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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Memories of Christmas 1994


Most of the decorations on our tree have some particular significance, in that they were handmade or given to us by friends or family, or they formerly belonged to people who are no longer with us. These four mini stockings that come out every year fit into the first category. They were cross-stitched by yours truly 21 years ago, in 1994, as you can see from the designs on two of them. I must admit that I haven't done much cross stitch since. This inspired me to look for photos of Christmas 1994.


Here is our younger son admiring his grandparents' tree and the pile of presents below it at Christmas that year. If you click on the photo and look closely you can see at least three of my stockings hanging there for the first time.

In 1994 my parents Jean and Ian Cruickshank moved permanently from Canberra to Wamberal on the Central Coast of NSW. They had bought the house a few years earlier and had used it as a holiday home up until then. We usually spent Christmas with them. Here are the cook and her assistant in the kitchen, which was always spotlessly organised and ultra tidy  - unlike mine, there was no such thing as a 'jumble drawer' in Jean's kitchen! It looks like she is about to cut up pumpkin ready for roasting, together with potatoes, parsnips and brussel sprouts for a hot Christmas dinner, regardless of the outside temperature.


 I think that year we may have gone to the family service at the local church on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas morning after present opening was over and all was tidy, we would enjoy a drink with one of Mum's lovely mince pies before roast dinner was ready to be served.

In the afternoon we might have gone to the local beach at Spoon Bay for a dip, or perhaps this was a photo taken on Boxing Day, when we always went out somewhere for a picnic, taking with us Mum's NZ style bacon and egg pie for lunch.

Christmas tea was also a fairly 'set menu', with things as a dressed ham, rice or potato salad, hard boiled eggs, green salad, meringues and Christmas cake on the menu. The party hats come from the Christmas crackers, the remnants of which you can see on the table. On the walls behind are paintings by my uncle Graeme Morrison and my grandfather's cousin Charlotte Petrie, which I now have hanging on the walls here. I also have one of those Royal Doulton picture plates. My sister has the other one, and I'm 'minding' Uncle Graeme's painting for her until she can work out how best to get it over to NZ, as well as the little wooden side table with ingrained decoration that you can see on the left of the drinks photo, bought by Jean and Ían in Florence in the 1970s.


The house itself is still there in Dalpura Rd Wamberal but it has been altered so much as to be barely recognisable. Ian passed away in 2000 and Jean moved elsewhere, renting the home out until she decided to sell a few years later, but it was then discovered that the basement had sustained quite major structural damage. This may have occurred as a result of the earthquake that struck Newcastle in 1989, and had worsened since that date. With a grim warning that some kind of collapse could occur at any time, we felt we had to give the tenants notice and were just happy to secure a sale at well below what would otherwise have been market value to some builders who were able to assess and fix the problem.  Luckily Ian did not know about all this! 

So here is our tree this year, with those little 21 year old stockings adorning it, together with other mementoes, such as the fairy on top that was made by my late sister-in-law. The rocking horse that belonged to Jean is patiently awaiting the next visit of a grandchild.


 We won't be spending Christmas itself at home this year, but we're having a pre-Christmas tea this coming Saturday with three of our four children and their partners, and the fare will be similar to that served by Jean in 1994. Most of the meal will be cold, which will suit us just fine, with the temperature forecast to reach 41 degrees C. 
                                                                   Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Looking for Mr Gridley. A post for Trove Tuesday and Sepia Saturday

According to the quote on the Sepia Saturday prompt this week, 'a man may be down but he's never out'. This provides a rather tenuous link to the subject of my blog, which concerns a man who is in fact 'out', as in out of sight, disappeared without trace, at least as far as I can discover to date.

Lately I've been trying to find out a little more about my husband's great grandmother Margaret Splatt Neilson, who was the eldest child of Daniel Neilson and Elizabeth Bernard, Scots immigrants who married in Ballarat in 1868. Margaret was born in Mount Pleasant, Balłarat in 1869 and was 21 when she married Joseph Featherston there in 1890.  Here's a report of their wedding from the Ballarat Star:

Ballarat Star, 2 October 1890, from Trove web site

                                                 Believed to be Joseph Featherston

Joseph and Margaret Featherston had 5 children but to date I've discovered no family photographs, other than the one above. According to the electoral roll in 1909 the family were living at 8 Nelson St, Ballarat East and Joseph's occupation was carter. In 1914 he was listed as a groom and the family address was 65 Eureka St. Joseph died on 1 December that year, when youngest daughter Lillian Myrtle was aged 14. Their third son Albert Leslie Featherston was killed at Monquet France on 8 August 1916.

In 1924 Margaret Featherston, her two daughters Sylvia and Lillian and her mother Elizabeth Neilson nee Bernard were living at 38 Hilton St Clifton Hill. Sylvia was a confectioner and Lilian was a heel finisher. Sylvia married in 1926, but Margaret and Lilian were still there in 1931, and her grandson Robert Featherston, son of oldest son Joseph, remembered catching the train from Geelong to Melbourne as a teenager to visit his grandmother and go to the movies there. Margaret died at 38 Hilton Street in 1935 and is buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery together with her husband Joseph. Here is a present day photograph of 38 Hilton St, a Hawthorn or polychrome brick terrace house which looks to have changed little since 1936, on the outside at least. Lillian remained living there until at least 1954. We live about forty minutes drive away from Clifton Hill, but by total coincidence we walked past #38 when we attended a house concert held in a home just a few doors away last Saturday night.

In the family death notice published for Margaret there is a particular mention of  her friend Mr C. Gridley:

The Age, Wednesday Jan 2, 1935 (snipped from Trove web site)

In Memoriam notices were subsequently placed for Margaret in the Age in 1936, 1937 and 1940 and in each case her 'loved friend' Mr C. Gridley published his own separate notice for her. Here for example are the 1940 notices:

The Age, 1 Jan 1940 (snipped from Trove web site)

So who was this Mr C. Gridley?  According to the Electoral rolls, one Clarence Henry Gridley, boot maker, was residing at 46 George St, Fitzroy together with Henry Gridley, carpenter from 1928 until some time after 1936.  Henry passed away in 1950 and by 1954 Clarence had moved to 29 Victoria Pde, Collingwood. After that date I've so far found no further mention of him, neither on electoral rolls or Victorian death records, nor in Trove.

The fact that Clarence Gridley was a boot maker suggested to me that this must be the connection. Margaret's daughter Lilian was a heel finisher, hence she and Mr Gridley may well have worked together.  Clarence Henry Gridley appears to have been born in Launceston Tasmania in 1900 and would have been the same age as Lilian. Was he perhaps her suitor, who also became friendly with her mother Margaret? Another In Memoriam notice placed in 1950 for Lilian's sister Sylvia adds weight to this theory.

The Age, 12 Sep 1950 (snipped from Trove web site)

It may be no coincidence that in 1928 Sylvia and Lillian's brother Emerson and wife Dorothy named their first son Clarence Henry. They also named daughters Sylvia, Lily, Margaret and Elizabeth. In about 1950 Bob and his wife Mary went to the wedding of Bob's cousin Betty, daughter of Sylvia and Len. It seems quite likely that Clarrie Gridley would also have been invited to attend. I don't know if my mother-in-law Mary remembers him, but I think she recalled Bob's Aunt Lilian as a lady who had lots of shoes.

In this very small image of Betty Hamilton's marriage to Robert Stephenson, it must be father Len standing between his daughters Betty and her sister Margaret Lillian, but I don't know who the gentleman on the left is. He looks rather older than the groom on the far right. Could he possibly be family friend Clarrie Gridley? Perhaps Mary can enlighten me.

 In 1956 Lillian married her widowed brother-in-law Len Hamilton, and they lived together in his Footscray home until her death in 1977. So what became of Clarrie Gridley after 1954?  Did he perhaps move back to Tasmania after Lillian married Len? It would appear that he was a close friend of Lillian and indeed of the whole Featherston family. So far what I've found about him since 1954 ressembles a doughnut in the tennis sense of the word, but Clarrie may just be 'out to lunch'. To find out more I'll ask Mary if I get a chance over Xmas, but failing that I may just have to wait until more recent newspapers are digitalized or perhaps the Tasmanian death indexes go online.

If you fancy reading other Sepian blogs about doughnuts, mess kits, servicemen or other more substantial fare that may be prompted by this week's image, take a bite out ofSepia Saturday #309.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

On the beach

Nothing very profound from me this week, just a small selection of family beach photos that I vaguely compare with the Robinson Crusoe prompt. The subjects range from Mary at Phillip Island in 1947, through her son (c.1972), daughter-in-law and a couple of grandchildren at various beaches in more recent years, down to her great granddaughter Isabelle holidaying at Broadstairs Kent in 2015. Whilst they appear as solitary figures, of course none of them are Robinson Crusoe, as the saying goes, because naturally all the photos would have been taken by their companions. 
For more blogs about solitary figures and sandy scenes, be sure to leave your footprints at Sepia Saturday #308

Friday, 27 November 2015

Holding on to Cyril

The prompt this week shows children holding hands in a circle. I don't have any similar family photographs, but like Marilyn, I do have a sweet one of a brother and sister holding hands. In this case my mother-in-law Mary was out walking in the city somewhere with her little brother Cyril, who was some seven years younger than his big sister.

Cyril Olds was born in Hull,Yorkshire in 1932. He enjoyed working outdoors but later joined the Civil Service and became a VAT inspector, although he always said he didn't really like having to tell people of their tax liabilities. He didn't marry until he was 50, at which time he gave up smoking. Cyril always referred to Margaret as his bride. They enjoyed over 30 happy years of married life together but sadly he passed away almost a year ago from lung cancer.

The photo below shows Cyril when we last saw him in 2014, in the spring garden of the family property,Yew Tree Farm in Clehonger near Hereford.  Margaret and her late first husband had been next door neighbours ever since Cyril's parents Frank and Doris Olds bought the farm in 1956. After she was widowed Margaret downsized to a cottage just across the road, and following their marriage in 1984 Cyril moved in there too. He looked after Yew Tree Farm in his spare time, maintaining the cider apple orchard and tending the gardens that he had established, and at various times he raised or agisted sheep, pigs and cattle in the fields.  Cyril and Margaret also ran a nursery business from the greenhouses that Cyril had installed behind the barn. They had no children but always had a dog or two for company.  Here is a photo I've posted previously of Cyril and his mother Doris at work gathering apples when I first met them in 1976. At that time Cyril was a bachelor in his early 40s, and we went with him on a day trip from Hereford up to Hull to 'see a man about a dog'. It wasn't a sightseeing trip.  Cyril drove fast and stuck to the motorways, stopping only once or twice at roadside service centres for sustenance, so we didn't see much of the English countryside at all. When we returned his mother asked how the drive had been, and Cyril assured her in his broad Yorkshire accent that there had not been much traffic, and "what there was, we passed". 

    Cyril. above right, with his wife Margaret, his younger sister Helen and their nephew Roger (son of Mary),  in April 2014.

                               Photo taken from the upstairs bedroom window of the farm.

     Young Cyril has headed home and his tractor now stands idle in the greenhouse. Without him, the future of the farm is uncertain.

May 2015

          Over the years Cyril and Margaret visited Australia several times, staying with big sister Mary in Canberra and exploring parts of the coastline from Queensland down to Sydney.  Helen and Margaret are coming again to spend Christmas with their sister/sister-in-law next month.

                                                 R.I.P. Cyril Walter Olds, 19.10.1932 - 14.12.2014

  The Black Sorrows, Hold on to Me

     To find out who else may be holding hands or playing games for Sepia Saturday #307,
just click here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Off we go, with our hats and bags

This week's prompt shows some young boys playing a game that possibly involves throwing something into their hats.  It's probably not tiddliwinks, marbles or hopscotch, games that were popular when I was at school. Here in Australia these days school hats are compulsory for primary aged children, as part of their uniform, and it's certainly a case of 'no hat, no play!'

I'm presently away from home, but here are a couple of photos that I just happen to have handy. The first is from 1960 and shows my brother and myself on his first day of school. We both had big hats, although we're not wearing them.

This second photo shows our older two children ready to go off to Montessori school. No uniforms or hats but they do have backpacks like one of the boys in the prompt. Our son must have been almost 3 at the time. 30 years later and he's getting married this Saturday.

For more blogs connected in some way to this week's prompt, just go directly to Sepia Saturday #306

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Whether the weather be fine or not


In 2002 we bought tickets for a balloon ride, to celebrate jointly reaching our half centuries. We were living in Sydney at the time but had chosen to fly over Canberra, because we liked the idea of looking down on the National Capital scenery, including its monumental buildings and central man-made lake, which I've blogged about previously. We drove down the night before and were up bright and early, arriving at the meeting point as required, around 5 a.m. I think. Unfortunately the weather wasn't looking too good, but the company remained confident in forecasts that the squalls and showers would clear in time for us to take off. The photos below include one showing my husband helping to tether our balloon while it was being inflated.

Up, up, up ...

... and away!  It appears from that fourth shot that we were aboard the first of the four balloons to become airborne.

Above and below are two rather gloomy shots of our view from on high, including the old and new Parliament House and the High Court. You can see rain approaching in the distance and after only half the scheduled flight time, our pilot decided that the safest and most advisable course would be to descend as rapidly as possible. We didn't complain, as there was nowhere to shelter away from the heavy rain streaming down the sides of the balloon canvas and funneling into the basket and its occupants, so by that stage we were completely saturated. We landed unceremoniously in a lakeside car park, feeling happy to have avoided ditching in the lake. Our tickets included a sumptuous hotel breakfast but we were way too wet to be able to enjoy that and instead we just headed straight back to my mother-in-law's Mary's place to get warm and dry.

 We were offered either a raincheck (!) or a half refund, and we did try to book again some months later, but that day turned out to be too windy to even take off, so that was it. We didn't try a third time as it was too difficult to arrange when we didn't live close by. By then we had left it too long to get that refund, but never mind. Our balloon adventure came to a soggy end, but it was fun while it lasted, sort of!

I took the following rather contrasting shots in 2006 during the annual week long balloon fest held in Canberra. We were again visiting Mary and enjoyed being spectators around the lake on that occasion. The building on the right is our National Library, with a balloon house floating above it, and you can see the Flying Sćotsman up there too, together with a bee and a few other unusual balloon shapes as well, their colours reflecting in the lake. Lake Burley Griffin itself appears blue rather than brown or grey on a blue sky day.

Here's the Flying Scotsman landing 

and going down, down, down, in a rather undignified fashion. 

We see early morning balloons floating over our house here in Melbourne quite regularly, but we don't feel tempted to join in. Mishaps don't happen often, but when they do they can involve near misses or worse. One had to make a forced landing in someone's front garden last year. It wouldn't have fitted into ours! For more ups and downs of various kinds, just float away and see what other bloggers are doing for Sepia Saturday #305. very possibly involving more sepia that you see here.

Perhaps there will be balloons of another kind at our son's wedding, which we're flying off to attend next weekend. I rather doubt I'll have a chance to post next Saturday.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Spirits of our past

No double exposures or ghostly images from me, but I have interpreted the above photographs as showing people from the past watching over others. I like to think that our ancestors do that in some unknown way, and so here is a collage showing my daughters, granddaughter and myself surrounded by some of our female ancestors. Although they are gone they are always with us, in the sense that there's a little bit of all of them in all of us.

Top row: Jane Young nee Patterson, Mary Anne Hays Byles nee Bills
Middle: Mona Morrison nee Forbes, Jean Cruickshank nee Morrison, Jo Featherston nee Cruickshank, Laura D nee Featherston, Claire K nee Featherston, Isabelle K, Charlotte Cruickshank nee Joss, Elin Cruickshank nee Hickey
Bottom row: Jane Isabella Forbes nee Young, Myrtle Cruickshank nee Byles

Jane Young and Charlotte Cruickshank were just two of Isabelle's thirty-two 4x great grandmothers. 

For more interpretations of this week's prompt photographs, click here and you'll be spirited away to Sepia Saturday #304.


Here's a re-do of my collage, including 3 more ancestors. Bottom right is Janet Cruickshank nee Mackie, 5x GGM to Isabelle, at top right is Mary Forbes/Paterson nee Anderson, 4x GGM and in the middle row at far right is Mary Bridget Morrison/Morrissey nee McNamara, 3x GGM. I've also replaced the older photograph of Jane Isabella Forbes with a beautiful photograph of her as a young woman, at top left.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Mirror, mirror on the wall ...

Sepia and family history are distinctly lacking in my post this week, but just for fun here are a few family photos prompted by the image in the card. I thought firstly of the following shots I remembered of one of our boys in about 1990, sleuthing around the house looking for who knows what. I don't think he was dressed up for Halłoween, but he does look a bit like the gentleman in the mirror.
Then here is our older daughter a few years later in 1995, looking very grown up as she makes herself beautiful in front of her bedroom mirror, getting ready for her Year 10 formal.

Halloween wasn't much celebrated when our children were small. Jumping back 10 years from 1995, here is a photograph of this good witch cake that I made once, not for Halloween but for the above daughter's 5th birthday in February 1985, when we took her and seven young friends to watch a play entitled "Ballads and Bushy Tales", written by Audrey Blaxland and and performed by the local Marian Street Theatre for Young People, of which Ms Blaxland was the founder.  Amazingly I've even noted the names of all the party guests in my photo album. The play sounds typically Australian, nothing to do with witches, although it might have involved a mythical creature or two, such as a bunyip perhaps. If you don't know what a bunyip is, you can see a statue of one here in an earlier blog of mine. There could be a few of them lurking about on Halloween night. Our other daughter actually lives near a town called Bunyip, but I don't think there are any out there.

Halloween has become more widely recognised here in recent years thanks to commercial influence, but it's not part of the Australian culture and is still not celebrated by the majority of Australians. In our local area these days groups of children do dress up and go out wandering, with the younger ones accompanied by parents hovering in the background. If we are happy to welcome them, we can put a pumpkin or similar symbol on the gate, but if not we won't be bothered by them. Here in Victoria an 'unofficial' long weekend is coming up, as we get a holiday on the following Tuesday for running of the Melbourne Cup, commonly known as 'the race that stops a nation', and always held on the first Tuesday in November. People who aren't interested in dressing up for either racing or Halloween often take the Monday off and go away somewhere for a short break. We won't be taking the day off this year, but on Saturday we may drive out to a folk festival that is held annually in the town of Maldon.

Finally, here's a photo taken by our first daughter, showing her little Londoner last year, dressed up in a cat costume and surrounded by pumpkins for a Halloween party organised by her mother and friends. Their babies all looked very cute in their outfits but must have wondered what on earth it was all about! We are greatly looking forward to seeing Isabelle and family down here for her uncle the sleuth's wedding very soon now.  I guess he eventually found what he was looking for, and we will definitely all be dressed up for that happy occasion! 

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate it, and to any Australians and others interested in horse racing, good luck in the Melbourne Cup!

For more memories and reflections about Halloween, sleuths, mirrors, beautiful girls etc, go to 

Postscript: one year later and here's our little Londoner again, getting ready for her nursery Halloween party a couple of days ago. 


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Miss Gladys Victoria Cruickshank Petrie, Lyric Coloratura, 1898 - 1990

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt shows a girl playing a harp. I don't have any relatives who were harpists as far as I know, so instead here is a photograph of another musical performer, Miss Gladys Petrie, who was a lyric coloratura singer and a first cousin of my grandfather Oliver Cruickshank. Her mother was Jessie Cruickshank, aunt of Oliver and the only sister of his father Charles. I don't know whether Oliver and Gladys knew each other, but it seems likely because Oliver is mentioned in a letter written home from the Front in World War 1 by Arnold James Petrie, brother of Gladys. I've included two examples of articles found on Trove that describe Gladys's successful musical career. The second article from 1935 suggests she was only going home to New Zealand for a few months, but I believe she did not return to Europe again.  She resided from then on at the family home in Invercargill with her parents and sister and in the Electoral Roll of 1980 her occupation was given as retired musician. She died in Invercargill NZ in 1990 aged 91.

I'm no student of singing or classical music, but according to Wikipedia, "coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trillsThe term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. Within the coloratura category, there are roles written specifically for lighter voices known as lyric coloraturas and others for larger voices known as dramatic coloraturas. Some roles may be sung by either voice. For example, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was famously done at the Metropolitan Opera for many years by lyric coloratura Lily Pons, whose voice was quite small and light, but more recently the same role was sung there by Ruth Ann Swenson whose voice is larger and duskier, and even more dramatic by Maria Callas who has [cast] a long shadow. Categories within a certain vocal range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.
[It is] a very agile light voice with a high upper extension, capable of fast vocal coloratura. Lyric coloraturas have a range of approximately middle C (C4) to "high F" (F6). Such a soprano is sometimes referred to as a soprano leggero if her vocal timbre has a slightly warmer quality. The soprano leggero also typically does not go as high as other coloraturas, peaking at a "high E" (E6).[1] Bel canto roles were typically written for this voice, and a wide variety of other composers have also written coloratura parts. Baroque musicearly music and baroque opera also have many roles for this voice.[2]"

PARIS CALLING. (1931, April 30). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939), p. 36. Retrieved October 20, 2015, from

Note: As often happens, Australians are keen to claim successful New Zealanders as their own.

From What Women Are Doing. (1935, October 19). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 23. Retrieved October 20, 2015, from

You can find other information and photographs relating to Gladys and her family here and here. in earlier posts  Both her mother and sister lived to become centenarians.

Now to the present day, and here is a link to a video on the Facebook page of a beautiful young Welsh born Australian singer and harpist from Adelaide, whom we have watched play and sing at festivals here several times. Siobhan Owen is very talented and has been performing in Europe and the United Kingdom for the past twelve months. If you can't open this video clip on her Facebook page, just click this link to read more about her. Enjoy!

      For more Sepian blogs on the prompt this week, click and go to Sepia Saturday #302