Monday, 22 May 2017

SHOCKING DISASTER IN THE BAY–a Trove Tuesday post.


This story has no relevance to my own family history, but is significant in that it is an important part of the history of the town I currently call home. 

Photo of memorial card reproduced on Historical Society information board
                                                                                             
Mornington today is growing bayside suburb on the outer fringe of Melbourne.  In 1892, it was a small rural village servicing the local fishing and agricultural communities, but with an increasing appeal as a tourist destination for visitors from Melbourne.  Like all country towns, it would have been a close-knit community where every one knew each other well.

125 years ago today the community was devastated when 15 members of their football team drowned in a boating tragedy on Port Philip Bay.  The newspapers of the day carried the story, the first headlines making the news on Monday 23rd May.


                                                            




NEWS OF THE DAY. (1892, May 23). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 4. 
Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199331629

A more detailed account of the tragedy appeared later in the paper, and also in The Argus.




SHOCKING DISASTER IN THE BAY. (1892, May 23). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 5. Retrieved  May 21, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8422813


A Disaster Fund was set up to provide for the widows, children and elderly parents who had been left without support.  For a few months after the event, newspapers throughout Victoria carried articles about charity matches and benefits held in all communities to raise money for the fund.

   
Memorial to Mornington footballers who died 21st May 1892
on corner of Main St & Esplanade, Mornington
©Kaypilk 2017


Today I took the opportunity to pay a visit to the memorial which was erected by public subscription to honour the memory of those young men.  The memorial sits at the end of the main street, on the cliff top overlooking the bay. Probably in the exact spot where anxious relatives would have stood awaiting news of the overdue boat.  The monument is surrounded by a plantation of rosemary, which today was in full bloom.  The local Historical Society has erected an information board providing the visitor with the story behind the monument.



 Mornington & District Historical Society information board erected 2012
©Kaypilk 2017
   A wreath of beautiful native flowers had been placed there today by the Historical Society, marking the 125th anniversary of the event.  Other floral tributes were from the Mornington Football Club, and another from A & E Caldwell – no doubt relatives of the three Caldwell brothers who died in the accident.  A couple of other people came while I was there and placed small bunches of garden flowers.  It seems that despite the passage of time, this community has not forgotten.



From Mornington looking north towards Pelican reef where the boat capsized
©Kaypilk 2017
This poem appears on the information board at the memorial, written soon after the accident by J. S. Adams, jnr, 18th June 1892.




photographed from information board ⓒ2017



Charles ALLCHIN (20) 
                   
James CALDWELL (21) brother
  
William CALDWELL (19) brother


Hugh CALDWELL (17)  brother

William COLES (23)


John COMBER (31)


James FIRTH (17) 


William E GROVER (25) uncle

William GROVER (17) nephew


Charles HOOPER (35) father


Charles F HOOPER (14) son


John KENNA (18)  


Alfred LAWRENCE (19)


George MILNE (36)


Charles WILLIAMS (23)




R.I.P.


              
                     
                            

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bougainville 1945 …





BOUGAINVILLE 1945
We’ve nineteen dead on the Buin road,
Ten more on the Jungle track,
And all day long there’s a broken tide
Of our wounded streaming back.
We’ve fought all night by the Hongarai,
With never a bite or sup;
And tomorrow’s back-page news will quote:
“Our Soldiers are mopping up.”
  
As dawn wakes with a jaded eye,
Discarding its misty pall,
White crosses mourn on the Numa trail
For fellows who gave their all.
In Taimba’s ridges, Sorokin’s groves,
They drained the dregs, Hell’s Cup;
The blood they gave was a passing thing,
They were merely “Mopping up.”


The screaming silence of ambushed swamp,
The horror of obscene bog,
The vicious foe in a filthy league
With blanketing rain and fog,
Are trifling things which the critics know
Should never hold heroes up.
Good Lord!  Why, this isn’t war at all!
We simply are “Mopping up!”


We make no claim to heroic mould,
But this little boon we ask;
Those armchair critics please send up here
To share in our “simple task.”
When they’re on intimate terms with Death,
And have tallied the blood-cost up,
Maybe they’ll coin more adequate phrase
Than casual “Mopping up.”

- “BLACK BOB”   
   

I found this poem among my father’s papers relating to his service in Bougainville during World War 2.  Dad was a bit of a bush poet, so initially I wondered if this was one of his own efforts, but a bit of research soon ruled that out.

“Black Bob” was Lieutenant Adrian L. O’Neill (1907 – 1980) of 38th Battalion.  From Echuca, Victoria, he enlisted in Narrabri, NSW and served in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville during World War 2.  His satirical poems compared the reality of jungle warfare with the perceptions of government officials, the press and those at home.

His poems are held in Australian War Memorial, Canberra.  Reference Number: MSS1328.
---------------

Capt. C.D.H. Pilkington
Bougainville 1945

                                              photo from private collection C.D.H. Pilkington©


My father, Charles Dewar Haughton Pilkington (1908 – 1978),  known to all as Haughton or ‘Haught’, served as an Australian Army Chaplain in World War 2.  He was stationed at Mt. Isa in Queensland, then Bougainville and Fauro Island in the Pacific Islands.  Army chaplains carried the rank of Captain, but were generally known to the men as “Padre”.


098674 AWM  TOROKINA, BOUGAINVILLE. 1945-11-09. A GROUP OF ANGLICAN CHAPLAINS OUTSIDE THE PATTISON CHAPEL, HEADQUARTERS 3 DIVISION
Anglican chaplains outside Pattison Chapel, Headquarters 3 Division
Torokina, Bougainville 9/11/1945
my father is seated 2nd left

                                                     Photo from Australian War Memorial 098674

A much more in depth account of the Bougainville campaign than I could ever give can be found on the Last Battles website – In the Shadows.


Army Bougainville (2)
Bougainville
Native troops, Bougainville

Numa Numa Tramway, Bougainville

Japanese surrender, Bougainville 1945

photos from private collection C.D.H. Pilkington ©
                                                               
Dad never spoke about his war service experiences in anything other than a general way.  As a Chaplain, I don’t think he would have been involved in the hands-on fighting.  His work would have involved providing spiritual and emotional comfort to the wounded and dying. 
I know from the records I have seen that he conducted battlefield burials – done hastily at the end of the day, with the exact locations of each burial carefully recorded in relation to surrounding landmarks, so that the bodies could be exhumed at a later time and re-interred in the Torokina War Cemetary. 
After the war, all those buried at Torokina were again exhumed and transferred to the Bomana War Cemetery in Port Moresby, PNG.


Bomana War Cemetery, PNG
Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby, PNG
©Kaypilk 2008
                                                 

Once the day’s burials were over,  the Chaplain’s work included writing to the family of the deceased soldier.  This could not have been an easy task, but any fragment of comfort or information provided would have been welcomed by those at home, as a follow-up to the stark reality of the official telegram.  Among Dad’s papers are a handful of letters written back to him by the families of fallen soldiers.  The contents reveal how much appreciated the letter written by my father was.  

As one mother wrote:  “It was such a relief to know that he did not have to suffer long, and that he had a decent burial.” 

Another widow wrote: “it is of great comfort to know he had a proper Christian burial and was not left lying in some unknown spot.”

Some day, I would like to use these letters to write about these men, regular Aussie blokes who gave their lives in the service of their country.  But that’s another project, and for now I would just like to acknowledge these men today, and to recognise all those who served - in Bougainville, and all other conflicts. 


Private Archibald Campbell HARRIS – Chiltern, Victoria

Private Callander William Kenneth SCOTT – Hampton, Victoria

Private Leslie Edward Palmer NORTH – Ararat, Victoria

Sapper Ewing Arthur WINWARD – Whittlesea, Victoria

Corporal Robert NASH – Leederville, WA

Private Keith GUNTER – North Bondi, NSW

Sergeant Howell Keith MIDGLEY – Billabong, Victoria

Sergeant Arthur Allan BENNETT – Merbein, Victoria

Private Leonard Birdwood HATELEY – North Williamstown, Victoria

Lieutenant Frederick Richard LONGMORE – Elsternwick, Victoria


- LEST WE FORGET -


rosemary
                                                                 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Walkerville … a Trove Tuesday post.


Tucked away in comparative isolation on Victoria’s southern coastline is Walkerville – one of my favorite places to visit.  Walkerville lies in the north-western curve of Waratah Bay, sheltered from the prevailing westerlies and providing a spectacular view across the bay to Wilson’s Promontory. 

This was where my grandmother grew up, and the place has always been special to me.  I doubt if there has been a single summer in my life which has not included a visit to Walkerville for picnics, beach rambles or a bushwalk. 

But Walkerville hasn’t always been a quiet place.  For a period of about 50 years in the late 19th & early 20th centuries, Walkerville was a thriving little community based on the important lime-burning trade.

Walkerville 2015 © K. Vincent

                                  
In October 1874, the following small paragraph appeared in The Age newspaper:

1874 article
                                          
NEWS OF THE DAY. (1874, October 12). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 2.
                                                                    Retrieved February 4, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201532936




The article heralded the beginning of a new industry for the colony of Victoria.  Lime was in high demand for the building industry, and marble was mostly imported.  The area had been surveyed in 1868 by Lieutenant H. J. Stanley of the Admiralty & Colonial Marine Survey.  He had reported good anchorage in this south-west corner of Waratah Bay, except during south & south-easterly gales.


1868 map Waratah Bay SLV
      Stanley, H. J. (Henry James) (1868). Australia, South coast, Victoria. Waratah Bay. Hydrographic Office, [London] http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/8396398





Consequently, the ‘township’ of Waratah was proclaimed in February 1874, with a view to the area’s suitability as a port for servicing the gold diggings at Stockyard Creek (now Foster).
In May of 1875, a group of enterprising businessmen from Melbourne chartered the steamer Williams, leaving from Sandridge Pier for Waratah Bay to inspect the location.

 
1875 article
                                    
NEWS OF THE DAY. (1875, May 3). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 2.
Retrieved February 4, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202135764


The full account of the trip, in the same edition, can be read here:  WARATAH BAY AND ITS LIMESTONE DEPOSITS




Marble Cliffs 



MARBLE CLIFFS, WARATAH BAY. (1875, June 14).
Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), p. 84.
Retrieved February 4, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60446295


The group wasted no time in commencing operations, with the formation of the Waratah Bay Lime & Marble Company – just four months later, in September, Melbourne newspapers carried advertisements calling for tenders for the erection of lime kilns at Waratah Bay.
Advertising (1875, September 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 3.
Retrieved February 4, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7419065


The following year, Bright Brothers & Co., shipping agents, advertise for a vessel for the shipment of lime from Waratah Bay to Melbourne.





ad for ship 1876
                                      Advertising (1876, October 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1.
Retrieved February 5, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5905249



download
                                                        
(1879). Loading lime, Waratah Bay. Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth, Melbourne  from SLV, originally published in Australasian Sketcher




Transporting lime by sea was not without danger, as the risk of fire was significant if the cargo should become wet.   The process of burning limestone in the kilns produces quicklime, a highly caustic powder which generates high temperatures when in contact with water.  The quicklime produced in the Waratah kilns was bagged for shipment to Melbourne, and if the ship encountered heavy weather at sea, the risk of water entering the hold and triggering the chemical reaction which would cause spontaneous combustion was significant. 


The history of the lime industry at Waratah is peppered with stories of fires on board ship.  The first recorded was that of the Phoenix in November 1876, shortly after Bright Bros. placed the above advertisement.

Phoenix fire 1876
                                                         
LOSS OF THE KETCH PHOENLY (1876, November 18). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), p. 15.
Retrieved February 5, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article220460919


Other similar events occurred over the following years:
1884 Gazelle  nla.news-article70043636
1886 John & May  nla.news-article9119108
1908 Meeinderry  nla.news-article10655073
1913 Centurion  nla.news-article7290275
1918 Wyrallah  nla.news-article7290275
1927 Defender  nla.news-article140800200

An article in The Age 5 February 1877, reporting on the voyage of HMCS Victoria to Sydney and return, mentions the jetty at Waratah being under construction.  


                                  
Walkerville jetty
from Pilkington family collection

My great-grandfather, James Dewar, was appointed manager of the new lime works.  The exact date of his appointment is not known, but first reference I have found to him at Waratah is 1878.

                                                                           
James Dewar 1829 - 1907
Manager of Waratah lime works
from Pilkington family collection

James Dewar was a Scotsman who came to Australia in the 1850’s, and probably spent time on the Central Victorian goldfields.  On his marriage certificate in Geelong in 1859, he is listed as a quarryman.  By the time my grandmother’s birth was registered in Tootgarook in 1874, his occupation was lime burner.  It is reasonable to assume he was at that time employed at the lime kilns in Rye. 

James Dewar continued as manager of the Waratah kilns until his death in 1907.  During that time, he also served as post-master, electoral officer and registrar for the little community.  Upon his death, his son Alexander Dewar succeeded as manager, and when he went off to World War 1, brother Jim took over.

Over the course of its history, the Waratah kilns changed hands several times.  The name of the original township of Waratah was changed in about 1890 to Walkerville, named after William Froggatt Walker, Commissioner for Customs, who was part of a consortium which took over the kilns from Bright Bros. in 1884.  Later, in 1892, ownership changed again to Andrew A. McCrae.  

                                                          
Walkerville kilns & jetty c1900
from Pilkington family collection

Increasing transport costs and competition from railways, combined with reduced demand from the building trade, eventually made production of lime at Walkerville uneconomical.  The kilns closed finally in 1926, although the nearby kiln at Bell Point struggled on for another year or so.  Following closure, and with no other employment opportunities in the immediate area, the workers and their families moved away, leaving Walkerville deserted.   Gradually, the bush reclaimed the surrounding area, and the jetty and kilns deteriorated.

deteriorating jetty - date unknown

from Pilkington family collection
                                                          
Today, Walkerville is a quiet little holiday destination, popular with campers and fishing enthusiasts.  Homes change hands rarely, and for premium prices when they do.  Apart from the ruins of the kilns which dominate the beach, and the little cemetery up on the cliff, there are only small reminders of the industry and activity which once took place.


Walkerville township from jetty 1928
from Pilkington family collection ©

One stone wall containing the fireplace and chimney is all that remains of James Dewar’s residence, and now forms part of the retaining wall on the roadside.  A few patches of nasturtiums and some pea-flowered climbers among the bush are relicts of the former cottage gardens.  Just a single timber pylon survives from the jetty which once curved 300 feet out into the bay.


                                                                      
great-great-granddaughters of James Dewar, with last remaining jetty pylon
© K. Vincent 2012
    
In recent years, efforts have been made to protect the remains of the kilns and prevent further deterioration.  Signage has been created to inform the visitor of the history and significance of the area.  A short climb along a steep path leads to the little cemetery where James & Margaret Dewar lie at rest with others from the early settlement.

                                                             

Walkerville kiln 2015  © K. Vincent









Saturday, 28 January 2017

A Tale of Two Fishes …


Walking along the beach has always been a favourite thing to do.  The sea in all its moods holds a fascination for me, whether it’s a wild southern gale in winter, or watching a spectacular sky in summer as the sun sets over the water in the west.  I love exploring the myriad objects cast up by the sea – shells, sea creatures, seaweed, weathered driftwood, as well as varied other objects resulting from nautical activity.

Back in December, a post on a cousins Facebook page Doonagatha caught my attention.  Doonagatha  (from the Irish "DĂșn an geata" (translation – " close the gate ") is the name of the property originally farmed by my great uncle Dan, who came out to Australia from Ireland in 1895.  The property is still farmed by his grandson & family today.  The Doonagatha page chronicles daily life on a working beef farm, and is a good read.

So, a typical day on the farm winds up with a run on the Waratah Bay beach for the dogs.  In this particular post, an out of the ordinary discovery is made during the daily walk, of a dead whale washed up on the shore.  I followed with interest over the next few days as attempts were made to identify the species.  Eventually, it was confirmed as a pygmy sperm whale, and the carcass removed by authorities.


doonagatha whale 2
©Doonagatha Facebook page 2016.
Used with permission
                                   

Reading about this unfortunate creature sent me back to the diary of my great uncle Fred, where in 1905 he records the discovery of another whale on a beach across the other side of the world in county Clare, Ireland.

On Thursday 25th May 1905 he writes:
Cycled up to Fodra to see a monster fish that was washed ashore last night, and stranded on the rocks.  Walked up again with the girls and Hay after dinner, bringing a tape with me.  It measures 31 feet with a girth of 16. Lacey, the light keeper, took a photo of it.
Saturday 27th May:
Went up to Fodra and took some further measurements of the fish.
Tuesday 30th May:
Amy & I cycled to Fodra to see the fish, but the tide was over it.  Rode up again in the evening & saw it.  Dr. Studdert & others up there.  He says it must be buried or it will spread sickness in the place.
Wednesday 31st May:
Wrote a small account to the Clare Journal re the fish washed ashore at Fodra.
whaling
From Pilkington family collection
                        


Monday 5th June:
My account of the fish in Saturday’s “Record”.

Fish story
"The Saturday Record"  3rd June 1905.

                                       used with permission of Clare Local Studies Centre,
                                                              Ennis, co Clare, Ireland

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Kilbaha–here and there.



Kilbaha, County Clare, Ireland, 1871

It was one of those perfect mid-summer days in July. The balmy air was full of the sounds of summer – the hum of bees, the song of the larks as they soared high above, the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore of Kilbaha Bay, and in the distance the voices of the people gathering hay in the surrounding fields.

Anna Keane Pilkington shifted her large bulk in the chair, and rearranged her voluminous black skirts. She was enjoying the warmth of the sun against the wall of the house behind her, while in front on the lawn her grandchildren played. They had all come for the annual family holiday at Kiltrellig, the lodge her husband Thomas had built for her forty years ago.

Around her, with much jostling and rearranging of positions, her extended family gathered for a group photograph. The photographer had come from Limerick, and Anna wasn’t sure what she thought about this new-fangled contraption which would reproduce her image on paper. She wished they would just get on with it and leave her to enjoy the sunshine in peace.

Finally everyone was in place, and with an admonition to all to stay still, the photographer disappeared under the black drape of his camera and took the picture. The resulting image showed Anna staring rigidly out of the centre of the picture, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews.



Family group Kilbaha 1871

To the extended family group – Pilkington, Haughton, Griffin and Keane – this was a special place. They had spent summers here in West Clare for years; long, lazy days spent exploring the rocky coastline, swimming and fishing in the Shannon, boating trips and endless picnics. At night time they gathered in one or other of the homes for a musical evening, each taking turns to perform a song or play a piece.

The children were off exploring all day, with a freedom not known to them in their ordinary lives. Holiday friendships with the local children were renewed each year and reinforced by shared interests and activity. The boys would help with the ricking or other farming chores, and the girls try their hand at the spinning, or baking a soda loaf over the fire in a nearby cabin.

As the years passed, those children grew up, their lives leading them on different paths around the world, taking the memories of those halcyon days in the West with them.

Kilbaha & Kiltrellig, co Clare, Ireland 2014
©Katrina Vincent

‘Kilbaha’, Sandy Point, Victoria, Australia, 2013

One hundred and forty-two years later, in another sea-side location on the other side of the world, I sat at the kitchen bench in a rustic holiday cottage. With me were my sisters and several cousins of varying degrees of kinship. Just back from an invigorating walk along the beach, the hot cup of tea in my hand was welcome in the cool of the late afternoon. In a frame on the wall behind us hung a faded old sepia photograph in which a large group of people posed in front of the wall of a house. A stern-looking old lady dressed in black glared out from the centre of the picture, surrounded by bearded men, women holding babies, and children of all ages.
Among those children were four small boys who grew up and journeyed half a world away to make homes and raise families in this special place.

There was much about Sandy Point to remind those men of their home in Ireland. The sea and the wild isolation of the place in all its seasons drew them and kept them here. They worked the land, battling the tides and the encroaching scrub to make a life for themselves which they could not have had in Ireland. The families supported each other through good times and bad, their children cousins and playmates. In time, the children grew up, and they too moved out into the world to follow their destinies.

Throughout the years, Sandy Point remained the focal point which drew everyone together. Families returned every year, holiday homes were built, and summers were spent swimming, fishing and boating, with picnics in favourite locations. The next generation roamed the beach and the bush without restriction. City kids joined their country cousins for the hay-making and other farm chores, while evenings were spent at one or other of the homes for barbecues or games nights. The link with the west of Clare is reflected in the names of the family homes – Ennisvale, Kiltrellig, Kilbaha.

Times have changed and Sandy Point is no longer the isolated place it was fifty years ago. Others have discovered its secrets and in summer now it becomes a bustling, crowded holiday centre. The freedom we had as children is no more. But still, our children have established their own traditions and Sandy Point continues to be the place to go to relax, refresh and recharge.

On this weekend, descendants of the four Irish men had travelled from all over Australia for a family reunion on one of the original Sandy Point farms. The autumn weather was perfect and the weekend had been full of camaraderie and reminiscence, renewing connections and celebrating the lives and traditions of all those who came before. Displayed on a large table, precious items of family memorabilia told us the tales of yesteryear - the diary of ‘Aunt Charlotte’, Anna’s youngest sister, was written in beautiful copperplate writing and was full of family adventures in West Clare.

Within the cosy warmth of ‘Kilbaha’ cottage, the ghosts of long ago mingled among us giving their blessings to this family occasion. The smell of wood smoke from the open fire replaced the salty tang of the air outside as the evening sea mist closed in. Two little girls, Anna’s four-times-great grandchildren, played quietly together on the rug, while the room echoed with the laughter and conversation of the adults. As Anna Keane Pilkington and her four small grandsons watched silently from their place on the wall, I could almost imagine a nod of her head and a softening of her gaze.
 
©Katrina Vincent 2016.  Written for Writing the Family Saga unit, University of Tasmania.


Anna Pilkington nee Keane 1802-1875
my 2x great grandmother


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Getting to know Grandma


Evelyn Maude Dewar 1907


This is my beautiful grandmother, Evelyn Maud Pilkington (nee Dewar).  I never met her or knew her because she died just seven months before I was born.  I was given her name as my second name, an honour which was completely lost on me as a child.  Evelyn was not a name in popular usage during the 1960’s & 70’s, and I tried everything to disown it.  Why, oh why couldn’t I have been given a perfectly normal second name like Anne or Elizabeth, the second names of my sisters? 

My father’s family consisted of a large, extended network of 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins with whom we maintain close ties to this day.  But I don’t recall my father speaking of his parents very much – and I, thoughtless child that I was, never thought to ask about them while I had the opportunity. 

Eve was born in Rye, Victoria in 1874.  She was the youngest of eight children of James and Margaret Dewar.  The family had moved from Geelong in about 1871, with James working as a lime-burner in the kilns at Rye. Sometime after Eve was born, likely around 1877, James was appointed the manager of a new lime venture along the southern coast at Waratah Bay.  So the family moved to the remote location where the little township of Waratah (now Walkerville) sprang up in response to the demand for lime. 

This was where Eve grew up, among the bush and beside the sea.  The settlement was only accessible by sea, and the community relied on the coastal steamers which plied the Victorian coast for all their requirements. Occasionally, Eve would travel on the steamer on its voyage east, being dropped home again on the return journey. 

Somehow, she acquired a small butterfly tattoo on her ankle, something which she apparently took great care to hide in her later years. 

As a young woman, Eve spent 4 years in Western Australia, where she went to housekeep for her brother Ted.  When she returned to Waratah after Ted’s marriage, she met my grandfather Charles Osburne Pilkington, who had recently arrived from Ireland to join his brothers in a farming venture at nearby Sandy Point.  They married in 1907.

When I was about nineteen, my father retired and my parents moved house.  Among the boxes which accompanied them was one containing a pile of old notebooks – my grandmother’s diaries!  I remember my mother saying dismissively, “Oh those old things – there’s nothing in there of any interest, all she talks about is the weather and what they ate for dinner.”  So the box of diaries was relegated to the back of a cupboard where they remained for the next 30 years, only being rediscovered when we cleared out Mum’s house after she passed away.

I took the box home with me, thinking I should have a look before just tossing them out.  And then I spent the next few weeks getting to know my grandma!  Yes, she started each days entry with the weather, and yes, she often commented on what they ate, but along with that was a wonderful treasure trove of her thoughts and feelings, friendships, family occasions and much more.

Through her diaries I learned of her anguish at losing her beautiful little baby – see A Little Bush Grave.  I read of her hopes and worries for her other children, my father and his two sisters, her heartache when  her beloved Carl, my grandfather, died in 1947.  I discovered a family rift I’d never heard about and how much that upset her, her joy when her children married, and when the first grandchildren came along.  Then her struggle to maintain the house and garden on her own as she aged, the inevitable decision to leave the home my grandfather had built for her, and her reliance on the kindness and generosity of family friends.  Throughout it all, her strong faith was evident, and her belief that the good and bad were all part of God’s plan must have helped sustain her through the difficult times.  Her last diary entry was just a few days before she died.

I now have a connection with my grandma that goes beyond sharing her name, and I know I would have loved her.

Eve & Charlie Pilkington


THE LEAVING
Eve stood in the doorway for the last time. She’d first come here as a bride 45 years ago. Built by her beloved Carl, it was a simple country house, weatherboard walls and corrugated iron roof containing a lifetime of memories. A widow now for five years, she knew it was time to go, but oh! the leaving was hard.
She wandered through the rooms, pausing here and there as memories arose. There was the old range, which had cooked so many meals for family and friends. There the cosy fireplace, around which cold winter evenings were spent. She remembered the musical evenings shared with the other families, and church services, held when the visiting minister made his rounds. Over here, the little room which had been classroom for the children before the men had built the school.
Standing on the verandah, scene of many summer gatherings, she looked out over her garden. It had become too much for her to manage on her own. The yard was sheltered by big cypress trees, planted by the children on a long ago Arbour Day as protection from the fierce easterly winds.
Her eyes were drawn to the path leading into the bush. Never again would she visit the little wooden cross marking the burial place of her darling baby.
Eve knew she would never return to this house. If she came back, it would be as a guest of neighbouring relatives. Resolutely, she picked up her bag and walked out the gate to the waiting car. No more was this home.
© Katrina Vincent 2016. Written for “Writing Family History” unit, University of Tasmania.
"Ennisvale", Sandy Point.