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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What's that funny white stuff?

We don't get a lot of snow in Australia, and here in the heat of summer the thought of snow is really quite refreshing!  We have some mountainous ski areas of course, but for snow to fall and settle outside those regions is quite unusual. Neither Sydney nor Melbourne ever experience it, but occasionally Canberra does, and Hobart in Tasmania has even been known to have it fall on Christmas Day. I've been looking through my mother's old albums and have discovered the following few photographs of snowy days from her childhood in Christchurch NZ in the 1930s, showing Mum and her five siblings having fun after a snowfall at their family home there at 2 Aylmer St. 

Ken on his bike, ready to ride to school. Apparently little brother Derek in the background had the mumps at the time.
The Morrison children posing in the snow. My mother stands ready for action with a large snowball in her hand.
 Peter born 1937 in the family pram, parked in the snow
Graeme and Peter on another snowy day
On to the 1950s, and I had to go to Cambridge to experience my first snowfall, as documented by my mother in her trip scrapbook, complete with an added poem and wisps of cotton wool for visual effect.

Here's a group of New Zealanders, including my parents and yours truly, well rugged-up for the Cambridge winter of 1954

The next photo is a sweet one of my sister in about 1960, looking rather nonplussed by the snowy scene confronting her around our home in the Canberra suburb of O'Connor.

Fast forward 20 years to 1982, and here's our first daughter enjoying her first taste of snow when visiting her grandparents in Canberra. I lived there for 25 years and can only remember snowing falling on a handful of occasions, so naturally they were captured on camera! My mother had brought back that sweet little duffle coat from England for her, but it only got warn rarely, as Sydney wasn't cold enough to need it, and it must have been given away when outgrown which is rather a shame, because the wearer now lives in England and is expecting her first child soon, and it could have had a lot more use over there.

Right on cue, Google+ adds the snowy effect to the outlook across the street from my parents' house

Over the years we were lucky enough to be able to take the children on various skiing holidays in Australia, NZ and overseas. Their father learnt to ski as a child in Austria and they have all became competent skiers. but I must confess it's not for me. I'm happy just to watch and take photos or sip hot chocolate in front of a warm fire!

Our younger daughter learning to ski on the 'pulli' in Wengen, Switzerland, 1993.

Plenty of snowy peaks in NZ, and here is a recent photo of Mt Cook, the highest at 3754 metres.

Now for more snow, no doubt a lot more than you can see here, just ski on over to Sepia Saturday 212

Late final extra: More snow photos discovered, 7 February 2014!

While searching for other things, I came across a few more snow photos in my mother's albums. Clearly I should have checked them more thoroughly. Firstly here are a series of three from a good snowfall in Christchurch NZ  on 6 June 1955, when I was two and a half. In the middle picture it looks like I'm talking to that snowman! Interesting to see that I'm wearing a duffle coat here, just like my daughter in the photos of her around the same age that were taken about 27 years later. I imagine my mother had not forgotten that first coat of mine when she bought the second coat for her granddaughter. Maybe in a couple more years we'll have a matching photo of the next generation.

The other set of appropriate photos I should have discovered relate to a snowfall in Canberra in August 1965, which I believe was quite substantial by Australian standards at least, and shows my brother, my sister and myself playing on the snow up a nearby hill, and with the snow people we made then. Clearly they were friendly folk, as they hung around for a while after the snow had gone.

That's it, no more additions here, I promise!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

In Memory of Austin Morrison, and of his great nephew Kevin, and also of Albert Leslie Featherston


My grandfather's brother Austin Lindsay Morrison lost his life in The Somme in 1916, aged 24. His photograph was published not long afterwards in the Supplement to the Auckland Weekly News on 26 October 1916. Here is the page that includes Austin's photo. Note the larger photographs for the officers, followed by smaller ones for the enlisted men:

So many men lost over such a disastrous few years, and doubtless every one treasured and mourned by their own circles of family and friends.

Gunner A. L. Morrison, killed in action, from ' Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19161026-40-24 ' 

Austin was born in 1891 in the Marlborough district in New Zealand. I had some trouble finding his name in the birth index, because the transcription of it given there is 'Estion Liencey', which I find very strange, but not strange enough to compel me to purchase a printout of the record so I can interpret it for myself, although I suppose I really should. My grandfather, the son born two years earlier, was simply named John!  

When the Great War broke out, Austin enlisted and became a member of the Machine Gun Section of the 2nd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. His unit left New Zealand for the Suez on 9 October 1915. 

 Early in 1916 the local Marlborough paper published a report of a letter that Austin had sent home, which must have provided some degree of hope and comfort to his Irish-born mother Mary Bridget and father Daniel.

Marlborough Express, 22 January 1916, per Papers Past web site

Sadly the worst news arrived later that same year, when the family received advice that Austin had been killed in the Battle of the Somme on 16 September. Austin was much loved and missed by his parents and his ten siblings. I've written in an earlier. Sepia Saturday blog about the last brave letter he wrote to his mother just a week before he was killed, but no doubt received by her after his death.

Report published in The Press,  9 October 1916, per Papers Past web site

Here is a photograph I took in 2003 when we visited the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, where Austin's name is listed amongst those of the many whose remains could not be found or identified.

Memorial detail

There is also a Roll of Honour at the Canvastown School attended by the Morrison children. It shows the names of Austin, killed in action, and of his brothers Stan and Arnold, who also served but thankfully returned.  

A sad postscript to Austin's story:
I posted the photographs of Austin and the Caterpillar Valley memorial on the Find-a-Grave web site, and this led to my being contacted by the wife of my second cousin Kevin, whom I had never met, but to whom Austin was also a great uncle, and whose grandfather was Stan, as noted on the above Honour Roll. Kevin's father was named for Austin, and his German wife was also interested in family history. A couple of years later we were travelling in Germany and met Kevin, an ex-New Zealander who spoke fluent German after living and working in the country for about twenty years. Kevin collected us from our hotel and took us to their home for 'Kaffe und Kuchen' in the small village where they lived near the town of Mainz. They seemed a lovely couple, so we were shocked and saddened to hear in 2010 that Kevin had died, his wife was in a mental hospital, and their two little boys were in care. I don't know the exact circumstances of what happened, but I don't think it was through accident or illness. RIP Kevin.

 Here's a song written and sung by one of my favourite Scottish Australian folkies, Eric Bogle, that illustrates the essential futility of war. I've been to so many of Eric's concerts over the years, but they are always great!

And finally, a sad 'in memoriam' notice, placed in the Ballarat Courier 9 August 1917, a year after the death of my husband's great uncle, who died aged 19 at Monquet Farm, near Pozieres, France, on 8 August 1916:

FEATHERSTON.-In loving memory of
my dear son and brother Private Albert Leslie Featherston,
killed in action in France 8th August, 1916 (previously
reported missing).
Your country called for soldiers
To fight 'neath the Union Jack:
With a cheerful smile Les left us,
With a hope he'd soon some back.
You fought midst other heroes;
Yes bravely fought and fell
how we sit and think of you, dear Les,
No other tongue can tell.
-Inserted by his loving mother, sisters, and brothers, Joe, Ralph, Sylvia and Lillian.

Private Albert Leslie Featherston, photo from the Ballarat Courier, 2 June 1917.

Just a lucky glimpse inside an ancestor's old book

I haven't found any old books with photos inside, or none that I can remember, but I'd like to share these photos of an old book called Gibson's Surveying, which by complete coincidence a cousin and I happened to see advertised for sale on Ebay several years ago. The reason we were interested wasn't because of the subject matter, and at an asking price of over $300 we weren't quite keen enough to bid for it, much as we would have liked to have it in our possession as a family heirloom, but because the photographs provided by the seller indicated that its original owner had been my husband's 3 times great grandfather Dan Calwell, 1775-1836, who resided in White Deer Twp, Union Co, Pennsylvania. I've written previously about his accomplishments and the substantial home that he built here, in Sepia Saturday 201.

Photo from Ebay, seller's advertisement, 2006

 Dan appears to have signed his name several times at the front of the book, in fact it rather looks as if he was trying out different styles of signature. His surname was Calwell, although he has signed his name as Caldwell here, but we know from experience that the name Caldwell is very much more common than Calwell, particularly in the United States. Dan signed his name without a 'd' while he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1821/22, and his tombstone in the Warrior Run Graveyard near White Deer Twp has the correct spelling, but the headstone of his son Dr George Washington Calwell in Hegarty Cross Roads Cemetery, near Glen Hope Twp, Clearfield Pennsylvania has had the 'd' chiselled out of the name in both places where it appears, probably by some unhappy relative who knew that a mistake had been made. Dan's Australian descendants are  proudly Calwells.

The date given in the inscription below is 22 January 1797, when Dan would have been about 21. I'm not sure what it says between the signature and the date however, and any suggestions would be welcome. This book Gibson's Surveying was specifically included in a long list of Dan Calwell's effects, and the administration of his estate provided for the appointment of Mr Charles Gudykunst as guardian of Dan's minor children. The frontispiece of the book has the name C. Gudykunst written there, so together with the signatures it seems pretty certain that this book indeed belonged to our Dan Calwell. Hopefully whoever purchased it treasures it in their antique book collection, even if they don't have any personal connection to its previous owner, and at least we have the photographs.

For more old books and their contents, just go to Sepia Saturday 210