Losing pieces of your heart

Annie Payne (nee Smith) gave birth to at least 15 children.

Mary Ann Payne (nee Smith) (1871-1962)

Mary Ann Payne (nee Smith) (1871-1962)

She was just 18 when the first was born and 44 when the last child whose birth was registered was born.

Apparently there was another baby born after that but it was either stillborn or lived only for a short time. They didn’t bother registering the birth or death and her husband, Jack, buried it.  When you lived in an area somewhat remote from the authorities sometimes it was just easier to do things yourself.  If the neighbours did ask or notice, they weren’t likely to report you because they were in the same situation.

Of Jack and Annie’s 16 children, five died as babies or children and two in young adulthood.

In the terrible year of 1913 my great-grandparents lost four children: six-year-old Violet in April, 14-year-old Bertram and 19-year-old William in May, and three-month-old Percival in October.  An inquiry into the deaths and a post-mortem on the body of William found the first three deaths to be caused by meningitis.  A fourth Payne child and a grandchild also contracted the disease but survived. No photos of the deceased children survive (if they ever existed) but the inquest reported that William was “a splendid stamp of a young man and crack shot”.

"Tenterfield Star", May 1913

“Tenterfield Star”, May 1913

"Tenterfield Star", May 1913

“Tenterfield Star”, May 1913

The newspaper report on the inquest does seem to indicate that Jack was questioned as to whether he had sought medical advice.

In later years when more was known about sanitation, a daughter of Jack and Annie attributed the spread of the disease amongst the family to poor hygiene.  There was of course no plumbing or sewerage on gold diggings dwellings.

We live in an age when parents invest considerable time, money and emotion into their (probably few) children.  Did parents in days gone by allow themselves to be as attached to their children?  Wouldn’t you hold a part of yourself back from getting too attached to a baby who might not survive its first year?  The author Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.  Annie’s heart must have been damaged beyond words after losing so many children.

Jack and Annie (Smith) Payne with their first three daughters and a couple of photobombers, c1893

Jack and Annie (Smith) Payne with their first three daughters and a couple of photobombers, c1893

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7 thoughts on “Losing pieces of your heart

  1. I like the way you create these snapshots of the Payne family; enough detail to give your ancestors some character and individuality. Your brief mentions of the bush, the goldfields and isolated Australia make me curious to know more about the places in which your ancestors lived.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Andrew. My aim in this blog is to put flesh on the bare bones of names and dates of ancestors’ lives. Your blog does the same sort of thing. Well done. It’s a great read.

      Like

    • Thank you so much, Pauleen. My mum remembers her grandparents as very serious people but heard that they were quite fun when they were younger – they used to dance, sing and he played the violin (I think). The tragedy of losing so many children changed them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Homes among the gum trees (Part 2) | Leaves on my Family Tree

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