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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"You'd be Better off on a Malvern Star"

The ladies in the Sepia Saturday prompt this week look very stylish. I don't know how they managed to keep their voluminous skirts out of the spokes even assuming that skirt guards were in use in those days! I don't have any old photographs of grandparents or previous generations riding bicycles in my family collection, but I do know my grandmother Mona only learnt to ride in her fifties. I also don't remember seeing either of my parents riding, and if they did, there's no photographic evidence of it, although I have previously shown a photo of my mother's brother Ken riding his bike in Christchurch in the snow in about 1930, which you can see here.. The photo below shows my mother-in-law Mary and her brother-in-law Winton on bikes outside the home of their parents-in-law, in Little Myers St Geelong, in about 1947. They were probably setting off on a ride around Geelong, perhaps including a picnic by the river, presumeably with their respective partners Bob and Jean.

The shot is taken looking cross the street to the houses opposite, next door to Taylors timber yard that was located there. Mary well remembers that loud hooters sounded from the yard signalling early morning starts, lunch and finish times.  It's hard to read the brand on Win's bike but I think it could possibly be a Malvern Star, which I find interesting because we now live close to the Melbourne suburb of Malvern, where those bikes were originally manufactured.

According to the local Stonnington History Centre web site, "[t]he first Malvern Star bicycle was made in a shop [at]185 Glenferrie Road, by champion cyclist Thomas Finnigan in 190[2]. World champion cyclist (Sir) Hubert 'Oppy' Opperman joined the business after it was sold to (Sir) Bruce Small in 1920. The partnership of 'Oppy' and Small made Malvern Star a household name and the business grew to become a bicycling empire unequalled in the Southern Hemisphere." There are several photographs on the site on the subject of the Malvern Star, including this one here of Tom Finnigan on his bike, and of course there is more information about the history of the company he founded on  Wikipedia.

Advertisement from the Argus, 21 Oct 1955

Above and below are a couple of advertisements for Malvern Star from the Argus newspaper.

From The Argus, 14 Dec 1940, Malvern Star advertisement, found on Trove web site.


The place where Malvern Star bikes were first made. Those 3 Rs don't stand for Ride, Ride, Ride, but for Readings, a Melbourne book store which has been there since 1969, Malvern Star has been re-born since then however, and for yet more information and old photographs click here to go to the company web site.

Following on from the second advertisement, here is a photo of yours truly with the Christmas present I received in 1962, which may or may not have been a Malvern Star. I'm sure I wanted one, as that was THE bike to have, but I have a feeling that Dad may have bought mine second hand and done it up for me. I enjoyed riding it to primary and high school. I remember learning to ride in a vacant block near where we lived, with the help of some neighbourhood friends, and once you learn, you never forget how to ride.



Daughter Claire with her new bike, Xmas 1988

Here's a collage showing a few family riding trips in various locations over the years, such as along the beaches of Barcelona, beside the Mosel river in Germany, around  Dubbo Open Range Zoo and along the Bass Coast Rail Trail in Gippsland Victoria.

We are off to Canberra for the Easter weekend, with our bikes loaded onto the car bike rack. Canberra these days has a very good network or cycle paths, although that wasn't the case when I grew up there. 

To read more blogs relating to cycling in parks, mass riding, ladies in long skirts, or other similar subjects, just get 'on yer bike',  head over to Sepia Saturday #273 , and have a very happy Easter!

            Postscript: just remembered this photo in my mother's collection from her college days in Auckland including a couple of the students' bikes, from a similar time to the first photo here, circa 1946. Good to begin and end in sepia.                                                     

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ploughing on



This week's Sepia Saturday prompt shows an old tractor on display at an international agricultural fair in Turkey.  No sepian photos of tractors in my family collection, but I do have a few photos of tractors, both old and more modern models. Our son-in-law John is a dairy analyst, but describes himself as "having been passionate about tractors before he could talk", and in his spare moments he writes a light-hearted, laid-back column entitled 'Grunt' for a monthly paper called Dairy News Australia, all about tractors and various farm equipment that John has acquired for use on his 40 acre property. Click here if you'd like to read one of John's Grunt columns. In this month's edition, he makes the point that he doesn't think much of tractor racing, because tractors are not built for speed, but for the amount of power they can put into the ground to operate ploughing and other kinds of farm machinery. 

The mention of tractor racing reminded me of the related concept of ploughing matches. I'm not certain about the exact criteria taken into account when judging such competitions, but I understand the main things to be looked for are the straightness and neatness of furrows. No point being finished first if you've made a hash of the field! Back before tractors were invented to make things easier, horses did the work, and the following sketch and historical account of a ploughing match describes how a few farmers got together and helped out one of their neighbours, in this case my 3 x great uncle William Cruickshank, by spending the day competitively ploughing three fields on his farm at Monquhitter Aberdeenshire. The names of the judges for each field are given, followed by lists of the winners and placegetters. I see that my 2x great grandfather Adam Cruickshank, brother of William, won his field of 12 ploughmen. Hopefully no favouritism was involved, especially as one of the judges' names was also Cruickshank.  There were a lot of Cruickshank families around the district, not necessarily related. At the end of the day a sumptuous dinner was provided for the participants by William's young wife Jane, and a good time appeared to have been had by all. 

These two Cruickshank brothers and their families were to migrate from Scotland to New Zealand some nine years later in 1863. 


Aberdeen Journal, 1 Feb. 1854, found through the Findmypast web site

When visiting the Southland district of NZ in 2013, 150 years later, we visited William's farm of Rosedale on the outskirts of Invercargill. It is a sheep property and is still run by Peter Cruickshank, a great grandson of William. No doubt there was a tractor or two around somewhere, but my photo only shows this old truck that the sheep looked to have commandeered.

We were also shown the property called Oakdale where Adam originally farmed, near the town of Gore. It is no longer in Cruickshank hands and the homestead that Adam and his sons built doesn't exist any more, but we were allowed to look around, and see old trees along the driveway and behind the homestead that the Cruickshank men had planted. I've shown a painting of Oakdale by Adam's granddaughter Charlotte Petrie in a previous post, and here is an aerial view of the property, taken while still owned by the family.

While there I took this photo of an old piece of equipment that might have been another remnant of that time, with a stand of big old trees in the background.

Later everyone gathered for a 'sumptuous dinner' at the nearby property of Helen, another Cruickshank descendant, and we hadn't even worked for it. Helen and her husband Frank have a beautifully designed garden, a feature of which is this huge piece of old machinery that one of their sons found and parked there permanently. I think it was some kind of harvester, not sure, but it was definitely going nowhere fast!

This next tractor photo comes from a colour slide collection, and my husband Roger is standing on the right in the back row. The photo was taken in about the summer of 1966, when his father Bob had been working in Vienna and took the family to stay with his wife Mary's relatives in Herefordshire for their summer holidays before returning to Australia. While there Roger was able to join  the local scout troop on a working camp across the border in Wales and remembers a very hard day's work collecting hay bales for the farmer. Part of that huge stack looks rather precarious, and several of the boys have bottles in their hands, but surely these scouts weren't drinking beer!  Little did young Roger know that decades later he would occasionally give his son-in-law John a hand collecting and stacking bales.

Here are a couple of shots of said son-in-law John with his pride and joy, a second hand Deutz-Fahr model, having fun enlarging the dam and ploughing a new track around it. 

    Here he's using the post hole attachment to dig holes for a new fence. There are always jobs to be done.

Whatever interest I have in tractors and farm equipment stems from John's connection, which is why I texted him this amusing advertisement that I noticed in a local newspaper in Invercargill on that NZ trip. I think he had taken a few days' leave from his day job at the time and was helping his dairy-farming father with silage, with only the occasional break.

Finally, here's another photo I texted back to John in Australia when my daughters and I were driving in Kent or thereabouts and got stuck behind this little old Massey Ferguson for a short time while it trundled along. Thankfully it wasn't too long before a passing opportunity came up.

John's off to a trade fair called Farm World this coming Saturday, probably checking out a few tractors. Meanwhile I plan to read up on tractors in other Sepia Saturday posts, and you can too at Sepia Saturday 272.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Horses and Holidays

This week's prompt shows some horses being led to drink from a stream. My mother and her immediate family were not horse people, and I don't have any photographs of horses drinking, but here are three horse photographs from my mother's early albums. The first one shows my mother's sister Patricia as a young child in about 1924, tentatively trying out a horse. From the right hand side of the photograph, it looks like this is possibly at a beach somewhere. With Pat is her father Jack Morrison.

This next photograph, entitled "Horse riding at Caroline Bay". It was taken in the early 1930s and shows my mother Jean taking a turn at riding.  Caroline Bay is a beach at the town of Timaru, some two hours south of Christchurch on the South Island of NZ. I think that is Aunty Bess walking beside Jean. Timaru was then and still is a popular beach resort.  Jean and her sister Pat were taken to Timaru by their maiden aunties Bess and Flo Forbes, who always helped their sister Mona Morrison out with her family of six children. They may well have been visiting acquaintances there.

I found the following poem called "Caroline Bay" in the Press of 21 December 1923, in a promotional article describing iTimaru as 'the ltown of Sunshine' and the leading seaside bathing resort of the Dominion. Another article referred to it as the Riviera of the South.

Snipped from the invaluable Paperspast web site.

Here are Pat and Jean perching on a rock overlooking Timaru Harbour on their holiday. This reminded me of my own visit to Timaru in 2013, when I photographed a local fur seal sunning himself on some very similar harbourside rocks.  

Views of Timaru Harbour from the rocks and of the attractive parkland above the beach in 2013:

I particularly like the following photograph, which is simply entitled "A little visitor from Canvastown". Living in the country, this young boy would have been a capable horse rider, come to check out whoever was visiting the Morrison family. Jean visited her uncle Bill Morrison and his family there in about 1947. 

This matching photograph taken by Jean in 1947 is of her Uncle Bill's home, the same little home in which Bill's parents/Jean's grandparents Daniel and Mary Bridget lived and had 15 children, 11 of whom survived.

 Canvastown in Marlborough NZ was the town where Jean's grandparents Daniel and Mary Bridget Morrissey aka Morrison lived, and their son Jack took his family went up there from Christchurch for farm holidays. Daniel and Mary Bridget had settled there not long after arriving from Cork Ireland in 1875 and raised a large brood in a very basic little house. Jean remembered that it had newspapers lining the walls and none of the conveniences of her parents' relatively modern home in Christchurch. Her cousin Valerie Coleman recalled that there was no plumbing or electricity in the house and meals were cooked in black iron pots that hung from iron rods over an open fire place. Mary Bridget worked endlessly to keep the household going. On wash days she drew water from  the hand pump to fill the copper that sat outside in a paddock, and then stoked the fire to boil clothes. A horse story passed down by Valerie's mother Eileen told of how her mother Mary Bridget had said that on one occasion back in the 1880s Daniel had arrived home with no pay from a month's work, and after a 'showdown' revealed that he had called in at a local hotel and apparently had bet his wages against a man called Joe that his pony could beat Joe's in a race. Needless to say Dan's horse lost. Mary Bridget jumped on the pony and rode back to the pub, where she demanded the money back from Joe, who insisted it was a fair bet and fairly run. However after a few arguments he paid up, although not in full.

Here is a photograph from about 1929/30, showing the three Morrison children gathered beside the local river, either the Pelorus or the Waimakarina, with their cousin Valerie, mentioned above. It looks like the same conical shaped hill in the distance.

Jean, Ken, Pat and Valarie

This photograph from another family visit in about 1933/4, shows Daniel and Mary Bridget Morrison at home in Canvastown, with two of their sons, Jack and Stanley, and Jack's eldest three children, Pat, Ken and Jean.  Mary Bridget died in 1935 and Daniel in 1945.

A number of Jean's Morrison cousins still live in the Marlborough district, and up until quite recently Cousin Denny Morrison in nearby Nelson operated a horse and carriage business for weddings and funerals.

Enough rambling around my family history in New Zealand for this week. To read more blogs inspired by this week's topic, just click here to go to Sepia Saturday #271.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Going to see a man about a dog


The Sepia Saturday prompt photo this week shows a flight attendant cuddling a puppy. Perhaps it was about to be sent on a plane but had somehow escaped captivity. In any event, it looks sweet and harmless, as puppies generally are, but strange full grown dogs are not always so appealing. I've mentioned in a previous post how I used to be quite fearful of dogs defending their local streets and would walk well out of my way to avoid them, but there's also a nice photo of my old elocution teacher with her dog, a golden cocker spaniel. 

On a historical note, I found the following article in the Windsor and Eton Express of 18 June 1836, describing the flight and capture of a rabid dog. It's of particular interest to me because the gentleman who captured and put the dog out of its misery was in fact my 3x great grandfather on my father's mother's side, Charles James Byles, the proprietor of the former Hope Inn near Windsor Castle. The Hope was unfortunately closed when its Royal nieighbours decided they fancied more of the nearby land, but that's another story. I'm not sure if the people who wanted Charles to release the creature were dog lovers or whether simply they wanted to take matters into their own hands, but clearly shooting it was the only safe and humane thing to do, especially back in 1836, when no treatment would have been available.  I doubt whether the chimney sweeps sent to be dipped in seawater could possibly have survived.

I've previously shown a photo of my first cousins twice removed, siblings Charlotte and Arnold Petrie, cuddling their pets here in about 1900, and here is a photo of my grandmother Mona Forbes, aged 9, cuddling a cat in 1906. 


Mona's daughter Jean was not keen on dogs and even confessed to once putting my stroller (with me in it) in between her and an approaching Alsatian dog, but I found this photograph of her taken in about 1936, when she and her mother Mona were visiting Mona's older sister Ruby and family.  Of course, meeting a dog belonging to friends or relations is very different to braving strange marauding dogs in the street. 


Despite the fact that one of his favourite answers was "going to see a man about a dog",  if some curious child queried where he was off to, my father was not a dog lover either, and consequently we never had dogs when growing up. Cute toys like Sweep here, who squeaked when you squeezed his tummy, were about the closest we got, as this photo of my baby sister Louisa in 1958 shows. Later in life both my siblings would have dogs in their own families and my parents got used to them being around when they visited. I do remember however that when my father was staying with some friends and discovered that their dogs were bathed in the bathroom, he declined to use it himself, and was consequently rather keen to leave! His attitude was probaby influenced by the fact that his father had been a inspector.


In 1976 I was introduced to these two boisterous but friendly red setters called Susan and Jane on my husband's grandmother's farm in Hereford. They needed a lot of exercise and we took them for walks in the lanes while we were staying there, as these photos show. That was fine but I must confess I really didn't like seeing them being fed toast scraps from the breakfast table. Uncle Cyril their owner was not married at the time and had no children, but instead had a succession of similar dogs, sometimes even giving them the same names, right up a few years ago, when the last one Emma 2 died. Cyril himself passed away in December last year.

Here is our daughter Claire visiting her Nan and Granddad in 1980, and playing with the same original Sweep dog that her aunty  had played with back in 1958. I think my sister Louisa may now have him in NZ.

Here's Claire again a little later, visiting my brother/her uncle and his wife and getting to know Patch, their Old English Sheep Dog. Claire's now married with a baby, but no dog as yet.

Dad did allow us a few cats, and here are a couple of pictures of our ginger tom Gus, gazing outside rather than admiring his own reflection.  He lived to the age of  about 21, never saw a vet after his initial vaccinations as a kitten, and survived being put outside by my father every night without fail. No kitty litter for him, and his favourite resting place was a bucket on its side in a sunny spot by the back door.  I don't think he ever attacked anyone or any wildlife, other than the odd mouse.

Finally here is a photo of our cat Bogart, a lovable blue Burmese whose father's name was Humphrey. He had a long life too and in later years enjoyed the comfort of this kennel that we found by the roadside and did up for him.  Our younger daughter and her husband now have a Labrador Kelpie cross called Shelley, but Bogie's kennel is too small for her, and when we occasionally have to dog-sit she has to find shelter in our shed. Nevertheless we're saving that little kennel, just in case it comes in handy for some future family pet.

RIP Bogie Blue

For more cute and cuddly pet pictures or perhaps photos of airline staff members, just click here.

Postscript: a couple of weeks after writing this blog, I came across this photograph in one of my morher's albums. It is a perfect fit for the dog-cuddling prompt, so I'm adding it in here. The photo shows my uncle Graeme Morrison, Jean's brother, and was taken in about 1942, when he and Jean went to visit their Morrison uncle, aunt and cousins in Wellington. Graeme loved animals and clearly thought their dog was great.

Thursday, 5 March 2015


This week's suggestions are based on the illustrated musical scores of the Violet and Adelaide polkas, but I really have nothing to offer in the way of musical scores or dancing.  I used to enjoy growing Saintpaulia however, commonly known as African Violets. It was fascinating how new baby leaves grew from the cut stems of single leaves suspended in water, which were then planted in soil-free nutrient and nourished by wick-watering and light. At one stage I had at least thirty plants of many vibrant colours and varieties. When we moved from Sydney to Melbourne we transported them carefully down with us and they continued to thrive for a couple of years, but sadly they did not do so well after we moved to our present home. I didn't want to resort to using artificial light, and perhaps the natural light and position was not as good. Gradually I had fewer and fewer healthy plants, until in the end there were none. I hope you enjoy this collage made up of various photos I took of my African Violets in their glory days (2000 - 2007). Sorry for the lack of sepia photos this week, but I think you'll agree, they would rather miss the point, and purple was always my favourite colour!

Here's a photo of my main indoor plant these days. It's an umbrella plant, and was given to us by my late sister-in-law as a house-warming present when we built our first home in Canberra in 1977. 38 years and 5 house moves later, it is a real survivor. It is constantly putting out new shoots and could do with another pruning shortly. No flowers, but it always looks green and calming.  I must put away that discarded little white African Violet pot outside on the deck. Gone but not forgotten!

You can find other more sepia toned interpretations of this week's theme here at