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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Dressing up for fun, fashion and frivolity

Nothing of great historical interest or seriousness from me this week, but my mother's old albums are the source of a few dress-up photographs that I've decided to include. First off are a couple of Mum and her siblings dressing up as young children. My grandmother Mona Morrison and her dressmaking sisters Bess and Flo no doubt enjoyed creating their sweet outfits. I don't know whether or not they were for any special event.

Pat was a fairy, Jean a strawberry and Ken was 'you know who'
A few years later, Pat was still a fairy, Ken a Native American (to put it in PC terms), Jean a beach girl and their mischievous-looking young brother Derek was an elf
This amusing snap is entitled 'Men's Bathing Beauty Competition', and was taken while Mum was working as a housemaid at a beach side resort in about 1942. There are surely several girls amongst the men however - if not, some of these fellows are doing excellent female impersonations!

This photograph  is entitled 'Fashion Cavalcade'  and the participants were attending a fancy dress ball in December 1950. My mother is third from left in front, holding some kind of muff, and is dressed according to her description as an early settler.  Everyone had clearly spared no expense to either make or hire their costumes. I can't see my father here, but maybe he took the photo - or perhaps he wasn't so perfectly attired for the occasion.

My mother clearly enjoyed dressing me up too, as shown in these snaps from our voyages to and from England in the early 1950s, and she won first prize for me in the girls' section on the trip over.the ship was the Rangitata, and I was dressed as the Rangitata Washerwoman.

The label on my costume

 On our way home to NZ aboard the Rangitiki a year later, I was a two year old Christmas Tree at the Children's Xmas Party on 24 December 1954. A little bit of my costume decoration still remains, pasted into Mum's trip scrapbook, complete with lolly wrappers. 

Despite, or perhaps as a result of, being made to take elocution lessons for quite a few years, I was never particularly keen on drama, and only vaguely remember being in the chorus of a rather forgettable performance of Bye Bye Birdie, which we did as a school musical  and of which only a couple of rather indistinct photographs remain in the school magazine. Not worth trying to reproduce them here!
 I was lucky enough to win a trip to Germany in 1969/70  and while there I got to visit  Cologne for the Karneval  celebrations that take place each  February. I remember the parade through the streets as absolutely magical and apparently never-ending, and was also amazed to see practically everyone else in the crowd also wearing fancy dress. Here are a few postcards I brought home, plus a photo with Ruth, the daughter of my host family in Solingen, before we set out on the train from Solingen to Cologne for a fun day out. 

Here are a couple of lolly wrappers from my own scrapbook, just to prove I was there - there were mad scrambles when barrel loads of sweets were thrown into the crowds from the passing floats. I haven't been back  to Germany at Karneval time since, but I believe it is still celebrated the same way.

Here I am with my 'host sister' Ruth, ready to catch the train from Solingen to Cologne, to join in the festivities. It's hard to believe we actually went out in public like this, but then, everyone was doing it, and as it was February I no doubt wore a coat to cover up, as well as for warmth.

 For some actual performances, here are a couple of snaps showing school musicals put on by our children's primary school. In 1995 they did 'The Sound of Music', and then the following year they produced a very different and entertaining musical entitled  'Phantom of the Rock Opera', economically using the same background set, but never mind, no one really noticed!

Sound of Music 1995, Montessori style

Phantom of the Rock Opera 1996, also set in Austria??

Finally, here are some shots I took around the same time of the musical 'Jesus Christ Superstar', in which our daughter performed as a dancer. At the time I was into black and white SLR photography and was quite pleased at how these turned out when I developed them in my makeshift darkroom at home. 

For more fun and frivolity, go to Sepia Saturday to see what others have produced on this light-hearted theme.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A voyage to begin a new life in a 'new' country, aboard a new ship

On September 6 1852, the London Illustrated News featured an article about a new packet ship, the Ben Nevis,which was about to embark on its maiden voyage to Australia. It was described as being state of the art design for the time, with every possible convenience provided  for the safety and comfort of passengers and crew.

The wonderfully eloquent, detailed and complimentary article that accompanied the illustration is reproduced here:

The Freeman's Journal and Commercial Advertiser published in Dublin on 6 September 1852 was equally effusive in its praise, reading more like an advertorial than a news item, and included a report of the dinner given by the ship's owners and bankers to celebrate the vessel being fitted-up and ready to set sail. 


              Articles in numerous other newspapers throughout the United Kingdom similarly lauded the Ben Nevis, and no doubt these had the desired effect of enticing prospective immigrants to sign up for the maiden voyage, with the prospect of a new life for families in Australia, and the added lure of the Victorian gold rush taking place there in the 1850s.

The Ben Nevis duly departed Liverpool,  possibly a little later than the owners had hoped, according to a brief report in the Leicester Chronicle of 2 October 1852.

 Four of those passengers were Ralph Featherston from Weardale Durham and his wife Mary, nee Greggs, together with  their two small children, daughter Mary aged 2 and infant son John, who was less than a year old, having been born in 1852. When Ralph and Mary were married in Muggleswick Parish Church on 26 February 1848, Ralph's occupation was given as joiner. Ralph left behind 4 brothers, two of whom were to follow him out to Australia a few years later, and Mary left her parents, two sisters and a brother, no doubt with high hopes of a new life for themselves down here. Their names appear on the passenger list, albeit rather inaccurately it must be said, and as a result I initially had trouble finding them. The Public Record Office of Victoria has transcribed the surname as Fenthershire, and in addition the children Mary and John seem to have been oddly recorded as Hannah and Sarah. Perhaps the purser or whoever it was who wrote down their names and details had a hearing problem! Nevertheless this was definitely our Featherston family.

The arrival of the Ben Nevis in Port Phillip Victoria on 3 January 1853 was positively reported in the Elgin Courier of 15 April 1853, after a voyage of 97 days. There was much rivalry at the time between the competing shipping lines over which of them could lay claim to the fastest passage, with the ship Marco Polo claiming a record time of 68 days in 1851. The advent of the clipper ships in the 1850s greatly reduced the misery and suffering of passengers aboard Australian immigrant ships, but despite the beauty and conveniences described in the articles above,  the voyage aboard the Ben Nevis must still been exhausting and arduous for both passengers and crew, in comparison with the luxury that that sea passengers enjoy on cruise liners today!

The report claims that all passengers landed in good health, but the period immediately after arrival in the new colony of Victoria must  have appeared very bleak for Mary Featherston, after Ralph headed off  to try his luck on the goldfields. The hardship and sadness Mary must have suffered is indicated by this poignant little notice which she placed in Melbourne's Argus newspaper:

                                          "Mary Featherston informs her husband Ralph Featherston,
                                          per ship Ben Nevis, that his daughter Mary is dead, and 
                                          his wife wishes him to come down to Melbourne
                                          immediately, as she is in great trouble.
                                          Melbourne, Jan.22, 1853."

The cause of little Mary's death is not known, but Ralph must have returned to Melbourne at some point, whether or not he did so in response to this sad plea from his wife, which would have been the only way of contacting people in those times. He and Mary subsequently went to the gold mining town of Campbells Creek near Castlemaine, but sadly baby John died there a year later, and I can imagine that Mary at least might well have wished to leave their harsh new surroundings and return home to Weardale, had that been possible! At least they themselves survived, which is more than can be said for Ralph's two brothers William Henry and Emerson, who emmigrated in 1855 and 1857 respectively, only to die here soon after. Ralph and Mary persevered however, and Ralph became a farmer at Carngham near Ballarat. From 1856 onward they had another eight children, all of whom survived, married and produced families of their own. Ralph died in 1901 aged 78, and Mary in 1907 aged 79 and they are buried together in Carngham Cemetery. I was kindly given copies of the following old photographs and others of the Featherston family by Joan Brusamarello, a granddaughter of their youngest son Edward Emerson Featherston, 1870-1930. Their seventh child Joseph Featherston 1862-1914 doesn't appear to have passed down any similar photographs to his great grandson Roger (my husband), and I'm greatly indebted to Joan for very generously sharing her Featherston family history research with me. Sadly Joan herself passed away suddenly in January this year. 

Ralph and Mary Featherston with an unidentified child, possibly  Edward Emerson, their youngest

Muggleswick Parish Church in Weardale, Durham, where Ralph and Mary were married in 1848, and which we visited in 2007
Mary Featherston nee Greggs, 1827-1907
Ralph Featherston, 1823-1901
The grave of Mary and Ralph Featherston

 Like so many new immigrants, they had a rather rocky start to their new life in Australia, but they were stoic and seem to have overcome the hardships, and while Mary doesn't exactly look very happy in these photographs, I hope she and Ralph grew to enjoy it here.

Joan Brusamarello with Roger, her second cousin once removed, when  we visited her at her rural property near Wonthaggi in Gippsland, Vic. in 2006.
 Just two of the many descendants of Ralph and Mary Featherston.

R.I.P. Joan.

For more new beginnings, just click here :Sepia Saturday 198


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sepia Saturday 197 - only a little late!

Delete, delete, but it could have been good ... or how not to take photos

I wasn't intending to contribute this week as I didn't think I had any suitable shots, but just this afternoon when wandering back from St Kilda beach I spotted this beautiful Abyssinian cat, nestled very comfortably in a child's Tickle Me Elmo chair, in the front window of an old house that was being used as an office as well as a home. How cute,  I thought, and quickly snapped off a pic on my phone - but the window was dirty, the sun was shining the wrong way, and I was worried that the owner might appear at any time, so this lamentable photo is the result, including my hand and leg in reflection!  You'll just have to believe that it could have been a very cute shot, but never mind - I'll share before I delete it, as it does strike me as rather appropriate for this week's theme of rather forgettable photographs!