Tag Archives: Holmes

The Leader of the Pack

When I think of my ancestors, the first name that comes to mind is James Harman.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because if I was to a pick a leader of my ancestors, the boss or the chairperson,  I think It would be James.

In the 15 years or so I have got to know my ggg grandfather, I have imagined him as organised, official and proud.  He was a leader in the church and the farming community speaking up for what he believed.  I can just  imagine him standing before my other ancestors, organising and guiding them.  Who would be his deputy?  I would think either of James’ brothers Jonathon or Walt who, in their own activities in the community, were of  the same mould.

James was born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire in 1830, the son of Joseph and Sarah Harman.  He married Susan Reed of Whaddon on August 15, 1852 just two months later on October 20, 1852 they set sail aboard the “Duke of Richmond” bound for Portland, Victoria, Australia.  They spent time in Port Fairy before settling at Byaduk in the early 1860s.

At Byaduk, James was involved with the church, served on the first committee of the Byaduk State School at the age of 81, and farming activities such as ploughing competitions and the Farmers Union.

James and Susan had 10 children from 1854 to 1875, five boys and five girls.  Even that was orderly.

Reuben James   Birth: 1854 in Port Fairy, Victoria  Marriage: 1877 in Byaduk, Victoria to Elizabeth BISHOP Death: 05 Jan 1937 in Ballarat, Victoria.

Alfred   Birth: 1856 in Portland, Victoria  Marriage: 1883 to Louisa NEWMAN Death: 06 Nov 1922 in Byaduk, Victoria.

Isabella   Birth: 1857 in Port Fairy, Victoria Marriage: 1885 to Stephen WARD Death: 02 Aug 1886 in Port Fairy, Victoria.

George Henry   Birth: 1860 in Port Fairy, Victoria Death: 1861 in Hamilton, Victoria.

Julia   Birth: 1861 in Muddy Creek, Victoria  Marriage: 1882 to George HOLMES Death: 20 Dec 1896 in Casterton, Victoria.

Martha    Birth: 1863 in Byaduk, Victoria Marriage: 08 Nov 1888 in Hamilton, Victoria to Frederick Charles HUGHES Death: 28 Dec 1960 in Hamilton, Victoria.

Henrietta   Birth: 1866 in Byaduk, Victoria. Death: 1952 in Hamilton, Victoria.

Albert    Birth: 1868 in Byaduk, Victoria Marriage: 1907 to Emma CARMICHAEL Death: 26 Nov 1927 in Byaduk, Victoria.

Alice   Birth: 1871 in Byaduk, Victoria Marriage: Dec 1896 in Macarthur, Victoria to William James McLEAN Death: 21 Jun 1927 in Hamilton, Victoria.

George    Birth: 1875 in Byaduk, Victoria Marriage: 1908 to Hilda May HILL Death: 25 Sep 1947 in Hamilton, Victoria.

It was reading James’ Will, written in 1914, that really defined him for me.  In great detail,  he had carefully considered his beneficiaries and ensured that Susan and his spinster daughter Henrietta would be looked after once he was gone.  It also offered information of James’ property and farm related assets.

The first of James’ last wishes was that his watch and chain be passed on to his grandson, Albert Lionel HARMAN, the eldest son of George HARMAN.  Daughter Henrietta was to receive the furniture in the  house and all household effects.   She was also the beneficiary of James’ poultry.  He  made provision for Henrietta to stay in the house with James’ grandson Charles, only son of  Isabella who died when Charles was a baby.

Farming implements, including a chaff cutter and a set of harrows, were left to son Alfred.  He would also receive two horses and their harness, a number of sheep and half of the grain and hay on the farm at the time of James’ death.  James had a contingency if there was  no grain or hay on the property at the time of his death.  If this was to happen, Alfred would receive £30 instead.  There were conditions for Alfred however. He had to undertake to give his mother Susan 15 shillings a week and give £100 to each of his sisters, Martha and Alice within a year of his father’s death.

Reuben and Albert shared in a large amount of James’ land at Byaduk and Lake Gorrie, near Macarthur.  The description of the property at Byaduk known as the “House Paddock” gives some idea of the out-buildings that existed but also James’ methodical approach to such matters.  It read:

“…commencing at the junction of the Hamilton to Byaduk main road with the Louth road running southerly along the said main road to the entrance gate thence Westerly along the wire fence to the corner of the stack yard and including the woolshed and barn thence Northerly along the wire fence to the Louth road thence along the Louth road easterly to the commencing point.”

The  partnership of James and Susan Harman was to come to a rapid close in 1916.  On April 10, Susan passed away aged 86.  Just over four months later on August 14,  James himself died also aged 86.  Together they had left England as newlyweds, settled themselves in Victoria before starting their large family.  They had seen births, deaths and marriages as their family extended and together they witnessed the growth in the country they had arrived in over 60 years before.  It seems right they went so close together after 64 years of marriage.  They were buried side by side at the Byaduk cemetery.


Arthur Leonard Holmes 1889-1918 – Lest We Forget

Most of my family members made it home from World War 1.  While they were far from unaffected,  they were able to return to their loved ones.  Not so for Arthur Holmes.  Newly married he sacrificed his life for his country following both his older brother and cousin into war.

Arthur Leonard Holmes was born in 1889 in Sandford, Victoria.  His parents were George Holmes, the local miller and Julia Harman, a Byaduk girl.  They were married in 1882 in Byaduk and had seven children, with Arthur being the fifth born.  Julia died suddenly in 1896 of a cerebral hemorrhage while George was away gold prospecting on the other side of the state at Tallangatta.   The children ranged in age from 14 to 1.  George remarried in 1900 to Betsy Swain and they had a daughter, Bessie, in 1903.

Arthur enlisted at Melbourne on July 4, 1916 aged 27.  At the time he was working in Casterton as a coachbuilder. His brother Frederick had enlisted 10 months earlier and his cousin Edgar Holmes, a year before.  At the time of enlistment, Arthur noted he was single and gave his next of kin details as his father.  At some point afterwards, this information was edited with single being changed to married and the contact details changed from father George, to his new wife Alice Edith Osborne.  Marriage records show they married in 1916.   Alice was from Millicent, South Australia and was 24 years old.  After their  marriage  and Arthur headed overseas, she went to live in Windsor in Melbourne.

Arthur joined his unit on August 2, 1916 initially in Geelong and then he would have gone to Broadmeadows with the 29th Battalion.  Meanwhile in France, events were unfolding that would not have filtered home at the time of Arthur’s enlistment.  His cousin Edgar was listed as missing at Fromelles on July 28, 1916.  A court of enquiry 12 months later found that Edgar was killed in action, with the date given as July 16, during the Battle of Fromelles.  Also, on July 28, Arthur’s brother Frederick James Holmes was shot in the shoulder in France.  He was later to return home due to his injuries.  As he donned his uniform for the first time, Arthur would have been oblivious that the horror of war had touched his own family.  By the time he sailed for Plymouth on October 26, 1916 the news would have reached him and one could imagine he left Australian shores with a heavy heart.

On the voyage to England he was promoted from Private to Acting Sargent without extra pay, as he was appointed bandmaster for  the trip.   The Holmes boys were musical.  Arthur’s older brother Goldie was an Australian Cornet Champion in the 1920s and led many large bands around Australia.  Arthur may have had the same abilities and aspirations.

On arrival in England Arthur left the 29th and joined the newly formed 62nd Battalion.  The 29th moved on to France while Arthur stayed in England until the 62nd Battalion was disbanded in September 1917.  Arthur returned to the 29th Battalion in France arriving on October 15, 1917 almost a year since he left home.  The 29th were experiencing a relatively quiet period, following their involvement at Ypres, and as the allies prepared for the eventual Battle of Hamel.  This meant no less of a danger for the soldiers.  On June 12, 1918, Arthur Holmes was overcome by mustard gas, the feared silent killer.  It was never an instant death.  In Arthur’s case, he passed away the next day, June 13, 1918 at the 12th Casualty Clearing Station at Hazebrouck.  He was initially buried at the Longpré Cemetery before being exhumed, with 41 other fallen soldiers and re-interred at the Crouy British Cemetery, his final resting place.

CORNET PLAYER KILLED. (1918, June 26). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75192499

From these two articles I have discovered Arthur was known as “Lennie” by his family.

Family Notices. (1918, June 24). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74221268

What of his new bride Alice?  She spent some time in Melbourne after his death,  before moving to Daylesford.  She lived at “Belvedere House” , lodging rooms in Vincent Street, with her widowed mother, Annie Osborne.  In January 1919, she received a parcel containing Arthur’s possessions.  Along with personal items such as photos, letters and a diary there were small hints about Arthur’s time overseas, a French dictionary, a knife and fork in a case, a razor and mirror.  Did she open the parcel?  Did she read Arthur’s diary?  We will never know, but this is all she had left of her time with Arthur along with her memories.  They did not have time to have a home together or raise a family.

In 1923 Alice’s mother passed away and she stayed on in Daylesford before her own death in 1930 at only 38 years of age.  She is buried at the Daylesford cemetery.

In Arthur’s hometown of Casterton, he is remembered on the Town Hall Honour Roll and the Casterton War Memorial

Reading of Arthur’s fate reminded me of a poem I studied at school by the great World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen, Dulce Et Decorum Est.  It’s haunting words give some insight into the experiences  of the thousands of Australians who served their country in World War 1 and the discovery that the Great War was not the big adventure so many expected.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

*It is sweet and right to die for your country

Wilfred Owen – 1918


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