A Home for Noddy

Have you ever been given a toy that you were never sure why it was chosen for you? It happened to me. I was given a marionette Noddy. Apparently someone else was given one too, as when looking to research the history of my marionette – ‘A Monty Puppet’ I came across the following object entry at the Powerhouse Museum website:

Powerhouse Museum – Puppet, Noddy, rubber/ wood/ cloth/ felt/ string/ wire, Monty puppets, [England], [1958] https://collection.maas.museum/object/167059
Made by Blyton, Enid in England, United Kingdom, Europe, 1958.
Puppet is made from wood and rubber in the character of ‘Noddy’. The head of this puppet is made of hardened rubber. The painted face has collapsed. Blue felt fuzz covers the hat, which also has a metal bell on it. Brown fuzz represents Noddy’s hair. The body is made from a tear shaped wood block. The arms and legs are made from jointed pieces of wood dowel. The hands are made from the same painted rubber as the face. The feet are red painted blocks of wood. The puppet is dressed in a red cotton shirt with a yellow felt handkerchief around the neck. This is quite worn. Noddy wears shorts made from cotton, now faded but possibly once light blue. Red, cream and green strings are attached to the hands, knees and head. These are controlled by a simple wood cross handpiece with a small piece of dowel and a metal hook for hanging the puppet. The handle is stamped: ‘The Monty Puppet/The Noddy/Copyright 1958/[illegible] Rights’.
Object No. 99/4/51
Short URL https://ma.as/167059
Width 200 mm
Depth 55 mm
Notes : Noddy was the main character in Enid Blyton’s popular Noddy series of children’s books. The first of these, ‘Little Noddy Goes to Toyland’, appeared in 1949 as a vehicle for the Dutch illustrator Harmsden Van Der Beek. This date is based on the stamp on the puppet’s handle ‘Copyright 1958’.
Designed Blyton, Enid 1958
Notes : Donated by the National Trust’s Museum of Australian Childhood by the Thyne Reid Foundation.
Owned National Trust of Australia
Credit Line Gift of the National Trust of Australia, NSW, 1999
Acquisition Date 12 January, 1999
Cite this Object
Harvard Puppet, Noddy, rubber/ wood/ cloth/ felt/ string/ wire, Monty puppets, [England], [1958] 2015, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 ‎October 2017, <https://ma.as/167059&gt;
Wikipedia {{cite web |url=https://ma.as/167059 |title=Puppet, Noddy, rubber/ wood/ cloth/ felt/ string/ wire, Monty puppets, [England], [1958] |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 ‎October 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Noddy was a gift chosen for me by my mother to amuse me during my convalescence from having my tonsils and adenoids surgically removed when I was six. I had the surgery at Camperdown Children’s Hospital and we lived at Queenscliff on the north side of Sydney, a long way away from the hospital. My mother was unable to visit except on the day of my surgery when my father must have taken a day off work, as they were both there. My father would visit after work as he happened to be working over that way at the time, so I wasn’t totally alone. I was in hospital for at least a week and it might have been longer, it certainly seemed that way to me. I wasn’t particularly worried about the isolation though as, from an early age, I was very independent and besides I had, my best friend, Teddy the bear with me.

However, I did not particularly trust or like the nurses at the hospital as they had lied to me when I was in theatre, telling me that I could remove the chloroform cloth from my face if I felt it was suffocating me but, as I went to remove it, they held down my hands until I went under. I was not happy!! Then to cap it off when I awoke in recovery feeling very angry and betrayed all I wanted was my teddy bear and they would not get him for me. I screamed and cried and screamed some more pretty much non-stop for over an hour until they finally got so sick of the racket they went and got him. My other childhood trait apart from independence, was determination. I seem to still have them.

My mother told me when I was older that the nurse had been quite surprised how I “shut up” immediately when they got my bear. My mother’s response was ‘well that was what she asked for and if you’d got it for her in the first place …’ I was rather surprised and very glad to know my mother defended my very bad behaviour – in our house there was usually no excuse. If I complained of a sore throat during my stay, the nurses would tell me that was because I screamed so much and, while I didn’t show it, I seethed at their stupidity. Hence they weren’t very popular in my eyes at all. Teddy understood though. Funnily enough I am one of those rare people who doesn’t mind being in hospital so the scarring definitely wasn’t for life – perhaps Teddy’s counselling was very good.

Princess Alexandra Childrens Hospital Camperdown

Princess Alexandra children’s Hospital Camperdown Sydney NSW c 1960 https://goo.gl/images/EQwF4H

I thought Mum was awesome though to go to the trouble and expense to buy me Noddy and I certainly did not expect it. I was actually more than happy just to be home from hospital and with all the jelly, custard and ice-cream I had been allowed to eat. As most from my era would know, that was a rare treat. All treats and presents were rare in my childhood, so always appreciated. I loved Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories but until recent times, I never could understand why Mum bought me a marionette. It was, by the way, not very practical. I had no-where to hang his handle to operate him and within a very short time I managed to get the strings so tangled that they could not be untangled and he couldn’t be worked. So he remained in the box and is still there now.

Noddy box

The Box Noddy came in – a little battered but surviving

I did get him out once or twice over the years as, in spite of not playing with him, he is still treasured for the many memories he evokes and that he was a special gift to me. One time, several years ago, I untied the strings and put them back on the handle so he can now be worked. I have tied them all together though so they don’t tangle again. Somewhere along the line his face, like the one described at the Powerhouse Museum, has collapsed a bit but just on one side. I suspect in the Queensland heat his head became soft and he was pressed up against another doll or something in storage. Although they have no image, he seems to be in better condition than their example and mine does have his bright blue shorts on, all his clothes are just like new. Never-the-less as can be seen in the photo, his face paint does seem worn and he looks a little scary to me in some ways.

Noddy 1

Noddy and his slightly damaged/worn face paint.

Recently I came across a YouTube video of another childhood favourite – Andy Pandy. I watched the TV show religiously as a little girl and when I saw the video I think I worked out why my mother thought I would like Noddy. It was because Andy Pandy was a marionette! What my mother didn’t probably realise was, to me, he wasn’t a puppet, Andy Pandy was real! So, Noddy the marionette was just a bit weird to the six year old me who believed in everything as well as him being hard to manage. It was as I watched Andy Pandy as an adult though that the realisation came to me of what my mother was probably actually thinking at the time. I never told her I didn’t really like my gift, I just let her think that his strings were too tangled and left it at that.

As I think about it though more other favourites come to mind in Mr Squiggle and Lambchop, albeit Lambchop was a hand puppet. Lambchop was another who was “real” and to a lesser extent, Mr Squiggle, although I am still fascinated watching him draw.  I do seem to remember marionette Noddy sparking an interest in how the puppeteers worked the puppets but perhaps what it really was is that he took away some of the magic… that special magic of childhood where reality and imagination intermingle. At the same time though he evokes wonderful memories of that magical time, hence why I think I have treasured him just the same.

Noddy needs to be taken care of now as we both are looking to old age and I would like to find a home for him where he will be safe and maybe I can visit. I am hoping the Powerhouse Museum will take him, I will be sad to say goodbye but I have too many things to pass on and he needs the best of care. I trust he will get it there. I can also tell them that the stamp on the handle says:

Copyright 1958/THE NODDY/Subsidiary Rights Co. Ltd/THE MONTY PUPPET

And the Box has:

THE MONTY PUPPET/QUALITY PRODUCT/ WX 3618/GLADESVILLE SYDNEY [perhaps he wasn’t made in England]

I have written to the Powerhouse so fingers are crossed, but if you know of anyone who treasures marionettes please get in touch.

© Lynette Nunn 2017



Travel Diary – Chile

Something different – a travel diary from 2012

13 October 2012

Finally made it to Santiago, Very tired – no sleep on the plane and I can hardly stay awake for dinner. Have to say that flying into Santiago was pretty awesome seeing the Andes above the blanket of clouds, just like normal mountains on a field of snow. I knew then that they were taller than anything else I have seen, even in Scotland! The clouds and smog didn’t start to clear until this afternoon when I was wandering around the park near my hotel and had walked up the big hill, Saint Lucia, where I was admiring the view down over the city and thinking it was a pity I couldn’t see the mountains. I was admiring some of the cloud patterns when I realised that the clouds I could see high up in the sky were actually the snow covered peaks of the Andes! Have spent the afternoon wandering around near my hotel, some interesting shops and lovely parks but the rest of the city doesn’t do much for me. The ride out from the airport reminded me of Mexico looking at the housing. Some of it looked like it was made out of scrap timber…or else they were stables but everything was very dilapidated and depressing and the high rise got me too – this is an earthquake zone!

Chileans make the best salsa! I normally do not like it much but the real stuff is so good!

The other thing that surprises me is when I walk into my hotel, the porter jumps to his feet and rushes to call the lift for me and to open the door, select the floor etc. As this is a low budget hotel I am rather taken aback and I wonder what happens in the expensive hotels. 🙂 All rather old world but nice just the same

14 October 2012

Had to laugh at myself yesterday. Never having spoken Spanish to anyone before my instant reaction was to reply in German! 🙂 I didn’t actually do it but my brain must have registered it wasn’t English. After being spoilt at lunch yesterday finding a restaurant where the staff had excellent English and a Safe Food Award (very handy sign to look for), I decided to try out the hotel restaurant for dinner where they have no English and one hopes the food is safe. 🙂 The phrase book and my duo lingo lessons got me through. Nice food too – nothing too fancy but good and presented nicely. Hopefully I will have a little more confidence each day.

Fitting in well to the routine here – my hotel doesn’t serve breakfast until 8am and dinner starts at 8pm. I missed breakfast. After getting up at 4am for an hour or so I went back to bed and, after taking a while to go to sleep, it was after 10am before I woke up again. Started off very cold but has finished up a lovely sunny day. I like getting to know Santiago.

Another interesting day. Walked all over Santa Lucia Hill today – it is a bit of a labyrinth. 🙂 Couldn’t help but notice the dogs today. They too seem to have the South American way of life – very laid back. Most were asleep and didn’t appear to have owners but aren’t starving either. They had no aggression what so ever, just peacefully enjoying the sun. Also discovered a young tabby cat in the bushes that came out to greet me when I spoke to her. Poor baby, I would have liked to take her home. There were dogs asleep on the streets today I noticed as well. I guess they are allowed to wander as there are no backyards in the city and it is all apartments.


The Palace changing of the guard SantiagoThe Palace changing of the guard Santiago

My favourite waitress told me about the Santa Lucia markets. They are not on on Sunday but in looking I found some other shops selling craft and souvenirs. Ended up buying shoes 🙂 and a CD. Most places here play English music that I hear at home all the time. Last night in the restaurant they were playing some really nice Spanish songs, which I prefer since it is different. The music shop was playing a really great artist a bit like a Spanish Bob Dylan only with a better voice. Had to buy it. I needed to get the owner of the shop next door to translate for me explain which song I heard.

There are lots of markets in Santiago. The arts and crafts market in the city centre was very interesting.


art and craft markets in Santiagoart and craft markets in Santiago 

Off to Easter Island tomorrow.

15 October 2012

Day 1 at Easter Island. It has been a long day. Josie Haumaka, my tour guide met me at the airport and presented me with a Lai.  Did an afternoon tour of some of the statues and the volcano close by. Tomorrow is a full day going to the other end of the island. Too tired to say much except that the most awesome thing I saw today was the ocean around the Island – from the air it is the most incredible shade of blue and it is from the ground too and when the waves break, the blue appears to leak into the white foam like the colour is running. Heading to bed, no sleep last night and jet lag has got me which is unusual for me. I hope I get a good night of sleep tonight.


17 October 2012

Day 2 on Easter Island where the horses run free, the cattle run free (pretty much), the dogs run free, the cats run free and the chickens run free. Fences hardly exist. There are hundreds of horses – a few years ago there were more horses than people. They are mostly owned and once again the dogs and cats look well fed. I am sure all the dogs in Chile and Easter Island are drugged because they are all so placid, with a couple of exceptions.

Last night at dinner I was visited by, firstly, a very skinny mangy tabby cat so I gave her some of my chicken, which, by the way, was the best piece if chicken I have had in years – it actually tasted like chicken did in the old days! I don’t know if it was home grown or it was the cooking but it was really good, Anyway, when she finally gave up and went away I noticed she looked pregnant, poor little thing. Next was a female dog in the queue of here’s a sucker, looked like she had puppies at home or had recently lost them. The waiter shooed her away but she looked half starved also and very forlorn. She lay a short distance away and watched us. A male dog came along and she surprised me as she gave him what for and snarled at him until he took off.

So, tonight as I was walking home there she was again in same area and she came up to me with those sorrowful eyes and I really wished I had something to give her. I kept walking and happened to go by the general store that sold meat – there were a few dogs sitting outside the door looking very hopeful so you can guess what I did. I probably shouldn’t have but I summoned up my best broken Spanish and bought her a nice juicy pork chop – mostly because the bones they sold were too big and I did want to start a dog fight over the food. I was a little concerned about how much it would cost as restaurant food is not cheap here, but it cost me the huge sum of $2. I called her over to a quietish area away from the other dogs and gave it to her – she was ravenous and wolfed it down almost with the plastic bag as well. I hope it didn’t make her sick and she has a night with a full belly for a change. As you can see, I should not live here.

A nicer story happened earlier today after my tour which was really interesting and informative. I saw the quarry today where they made the statues and some were still in situ partly carved, or in the process of being moved. It was easy to imagine after today what is must have been like in its hey day with all the statues and the villages. I have now seen two volcano craters. I don’t think I have ever actually seen one before.

So after my tour, I went down to the town for some shopping and a wander around and I decided to go and visit the cemetery. That was really interesting. Very colourful with flowers growing everywhere and not a stonemason’s headstone to be seen but lots carved out of the local stone by the locals themselves. There seemed to be a section just for the babies which always makes me sad. Anyway, just before then I heard some footsteps behind me and it was another female dog. She started rummaging in the flower pots on the graves and I roused on her but then I realised she was after water. I left the cemetery and continued on my walk along the coastline to where there are some statues and she continued to follow me. She found a babies disposable nappy and thought it was a ball and was playing with it, tossing it in the air. Finally she lost interest in that (thank goodness) and we continued on our walk. She saw some other people who patted her but she soon left them and came with me again. (Am I turning into the dog lady???) I sat down to look at the surf and the statues and she sat beside me so I decided to give her some of my water which she was really happy about. After a while I went back the way I came and she followed. She stopped to play chasing with another dog for a while – they ran around taking turns at who was chaser and chasee and I thought I’d lose her but no, she realised I had walked on and dumped the playmate and raced to catch up to me. We got to the lovely beach near the town and she raced off to a family that patted her etc and I thought must be hers. Before long though again I heard pitter patter behind me. I went down to a wonderful restaurant for dinner that was on the beachfront and she was gone when I came out.


  My canine companionMy canine companion

The restaurant has a veranda where you sit facing the surf where the waves are good enough to surf – there were about 6 guys out, the sun was setting and with dinner done it was so relaxing I could have easily fell asleep. So ends day 2.


Surf from the restaurantSurf from the restaurant

18 October 2012

Day 3 and it is siesta time although, as tempting as it is, I dare not have one and risk not being able to sleep tonight. This morning we went to the lava tube caves where the natives used to take shelter, have gardens and use as a water supply. There are bananas, grapes, and taro growing down there at the opening and when you go in to the cave it is very cool and they have fire pits there for warmth in the cold weather. I also saw an unrestored statue site which was good to see as the toppling of the statues is also part of their cultural heritage.

Did a little “research” for work and went in to the bank to change USD to pesos but they will only do that between 8am and 11-30 am and I was too late – that seemed very weird but fortunately I had mastered the ATM so it was all good.

Off to a traditional native dinner tonight and a show so that should be interesting. Flying back to Santiago tomorrow afternoon

Native dinner and show was good. After watching the ceremony around the fire pit I had my face painted Rapa Nui style (the photos didn’t work out) and had to attend a hula style dance class while the men learnt to jump around yelling like Rapa Nui men do  – a little akin to the haka. The dinner was very much like a hangi as well. The show was great though. They even have a version of cats cradle with string like we used to play only it accompanies a song

19 October 2012

I am still enthused about the colour of the sea and the sight of the Andes but I can’t pick a favourite thing – it has all been a great adventure. I am getting better with my Spanish comprehension and saying very basic stuff although, once I say something in Spanish, they often continue to converse in it and I haven’t a clue. I also need a bigger dictionary!

Guess who got business class upgrade??? 🙂 I happened to mention the little hassle I had at Santiago airport about my baggage and that they said I had too much. I had to get my guide there to talk to them and they let me through without charge. Tour guide here thought that was weird so she checked this morning before picking me. They confirmed here that I was well within limits so as compensation they upgraded me. 🙂 I guess it helps that this is a small place and the guide knows everyone and also that the check in girl was her cousin (she has 42 first cousins on the island). Currently using free wifi at airport waiting for my flight.

I may be speaking too soon as I have another couple of flights with LAN but I think they might be better than Qantas. In business class they give you doonas not just nicer blankets. I thought the blankets in economy were pretty swish as it was. It was a good flight and we were 30 minutes early. Saw sunset over the Andes from the plane – very beautiful.

I have to say it was a little disconcerting, to say the least, yesterday when, after boarding the plane, they announced they were going to spray the cabin with insecticide! It was a health requirement and would not harm us (sure, sure). I had visions of cans of mortein coming out but no; a lovely smell came through the air con giving me thoughts of other less pleasant things. I now think perhaps it was disinfectant and she translated incorrectly, I have heard that before I think

Braved the congor eel for dinner  back in Santiago– yum


 Selecton of food at the fish market restaurantSelecton of food at the fish market restaurant

22 October 2012

My facebook post from last night seems to have disappeared but maybe I was so exhausted mentally that I forgot to hit enter. 🙂 So, to reiterate, I have finally arrived in San Pedro de Atacama with no thanks to the tour company (Desert Adventure) who left me stranded in Calama without anyone in the airport who could speak more English than I can Spanish and me having to find my own way here and arriving 5 hours later than I was supposed to.

Flying in to Calama on the way to San Pedro. The Andes in the background - just enormous!Flying in to Calama on the way to San Pedro. The Andes in the background – just enormous!

Got them to give me the $80 back for my taxi fare and they gave me free lunch at the restaurant nearby. I am currently a little concerned about the rest of this trip as last night the concierge with little English wanted to know if I wanted a wake up call and boxed lunch. I said no lunch and 7am call. So at 4-55 am there is a guy knocking on my door speaking Spanish. I think he was trying to wake me up for a tour but that would be for the tour on the last day. He went away and I tried to call reception but the phone doesn’t work – so probably was a wake up call. Will they turn up at 8am like they are supposed to? I suspect this is going to be the tour from hell and such a shame as I love San Pedro.


 My HotelMy Hotel

They did turn up at 8am but for the wrong tour – all day and I wasn’t prepared and found out after we had picked up a few more people. Something told me to ask. So I got off and waited for the tour office to open to find out what on earth was going on.

23 October 2012

Time to get dressed, find out what is going on with my tours and get some breakfast. One good thing is I self booked an astrological tour tonight to go star gazing, I think that doing it myself might be the only way in the future and that usually is what I do. Looking forward to the stars. 🙂

All sorted now. The tour company changed my entire itinerary. The driver who didn’t get me from the airport was supposed to give me a copy and the hotel. He supposedly left mine at the hotel for them to give me. Anyway I have another new itinerary now and they are doing a special tour for me this afternoon to the Inca ruins that I had thought I was doing this morning. Filled in the rest of the day wandering the streets and shopping. So all is good again.


 Alpaca in the streets of San Pedro. They often have  coloured ribbons on their heads to ward off evil spirits and are ownership idenitifiersAlpaca in the streets of San Pedro. They often have coloured ribbons on their heads to ward off evil spirits and are ownership idenitifiers

What a great night star gazing. We had a Professor of Astronomy and his student plus a translator. The Professor cracked jokes now and then and was lots of fun. He had a big telescope and we looked at stars, planets, galaxies and the moon. Unfortunately the moon was half full so we could not see a lot of stars. On the plus side though we were able to look at the moon and its craters and also take a photo through the telescope – very cool. 🙂 Oh, and the word is that there will be a collision with earth in 2036, bigger than the one that wiped out the planets but we can go live on Mars by then or one of the moons of Saturn so get your bags packed. 🙂 This was after Professorhad a wine or two – we had wine, pisco sour (which I tried), tea and coffee in the middle of the desert by moonlight during the break. So he may have been pulling our leg. On the way home the Professor sat in the front with the Belgium guy who wanted to be in front and he was jokingly being very friendly as it was a bit squeezy with three in the front. So it was lots of fun and at the same time, educational.

 Looking at the moon through the telescope in the Atacama Desert

Looking at the moon through the telescope in the Atacama Desert

24 October 2012

Got to see wild flamingos today in the Atacama salt lakes. 2 of the 3 species were there today. Also saw quite a few vicunas – like little llama kind of animals that can’t be domesticated as they die. We went from desert and salt lakes to what they call the wet lands …still arid to me. It was freezing in the Andes foothills and I am wearing thermals for tomorrow’s trip to the mountains and geysers. Early start and then back to Santiago. Home soon

 Me up in the AndesMe up in the Andes



25 October 2012

If I thought it was cold in the Andes foothills yesterday it was nothing like today up at 4500 metres just after sunrise looking at geysers and eating breakfast!! It was minus 12c. I had thermals on but I thought my fingers would drop off and my toes were even cold. One poor girl wore leggings. She had grabbed a jacket when they told her it would be really cold but didn’t think it would be that bad. She was shivering and said it had gone from being uncomfortable to horrible. The best part of breakfast was the hard boiled eggs that were still hot – don’t know how they did that but holding them was wonderful and so was eating them – haven’t seen an egg since I left. 🙂 The geysers were good but not that interesting to me as I have seen them in Rotorua but we got to see some more vicuna close up, more flamingos and other bird life.

A contrast - snow in the stream and steam from the geysers.A contrast – snow in the stream and steam from the geysers.

 The best part of that was the red fox that came wandering along the road and stopped just near the bus. He stood a few minutes and then sat for us to take photos. Also the flamingos were flying about and that was something to see. I also saw a native kind of rodent a bit like a rabbit with a long tail that blended perfectly with the green bushes.


The fox who graciously posed for hisphotoThe fox who graciously posed for his photo

I know I try to be adventurous but up at the geysers they have a thermal pool we could swim in. Sounded nice but I knew what would happen when you got out of a nice warm pool in nothing but your swimmers at zero degrees. It was quite funny to watch the young ones who were willing to brave it. The guys enjoyed the added spectacle of bikini clad girls trying to get dressed again more or less in public – they have change rooms but no door.

The hot pool and doorless change roomsThe hot pool and doorless change rooms

When I arrived in San Pedro the guide that was supposed to meet me at the airport was Manuel (shades of Fawlty Towers comes to mind immediately). When I was checking what time I would be collected in the afternoon for my flight back to Santiago they said Manuel would collect me at 3pm. No surprise 3.15pm came and still no sign of Manuel. Got reception to call and there was a delay and he would be there in 10 minutes. He did eventually turn up and I made my flight but there was no tip from me. I was glad to see though that he still had a job – it is a poor country and I would not like to think he would suffer unduly. I wonder if he had to pay back the $80 – I hope not, I just hope he takes better care next time.

Back in Santiago and I do a bus/walking tour of Santiago with a very nice young man with perfect English. Turns out he lived in Forestville in Sydney for 2 years as did one of my guides in San Pedro!


Statue of Mary, San Christobal Hill, SantiagoStatue of Mary, San Christobal Hill, Santiago

 26 October 2012

Home sweet home. Travelling for 24 hours, no sleep for over 40 now – hanging out for as long as I can before I go to bed. Just realised I forgot to eat lunch. …mind you I had 3 breakfasts today on 3 different flights. I have decided that Qantas is the best airline – they just have it all over the others. The new public pick up area at the Brisbane domestic airport is the pits – takes 20 minutes to walk there and they throw in an obstacle course as well! Some of us on the course were wondering if we got a navigation certificate at the end. 🙂

Was the trip all that I hoped? I think it was, I love looking at different cultures and learning a little about their way of life. I think I will be back again – maybe not Chile but South America and I want to take more Spanish lessons. I will remember it for a long time.

 ©Lynette Nunn 2017











Pulling yourself up by the Bootstraps – Another Man with Initiative.

Sometimes our ancestors surprise us. John Hooper was my great, great, grandfather. When he was born in 1808 in Whitestone, Devon, his father, Simon, was 43 and his mother, Judith (nee Smale), was 40. Simon and Judith had been married in the parish church at Whitestone in 1790. Simon signed with a mark but Judith and one of the witnesses Jenny Smale both signed their names quite legibly.

John was the youngest of the five known children of Simon and Judith. Both Simon, who was listed as a labourer in 1841 and Judith appear to have passed away between 1841 and 1851.  Simon, was residing in the Charity House when he died in June 1842. His granddaughter, Maria was the informant. [i] I believe the Charity House was most likely the Church House in Whitestone originally set up in 1714 for pious and charitable purposes. Some years later it was in ruins but rather than become a workhouse, it was rebuilt in 1752 as a school and alms house. It provided rooms for five ‘old, decayed, aged, or infirm people, men or women, married or unmarried, who should have no relief of the parish, or anything whereby to maintain themselves but their labour’.[ii] At this stage in Simon’s life he, at the age of 76 would quite likely qualify at least to some degree.

From this information it would seem that John was raised in a typically poor labouring class family but it may not be all that it seems. The Church House, as well as being the alms house was a school. When it was rebuilt in 1752:

a sixth room was for the teacher, and a schoolroom for ‘an English School for poor     boys and girls, children of such people of the parish as should have nothing whereby to maintain themselves but their labour, or orphans of such labouring people, to be taught to read, and for the children of none others.[iii]

 In 1823 a report stated that reading and spelling was taught to all the children, while only a few were taught to write. In 1830 there was a John and William Hooper attending on the free list but I do not know if that John was the son of Simon and Judith and, as far as I can establish, a William Hooper was not baptised in Whitestone in any time that would have been appropriate.* So it is unknown whether he could be another brother of my John, but he certainly would fit in the gaps between those children that I have recorded so far. [iv] Never-the-less it appears that John would have received some kind of education and that his mother was quite literate so she could also pass on knowledge.

By the time John married in Whitestone on 12 May 1835, he could also sign his name quite legibly. His bride was Ann Brownston and at the time she was 28 years old and resided in the Rectory at Whitestone. According to the baptisms of their first four children in Whitestone, John was a shoemaker. As his father was a labourer, it seems likely that John was apprenticed and that this, as was usual, was organised through the parish.

Shoemaker pic

A Shoemaker, makes coverings for the feet, usually of leather; but frequently also of other materials, as silk, jean, nankeen, &c. He also makes boots of various kinds, both for ladies and gentlemen… In some instances, especially in the country, he is the leather cutter to all the little traders in the surrounding villages … [In the picture above] the master is cutting out an upper-leather of a shoe to a paper pattern, which lies upon it. A small leaden weight is placed on the skin at the corner to keep it from slipping: on his left lies a hammer, which he uses to beat down any rough parts which stand on the inside of the leather; and on his right-hand is a pair of pincers, which are made with teeth, in order to hold the leather tight in the act of stretching it. The journeyman is in the act of joining the upper-leather to the sole of the shoe … A journeyman shoe-maker, if he be a good hand, sober, and industrious, will earn thirty shillings a week. [v]

John appears next in the official records in the 1841 census living in the nearby parish of Topsham with his wife Ann and their children Ann, Caroline, Henry and Frances. Three more children would be born in the next decade – Edwin, Jane (my great grandmother) and Walter. In the meantime his occupation had changed to schoolmaster.

In 1842 when their son, Edwin was born they were living in Countess Wear which was in the parish of Topsham and largely an agricultural area. Not only was he now a schoolmaster though, he was also the Parish Clerk at St Luke’s Chapel, which was built in 1837 just two years after they married. It was not uncommon for a person at that time to have several occupations at a time to supplement income and one would think that if John was suitable as a schoolmaster, he should be able to carry out clerical duties for the parish. He may have even kept up his shoemaking as a sideline. Perhaps he foresaw the advent of mechanisation and the reduction in earnings that would bring as the industrial revolution took hold and instead he followed the occupations that would see him struggle less, or he simply preferred to be known by his other occupations. Living in an agricultural area would probably not be the place to have enough clientele to earn thirty shillings a week either.

St Lukes Countess Wear

Photo: St Luke’s Church, Countess Wear, Exeter. Photographer David Smith[vi]

It was at this stage in my research that I began to wonder how he might have received the education to uplift his social standing. Perhaps the answer may lie in the fact that Ann, his wife, was residing at the Rectory when they married in 1835. One wonders was she a servant at the Rectory and did John impress the Rector, Charles Brown, enough that he may have taken him under his wing and continue educating him?

A Parliamentary Papers report into education for the poor shows the following information for Whitestone:

Parliamentary papers Whitestone[vii]

However, it is said:

Shoemakers led most craftsmen in literacy, and took a strong interest in politics; many were freethinkers and Dissenters from the Established Church. [viii]

Sadly, Ann passed away in 1846 when their youngest child, Walter, was just 16 months old and Ann, the eldest, would have just turned 10. John looked after his family without their mother until 1850 when he married Caroline Strong in the parish church St Mary Steps Exeter. Caroline may have been a widow as she gives her father’s name as John Mayne. Now John has become a Commercial Clerk and in the 1851 census, when they are living Under Walls, St Mary Steps, he is a Timber Clerk. John and Caroline don’t appear to ever have any children and sadly she passes away too in 1855.

A few more years of widower-hood pass by and then in 1862 John married Eliza Jenkins, the widow of Samuel Woodley, in St Leonard Parish Church Exeter. Eliza already has an illegitimate adult daughter Eliza Jenkins and a three year old daughter, Sarah Woodley. I haven’t been able to locate John in the 1861 census, so it is at his marriage to Eliza that, for the first time, we see he gives his occupation as Accountant. A son to Eliza and John, William John Hooper came along in 1866 and that same year his daughter Jane married George Edward Marious Scott in London, where she gives John’s occupation as clerk.

1871 comes around and John, his wife Eliza and stepdaughter Sarah Woodley are living in Jubilee Place, St Leonard, Exeter and John is employed as a clerk in a saw mill. 1881 and John, at the good age of 73, is working again as an Accountant. He is living back in St Mary Steps at 63 Commercial Rd with Eliza, Sarah, working as a dressmaker (surname now recorded as Hooper), sons Edwin, who is unmarried and working as a waiter, and William who, at the tender age of 15 years is, like his father, an Accountant. 1891 and John and Eliza are still living in Commercial Road. Sarah, now recorded again as Woodley, is there also and all the other children have gone.

Before he died in 1892 at the grand age of 84 years, John married three times and had five sons and four daughters. He started life as the son of labourer, spent his adult life as a shoemaker in Whitestone, until about 1841 when he then moved to Topsham and, while still working as a shoemaker, became a schoolmaster and Parish Clerk at St Luke’s chapel. He then moved up to being a Commercial Clerk and then an Accountant. It is not known exactly where he was educated, but he signed his name at his first marriage in 1835 with an even hand so he was not illiterate and he apparently must have had a talent for maths. His signature did change somewhat over time but that may have been with practice. Genuki has a transcription of the Whites 1850 Directory that includes Topsham and John is listed as being both a National School Master and Boot and Shoemaker at Countess Wear, so any doubts I had that the records I have found may not be for the same man are pretty much dispelled.[ix]

The expression ‘Pulling yourself up by the Bootstraps’ usually means something like improving oneself by one’s own efforts and in John Hooper’s case it can be a quite literal meaning for a man, who started working life as a shoemaker and ended up an Accountant.



[i] “England, Devon Bishop’s Transcripts, 1558-1887,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2CY-54TG : 9 December 2016), Simon Hooper, Whitestone, Devon, England; citing Burial, The Devon Record Office, Exeter, 16 June 1842

General Register Office, Certified Copy of an Entry of Death, Simon Hooper, Labourer aged 80 years & 2 months, residence Poor House Whitestone, informant Maria Hooper [illegitimate daughter of Betty Hooper],  died 13 June 1842 Saint Thomas Union, Devon England, entry no. 2571 registered 14 June 1842.

[ii] Whitestone Parish Council, History of the Parish Hall Splatt’s School in  the Nineteenth Century, http://www.whitestone-devon.org.uk/hall_history.asp accessed 30/9/2017

[iii] ibid.,

[iv] ibid.,

[v] Phillips, Richard, ‘The Shoemaker’, Book of English Trades and Library of the Useful Arts, J. Souter, St Paul’s Churchyard, 1818 pp. 344 -349, Google Books, http://books.google.com accessed 30/9/2017

[vi] Smith, David, St Luke’s Church, Countess Wear, Exeter, licenced for reuse – Creative Commons Licence, http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1405294 accessed 29/9/2017.

[vii] Parliamentary Papers, A Digest of Parochial Returns made to the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into The Education of the Poor. England, Volume 1; Volume 9, HM Stationery Office, 1819. Pg. 190., Google Books http://tinyurl.com/y7ehwuet accessed 1/10/2017.

[viii] Christensen, Penelope Ph.D., National Institute for Genealogical Studies – English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades (Familysearch Research Wiki https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_Manufacturing_Occupations_A_to_H_(National_Institute) Accessed 29/9/2017

[ix] Randall, Brian, Transcription, White’s Devonshire Directory of 1850, 3 July 1998, http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/Topsham/Topsham1850

*it is noted that William Hooper is also a shoe and bootmaker in Topsham at this time.

Sailing on a “Stray Hen” and other Shipboard Adventures

Dad Melville 2

My father, Edward Walker Jeayes. photographer unknown, Sydney 28/6/1943

Against the wishes of his parents, my father, Edward Jeayes (aka “Snow” to his Navy mates) enlisted in the Navy during World War 2. Officially he was engaged on 24 November 1941 after he had passed Educational and Medical Examinations on 23 May 1941 and he was to serve for the duration of hostilities, which for him, meant just over four years. He had just turned 18 years old the month before he enlisted. Quite a few other sailors were engaged around the same time and they all became lifetime friends – Steve (C.A.) Constantine and Dale (A.D.) Arthur, Albert William Chappell (Bert aka Chappy) Tom (Thomas Walter) Gaunt and Ted (Edward Thomas) Cuneo. Bert Chappell was Dad’s best man at his wedding. Ted Cuneo told me that they did basic training together (Class 138) and I assume this is probably what initially bonded them all together. [1]In later years an Anzac Day reunion at the Sydney march was a regular event in their lives.

Dad began service at HMAS Cerberus the Navy Depot near Melbourne as an Ordinary Seaman. After completing his basic training he was then transferred to Darwin to HMAS Melville Navy Depot in April 1942, with his first shipboard posting being 6 months in 1942 on HMAS Maroubra (sometimes spelt Maraubra).

Travelling with Dad to Darwin was his best friend Steve (Charles Alexander) Constantine. When they arrived in Darwin, the first bombing had already taken place on 19 February 1942 and most non-essential civilians had been evacuated. The military forces were staying in the houses and digging trenches underneath them. Steve and Dad had travelled together on the train from Adelaide to Alice Springs and then by truck to Darwin. It was apparently rather a hellish trip, Dad thought Alice Springs was the end of the earth and biscuits were their main sustenance. Steve told me that they were all so sick of eating biscuits that he decided to take a risk and climbed out of the carriage and walked along to where he thought the food was. He climbed in and grabbed a box he saw that looked promising and took it back to their carriage where it was eagerly opened to reveal … yet more biscuits. [2]

The Maroubra was a 60 ton motor vessel used for Hydrographic Survey that had been requisitioned by R.A.N for service in the war effort. Dad and Steve Constantine did a lot of survey work together mapping reefs etc in and around Darwin for the Navy. When they were doing the survey work, they would go out reading with a tide pole. One of them would get out of the dinghy and wade in the water taking depths. They were told that they could name any features they found and mapped and it was expected they would name them after important Navy people etc. but they decided to name two of them after themselves. Hence JEAYES Reef Latitude: -12° 01′ S Decimal degrees -12.0172, Longitude: 134° 53′ E Decimal degrees 134.8985 and CONSTANTINE Reef or Reefs Latitude: -12° 07′ S Decimal degrees -12.1231, Longitude: 134° 55′ E Decimal degrees 134.9216.[3] They may have also named one after their Captain but I am not sure about that.

One time they were left on a mud island to be picked up at a certain time and weren’t. All they had were their rifles and Steve would shoot fish and eat them raw. Eventually someone did come and get them. Dad joked to Steve that if ever they were really shipwrecked the thing that would frighten him the most would be that Steve might eat him! Sometimes they stayed out on mud islands in the harbour in a tent and they could hear the crocodiles around them at might. Steve and Dad both were incredulous that they were never taken by the crocodiles. They also did work in the Daly River.[4]

Dad was promoted to Able Seaman on 24th November 1942. He also spent short periods aboard other survey craft including Kiara (a pleasure boat used for survey) and Vigilant, which was a Patrol Boat before the War.

Dad told me stories about his time in Darwin. He said he was to meet the son of his mother’s friend, Ida Turvey, on the wharf in Darwin one day when the Japanese raided. Ida had two sons that I know of, one Kenneth Leroy was in the Navy and the other, Frederick James was in the Army. Dad managed to get back to his ship and they headed for sea as they would not be such an easy target if they weren’t tied up to a wharf. This may have been the raid on 16 June 1942 which was one of the heaviest attacks on Darwin after the initial raid in February.

After 18 months in Darwin, Dad asked to do a Gunnery Course and was posted back to HMAS Cerberus at the end of 1943 to do his training. His mate Steve went too and he told me that my Dad topped the class. Many years later Dad and I visited HMAS Cerberus and he gave me a tour, showing me his classroom and also, much to my consternation, taking me to places marked off limits! We ran into an Admiral’s wife who questioned us but let us continue, much to my amazement.

While at Flinders, one of the popular places for Dad and his shipmates to go was to St Kilda where there used to be an amusement pier on the wharf. Young and Jackson’s in Melbourne was a favourite hotel where they often went to visit Chloe, a life sized nude painting that still hangs there today although she has been moved upstairs.

He was then posted to a Corvette, HMAS Strahan (Pennant J363) on the day of his 21st birthday in 1944 as it happened and at the same time he was also made a Quarters Rating 3rd class (QR3). They departed from Sydney and sailed to the waters around New Guinea. War was a serious thing but there were some stories Dad told me that made me wonder how on earth we even won the War. The Commander during my Dad’s time was Lieutenant Commander Leonard Dale Williams who was posted to Strahan 27 March 1944 until May 1945 when command was taken over by Lieutenant Commander Ronald Ashman Nettlefold .


HMAS Strahan


So, one might ask, what does all this have to do with a hen?

Several papers ran the following story upon the return of HMAS Strahan which explains how that came about, including News (Adelaide, SA: 1923 – 1954), Thursday 19 April 1945, page 9:

‘Stray Hen’ Gave Crew Happy Memories of Service

When the “Stray Hen,” officially the Strahan, one of Australia’s latest corvettes, left Sydney Harbor just over a year ago, she left a wake like a corkscrew because half the crew had never been to sea and only three could steer.

It was different when the “Stray Hen” returned after more than a year of continuous service. She was brought into a home port with the precision of a battleship manned by a crack crew. She averaged 3,500 miles a month in covering 44,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean. She was commissioned on March 14 last year.

It was a happy company in the “Stray Hen”. Some of the crew were only 17 and 18, but they were all seamen by the time they returned.


The Strahan was christened the “Stray Hen” by her crew after Allied servicemen in the islands had tried to pronounce her name. That was the nearest they could get to it. Until the Strahan headed back for civilisation she carried a large, lifelike representation of a “stray hen” [said to be a wandering Orpington] on her forrad gun turret, painted by one of the gun crew, Able-seaman Lobb, of Victoria.

Although the gun turret has now been covered by regulation grey, plaques painted for members of the ship’s company show the “stray hen” as a dashing seaman leaning on a bar counter with a cigar in one hand and a foaming pot of beer in the other.

Youngest member of the crew, Able-seaman E. W. Charlesworth, of George street, Clarence Park, was “captain for the day” when the corvette was at Wios Windee on Christmas Day. It is an old naval custom. The amusement created was one of the happiest memories of the year of service.

Borrowing an officer’s uniform for the occasion, A.B. Charlesworth was piped aboard in traditional style.

“Well, “Well, what’s buzzing, Lennie?” he asked Lieutenant-Commander Williams as he stepped on to the quarter-deck, using the crew’s nickname for their popular commander.

The assurance that there was nothing buzzing then brought the suggestion, rather timidly, from the “captain” that it was usual to offer some hospitality when a distinguished visitor came aboard. Captain-for-the-day Charlesworth soon found himself in the wardroom drinking the commander’s beer and smoking one of his cigars.

An inspection of the ship followed and “defaulters” were paraded.

One of the lieutenants found himself on a charge of impersonating an officer, and was ordered to scrub a companionway ladder. A laughing crowd of sailors stood by to see that the punishment was carried out, and the “captain” solemnly inspected the task.


“Starving the crew” was the unfounded charge brought against the Leading Supplier. His punishment was an order to fill a ship’s tank with 140 gallons of fresh water. It represented half an hour of hard work at the pump.

Barracoota fishing in Encounter Bay had its exciting moment as two officers and seven members of the crew, including Leading Seaman A. D. Mantell, of Glenelg, went overboard when the handrail gave way.

A depth charge had been dropped and a seaboat sent away to pick up fish. A number of fish came up near’ the stern of the Strahan. A sailor speared a 2-ft. long barracoota, and the officers and men were leaning against the rail watching his efforts to land it, when they fell.

While in the water, Seaman Mantell grabbed the fish. It sprang into life and Mantell let it go in astonishment. A cut hand was the proof of his fish story to shipmates.

My father told me about them using depth charges to catch fish but also that one day the Captain was ordering them to go slow when they were dropping them for submarines. Slower, slower, he kept saying until a member of the crew excused himself and advised the Captain that if they went any slower, Sir they would blow themselves up. He also told me about them picking “Chappy” to be Captain as he had been a schoolteacher before joining up and so they figured he was used to leading people.

After they gained control of the ship that first day, they sailed first to Langmack [Langemac] Bay then onto Lae, Finschhafen, Madang, Wewak, Hollandia and they also visited New Britain. Their duties at that time were mainly escorting convoys of cargo and ammunition ships into the islands after American or Australian troops defeated the Japanese in possession. Sometimes the allies did not try to take an island from the Japanese but would miss one and just take the ones around it thereby effectively starving the Japanese out as their supplies were cut off. They also were required to do sub-marine detection on reefs and general patrols.

In October 1944, Strahan was present in Morotai Harbour when the recently-captured island was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The corvette was attacked by a dive-bomber, but was able to drive off the Japanese plane before she was damaged. It is scary to think Dad would have been on the guns. Two or three air raids a night were common.


Natives Morotai 1945

“Natives at Morotai” from my father’s collection. Photographer unknown, possibly Ken Lamb, 1945

Their tour lasted 12 months with one sighting of “civilisation” when they returned to Townsville while the bottom of the ship was scraped of barnacles etc. Queen Wilhemina of Holland was very grateful to the Australian Defence Forces and wished to pay each member for having helped drive the Japanese out of Dutch New Guinea but the Australian Government would not allow it.

It was during this time in the tropics that Dad took to sleeping on deck in his hammock whenever possible. He couldn’t do it in big seas as he would have been washed overboard from the corvettes but it was much cooler than in the sleeping berths. While I don’t think they lost anyone overboard, the ship’s tomcat, Bollocks, did go overboard once in between Strahan and another ship and one of the crew had to be lowered down to rescue him.

Corvettes were known as the “little ships”, they were one of the smallest warships in World War 2 where everyone learned “to live for years like sardines in ships that could be blown out of the water by pretty well any enemy ship they met”. [5]

The men who handle the Little Ships have got no band to play,

And spend their lives in endless watch, ceaselessly night and day.

The little craft turn somersaults, where the liner only dips

And crashing seas make music for the men in the Little Ships[6]

That verse and the following describe exactly the impression my father gave me.

The little ship punched her bow into the huge green-black wave, the sea, a lighter green now and frothing,  raced along the ships fo’c’sle shooting spouts of water up from the guard-rails, the bollards and the 4” gun, then smashed into the bridge superstructure and tumbled down into the ship ‘s waist, and ran along the quarterdeck. The ship shuddered and shook and pushed her cheeky nose up and the water cascaded over the side and into the sea. Then the ship’s stern heaved up as the wave swept aft, and the nose pointed into the trough. The little ship punched her bow into the next huge green-black wave and the next …[7]

Apparently “even in dry dock they would roll if a heavy dew fell” and “merchantman would sometimes report that they could see down the funnels of the corvettes as they heeled and heaved in the seas.”[8]

I recently travelled on “a liner” to Papua New Guinea, on occasion when the ship rocked and rolled in the big swells, I thought of Dad and the other sailors in their little ship, punching the bow into the next huge green-black wave. I also thought about the endless days and nights at sea without any of the luxuries and entertainments that I had on hand but I remembered my father’s fond memories of the mateship he had illustrated by the two photos below taken aboard H.M.A.S. Strahan.

Vic Hutchins Eric Anderson EWJ Albie Irwin

Vic Hutchinson, Eric Anderson, my father and Alby Irwin. Photographer possibly Ken Lamb. c 1944



EWJ &amp; Chappy Charlesworth

“Chappy” Charleswoth and my father. Photographer believed to be Ken Lamb. c 1944

In May 1945, HMAS Strahan travelled to Adelaide via Sydney, where she underwent a refit. Following this, she was immediately deployed back in New Guinea, and in June 1945 fired upon Japanese gun emplacements on Kairiru Island. The corvette received two battle honours for her wartime service: “Pacific 1944-45” and “New Guinea 1944”.[9]

My father didn’t stay with H.M.A.S. Strahan after she returned from service in May 1945. Instead Dad was based around HMAS Penguin at Balmoral in Sydney. According to Dad, he and a mate had gone AWOL in Adelaide as they had not had any shore leave in a long time. They knew that the ship was going to Sydney so he and his mate hitch hiked to Sydney and re-joined the ship. This was apparently around 6 June. At the interview (Court Marshall?) into why he had jumped ship and what he wanted to do he confessed his wish to be on a bigger ship. He spent some time at Holsworthy, the Military Prison and according to his Service Record, he was sentenced to 90 days on 15 June. Apparently he did not serve his full sentence though as he was released on 21 August 1945 and married my mother on 28 August 1945.


Wedding Joan Scott EW Jeayes 28 8 1945

My parents wedding 28 August 1945. My father wears a white ribbon rather than the normal black ribbon. Photographer Lawrance Lupton, Hurstville NSW

Good behaviour may have played a part in his early release and also his impending marriage to my mother. Dad never mentioned Holsworthy, I guess he wasn’t too proud of that bit, his words were he spent some time working in and around HMAS Penguin so I guess that covered it. However and surprisingly to me, his wish was granted and after spending a month or so at the Naval Base HMAS Penguin he was posted to HMAS Hobart (Pennant No. D63). It was 21st September 1945 and HMAS Hobart had just returned from Japan after being present for the surrender ceremony on board the Missouri on 2 September.

They left for Japan 5 November and arrived in Tokyo on 17 November 1945. Even though Japan had surrendered after the atom bomb drops by America in August, the journey continued as planned long before and the crew of the HMAS Hobart were in Japan for quite some time, but they were not part of the Occupying Forces. For this reason they were able to get in quite a bit of sightseeing as they were officially on leave.

Dad visited Yokohama seeing Mt Fuji capped with snow, the Sacred Bridge and the Emperor’s Palace. Dad didn’t have a lot of spending money as most of his pay was allotted home so he found ways to earn extra. He ironed the Petty Officers shirts for 6p a shirt on the trip to Japan and sold various items to the Japanese including an old tin of sugar for 800 yen which is about $9 today! He was able to visit the Club Ashore and a bottle of beer cost 2.5 yen and he also bought many fine silks and linen. They caught the tube railway to Nikko, which is in the mountains, and it was snowing heavily. There they stayed at the Konishi Inn.

EWJ Japan 2

My father (3rd from the left) and some of his Hobart shipmates, Konishi Inn. Photographer Unknown. c.1945


EWJ Japan)

My father and a Hobart shipmate at the five storey pagoda Nikkō Tōshō-gū, Nikko, Japan. Photographer unknown c 1945


The Hobart sailed from Tokyo and up into the Inland Sea to Hiroshima where Dad saw the destruction caused by the Atom Bomb that was dropped there. There was only one structure standing – the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall now called the Genbaku Dome but the interior had been blown away. Near where what were once some houses he found a stack of bottles and they had melted together. He took one of the bottles as a souvenir which my brother has in his possession. I saw this building myself in the area now called the Peace Park in Hiroshima some years ago and I recognised it straight away as it was exactly as Dad described. It was surrounded by long grass and fenced off. As I stood in wonder a stray cat wandered out and it all seemed so surreal.


Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Japan, 2007. Photographer Lyn Nunn

While serving in the Navy Dad also collected what is known as trench art. In spite of its name, trench art was rarely actually made in the trenches. However, pieces of scrap material, faulty ammunition and other “trophies of war” like the propellers of captured aeroplanes were often fashioned into souvenirs during quiet times, convalescence or after a return home from combat. Although it has always been a pastime of soldiers and sailors, decorated objects made of war materials from 1914 onward are those usually known as trench art.[10] Several pieces are now in my possession. The first is a silver tin locket with a red “ruby” which is actually a piece of red toothbrush handle. It was made aboard the Strahan by Johnno (Johnson), the gunner. The other pieces are butter knives made on board the Hobart on the way to Tokyo by the gunnery men. It was a good way for the gunners to make money for extras. These knives have been fashioned from bullets which are the handles. Each blade is inscribed HMAS Hobart Tokyo. I have two serviette rings made aboard Hobart. There is also a tie pin with the same kind of decoration as the locket which I suspect is also trench art. All are pictured below.



Various items of trench art and a stocking tin that may also be trench art brought back by EW Jeayes WW2.
Photographer Lyn Nunn 2016

Whilst in Japan, Dad’s service time was up and he returned to Australia aboard an English U Class Destroyer, HMS Undine, (Pennant No. R.42) which was commanded by a New Zealander. His final discharge was from the depot HMAS Rushcutter on 6 February 1946. HMAS Hobart did not return to Sydney again until 2 April 1946.



Notes on my sources that may help others:

My father and I had many conversations over the years about his life and particularly in the last few months of his life when he lived with me. Many of the facts in this story are from notes I took at the time or soon after for future reference.

Apart from those conversations and conversations with his shipmates, I have also used his and other crew service records and second hand ship histories to establish and verify names, dates and places.

The H.M.A.S. Strahan Association published 72 Newsletters between 1987 until 2007. My father and then I subscribed and I have many copies of them in my library – they have been a great source of information. Although I haven’t seen any there was a ship publication Strahan Strand – something to look for from other ships.

Some Online resources – others may be mentioned in the end notes:

http://cecopaint.wixsite.com/ranca-nsw – I also have some of their newsletters,





[1] Cuneo, Ted, sympathy card in author’s possession, December 2003

[2] Phone conversation with Steve Constantine of Berry, NSW, 14 February 2009

[3] Northern Territory Government, NT Place Names Register, http://www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/placenames/ accessed 10/8/2017

[4] Phone conversation with Steve Constantine of Berry, NSW, 14 February 2009

[5] Walker, Frank R., Corvettes – Little Ships for Big Men, Kingfisher Press, Budgewoi NSW, 1995, pg. 7

[6] Petty Officer D.C.R., H.M.A.S. 1942, Royal Australian Navy Corvette Association, “Little Ships” extract from Corvette Magazine, undated http://cecopaint.wixsite.com/ranca-nsw/corvettes-other-stories

[7] Walker, op.cit., pg. 13

[8] Ibid., pg. 25

[9] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Strahan accessed 6/9/2017

[10] Alan Carter, ‘Trench Art’, Treasure Hunt, (http://abc.net.au/treasurehunt/s934995.htm) accessed 17 September 2003.


©Lynette Nunn 2017

The German Connection and Chinese Whispers, a postscript to the French Connection and Chinese Whispers.

While following up on whether the second husband of Jacquette Marie Schmaltz could be the Captain of the ship in the story of the apple barrels, some interesting things were discovered.

According to the French researcher Henri Philippe Louis Maurel,  the occupation of Jacquette’s second husband, Jacques le Vieux was as a negotiant/interpreter. Unfortunately, it seems, there is no ship’s captain there. Jacquette’s father, Jean Jacques Boniface Schmaltz was also listed as a negotiant. Curiosity led me to decide to see exactly what this occupation of negotiant entailed in 18th century France. Even though I had never encountered such an occupation in my research, I had a general idea but I wanted to know more about it. A negotiant, it turns out, was a merchant who acted as a middleman. He would obtain and sell goods made by others that he imported from other areas around the country and from other foreign countries. He did not belong to the Guild. On the other hand, an artisan sold his own wares and was a highly respected merchant and member of the Guild. The negotiant was not so well respected because he was not an artisan, but he did have connections, and because of his trade with other countries he was often fluent in other languages – hence his ability to also work as an interpreter. One could imagine he also travelled by ship to purchase his wares … still some room for the apple barrel story.

I used Google to find what I could about these occupations and I also searched on the name Jean Jacques Boniface Schmaltz, mostly finding others researching the name as I was, but there was one book that I had initially ignored as it was written in French. Unfortunately, my French does not go beyond one or two phrases but something made me go back and look at it anyway. The book was titled:

La vie diverse et volontaire du colonel Julien, Désiré Schmaltz, Officier des Forces Indo-Néerlandaises, puis de l’Armée Française, Commandant pour le Roi et Administrateur du Sénégal et Dépendances, Consul Général de France à Smyrne (Turquie), (1771-1827) .

Google translate to the rescue and I had found a nice little gold mine on page 266 about Jean Jacques. The gist of which is:

…The considerable movement of affairs which had been dealt with on the spot had attracted to Lorient not only the French but also many foreigners.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, the German Colony included among its members, a young negotiator named Jean Boniface Schmaltz, son of Pierre Schmaltz, Prevot and Agent of the Grand Chapter of the city of Speyer, capital of Rhineland Palatinate and Catherine Schlukin, of the parish of Saint-Leon de Schaidt, located in the diocese of Speyer.

Was Pierre Schmaltz a native of Speyer or of Alsace, as his grandson asserted? We cannot say. Whatever may have been the case, Jean Boniface Schmaltz undoubtedly manifested his intention of incorporating himself into France by marrying Louise Teissieres-Desclos, born in Lorient, daughter of Charles Francois Teissieres, on August 1, 1761, and by Anne Jacquette of Byrne, in front of the Abbott Charles Allio, and in presence of the parents of the marriage, Francois Rhot (Roth) Director and Commandant of the Port, Germain Guillois, JB Jussares, of Plesix de Jores, and finally of Denise of Byrne, who all signed the register of marriages.

The name of Byrne suggests that the maternal grandfather of Louise Teissieres-Desclos was of Irish origin; that of his father suggests, on the contrary, a Gascon ancestry.

When his fourth son, Desire cut his elementary classes, Jean Boniface Schmaltz of the trading house was one of the richest in the city and, at the foundation of the Consulate in 1782, had been elected a member of this body. He conceived the ambition of making him do his humanities, as it was then called, that is to say his secondary studies. Thanks to influential relations, he had him admitted to the Royal Military School of Tiron, today Thiron -Gardais, not far from Nogent-le-Rotrou, in the Department of Eure-et-Loir.

In spite of its name, this institution had nothing to do with the military. There were nine others and they were, in reality, simple educational establishments led by members of various religious congregations occasionally secured by a few laics.

Speyer is in Germany so, the French Connection becomes a German Connection! Not so surprising as the name Schmaltz sounds German.

The translation took quite some time as I couldn’t cut and paste. I had to transcribe and then copy and paste into Google translate. Very frustrating but I was well pleased with the results of my labour. I also spent some time researching the places mentioned as, in some cases, I needed to understand more about them to enable me to make sense of the, sometimes literal, Google translation. While putting my research notes together, I decided I would also translate the title of the book to use as a source document:

The diverse and voluntary life of Colonel Julien, Désiré Schmaltz, Officer of the Indo-Dutch Forces, then of the French Army, Commander for the King and Administrator of Senegal and Dependencies, Consul General of France in Smyrna (Turkey) (1771- 1827). L. Jore 1953

Senegal jumped out at me! As mentioned in the notes at the end of my previous story, Marie Josephine Furteau (1795 – 1865) was also said to be the niece of the Governor of Senegal, Governor Smalley. She definitely was a niece of Colonel Julien Desire Schmaltz, the subject of the book and according to the title of the book, he was Administrator of Senegal. Administrator is the same as Governor. Chinese whispers had corrupted the name Schmaltz to Smalley! There is always some truth somewhere in every family tradition. I am not quite sure how I am going to go about confirming the apple barrels though.

Picture: Speyer Cathedral original Westwork 1606 by Saarlandbilder.net 01:10, 27. Jan. 2008 (CET) (Wallraff-Richartz-Museum, Köln) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASpeyer-koelner-zeichnung.jpeg


©Lynette Nunn 2016

“Eh, mate do you think she is going to the bottom?” The Voyage of the Darling Downs to Brisbane 1874.

Aboard the ship the Darling Downs were nearly 600 immigrants on their way to a new life in Australia. Amongst them was a young family essential to the story of my family and its history – James Nunn, his wife Louisa and their one year old daughter, Emily. Both James and Louisa were 23 years old and, most likely, because they probably were not able to afford to pay for their own passage, they travelled as assisted emigrants. They had been married in the Chesterton registry office in Cambridge in November 1872 and they departed from London on 25 July 1874. The ship arrived safely in Brisbane on Wednesday 4 November 1874.

James had been working as a fossil digger in the Milton area near Cambridge in Cambridgeshire but was usually employed as an agricultural labourer. At the time, Australia needed men to work on the land, so he was in the right occupation. Fossil digging was actually digging coprolite (dinosaur dung) and it was in great demand as a fertiliser.

In July that year, before the ship departed Gravesend, an inspection of the emigrant ship and its facilities was undertaken by the various Agents-General and other invited ladies and gentlemen. One, using the non de plume of ‘ANGLO-AUSTRALIAN,’ wrote in the European Mail of 7 August 1874 a quite a lengthy article about his visit as a member of this inspection party to the offices of Messrs. Taylor, Bethell, and Roberts who ran an immigration business and about his subsequent visit to the ship. He describes his arrival at the office:

…Well, then, in looking round the office I found “Queensland” in the ascendant. “Emigration to Queensland” above and below. “Emigration to Queensland” all round the walls. The words met you at the doorpost with a sort of welcome smile, and they escorted you fairly into the principal’s office, where they smiled, upon you again in golden characters enriched by a gilt frame, and in close company with them were no end of clippers; also in gilt frames, that had made I don’t know how many of “the fastest passages on record” to both Brisbane and Rockhampton. On the table before me I found an inviting-looking sketch-book filled with views of Queensland scenery, in which I detected the skill in photography of Mr. Daintree, the Agent-General for that colony. They were well-assorted views, too, and calculated to give an inquirer just the kind of information he would be in search of, while their inviting aspect I would very likely determine him to make Queensland his home.

Later as they approached the Darling Downs as it was moored, he described his impressions of her:

 …Seen from the shore she looked like “a painted ship upon a painted ocean,” and the keen eye of a sailor would have been gratified with her trim and lines, and he would pronounce her to be a model ship. Her masts are not tapering and out of proportion to the hull, neither are her yards sprawling all over the ship, but everything, from royals to keel, appear to have been constructed with so much regard to unity in design that the result is a combination as near perfection as is possible to realise.

 They then boarded the vessel whereupon ‘Anglo-Australian’ observed:

 …Once on board I found everything open to inspection, and as I was expected to “inspect,” I went about the work in earnest. Messrs. Taylor, Bethell and Roberts seemed most anxious to provide the best possible arrangements for the comfort of the emigrants, and having devoted much care and attention to this subject, they were naturally desirous that what they had done should have the approval of some of the most practical judges in these matters…We found that the arrangements with regard to the disposition of the people were pretty much the same as obtain on board of other emigrant ships, the single men being for’ard, the married people amidships and the girls aft. The fittings, however, were of a superior class, and evidenced care in selection. The married people’s berths were so arranged as to secure to the occupants the privacy of saloon passengers. They were entered from end to end, ingress in each case being reversed, while at the point of entrance there was a curtain which protected the occupants, from observation. This arrangement contributes as much to the comfort as to the morals of the passengers. We found the space “tween decks” to be more than is usual in emigrant ships, and that ventilation was still further provoked by numerous air canvas shafts, which, working in windmill, fashion, sent a free current throughout the ship. The other sanitary arrangements were equally good— while the hospitals, instead of being below, were placed on deck: that for the girls being near the poop, and that for the men and women amidships, abaft the galley. Next to the galley and affiliated in some respect to it, we found an apparatus for condensing water at the rate of one thousand gallons in twenty-four hours, so that the emigrants are not likely to go short of water. Thus we found everything in order. We next inspected the provisions, and found the pork and beef fit for a nobleman’s table. The biscuits, currants, cheese, bacon, tea, &c, were all equally good, and we ascended to the deck with the conviction that Messrs. Taylor, Bethell, and Roberts had done more than was in the bond.

Following the inspection they were treated to “quite a little banquet” partaken by some twenty to thirty or so ladies and gentlemen that were well able to satisfy the appetite they had worked up in doing their inspections.

Finally, after a voyage of approximately 102 days, the Darling Downs entered the harbour of Brisbane on 5 November 1874. It was a ship of 1634 tons, carrying 582 immigrants and was under the command of Captain D.R. Bolt.


Photo: Captain Bolt with permission Gary Parker, photographer unknown.

A quite detailed report of the arrival was given in the Brisbane Courier on Thursday, November 5, 1874 under the heading “Arrival of the Darling Downs” and is as follows:

 The Government steamer, Kate, with the Immigration Agent on board, left the wharf about half-past six o’clock yesterday morning, to bring up immigrants from the ship Darling Downs. This vessel is one of the same class as the Great Queensland and Indus, being of great size, built of iron, and, although now a sailing vessel, the Darling Downs has had a previous career as a screw-steamer – the Calcutta – in the West Indian passenger trade. Her original capacity has been over 2000 tons register, but, by the removal of the spar deck, which extended from the poop right forward to the forecastle, it has been reduced, and she is now registered at 1633 tons. Although a vessel of great length, the immense width of beam deceives the eye when one is on board, and makes her look rather a short ship than otherwise.

 Immediately on arriving on board, Mr Gray proceeded to make a general inspection of the arrangement of passengers and fittings of the vessel. The surgeon-superintendent, Dr Woodward, accompanied him and explained anything which evoked comment. The first cabin is a part of the original saloon handsomely fitted in mahogany with maple panels, and presented no special features, appearing perhaps to suffer a little as regards ventilation owing to the original plan of the saloon having been greatly contracted to suit the trade to this port. On the same level – that is to say, on the main deck – the single women’s cabin is situated, separated from the first by bulkheads and having access to the poop. Beyond this again is the second-cabin, which opens on to the main deck, as do also the doctor’s dispensary, and the females’ hospital, a pleasant airy cabin in harbor, but we are told not so airy at sea, in consequence of the ports having to be continually closed.

 Down the main hatch are the quarters for the married people, fitted with berths on the new system, which gives a separate entrance to each and away forward are the quarters for the single men, which stretch right below the forecastle. In a general way these arrangements are very excellent; but entire satisfaction does not appear to have been given. The second-cabin passengers complain that they have been deceived as to space, and assert that the cabin was entirely altered in dimensions a day or two before the ship left the docks, and after passages had been paid for. Both the first and second-cabin passengers also complain of the provisions or cooking. The former state that for supplying their table with fresh meat only six sheep and sixteen pigs, which were put on board, they describe as almost sucking pigs as to size, and that all the pigs but two died shortly after the vessel sailed. The cooking, in some instances, has no doubt been bad, as we were shown some bread that had been served out.

 After making a general inspection; the single girls were mustered on their side of the poop, and made to answer to their names and pass down below. A good deal of insight into the disposition of the girls was obtainable even by looking on at the process, as each had her own style of answering to her name, and the question as to whether she had any complaint to make. They were giddy girls and stolid girls, witty girls and stupid girls, forward girls and shy girls, but taken altogether they seemed a fine collection of strong young women with some bright intelligent faces among them.

 The other class of immigrants were passed by name in the same fashion, each individual being asked if he or she had any complaint to make. Excepting the saloon and second-cabin passengers, who appeared from their replies to have signed a formal written complaint, only one or two individuals had grievances, which were patiently listened to by the Immigration Agent. The Surgeon-superintendent received during the day and yesterday very laudatory addresses from the steerage, single girls, and second-cabin passengers.

 The captain left the ship in the Emma shortly before the debarkation was commenced, and his absence was much felt. The crew appeared to have by some means during the day got at the liquors, and set an example of raising a most disgraceful clamor, while the girls and married people were passing over the ship’s bulwarks and on to the Kate. The remaining officers seemed to have lost all control over them. Under pretence of assisting they obstructed the progress of things, one sailor going so far as to dance a sort of impromptu fandango with every girl or woman who stepped from the ship on to the paddle-box of the Kate, where he stood under the pretence of handing them down. It was only after infinite trouble and downright threats of punishment that Mr Gray could succeed in stilling the tumult and disorder. The sailors appeared to care nothing for the officers, and the senior officers seemed utterly indifferent to everything. The juniors assisted in passing the passengers down.

 The Water Police, under Sub-Inspector Wassall, as well as the crew of the Kate, were a splendid contrast to the ship’s crew, and worked steadily and effectively amidst a dreadful uproar, the crew and other men shouting and roaring from the ship’s bulwarks, and a perfect Babel of tongues in every direction. Mr Gray stood all the time on the paddle-box of the Kate, vigorously endeavouring to keep things straight, and to get the officers of the ship to silence and remove their men. He found it necessary ultimately to resort to extreme measures, and instruct Mr Wassall to take his men on board the ship, and put at any rate one man in irons. By this means order was restored.

 Certain property found on one of the sailors so treated appeared to tally with some reported missing during the day. It was stated to us by numerous steerage passengers that, except biscuit, they had not a single meal provided during the entire day. The ship’s arrangements yesterday would seem altogether to have been most negligent. Immediately on reaching the Immigration Depot a substantial meal was placed on the tables, and although somewhat in the rough was plentiful, a tolerably fair specimen of Queensland generally.

 As the Kate could not convey all the passengers at one trip, the single men were left on board, and will be brought up this forenoon, together with the bulk of the luggage, by the Settler, which proceeded to the Bay last night towing the Zoroaster.

As mentioned, it seems the crew of the Darling Downs rather liked their liquor. In the Brisbane Courier of 26 November 1874 it was reported that in the Water Police Court of Wednesday, November 25 ‘William Hampton, Thomas Warrell, W McNeill, Thomas Turner, Thomas Miller and Peter de Young were charged with disobedience of lawful orders on board the ship Darling Downs on the 23rd instant’. Inspector Wassal, on boarding the ship, found them all drunk. However the case was dismissed.

While there are no records of James and Louisa’s own impressions of the voyage, there is a record of another’s memory of the voyage. One day, while visiting my local historical society I was flicking through their folders of miscellaneous newspaper clippings when much to my surprise, I came to an article from 1924 regarding the voyage of the Darling Downs in 1874. It was the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the ship. Until now, while I had searched for diaries, ships logs etc it had never occurred to me to look any further in newspapers than for reports on and around the exact arrival date of any of my immigrant’s ships. This one little piece of serendipity led me to learn a little more about life for James and Louisa and, in fact, about researching the lives of all my immigrant families.

The article from an unnamed passenger from Bowen Bridge, who when seeing a notice regarding a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the voyage, was prompted to write on 16 November 1924 to the Brisbane Courier about the voyage. Some of his memories are as follows:

 First of all we started from the docks (East India Docks) and got as far as Gravesend and after swinging round and round for three days, we made for the Channel and after filling and tacking for 11 days, and cutting a fishing smack in two, we struck out for the open sea. Everything went well until we got into the roaring forties and then the fun commenced. There was roaring and rolling with a vengeance. While leaning over the side, I remember a tall Irishman came to me and said “Eh, mate do you think she is going to the bottom?” I answered “Of course not,” notwithstanding I had some misgivings myself. We got through that safely, and things were going fairly smooth for some time when complaints were made about the passengers’ cook and the purser.

 The complaints about the cook were for spoiling the food, boiling the meat to death to get as much fat as possible, sending up the plum-duff half cooked, and various other things that seemed to make the complaints justified. In the end Dr Woodward came forward with the Captain to investigate and after considerable abuse from the cook the doctor ordered him to be put in irons until the end of the voyage. There was a bit of determination in the doctor that morning, and when the order was carried out one of the passengers took the place of the cook. The purser came in for a lively time. He, too, was keeping back some of the rations to make up his perquisites; but when he saw the temper of the passengers he modified himself very considerably for a time.

 I remember one morning a very stiff squall come on all of a sudden, and carried away a couple of sails. Of course all hands were called on deck, but not one sailor would go aloft until a tot of rum was served all round. This the purser had refused up until this time, and I believe if he had not given the men what they wanted that morning they would have thrown him overboard. However, they got double portion, and up they went like monkeys.

 We were a very happy family, and very agreeable among ourselves. Nothing happened beyond what nearly happens to all other passenger ships, such as being driven out of course by contrary winds. When we rounded the Cape of Good Hope and got into the trade winds, we made fairly good running until we sighted the Australian coast. When we came close enough, and anchor was dropped, we were told that we should land the next day. It was amusing to see the bedding and blankets, and every conceivable article thrown overboard. This was more noticeable among the single girls, but to their dismay we had to put back to sea again. The result was they had nothing to lie down upon. At last we got into Moreton Bay, being 116 days out from the London Dock until discharged in the bay. When the single men (the last to leave the good old ship) were off, they gave great cheering for the Captain and the doctor, and even down to the last middy, but when cheers were called for the purser I would rather have got completely out of sight than have heard the boo-hoo’s and groans.

One wonders if, at the time, James and Louisa thought they might be visiting Davey Jones’ Locker as well during their excursion through the Roaring Forties, or whether Louisa had to endure the fandango with a drunken sailor but we will never know.

The following January ex Senior Sergeant Arthur Clark, a 20 year old single male passenger when he emigrated aboard the ship, lent the Brisbane Courier a copy of the postcard picture of the ship for publication. The postcards were sold on board during the voyage.

Like checking the neighbours on a census, it pays to check who else is on the passenger list for I found, among the Saloon passengers, aboard the Darling Downs was also a two year old future famous long range weather forecaster – Inigo Jones. He was travelling with his parents Owen and Emily Jones. I don’t know if James and Louisa ever realised their little connection to him.

When they arrived, James and Louisa settled at Mt Gravatt in Brisbane and they built a house that still stands today at 59 Lumley Street. This street was formerly known as Nunn’s Road. Eight more children were born to them there. James passed away on 14 September 1919 and Louisa on 15 March 1928. Both are buried in the Mt Gravatt cemetery.


Photo: James & Louisa’s residence 59 Lumley St (formerly Nunn’s Rd) Mt Gravatt. Lyn Nunn 2005.


Image (No. 86243) Darling Downs is held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland and is reproduced with the kind permission of SLQ.

Transcriptions are from the Brisbane Courier of 5 Nov 1874 and 27 Nov 1924 and with reference to the Brisbane Courier 26 Nov 1874, 15 Nov 1924 and 14 Jan 1925. Qld. State Library. Telegraph Thursday 15 October 1874, page 3. National Library of Australia ‘Trove’ NB Spelling and grammar as per articles except extra paragraphing that were added to improve comprehension.

Photo of Captain Bolt supplied by and with kind permission Gary Parker, PO Box 89 Albany Creek Qld. Photographer unknown.

 Darling Downs passenger list, 4 Nov, 1874, Qld State Archives.

GRO, Marriage Certificate, James Nunn and Louisa Easy, dated 20 November 1872.

Qld. Registrar General, Death Certificates, no.s 4420/1919 and 3997/1928.

Interviews with W and NR Nunn, grandsons of James and Louisa.


©Lynette Nunn 2016

Mary Ellen

Someone posted a postcard of Little Coast Hospital on Facebook the other day and I knew it was a hospital that treated patients with TB (Tuberculosis or Phthisis) as one of my Great, Great Uncles had died there in 1887. It reminded me that my Great Grandmother, Mary Ellen Jeayes (nee Walker) also succumbed to this disease when she was quite young. So I decided to see what I could find out about her treatment since I knew very little about her day to day life. We have no photos either, but her name was ever remembered in the family and my aunt was named for her.

Mary Ellen Walker was the daughter of Alfred Walker and Mary Ann Connelly. She was born 16 March 1866 in Botany Street, Sydney and was the first child of Alfred and Mary Ann, Alfred’s second wife. She had five younger siblings but, sadly, only two survived into adulthood and she also had two half-siblings.

When she was 22 years old, Mary Ellen married Charles Jeayes on 6 June 1888 in Paddington Sydney, just before an economic depression. It was Charles’ brother George who had died of TB in 1887. George had emigrated from Warwickshire England in 1884 and Charles had followed in 1886.

Charles and Mary Ellen lived at Balmain for many years. Charles was a compositor and, although there was an economic depression looming, they must have made ends meet. Within a few short years they had three sons, George Walker (1889), Charles (1890) and my Grandfather, Wilfred Edward (1892). These were the years of a severe depression in Australia (1890 – 1893) and by 1894, within two years of Wilfred’s birth, Mary Ellen had also contracted TB. This must have been a terrible blow to the young family. I can only begin to imagine how they must have felt and the fear Mary Ellen must have had for the fate of her children.

TB has many names – tuberculosis, consumption, pthisis, scrofula and two others I had not heard of before – Pott’s disease and white plague. Apparently in the 19th century, it is said, it was almost the disease of choice. It was slow progressing and therefore provided time to get one’s affairs in order and die a good death! It became a disease representative of temperal wealth and spiritual purity and wealthier women would deliberately pale their skin so as to appear to have it!! I could not imagine though, that Mary Ellen thought so highly of the disease. It was around the time that she was ill that the X-ray was developed, although I doubt she would have had access to such modern diagnostics, but physicians had realised that it was an infectious disease. Sanatoriums had been around for some time and although there was no cure, death rates were starting to drop.

Although sanatoriums were designed for the chronically ill as the hospitals would not take them, my research revealed that some patients, at least in the particular sanatorium that Mary Ellen was placed, did leave. Some were fit enough to return to work, often living on for many years after.

However, Mary Ellen was not so fortunate and she passed away on 16 October 1895 when she was only 28 years old. Her death certificate informed me that she died at Thirlmere Home Picton and that she was buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Picton. I  decided I would like to find out more about Thirlmere Home and, of course my first port of call was a search on the Australian newspaper database Trove. Many articles answered my search.

It seems Thirlmere Home was a hospital set up by Mr J H Goodlet in about 1876 which he maintained from his own funds. That was, at least, until 1893 when an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 September 1893 advertised a public meeting with the aim to raise funds to assist with maintaining the hospital or, Thirlmere Home for Consumptives as it was then called. After 17 years supporting the home from his own funds, I think Mr Goodlet was probably due for some help. The home was for the very poor who could not pay for their care and might otherwise die in the streets.

In the article ‘The Thirlmere Home for Consumptives – A Word for the Helpless’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 1895 and just 7 months before Mary Ellen passed away the home was described as a “little oasis for the consumptive poor”. The setting was described in the following way:

amidst the low green hills of Thirlmere near Picton, there is a pleasant red brick house, standing   in gently sloping paddocks, its near approaches skirted by flower-beds and shrubbery. The house is clean and wholesome, the air all about it dry and bracing, the surrounds peaceful and rustic.

The home accommodated around 36 patients, sometimes including sick children. It does sound like it might be a pleasant place to spend your last days if it could not be with your family. At least far better than dying on the streets so I think I am glad Mary Ellen was there and I am thankful to Mr Goodlet for his generosity. Treatment at that time seemed to be isolation from the rest of the population to prevent spread of the disease, plenty of rest, good food and light exercise outdoors in the fresh air.

The full article appears below. It is rather long but gives a good picture of what the last year of Mary Ellen’s life might have been like. She would have been one of the women mentioned in the article. Other articles told me there were 3 wards – one for women with 12 beds and 2 for men of 10 and 12 beds respectively.


Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 18th May 1895, Pg.5

The Thirlmere home  also had a monthly report published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Mostly this report gave statistics of the number of patients, how many had been admitted, how many had left and how many had died. In the month that my Great Grandfather lost his wife and my Grandfather and his brothers their mother, two patients had died. One was obviously Mary Ellen.

The sadness however, doesn’t end there. Charles was left with 3 little boys to care for aged 6, 4 and 2 years old. Apparently the loss of his wife and brother must have been all too much for Charles and it was believed, by my father, that Charles left his two eldest sons aged 6 and 4 in an orphanage where they were eventually fostered out to quite wealthy families. The younger son, my Grandfather Wilfred, was taken in by Mary Ellen’s brother Edward Walker, who raised him until adulthood. Whatever happened the boys managed to keep in touch.

Uncle “Ted” Walker was married but had no children of his own and it is for him that Wilfred’s son and my father, Edward Walker was named. It is not known what happened to Charles senior after that – he disappeared, so far without a trace. No further entries appeared in the Post Office Directories of the time and no death has been discovered as yet. His son Charles believed he had returned to England but it is not known on what basis he assumed this.

Rest in Peace Mary Ellen, your boys made it.

©Lynette Nunn 2016

Photo: Formerly Thirlmere Home now Goodlet House, Queen Victoria Memorial Home.
Source – Queen Victoria Memorial Home – Heritage Assessment Incorporating Brief Archaeological Assessment of Harmony House – City Plan Heritage July 2013 accessed 30/6/2016