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