The selector, the general and the movie maker

Many Australians have probably heard of the famous Chauvel family of pastoralists, army heroes and movie makers. I’m not related to them.

My family however has had a few brushes with them and their fame over the years because they lived in the same area of northern New South Wales and south west Queensland from at least the 1870s until the 1930s.

Kenneth McLean (1849-1912)

Kenneth McLean
(1849-1912)

My great-great uncle, Kenneth McLean, had a run-in with a Mr Chauvel around 1877.  The time frame leads me to believe that this would have been Charles Henry Edward Chauvel (1835-1896).

In April 1876 in the Casino office of the Lands Department Kenneth conditionally purchased 500 acres at Tabulam and paid a deposit for it.  Between then and January 1877 he improved the land, perhaps felling trees and erecting fences and buildings.

On January 7 he received a refund of his deposit along with the information that the 500 acres was in fact in the Tenterfield district and had been selected by someone else.  The someone else turned out to be Mr Chauvel.  Letters went back and forth.  Kenneth seems to have accepted that he was not going to get the land back but argued that he should not have to forfeit the improvements he had made, which was what Mr Chauvel was asking him to do.

A document about the land dispute

A document about the land dispute

Hmmm…smacks of corrupt or incompetent government looking after the wealthy landowners at the expense of the less important people. This would have been a small part of Chauvel’s holdings. I don’t know if Kenneth was reimbursed for his improvements or took the timber with him but perhaps he had the last laugh since Wikipedia states that:

Following a series of severe droughts in northern New South Wales, Charles Henry Chauvel sold his property at Tabulam in 1888 for £50,000. After paying his debts, he bought a much smaller 12,000-acre (4,900 ha) property at Canning Downs on the Darling Downs in Queensland. 

The next Chauvel was Charles Henry’s son, General Sir Henry George Chauvel GCMG, KCB (16 April 1865 – 4 March 1945),

Sir Henry Chauvel

Sir Henry Chauvel

a senior officer of the Australian Imperial Force who fought at Gallipoli and during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of the First World War. He was the first Australian to attain the rank of lieutenant general and later general, and the first to lead a corps. After the war, he was closely involved with the training of the Australian Light Horse. (Wikipedia)

The men of my family who were in the First World War seem to have fought at the Western Front so may not have had any contact with Sir Harry during the war.

After the war their nephews and the young men of the district were however active in the Light HorseThe Light Horse as army troops were formed after the Boer War and saw active duty at Gallipoli, the Middle East and the Western Front during the First World War. At the end of the war when the Light Horse troops were returning to Australia, they were not permitted to bring their horses home and were ordered to shoot them.  Sir Harry , however,got to bring his horse home.

Members of the Light Horse

Members of the Light Horse

Back home after the war the Light Horse also seems to have existed as a sort of Army Reserve unit.  The members were provided with a horse, a jacket (a necessary item for being allowed into dances by the way) and underwent training and preparation for war but my mother doesn’t believe that her brothers and their comrades were actually “in the army” at that stage. Only a few Light Horse units saw operational service during the Second World War.

Two of Mum’s brothers were “in the army” during the Second World War.

John Mulcahy was an extra in

John Mulcahy was an extra in “Forty Thousand Horsemen”

The youngest brother was too young and the older two were involved in essential industry at home but that didn’t stop one of them (John) from travelling to Sydney to be an extra in the movie Forty Thousand Horsemen, which was made by Charles Edward Chauvel OBE (7 October 1897 – 11 November 1959) and released in 1940. Charles Chauvel was the nephew of the general and the grandson of the pastoralist.  His other well-known film is Jedda (1955). By all accounts John enjoyed the experience but hadn’t realised before leaving that travelling with his horse on the train would mean sleeping with it too.

Credits:

This story starred

Three generations of Chauvels

Three generations of McLeans

Two World Wars

500 acres

A lot of horses.

Hugh Mulcahy

Hugh Mulcahy

Lachlan Mulcahy

Lachlan Mulcahy

Mystery object

This object came to light recently when my mother was packing up her house to move.  It has probably been passed on a few times when houses were packed up because I don’t think it has been in use for a long time and I don’t know who the original owner was.  Suffice to say that many women in 19th and early 20th century Australia would have owned such a device.

Mystery object

Mystery object

JG IngramIt was manufactured by JG Ingram and Sons, London, a company which operated from 1847 until at least 1961.

It’s a pump for expressing breast milk, very different in appearance from the modern version.

My first thought on realising what it was:

What would a 19th century woman want with a breast pump? Women in the 19th century Australia didn’t go out to work, leaving their babies with carers. They certainly worked and maybe they left the baby at the house with big sisters or grandmothers while they went out to milk cows, tend crops or work in the family business but they wouldn’t have gone far enough away from their babies to need to express milk.

Of course there are other reasons for expressing milk, just as there are today. Illnesses like mastitis or milk fever were common enough, babies don’t always attach well, cracked nipples are painful but the short and sad answer is that babies died.

More babies died at or soon after birth than is common in developed countries today.  It’s a tragedy when any baby dies but it wouldn’t have been the absolutely shocking and unexpected event that it is today.

Just to give an idea of statistics, my great-grandmother Mary Ann Smith was one of 14 children.

The eldest sibling (a boy) died as a baby.  Ellen died aged 3. Mary Ann (Annie) had 7 surviving sisters. There is no evidence of children born to her sisters, Agnes, Henrietta, Emma or Louisa dying young but:

  • Rose lost Victor E A Headrick (1907-1908)
  • Matilda lost Mary J Ford (1915-1916)
  • Phyllis lost Lucy Eliza Elliott (1905-1906)
  • And Annie herself lost Maude Ellen Payne (1895-1895), Percival Edward Payne (1913-1913) and Charles Ernest Payne (1915-1915).
  • There is also a family story that Annie gave birth to another stillborn baby whose birth and death were not registered.In Australia in 1901, 103.6 out of every 1000 babies died within the first year of life.  Lack of medical knowledge, distance from medical assistance, and spread of infection through lack of hygiene all played a part.
Matilda Ford (nee Smith) (1878-1921)

Matilda Ford (nee Smith)
(1878-1921)

Phyllis Elliott nee Smith) 1886-1956)

Phyllis Elliott (nee Smith)
(1886-1956)

Rose Headrick nee Smith) 1873-1962)

Rose Headrick (nee Smith)
(1873-1962)

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

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

Baby Donald Mulcahy's death certificate 1879

Baby Donald Mulcahy’s death certificate 1879

Figures from Australians: historical statistics, Broadway, 1987, p58, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.