Homes among the gum trees (Part 2)

Hugh and Ettie’s first home was at Kangaroo Flat in a house which was later referred to in the family as “the old kitchen”.  As late as the 1990s some building and garden remains could be seen.

 

File_000 (10)

A granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Hugh and Ettie at the site of the “the old kitchen” c1997.  

Presumably there were other rooms than a kitchen.  This property was owned by Kenny McLean. When Hugh and Ettie left the property, the house was bought by Hugh’s half-sister, Ellen Iverson and her husband George Stubbings and moved to their property at Burnt Blanket.

George and Ellen Stubbings 001

George and Ellen (nee Iverson) Stubbings

Perhaps it was during this period that they lived at Koreelah.  They had built a house at Beaury Creek but Kenny McLean and his wife were living there.  When Hugh and Ettie had to leave Koreelah, they moved in with Hugh’s half-brother Donald Iverson’s family at the Little (Tooloom) Falls.

Eventually they were able to move to their house at Beaury Creek and lived there for many years, although with a bit more to-ing and fro-ing.

SCAN0029

Thought to be the Beaury Creek house

During World War 2, oldest son Allen was married and farming nearby, next son John, also married was farming in Queensland.  Two sons, Hughie and Lach, were in the army and the youngest son, Ewan, too young to enlist, was at home with his parents and once he left school working on the dairy farm. Ettie’s brother Emerald was also living with them and lending a hand.  He was not in robust health, having only one kidney as a result of having contracted meningitis as a child, in a tragedy which claimed the lives of five of his siblings.

The oldest daughter, Bell, was living in Newcastle where her husband, Doug Guest, was working in what was considered an essential industry, namely ammunition manufacturing.

Meanwhile Hugh and Ettie had been busy making sure that Hughie and Lach would have a livelihood when they came back from the war and had purchased a property for each of them.  The property secured for Hughie was “Grimstead” essentially across the road at Beaury Creek.  The family moved over to run the dairy farm there until Bell and Doug moved back from Newcastle, soon after which Hugh, Ettie and the children still at home moved into the property on the Falls Road which had been secured for Lach.

People obviously had fewer possession and different expectations in those days.  May went to school in Urbenville that day and the first she knew of the move was as she was riding home from school and was informed by a local family she came across that she was to go to the Falls Road property instead of “Grimstead”. She arrived there to find her parents settling in and trying to build a fire.

After some time, they must have moved back to Beaury Creek.  It no longer stands, having been demolished to provide some of the mismatched building materials for the house at “Windy Hill”.  Hugh wanted to name the house in the Gaelic he had heard his grandfather speak but was unable to remember the words which would convey the idea of a windy hill.

File_000 (11)

“Windy Hill”

I was only ever a visitor to the Windy Hill house.  I never lived there but to me it is where my mother came from.  For her, the house at Beaury Creek was her childhood home, which she describes fondly as a beautiful farm. She is working on a map of it.

There are other versions of the order in which Hugh and Ettie’s moves happened.  This is May’s version as told to me.

Advertisements

Homes among the gum trees (Windy Hill)

My grandparents’ house had a very long dining table in the kitchen.  It ran most of the length of the kitchen.  There was no dining room.  The house was built after the Second World War when building supplies were still in short supply.  This explains why some of the boards of the walls ran vertically and some ran horizontally.

The kitchen viewed from one end with horizontal boards

The kitchen viewed from one end with vertical boards

The kitchen was the hub of the house where family sat around the table, talking until late into the night, women worked together to prepare food and men came in for “smoko” (i.e. a cup of tea and something to eat), dinner (midday meal) and tea (evening meal).

File_000 (5)

The kitchen viewed from the other end with horizontal boards

The other place to congregate was the U shaped verandah which hugged 3 sides of the house.  Grandsons perched on the railings, aunts leaned over the edge to talk to uncles in the yard and the older, more sedate members sat on chairs or even snatched a rest on one of the many beds along the verandah.  There were only two bedrooms so when there were overnight visitors, some of the verandah beds would probably be in use.  In summer we slept under a mosquito net and in winter under a pile of thin, well-used blankets.

Sitting on the verandah rail

Sitting on the verandah rail

The large family certainly made use of the long table but it not originally been made for domestic use.  The Von Harten family owned the Urbenville Hotel and a property at Koreelah. They ran into financial difficulties and asked my grandfather, Hugh McLean Mulcahy, to take over the debt and the property.  My grandparents moved to the Koreelah property, leaving their home at Beaury Creek available for Hugh’s uncle Kenny McLean live in. They took some of the hotel furniture with them and lived there for a time until they were also unable to meet the debt repayments.

Along with the table went a number of chairs, including two carvers.  There was also a sideboard and what was known in the family as the “dinner wagon”.  I imagine that it was used as a buffet in the hotel.  In my day it displayed framed photographs.

There had been a long couch which matched the chairs.  It met its demise in the scrub somewhere between Koreelah and Beaury Creek as the family made the move back, with their possessions loaded onto a dray or buckboard.  The load was too heavy, they were at risk of getting bogged so the couch was thrown off into the scrub.

Afterwards, whenever they passed that spot, Ettie would say, “The couch is down there”.

"Windy Hill"in its early years (perhaps in the 1950s)

“Windy Hill”in its early years (perhaps in the 1950s)

 

A somewht later photo perhaps 1960s) during a traditional Christmas Day cricket match

A somewht later photo (perhaps 1960s) during a traditional Christmas Day cricket match

Heirlooms of a different kind

I come from a long line of people living on the edge of poverty, from factory workers in the “dark Satanic mills” of Paisley, to displaced agricultural labourers trying to scrape by in the big city, to Highlanders cleared from their fertile traditional holding to tiny barren plots, to convicts arriving in a foreign land with nothing but the rotting, filthy clothes on their backs.

There aren’t many heirlooms in my family.  Nobody had the money to spend on expensive items and any goods that were acquired were then divided amongst the large numbers of will beneficiaries in the large families which were common in days gone by.

Here are a couple of non-material things which were handed down the generations.

A love of growing things and the green thumb to go with it

Pictures below show my mother’s courtyard when she moved into her new home just over six months ago and what the courtyard looks like now.  She always has fresh flowers in her house and usually has some greens for dinner and some tomatoes ripening on the kitchen bench.

2015 - 1 (2) 20141203_081313 (1)

One of my aunts was known for her garden and when I think of her I think of dahlias and oranges – the best oranges I’ve ever eaten.  Through two winter pregnancies, her oranges supplied me and my babies with Vitamin C. The bounty of another aunt’s garden kept us supplied with rosella jam.

But my mother and her sisters didn’t come from a long line of farmers. They came from a short line of farmers who learned to grow things as a matter of necessity.

Recipes

My recipe file includes many recipes from aunts and cousins and even great-aunts (Aunty Ivy’s Stingy Pudding).  I wouldn’t actually recommend the Stingy Pudding.  It’s a recipe for hard times when there’s not much in the pantry but you still have a lot of mouths to feed.

2015 - 6

My grandmother, Ettie, made a pudding (or delegated the task to a daughter) every day and her sister Ivy probably did the same for her family. In Ettie’s case it was ususally a milk pudding of some sort.  They were dairy farmers in the time when her children were young so there was plenty of milk available.

When Ettie was older (probably in her seventies), she started to make a lemon meringue pie.  It was really  a cross between a cheesecake and a lemon meringue.  It was very popular amongst the family and Ettie readily shared the recipe with her daughters but every time they made up the recipe, what was produced was definitely a cheesecake.

Ettie on her 80th birthday

Ettie on her 80th birthday

It remained a mystery for some time how it was that Ettie was the only one who could make this dish the right way until one of her daughters watched her making it and realised that Ettie was not using the amount of cream cheese which was written in the recipe. Ettie was unwittingly using a smaller packet than the recipe called for which was why her version was less cheesecakey and more lemony (enhanced of course by her beautiful homegrown bush lemons). Here’s the recipe:

Crumb crust:

1/2 lb plain sweet biscuits

4 oz butter

Melt butter, stir into crushed biscuits and press into an 8″ tin, lining the base and bringing the crumb mixture halfway up the side of the tin.

Filling:

2 oz cream cheese (not 4 oz!)

1 tin condensed milk

2 eggs, separated

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup castor sugar

Beat cheese in electric mixer, beat in condensed milk, lemon rind and juice and egg yolks. Pour into prepared crumb crust.

Whip egg whites. Gradually beat in half the sugar. Beat until stiff. Fold remainder of sugar and spread evenly over filling.

Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes to brown.

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.

Making your debut

My girl cousins were all debutantes. Their “deb” photos were proudly displayed on my grandmother’s dinner wagon.

One of my cousins as a debutante.  Queensland c1960

One of my cousins as a debutante. Queensland c1960

Another cousin as a debutante.  Queensland c1960

Another cousin as a debutante. Queensland c1960

I wasn’t a deb because I lived in the city and debutante balls had by my teens ceased to be something that happened regularly in Australian cities. My cousins were mostly really of a different generation from me, my mother being towards the end of a large family and having started her own family at a more mature age than most of her siblings. When my cousins, aunts and my mother were teenagers living in the country or boarding at schools in regional towns, deb balls were a rite of passage.

The debutante ball originated in England where young women of the upper class were presented at court to the monarch. This marked their entry into society and meant that they were able to attend adult social events. The hidden (or not so hidden) agenda was also for them to meet prospective husbands from the same social level.

“On the day of the court presentation the débutante and her sponsor would be announced, the debutante would curtsy to the Sovereign, and then she would leave without turning her back.” (Wikipedia)

Court dresses were traditionally white or a similar colour such as cream, ivory, pearl, grey or pink. In Australia, white has always been fairly standard.

Court dress c1890

Court dress c1890

In the days when my mother and her sisters made their debuts (1920s-1940s), they were required to find a male partner to take to the ball which was organised by the local community. Any girl who had never worn a ball dress before could make her debut.

Measurements were sent to a dressmaker who chose the design and mailed the finished dress.
The ball was presided over by a matron of honour to whom the girls were presented. Sometimes there were flower girls and page boys as part of the party.

The debutantes, matron of honour, flower girls and page boys at the ceremony in which my aunt, Phyllis Mulcahy, made her debut.

The debutantes, matron of honour, flower girls and page boys at the ceremony in which my aunt, Phyllis Mulcahy, made her debut. She is in the back row, fifth from the right. Urbenville,NSW c1940

Many members of the local community attended the ball. It was no doubt a good excuse to get together for a party. For many girls it was probably the highlight of the year. My mother described it as “excrutiating”.

May Mulcahy as a debutante. Urbenville, NSW c1945

May Mulcahy as a debutante. Urbenville, NSW c1945

Photo credits:

St Edmundsbury Borough Council [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lest we forget

Jasper Jens Iverson

Jasper Jens Iverson (1889-1917)

Jasper Jens Iverson
(1889-1917)

Son of: Mary (nee McLean, formerly Mulcahy) and Jens Iverson

Brother of: John Roscoe (Jack) Mulcahy, Hugh McLean Mulcahy, Donald Mulcahy, David Matthew Mulcahy, Ellen Iverson, Donald Iverson, Finlay Iverson, Mary (Pollie) Iverson, Kenneth Ross Iverson, Alfred Iverson

Service Number: 2715A

Rank: Private

Unit: 9th Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 04 October 1917

Place of death: Belgium

Cause of death: Died of wounds

Age at death: 28

Place of association: Urbenville, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Flanders, Belgium

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army

 

Donald Joseph Maloney (1890-1917)

Donald Joseph Maloney
(1890-1917)

Donald Joseph Maloney

Son of: Ann (nee McLean) and Edward Maloney

Brother of: Edward Matthew Maloney, David Ross Maloney, Charlotte Catherine Maloney

Service Number: 419

Rank: Private

Unit: 42nd Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 31 July 1917

Place of death: Belgium

Cause of death: Killed in action

Place of association: Woodenbong, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Flanders, Belgium

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army

 

Finlay Urquhart

Jasper Iverson's  great-niece places a poppy next to his name on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Jasper Iverson’s great-great-niece places a poppy next to his name on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Son of: Margaret (nee McLean) and Hugh Urquhart

Brother of: Catherine Anne Marion Urquhart, Alexander William Urquhart, Hugh Kenneth Urquhart, Margaret Louisa (Lulu) Urquhart, Thomas Malcolm Urquhart, Bertha Urquhart, Isabella Ross Urquhart, Caroline (Carrie) Urquhart

Service Number: 2423

Rank: Private

Unit: 15th Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 11 April 1917

Place of death: France

Age at death: 31

Place of association: Mummulgum, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army

 

Reuben Smith

Reuben Smith  (1891-1917)

Reuben Smith
(1891-1917)

Son of: Eliza Jane (nee Merchant) and George Smith

Brother of: George Smith, Samuel Smith, Mary Ann Smith, Rose Hannah Smith, James Smith, Hannah Louisa Smith, Matilda (Tilly) Smith, Emma Eliza Smith, Edward George Smith, Ellen Smith, Phyllis Phoebe Smith, Henrietta Smith, Agnes Smith

Service Number: 4540

Rank: Lance Corporal

Unit: 25th Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 03 February 1917

Place of death: France

Cause of death: Killed in action

Age at death: 24

Place of association: Pretty Gully, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Martinpuich British Cemetery, Picardie, France

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army

 

Photos below:

By Markus3 (Marc ROUSSEL) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By Johan Bakker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Menin Gate Memorial

Menin Gate Memorial

Villers-Brettoneux Australian Memorial

Villers-Brettoneux Australian Memorial

Jens and Jacob

Jens Jasper Iverson and Jacob C.W. Nielsen were good friends.  They sailed the seas together, jumped ship together and lived and worked together for 60 years.

Jens Iverson

Jens Iverson

 

For the rest of their lives, Jacob followed Jens’ example.  Although Jacob was the elder, he would buy exactly the same things Jens bought. Jacob even bought the same size clothing, although Jens was much taller.

Jacob Nielsen

Jacob Nielsen

The only thing Jacob couldn’t match Jens in was a wife. Jens married my great-grandmother, Mary Mulcahy (nee McLean) in 1885. She was a widow with three young boys who must have been glad of the security another marriage offered.  Jens and Mary made a home at “Swallows’ Nest” on the banks of Tooloom Creek in northern New South Wales and Jacob lived on their property for the rest of his life, outliving Jens by seven years and living until he was 100.

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children and Jens' friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children and Jens’ friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Jacob had been jilted by his fiancée and he wore the ring he had bought for her.  Did he never marry because he remained heartbroken and found no one who could measure up to her or was it the shortage of women in the area which caused his continuing single status?

Jens, Mary and Jacob lived a very settled existence, working hard on “Swallows’ Nest” to survive as subsistence farmers and to raise the £5 lease payment which was due each year.

The kitchen had walls and floors of slab and an open fireplace where Mary cooked with a camp oven.  The pantry, eight feet wide and the length of the house, was lined with shelves of preserves.  Mary’s grandchildren remembered that as children they would run to see Grannie’s pantry as soon as they arrived for a visit.

There was a large orchard with stone fruits, grapes, citrus, quinces, pomegranates, Japanese raisins, mulberries, persimmons, apples and pears.  Corn was interplanted with melons and pumpkins.  It was ground for porridge and corn bread and used to feed the fowls.  They grew their own arrowroot and tobacco.  Watering was by bucket from the creek but there were no fruit flies or other pests to contend with as these had not yet arrived in the area.

Jens Iversons tobacco licence

Evidence of Jens Iverson’s tobacco licence

There were cows for milk, cheese and butter for the family and some butter for sale.  They always kept a couple of pigs to slaughter in winter and then cured the pork for hams and bacon.  They ran 25 sheep and may have sold some wool.

Any supplies which they could not produce came by bullock wagon from Boonah twice a year.

Was this the life Jens and Jacob had in mind when they deserted their ship, the “Theresa”, when it was in port in Sydney in 1863?

Crew list of the "Theresa" on arrival in Sydney, <arch 1863.

Crew list of the “Theresa” on arrival in Sydney,

Did they dream of life on the land or were they hoping to strike it rich on the goldfields?  While the first flush of the gold rush was over, there were still discoveries being made on a regular basis.  Although the “Theresa” was not a passenger ship, they must have noticed the wave of immigrants arriving in Australia. Perhaps the life of a Danish seaman was not a happy one.  Family stories say that Jens’ brother, Peter, jumped ship in America.

Jens’ final resting place in Warwick, Queensland, was a long way from his birthplace in Denmark.

 

 

 

 

A hard life

Mary McLean Mulcahy Iverson led what we in the 21st century would think was a hard life.  She buried two husbands and three sons, she lived most of her life as a subsistence farmer.  She suffered diabetes in later life and she eventually died of gangrene caused by the diabetes.

Mary McLean (1851-1935)

Mary McLean (1851-1935)

Mary was born at Bonalbo in 1851 and the family moved to Tooloom (both in northern New South Wales) when she was about 13.  As was the custom for girls of her time, she helped out at home until she married.  Unlike some girls of her time, she probably received some sort of education because her family loved books and reading.   She married John Mulcahy, a miner, in 1874.  She was protestant and he was catholic but it doesn’t seem to have caused as much conflict in their families as some “mixed marriages” did.

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

Their four boys were born in 1875 (Jack), 1876 (Hugh), 1878 (Donald) and 1879 (David).  Donald, died in May 1879, only a few weeks before David was born. Then in July, Mary’s husband died in a mining accident and Mary was left with three small boys including a newborn and, if the family stories are correct, recovering from the whooping cough which claimed Donald’s life. Mary went home to her family where her brothers provided strong role models to her sons.  After five years of widowhood Mary married Jens Iverson, a Danish seaman, who had jumped ship in Sydney.   The blended Mulcahy-Iverson family made a home at “Swallows’ Nest” at Tooloom and over the next ten years Mary bore seven children to Jens.  The family’s life there consisted of hard work just to survive.  They seem to have been a happy united family but there were more tragedies to come.

Iverson home at "Swallows' Nest"

Iverson home at “Swallows’ Nest”

In 1892 toddler Finlay drowned in a swamp on the family property after following his brothers without anyone’s knowledge.   Private Jasper Jens Iverson of the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion died of wounds in Belgium in 1917.

Private Jasper Jens Iverson (1889-1917)

Private Jasper Jens Iverson (1889-1917)

Both of Mary’s sisters also lost a son in World War I.   Shortly before Mary’s husband Jens died in 1921, Mary suffered a stroke after which she needed a crutch to walk.  Around 1930, Mary was diagnosed with diabetes.  From this time on she lived turnabout with family members, each taking turns with the daily routine of Mary’s insulin injections.  Mary would need to stand on a butter box to get into the sulky whenever it was time to move on to the next house.   As a result of the diabetes, Mary eventually developed gangrene and lost her toes.  When the gangrene reached her foot, she was taken to Casino Hospital.  Her son, Hughie, spent an agonizing night trying to make the decision whether or not Mary’s foot would be amputated to try to stop the gangrene spreading further.  He had been told that even if they did amputate, she would probably not live much longer.

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children, one of the Mulcahy boys and Jens' friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children, David Mulcahy and Jens’ friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Hughie decided to tell the doctor not to operate but when he reached the hospital in the morning, he was informed that his mother had passed away during the night.

Disproving family stories

Disproved family story 1.

My grandmother’s brother, her closest sibling in age, died of appendicitis.  It was actually meningitis and he died in the same epidemic which claimed the lives of a brother and a sister and almost took another brother and a niece.

Disproved family story 2.

May Payne (1895-1925)

May Payne (1895-1925)

Two other sisters – twins – were blue babies.  This medical term refers to a blueish tinge to the skin caused by either a congenital cyanotic heart defect or the ingestion of water with a high level of nitrate contamination.  One of the twins, Maude, died at three months of inflammation of the lungs so it’s possible that she had some sort of heart condition.  The other twin, May, died at the age of 29 of Bright’s Disease.  This was a term used to cover a variety of kidney diseases which are now referred to separately.

 

The death of May Payne, 1925

The death of May Payne, 1925

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m talking about historic medical terms, I would love to know what it was that the grandmother of these twins died of, a condition named as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

 Disproved family story 3.

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

My great-grandfather John Mulcahy died in a mining accident when a tiny rock fell down into the shaft and hit him on the head.  He did die in a mineshaft but his death was caused by him falling into the 40-foot shaft.  His death came two months after the death of his third son and the birth of his fourth.  The family story goes on to say that the third son, Donald, died of whooping cough and that his mother was also very ill.  That can’t be proven or disproved now because Donald’s death certificate is very short on detail.

The best story I’ve disproved so far involved a bushranger, a fire and a betrayal.