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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