Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from WWI

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5 Jul 2014 – 21 Sep 2014 
Exhibition Galleries, State Library of NSW

I saw this wonderful exhibition at the State Library of NSW a few weeks ago.

From 1918 the State Library of NSW began collecting the WWI stories of servicemen doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers and journalists so that future generations would know about their experiences.

This extract from the exhibition program gives an insight into the Library’s collection:

By 1921 the total number of war diaries in the Library had reached 247, complemented by collections of letters and in some cases photo albums as well. Today the collection stands at around 550 diarists and over 1100 volumes.

A small number of diaries were acquired from the families of men killed abroad but the majority in this collection were purchased from men who made it home, survivors, many of them diarists over two, three or four years.

The diaries take many forms. Some were written on odd sheets of paper or in memo books or signal message books. Others were cloth or leather bound.

The soldiers, airmen, sailors and nurses who kept a diary, knew they had a big story to tell. For some their diary was a way to connect to home. They were writing for an imagined audience, for the family and friends they left behind. The importance of a  ‘conversation’ with home can hardly be overstated. Along with letters and postcards and sometimes photographs, the diaries were the Facebook of their day.

Last but not least, these wartime chroniclers wanted a record of duty done. They wrote of hard times, of battle and death and ruin everywhere. There are lines, hastily scrawled upon the eve of battle, by soldiers who knew this entry might be their last.

These are voices full of life and fun and fear; and resolute purpose. They are voices from the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century, a tragedy that engulfed an age.

Peter Cochrane – July 2014

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Over 500 World War I diaries on display at the Sate Library of NSW.

The exhibition Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War I is beautifully curated by Elise Edmonds. The chronicle of the war is highlighted by the captivating personal accounts of those who enlisted – farmers, doctors, nurses, photographers and artists – and is supported by newspapers, photographs, artworks, maps and ephemera.

Many of the photographs in the exhibition are by Private Henry Charles MARSHALL (1890-1915) who enlisted in Sydney in the same week as my grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974).  My grandfather’s service number was 571 and MARSHALL’s was 577. They were both in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 1st Infantry Battalion, E Company. They served together throughout training billeted at the racecourse at Kensington. They embarked on HMAT Afric out of Sydney for the Middle East.

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Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

Henry Charles MARSHALL photographed his journey from the military camp at Kensington in Sydney, to Cairo and then on to Gallipoli. He captured the daily lives of the 1st Battalion setting up camp and pitching their tents at Mena in Egypt near the pyramids.

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Pitching tents in sight of pyramids, Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

MARSHALL photographed the 1st Battalion rowing towards the enemy shore at Gallipoli on the afternoon of 25 April 1915. He captured candid scenes of his mates from E Company in the trenches and relaxing with mugs of tea during a lull in the fighting.

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Uncaptioned photo of Australian servicemen at Gallipoli, Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

 On 5 June 1915, both Henry Charles MARSHALL and Ernest Clive BUCK were severely wounded in fighting. Henry received a gun shot wound to the chest and died aboard a hospital ship and was buried at sea. Ernest was shot and bayoneted in the chest. He was evacuated to a hospital ship and then to the base hospital on the island of Malta a fortnight later; and then on to England to recover from his injuries. Ernest was one of the few who survived such severe injuries.

Private MARSHALL’s, films, photos, letters and equipment were sent back to his family in Devonport, Tasmania. His father and sister organised the photos in chronological order and created an album using information in Henry’s note books as a photo index.

I believe the Marshall family offered copies of the photos and albums to the ex-servicemen of the 1st Battalion. My grandfather Ernest had an album, Kensington to Cairo, but not the Cairo to Gallipoli volume. Maybe he did not need photos to remember the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign.

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This is why we wear our hats turned up on the side, Lieut PV Ryan (1881-1950). Sketchbook purchased by the State Library of NSW in 1919.

The exhibition doesn’t only focus on Gallipoli, it gives a voice to all the brave servicemen and women, from the beginning of the war in Ausust 1914, through all the desert campaigns of the Middle East and the muddy trenches of France.

One of the diaries featured in the exhibition is that of Anne DONNELL, a nurse stationed near Ypres, France. On New Year’s Day 1918 she sat on her bed and wept, homesick and exhausted. She had been away from home for three years. Sister Donnell was working in the acute medical ward. Her patients were mainly suffering from gas poisoning and there were lots of pneumonia cases. As she wrote in her diary, she could detect the smell of sickly sweet pineapple in the air – the tell-tale sign of poison gas:

‘10 p.m. Will this restless life never end. As I write the shelling is going on again – heavier too. I am not undressing – It’s a terrible life this’.

The Life Interrupted exhibition at the State Library of NSW is free and runs until 24 September 2014. I recommend you block out a day in your diary to visit the Library, and reflect on the personal accounts of these extraordinary men and women of the global conflict a century ago, which profoundly affected and shaped Australia and its people.

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SOURCES: State Library of NSWKensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. Henry Charles MARSHALL [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]; Kensington to Cairo: photo album, 1914–1915. Henry Charles MARSHALL, Buck/Brooks family collection; WWI service records of Henry Charles MARSHALL and Ernest Clive BUCK.

susanah’s journal – wild beast show

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire.

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Frederick went to Sherborne School July 1836. In October 1836 there was a wild beast show here the animals were very good though the collection was small.

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Susanah’s younger brother Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887), was sent to boarding school at Sherborne in July 1836, a few months before his 12th birthday.

A short history on the school’s website tells us Sherborne School was founded in the mid-16th century under the auspices of the monastery at Sherborne, and survived the Reformation to become established as a Free Grammar School during the 17th and 18th centuries. The school took on its current form as a boys’ boarding school in the early 19th century.

Rachel Hassall, Archivist at Sherborne School provided me with information she had from the school registers:

  • Frederick George Wellington, son of G. Wellington, Yeovil. Arrived 1836 – left 1839.
  • William Wellington, son of George Wellington, Yeovil. Arrived ? – left 1830.

William Edwards WELLINGTON (1813-1850) was Frederick’s elder half-brother. William was 17 when he finished his education at Sherborne. We went to work in his father George’s chemist shop in Yeovil and took over his uncle John WELLINGTON’s (1774-1845) chemist and grocery businesses in South Petherton and Martock in 1845.

Frederick was 15 years old when he left school and was apprenticed to his half-brother William. Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON took over the business in South Petherton after William’s death in 1850.

Watercolour of Sherborne School by Walter Tyndale

Watercolour of Sherborne School by Walter Tyndale (1855–1943).

What a shame Frederick missed the wild beast show in Yeovil in 1836. I wonder what animals they had on exhibition?

The University of Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive has a wealth of information on the history of fairs, circuses and travelling menageries, here are some of the highlights:

The travelling menagerie evolved at the town fairs. A canvas was usually erected on poles with the animal cages or trailers lining the sides. The public paid for admission to view the exotic species. Most visitors to these wild beast shows would never have the opportunity to see such animals in their daily lives so their arrival in a town would cause great excitement.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century there were several menageries travelling – amongst the better known are Polito, Ballard, Pidcock, Miles and Wombwell.

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Thomas Frost, in The Old Showmen, and the Old London Fairs (1875) cites the following example from 1743:

This is to give notice to all Gentlemen, Ladies, and others, that Mr Perry’s Grand Collection of Living Wild Beasts is come to the White Horse Inn, Fleet Street, consisting of a large he-lion, a he-tiger, a leopard, a panther, two hyenas, a civet cat, a jackal, or lion’s provider, and several other rarities too tedious to mention. To be seen at any time of the day, without any loss of time. Note: This is the only tiger in England.

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As colonial expansion brought further and more regular contact with remote regions, birds and animals unseen in Europe arrived at the ports. Collectors encouraged sailors to return with animals from the exotic ports they visited. It is believed George Wombwell started his menagerie with two snakes bought from a sailor at the Port of London.

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There is an interesting advert in the Bristol Mercury and Universal Advertiser from September 1807:

Extraordinary Reptiles
Amongst the Number of Natural Curiosities arrived in this City, there seems none to equal or rival the Two wonderful Siboya Serpents. Those Ladies and Gentlemen who have already seen these extraordinary Reptiles, are so highly gratified with the sight of them, that the Proprietor flatters himself, from their high Recommendation that all ranks of people will gratify their curiosity, as they are undoubtedly the only ones of the Kind ever exhibited in the kingdom alive. To be seen at a commodious room at the White Swan, St. James’s Back. N.B. The Proprietor gives the utmost value for Foreign Birds and curious animals.

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As the trade in exotic animals developed they were stocked in dealers’ yards forming the basis for permanent animal exhibitions in zoological gardens. The exhibition of new and bizarre animals was seen as both entertaining and educational. Scientists and naturalists found that observing live animals was a much better way to classify the variety in the natural world than studying long-dead and stuffed specimens. This gave impetus and respectability to the menageries.

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The exhibition practices of the menageries changed over time, as the population grew more accustomed to the species on display, a variety of extraordinary gimmicks and tricks were required to draw the crowds. Entertainments such as the following were reported in the Clifton Chronicle and Directory of 3-6-1868:

Musical Prodigy
Of all Modern Prodigies certainly the most prodigious is the Royal Modern Musical Elephant at Wombwell’s which plays several popular airs and polkas, by Handel, not known to be by that immortal composer, a fact which beats “Creation” or any other Oratorio – or Menagerie.

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By 1850 the travelling menageries, with their big cats, trumpet-playing elephants, dancing stallions and boxing kangaroos, were amalgamating with acrobats, strong men, bearded ladies and clowns from fairground sideshows. They formed the big top circuses such as Astley’s Amphitheatre in England, Barnam & Bailey in the United States and Ashton’s Circus in Australia which began in Tasmania in 1847.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney.  Rachel Hassall, Archivist, Sherborne School Archives. Transcript of travelling menageries is taken from The University of Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive websiteThe nineteenth century animal illustrations are from Designs of Nature, Pepin Press, 1997.

You may also like to read:

two penny worth of arsenic

the runaway apprentice

the chemist shop that time forgot

susanah’s journal – 51 leeches

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire.

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After my return from Weymouth I spent a month at Stalbridge with Sarah & Mrs White and a few days at Marnhull which I enjoyed very much. Soon after my return I had another severe attack though not so violent as my last illness. I was again obliged to apply leeches to my chest which amounted to 51 from the 5th of May 1836 but I am thankful to God I am now much better though still not very strong.

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Susanah spent a month visiting with her recently married half-sister Sarah. She and her husband James DAVIS lived in the small market town of Stalbridge, Dorset, situated about 20 km east of Yeovil. The marriage notice for the newly-weds confirms that James DAVIS was in the same profession as his father-in-law George WELLINGTON.

Davis-Wellington marriage notice in the Bristol Mercury, Saturday 16 January 1836

Davis-Wellington marriage notice in the Bristol Mercury, Saturday 16 January 1836

I have no clues in my research as to who Mrs WHITE was. She was most likely a family friend or a relative of James DAVIS. The journal’s chronology suggests Susanah spent July 1836 in Stalbridge and Marnhill.

When she returned home to Yeovil her health deteriated and she had another bad attack of pulmonary tuberculosis. The doctor was consulted and, unfortunately for Susanah, the treatment he prescribed so ease her fever and chest congestion was bleeding with leeches.

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The use of leeches in medicine exploded during the mid-1800’s. There was such a high demand for Hirudo medicinalis, that its population in the wild was almost wiped out in England and Europe. Physicians would prescribe the leeches for all types of illnesses – everything from headaches to pneumonia and even anaemia. The blood-suckers were prescribed so often by physicians, that doctors were actually referred to as “leeches”.

In an article Breathing a Vein published in November 2011 on www.phisick.com, Dr Laurie Slater writes:

The bleeding of patients, practised since Babylonian times probably represents the most widespread application of ‘quackery’ in the history of medicine. The complexity of humoral theory was such that doctors could promote their own rationale for bleeding in almost any circumstances.

Poor Susanah suffered a life-threatening lung and chest infection as well as having her life-blood drained from her every few weeks. 51 leeches within three and a half months – is it any wonder she was not feeling very strong? Susanah celebrated her 17th birthday on the 20th August 1836, I hope she was well enough to enjoy herself with family and friends.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyMedical antiques and historical information courtesy of www.phisick.com.

Related Posts:

  1. susanah’s journal – eclipse of the sun

  2. susanah’s journal – weymouth 1836

  3. george wellington’s letters

  4. diseases and remedies of the 1800s

 

retouching family photos

I have been researching my family history for over 14 years now and have received some very old and battered photos from family members on various branches of your BUCK tree. It is always a great delight when they come to light as it appears no-one in the immediate family owned a camera until well into the late-1930s. Very early images are rare and they are all professional studio shots or taken by freelance street photographers.

My grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974) served at Gallipoli in WWI, [you can read more about him here]. I was frustrated for many years that I could not find anyone in our large family who had a photo of him in uniform.

At our family reunion in 2006 I was chatting with my cousin Peter and was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a small, faded and very scuffed photo of an Aussie soldier. I was over-the-moon to see it was signed E. C. BUCK. Woohoo! I was dancing around like a crazy lady.

Peter allowed me to take a high-resolution scan of his tiny original and I decided to create a portrait in honour of Private Ernest Clive BUCK, that I could frame and give to each of his children and grandchildren.

Thanks to my career as a graphic designer, working on complex photo retouching projects, I have the skills I need to bring my grandfather’s portrait to life. I set to work in Photoshop, adjusting tones, layering, recreating sections of his uniform and slouch hat, replacing the background and finally hand-colouring his portrait. This project took over 16 hours to complete. It’s unfortunate that the bottom of the image was so damaged that I had to sacrifice the signature, but the new proportions suit a standard 6×8 photo frame.

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Private Ernest Clive Buck, circa 1914 – most likely taken in Sydney, Australia shortly after he enlisted and received his army uniform.

A couple of years ago my cousin Chris sent me a scan of this torn and battered photo he was given by our grandfather Ernest. Here is Private Ernest Clive Buck taken about 6 months after the one above, I think he posed for this photo when he was stationed with the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Cairo on training manoeuvres in early 1915.

I retouched the large creases and scratches and the missing top corner, but decided to keep the age and character in this photo, so I retained the battered frame edges.

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Private Ernest Clive Buck, circa 1915 – possibly taken in Cairo, Egypt before embarking for Gallipoli during WWI.

Next is a portrait of the BUCK family on holiday at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains in about 1915 or 1916. They are Ernest BUCK’s mother, brothers and sisters and friends. I believe it was taken by a street photographer who touted for business in vacation towns. He would have set-up his large format camera on a tripod in the street, taken the family’s portrait for a fee, and then sent them the prints by post.

This image was scanned from a modern colour 4×6 print owned by Honour Stroud, a cousin of my father. I don’t know if the badly cracked and discoloured original still exists. It would be interesting to see if the original has any photographer’s details on the back.

I spent about four hours working on fixing this photo, it was quite tricky repairing the large cracks running through faces.

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Buck family at Katoomba circa 1915-1916 – Back L-R: William Buck, Ida Buck, a friend Lizzie Malloy, Jessie G Earls (Buck), far right back – Honor Stretton (formally Buck, nee Sutton). Front L-R: Bertha Legge (Buck), Jessie’s husband Arthur Earls, William’s wife Sadie, and Bertha’s husband Byron Legge.

The last image was emailed to me a few years ago by my second cousin, John Archer. This appears to have been taken in a family backyard in about 1926 using a hand-held Kodak Box Brownie camera or similar. It is a portrait of the daughters, daughters-in-law and two granddaughters of Robert BUCK and Honor SUTTON. Ida, Jessie, Bertha and Sadie are also in the photo above.

The only retouching I did to this image was adjusting the brightness and contrast, fixing a few scratch marks and recreating the section of brick wall and wooden fence at the torn right-hand corner.

Taken at one of the regular “get-togethers” of the Buck Sisters (L-R Standing: Mabel Hastings, unknown, Bertha Legge, Sadie Buck, Ida Archer, Agnes Earls; Seated: unknown, Gwen Archer, Jessie Earls, Betty Hastings. If you can fill in any of the “unknown” names, that would be appreciated.

One of the regular “get-togethers” of the Buck Sisters, circa 1926 – (L-R Standing: Mabel Hastings (Eggins), unknown, Bertha Legge (Buck), Sadie Buck (Roberts), Ida Archer (Buck), Agnes Earls (Buck); Seated: unknown, Gwen Archer, Jessie Earls (Buck), Betty Hastings.

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Original Photo Sources: Peter Stroud, Christopher Landers, Honor Stroud, John Archer. Retouched images by Susan Buck – I am happy to provide family members with high-resolution digital images of any of these photos for their family albums.

local children awarded for bravery – 1923

Certificate of Merit awarded to James Gascoigne in 1923 by the Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society.

Certificate of Merit awarded to James Gascoigne in 1923 by the Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society.

Tragedy struck the Tuggerah Lakes community on 6th November, 1922 when Ethel MASCORD drowned whilst swimming in Tuggerah Lake at Pipeclay Point. It could have been far worse if not for the efforts of James GASCOIGNE and Edna CRAIGIE who saved the lives of several other children, all pupils at Kanwal Public School. The following year they received an award from the Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society of NSW.

An extract from a 1923 newspaper reads:

Edna M. Craigie (aged 11 years), Dair James Gascoigne (aged 13 years), on the 6th November, 1922, saved the lives of several children who were carried out whilst bathing at Tuggerah Lakes. A party of children, including the rescuers, named Maisie Beldon, Gwen Gascoigne, Beryl Aylward, Edna Playford, Bonnie Craigie, Connie Beldon, Max Playford and Ethel Mascord, were bathing on a shallow flat when a heavy wave washed them into deep water. Edna Craigie, assisted by James Gascoigne, rescued Gwen Gascoigne, sister of the latter. Edna Craigie and James Gascoigne again dived to the assistance of the others and were successful in bringing them all to the shore. In the case of Ethel Mascord, however, who was unconscience when rescued, all efforts to restore her failed.

Edna M. Craigie, aged 11 years

Edna M. Craigie, aged 11 years

Mr. W. E. Kirkness, J.P., Coroner, Gosford, at the magisterial inquiry held by him as to the cause of death of Ethel Mascord, added the following rider to his finding:

“I wish to place on record the meritorious conduct of the two children James Gascoigne, aged 13 years, and Edna Craigie, aged 11 years, both of whom repeatedly dived into deep water and rescued four girls from a very perilous position. They showed great bravery, and deserve the thanks of the community.”

Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society Silver Medal

Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society Silver Medal

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Sources: TROVE; NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages; Play the Game – The History of Kanwal Public School by Greg Tunn, 2011; Dair James Gascoigne’s certificate donated to Wyong District Museum & Historical Society.

 

susanah’s journal – weymouth 1836

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire.

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The summer of 1836 we all went to Weymouth. Papa took Mr Welsfords house on Green Hill. I enjoyed myself pretty well considering I could not walk out but was obliged to submit to be drawn in a wheel chair.

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Susanah fell very ill in May of 1836 [read about it here] and, to aid her recovery, her father George WELLINGTON took the family to the seaside in Dorset for the summer.

Map of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (c1830) by R. Creighton.

Map of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (c1830) R. Creighton.

The harbour towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis became popular after 1789 when King George III was advised to “take the waters” to help with his medical conditions. George III visited the area regularly over the next fifteen years, even taking a dip in the sea in one of the first bathing machines. With his patronage, the King changed the fortune of Weymouth, and many of the buildings along the seafront were built during his reign. When the King went on vacation the court came as well, and of course the newspapers reported the event. Weymouth became ‘the place to be’ in the summer.

Weymouth print circa 1870 [www.dorsetshire.com]

Weymouth print circa 1870 [www.dorsetshire.com]

By 1836 royal patronage of Weymouth had wained and the town become a holiday destination the middle class could afford. The Wellington family rented a house at the east end of Weymouth Bay on Green Hill. I’m sure Susanah and her sisters enjoyed social events and shopping with friends, as well as taking strolls along the esplanade and meeting new acquaintances.

Invalid wheelchairs from the 1800s. [image reblogged from www.biomedicalephemera.tumblr.com]

Invalid wheelchairs from the 1800s. [image reblogged from http://www.biomedicalephemera.tumblr.com

Poor Susanah was still too weak to walk distances and had to submit to travelling about in a wheelchair. I hope the fresh air and good company improved her health. The English summer lasts four months in theory, but that doesn’t reflect the true number of clear and sunny days to be had in that season. I wonder how long the family stayed in Weymouth? Maybe just for the month of June?

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneywww.dorsetshire.comwww.biomedicalephemera.tumblr.com

WYONG – the passenger ferry

I found a better quality image of the passenger ferry Wyong which was built, owned and operated by my great-grandfather Thomas GASCOIGNE (1856-1923). You can read more about the Gascoigne family in my post The Gascoignes of Wyong Shire.

The Wyong_Gascoigne

The passenger ferry ‘Wyong’ was built, owned and operated on Tuggerah Lakes by Thomas Gascoigne. [Photo circa 1915: Miss Dorothy Garratt, Epping]

The picture shows the pleasure boat, the ‘Wyong‘, moored on the bank of Tuggerah Lake and loaded with passengers and holiday-makers from Sydney. The ‘Wyong‘ was one of several launches that could be hired by picnicking parties for transport down the Wyong River and across the water to The Entrance and other parts of the lake.

The ‘Wyong’ was designed to carry about fifty passengers and had a draught shallow enough to negotiate the sand bar at the mouth of the Wyong River and the sea grass beds of the lake. At first it was fitted with a single cylinder, long stroke 8 horse-power petrol motor which was not powerful enough to give a good performance when fully-loaded. About 1915 a much more powerful six cylinder Hercules engine was fitted.

About 1918 it was sold and taken north and used on the Myall Lakes and in the Tea Gardens–Port Stephens area. It was last seen as derelict – lying in the mud bank at Tea Gardens about 1936 – a most undignified end to the beautiful craft that had given great pleasure to many happy picnickers.

The ‘Wyong’ was usually moored inside the breakwater at Pipeclay Point, Gorokan near Thomas GASCOIGNE’s home. The old rusting anchor chain could still be seen moored to the big rocks during the 1980s.

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Sources: Gascoigne: an English-Australian Family History by Robert Mortimer GASCOIGNE; A Pictorial History of Wyong Shire, Vol I by Edward STINSON.

letters in jane austen’s novels

I hope my ancestors, Susanah and Jane WELLINGTON, were as fond of the novels of Jane AUSTEN as I am. Letters and letter writing play a vital role in the plots of all of Jane Austen’s works. Letters are keystones in the plots of EmmaNorthanger Abbey as well as Mansfield Park.

Mr Darcy writes a letter to his sister on a small portable desk. Still from Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley.

Mr Darcy writes a letter to his sister on a small portable desk. Still from Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley.

Pride and Prejudice includes a letter from Darcy to his sister Georgiana; the pivotal letter from Darcy to Elizabeth; the pompous letters from Mr Collins; and of course the poorly addressed letters from Jane to Elizabeth informing her Lydia has gone off with Willoughby.

Catherine Moorland writes a letter to Eleanor Tilney. Northanger Abbey (2007) starring Felicity Jones.

Catherine Moorland writes a difficult letter to Eleanor Tilney. Northanger Abbey (2007) starring Felicity Jones.

In Sense and Sensibility the lovelorn Marianne Dashwood sends letters to the fickle Mr Willoughby without a reply. When he finally does write to her, his manner is cold and hurtful as he delivers the news of his engagement to Miss Gray. Colonel Brandon also receives an important letter as the group of friends is setting out on an excursion and he leaves immediately without an explanation.

I think my favourite letter of all is from Persuasion, where Captain Wentworth writes to Anne Eliot while she is in the same room speaking with his friend Captain Harville on the constancy of hearts and natures of women and men who have truly loved.

"I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago." Captain Frederick Wentworth writes his love letter to Anne Eliot in a scene from the BBC teleseries of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

“I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.” Captain Frederick Wentworth writes his love letter to Anne Eliot in a scene from the BBC teleseries of Persuasion (1995) starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root.

These sorts of letters definitely need a suitable writing desk complete with paper, quill and ink-well. This post at Jane Austen Today gives a good account on how letters were written, sealed and delivered. If you would like a more detailed account of the importance of letters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, you can read the Jane Austen’s World blog.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney. Jane Austen TodayJane Austen’s World.

oxalic acid poisoning – 1835

While searching the British Newspaper Archive, I found an interesting bit of WELLINGTON family history linked to the sad death of a 46 year old shoemaker called Edward PINKARD, as reported in The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835.

YEOVIL. – Last week an inquest was held by Mr. Caines at Lymington, on the body of Edward Pinkard, and from the evidence it appeared that the deceased having felt unwell the previous night, desired his wife to get some salts in the morning; and she taking what she considered to be a paper of salts from the cupboard, mixed it with water, and gave it to him, the greater part of which he swallowed, and complained of a burning in his throat. He then exclaimed he had taken poison, on which the wife immediately sent for a surgeon, but before he could arrive he was a corpse. The man, who was a shoemaker, had been in the habit of keeping oxalic acid for the purpose of his business, and which was given him by his wife in mistake. Not the slightest blame could be attached to any one, as it is probable that the paper in which the acid had been kept must have been changed, which led to the sad catastrophe. A very malicious report was circulated of the salts having been purchased, without a label, of Mr. Wellington; but the wife fully proved that the acid had been in the house a long time, and was not bought in Yeovil at all. – Verdict, “Accidental Death.” – An Advertisement of Mr. Wellington’s refuting this malevolent rumour will be found in our first page.

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Public notices and statutory declarations by George Wellington, Mary Pinkard and George Edwards Wellington stating that the late Edward Pinkard “didn't buy it from us!” . [The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835]

Statutory declarations by George Wellington, Mary Pinkard and George Edwards Wellington stating that the late Edward Pinkard “didn’t buy it from us!” . [The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835]

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TO THE PUBLIC

A Report having been industriously circulated, that Edward Pinkard, who died at Lymington, on the 19th instant, from taking Oxalic Acid, had purchased such Acid at my Shop for Epsom Salts, the Saturday previous, I beg to state that the said Edward Pinkard did not purchase at my Shop any Salts or Oxalic Acid at the time stated, and that no mistake can possibly arise from the purchase of either of those articles at my Shop, because Epsom Salts are invariably weighed up in large quantities at a time, in white paper, bearing the following copper-plate label: – “Purified Epsom Salts, from G. Wellington, Chemist and Druggist, Yeovil;” whilst Oxalic Acid is invariably sold in blue paper, and a plain label: – “Oxalic Acid Poison” affixed to it. In order to remove all unpleasant impressions that such a wilfully malicious report might have occasioned, I beg to call the attention of my Friends and the Public to the Certificates underneath, which must at once convince all reasonable and unprejudiced persons that the mistake, so much to be deplored, did not in any way originate with me or at my Shop. The Original Certificates may be seen at my Shop.
GEO. WELLINGTON. Yeovil, 25th May, 1835.

_________

This is to certify, – That my late husband, Edward Pinkard, who died on the 19th instant, from taking Oxalic Acid, or some other Poison, by mistake, did not purchase the same at the Shop of Mr. George Wellington, Druggist, Yeovil, when he was there in the Saturday previous, as has been reported; nor did he say, nor do I know, that he bought it at Mr. Wellington’s Shop at any other time, the same having been in the house several weeks previous to my husband’s death, and he being in the habit of buying drugs at several shops. That the paper containing the poison taken by my husband has no label on it; that I have frequently seen Salts in the house which my husband purchased at Mr. Wellington’s Shop, and that the same was always labelled with a printed label.
Dated this 25th day of May, 1835. MARY PINKARD.
Witness JAMES MILLS, Lymington.

__________

This is to certify – That Edward Pinkard, late of Lymington, who died on the 19th instant, came to the Shop of Mr. George Wellington, Druggist, Yeovil, on the 16th instant; that I then served him with the articles he wanted, and that the only goods he purchased were some Hair Oil, for the use of his daughter, who had lost her hair, and some Garden Seeds.
Dated this 25th day of May, 1835. G. E. WELLINGTON.

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Oxalic Acid in solid form is a fine white crystal that dissolves in water to a colourless solution. It is mainly used as a cleaning agent, especially for the removal of rust. It is also used as a bleach and dyeing agent for leather and cloth, and is most likely what the shoemaker used it for. Oral consumption, inhalation or prolonged skin contact of Oxalic Acid causes burns, coughing, wheezing and inflammation and oedema of the larynx and stomach. A lethal oral dose can be as low as 15 to 30 grams.

Oxalic-Acid-comparison-Epsom-Salts

Oxalic Acid has a similar crystal form to Epson Salts (Magnesium Sulphate).

Magnesium Sulphate, commonly known as Epsom Salts, can be safely used externally and internally. A 1% solution of Epsom Salts is a safe and easy way to increase sulphate and magnesium levels in the body as it aids in the treatment of aches and pains.

As the images above show, it would be quite easy for Mary PINKARD to mistake a packet of Oxalic Acid for Epson Salts if it were not clearly labelled as “Poison”. The poor man must have suffered an agonising death.

Speculation and rumour would have been rampant upon the news of the poisoning of Edward PINKARD. A malicious rumour was circulated in the district that the poison was bought from my great-great-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON’s chemist shop; and that he or one of his staff had supplied the wrong product, or had failed to label the packet correctly.

We all know how quickly rumours spread and I can imagine someone jumped at the chance to tarnish the reputation of a successful business rival with malicious gossip. George WELLINGTON must have felt the damage to his reputation and business keenly in the two weeks following Edward PINKARD’s death. He wrote and had published statutory declarations from himself, his son George Edwards WELLINGTON and from the shoemaker’s widow Mary PINKARD repudiating the malevolent rumours.

There is one other person mentioned in this tragic affair who you have to feel very sorry for. What of the reputation of Edward PINKARD’s unfortunate daughter?

…the only goods he purchased were some Hair Oil, for the use of his daughter, who had lost her hair, …

Was it absolutely necessary for George Edwards WELLINGTON to go into so much detail in his declaration? The poor girl had just lost her father and now the whole of Yeovil knew she is bald under her bonnet. It was very inconsiderate of George to include that fact in his statement as he knew first-hand how damaging rumours and gossip could be.

You may also like to read:

two penny worth of arsenic

diseases and remedies of the 1800s

the chemist shop that time forgot

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Sources: British Newspaper Archive; Wikipedia Magnesium Sulphate, Oxalic Acid.

lasca – a cowboy love poem

When I began researching the life of my grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974), I asked my dad Tom and my uncles Ron and Mick if they could tell me some of the things they remembered about their dad. They recalled that “BUCK” as he was known, was a hard-working bloke, he was a builder by trade and also worked as a fisherman on Tuggerah Lakes. He would often sit on his verandah in the afternoon with his friends who dropped by and they would tell tall tales.

Grandad Ern Buck and Buttons the dog on the veranah.

Grandad Ern Buck on his verandah, circa 1965.

Uncle Mick remembered the lines of a poem BUCK knew by heart and would often recite when friends and family were gathered:

It’s all very well to write reviews, and carry umbrellas, and keep dry shoes, and say what everyone’s saying here, and wear what everyone else must wear; but tonight I’m sick of the whole affair. I want free life, and I want fresh air;
And ’Laska!

From the words above I thought the poem was about Alaska, the great white north, but when I started to research the lines I found it was a poem by an Englishman called Frank DESPREZ (1853-1916). Desprez’ ballad-like poem, Lasca, is about a fiery Mexican girl and her cowboy sweetheart caught in a cattle stampede in “Texas down by the Rio Grande.” The next few stanzas in the poem confirm the cowboy theme:

I want free life and I want fresh air;
And I long for the gallop after the cattle,
In their frantic flight, like the roar of battle,
The mêlée of horns, and hoofs, and heads
That wars and wrangles and scatters and spreads —
The green beneath and the blue above,
And dash and danger, and life and love —
And Lasca!

tumblr_loxefn3kQG1qg889vo1_500

This vintage postcard paints the scene beautifully. [http://secretosdemimemoria.tumblr.com/post/8075419196]

Lasca used to ride,
On a mouse-gray mustang close by my side,
With blue serape and bright-belled spur;
I laughed with joy as I looked at her!
Little knew she of books or of creeds;
An Ave Maria sufficed her needs;
Little she cared, save to be by my side,
To ride with me, and ever to ride,
From San Saba’s shore to LaVaca’s tide.
She was as bold as the billows that beat,
She was as wild as the breezes that blow;
From her little head to her little feet
She was swayed in her suppleness to and fro
By each gust of passion; a sapling pine
That grows on the edge of a Kansas bluff
And wars with the wind when the weather is rough
Is like this Lasca, this love of mine.

The full poem is about 12 stanzas long and full of passion, excitement and danger. You can read the epic ballad of Lasca by clicking here Cowboy Poetry at the Bar-D Ranch.

Lasca was first published in a London magazine in 1882, it was very popular in many parts of the English-speaking world including Australia. It was reprinted often during the next 50 years, sometimes in an abridged format to fit a magazine column or with a publisher’s deletions and changes. In 1919 an American newspaper claimed that ‘there is scarcely an American who has not read the poem, recited it, or committed it to memory’.

A 1919 silent film, Lasca, starred Edith Roberts and Frank Mayo. [The Newark Advocate, December 5, 1919]

An Ohio newspaper published this advert to promote the 1919 silent film, Lasca, starred Edith Roberts and Frank Mayo. [The Newark Advocate, December 5, 1919]

The 1919 silent film called Lasca made by Universal Pictures appeared in theatres in Australia in mid-1920. Granddad would have been 25 years-old, two years back from the war, and may have taken a girlfriend to the cinema to see the well-known story of Lasca played out on the big-screen. I wonder if the movie was as exciting as the poem?

The promotional blurb for the film billed it as “A Dramatic Tale for Lovers”:

A beautiful story within a story. A tale so rich with romance and so wonderfully told as to challenge the admiration of all photo play lovers. The narrative of a Spanish girl whose wondrous character enriches the memory of all heroic souls. As beautiful as the fairest flower, As fragrant as the scented dew of a June morning. Story by Percy Heath—adapted from the poem by Mr. F. Desprez. A picture you’ll love. SEE IT with your family.

Universal Pictures reprised the storyline in 1931 for their film Lasca of the Rio Grande which starred Johnnie Mack Brown as Miles Kincaid a Texas Ranger, and Dorothy Burgess as the dance hall singer Lasca. In this version all characters survive the cattle stampede but Lasca loses her life then she steps in to save the man she loves from being killed by his rival, the bandit Santa Cruz, played by Leo Carillo.

Universal Pictures, Lasca of the Rio Grande, 1931

Universal Pictures, Lasca of the Rio Grande, 1931 was based on the Frank Desprez poem.

A search of Australian newspaper archives reveals Frank Desprez’ Lasca was a stand-out favourite in this country. It evokes the spirit of the frontier and outback much like our great Australian bush-ballads such as Banjo Patterson’s The Man From Snowy River and Clancy of The Overflow, and also Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country. Granddad BUCK would have learnt the poem while he was at school. Lasca was often recited with passion at school poetry competitions, at distinguished literary evenings, as well as on less formal occasions such as a gathering of friends on the BUCK family’s verandah.

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Sources:  A comprehensive history of the poem and its author Frank Desprez at Cowboy Poetry at the Bar-D Ranch; Kirkpatrick, Peter. Life and Love and ‘Lasca’ [online]. Sydney Studies in English, Vol. 36, 2010: 127-149. ISSN: 0156-5419. [cited 16 Aug 13]; Australian Poetry Archive; official Dorothea Mackellar website.