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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                    

Friday, 16 October 2015

1996 In Profile

The prompt for Sepia Saturday #301 is a lovely photograph of 4 very sweet young children, possibly with their father, who appear to be transfixed by something to their right which we cannot see. Looking through my collections of old family photographs unfortunately did not reveal any similar profile photographs, so instead here are a few shots that I took in 1996 when I was taking a photography course and did some of my own developing and printing in the home darkroom that I created in our ensuite bathroom. The quality of the printing is not great, but it has at least survived almost 20 years. Time marches on!

The first two photographs were taken at a local Carols by Candlelight evening, and show our younger daughter putting her heart and soul into the singing, with her grandma sitting beside her, out of focus. The bright lights are the candles in their cardboard holders.

Next are three shots showing our younger son, his older sister and their father engaged in watching various sporting events. Back in those days we seemed to spend the majority of our weekends ferrying children to soccer, baseball, softball, hockey or tennis matches.


We did manage to get away occasionally, usually over the summer school holidays, and here are a couple of photographs of our four at the beach, although perhaps this was a cooler day, as they don't really look like they are about to race each other to the waves.

That's my contribution for this week. Eyes right for more blogs related to Sepia Saturday #301.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Daniel, Mary Bridget and little Eileen

I have to say that I find the photo prompt for Sepia Saturday truly horrific, and hard to believe that it is a genuine photograph, despite being assured that it is. To me it looks like Halloween come early!  The little girl looks as though she takes after her father or grandfather in appearance, but perhaps she is just pulling a face at being there. Unless of course she is dead, which would be even more horrific!

My photograph below of my great grandfather Daniel Morrison, his wife Mary Bridget (nee Macnamara) and their youngest daughter Eileen. Eileen was born in 1900 so this must have been taken in about 1902/3, when Daniel would have been 50 and his wife a couple of years younger.

Mary Bridget does look rather grim, but by this point she had given birth to fourteen children, so you could hardly blame her for being a bit careworn, and look at her tiny waist! She was just 17 and Daniel was 19 when they were married in 1873. They emigrated from Cork Ireland to the Marlborough region in the north of the South Island of NZ in 1875 with their first child Minnie, aged 6 months. I've blogged previously about their lives, including memories passed down by Eileen, her daughter Valerie and my mother Jean, which you can read here at 

To finish on a light note, the lady in her shawl with the 'Frankenstein' look-alike reminded me of this little Old Mother Hubbard doll I made for my granddaughter last year, and I also thought of this happy farm family that I made for a great nephew. The patterns used come from Knitted Nursery Rhymes by Sarah Keen. I always take photos before I send them away.

That's all from me this week, but to see other Sepians' responses to this week's image, click and go to 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Amazing claims

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt showing two little smiling cutout figures is an advertisement for something called Wampole's Preparation, which I've never heard of. A few weeks ago, when I found my great aunt Flora Forbes mentioned as a prizewinner in an advertisement for Aulsebrooks Cocoa published in the Press of 30 April 1900, I also noticed on the same page the following advertisement for the wonderful Loasby's Wahoo, which appears to have been another weird concoction that was advertised as a cure for a wide variety of disorders. Here it is:

Loasby's Wahoo, Advertisement from The Press, 30 April 1900, per Paperspast web site

Loasby's Wahoo - hardly what I would call a catchy name for a product - was produced by Loasby's "Wahoo" Manufacturing Co in Dunedin NZ. It was widely advertised in many New Zealand newspapers from the late 19th century onwards, often with glowing testimonials and recommendations from happy customers such as William Timms from Dunedin, Mr Morley of New Plymouth, Mr Chalk of Napier,or Mr Macansh of Murrumburrah NSW, as referred to in the following advertisements, just to select a few at random. 


Clarence and Richmond Advertiser, 14 September 1897, per Trove web site

This next item from the National Library of NZ shows some of the other "cure-all" type products made by Loasby's Wahoo Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The trademark snail at the top has the words "always at home" on its back, presumably signifying that the products are always available when you want them, because prescriptions can be dispensed at all hours day or night.

Cleveland, Francis Leslie, 1921-2014. Loasby's "Wahoo" Manufacturing Co., Ltd. :... Loasby's "Wahoo" embrocation is a sovereign remedy ... "Snail Brand" irish moss, quinine & steel wine, emulsion of cod liver oil ... ca 1895.. Ref: Eph-C-PHARMACY-1895-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Of course it's possible that some of my New Zealand ancestors may have actually used Loasby's Wahoo or other products, in particular my Hickey family, who lived in Dunedin and were probably familiar with the premises there in King St where chemist Andrew Mcartney Loasby produced his range of medications, but I discovered a more precise family connection when I noticed the name of the wholesale agents in the third advertisement. My great grandfather Thomas Byles arrived in NZ in the late 1870s and was taken on as a young apprentice by Kempthorne Prosser NZ Drug Co Ltd in its Wellington warehouse. By the time he retired many years later he had worked himself up to the position of chief foreman.

                                   Thomas Byles 1863-1951

Lambton Quay, Wellington, with the New Zealand Drug Company building. Tyree Studio :Negatives of Nelson and Marlborough districts. Ref: 10x8-0961-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Pictured above are the quayside premises of Kempthorne Prosser, c 1880s, where Thomas Byles was employed. Quite likely his duties there would have included receiving shipments of Loasby's Wahoo and other products on a daily basis and distributing them to numerous chemists around Wellington, where desperate customers were no doubt lining up for their supplies. Thomas enjoyed a long life, but sadly Loasby's Wahoo couldn't prevent his eldest daughter Ellen dying in 1920 at the age of 29, nor save his wife Mary Ann not long afterwards when she passed away aged 54  in 1924.

An invoice from Kempthorne Prosser, such as Thomas Byles would have regularly handled in the course of his daily duties. Photo from Wikipedia, 

The company has an interesting history, with its headquarters also being located in Dunedin. Considered to have been the largest drug and fertilizer manufacturer in NZ, it operated from 1869 until 1978. Hopefully the fertilizers were stored separately from the drugs. One of its original founders Evan Prosser established a branch in Sydney New South Wales but committed suicide on Sydney's North Shore in 1896 after attempting to murder his wife.

I found a photograph here on line of what a clean bottle of Loasby's Wahoo looked like and apparently it was about 5 inches high, with the words Loasby's Wahoo embossed down both edges. Some years ago when digging in the garden of our house named Wirreandah that was built in 1910, (see header photograph) we found this little bottle buried there. There's no longer any label, but perhaps it once contained some wonder preparation of a similar kind to Loasby's Wahoo, swallowed hopefully by a past occupant. The only embossed mark on the bottom of the bottle is P2. It's tiny really, only 60mm or less than 2.5 inches high, so whatever it was, not much was considered necessary to effect a cure. A little goes a long way?

For more prompt relief from what ails you, just call in on Sepia Saturday #299 , Open all hours!

Mike Brubaker's comment prompted me to look for information on the meaning of Wahoo, which turns out to be a drug that has digestive properties, and appears to come from the bark of an American plant by the same name. Mr Loasby brought a court action against another chemist who had also called his rival product Wahoo. Loasby had to admit in court that in fact his product did not contain any Wahoo, whereas the defendant's product actually did. Consequently Loasby lost the case. It certainly makes me wonder about the veracity of all those testimonials.

Mr Dutton subsequently placed advertisements publicising his success in the case, and threatening that vendors selling a false article would be proceeded against, but it appears that Loasby's 'wahooless' "Wahoo" continued to be produced.

Timaru Herald, 7 March 1898, per Paperspast web site.