Friday, April 10, 2009

Inverell, the Chinese and links to a past world

I have now completed two posts on my latest train reading: Train Reading - Elizabeth Wiedemanns' "World of its own: Inverell's early years" and then a fuller review in Book review - Elizabeth Wiedemann's World of its own: Inverell's early years 1827-1920.

There is some fascinating stuff in this book. As a simple example, how many Australian local histories have Chinese as a constant theme for more than fifty years?

In 1889, for example, the ringer of the Wallangra shed was Ah Pow. Ringer is the head shearer, Wallangra was a large sheep station near Inverell. Eight of the twenty shearers employed that year were Chinese.

As Elizabeth notes, Chinese names were evidently a problem for those of English origin. The list of employees at Wallangra in 1872 included Ah Sue no 1, Ah Sue no 2, Ah Sue no 3, Ah Nee, Ah See, Aquie no 2, Ah Fatt, Ah Yong , Ah Leep, Ah Hong, Ah Chong and Lee Chong!

Like so many New England things I write about, there is a family connection. The following photo from cousin Jamie's collection shows Great Aunt Ellie on a horse at Maxwellton.

Aunt Ellie Inverell

In 1912, the newly married David Drummond (my grandfather) packed his new wife and possessions into a sulky at Arding near Uralla and drove to Maxwellton near Inverell where he had accepted a manager position on a share farmer basis. This meant that he was not paid a wage, but received a share of the return from the crop.

Maxwellton itself had been formed from the subdivision of Bannockburn Station a few years before, something that Elizabeth writes about in her book.

Prior to the opening of the railway in 1901, Inverell farmers were largely limited to local markets. The railway changed all this, supporting subdivision of the bigger grazing properties. 

The year is 1916. Ellie is wearing the heavy full skirts of the period.

Two of her brothers are serving overseas.

Will, a conscientious objector on religious grounds, still joined the military as a stretcher bearer because he felt he had to do his bit. He went ashore at Gallipoli in the first wave.

Morris, the head of the family following the death of father, mother and step-mother, had enlisted as well. "I feel it coming on like a cold", he wrote to Brother David.

He was to die in France the following year. His presence and magnetic personality came down through the years in the memory of his brothers and half sister.

The family agreed that David could best serve by staying on the farm. He was also very deaf, unable to hear well without a hearing trumpet.

Aunt Ellie idolised half brother Morris. He was and would remain, with justice, the ideal brother. When Morris left for France, he asked David to look after their sister. David did so.

The Drummonds were a long-lived family. Aunt Ellie was still alive when my daughters were young, creating a link from this 1916 photo to the Armidale of the late 1980s.         

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

James,
I often heard our aunt Margaret say "I may well be a "great aunt", however I am your Grand Aunt, not your Great Aunt". Margaret was actually repeating the words of our "Grand" Aunt Ellie. I have to agree with Margaret and not what is becoming commonly accepted; our Grandfather's sister is therefore our Grand Aunt, not our Great Aunt! Whoever heard of a 'Great Father', although both of ours were! I am looking forward to dinner with your first daughter (1st cousin, once removed) tomorrow night. My children are looking forward to seeing their 2nd cousin!

cheers
Jamie

Jim Belshaw said...

This was one of Kay's refrains as well, of course. I hope that 1st cousin aka ist cousin once removed and 1st counsins once removed aka second cousins have a good but not too confusing dinner tonight!

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