Friday, 17 April 2015

Pesky poles

Of course we need light, electricity and telephone poles to enable us to enjoy a comfortable modern lifestyle, but they do have a rather a habit of getting into photos that would look better without them.  I've recently been going through some of my late father-in-law Bob Featherston's old negatives from the 1940s and scanning them to computer on a fairly basic little device and have come across a few examples that I thought I would put up here. The first three photos come from Bob's time in Canada when he was sent there for pilot training in 1941, prior to serving in the RAF flying Lancaster bombers in WW1. It was in the area of Jasper in the Rocky Mountains and it all looks pretty cold and bleak. There are quite a few interesting shots of people in uniform enjoying themselves in what for many of the Australians at least was very probably  their first experience of snow, but I'll save those for another time. Meanwhile the poles in these shots stand out. Sometimes they can be hard to avoid!


A view of Ottawa with a light pole and wires taking prime position.

Another example from Bob's negative collection, this time from post war England, A solitary ubiquitous pole stands sentinel beside bombed out buildings in Southampton.  The sign in the church refers to 'A Prayer for Our Nation'. Some of the older negatives were too big to fit in the scanner holder, so I've had to divide them into two, as here, and I don't presently have a program that will join them up neatly. but here they are separately:

Bob met Mary in England after the war and at 21 she ventured out to Australia aboard a ship full of English war brides. They were married a few weeks after she arrived in the country, at the Yarra Street Methodist Church in Geelong on 25 January 1947. I really like this shot of them outside the church, but it is a pity the photographer got that pole practically in the centre of the frame, looking like it is virtually attached to Mary's head, and the spire of a distant church is also a little unfortunately positioned, but they don't really detract from the happiness of the couple. Young Mary will celebrate her 90th birthday in July.  Bob passed away in 1992, but if he were still with us he would have been turning 98 a couple of weeks later.

For more related blogs on this topic, just click here to go to Sepia Saturday #275, but watch out for any pesky poles that may well get in your way!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Clean, Cheap and Cheerful?

The poster in our prompt shows a man and his horses delivering coal, and urges people to order their supplies. I'm grateful to Maree for posting this photograph of a poster for Wonthaggi Household Black Coal on a blog she wrote in 2010, whilst cycling around Australia.   I think the poster depicts a happy cat in front of a raging hearth. 'Clean,cheap and cheerful' is not quite the image we have of coal these days!  Maree says she saw  the poster on the wall of the Wonthaggi Library back in 2010.

Poster thanks to Maree's blog,  at
According to the web site of  Museum Victoria

"The State Coal Mines at Wonthaggi were established as an emergency measure to provide urgently needed black coal for the Victorian Railways during a protracted strike by New South Wales coal miners. Opening on 22 November 1909 on coal seams that had earlier been proved by a Government drilling program, the mine dispatched its first consignment just 3 days later with the coal being taken to Inverloch by bullock wagons for loading onto ships. A branchline from Nyora on the South Gippsland line was built in 1910 by the time production was in full swing. As further shafts were opened up, production increased from 41,000 tons in 1910 to reach a peak of 662,000 tons in 1930.
Initially the mine was highly profitable but production declined in the 1930s as larger seams were worked out and the mine was hit by industrial strife. Although operations became unprofitable, the Railway Commissioners opted to subsidise the mine in order to provide a guaranteed coal supply and the State Coal Mines remained in operation until 1968 when regular steam locomotives operations were finally phased out."

The following two photographs come from the Museum Victoria web site:

  • Rail trucks at State coal mine, Wonthaggi, circa 1919.
  • Date: circa 1919

  • Steam locomotive hauling coal from State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, 18 July 1928.
  • Date: 18/07/1928

 When my husband's grandfather Joseph Henry Featherston became engaged to his wife-to-be Grace Eleanor Calwell, the following paragraph appeared in the Ballarat Courier of 11 March 1916: 

The engagement is announced between
Grace E Calwell, second eldest
daughter of Mrs M. W. Betteridge and
the late Mr Dan Calwell, of Bolwarrah, to
Joseph H. Featherston, Victorian Rail-
way, Bairnsdale, eldest son of Mrs and
the late Mr Joseph Featherston, Eureka
Street, Ballarat East.

Joseph Henry was born in 1982, and according to his birth certificate, his father Joseph was an engine driver at that time. His ancestors from Weardale in County Durham were lead miners, but grandfather Ralph  somehow escaped the mining life and became a joiner before he and his wife Mary emigrated to Victoria in 1853.  In 1919 Joseph Henry's occupation is given as fireman, and then on subsequent electoral rolls between 1924 and 1949 he was a driver. According to his daughter-in-law Mary, Joe worked on the Victorian railways, driving the trains that brought coal from Wonthaggi back to the cities of Melbourne and Geelong. Perhaps he drove the train pictured above.  The hard work took a toll on his health and he died in 1951 aged only 59, with his wife Grace outliving him by almost 25 years.  Here is a photograph of Joe with his new granddaughter Ann, taken in late 1949 or early 1950.

Joseph Henry Featherston and granddaughter Ann. RIP to them both.

I visited Wonthaggi just a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit either the mine or the library, but I did manage to take a photograph of this large mural above one of the town buildings, depicting a steam train crossing a trestle bridge beside the Bass Coast on route to Melbourne. The banner on the train is advertising the Workmen's Club Picnic, and coincidentally we enjoyed dinner at the nearby Wonthaggi Workmen's Club that night. The trains don't run to Wonthaggi any more, but the bridge is still there, now converted into a rail trail that we rode over on our bikes.  

To read more blogs about coal, horses, workers and other related matters, just haul your load over  Sepia Saturday #274


I found this photo last night while scanning some old negatives to computer. It shows Joseph presumably relaxing on the beach at Ocean Grove near Geelong with his wife Grace and daughter Dawn, although he looks a lot more relaxed in the photo a couple of years later with his granddaughter!  Sadly we have no photographs of Joseph as a younger man.

pps. I just remembered another family connection to coal, sort of, in that my grandparents in Christchurch NZ lived across the road from a Mr Wendelken, who was a coalman. My mother wrote in her life book that Mr Wendeken "was always 'dirty', the coaldust covering him from head to toe - his eyes staring out of his blacked face as he lugged the coal sack on his back, up the path and round the back, to upend it with a crash into the coal box, a specail little house attached to the shed. When Mr Wendelken eventually retired he became a transformed person - always clean, and quite friendly". No photos, but I think Mum painted a good word picture.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"You'd be Better off on a Malvern Star"

The ladies in the Sepia Saturday prompt this week look very stylish. I don't know how they managed to keep their voluminous skirts out of the spokes even assuming that skirt guards were in use in those days! I don't have any old photographs of grandparents or previous generations riding bicycles in my family collection, but I do know my grandmother Mona only learnt to ride in her fifties. I also don't remember seeing either of my parents riding, and if they did, there's no photographic evidence of it, although I have previously shown a photo of my mother's brother Ken riding his bike in Christchurch in the snow in about 1930, which you can see here.. The photo below shows my mother-in-law Mary and her brother-in-law Winton on bikes outside the home of their parents-in-law, in Little Myers St Geelong, in about 1947. They were probably setting off on a ride around Geelong, perhaps including a picnic by the river, presumeably with their respective partners Bob and Jean.

The shot is taken looking cross the street to the houses opposite, next door to Taylors timber yard that was located there. Mary well remembers that loud hooters sounded from the yard signalling early morning starts, lunch and finish times.  It's hard to read the brand on Win's bike but I think it could possibly be a Malvern Star, which I find interesting because we now live close to the Melbourne suburb of Malvern, where those bikes were originally manufactured.

According to the local Stonnington History Centre web site, "[t]he first Malvern Star bicycle was made in a shop [at]185 Glenferrie Road, by champion cyclist Thomas Finnigan in 190[2]. World champion cyclist (Sir) Hubert 'Oppy' Opperman joined the business after it was sold to (Sir) Bruce Small in 1920. The partnership of 'Oppy' and Small made Malvern Star a household name and the business grew to become a bicycling empire unequalled in the Southern Hemisphere." There are several photographs on the site on the subject of the Malvern Star, including this one here of Tom Finnigan on his bike, and of course there is more information about the history of the company he founded on  Wikipedia.

Advertisement from the Argus, 21 Oct 1955

Above and below are a couple of advertisements for Malvern Star from the Argus newspaper.

From The Argus, 14 Dec 1940, Malvern Star advertisement, found on Trove web site.


The place where Malvern Star bikes were first made. Those 3 Rs don't stand for Ride, Ride, Ride, but for Readings, a Melbourne book store which has been there since 1969, Malvern Star has been re-born since then however, and for yet more information and old photographs click here to go to the company web site.

Following on from the second advertisement, here is a photo of yours truly with the Christmas present I received in 1962, which may or may not have been a Malvern Star. I'm sure I wanted one, as that was THE bike to have, but I have a feeling that Dad may have bought mine second hand and done it up for me. I enjoyed riding it to primary and high school. I remember learning to ride in a vacant block near where we lived, with the help of some neighbourhood friends, and once you learn, you never forget how to ride.



Daughter Claire with her new bike, Xmas 1988

Here's a collage showing a few family riding trips in various locations over the years, such as along the beaches of Barcelona, beside the Mosel river in Germany, around  Dubbo Open Range Zoo and along the Bass Coast Rail Trail in Gippsland Victoria.

We are off to Canberra for the Easter weekend, with our bikes loaded onto the car bike rack. Canberra these days has a very good network or cycle paths, although that wasn't the case when I grew up there. 

To read more blogs relating to cycling in parks, mass riding, ladies in long skirts, or other similar subjects, just get 'on yer bike',  head over to Sepia Saturday #273 , and have a very happy Easter!

            Postscript: just remembered this photo in my mother's collection from her college days in Auckland including a couple of the students' bikes, from a similar time to the first photo here, circa 1946. Good to begin and end in sepia.                                                     

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ploughing on



This week's Sepia Saturday prompt shows an old tractor on display at an international agricultural fair in Turkey.  No sepian photos of tractors in my family collection, but I do have a few photos of tractors, both old and more modern models. Our son-in-law John is a dairy analyst, but describes himself as "having been passionate about tractors before he could talk", and in his spare moments he writes a light-hearted, laid-back column entitled 'Grunt' for a monthly paper called Dairy News Australia, all about tractors and various farm equipment that John has acquired for use on his 40 acre property. Click here if you'd like to read one of John's Grunt columns. In this month's edition, he makes the point that he doesn't think much of tractor racing, because tractors are not built for speed, but for the amount of power they can put into the ground to operate ploughing and other kinds of farm machinery. 

The mention of tractor racing reminded me of the related concept of ploughing matches. I'm not certain about the exact criteria taken into account when judging such competitions, but I understand the main things to be looked for are the straightness and neatness of furrows. No point being finished first if you've made a hash of the field! Back before tractors were invented to make things easier, horses did the work, and the following sketch and historical account of a ploughing match describes how a few farmers got together and helped out one of their neighbours, in this case my 3 x great uncle William Cruickshank, by spending the day competitively ploughing three fields on his farm at Monquhitter Aberdeenshire. The names of the judges for each field are given, followed by lists of the winners and placegetters. I see that my 2x great grandfather Adam Cruickshank, brother of William, won his field of 12 ploughmen. Hopefully no favouritism was involved, especially as one of the judges' names was also Cruickshank.  There were a lot of Cruickshank families around the district, not necessarily related. At the end of the day a sumptuous dinner was provided for the participants by William's young wife Jane, and a good time appeared to have been had by all. 

These two Cruickshank brothers and their families were to migrate from Scotland to New Zealand some nine years later in 1863. 


Aberdeen Journal, 1 Feb. 1854, found through the Findmypast web site

When visiting the Southland district of NZ in 2013, 150 years later, we visited William's farm of Rosedale on the outskirts of Invercargill. It is a sheep property and is still run by Peter Cruickshank, a great grandson of William. No doubt there was a tractor or two around somewhere, but my photo only shows this old truck that the sheep looked to have commandeered.

We were also shown the property called Oakdale where Adam originally farmed, near the town of Gore. It is no longer in Cruickshank hands and the homestead that Adam and his sons built doesn't exist any more, but we were allowed to look around, and see old trees along the driveway and behind the homestead that the Cruickshank men had planted. I've shown a painting of Oakdale by Adam's granddaughter Charlotte Petrie in a previous post, and here is an aerial view of the property, taken while still owned by the family.

While there I took this photo of an old piece of equipment that might have been another remnant of that time, with a stand of big old trees in the background.

Later everyone gathered for a 'sumptuous dinner' at the nearby property of Helen, another Cruickshank descendant, and we hadn't even worked for it. Helen and her husband Frank have a beautifully designed garden, a feature of which is this huge piece of old machinery that one of their sons found and parked there permanently. I think it was some kind of harvester, not sure, but it was definitely going nowhere fast!

This next tractor photo comes from a colour slide collection, and my husband Roger is standing on the right in the back row. The photo was taken in about the summer of 1966, when his father Bob had been working in Vienna and took the family to stay with his wife Mary's relatives in Herefordshire for their summer holidays before returning to Australia. While there Roger was able to join  the local scout troop on a working camp across the border in Wales and remembers a very hard day's work collecting hay bales for the farmer. Part of that huge stack looks rather precarious, and several of the boys have bottles in their hands, but surely these scouts weren't drinking beer!  Little did young Roger know that decades later he would occasionally give his son-in-law John a hand collecting and stacking bales.

Here are a couple of shots of said son-in-law John with his pride and joy, a second hand Deutz-Fahr model, having fun enlarging the dam and ploughing a new track around it. 

    Here he's using the post hole attachment to dig holes for a new fence. There are always jobs to be done.

Whatever interest I have in tractors and farm equipment stems from John's connection, which is why I texted him this amusing advertisement that I noticed in a local newspaper in Invercargill on that NZ trip. I think he had taken a few days' leave from his day job at the time and was helping his dairy-farming father with silage, with only the occasional break.

Finally, here's another photo I texted back to John in Australia when my daughters and I were driving in Kent or thereabouts and got stuck behind this little old Massey Ferguson for a short time while it trundled along. Thankfully it wasn't too long before a passing opportunity came up.

John's off to a trade fair called Farm World this coming Saturday, probably checking out a few tractors. Meanwhile I plan to read up on tractors in other Sepia Saturday posts, and you can too at Sepia Saturday 272.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Horses and Holidays

This week's prompt shows some horses being led to drink from a stream. My mother and her immediate family were not horse people, and I don't have any photographs of horses drinking, but here are three horse photographs from my mother's early albums. The first one shows my mother's sister Patricia as a young child in about 1924, tentatively trying out a horse. From the right hand side of the photograph, it looks like this is possibly at a beach somewhere. With Pat is her father Jack Morrison.

This next photograph, entitled "Horse riding at Caroline Bay". It was taken in the early 1930s and shows my mother Jean taking a turn at riding.  Caroline Bay is a beach at the town of Timaru, some two hours south of Christchurch on the South Island of NZ. I think that is Aunty Bess walking beside Jean. Timaru was then and still is a popular beach resort.  Jean and her sister Pat were taken to Timaru by their maiden aunties Bess and Flo Forbes, who always helped their sister Mona Morrison out with her family of six children. They may well have been visiting acquaintances there.

I found the following poem called "Caroline Bay" in the Press of 21 December 1923, in a promotional article describing iTimaru as 'the ltown of Sunshine' and the leading seaside bathing resort of the Dominion. Another article referred to it as the Riviera of the South.

Snipped from the invaluable Paperspast web site.

Here are Pat and Jean perching on a rock overlooking Timaru Harbour on their holiday. This reminded me of my own visit to Timaru in 2013, when I photographed a local fur seal sunning himself on some very similar harbourside rocks.  

Views of Timaru Harbour from the rocks and of the attractive parkland above the beach in 2013:

I particularly like the following photograph, which is simply entitled "A little visitor from Canvastown". Living in the country, this young boy would have been a capable horse rider, come to check out whoever was visiting the Morrison family. Jean visited her uncle Bill Morrison and his family there in about 1947. 

This matching photograph taken by Jean in 1947 is of her Uncle Bill's home, the same little home in which Bill's parents/Jean's grandparents Daniel and Mary Bridget lived and had 15 children, 11 of whom survived.

 Canvastown in Marlborough NZ was the town where Jean's grandparents Daniel and Mary Bridget Morrissey aka Morrison lived, and their son Jack took his family went up there from Christchurch for farm holidays. Daniel and Mary Bridget had settled there not long after arriving from Cork Ireland in 1875 and raised a large brood in a very basic little house. Jean remembered that it had newspapers lining the walls and none of the conveniences of her parents' relatively modern home in Christchurch. Her cousin Valerie Coleman recalled that there was no plumbing or electricity in the house and meals were cooked in black iron pots that hung from iron rods over an open fire place. Mary Bridget worked endlessly to keep the household going. On wash days she drew water from  the hand pump to fill the copper that sat outside in a paddock, and then stoked the fire to boil clothes. A horse story passed down by Valerie's mother Eileen told of how her mother Mary Bridget had said that on one occasion back in the 1880s Daniel had arrived home with no pay from a month's work, and after a 'showdown' revealed that he had called in at a local hotel and apparently had bet his wages against a man called Joe that his pony could beat Joe's in a race. Needless to say Dan's horse lost. Mary Bridget jumped on the pony and rode back to the pub, where she demanded the money back from Joe, who insisted it was a fair bet and fairly run. However after a few arguments he paid up, although not in full.

Here is a photograph from about 1929/30, showing the three Morrison children gathered beside the local river, either the Pelorus or the Waimakarina, with their cousin Valerie, mentioned above. It looks like the same conical shaped hill in the distance.

Jean, Ken, Pat and Valarie

This photograph from another family visit in about 1933/4, shows Daniel and Mary Bridget Morrison at home in Canvastown, with two of their sons, Jack and Stanley, and Jack's eldest three children, Pat, Ken and Jean.  Mary Bridget died in 1935 and Daniel in 1945.

A number of Jean's Morrison cousins still live in the Marlborough district, and up until quite recently Cousin Denny Morrison in nearby Nelson operated a horse and carriage business for weddings and funerals.

Enough rambling around my family history in New Zealand for this week. To read more blogs inspired by this week's topic, just click here to go to Sepia Saturday #271.