Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A building with memories

AlmaSouthNoticeThis sign outside the now abandoned Alma South School in South Australia holds few hints to the role it played in the life of my father and his siblings one hundred years ago.

Edward John Horgan and his sister Honora Mary were enrolled at this little one room school on the 28th April 1914. He was 5 yrs 11 months old and she was 7 yrs 4 months. The school register shows that neither had attended school before and that they lived three miles away. The distance from the school probably explains why Honora Mary had not started at a younger age. Now there were two children of school age, transport would be found for them.

This extract from the Alma South school register held at State Records SA details their birth dates, father’s occupation and shows they both started in J, the first grade in the school. Eddie completed Junior in 1915 while his elder sister moved up a grade.

register entry

This photo shows Eddie with his sister outside the school on their horse Beaver, accompanied by local children Lindsay McKenzie and Beryl Watts on the other two horses. There is no saddle on Beaver so a slow and steady progress would have been the order of the day. There were only 23 children on the register in 1914 with the average daily attendance shown as 16. As many would have ridden horses to school, one can only imagine the reluctance of some to set out on cold, wet mornings.
AlmaSouthLeaving for home

To find out more about school days at Alma South I turned to Trove where Nora Mary, as she liked to be known then, wrote in 1916:
We had Australia Day in Alma on July 26. The Alma South school children were dressed up to represent different nations. I was an Irish girl. …(she continues) I am in the second class at school. The teacher's name is Miss Dubois. (1)
Ellen M J DuBois had been appointed to Alma South school in 1911 and had commenced there in April of that year. She was still there in 1928.

At the beginning of 1917 the youngest Horgan child, Joseph, was enrolled at the school at the age of 6 years 9 months. I wonder if the three of them shared the ride on Beaver or if they took turns and walked some of the way.

In February of 1917 Nora Mary wrote of school days again to the Southern Cross newspaper:
We are busy at school knitting for soldiers. Both of us passed. Eddie is in the third grade. I am in the fifth grade. My little brother Joseph is going to school now. He is a pet of the scholars. (2)

collarboneIn April of 1918 a report on a school picnic for children’s day held jointly with the Alma North and Salter Springs schools, describes a variety of activities. Miss Du Bois had obviously done a good job managing to get a group of youngsters entwined in a Maypole dance.

At the end of this report it is noted:
An accident to Mr. and Mrs. Horgan's young son, who fell heavily in one of the races, marred the afternoon's proceedings. It was found that he had sustained a slight fracture of the collarbone. (3)

Whether this was Joe or Eddie is not known but it certainly would have been a painful ride home in the buggy over rough roads. Many of the dirt roads in the locale of their old home can still provide a somewhat bumpy ride in 2016. Several school picnics and gatherings were recorded in the papers of the times.

Another glance of life at school is provided by Nora Mary in November of 1918.

Our examination will be next month. I hope to pass into the VII. Grade. Isn't it lovely to think that the war is over at last? A lady came to our school on Wednesday to teach us how to spin wool. We will have five weeks' holiday at Christmas time. We have had three days' holiday this week in honour of peace. (4)
She spent another two years at the school passing what was known as the Qualifying Certificate at the end of Grade Seven in 1920. Eddie and Joe were still recorded as attending Alma South in 1921. There were only twenty-six to thirty children attending the school in those years between 1914 and 1921.

The school register I examined was used from 1883 until December 1921. The instructions for filling it in included a note at the bottom of the first page that read:

Should a new register be required before the old one is finished, it may be obtained with the permission of the Inspector on payment of 2s.6d.

This was written before 1883 when this register of pupils was commenced. One hopes the teacher did not have to pay for a new register 39 years later! State Archives notes that the location of admission registers for the school at Alma South after this date is unknown. (5)

Alma South School – September 2016

It is sad to see the state of the building now as time and weather wreak their damage. I would like to think that my father and his siblings had fond memories of this small school and the friends made therein.
View from outside – September 2016

Entry via the porch - inside the building the remains of a chalkboard adorn one wall. The roof timbers appear to be in good condition.
View of the side of school building showing significant deterioration

An interesting article in Weekend Notes has more information on Alma and Salter Springs as well as some other small towns in this region of South Australia.

1. 1916 'The Children.', Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), 1 September, p. 18. , viewed 03 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166422061 2. 1917 'The Children.', Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), 9 February, p. 6. , viewed 03 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166980769
3. 1918 'THE COUNTRY.', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 23 April, p. 6. , viewed 03 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60351597
4. 1918 'The Children.', Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), 22 November, p. 15. , viewed 03 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166988853
5. GRS/13020 Admission Register, Alma South School, 1883 -1921 State Records of South Australia, viewed 2 Sept 2016

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Georgina and family leave Ngallo

My mother related the story of arriving in Hamley Bridge, South Australia as a young girl, helping her mother and older sisters struggle to carry their limited luggage from the train station. I set out to find a date and the circumstances of their arrival. A recent trip to attend a family wedding and visit my siblings in South Australia provided an opportunity to acquire a wealth of family related stories and photos.

Ngallo houseAfter the death of her husband Patrick Joseph O’Dea from influenza in 1919, my maternal grandmother Georgina Ellen O’Dea continued to live and work on the plot of land at Ngallo, in Victoria just over the border from Pinnaroo South Australia. The young couple had settled there in 1911. 

The house they had built, seen in the picture here, was home to the young family.  Georgina, aged 29 and now widowed, was mother to six children aged from 11 years to just 9 months old.

Michael James O’Dea, Patrick’s brother had married Ethel Bennett in 1918.(1) They were living on a block nearby with Ethel’s son Albert John Bennett (known as Jack or Jackie) who had been born in July 1917 to Ethel Richards and James George Bennett, (Georgina’s brother).(2)
James Bennett had died while on a visit to his sister and her family in September of 1917 when the baby was only two months old.(3) Michael married the widowed Ethel in October of 1918.

So in 1919, after Patrick’s death in August, the two young families living close by struggled to come to terms with the changed conditions. As Patrick had died intestate, near neighbours Edward John Kain and John Bernard Barry provided affidavits and surety for Georgina. Papers of administration (4) were issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria in November of 1919 and probate settled in October 1920 after the duty of £22/5/2d had been paid.

Georgina continued to work hard to keep the dream of their own farm alive, but by 1923 she had taken the decision to return to Hamley Bridge to be near her deceased husband’s O’Dea relatives and her sister Mary Olive Bennett who had married Daniel Casaretto. They also lived in Hamley Bridge. A farewell function held on March 13th was reported in the Pinnaroo and Border Times.


Farewell Social.

On Tuesday evening. March 13th, the Ngallo Hall was again taxed to its utmost capacity with well-wishers of Mrs P. J. O’Dea and family, and Mr J. Burford, who are leaving the district.

Mr S. S Coburn occupied the chair, and referred to the loss that the district would sustain by the departure of their guests. He wished them every success and prosperity in their new sphere.

Mrs O’Dea was made the recipient of a parcel of stainless cutlery consisting of 1 doz table and 1 doz desert knives.

Mr M. O’Dea suitably responded on behalf of his sister-in-law and thanked them all for the many kind things said about them and also for their beautiful gift, which, he contended, would remind them of the many kind friends they had left in Ngallo and surrounding districts.

The sale of the farm, horses and cattle as well as all the implements followed on March 15th. The care of 640 acres with 10 horses and 21 cattle as well as the 100 fowls would have been quite a burden even with help from her brother-in-law and kindly neighbours.Ngallo sale 1923

The subsequent departure from Ngallo started a new period in the lives of this family. One wonders if the weight of the dozen table and dessert knives added significantly to the luggage burden being borne from the train station that day in 1923.

The children’s unmarried aunts in Hamley Bridge, Hannah Teresa and Margaret O’Dea were kind to their nieces and nephews. They were still living at “Clare Villa” caring for their elderly parents.

View of house known as ‘Clare Villa’, Hamley Bridge at 1st September 2016

clare villa

More of Georgina’s life is recalled in the post 50 years on.

1. Groom Given Name(s): Michael James, Last Name: ODEA, Bride Given Name(s): Ethel Last Name: BENNETT Marriage Date: 1918, October 09 SA marriages Book/Page: 277/538

2. Given Name(s): Albert John Last Name: BENNETT Birth Date: 1917, July 29 Gender: M Father: James George David BENNETT Mother: Ethel RICHARDS Birth Place: Adelaide SA births Book/Page: 3A/443

3. 1917 'Family Notices', Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), 6 October, p. 27. , viewed 11 Sep 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87412751

4. 1919 'Classified Advertising', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 1 October, p. 19. , viewed 13 Sep 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4680369

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Influenza numbers

Advances in medical research bring us the benefits of modern medicines and I for one will be making sure that a ‘flu vaccine is on my to do list before next winter. My maternal grandfather Patrick Joseph O’Dea died as a result of the great flu epidemic that swept the world in 1918 and 1919. A dose of flu in our household prompted me to look at my family history records to identify any other victims of that epidemic.

There are 7 deaths I have recorded in 1919 and 3 of these were definitely from the effects of “pneumonic influenza’ as the epidemic was named at that time. Another three of the deaths all occurred in one Horgan family. I have not sought death certificates to confirm the cause of those deaths but two brothers in their thirties died within three months of each other and Julia their 71 year old mother died a mere six months later. If this was not from influenza then surely from a broken heart at losing Daniel and William, two of her remaining nine children, in the prime of their lives.

A sad case was revealed in Alma, South Australia, where John Edward Smyth aged 40 had been living with his parents and working the family farm. John was my paternal grandmother Elizabeth’s first cousin.
Mr.John Smyth, who has resided with his parents on the farm at Alma, was missed, and a search was made. He was found drowned in a tank, and it is supposed he was getting a drink of water, and as the day was hot he must have become giddy and fallen into the tank, which contained about five feet of water. He had an attack of influenza about three months ago, which left him very weak. He was highly respected by all who knew him. Much sympathy is felt for his aged parents, who have resided for many years on their farm at Alma. He is a brother of Mr. Pat. Smyth, blacksmith, of Alma. (1)
John Edward Smyth, 1879 – 1919 is buried at St Benedict’s Cemetery, Pinkerton Plains South Australia. His elderly father James aged 88 joined him in the cemetery just nine months later in July 1920. His mother, Catherine Smyth (born Mulvaney) was buried in the family plot at aged 65 in 1923.

Earlier in the year another branch of the same family also suffered loss from influenza. James Leo Byrne had married grandmother Elizabeth's younger sister Margaret Smyth in 1898. They had been farming at Lameroo in South Australia for some years before extending their interests into Queensland in about 1910. The two reports that follow appeared in the local Darling Downs newspapers of the time.
Macalister and district have sustained a severe loss in the death in Melbourne of Mr. James Byrne, who fell a victim to the pneumonic influenza. Mr. Byrne, who came from South Australia about nine years ago, was on his way to visit that State on business, when he  contracted the disease which led to his death. He was engaged in farming pursuits at Apunyal, and his death is a severe loss. (2)

The many friends o£ Mr. Jas. Byrne (Apunyal) will be sorry to hear of the death of that highly respected gentleman. It seems that while journeying to attend to business in South Australia he contracted pneumonic influenza which was the cause of death. Mrs. Byrne and family have the sympathy of a large circle of friends as the Byrne family are widely known and highly respected. (3)
James Leo Byrne 1863-1919, was 55 when he died. His wife Margaret born in 1873 lived until 1936 and died at home in Lameroo, South Australia, aged 63.

The seventh death I have recorded is that of an infant just 2 months old. Jack Corfield was born to my brother-in-law’s grandparents in October of 1919 and died just 2 months later on Christmas Eve. The end of a sad year for many folk.

1. 1919 'COUNTRY NEWS.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 7 November, p. 3. , viewed 02 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108285798
2.1919 'PERSONAL.', Warwick Daily News (Qld. : 1919 -1954), 23 April, p. 4, viewed 25 June, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article175740209
3. 1919 'MACALISTER.', Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 - 1922), 21 April, p. 6. , viewed 02 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182942245

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Trove Tuesday Honner

The approaching wedding of a nephew with the surname Honner had me scurrying to Trove to see if there were any reports of the details of weddings of his ancestors. His great grandparents John Aloysius Honner and Mary Langford were married in 1893 in Maitland, South Australia, and the newspapers reveal a wealth of information about the lives of this couple.


The Honner family had arrived on Yorke Peninsula in 1875 when John was about 13 as this extract from an account about the prosperity of Maitland in 1952 records.
There were some epic pioneering stories. Richard Honner, of Yankalilla, who had seven sons, first took up land at Brentwood. Edward, aged 12, and John, 13, each drove a four - bullock team from the old home, through Adelaide, to the new property. [a distance of approx 280 km] For the feat, each was presented with an English lever and key watch. Mr. R. C. Honner, of Arthurton, now has one and Mr. R. F. Honner the other, and both still go. Mr. Edward Honner, now 88, is living in retirement in Maitland. 

1952 'ITS PROSPERITY IS EVERYWHERE', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 24 September, p. 12. , viewed 26 Jul 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130867619
The 1943 account of the celebrations held for their golden wedding anniversary add more detail to the story.
More details about this family's life were found in the obituary later that year when John died in October.
Mary (Langford) Honner outlived her husband by 13 years and died in 1956. They are both buried in St Agatha’s Catholic cemetery, in Arthurton.

The next generation back

Some details from the papers about my nephews’ great-great grandparents Richard and Sarah Honner  who married in 1856, can be found in these articles. The first is the account of their diamond wedding celebrating 60 years. The fuzzy picture below was taken on that occasion in 1916. The next two articles are obituaries which contain extensive details about their lives and the lives of their children.
60th wedding anniversary of Richard and Sarah Honner

My nephew's parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year so he has many years to catch up on to emulate those who came before him. Best wishes Richard and Rebecca.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Skills and Crafts of a Farmer’s wife

Memories of Mum’s work, skills and hobbies

Hannah Horgan (1912-2013) on the back veranda of her last house at 6 Kelly St, Riverton, South Australia
It is now three years since my mother Hannah died but she left us with many fond memories and a variety of skills. The work of a farmer’s wife encompasses a broad range of tasks often not associated with a stay-at-home wife and mother.
Here’s a quick review of some of the tasks my mother undertook and taught to her children.

Farmyard related

Eggs: Seated on the veranda surrounding the farm house we washed and packed dozens of eggs manually. A damp cloth was used to wipe the surface of any soiled egg. These were then packed carefully into layers in the egg crates used to send them to market. Layer upon layer were added as they were cleaned, then came the sighs of relief when the wooden crate was sealed for collection.

Fowls: Who else would teach you how to pluck and dress a dead chicken but your mother? I’m sure she was pleased to share this onerous task with her children so that we could all enjoy the chicken dinners to follow. The heavy kettle was boiled then poured over the dead bird. Plucking the feathers had to be done quickly while the bird was warm. Ooh, that wet bird smell, then inserting one’s hand to remove the innards. I’m glad this is a skill I no longer need!

Milk, Cream and Butter :  The fresh milk from the cows which some of my siblings had to milk, came to the kitchen still warm. The cream separator ensured we had a constant supply of fresh delicious cream. Yes, the separator had to be disassembled and every part scrubbed and cleaned – she taught all of us how to do that. We learnt how to make cream into butter and how to cook delicious rice puddings and many other dishes using the fresh and not so fresh dairy products, no food ever to be wasted.

Meat processing: The mutton killed for family consumption was delivered to the kitchen in it’s newly killed state. Mum would use every small skerrick of meat, cutting away the fat and turning the scrag ends into mince. We all took turns turning the handle of the mincer. We learnt all the parts of the beast and what meat was suited best for which meals.

meat grinder
The meat mincer

Indoor hobbies and skills

Sewing: A necessary skill for a woman with seven children. There were sheets to be patched and collars on shirts to be unpicked and turned. Men’s work trousers from the paddock often needed patching in the knees to “make them last.” The first sewing machine I remember was a treadle Singer. Mum sewed many of our clothes late at night when we were in bed. She taught us to sew both by hand and on the machine. We learnt by making doll’s clothes from leftover scraps and did the hand stitching required to finish items. One of my sisters remembers a new dress made for Tarlee school picnic day. She loved to climb trees and the carefully sewn new dress returned home dirty and scruffy.

1982 knitted by Nana
Knitting: Before the days of cheap clothing hand knitted items were treasured. Old jumpers were unpicked and re-knitted into new items. Mum knitted woollen socks for my father and in later years many woollen toys for her grandchildren. Several of her grandchildren will remember these striped woollen jumpers knitted with love. She taught her daughters to knit and crochet.

Crafts: As we grew up and Mum had a little more time she joined the C.W.A. ( Country Womens' Association) Each month’s meeting concentrated on new learning or a new skill. We saw woven baskets made, knitted and covered coat hangers, recycled cards made into boxes of every shape and size. The crocheted toilet roll cover sat for many years on the cistern. Who could forget the snowman that appeared every hot summer Christmas made with quilting wadding covering a large Milo tin? When Mum moved from her house into hospital care, there were many remnants of craft and sewing materials in her cupboards and drawers recalling many happy hours spent crafting a wide range of goodies.

Thanks Mum for the skills and passion for learning new things that you passed on to me.