not included on the tombstone. But I now had the date of his death and was able to get his death certificate.
The information on the certificate was given by Thomas’ son John. He also was illiterate and although the dates do not tally with other firm dates I have, there is some reliable information. Thomas was eighty-one when he died, he had four children, Mary, John, Elizabeth and Alice. He was living at Allandale at the time of his death, he died of heart disease and his profession was miner. He had been born in Cornwall and had spent some time in South Australia before moving to Victoria. He was Wesleyan like so many Cornishmen. A paragraph on “Cornish in Australia” in the Australian Encyclopaedia could be taken broadly as Thomas’ own experiences.
“A considerable Cornish community was established in South Australia soon after the discovery in 1845 of the rich Burra Burra outcrops and the founding of a mining company. Mining was carried out by open cut methods, with marked success. Between 1851 and 1855 mining was virtually suspended because of the rush of miners to the goldfields of Victoria, but after their return the mine enjoyed more than ten years of prosperity. Many of the men, however, remained on the Victorian fields.” Thomas was one of the miners who stayed in Victoria. There is a photograph of Elizabeth taken with her parents, Thomas and Christina Warren, and one of her daughters. This photo would have been taken between 1875, when Elizabeth returned to Victoria with her family, and 1879 when she died. The top hat worn by Thomas was the traditional headgear worn by a Cornishman to the Methodist Church on Sunday.
What became of Jacob and Elizabeth’s sons and daughters? Jack Hyett, Mabel Kennedy and Per, all of whom knew some of them, gave me little bits of information.
Mary Ann, the eldest, married Ephraim Pearce junior in Bolwarra on 28 October, 1880. Ephraim was a sawyer and Bolwarra was the usual address of both. They were married by a Methodist minister and Annie, Ephraim’s sister was one of the witnesses. On the marriage certificate Mary Ann signed her name with a cross. Why Mary Ann was not taught to read and write is a mystery. Was the school too far away or was her help needed in the house? By the time Mary Ann was six there were four younger children. All of Jacob’s sons could read and write but I do not know about the other daughters.
When it was planned to flood the original township of Bolwarra to construct the Moorabool Reservoir, Mary Ann and Ephraim moved to Melbourne with the rest of the Pearce family. They did not have any children of their own, but they adopted a daughter, Annie Bull.
There is little known of Christina. Presumably she continued to look after the younger members of the family after Elizabeth’s death, probably in the Ballarat district. I do not know if she married but Jack remembers Christina and Sarah coming down from Ballarat to visit them at Sunshine when he was a small boy. They came for the funeral of their brother Jacob, who was Jack’s grandfather.
William married Annie Pearce, his sister Mary Ann’s sister-in-law. They stayed on in Bolwarra, William working as a sawyer. As William and Annie are my grand-parents, their story will be told more fully later.
Thomas was a saw-miller and he married Tillie Whitneth. They had two children, James and Ellen. In 1888 they were living in Ballan when Thomas had an accident in a saw-mill on 19 October. He was taken to the Daylesford Hospital, where he died six days later. There was an enquiry into the cause of his death and the finding was: “Fractured skull from injuries accidentally received.” He was thirty-two years old when he died, as was Tillie. James was two and Ellen one.
Elizabeth Mary, my mother, had a favourite cousin, Lil Hyett. Though I am not able to confirm it, I think she must have been Thomas’ daughter, Ellen. Lil’s mother had re-married and their name was then Whitford. Lil was the only cousin of Mother’s that I can remember visiting us after we moved to Balwyn. She was a beautiful and charming woman and very like our mother to look at — the same smiling mouth and pretty teeth, the “Hyett Looks”. Cousin Lil had great poise and though she spoke quietly, the conversation around our dining table always centred around her. Before she married, she was an inspector of factories for the clothing trade union. She married a Mallee farmer and brought us terrifying stories of the dust storms there. And a horrible story of how she was driving a buggy when the horse bolted and the rein took off the top of her thumb. It was an unsuccessful marriage and did not last long. Per visited Lil in hospital when she was dying from cancer and that was a long time ago.
John and Walter went to Western Australia and eventually worked as gold miners. Per remembers Walter coming back from the West when he was a small boy. He visited them at 8 Bishop Street and gave Per a shilling. “In those days it was a lot of money.” Walter married Myrtle Lynch, the daughter of a drover. This man, Lynch, had brought 11/2 million sheep into the sale-yards at Flemington. He drove them in from Bacchus Marsh and Geelong way. (Jack Hyett)
Ellen married John Nicholls and they lived in Allandale. John worked cutting and carting timber for the mines in Creswick and Clunes. Per remembers his mother, Annie, saying that John worked harder than any man she ever knew. “He was a nice old bloke too.” Ellen was a wonderful support to Annie. Annie suffered from chronic bronchitis and was often ill in bed for long periods. Ellen would come down from Allandale and look after the children. Per said he came home from school one day and heard Aunt Ellen swearing in the kitchen. He went into his mother’s bedroom and told her. “Mother said, ‘Pretend you haven’t heard. Aunt Ellen probably hears the men swearing at the horses.’ Mother always smoothed things over. The aunts often used to have fights. They'd come to Mother. She was the peacemaker. The Hyetts were a fiery lot.”
Ellen was the only one of Mother’s aunts whom I met. Aunt Ellen was dying of cancer in a hospital in Melbourne. Mother visited her and took me with her. I was only four or five years old. Aunt Ellen was quite lively, though she seemed very old to me. And she was whiskery .when I gave her a kiss.
Young Jacob, who was known as Jack, married Agnes Wright and they had four sons — William John, who was called ‘young Jack’, Edward, Samuel and Walter Donald, who was always known as Joe. The contemporary Jack Hyett, a son of ‘young Jack’ told me about his family.
“The first children were born at Bolwarra and then they moved to Allandale. Jacob had a team of horses and carted pit timber to the mines at Creswick and Clunes. About 1900, old Jacob came over to Victoria and visited them. He tried to get ‘young Jack’, the eldest son, to return with him to Nugent. The boy was keen to go, but his mother refused to let him.
“The McKay Harvester company was first set up in Ballarat. They moved down to Sunshine after the turn of the century and brought a lot of workers down with them. Whether Jacob worked for them in Ballarat I do not know but he and Jack, my father, came down to Ballarat to work for them. They first stayed in the boarding house, Blair Athol, and it was there that Jack met my mother, Ellen Rose Roberts. In the 1910 depression Jack and Sam went to New Zealand looking for work, Ted went to Tasmania. Jack got work timbering up mines, but he became ill and returned home broke. He and Ellen were married in North Melbourne without telling the family, I don’t know why. They had four children, Jack, that’s me, David, Heather and Donald. Things got very confusing in Sunshine. There was Grandfather, ‘old Jack’, Father who was ‘young Jack’, and me, Jack. Sam stayed on in New Zealand and he married a girl from Blenheim in the South Island. Her name was Agnes Elvira Sullivan. Sam served in the Great War with the New Zealand forces and returned to Australia in the late twenties. He brought his wife, Agnes Elvira, to Sunshine. She was a prominent member of Catholic Action and she continually wrote letters to the paper signed Agnes Elvira Hyett. Grandfather and Gran were staunch Labor supporters. Gran’s name was also Agnes, so people were ascribing the letters to her. She objected bitterly to this and things were not too friendly.
“Grandfather, Jacob or ‘old Jack’ worked with McKay’s until his blood pressure put a stop to it. He had been in the foundry, a moulder. He died on 1 September, 1936. He was seventy-one.”
Alice married Frank Robins. He was a railway man and became head shunter at North Melbourne. Alice’s nephew, Frank Hyett, was General Secretary of the Victorian Railways Union. When he died in 1919, Frank Robins, representing the Union men, was one of the pall bearers. Twice Alice went to visit her father, old Jacob, at Nugent, taking her only child, Mabel, with her. First in 1910 and then in 1913.
Albert married, had no children, and was a timber worker at Big Pat’s Creek, beyond Warburton. Jack remembers him well. “He WAS a wild. one. He used to come down to visit Grandpa, who was his brother, frequently. He was a fairly hard drinker and he was always under the weather when he arrived. Gran would tear strips off him but we kids loved him. He would always arrive with an enormous bag of lollies for us.
“When I was about fourteen or fifteen I went camping with a mate. We made a tent out of three-bushel flour bags that we'd got from the baker. It was very heavy but we managed by putting it onto a bike and wheeling it while we walked. We went by train to Melton then walked to Toolern Vale where we camped. Coming home we were a couple of hours early at the station. There was a man waiting too and we got talking. When he heard my name was Hyett he asked if I was related to Buck Hyett. That was Uncle Bert. They'd been on great drinking sprees together up at Big Pat’s Creek. Going home they had to cross the creek on a wooden trestle bridge, and that meant walking on the sleepers. They were in no fit state to do that so they would cross on their hands and knees.
“Uncle Bert’s wife had mental problems. My mother thought very highly of him because he was so devoted to her. Bert would have her out of hospital whenever it was possible.
“He was a returned serviceman from World War 1. He would have been forty-one in 1914, so he was rather old to have joined up.”
Sarah married and lived in Ballarat. Jack remembers visiting them and Mabel remembers her coming down to Melbourne when her sister Alice died.
Rosina Maud was only three months old when her mother, Elizabeth, died. Christina continued to look after her and there is no record of her ever going to Sorell. When she was about eighteen years old Maud went to live with Alice. Mabel remembers her young aunt. She had many beaus but she died in her early twenties.
Mabel told me that Walter lived until he was seventy-four, Jacob to seventy-one. Alice to seventy-two, Sarah to seventy-two and they all “died in their sleep”.
Both Jack Hyett and Uncle Per said the Hyett boys were “a wild lot”. Jack quoted one of old William’s early misdemeanours: “Insolence to the overseer. That goes for us all. For my grandfather, for Uncle Bert, for my father, myself and my son. Insolence to the overseer is a Hyett characteristic!'? And it made him very happy to talk about it.
6. Young William Hyett married Annie Kingston Pearce in Ballarat on 11 November, 1881. They both gave Bolwarra as their address, Annie was twenty-two, William was twenty-three and gave his profession as sawyer. (On the marriage certificate old Jacob’s profession is horse-driver.) Annie’s parents were Ephraim and Mary Kingston Pearce. Ephraim was born on 2 August, 1829 in Little Kingshill, Buckinghamshire, son of Ruben Pearce, a carpenter and builder, and his wife Sarah. Ephraim told his young grandson Per, that he ran away to sea when he was nine and that he had been shipwrecked twice. On 22 October, 1850, when he was twenty-one years old, he married Mary Kingston Young at St Mary’s Church, Parish of Paddington, County of Middlesex. He gave his profession as carpenter. Mary was twenty-nine or thirty years old, the daughter of Henry Young, a schoolmaster. Ephraim was illiterate. When he recorded the birth of his daughter, Annie, nine years later he signed his name with a cross. But during the course of his life he learned to read and write and when he was registering the death of his wife forty years later he was able to sign his name.
Mary was well educated. Possessions of hers still in the family indicate a woman of elegance. When she came to Australia she brought with her, in a tin trunk, her wedding dress and a collection of beautiful shawls. The wedding dress is now in the costume collection of the National Gallery of Victoria and is catalogued as: “Wedding dress of pale tourquoise taffeta, self woven pattern of flowers. The bodice has long pointed angles directed to the waist, trimmed with toning coloured silk buttons centre front. The small pagoda shaped sleeves are edged with ruching. Pleated skirt trimmed at hem with matching braid. The entire dress is lined with cotton.”
Two of Mary’s shawls are also in the Gallery costume collection. One of these is of fine wool, printed with a black and white houndstooth design and border of red and green paisley pattern. The other is of sheer black pure silk, embroidered with an Oriental design. Mary also had some fine jewellery, sore of which is still in the family. One piece, a mourning brooch, is in the National Gallery collection. The design includes a spray of flowers made from hair — possibly that of Mary’s first child.
Even when she was no longer a young woman, Mary enjoyed fashionable clothes. There is a dress of the mid-seventies of beige silk with a finely pleated trim edged with purple. The dress has a bustle and was worn with a sheer black silk shawl with a purple border and purple hand embroidery. Mary would have worn this dress when she was in her fifties. The size of the dress indicates that she was still very slim. Another possession of Mary’s that I now have in my bookcase is an exercise book in which she copied poems, some of them her own composition, and items that interested her.
Ephraim and Mary’s first child, Mary Agnes, was born in August, 1851, the same month that gold was discovered in Australia. A little over a year later, they joined the gold rush and boarded the Confiance as assisted migrants to Australia. William Martin, also bound for the gold fields, was seated at the same table as the Pearces. Martin was thirty-eight, a carpenter and was travelling with his wife and daughter. This information I got from the Ship’s Manifest which is on microfilm in the Shipping Records at the Public Records Department. Martin kept a diary of the voyage and as his descendants kept in touch with the Pearce descendants for over a hundred years, the diary was lent to me and I was able to have it copied. At the end of his diary, Martin listed the essentials for a trip to the goldfields and their cost. Unfortunately, the typist overlooked this list.
The voyage was typical of the times-delays, bad food, primitive conditions, babies being born, women and children dying. The entry in the diary for 6 January includes: “Our little messmate (Mrs Pearce’s daughter), who had been suffering from inflammation of the chest and diarrhoea for the past three weeks, died about 2 p.m. and was committed to the deep in the evening. It makes the sixth child that has died since our departure.” They had been aboard for forty-one days.
DIARY OF A VOYAGE TO AUSTRALIA
In the Ship “CONFIANCE” (Capt. Price)
Under the direction of Her Majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.
By William Martin
Saturday, November 27th, 1852
The Confiance, 1200 Tons Register with 388 emigrants on board, left the depot, Birkenhead, bound for Geelong, Australia. She was taken in tow by the Uncle Sam Tug and brought to anchor in the River Mersey at 12 o'clock a.m. We have been called alphabetically to answer to our names and expect to sail tomorrow.
Sunday, November 28th
All the males turned out at 6 o'clock to scrape the between decks. After breakfast we had reading and singing till dinnertime; in the afternoon the Church service was read by the Doctor, and in the evening we had singing and reading again till bedtime. We were very much annoyed by a party of primitive Methodists who were holding a meeting close to our elbows. Their ranting and roaring was dreadful; one man in particular was behaving more like a person insane than anything else.
Monday, November 29th
Still at anchor in the Mersey — most of the passengers suffering from severe colds. A single young woman sent on shore ill, and the rest of the family obliged to accompany her by the order of the Doctor, who keeps a sharp lookout after our health and is very cautious about infectious disorders, the between decks sprinkled with chloride of lime. Two children born.
Tuesday, November 30th
A great deal of discontent amongst the passengers about the shortness of the provisions, almost ending in a riot, the change of air making them very hungry. Another family sent on shore on account of one of the children having some disorder in the face. The father was the very man that made such a dreadful noise on Sunday. Promise of more provisions tomorrow. The pilot has just come on board (9 o'clock p.m.). We expect to sail in the morning.
Wednesday, December 1st
Rose at 3 o'clock to take watch and went to bed again at 6. After breakfast scraped decks again. Provisions much more plentiful but still much dissatisfaction among the emigrants. Another family sent on shore. A child seven years of age fell down the main hatch and received a dreadful wound on the forehead. Her life is despaired of. Still at anchor in the Mersey and likely to be, as we cannot sail while there are any invalids on board. The floors again sprinkled with chloride of lime.
Thursday, December 2nd
Still at anchor in the Mersey with no prospect of sailing. The usual routine of deck scraping etc. Another single woman sent on shore. I had the dreadful misfortune to lose all my brandy, by the cork coming out of the bottle. Most of the passengers suffering with coughs and colds. The Government Agent Capt. Patey, R.N. came off and received our orders for the shore for any little comforts that we might wish for. We have sent for some cheese, tobacco, and several other little things.
Friday, December 3rd
At anchor still in the same spot, cleaning decks as usual. Two single women sent on shore; one of them ill, the other her companion who would not be separated. A woman slipped down and put her thumb out of place. We are all very impatient and anxious to sail. Our meat was very bad again today.
Saturday, December 4th
Deck scraping, as usual. More chloride of lime. Today we were put on sea allowance; viz. Salt Beef etc. We find it far from palatable, especially the beef which is already very salt, and we have nothing to eat with it but flour and water mixed into a very hard dumpling. Our ration cards give suet and raisins, but we have not got them yet. We are still at anchor with no prospect of sailing.
Sunday, December 5th
The whole ship in uproar and confusion the whole of the morning through the provisions, over which there is always plenty of wrangling, being served out for the week; viz. tea, sugar, oatmeal, flour and beef for the day. They strictly prohibited shaving on Sunday mornings but find no fault with blacking boots etc. After dinner, order was a little more restored, and divine service was performed by a dissenting Minister. His address was of the usual character in cases like the present. His text was Luke xix, 105, during the time the Captain was called away, as they were afraid that the ship was on fire in the lower hold. Happily, it was a false alarm, for after a minute inspection, none could be discovered. This was known to but few on board besides myself, for we thought if the women knew it, they would not sleep much tonight.
After service another hubbub with serving out provisions for the morrow. In the evening a prayer meeting was held by some Noncomformists on board. So much for Sunday in an Emigrant Ship. It is the most miserable day in the whole week. After our quiet way of spending it at home, Mrs. M. was very bad all night and today with the toothache. A little boy in the next mess to us fell down the after hatch but did not injure himself much. (Emigrants — if your means will allow — a small quantity of tea, coffee and sugar will be found of much service in ekeing out the allowance of the ship which is very scanty.)
Monday, December 6th
Still lying in the Mersey; colds, sore throats etc. are very prevalent, a most excellent dinner today of pork and pea soup. We have now some prospect of sailing, as they have been filling all up with water. A most amusing scene took place after dusk — four Bailiffs came on board to arrest one of the sailors, but they could not find him. They received rather a warm reception from the rest of the crew who together with some of the passengers tore their coats and pelted them with all sorts of missiles, so that they were glad to escape to their boat without effecting their object. They threatened to return in the morning with police etc.
Tuesday, December 7th
The Bailiffs came on board this morning, according to promise. They were eight strong but failed in capturing their man as all the sailors and passengers do all they can to thwart them. Our goods that were ordered on the 2nd came this morning. A small keeler will be found of great service for washing small articles in, also 5 or 6 small bags, as no boxes are allowed in the boat on any account.
Eleven days in River.
Wednesday, December 8th
We received on board about 17,000 bricks and at half past 3 o'clock we weighed anchor and were taken in tow by the Independence Steam Tug for 15 miles when she left us to pursue our journey. Many of the passengers feel very queer, but very few will own that they feel seasick. The sailor who was worried by the bailiffs came out of his hiding place today. The wind has now dropped away to a calm and the ship makes but little headway.
Thursday, December 9th
We passed a most dismal night as the wind freshened in the night and caused a motion of the ship which made most of the passengers reach and vomit most fearfully. C.F. and myself are all who have escaped in our mess so far. About 10 o'clock we were close in with the Welsh land and could distinctly see the snow on the tops of the mountains. About noon the weather moderated and we were able to enjoy the fresh air on deck. Our women have been in bed the whole of the day.
Friday, December 10th
The ship has been pitching and rolling most distressingly all night and the pots, pans, waterkegs etc. have been dancing a reel all over the between decks, and with the people vomiting, the sailors on deck shouting, the women and children crying and screaming, creates such a scene as I never witnessed before, and which it is impossible to describe. We are now (11 o'clock) sailing under close reefed topsails with the wind right in our teeth and we are further astern than we were at 6 o'clock last night. Many wish themselves on shore again, but it is too late. The stench is very bad below.
Saturday, December 11th
A most dismal night, the ship rolling and pitching most distressingly all night, and to add to our discomfort, about 12.30 p.m. the lamps went out and we were in total darkness. We are sailing under close reefed topsails with the wind still dead ahead, and we have not made any headway at all. The Captain talks of putting back again. The sea is rolling very high. A woman was taken in labour early this morning and carried to the Hospital by the sailors. Our women passed a much better night but they still keep to their beds. The wind has increased to a perfect gale and the ship rolls very much.
Sunday, December 12th
We have passed a miserable night, the wind continuing to blow with great fury. Towards morning it moderated and it is now a perfect calm. The females are rather better now and are able to sit up. A most excellent dinner today of preserved meat and preserved potatoes and a plum pudding as we have our suet and raisins today for the first time. A meeting of Noncomformists at which our messmate Whitfield delivered a very good discourse. No church service today although it has been very fine.
Monday, December 13th
About 3 o'clock this morning the wind changed in our favour. We are now scudding along with our studding sails set. We are very busy scraping decks and cleaning up, which is very necessary after the late bad weather. The wind has now (10 p.m.) returned to the old quarter (SW). They have shortened sail for the night which bids fair to be a rough one.
Tuesday, December 14th
The ship has rolled considerably all night and some of the passengers have been very sick again. It is a beautiful morning but the wind is still against us. About 11 o'clock a Brigantine bore down to us and enquired how the Tucker light bore. Still blowing hard in the old quarter, with no signs of alteration.
Wednesday, December 15th
The wind as usual dead against us, we have been out a week and are not one good day’s sail from Liverpool; sickness still very prevalent, nothing of interest occurred today.
To Emigrants — a Carpet Bag will be found invaluable, as you have then a place where you can lock up different articles and there are plenty of places to hang it.
Thursday, December 16th
A wet and miserable morning, the wind still blowing hard against us, we are making very little progress, the sailors tell us we are off Waterford. The ship is pitching violently and the sea running very high to the astonishment of those who never saw it before. A man fell down on the deck and gave himself a fearful black eye.
Friday, December 17th
The wind has been blowing very hard all night, and the sea running mountains high. Last night the lightning flashed vividly and the ship rolled at a most fearful rate; altogether it was one of the most wildest of nights I ever saw. This morning our females are all in bed. I have just made a plum pudding which is all our dinner will consist of, as we had the misfortune to lose our pork which slipped off the shelf in the night and rolled under a berth opposite where people were lying ill, so that we were unable to recover it.
The weather has not moderated in the least; it is no easy matter for us landsmen to get our meals ready or get hot water for breakfast; we were almost obliged to go on our hands and knees to the coppers and when we got it we had to hold on to the teapot in one hand and drinking mug in the other, and then a great deal of it was spilt.
The sailors have been obliged to sweep up our decks this morning, as none of us could keep our legs, and they were troubled to do it. (To Emigrants — Take with you some stout cord, also plenty of twine as everything requires lashing when the ship rolls, also 3 or 4 cabbage nets, some nails of various sizes, a hammer, chisel, gimlet, and if possible a small saw, for they will be found very useful.)
11 a.m. A child 15 months old died and was buried at 7 p.m. This is the first funeral I ever saw at sea. The wind was blowing hard at the time, the ship rolling a good deal, and the sea running mountains high. The burial service of the church was read by Capt. Price.
Saturday, December 18th
The wind is rather more favourable this morning and is not blowing so hard as yesterday but there is still plenty of wind and sea.
Sunday, December 19th
We are at last fairly out in the ocean, the water is of a deeper blue and they can not get any soundings. This morning a child 11 months old died of inflammation of the chest, and was buried with the same form as the other, the Doctor officiating.
A homeward-bound Barque passed us this morning, with part of the bulwark carried away. We showed them our numbers but they took not the least notice. Divine Service was performed between deck by the Doctor.
Monday, December 20th
The wind still contrary but much more moderate. We are all very busy scraping and cleaning, which is all to be done before we have any dinner, by the Doctor’s Orders. The decks and riggings are covered with beds, bedding and other articles spread out to dry, as the water has found its way into several of our berths which is far from being pleasant. A beautiful evening — the first since we left, the moon shines bright, and the sailors have been entertaining us with a song.
Tuesday, December 21st
The old sort of weather, the wind still against us, accompanied with rain (11 p.m.). We have passed a wet and miserable day; we are now sailing under close reefed topsails, and it bids fair to be a rough night.
Wednesday, December 22nd
The ship has rolled and pitched considerably during the night. Another wet and miserable morning; time now begins to hang heavily on our hands. We have not seen a ship of any sort since Sunday, nothing but vast fields of water. Nothing of any interest occurred today.
Thursday, December 23rd
Plenty of wind and rain, the former dead ahead as usual. Several porpoises were seen this morning playing round the ship, to the great amusement of several of the passengers who gave them various names, such as sea horses, sea cows, etc. etc.
Friday, December 24th
Several vessels have been seen today, one a Barque passed so close as to enable the Captain to speak to them. He also exchanged numbers with a ship (10 p.m.). The wind has now increased to a gale. and the sea runs very high. We are sailing under close reefed topsails in. close company with a Barque, with the wind right ahead.
Saturday, December 25th
A wet and miserable morning, the wind has nearly all died away, the little there is being more favourable. The sailors were treated to a plum pudding today being Christmas. Our fare consisted of Salt Beef and a plum pudding with water instead of Brandy. We have had prayers twice today, morning and evening, which were read by the Doctor who intends to continue them every day throughout the voyage (8 p.m.). The wind has now returned to the old quarter, the moon is shining bright, and there are a great many enjoying the fresh air on deck. My wife has been nearly mad all day with a dreadful toothache, and altogether it is the most wretched Christmas that I ever spent.
Sunday. December 26th
Another wet and miserable morning, the wind still right against us. The Church Service was read in the morning by the Doctor. After dinner the wind, which had been blowing hard since daylight. increased to a gale, which lasted till near daybreak the next morning. The sea running mountains high, which caused the ship to roll and pitch most fearfully. We were hove to all night under a close reefed main topsail. with the helm lashed. I had the first watch between decks from nine till twelve when the motion of the ship was that violent that you could scarcely sit. stand or even lie in your berth without holding with both hands.
Monday, December 27th
We have passed a most wretched night, scarcely closing our eyes the whole time. The sailors tell us we are in the Bay of Biscay which, if it be true, we have seen to perfection. The wind is a little abated, but it still blows hard, the sea running as high as ever. Two children died today. Inflammation of the lungs and Diarrhoea are very prevalent amongst them.
Tuesday, December 28th
The wind still against us, but much more moderate than it has been. The Captain says we have all committed ourselves by starting at this time of the year. Nothing of any interest occurred today.
Wednesday, December 29th
The wind is still against us. A child 3 years of age died today and was buried at 10 p.m.
Thursday, December 30th
Much finer today, the wind is favourable but there is not enough of it to do us any good.
Friday, December 31st
A beautiful day — the sea is quite calm, and there is scarcely a breath of wind, but what little there is is favourable. Today is washing day, and the women are all busy on deck. A child born this morning, and another taken to the Hospital ill with a fever. The weather gets considerably warmer. Tonight there was a penny subscription raised for the ocean born.
Saturday, January 1st
This morning we are all bustle and confusion through getting up the boxes, several people have their boxes and clothes much injured, but ours have escaped. lt is a beautiful day and the wind is inclined to be in our favour.
Sunday, January 2nd
A most beautiful morning, the sun being out with a fine breeze in our favour. About 10 o'clock we exchanged signals with an homeward bound Barque, and spoke to a Brigantine named The Magic of Penzance, bound to Liverpool from the Mediterranean. Divine Service between decks by the Surgeon, in the evening a prayer meeting by the Nonconformists; our friend of November 28th gave us another specimen of his abilities. This has seemed something like Sunday for the first time, as everything has been more quiet than usual.
Monday, January 3rd
A beautiful morning with a fresh breeze in our favour. We have been going at times during the night at the rate of 10 knots. We have this morning been hard at work holy stoneing our deck and airing our bedding. Shoals of porpoises round about us. The sunset here is very beautiful, the sky is of the most beautiful colours. Several vessels in sight but none very near.
Tuesday, January 4th
A beautiful morning with the wind favourable. Today is washing day and we are all bustle and confusion. A child was born this morning.
Wednesday, January 5th
Another beautiful morning — the wind still favourable. A child born this morning. The weather now gets much warmer, and the days much longer, it being quite light at 6 o'clock. We are now making good progress to the southward. Our Captain is determined to take every advantage possible by making all sail he can.
Thursday, January 6th
The weather fine and the wind favourable. About 10 o'clock we sighted the Salvages, a small cluster of rocks and by 3 o'clock we were up alongside of them. They have a very rugged appearance, but for all that they were a welcome sight to most of us, after seeing nothing but the bare ocean for the last three weeks past. The decks were crowded during the whole afternoon till darkness hid it from view. Our little messmate (Mrs. Pearce’s daughter) who has been suffering from inflammation of the chest and diarrhoea for three weeks past died about 2 p.m. and was committed to the deep in the evening. lt makes the sixth child that has died since our departure. 30 days to Teneriffe.
Friday, January 7th
The wind has dropped away to a calm, and it has been pouring with rain since 4 o'clock, it being washing day, we are busy trying to catch a little rainwater to wash with, it being the greatest luxury we can enjoy. (To those about to emmigrate, a small keg to hold about 4 or 5 gallons, with a small washtub or pail will be found invaluable. We often have the chance to get some water, but are obliged to see it run away, not having anything to put it in.)
10 a.m. It has now cleared away; the wind has freshened and the sun shines beautifully, resembling a summer morning in England. We can just see through the clouds the peak of Teneriffe, and by the course we are steering, it is doubtful whether we shall see it any plainer.
3 p.m. Contrary to our expectation, the clouds have now cleared away from the peak enough to give us a good view of the top of it. It was a splendid sight, such as is rarely seen. The Captain tells us that he has passed it a great many times but never seen it so plain before. It bore S.E. by S., distance about 45 miles, just before dark we were close in to another of the Canary Islands called Palma and when dark set in we could distinguish the lights on shore. The Captain burnt a blue light but no notice was taken of it. It is a lovely night — the sea calm and the decks covered with passengers enjoying the evening breeze, which is very pleasant in these latitudes.
Saturday, January 8th
A fine bright morning with a fair wind. Still in sight of Palma, there not being much wind all night. It was my watch from 12 till 3 o'clock.
10 a.m. The wind has now freshened and we are skudding, sails set below and aloft, the Captain being determined to make all haste possible. We now begin to feel the weather very warm and the use of light clothing which, unluckily, we have but little of. I would recommend anyone coming this road to bring a good supply of duck trousers and jackets with a good straw hat with broad brim which will be found to add much to your comfort.
Sunday, January 9th
A fine delightful morning — the wind still favourable. The Church prayers were read by the Surgeon in the morning, after which we were all mustered on deck and inspected as to the cleanliness of our linen. A child died in the evening and was buried at midnight. This is the seventh child that has died since we have been out.
Monday, January 10th
The weather still fine and the wind favourable. We have had lime juice served out to us today for the first time, which is to be continued every other day. Another child born today — the fourth since we left.
Tuesday, January 11th
Another delightful morning with a fine breeze in our favour. We are now making good progress to the southward, averaging 10 knots for this last day or two. A child died today and was buried in the evening. We are now in the latitude of the Cape de Verde Islands, but we are too far to the eastward to see them.
Wednesday, January 12th
A fine morning, the wind still favourable. A great many flying fish have made their appearance today. This evening we had dancing on the main deck by the married passengers and on the poop by the single women, C.F. playing the fiddle. It was kept up till 8 o'clock when all the females go below, the men being allowed to stay as long as they may think proper, which is till nearly 12 o'clock.
Thursday, January 13th
A fine delightful morning, the wind still favourable. We have been surrounded with flying fish for two or three days past, and last night one settled on the deck and was caught by one of the sailors. A fish called a Boneta, resembling a mackerel but much larger was also caught by the same party. We are all very busy this morning hanging up our beds in the rigging where they have to remain till tea-time.
Friday, January 14th
A beautiful morning, the wind favourable but very light. Today is washing day and the decks present one continual scene of bustle and confusion from daylight till 12 o'clock when we are all obliged to leave off, done or not done. We have seen several dolphin today but could not succeed in taking any of them.
Saturday, January 15th
A beautiful morning but very little wind. This morning I had a nice shower bath by getting over the bows and standing whilst C.F. threw buckets of water over me. We should like to go over the side for a bath but the sharks are very numerous in this quarter, which make us afraid to venture. This morning all the bedding was taken on deck and kept there till 4 p.m. All of us are obliged to remain on deck twice a week from 9 till 1 o'clock and during the time we are there the doctor has fires below and burns sulphur and sometimes vinegar. He seems to leave no means untried to keep the ship and ourselves in as good conditions as possible. He won’t allow scarcely anything to be served out without his seeing it. A child was born this morning and another died.
Sunday January 16th
A child died during the night and was buried at 4 o'clock this morning. There is scarcely a breath of wind and it is very warm. Divine Service on the poop this morning where the awning was spread to keep the sun from us. Just before dinner we saw several grampuses pass the ship; they have a large fin on the top of the back and a round nose like a bottle. In the afternoon we saw several dolphins. The sailors tried to catch them but could not succeed.
Monday, January 17th
Quite a calm and very hot day. Last night the glass stood at 98 below all the bedding on deck, and we are obliged to remain there ourselves. Nothing of any interest occurred today.
Tuesday, January 18th
Washing day. This morning at 5 o'clock there was a fight between 3 of the passengers for the possession of a washing tub of which there are a limited number, which was ended by the second mate taking it away. A child died this morning. We are now in latitude 5.53 north and it is excessively hot. A number of grampuses have been rolling about us today; they appear to be very large creatures, for though we were going very slow at the time they did not keep up with us.
Wednesday, January 19th
This morning opened with very heavy showers of rain which continued at intervals during the whole day. Some of the passengers caught some rainwater and had a good wash up. It is very hot; we are troubled to bear it of a night. We have made but little progress since yesterday.
Thursday, January 20th
A dead calm with showers of rain. We are all obliged to keep on deck between the showers to keep the place as cool as possible. After dinner a number of grampuses came so close to the ship that they might have harpooned them with ease. Our Captain was out in a small boat trying to ascertain the direction of the current and one of the crew struck at one of them with a boathook which soon made him beat a retreat. Some of them were as much as 20 feet long. They have a large hole on the top of their heads and when they come up to blow they throw the water some feet in the air. They appear to be playful after their own fashion for, at times, they leapt several feet out of the water and came down again with a tremendous crash which turned the surrounding water into a foam. The nights are very beautiful here; the moon being now nearly full. We cannot have any music or dancing on account of the invalids in the Hospital. One of the poor women lately confined between decks is very bad; tonight she is quite delirious and little hope is entertained for her recovery.
Friday, January 21st
Quite a calm and intensely hot. Some of the passengers lay about between decks rather than go to bed. The Doctor has warned us not to sleep on deck on account of the dews which are very heavy. Shoals of porpoises passed us this morning and after dinner one of the sailors harpooned a young shark — it was very much like a dogfish. Tonight the thermometer is 90 degrees between decks.
Saturday, January 22nd
One of the women confined about ten days ago died this morning at half past one o'clock and was committed to the deep at 2. She has left six children. Another woman who was confined about the same time died at 3 p.m. and was buried at 4 p.m. She has left 3 children. This afternoon, I had a touch at sawing for the Captain along with one of my messmates named Pearce. We found it rather a difficult job to fix our stuff but with a little trouble we were able to finish our job.
Sunday, January 23rd
Not a breath of wind and intensely hot. Divine Service on the poop and a prayer meeting in the afternoon by the Methodists. We spoke to a Dutch barque 66 days from Batavia bound to Rotterdam. Our Captain asked him to report us and he promised to do so.
Monday, January 24th
A fresh breeze but not very favourable. About 5 o'clock p.m. we came up with a barque; her Captain came on board of us. She proved to be the Athenian 65 days from Batavia bound to Rotterdam. The name of the Captain was Barclay. It caused no little excitement when they came on board. There was a general rush for letters and some were hardly begun. All our party were quite prepared; they stayed on board half an hour and departed taking our letters with them.
Tuesday, January 25th
Washing day — a fresh breeze, but not very favourable. Some grampuses were seen this morning. There being no-one dangerously ill we were allowed to have a dance on the main deck which a good many were glad to join in. Our musicians were C.F. with the fiddle and a Mr Martin with the fife which together were far from being disagreeable.
Wednesday, January 26th
A nice breeze but not very favourable. The clouds look heavy and have the appearance of rain and the Doctor has ordered the bedding to be kept below till after dinner. Several sharks were seen today, but all efforts to catch them proved unsuccessful. A child died — five years of age and was buried directly, the Captain reading the burial service. It is a beautiful evening, the moon being now at its full, shines with great brightness, which adds much to the enjoyment of our various amusements such as dancing etc. etc...
Thursday, January 27th
A fine morning with a fresh breeze which is still unfavourable. We are now about two degrees to the north of the equator, and have been for several days past, the wind being nearly dead against us. We are now expecting to fall in with the south east trades, when we hope to make more progress than we have done of late. Nothing of any interest occurred today.
Friday, January 28th
A beautiful morning, the wind still against us. A child died during the night. Today is washing day, which as usual there is plenty of. This afternoon a man was tried on the poop for striking his wife and was sentenced to do the pumping and sweeping three days and watch three nights. Tonight we had another dance which we kept up till nine o'clock when the females are obliged to go below.
Saturday, January 29th
It rained nearly the whole of the night, and still continues to do so.
The wind is more favourable, and we are now sailing along with our studding sails set below and aloft. Another child born this morning and the mother is doing remarkably well. 6 p.m. It still continues to rain, which keeps us all below, which is far from agreeable after being there most of the day.
Sunday, January 30th
A delightful morning after the rain, the wind still favourable. Service on the poop in the morning and again in the afternoon, the schoolmaster officiating instead of the Doctor. At noon when the Captain took his observation, we were in latitude 1.35 south and 29 west and he allows that we crossed the line yesterday about noon. Another child born this evening and the mother is doing well.
Monday, January 31st
A fine morning with occasional showers. We are now enjoying the long looked for south east winds and are making good progress. My wife fell down the after hatch through (her carelessness) the slippery state of the steps and hurt her back severely. The baby which lost its mother a few days since died today, and was buried directly. Tonight we commenced dancing as usual, but in consequence of there being two or three on the sick list we were obliged to desist, which did not go far to please most of us.
Tuesday, February 1st
A splendid morning with a fine breeze in our favour, today is washing day but we are obliged to leave off at 8 o'clock in consequence of the boxes coming up. After breakfast, according to promise we got them up. A great many found their clothes in a dreadful state from the damp and are able to see the necessity of lining their boxes with zinc or some other metal, without which there is a great risk of spoiling your things.
Wednesday, February 2nd
A lovely morning, with a beautiful cool breeze from the south east. Today we are in the latitude of St. Helena, but a long way to the westward of it. This evening we were amused by two boys who were engaged in fighting for above half an hour; one of them belonged to the ship and the other to one of the emigrants. They fought hard but no bones were broken. This was the first battle we have seen since we left.
Thursday, February 3rd
A beautiful morning with a fresh breeze. A child born at 4 o'clock a.m. which with the mother is doing well.
Friday, February 4th
A fine morning with occasional squalls of wind and rain. Today is washing day and it being the only one this week there are plenty embracing the opportunity. Dancing was resumed again this evening as usual.
Saturday, February 5th
A delightful morning with a fresh breeze, which is still favourable. Nothing of any interest has occurred today.
Sunday, February 6th
A beautiful morning with a fine breeze in our favour. Divine Service on the poop in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Monday, February 7th
The weather still fine and the wind favourable. We are now making good progress to the southward and expect to be out of the tropics by tomorrow. Dancing as usual this evening.
Tuesday, February 8th
Another fine morning. About 1 o'clock a.m. we were all much alarmed by the cry of fire which came from the poop. It appeared that the Captain had been washing his berth with turpentine to kill the bugs which it was infested with and incautiously put the candle too close to it, and in less than a minute it was in flames but, happily, it was as soon extinguished, or what the consequences might have been no-one could tell.
Wednesday, February 9th
A fine morning with a fair wind. A child died about 9 a.m. and was buried at 12 o'clock. It is very hot today and the sun being nearly overhead we are troubled to find any shelter from it. In the afternoon we were boarded by a boat belonging to an American whaler, the Ann of New York, 28 months out with 1000 barrels of oil. They had been fishing on the NEW. Coast of America and had lost half her crew at California, which were made up by some men of colour, natives of one of the Friendly Islands. They came to try to get some medicine for the mate who was ill, but our doctor being very short he could not spare them any. They left an harpoon for the Captain who gave them some tobacco in exchange.
Thursday, February 10th
A fine morning with a fresh breeze in our favour till 10 o'clock a.m. when it came on to blow, the wind dead against us accompanied with a heavy rain which lasted till the evening when it cleared away much finer.
Friday, February 11th
A fine morning — the wind more favourable. Towards evening squally with showers of rain. Nothing of any interest occurred today.
Saturday, February 12th
Weather fine, with a strong breeze in our favour which freshened as the day advanced and by 6 o'clock p.m. they were obliged to stow the royals and take one reef in the topsails.
Sunday, February 13th
The ship has been rolling fearfully during the night. It is now blowing half a gale of wind. We are running under double reefed topsails and fore topmast staysail. No church today, bed being the favourite place of rest. A child died this evening.
Monday, February 14th
The ship has been rolling at a tremendous rate during the whole night. This morning the wind being a little more moderate we are able to carry our topgallant sails but the sea still runs very high.
Tuesday, February 15th
Fine morning, the wind and sea having abated much and our ship once more in full sail. Today our carpenter is busy (assisted by the Captain) in caulking the waterways, the ship’s heavy rolling of late having caused them to leak.
Wednesday, February 16th
A fine morning with a favourable breeze. The weather now gets much cooler and we begin to put on one by one the things which only a few weeks since we so readily left off. Today the sailors are busy taking down the ship’s old sails and putting up new ones in their place. A child died this afternoon. Several porpoises have been seen today, one of them was harpooned by the sailors but the harpoon slipping out, they lost it.
Thursday, February 17th
The weather fine with a fresh breeze against us. Instead of making south we now make a little north latitude. A desperate quarrel took place this morning between two of the passengers which arose out of a dispute about a tea chest and ended in the defeat of one party who was well scratched by the wife of the other who came in at the death. They were tried on the poop, the doctor acting as judge and the poor fellow who was well scratched was sentenced in addition to 7 days hard labour.
Friday, February 18th
A dull morning, the wind still unfavourable. A great number of birds have been flying about the ship for several days past, amongst which are the albatross which is a large bird, their wings spreading between three and four feet. Nothing of interest occurred today.
Saturday, February 19th
A fine morning, the wind light and unfavourable — beds on deck the whole day. It was my watch from 12 till 3 o'clock.
Sunday, February 20th
It is a splendid morning, the sun shining beautifully, but the wind is still contrary. Divine Service was performed tween decks in the morning. About 8 o'clock a.m. a barque hove in sight and by 2 p.m. she came up to us. She proved to be the Flying Childers of Liverpool bound to China. She left on the 28th of November and was forced by the bad weather to put into Cork for shelter for a week. They crossed the line 3 days before us. We kept — in company till nearly dusk when the wind which had been blowing stiff during the day dropped away to nearly a calm, when she speedily bid us good night. Another child born this evening. It is a beautiful evening, the moon being nearly at its full. A great number of porpoises playing round the ship but the sailors who have been trying could not succeed in taking any. Just before sunset this evening we came in sight of a small island called Tristan Dacuna.
Monday, February 21st
A fine morning with very little wind, what there is being against us. We have made but little progress for two or three days past; colds and sore throats are now very prevalent owing to the sudden change in the weather. The whooping cough is also very bad amongst the children. Dancing was resumed again this evening which is a very fine one, the moon shining brightly.
Tuesday, February 22nd
A beautiful morning with a fair wind. We are now running with our studding sails set below and aloft, and as the sun sets the breeze freshens. Today is washing day and it being fine there are a great many at it.
Wednesday, February 23rd
A fine morning, with a fresh breeze in our favour. Today is washing day and the rigging presents a curious appearance, being hung full of things, looking more like rag fair than anything else.
Saturday, February 26th
A damp foggy morning, the wind still fresh and in our favour. Several porpoises were seen today of quite a different colour to what we have seen before, they being of a beautiful black and white. One of the passengers was sentenced to a week’s hard labour for striking his wife.
39.51 S.L. 1.1 E Long.
Sunday, February 27th
This morning opened with rain which cleared away by 10 a.m. when the wind freshened and made it quite cold. Divine Service tween decks in the morning and a prayer meeting in the afternoon, which took place opposite my berth.
Monday, February 28th
A fine morning with a fresh breeze in our favour which being from the south west blows very cold. Our beds were taken on deck this morning, but we were soon obliged to fetch them down again out of the rain.
Tuesday, March 1st
A fine morning with a good breeze in our favour. Today is washing day which we find rather a cold job now.
Wednesday, March 2nd
A fine, healthy morning, the wind still favourable. We are now making good progress to the eastward, making 5 degrees per day for several days past. Today we are in the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope, but several degrees to the south of it.
Thursday, March 3rd
A damp morning, with occasional showers throughout the day, the wind continues fresh and favourable. A child three years and a half old died today.
Friday, March 4th
A fine morning, the wind not so favourable, it being from the south which makes it much more cold.
Saturday, March 5th
A fine dry morning, the wind contrary, and towards evening very fresh. My watch tween decks from 12 o'clock till three. Nothing of any interest occurred today.
Sunday, March 6th.
A wet and miserable morning, the wind more favourable. Divine Service tween decks in the morning as usual, and a prayer meeting in the afternoon, which was held in the same place as last Sunday. We have not been able to go on deck the whole day on account of the wet.
Monday, March 7th.
A dry morning and very cold, the wind being from the southward. A child born this morning.
Tuesday, March 8th
A fine morning, the wind light but more favourable than it was yesterday. Several large fish were seen this morning, called by the sailors finners, from the large fin they have on their back. Several porpoises were also seen but they did not come near enough to get a strike at them.
Wednesday, March 9th
Weather fine, wind strong and favourable. Ship going through the day at
the rate of ten knots. 42:16.6
Thursday, March 10th
Fine day with the wind fresh and contrary. A child died today.
Friday, March 11th
A fine morning, the wind light and contrary. Today is washing day and there are many taking advantage of this warm morning, it having been very cold of late.
Saturday, March 12th
A beautiful morning, the wind being more favourable and blowing a moderate breeze. Bedding on deck the whole day.
Sunday, March 13th
This morning opened with showers of rain, which continued at intervals
during the day, the wind against us and blowing fresh. Divine Service between decks in the morning and a prayer meeting in the afternoon as usual. Towards evening a great number of porpoises surrounded the ship, but it being Sunday, none of them were caught.
Monday, March 14th
A damp morning, the wind has been gradually dropping away and is now quite a calm. Three albatrosses were caught this morning by means of a line with a hook at the end, baited with a small piece of beef. They are a very large bird; their wings spreading nearly ten feet. One of them had been caught before, it having a small piece of red ribbon tied around its neck. 12 o'clock a.m. the rain has now cleared up and the wind freshened from a favourable quarter. 39.55 S.L. 58.51 E.L.
Tuesday, March 15th
Fine weather, the wind light and variable. A child was born and died this morning; the mother is not expected to live. 39.19 S.L. 63.18 E.L.
Wednesday, March 16th
A fine morning, the wind fresh and fair. A great number of porpoises have been seen about the ship today. 39.7 S.L. 68.3 E.L.
Thursday, March 17th
Dull weather, the wind still fair. The baby which lost its mother on the 22nd of January died today. 38.54: 72.5
Friday, March 18th
Weather dull, wind light and fair. During the night a child which had got the whooping cough was taken much worse. The Doctor soon came and did what he could, but it was of no avail and the child died soon after. Whooping cough and inflammation of the lungs is still very prevalent amongst the children.
Saturday, March 19th
During the night a child was born and a woman who has been ill the whole passage died and was committed to the deep before morning. At 5 o'clock a.m. we passed the island of St. Pauls, it bore N. by E. of us, distance about 16 miles. The weather is squally, the wind fair and strong. The woman confined on the 16th died this afternoon.
Sunday, March 20th
Fine morning, the wind fresh and fair. Divine Service between decks as usual.
Monday, March 21st
Strong winds and fair weather. We are now making good progress to the eastward and look forward to a speedy termination of our voyage, if the breeze lasts.
Tuesday, March 22nd
A wet and miserable day, the wind still in our favour and blowing hard. Today is washing day, but the weather is too rough to do much.
Wednesday, March 23rd
A beautiful morning, the wind still fair and fresh. Beds on deck the whole day.
Thursday, March 24th
Fine weather, and the wind fair. Two children were born today, one of them was a cripple and lived only a few hours.
Friday, March 25th
Today is Good Friday and a beautiful day it is, the wind still fair. No work allowed to be done of any sort today. Divine Service tween decks the same as Sunday.
Saturday, March 26th
A very wet and miserable day — wind very light and variable.
Sunday, March 27th
It has been raining hard the whole night. It has now cleared away and the sun shines out beautifully and the breeze blows fresh in our favour. Service tween decks in morning and a prayer meeting in the afternoon as usual.
Monday, March 28th
The wind has been blowing hard during the night, accompanied by heavy rain. About 4 o'clock this morning the fore topmast studding sail boom was carried away. It still blows a strong wind. Right aft the ship running under double reefed topsails.
Tuesday, March 29th
Squally weather, the wind fair and strong. Scurvy begins to show itself
amongst the passengers. Those attacked with it have extra lime juice and preserved potatoes served out to them; vinegar is also served out in addition to pickles as a preventative.
Wednesday, March 30th
A fine morning with a fresh breeze in our favour. We are all busy tween decks this morning, scraping and cleaning our tables, seats and berths to give them as clean an appearance as possible when we go into port. Our flour now gets very bad. 19 barrels were opened today and not one of them fit for use. The Doctor advises not to eat it and offers to give us the same amount of biscuits or oatmeal instead.
Thursday, March 31st
Fine weather — fresh breeze, rather unfavourable.
Friday, April 1st
Fine weather, the wind fresh and more favourable. About 11 o'clock a.m. we were much alarmed by the cry of fire which proceeded from the poop. It appears that one of the fires that are hung there 2 or 3 times a week to dry the place, capsized, and the burning coals fell through an airhole cut in the deck into the lower hold, but happily they were soon extinguished.
Saturday, April 2nd
Fine weather, the wind fresh and fair. Today we are all bustle and confusion, scraping and cleaning every corner of tween decks. In the afternoon the chain cables were got up from below, much to the satisfaction of most of the passengers.
Sunday, April 3rd
A beautiful morning, the wind not quite so favourable. About 2 o'clock p.m. land was discovered right ahead. It was part of Australia, just to the westward of Cape Otway. The decks were soon covered with the passengers, all eager to look at their new home. Towards evening the wind dropped away to a calm, and continued so during the whole night.
Monday, April 4th
A fine morning, with a very light breeze dead against us.’ This afternoon we approached nearer to the shore and had a beautiful view of it. It has a very bald appearance, the land being very high at places.
Tuesday, April 5th
During the night we have drifted a considerable distance from the land. We are lying becalmed about 35 miles off Cape Otway. Two sharks were caught by the sailors this morning, which being young ones made a delicious meal for them. A baby born on board died in the evening. It is a beautiful starlight evening. The sun has just set — glorious, such as is seldom seen in England.
Wednesday, April 6th
A beautiful morning, with a light breeze in our favour. This morning at daylight we were right abreast of Cape Otway. It has a lighthouse on the point of it, which shows a revolving light and gives it quite an English appearance. As the day advances the breeze seems to freshen and we expect to be up to the Heads of Port Phillip tonight. As we advance the land has a wild and rugged appearance, all that we can see being hills and valleys with a great number of trees in the background. About 6 p.m. we saw the light on Point Shank, and by 8 we were up with it. Our Captain burnt several blue lights to try to get a pilot off but received no answer, so we were obliged to come to an anchor, which we did about 9 o'clock, close in with the shore.
Thursday, April 7th
This morning at daylight we were all up, anxious to see what sort of a place it was. We found we were just within the Heads, round the starboard corner (right hand) in the quarantine ground. The Doctor from the shore came on board before breakfast to examine us. He ordered all the doubtful cases of whooping cough and scurvy to be sent on shore and we are to remain here till that is completed which may be for several days. This afternoon, families with their luggage went on shore, where they will have to remain till they are quite well. They live in tents, close to the water’s edge, and are not allowed to go but so far, the distance being marked off by yellow flags.
Friday, April 8th
During the night 11 of the sailors left the ship in one of the best boats, having first fastened the cabin door. The Captain heard them but before they could get on deck they were gone. He followed them in another boat but could not overtake them. After breakfast I went with 4 others in the Captain’s gig all round the bay for miles, to look for the lost boat, but could not gain any intelligence of it. It is a beautiful piece of water, the scenery round it is splendid. A bullock came off from the shore today and we have had fresh meat for the first time. Still in quarantine and expect to be cleared tonight or tomorrow morning.
Saturday, April 9th
Still detained in quarantine. The Captain has heard of his boat. This morning after breakfast we started again and took with us 4 muskets in case we should meet with any resistance, but the wind freshened and we were obliged to give it up. After dinner we made another start, but with no better success, — we being obliged to put back again.
Sunday, April 10th
This morning at daylight we were called out to go with the Captain to try once more to get the lost boat. We found it about twelve miles from the ship in possession of a bushman who had found it some days before. We had a hard pull back and did not reach the ship till teatime.
Monday, April 11th
We got under way this morning about 7 o'clock and worked up towards Geelong, the wind being dead against us and blowing strong. About 3 p.m. we were obliged to come to an anchor again, the tide having come strong against us.
Tuesday, April 12th
A miserable wet morning. After breakfast we got underway again and in about an hour we got to the proper anchorage off Port Henry, which is about 7 miles from the town. After dinner I went on shore with Charley and two or three others. to get some sand. We had a good stroll round and returned back to the ship at dusk. The Commissioners came on board in the afternoon and examined us the same as they did at Liverpool.
Wednesday, April 13th
At daylight the boat started to Geelong to fetch fresh meat and bread, Charley and myself forming part of crew. The wind blew strong against us and we were nearly four hours reaching there. We just had time to go up to the Post Office when we were obliged to start for the ship again which we reached about 2 o'clock, all wet through and tired out.
Thursday, April 14th
The steamboat called the Melbourne came alongside this morning at 6 o'clock and commenced taking on board our luggage etc. About 10 o'clock we left the ship and arrived at Geelong about an hour afterwards where we found several carts all ready to take our things up to the Depot, which is about a quarter of an hour’s walk from the wharf.
7. Some of the agony experienced by Mary Pearce after the death of her little daughter at sea is expressed in a poem. The copy of the poem shown here is in Mary’s hand writing. It was slipped into her exercise book. It is also copied into the exercise book, where it is titled “Upon the Death of my Child, Buryed at Sea” and dated 1853.
Upon the Death of an Infant
They committed her unto the waves
The fond one I've pressed to my breast.
I am left to deplore her sad loss,
Oh when, when shall I find rest.
She was all my fond heart could desire,
So loving, so sweet and so mild.
Oh pity if you oft see a tear
She was a fond Mother’s only child.
The keenest the bitterest pang,
Was to see her thrown into the waves,
Could she have died in her own native land
And been quietly laid in the grave.
With a tablet to have marked the dear spot
Of one so loving and mild.
The stranger might see it was the grave
Of a fond Mother’s only child.
She has gone from a world full of care
Of sorrow of grief and of pain.
This consoles me amidst the sad trial
That my loss is my darling pet’s gain.
Who can tell what a fond Mother feels
When her first one lisps her name.
Then so soon to be snatched from her side
But she has gone with her Jesus to reign.
God grant I may meet her above.
Oh cleanse me from every sin.
May my darling be first at the gate
To welcome her fond Mother in.
The child, Mary Agnes Kingston Pearce, was a year and four months old when she died, and her mother drew by hand a card commemorating her death and burial at sea “Off the Salvages of Madiera”.
The passengers, and probably most of the crew, left the ship on 14 April, 1853, at Geelong. Ephraim and Mary proceeded to the diggings at Ballarat. Life on the gold fields has been well documented. The experiences of Mrs Charles Clancy recorded in “A Lady’s Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-53” would be parallel to those of Ephraim and Mary. I have no evidence of how long Ephraim mined, but he told Per that he went to the Eureka Stockade (that was on 3 December, 1854), but it was all over by the time he arrived. Ephraim did not do well at mining. His older brother, Ruben, who also came out during the Gold Rush, did very well. But, Per told me, he lost it all gambling on gold mines. “A lot of diggers were caught the same way.”
Mary had a son, Ephraim, on 16 March, 1854 and he was probably born in a tent, the universal dwelling on the gold fields at the time. Another daughter, christened Mary Kingston Pearce, was born in 1857. It is very likely that by then Ephraim senior had abandoned mining in favour of carpentry and timber cutting. (Later in life Ephraim senior was known as Dommy and to avoid confusion I will now use that name.) He was perfectly equipped to provide a good living for his family in the gold field districts. To quote Mrs Clancy: “Carpenters are in high demand and among other tradesmen earn between 20/- and 30/- a day. Firewood is sold at 50/a good-sized barrow-load.” By 1859 he was well involved in his occupation of timber cutting. Twins, Francis and Annie Kingston, were born at Bullarook Forest on 14 May of that year. Francis died on 4 November, 1862, of diptheria. He was three years old and was buried in the “old” cemetery at Ballarat. Twelve years later, his sister, Mary Kingston, also died of diptheria and was buried in the same grave. She was seventeen years old.
Many fabulously rich gold fields and the great forests that serviced them were found within a twenty mile radius of Ballarat. For twentyfive years or so Dommy worked in the eastern section of this area. Some of his movements have been documented. On 4 September, 1866, he applied for a license to occupy land in the Parish of Kerrit Bareet. His address was then Border Sawmills, Bullarook. Bullarook is ten miles from Ballarat. In the Victorian Postal Registeries of 1871 and ’72 Ephraim Pearce is listed as Millowner, Devil’s Creek. Devil’s Creek was later named Bolwarra and as that township figured so often in the Hyett and Pearce activities, it is worth quoting in part what is said about it in the Victorian Gazetteer of 1879. Bolwarra was originally the name of a sheep station on the Moorabool River.
Victorian Gazetteer, 1879
Bolwarra, late Devil’s Creek, is a postal village, 15 miles from Ballarat, ENE, situated on the Moorabool River a few miles from its source. The village is 59 miles from Melbourne via Ballan. The Moorabool River runs through the village and Devil’s Creek joins the Moorabool just below the village. There are numerous saw mills in the vicinity. The district is chiefly agricultural, the land being of splendid quality. Vast quantities of potatoes are grown in the immediate vicinity, especially in Bungaree. Immediately behind the village is the State forest, a reserve of several thousand acres for timber purposes. Numerous sawmills are established here, which give employment to the greater part of the population. The principal diggings are — Barkstead, Gordons, Egerton and Ballarat. The main State forest road (metalled) from Ballarat passes through the village, but no coach or regular conveyance runs to the place. The communication with Melbourne is either by the Melbourne coach at Gordons 4 miles distant, or via Ballarat by rail. The surrounding country is very elevated and mountainous. In fact the village is situated near the top of the Dividing Range. There is a good depth of splendid soil with a subsoil of clay and gravel. There are about 600 inhabitants in and around the village. There is a C. of E. (Musk Creek) church and Wesleyan (Upper Moorabool) church, and a nice, though small, cricket ground at Bolwarra.
On 17 January, 1872, John Pearce wrote to Mary. The letter is written under the letter-head of the United Kingdom Alliance of which John was Minute Secretary and Agent. John was Dommy’s cousin, but he addresses Mary as cousin.
‘My dear Cousin,
You will see from the above heading what my line is. It may seem strange to you, as it does to others, but I am endeavouring to do a little good in a direction where much labour and effort is required. I just get a living, and am content for the present, although I should doubtless be doing better as far as circumstances go, in business. I enclose a letter to Rueben, which, if he has left for this Country, you may open and consider as addressed to yourself; but if he is still with you, ask to see it as being of interest to Ephraim.
I did not tell him that I have written to Mr Egeton for his opinion respecting Ephraim’s interest in the Copyhold property, but have not yet received his reply. This has driven me to the last moment and I now find that I have not time to say much.
Do not repeat anything I may say to our friends here, the note to Reuben will explain why I wish this.
I have been at the expense of a telegram to Rueben, as I am inclined to think that Uncle and Aunt are not acting fairly by you. They are well off, but in some cases that only makes people more over reaching.
Mr Lowe wrote to you at my request.
Please excuse more and I will write by next mail as to family matters. With love to Ephraim, the children and yourself.
Your affectionate cousin,
Nothing is known now as to the outcome of this matter, but the letter must have been considered important to have been saved. There was a photograph of John Pearce in the family album and it was from this photograph that John’s portrait was painted. I do not know if the painting was done in England or here, but its existence indicates that John Pearce was held in high regard by Dommy and Mary.
8. In May 1881, William Hyett was living in Bolwarra, working as a sawyer. He courted Annie Pearce and she became pregnant. They were married six months later on 11 November of that year in the Registrar’s Office in Ballarat. For a child to be conceived before marriage is a very old and very common story. But to wait six months before marrying is unusual. There is no-one alive now who can give the reason, so it will forever remain a mystery. But as I knew Annie, my grandmother, and remember her as a shy and gentle woman, I can’t help but wonder what happened to cause the delay. Maybe at first they did not want to marry. Maybe William left “to make his fortune”, and Annie was unable to contact him sooner. Spectacular gold strikes were still being made and he could have gone to any state in Australia, except Western Australia. Discovery of gold at Coolgardie was yet to come. I'm certain she suffered anguish at her situation. When Francis William, named after his mother’s twin and his father, was born on 9 February, 1882, the date of marriage was put back a year on the birth certificate. But Annie kept her marriage certificate, and it is now among my collection of documents. I am fairly certain that Annie told her daughter, my mother, Elizabeth Mary, of this “disaster”. This would account for Mother’s extreme anxiety over the virginity of her daughters when they were growing up. All mothers used to have strong views on this subject, but Elizabeth Mary’s were not average.
Very little is known of William. From his photograph he was a handsome young man with a straight-forward look on his face. Mother told us: “My father was not tall, but all his brothers were tall.” He was probably the same build as his son Frank, of medium height and sturdy. He was the captain of the Bolwarra cricket team. And I guess he was like his brothers — wild. Mother, when writing to my sister June in 1953 told the only personal story I can record of her father, William. “Le and Tom are square dancing tonight — it is still all the vogue. How strange it seems as Mother used to tell me how she danced with my Father before I was born. Square Dancing is having a revival here these days.” One wonders why William was so favoured in his grandfather’s will. Was he the favourite grandson or merely the eldest? Or maybe old William realized that when Jacob divided the property equally between all his children, there would be barely enough for a living for any of them. By leaving 350 acres to William he was making it possible for one Hyett to continue farming the land.
Eleven months after Frank’s birth, Elizabeth Mary was born, also in Bolwarra. She was named after her two grandmothers. That was on 22 January, 1883. Less than two months later, on 1 March 1883, William died. He was 24. He had been playing cricket, caught a chill and died of pneumonia. He was buried in the same grave as his mother, Elizabeth Hyett, in the “new” cemetery at Ballarat.
William had turned twenty-one on 10 December, 1879, but as his grandmother,, Ann Hyett, was still living, he did not inherit his land then. When Ann died two months later, on 24 February, 1880, the land became William’s. It remained leased and on William’s death three years later, the rent from this property known as Redbanks, was Annie’s one source of income. It was to be her survival.
9. Annie and her two children lived with Dommy and Mary until Bolwarra was evacuated. This was in the late 1880s, though the Mooroobool reservoir was not completed until after 1900.
The photograph I have of the Bolwarra house is postmarked on the back “Ballarat, Feb., ’80.” Dommy stands in front of the house flanked by five women and a small boy. On the left are Mary, Annie and probably Mary Ann Hyett who became his daughter-in-law later that year. The other three people remain unidentified. The house probably had four or five rooms, is built of timber. with wooden shingles and is quite unpretentious. The proportions are unusual for the time; the posts for the verandah that is built across the front of the house must be nine feet high. Dommy was paid compensation for his house. This was not considered adequate and Per can remember that twenty years later the compensation was still being discussed.
The family moved down to Melbourne and lived in what is now No. 113 Barkly Street, West Brunswick. Rueben Pearce and his wife lived further along Barkly Street. Per remembers Uncle and Aunt Rueben well. He and Myrt used to visit them often after they moved to Fitzroy. “Myrt and I were a lively pair and we always got a good welcome. Uncle and Aunt Rueben were nice old people.”
Dommy would have had a job, probably still in the timber trade, and Annie had her small income from the land at Nugent. Mary Kingston Pearce died in the Barkly Street house on 2 August, 1890, of heart disease. Her body was taken to Ballarat and was buried with her children, Mary Kingston and Francis.
There is no one alive now who knew Mary Pearce. We have only her photographs and some of her belongings to help form an idea of her. From her wedding dress we can work out her height: 5’ 1 1/2” and her waist at the time of her marriage: 22 1/2” From her photograph taken of her in her sixties, in front of the Barkly Street house, she remained a slight woman. Well-educated and probably sheltered in her early life, she faced the hardship of the voyage to Australia and life on the gold fields. Three of her five children died young. The contents of her exercise book are an indication of her interests and attitude of mind. lt is not clear how many of the poems are her own work. She has signed the one of the death of the baby at sea. Another, “Corio Bay”, was written on 25 April, 1853, the day after her arrival in Australia, but was not copied into the book until August 1888, two years before she died.
Geelong, 25 April
In a simple untutored sort of way
I would like to sing of our beautiful Bay
See how it gleams in the golden sunlight
Or sleeps calmly ‘neath the pale Queen of night
But shadow and shine are oft mingled there
Clouds rise and obscure the blue waters so fair
Rain, storm and tempest soon gather o'erhead
A pall as of night is over all spread
Soon the clouds are dispersed, the tempest is o'er
The water is peaceful and bright as before
The hills on yon shore with outline so bold
Are bathed in a glory of crimson and gold
The boats that were tossing about in the storm
Or drifting on shore by the angry waves borne
Are started afresh for the opposite shore
As calm waters and sunshine the courage restore.
This surely is just a true emblem of life
Dark clouds and bright sunshine — now peace and now strife
Serene, clear and cloudless oft for a while
Our courage undaunted and no thought of guile
But friendship proves false, doubts assail and fears rise
We doubt even ourselves — once deemed so wise
And all our horizon looks dark. and drear
But see the morning breaks, the night has passed away
The sunlight on our path again will stray
To cheer our fainting hearts and urge us on
Until life’s battle will be fought and won
So when Death comes and we reach the riverside
And Jordan’s stream appals, it looks so dark and wide
Trust the loving saviour who your sorrow bore
He never will forsake you.
He'll guide you safely o'er
Now beyond the touch of tempest, wave and tide
Resting in His arms, you reach the other side
View the golden city gleaming on your sight
With its pearly gates and Mansions of delight
Evermore be glory, to the God of grace
He whom we have loved we shall see face to face
Be like Him, dwell with him, live evermore
When our weary feet shall rest on the golden shore.
29 August, 1888
There is a page in the exercise book devoted to a theory of the origin of “Mr Dicken’s Pickwick”. It would seem she remained an interested reader. And there is a piece on the Portman Estate. This latter extract I will quote in full because between the lines can be read Mary’s own attitudes to the class society in which she grew up.
“On the 25th March last 1888 the 99-year leases of a very considerable portion of the Portman estate though not the whole of it, fell in. They numbered seventeen hundred and eighty six leases, the Viscount’s agent made 120,000 in renewal premiums out of a single street in the estate. The Portman estate covers between two and three hundred acres of rich city property, and includes the famous Baker and Upper Baker Streets, Portman and Montague Squares and Gloucester Place. The Duke of Westminster is the richest man in England. From squalid lanes of low lodging houses, to the lacquered squares of Belgravia, and it is the enormous revenue derived from the rents collected from the dwellers on his city land which makes him the richest man in England. He compels his tenants under the conditions of leasehold law in England to rebuild at their own cost, before the leases fall in. Hence without expending a single penny of his own, he is always the owner of a well-built and modernised section of a magnificent city.
The principality of the Russell family covers 118 1/2 acres of three parishes in the heart of London.”
In Australia Mary suffered physical hardship and grief, but she had a wonderfully protective husband. Though they were never rich, they were never really poor. The little smile on her face in all her photos is one of serenity.
10. By December of the year Mary died Dommy, Annie and the two children had left Barkly Street and moved to Spencer Street, North Melbourne. In the next twenty years Dommy moved house twelve times. With the exception of a couple of years when he was in the West, he had Annie and her children living with him. He did not own a house again and I asked Per why they kept on moving. He said he didn’t know, but it was not expensive. Rents were cheap then. A landlord was pleased to have good tenants in his house to look after it. And sometimes, when they were moving just across the street, they would carry the furniture themselves. After the move to Spencer Street, Dommy made the final payment on the plot in the “old” cemetery in Ballarat, a plot big enough to be his grave too, and had a tombstone placed there in memory of Mary and their two children. I made a second trip to Ballarat and was able to find the grave.
The Pearce family grave is in the “old” cemetery, Ballarat. To find it you enter the cemetery by the main gates and walk along the main path. Turn right at the fifth path after the rotunda. The grave is in Block D, which is marked, and in the twelfth row of graves on the left. It is grave 21, the third last tombstone along that little path. There is a cast iron fence around the plot and a marble headstone which reads:
In Loving Memory of
MARY K. PEARCE the beloved wife of
EPHRAIM PEARCE who died August 2nd 1890 aged 70 years also
MARY K. PEARCE
who died Sept. 17th 1874, aged 17 years
FRANCIS K. PEARCE who died Nov 4th 1862, aged 3 years.
Rest in the Lord
While the family was living in Spencer Street and during the two years or so that they lived at 107 Chapman Street, Frank and Libby, as Elizabeth Mary was then called, attended the North Melbourne State School. It was known as Mattingley’s, named after the headmaster.
In 1892 they moved to 237 Roden Street, West Melbourne and Frank and Libby attended the King Street State School. It was from 237 Roden Street, (now demolished) on 2 August, 1892 that Annie married James Sanders at the Wesleyan Parsonage, Howard Street, North Melbourne. Annie was thirty-three and James forty-one. He was a Cornishman, born in Sutton. His mother’s name was Mary Ann Sanders, but his father’s name does not appear on the Marriage certificate. James’ address at the time of the marriage was 191 Adderley. Street, West Melbourne, just around the corner from Roden Street. Like so many Cornishmen, James was a Methodist.
Annie’s marriage to a Methodist was to have a great influence on Libby’s life. Although the Hyetts and Pearces had always been Anglican, Annie, Frank and Libby joined James and attended the Methodist Church. For Frank it was not a lifelong commitment as he left the church in his teens when he became interested in socialism. For Libby it was for life and she met Os Barnett, the man she married, in the Methodist Church in Sydney Road, Brunswick.
Dommy was christened and married in the Church of England. He, Mary and their two children who died young were buried in the Church of England section of the. “old” cemetery in Ballarat. Per sums it up. “Dommy never entered the Methodist Church. The nearest he got to church was to stand and listen to the Salvos in the street. I don’t remember Frank ever going to church. but Libby and Myrt did and Mum went to the evening service. Myrt met Laurie at church.
“I was made to go to Sunday School even after I was working. But eventually I was left to my own devices. The Methodist Church was too wowserish for me. After I joined up I was confirmed in the Church of England. You got a day’s leave to be confirmed and a day’s leave was always worth having. After I got home from the war I'd go to Christ Church, Brunswick. They'd put on a lovely service there. And I've stayed Church of England ever since.”
After Annie’s marriage to James, the family moved to 219 Roden Street. The little house was still standing in the fifties when I was able to photograph it. It has since been demolished.
At the time of his marriage James was a labourer, but he had been an able-bodied seaman. Per had saved some of his discharge papers, which give details of voyages he made between 1867, when he was 17 years old, and 1875. The writing is sometimes hard to decipher, but I have made a summary of these voyages as accurately as I can.
|Nimrod||725 tone||Cardiff to|
|Louisa Ann||97 tons||Bilbao||Port Talbot ?|
|Port Talien ?|
|Flintshire||124 tons||China||Hong Kong|
|Vulture||345 tons||Home Trade||12.5.1875||Cardiff|
Per told me
“When my father first came to Australia in 1887 he lived near Marybyrnong Road. A lot of Pommies came out together. I think the Cowmeadows were in the group. They were good honest people, there is no doubt about that.”
Per was born at 219 Roden Street on 6 May, 1893. He remembered the atmosphere of that house ‘and was able to describe it to me.
“It was a snug little house. The back section was very, very old and made of hand-made bricks. Aunt Alice lived next door. I don’t remember much about my father as I was only five when he died. He was a selftaught musician and played the cornet, the French horn and the violin. I was still very young when we moved to Rokeby near Drouin in Gippsland.”
Per suggested that I write to Teenie Brown — the Brown family had remained friends since the Gippsland days. Teenie wrote to me in 1964.
“My eldest sister Jane, who would be aged about 90 if she were still alive, was teaching in a new building called the Rokeby Union State School. That is where we first came into contact with the Sanders family. Frank and Libby, aged about thirteen and twelve years came into her class. Then Jane visited the parents, Mr and Mrs Sanders and Grandpa Pearce, who had moved into a little farm at Rokeby, not very far from our old home . The friendship started which lasted up to now. Mr Sanders had developed chest trouble and had been advised to move to the country in the hope that the condition would improve. My sister Belle has just explained that the valves of Mr Sanders’ heart had been strained from playing in the band. Grandpa Pearce settled them on the little farm hoping that Mr Sanders would be able to potter around and they could run a little chicken farm.
“Grandpa Pearce developed a skin infection from some native plant and they all packed up and returned to the city. Frank and Libby got positions and so things went on.
She considered Mrs Sanders one of nature’s gentlewomen, whatever sphere of life she happened to be in. She speaks of Grandpa Pearce as “Such a fine old gentleman”
The move to Gippsland took place in 1895 and lasted less than a year. There is one story I know of the time at Rokeby. When Joy and I were very young Mother, Libby, would tell us stories of “when ‘L was a little girl”. She told us how there was a pond at the farm and it had a log over it. “One day Frank was crossing the pond on the log and a pig started doing the same thing from the other side. They met in the middle and though Frank tried to make the pig give way, it wouldn’t budge and finally Frank fell into the pond.” Mother loved to tell this story and we loved to hear it endlessly.
When the family moved to Melbourne near the end of 1895 they moved into a Ham and Beef business. It was at 663 Sydney Road, Brunswick and was a two-storey wooden building with a dwelling upstairs. Myrtle was born there on 6 August, 1896. Dommy was head of the house and it is his name that appears as householder in the street registry of 1896. He must have thought that the family was now settled and he decided to try his luck once more and went goldmining to Kalgoorlie. He was then sixty-seven or eight years old.
James ran the Ham and Beef business and Per remembers going with him to a piggery in Albion Street, West Brunswick, where he bought the pork and ham. “There was a stable at the back of the shop and we had a pony. One day I was riding the pony out of the stable, and as we went through the door I hung onto the lintel. The pony went on and I was left hanging there. Father had to lift me down. The shop, being two storied and wooden, was a fire hazard. Eventually it was demolished.”
The family now started going to the Sydney Road Methodist Church. It was a great social centre and they all made friends there.
When the Victorian Education Department introduced compulsory education in 1873, the school leaving age was fixed at fifteen years. In 1889, owing to hard times, the leaving age was dropped to thirteen, and it wasn’t until 1905 that it was raised again to fourteen years.
At the end of 1895, when the family returned to Melbourne, Frank was thirteen and Libby was twelve. Libby turned thirteen on 22 January, 1896 and was eligible for work. So the formal schooling of both children finished at Rokeby.
Libby regretted all her life that she had had to leave school when she was twelve. Per said that Annie, their mother, was not strong enough to go out to work herself because of her chronic bronchitis. As money was so short there was no alternative to the two older children starting work.
12. Frank got a job at Moran and Cato’s, the grocers, and Libby started working at Trahairs, a big drapery in Sydney Road.. Per has always had a great love of cats and remembers with pleasure that Frank was always able to bring home a kitten from Moran and Cato’s. “They had lots of cats there to keep away the mice.”
The Ham and Beef venture continued into 1896 and ’97 and James Sanders’ name appears in the street directory as householder. But in 1898, probably owing to James’ failing health, they left the shop and moved to 5 Bishop Street. And Dommy returned from the West. Per remembers his arrival back home wearing a white pith helmet. “It frightened me, I thought it was something to do with the police.”
The money situation was growing desperate as the rent from the land leased in Sorell was not coming regularly. I found a draft of a letter that Annie wrote to Silas Gatehouse who had been acting on her behalf in Tasmania. The letter was tucked into Mary Pearce’s exercise book.
“Mr. G. Dear Friend,
Your very welcome letter came to hand this morning and it has upset me so much that I felt I must sit down and write at once as I feel that there is nothing but trouble in store for me. I felt more than disappointed my money was not there as my children are in great need of it, not but that what my husband would get all they want, he is quite willing to do it, but he cannot do more than he can. I married with the understanding that I had quite sufficient to keep my children with or I would not have married at all as I had no wish to bring more trouble on myself than I have had, but through times being so bad my husband’s wage is only two guineas a week and you know Mr G. you cannot do a great deal with that when one has living and rent to pay out of that. I do not think my tenant is acting well by me at all. I think he has got the land as low as it possibly could be, and he does not pay in advance. I think he might act as he ought to do, you mention about having no power to act, if you would be so kind as to act for me I would be most grateful. I could look over all letters and send you a receipt for all I have received. I did not think more was needed than my letters, but as to having it drawn out by a lawyer, Mr Gatehouse, if it was not really needed I feel I cannot afford it and as to having Mr. J. Marshall as a witness, he works in Gippsland and only comes home every few months. I feel that bewildered this morning I do not know what to do for the best, and I have no money only what I get from the ground as the few pounds I have by is in the Bank that broke that time, so is locked up for three years. Do you think if Father came over at Xmas with power to act for me he could make arrangements with the tenant? Do send a line and say if Father could do good as he is willing to come and could come after the holidays, for I do feel what little rent the tenant pays he might have it ready at the time it is due as we have to pay a week in advance.”
As a result, Dommy did go over to Tasmania. (A mention of his visit is made in a letter Frank wrote to Annie in 1903.) He used the services of a solicitor in Hobart, and a new and very watertight contract was drawn up and signed by Annie and Wiggins. The lease was brought back by Dommy for Annie to sign and she copied it into the exercise book. It was a 1500 word document. To summarise the property called Redbanks near Nugent of “about two hundred. acres with dwelling and outhouses” was leased for seven years, dating from May, 1897, to James Wiggins. In return he was to pay sixteen pounds a year, in two instalments, due on the first of May and November. He was to “scrub and clear” three acres of land each year and lay down with grass. He was to maintain and keep in good repair all buildings, hedges, fences and gates. He was to keep down all briars and the Californian thistle. If damage was done to the dwelling or land by fire, storm or tempest Annie was to pay for repairs. She or her agent had the right to inspect everything every six months.
This arrangement worked well, and as James Wiggins’ son, whom I met in Nugent in 1963 said, “We managed to scrape up the money somehow
There was also a further fifty acres of land leased to Tuscan and accordingly known as Tuscan’s piece. As shown later by Frank’s letter, Tuscan proved a less reliable tenant than Wiggins.
Between the writing of Annie’s distressed letter and the signing of the lease, James Sanders became desperately ill. Per remembers his father groaning with the agony of his heart.
“Old Dr Springthorpe from the Melbourne Hospital would come out to see him. He would draw off fluid from his legs. Father had dropsy too. When he was in great pain he would call out and the whole family would move him into a new position that gave him ease. He was a very big man.”
James died at 5 Bishop Street on 18 December, 1898 of chronic heart disease. He was forty-eight years old and had been ill since 1894, a year after Per was born. Dommy signed the death certificate of his son-in-law.
13. Annie, now thirty-nine years old, was widowed for the second time. Her first marriage, to William Hyett, had lasted for sixteen months, her second, six years. She was in poor health herself. Frank, sixteen years old, and Libby, fifteen, were both earning a little money. But Per was five and Myrtle two. The sixteen pounds a year from Redbanks was now coming regularly but the family income was inadequate. Dommy, now sixty-eight years old, took a job driving a lift at John Danks & Son.
They did not stay long at 5 Bishop Street and early in 1889 moved across the street to No. 6. They stayed there a year then moved next door to 8 Bishop Street, where they lived until 1903. (I have confirmed in the Melbourne Street Directories held at the Latrobe Library all the houses in which the family lived and the years in which they moved.)
These were Frank’s teen years and he was developing fast. I remember Mother telling me that “he could talk the leg off an iron pot”. Often he would come home late for the evening meal. As he walked in the door he would start pouring out excuses and his mother, cross with him, would, in the end, give up before she even got out a word.
A quote from the In Memorium Gazette published by the Railways Union after Frank’s death Includes a brief summary of Frank’s early years.
“The first position he held was as a grocer boy with Moran and Cato. While there Frank studied electrical engineering, but did not follow up the profession. He also, with a fellow student, made himself acquainted with subjects such as Euclid and Algebra, and yet his education was the envy of many who had greater opportunities.
“As Frank grew from boyhood to manhood, affairs of the world troubled his mind; his very nature demanded lofty ideals, and his powerful intellect sought their achievement. In his thirst for truth and knowledge he studied economics and other allied sciences. His search also led him to things spiritual, and as result of his reading of theosophical, spiritualist and materialist sciences, he found himself unable to agree with the doctrines of his Methodist Sunday school teacher, who greatly admired his young scholar. Yet, while he regretted Frank’s unorthodox views, he never failed to comment on the honesty and sincerity of those expressed convictions. After wandering in search of his ideals through various cults, Frank, at about the age of 20, became acquainted and interested with the philosophy of Socialism. He read a good deal on the subject; and his young mind was further greatly impressed with lectures delivered by Tom Mann and Scott Bennett. In that doctrine he found the ethics of Christianity and the prospect of the realisation of great ideals of social reconstruction, and he threw in his lot with that party.”
Frank’s sporting career probably started in the “nice, but small cricket ground in Bolwarra”, when he was very young. He probably played football and cricket as a schoolboy attending the North Melbourne and the King Street State Schools. It started in earnest in his teens.
Per remembers that when they were living in Bishop Street Frank played football and cricket for Coburg. In 1903, their last year in Bishop Street, Frank won the gold medal at the Coburg Football Club. “I saw Frank playing both footy and cricket at Coburg. In those days they played on the old Coburg oval in Bell Street near the Merri Creek. Sometimes the cricket ball would go over the wall into Pentridge. After a number of balls had gone over the wall, Jack Marsh, the caretaker of the oval, would go in to collect them. But I would never go in with him. I thought I would never get out again. At that time Coburg was a Junior body but there were a lot of good footy players amongst them. These moved to Brunswick. Brunswick was a sub-district. Frank played a few seasons with Brunswick on the old Brunswick ground. He played both cricket and football. He became more prominent in cricket and gave up the football. But after he retired as a footy player he was delegate representing Brunswick on the VFA.
“He was so successful in cricket that Carlton called on him to come over there. Carlton was District Cricket and Brunswick was Sub-District. He wasn’t keen on being fully involved with Carlton because of Union business that he did in weekends. He used to go into the country to organize and he didn’t care who he played with as long as he had a game of cricket on a Saturday afternoon. But he did join up with Carlton Cricket Club and was quite happy about it. In those days the bulk of Carlton members lived in Brunswick and a lot of railway men lived there too. These railway men eventually persuaded Frank to stand for Vice Presidency of the Carlton Football Club. He won the vote and represented Carlton as League Delegate. He held office in the Cricket Club too as senior vice-president — but I looked with contempt on cricket and I took no notice of it.
“He became a member of the Victorian Cricket Team. He was a very successful wicket-keeper as well as run-maker. When Victoria played Tasmania Frank hit up over a hundred runs and he was presented with the bat. They were living at that time at the Royal Parade house, when one night they heard the front window being pushed up and later found the bat was missing.
“During the war, cricket enthusiasts were still selecting teams as if the tests were still on. Frank and two good wicket-keepers from N.S.W., Ratcliff and Gorry, would be amongst their selections. Some people favoured Ellis, another Victorian, but he was a bit of a wild man. And Frank had caught and stumped more batsmen anyway. Frank was very steady.
“Frank was a big man. He was not so tall but he was solid. When I was a young man I was 5’ 8” Frank was 5’ 9”.
The year that Frank had won the Sold medal at Coburg, 1903, he made a trip to Tasmania to do business on his mother’s behalf in Sorell.
14. The lease of Redbanks to James Wiggins finished in May, 1904. Frank made the journey to draw up a new lease. I have two of the letters he wrote to Annie and they are dated Sunday 13th and Friday. The lease itself is dated 1903. Sunday fell on the thirteenth twice in 1903, in September and December. It is almost certain that Frank went to Tasmania in September, between the football and cricket seasons. If he had waited until December there would have been the risk of the law offices closing for the Christmas break before he had completed his business.
Frank was twenty-one years old at the time. Here are the two letters:
Sunday 13th inst.
You will no doubt be surprised to see that I am staying here, just about as much so as they were to see me. By “they”, I mean Mrs. Gatehouse and her daughter Minnie. I think that I had given you my movements up to Thursday night when I was in Launceston. Well! on Friday morning I went after breakfast to see Dr. Webster and be vaccinated. I had been told to go to him by the reporter I mentioned before. He vaccinated me, and then I went to Dr. Parker — the Gov. Doctor — and got a pass to go to Hobart. They would not let me go unless I had the pass.. After being Vacced I still had 5 hours to put in before the train left, at 3 o'clock. I had a look at Princes Square, where they have a splendid fountain. In fact, there are only two of them in existence, the other one, exactly the same design being in Paris, where the Launceston one cam from. From there I went to Cataract Gorge, the city’s lion attraction. It is a grand sight. You pay a penny to enter, after crossing a fine bridge over the river, the South Esk. After entering, you stand on an asphalted foot path built on the face of the cliff. Behind you, the cliff rises straight for about 200 feet, at your feet is the river, and on the other side another wild looking wall, higher and more rugged, if anything than the side you stand on. You can go for nearly a mile like this, each turn you take bringing you out on a more impressing spot. I went to the end, to what they call the first basin. You can go miles further up on the other side, but I didn’t have the time. The water is not very wide down this gorge, but it tears down at such a speed that it makes you feel it alive. lt leaps in the air, over a hidden rock, then dashes in a hollow, making whirlpools that a man would not have a chance in, and finally joins the Tamar just below the bridge I mentioned, a stream of white creamy foam. You meet the same foam at the mouth of the Tamar, 38 miles away. There is nothing startling to see in the journey from Launceston to Hobart, hours to do the trip, about 130 miles I think. It is their express too. I was going to stay at the “Imperial” Coffee Palace, but I heard that they charged Two shillings all round, Eight shillings a day, so I went to the Temperance Hotel in Campbell Street. Their tariff is one shilling, and is kept by an old Man'o'war’s man. Not as stylish as the Launceston place, but plenty of food and a good bed so it satisfied me. The Hobart cabby is one of the worst of the species and a real blood-sucker. I could see the snow on the top of Mount Wellington when I awoke in the morning, the first snow I've seen for some time.
The train was not leaving for Sorell till 5.30pm, so I had the day before me. I went up to see Langford, but he was away at Macquarie Plains for some days, so I will not see him till I'm coming back. Anyhow, it did not matter. Hobart is not a bad little place, though nothing out of the ordinary. Their mountain is no great chops, as far as I can see. I will go to the top if I have time on the way back. They have the electric trams in all the principal streets, and I took a ride to Sandy Bay on one in tile afternoon. They were holding a walking match from town to the Bay and back, so there were a lot of people about. Nice trams, but no better than the cable, though perhaps they suit the place better, as it is very hilly. I had to rush to catch the boat to Bellerive, where the Sorell train starts. The distance is about 15 miles, and they take about 2 1/2 hours to do it. The Tasmanian trains are very slow, and the cabbies very quick. There were a lot of men in my carriage, and it seems that one of them was Bert G. though I did not know him at the time. And I don’t want to know him. On reaching Sorell I found that there was not a chance of getting to Nugent till Tuesday, so it was a toss up between G’s and the pub. I did not want to come here, but I knew that they would not like it if I went to the pub, and, thinking of the cost and other things, I pocketed my “wants” and came. And I must say here that Mrs G. and Miss G. have done their best to make me comfortable. But I could not stand it long. I know Mary will want to know something about Miss but I won’t gratify her. Personal remarks, like comparisons, are “odious”. They were floored when I came to the door; nobody expected me for a month. Sorell is a dead hole, and the people are deader except the nasty ones, who are very lively. I have heard enough about lands, houses, rents, tenants, etc. etc. to do m for two lifetimes. The one satisfactory thing in all this that I have heard is that Tuscan’s piece is worth fully £10 a year, and that he is getting splendid crops front it. Mind you, I have only heard it. If it is true, no wonder that Wiggins wants the lot. “But not yet, Mr Wiggins.” Mrs G. wishes to be remembered and a lot more. I am almost certain to be here till Tuesday, so the next letter you will get will be from Nugent. Grandad Hyett is managing a farm for some widow, I believe. Mrs G. is a strong barracker for Grandad H., so don’t say anything agin him when you write to her. I say nothing. Give my love to Mary, bless her and the young ‘uns
(Mary was Elizabeth Mary, usually called Libby by the family.)
The second letter, also undated:
After sending my last letter, I decided not to write to you again till I could tell you something about the business I cam over about. To start from the beginning. There is a regular fortnightly sale at Sorell, at which the farmers of the surrounding district, including Nugent, generally attend. It is held on a Tuesday, and I went round early, hoping to meet Wiggins or Kent. Arthur Gatehouse pointed out Kent to me, and I went up and spoke to him. The first thing I found out, was that I could not go there to stay, as they had a houseful. He said that he sent a note to the Hobart P.O. telling me this, as I suggested in my letter. However, I did not call there coming through, so I did not get it. You may guess that I felt funny for a while, as I had no idea where to go. I knew that there was no pub there, and the only person I was acquainted with was “old Jacob”. I told you before he was managing for some widow, and I thought he slept there. I also knew that some of his ground was let to a tenant, including the house, so I could not stop there. Mrs G. wanted me to go to Mrs Blackmoor’s, who knew I was coming, and would only be too pleased to let me stay there, she said. But I did not care to force myself on strangers. I had heard that Grandad was clearing a piece of his land himself, and had built a small cabin on it. I decided to go there. Just before leaving Sorell for Nugent. in the waggon, I was accosted by James Wiggins Snr. I shook hands, and after a word or two, told him that I would see him at Nugent. We left town about 1 o'clock, arrived at Nugent about 5.30, after an uphill drive of 14 miles. The road is very good now, not like the one when Gran came over. I had to walk 11.1 miles to get to Richardson’s, where Grandad is working. He did not know me until I spoke, and my unexpected arrival floored him. Anyhow, he soon came round, and his practical nature soon asserted itself. We walked the 111 miles back to the store, and purchased some stores. This is the purchase; 3 lbs sugar, small raspberry jam, loaf of bread, 11 Robur tea, 4 lbs bacon and a couple of pkts of cigarettes that I paid for, as I had run out of tobacco. I was introduced to Mrs Walker of the store. (who was a Miss Blackmoore), and invited to their house tonight, or when ever I cared to come. She wanted to introduce me to her sister (a nice girl I believe), father and mother, who keep the Post Office. I have not been there yet. There was a ball here last night, and the young widow with whom Gran is working wanted me to go with her. She has not a bad appearance, but, amongst other drawbacks, has eight kids. I don’t think she is thirty, either. Well, I declined with thanks, and made some excuse. Amongst others I have met a Miss Palmer, a very pretty girl, but she wears horrible boots. They spoil her. The Misses Wiggins are homely girls: I don’t think I am likely to lose my reason over anything that way. I have been over to Kents, and, to tell you the truth, I don’t like old Kent a bit. He’s a smoodger! I would not care to say that he could have made room for me, I think that he was afraid of “old Jake”. He told me that he thought I should go to him (Grandad) first, and that he, (Kent) did not want to be the cause of any ill feeling between us. And that after asking me to come and stay at his place. Queer, was it not? Anyhow, I am glad I did not go to Kents, and came straight here. I am certain that the old gent would have felt it as a slight, though he might have passed it off with an oath. I have nothing to be ashamed of in “old Jake”. Though he tells me he has few friends here, he is known all over the country — from Hobart to Nugent, and elsewhere as perhaps the straightest man amongst the very few straight ones in this ungodly hole. I know the old chap now, and am proud of him. More than I can say about most of my relations. His only fault, if I may so term it, is that he swears a bit, which hurts nobody, and is a relief to himself. It is his little vice, and is, to my mind, far preferable to sanctimoniousness. If any one with property here, dies, it is the custom to get Grandad and Walker of the store to act as bondsmen till things are settled. They can trust them. Of course that is in a case where the deceased person leaves no will. They are acting as bondsmen in the widow’s case. Grandad is chock of the job, and only waits till things are settled, when he will cut and run.. You see, if anything was sold or otherwise missing when they came to settle things up, the bondsmen would have to make it good. The widow has some peculiar male ‘friends’, so you can bet that Grandad keeps his eyes open. He makes me laugh when he talks about it. By the way, he has been talking to me all the while, nearly, that I have been writing, but is getting a bit quiet now. I must be giving him funny answers, for I &m writing and talking too. I forgot to mention that he sleeps here now though he does not have any meals here.
I am batching. I can fry bacon alright, too. I have bacon, jam, and butter for breakfast, jam, butter and bacon for dinner, butter, bacon and jam for tea, with potatoes ‘or a change. Grandad has just brought home some butter, it is branded “Redbanks”, and is very good. I went all over our place on Thursday. It is not looking too well. Wiggins was from home, so I told them I would see him yesterday (Friday) if not too wet. It was raining a little in the morning, but I decided to go. I had gone about 1/2 a mile when I met him, and we returned to the hut and talked business. I lit a ‘Lire, made a cup of tea, gave him some bread and jam. I may tell you that after being over the place I came to these conclusions: That if put up for tender it would not bring offers of much more than £40; That Tuscan’s. piece, of which about 10 acres are cleared (including the piece that Freeman done) is the best piece of land on the place. That the barn needed repairing. That there were no fences on the place to speak of. That only about 10 acres were cleared, instead of 21. That there was plenty of good land on the place that could be cleared and laid in grass, as per lease. And that, taken altogether, Redbanks would not bring more than £40 at present. Well, I told Wiggins that, in consideration of the fact that he had suffered severe losses by flood, illness and death in his family, etc,’ I would not say anything about what he had not performed according to the 7 years lease. I told him that we had received an offer of 40 pounds, on his behalf, through the agent. He said that was right, but he was not particular about taking Tuscan’s piece. Now between you and .n — e, he wanted that piece more than any other, but he gammoned careless. I told him he could have the place for 7 years forr 40 pounds; 10 years for £40, but in advance; or 10 years (not in advance) for £43. He said he was not in a position to pay in advance, and after some talk, said he would take it for 10 years a t£43. The lease is to be on the same lines as the other one. I gave him to understand that I would expect to see 30 acres of ground cleared and laid in grass at the end of the ten years. He told me he would repair the barn, and build 2 rooms to the house. I told him that he had been very fair in paying the rent to time, and that I hoped and expected him to be so in the future. I also told him that it was chiefly owing to Tuscans not paying his rent when it was due that he was not getting the 50 acres again. That was meant as a hint. I have to see Tuscan yet, but it will not make any difference, for I am not going to let him have it again. He will find out that you own the place, and not him. He only paid his rent punctually when the time was drawing near to relet it. He wants it again, because he said to young Jim Wiggins last week “I suppose you people are the only ones that will oppose me for it.” I will tell you any further particulars when I come home. I can hardly use my left arm, it is swollen and painful. We are going to dine out tomorrow Sunday — at the Walkers. It has been raining here since Thursday night, and is raining now. I have hardly left the hut since it began. I may get the lease fixed up at Hobart if I have time, if not, I will leave instructions. My love to all
The lease, nearer 1700 words this time, was drawn up by solicitors in Hobart and covered the ten years from May, 1904 to May 1914. Although Frank had come to a verbal agreement with Wiggins that the annual rent was to be £43, the lease sets it out as 40 pounds 44. From the story told me by the Mr Wiggins I met in 1963, it was “old Jake” who decided the farm was worth the extra 1 pound..
The new lease, copied into the exercise book by Frank, was very much on the pattern of the original. “Redbanks” was 200 acres in the previous lease. It is now 350 acres and must have included the land known as Tuscan’s piece. And there are a few additions.. Cape Weed and Charlock are added to the “Briars and Californian Thistle” that must be “cut down and prevented from seeding”. And rabbits on the property must be destroyed — “complying with the Rabbits Destruction Act, 1899”.
When writing of his meeting with ‘old Jake’ Frank says “He did not know me until I spoke.” Jacob had visited the. family on only one occasion, when he came over to. Victoria about 1900. That was when he tried to persuade his grandson,, young Jacob’s son Jack,. to return to Sorell with him.. Per remembers the visit to No. 8 Bishop Street. “I can remember quite clearly old Grandfather Hyett coming to the little house, 8 Bishop Street. He seemed a nice old fellow, a rather serious type of man, with a bit of a goatee beard,. Mother invited him to stay to tea but he said “Oh no, I've got to walk ten miles tonight” — as if he were way out in the bush and there was no public transport. That was the only time I met him.” No doubt Jacob had hoped to persuade Frank to return to Nugent with him.
Frank made another visit to Tasmania in 1911. He sent a postcard to Annie dated May 4, and it reads:
Arrived OK. All well. Bubs only one not sick coming across. Address C/0 Imperial Coffee Palace, Brisbane St., Launceston. Good luck, Frank.
Frank had his wife Ethel, and their baby, Nancy, travelling with him. He was attending the Triennial Conference of the Federated Amalgamated Government Railway and Tramway Service Association of Australia which opened in Launceston on Friday, 5 May.
P.S. to Section 15.
Early in 1980 Mrs Schofield decided to sell Redbanks. It was proving impractical for her sons to run the property during weekends. Mrs Schofield wrote to me:
We didn’t have any trouble selling Redbanks. You probably heard that it was bought by Alan Newitt’s brother-in-law, Mr White, who lives at Wattle Hill half way between Sorell and Nugent. As it was a drought year several people were interested in it. It doesn’t dry out up there as much as round Sorell. The White’s have farmed in the district for many years. One of the sons has done up the house and is living in it, so that is good. I haven’t been back to see it yet.
“Everyone thought we got a good price, $81,000 but as I said everything else has gone up, and it is only in keeping with other prices...”
At the time of old William’s death, he and Jacob owned 1264 acres. If all the land was equal in value to Redbanks it would be worth, in 1980, $341,280.
15. To finish the story of Redbanks, Annie renewed the lease with James Wiggins when it fell due in May, 1914. My parents, Elizabeth Mary and Os Barnett, went over to Hobart to represent Annie. Mother was dreadfully sea sick on both crossings and never set foot on a ship again. Annie looked after Joy and me. I was twenty-two months old, had measles during the couple of weeks I was with her, and did not know Mother when she returned. This incident, which astonished and upset Mother, and her sea sickness, are the only things I ever heard about this trip.
On my final visit to Hobart in September, 1979 I called on Mrs Schofield’s solicitors, Seager, Bethune, Thompson and Grey. The documents on Redbank were made available, a bundle of papers. about six inches thick. I worked through them. They started with the five original Crown Grant titles, four owned by J. Birchall and one by J.. Norton. The transfer of all these titles to old William Hyett took place on 14 June, 1852. The land then passed to the eldest grandson, young William. Then when he died in 1883 it passed to his widow, Annie. She held Redbanks, first in the name of Annie Hyett, then after she re-married, as Annie Sanders until her death on 9 June, 1921. The last lease to James Wiggins did not run out until 1924. On 9 January, 1924, the sale of the four Birchall grants to Robert Aquilla Fieldwick was completed, the price being £1,100. It was strange sitting in that office in Hobart, to see my father’s signature at the bottom of that particular document F. Oswald Barnett. He was acting as trustee to the will of Annie, his mother-in-law. Presumably the Norton lot was sold at the same time but I do not know to whom.
16. To summarise what I have already discovered about Jacob, he is recorded in the 1884 Victorian Directory as living in Barry’s Reef, a gold mining town in Victoria. He returned to Nugent some time after 184 but he is not recorded again in either the Sorell or Hobart Electoral Rolls.
Jacob was then in his fifties. In 1900 he made one more journey to Victoria to try and persuade a son or grandson to return to Nugent with him. He was unsuccessful.
In 1897 he mortgaged the 99 acre grant probably to clear his father’s will through probate. He built himself a log cabin on his original grant, clearing some of the land around it. Frank found him very likable when he stayed with him at Hyett’s Hut in 1903. But from Frank’s letter Jacob was not so popular with his children. Frank could only have got this impression from “the aunts”. Annie had kept in touch with three of her Hyett sisters-in-law, Mary Ann, Ellen and Alice. Frank also reported that Jacob was well liked by the Gatehouse family and respected throughout the district. He was about sixty-nine years old when Frank stayed with him.
In 1905 Jacob took out a mortgage for £120 with the Gatehouse brothers on his original grant. I think this money may have been used to build a house there. In 1905 he leased all his land, the three grants north of the Curryjong Rivulet, to Hugh Montgomery. I saw a copy of this lease in the Deeds Office. The property is referred to as “Redlands” and was 900 acres in all.
When I was staying with the Newitts in Sorell, Alan drove me out to meet Mr B.A. “Bill” Montgomery, son of Hugh Montgomery. Bill now owns the 900 acre property and agreed to show us the way to Hyett’s Hut. He went ahead in his car. The approach was from the north-east. The land is now leased to the Tasmanian Pulp and Forest Holdings Ltd. for the purpose of wood chipping. That company has constructed a sealed access road. Through a gate, and a mile or so along this road, we left the cars and took to a track leading off to the left. After walking a “bushman’s half-mile” we came to the remains of Hyett’s Hut, a chimney of random rubble standing in the bush. The hut had been built roughly in the centre of Jacob’s original grant. Bill Montgomery judged that the Curryjong Rivulet would be a further half mile down the hill. We had walked through old forest, but within a radius of a few hundred yards of the chimney it was all new growth, young forest that had grown up after Jacob had cleared this part of his land.
The name Redlands is no longer used. This stretch of country is now known as Hyett’s Run.
Mrs Hannah Kent lives only a few doors from the Newitts in Sorell. Alan had arranged that I meet and talk with her. She is now ninety-three years old and has been blind for the last three years. Her mind is. still young and her memory remarkable. I met her, sitting by the fire, in the living room of her daughter’s house.
“My name was Hannah Wiggins and I used to be called Topsy. I was two years old when my father, James Wiggins, took over Redbanks. lt was my mother who gave the farm the name of Redbanks.”
So the Wiggins had lived at Redbanks since about 1886.
“I was married from Redbanks. The Kents lived on the property next to Redbanks. My mother-in-law had been very friendly with Jacob Hyett’s wife, Elizabeth. They were neighbors really.”
I asked where was the house that Elizabeth had lived in.
“There was just a stump of a chimney left, behind the house we lived in. I don’t think there is anything left of it now. I doubt if there is anything left of our house. Mr Fieldwick built a house in front of our house.”
So the “house at Nugent” that I had been searching for had ceased to exist some time during the 1880s. Except for the chimney it had gone by the time the Wiggins came to Redbanks. Mabel had not seen the house when she visited Nugent in 1910 and 1913. She just recognized the house in my photograph from having seen the photograph before. Her mother, Alice, had been born there.
Mrs Kent went on.
“I remember Frank coming. (I had not mentioned Frank.) He was a nice man. He came and looked at our house, it was just two rooms. Frank said it was not fit for chooks to live in and something must be done about it, but nothing ever was — .”
Frank in his second letter to Annie wrote that Mr Wiggins had agreed to build two more rooms onto the house.
Elizabeth and the children had left Nugent before Hannah Wiggins was born, but I asked if she remembered Jacob.
“Oh yes. He was a crabby-looking old fellow. Nobody bothered with him. We used to call him old Kruty Hyett.”
“Did you know that he had been sweet on Effie Dodge?”
“That story is tomfoolery. He was an old man and the school teacher was a young woman. She didn’t marry anyone in Nugent. Old Jacob lived in his hut and did odd jobs for people in the district. He worked for Tom Iles some of the time. He'd get my brother to help him gather wood for his fire. He paid him two shillings a week. Old Jake would put a tin of beef on the table and say “Today we tap the tin, tomorrow we open it.”
“He went quite dotty, you know. He'd go along the road, go off into the bush and gather a bundle of sticks. He'd put the bundle beside the road and then he'd tell Mrs Iles that she could use them. Or anyone who lived nearby. I have a photo of him sitting there with one of his daughters beside him.”
Mrs Kent asked her daughter to bring the photo album, “the old tatty one”. It had belonged to her mother-in-law, Mary Kent.
I found the photo of Jacob and his daughter. I already knew it, as it had been in Mary Pearce’s album. Then Mrs Kent remembered “There is a photo of one of the Hyett girls there, with black feathers in her hat and a bit of colour on her cheeks.’,
I started looking through the album and found the “one with the feathers in her hat”. It was printed an tin. Near it was the same photo, but in a small oval mount. This was identified by a C.R. on the back. Christine Hyett. I recognized another six photos. I now knew the “Hyett Looks”, and some of these pictures I had already taken from Mary Pearce’s album. Mabel had identified them.
Mrs Kent said “There is one of Bill there, in a grey suit with stripes.” I looked but it was no longer in the book. There was one of Annie, my grandmother, who had married Bill, as William must have been called.
The friendship between the Kent and Hyett families must have continued after the Hyetts went to Victoria. These pictures of the Hyett sons and daughters, and Annie Pearce, had all been taken in Melbourne or Ballarat. No doubt there are Kent photos in my old album, but there is no one now to identify them.
Mrs Kent said I could keep the photos. “There is no one who knows these people now.”
I wondered if Mrs Kent’s apparent dislike of old Jacob was a reflection of her family’s attitude to “the man who collected the rent”. There had been times when Jacob had taken on this role for Annie, and it was how he had been remembered by Mrs Kent’s brother, Ernie Wiggins.
I asked the Curator of Photography at the Victorian National Gallery if photographs on tin were unusual. She said they were called Ferrotypes or Tintypes — a process by which positive photographs were taken on thin iron plates. It was popular with itinerant photographers because the process was instant and it was widely used between 1854 and World War I.
Alan Newitt told me that the Wiggins family is one of the oldest in the district. Samuel Wiggins, a marine, and his wife arrived in Van Diemen’s Land with Governor Collins in 1803. A baby son was born to Samuel’s wife aboard the Calcutta on the way out. Another son was born in a bark hut in what is now St. David’s Park. One of these boys, known later as Farmer Thomas Wiggins, took up land in the Sorell district. His son was James Wiggins and Hannah is one of James’ children.
Looking at the map of Prosser Plains which shows the original purchasers of Crown Grants, Alan was able quickly to identify sixteen names of families who still live in the district. The Newitt family is typical, having lived there for five generations.
My other link with Jacob was through Mrs Myra Mundy. She had been an Iles and had just had her eightieth birthday. She'd known Jacob well and she spoke with affection of him.
“Jacob used to do jobs for my father. We lived at Hillside. My father owned 7,000 acres of land. Jacob lived at the Camp.”
“You mean Hyett’s Hut?”
“Yes, but we always called it the Camp. When he got too old to look after himself my father asked him to come and live with us. He thought the world of my father, used to call him Boss.
“Poor old fellow. It must have been about 1913 or ‘14. My sister Jean, who is twelve and a half years younger than me was just a baby. Jacob used to love Jean. He'd say “This is our baby.”
“He used to go and meet this girl, Effie Dodge. That was after he'd gone out of his mind. He'd ask Mum to cut him a lunch and towards night he'd go off with this little parcel. We'd get young Charlie to follow him, as we didn’t know what he'd do., It was four miles up to Blackmoor’s where Effie was boarding. She was the school teacher and Blackmoor’s house was near the school.
“Jacob didn’t ever speak to Effie, he'd just wait, hiding at the corner to see if she passed, or if her fellow was going to see her. Later we'd find the little lunch parcels in trees or hollow logs. We'd know he'd been there. You could see where he'd been standing about. He never used to eat those lunches. I think he meant to give them to Effie.
“He was a very clean man. If there was mud on the road after rain he would get to the side of the road, hanging onto the fence. His shoes would be shiny, you could see your face in them. A wonderful old fellow.
“Old Granny Alomes, Betsy Alomes, used to wash his clothes for him when he lived at the Camp. And she went on washing them after he came to live with us. He used to wear a denim jacket that had a band around the bottom and buttoned up the front. He always wore a jacket like that. Granny Alomes was the cleanest old lady. She used to wear a white frilly cap and she smoked a clay pipe.
“In those days there used to be sovereigns and Jacob wouldn’t touch them. He would put a sovereign on the end of a knife and throw it out the window. Mum would collect them and put them in a cough mixture tin for him. A Pep tin.
“He used to take little white pills. He was always afraid of getting constipated. One day he forgot he'd taken his pill and he took too many and he was dreadfully sick. But that didn’t stop him from keeping on with the pills. Poor old fellow.
“Jacob used to read and read and read, sitting out in the sun or inside at night. He'd get the books up at Blackmoor’s. We'd take the papers and he'd read them too.
“Near the end old Jacob would go to bed with a shot gun. He'd say “They're not going to get me”. I don’t know why he said that. One night he took the axe. He was in his bedroom swinging the axe around saying “they're not going to get me”. We were frightened, not knowing what he would do. But we had faith in him, thought the world of him.
“My father went in and said “Jacob, you know I won’t let anyone hurt you”. “Yes, Boss, I know that.” And he gave Dad the axe. Dad hid it where Jacob would not find it.
“He went to New Norfolk from our place. Mr Blackmoor took him from our place to the doctor in Sorell. From there he went to New Norfolk, to the Lunatic Asylum.
“We grew lots of violets. We'd go with a lantern at night to pick them, to keep them fresh. Myrtle, my cousin who lived with us, used to take bunches and bunches up to New Norfolk when she visited him. He always knew where the violets came from. And they took lollies for him, mints.
“As far as I know he never interfered with anyone. When Mum gave him back the sovereigns he said “Where did they come from?” And she said “They're yours”.
“Two of his sons came and took away his boxes. There were just his clothes and little nick nacks and things. Poor old fellow.”
Alice had Mabel with her when she visited Tasmania in 1913. Doubtless the visit was in some way connected with Jacob and his move to New Norfolk. Mabel said to me “Jacob was always a paying patient at New Norfolk. He mortgaged his land to pay the hospital charges and when he died there was very little left for the family.”
Jacob died of bronchopneumonia in the New Norfolk Lunatic Asylum on 4 July, 1918. Mabel said he was buried in the New Norfolk cemetery. When I was in Tasmania in ’78 I tried to locate the grave. There is no existing record of the exact burial as the latest record of burials in New Norfolk held at the Archives finishes in January, 1918 and the earliest held at the Church of England in New Norfolk is of 1924. One book has been lost.
I visited the cemetery but I did not find the grave. The cemetery is neglected, many headstones are lying face down on the ground, and I do not know if a headstone had been erected over Jacob’s grave.
Jacob made his will in 1909, and in it he asked for all his property to be sold by the trustees, and proceeds to be shared equally by all his children except William “who is now deceased and whose children are otherwise provided for.” Rosina Hilda had died, and Thomas’ share, though he was dead, would have gone to his children. The estate was divided into ten shares of £300. Jack Hyett remembers his grandfather (young Jacob) receiving his share. It was enough to pay off the house that had just been bought in Sunshine.
While in Hobart, September, ’79 I was able to find out just what had happened to Jacob’s property.
To consider Jacob’s 305 acre grant first:
In 1904 the Gatehouse brothers, Silas and Jonas had taken out a mortgage on this original grant of Jacob’s for Q20. (Reg.-Gen. Dept.). Extra mortgages on this grant paid for Jacob’s hospital expenses. It is apparent that the Gatehouses acted with compassion and concern when dealing with Jacob’s affairs before he died. Jacob still had not completed the purchase of this grant at the time of his death. After his death, the Gatehouses, on 20 November, 1918 paid the outstanding amount of £101.14.0 and the grant became theirs. (Reg.-Gen. Dept.) They had paid for it, firstly with the 1904 mortgage, then with continuing mortgages to pay Jacob’s hospital expenses, and finally with the last payment to the Crown. A title was drawn up in November, 1918. (Lands Dept.)
To consider the two grants, originally Williards, 509 acres and 99 acres;
P.S. to Section 16.
Correspondence to be addressed to ROYAL DERWENT HOSPITAL
the Psychiatrist Superintendent
New Norfolk, Tasmlail 7450
In reply please quote Telephone: Norfolk 61 2611
Ref. No .
20th. March, 1981.
Ms Betty Blunden,
67 Fitzgibbon Street,
PARKVILLE, Victoria. 3052.
Dear Ms Blunden,
Apologies for the delay in answering your letter (received 2/10/79) concerning your great grandfather, Jacob Hyatt; but unfortunately our staff have limited time to search through volumes of old records which are not easily retrievable as is the case with modern case records.
Jacob Hyatt was admitted on 28th. August, 1912 at the age of 78 years for residential care in view of his senility and disturbance of his mental state (hearing voices, believed somebody was going to kill him etc.).
His physical condition remained stable throughout his stay at this ‘Hospital, and his delusions were unshakeable until the end; he died on the 5th. July, 19b_l, aged 84 years, from Broncho-Pneumonia.
I hope this information is of use to you, 2nd again apologise for the delay in replying.
(F R.V. Parton)
The Supreme Court ruled that old William’s will was still involved and as his trustees had long been dead, it appointed the Gatehouses trustees of that will on 14th May, 1920. (Deeds Office). They were already trustees of Jacob’s will.
The Gatehouses bought both of these grants of land from the estate. The 509 acre grant they combined with their 305 acres grant and a new title was drawn up. This property of approximately 800 acres was sold to Teresa Montgomery on 12th July, 1920. (Reg-Gen. Dept.) She had already bought the 99 acre grant from the Gatehouses on 15th June, 1920 for which she paid 500 pounds (Deeds Office.) If she had paid approximately the same price per acre of £5, she would have paid £4000 for the “new” 800 acre run. Of that sum 2500 rightfully belonged to the Gatehouse brothers and J2500 rightfully belonged to Jacob’s heirs.
Jacob’s heirs did receive their full inheritance of a clear £3000. Probate had already been deducted.
Jack Hyett remembers that the family thought that the land had been sold for less than market price. So my calculations are interesting. Jacob’s land returned £5 an acre after probate had been deducted. Redbanks, sold in 1924, returned 3.7.0 pounds an acre, before probate was deducted. My calculations assume that the fifth grant of Redbanks was sold at the same price an acre as the other four grants. After probate and agents’ fees were paid, I know the estate received 1000 pounds which was divided between Annie’s four children. Her heirs received a little less than £3 per acre.
While I was still staying in Sorell, Alan Newitt took me to meet Donald Blandford Gatehouse, son of Jonas Blandford Gatehouse, one of the brothers. Mr D.B. Gatehouse was born in 1903 and was still young when his father and uncle were dealing with Jacob’s affairs. The only thing he remembered was that the will had caused them a great deal of concern.
Silas Crocker Gatehouse had not married. He had lived with his mother at Fitzroy House in Sorell. The house is no longer there. It was burnt down. The railway that went through Sorell was closed in 1926. The building attached to the railway station was sold as a residence and is still used as one. Originally there was an extra wing which made up the Parcels Office. Silas rented this office and it was there that he died. (Alan Newitt.)
Jacob’s death was the end of ninety-six years of Hyetts in Tasmania. I think 1900 saw the death of old William’s and Jacob’s dreams.
17. In 1903 the family was still living at 8 Bishop Street, and Frank made his trip to Nugent. I then went on to finish the story of Redbanks and Jacob’s story.
To return to Brunswick — Annie, Dommy and the children lived at 8 Bishop Street for four years. In 1904 they moved to 13 Mountfield Street, three minutes walk away, and lived there for seven years. In June, 1905, Libby became engaged to Os Barnett whom she met at the Sydney Road Methodist Church. In his own story, Os, my father, tells of the courtship.
“On one particular Sunday a certain Elizabeth Mary Hyett sat directly in front of me, her feet tucked neatly under her chair. I know not why, but the soles of her shoes mischievously provoked me to rub the toe of my shoe up and down on her sole. “Someone is kicking me”, she said to her friend, Lily Wilson, who was sitting beside her. “Look around” said Elizabeth “and see who it is.” Lily did so, and said, “It’s that Os Barnett.”
“I had known Elizabeth for many years, but she did not belong to our set, “The Fairies”, but to a group where the men were a little older, called “The Bachelors”.
“But the adventure of rubbing my shoe in mischief, on her sole, broke the ice, and as Lily Wilson was the sister of my best friend, Arthur Wilson, it was easy for both Elizabeth and me to be invited to Wilson’s to tea. Progress was rapid, and on the Royal birthday holiday early in June, I arranged a boating picnic on the Yarra. We were used to the river, so we hired a boat at Studley Park, with us three boys, Arthur, Charlie and me, and Lily Wilson, my sister May, and Elizabeth. It was really an opportunity to present Elizabeth to my friends, and also to get her reaction to them. The picnic was a great success, the weather was beautiful, we camped under an old oak tree, and there was an atmosphere of gaiety and friendship.
“I now wanted to take Elizabeth up the river by herself. “Just we two.” But there was a problem. Elizabeth got off on Wednesday afternoons, and I had Saturday afternoons. So I plucked up my courage and asked my Chief could I take the next Wednesday afternoon off, and he, guessing something, agreed with a smile...
“I was tremendously in love and asked Elizabeth would she come up the river with me on the following Wednesday afternoon, the 14th June. She sweetly agreed. We met outside St. Francis Church in Lonsdale Street, and went by cable tram to Studley Park.
“We hired an outrigger at Burn’s boat shed, and rowed upstream. We came to a nook where honeysuckle had twined over a small gum tree that was on the bank. We tied up to a tree under this little honeysuckle arbour, and sat together in the stern of the boat. I pleaded my cause earnestly, telling her that I felt like King Arthur when he met Guinevere...
“She could not doubt my sincerity, and we became the happiest couple in the world.”
Os did not exaggerate. They were the happiest couple in the world. They were engaged for three and a half years and married on 6 January, 1909. They were perfectly suited to each other, and though they had their worries and sadnesses their marriage remained a love affair until the day Elizabeth died, on 18 November, 1956, forty-seven years later.
18. A month after Libby became engaged, Dommy retired from his job at Danks. He was then seventy-five years old, and the staff gave him a farewell gift of a pipe and an affectionate typed address.
Mr J. Pearce
Dear Old “Dad”,
WE, the undersigned, learning that you have this day completed your 75th year of your useful and honourable career, wish to mark the occasion by wishing you collectively as well as individually “Many happy returns of the day”. To you, sir, who daily experience the “Ups and Downs” of Life, whose whole time is spent in ceaseless endeavour to raise people higher and higher and still higher, we present our compliments and good wishes. We believe that your heart is in your work. As you pull the rope, and your human freight, guarded by your care and watchfulness, and trusting implicitly in you to lead them safely to their destination — rises up, we can imagine you mentally wishing that so may they ever rise in the estimation of their fellow men. As the water rushes thru’ the valve and pours down the discharge pipe, we can fancy you wishing that so many blessings be ever poured upon them through the proper channels of uprightness and honesty and goodfellowship. And as you return again to earth in the empty car(empty save that it is filled with an atmosphere of Welcome and good feeling for the next occupant be he stranger or friend) — we can almost hear you breathe the prayer that it may ever be thus — that never, may action of yours bring any man down again after he has once succeeded in rising above the heads of his fellow-men.
WE, sir, look with respect upon the head that, having braved so many years of toil and trouble, of trials and tribulations, that having faced vicissitudes with success, and having overcome difficulties time and again, still bravely rears itself in calmness and serenity to meet the gaze of all men in frankness, and in the confidence that is born only of the consciousness that your Life has been Lived not wasted; and that all your labours have been faithfully and well performed. We admire the good qualities which such a life has matured in you, and we sincerely hope that when we in our turn have climbed the stair unto the 75th step — (God grant that we all may) we may be able to claim from our fellow men that respect, admiration and goodwill, which we this day feel toward you.
As a mark of our esteem we beg that you will accept from us the accompanying small gift, and we sincerely trust that you may long be spared to enjoy the company of a good pipe and a good conscience both of which you now have.
THE EMPLOYEES OF Messrs. JOHN DANKS & SON, PROPRIETARY LIMITED. 2nd August, 1905.
Dommy was to live another five years. But he had to wait four years before he received the old age pension.
A statute providing old age and invalid pensions was passed by the Deakin Government in 1908. But the payments of old age pensions began in July, 1909 and of invalid pensions in December, 1910. Per can remember Dommy going to collect his pension. It was a gold half sovereign.
19. 1905 saw other changes besides Dommy’s retirement and Libby’s engagement. Os Barnett’s sister, May, worked at Ball and Welch and she was able to get a better job for Libby in the lace department. Libby worked there until her marriage in 1909 and she became an expert in lace. Per and Myrtle attended the Moreland State school and Frank became more closely involved with politics.
Per remembers well all the houses he lived in as a boy. 13 Mountfield St has now been demolished but he says it was a nice little weatherboard house of five rooms with a side passage.
“The first room was a drawing room, Frank and I shared the next room, and Mum, Libby and Myrt slept in the next room. Then there was a big kitchen. Off the kitchen was a small room where Dommy slept, then there was a bathroom and then a wash house. There was no such thing as a bath heater in those days. We all had a hot bath once a week and the water was heated in the copper and carried into the bathroom. Frank wasn’t satisfied with this. Every morning he would go into the bathroom to wash his face and end up by stripping to the waist and washing his body with cold water.
“Mother was a grand old lady. She was a real Christian. She used to go to church at the Sydney Road Methodist every Sunday night. She always wore black. In those days she had to make the most of her low income.
“She was full of kindness — she was the peace-maker when Aunt Alice and Aunt Ellen had arguments. Mum never quarrelled with anybody. Libby had all the fire and go in her and she and Mum would always agree. Myrt adored Mum and they always got on well together.
“Mum was always first up. She'd get the breakfast and cut the lunches. We always had a one fire stove for cooking and there were gas lights. Later we had electric light. Mum ironed by heating the flat irons on top of the stove.
“She was a good cook. For breakfast we'd have a plate of porridge and a piece of toast. For my lunch she would make meat sandwiches with a bit of pickle, and a piece of cake. Mum always made the cake.
“Mostly at night we would have a roast, a bit of beef. And we liked her apple pie and the bread and butter pudding. At Christmas she would make a good Christmas pudding in a cloth.
“The last house we lived in was the best. 30 Crisp Avenue. It was more modern, weatherboard and rough cast. Mum would light a fire in the drawing room at night.”
In May 1906 Per turned 13 and left school. Os writes in his story: “Percy was a headstrong boy. Both Frank and Elizabeth wanted him to get a better education than they had had. But Percy was stubborn. He had had enough of school, and wanted to go to work”. Per’s first job was in a Brass and Iron Foundry in Latrobe Street. He remembers an argument he had with Frank after he started work. Annie wanted him to continue going to Sunday School and Frank supported her. “I said I had five and a half days of discipline and I wanted to do what I liked for the rest of the week. I said to Frank “You don’t go to Sunday School so why should I?” Frank said “I am grown up and I do what I like. But you aren’t grown up and you must do what Mum says.” But I didn’t go any more. When the weather was warm I'd go swimming with my friends at the Albert Park Baths. And when it got colder we'd go to the Yarra Bank and listen to the political speakers. We'd listen to old Fleming, the anarchist.”
As Per remembers it, Frank’s first political meetings were with some Italian socialists and others, including Dr Moloney. They met in a building in Mountfield Street. The group also met regularly for dinner at the Italian restaurant, Cammusso’s Cafe Bohemia in Lonsdale Street. “Frank enjoyed the tucker, too.”
This Italian group must have been of great importance to Frank. I remember a large framed sepia portrait of Garibaldi that hung in Auntie Eth’s house in Balwyn.
Six weeks after Frank’s death a special edition of the Victorian Railway’s Gazette was printed: “Frank Hyett In Memorium Edition.” It contains much information about Frank and I have quoted from it freely. Historians and his contemporaries have also written about Frank and I quote from !heir work too when it is relevant to the family story.
20. Tom Mann, the English socialist, arrived in Melbourne in September 1902. Three weeks later he was appointed Organizer of the Trades Hall Council. On 9 November, after a series of public meetings, Mann was instrumental in forming the Social Democratic Party of Victoria. This party was an amalgamation of a number of socialist groups that had been competing in the 1890s. Scott Bennett, who was General Secretary of the SDP was elected to Parliament in 1904. Bennett was succeeded by Phil Halfpenny as General Secretary and he was succeeded in March, 1905 by Frank.
The SDP together with another group, the Social Questions Committee, became the basis of the Victorian Socialist Party which was formed in April, 1906. Tom Mann as Secretary was the only full-time paid member of the Executive. Frank was elected Deputy-Secretary. The full Executive is listed on the VSP writing paper that Frank used when writing to his mother in October of that year. The historical details are from Geoff Hewitt’s thesis on the history of the Victorian Socialist Party.
Bertha Walker in “Solidarity Forever” says “In 12 months the VSP had a membership of 2,000.”
One of the first well organized campaigns of the VSP was the Free Speech Fight of 1906. Bertha Walker writes: “It was common practise in the City of Prahran for various organizations to hold public meetings off Chapel Street. The police ordered a Socialist speaker to stop and on his continuing he was arrested and fined 40/- or 14 days. Over 20 were fined or imprisoned (half refusing to pay the fine on principle), during the next three months. Four were women and each woman elected to go to gaol. Tom Mann served 5 weeks as he was arrested on two counts.” Frank was arrested on Saturday, 20 October. The incident was reported in both the Argus and Age of 22 October, 1906. From the Age story, under the heading “Socialists at Prahran. Four arrests.” “...Wm. Marsh was first to mount the stool which the party carried. He spoke in a disconnected way and appeared surprised when for more than ten minutes he was allowed to proceed unmolested. His audience numbered not more than 300 persons. People were coming and going the whole time he spoke. They were there, he said to defy the Prahran Council. “We have the fighters,” he continued “and we want you to back us up.” An opportunity was very soon given for the fighters to show their mettle. Sergeant Williams approached the group, edging his way to the speaker, called on him to desist. “No” was Mr Marsh’s response. The obstructionist was promptly hauled down and marched off. A howl of indignation raised by the party drew from Chapel Street an immense crowd. In order to prevent a block in Chapel Street the police took their prisoner in a round-about way, up dark streets, to the watch house. The crowd surged at their heels, but no attempt at rescue was made. Before the prisoner was taken 50 yards, Mr Frank Hyett, another leader, planked down the stool in the middle of the surging throng and, jumping on it, cried in a loud voice, “I wish to protest — “ “Move away, please” said Senior Constable O'Loghlen. The order was repeated but it was not obeyed, and the protestor was immediately seized and escorted to the station ... “
On Monday morning Frank wrote to his mother on Socialist Party paper.
October 22, 1906.
I was arrested at Prahran on Saturday night, as you may see from today’s paper, and have to appear in the local court at 10 am today. I expect nothing less than seven days.
How are you? dear old mum. Influenza any better?
Cheer up, all of you, and don’t be so silly as to be ashamed that you have a relative who is going to gaol rather than back down, in this fight for free speech in the streets of Prahran. Goodbye for a spell, mother dear, I waft a kiss in thought to your dear old face.
Ethel sends her love.
There are splash marks on this letter. Probably Annie’s tears.
Frank was sentenced to Fourteen days.
Per remembers Jack Curtin and Charlie Hughes coming out to the house to break the news to Annie. And later in the week “Ethel, she was small and very pretty, came out to comfort Mum while Frank was in clink.”
Annie was terribly upset.
Per has told me that when Frank was young he was “wild”. He was obviously deeply involved in the principles of the Free Speech Fight but was quite fearless as to the consequences of his involvement. His immediate concern seems to have been to reassure his mother, as his loving and compassionate letter to her shows.
Bertha Walker writes: “An aftermath of the prison terms was a deputation of Mann, Hyett, Swebeles and others to the Chief Secretary on the unsanitary conditions in the Melbourne gaol.” And Os, in his story, wrote: “Frank’s description of his forced sojourn in prison was so tremendously funny that, though he continued to go on speaking, the authorities never again took action against him.”
Photographs of the free speech fighters were widely sold. By the end of 1906, 8000 sets of these cards at 6d a set of six had been sold (Bertha Walker). Frank posted one of the cards to Per on 19 November, 1906.
Dr. Percy, Be a good lad and some day you may have the honor of being gaoled. Frank.
Theoretically Frank lived at home with the family until he married in 1910. But as Per said, he was out so much with his meetings that Annie never knew when she would see him. But, though he saw less and less of the family he continued to be concerned about their welfare and to contribute financially. He wrote to Annie, on Socialist Party paper on 24 January, 1907:
I am dictating this letter to Ethel otherwise known as “nip”, in spite of her objections. Enclosed please find a couple of weeks contributions with a few shillings towards the glasses. Wish I could give more. Have you been to see Lucy Condukes yet? Will not have time to come out this week, but will run out next if possible. Good luck, with love from Nip (and I think she means it).
Your sinful son,
The words (and I think she means it) are in Frank’s hand writing, the rest of the letter being written by Ethel Gunn. She was nineteen at the time.
Frank stayed with different friends from the VSP, sometimes with Maurice and Marie Wayman, Ethel’s uncle and aunt, at 56 Garton Street, North Carlton. Ethel herself was living with an unmarried aunt, Ethel Wayman, in Richmond.
Ethel Gunn was the eldest daughter in a family of nine children. They were William, Ethel, Nance, John, Gertie, Jessie, Mary, George and May. They were all born at Rheola and Ethel and John were the first to come to Melbourne. Nance soon followed. Ethel became a seamstress in a Flinders Lane establishment, Nance worked in the Eno’s box factory in Carlton. Ethel and Nance made a foursome with Frank and John Curtin. Nance became a very active member of the VSP and was one of their speakers.
With the exception of William, who stayed in the country, all the Gunns became members of the VSP. Geoff Hewitt writes of John: “Born in Rheola, in Victoria in 1885, he was one of a noted family of VSP members and a brother-in-law of Frank Hyett. Gunn was active during the Prahran Free Speech fight, and co-managed the Socialist Co-operative Bakery. He shifted to South Australia in 1908, became President of the local Carters Union in 1910, and was MLA for Adelaide in 1915-17, 1918-26. Gunn was Premier and Treasurer of SA between 1924 and 1926, when he resigned to take up an appointment with the Commonwealth Development and Migration Commission. A member of the VSP 1906-1908.”
Nance Gunn died while still in her teens. She caught a chill at work which developed into pneumonia. Tom Mann was at her bedside when she died. Frank and Ethel took her body back to Rheola.
Bertha Walker tells of the social life of the Socialist Party. “Tom Mann, in his aim to cater for all the waking non-working hours, introduced the highly successful Sunday night tea. This meant those who went to Port Melbourne Pier meetings in the morning, and the Yarra Bank in the afternoon could go to the socialist hall for tea, then attend the Sunday night meeting which opened at 6.30 pm with a band, choir and musical items... the children used to live for the weekends, Friday night the dance, Saturday afternoon practising for concerts at the socialist hall, staying in town for tea, going to the dance in the evening (Frank Hyett and Jack Curtin were popular with the children, they taught the young girls to dance)... Socialist Sunday school, Sunday afternoon at the socialist hall and the meeting at night.
“A number of people, mainly women prepared tea...which consisted of sandwiches, cakes, huge plates of salad... Ethel Wayman, known to everyone as “Auntie Wayman” probably because she was real auntie to several young socialists, Jack and Ethel Gunn, and the Bruces, Yatala, Bobbie, and Jennie, presided over the tea.”
There were also theatre parties, nature excursions, picnics, moonlight trips down the Bay on the Hygeia. There were camps at Sherbrook, Chelsea and Emerald.
Bert Davies, a colleague of Frank’s in the VRU, writes in the “Recorder” of the VSP Sunday night meetings which took place in the Bijou, Gaiety and other Melbourne theatres. Frequently the “House full” signs were displayed. “Those were the pioneer days of the VSP and the remarkable capacity of the two young men, John Curtin and Frank Hyett to assimilate knowledge, together with the gift of oratory, perfected under Tom Mann’s tuition, made them the pride of the party.”
Frank Bullen, who joined the VSP in 1908 has also written of Frank in the “Recorder”.
“Next to Tom Mann I place Hyett as the most outstanding. He had marked ability — nothing was too big to achieve. He was a great comrade, strong, reliant, a good mixture with tenderness of a plus order in his make up.
“I never saw Frank lose his temper. Always was he genial and understanding. He had the most robust smile one could conjure and as a consequence he became a top-hole evangelist...
“In the early days of my Socialist incubation at Elizabeth Street headquarters, both Mann and Hyett were my heroes.
“At this time he was elected to the Secretaryship of the Victorian Railways Union and hence became the busiest of men. Yet this wonderful man never neglected the Socialist Party. Each and all of us were enthused with his splendid camaraderie — apart from his outstanding gifts, which of course gave us great pride, he had a happy-go-lucky mien which enmeshed us in his net.
“I remember clearly when Frank used to attend the gatherings that were often held in the rooms, the ladies used to clamour for a song from him. He never refused and with a large grin used to render the only song he could remember, “Cockles and Mussels”. It was WO. awful rendition as he was tone deaf. He was aware of this, yet this delightful personality with delightful joviality, portrayed this facet of his make-up-render happiness where ere you can. He was always the hit of the evening...
“I was in attendance the night our comrade gave, in my opinion, one of his greatest lectures. It was at the Bijou Theatre when his subject was “Ingersoll, the Man and the Message”. It was in essence a reply to a prominent evangelist churchman, Dr Chapman, who had vilified him in Press and Pulpit.
“Oh what a night, Frank excelled himself and proved his oratorial greatness. As Darrow in the USA, he spoke for the poor, for the weak and for that long line of men, who in darkness and despair, have borne the labours of the human race.
“Oh what a night it was and the applause at its conclusion shook the rafters of the theatre in its immensity.
“I had the pleasure of chairing one of Hyett’s lectures at the Bijou, and in reflection my pride in its participation, though an old man, affords me the greatest pleasure. With pen and voice, Frank was never still. Shucks, why doesn’t someone write his biography...
“When even now after many moons have passed, when I think of his early demise in 1919, I can easily shed tears of deep regret about it all...”
The first five years of the VSP were heady ones. “Victorian socialists were optimistic concerning the influence of their propaganda. In 1907 Mann asserted that within five years Socialist electorate support had grown from nothing to one third of the electorate. He believed Capitalism was in retreat and confidentially alerted his supporters that ‘the day draws near, comrades, be ready’.” (Geoff Hewitt).
But the VSP became disappointed with its inability to influence the policies of the ALP, though Mann still believed that the future of socialism was linked to the Labor Party; and he was unhappy at the prospect of independent socialist political activity.
In 1907 Frank and E.F. Russell represented the VSP at a conference of the Socialist Federation of Australia in Sydney.
Friction developed within the VSP between the extremists and moderates, the particular moderates being Tom Mann and Frank. Two extremists “Mizan and Emmett took Hyett to court on a charge of misappropriation of funds which he successfully defeated. After visiting Broken Hill in search of work Hyett issued a Supreme Court writ for £1000 damages, against Mizan. He received £170 in February 1909. Mizon was further discredited by an unsuccessful charge, of assaulting his wife (of Frank assaulting Mizon’s wife), brought forward in April 1909. In June 1909 Emmett was forced to pay Hyett £250 damages. Emmett admitted that Mann had been his chief target.” (Geoff Hewitt).
Per remembered these court cases and though Frank was awarded damages he never did receive the money. In fact, he was unable to pay his lawyer, Wolff — but told him “to take his fees out of any money he could get from Mizan and Emmett.”
Frank became unemployed in 1908 and went to Broken Hill to work for the Co-operative Bakery. He drove a baker’s cart. It was possibly because of his stay in Broken Hill that Frank relinquished his position as Deputy-Secretary of the VSP.
In the years that Frank was working as Deputy-Secretary of the VSP, lecturing and socialising with the Party members, he was also earning his living, and playing football and cricket with Brunswick. But he kept in constant touch with Annie and the family. Per told me “Frank was a good son.”
In 1907 Per turned fourteen and he was out of work. The first job had lasted six months when he was forced to leave because he was in danger of getting poisoned hands. It was six months before he got another job, this time with a coppersmith in Exhibition Street. This job lasted about five years.
Per watched Frank play cricket and football but Libby had other things to do. She was blissfully happy during the three and a half years of her engagement to Os. They spent Saturday afternoons together, often hiring a boat and rowing up the river at Studley Park. Sundays were spent at morning church, Sunday school, (Libby, Os and his sister May were all Sunday school teachers), and then in the evening there was Church again. During the week they wrote letters and postcards to each other if they did not meet. The social life of the Methodist Church was as full as that of the Socialist Party — social evenings, picnics and excursions to the bush. But no dances or theatre parties. This busy church social life had been a Methodist practise for several generations and I think it likely Mann based his social programme on that of the Methodists.
Per listened to Frank speaking on the Yarra Bank though he preferred “the anarchists, they were more entertaining.” Occasionally he went to hear Frank speak at the Bijou, but because it was a Sunday night event he is pretty certain that Libby and Os never attended. But somehow Os and Frank became good friends and Frank introduced Os to Socialism — a philosophy he adhered to for the rest of his life. Os was a deeply religious man, a mystic who solved all his problems in prayer. Socialism did not in any way restrict his religious beliefs; as he saw it, the philosophy of Christianity and the philosophy of Socialism were complementary.
21. One cannot help comparing the young Frank with the young Libby. They had been very close as they grew up, only eleven months between their ages. Often they were in the same class at school.
The things they had in common were tremendous energy, robust good health, a love of life and people. Both made friends easily and these friendships lasted their life times. They were both strong willed, but as far as I know, there was never conflict between them. They were extraverts and great talkers.
But Frank was fearless — Godfrey Bullen writes —
“When the warmongers of the first great war criticized him for his anti-conscription attitude and threatened to incarcerate him as a harmful demagogue of the worst order, he just laughed at their threats, his turbulent and strong soul was unruffled, he went his way and never once toned down his militancy.”
Libby was vulnerable. The effects of the extreme poverty of her childhood were never quite outgrown. The photographs taken of her as a child and a young girl show her as both beautiful and composed. But the radiance which was the most memorable feature of the mature woman developed with the love she shared with Os.
Frank had a great sense of humour and did not mind making a fool of himself, such as singing Cockles and Mussells, but though Libby relished fun she would never act the clown. Per also has a wonderful sense of humour. He said it never deserted him during the Great War and was one of the things that helped him survive. Myrt’s sense of humour was quite infectious. She enjoyed more than anything to tell a joke against herself. Annie’s children did suffer the anxiety of great poverty, but at the same time there must have been endless laughter in their home.
Politically, Os and Libby were staunch Labor Party supporters, socialists and anti-conscriptionists. But neither of them ever joined a political party. Their “social services” were first organized through the church, then later Os moved into the political arena, but without any affiliation to any particular party.
Os’ father died 10 August, 1905, and his mother five months later. He lived on in the Linden Street, East Brunswick family home for a while until his younger sister, Ethel, married. Then Os and May lived with her in Malvern. But Os came over to Brunswick every weekend, staying at the Hyett and Sanders Mountfield Street house and attending all the Sydney Road Methodist Church events — both social and religious — with Libby. On Saturday afternoons they often took a boat at Studley Park and rowed up the river. They became familiar with all the paintings hanging in the National Gallery; and the walks they took together in the Botanical Gardens, learning the names of the trees and shrubs, saw the beginning of a hobby they shared all their lives.
Os became run-down during 1906 and when the doctor diagnosed curvature of the spine there was some alarm and he was sent to friends at Glen Luce, near Castlemaine, for six months rest and recuperation. The curvature of the spine was virtually nothing, but the rest was good. Though they were separated, Os and Libby indulged in intensive correspondence. There were three mails a week at Glen Luce and Os would ride three miles to the Post Office to send off a post card to Libby in each mail. The card was invariably decorated with a little watercolour drawing, or, if it were a letter, the envelope would be decorated. He also studied and revelled in Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King”. This fired his imagination and became the basis of a religious study group he formed for the young men of the church called “Knights of the Round Table.”
Os’s temperament was a balance of practicality “every problem has its solution” and of romanticism, religious feeling and a love of poetry, which he both read and wrote all his life. His first “letter” to Libby was a small poem and the last a poem written to her after her death. Libby was equally romantic and thrived on this relationship. When they were together Os would read poetry aloud to her. By herself, she preferred to read novels, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Dickens and the best of contemporary writing as it was published. Though she felt herself handicapped by her limited formal education, her reading and her instinctive appreciation of the very best literature more than made up for the loss of those few extra years at school.
Libby sewed beautifully and made all her own — dresses and underwear. In preparation for her wedding a great deal of time must have been spent at her sewing. She made underwear with fine lace insertions which were fashionable at the time. I can remember watching her dress when I was a small girl — seeing the pretty camisoles trimmed with lace and the pants, fine white cotton. the loose legs edged with a broderie anglaise border. These were marvels of engineering, two drawstrings tightening the garment across the back, then being tied in front. They were ‘$split pants”.
She had natural good taste and a sense of style that I think she must have inherited from her Grandma Pearce. Simplicity and quality were her golden rules and she stuck to them all her life. When she was young she most often wore white and in the simplest styles.
She told me how she once pinned fresh cornflowers from the garden on to a simple straw hat to wear to Church on a Spring Sunday.
Os was an excellent photographer, taking the photos and printing them himself. During their engagement years he took a number of beautiful shots of Libby.
In the years before her marriage, Libby, in her early twenties, would almost certainly have been the boss in the Mountfield Street house. She was a fast mover, a fast thinker and quick to make decisions. Frank was there only on brief visits and Dommy was in his late seventies. He had never been authoratarian. Per remembers the old man sitting in his chair in front of the fire, smoking his pipe. “He never said much, but he'd be smiling to himself, thinking about the past. I'd ask him what he was thinking about, but mostly he wouldnt tell me, but just smile. When I came in after work, and Mum wasn’t around I'd ask Dommy “Where’s Mum?” and he'd say “Gone ashore” meaning Out. He used nautical expressions all his life though he'd left the sea when he was a boy.”
— And there were Annie and Myrt. In later years, when talking about Annie, Libby always said “Mother was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person in the world”. Hardly a boss. Myrt was still at school and she was also sweet. kind and gentle.
Last, there was Per, in his teens, at work, and “headstrong”, an unlikely candidate for Libby’s leadership. But she did better with him than I would have expected. Last year, as I was leaving Per after one of our fortnightly Sunday afternoon talks, he stepped aside to let me go through the door first. “I've always done what Libby told me to. To let a lady go first through a door and always to walk on the outside of the footpath.” Per was then eighty-five years old.
Os and Libby were married at the Sydney Road Methodist Church on 6 January, 1909. I quote from Os’s own story.
“What a day it was, hearts bursting with high ideals and deep excitement. It was then we had our first ride in a motor car. Will Lally, a former school teacher friend, had started a motor driving school, and he drove us to our new home, and next morning to Flinders Street Station en route for our honeymoon.
“That honeymoon was idyllic. We got out of the train at Fern Tree Gully, and took the coach to Olinda. Previously the coach had started at Bayswater and only now had it changed its route to start from the Gully and travel along the mountainside through Ferny Creek, one of the most picturesque drives in Victoria.
“We stayed at Bella Vista, Olinda, and the board was 25 shillings a week each. Even this would not have been possible but for the fact that a cousin in Cornwall (whom we had never met) sent us £5 as a wedding present.
“Everyone at the boarding house was very pleasant, knew we were honeymooners, so gave us the best seats wherever we went. In fact, we had the box seat on the coach from Fern Tree Gully on our way up. At a pretty little corner in the road we passed an artist painting. Later she proved to be Betsy Ann Grieve, who had a painting in the Melbourne Gallery. Miss Grieve had arranged with the coach driver to give her a certain signal with his whip if he thought we were honeymooners. He guessed rightly, gave the signal, and so everyone in the house knew we were on our honeymoon, with the result that they all combined to give us a good time.
“I shall never forget one thing. On the last day, as we were sitting out in the garden down by some currant bushes, Le suddenly burst into tears. “What’s the matter, darling?” I said, in great distress. Then she told me her fear. She had gone to business all her life and spent most of her leisure time sewing and making dresses for the family, and she was afraid she would not be able to cook suitably for me. So I kissed her tears away and her fears with it. As a matter of fact she turned out to be a wonderful cook.”
Os re-christened Elizabeth Mary, Le — though her family and their old friends from Brunswick continued to call her Libby.
Their first home was a double-fronted weatherboard house in Albion Street, just a few minutes walk from Annie’s house in Mountfield Street. The rent was 14/6 a week. Os had many enthusiasms, and one was Fresh Air. They put up a tent in the back garden and slept there in their double bed.
They had not been in Albion Street very long when they decided to buy a house in Balmer Street. Unfortunately, they had no money, but May lent them all she had, the bank gave a loan and Os took out two shortdated Promisory Notes to cover the balance. He had no idea how he could meet them, but on the due date, Le had saved enough out of her housekeeping money to cover the debt. Os’ salary was £160 a year, a little over £3 a week, so Le had worked a miracle. But as her whole life had been lived on barely enough money, she was very skilled at managing on very little.
Joy was born in the Balmer Street house on 19 February, 1910. That year, 1910, was an eventful one for the family. Annie moved house to 115 Stewart Street, Brunswick, again only a few minutes walk away. Frank and Ethel Gunn were married on 19 May, and Dommy died of cardiac failure and dropsy on 21 September. He was eighty years old.
Per remembers the last weeks of Dommy’s illness. He developed very bad asthma and in the struggle for breath he would get out of bed and go to the window. This was against the doctor’s orders. Annie kept a close watch on him during the day, and at night, after he had come home from work, Per would sleep in a chair beside Dommy’s bed. “To give Mum a break”. Dommy, Ephraim Pearce, had led an adventurous and hard working life. He'd been Annie’s great support during all her setbacks, and, a gentle man, had been greatly loved by his grandchildren.
1910 was Myrt’s last year at school. In 1911 she started at Trahair’s as an apprentice milliner.
I was born at the Balmer Street house on 4 July, 1912. I was named Betty after Mother and Genevieve after the popular song of the time “Oh Genevieve, sweet Genevieve’. In pursuit of more and more fresh air. Os and Le decided they would like to live in Balwyn, and bought a block of land in Cherry Road. Balwyn was very much an outer suburb then. There were just a few shops in Whitehorse Road, Cherry Road was unmade, the nearest railway station was Canterbury, one mile away. The nearest tram was at Cotham Road and that was also a mile away.
Os designed the house and it was built by his brother-in-law, Joe Simmill, Ethel’s husband. It was weatherboard to window sill height then rough cast cement over expanded metal. The wood was stained dark brown and oiled and the rough cast painted light grey. The block of land was large for those days, 83’ x 190’ and was eventually to become a much loved garden.
They made the move in 1914, and it must have been worrying for Le, living so far away from Annie. But she made the journey by train and tram to Brunswick, visiting her mother nearly every week. The move to Balwyn also meant that she saw very little of Frank and Ethel.
22. Frank had five different jobs before he became a union leader. The first was at Moran and Cato’s, the grocers, the second was as a clerk in the Civil Service Stores. He was probably in this job in 1906 during the Free Speech Fight. The Argus, in its report of the arrests of 20 October, said “Frank Hyett, clerk and Secretary of the Melbourne Socialist League”. Whether the job with the Mutual Store was before or after his spell in Broken Hill during 1908 I do not know. Per remembers that the Mutual Store did not like Frank being connected with the Socialists so it is possible that he walked out of the job and found himself unemployed. Jobs were very hard to come by then, and Frank would have enjoyed the experience of being in Broken Hill at that time and driving a baker’s cart would certainly not have worried him. But he was back in Melbourne by February, 1909, when he issued the Supreme Court writ against Mizon. His fifth and final job was with John Danks and Son.
Geoff Hewitt writes “In retrospect the Socialist Party’s first five years represented its youth. It was a period of almost intoxicated enthusiasm among members for socialism, of rapid expansion with diverse educational, social and co-operative activities. By 1909, however, this spirit was being eroded as diverse opinions hardened over industrial and Political tactics... By 1913 members were no longer almost naively enthusiastic about the inevitability of socialism — now they were grim defenders of existing freedoms and fearful and urgent in their belief that capitalist military preparations endangered the working class.”
Tom Mann left Australia on 30 December, 1909. In his memoirs which were published in 1923 he wrote of the VSP —
“There was our sturdy and efficient secretary, Frank Hyett. He may be regarded as an actual product of the Party to which he rendered such excellent service in so many ways and for so many years. It was ever our aim to be well-balanced, blending a thorough appreciation of the highest ideal with the most genuinely practical behaviour in everyday life; therefore we always advocated the vital necessity of every worker belonging to a trade union, insisting at the same time that all our members must understand and rightly appreciate the objective of revolutionary Socialism. Frank Hyett became General Secretary of the VRU and, showing first class ability, delighting in welding together the sectional societies, and striving for true solidarity in all industries...”
Frank understood and built the rest of his life around “the vital necessity of every worker belonging to a trade union” and “the welding together sectional societies”. Though the VSP retained his membership and loyalty it was to the trade union movement that he turned in 1910. He became a member of the AWU and always retained his membership of that union. In February 1910 he was appointed Organizer of the Amalgamated Society of Railroad Employees. The Railways Union Gazette wrote: “One of the biggest and most fruitful actions in railway unionism was the decision of the Amalgamated Society to engage an organiser from outside the Service. Applications were called, and in February, 1910, Frank Hyett was selected from 18 aspirants on the casting vote of the chairman.
“Comrade Frank at once busied himself in railway affairs. He came in almost destitute of knowledge in respect to Service methods and conditions, yet in the course of a few short weeks he startled long service councillors with the marvellous grip and fund of information he had assimilated right from the start. He bustled and was very successful as an organiser, just as he was later as a secretary.
“In his first written appeal to railwaymen, published in the DR. News of 1.1.1910, he put up a fighting case for “one union for each industry”, concluding with: “Let us hustle, then, for a broader and a sounder industrial outlook, for the questions of the time demand that we shall build our foundations deep and strong.”
“Today, as we look back, we realise how deep and strong did he build.
“Two months organising by Frank Hyett spelt much progress for the Amalgamated Society, and general appreciation was expressed of the choice made.
“Then came the Annual Conference and the election of officers on 23 April, 1910. After some argument on the question of electing an outside secretary, the election was proceeded with. Ted Sheeran (still an evergreen councillor of ours) was the retiring secretary, but Conference, in its wisdom, elected Frank Hyett to the position.
“The May, 1910 issue of the “News”, in referring to the matter, went on to say — “The newly-elected General Secretary is 27 years of age, a vigorous and thoughtful speaker, and a very clever and concrete exponent of his views with the pen. We are pleased to report that all our expectations of him as an organiser have been fully realised, and we have received very flattering reports from all parts.
“The new General Secretary, Frank Hyett, took up his secretarial work on 1.7.1910, and from the start gave every satisfaction.
“At this period the employees in the Service were split up into a number of sectional and rival unions, and the consummation of amalgamation was keenly sought, both by the General Secretary and a good sprinkling of industrial unionists. Negotiations between the Amalgamated and the Transport Associations resulted in a series of conferences, with such success that in due time the Constitution was completed and named “The Victorian Railways Union”.
“The actual merging did not take place at once owing to constitutional entanglements and the necessity to ballot members on the question. At the 1911 Annual Conference the result of Frank Hyett’s work was disclosed. Over 2,000 members had been added to the strength of the “Amalgamated”, and the assets had increased by £500.
“June, 1911, saw the appointment of a joint committee to bring into being the VRU. Nominations for the respective positions were called for, and in that month were elected the first officers of the VRU, with Frank Hyett as General Secretary. The remaining smaller unions, with the exception of the “Drivers and Firemen” then threw in their lot and took their place in the bigger organization.
“The VRU gathered under its constitution “The Amalgamated Society”, “The Transport Association,” “The Carriage Builders’ Society”, and the “Clerical Association”, their total assets when pooled amounting to £537.” (The Railways Union Gazette, June, 1919.)
The Gazette then gives a table to show the growth of the VRU under Frank’s leadership. 1911, net assets £537, 1918, net assets £19,436.
When Per first told me that Frank was wild when he was a young man I was surprised, as I had never heard him described in that way. Per illustrated his point with this story.
“In the early days of the union, before Frank’s appointment was recognised by the commissioners, he turned up at a commissioner’s office and asked to see him. As there was no appointment Frank was told that the commissioner could not see him. Frank would not take no for an answer, pushed a doorman out of his way and walked into the commissioner’s office. He said he wanted to see him. The commissioner said he had a lunch engagement and it was not possible. Frank said could he take him out to lunch but he was told no. As Frank got older he got wiser. He learnt that he could get more if he used some diplomacy.
Three months after he joined the “Amalgamated Society” Frank and Ethel were married, under the red flag. “The marriage of Frank Hyett and Miss Ethel Gunn on 19 May, 1910 was the first official wedding held under the auspices of the Socialist Party. The ceremony took place at the Socialist Party Hall, 283 Elizabeth-Street, and nothing was left undone by the women of the party to make the function a memorable and successful one, for both were endeared to the hearts of all comrades.
“At 7 pm the Rev. F. Sinclaire...joined in holy matrimony two of the brightest blossoms of the party. At an early hour the hall was full, and over 180 guests sat down to do justice to the breakfast, interspersed with speeches, song and mirth. Among the guests were stalwarts such as Frank Anstey, MHR, Jack Curtin, R.S. Ross and others. The proceedings opened with singing of “The Red Flag”...Comrade Frank, on responding, told, with deep feeling, of the experiences of himself and wife in the Socialist Party, how they received intellectual freedom at its hands, and how they had planned to be married “under the Red Flag”, that stood for the highest ideals that life had to offer.” (The Railways Union Gazette, June 1919.)
The Rev. F. Sinclaire of the Free Fellowship Church was an old friend of the VSP. He tutored in English one of the educational classes held at the Socialist Hall, he had joined on many of their recreational activities and, though not a member of the party, he had spoken on their platform at the Bijou. (B. Walker)
23. After they were married Frank and Ethel lived with Maurice and Marie Wayman at 56 Garton Street, North Carlton. It was here that Nancy was born on 12 December, 1910. Gertie Gunn left Rheola and came to live with the Waymans too. After her husband died, Mrs Gunn came to Melbourne bringing the rest of the family with her. They lived for a while in Albion Street, Brunswick. Then, in 1912, Ethel found a house big enough to accommodate her mother, sisters, Frank, herself and their baby, Nancy. It was a two-storey terrace house at 195 Royal Parade, Parkville. Molly was born there on 14 July, 1912.
In December, 1979 I met Gert and Jess Gunn, both in their eighties. They talked of their years in the VSP and when they were living in the Royal Parade house.
“They were the happiest years of our lives.”
Gert: “We first met Frank when Ethel brought him up to Rheola. I remember we all went for a walk up the hill. Frank peeled some grapes and put them into Ethel’s mouth. I thought she looked so beautiful with her big brown eyes and dark hair.”
Jess: “Frank had a very nice voice. It wasn’t flat at all. He sang “Two grey eyes” that day we walked up the hill.”
Gert: “Frank was the most marvellous man to live with. I never saw him lose his temper. And he had a soft heart with animals. Any stray cat or dog Frank would always bring home.”
Jess: “We loved the dances at the Socialist Party. We were all mad about dancing. Frank would always be the last on the floor when it was the Polka.”
Gert: “After the dances, Frank would buy a crayfish and when we got home we would all sit around the big round table for supper.”
Gert: “In the mornings he would do the rounds, pulling us out of our beds and dumping us in the middle of the floor with our bedclothes.”
Jess: “Frank couldn’t bear gardening. The back garden was good only for hitting a cricket ball. We had a very deep back garden.”
Gert: “We all used to walk to work. Frank walked all the way to Unity Hall. Down Royal Parade to the Hay Market, then down Peel Street.”
Jess: “When we moved to 80 Arnold Street, North Carlton, Frank and Ethel went to live in McIlwraith Street. Young Frank was born there.”
Gert: “But we still saw a lot of them. When Frank was returning from cricket practise he would call at our place. He'd ring the door bell, then walk in and put a bottle of beer on the table.”
24. I talked with Frank and Ethel’s daughters, Nan Clyne and Molly Callister. They were very young when Frank died, Nan just eight years old, Molly six, and they regret that there was so little time in which to get to know their father. They feel they have few memories of him, but those they have are very vivid. Frank was “Daddy” to them then and when they talk of him now it is still “Daddy”.
Nan’s earliest memories are of the house in Royal Parade, Parkville. “The house was where the Clunies Ross House is now. It was the typical two-storey terrace house with the stairway facing the front door. It was a very happy set-up because Mother’s sisters adored Frank. He was a bon vivant. He loved every aspect of living and he was appreciative of women. He loved parties.
“The household included Gran, Mother’s mother, Gert, Jess, Mary and May, and the four of us.
“Jess used to say that at night, after Daddy came home late from the office, they would have these lovely suppers. He was extremely fond of crayfish and beer. He used to go a lot to the Carlton Football Ground where they had these get-togethers. I remember Mother wasn’t so pleased about it because he seemed to go so often, but he loved the company.
“He had the reputation of being Hellfire Hyett and a fiery man in political matters. But he was also the sweetest tempered and most thoughtful man in the house and with his family. I've been told that I was a difficult child. The sort who causes embarrassment by sitting down on the tram track in Collins Street. Daddy was always very understanding and comforting. I never remember being punished.
“The only book that I now have that he gave me is Hans Anderson’s Fairy Stories. I most vividly remember him reading the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Little Mermaid”. In the “Emperor’s Clothes” he was able to sow the seed of a philosophy — of seeing the truth. Not to go along with the crowd, but to see things clearly for yourself. Like the little boy who said “He’s got no clothes on”. I used to cry over the little Mermaid but Daddy would comfort me and say it was a very brave thing she did because she loved the prince so much.
“I can remember the wonderful picnics we used to have with the Socialist Party. We used to meet at the Socialist rooms and go off in big furniture vans.
“I used to be most interested in the romance that flourished between the young lovers. There were Alec and Alice, Olive and her beau, May and Vern. May always fascinated me because she always looked so lovely. Mother was the most beautiful of the sisters but May was very pretty. She finally married Vern and it was a very happy marriage. Vern died only two years ago.
“The picnics often took place on the bank of a river. I suppose it was the Yarra. There were swings there and the young lovers would swing together. It seemed wonderfully romantic.”
Molly doesn’t remember the picnics at all but the Sunday mornings at the Socialist Hall are still very clear in her mind.
“We'd hang out of the windows of the Hall, waving our red flags and singing: ‘Let the cowards flinch or traitors sneer, We'll keep the red flag flying near. We'll raise its standard to the sky...'
“Often we'd stay with Auntie Ethel Wayman for the weekend. She lived in Richmond in a street off Bridge Road not far from Punt Road. Jim Walsh lived with her. They were lovers; the Socialists believed in free love and didn’t worry about marriage. None of them ever talked about getting married. It was all very Bohemian and they had a wonderful time. They really enjoyed life.
“The parties at the Socialist Hall were great. They were high teas really, long trestle tables and the food was always marvellous. Our greatest delight was to walk with Auntie Ethel from Richmond, across the Fitzroy Gardens, and through the city to the Hall. She would be loaded with baskets of food.
“One night, I was only about three, the police came into the Socialist Hall. I think one of the speakers was Miss Pankhurst...” (Molly asked me to check if this were possible. I got the following information from the State Library: “Miss Adela Pankhurst sailed for Melbourne 2 February, 1914. She emerged suddenly as the leader of the Socialist Feminist Movement in Australia. She married Tom Walsh, whom she had met in the house of R.S. Ross, Secretary of the VSP. She joined the VSP in 1917.” From “The Fighting Pankhursts” by David Mitchell.)
“The police went up to the platform and whisked the speakers away. There was a great deal of noise. We children were hushed and shushed. It was all very frightening and very exciting.
“I loved the parties we had at home after cricket or football. Mother would always make a great bowl of potato salad and I forget what else. The men would arrive and make a great fuss of us. They would pull us onto their knees and we really didn’t like that.”
Nancy remembers that on one of these occasions one of the men gave her a little gold ring with her initials, N.H., engraved on it. She felt very embarrassed.
Molly’s is most vivid memory of her father is tied up with an incident that occurred after she started attending the Princes Hill State School. They were living in McIlwraith Street then and their grandmother and aunts were living opposite the school.
“I was about five years old and I wagged it from school. I went with some other girls down to Lygon Street and we played on the tram lines. Later I was too scared to go home so I went back to Gran’s. I adored Gran. She was always my refuge. Gran had to take me home. And Daddy gave me a beating. I cried all night and was scared of going to school next day and facing Miss Nicholson. She was a martinet. But Daddy was very fair. He gave me a note to take with me and it said ‘Solly must not be punished, she has already been dealt with severely.”
“Sometimes we would be taken down to the Yarra Bank to hear the Socialist speakers. I can remember Daddy speaking when the police came along. There was a great deal of shouting and finally Daddy was pulled off the soap box.
“He often took us to visit our grandmother, Garkie. It must always have been when she was sick because she was always in bed. I never remember Garkie up and dressed. She would be sitting up in bed with a shawl around her shoulders and to this day I can hear her coughing.”
It was during the Anti-Conscription Campaign, while they were living at McIlwraith Street, that Nan had an experience that still has its aftermath of panic. “These two men arrived at the house, shouting aggressively. They pushed their way into the passage, yelling abuse. I was quite terrified. There was a placard in the hall which they tore down. It was all so quick. Daddy must have been there because they soon disappeared.
“I wonder now how much of what I remember is total recall and how much is the result of family discussion. But, over the years, I still have a little echo of that incident. If we are to have a referendum I have a carry-over of fear. I feel that “Vote No” is very dangerous. It is the “No” that has stayed with me. I have an emotional antipathy to the whole idea of a referendum and yet the idea of referendum fit in with my whole philosophy.”
25, Early in 1979 Alan Scarlet Visited Nan Clyne. Alan is an Arts graduate from Latrobe University and he had elected to do his Honours thesis on her father, Frank Hyett. After a lengthy interview, Nan passed him on to me. I lent Alan my manuscript which gave him the information he needed on the Hyett family background and Frank’s childhood. I had reached the stage where I was faced with researching Frank’s work in the V.R.U., a daunting prospect. Alan was agreeable to the idea that, when he had finished his thesis, I should draw on his research. In November, 1979 he presented me with a bound copy of the thesis, “Frank Hyett, A Political Biography”. In his introduction Alan makes clear the standpoint from which he views his subject and briefly summarizes Frank’s place in Labor history. I quote from the introduction:
“Ian Turner has suggested that labour history signalled a new concept in history, that of the ‘masses rather than elites as the moving forces in the historical process.’ Against this view, he conceded, was the argument that the labour movement possessed its own elites who used ‘the masses in their drive for power and (manipulated) them when in power’. He attempted to disprove this argument, proposing that the masses set the course and limits for their leaders, but it remains true that much of what has been written on Australian labour history emphasises the elites, the powerful labour unions and the Labor Party itself, and within the realms of biography the labour leaders who reached prominence on the parliamentary stage: a caste headed by such figures as Hughes, Scullin, Chifley, Curtin, W.A. Holman and T.J. Ryan.
“This is the biography of another labour leader, but one of the second rank who did not attain national prominence but whose contribution to the building of the labour movement was of comparable significance to that of their more widely known parliamentary colleagues. They built up the grass-roots machinery and support on which the union movement and the Labor Party still depend, and they were arguably the agents by which the rank and file exercised some control over those who had climbed from their ranks to the remote pinnacle of political power.
“The significance of Frank Hyett to the history of the labour movement is heightened because he captured the imagination of the working class and, among his contemporaries at least, became a legendary figure. The legend emerged not only because of his contribution to the Victorian Railways Union, and the conscription crisis, together with his talent as an orator, but also because he was a charming, handsome man who died at the age of thirty-seven; too young to realise the full potential and promise of his talents. The legend, though perhaps not deliberately, tends to echo the career of his friend, John Curtin. ‘If only he'd lived, he would have become Prime Minister.'
“This thesis traces Hyett’s contribution to the labour movement and attempts to determine whether his actions and political ideals indeed justify the legend. While this biography is primarily political in emphasis it must be stressed that an important factor in the Hyett legend is his prowess as a sportsman. As a first-class cricketer Hyett’s popularity extended far beyond being merely a charismatic union leader; he became a figure of admiration for the working class as a whole and society in general. This was evident on the day of his funeral when a football match at Glenferrie stopped and the players and spectators bowed their heads in respect as Hyett’s cortege passed the ground.
“The fact that Hyett was such a public figure and the absence of any personal papers means that insights into his private life and thoughts are few. His distant and early death in 1919 has also meant that the number of surviving contemporaries is few. Conversations with members of his family, together with Mrs Betty Blunden’s (Hyett’s niece) collection of family reminiscences and genealogy, have been helpful in putting a human face to Hyett...
“Hyett’s pronouncements (in the Railways Gazette) on political and union issues are limited to those designed for public consumption and thus are often very rhetorical. However, the militancy of this rhetoric is an important aspect of the Hyett legend and is interesting when contrasted to the moderacy of his actions as a union leader...”
In Chapter One of the thesis Alan Scarlett covers the family background, Frank’s childhood, and his meeting with young socialist, John Curtin, in 1903. Curtin later described the meeting: “Seventeen years ago (1903) I went to a football match in Brunswick and there met a young man who was in every respect a counterpart of myself. He was very, very like me indeed. I was strong but he was stronger; I was keen but he was keener; I was thoughtful, he was more thoughtful. Already I had developed the faculty of utterance, he had mastered it. My immediate purpose was to speak and write, he had already done both. Life for the two of us was paved with travail. All my friend was he had become — there were no bursaries in the University of sweat.” (Railways Union Gazette, 20 April 1920.)
“Together the two friends came under the influence of Frank Anstey. He had known Hyett since he was a boy, they both lived in Brunswick, and he was to become Hyett’s close friend and political mentor. To Hyett, Curtin and the small group of young socialists who met in his small cluttered study on Sunday mornings, Anstey passed on his contempt for the sanctimoniousness of liberal reforms and his hatred of imperialism and militarism.”
Alan Scarlett quotes Lloyd Ross:
“Point by point he would develop his views at considerable length, take a quotation from his files, pick a book from the shelves to illustrate his argument and, if they were not convinced, give them a book to read before the following Sunday. They would stand up in turn and give short talks which he would mercilessly tear to pieces.” Thus it was under Anstey’s tutelage that Hyett’s breadth of reading and knowledge of socialism really developed... Like many young socialists of his time, Frank’s imagination and enthusiasm were captured by the speeches of Tom Mann... Frank Hyett followed Mann into the VSP and soon became one of its leading figures. The cause of socialism had become Hyett’s life-long crusade and his involvement in the VSP would launch him into political prominence.”
In Chapter Two Alan writes of Frank’s involvement with Mann and the VSP, and the part he played in the Free Speech Fight at Prahran in 1906. Quoting from the thesis:
“In November 1909, speaking at the Bijou Theatre on the Newcastle coal strike, Hyett said that he had expected other unions to support the miners. Instead they had allowed the leadership of the strike to be assumed by moderate politicians. He condemned this as ‘ unpardonable folly’ as ‘no fight had ever been won by the moderates.'
“During the lecture Hyett attacked the Church accusing it of maintaining ‘a cowardly silence upon the strike’ and of being ‘essentially capitalistic’. He charged that the Church was guilty of hypocrisy. It aspired to be the ‘ethical leader of men and women’ but refused to recognise the class divisions of society and possessed ‘the morality of the propertied class’. Hyett claimed the Church supported exploitation as its morality approved of whatever was legal; laws which were made by capitalists. Hyett urged workers to abandon the Church and socialists to fight the influence of such an ‘anti-social and anti-scientific’ institution; an attitude which Hyett maintained throughout his life.”
In March 1909, Frank spoke on the Paris Commune of 1871, in May on Robert Ingersol, the American rationalist, in June on Garibaldi, the Italian Liberator. Other lectures included one on ‘Tom Paine, Revolutionary’ and one on ‘Unionism in Early Times’ in which he described Christ and John the Baptist as revolutionaries and agitators. He claimed socialists were their successors but that socialists realized victory was only possible by the control of the means of production. Alan Scarlett writes
“Hyett’s lectures were masterpieces of oratory. For over an hour he would capture and hold the attention of his large audiences, using historical and contemporary examples together with unerring logic to condemn the evils of capitalism. The lectures demonstrated the depth of his reading and general knowledge, and his commitment to the ideals of socialism.
“From the inception of the VSP, members had been encouraged to join trade unions and seek leading positions. Following the Broken Hill lockout, and under the influence of the ideas of the IWW, the VSP became increasingly active in the trade unions, propagating the advantages of industrial unionism. Hyett was closely involved in this campaign and at the beginning of 1910 sought the position of organizer of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Employees (ASRE) as a means of advancing the “cause”. His qualities as an orator and propagandist, his advocacy of industrial unionism, and a reference from Frank Anstey, combined to give Hyett the position ahead of seventeen other applicants.”
Alan Scarlett titles his Chapter Three — “The VRU, Part 1: One Union for each industry”.
“...The sectional unions jealously guarded their independence from the ASRE which aimed to extend its writ over the whole railway service. Hyett’s appointment as its organizer signified a concerted effort by the ASRE not only to recruit the large pockets of non-union railwaymen that still existed in Victoria, but also to add impetus to its campaign for industrial unionism.”
At its Annual Conference in April, 1910 the ASRE elected Frank as union secretary. To elect a general secretary who had not been a railway worker was in contravention of the Union’s constitution, and the appointment was not recognized by the Commissioners. This recognition did not come until April 1915.
Soon after Frank’s appointment as general secretary, a conference was arranged between the ASRE and the Transportation Association. “The talks proved successful largely because of the presence of industrial unionists in both unions and thus the Victorian Railways Union was launched... The VRU recognized Hyett’s qualities of leadership and administrative skill and his role in achieving amalgamation by electing him its first general secretary...
“On 19 May, 1910 Frank married Ethel Gunn. He was aged twenty-eight and she twenty-two... Following their marriage they lived with her uncle and aunt, Maurice and Marie Wayman, at 56 Garton Street, North Carlton... in December, 1910 their first child, Nancy, was born...
“In September, 1911 the VRU’s newspaper, the Railways Union Gazette, began publication... With the Union’s membership spread throughout the State, the paper provided a vital link in keeping branches informed on union activities. It also provided Hyett with an effective outlet for his propaganda on industrial unionism and other political issues...
“Despite the problems within his own union, Hyett was determined it should act in solidarity with the labour movement. In January 1911 he had demonstrated this on an international scale with a small donation and a letter of sympathy to a relief fund for French railway workers who had been defeated in an eight-day strike. In late January 1912 a general strike erupted in Brisbane over the refusal of the Brisbane Tramways Company to employ union members. Hyett and the VRU Council acted immediately to impose a levy on members to assist the strikers. After five weeks, however... the strike collapsed.
“Within the VRU there was some criticism of the Council’s act of ‘tyranny’ in enforcing the levy. Hyett dismissed those critics, maintaining that the Council had the power to impose levies, that it should have the power subject to the control of the Annual Conference, and that the Council had used its power correctly...
“In early 1912 Hyett began a series of organizing tours of country branches. Between April and September he visited at least twelve branches, generally on weekends and as far afield as Sale and Horsham...
“Between organizing tours and working long hours, Hyett had little time to spend with his family. Ethel increasingly felt the loneliness of Frank’s absence, and early in 1912 found a large terrace house in Royal Parade with room enough for themselves and her mother and sisters... In July, a second daughter, Molly, was born...
“The recurring theme of Hyett’s advocacy of industrial unionism was organize, educate and agitate! This was crucial both in the short term battle for improved wages and conditions, and in the ultimate goal of a socialist industrial democracy...
“Hyett strongly believed that the union movement generally, and the VRU in particular, could not function effectively under the twin evils of non-unionists and apathetic members. Life for the former, Hyett asserted in 1913, should be like “hell on earth”. (This statement earned Hyett, at least among conservatives, the nickname “Hellfire” Hyett. Argus, 25 September, 1913 Leader) ...
“Hyett was also critical of the lack of enthusiasm among his members ... he believed it pointless aiming and working towards putting the working class in power if the majority was apathetic and blindly followed the active minority.
“One way in which Hyett hoped to raise the consciousness of the working class was through the VRU’s support for the Labor Papers Ltd. A daily newspaper would give the union movement the means to counteract the lies and ‘silly superstitions’ printed by the capitalist press. This was essential in reaching clerical and professional workers who had eschewed joining the union movement. In September 1913 the VRU membership voted its support for Hyett’s proposal of a twenty shilling levy to purchase shares in the company.
“Hyett also hoped to raise political awareness of workers through his support for the Victorian Labor College. The college, sponsored by the VRU, was established in 1917 as a socialist alternative to the Workers’ Education Association.”
It conducted classes in economics, philosophy, industrial strategy and history, and literature at the VRU’s Unity Hall.
“The federation of mass railway unions, established in 1905, had failed in its bid for registration under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act... The South Australian railways union called a conference of mass railway unions to consider the formation of a federal union. The union delegates met in Adelaide on 25 November 1914 for a four-day conference... it was resolved to form a national union to be called the Australian Railways Union”.
Frank attended the conference and was elected general secretary of the ARU. He was also appointed, together with two other delegates, to a committee to draft the rules of the new union.
“...Hyett was one of the leading figures at the One Big Union Conferences which were held in Melbourne, under the sanction of the Trades Hall Council, from early 1915. He described the OBU as “the unionism of the immediate future” and secured the VRUs support at its 1915 Annual Conference...A national trade union congress held in January 1919 formally launched the Workers Industrial Union of Australia. The VRU and its kindred unions in other states were among the main contributors to the WIU of A’s organizing and propaganda committee...
“The foundation stone of Unity Hall was laid by Hyett and the current president, W.L. Morrissey, in 1916 and the following year the impressive four-storey, stone-fronted building was opened. It housed the Victorian Labor College and later the Tramways Union, and became almost a second Trades Hall in its importance to the union movement.
“Hyett had succeeded in his nine years as general secretary in building the VRU from nothing into one of Victoria’s strongest unions.”
From March 1917 Frank started working on submissions to the Railway Classification Board for improved wages.
“More significantly however, was that even though the VRU was not the most militant of unions, it exhibited a unity which enabled it to play a leading role in the conscription crisis, and eventually to achieve an independent wages board.”
Chapter Four of the thesis is titled: “Conscription: A foul disease”.
Religious groups such as the Society of Friends and radical socialists, especially the VSP, and Frank Hyett, had spoken out against the Defence Act of 1909, which included compulsory military training. “In October, 1909 Hyett spoke out against the Defence Bill at a Yarra Park demonstration. Early in the next year he wrote an article in ‘The Socialist’ condemning the visit of Lord Kitchener, who had been invited to Australia to advise the Government on the structure of the proposed military training scheme.
“Hyett pointed out the hypocrisy of the so-called civilized Christian society which looked upon Kitchener as a hero; a man whom Hyett described as a “murder — God”. To Hyett war was another aspect of the capitalist profit-making machine...
“By April 1914, after several years’ experience of the operations of the compulsory military training scheme and the growing resistance to it, Hyett was convinced of the iniquities and the dangers posed by the defence system. Only ‘buccaneering interests profit by war. Fortunately, the workers were beginning to see the folly and blunder of perpetuating themselves as food for cannon’...”
By November 1915
“Hyett and many others were convinced of the imminence of conscription”. On 2 March 1916 Frank attended an Australian Trades Union Centre — Conscription Congress as delegate of the Clerks’ Union, the Railway Union not being affiliated to the THC as its members were state employees.
“In April, 1916, the VRU Annual Conference had declared amidst cheers: That the Union absolutely opposes conscription, as being hostile to the best interests of our time and race, and to the principles of unionism. Hyett, speaking in favour of the motion, warned that conscription would include industrial as well as military compulsion, and would become a permanent feature of society... Thus it was with the Union’s sanction that Hyett began writing a stream of articles in the Railways Union Gazette, urging a ‘No’ vote in the conscription referendum which had been announced in August for 28 October 1916.”
In 1915 the Victorian Cricket Association conducted a full series of club and interstate games. “In that year Hyett transferred from Brunswick to the district club of Carlton. He quickly demonstrated his skill as wicket-keeper, and consequently was selected to play in the Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania in January. Hyett’s debut in first class cricket was impressive: he scored 108 not out and kept wickets with equal skill. In February he accompanied the Victorian team to Adelaide for the final Shield match of the season, and although less successful with the bat, he kept the wickets well. During the winter the press campaign against sport intensified, and finally cricketing authorities bowed to this pressure and suspended inter-state matches for the duration of the war. Thus Hyett’s entry into the Victorian team was a brief one, though even in that short time he had impressed the devotees of the sport as a probable candidate for the next Australian team.”
One of the anti-conscription articles that Frank wrote for the Railways Union Gazette appeared under the title of “Are we to be ruined?” on 20 October 1916. In it Frank wrote:
“...Mr Hughes, with rolling eyeballs and whirling arms, comes screaming on the scene, crying out that unless one more Australian is added to every hundred of the Allies, all is lost! Is this little figure of frenzy entirely destitute of any sense of proportion? Are we to be ruined because a politician, whose head has been turned by the adulation of titled snobs, is devoid of the saving grace of humour, and doesn’t know a joke when he meets one?”
“Hyett warned that Hughes was not to be trusted, that he would use any device available to secure the passage of the referendum... Hyett was also critical of the Labor Party because it had acquiesced to Hughes’ policy, even though it meant disregarding Labor’s election promises and the democratic foundation upon which it stood.
“Hyett’s stand against conscription incurred the criticism of some railwaymen for what they saw as an abuse of his position as VRU general secretary... Hyett dismissed these critics, pointing out that many were not union members. ‘My views on conscription are my own, but it is nonetheless true that the majority of the members of our Union are opposed to conscription (as seen in the Conference and branch resolutions) ... The Union does not require outsiders to inform it of its powers under its rules, and its members are intelligent enough to distinguish between loyalty and conscription.’
“He defended the Conference’s right to determine Union policy on conscription... Thus Hyett, with the support of the VRU Council and with the letter of the rules behind him asserted his power.”
The first conscription referendum was rejected and “with the rejection of the second referendum, Hyett was once again free to devote his full attention to the task of improving his members’ conditions and winning the right to an independent arbitration court.”
Chapter Five is titled “The VRU, Part 2: Arbitration — ‘the settled policy of the country’.”
“Hyett’s most significant achievement for the railwaymen of Victoria, next to the formation of the VRU, was obtaining the right to an independent tribunal to determine wages and conditions. However, there was a marked difference in the way the two campaigns were conducted. While the campaign for industrial unionism and an active rank and file called for stirring oratory and socialist propaganda the fight for arbitration was conducted with diplomacy, moderation and extreme patience.”
The Government denied railwaymen the right to strike, a right which was generally recognized throughout the country. If it continued to do so, Hyett said, ‘the community would awake one morning to find State employees had been deliberately forced into action owing to all legal means under the constitution having been denied them.'
“This obvious allusion to strike action provoked the suggestion that if the Union’s demands were rejected, direct action should be taken. The motion was greeted with an uproar of dissent from the meeting and Hyett was applauded when he dismissed it saying: ‘this was no time for heroics’. Referenda or not it is obvious that “Hellfire” Hyett was being a very cautious and law-abiding militant, but, in doing so, he reflected the attitudes of his members.
“Consequently he received their support for his tactics of lobbying Cabinet Ministers and Railway Commissioners to extract minor, though material, concessions and increases. Despite continual rebuffs Hyett remained polite and patient. While condemning the unfairness of the system he did not blame the Commissioners and, following his official recognition in April 1915, was able to settle amicably misunderstandings from both sides. In fact, Hyett formed a close personal friendship with Commissioner L.J. McClelland whom he recognized had the best interests of the men and service at heart.
“However, by September 1916 it was obvious that Hyett’s and the Union’s patience was wearing thin ... it persisted in denying, in principle, railwaymen their own wages board ... by March 1917 the Government appointed a Railways Classification Board ... but it had conceded little as the Board had a majority of Railway Commission appointees ... a threat of strike action followed... Hyett assured members that no action would be taken “until success is certain”, and that no action would be taken that would adversely affect Australia’s interests in the war.
“Mass meetings and ballots supported the leadership’s policy of militant caution. Subsequently, however, the union, while opposing the Board in principle, participated in its hearings because whatever its shortcomings it provided a real opportunity to obtain much needed wage increases.
“Hyett, who had relished the spectacle of the VRU’s solidarity and militancy, entered into the task of preparing claims to the Classification Board with determination. In hearings covering some 465 different grades, Hyett distinguished himself in his comprehensive presentation of the union’s submissions and his penetrating cross-examination of witnesses. The hearings of the board lasted into June 1918 and resulted in significant increases for railway men...
“With the conclusion of the war interstate cricket resumed. Hyett was prevented from taking his place in the Victorian team for the first few games due to a foot injury, but later, in January 1919, went to Sydney and contracted influenza. Although he recovered and continued to play cricket on his return to Melbourne, he had not allowed himself sufficient time to regain his full health. On Good Friday he once again fell ill, this time with Spanish Influenza which was in epidemic proportions throughout the world in 1919-20.
“Hyett remained ill at home until the following Wednesday, when as a result of the efforts and influence of the Union and John Wren, he was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital. As he was being taken to the ambulance he remarked to his brother-in-law, Os Barnett, ‘Well, I'll soon know the truth about the life beyond’. ...Frank Hyett died at two o'clock next morning.”
(Soon after Hyett went into hospital, his wife Ethel was also admitted with influenza, but she soon recovered.)
“On Saturday 26 April 1919, Hyett’s body which had lain at rest in Unity Hall, was taken to Box Hill cemetery in a cortege of over 100 cars and cabs. They were met at Box Hill by another 4500 people, many of whom had come by a train put on especially for the funeral. At the cemetery the mourners formed an avenue as the coffin, shrouded in a red flag, made its journey to the grave site. The pall-bearers were F.G. Tudor, MLA, leader of the Labor Party, G. Prendergast, MLA, leader of the Opposition, J.N. Rees, Railways Commissioner, J. Evans, President of the ARU, A. Robins, Frank’s uncle by marriage and a shunter at North Melbourne, and Harry Scott-Bennett, organizer for the VSP.
“Tributes to Hyett poured in from all over Australia; from political opponents, the Railways Commissioners, trade unions, football clubs, and colleagues and especially from VRU branches. Socialists R.S. Ross and H.E. Smith, imprisoned under the War Precautions Act, were allowed out of gaol to attend the funeral. The Rev. E. Sinclaire conducted the service at which Scott-Bennett and W.H. Hulse of the VRU spoke. The final words of Bennett were: ‘Let us ... take as an inspiration for our own lives the lessons he has left us in a life that ended all too soon. For thus shall we honour our dear dead and render useful service to the living.'
“The service ended with the singing of the first and last verses of the “Red Flag”.
Alan Scarlett’s “Conclusion” to his thesis:
“Frank Hyett’s life exhibits features of the romantic image of a working class leader. He rose from poverty by his own determination and intelligence to become a highly self-educated man capable of improving his position in life. However, his own experiences instilled in him an awareness of the inequality of society and a desire to correct the imbalance. His reading, together with the influence of Anstey and the inspiration of Tom Mann, completed his conversion to socialism.
“While it is partly true for Mann to describe Hyett as “an actual product” of the VSP, it is equally-important to emphasize the influence of Anstey, and Mann himself. From them Hyett derived the central principles of his political philosophy: a hatred of militarism; a belief in the international fraternity of the working class; and a commitment to the strategy of working class political action rather than doctrinaire ideology and consequent political impotence. Under their tuition Hyett developed the gifts of rousing public speaking, and lucid and forceful journalism, which separated him from the bulk of contemporary socialists.
“At a time when there was increasing suspicion between socialists and the Labor Party, the VSP attempted to find the middle ground of political reality without compromising its socialism. Hyett as a leading exponent of these tactics of infiltrate and educate, concentrated on influencing the very foundation upon which the Labor Party was based the trade union movement. Others worked within the machinery of the Labor Party. Consequently, because the VSP did not cut itself off from the reality of Labor’s electoral appeal, as the ASP and Sydney socialists did, it was able to exert an influence on the Labor movement far in excess of its numerical strength.
“However, it was in the VRU that Hyett’s socialism was really tested. While his belief in the need to change the social system remained and even intensified, the reality of his position demanded a significant moderation in tactics, if not rhetoric. Hyett’s dilemma was to achieve within the VRU a workable compromise between his responsibilities of improving the working conditions of his members and strengthening the Union; and the conversion of a divided and moderate working class to the cause of socialism. The fact that he was able to achieve, at least in part, this compromise through the attainment of wage increases, the Classification Board, and ultimately, though posthumously, an independent wages board on one hand, and the VRU’s support for the OBU, the Victorian Labor College, Labor Papers Ltd., the anti-conscription campaign, and the ARU on the other, was a tribute to his leadership. Hyett’s style as a general secretary was one of sensitivity towards the wishes of the rank and file, combined with a determination that the VRU should be centrally organized and strongly led. Consequently Hyett asserted his power to the limit which the Union rules would permit, while cajoling the rank and file with suitably tailored socialist — or moderate — rhetoric. While it may be argued, with some justification, that Hyett’s achievements for the goal of socialism were largely cosmetic, under the impediments of a hostile political administration with its restrictions and regulations, it is reasonable to argue he achieved as much as possible; besides, his success of instilling a sense of unity and purpose in railwaymen far outweighed any compromise in doctrine.
“In the conduct of VRU business, Hyett’s personal talents were of significant value. Not only was he able to bring to bear a formidable debating and negotiating skill, but his personal charm and affability meant that negotiations with the Railway Commissioners were conducted generally in an atmosphere of conciliation rather than ugly confrontation. The fact that Hyett was also a first class cricketer and a senior member of the Carlton Football Club meant that he was regarded by his political adversaries as a man of some social standing.
“Hyett’s success as a cricketer combined with his charisma and ability as a union leader to make him a popular figure with the working class. This popularity was perhaps heightened because in the midst of a general disenchantment with the Labor Party and its leaders, Hyett emerged as a leader of strength and conviction. A year after Hyett’s death Curtin wrote of his friend and the conscription fight: “There are men in Melbourne today whose reputations are preserved to them largely because of the discernment, the intense determination and resource of the man I write of ... he was ever the counsellor appealed to, the comrade relied on, the tenacious and sagacious deliberator finding the way out.”
“'Finding the way out’ for his class succinctly summarises Frank Hyett’s life. His early death denied him access to the political avenues which Curtin later chose, but it also meant that the Hyett legend remained untarnished by the temptations or responsibilities of national leadership.”
26. Alan Scarlet also wrote an article on Frank: “Frank Hyett: Portrait of an Anti-Conscriptionist.” It covers very briefly the family background and Frank’s activities in the VSP. He goes more fully into the Anti-conscription campaign and ends the article with an assessment of Frank as a person.
“In these various political and industrial battles the warmth of Hyett’s character is striking. It was multi-faceted and thus deserves some space in attempting to describe it.
“Frank Hyett was a modest man. He was aware of his abilities but also of the enormity of the task in which he was involved. He was always ready to give credit where credit was due and, year after year, he demonstrated this by paying tribute to the office staff and other officials of the union. On numerous occasions when members or branches sent letters, or gave speeches of appreciation he would reply that he only sought to do his best. One such reply was: ‘I endeavour to do my best on behalf of all our men, and do not look for any approval other than the full confidence which the men have been good enough to show me!
“It is possible to suggest that Hyett was being too modest to the point of being affected and thus narcissistic. However, if such was the case, then he showed remarkable consistency throughout the years. Also, the point about the ‘confidence’ of members’ ties in with his views on union leaders and leaders, generally. They had to earn the confidence of the men and this Hyett had done for years. But, he also expected, demanded even, the confidence of the men because, without it, the unity and co-ordinated control of the union, the very things which made it effective, were lost. The sincere modesty of the man is also a factor in why he was so widely popular.
“The nature of Hyett’s character is interesting to one attempting to determine significant, formative influences. From all accounts within the family, the Hyetts were ‘wild’ and rebellious characters. William, the convict, had committed several crimes, while serving his term, but always in the realm of disobedience and rebelling against the authorities. The ‘wildness’ seems to have carried through to following generations and perhaps this explains the restlessness of Jacob’s sons and their move from Tasmania, and the early, pre-marital conception of Frank.
“Certainly, as a young man, Hyett was a wild character and, no doubt deserved his nickname of ‘Hellfire Hyett’. His activities in the VSP, although he was one of the political moderates, defied the Establishment...
“To attribute this character trait to the influence of his father is a little absurd since Frank was so young when his father died.
“However it is interesting to note that his sister, Elizabeth, was of a similar nature...
“The other facet of Hyett’s character, his charm and gentlemanly nature, is more readily explained. Both Domny, his grandfather, and Annie, his mother, were quiet people, the two being described by a contemporary friend as ‘a fine old gentleman’ and ‘one of nature’s gentlewomen’. They were the two main early influences on Frank’s life.”
I agree with Alan that it would be absurd to think that his father had any influence on Frank’s ‘wildness’, but I believe that the Hyett genes that Frank inherited included not only the ‘Hyett Looks’ but the ‘wild’ streak that he used so constructively and joyfully.
In his Memoirs, published four years after Frank’s death, Tom Mann wrote:
“Frank was a fine, healthy, clean-living man, a first-class cricketer, a capable and militant trade unionist and a loyal comrade. He died after a short illness, but not before he lived the life of a man, and his family and comrades will ever be proud of him.”
Frank’s grave is in the old section of the Box Hill cemetery — the number, Methodist 784. It is a short distance SE of the Columbarium. It is of grey granite, a section of a column, cut off at the top to represent a man who died too young. The column stands on a pedestal and the letters of the inscription are in lead.
THE AUSTRALIAN RAILWAYS UNION,
To the memory of
Who died April 24, 1919.
Age 37 years
A brilliant leader and
Sacred to the memory of
Beloved husband of
Ethel, and father of Nance, Molly and Frank.
27. Annie died two years after Frank, on 9 June 1921, of bronchitis and cardiac failure. She was sixty-two years old and was living with Per and Myrt at 30 Crisp Avenue, Brunswick, “the nicest house we ever lived in”. Per said: “Mum died in Libby’s arms. Libby wanted me to go out of the room but I wanted to stay until the end and I did. Myrt wasn’t there; she must have been at work.”
Annie had never been really well. She'd had chronic bronchitis since she was a child and as she grew older she developed glaucoma. There was very little sight in one eye. There had always been a severe shortage of money, but she had had a very loving and caring family. When William Hyett, her first husband, had died, she had lived with her parents. Her mother, Mary Pearce, died when Annie was thirty-one, but Dommy, her father, had lived with her until his death at the age of eighty. Although he may have been an added responsibility for Annie in the last few years, he had been her great stand-by for the best part of his life.
Frank had been a wonderful son. His letters and postcards to her show the love he had for his mother. I think his death was almost more than she could bear. Per told me “Mum suffered agony over Frank’s death”.
Elizabeth Mary, after she moved to Balwyn, kept in constant touch with Annie, and Per and Myrt lived with her. Annie had had a hard life, but she had been very much loved and she had never been left to battle on her own.
I found Annie’s grave in the Methodist section of the Melbourne Cemetery, plot No. K851. She was buried with her second husband and the headstone reads:
In Loving Memory
Annie Kingston Sanders
When I told Per that I had found his mother’s grave he asked “Is it all covered with weeds?” and I told him “No, it is neat and there is a nice headstone”.
Per was most surprised.
“After Mum died Myrt was always saying that we must do something about the grave. But I kept putting it off. It upset me too much. Libby and Myrt must have arranged for that headstone.”
When I asked Per if he would like me to take him to the cemetery and show him the grave he said
“No, it would make me too sad. You know it was only because I couldn’t get a job that I went to the war. I went so I could send some money home for Mum and Myrt. Since she died I've wished I could have been kinder to her. But I did love her and I'll keep on loving her as long as I'm alive.”
28. Elizabeth Mary as Mother and Auntie Le...
Mother was a laughing, talking, singing person. When her face was in repose the corners of her mouth turned up. She was vital, eager, sparkling. She walked with her head held high and her back straight. She preferred to sit on an upright chair. If she found herself sitting in an easy chair, she would sit forward as it “ready for action”. To quote her brother Per, “She had the fire and the go.”
She was immensely generous despite the money shortages of her childhood. She could give anything spontaneously, but she could never throw anything away: food, clothes or just things. She would never lend anyone her clothes. This seemed out of keeping with her character, and I was never able to see the reason why. Perhaps, when she was young, she'd lent a dress to someone and it had been a disaster, or maybe she was extremely fastidious. She never minded lending me her grandmother’s jewellery, when I was grown up. But her clothes, never.
Mother was wilful. Occasionally she could be persuaded to change her mind about something but mostly she would stick to her decision stubbornly. When she had thought something through, or arrived at a decision instinctively, which was often her way, she would lie to gain her ends. This happened only a few times in her life, but as she was such an honest person, these few times were memorable.
The love Mother and Father had for each other was unique. I have never known another two people who have lived together so harmoniously. Their responsibilities within the marriage were the traditional ones — Mother looked after the house and the children, Father earned their living, looked after the garden and the little maintenance jobs around the house. But Mother’s position as wife and mother was not traditional. She was truly liberated in the modern sense of the word, and she took her equality for granted. Mother and Father would discuss all things to do with the family and they always agreed on the solution. This was not a carefully worked out process, but for them just the natural way to live.
My earliest memories of Mother are connected with the house in Cherry Road, as it was when it was first built. This house in Balwyn had unusual features. It had been designed by Father, but included Mother’s specifications. We moved in in 1914. The entrance was on the north side, a verandah reached by a shallow flight of wooden steps. There were two stained glass windows, one in the front door and another in the wall beside it. Father designed the windows, both simple landscapes, and they were unlike any stained glass windows I have ever seen. The entrance hall had double doors each side, leading to the sitting room on the right, dining room on the left. Father, ever the innovator, designed the doors so they could easily be removed by lifting bolts out of the hinges, thus creating a large reception area. The front bedroom was also on the right. A passage led from the hall on the left, the rooms on the right being dressing room, bathroom and a second bedroom. On the left side of the passage: a second door to the dining room, an enormous built-in linen press and a door to the breakfast room. At the end of the passage was a door that opened onto a large back verandah. Through the breakfast room was the kitchen, with a back door and originally some wooden steps leading into the garden. For the thirty or so years they lived there, Father and Mother were continually altering the house. Rooms were enlarged, huge windows were put in so they could look out at the garden, and bedrooms “invented” by various means as the family grew. Possibly the most unique feature of the house was the sleep-out on the south side. The sleep-out provided the ultimate in ‘Fresh Air’. It was a room about 30’ long and doors from the ‘Front Bedroom’ dressing room and bathroom opened into it. There were four sets of large, louvred sliding shutters. They were stained dark brown and when shut kept the sleep-out dark but very ‘fresh’ Mother and Father’s bed was in the middle, Joy and I slept in beds at each end. The ‘Front Bedroom’ was kept for visitors, children when they were sick, and Mother kept her clothes in the wardrobe, and in drawers in the dressing table and wash-stand. It was always impeccably tidy, a sort of status symbol, where visitors left their coats and hats.
Father had a wardrobe in the dressing room and Joy’s clothing and mine was kept there too. There was a big linen Dress, and Joy and I each had a small cedar chest-of-drawers. As Mother never threw anything out, there was always a storage problem.
Mother and Father were puritans, and the four of us using the dressing room brought complications. These were solved by Mother getting dressed and undressed under her night-gown and Father just turning his back.
Originally, there was a pantry off the breakfast room, but as the family grew, and our day-to-day living went on in the breakfast room, the pantry was made part of that room. An innovation of which Father was particularly proud was the food storage cupboard in the kitchen. A sort of box, about 12” deep, was let into the floor of the cupboard, its four sides and bottom being made of fine fly wire. The shelves were all slatted and the ‘ceiling’ of the cupboard was also of wire. Theoretically, draughts passed through the cupboard and kept the food cool and fresh. An invention that pleased Father was the hay box. This he bought and it was installed in the kitchen. It was used for the Saturday mid-day roast. The meat and vegetables were heated first in their special containers on the stove, then put into matching holes and the hay box lid shut down. Presumably it was hay that acted as insulation and the meal cooked without further heating.
Until she moved to the Cherry Road house, Mother had always had to cook on a one-fire wood stove. There was a gas stove in her new kitchen, and a gas bath-heater in the bathroom. Joy and I were bathed in a hip bath. Father added plumbing to this bath, so a pulled plug emptied the water. All Mother’s babies were bathed in the hip bath. When sewerage finally came to Balwyn, the hip bath had to go to make way for a toilet.
Mother would never buy an ice chest. By the time she decided that we could afford such a luxury, refrigerators had come on the market. As she always wanted “the best”, she waited a few more years until she could afford a refrigerator. That was in 1936.
Probably the most attractive room in the house was the dining room. All the wood-work was natural red cedar. There were large exposed beams in the ceilings and a narrow ledge at door height all around the wall where Mother displayed some of her treasures — three Toby jugs, some pieces of Moorcroft and Gouda ware, a little copper frying pan that had been made by Uncle Per. And there was a large alcove which we called the ‘Ingle Nook’. It had a plain cedar mantel piece, a gas fire and along each side, built-in cedar seats. On all the dining room walls at about intervals of two feet, there were narrow vertical cedar boards going from the floor to the shelf. Otherwise the walls and ceilings were white.
Father designed the big dining room table which could seat eight people, ten with a squeeze. But we had meals here only on Sunday nights or when there were visitors.
The floors throughout the house were covered with linoleum. The pattern was herringbone in shades of dark brown which I recognized years later as representing parquetry. The entrance hall and all the rooms had large carpet squares, different colours in each room, but all of similar design, small Persian patterns. The sitting room and front bedroom carpets were similar, soft pink and blue on a cream back-ground. The hall carpet was mainly blue, and the dining-room and “Ingle Nook’ carpets were in shades of brown and ochre on a cream background. Flowers were specially grown in the garden to tone in with the colour scheme of the dining room: wall flowers, gaillardias, jonquils and daffodils.
Mother and Father both loved pictures and every room in the house was hung with them. There were some water-colours that they had bought and many sepia reproductions of great masters. Some of the frames Father made himself., They were very ‘Art Nouveau’, free-form with a ‘spray of leaves’ across the bottom made of copper wire and leaf shapes. Father contributed so much to the house it is amazing that the final result seemed to me to express Mother’s personality. She put the life and colour into it. She chose the carpets and furniture that they bought, she made the curtains and cushions. She arranged great bowls of flowers in every room regardless of how much that room was to be used during the week.
For as long as I can remember, Auntie May, Father’s eldest sister, lived with us. The second bedroom was Auntie May’s room. Mother once told Joy the events that led to Auntie May’s being one of our family. The Cherry Road house was built by Joe Simmill, Father’s brother-in-law. Joe had married Ethel Barnett and both Father and May had lived with the Simmills for some years after their parents died. Father left when he married, but May stayed on. When Father signed Joe’s contract for the building of the house, there was an agreed price. When the house was finished, Joe found it had been more costly than he had anticipated and he submitted a new price to Father. Father was unable to meet the bill and it ended in a court case which Father won. May had supported Father and now felt she could no longer live with the Simmills. She packed her bags, and she and Father looked for some accommodation in Canterbury or Balwyn. They ended up on our doorstep — Father said to Mother: “We've found a place.” Mother asked: “Where?” and Father said: “Here”. So Auntie May moved into the second bedroom. Mother was not happy, but she felt she could do nothing. Father was devoted to his sister and Mother could not bear to hurt him by protesting at the new arrangement.
Auntie May lived with us until she died, over thirty years later. She always made a most generous contribution towards the house-keeping, she was devoted to all the children and we loved her. She paid half of the school fees when we were attending the Methodist Ladies’ College and she showered us all with gifts for Christmas and birthdays.
Mostly it was smooth sailing between Mother and Auntie May, but occasionally there were storms. These were provoked by May’s being over possessive with Father. She would call him into her room and shut the door. It happened only a few times in those thirty or so years, but Mother would be outraged. Nothing was said openly, but doubtless Father was made aware of his error. I think Father’s mistake was in not consulting Mother before he brought Auntie May home. If she had been consulted, I'm sure Mother would have been agreeable — as Father was later when Mother wanted members of her family to move in with us.
Mother was usually first up in the morning. She would put on a ‘morning dress’, flat-heeled shoes, tie a red handkerchief on her head to keep out the dust, and literally run as she did her work. And she would sing.
I can remember ‘helping’ with the bed-making when I was about three. The shutters would all be flung open, the beds stripped. “Never put anything on the floor which is going to touch your body.” I would be lifted to sit in one of the windows, my legs dangling outside. Mother would pile the pillows up next to me. As she finished each bed, I would pass her the pillows so each would go onto the right bed. She always sat me in the same window next to Joy’s bed.
I was about three or four when I had my first confrontation with Mother. Unless she was going out in the afternoon, or entertaining (she had a monthly ‘At Home’ afternoon), she would have an afternoon nap. Joy was at school and I was left to play by myself. This memorable afternoon I spent sitting on the ground beneath the window where I sat during the morning bed-making. When Mother finished her nap and had changed into her afternoon dress, she called me. She called and called — and I didn’t answer. I was just thinking, and I have never known why I didn’t answer. Mother called and called, became quite frantic, ran around the block and finally, after an hour or so, found me. She was furious. She took me to the dressing room, sat herself on a stool, put me across her knee and smacked my bare bottom. I was hurt and humiliated. It was the first and last time I received a spanking.
Mother and Father together ran the family as a benevolent dictatorship. What we could or could not do was very clearly spelt out. But Joy often did what she wanted to do, impetuously. and without thinking of the consequences. The result was that she received many a spanking. I was more cautious, thought of the consequences before acting and was thus able for the most part to keep out of trouble. I was very amenable.
Mother had curly hair and it was fashionable in those days for little girls to have curly hair too. My hair was straight and Joy’s even straighter, but Mother would attempt to give us curls by doing our hair “in rags”. When brushed out later, Joy’s was as straight as ever, but my hair, as amenable as I was, would stay curly for the day.
When we first lived in Balwyn, the nearest tram was at Burke Road, about a mile away, and the nearest train at Canterbury. We always used the train, as both Mother and I were liable to get tram sick. A visit to Garkie, as we called Annie, our grandmother, was quite a project. But Mother made the journey nearly every week. Before I started school, I would go with her. There was the mile walk to the Canterbury Station, and twenty minutes in the train to the City. Our first call was always to Ball & Welch to see Auntie May. Before we went into the shop, Mother would check me to see how much dirt I'd picked up in the train. I was always allowed to sit next to an open window in the train, and as the engines were steam locomotives, there was a lot of dirt flying around. The result of Mother’s inspection was always the same. She would say: “Put out your tongue” — and then she would wet her handkerchief on my tongue and “wash” my face.
Auntie May, who was head of the glove and hosiery department, was always pleased to see us and as Mother had worked in the lace department before she married, there were friends to greet there. And then a visit to the staff women’s lavatory. Mother always “held me out” which I did not like at all.
We then took the cable tram along Elizabeth Street to Brunswick. Lunch with Garkie, and before getting on the tram again, we would visit Trahair’s Drapery and say hello to Mother’s friends, Olive and Lily Wilson. This was always exciting because “Auntie Lil” was in charge of the money. She sat in a little balcony overlooking the shop. Overhead wires connected every department to her balcony. The sales girls would put the customer’s money and the bill in a cylinder attached to the wire, pull a cord and the cylinder would whiz along to Auntie Lil. She put the change into the cylinder and sent it back to the salesgirl.
Then onto the cable tram to ride back to the City. No matter how cold it was, Mother and I always sat on the front of the dummy. Here we would not get tram sick. Back in the City we would call at Arlington Chambers, ride up and down in the lift which Uncle Per drove, while Mother had a little chat with him. Then the train, and the walk home from the station, getting home about the time that Joy arrived home from school. During school holidays, Joy would come too, Father would join us after work, and we would all have tea with Garkie. On one of these occasions, on the way home Mother decided she wanted to see Uncle Frank, who was living in Royal Parade. Our door knock was answered by the whole family. It is the only time I remember seeing Uncle Frank, and I remember my child’s-eye view of him clearly. He was very large and the welcome he gave us seemed to light him up. There was a glow about him. They were about to bath Toby, the dog, and we were invited to stay and watch. I was speechless with shyness and embarrassment. I could only shake my head. I did not want to stay. I remember Molly’s being very motherly and trying to get me to change my mind. As we walked out the gate, Mother asked why I did not want to stay. I answered: “It would be rude.”
Another time when we were returning late from Garkie’s, we arrived at Canterbury Station and it was raining. Father decided we should make the last stage by horse-drawn cab. There was always one standing at the station, but it was an extravagance that Mother and Father had never before indulged in. It cost two shillings.
There were, other outings which I loved. — Mother and I would walk to the Canterbury Gardens. She would sit on the grass while I ran down and up the steep gully that runs through the gardens. Or we would walk to Beckett Park. In those days it was called One Tree Hill or ‘Harbinger Hill. In the spring-time, I would look for the first Harbinger-of-Spring or Early Nancy.
Another favourite outing was to the Botanical Gardens. On very hot days, when the temperature was expected to reach the hundred mark, Mother would plan a picnic. Father was to come to a certain lawn after work and Mother, Joy and I would be waiting for him there, with a picnic tea. And we'd stay in the Gardens until the sun set, when the gates were closed.
In 1916, the tram track was extended two miles to Mont Albert, so Mother and I would do our trip to Garkie by tram. Electric tram to Victoria Bridge, where we changed to cable tram. The electric trams were small and rocked backwards and forwards like a merry-go-round horse. Our arrival at Victoria Bridge was always just in time. Another two minutes and I would have been sick. The rest of the journey was on the front of the cable tram and that was fine.
A few years later and the electric tram from Mont Albert did the entire run to the City. This was W downfall. By the time we got to the Abbotsford Brewery I felt ill. I had just to turn my grey face to Mother and we would quickly get out of the tram. We then walked the rest of the way to the City.
A wonderful treat was to be taken to the Zoo, which Mother did occasionally on the way to Garkie’s. We would change from the Elizabeth Street tram at the corner of Gatehouse Street into a tram pulled by a horse. This went on tracks along The Avenue, through Royal Park to the gates of the Zoo. The biggest thrill was to ride on the elephant’s back. Joy and I would beg Mother to come for the ride, but she always refused. This puzzled me for years, until I was old enough to realize that to be seen riding on an elephant’s back would have been a threat to Mother’s dignity. She did not have a sense of humour which encouraged her to laugh at herself..
The needs of each of her children were probably a little different, but Mother seemed to anticipate them all — she was always there. Often I would wake in the night in the middle of a terrifying dream. I would run to her and she would take me into her bed, sometimes, I think, without even waking. The soft, warm feel of her and the delicious smell of her were the essence of security and I would be asleep in a few minutes. When we were sent to bed at night, Mother would say: “I'll come and tuck you in.” Sometimes she would seem to take a very long time in coming. This always led to an awful thought — “What would happen if Mother were to die” and I'd start crying. Eventually she would come, reassure me that she would never die, and I'd be able to go to sleep.
There was also a bit of the sergeant-major about Mother. Joy and I were allowed to play after school within a certain radius of home. We might be at the pond in Balwyn Park, a fascinating place where yabbies, frog spawn, tadpoles and frogs appeared at the appropriate times. Or we might be over at the Payne’s, next to the State School. When Mother had our tea ready, she would step onto the back porch and give two blasts on her postman’s whistle. We would run home immediately like two rabbits. The radius of our play area was defined by the whistle.
Mother had very firm ideas about how little girls should be dressed. They did not coincide with my ideas, and Mother always won. I had a great yearning for a particular black velvet hat, lined under the brim with pale pink or pale blue georgette, and decorated with rose-buds and forget-me-nots. Mother bought Joy and me plain straw cartwheel hats with a piece of ribbon around the crown, ending in streamers down our backs. Our dresses were equally classic. White cotton voile or natural silk shantung, with wide ribbon sashes, blue for Joy and pink for me. These were the clothes we wore to Church and Sunday School. Mother was very particular about our being clean and tidy at all times. We were never allowed to go barefoot (she relaxed this rule for June, Le and Brian) and we always put on pinafores over our school clothes when we came home for lunch or after school finished in the afternoon. The one time Mother relented with her “clean and tidy” rule was when we visited “Uncle” Will Richards at Noojee. These visits used to take place at Easter time. They started when Joy was a baby and finished after Le was born, thirteen years later. There, at Noojee, we were allowed to run wild. Instead of the usual dresses, Mother dressed us in old cardigans of hers. She would roll up our sleeves and the length would be just about right. And it didn’t matter if they got torn or dirty. Those holidays were the most heavenly weeks in our year.
While I wasn’t so keen on Mother’s taste in little girl’s clothes, I loved the way she dressed herself. Mother loved Church and Sunday was the high point of the week. She loved the occasion for putting on her best clothes and she loved the singing of hymns. And afterwards, outside the church, she would move around among her friends, enjoying a little chat.
When I think of Mother now, I remember particularly the way she greeted people, the way she walked into a room. Her mouth would be smiling and her eyes shining. She knew that she was among friends and that she was loved. There was always an air of eagerness and trust. She seemed to be saying: “What wonderful thing is going to happen now?”
During the years when Joy and I were the only children, Mother was our doctor. She had her “Doctor’s Book” and she considered a visit to a doctor an unnecessary expense. Occasionally, she would consult Mrs Payne, who had been a trained nurse, before she diagnosed our complaints, but she usually depended on her own experience and the “Doctor’s Book”. Her “cures” were castor oil taken with orange juice, tea made from senna pods, senna leaves eaten with some raisins, and two homeopathic medicines, aconite and nux vomica. Two drops of the appropriate medicine on a teaspoonful of water would fix a fever or an upset tummy. And it was iodine for any external injuries from a sprained ankle to a cut. When it came to iodine, Mother’s motto was: “If a little is good a lot is better.” I have seen her paint so many coats of iodine on her own sprained ankle that the skin eventually peeled. For a cold, Mother mixed a large cup of warm water with a teaspoonful of salt and soda. This we used as a gargle. A second cup of the same mixture we sniffed up our noses, a tablespoonful at a time, followed by a blow into a piece of old sheeting. Earache was treated with a teaspoonful of peroxide or olive oil. Mother would heat the oil over alighted candle, carefully testing the temperature by dripping a little on the back of her hand. Then it was poured into the affected ear and the patient lay still for five or ten minutes while the oil melted the offending wax. My first visit from a doctor was when Father’s young medical student friend, Rupert Willis, came to inspect an ear that Mother considered really serious. A little blood had come from my ear. But Rupert pronounced it not serious and I no longer remember his remedy. Probably it was more olive oil. After an upset tummy, the first food that Mother gave us was ‘bread and milk”. This was a bowl of one inch cubes of white bread, a little sugar and warm milk. We liked “bread and milk” but it was given us only as part of convalescence.
In those years, I cannot remember Mother ever being ill. She suffered just the occasional sprained ankle or travel sickness. I do not remember her ever having a headache or a “bad back!’ and I do not remember her ever saying she could not go to sleep or that she had had a bad night.
One Saturday morning in 1916, Father had got up first to work in the vegetable garden and Joy and I were in bed with Mother “having a cuddle”. Father came down the side of the house, looked through the sleep-out window and said: “Guess what has happened?” We all guessed: “The War is over.” “No, Mrs Jones has had a baby girl.” This was Muriel and she was as much an addition to our family as she was to her own. Sixty years later, Moo said to Joy: “I really had a very happy childhood with all you girls next door. My mother was loving but she wasn’t demonstrative. But if I wanted a cuddle I could always go in to Auntie Le and she would give me a cuddle.”
I remember the morning when a long letter came from Uncle Per, who was away at the War. Mother went out to the front verandah to read it. This in itself was unusual. It was news of his injury, of the night he had spent in a shell hole. Mother cried and cried. I'd never seen her cry before and I was appalled.
The next upset was to do with little Oswald. Joy and I were taken to Garkie’s, where we loved to stay. The bedroom we slept in had roses on the wall-paper and I thought it was very beautiful. And Garkie was very tolerant of our activities. She didn’t mind if we got dirty, which was a special pleasure, as Mother very much liked us to stay clean. Garkie let me make mud pies with the water that flowed from. her wash house, down an open gutter in her back garden. And she gave me the jellied starch and blue water for additional experiments. I loved her one-fire stove and the sausages she sometimes served us. Mother wouldn’t cook sausages “Not enough goodness in them.” But when I took my pile of clothes for her to dress me, Garkie said I was old enough to dress myself. I remember being very hurt, as I'd always been Mother’s baby, and she had dressed me. The other thing I didn’t like at Garkie’s was her bread and butter pudding. But she was as firm as Mother, one had to eat everything on one’s plate. Mother wrote to Garkie to tell her of the new baby, little Oswald. “His eyes were as blue as the sky.” Garkie read the letter to us. Then Father called for us and took us back home. No sooner were we all back together again than little Oswald had to be taken to hospital. Father went to a neighbour’s to ring for a hire car. Then Mother, holding little Oswald, walked across the vacant block to the car waiting in Balwyn Road. Father was with her, holding his hat so the sun would not shine on the baby’s face. Mother was wearing her Sunday dress, a blue voile., and it wasn’t Sunday, so I knew something serious was happening. The next thing I remember is the day of his funeral. Mother stayed in bed all day and she wanted me with her. She cried all day with her arms around me. For the rest of her life, little Oswald could not be mentioned without tears streaming down Mother’s face. Father writes in his story of the heartache Mother and he felt, but this I do not remember. But a snapshot taken of us all between Oswald’s death and the birth of June is a very unhappy picture. Little Oswald was buried in the Box Hill Cemetery. Father bought a plot deep enough to take the baby’s coffin and three more coffins. This I found out recently when I was enquiring at the cemetery the whereabouts of Frank Hyett’s grave. It was next to the Barnett plot. Father must have forgotten about this plot, otherwise Mother’s ashes would have been buried there. Instead, they were scattered, as his were when he died.
About this time Joy and I started taking piano lessons from a Mr Burchett who lived near Mont Albert Road. We did not have a piano and we did our practice on Mother’s organ. This was a beautiful little instrument and it stood in the corner of the dining room. Mother had bought it for herself long before she was married. It had cost £12, many times her weekly wage. She played it occasionally herself, mostly hymns and she would sing to her own accompaniment. She now started to save for a piano and it took quite some time, because she'd set her heart on a really good piano. She finally bought a Lipp, with a pianola built into it. The little organ was traded in. Neither Joy nor I lived up to Mother’s musical expectations for us. Joy gave up learning after a year or so, and I stopped when I was fifteen. Before she bought the organ, Mother had saved up and bought herself a Singer sewing machine. It was a treadle machine and second-hand when she bought it. When Joy and I were small, Mother made most of our clothes, but for her own good clothes and our school tunics she would have a sewing lady. The sitting room was turned over to the project, a sheet spread all over the carpet and the sewing lady would come every day for a week. I think Mother didn’t much like sewing, but made herself do it because it was so economical. Joy was about twelve or thirteen when Mother taught her to use the sewing machine. When Joy was able to make a dress, Mother would make a bargain with her. “If you make a dress for Betty, I'll buy you both the material.” Joy thought it unfair, but she always gave in. My contribution was to do the hand-sewing and be Joy’s slave for the duration. After I was married, Mother made a bargain with me. “I'll buy you an electric Singer if you will do my sheets, sides to middle, when they need it.” I agreed.
Mother loved cooking, making jam and preserving fruit. It wasn’t long before the back garden was producing apricots, apples, pears, quinces and about four different kinds of plum . They were either stewed, bottled, eaten raw or made into jam. Mother would not buy one piece of fruit while our own was in season. We got terribly bored with the plums. The bottling used to be done in the wash house, in the copper. Father would help with the packing of the fruit in the jars. There was great skill in making the jars look attractive and he enjoyed that. Saturday morning was the big baking tire. As well as the roast dinner, Mother would make a pudding, either a steam pudding or a tart. And rock cakes, biscuits, shortbread, sometimes a fruit cake and always a sponge sandwich would be made. Joy and I would help with the mixing. A favourite pudding was treacle tart. Bread crumbs would fill the pastry shell, then Mother would add the treacle. She would take a great tablespoonful of it, and as it flowed onto the crumbs she would make it write “Os” and over that “Le”. Father would carve the meat for dinner, mostly it was a piece of topside, corner cut, and Mother would serve the vegetables. She would say very proudly: “Do you realize there are five different vegetables?” Mother tended to overcook meat, either in roasts or in grills. She could not bear to see meat looking rare. After Saturday midday dinner and the enormous wash-up which followed it, Mother would get down on her knees and vigorously scrub the kitchen floor. If the day were hot, her face would be beaded with perspiration. The kitchen tidy again, she would spread newspaper over the floor, lock the outside door and collapse into bed for the afternoon nap.
Father was interested in food fads. He would come home and announce that butter should not be eaten with jam because the acids did not agree. So he, Joy and I would eat jam without butter on our bread. Mother liked them together and she continued to have them that way.. Father said: “Pepper gives you cancer.” So we all stopped using pepper, except Mother, she liked it. Years later, when Mother heard that lamb’s fry was good for you, the whole family would have to eat it. Except Mother.
We shared a cow with the Jones family next door. Mr Jones would milk the cow and we would pay for its feed. The milk would be shared between the two families. We shared two cows. The first one went mad, running and bucking around the Jones’ front lawn. It had to be shot. The last cow strayed and was the cause of a car smash in Whitehorse Road.
Mother’s basic ideas on diet were good. Joy and I started each meal with a large glass of milk. Our meals were simple as was Australian cooking in those days. Meat was roasted or grilled, eaten with lots of vegetables. We had cold meat with salads, desserts were puddings or tarts, often stewed fruit or preserved fruit with junket or custard. We ate everything which was put in front of us. We did not drink tea, coffee or even water with our meals and only fruit was allowed between meals. We had lots of cream. No fish, for Mother didn’t like it. Nor poultry, except at Christmas.
I do not remember Uncle Frank’s death, though I do remember that school was shut and the services at St Barnabas’ Church were held in the open during the pneumonic influenza epidemic which killed him. Mother made for all the family small calico bags which held a block of camphor and were hung around our necks with a tape. Apart from not mixing with a lot of people, camphor was the only defence against the epidemic.
It was only seven months since the death of little Oswald . Mother adored Frank and she must have been devastated. Nancy remembers that her father’s illness was aggravated because he frequently got up out of bed.
“He was home then and Mother and Auntie Gert were nursing him. After he was admitted to hospital we all went down with the ‘Flu. Mother was so ill that she went to hospital. It was at this stage that Auntie Le arrived and took the three of us to Cherry Road. We must have made the journey in a hire car. I don’t remember ever meeting Auntie Le or Uncle Os before that time. At first we were over-awed by Auntie Le but related quickly to Uncle Os who was very comforting and loving. I don’t recall the circumstances of Father’s death or Mother’s arrival at Cherry Road, but it would have been soon after our arrival.
“Balwyn was a very strange place to us. It was open country then and we had been used to city surroundings and a big family — Gran and all the aunts and uncles. The house seemed large and rather grand. The front room, with its creamy carpet, beige corded velvet suite and lovely bowls of fresh flowers, was very elegant. We looked forward to Sunday nights when we were permitted to go into the “Front Room” and Uncle Os and Rupert Willis told us marvellous stories. Rupert told us stories like “Les Miserables” in his own words and as weekly serials.
“I think my first interest in flowers and gardens was awakened in Cherry Road. I loved to potter in the garden on Saturday afternoons when Uncle Os worked there with Mr Baker (the gardener who came every week) and Auntie May. I loved the birthday parties we had during those nine months when Auntie Le made home-made ice cream which was served on little fluted plates patterned with violets. At night in the sleep-out someone would ask for a story, say about school adventures which were popular then, and I would tell one.
“We admired Auntie Le because she was so beautiful and did everything so well, but like Mother and Auntie May we were a bit over-powered at times. It was only after many years that I realized how amazing was the generosity of her response to our position.”
Auntie Eth and our cousins lived with us for nine months while their own house was being built on the block of land between our house and Balwyn Road. Auntie Eth had the front bedroom and Nancy, Molly and Frank slept with us in the sleep-out. Frank was small enough to get into “Joy’s cot”. Father had made it for Joy and it was always referred to as her cot.
The addition to the family of two girls of our own age made life much more exciting for Joy and me. We were joined sometimes by school friends living nearby, and we'd play cowboys and Indians. This was best played after dark, when Father’s asparagus bed was a wonderful cover.
Not long after our cousins moved into their own house, June was born. She was born in a little hospital in Brenbeal Street, Balwyn, and Joy and I did not go to Garkie’s this time. Auntie May and Father looked after us, Auntie Eth keeping an eye on us after we came home from school. The date of June’s birthday was 19 February, 10,20, exactly ten years after Joy’s birth. Father took us to see Mother in hospital and he told us that the baby might be named Frances after Uncle Frank. In the end, the name ‘June’ was chosen because Mother and Father had become engaged in June, and the second name was Hyett.
Fifteen months later Garkie died, on 9 June, 1921, of bronchitis and cardiac failure. She was sixty-two years old and died in her home, 30 Crisp Avenue, Brunswick. She had had bronchitis all her ‘Life, and she had suffered much hardship and sadness. By the time she was thirty-nine her second husband died and she was left with four children and an inadequate income. But her children had loved her dearly and cared for her as well as they could. When Mother asked Myrt if she would like to live with us, she said “Yes”. Per decided to live in a boarding house. Myrt had been working as a milliner in Ball & Welch, but it was agreed that she would leave her job and help Mother in the house. Another bedroom had to be found, so Father turned part of the back verandah into a room for Myrt. Myrt was the sweetest, kindest person and very witty. We all loved her.
The following year, on 26 October, Le was born in a little hospital in East Camberwell. She was called Le after Mother, Annette after our grandmother and Kingston, a family name on Mother’s side. Le was the fourth generation to be named Kingston and I have no idea of its origin.
Myrt was in charge of the family and was managing beautifully until June became a bit feverish. Myrt administered what she thought was a teaspoon of magnesia, but it was a teaspoon of ammonia. Fortunately, June did not swallow it, but the inside of her mouth was burnt. Poor Myrt and poor June. And poor Mother when she was told of the accident.
The sleep-out was filling fast, with June in a bed and Le in the cot. We were now six sleeping there.
There was high drama on the first warm Sunday after Le was born. Mother suddenly declared: “I can’t go to Church. I haven’t got a thing to wear.” The problem was solved as quickly as possible. Mother made a trip into town and bought a French model. it was finest white cotton crepe with blue embroidery.
About this time Father, with Auntie May’s help bought his first car. It was a grey Chevrolet tourer. After Sunday School, we would all pile into the car and Father would take us for a spin. We all preferred to have the hood down, so if it were showery, it would go up and down several times during an outing. Mother learnt to drive She had become involved with the Management Committee of the Methodist Homes for Children. She was the youngest member of the Committee and she would pick up some of the older ladies and drive them down to the Home at Cheltenham for the Committee meetings. Mother drove a car the same way she did everything — efficiently and fast. And she found it speedier to change from first gear straight through to third. She drove for about 25 years, never had an accident, but was pulled up once for speeding. When Joy was living in Castlemaine, Mother drove up to see her every week or two. The drive from Balwyn to Castlemaine was over 60 miles. Mother’s record time was one hour.
Her work for the Methodist Homes involved selling buttons in the City on Wattle Day. It was one day in the year that was put aside for children’s’ charities. Mother set off quite innocently, to sell her share. But she didn’t last very long. That night she told Father: “A man was rude to me.” She cried bitterly and swore she'd never allow herself to be so humiliated again. The following year she took her quota of buttons and sold them to her friends at Church. And she managed that way for the twenty or so years she worked on that Committee.
The fashions were changing radically in the mid-twenties and Mother’s appearance changed with them. Mother and Auntie Eth decided to have their hair bobbed. Mother knew that if she consulted Father, he would not like the idea at all. So rather than go against his wishes, she did not tell him what she planned. I'll never forget the look on Father’s face when he came home that night. A look of shock, followed by deep hurt. He said nothing, and being the tolerant man he was where Mother was concerned, soon accepted her new look quite cheerfully. From then, for the rest of her life, Father cut Mother’s hair. Another startling change took place at Nyora where they were holidaying for a fortnight without the children. I had been looking pale, so it was decided that I should join them for the last week. A change of air would do me good. I was astonished to find that Father and Mother were dancing with the other guests in the evenings. Father was a strict Methodist and had not approved of dancing. Mother loved to dance, so she was permitted, provided she danced only with other women. This was how the holiday began. Then some young women staying at the guest house had insisted on teaching Father to dance, and he had found it great fun, and decided that it was not a sin.
When they returned home, it was agreed that they should all have dancing lessons — Mother and Father, Auntie May and Auntie Eth. The carpet was rolled back in Auntie Eth’s sitting room and a Frenchman named Mr Finch gave the lessons. It was all a great success and in no time they were going to balls on Saturday nights. Mother’s first ball dress was typical nineteen twenties. It was in dull satin, a flame colour, short and sleeveless. She had stockings and pointy satin court shoes dyed red to match. And she would wear one of her grandmother’s shawls. With this dress she wore the printed wool — a hound’s-tooth black and white check with a paisley border in red and green. Her next dress was palest pink beaded chiffon, and she wore the embroidered silk shawl with it. This dancing period lasted for twenty years or so, Father dressing up in dinner suit or tails, and Mother, bubbling with excitement, wearing one of a series of beautiful evening dresses.
Another incident happened at Nyora which puzzled me greatly at the time, but eventually I recognized it as typical of Mother’s defence to the world. One of the guests found some scales in a barn which resulted in a little ceremony of everyone being weighed. Mother quietly walked away.
I was astonished and begged her to let herself be weighed. “I have no interest in knowing what I weigh.” And as far as I know she never knew her own weight. In her own eyes she was a bit overweight, but she never talked about it. Her maxim was: “Never point out your faults to other people.” She was her own harshest critic, but she never published the results. She was unerring in her choice of clothes, always becoming to her. I remember once she bought a hat on impulse and decided later that it did not suit her. She took it back to the shop saying: “My husband does not like it.” The shop did not accept the hat, but I never saw it again. Occasionally, Mother would find herself in a situation which was beyond her control. It could be a travelling salesman who would not take ‘No’ for an answer. Mother would resort to: “my husband would not let me,” which even as children we thought hilarious.
Mother was in her late forties when she started powdering her face, then, with great daring, she used lipstick. It was a brand that most women used when they were “painting their mouths” for the first time. It was called ‘Michel’ and was transparent, the merest hint of colour. Father immediately detected it. He did not object to the powder, but he protested firmly at the lipstick. There was a little scuffle in the breakfast room as Father tried to wipe it off with his handkerchief. Mother defended herself, “May uses lipstick.” “But that is different,” said Father. “Why?” In loyalty to May he could not say why. So Mother won again.
Mother absolutely loved having babies. All her babies were planned and when she was forty-two she planned her last. Brian was born on 29 April, 1926. Mother had decided to have the baby at home. She thought the care of the family, including two small girls, was too great a responsibility for Myrt. This last baby, born when Mother was forty-three, very nearly cost her life. She utterly refused to be examined by a doctor during her pregnancies. Father would inform the doctor of the due date and Mother would not see him until he was called to deliver the baby. On this occasion, Mother engaged a nurse who would live in and look after her for a fortnight. We woke on the morning of the 29th to the sounds of Mother in labour in the front bedroom. We dressed hastily and were sent up to Auntie Eth for breakfast. It was Auntie May who heard alarming sounds coming from the bedroom. She told the doctor who was making preparations in the kitchen. He rushed into the bedroom. Mother had collapsed, her tongue had fallen back into her throat. The doctor had packed in his bag the instrument needed in this emergency; a lucky after-thought he told Father later. So Mother lived. Before we left for school we were taken into the bedroom to see Mother radiant with her new baby in her arms.
Mother combined an immense joy in having babies with complete inability to talk about pregnancy and sex. She herself lived a secluded life during the last five months of her pregnancies. She would leave the house only after dark to walk around the block with Father.
In the months after Mother’s death, Father found some comfort in reminiscing about her with me, about her charms and her foibles. There was the talk he had had with his future mother-in-law before his marriage.
Garkie told him that she had tried to tell Libby of the facts of life, but Libby had put her head under the bedclothes. The honeymoon must have had its problems, but Father coped. I remember coming across a letter that Mother had written to Garkie while still away on her honeymoon. She was “wonderfully happy” and “Os is marvellous.”
The sex education of her adolescent daughters was not solved by Mother, but by an innovation of Father’s. Rupert Willis was persuaded to write two booklets — “Sex for Boys” and “Sex for Girls”. They were illustrated with simple diagrams and published by the Methodist Book Depot. When Mother put this little booklet into my hand, she made her one contribution: “Don’t ever let a man touch you.” Joy has no recollection of being given the little book to read. I feel sure Mother must have offered it to her and Joy was either not interested or did not want to know about sex. It was left to Ray to enlighten her after they were married. June had received her sex education from friends at school before Mother, with much embarrassment, raised the subject with her. June reassured her that she knew “everything”; she and her friends had worked it out. Le also was well-informed by a girl friend. Mother’s additional information was: “Don’t believe what anyone tells you. God has his own way of planting his seed.”
After Brian was born Mother was busier than ever. She continued her involvement in the management of the Methodist Homes for Children. When Brian was still a baby, Mother would take Myrt and him in the car when she drove to Cheltenham for a Committee meeting. When Brian’s feed was due, she would excuse herself and feed him *in the car. Myrt would then mind him while Mother returned to the meeting.
Father was now attending the University as well as running his accountancy business. He was also spending a great deal of time organizing the raising of money to build the Methodist Babies’ Home. Mother was quite sure she had the best husband in the world, and that he was the cleverest man. It was natural he should be involved in projects outside the family and she cheerfully took over responsibilities which otherwise would have been his.
Myrt married Laurie Dredge on 17 December, 1926. They had known each other in the Brunswick days, living in the same street and both going to the Sydney Road Methodist Church.
Mother now managed the house and family with only the help of her daughters. We were all taught house-keeping skills as soon as we were old enough to cope with them. In the years that I lived at home, I do not remember Mother ever doing shopping for food. When Joy and I were very small, she would write out lists for us and fold the money in the list. The shop-keeper would write down the prices and fold the change back into the list. This was necessary only for meat, fruit and vegetables. Groceries, bread, milk and dairy produce were delivered. Mother was a great manager and her health was remarkable. She was quite undamaged after the birth of her six children, not even one small varicose vein. But when Brian was five, she had her first and only serious illness. Tonsillitis developed into quinsey (peritonsillar) abscess and she was put into Vimy House which was then in Queens Road. At the time, Joy was in Ballarat doing Art at the School of Mines and I had started the Art course at Swinburne. I stayed home to house-keep, missing the whole of the second term of the first year.
Mother very nearly died. She was in hospital for several weeks, came home to recuperate, then returned to have her tonsils out. Osteoarthritis gave her pain in her knees during the last ten years or so of her life, but in no way curtailed her activities. After the tonsillectomy, Mother continued to manage the house, but for the remaining three years that I was at Swinburne I made all the beds before leaving in the morning.
The weekly wash for eight people was simply enormous. In the early years of her marriage, Mother washed on Mondays. Father would get up extra early to get the fire going under the copper. But she was so eager to get it over, that the wash was brought forward to Saturday morning. Keeping the fire going under the copper was a very desirable job, as one could read at the same time. Eventually a gas ring was connected and it boiled the water, but with all those sheets and towels the copper was filled three times over. Mother, ever eager to get at a job, brought the wash day forward to Friday. We swore that if she tried hard, she could organize it so she had sixty wash days in the year. Bath towels and sheets were folded carefully as they came off the clothes lines — three long lines stretching the depth of the back garden and held up by the traditional clothes prop, a forked sapling. Even so the ironing was a huge job. Mother mostly did this in the evenings, with family life going on around her in the breakfast room. Occasionally, while one of us sewed, another would iron and Mother would read to us. She was not so good at making up stories; Father was the expert there, but she read aloud beautifully and it was always a special treat.
Both Mother and Father were great readers. Mother liked novels, Father enjoyed poetry. When he wasn’t working on a project or studying Father would read poetry for pleasure and relaxation. And he enjoyed it most when he was reading aloud to Mother. When we were on holidays they would go on long walks together, then sit in the forest or on the beach while Father read poetry aloud. He even read to her while she was doing hand washing in the wash house. I can remember Idylls of the King in the wash house and The Sentimental Bloke in the forest at Marysville. The books I associate most with Mother, the ones she talked about a great deal when she was reading them, are Mary Webb’s Gone to Earth, Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career and Up the Country by Brent of Bin Bin. Kristin Lavransdatter was one of her favourites and it was a book that June was forbidden to read. And she loved Wuthering Heights and the Forsythe Saga. Le was nearly called Fleur.
Mother was at her most stubborn when carrying through the little economies she had learnt as a child. A fire was never lit before four o'clock regardless of the temperature. If, by bedtime, a mallee root was only half burned, she would get it onto a dustpan and carry it out to the back gully trap. There it would be doused under the tap and put back on the fire next night. If we complained of the cold during the day, we were advised to put on more woollies, Or “some exercise will warm you up. The dining room needs vacuuming.”
Her capacity for loving far outweighed her capacity for economising. Mother loved people, her husband, her family and friends and all babies. And she loved many every day ordinary things. She loved chocolate gingers, the smell of tar, a “wholesome” salad, the sponge cakes that were served with afternoon tea at the Wattle Tea Rooms in Little Collins Street. Mother loved to drink hot water, to eat the crust on brown bread, to ride on the front of a cable tram. She loved small dogs, her jewellery and fine clothes. She loved singing hymns and the sound of magpies carolling. But of all things, she loved best the flowers that grew on her Spencer’s Pink Camellia tree. If there were a friend for whom she was feeling a special affection she would give her a basket of Spencer’s Pink, and she would present them as if they were made of gold.
After Myrt had married, Father had added to her room and Joy and I slept there. A hot water service was still a thing of the future and one or two hot baths a week was standard procedure. The three youngest ones would be sat on the kitchen bench every night before bed and faces, hands and knees given a thorough wash. Mother, herself, became a cold shower-in-the-morning addict. She asked for volunteers among the more grown-up members of the family, but I was the only one game. Mother would be up before six-thirty, have her shower and dress. Then, still in my sleep, I would hear her running down the passage to our bedroom. She would strip off my bedclothes, help me upright, collect my clothes and usher me into the bathroom. While I got out of my pyjamas, she'd turn on the cold shower, soap a wet face washer which would land on my back as I stepped into the bath. I was fourteen when we started these cold showers, and though the rest of the family thought we were crazy,, Mother and I loved them. When the hot water service was installed, everyone had a hot shower in the morning, but Mother and I always had a cold shower to follow. Eventually June and Le followed Mother’s example and had a cold shower after their hot ones.
Joy and I, now in our teens, were going out with boys. Mostly in group activities organized by the Church-tennis on Saturday afternoons, occasional “socials” on Saturday nights and picnics, huge ones like the annual Sunday School picnic on Melbourne Cup Day, or small ones to Belgrave or the river at Studley Park. Mother kept an eagle eye on us, as well as thoroughly enjoying the coming and going of the various boy friends. Mother was as susceptible as ever to a charming young man. If the boy friends were in our own age group. Mother did not worry, but if they were seven or eight years older she did worry. Any young man who took me to a dance, a film, ice skating or just a ride in his car had strict instructions to have me home by midnight. Mother would get ready for bed, put on her dressing gown and sit in the sitting room, knitting. She knitted, over a few years, a very long white silk scarf, in moss stitch, for Father. The sitting room light intruded successfully and cut short farewells at the front gate, I was eighteen when I realized that Mother no longer believed she could make me do as she wanted, just by the force of her own personality.
Flying was quite an undeveloped industry, and though there was an aerodrome at Essendon, there was no regular schedule of commercial flights. But there were “Joy rides”. I planned with a few friends to have a flight at Essendon, ten minutes for five shillings in a Gypsy Moth. I told Mother, fully expecting her to forbid it. Instead she said: “Betty, I would rather you didn’t go.” She was asking me not to go, not forbidding it, so I went. There were no arguments or ill feelings and from then on, our relationship changed. We were good friends.
About the same time, I lost interest in Sunday School and wanted to leave. Mother was most upset and begged me to keep on attending. I'm sure she felt that as long as we went to Sunday School our virtue was assured. As a last desperate effort she tried bribery: “Betty, if you go to Sunday School until you are twenty-one, I'll give you a red leather coat.” She knew I coveted such a coat, but I did not change my mind. Mother could accept defeat. She never again referred to this incident nor was she resentful towards me. Nevertheless, the three younger children had to struggle to get exemptions from Sunday School and Church.
When I was twenty and longing for a room of my own Mother came to my aid. She persuaded Father to relinquish his workshop. This was part of a sturdy weather-board block which included the wash-house and back lavatory. Father had the room lined with plasterboard, a second window was added and a built-in wardrobe fitted. I designed a bed and chest-of-drawers which Father had made by a cabinet maker. Mother helped me choose a rug, and material for a bedspread and curtains which I made myself. The whole project was quite expensive, as Father had to build a new workshop for himself in the back garden.
I had become friendly with one of the art teachers at Swinburne, a charming, well-travelled, sophisticated woman. She was asked home to dinner one night. Next day she told me how much she had enjoyed herself, how clever my father was and how sweet and shy Mother was. I was astonished. Mother shy? Then I realized that Mother had played the perfect hostess, smiling and interested, but she had hardly spoken a word. She had felt out of her depth. Sometimes in a case like this, through nervousness, one might talk too much. But not Mother. She knew instinctively how best to cope with any awkward situation.
Myrt’s baby, Judith, was born on 4 March, 1930. The baby was beautiful and Myrt and Laurie were overjoyed. But when Judy was about two years old, Myrt was found to be suffering from tuberculosis. Mother took Judy and Myrt was in a sanatorium for two years.
By the end of 1934, I was in my first job at Prestige in East Brunswick. There were 114 hours of travelling night and morning and I could no longer help with the bed-making. Mother, with three of the children still very young and now Judy, had to have help. She employed a girl who was ready to leave the Methodist Homes for Children. The first one was Jean, and she slept in a room at the Jones’ next door, and spent the rest of her day at our house. The help Mother received was not very expert, but she was happy with the arrangement. Jean left when she was old enough to be more independent and was followed by more girls from the Methodist Home.
Mother always had this great regret that her formal education had finished when she was twelve. Father’s education after he had turned fourteen was made possible only by his sister May saying she “would leave home and take Os with her unless he was allowed to stay on at school.” As May was the main bread-winner at the time, Os stayed on at school. With this background, both Mother and Father “worshipped” education. Godliness came first, but Education would have just beaten Cleanliness for second place. As children we were given books for all celebrations. Our progress at school was followed closely and we were really expected to be top of the class. I remember Mother’s saying that she would not dream of going to a Speech Night if a child of hers were not going to receive a prize. When Joy and I were quite young, Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia was published in fortnightly parts. Money was short, our pocket money was a Saturday penny, but the encyclopaedia was purchased. It was eventually bound into twelve volumes. This was followed by a gift from Auntie May — Cassell’s Book of Knowledge in six volumes. These two sets of books were the backbone of the reading of all Mother’s children. They were read for entertainment and used as reference for all our school projects. Father told us that he would pay for our education as long as we wanted to keep on learning. The result was that Joy and I both stayed at Technical schools until we were twenty-two, June was at the University part-time doing Commerce and Arts until she joined the WAAAF when she was twenty-two (she completed her degree after the War), Le contributed a little to her upkeep by doing nursing. She finished training when she was twenty-two. Brian did Engineering at RMIT, but because of illness he failed to take his final exams. Mother and Father pleaded with him to repeat his last year, but he chose to start work. He was then nineteen. Mother and Father were ahead of their tire in believing that education was as important for girls as it was for boys.
Joy’s marriage to Ray Burkitt on 14 December, 1936 was the first wedding in the family. It was a big wedding and traditional. Joy was dressed as a bride and I was one of her bridesmaids. The reception was held at the Wattle Park Chalet after the ceremony at our Church, the Canterbury Methodist. Ray, in his speech, gave advice to young men. When a man had decided on the girl he wanted to marry there was one way to ensure success — not to work on the girl, but to work on her mother. It was the secret of his own success, Ray said. Mother laughed with the rest of us, but we all knew Ray had charmed Mother as well as Joy.
Soon after Joy married, I said to Mother that I wanted to live in a flat of my own. By then I was earning enough money to do so. Mother’s response to the idea was to burst into tears and say: “Betty, if you leave home before you get married I shall never get over it.” She was so distressed that I never raised the question again. In those days it was unusual for girls to leave home before they married.
When Ralph and I planned to get married in 1938, we wanted a very small wedding. We would have liked a Registry Office, but compromised by having a Methodist minister marry us at home. Mother was quite happy about this, but I had great difficulty in keeping the guest list to a minimum. My list included my parents, my three sisters, Ray and Brian, the three Dredges and Ralph’s sister Beryl. Just before the ceremony — , I was astonished to see Uncle Per walking up the path with a parcel under his arm. Uncle Per made many unannounced visits, but never at eleven o'clock in the morning. I said accusingly to Mother: “You asked Uncle Per.” Her answer was: “I certainly did not.” After the ceremony and lunch in the dining room, Mother suggested that I might like to introduce Ralph to Auntie Eth. I agreed and rang to see if she were home. She was. When we arrived, I was astonished to see Nancy and Molly there, looking all expectant. Mother of course had arranged this all in advance.
This time I did not even bother to protest.
After Peter was born, a new relationship developed between Mother and me. At first we lived next door to the Cherry Road house, in a flat in the Jones’ house. Mother loved all her grand-children as if they were her own babies. I would take Peter in to visit her nearly every afternoon and we'd sit happily together for an hour or two, gazing at the miraculous baby kicking on the floor. After a few months, we moved to the house Joy and Ray had just bought; then when Peter was nine months old, to our own house in Balwyn Road. Always I was within walking distance of Mother and every week-day I would take Peter in the pusher to spend a few hours with her. No-one else, except Ralph, was as entranced as I just to watch and talk to my baby.
When I was in hospital after Rick’s birth, Mother looked after Peter. At the same time Le was a patient in the Royal Melbourne having developed tuberculosis pleurisy after two years of her training as a nurse. Somehow Mother managed to visit us both every day and bring us great bunches of flowers picked from the garden. Peter was not yet three and attended kindergarten in the mornings. I guess Mother left him with Myrt in the afternoons when she made her hospital visits. Le was in hospital for three months and Mother visited her every day. There was petrol rationing, it was war time, and Mother made the trip to and from the city by tram.
When Rick was eight months old and unable to sit up, we suddenly became alarmed. I now needed Mother’s support more than I ever had in my whole life. She was quite magnificent, lavishing her love and understanding on me, helping me in both emotional and practical ways. There were many trips to Collins Street specialists before Rick’s case was correctly diagnosed — he had had a cerebral haemorrhage at birth. Father paid for the taxis I had to use for these doctors’ visits and he paid all the doctors’ bills.
When Andy was born, 22 months after Rick’s birth, I was housebound. Every day Mother would phone to ask what messages she could do for me. She would arrive in the afternoon laden with the messages and extra gifts such as bags of oranges or apples. Ralph was wonderful too. Mother would say: “I have the best husband in the world and Ralph is the second best.”
A year later Auntie May died suddenly of a stroke. She was seventy-three and had been to work in her shop in the city as usual that day. Plans had just been completed for two houses to be built in Belmore Road — one house was to have been for Auntie May and one for Mother and Father and the three children still living at home. Auntie May’s house was never built, but Mother’s and Father’s was. They hated leaving the old house but the new house was much more convenient and easier for Mother to look after. They hated leaving their garden in Cherry Road, but they had the excitement of planning a new, bigger garden together.
Mother was sixty-four when the move was made. At this time her memory was beginning to let her down, but she would never admit it. The nearest she came to openly admitting this fact was to say: “Dad has a wonderful memory.”
Father was worried about Mother driving the car. Once she forgot the way home from the city, but fortunately Myrt was with her. Mother would have been outraged if she'd been told she was not well enough to drive. Father solved the problem by buying another car, one with the gear change on the steering wheel instead of on the floor. Mother kept saying: “You must teach me to drive the new car” and Father kept on postponing it. She finally stopped asking, without realizing that there had been a little plot.
Within the next few years, Le married Tom Beenie, June joined Foreign Affairs in Canberra, (Mother wrote every week to June during the years she was in the WAAF and when she was in Foreign Affairs) and Brian married Doris Heywood. While we were living under her roof Mother kept a watchful eye on all our comings and goings. As far as she could, she imposed her standards on us. But once we had left home, she never interfered with what we did or gave us any unasked for advice. She remained loving and concerned and, I think, the perfect mother-in-law. Ralph always spoke of her as a ‘fantastic woman’.
Mother was lonely when she found herself without any children at home. Mostly there had been a dog and a cat in the family and they had been Mother’s animals despite who was the nominal owner. The last dog had died in the Cherry Road house.. To keep her company, Father bought her a little Australian Terrier, Danny. Mother loved him, but by then the traffic in Belmore Road was very heavy and Danny was run over before he was two years old.
Mother was reading less, but she became expert with tapestry and made a set of seat covers for the dining chairs. As her memory deteriorated, she became more dependent on Father and he was never more loving and protective.
Mother kept a diary of her daily activities and every day, before he went to the office, Father would go over the diary with her. Joy, Le and I were all living within a mile of the Belmore Road house and every day Mother would have lunch with one of us. She was a short bus ride to Myrt’s and the house of her old friend, Nellie Gordge. At least once a week, she played bridge with her friends at Nellie’s place. She was really beyond playing bridge, but her friends so loved her that they would tactfully play her hand without her ever realizing it. Then one of them would walk with her to the bus stop and tell the driver where she was to get off. Father would know her movements for each day, and would ring her at midday and again at four in the afternoon. She never forgot these reassuring phone calls. I remember her at my place. When the phone went at twelve, she hurried to answer it. “That will be Dad for me,” and her face was radiant, as if she were about to speak to her lover, as indeed she was.
In spite of the limitations her failing memory placed on her activities during these last years, Mother faced the world in her usual way — head up, shoulders back and with a smile on her face.
The one real row between Mother and Father happened not long before she died. They were asked by friends for dinner. After the real, the scrabble board was brought out and Mother was shown to a comfortable chair and given a magazine. Father played scrabble with his hosts, while Mother said nothing, but quietly turned the pages of her magazine. When they got home she told Father just what she thought of him; she'd never been so insulted in her life and he had permitted it. She was so furious, that by the time they were ready for bed, Father said: “As you don’t want me here, I'll go and sleep in one of the other bedrooms.” Which he did. Father was quite shattered by the whole affair and told me of it a few days later. He finished his account with a typical remark: “But she’s so lovable.” Mother never referred to the incident.
From Father’s story: “During the last five years that we lived in Belmore Road, Le’s memory was gradually getting worse. It was not really upsetting, but it meant that I had to take over the management of the house — the cooking and the washing, which I was glad to do. In fact, during this period Le was never more lovable. I was her total security and she wanted me close to her all the time. A dozen times a day, I would take her face in my hands and say as I kissed her: “I do love you, darling.” Her reply was always the same: “I love you the best of all.”
“The end came suddenly. I arrived home from the office to discover her in bed. She had walked home from a meeting at the Church and she was tired, so she went to bed. She wanted to get up for dinner, so I helped her into the dining room, and we dined together very happily. After dinner, I felt she would be better in bed. As I helped her stand up, she suddenly slumped and I had all I could do to keep her upright. She was unable to walk, and as she was too heavy to carry, I put my arm around her waist and dragged her backwards up to the bedroom, frequently stopping on the way, the perspiration pouring out of me. I got her into bed and phoned Joy who was around in a few minutes. The doctor came soon after, and after an examination, he said she had had a stroke, and must at once go into hospital. She was quite unconscious as the ambulance men carried her out to their conveyance. It was a melancholy journey to Epworth, Le unconscious and I holding her hand, and knowing it was probably the last ride we would have together. ...After she reached the hospital, Le was still unconscious, lying there with a lovely colour on her cheeks, a perfect picture. As I bent over I kissed her and said: “I do love you darling,” and though she had her eyes shut and seemed to be unconscious, she said: “I love you best of all.” It was the last time she spoke.”
I was in Canberra staying with June when Joy rang and told us of Mother’s stroke. We flew to Melbourne immediately and visited the hospital, but Mother did not regain consciousness. She died on the fifth day, “in her sleep”.
Mother’s death certificate eventually came to m to put in my files. I was astonished to read that her age had been entered on the certificate as seventy. Then I realized what had happened. Father had given Mother’s particulars to the hospital when she had been admitted. Instead of her correct age, seventy-three, which he certainly knew, as they were born in the same year, he gave it as seventy. There was a chance that Mother would regain consciousness, and if she had seen her statistics above her bed “Age, 73,” she would have been furious. So Father did what he had been doing all his life, he dropped a few years for her.
We all knew that Mother had two fears-old age and death. I think she would have feared she was growing old when she was twenty-five. When we were young and asked Mother how old she was she would always say: “Twenty-one.” By the time June and Le were asking the same question, the answer was: “One hundred.” But she was lucky. She grew old and she died, hardly knowing it was happening because Father was there at her side.
Not long after she died, Father wrote his last poem for Mother.
Since my Beloved-ed went to Thee
O God, how dark it is!
Since my Beloved-ed went to Thee
The light has gone, and I am all alone.
I stumble on with listless steps
And breaking heart,
And ever ask the ageless question — “Why??"
No answer comes
Except the echo still repeating — “Why?”
My reason tells me she is gone,
But still my heart refuses to believe
And says it is not true,
’tis but a fearful dream
From which I shall awaken soon,
But yet I cannot so deceive myself
I know it is a fact —
A fact immutable.
Her sweet face I shall take no more
In my cupped hands,
And press my lips against her lovely lips.
No more shall I embrace her in my arms,
And hold her to my throbbing heart.
Oh how I yearn and yearn for her.
My heart is ever reaching out
Until my eyes are dim with tears I fear to shed.
She was my inspiration and my joy,
We lived together as one life,
The more we needed each the other,
The more we loved, We loved and understood.
And now, it seems,
The purpose of my life is gone,
And I am overwhelmed with loneliness.
And yet I dare not let Self pity flood my soul,
Nor let a selfish apathy
So blind my eyes I neither see or care.
I am persuaded that
It was the fullness of the time
For her to go,
And I am grateful for the way
She left this world for Thine.
It all was merciful and kind.
Although with aching heart,
I yet must strive to re-construct
My little world.
I must not make my soul
A secret cloister for my grief,
But open wide the door
To let the heavenly breezes through
To sweeten it for use again.
I cannot let the present pain
Blot out the lovely past
The sorrows we together shared
In silent sympathy,
The joy, the laughter, and the fun we had
Through all the halcyon years.
So I shall live again
The precious time I had with her.
As memory softly enters in
I feel that she is near to me,
I see her lovely face,
And sweet communion hold with her.
While I am practising the presence of my Love,
Peace overflows my soul.
I am content, because I know
That in the morning we shall meet again.
F. Oswald Barnett
Per was not a Hyett but he grew up among them. The ones he lived with and those he met he remembers very well. This is ‘Per’s Story':
Per was born on 6 May, 1893 at 219 Roden Street, West Melbourne. He was christened Percy James Ephraim Sanders. The family always called him Percy or Per, but Per told me: “Percy was too flash for me. When I joined up I said my name was James and I've been Jim to my friends ever since.”
Per told me his story in 1977 when he was eighty-five years old.
“Mr Cowmeadow got me a job in a brass and iron foundry in the western end of Latrobe Street. It was called Coppel and Lee. They still trade under that name. I was thirteen. I was just a labourer. I worked there about six months. It was too rough on my hands and I had to give it up. They said I would get poisoned hands if I carried on.
“I was out of work then. It wasn’t easy to get a job. You had to line up — about thirty or forty boys. Things were bad in those days, people don’t realise how it was. I got a job after about six months — up in Exhibition Street at a coppersmith’s. I was supposed to learn the trade, but I never learnt it properly. The boss up there was a bit erratic and I was the only boy working there. At this time Frank used to spend time with Italians and others, in a building in Mountfield Street. This group had dinner regularly in an Italian restaurant, Camusso’s Cafe Bohemia, in Lonsdale Street. Well, I made a big copper pot for that restaurant, for cooking spaghetti.”
While Per was working with the coppersmith an incident occurred that Os remembered sixty years later and retold in his own story.
“One day Percy was walking back from the coppersmith’s shop when he saw a crowd of men gathered in the street. (When I asked Per about this, he remembered and said it happened on the corner of Spring and Lonsdale Streets.) He pushed his way in, and found a bulldog had fastened its teeth into a little fox terrier and the bystanders could do nothing to make him let go. So Percy lit his blow lamp and placed it behind the bull-dog’s tail. There was a terrific howl, the bull-dog jumped into the air and bounded down the street.
“But it was too late. The little fox terrier was dead.”
To continue Per’s story:
“I worked at the coppersmith’s for about five years, and then I went to work at McKay’s in Sunshine. I wasn’t very long there because the war started and sheet copper and all metals became in short supply. A little was made at Newcastle but not much. I was out of work a few months then went up to Natimuk and I put in five months over the summer, harvesting. Having been a coppersmith I could mend farm implements. I saw a harvester with a lot of little cups and I was able to fix it. If it was raining I spent the day mending tools. The farmer said I could go into town and buy anything I needed to do this work and he would pay for it. The man wanted me to stay on — he said he'd make me a good farmer, but I didn’t want to be a farmer. I got 30/- a week and bed and tucker. I had to send some home to the family. Mum used to write to me there and I used to ask the farmer to give me some money. They were bad times alright. I thought things would be better if I cam back to Melbourne, but they weren’t — they were worse. I couldn’t see any prospect of getting a job, so I went and joined the military, much to Frank’s disgust. He told me I was a bloody fool. He didn’t agree with it. I've often thought it would have been better if Germany had won the war. The world would not have been in such a sorry state as it is now.
“That was in 1915 — I was 21 years and 10 months. Mum didn’t like the idea. Poor Mum, she thought I'd be killed. We used to read about the casualties in the paper. I thought I'd escape somehow, though I was in the thick of it. My pal, the boxer Tom Hartney, he got through too. Hundreds of men enlisted because there were no jobs. We thought the war would be over before we got there. We were living at 26 Carnavon Street, East Brunswick. Frank and Libby were both married, so I left just Mum and Myrt at home.
“We trained at Royal Park for about three months then we were shifted to Marybyrnong. It was an artillery camp. Frank lived just outside Royal Park in Royal Parade. I said I wanted to be moved to the artillery camp, but I'd have to have influence. Frank said: “Would Colonel Head be of any use?” and I said: “Yes, that would be a help.” He said: “I'll go in and see him.” I thought the Colonel wouldn’t take any notice of Frank because he was a well-known anti-military man and had taken part in the anti-conscription campaign. I said: “Your influence won’t be any good,” but he said: “Yes it will, I know him, he is the auditor of the Union and we are on good terms.” Frank kept on good terms with everyone, not just friends but enemies too. So Frank came into the camp one day, but the Colonel had gone interstate, so he saw the next best man, Captain Kean. When he made himself known and said he was a friend of Colonel Head, Captain Kean showed him all around the camp and treated him in a very friendly manner. This was at Royal Park. So I put an application in the office there at Royal Park. And the man said: “Have you got anyone behind you?” and I said: “Yes, I have the Colonel behind me.” So he thought that was a joke and unknown to me he tore up the application. I think Captain Kean passed the word on to the Colonel that I wanted to be transferred and that I was Frank’s brother and the Colonel said “Yes” and then the application form couldn’t be found as it had been destroyed. In the office at Royal Park they thought it was just a joke. There was a great flurry and I had to put in another application quick and lively and I was transferred then. And I went to Marybyrnong. I was learning artillery drill. The only time I was ever in a strike was at Marybyrnong. I don’t know what we were striking about, but when the bugle blew for everyone to turn out we didn’t.
“There was some infection, I think it was meningitis, going around the camp and a number of men died. A lot of people in Melbourne died. I went home one night to see Mum and Myrt. I said to Mum I didn’t feel too good — so I left early that night. I was slow getting back to camp. I felt bad and sat under a tree in Royal Park. Eventually I arrived back at Marybyrnong. I went to the camp hospital. It was after midnight then but they were on duty. The sergeant on duty gave me a tablet and told me to come back on sick parade next morning. And so, next morning I went on sick parade and the medical officer was Dr Jona. He went crook on me and said: “You were the man who came in drunk last night?” I said: “No, I don’t drink, Sir.” He prescribed some tablets for me and put me on light duty. No drill. The light duty consisted of picking up any rubbish around the camp, but I didn’t do much of that. The quartermaster said I looked sick and I wasn’t fit to do any duty at all. He said: “Go and get out of sight and roll up in a blanket.” There were plenty of blankets down there. He said: “You go up on sick parade in the morning” which I did. I struck a different doctor and he said: “What were you doing walking around with a high temperature?” And I said: “How was I to know I had a high temperature?” They lay me down on some blankets in front of a log fire — the hospital was overflowing there were a lot of sick men then. Then this Dr Jona arrived — they brought him in to look at me. And then they got me out of the bed and into an ambulance and took me to the base hospital. That is where the police barracks are now, in St. Kilda Road. I was in the base hospital there for 2 or 3 weeks. I had meningitis, but I survived that. I always seem to survive. I went back to Marybyrnong, then I was transferred to Royal Park again. Out of the Artillery. They needed more Infantry men then. Only about a month or two later, in 1916, we left Australia in the “Shropshire”. I was attached to the 24th Battalion, 2nd Division, 6th Brigade. Our Battalion colours, a diamond, white over red.
“I spent the last night at home with Mum. Libby came to spend the night and I slept under the table. The couch was too soft after sleeping in camp. We slept on a ground-sheet in camp. We could sleep anywhere provided that it was hard. It’s what you get used to.. None of the family came down to the ship to see me off. I didn’t want them to. But they were there to welcome me when I came home.
“It was very rough in Bass Strait and I ‘Was sick there. I don’t know what went wrong, but they put me in the ship’s hospital for a while. But I was not there for long. I had some good friends there too. They were a lot of fine fellows. They're all gone now. I was in the ship’s hospital when we were going across the Bight. The “Shropshire” was one of those ships which roll and I was nearly thrown out of bed. We didn’t stop at any port in Western Australia. The last bit of Australia we saw was the Cape Leeuwin Light. For a lot of them it was the last glimpse because they got killed. The next time we saw land was at Durban. It was between two and three weeks to Durban in those days. We landed at Durban and had a few days there. We had taken a live koala on the ship with us. We fed him on cabbage leaves and anything green. We always took the bear ashore with us and we'd have a long string of natives looking at it. I took it in turns with Tom to carry it. He was just called Teddy. Then we went on to Cape Town to take on coal — we didn’t stay long there. The reason why we went around South Africa was because there were too many submarines in the Mediterranean.
“The next stop was the North West coast of Africa — Sierra Leone. We landed in England in Devon and went straight into a train and went to a village called Wool. And then we got four days leave. I went and saw Mum’s cousin, Tom Young. He lived at Southend. He had a brush business at Pentonville Road in London. Then I went back to the camp at Wool and then we went by train to Salisbury Plain. The koala died that night. Poor little Teddy, he died in Tom Doherty’s arm . I felt very sad. Tom said: “Pass the word on, Sandy, the bear is dead.” We should never have brought him. No gum leaves. We should have known better. The camp was about two miles from Stonehenge. That was a very bad winter and some of the fellows were dying from influenza and other cold weather complaints. Every morning we used to march up to Stonehenge and back again, just to warm up before we did any drill. One of the jobs I had to do was standing in the rifle range recording the shots. That was a freezer there. You got no exercise. I started to mark every shot a bull’s eye. The officer woke up and pulled me out.
“After about three months on Salisbury Plain the time came to move off into France. We were taken down to Folkestone in Kent. We didn’t see anything and we weren’t allowed to. The blokes might nick off and they wanted us all to arrive in France. They had big corrugated iron fences so that we couldn’t run off. Next thing I remember was landing in Boulonge in France. On the outskirts of the city there was a very steep hill. We had to climb up this hill loaded with baggage. We got into a train there and went to a place called Etaples where we were put into a camp. We were a long way from the Front Line there and the French people were going about their own business. The French were never allowed near the Front Line. We were in Nissen huts. It was an improvement on the tents. You didn’t have to get up in the night and drive the pegs back into the ground. We'd had a taste of that in Royal Park. It had been a very wet November before I left. There had been so much rain that the Melbourne Cup had had to be postponed. The ground got sodden and when the wind blew the pegs would not stand the strain. We had to get up in the middle of the night and drive them in again.
“Next thing we went into the forward area at a place called Dead Mule Corner. The railway was running as far as a place called Albert. We stayed the night in Albert. The town was in ruins. We slept in amongst the ruins — whatever shelter we could find. There were a few Nissen huts around but not many. You had to take a chance.
“The spire of the church in Albert had been knocked over. Not by the Germans but by the British. Because it acted as a range finder. A lot of the destruction had been done by the German bombs because they knew where to land them. So the British knocked down the spire. It was the first ruined town I'd marched through. The railway ran that far but no further.
“We were not in Albert for long. We had to march to the front line at night, to Dead Mule Corner. There were some trenches and a bit further on Fritz was moving around doing a bit of retreating, so we didn’t know where he was. We marched on to the Front Line just before daylight. We didn’t know what was ahead. It was all new and strange to us. A great big British naval gun opened up and they make a terrible noise. We all learnt what to do without being told. We just dropped down onto the ground. It was the safest thing to do. You carried your tucker with you — South American bully beef and dog biscuit. The bully beef was too salty. We just ate when we felt like it. It was easier to carry inside than outside. I was able to keep near Tom up to the time I was wounded. We were separated then and I never knew what had become of him until I ran into Tom again here.
“We were at Dead Mule Corner for some weeks. We were clearing up some. old battlefields and burying dead men. Weld sleep anywhere — in a shell-hole — but always on the look-out for trouble. We always had to stand to, ready to fight just before daylight. We kept on moving all the time, clearing up battlefields and collecting piles of ammunition. Sometimes we marched and sometimes we were driven in army service wagons. The Germans would come over by Gotha planes and drop bombs on us. Occasionally they caused casualties, but not too often. One day there we marched back down the road to Albert. We'd been up the Front for about six weeks, I suppose. We were exhausted and felt we couldn’t walk any further — mainly on account of our feet. The condition was called “Trench Foot”. After being in slush for days or weeks on end our feet would get swollen. We daren’t take our boots off as we'd never get them on again. We got to a dug-out not far from the main road and the wooden steps were all broken down. We slid down as far as we could go. I could only get halfway down the entrance. In the morning I was stiff with the cold and I couldn’t do anything for myself. So the lieutenant got two or three blokes to come and rub me and pummel me to get the circulation going before I could move. When the feeling came back into my body I was a mass of aches and pains. Later on, a number of us who were troubled with our feet had to sit with our feet in wooden tubs of hot water. It had some sort of powder in it. Then we powdered our feet and the insides of our boots and socks. My feet recovered but at Boulogne, after I was wounded, I met a fellow — he was in the next bed in the hospital — who had had his feet amputated after a bad attack of “Trench Foot”. Your feet go black in the last stages.
“After a few days in Albert, we were ordered into a train and we went up to Belgium. I can’t remember where we got out, but there was a big sugar mill there. I think it was called Letransloy. That is where we saw more of the Front Line. It was merely a string of shell-holes connected together making a shallow trench. It was very often full of slush. We were watching out for an attack. They usually attacked just before daylight. The Fritz used to put up great red or yellow flares. We didn’t need to put up any. They served for both sides. If there were no flares going up you had to look out. They'd try and take us by surprise. I used to carry about three or four Mills bombs. They were like young shells. We'd attach a steel rod of about V and poke it down the barrel of the rifle. Then you'd load a blank cartridge and when that was fired it would send off the Mills bomb about ninety yards. It made a terrible explosion. They were deadly. We'd be out of the Front after a week or ten days. They'd give us a spell. It would be about 1/2 mile or less behind the Front Line. You found any old ruins and camped there. I can remember on one occasion we were sleeping under a couple of sheets of iron when Tom woke me to tell me to hang my gas mask around my neck. I'd not slept for a couple of days and I was too tired to bother. But I could have been gassed. I remember on one occasion I went to sleep standing up. I was supposed to be on look-out duty.
“This went on for some months. We were in much the same spot all the time. Then we went out of the Line to a place called Wardreques somewhere in Belgium or Northern France. You never knew which, half the time. The language is much the same. There were some civilians in Wardreques and we were back in billets. We were there for three or four weeks, I think. We were staying in an old factory that hadn’t been knocked down. In some places there was hardly a brick standing. It depended on how much fighting there had been.
“It was 1916 and a dreadful winter. It was a terror. I went to a trench mortar school. They are deadly weapons, they are. A sergeant named Bert Boyle had fixed it up. I said at first I'd sooner stay with the boys, but Tom Hartney said: “No Sandy, it’s all been fixed up for you, you need a break.” We would walk around with sand bags tied around our legs to keep them a bit dry. But mud and slush would collect on the bags and we were dragging a couple of extra pounds on each leg — it was very tiring. So I went to the mortar school. These were organised to supply new experts to fill the place of anyone who was killed in a trench mortar area. It was target practice on a miniature rifle range. There was an Englishman beside me and he was trying to make out his sight was very bad. Said he couldn’t hit the target, which was nonsense. I didn’t know anyone was watching and I was reported for putting a few shots on his target. I thought he wanted them but he didn’t. He was malingering. I was hauled up before an old colonel who was in charge of the trench mortar school. And this old colonel lectured me. He said: “You Australians think you can run all the way to Berlin with a bomb and a bayonet.” And we did think that, provided the Army Service followed up with the tucker. We wanted to get the war over quickly. I, and a number of others from the school, returned to our battalion. It was still in the area of Wardreques.
“At one time we were camped at Bullecourt near Albert. We had an officer there who came from Euroa. His people were dentists. He was called Captain Maxfield. He'd have us out in daylight creeping around in No Man’s Land. One time when we were on this daylight patrol, Fritz started up with his machine guns and I jumped into a shell-hole. I wasn’t in a hurry to get out until dark and I stayed in the hole by myself. There were some new boxes of Mills bombs and I opened some of the boxes — just to kill time. I found there were no detonators in the bombs. It would be just like throwing stones at the Fritzes. I waited in this hole till it got a bit dark and then I made my way back to our line. I told the Captain what I'd found — a number of boxes of Mills bombs with no detonators in them. He said: “Well we'll send a party out to find the bombs and you can be the guide.” As luck would have it, I had left an old bayonet stuck into the ground with a bully beef tin on top to mark the hole where I'd found the ammunition. The whole of the battlefield all looked alike. The officer was with us and half a dozen other fellows. The officer went crook because I couldn’t find the hole again. I said to him, if we spread out and go down this way one of us will come on it. He said if we didn’t watch out we'd be walking into Fritzs barbed wire. So that’s what we did, spread out and went down to the right. And we came upon it then. We had to load up with the boxes and find our way back to our own lines. One big bloke named Meagher got shot in the tummy. I don’t know what happened to him. A man often didn’t survive a shot in the tummy as there was no expert treatment in the Front Lines.
“It wasn’t long after that we went into the Front Line again. There was fighting at various places such as Polygon Wood, Broosind Ridge and later on, Paschendale. That’s where I got hit. Out ahead of the Front Line was an Australian machine gun post. It had been out of ammunition. The lieutenant asked for volunteers to go out and carry a box of ammunition. I saw him looking in my direction and I volunteered. The practise among the men was not to volunteer, but I saw him looking in my direction and I said: “Yes, I'll go.” A box of ammunition weighs fairly heavy. This had to be done in broad daylight. I got the box on my shoulder and I said to 2 or 3 hefty fellows: “When I say ‘right’, you give me a push up.” The German machine gunners, they'd be about 100 yards away, they'd hose you with bullets. Not continuously — there would be gaps. So I said to the blokes: “Wait until I say ‘Go’.” So I picked the moment and as soon as I said ‘Go!’ I rushed with all I was worth with this box of ammunition on my shoulders. I went headlong into the hole where the machine gun was. It was a run of about 40 or 50 yards. I was supposed to return to my line, but I stayed with the machine gunner until it was dark.
“Then there was a general attack. It was called the Paschendale Offensive and lasted from July to November 1917. Old Field Marshal Haigh was blamed. There were thousands of men killed and not much ground gained. We paid dear for any advance we made. We went over the top early in the morning. It was light. We knew what was coming because a few days earlier we were told to attend a Church Parade. I remember old Father Campbell, the chaplain, celebrating Mass and gave us all absolution.
“The day was 14th October, 1917. When we went over the top I'd lost my cobber, Tom Hartney. I was with a big fellow from the country named McDonald. The shells were flying all the time. I shouted to him: “Over we go!” — or something and gave him a push. But he had been shot and was dead. He just fell over. It didn’t seem to worry me — I just went through it. I wasn’t sensitive then. The older you get the more sensitive you become. We were scattered as we came out of the trenches. We were running in the direction of a big pill box — a huge concrete enemy defence position, partly sunk in the ground. I'd gone some distance further on, past the pill box and a great huge Fritz came and rushed at me with his arms in the air. He could have rushed onto my bayonet. And he was singing out: “Mercy, Camerade, mercy, Camerade!” I suppose he thought I was going to kill him. I just signalled him to go on into our rear and he gave a great cry of relief. I never killed anyone with a bayonet. Though I'd been in other attacks, this was the last and is very clear in my mind. I suppose we'd gone about 11 mile over very rough ground and I didn’t feel anything, but all of a sudden blood spurted out in front of me. I just dropped my rifle on the ground and grabbed my shoulder. I saw two of our blokes in a shell-hole beside me. I jumped into the hole and they tied me up. I suppose I fainted through loss of blood and when I came to I was by myself in the shell-hole and I had a dreadful thirst. I could have drunk a bucketful. We were carrying two water bottles. I emptied them both and I started to climb out of the hole but found that I couldn’t. I tried to climb out six or seven times but I must have fainted again. I woke up in the bottom of the hole. I wasn’t worried much except for the shells dropping nearby — and dirt flying around and coming into the hole. I became very drowsy and didn’t much care what happened to me. I could just see a signaller’s telephone line running across the top of the hole and I thought that if someone didn’t come and pull me out of the hole I'd chop it in half. Then the signallers would look for the break in the line and they'd find me. But gradually I became more drowsy and lost interest. Late in the afternoon — I'd actually lost count of time — one of our blokes appeared and I looked up and he said: “What’s the matter, Digger, are you hit?” I said “Yes, and I can’t get out of this bloody hole. I've tried often enough but I wake up in the bottom.” So he assisted me to the top of the hole. It would have been about ten feet deep. He laid me on a waterproof sheet. I couldn’t do much for myself. I must have lost a whole lot of blood. He said: “Wait until I go and get some blokes to help me.” I couldn’t walk or do anything. There were plenty of shells moving overhead but the actual battle had moved on. He came back with four or five other fellows. Somebody produced a stretcher and they carried me back to a dressing station that was in a cellar. There was a doctor there. He gave me a drink of brandy and tied me up. And he said: “Cheer up, son, you'll get a Blighty out of this.” The next part wasn’t too good. After I'd done with the doctor there were a lot of Fritz prisoners standing around and they handed me over to four of them to carry me to the rear. They had to carry me down a corduroy road of planks laid on the mud. After they'd carried me some distance, with the stretcher-bearer walking alongside with a chunk of wood for a weapon, the stretcher-bearer said: “We don’t need four of you to carry the stretcher, two are enough.” That wasn’t good for me as I got jolted about. I suppose they carried me a short distance. though it seemed a long one because of the state I was in. Then I was put in an ambulance with five other men, all on stretchers. They were all wounded and groaning and moaning. We were driven a mile or two on a rough road. It was dark by this time. I learned afterwards that the dressing station where we were taken had originally been the civil prison at Ypres in Belgium. It would be about nine o'clock at night. The doctors looked at me and tried a bit of cardboard on my buttonhole. It would have had a report of my injury but I wasn’t interested. We were sent on again in a horse-ambulance. It appeared a rough ride because of the condition I was in. I can’t tell how many miles we travelled, but it was an agonising journey. Then we were put in a kind of hospital. It was called the Second Canadian Clearing Station, staffed by Canadians. It was a big wooden hall which had been converted into a hospital. As far as I can remember, I was covered in mud and lay on a bed for about three days. A number of Chinese, who couldn’t speak English, would come up and offer you water or a mug of cold tea. Then one day two doctors came up to me — they were Canadians, and they said: “We'll take your arm off altogether, digger — you'll be better then.” I had been dry retching. I was taken to an operating theatre and they took off the arm. I didn’t worry about anything. After a day or two, I remember waking up in a hospital train. I was then between clean sheets. There were three bunks and I was in the top one. I don’t remember being put in there. A nurse was offering me a bowl of soup. As far as I can remember, I was in the train a few hours. Then we were put in a hospital consisting of big marquees. It was at Boulogne. I remember the nurse said: “You can get up now if you feel like it” and I said: “No — I resolved that the first bed I got in, I'd have a week in it” and I wouldn’t get up. The nurse brought the doctor and said: “This man has been told he can get up if he wants to and he won’t.” The doctor said: “Don’t you feel well?” and I said: “Oh yes — but I haven’t slept in a proper bed for months.” He said: “You stay there then if you feel comfortable.” I was in this hospital about a fortnight or three weeks and I didn’t get up. I did attempt to get up one day and the wind blew me over on top of the bed — I was that weak.
“Then one day — it appeared to be some time after midday — we started on the move. I was still on a stretcher and we were taken down to the wharf and put aboard a boat. Then we made a number of false starts because there were submarines in the English Channel. Eventually we got away — we got a clear run across the Channel. About midnight we landed at Dover, and we got put aboard the hospital train again. Then when the train got near to London we could hear land explosions. We discovered afterwards that there was an air-raid on in London. It was not the first one — there had been others. The train slowed down — and went slowly until we got into the outskirts of London. Then we travelled, in the same train, rapidly down to Brighton. We were taken to the Kitchener Hospital which had been a former workhouse. I remember a doctor called McCarthy, Irish Canadian — he spoke like a Yank. He came up to me and went to touch my shoulder. I pulled away and he turned the covers and said: “You've lost a wing. You've only got on the card here — Penetrated Lung.”
“We were in this hospital for some time and Cousin Tom, Mum’s cousin, came down to see me. He had a business in London, a brush manufacturing business in Pentonville Road opposite the big prison. He wanted to help me and wanted to give me some money. I explained that I didn’t need any. We were known as the seven-bob-a-day tourists. We didn’t have to pay for a ride in the tram to the town and we didn’t have to pay to go to the pictures. I used to send most of my money home for Mum. If it hadn’t been for Mum in the first place, I would never have joined up.
“I was in this hospital for four or five weeks. It was here that I first got up. We used to get up every day and go down to the town on the tram. Eventually we were transferred to Dartford, a place much nearer to London. It was there I saw an old doctor, a well-known Melbourne doctor, Dr Springthorpe. He used to come out to Brunswick to visit my dad to tap his legs for dropsy. But he didn’t treat me. There were shell-shock fellows there too, and they would do digging in the garden. It would help them to forget their worries.
“After we left Dartford we were transferred to Weymouth, a camp just outside Weymouth. It was a little fishing village and we had to wait there for a vacancy on a ship going back home. We were there some weeks. During all the time since I was wounded I didn’t have any particular friend. We were all Australians and that was it. It had been different at the Front. Tom Hartney, the boxer, had been my particular friend at the Front.
“I came home on the hospital transport, the White Star Line, the “Corinthic”. On the way home we called at an English colony, Sierra Leone. We had to stop there and take in fresh water. We stayed at Cape Town where we had to take in coal. I remember at Cape Town I saw some lovely pears and I bought a big bag of them. I washed some and sat on a seat to eat them. There was a coloured man sitting at the other end of the seat. I moved up on the seat and offered him the bag to take some and he was astonished. He said: “No white man offers anything to a black man in South Africa.” He thanked me most profusely and took some pears. we weren’t long in Cape Town, then we started on the long trip across the Indian Ocean. It was now almost two years since I had left Australia. It was the same routine day after day — nothing seemed to happen on that trip. When we weren’t having our wounds dressed or having meals (the tea was distasteful — it was made out of distilled water and wasn’t nice at all) we’d play “Crown and Anchor” or some other gambling game. “Under and Over” was another one. Or “Two-up”. The usual were two bob bets but some would bet ten bob. The chaplain would walk around and see us but he didn’t seem to mind. He'd say if there was a service in the fore part of the ship and ask us to come along if we wished. But most of us didn’t wish.
“We passed the light-house on Cape Leeuwin at night time — we could see the flashing of the light but nothing else. We didn’t call at Adelaide but came straight to Port Phillip Heads. I remember coming into the Heads after taking the pilot aboard. People in small boats came to meet us. When we got off Queenscliff the small boats came alongside. When we'd called at the African ports we would throw money down to the natives in their little boats, then hang a rope over the side and they'd send up fresh bananas or a pineapple or something or other. At Queenscliff a fellow called out: “Here are the natives with their peanuts and bananas” — I'd reckon that was funny. (Per laughed a lot as he remembered this incident and said: “I never lost my sense of humour. I think that helped me get through.”)
“We arrived off Williamstown about midday. We had to wait for the usual formalities to be gone through. We finally docked at Station Pier and the first relatives I saw were Frank and Ethel with young Frank on his dad’s shoulders. We returned men were put in cars and taken to the Barracks at St. Kilda Road. I was in a car by myself. In the Barracks Yard I was suddenly kissed by a well-dressed woman. I didn’t recognize her — I thought she'd kissed the wrong fellow. I wasn’t sure who it was and said “Wait until I go and get some pay.” I had some months’ money due to me. When I came out of the pay office she was missing and I couldn’t find her. But Frank was there then and I found him and said this well-dressed woman had come up to me and kissed and hugged me and I didn’t know who she was. And Frank said: “Perhaps it was Libby.” And I said: “Well she looked more like a bookmaker’s wife than the wife of a lay preacher.” Then Libby turned up again and this time I recognized her. Mum was there too. She was sitting in the front seat of a cab outside the Barracks in St. Kilda Road. I don’t remember her saying anything; she never talked much. Then we all went home to 26 Carnavon Street in Brunswick.
(I also remember Uncle Per’s homecoming. Joy and I were at Annie’s, our grandmother’s house. We were in bed and I suppose it was Father who had stayed to look after us. Per did not remember seeing him at the Barracks with Mother. I woke up as they all came in the front door and I remember my grandmother saying: “Quickly, shut the door or the light will blow out.” The hall was lit by a gas light. That’s all I remember. I was five years old.)
“I got a few days leave to stay at home. There were still rubber tubes in my shoulder to drain it. Sometimes the bandages would come off while I was asleep. Mum could not cope with fixing it up. She would cry. So I would go around the corner to the Hill family. Mrs Hill didn’t mind re-bandaging the shoulder for me.
“Then I got a tummy upset. I was taken to Caulfield Hospital but they could not diagnose it and sent me to the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Fairfield. I was there for two or three weeks then sent back to Caulfield. I was in Caulfield for about six months until the shoulder properly healed. Then I was sent to a big new hospital at Mont Park to rest. After about six weeks I was sent back to Caulfield. There I was seen by Dr Henty, a nice little man. He said: “Back again. Aren’t you sick of being shunted around in hospitals?” I said yes, I was, but I was a bit nervous of going out into civilian life again with only one arm. I was no good now for belting the copper about. He said he could give me a discharge within the next few weeks. I was entitled to a wooden arm and I saw Sir George Syme. I thought it would improve my appearance and make it easier to get a job. But Sir George said: “Nonsense, man, an artificial arm wouldn’t be any use to you.” He refused. But he sent me to the artificial limb factory at the back of Caulfield Hospital. The manager was away so I went back to Sir George and he roared at me again. I spoke to Frank and he said that if I were entitled to an arm I should certainly get one. And if the doctor remained stubborn he'd report him to Frank Brennan the M.P. and Dr Maloney. I saw Sir George and told him what I was going to do and he was a bit scared and finally gave in. He sent me to Dengers in Swanston Street. Two departments were mixed up in it — the Defence Department gave me the arm and the Repatriation Department gave me the fist. But it was too heavy and useless. Years later I got another wooden arm which was light. In the meantime, the Limbless Association had got me a job. I was driving the lift at Arlington Chambers at 229 Collins Street. I had that job for about 23 years. I had to leave because of the freezing conditions during the winter. It was an open work lift. The doctor came and looked at the lift and said it was detrimental to my health. When I was on the lift I married Beryl Hopkins. I was 40 and it was June 1941. We bought the house 11 Carlyle Street, Moonee Ponds during 1942 or thereabouts and we've lived there ever since. Then I had a succession of odd jobs lift driving. The Limbless Association got me a job as a clerical assistant at the Department of Supply. I was at the reception desk. I acted as receptionist and general factotum. If anyone had to wait I entertained them. I was there for 16 years, until I retired at the age of 65.
“All my life I've loved football. I started following it when I was very young. When we were going home from school we'd look out for any beer bottles. We got a penny each for them and threepence would get us into Carlton footy ground for the match on Saturday. I suppose I was about nine years old when Libby took me to a footy match at the old Fitzroy ground — Essendon v. Fitzroy. Thurgood was playing. In my opinion he was the greatest footballer of all time. It became a habit of the family to give me an Essendon member’s ticket every year for my birthday, which was on 6 May. The football season often started on that date because there were only eight teams in the league. When Frank was a boy and living in Roden Street he followed Essendon too.
“When we were living in Bishop Street Frank played cricket and football with Coburg. I used to go and watch him there in the old Coburg ground in Bell Street. Then he joined up with Brunswick which was sub-district. Coburg was a junior body. He played a few seasons, both cricket and footy with Brunswick but he became more prominent in cricket and retired from football. He was so successful in cricket that Carlton called on him to go over there. He was quite happy with the Carlton Cricket Club. He may have held office in the Cricket Club but I look with contempt on cricket and I took no notice of it.
“Until 1921 Essendon played at a ground in East Melbourne. Then they moved to Essendon for the 1922 season. The players have compulsory training on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I used to go and watch them after work. I retired in 1958 and since then I've seen all the training nights, more or less. In 76 years I've missed only five or six matches. During World War I Essendon stopped playing. Only four teams played through the war. Last war John Curtin said to play on, it was good for morale.
“I'm prejudiced against cricketers because they ruin the ground. You've seen the footballers playing in mud? Well, it is cricketer’s mud. And they behave like arrogant landlords. They don’t own the grounds. They are either Crown Land or Municipal property. The ground at Waverley came to be built because the trustees of the Melbourne Cricket Ground with-held tickets for the finals from the local football supporters. People from Sydney and interstate could always get a ticket for the finals and the locals couldn’t. So Sir Ken Luke said it was time to build a ground of our own.”
Six months after Per had finished telling me his own story and he had been recalling what had happened to other members of the family, he said to me, “You know, a lot of horrible things happened in the war that I haven’t told you.” I tried to persuade him to tell me all that he remembered. He said, “No, those things are better forgotten. And also for the record, I never bayoneted another man. I didn’t want to go soldiering, I only went to help Mum and Myrt.
Betty Blunden, Parkville. January, 19 80.
In March, 1991 Andy Blunden visited Tasmania for the first time. He was able to locate the grave of his geat great great grandparents, William and Ann Hyett in the Sorrell Cemetery.
When I first saw the Hyett grave, in 1963, the tombstone was leaning slightly, but in one piece and upright.
The next time I visited the cemetery, in 1978, the headstone was in two pieces and lying on the ground.
Before I left Hobart I arranged to have it mended and set upright again.
Then, in 1991, Andy found it in two pieces and on the ground again. He was able to arrange for it to be fixed, properly this time. Before he returned to Victoria he visited the cemetery and found that a good professional job had been done, and the headstone was upright again.