Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Warning - a very long post

Aunty Maisie (*Alica May, born 1925, mother of John, Peter and Paul) my father’s youngest sister, and the last of the Wards from Thornton died this morning.  I can deal with history tonight but not with my emotions.  

 It seems to me that no-one in my family has taken a lot of interest in where our ancesters lived before they came to Australia, myself included.  Just being Australian was enough.

But laying at rest in Laidley cemetry is Daniel Ward born County Wexford, died 2 Nov 1900
married Eliza Kavanagh died 1906, my great-grandparents.

County Wexford is a maritime county in the south-east of Ireland, which was founded  by the Vikings and named by them 'Waesfjord', meaning 'inlet of the mud-flats'. It is known as 'Ireland's sunny south-east' for its high amount of sunshine.

My grandfather, Daniel Ward was born in 1867 (according to his headstone at the Laidley cemetry) at Purga.  No-one seems to know anything about this Purga place, except that it is near Ipswich and was an immigrants camp.  They moved from the immigrants camp to Thornton, outside Laidley. Grandfather Ward died in 1942, aged 73.  He married Margaret Carroll (born 5 August, 1878), a young orphan who had been sent from an orphanage to work as a maid in his family home.  They were married on 26 February 1895 according to marriage certificate.  Daniel's age is given as 26, so he was born in 1869.  My guess would be that the date on his wedding certificate is more likely to be accurate than that on the headstone.

(also buried in the Ward family plot at Laidley Cemetry is another Daniel Ward, died 1915 aged 86 years, born 1829, is this my grandfather's father?)

Laidley is 83 km and a comfortable hour's drive from Brisbane, and is one of the larger rural towns in the incredibly productive Lockyer Valley.  The area has been providing many of the vegetables that grace the plates of Queenslanders and the eastern states for more than 100 years.

Thanks to the history books we know the actual date the Laidley Creek Valley was discovered – 23 August 1828.  When I went to school we learnt about the early expeditions of the men who first explored Australia.  A child who did not know the names of “The Explorers” and where they explored had something lacking in their education.  I think most kids were like me, totally in awe of these fearless men. Surely they must have been fearless.  Either that or crazy to go off exploring in that harsh land the way they did.  I suspect it was a combination of both.  Allan Cunningham was one of these early explorers and on that August morning he and his troop of men left their tents to climb a high point of what they thought was the Great Dividing Range but was actually the Little Liverpool Range, expecting to see a passage to the Darling Downs which he had discovered from the west the previous year and now sought a way through the 'gap” from the east. 

The party reached the summit of Mt Beau Brummel from which they observed a valley and named it Laidley Creek Valley after a prominent NSW public servent.  Those early explorers may have been fearless and slightly crazy but, even then, they had to play the political game and keep in good with prominent officials, the guys who held or influenced the purse strings and so funded their wanderings.

Because there was a penal colony at Moreton Bay no free settlement was allowed within a fifty-mile radius and so this lovely valley remained uninhabited except for the local aborigines until 1842.   We might have been taught about the explorers but about the previous occupants of the lands we learnt very little indeed, unless they killed an explorer. 

After 1842, squatters began to settle there and the village gradually grew around an inn and a lagoon where drovers and their stock rested.  Many of the original buildings have been preserved in the Laidley Pioneer Village on land that was gifted to the council by my maternal grandfather, while the lagoon where cattle once slaked their thirst is now a pleasant flora and fauna sanctuary. 

Laidley is now a sleepy little township calling itself the 'Country Garden of Queensland' because of the rich soils surrounding the town support farming, vegetable growing for the Brisbane markets, dairying and cotton. 

The first bridge was built in 1863 and this enabled the area “up the creek” to be settled by both squatters and legitimate landholders. And it was up the creek that both sides of my ancestors settled, Dad's family at Thornton and Mum's family at Townson further up the creek, where there are six families listed as the first settlers, my maternal grandmothers and grandfather's families among them.   

According to Daniel's obituary he came to the Thornton district when he was 10 years old.  To quote from the obituary:
“Busy as he was, he played his part in the public life of the community.  On two different occasions he was a member of the Laidley shire Council, and for about 35 years was Chairman of the Thornton School Committee.  He was a foundation member of the Laidley H.A.C.B. Society (Hibernian Society).  For many years he was a member of the Laidley Hospital Board, and was one of those who assisted to have the hospital removed from the Old Township to its present site.  He was also a member of the committee of the Laidley Agricultural and Industrial Society, and took a keen interest in the life of St Patricks Roman Catholic Church.”

It says he died at age 75 but if he was married at age 26 in 1895 , and we have a copy of that document, he must have been 73.  He died at his residence in Thornton where he had lived all his life.  

Daniel and Margaret had 14 children:

Mary Anne (Dolly) b 1896 d 1977 started school 190
Daniel (Barney) b 1897 buried at Nudgee (adopted Anne) started school 1902
Ester born 1900 died 1904 from polio aged 4
John (Jack) b 1903 d 1973 (Marie and Jackta) buried at Nudgee started school 1907
Tom – strangled in a mosquito net aged 8 – 9 months old (but I'm not sure what place in the family order)
Charles (Charlie) b 1905 (Tim, Catherine, Pat, Vonnie) buried at Rosevale started school 1910
James (Jim) b 1908 buried at Nudgee (Jennifer, Carmel, Janice, Catherine) started school 1912
Eva Marguerita (Sister Mary Paulina) b 1910 became a nun 8 July 1930 buried at Nudgee started school 1915
Eileen b 1912 died 1941 aged 29 started school 1917
Elizabeth Josephine (Jo) b 1914 buried at Nudgee (Margaret, Brian, Mary, Betty) started school 1919
Andrew (Andy) b 11.02.1918 died 10.02.2007  buried at Nudgee started school 1924 (my father)
Monica (Monnie) b 1920 buried at Laidley (Terry, Eileen, Garry, Gerard, and one more, my memory fails me) started school 1925
*Arthur Terence (Terry) 08.02.1921 according to Army records but he put his age up - buried at Kalbar (Phillip, Denise) started school 1927
Alica May (Maisie) b 1925 (John, Peter, Paul) started school 1930

·      Confirmed year of birth as approximately correct by verifying with school records but why was Dad 6 when he started school when some of the older ones were 4?

Eileen, who was a governess “out west”, died from blood poisoning in 1941, aged 29.  She was engaged to be married.  She had a pimple on her forehead which she had pricked with a needle after sterilizing it.  She'd gone to Brisbane to visit Uncle Jack and was wearing a felt hat, as was the custom of time.  Ladies did not venture forth without their hat and gloves.  It is thought the hat rubbing against the pimple may have caused the infection.  Uncle Jack took her to a doctor, the doctor said it was two days too late.

Everyone in the family had their blood tested to find a donor for a blood transfusion.  Charlie, Dad and Jo all had the same blood type as Eileen but Dad, aged 23, was chosen to give blood because of his fitness.  Dad said he had to lay down for an hour, they took the blood, then lay down for another hour before being told to go home and lay down again, a very different experience from donating blood these days.  Dad became a life long blood donor and made sure we all did too.  These days such a simple infection would be easily treated but then there was no penicillin.  Australia became the first country in the world to make penicillin available to civilians in 1943, just a little too late to save Eileen.  When we were young, Dad always insisted that we girls brush our hair each and every night before bed, 100 strokes.   He would tell us about Eileen's long black hair and how she would brush it each night until sparks flew across the room.  I don't think he ever spoke of his lovely big sister without sadness, I know he thought her death was a tragedy. 

I never knew anything about the two older siblings who had died, just that they had existed, until I sat down with him and Mum after my sister, Esme died and asked them to tell me more about the family.  Ester's death he seemed pretty matter of fact about and I put that down to the fact he had never known her but his voice choked up a bit when he told me about Tom.  Of course, that too had happened before Dad was born but he said his older brothers often spoke about it and said no-one thought Grandma Ward would ever recover from that and she was never the same person afterwards, there was a spark that was never seen again. 

Grandma Ward always seemed something of an enigma to me.  I guess by the time I have clear memories of her, from about 8 or 9, she was already 75 years old.  She was a refined, gentle old lady who never had a lot to say, Aunty Dolly ran the house and seemed to me to be the boss.  It always seemed impossible to me that this genteel old lady had given birth to 14 children and raised 12 of them in the bush, when life in the bush had been very hard indeed.  Before electricity, phones, motorcars, let alone a mod con.  I used to wonder if Dad actually loved her or visited regularly because he was scared of Aunty Dolly telling him off if he didn't.  I suspect I thought such things because Dad's sense of “duty” came through so strongly but, in those days, he didn't seem loving to me.  He was the strict father, the disciplinarian.  I think now that he was just a product of the times and his own upbringing.  He was never very comfortable with any show of affection. 

My oldest cousin, Marie is 14 years younger than Dad, so she has known him for most of his life, since he was a young, single man.  I think her recollection of Ward history should be recorded.  The following is her speech at Mum and Dad's 60th wedding anniversary on 5 September, 2004.

Except for Maisie I have probably known Andy longer than anyone here.  For close on 72 years he has been an important part of my life.

Could I take you on a journey with me?  Back 60 years to the 17th June, 1944 to St Patrick's Church, Laidley.  We are spectators at the wedding of Andrew Ward and Lily Osborne.  He a very handsome 26 year old farmer, and she just 18, surely the prettiest girl in the shire.  Australia is at war.  Food and clothing are rationed and Lily wears a pink dress and hat.  There are no spare clothing coupons available for a wedding dress when a home has to be established.  Maisie Osborne, Lily's sister is bridesmaid and Andy is attended by Jack Wilson, not yet married to Maisie Ward.  Andy's brother, Terry, his lifelong best friend, would have been with him on this important day but he is away with the A.I.F. fighting in New Guinea.

I wasn't at the wedding but I was at the “tin canning” a short time later.  After the Thornton house was dark, a fearful din broke out.  It was some of Andy and Lily's friends and neighbours banging on milkcans and saucepans and ringing cow bells to get the young couple out of bed.  We all got up.  I don't think it was much of a surprise, as all on grandma's side of the house anyway were all dressed, and the party began!  There was a piano in the parlour and Maisie was soon banging away while the very unmusical Wards and their friends sang their little hearts out.  We had some wonderful times around that old piano and the windup gramophone, “Clementine”, “Blueberry Hill” and “Nursie” were always on the programme.

Jackta and I had great holidays on the farm.  Our father Jack went back to help on the farm as often as he could and we had a ball.  Farming is hard work but we little girls didn't know that.  The women were mostly occupied providing food for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner for the men who toiled all day.  The big, black wood stove was always lit and provided some great meals, scones and cakes, as well as heating the heavy irons and water for the ladies' baths.   One small kettle of hot water and two of cold was the ration from Aunty Dolly.  The rain water soaped up beautifully and we would itch for a long time after our joint bath.  Butter was made by hand, and washing day, boiling up in the yard and hanging out in the home paddock nearly did take all day.

All this Lily took on when she came to Thornton.  It could not have been easy for her, so young, and having to live in half a house with her mother-in-law and Aunty Dolly, her eldest sister-in-law, in the other half.  She got on with it, and soon was bringing up her own first child. 

I've done a few calculations.  When Pauline began to eat solids, Lily produced 1,095 meals the first year to feed her.  By the time Janet was on solids Lily was turning out 13,140 childrens' meals a year and 2,190 for Andy and herself.  Working on 10 nappies a day in the days before disposables, she would have changed, washed and folded 3,650 for Pauline in her first 12 months.  So in the first 12 months of their lives 12 children were probably responsible for at least 43,800 nappies.  If Lily had the time, I'm willing to bet she would have been a most enthusiastic potty trainer.  If you were to ask Lily what she did “just a housewife” would be the answer.  “Heroic housewife” surely would be more apt.  Andy was born in the last year of the First World War, into a home without electricity or any of the comforts we take for granted today.  He grew up and went to Mulgowie State School with his brothers and sisters and learnt to be a farmer.

As a farmer his day started at sunup with the milking and finished at sunset, when he stood, winter and summer, under a trickle of water from the tankstand and then came upstairs, combed, clean and smelling of soap for dinner. 

When we were there they played cards every night, mostly euchre, our Grandpa, whose sons called him “Boss” because believe me he was, Jack, Jim, Andy, Terry and Dolly.  The hurricane lamps would dance on the table as they slapped down the cards to take tricks.  They were most competitive players, real life and death stuff.  I've said Andy was handsome. He was also tough, very strong, a good rider and a more than competitive and competent footballer and a tireless worker.  A good dancer, his hair was bryllcreamed to shiny, neat perfection before he ventured out for a Saturday night dance.

On the farm everything was done by hand.  He walked behind the horse with the reins around his neck guiding the plough, mostly in a cloud of dust.  Seed was planted and eventually the potatoes, hoed, picked and bagged, corn cut, lucerne scythed and piled into stooks which were then forked up onto the dray to go to the hayshed to eventually be made into chaff and bagged.  I remember the draught horses, particularly Blossom and Nugget.  Nugget was almost twice as tall as Andy with hooves big as dinner plates. Andy just bossed these huge animals around and at the end of a long day fed them large bales of hay.  In his spare time he mustered the mountain and back paddocks where he was always, always fixing the windmill.  The cattle were brought to the house paddock to be dipped, branded, ears clipped and other unmentionable things done which we were not allowed to watch. He bled the bleeder bullock and inoculated the cattle and neighbours would come to get blood for their stock.  He had to service the outdoor loo and always have a clean pan ready for visitors and he kept the woodbox full.  One day he cut his little toe off, took the wood upstairs and gave the toe to his mother.  Grandma put it in metho in an essence bottle and one of the first things Jackta and I would do on our visits was check the bottom drawer of the sewing machine to make sure it was still there – it always was!

Andy joined the Light Horse during the war.  Grandpa Ward died in 1942, aged 75.  When Terry turned 21 he enlisted in the AIF and Andy was demobbed and had to come home to run the farm.  They had 999 acres to look after and farming was an essential service.  With the help of hired hands, Percy who rode a white horse (and I thought very handsome) and Tommy Day, a very tall thin man, Andy kept the farm going.  It became harder and harder however and in 1952 it was sold. 

Andy and Lily located to Nudgee to the house they live in still and Andy became a carpenter.  He became very involved in the Parish here and worked for many years for the handicapped residents at Holy Cross at Wooloowin.  As a couple they have always been ready to help someone else and to share what they have.  Lily, the oldest of 5 and Andy, third youngest of 14, set about making their own remarkable family of 12, before family payments and Government help of any kind.  Any money in their home was made by Andy's two hands and Lily had to spend it wisely and well.  In those days if you didn't work you didn't eat.  It was as simple as that. 

Let's fast forward to todays – 60 years later and the love they had for each other is still there through all the joys and sorrows, laughter and tears, good health and bad.  Their 12 children are a credit to them both and the fact they are all here and all get on so well with each other is further testament to a really good marriage and family togetherness.

So, Andy and Lily, we congratulate you sincerely on this great occasion and hope you are aware of the love and respect we have for you both.

In this Olympic year we award you a gold medal for 60 years of love, devotion and steadfastness.

May God bless you both.

A few months after the anniversary party Marie wrote out the following for us:

Because some of you asked for a copy of my speech you may be interested in some more about Thornton.

Barney, Jack, Jim, Charlie, Andy and Terry would have all worked during their childhood and early teens doing the things I've described on the farm.  Barney and Jack finished their education at the Brothers in Ipswich and then went to Brisbane to work.  I think there may have been too manybn children to live off the land. 

Barney became a public servant.  He was nice but was always telling other family members what they should be doing.  He had a sad life and died of a brain tumour.  He was a reasonably good boxer in his youth.  He married a lovely lady called Claire and they fostered a pretty, dark-haired girl called Ruth.  When she was 14 her father, who was working away from Brisbane, took her back because she was old enough to work and bring in money.  They never saw her again and I know it broke their hearts.  Aunty Claire became ill with TB and after she died Barney married Val and they eventually adopted Anne from Nudgee Orphanage.  Barney taught Dad, Charlie and Jim to swim by just throwing them in a deep waterhole in the creek which flowed very freely in those days. 

I know my father, Jack, loved the land.  He joined the Agricultural and Rural Bank.  At 18 he became their youngest valuer, was given a car which he learned to drive taking up his first post at Gympie.  It was dirt road all the way and took him two days to get there.  Eventually he became the 1st Chief Valuer for Queensland for the Commonwealth Bank armed only with a Junior Certificate and practical experience.  He died of a massive heart attach in 1973, aged 70.

Jackta and I loved going down the lane and over the creek to Jim and May's house.  They lived opposite the family home at Thornton.  It was a prosperous dairy farm with a big herd of jersey cows.  The farm had electricity so milking was done by machine and the cream and milk separated at the press of a button.  Andy milked by hand and sometimes had to leg rope a cow because she kicked or was stupid enough to put her hoof in the milk bucket.  Sometimes Andy would squirt the warm milk at us or into the mouth of one of the dogs.  Aunty May was a great cook and there were always cakes and bickies at her place.  Sometimes a cow would get into the lucerne and bloat, and to save it Jim would stick a knife into its side to let the gas out.  I saw this twice and the smell was incredible.  It didn't seem to worry the cow. 

Charlie rode over the Liverpool Range at the back of the family farm to court Kathleen Dwyer of Rosewood.  When they married they farmed at Rosevale.  He wasn't much of a farmer but he was a fun uncle with plenty of time to play with us.  He did daft things.  He once bought an expensive saddle when he didn't have a horse and they never had electricity connected to their house.  His feet were like leather because he seldom wore shoes.  He would sometimes earn a few bob by coming over the mountain and picking the potatoes while we were on holiday.  Aunty Kathleen was very religious. When she wrote to us every sentence ended with T.G. or P.G. for Thank God or Please God as in “It rained heavily last night T.G.” or “They say it will soon rain P.G.”

Terry saved his money from his Army pay and bought a truck and started carting in the district.  We all know how well he and Aunty Jean did.  He loved going to the races with my dad and we saw quite a lot of him at Brighton where we lived over the road from Grandma and Aunty Dolly.  He went off to the war a very handsome young man, went over the Kokoda Track and returned gaunt, yellow, terrible thin and sick looking with thinning hair.  He never talked about his experiences until many years later. 

I was told, and hope it is true, a funny story about Andy.  Grandpa gave Andy a fine bay mare to take into the Light Horse as soldiers provided their own mount.  There was big parade down Queen Street, Brisbane where my father worked.  He and his staff waited on the balcony for the parade.  Dad told everyone about his young brother's riding ability and the good horse.  Down Queen St they came, the bay mare trotting proudly at the head.  Plodding along among the troops came Andy on a horse with very feathery feet, almost a draught horse.  “Where's your brother, Jack?”  “Hell, said my dad, “I don't think he's there.”  The Commanding Officer had swapped his scrubber for the good bay mare. 

Terry and Andy were 12 and 14 when I was born.  One Christmas, Father Christmas brought me a wind-up monkey which turned cart-wheels on a frame.  They almost wore it out playing with it.  I don't think there were too many toys ever at Thornton.  Dad told he was only ever invited to one birthday party.  His father took him into Laidley and they bought a pen-knife as a present which Dad fell in love with.  Dad couldn't bear to give that knife away so he didn't go to the party.  When our first child Lindsay was about two, again at Christmas, we gave Lindsay a battery operated timber train which would load and unload 10 little logs at a siding and pick them up again next time around.  Terry loved it and play with it until the batteries ran out.  It was hard to explain to an almost two year old. 

The Thornton house had many beds with some along the verandah.  Here the men rested after lunch during the hottest part of the day.  Andy and Terry slept there at night too.  It gets pretty cold during winter up that valley.  I used to sleep with Aunty Dolly.  She had long hair she wore in a bun which she let loose at night.  Sleeping, she would give a mighty toss of her head and cover my face with long strands of hair.  I hated it!  One night when she was putting me to bed, she saw a lump under the quilt and discovered a snake.  Snakes were an occupational hazard in the bush.

A carpet snake lived in the big pantry off the kitchen, and we kept a wary eye on it, having a bath in a big washing tub before the bathroom was built at the end of the verandah.

Grandma's rose garden was always beautiful and along the path from the front gate there were two circular beds on each side.  There was a white fence at the front and along the left hand side.  To the right, from the house, were a few rows of grapes, and I would eat grapes until my teeth ached.  Watermelons, pie melons and pumpkins were grown down by the creek and mostly were fed to the pigs. 

Jackta and I were so lucky being born when we were.  We were taught to ride, climbed the hay stack looking for eggs and scrambled under the barn to search out the clutch of eggs some clever hen had hidden.  We helped feed the calves, sucking on our milky fingers to get them started, and the pigs.  We helped with the dipping, opening and shutting the gate after the cattle jumped in the dip and had to stand in the gate while the men sorted the cattle to be sold.  Some we let through, others we had to stop.  Some had very big horns!  We rode over to the back paddock with Andy and Dad past Jim's paddock with a very bad tampered bull who would walk along the fence line roaring at us.  We always rode the other side of the men just in case it broke out.  We were busy getting the cows out of the lucerne when Dolly waved a tea towel from the verandah signaling the cows half hour feed of lucerne was up.  We stamped the lucerne down on the dray when it was forked up.  We helped separate the cream from the milk, washed and dried the separator afterwards.  Every day was an adventure.

Maisie told me Grandma Ward hated Andy and Terry playing football because of their injuries.  They would tell her they were just going to watch, having thrown their football boots over the railings of the verandah beforehand and going off in the Crosby truck to the game.  They were often hurt she said because as good players the opposition tried to get them out of the game.

Sometimes the priest would say Mass in the front bedroom and neighbours would come over, but we were often driven into Laidley by Andy in the old car.  At Easter we would watch for the sun to come up dancing over the mountain.

It was hardworking families like the Wards that helped make Australia the good country it is today.  I'm proud to be part of it and I hope you are too!

PS  There was a horse called 'the Bender” because he would quickly turn around in circles when a foot was placed in the stirrup and only “The Boss” ever rode the black mare while he was alive.

I’ve posted this as a tribute to my father’s family, for my Aunty Maisie.  Rest in peace! Moe mai ra!


  1. Hello Pauline,

    A lovely famiy history.

    p.s. yes it was a long post.

  2. It definitely is the longest post I have ever read. Good though......Hope you cope with your loss. Never easy no matter what age people die at. Just think of the children.......they know they are immortal. That's why we have to look after them.

  3. You're fortunate to have so much of your family history documented - keep it up! In the 'new world' we tend to take our history for granted, but the stories of hard work and risk taking are the stuff of legend and should be saved.

  4. Sorry for your loss Pauline. I will enjoy this read when I'm home, sitting on the couch and not using a hotel lobby computer. Hugs, Elaine

  5. I hope you made copies of all of this. It's so important to gather the history of your family as best you can.
    This is very interesting and filled with information. When the last of a generation dies the information is gone forever, so you should be commended for your efforts to write all of this down. Your grandchildren will appreciate it someday in the future.

  6. Thank you, all, for your kind words. I thought about cutting the story into installments but, as I didn't expect anyone except my family to read it, thought I'd go the whole hog.

    I'm the oldest of my family and have raised my children far from my family. They have listened to me telling stories of my childhood and my grandparents all their lives but I wanted to record for them and their children something of their Australian ancestry.

    Thank you again! When I finish with my mother's family history, perhaps I will start on my own and record the warmth and friendship I found in Blogland. Who knows, by the time my grandchildren grow up they might think all this is 'quaint'.


  7. Loved this post Pauline! What an amazing history! I drive past Laidley on every trip to the coast, so I found that part of particular interest. My hubby's family have a few books published on their history and I find it really fascinating. My own family is working on one of their own. Interestingly, it was one of my own ancestors (in a town called Princes Risborough) who first made the medical benefits of penicillin available for medical use in the public). This was all done in the family manor, "Horsendon Manor".

    I'm thinking of you. Any loss is difficult.
    Jess xxx

  8. At last I have finished and absorbed your post. I'll not claim to have memorised it but I have enjoyed it immensely. It is one of those epics to which I will return. I imagine that your family will be delighted that it has been recorded for posterity.

  9. Dear Pauline,

    What a long genealogy journal you have done. Great job, and it helped you with your emotions too.

    I read about Eileen and the blood donating with interest.

    Some day, your future generation will be very grateful you took time to write all of this.

    Love you,


  10. Found your post when looking for a term " bleeder" in cattle, while watching the movie, "the Overlander"
    Bleeder used in inoculating other cattle. Do you live in Australia? Or N.Z. "Purga" probably known by a suburb of Ipswich. Purga Creek is my brothers farm boundary. Most of the farms disappeared around Ipswich. I'm on google + .. live near Blackwater 4717 Qld.


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