Friday, 29 December 2017

Goumet Farmer Afloat

On the surface, what does this DVD of a TV series have to do with family history? The six episodes, recently repeated on SBS, show a voyage aboard a sailing boat around the coast of Tasmania undertaken by Matthew Evans with two friends. As they explore the route undertaken by early European explorers they also catch, cook and eat varieties of seafood available to those explorers.

In Episode 5 they sail down the west coast of Tasmania and visit sites including Macquarie Harbour discovered and named by James Kelly in 1815. The trip was financed by Thomas William Birch and Kelly named Sarah Island after Thomas' wife. T W Birch was allowed exclusive access to timber on the shores of Macquarie Harbour for twelve months.

In this episode it is noted how little the scenery on the west coast of Tasmania has altered and perhaps it is similar to the coastline that the first Europeans encountered when they arrived in New South Wales.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Christmas Day Norfolk Island

Descriptions and events of Christmas Day on Norfolk island from 1788  to 1793.
George Guest and Mary Bateman arrived on Norfolk Island in 1790.

25 Dec 1788: Philip King wrote: The 25th, being Christmas-day, it was observed as a holyday. The colours were hoisted at sun-rise: I performed divine service; the officers dined with me, and I gave each of the convicts half a pint of rum, and double allowance of beef, to celebrate the festival: the evening concluded with bonfires, which consisted of large piles of wood, that had been previously collected for the occasion.

25 Dec 1789: Philip King wrote: Moderate breezes & pleasant Wr at Sunrise hoisted ye Colours in observance of Christmas Day. at 10 AM performed Divine Service killed 2 Hogs belonging to the Crown Wt 180 lb & issued them 1 lb & ½ to each person & as our Crop of Wheat has been a good one gave Them 2 lb of Flour each Man & one pound to the Women —

25 Dec 1790: Ralph Clark wrote: Fine weather but blows fresh from the Southward and a great Sea Rolling into the Bay which will make a great Surf on the Reef on which there is a great dele at present — this being Christmas day I wish a merry merry Christmas to all the world — the most poorest person in England will be better off this day than any of use here for the[y] will be able to get Small bier with their dinner to drink if nothing better and there is not any of use will have anything better but cool water this will be a dry Christmas — doe good Gorgon come and take use away from this place.

Philip King does not mention Christmas Day 1791 in his journal.

25 Dec 1792: Philip King wrote: Was observed as a Holyday and divine Service preformed. The good things that were purchased from the Philadelphia enabled everyone to pass this Festival, which much Conviviality and regular behaviour.

25 Dec 1793: Philip King wrote: Devine Service was preformed and kept as a Holyday.

Australian History Research website - Christmas Day Norfolk Island 1st Settlement

Mary's Voyage to Australia

In the Diploma of Family History we were encouraged to write in a variety of styles. This was the major assignment for th Convicts in Context unit of the course. It was to be written, as an academic essay, about the voyage of a convict on a ship to Australia with comparison to experiences on another convict ship.
The Lady Juliana left England for Port Jackson on 29 July 1789. [1] This expedition received notoriety not only because of the time taken to complete the journey – more than ten months – but because of the ship’s reputation as a ‘floating brothel’. However the death toll was low during the voyage and the health of the convicts on arrival in Sydney was generally considered to be good, compared with other voyages. Historians have documented the journey of the Lady Juliana in histories about the establishment of the new British colony. My interest in the voyage was enhanced when the book, The Floating Brothel, was published, as one of my ancestors was a convict on the ship.

Mary Bateman was fifteen when arrested for stealing a watch from a client.[3] At her trial at the Old Bailey on 7 May 1788, Mary was sentenced to seven years transportation.[4] After spending eleven months in an over-crowded prison she transferred to a convict ship to travel half way around the world.[2]

The Lady Juliana was the third female only convict transport to travel to Port Jackson. There were two female only convict ships in the First Fleet.[5] The decision to ship female convicts to Port Jackson in 1789 was made because the gaols in England were overcrowded and disease ridden.[6] There was also concern about the small number of female convicts at Port Jackson and hopefully the additional women would become wives to emancipated male convicts, thereby providing stability in the new colony.[7] Consequently Mary found herself on a convict ship carrying 226 women.

Before leaving Newgate, Mary and 107 other female prisoners were examined by doctors to ensure that they were healthy and relatively clean. At dawn on 12 March 1789, the women were herded the short distance to Blackfriars Bridge and loaded on to boats.[8] They were then rowed sixteen kilometres along the River Thames to Gallions Reach and the Lady Juliana – their home for the next fifteen months. Four months passed before the ship travelled to Portsmouth and during this time women from other gaols arrived.

The steward, John Nicol, issued Mary with clothes to wear during the voyage.[9] Street clothes and other convict belongings were stored in the hold, however some convicts wore their own clothes once the ship sailed. The women were given numbers and divided into messes. Each mess was provided with rations for the week plus utensils including a teapot for making tea.[10] Experience from the First Fleet showed that women required a different diet from men so some of the meat was replaced with brown sugar, tea and additional bread.[11]

Mary’s voyage lasted 309 days – considerably longer than the journeys of the First and Second Fleets.[12] By any standard the Lady Juliana was a slow ship and, at the ports visited, time was spent ensuring that the ship remained sea-worthy.[13] Further delays near the equator occurred when the ship was stranded in the doldrums waiting for a suitable breeze.

Although stopping at four ports prolonged the journey, there were advantages for the women that other convicts did not experience; particularly access to fresh meat and vegetables resulting in a healthier diet than salt meat and bread – the normal diet at sea. Access to fresh water also contributed to better health outcomes for the Lady Juliana convicts compared with those who travelled on the Neptune.

The surgeon, Richard Alley, believed that cleanliness aboard ship was essential to reduce the risk of illness. At sea, saltwater was used for washing clothes and bathing. Soap was also provided. Sleeping quarters had to be kept tidy and scrubbed clean. Some of the women assisted the crew in scrubbing the decks. Others tended the livestock on board. Captain Edgar also provided linen for twenty women to sew shirts later sold at the colony.[14] Future convict ships implemented schemes to keep the convicts occupied plus learn skills useful in the colony.[15]

According to Nichol, the crew began cohabitating with some of the convicts once the ship sailed.[16] Sailors from other vessels visited the ship when in port and prostitutes, including Mary, provided a service for these visitors. Poll Randall and Mary Butler, co-workers with Mary in Cable Street, were also on the ship as was Elizabeth Sully, the owner of the Cable Street establishment. No doubt Sully saw the opportunity to work her girls when sailors came looking for female companionship.[17] Ship officers also knew of this sex trade and obviously condoned it.[18] Aboard the First Fleet ships such behaviour was discouraged and the instructions to the agent of the Neptune stated that the women were to be ‘kept separate from the men, and not abused’.[19]

The Lady Juliana convicts were confined below deck at night but, unlike most ships, during the day they were usually allowed on deck. Female convicts had a reputation for being undisciplined on convict vessels. Nichol refers to the Lady Juliana convicts as ‘troublesome cargo’ but not dangerous. Troublesome convicts were placed in the hold until the discovery that this punishment was used to access the porter stored there.[20]

Sea travel provided many experiences including the traditional crossing the equator ceremony. Mary would have observed from the ship the sights and sounds of life in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies visited. However there were also dangers. The supply ship, the Guardian, was wrecked. There was a fire aboard the ship, a crew member was swept overboard and rough seas in Sydney Harbour almost caused the ship to run aground. The women would also have experienced sea-sickness, extreme heat and extreme cold at times.

Although it was such a long journey, the convicts were fortunate that the surgeon and officers generally looked after the convicts’ welfare. Living on a ship with 225 other women could be a challenge but at least the conditions were preferable to those on the Neptune – fewer convicts but without the freedom experienced on the Lady Juliana. It is true that during the voyage there was cohabitation between some convicts and crew and some prostitutes, including Mary, continued their trade when the ship was in port. However, for some, this was a continuation of their lifestyle at home.[21] Although five women died during the voyage, many more died on the Neptune.[22] Generally the Lady Juliana convicts were healthy on arrival at Port Jackson and, like Mary, were ready for the next stage of their lives in a new land.

[1] The Lady Juliana, a ship of 401 tons, was chartered by the merchant, William Richards, the contractor for the First Fleet. After taking 226 convicts to Port Jackson the ship was to return to England via Canton. The ship was middle-range size when compared with First Fleet and Second Fleet ships. These ships varied in size between 274 ton (Friendship – First Fleet)) and 809 ton (Neptune - Second Fleet). Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 2004, pp. 97, 120, 126.

[2] Sian Rees, The Floating Brothel, Sydney, Hachette Australia, 2001. The ABC screened the documentary, The Floating Brothel, based on the book in 2006.

[3] Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1993, pp.154–155.

[4] ‘Mary Bateman theft from a specified place, 7 May 1788’, Old Bailey Online,  Accessed 1 September 2017.

[5] The six transports of the First Fleet left England carrying 759 convicts – 191 of these were women. A total of 150 female convicts travelled on the Lady Penrhyn and the Prince of Wales while the remainder shared two transports with male convicts. Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 100. The three transports of the Second Fleet carried 1006 convicts including 78 females who travelled on the Neptune with 421 male convicts. Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 127.

[6] Thomas Keneally, The Commonwealth of Thieves, Milson Point, NSW, Random House, 2005, pp. 161-162.

[7] Rees, The Floating Brothel, pp. 40–42.

[8] Rees, The Floating Brothel, p. 67.

[9] John Nichol wrote the only eye-witness account of the journey of the Lady Juliana to New South Wales – Life and Adventures 1776-1801, chapter 9. [10] Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 67.

[11] Flynn, The Second Fleet, pp. 16–17.

[12] The six transports of the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788, a journey taking approximately 256 days. The Second Fleet arrived approximately three weeks after the Lady Juliana, a journey of 158-160 days. By contrast the Lady Juliana journey took 309 days.

[13] The First Fleet ships stopped at three ports for a total of 68 days. Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 114. The Second Fleet ships only stopped at one port.

[14] Joy Damousi, ‘Chaos and Order’, Australian Historical Studies, April 1995, p353.

[15] Bateson, The Convict Ships, p. 123.

[16] Nichol, Life and Adventures 1776-1801, p121; Michael Sturma, ‘Eye of the Beholder’, Labour History, May 1978, p. 7.

[17] Keneally, The Commonwealth of Thieves, p. 191.

[18] Rees, The Floating Brothel, p. 129.

[19] Historical Records of New South Wales, volume 2 p. 437.

[20] Nichol, Life and Adventures 1776-1801, pp. 122-123.

[21] Sturma, ‘Eye of the Beholder’, p. 10.

[22] Eleven women out of 78 died on the Neptune. One hundred and forty-seven men died on the Neptune. On the three ships a total of 256 male convicts died. More than 400 convicts required medical treatment on arrival at Port Jackson. Many died. Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1, Part 2, p. 355.

Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, 2nd edn, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 2004.

Cobley, John, Sydney Cove 1789-1790, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1963.
------, Crimes of the Lady Juliana Convicts, 1790, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1989.

Damousi, Joy, ‘Chaos and Order: Gender, Space and Sexuality on Female Convict Ships’, Australian Historical Studies, Volume 26, Issue 104, April 1995, pp. 351-373.

Flynn, Michael, The Second Fleet: Britain’s Grim Convict Amada of 1790, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1993.

Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1 Part 2, Mona Vale, NSW, Lansdown Slattery & Co, 1978.
Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 2, Mona Vale, NSW, Lansdown Slattery & Co, 1978.

Keneally, Thomas, The Commonwealth of Thieves: the Improbable Birth of Australia, Milson Point, NSW, Random House, 2005.

Nicol, John, Life and Adventures 1776-1801, Melbourne, Text Publishing, 1997.

Old Bailey Online 

Rees, Sian, The Floating Brothel, Sydney, Hachette Australia, 2001.

Robson, L L, Convict Settlers of Australia, 2nd edn, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1994.
------, ‘The Origin of the Women Convicts Sent to Australia 1787-1852’ Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand, Vol. 11, 1963, pp. 43-53.

Ryan, R J, Second Fleet Convicts: a Comprehensive Listing of the Convicts who sailed in HMS Guardian, Lady Juliana, Neptune, Scarborough and Surprise, Sydney, Australian Documents Library, 1990.

Sturma, Michael, ‘Eye of the Beholder: the Stereotype of Women Convicts, 1788-1852’, Labour History, No. 34, May 1978, pp. 3-10.

Musical connections

 This was the sixth of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga. The theme of the piece was family involvement in the community.

Applause at the end of the final act echoed through the school room, the venue for the evening performance. William surveyed the scene before him with pride. This had been a most successful concert, both musically and financially, with funds raised going towards building a new hall. The concert had also highlighted the talents of William’s musical family.

Like many families of the time, participation in musical activities was an important recreational activity for the Moses family of Windsor. At this concert William’s wife, his daughter and three of his sons had played with William in the orchestra. Members of the family also performed some of the solo acts. But for William, one of the high-lights was the debut performance of his nine year old son, Hilton. Hilton had received enthusiastic applause when he played ‘Norma’ on the violin. Was this the beginning of another musical career in the family?

Eleven year old, Stanley was already considered a talented violinist by those who knew their music. He had even been invited to perform in concerts in Sydney. Some had even been suggested that Stanley might one day continue his musical training in Europe. The audience had certainly enjoyed his musical contributions this evening.

William never had difficulty finding volunteers to entertain for a good cause and concerts usually featured a mixture of vocalists, dancers and comedians as well as instrumentalists. Recitations were also popular. The residents of Windsor looked forward to these concerts that provided a welcome break from daily life.

Access to local newspapers via Trove has opened so many research options for historians showing us a glimpse of what life was once like for our ancestors.

Most local communities throughout Australia included musical activities as part of their everyday life, and Windsor was no exception. Whether as part of a festive occasion such as Christmas or as an activity to raise money for a worthy cause, music helped bring people within a community together.

Community concerts could also provide a training ground for entertainers such as Stanley.

Windsor and Richmond Gazette Saturday 23 February 1889 page 4

Arrival at Cascade Bay

This was the fifth of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga.

Mary allowed the soldier to pull her off the boat on to the sand. Relatively dry land at last.

She turned to look at the Surprize, the ship that had brought 150 female convicts to Norfolk Island. Waves were pounding against the sides of the ship and over the deck. Waves were pounding on the nearby rocks. Waves were rushing on to the sand. A little further up the beach were the bodies of three convicts, drowned when their boat capsized. Other convicts were missing. Somehow Mary had survived. She was safe, for now.

The trip from Sydney Cove to Norfolk Island normally took a week but, due to stormy weather, it was seventeen days before the women were allowed to disembark. Looking around this isolated island Mary must have wondered when her punishment would end.

What had she been expecting? It was difficult to imagine anything further from her previous life. The wind whined through the tall pine trees towering over everything else on the island. In the distance a few wooden huts among plots of land, where convicts attempted to grow crops, could be seen. That was all.

Returning to England was impossible. Was it really more than two years since her arrest? Since then she had endured prison before being loaded on the Lady Juliana for the interminable journey to Sydney Cove. So much had happened; memories of her family were in the dim past.

The convicts were rounded up to begin the next stage of their lives.

Mary was seventeen.

Writing about Mary is not easy as she obviously led a challenging life.

It is not possible to know how Mary felt arriving at Cascade Bay in 1790. Tired and cold after the rough trip from Sydney Cove, she would be traumatised witnessing the drowning of fellow convicts. She almost certainly wondered how she could survive in this foreign environment.

We do know, however, that Mary died in the Liverpool Asylum in 1829.

New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters

State Records of New South Wales. Liverpool Lunatic Asylum

The bakery in Windsor

This was the fourth of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga. In this piece we were to write about a setting that was important to the family saga.

When Uriah Moses moved into his stone cottage, he had no way of knowing that he was starting a family business that would last for 150 years.

It was the mid-1820s and the house was located in the business centre of Windsor, bordering Thompson Square. It was close to the Macquarie Arms Hotel, the Court House and other government buildings, including the Government Stores. It was also a short distance from the wharf on the Hawkesbury River.

After twenty-five years in the colony, life in East London had become a blur. After being assigned to work on land near Windsor, Uriah eventually acquired his own land and was soon selling wheat to the Government Stores. Now his new project was to open a bakery at the rear of his house.

After marrying Ann Daley, Uriah and his expanding family lived in the front rooms of the cottage while operating their business from the back. No doubt the children helped in the bakery from an early age. Not satisfied with just a successful bakery, Uriah bought and sold land and was also a money lender.

Ann took charge of the bakery when Uriah died until their son, William, could manage the business. Two adjoining cottages were acquired and eventually demolished, replaced by a large two story building. This became the Moses Bakery and General Stores.

As Windsor continued to grow the town centre moved. Therefore, in the 1920s, a new generation of the Moses family built a new store in the new town centre.

In England Uriah faced the death penalty. In New South Wales he had the opportunity to start again. Establishing a bakery in Windsor was the beginning of a Moses family dynasty in Windsor until recently.

Writing this story has led to investigating life in Windsor in the early years of the town: useful information when writing about this family in the future.

However there are questions – the major one being: Why did Uriah become a baker? It was obviously a business opportunity, but there is nothing in the records to indicate any previous experience.

New South Wales and Tasmania Convict Musters

New South Wales Colonial Secretary’s Papers

The buildings in this story still stand are located at 62-66 George Street, Windsor. Information about the buildings is available on a number of websites relating to the heritage of Windsor.

The lesson

This was the third of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga. This piece was to be written as non-fiction with emphasis on the characters.

Jean sat by the window overlooking the garden and the road. After watching their carriage stop at the front steps to take her husband to an appointment in Bath she returned to the letter she was writing to her daughter. Sunlight filtered through the lace curtains making patterns on the paper. It would be a pleasant day for a walk but the letter needed to be finished first if it was to catch the next post to India.

There was a knock on the door.

“Grandmama, Grandmama!”

Jean looked up from her letter writing and smiled as a small tousled haired boy ran excitedly into the room. It was time for George’s lesson.

George climbed on to the settee next to his grandmother and Eleonora placed an arm around her grandson. George practised sounding his letters – A, B, C, D etc. Today he was learning to combine sounds such as BA into words. He also slowly practised writing the letters in his book. For George, learning to read and write would allow him to write to his parents.

At the end of the lesson Jean rang the bell and Bessie arrived to take George back to the nursery.

“Jeannie is waiting for you to finish building the castle,” said Bessie.

“I hope Baby won’t knock it over,” replied George.

Jean tried not to laugh as she returned to her letter.

“George had another lesson this morning and was very attentive – I expect to have to give you a good report of his progress in my next.”

Reflective statement:
Several generations of one branch of my family were associated with India either as merchants, staff of the East India Company or in the British Army. The children of English families in India were often cared for by family in England. As a grandparent looking after grandchildren five days a week, including a grandson the same age as George, it was not difficult to see parallels in this story and life today. How families lived, including attitudes to education, is an important theme of the family saga.

Letter from Jean Mackillop (written in Bath and dated 23 October 1855) to her daughter, Eleonora Hutton, who was in India with her husband, a Captain in the Madras Army George Hutton’s notes about memories of his early life in Australia plus some family stories as he remembered them in the 1930s.

Tale of Two Georges

This was the second of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga.

The small band of explorers walked out of the shade of the trees into the sunshine to encounter a lake and large expanses of open land. Was this what they had been looking for?

Years later, back in England, George Mackillop recounted stories of his part in the expedition to his young grandson who lived with him while his parents were in India.

Additional land was required for grazing sheep and cattle as the colony of Van Diemen’s Land grew. George told his grandson how in 1834 he travelled from New South Wales following the course of the Snowy River to explore land south of the present Omeo. Stories of this expedition encouraged further exploration and two years later settlers from Tasmania, including George, had established sheep and cattle properties in Victoria. However George lost faith in the new colony and returned to England.

By the time he was 19 George Hutton decided to try his luck in the new land described by his grandfather.

Initially George worked on sheep stations in southern New South Wales and western Victoria before helping his family establish their property at Lilydale. Then it was time to explore more of the country so George joined a droving party, travelling north until he decided to settle down.

Parkes was chosen by George as the place to purchase his own sheep station. Initially this was a successful venture but nature intervened and drought forced George to sell his land. Broken but not defeated George became a rabbit inspector in the Parkes region.

Much of my family story revolves around family members owing properties in various parts of Australia and the challenges of living on the land. In writing The Tale of Two Georges I became aware of the parallels, as well as the differences, between the stories of these two men who were explorers as well as landowners in a new and challenging environment.

Sketch of Mr Mackillop’s route in Australia [copies of the map available in State Library of Victoria and National Library of Australia via Trove]

George Mackillop wrote two articles entitled ‘On Australia’ and On Port Phillip in Australia’ published in the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture in June 1839 and March 1940.

In the 1930s George Hutton made notes about his early years in Australia and also some of the family stories including his grandfather’s expedition to the Omeo region.

The Melbourne Cup - a family connection

This was the first of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga.

Horses keep appearing in my family story.

The family association with horse racing began in 1810 when two of my convict ancestors, Simeon Lord and George Guest, raced horses at the first Sydney race meeting. Research shows that other family members have also owned and or trained race horses on their properties while my family currently participates in a small horse racing syndicate.

Horse racing has therefore been a part time interest in the family but imagine having family connections with the Melbourne Cup, the pinnacle of horse racing in Australia. Exploring my family story has shown not one but two links to this famous event.

Australian legend records that Archer won the horse race that was to become the Melbourne Cup in 1861 and again in 1862. Archer’s trainer, Etienne de Mestre, also trained three other Melbourne Cup winners, Tim Whiffler in 1867, Chester in 1877 and Calamia in 1878. Being the winning trainer of horses in this race five times was a record Etienne held until Bart Cummings came on the scene. Recently I discovered that Etienne de Mestre was the grandson of Mary Hyde, my great (x3) grandmother, via her first marriage.

Almost sixty years later another family link to the Melbourne Cup was forged when the race was won by Poitrel in 1920. This horse was owned by Bill and Fred Moses, nephews of my grandfather, George Moses. ‘The race that stops the nation’ therefore holds a special place in the family story.

Reflective statement:
Family history is not just studying the members in the direct family line. Exploring the stories of brothers and sisters of ancestors expands and adds to the flavour of the family story. It was only by exploring the lives of extended family that I discovered the involvement of two branches of the family in Melbourne Cup history. The history of sport, including horse racing, is also an important aspect of Australian social history as well as being part of my family story.

'Sydney Races', Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 20 October 1810, p 2
'Victoria Turf Club Spring Meeting', The Argus, 9 November 1861, p 5
‘A popular victory’, The Argus, 3 November 1920, p 10

Friday, 15 December 2017

Off to the Races

This was the third assignment submitted for Writing the Family Saga. Once again the word limit was 750 words plus a reflection.

As Etienne and his staff walked three horses along the shady bank of the Shoalhaven River, they could not have imagined that they were walking into history. Although Etienne’s horses regularly travelled by ship to Sydney to race, this time they would transfer to another steamship for the journey to Melbourne.

Etienne de Mestre was a successful trainer in New South Wales. On his dairy property, Terara, Etienne had built training stables plus a racecourse. Usually Etienne was content to race the horses in New South Wales. However when a new handicap race in Melbourne was announced, he decided to enter. Rivalry between New South Wales and Victoria was strong, so imagine the prestige if one of his horses won this inaugural race."

Travelling to Melbourne with horses aboard a small steamship, City of Melbourne, was not without risk. Ships did not always arrive safely and several race horses were lost at sea. However it was, realistically, the only way to get the horses to Melbourne.  Before the race, the de Mestre horses were stabled away from public view at South Yarra and trained at St Kilda Beach. Consequently, when Etienne and his horses arrived at Flemington, not many race goers took notice of the horses from the north.

On Thursday 7 November 1861 Archer lined up in front of a relatively small crowd of 4,000 for his first race in Melbourne. News of the death of Burke and Wills reached Melbourne only a few days before, possibly deterred many people from attending the race meeting. 

The favourite for the two mile handicap race was a Victorian horse, Mormon. Although two of the seventeen starters fell during the race, there was no dispute about the winner - Archer defeated Mormon by six lengths.

The following year Archer, returning to Flemington, carried the top weight of ten stone 2 pounds. Archer defeated Mormon by ten lengths. 

Although Archer was entered for the third Melbourne Cup in 1863, his application was rejected as the Separation Day holiday delayed its delivery. Victorian racing authorities therefore prevented Archer from racing at Flemington for a third time.

However, this was not the end of Etienne’s involvement with the Melbourne Cup. In 1867 he trained Tim Whiffler to a win, as well as Chester in 1877 and finally Calamia in 1878. Being a five time Melbourne Cup winning trainer was a record only broken many years later by Bart Cummings. 

The training achievements of Etienne de Mestre make the Melbourne Cup a significant event in the family saga. However, research shows that another branch of the family produced the owners of the winner of the 1920 Melbourne Cup.

William and Fred Moses owned a horse breeding and training property, Arrowfield, on the Hunter River. When one of their horses failed to sell at the 1916 Yearling Sales, the brothers decided to keep him. That horse was Poitrel. Poitrel had a number of defects for a race horse including his upper-jaw being larger than his lower-jaw. The horse’s hooves were also brittle making him an unlikely candidate as a stayer. However, trained by the property’s trainer, Harry Robinson, he had a successful racing career in New South Wales.

Communication had improved by 1920 and, arriving in Melbourne for the Cup, Poitrel’s reputation as a racehorse was well known making him a crowd favourite. His ten stone handicap was only two pound less than the weight carried by Archer in 1862 and five pound less than the weight carried by Carbine when he won in 1890. 

By the 1920s horses from all states participated in the Melbourne Cup – a race that drew huge crowds to Flemington each year. On Tuesday 2 November 1920, more than 110,000 people watched the race. Poitrel initially remained towards the end of the field but eventually wove a path through the other horses, passing his stablemate, Erasmus, 50 yards from the winning post. Poitrel won by half a length. 

According to the newspapers the large and colourful crowd roared their approval as Poitrel won. Although not the favourite, he was heavily backed and the bookmakers consequently did not share the public’s enthusiasm.

As the Governor General presented William and Fred Moses with the Melbourne Cup, they knew that keeping Poitrel was definitely the right decision. During his racing career Poitrel won fifteen times from thirty-seven starts – not a bad record for a horse that no-one wanted.

Etienne de Mestre and the Moses Brothers were not the only members on my extended family tree involved in horse racing. However they are the only ones to have had success at the Melbourne Cup – so far.

Reflection: Sport is a major thread in my Australian family saga. Researching the many branches of the family shows the importance of sport, including cricket, swimming, golf, lawn bowls, hockey, athletics and horse racing, in lives of family members. 

For most family members, sport was primarily a recreational pursuit. However for some it provided a livelihood. Family members, including my father, have also been sport writers. Family participation in sport is therefore an area requiring further investigation.
Trove has made it much easier to find information about events affecting family that may not necessarily be passed down the family by word of mouth. One example is horse racing.

The family connection with horse racing began in 1810 when Simeon Lord and George Guest both had horses participating in the first official racing carnival. Not surprisingly with the dependence in the nineteenth century on horses for farming and transport, opportunities were also taken to race horses throughout the country. Newspapers show family members with training tracks on their properties and racing horses at country race meetings.

Horse racing, particularly the Melbourne Cup, is a national passion. However it was not until I investigated stories of extended family members that I discovered the family connection with this race. I also discovered a story of risk taking – not just in the transportation of horses by sea but also racing a horse no-one wants. 

With the continued involvement of the present generation in sport, including horse racing, this thread in the family saga will continue.

‘Victoria Turf Club Spring Meeting’, The Argus, 9 November 1861, p 5.
‘The Cup Race’. The Argus, Wednesday 3 November, 1920. pp 9 – 10.
Bernstein, D L. First Tuesday in November: the story of the Melbourne Cup. Melbourne: William Heinemann, 1969.
Hutchinson, Garrie. They’re Racing!: the complete story of Australian racing. Ringwood, Viking, 1999.Rolfe, Costa. Winners of the Melbourne Cup: stories that stopped a nation. Fitzroy: Red Dog, 2008.

Voyage to a new life

One of the exercises for this unit was to expand one of our short pieces of writing into a more detailed piece. Word limit was 750 words. More details about the Somersetshire can be found in previous post.

As the lugger approached the Somersetshire, surrounded by other sailing ships, the passengers noticed the funnel of the ship among its three masts. This ship would be home to the passengers on the lugger for the next two months.

Crew members assisted the passengers on board before hauling luggage on to the deck. After locating their cabins, passengers watched the ship made ready to sail. Towards midnight the anchor was raised and the Somersetshire began its journey to Australia.

For George Hutton this was the start of a new life. 

Leaving England produced mixed sentiments for George. He was sad to leave the land where he was born and had spent most of his nineteen years, but he looked forward to exploring new opportunities.
George only saw his parents occasionally when he was a child. George and Jean Mackillop looked after their grandchildren, including George, while George’s parents were overseas. Although George looked forward to his parents’ visits from India, they left again just when he became used to them being home.

The Mackillops lived in a large house in Bath and employed four staff. Although the grandchildren spent most of their time with Bessie, their nanny, the children saw their grandparents regularly. It was Jean who taught George to read and write before he began his formal education. We know from Jean’s letters to her daughter that George tried hard at his lessons so he could write to his parents.

George’s grandfather entertained George with stories about living in Australia, a country on the other side of the world. George Mackillop, with his family, had moved to Van Diemen’s Land in 1834. Having made his fortune in India as a merchant, George was looking for new opportunities. 

The following year he explored the region south of Lake Omeo in the Port Phillip District. George’s reports of this journey led to further exploration, resulting in settlers from Van Diemen’s Land, including George, claiming land for grazing sheep and cattle across Bass Strait. 

George Mackillop and his family left Van Diemen’s Land in 1840, but the stories he told his grandson inspired George Hutton to leave England and settle in Australia.

Depending on the weather, life aboard ship quickly developed into a routine. Although we do not have information about George’s participation in shipboard activities, detailed descriptions of this voyage of the Somersetshire are available.

The fifty passengers in first class met for meals, at their allotted tables, four times a day – 8.30 (9.00 on Sundays) for breakfast, 12.00 for lunch, dinner at 4.00 and tea at 7.00. The regular meal times provided the passengers with an opportunity to socialise and, as the majority of the passengers were colonists returning to Australia, George learned about life in the colonies from them.

If the weather was calm the passengers spent time on deck watching out for dolphins, flying fish and even whales. However the weather on this route was frequently inclement with rough seas forcing passengers to remain below decks.

The passengers, with assistance from the crew, soon made their own entertainment. Whist tables were set up. Gambling, an entertainment favoured by some passengers, included betting on the distance the ship travelled each day. On Saturdays the weekly Somersetshire News was read to groups of passengers. On Sundays there were church services, morning and evening.

Social events included tea parties and punch parties, concerts and theatrical readings. The talents of two professional actors travelling to Australia were utilised in several entertainments along with musical abilities or entertainment skills of other passengers. A choir was also formed to improve the singing at church services. Rehearsals for these events kept many passengers occupied during the day. A major shipboard entertainment was a visit from King Neptune when the Somersetshire crossed the equator. However the highlight of the voyage was a ball held in the first class saloon towards the end of the voyage.

Then the ship voyage, the interlude between George’s life in England and the rest of his life in Australia, was over.

It was a bleak day when the Somersetshire sailed into Port Phillip Bay only fifty-nine days after leaving Plymouth. Through the mist the passengers made out the outline of some of Melbourne’s buildings. It was 1869 and this wealthy, bustling city was very different from the settlement George’s grandfather had known. 

As he left the Somersetshire, George realised that this was no longer an extension of his grandfather’s adventure. This was the beginning of the new life that he had chosen for himself - a new chapter in his story.

George’s story is part of my family’s migration story – a story of convicts and free settlers making Australia home. His story is important when studying why ancestors decided to migrate. It is also part of the Hutton family saga.

Ignoring the strong family connection with India and instead to settle in Australia is another reason why George’s story is significant.

Writing this story has forced me to consider aspects of George’s life. What was it like living with family members other than his parents? How did his family’s long term involvement in an overseas country affect his attitude to life? Why did he give up a comfortable lifestyle to change countries?

Piecing together this part of George’s life from a variety of sources was a challenge. Finding an account of the voyage was useful although George was only mentioned once.

As George Hutton spent 67 years in Australia this is part of his life story.

George Hutton’s notes about memories of his early life in Australia plus some family stories as he remembered them in the 1930s.
Letter from Jean Mackillop (written in Bath and dated 23 October 1855) to her daughter, Eleonora Hutton, who was in India with her husband, a Captain in the Madras Army.
Somersetshire News: A Ship Newspaper issued on Board the S S Somersetshire on her passage from Plymouth to Melbourne, Melbourne, Sands and McDougall, 1869 [Digital copy on State Library of Victoria website – accessed 22 June 2017]
Log on Board the S S Somersetshire from Plymouth to Melbourne, July 1 – 30 August 1869. [Digital copy on Christchurch City Libraries website – accessed 22 June 2017]