Hamilton has always grappled with its identity, from “education town” and “cathedral city” to the most enduring (and endearing) tag “Wool Capital of the World”. But Mayor Cr. William Ferrier Hewett’s vision in 1955, published in The Argus of June 10, really takes the cake…
Author Archives: Merron Riddiford
While writing the history of the Harmans of Byaduk, I immersed myself into the family’s daily lives and at times felt as though I was there with them. With my ggg grandfather James Harman, I was among the congregation at the Byaduk Methodist Church and traversed the countryside as he conducted his Local Preacher duties. I attended sheep and Pastoral and Agriculture (P&A) shows and learnt the finer points of tilling the soil at ploughing matches. I felt James’ pride in 1907 as he stood with his fellow pioneers and friends for a photograph before his beloved Byaduk Methodist Church and shared his satisfaction when he won a Lincoln ram at the Hamilton P&A show.
Yesterday I “visited” James again and felt something I had not felt before.
The post False Alarm, revealed my ongoing frustration of not having an obituary written about James Harman, my favorite ancestor. One like those written for his brothers Jonathan and Walt, lengthy, information packed tributes that told me much about the type of men they were. An obituary for James in the Hamilton Spectator came close but I wanted more.
Just a few weeks before my thesis was due, the newspaper the Spectator and Methodist Chronicle (Melbourne 1914-1918) came online at Trove and there was an obituary for James. Unfortunately the article was still undergoing quality control checks so the wait was on. My “Electronic Friend” would send an email when the article was ready to go but no amount of checking my inbox made the article come. The submission date for my thesis came and went and still the article was unavailable. Yesterday it was ready.
The obituary was signed by W.H.G and knowing something of the Byaduk Methodist Church helped me identify the author as the Reverend William Herbert Guard who presided over the church at the time of James’ death . His tribute answered one of my questions about James. When did he become involved with the Wesleyan Methodist Church? Was it when he arrived in Port Fairy in 1852? Or when the family spent some time at Muddy Creek before going to Byaduk. Muddy Creek had a strong Methodist community of Wesleyans, Primitives and Reformers who had arrived via Port Fairy. But, according to Reverend Guard, James’ commitment to Methodism began before leaving Cambridgeshire.
Reverend Guard visited James in his last days and recounted those visits but it was his recollections of James’ final hours that were the most powerful. “I’m going home” a weakening James told him and then in his last moments James raised his hand and uttered his last word “Coming” and with that he passed away. James was ready to meet his God. Many obituaries describe the last moments of a person’s life but often in a clinical fashion. W.H.G.’s description was spiritual. Such was James’ devotion it could be nothing less.
James was not just “going home” to God, his beliefs gave him faith that he was also going home to my ggg Grandmother Susan Reed. The obituary confirmed for me the bond he shared with Susan, forged over 64 years. Susan died on April 10, 1916 and James on August 13 in the same year and I have always thought their the few months apart was too long a time for James. He had lost the woman who gave him the strength to go on and after only four months they were reunited at the Byaduk Cemetery.
There is little information about Susan’s life besides her birth, death and children in-between. But she was with James when they left Melbourn, Cambridgeshire as newlyweds and endured a forgettable voyage on the Duke of Richmond. She travelled with him from the port of Portland to Port Fairy for James’ first employment in Victoria and together they endured the pioneering life at Byaduk. No doubt she sat up late into the night waiting for James to return from church meetings and sheep shows in neighbouring towns.
Reverend Guard brought to my attention something about Susan I did not know and it was sad to read of her blindness in her last years. That is now obvious when I look at her in this treasured photo passed on to me by James and Susan’s great-grandson Mike Harman.
On reaching the end of Reverend Guard’s tribute, chills had come over me and tears filled my eyes. Since that first reading I have thought often of those last hours of James’ life with sadness. After the many emotions I have felt while researching James’ life, for the first time I was feeling grief. It is the only time I have felt that emotion about my long departed ancestors. Usually such discoveries evoke feelings of jubilation such as the revelation my ggg Grandmother Ellen Barry died in a house fire caused by her insobriety or learning my gg aunt Ellen Harman dropped dead on the floor while cooking breakfast for her son. While I did feel sad for their unfortunate passing, in the back of my mind was the thought “That will be good for the family history”. But the tears that came to my eyes when reading about James was not because this useful information missed my thesis, it was because I felt like I was saying goodbye.
As I snap myself back it into reality, I remind myself that with this never-ending journey that is family history, new stories of James will emerge and I can once again join him on his life’s adventures.
“In Memoriam.” Spectator and Methodist Chronicle (Melbourne, Vic. : 1914 – 1918) 11 Oct 1916: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154270437>.
It’s Trove Tuesday and this is my first TT post since June. I’ve been looking forward to sharing this little find from The Australian Worker (Sydney) . After coming across these two articles I must say I laughed about their contents for days and all because a typesetter used an “m” instead of a “p.”
The first excerpt is a letter written to the “Children’s Letters” column by my 2nd cousin 3 x removed, Iris Olive Harman of South Ecklin. Iris was the daughter of Arthur John Harman and Ellen “Nellie” Matilda Rodgers and was born in 1900 at Cobden, She was 16 or 17 when she wrote her letter. Her grandfather was Jonathan Harman of Byaduk. She had three older brothers who she mentioned in her letter, Arthur Ernest, Frederick Reginald and Edward George. They were around 20, 24 and 26 in 1918 and all unmarried. Iris’ father had moved to Byaduk to live with his father Jonathan four years earlier and I’m still yet to discover what happened to his and Nellie’s marriage.
Iris was a religious girl from a Methodist background but as an adult she was a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist church and taught bible studies in the churches’ Sabbath schools. Iris was a spinster until at least the 1954 Electoral Roll and although some researchers have her married after that time, I am yet to confirm it myself.
Knowing that information about Iris, you too will be as shocked (and no doubt amused) as I was when I read her letter:
Oh dear, the scandal. A young christian girl was in search of “men friends.”
It took three months, but finally an explanation was forthcoming:
While I amused myself for days after, relaying the story to anyone who pretended to listen, I must consider the shame such a tiny slip caused as implied in the newspaper’s apology. In the years following, Nellie, Iris and brother Frederick packed up and left for Warrnambool for no apparent reason. Now having found these articles, I’m wondering if the shame brought to the family may have prompted the move.
A former Melbourne newspaper Table Talk (1885-1939), a weekly social publication, had its release online at Trove at few months ago. It quickly went on my list of favourite newspapers for the photos, the fashion and the insight into the social life of Victorians, particularly the upper classes. There was no need for Facebook in those days. Socialites just had to share their status with Table Talk and friends could read with envy of trips to London, extended stays in fine Melbourne hotels or a day at the local fox hunt.
In a Trove Tuesday post in June, I lamented that I had been unable to find any family members in Table Talk. I dug a little deeper and finally I found a photo of a 2nd cousin 2 x removed, Pauline Florence Marchant.
Pauline was the daughter of Percival “Percy” John Marchant and Elsie Annie Hughes of Geelong. On her paternal side, Pauline was a granddaughter of Samuel Thomas Marchant, a well-known optician from Geelong and later Melbourne, and Emily Jane Entwistle. On her maternal side, she was the granddaughter of Frederick Charles Hughes and my ggg Aunt Martha Harman of Hamilton. Pauline was photographed at St Claire, her families’ residence near the Geelong Botanical Gardens. St Claire is a lovely home and still stands today. Pauline’s father Percy was also an optician as was her maternal uncle Russell Hughes of Hamilton.
Table Talk is full of Western District people so check it out.
Just a small group of pioneers for the September Passing of the Pioneers. While the number of obituaries now available are beginning to dwindle after three years of Passing of the Pioneers, time was more of a constraint this month. On the bright side, it ensures there will still be some pioneer obituaries to share next September.
Margaret GORMAN – Died September 9, 1914 at Mortlake. Born in Tipperary, Ireland around 1821, Margaret arrived in Victoria around 1851 . She married Patrick Finn in 1855 and they settled in the Mortlake district. Her obituary read, ‘…she was able by her lovable manner to render and dispense happiness and sunshine wherever she went.’ Patrick died 34 years before Margaret and she left four sons and one daughter. Margaret was buried at the Mortlake Cemetery.
Charles Turner MEDEW – Died September 1914 at Allansford. Charles Medew was born in Cheltenham, England in 1837 and arrived in Victoria aboard the ship William around 1857. Charles settled in Warrnambool and working as a builder he built two bridges across the Hopkins River. He selected land near the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, and in 1914 the site was still known as “Medew’s Corner” although Charles had moved to Melbourne. Around 1910, Charles built a model airplane and it is now held by Museum Victoria. Charles was visiting his daughter at Allansford when he died.
Mrs Mary Gillies – Died September 7, 1917 at Ararat. Mary and her husband Thomas Gillies were originally from Penzance, Cornwall and arrived at Warrnambool in 1854 aboard the Panama with their infant son. They went to the Ararat diggings in 1856 were they permanently settled. The Gillies family grew to 10 sons and seven daughters and by the time of her death, Mary had 28 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Even into her last years, Mary could recall the early days of Ararat. Her funeral saw a large turnout as the people of Ararat paid their last respects to one of their oldest residents.
William Howard – Died September 28, 1916 at Ararat. William Howard was born in Liverpool, England and arrived in Victoria in 1853. The following year he hit the diggings, first at Maryborough, then Fiery Creek and on to the Ararat region. He eventually took up the lease of the Terminus Hotel at Ararat and later he built the Ararat Coffee Palace. At the time of his death he left a widow and three grandchildren.
Thomas SHENFIELD – Died September 2, 1937 at Cobden. Thomas Shenfield was born at Camperdown in 1861. The following year his family moved to Cobden where Thomas lived out his life. He married Nellie Baker of Cobden and they had six children. Thomas took an interest in the progress of Cobden and was a director of the Tanadrook Cheese Factory (below). He was also a member of the Cobden Methodist Church.
It’s been awhile since I let you know what I’ve been up to. In just under two weeks (or hopefully before) I will submit a thesis, a history of the Harman family, to the Society of Australian Genealogists for assessment. It’s been a crazy 12 months and if I had known some of the things life was going to throw at me over the year, I would probably would not have started it. But I did and I’ve almost made it and I know it will be worth it.
Mania has made its presence felt lately and that’s not just me as I finish my Harman history. Rather, the two mystery children of my ggg uncle Jonathan Harman have bestowed their mania upon me. A few months back I wrote about Looking for Mary Ann. Well I found her. She did not die as a baby as many Harman researchers have assumed, including myself. Instead, in the years after her mother’s death in 1884, Mary Ann sunk into a deep depression before her admission to the Ararat Asylum in 1893 where she was a patient for six years. Thirty two years later her brother Jonathan was also admitted and remained there for 15 years.
Since my suspicions were confirmed I have felt so sad for their father Jonathan. Despite the death of his wife Mary Oliver at age 41, 46 years before his own death, two children dying as babies and one as a teenager, two children in the Ararat Mental Asylum and an illegitimate grandchild, he was a kind man with a happy demeanor. I’ve actually grown quite fond of him. I’ve also been struck at how his life evolved so differently to his brother’s, my ggg grandfather James Harman. Both settled and farmed in Byaduk until old age and each had 10 children but that’s where the similarities ended. Yet Jonathan appears to have accepted his lot in life and maybe his Methodist beliefs enabled him not to have feelings of regret or envy toward his brother. Instead they were close to the end.
While there have not been many new posts in the past few months , Western District Families has still been passing a few milestones.
Recently the blog passed 100,000 page views and is now well on the way to 110,000. There are now 162 of you following the Western District Families blog and 264 people “like” the Facebook page. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to the blog or liked the page. I’ve been delighted with Western District Families’ rise this year and I think the Facebook page has a lot to thank for that. While I may not have time to write a blog post, I can always find a moment to share a photo or link or post one of the 300 posts from the past three years.
During August and September I have posted regular articles from the Hamilton Spectator to the Western District Families Facebook page. The articles are about WW1 but not news from overseas. Rather they are about the war related happenings in Hamilton during that time. I’m interested in the residents’ first responses, their changes in attitude toward the war and toward the many people of German descent living in nearby towns such as Tabor and Hochkirch . I do know that anti-German sentiment did grow resulting in a change of name for Hochkirch to Tarrington, a safe Anglo-Saxon name taken from the nearby estate once owned by Stephen George Henty. I’m also keen to see how The Hamilton Spectator reported those matters.
In around two weeks I hope to hit the ground running with some new blog posts and I can’t wait. I’ve missed it but I have 20 draft posts in various stages of completion and I’m itching to share them. For “Trove Tuesday” fans, there is also a long list of “Trove Tuesday” type articles ready to go. So thank you for hanging in there and I’ll be back with you soon.
A small band of Pioneers come together for August Passing of the Pioneers. They include the first Mayor of the Borough of Portland and a crew member of William Dutton’s whale boat.
William McLEAN – Died August 28, 1888 at Port Fairy. At the time of his death, William McLean had resided at the Port Fairy Benevolent Asylum for 10 years and was known to all as “Old Billy”. In 1887, he spoke about his life from his time in his birthplace of Scotland. William was born around 1790 and when around 20, he joined the navy and was a crewman on the HMS Warspite which brought him to Sydney while escorting convicts in 1822. After meeting some whalers, he decided to jump ship and join them. The whaling ship belonged to William Dutton, one of the first whalers to Portland Bay and William was with him.
When asked who was the first to Portland Bay, William Dutton or the Hentys, William replied that Dutton and his crew were there long before the Hentys. Later, William spent time whaling at Port Fairy where he settled.
Mary GRIERSON – Died August 1914 at Port Fairy. Mary Grierson was born in Scotland in 1827 and arrived in Victoria with her parents in 1839. They had sailed aboard the David Clark with Port Fairy’s Captain Mills at the helm. Mary married David Thomas in 1846 and they settled at Rosebrook, near Port Fairy. They had a family of 12, six girls and six boys. Mary was a member of the Presbyterian church and her goodwill was known throughout the district.
Thomas BEVAN – Died August 1915 at Colac. Born in Devonshire, England in 1829, Thomas Bevan arrived in Geelong in 1851. He moved to Beeac and became a local preacher for the Methodist Church. Thomas worked hard to build the community and had a strong involvement in all aspects of public affairs. He was also a musician, with violin and flute his instruments both learnt while still in England.
George HAYNES – Died August 18, 1916 at Port Fairy. The Port Fairy Town Hall flag flew at half mast the day George Haynes passed away. George was one of Port Fairy’s earliest residents and the first Mayor of the Borough. George was born in Staffordshire in 1826 and at the local grammar school. In 1854, he and his wife travelled to Australia, landing at Melbourne where they remained for around a year. George then moved on to Port Fairy where he settled and established a merchant business, Haynes and Young. Married twice, George had seven children from his first marriage.
Joseph LEWIS – Died August 27, 1916 at Port Fairy. Joseph Lewis was born in Staffordshire around 1824 and travelled to Australia aboard the Royal Saxon, landing at Williamstown, Victoria in 1841. Also on board was a relative of Charles Dickens. After some time working at Little River Joseph travelled to the Grampians with a Mr Dwyer and they attempted to run cattle. Unsuccessful, Joseph moved on to Port Fairy and purchased the property Glenview, residing there until old age when he moved into the Port Fairy town. Joseph left a widow, four sons, four daughters, 32 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Denis BERMINGHAM – Died August 17, 1917 at Port Fairy. Denis Bermingham was from Ireland and arrived in Port Fairy aboard the Chance during the 1850s. Spending time at Koroit and then Woodlands, Denis worked on the land. After moving to Port Fairy the 1880s, he worked for a few years on the harbour. Denis and his wife had 13 children, nine of whom were still living at the time of Denis’ death.
Robert LEISHMAN – Died August 28, 1917 at Port Fairy. Robert Leishman was born in Scotland around 1830 and arrived in Victoria as a boy in the 1850s. After some time spent at Woodford, he settled at Crossley and for many years ran the farm Cockpen. He had also spent some time working on Korongah Station, then owned by Messrs. Knight and Lydiard. It was there, during the 1870s that Robert’s wife passed away. During their time together they had a family of five. In the last years of Robert’s life, he moved to Rosebrook and then Bank Street, Port Fairy.