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

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

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.