Tuesday, 29 August 2017


Skibbereen by James Mahony, 1847.JPG
The scene at Skibbereen, west Cork, in 1847. From a series of illustrations by Cork artist James Mahony (1810-1879), commissioned by Illustrated London News 1847


So many stories and articles have beeen written about the Great Famine   an Gorta Mór  ... but these first hand accounts certainly portray the reality of that time.

Courtesy of TROVE

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), Wednesday 21 July 1847, page 3 

National Library of Australia

To make it easier...

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), Wednesday 21 July 1847, page 3

There are reports of continued mortality, of the usual stamp. According to the parish priest of Coaclford, 4,000 out of 6,000 souls who compose the population of this parish have not for the last three months had 'even one substantial meal in the day.' One in every seven of the population is reported to be sick ; and of 300 families, among the most destitute, ' not less than three on an average in each family are afflicted with fever, dysentery, or dropsy.' The mortality, as may be easily conjectured, is very great under such circumstances ; so many as forty adults dying in one day. 

Commander Caffin has addressed a second letter on the state of Mayo, to the Kev. G. Stoddart, which we have been requested to publish : — 
Her Majesty's Ship Scourge, Belmullet, 
Co of Mayo, 
March 10, 1847. 
My dear Sir— I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter and its enclosure, with many thanks, for really the demands upon my own purse were so many and great, that I should soon be a beggar, or else have to steel my heart against the misery and woe around me. To do this would indeed be a work of difficulty, and my only desire is, that all who are rolling in riches and affluence in our land might be a participator with me in those scenes which I feel it my duty to witness and represent; nay, I will say more, it would 'indeed be well for their souls' good to see what poor human nature can be reduced to, and must thrust the inquiry upon all, 'Who maketh me to differ?' I much regret that I could not have furnished you with the state of thing in 'his barony before; but really my time is so much occupied in attending to duty, that it gives me little to devote to myself. I must plead this, too, as an excuse at this moment, fear-ing I shall be able only to give you a hurried and short note, as I leave for Westport, Newport, and Clifden, to-morrow morning, delivering the remainder of the cargo of the Society of Friends. In the barony of Erris about Belmullet, the wretchedness is very great, and the cases of death from starvation of frequent occurrence, I, although the greater number are carried off by dysentery caused by insufficiency, change, and unwholesomeness of food. On both sides of Blacksod Bay they are very badly off, aud nothing but gratuitous issue of meal in the extreme cases can do any good. This too often comes too late, and the poor sufferer is carried off without benefiting by it. On the west side of the bay, throughout the whole length of what is called 'within the Mullet,' is wretchedness and woe. At the extreme south point is a village, seldom visited by anybody, called Surgeview; it has about 150 or 200 inhabitants; at this place they had been living upon horseflesh for three weeks past. I rode there in order that I might be able to bear testimony to this extreme state of destitution. It was the fact, and on entering one of the cabins, and being shown a piece of horse, my heart sickened, but a moment's reflection led me to commend these poor people to bring themselves to this rather than allow themselves and their large families to die; some, however, preferred death, or a miserable existence upon limpets and sea-weed, which may be said to have kept them in a state of existence during the winter, together with a little fish which they catch when the weather permits them to venture out in their frail boats, which are only made of open basket work, covered with horse hides or canvas. In one cottage they had a quantity of the horse flesh salted, and some of it smoked. I asked them 'how they obtained this meat? They said that the horses died of starvation, the owners of them skinned them, and then allowed the flesh to be taken; in some cases taking a portion for their own use. In this village lived an old lady with her two daughters — in fact the village belongs to her. She says she cannot get the rents paid, and the people impose upon her sadly. The poor creature, with tears rolling down her cheeks, told me she went to bed last night supper less, and cannot tell how one meal in advance of the others is to be obtained. She is the only Protestant in this wretched vllage, and appears well prepared for that end which must shortly overtake her. Her manners and those of her daughters are quite ladylike, whilst their dwelling is more wretched than you can conceive - a mere hovel, clean as far as it could be. There was no sickness in this village, and the looks of the people bespoke a better state of things than we found. On our return we visited other villages; at Fallmore we found them eating horse-flesh, as in Surgeview. Everywhere the poor creature- with their children barely clad were to be seen searching for potatoes ; and ground which had not been cultivated for two years, on account of the failure, they were now turning and returning, and had done this three and four times over, still looking for some ; those that they got were no larger than marbles. Their principal support during the winter, as throughout this narrow neck of land, was seaweed and limpets. With few exceptions the middle aged and young people were healthy looking, with all their distress ; but the old people and children mostly objects of starvation, and I should fear they were neglected, being unable to provide for themselves. Some of these poor creatures were in bed exposing their limbs in order to show us their emaciated state, and many children positively skeletons, and without clothing. I need hardly tell you that it is very heart-breaking this spectacle, and one which can never be effaced from my memory. It is impossible to convey the melancholy aspect of the whole country lying fallow— not a patch of it touched — and the groups of poor creatures only looking for and hoping that employment may be found for them. Their spirits are sadly depressed. Their cry is for seed, and I do think if they saw any chance of this coming they would rouse themselves, believing that their poor country might yet be saved; but no provision has been made for the ground to do its part ; and the state of things next year must be ten times worse than this. The 12th of next month is considered here the end of seed time, and no ground has as yet been prepared. If seed, however, was to be brought, without delay, I do think the people would rouse themselves and prepare the ground, and things might yet brighten upon them. Green crops, too, such as turnip - and mangold-wurtzle, would do well they say in this soil. It is no use my entering in detail into the actual starvation cases, or to tell you of the particular distress which prevails in any one locality : for they are all alike, getting worse as you travel south, and at Sclhull and its neighbourhood the very climax of misery finds its resting-place. I have no doubt ultimate good will result from all this misery, when He alone who brought it to pass shall speak the word, and say "It is enough.'' A stranger coming among these people is at once struck with the filth and wretchedness of their habitations and persons, but little indeed removed from the very beasts who herd among them. He is at first inclined to think this is consequent upon the present distress ; but it is not so. They have thus lived from the earliest period till now. No care has been shown to improve their condition, and they are little inclined to do it themselves. I think, however, the time has come when it might be done effectually ; and I think your society should, in granting any gratuitous relief, require that some labour be performed for it, such as paving their cabins with slabs of stones, which are to be found in abundance about them, putting their cabies in order, building chimneys to them, and in endeavouring to raise them to a degree of comfort which they are at present ignorant of; this would not stop short of improving their minds too. l have written more than I thought my time would allow —it has been written at random ; but I will convey to you any further information should I feel I can interest you, or forward the object of your society. You, of course, are at liberty to make use of this letter, or any parts of it, as you may think fit ; and refer any one for particulars to the simple truths which I stated with reference to Schull for detail, which will answer quite as well here as their starvation, in all its stages, is to be found.— Believe me, my dear Sir, very truly yours, 
Crawford Caffin. 

To the Rev. George H. Stoddart, Hon. Secretary, United Relief Association, 40, Leicester square. The following letter has been addressed by the Rector of Schull, in the county of Cork, to a London contemporary : — 

Sir,~Of all the direful scenes of misery which it has been my lot to witness during the last two or three months, what I recently beheld bears the fearful palm of wretchedness; and despite all the unkind observations made respecting us and our innumerable woes in another quarter, you, Sir, will, I am persuaded, listen with patience and compassion to tbe narrative of our sorrows in this ill fated, famine-stricken land. A remark of Captain Caffin's during his late visit to my parish, I shall not easily forget:-' My preconceived ideas of your misery seem as a dream to me compared with the reality ;' and when an eyewitness could thus speak, it may well be presumed that the reality is something fearful. What Captain Caflin witnessed, however, was but a very smail portion of our wretchedness. He had leisure only in a hurried drive to examine the hovels on the rode side : higher up among our rocks and fastnesses he might have seen appalling sights indeed. One of these I shall now briefly describe. As I was returning from my sorrowful rounds a boy came up to me and earnestly requested me to go and visit his father. As the boy was personally unknown to me, he and his family being Roman Catholics, I inquired where his father lived, and told him to show me the way to his cabin. Turning from tbe main road, we crossed a bridge which the winter torrents had nearly swept away; and pursu-ing our walk onward we reached the scene of woe. Ay, Sir: and a scene of woe it was, such as in your happier country, could nowhere be paralleled, and which, I almost fear, will be deemed incredible in the delineation. In one wretched hovel, whose two windows were stopped with straw, lived, huddled together, sixteen human beings. They belonged not, however, to one family ; three wretched households inhabited this miserable abode. Out of the sixteen, there were but two of whom it might be said that they were able to walk, and on the exertions of these two poor pallid objects had the rest to depend, if we may except the husband of one of them, who, I was informed, had crawled out to crave a little sustenance from some charitable hand. Of the others, eight were crowded into one pallet— a bed it was not — formed of a small handful of straw, which scarcely kept them from the cold mud floor. The poor father— who has since died— was sitting up, and showed me his legs swollen to the last degree ; beside him lay his sister, and at his feet his children - all hastening to eternity. The remembrance of that sight wrings my heart. But, to proceed. Of another family, the mother, a widow, lay in an opposite corner, famine having scarcely left in her countenance a vestige of humanity, while her son, an only child, sat crouching over a few turf embers, a most gastly object— both of them so hideous, that the very sight of them was most distressing. At the other extremity of this horror-filled abode, were three children, one of them apparently folded up in its deathful sleep ; another pale and amaciated : and the third, an infant, which could not long survive— for among our poor, no mother can now attempt to nurse, all the sources of maternal nourishment being being dried up in her care-worn, hunger-wasted frame. Alas ! Sir. such a scene of woe ! could human misery exceed it ! I withdrew from that emporium of mortal wretchedness with feelings which I dare not to recal. O, what courage does it require to go from one such scene of horror to another! It does, Sir, believe me, and I feel it wearing my very life away. In a parish like mine, which contains 18000souls -I should say contained, for we calculate that 1500 have already perished- and in a district where the potato formed the sole sustenance of our population, can there be otherwise than the most appalling destitution when that esculent was utterly exterminated by a single breath of the Divine vengeance, as it looked on a land steeped with blood ? I have long expected it, and retribution has overtaken us at last ! 
I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, 
Robert Traill, D.D , Rector and Vicar of Schull, 
and Chairman of the Schull Relief Committee. 
Schull Rectory, 
County Cork, 
March 14. 
A gentleman travelling from the Queen's County to Kilkenny, counted the number of farm labourers and instruments of agriculture to be seen either side the road as he passed along, engaged in the cultivation of the soil; and between the village of Borris-in-Ossory and Kilkenny he could observe but nine men and four ploughs so employed ! The number of labourers engaged on the road under the Board of Works was at the same time quite beyond his power of calculation.— Dublin Correspondent of the Morning Post. The Dublin Pilot, of the 20th March, describes the increase of emigration ; the account is but one sample of those to be found in every paper — Every port is filled with mechanics, farmers, and labourers, eager to escape from this devoted island. The town of Dungarvan is about to lose every tradesman and mechanic that can scrape up enough to pay their passage. We are grieved to say, amonst the artizans of Dublin the greatest destitution prevails ; and we have heard that a general meeting is lo be held to petition Government to enable them to migrate. As to the country, the tanners are selling out their interest in the land in great numbers. So far has this system proceeded in the counties of Kilkenny and Waterford, that we have been assured, on respectable authority, hundreds of farms will lie untilled. The tide of emigration has not yet arrived at its full at this port; yet every appearance promises a greater drain of the population than ever before took place. The worst of it is, it is the producers of the wealth — the bone and sinew of the country— that are taking their departure; leaving the mass of poverty behind, and the island a iazur-house. The desire for some larger and more efficient plan of emigration, or even of colonization extends. Here is a sample of the feeling, taken from the Dublin Evening Mail, an able Tory paper — Two modes of disposing of the surplus population of the country are open to those who have the guidance of affairs. They must either take the course pointed out by the practice at all times of overpopulated countries — that of colonization — or they must be prepared, sooner or later, to see famine reduce to its proper standard the number of the inhabitants of Ireland. We regret to perceive, from the announcement of Lord John Russell's determination to reject the former alternative, that it appears lo be the intention of her Majesty's Government to permit the population to be diminished by natural causes; but we trust the subject may be taken up by some one who more justly appreciates the evils under which our country is labouring, and who will address himself to removing the causes of those evils, instead of merely applying temporary and imperfect remedies to their immediate effects. The scheme, it is evident, must be on a gigantic scale ; but we feel certain we maintain the true interests of England as well it's of Ireland, when we say, that a considerable present outlay, affording the certaintv of placing Ireland at once in a position to help herself, would be better and more economical than a constant drain on the Imperial treasury for the relief of Irish distress, which must be the result of the proposed mode of dealing with the subject if persevered in. During the last week of February, Lord de Vesci, solely at his own expense, sent one hundred persons from his estate in the Queen's County to New York, he paid their passage out, directed that they should be provided with beds, provisions, and everything necessary for their transit to the New World, and gave an order on New York that they should receive £I each on their arrival there. The Paris correspondent of the Times mentions that the Bishop of Marseilles had addressed to the faithful of his diocese a most affecting appeal in favour of Ireland, and had ordered that on two consecutive Sundays donations should be received on behalf of its famishing population in all the churches. A correspondent of the Daily News calls attention to the fact, that there is scarcely a school, either public or private, in which subscriptions have not been raised among the scholars in aid of the funds for the relief of the distressed Scotch and Irish. The pupils of Eton sent £170 to the United Relief Association in Leicester-square. We have much pleasure in recording, as a gratifying trait of feeling in Viscount Ebrington, that one of his lordship's first acts on return of the bridal party from church, was to write a check, in the joint names of himself and Lady Ebrington, for £150, in aid of the distressed Irish. — Devenport Journal. We observe that a London Company is in the course of formation, and we were some time ago informed that another had been set on foot by some public-spirited gentlemen in the city and county of Cork, not merely as a good investment of capital, but with the benevolent object of fostering those habits of industry in the maritime population of the south of Ireland, which would improve their character and raise them above poverty. Such companies, if well managed, would confer a real and permanent benefit on that afflicted country.

An 1849 depiction of Bridget O'Donnell and her two children during the famine.

Illustrated London News, December 22, 1849 - ImageCaption
Depiction of the Irish potato famine: The Sketch of a Woman and Children represents Bridget O'Donnel. Her story is briefly this:-- '. . .we were put out last November; we owed some rent. I was at this time lying in fever. . . they commenced knocking down the house, and had half of it knocked down when two neighbours, women, Nell Spellesley and Kate How, carried me out. . . I was carried into a cabin, and lay there for eight days, when I had the creature (the child) born dead. I lay for three weeks after that. The whole of my family got the fever, and one boy thirteen years old died with want and with hunger while we were lying sick.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017



Today marks the fourth and final week of the National Family History Month blogging challenge for 2017... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme, based on a book by an Australian author.

 This week, we have the title..
Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy.


                                                                                                                          Courtesy of TROVE

Power Without Glory is a story of intrigue, subterfuge and the overwhelming yearning for power.. in so many ways...supported by criminal activities, political ambitions and gambling.

The characters in the story are barely disguised depictions of personalities of the time, an interesting list of some well known and  others not so well known, at least in the beginning.
List and further details courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Trove -  Frank Hardy on the left..  
details of photo ... please click to enlarge.

Families are very much the same - some become well known, some work quietly in the background. If someone were to look through my family tree, without reading any of the notes or having any idea of who the people were, they would all seem pretty much the same... ordinary people.

They might note that there are some naming patterns, they might see that they appear to have come from a number of different countries, just by their names.

If they went on to read the basic facts, they might even notice that my earliest known ancestors lived fewer years on the whole that did those of the last few generations.

What they won't see, without delving further, is just what these many generations have achieved, often in stark contrast to their original expectations.

 Take, for instance, a young Irish girl, born in Dublin in about May 1774, to father, Patrick, mother unknown.

This is just one blog post I have written about her, in conjunction with cousins.. As do many of our family, I have great admiration for Bridget, who was my fourth great grandmother. She was from a family who found themselves in trouble with the law. Her father, mother and two brothers, which is all we know about those in her family, were caught and tried for stealing. Her mother and brother were sent to America, Bridget and one brother, Patrick, to Australia, and her father was hanged in front of Kilmainham prison..




"Patrick Eslin (father of Bridget)
The Eslin/Heslin family achieved notoriety around Co Dublin for their involvement in stealing linen and calico from bleach-greens over a period from at least 1788 until 1792.
Patrick was hanged in November 1789 for 'robbing Mr Clarke's printing yard at Palmertown'. The Freeman's Journal reported that: "Yesterday at one o'clock, Hasler (sic) condemned at the last Quarter Sessions for robbing a bleach-green of some linen, was hanged in the front of the prison at Kilmainham. The unfortunate man, who was near sixty years old, behaved himself with great composure and penitence. He begged of the surrounding multitude to pray for him, and after being launched into eternity, expired without a struggle. This principally arose from the dexterity of the county hangman, who is remarkable for his adroitness in giving his subjects for mortality an easy exit - the very reverse of the practice of the New Prison, whose wretches have been seen expiring twenty-seven minutes in torture. One son of the above convict, concerned in the crime for which he suffered, though condemned along with his father for death, has been reprieved for transportation. Another of his sons remains for trial, in the same prison, on a capital charge. Sensible of the situation of his family, into which the father had probably led them, his departure from life must be accompanied with tenfold anguish, if susceptible of any degree of human feeling." from "A Nimble Fingered Tribe" - Barbara Hall

We haven't been able to trace her mother and brother in America as far as I know. Bridget was convicted in July 1792, in Dublin, for stealing calico off the drying green. There are many descendants of Bridget and many of us have been working together to find out all we can.. the following is courtesy of Bev Woodman, one of my Hobbs Cousins...

Bridget was tried in July 1792 in Dublin Ireland and was then transported to Cork by ship to await transportation aboard the Sugar Cane.  The ship sailed on 13th April 1793 so she would have been in custody for about 9 months waiting to sail.  She was only 18 years old but at least had a friend or relative, Mary Hughes on board with her, along with Joseph Kearns who would have also been known to the family.  Bridget's brother, Patrick, was aboard another ship of that fleet, The Boddingtons, but whether Bridget knew this or not is unknown. Unlike Robert's trip, all aboard the Sugar Cane arrived on the 17th September 1793 in good health with the loss of one life (execution) on the trip.
Never-the-less Bridget was only 18, her father had been executed, her mother and another brother (John) had been transported elsewhere and she and Patrick were now in a new colony just over five years after it had been first settled.  Things would have looked so alien, I can only feel that she felt scared and frightened at what lay ahead of her.  At this stage we can only guess that she was either sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta or to the farms at Toongabbie, however sometime possibly in in late1795 she met Robert Hobbs and their first of nine children was born (registered Sydney) on the 19th September 1796.  All other children after that were born in the Hawkesbury area, most of them at Pitt Town.
I often sit and think what they may have felt, initially elated that the trip was over, scared about the prospects for spending the rest of your life in a strange alien place.  Sailing into Sydney Harbour they would have seen nothing but bushland , with strange trees and huge rocky outcrops, strange birds with strange sounds, strange beasts (kangaroos), aborigines quietly observing this strange sailing vessel and the white people on board, and on arrival on shore, looking aghast at the primitive conditions that they would have had to accept in their daily life. They were plunged into a society primarily made up of the military and convicts - and they would have been plunged into the middle of the worst of society, all battling to cope with their own nightmares.  Hopefully for Bridget some kindly person gave her a roof over her head and helped her through these first couple of years until she married Robert.
What is known after that is that she lived the rest of her life with Robert, raised nine children, lived and laboured at Pitt Town on their own land and died in on the 25th October, 1843, four and a half years after Robert who died on the 23rd February 1839.  They are both buried together in Pitt Town Cemetery although there is no mention of Bridget on Robert's well preserved head stone. We should all feel very proud of what this couple endured and that they fought hard to survive and raise a family in the harshest of conditions. * Courtesy of Bev Woodman, Hobbs cousin

N.B. Bridget is now recognised with a joint plaque with Robert, a group effort by a number of our Hobbs cousins.

Bridget married Robert Hobbs, a fellow convict, at St. Matthews Cof E, Windsor, NSW, on Oct 30, 1815. By that time, they already had eight children, the last being born after their marriage.

Both Bridget and Robert were granted their freedom and were accepted as respectable members of the community. Today there  are hundreds of descendants...now that is both glory and power.

Bridget's Certificate of Freedom

I have written about my Greek grandfather's life a number of times...  let me take you back a little further to his father, Haralambos (Harry) Catsoulis, born in or near Potamos, on the small Greek island of Kythera/Kythira.  I have no dates for him. I do know that he married Maria Fardouly and that they had five children... Eleni,  Panagiotitsa (son), Stavroula, George born about 1873 (who migrated to California, America in 1903), and Theodore Haralambos Catsoulis born 21 June, 1878, in Potamos.

 Theodore (Theo), my grandfather, married Chrisanthe Coroneo in April 1904, in the Holy Virgin Church, Potamos.

Potamos- Church of the Virgin Mary of Illariotissa

Chrisanthe, born on May 12th, 1882,  was the youngest child of Konstandine Coroneo and Stavroula Megaloconomos' 10 children.  They were Eleni (b 1854), Theodora (b 1856), Spero (Sam b 1858), Menas (Mick b 1865), Stamatico (b 1868), Marigo (b 1869), Yannis (John b 1874), Kosma (Con b 1877), Panagioti (Peter b 1879) and then Chrisanthe.

I know that Panagioti (Peter) migrated to Australia and stayed in Perth, Western Australia, having arrived in Fremantle. He and his family lived in Money Street, Perth, which is where one of my Aunt's, Nita, was born on March 17, 1914.

Others came to Australia and it's likely that I actually met some of them when I was young, but my Dad had a funny way of claiming relatives. They were his parents' relatives or his, nothing to do with me... so I never really worked out who was what. After my grandmother died, on January 2nd, 1965, we rarely saw any of the Greek families from NSW. We visited a lot of families when she was with us, but as to whom were relatives or friends, I simply don't know as yet.

Here are a few family stories...


Theo and Chrisanthe had eleven children, but only raised nine, as one was stillborn, and one son lived only till 13 months. Their children had eleven between them... and then the next generation increased the family by eighteen, the following generation has added many more and the youngest of the next generation is one, with another babe due very soon.. My grandparents would be so proud, family was everything to them. Papauli (grandfather) always said that Australia was the land of plenty and a wonderful place for raising families - so long as you worked hard, you would reap the rewards... He never looked for power, but he sure would think our family had found glory in all the generations that have followed.

* My Greek grandparent's family details came from my grandfather's notebooks, kept for many years, which were passed to my father. He copied these details for me some years ago. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017



Today marks the third week         
of  National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme, based on a book by an Australian author.

Week 3 - All The Rivers Run.. Nancy Cato

 Summary from Wikipedia...

All The Rivers Run follows the life of English girl, Philadelphia Gordon, from the time when she is shipwrecked and orphaned off the coast of Victoria in 1890. She spends most of her life around Echuca, on the Murray River, and invests some of her inheritance in the paddle steamer called PS Philadelphia. Her life is changed forever when she meets paddle steamer captain Brenton Edwards. She is torn between the harsh beauty of life on the river with its adventures, and the society life in Melbourne with her blossoming career as a painter. It is an adventure and a love story: between her, the men in her life, and the river.

TROVE tells us that there are 34 editions of this book and where to find them.. including audio, in a number of languages..
check here...

 Lots more detail re the story and Nancy Cato  here

As always, the title and a family story set me off on another tangent... I thought about the rivers that had featured in my extended family history... from so many countries including Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Greece, Canada, America, India.. to name a few. 

However that seemed too literal.. then I thought about where rivers run to .. and I had my story. All rivers run to the ocean... the ocean being the whole family, a repository of all who have gone before... the rivers.

As the events report, by no means complete, from my family history program, runs to over 216 pages, I'll spare you all that.

I wasn't aware that my family was a little different till I started school. After all, everyone I knew had Aunts and Uncles and most had grandparents. Maybe not as many in the family as we had, but there were sure some even larger families around. 

We visited many friends of my grandparents and there were always many others coming to visit them. It was all just normal to me. I didn't bat an eye when some spoke another language, as my grandparents sometimes did. I thought everyone spoke differently to their grandparents, though I had trouble at times understanding my grandmother. I asked Dad so many times to teach me Greek as I didn't want to be left out, but he assured me that I wouldn't need it as I was Australian. So, other than a few words here and there, I learnt little, some from my Aunt Mary, a little from my grandfather, but he died juast a few months after I started school, after that I was so upset that I didn't want to know anything for awhile.

He'd told me about coming from Greece, a beautiful island called Kythera/Kythira and said he'd hope I'd visit one day. There were so many questions I still had to ask, but he was gone. 

I think I got about halfway though Grade One when for some reason, some of the children started calling me 'wog girl'. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I could tell it wasn't being nice by the looks on their faces. At first, it was just one or two, then there seemed to be a lot saying the same thing. Then it was pulling my plaits while calling me names. It was only then that I told Mum. She was furious...and went straight up to the school that afternoon. The headmaster lived in a house in the school grounds, pity for him, as that meant he was easy to find... I can still hear my Mum asking what he was going to do about it. 

I had no idea what a 'wog' was... and was very indignant when Mum explained it to me. All I was thinking was that my beloved grandfather was no 'wog'.. he was a very proud, hardworking new Australian... having been in Australia for many years... Later I found that he'd been here since 1904.. it was then 1953, so he'd been here longer than some of the families, whose kids were tormenting me, had been alive. 

 The headmaster talked with the children and some of their families. I never did know what was said, but other than a few odd looks, I had no more problems. That beautiful man then decided to show my class where it was that my grandparents came from. I was so surprised when a week or so after he produced a map of Greece, with the tiny island of Kythera, which is not far from the mainland, marked with a tiny handmade Greek flag.  I hadn't seen such a map before and I was so excited. He'd taken it from 'an old world atlas'.

Thanks to Google Maps.

 He asked me to think about what made my family different, and special. I didn't know what to say. He asked me about food, was there anything that my grandmother made... I answered pickles... I loved her pickles. Of course, it was at a time when 'everyone' made pickles... then, what was my favourite food that my grandmother made... 'baklava'. He was the only one that had heard of it... so that caused a lot of laughter and various comments. He asked me if I could make it... I couldn't then, not by myself, but I said I would ask my grandmother or my Aunt Mary to make some and I would bring some to school. 

Of course, then others in the class decided that their grandmothers were good cooks too, so they wanted to bring along some of their cooking. I can imagine the looks on some of the families when their children went home and said that the next week they wouldn't have to make lunch, just send along some of the good things that their grandmothers, or other family, made. It was to be one week later, on a Friday.

 I was so excited, but Mum wasn't so sure my grandmother would be. My Aunt Mary stepped in and I went to her place one afternoon and 'helped' her make baklava. Luckily she made a big batch, as I knew I wouldn't get any at school, it was always so good. I don't recall all that was brought, but I did see a lot of jams and pickles... I wonder who took them home. All I remember was that the 'yuk' stuff the boys had teased me about, disappeared very quickly. 

 Other than scones, the only other offering I remember was a little unusual.. a bowl of jelly. Of course, it had all melted by the time it got to school, except for a thick layer in the bottom of the bowl. My Mum would have been horrified, as we always had the job of stirring jelly so there would be no thick bit.

 A few years went by till my Greek heritage came to the fore. My brother was at school then and he was being teased a bit, as I was, for taking different lunches.. I loved cold pita (spanakopita ) and was happy to have that, but my friend, the headmaster's daughter, had peanut butter... I'd never tried anything like it, so of course, we swapped.  Then she became interested in other Greek things.. so we decided to show them some Greek dances... I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but we planned to put on a concert, with my brother and I doing Greek dancing. To be honest, we knew nothing about it, but we had seen some relatives dancing. It was all going very well and we were going to make our fortune at 3d a time... till my friend asked her Mum for 3d (about 2c) for the concert.  We'd already collected some money, we had to hand all that back and apologise...so much for our dreams of fortune.

I still haven't made it to Kythera, or Co Clare where my other grandmother came from. I never knew her, as she died when my Mum was just 11, but the pull of my Irish heritage is as strong as that of my Greek.  Add those to my husband's heritage, of Irish, Indian, English... and it's no wonder my small son stood up in class on a United Nations Day and said he was Irish Stew... oops, little boys remember more than you realise.

All rivers run... we are of one world.

Image by Pixabay

* More family stories..





and sprinkled throughout That Moment In Time, as well as this blog.

This post first appeared at https://headlinesofold.blogspot.com/2017/08/trove-tuesday-august-15th-2017-all.html

Monday, 7 August 2017


Thank you to all for supporting this blog over the last year. It has been an interesting concept, far removed from my other blogs, and continues to increase readership post by post.

My most popular post to date has been...


with over 2,600 views and it continues to attract interest. It's good to know that I'm not the only one intrigued by our convict history.

Also very popular was




My very first blog here was for National Family History Month...


My story on my young Great Uncle, John Dillon, who died in a tragic accident, so far from his Irish home, also attracted a lot of attention...


as did my Guest Blogger's (Joan Birtles) contribution...


and this one...


I hope you continue to visit often, or perhaps subscribe by any of the means that suits, listed in the column to the left. Comments are also always welcome...


Today marks the second week of National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme.



 I was surprised to see that the book, first published in 1963, had such a variety of covers... in no particular order.. and just a selection. Which would make you interested in reading this book?                                             

The book became a Miles Franklin Award winner... 

Or perhaps you would prefer the movie poster? The film was released in 1983... also to rave reviews...

The story, as told by Sumner Locke Elliot, tugs at your heartstrings, as a six year old boy, whose mother has died, and who is being raised by an aunt, is suddenly the centre of a battle between a second aunt, who has decided to claim her nephew, as she has joint custody. 

The title refers to the battle between adults as this child is uncertain as to what will happen, in what has been his loving and happy childhood to date. How much does he hear?

This led me to memories of  times when adults were whispering or stopping conversations in mid sentence, so that I might not hear. 
My earliest recollection was hearing that everyone else was going to my grandparents place, except for my brother and me... we were going to our neighbour's, whom we called Auntie Coral. 

 We loved going to Auntie Coral's where we were allowed to look through Uncle Kev's scrapbooks of cartoons or photo albums and laugh at the funny old cars or costumes, or play dress ups with Auntie Coral's costume jewellery and, maybe, if we were very good, she would show us her fox stole. That fascinated and terrified us at the same time. We might even get a treat of 'lob scoush' for dinner...which was Uncle Kev's name for mashed potato, chopped up corned beef, cabbage and tomato sauce... how we loved it.

 However, nothing was as much fun as going to our grandparents' home when all the family were there. My brother didn't mind as much as I did, as I would always help my Aunt and grandmother in the kitchen...there was lots of whispering, but the answer was still a firm 'no', which really puzzled me.

 I was playing at the front of Auntie Coral's house when I saw a whole lot of cars drive out Hungry Head Road.. and raced to call Auntie Coral, and to tell her I saw a big black car that had flowers in it. I asked her what the parade was for. Tears welled in her eyes and she asked if my mother had told me. "Told me what? How come we couldn't go to the parade?" It was then I learnt that my beloved Papauli had died. I was inconsolable.. no wonder the adults were whispering, but I never did understand why I never got to say goodbye. At five, I had lost one of the most loved members of my family.

Other times come to mind. I would be laying in bed, pretending I was asleep, when my parents would listen to the radio, perhaps it was the drama on the General Motors Hour, all I can recall is that the stories would have me listening intently. One night I was listening carefully and there was absolutely no other noise in the house or anywhere else...it was as though the world was holding it's breath, as the tension built. Then I heard that a child had been found, murdered. I burst into tears... and my Mum rushed in to comfort me, yelling at Dad that she had told him I could hear it. I slept with Mum that night and Dad had my bed.

Years passed, I had a family of my own and many's the time, we whispered so as to conceal surprises, or protect the children from bad news items, but I always told them about family dramas, even if not always the whole story.

 Then the tables turned. My youngest brother and I became the carers for our father. It was our turn to be concerned that he didn't hear us when we were given the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. He'd had such a fear of it, as he'd seen his brother go through it, that with his doctors' blessings, we decided to not tell him.  The days, weeks, months, were filled with hospital visits, specialist visits, and dealing with assorted health problems, and strangers coming to the house, as well as his Alzheimer's. Dad's odd behaviour and confusion was increasing rapidly, though some days were worse than others. 

Each morning and each night, we had handover, so each of us would know what had happened on the other's watch and what we needed to be aware of. If Dad noticed us talking he would get very upset, even more so if he heard us, so it was definitely a case of 'careful, he might hear you..'  We hated having to keep things from him, especially when we could no longer keep him safe, nor care for him as intensely as he needed to be. 

As hard as it was, there were special moments also, when, for maybe a moment or two, or maybe longer, Dad would be with us for a while. He didn't hear us when we met with social workers and doctors, nor when we searched to find a place he would be comfortable with. Nor did he hear us when we agreed that he could be taken there from the hospital by ambulance 'to the other end of the hospital' while waiting for more tests. He didn't mind the company and actually recognised an old friend from so many years ago.. but that didn't stop him packing his bags regularly to go home. One of us would distract him, the other would go and put everything back. 

He was happy when the very kind pianist played for the residents in his unit every Friday morning. We would be with him and that made up for all else, as we watched his absolute joy at hearing his beloved music.

After so long of being careful that he didn't hear us, he did hear when I told him that it was ok, Mum was waiting for him. He quietly slipped away, the last words he heard were of love and gratitude.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Today marks the beginning of National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme.

 This week it is as in the title..


As a long time fan of Ruth Park, I had already written a post on her, which I hope many of you have already read, but just in case you missed it, there is an excerpt at the end of the page and the link to the whole post...

POOR MAN'S ORANGE  was set in the then working class suburb of Surry Hills. The Dictionary of Sydney, a great go to site, has a very comprehensive article on the history of Surry Hills...

From the collection of the 

Another site, one of a few, tells of the history of Surrey Hills..


 A few excerpts...

If the worn sandstone street kerbing of Surry Hills, Sydney, could talk it would tell some of the most riveting tales of Australia's past.
Surry Hills history mirrors the history of Sydney city. Soon after the First Fleet's 1788 arrival at Sydney Cove, wealthy settlers spread into the fringe areas but within a few decades the wealthy were moving further out of town and the working class was taking over Surry Hills.
By the turn of the century, Surry Hills had become very overcrowded because of this shift in the population.
When walking past the rows of Victorian terraces today, it is hard to image that 19th and early 20th century Surry Hills was indeed even more crowded.
From the collection of the 
                                                           State Library of New South Wales

However, my interest is a bit more personal. This is the Crown Street Women's Hospital .. where I was born. My mother was very young and was also very ill at the time of my birth. Her memories were very mixed of her experience there. She was in a large ward with women of all ages..what she first noticed was that there were few male visitors, in fact, few visitors at all. 

Crown Street Women's Hospital, Crown Street., Sydney, NSW - 1950 Photo shared by the State Library NSW. v@e.

The staff were very offhanded with her and dismissive of most requests. The first day she had trouble getting anyone to listen to her, or even to get a drink of water. 

Image courtesy of State Library of NSW

She had been admitted with some bleeding and when she asked to be changed, she was told that it didn't matter, it'd all be over soon and then she could leave and find somewhere to stay. She protested and said she needed help, then got reprimanded for getting herself into trouble and expecting others to take care of her problems. It was only when the sister left, that another patient told her they treated all unmarried girls like that. My mother was horrified, she was married and showed the girl her ring. She just laughed and said we all buy one of those, not that it makes much difference. 

 It wasn't till a few hours later when my Dad arrived and insisted on seeing her, that they accepted that she wasn't putting her baby up for adoption as the others were...It took quite some convincing, but she was moved to another ward on my father's insistence. The attitude there was entirely different and she not only got the help that she needed, but an apology as demanded by my father.  He was horrified that any of the mothers to be were treated as Mum was.. he tried to get the newspapers to publish a story about it, but they were reluctant to do so, using the excuse that if the girls couldn't go there, they would be forced into having their babies in the streets... as few places would take unmarried mothers.

 In later years, more stories were revealed... such as this...

 My mother never quite forgave them for treating her and the others  in the first ward as if they didn't matter and spent much of her life quietly helping girls who 'got into trouble' as they said then.

Thankfully, those days blended into others.. changes in attitudes and acceptance over time meant that society didn't, for the most part, treat people like that. By no means were all the staff like this, I have nothing but praise for nurses in general, but it always saddens me that my teenage mum went through such a terrible time. She had no mother to assist her, she had died when my mother was just 11, and must have felt so alone. My parents were always very close all their lives and when Mum passed at just 51, it broke my Dad's heart.

 One of my mother's sisters had been born there many years before, so my mother had been very confident about going there.

 Crown Street Women's Hospital closed in 1983, and with it, went so many memories, some good, some not so good. It was known to be an innovative place regarding women's health and re the survival rate of babies that may have been a lot less if born elsewhere. It had many good outcomes, but hidden away are also many sad stories. 




Ruth Park, pre 1947, by unknown photographer.jpg
pre 1947 
reproduction rights owned by the State Library NSW

I would think that few of us would instantly recognise this lady, but there would be few Australians, and lovers of great stories, who wouldn't recognise a number of her thoughtful portrayal of the lives of early Australians in "Poor Man's Orange" and "Harps of the South".. the author is Ruth Park. I loved both those books and have reread them over the years. I don't recall reading the third in the trilogy, "Missus".. I must look for that. 

Her works included novels, non-fiction and also children's books. She also wrote the children's serial "The Muddle Headed Wombat"...

Rosina Ruth Lucia Park was born on the 21st August, 1917 in Auckland and though she didn't migrate to Australia till 1942, she is often thought of as an Australian writer. I like to think that both New Zealand and Australia can share her.

She lived till the age of 93, passing away on 14 December, 2010.

There is a wealth of information 'freely available' in the 'Pictures, photos, objects' section of TROVE.

You can even read one of her childrens' books, Playing Beatie Bow, by going to open library at 
either online, or by borrowing the ebook as it becomes available. You may have to join the waiting list, or links are given to look for it elsewhere.

Cover of: Playing beatie bow by Ruth Park     

About the Book

A lonely Australian girl from a divided family is transported back to the 1880's and an immigrant family from the Orkney Islands.

Edition Notes

For 10-14 year olds.

A photo taken in 1962 of Ruth Park holding her cat, can be found at Ruth Park holding her cat outside her home in Balgowlah, Sydney, 10 December, 1962 / John Mulligan. As the copyright is in place for some years yet, I am unable to reproduce it here.

Continued here...  link