Tuesday 25 April 2023

KOKODA....

For my ANZAC Day post this year, I thought I would share some modern history - my 2008 trek on the Kokoda Track.

What an amazing experience that was!  After 6 months of intensive training - every weekday at the gym, every weekend off hiking somewhere - Wilsons Prom, Arthurs Seat, Mt. Donna Buang, Mt. St. Leonard - in all weather conditions, my daughter and I joined a group of 19 organised through my local gym and arrived in Port Moresby on 6th September to begin our adventure.

Kokoda Topography map - Anzac Portal (dva.gov.au)


The Kokoda Track runs from Owers Corner, about 40 km north of Port Moresby, across the Owen Stanley Range to Kokoda. It is a distance of around 96 km, made up of mostly single-file walking track up and down steep terrain through mud, tree roots and frequent river crossings.

The Track was the location of the Japanese advance from their landing on PNG's northern beaches in July 1942 and their subsequent withdrawal under attack by Australian forces, ending in January 1943.
During this campaign, 2019 Australians lost their lives with a further 3,533 wounded.  Many more would have been incapacitated by diseases. Japanese losses are estimated to be 5000 killed, 5400 wounded.
(source: Field Guide to Kokoda Track - a historical guide to the lost battlefields, by Bill James, Kokoda Press 2006)


DAY ONE - Port Moresby to Goodwater:
Our day began early, leaving Port Moresby for a bus trip out to Bomana War Cemetery. This beautiful and very moving cemetery contains the graves of 3,824 service personnel from the Kokoda, Milne Bay and Bougainville campaigns. Around 700 of these are unidentified - their headstones marked Known only to God. Many of these are British Royal Artillery prisoners of war who died of malnutrition and disease in the Solomon Islands. On a hill overlooking the cemetery is the Rotunda where 750 servicemen who have no known graves are memorialised.

You can read my previous post about my father's role in the Bougainville Campaign here.

Bomana War Cemetery
©Kaypilk 2008

 
Then back on the bus and out to Owers Corner for lunch and the beginning of our trek.  Owers Corner is the end of the road, and official starting (or ending) point of Kokoda Track. 

                                                            Owers Corner - the beginning
                                                                     ©Kaypilk 2008
  
We walked for about 3 hours the first day, with a slippery descent to our first river crossing over the Goldie River, arriving wet & muddy to our first campsite at a place called Goodwater. A quick wash in the river, dinner and into bed by 7.30pm.

DAY 2 - Goodwater to Ioribaiwa village:
Up at 5am and left camp by 7am.
First rest stop was at Imita Ridge, reached by a steep climb up the Golden Stairs.  Imita Ridge was the southern-most point of the Australian retreat, from where they fired their 25 pound guns at Ioribaiwa Ridge where the Japanese were entrenched.  From there, we had a very tiring, long, steep descent down to the Ua Ule Creek.  The track then followed the creek valley, crossing over and through the creek about 20 times. One of our group slipped and badly injured her ankle, needing the porters to rig up a bush stretcher and carry her to our campsite.  The climb up out of the valley included several very steep sections. We arrived at our camp in Ioribaiwa village at 3pm, having covered a distance of only 7.5km for the day.

Sunset from Ioribaiwa village
©Kaypilk 2008


DAY 3 - Ioribaiwa Village to Agalogo village:
A long hard day, beginning with a climb up Ioribaiwa Ridge to explore the trench-lines and fox-holes of both Australian and Japanese forces. A short break for a moment of reflection with reading of poem and a minutes silence. Then a steep descent down into a valley and river crossing of Ofi Creek, climbing up the other side to our very welcome lunch stop. In the afternoon lots more climbing and descending, including a particularly steep bit known as the Japanese Ladder, then a short stop at New Nauro village where we met some cute little kids and enjoyed spectacular 360 degree views. We had another steep descent down to cross the Brown River via a log bridge, and then a lengthy flattish walk through an awesome thunderstorm to reach our camp for the night, where we had a very welcome river bath.

DAY 4 - Agalogo to Efogi 1:
Today commenced with an almost vertical climb up what is known as The Wall.  Even our porters claim not to like this section of the track. We walked through the village of Menari and on to lunch at Brigade Hill, which on 8 September 1942 was the scene of one of the most intense battles between the Aussies and the Japanese. 62 Australians fell during that battle and the subsequent withdrawal.
We spent some time here, having a short memorial tribute to the fallen and some beautiful singing by our PNG porters. Then a 2 hour afternoon walk to our camp for the night at Efogi 1 village.

The Track
©Kaypilk 2008


DAY 5 - Efogi 1 to 1900 Camp:
Possibly the most difficult day of the trek for me. More climbing and descending, plus a longish walk through open country in direct sun. One of the men in our group called it quits when we stopped for a rest in the village of Naduri.  We left him behind awaiting a helicopter to take him back to Port Moresby.  After stopping again for lunch at Kagi Gap, we took a side trip off the track in the afternoon to view the remains of an American B-25 Mitchell bomber which had crashed near Myola village, with the loss of 7 American airmen. There is still an unexploded 230kg bomb embedded in the ground there.
We then walked through the eerie Moss Forest, full of giant Pandanus palms with huge buttress-rooted trunks, and Beech trees draped in trailing columns of moss, to our camp at 1900 campsite.  We were told that the porters say this place is full of spirits and will often not sleep while they are here.  It was a very intense place, with the sound of the wind through the Pandanus palms, and crickets making a continuous high-pitched almost screaming noise. The porters built a huge bonfire and we spent the evening sitting around it listening to them singing with their beautiful harmonies.


Camp 1900 bonfire
©Kaypilk 2008



DAY 6 - Camp 1900 to Eora Creek:
On this day we reached the highest point on the Track - a ridge of Mt. Bellamy at 2190 metres, and then a long steep downhill walk with several river crossings to the Eora Creek campsite. Very hard on the knees, especially since it was slippery mud most of the way.  Eora was a village which became an Aid Station during the war.  It was also the scene of very heavy fighting and losses on both sides during the withdrawal and advance.

Crossing Eora Creek
©Kaypilk 2008


DAY 7 - Eora Creek to Isurava village:
We spent the morning exploring the surrounding ridge which had been a Japanese encampment, with a big gun trained directly on Eora Creek village. The remains of the gun with lots of ammunition, some of it still live, are still there. Another village visit meeting the local children, and then on to Isurava battlefield and Memorial site.  On arrival we had a magnificent view from the memorial looking down the valley towards Kokoda, but within minutes the cloud came down and there was no view at all.
The Isurava Memorial is very impressive - four massive granite blocks representing Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice.  We had a short memorial service there before the rain really set in and we had a very wet walk down to Isurava village for our camp for the night.

Isurava Memorial
©Kaypilk 2008


DAY 8 - Isurava village to Kokoda:
Our last day on the Track! Set off in the rain, which hadn't let up all night. The walk required total concentration for every step. By mid-morning the rain had eased, but still heavy cloud cover prevented us from seeing the reportedly spectacular views from the village of Deniki. The afternoon was a long straight and mostly flat walk into Kokoda.  96 kms, or 156,569 steps in 8 days - not sure where I got that number from, but it is what I wrote in my diary at the time.
One of the men in our group went to the general store and bought a slab of beer, so we all sat round and enjoyed the most welcome beer I have ever had. 
After a welcome bush shower and change into clean dry clothes, I and another nurse in our group collected up everyone's left over first aid items and took them across the road to the local Kokoda Hospital, where the nurses were happy to show us around. They were desperately short of even basic supplies.
Finished the day with a delicious traditional PNG meal of chicken cooked in the ground with ginger and lime, sweet potato, sweet corn and greens, cooked by our porters who also entertained us with more of their amazing singing.

The end of the Track
©Kaypilk 2008


DAY 9 - Kokoda to Port Moresby:
Explored the Kokoda memorials and the small museum there in the morning, then a 45 min walk out to the airfield which was located next to a large palm oil plantation. Very hot down in the valley, with no breeze to cool down.  Time to risk my life boarding a 52 year old, 18 seater twin prop aircraft operated by Airlines PNG for the short 35 min flight back to Port Moresby - and hot water, clean clothes and a good foot massage!

Homeward Bound
©Kaypilk 2008

This trip was amazing, challenging, confronting, informative, inspiring, humbling, fulfilling and a whole lot more.  The heat and humidity, the mud and the wet, the lack of facilities tested us every day.
And we had the luxury of modern, light weight fabrics(which still were constantly wet) and hiking gear, carried a day pack while our porters carried our main packs, and the only shots we took were photos.  I cannot imagine how our Diggers did what they did in the conditions they endured. It must have truly been hell on earth.  

LEST WE FORGET.




Monday 9 January 2023

Holidays...

January ... Christmas over and done with and on to the serious business of Summer holidays!

As a child, the long summer break seemed to stretch endlessly in front of us. I've written about our childhood summer holidays previously in The Shack

Being a clergyman, Christmas was a busy time of year for Dad, but come Boxing Day he took his three weeks annual leave, loaded up the car and the family headed off to Sandy Point.  We've continued that tradition as adults, spending time at Sandy Point every year.

This year, for a couple of reasons, there will be no Sandy Point summer holiday for me.  That's a whole other story for another time (maybe). In honour of summer holidays, I thought I would reproduce a story written by my mother about a holiday journey many years ago before I was born.

Between 1951 and the end of 1954, my father was the Vicar of St James Anglican Church in Orbost, in East Gippsland, Victoria.  Orbost was a remote township, almost 400 kilometres from Melbourne, and 300 kilometres from Sandy Point, so it was a long drive to undertake in the heat of summer with small children on board.  Roads of the 1950's would have been a lot more challenging than they are today.



I'm not sure from Mum's account which year exactly this event took place, but she would have either been pregnant and with two small boys aged 3 and 1, or they would have had 3 children under the age of 5.  Here is Mum's story:  

On one memorable holiday we packed the car full to overflowing with children and belongings, besides a trailer which Father managed to borrow from a friend and set off. Oh, the joy of freedom!  We had travelled a considerable distance when we realised that all was not well with the trailer.

A tyre had burst. Father changed it and we set off once more only to find another tyre gone not long afterwards.  We called in to a garage where repairs were made and set off on the longest stretch between civilisation, late in the afternoon.  Before long, we had another trailer blow-out.  This was too devastating, for we were miles from anywhere, and besides all garages were shut by then.

We considered our fate, and thanked God for the kind friend who had lent us a tarpaulin - at least THAT could not go wrong! Fortunately, Father's scout training stood us in good stead.  He made a nice little fire in true bushman's style, then went hunting for some water in what I considered a most unlikely spot, whilst I set about cooking some tea. Oh, how fortunate we had some provisions with us.

Afterwards, Father rigged the tarpaulin up beside the car where we curled up for the night.  The children had beds made up in the car, so we were all reasonably comfortable.

Next morning, after a little breakfast, Father decided to unhook the car and drive back to the nearest town, six miles away.  The loaded trailer could not be left unattended, so the children and I stayed along the roadside with it.

After a while the novelty of the situation began to pall.  There was nothing for the nips to do, and the day was becoming increasingly hot. Something had to be done to remedy the situation until Father returned.

Suddenly I remembered I had my violin in the luggage.  What a blessing! We then played gypsies. I fiddled nursery rhymes whilst the children sang lustily at the tops of their voices.  When we had gone through the repertoire of children's songs, we started on hymns.

Being on an inter-state highway, the reaction of passing motorists afforded much amusement.  I'll bet there were a lot of cricked necks that day - they were still looking backwards as they drove out of sight!

In due course Father returned, and we set off without further mishap until we approached our destination. Here we became bogged in sand 14 times over the last mile.

-------------

This story was originally published in a weekly column titled 'Within the Vicarage Walls' which my mother wrote for "The Anglican" newspaper in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

My mother aged 18, 1941
Pilkington Family Collection

That last mile or so of the trip was literally a sand track bulldozed through the bush. Becoming bogged was a matter of when, not if, up until the mid-60's when a gravel road was made.

The road to Shallow Inlet
Pilkington Family Collection




Sunday 12 June 2022

A Marriage made in Heaven.......

 Yesterday, 11th June, was the 75th anniversary of my parents' wedding.




The engagement of Dorothy Gardner and Charles Dewar Haughton Pilkington was announced in The Argus newspaper on 22nd February 1947.   


Mum's engagement ring as described on the receipt was a "diamond and blue sapphire ring set in platinum".   Dad had purchased it second hand for £25 a couple of weeks prior.



Originally the ring was a single narrow band, but as the years rolled by and the band wore very thin, Mum had it re-modelled and set into the split band pictured here.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved Mum's ring. I remember begging her to let me try it on.  I'm now the proud owner of her ring, and it rarely leaves my finger.



My parents met at Mum's local church, St. John's Church of England, East Bentleigh, where Mum taught Sunday School.  Dad was a Curate assisting the Vicar of the Parish after recently completing his theological studies at Ridley College.  At the time Mum was engaged to another man, and Dad became friends with both of them.

In February 1944, Dad enlisted as an Army Chaplain and was sent first to Mt. Isa and then to the Pacific Islands to serve.  During this time he maintained correspondence with Mum.  At some point Mum decided her fiancĂ© was not the man of her dreams and ended their engagement. So when Dad returned after the war ended, a serious relationship began to develop between them.

The wedding took place at St. John's on Wednesday, 11th June 1947.  In the austerity of the post-war period, Mum borrowed her beautiful lace wedding gown from a friend. The wedding party is described in this write-up published in Dad's local paper.

The newly-weds spent their wedding night at the Victoria Hotel in Little Collins St, before departing for a honeymoon in Tasmania.

When they married, Mum was a few weeks short of her 24th birthday, Dad was 39.  In spite of the age difference between them, they were well-suited and had a happy life together, raising a family of five children.  I don't recall ever hearing my parents argue, although I'm sure they must have disagreed sometimes.  

Mum and Dad had 31 years together before Dad passed away in 1978, aged 70, just a few months after he retired. Mum remained a widow for 27 years, living in the home they had built together for their retirement before she too passed away in 2005.  


 


 


Dorothy & Haughton on their honeymoon in Tasmania





Tuesday 7 December 2021

The Callanan Family ... a Trove Tuesday post.

A recent theme regarding Government officials on the Gippsland History Facebook group prompted me to post about one Michael Callanan (1832-1920) who was a Government Surveyor here in Victoria from the 1860's until his retirement in 1895.  In turn, writing about Michael prompted me to write here about the ties between the Callanan family and our Pilkington family.

Here is my Facebook post about Michael:

Michael Callanan 1832-1920 District Surveyor based at Cranbourne in the 1870's. Involved in surveying land throughout South Gippsland. He was appointed Surveyor-General in 1894, a position he held until he retired the following year.
The Callanan family were great friends of my Pilkington family, the two families having known each other well back in county Clare, Ireland. They took my great uncles under their wing, so to speak, when they arrived in Australia in 1890 & 1895 respectively.


Michael Callanan, Victorian Government surveyor
photo from Pilkington Family Collection





MR. MICHAEL CALLANAN. (1920, August 12). Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 - 1954), p. 13.
Retrieved December 2, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article171049903


-----------------------------------


Michael Callanan was the son of Edmund (Ned) Callanan and Bridget nee Connelly.  They were a prosperous Roman Catholic family with a farm in Kilmacduane Parish between Kilrush and Ennis in county Clare, Ireland.

The first indication of the friendship between the Callanan's and Pilkington's is in 1838, recorded in Charlotte Keane's diary.  My 2x great grandfather Thomas Pilkington, who lived at Waterpark in Ennis, had been out to his property at Kiltrellig in the west of Clare.  On the ride home he felt unwell and stopped at Ned Callanan's house at Dangananelly to rest.  Recognising his friend was not well, Ned sent a messenger on to Ennis to ask for a cart to be sent to collect Thomas.  When the message arrived, my great grandfather, then 16 year old Thomas junior, saddled his horse and went on ahead to meet his father.  Unfortunately, the message was too late and by the time young Tom arrived his father had died.

Here is a short piece of narrative fiction I wrote about the event for UTAS Family History course.

A Man’s World

Ned Callanan clapped his hand on the boy’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry, lad.  He’s gone, God rest his soul.”

Tommy looked at the still form of his beloved father.  How could this be? Papa had always been so full of life, so indestructible.  Only three days ago, he had said goodbye to his family before riding out West to check on some property.  He hadn’t been expected home for some days yet.  No-one imagined they would not see his laughing face again. 

Late as it was when the messenger had arrived, 16-year-old Tommy had set off from Ennis with the covered car* immediately.  Ned told him his father had decided to come home early because he was feeling unwell.  He had stopped at the Callanan’s for a break, intending to wait only long enough to give his horse a rest.  Obviously ill, and with 24 miles still ahead of him so late in the day, Ned had persuaded him to stay and sent the messenger on.

And now Tommy had arrived too late.   He thought of Mama, and his four younger sisters, anxiously waiting at home for news.  Baby Charles, not even a year old, would never know his father.  What would happen to them all now?

With a quivering lip, young Tom took a ragged breath.  “Thank you, sir” he said to the older man beside him.  Squaring his shoulders he thought, I’ll have to be the man of the family now. Mama is going to need me.

*covered car – a jaunting car with oiled canvas sides to protect the passengers from the weather.

           References:  
 Charlotte Keane’s diary – private family collection 
 Obituary from Clare Journal 26 March 1838, Clare Local Studies Centre.


Fifty-two years later, in 1890 young Tom's own son, my great uncle Fred Pilkington, left Ireland for Australia. Michael Callanan was by then well-established as a Government Surveyor, and would have been a good contact for a young lad newly arrived in the colony.  Fred spent his first few years in Australia working with survey parties throughout Gippsland.  

In 1895, Fred's brothers Dan and Alfred also arrived in Australia.  Dan joined Fred surveying, but Alfred had become ill on the voyage over and stayed in Melbourne for treatment, being looked after by Michael Callanan's family.

Unfortunately, Alfred succumbed to his illness and passed away only a couple of months after arriving. With his brothers both away in the bush, the Callanan's took care of all the arrangements, and that's how my Protestant great-uncle Alfred came to be resting in peace in the Roman Catholic section of the St. Kilda Cemetery.

Over the years, for Fred and Dan, and later my grandfather Charlie, a visit down to Melbourne would often include a trip out to Essendon to visit the Callanans.  

Michael's son Ernest was a dentist in Leongatha for some years, and served as an Honorary Lieutenant in the Australian Army Medical Corps during World War 1.  Sons Frank and Jack settled in the Cranbourne area, where Frank represented the community as a shire councillor for many years. 

Here is another picture from the family collection, of Ernie Callanan, axe in hand and looking very much a "chip off the old block".

Ernest Septimus Callanan
(1878-1958)
Pilkington Family Collection

Note: Ernest Septimus was sometimes recorded as Ernest Sebastian

Friday 19 November 2021

What's in a name?

 What's in a name? 

One of the things that intrigues me about family history is the way names have been used throughout the generations.  The same names passed down the generations, the use of mother's maiden surnames as second given names for children, the so-called traditional naming patterns found in Ireland & Scotland and the patronymic naming system historically used in Scandinavia.

One example in my family tree is Marcus, so I thought it might be interesting to trace the various Marcus's back through the generations.  

MARCUS - according to Wikipedia, Marcus is an ancient name of Roman origins, most likely deriving from Mars, the Roman god of war. 

The current owner of the name is my nephew, my sister's son.  In the interest of privacy, I'm not going to elaborate on him. My sister named him in honour of our "Uncle" Mark, in reality my father's 2nd cousin Marcus Griffin (1921-1997).  His daughter and my sister are close in age and have been great friends since childhood.

In turn, Uncle Mark was named for his own uncle, Marcus Harvey Griffin (1867-1899), my 1st cousin twice removed. This Marcus was born in Ireland, the youngest in a family of 10 children.  He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in South Africa during the Boer War, where he died aged 32 in a railway accident at Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal.

                                            The Transvaal War, Casualties at the Front. 
                             Illustration for The Illustrated London News, 30 December 1899.

                                                                      London Morning Post 8 December 1899

Going further back, it's reasonable to assume that Marcus Harvey Griffin was named for his mother's uncle Marcus Keane (1815-1883), my 3x great uncle.  At the time of her marriage in 1851, Marcus Keane gifted to his niece a cottage in Kilbaha, county Clare, which is still owned by her descendants today.  Marcus Keane is remembered for his role as a land agent for the extensive Conyngham and Westby estates, among others. His actions during the famine years in evicting tenant farmers from their small holdings made him very unpopular with the local people.  There are at least 7 other Marcus's who descend from the Keane family.

                                                  

                                                                   Marcus Keane of Beechpark 1815-1883
                                                                      photo from Pilkington Family Collection


Marcus's mother, Jane (nee Delahunty) had an uncle Marcus Delahunty (circa 1750-1814), my 5x great uncle.  I don't know much about him, but there are another 5 Marcus's down the line in the Delahunty family.

Once again, Marcus Delahunty appears to have been named for an uncle - his mother's brother Marcus Paterson (1712-1786), my 6x great-uncle.  This Marcus was a lawyer and politician. He became Solicitor General for Ireland, and Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas.  
Marcus Paterson - Wikipedia gives details of his career.
Marcus Paterson had a son and a nephew also named Marcus, from whom at least another three Marcus Paterson's descend.  

There is a Rev. Marcus Paterson who is a contemporary of this Marcus's father Montrose Paterson, and very likely his brother, but I have been unable to locate positive confirmation of this relationship.

So, there it is - just over 300 years, spanning nine or possibly ten generations and including at least 24 babies named Marcus.  That's quite a tradition!




Thursday 22 October 2020

Epidemics across the years...


The inspiration for this post came while I was researching my Quaker ancestors in Ireland. The comprehensive records kept by the Quakers have allowed me to trace back to my 7x great grandmother Mary Sparrow who married in Wexford in 1662.  The marriage record tells me her father was Richard Sparrow and her mother Jane.  Searching for further information on the Sparrow family led me to the records for St Stephens parish in Norwich, England, where a Richard Sparrow, baker, and his wife Joan/Joane/Jane began baptising their children in 1644.  I don't think these records belong to 'my' Sparrow family, but they may do.

Norwich, England 1666 - Bubonic Plague

May 15 - the burial register for St. Stephen's parish in Norwich records the first death attributed to "the plague".  

Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection transmitted by fleas which live on small mammals such as rats. It was Bubonic Plague that was "The Great Plague" of London in 1665, estimated to be responsible for the deaths of up to 100,000 people.  Norwich, a provincial city situated between London and the Norfolk coastal town of Yarmouth also succumbed to the plague.  The crowded streets and lack of sanitation typical of the times meant that the plague spread rapidly.

There is no marriage record for Richard and Joan in the St. Stephen's register, but the first baptism for a child of theirs is for Mary in 1644.  If Joan was from a neighbouring parish then it is likely that the marriage took place there. I also suspect that there may have been an older child also named Mary, as there are two burials for Mary, daughter of Richard Sparrow the baker in 1644 and 1645.  There was also another Mary born to the couple in 1659. This is why I think it unlikely that this is the family of my Mary Sparrow.

By the time the plague hit Norwich in 1666, Richard and Joan were the parents of six surviving children. Unfortunately the highly infectious disease hit their little family hard and in the space of three weeks four of their children were dead. The first was 12 year old Margaret on the 20th October, followed by 7 year old Mary on 3rd November, 14 year old Rose on 5th November and 2 year old Thomas on 7th November.  Only James aged 16 and Richard aged 11 and their parents survived. It is impossible to imagine the heartache and grief Richard and Joan must have gone through at the time.

Page after page in the St. Stephens register records the deaths of townspeople, with the notation 'of the plague'.  At the end of March* the Church Wardens recorded in the register: Buryed this year, of the plague 246. Of all illnesses 291. 

* at that time the calendar year commenced on 1st April, so March 1666 was later than December 1666.


from the burial register of St Stephen's parish, Norwich
for the year 1666
(ancestry.com)


Ennis, Ireland 1832 - Cholera

August 16 - Dr. Charles Keane lay on his death bed in his rented rooms in Ennis, county Clare.  With him were his young wife Sarah, and various family and friends including his younger sister Charlotte. It is thanks to Charlotte recording the events surrounding his death in her journal that we have this record.

Waterford Chronicle 9 June 1832
(from Findmypast.com)

Charles Robert Keane was the eldest son of Robert Keane of Beechpark, county Clare, and brother of my 2x great grandmother Anne Keane Pilkington. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin before graduating with his medical degree from University of Edinburgh in August 1831.  Back in Ireland he commenced practice in Limerick at the Nunnery Hospital. 

The cholera epidemic of 1832 had spread across Europe over the preceding couple of years, with the first cases recorded in Ireland in March.  Charlotte records the first case in Ennis on the 8th June, when she writes of driving in to Ennis that day and being turned back. She reports seeing the Miltown road full of cars laden with luggage - all fleeing the cholera.  

On the 10 June, the Board of Health sent a delegation to Dublin requesting doctors to come and assist in Ennis. Charles Keane met up with the delegation when they stopped in Limerick to change coaches.  He caught the return coach to Ennis to investigate the situation in his home town first hand.  On his arrival he went directly to the fever hospital where he found 6 dead bodies and no physician to care for the living and dying.  Newspaper reports of the day state that the local physicians refused to attend the hospital, so Dr Charles Keane took charge himself. 

For the next 2 months, Charles spent every night at the hospital tending to the sick and dying, returning to his rooms to snatch a few hours sleep each morning.  On the 10 July he visited his family at Beechpark.  Charlotte writes when he said good bye, little did they know it would be the last words he would speak in the family home.

On Sunday 12 August Charlotte went in to Ennis to attend church, after which she called to see Charles and Sarah. She had received a message saying Charles was ill.  The following day, word came that Charles was very much better.  Plans were commenced to arrange a break at Miltown to allow Charles to rest and recover.  However this was not to be - on the 15th her brother Giles came and told Charlotte that Charles had taken a relapse that afternoon and was now very ill. Charlotte went to him at once and finding him very unwell, stayed all night.  Her graphic description of that night is harrowing, it being obvious to all that he was dying.  She writes of his unquenchable thirst, severe stomach cramps, and the cold beads of perspiration which she constantly wiped from his brow.  

Charles was visited throughout the night by a steady stream of family and friends, some staying for a while, others too upset at the sight of him to remain.  Charles took great comfort from the presence of the minister Mr. Young, as he made his peace with the world and prepared to meet his Maker.  He dictated messages to Charlotte to pass on.  He even shared a last pinch of snuff with his brother-in-law Tom Pilkington, my 2x great grandfather.

The long night finally came to an end, and with the dawn light streaming through the window came the sound of Irish keening for a man in the house directly opposite.  Throughout the morning, Charles lapsed into unconsciousness and by midday there was a large crowd gathered in the street outside, as the townspeople learned that their popular young doctor was dying.  Shortly before 2 pm, Charles roused briefly, then breathed his last and passed away.

Cholera continued its devastation in Ennis over the next few weeks, but by mid-October the worst had passed and the fever hospital closed.  Across Ireland, it is estimated that 50,000 people died during this epidemic.

Charles Kean Obituary
Limerick Chronicle 22 August 1832
(from Findmypast.com)



Melbourne, Australia 2020 - COVID-19

March 6th - almost eight months ago now, and actually the last time I went anywhere.  Anywhere, that is, other than going to work or to the local shops to buy food and household supplies.

On that day we went into the city for an appointment, catching the train in early to make a day of it. We wandered the streets amongst the crowds of city workers, shoppers and sightseers, enjoyed a leisurely lunch in an arcade cafe, then crossed the Yarra to Southbank, where we took in the spectacular 360-degree views of Melbourne and surrounds from Skydeck on the 88th floor of Eureka Tower. We spent a couple of hours in that confined space, packed with visitors from across the globe, as evidenced by the variety of languages and accents.  Along with everyone else we touched the glass as we pointed out landmarks, held onto the rails on the viewing deck, and bumped into people as we made our way around the room.  Leaving there we made our way home, standing room only on the crowded commuter train.

View from Skydeck
©K. Vincent 2020


Little did we know how quickly things were to change! Our news bulletins over December and January had been filled with the horrors of the summer bushfires, but in amongst these stories were reports of a mystery respiratory illness causing concern somewhere in China.  Living under a blanket of bushfire smoke, it didn't really seem relevant to us at the time, and hey - who'd even heard of Wuhan anyway?

February brought stories of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined off the coast of Japan with growing numbers of sick passengers.  Our nightly current affairs show brought us a video diary recorded by an Australian couple on board, telling the story of their isolation.  Poor buggers, we thought.

On the 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared the corona virus outbreak a pandemic, and on 16 March the Victorian Government declared a State of Emergency.  By the 20th, Australia had closed its national border to all except returning residents.  The advice from our state Health Department was to ensure we had enough food and supplies to last for 2 weeks, in case we had to self-quarantine. So began the panic buying, although it seemed that the item in highest demand was toilet paper, which disappeared off the shelves as fast as the supermarkets could stack it. 

Then the restrictions - if you can stay at home, you must stay home. Four reasons to leave home - food & essential supplies, seeking or giving care, work or education if it cant be done at home, and one hour of exercise per day.  Social media was full of hashtags #flatten the curve #stayathome, memes and song parodies based on corona virus. It was all mildly humorous and a bit of an adventure really.  Three weeks, they said. Three weeks to flatten the curve, and then we'd be right. Our Prime Minister recommended we all go out and buy jigsaw puzzles to pass the time.

©K. Vincent 2020


Well, here we are in October and it's not over yet, not anywhere near it.  We did indeed flatten the curve, but perhaps we got a bit complacent because then we got the 2nd wave.  Certainly there have been mistakes, and things that would have been done differently with the benefit of hindsight.  But amongst all the name-calling, back-stabbing and finger-pointing, one clear fact remains - if people could be trusted to follow the guidelines - ie self-isolate at home when required, we never would have needed hotel quarantine or security guards, and 905 people including dozens of vulnerable elderly in our community would not have lost their lives. If anything good can come out of this, it is the exposure of the absolute disgrace that is our aged care industry.

I'm one of the lucky ones - as a health care worker, I still have a job and I get to leave home each day and interact with people.  On the other hand, I am unlucky in that I am exposed everyday to other people who may not treat this as seriously as I do, and risk not only catching the virus myself but also transporting it home to my loved ones.  Telehealth, Webex and PPE are now part of our normal routine, as is communicating from behind a face mask and fogged-up plastic face shield across a distance of 1.5 metres while trying to use only your eyes to instil some meaning into your conversation.  Currently it is estimated 1.13 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19. Thank goodness we have not (yet) seen the horror of overwhelmed and overrun hospitals that we see from overseas.  I hope we never do.



© K. Vincent 2020



Monday 27 April 2020

Family History Month 2019 …

I wrote this post back in August last year, which was Family History Month, but didn't post it because I was waiting for my certificate to arrive in the mail. Then, when it did arrive, I just forgot...




What could possibly be a better way to celebrate Family History Month than graduating with a Diploma of Family History?  Not that I ever set out to do the Diploma, it just sort of happened!

I’ve always wanted to write about my family history.  We have such a rich collection of family memorabilia in the form of letters, diaries and photographs, dating back 150 years or more.  With each successive generation though, these resources are becoming more scattered as they are passed down in various branches of the family.  I wanted to use these as a basis for presenting our family story in a format that would not only be accessible, but also informative and interesting to the reader. But where and how to start?

Back in about October or November of 2015, I heard of a free, on-line study unit at University of Tasmania, titled “Writing Family History”.  This caught my interest, and I enrolled. Over the next few weeks we explored different writing styles and were given a selection of topics for which we had to write a weekly 250 word piece. These were submitted and critiqued by our fellow students.  Our final assessment task was a 1000 word story.  I loved writing those short weekly stories.   Grandfather’s Violin and New Beginnings, previously published on this blog, are two of my stories. 
  
Six months later, another unit became available – “Writing the Family Saga”.  This followed a similar format, building on the skills learnt in the first unit, but requiring us to link different generations of family using a common theme. In  addition to the short weekly stories, there were two longer assessments.  Both of these have been previous blog posts – Kilbaha – Here and There and Mary Emily Way – my 2x Great Grandmother.

The following year (2017) another unit “Place, Image, Object” became available.  This was the unit I enjoyed the most, and  learned a lot from.  In reality it was three different subjects combined into one unit.  The Place component involved mapping skills, the Image part taught skills in dating old photographs, and Object required researching a family heirloom to trace history and provenance.  Grandmother’s Teapot is my assessment piece for this unit.

By now, I had been notified by University of Tasmania that they had combined these units with others to offer the Diploma in Family History.  I wasn’t really interested at this stage, but continued to enrol for units that interested me, or assisted me in my own research.
  
Next up was “Convict Ancestors”.  I thought this might be a good chance for me to prove conclusively whether my 3x great grandfather William Humphries, born about 1796 in Shropshire, England, was or was not the convict William Humphries who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1819.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough evidence to make a convincing argument either way.  Instead, I found Richard Pilkington from county Clare, Ireland, who might or might not be a relative, but was definitely a convict.  So Richard’s story became my assignment, in Transported for Ten Years.

Continuing the convict theme was “Convicts in Context”, the only compulsory unit in the Diploma.  The unit looked at the wider convict experience rather than just one person. Whether because I didn’t have my own convict relative, or because I subconsciously rebelled at ‘having to do it’, I found this unit an effort.

“Families at War” focused on the First World War. Once again, I didn’t have a family member of my own to write about, instead choosing my husband’s grandfather James Joshua Perry.  In the Service of his Country tells of his war experience and post war civilian life.  This unit was probably the heaviest in terms of the research involved and the volume of material available, but I really enjoyed it and learned so much from my research.

It was about this point that I suddenly realised I had completed 6 units and only needed 2 more to obtain the Diploma –  that was when I made the decision to actually keep going!  So then followed “Photo Essay” and “Oral History”, both of which gave me some useful techniques for recording and presenting family stories.  I also managed to sneak in an extra subject - “Introduction to Family History”.

Having completed all units by the end of 2018, it was a long wait until 17th August this year for Graduation Day.  I didn't travel to Tasmania to attend in person, so am now looking forward to the postman delivering my certificate in due course.