Saturday, February 07, 2009

Family stories - Drummonds and Belshaws

Cousin James has just posted more than 200 family photos from Aunt Kay's (his mother's) collection.

He has done it very well. Each photo is tagged. You can check the photos by decade from the 1890s to the 1980s, by name, by house, by topic. They are the story of a family. If I and the other members of the family do likewise, we will have a remarkable record.

All family stories are interesting if told properly. Ours is no different.

It is the story of a British Empire family, as are so many Australian family stories. It is a story that spans countries and time. It is a story that links modern Sydney with a remote past.

The following photo was taken in Glen Innes in the 1920s. My grandfather moved there from inverell following his election to the NSW Parliament. The little girl with the black  skirt in front of the women in the hat is my mother. To the right beside her are Aunt Kay and Helen. Eldest, Helen, was a dead spitting image of my mother at the same age. Glen Innes 1920s

Time passes. It is now the 1950s. Aunt Helen goes to Malaya as a nurse with the British Red Cross.

The emergency is raging. Her role is to travel around the kampongs bringing medical support. As a Red Cross worker she travels without military escort. The Red Cross must be neutral. Helen falls in love with Malaya and returns many times. The following photo is probably taken around 1959.Helen Malaya

Sydney was booming when great grandfather Morris Drummond arrived from Scotland on the John Elder on 19 March 1879.

Work was easy to come by for a master stone mason. He sent for his fiancee, Catherine McMillan. They were married on 21 April 1882. The following photo shows them around the time of their marriage.  Morris and Catherine

My grandfather David Drummond was their third surviving child. By the time he was born on 11 February 1890 the Sydney building boom had crashed into depression. Morris found work hard to come by. Then in May 1892 Catherine aged just 37 died in child birth.

Morris remarried in 1985, only to die the following year. 

David Drummond seems to have been something of a difficult child and did not get on his with his step mother. His difficulties were compounded by complications from an operation for tonsils in late 1901 or early 1902 left him almost completely deaf. It would be more than twenty years before a hearing aid gave him something approaching his hearing back.

In 1902 David Drummond became a ward of the state. While his family kept in touch, the experience marked him deeply.

On a cold day in 1907, the seventeen year old David Drummond arrived in Armidale to take over management of a small farm. The following photo shows the boy around his seventeenth birthday, 11 February 1907. David Drummond 1907

Drummond's arrival in Armidale marks the turning point of his life, the start of events that were to lead him to public prominence. Central to this was his love for the North of NSW, a love that I share.

In 1912 David Drummond married Pearl Goode, John and Ellen Goode's twenty five year old daughter Pearl.

John Goode has originally come to Arding near Uralla to search for gold on the nearby Rocky River gold fields, but had then pre-selected land and become a successful small farmer. The Goodes remain in the district. Cousin Arnold Goode has become Uralla's most prominent local historian.

In 1938 the New England University College opened its doors, one outcome of Drummond's work. My father, James Belshaw, was the first staff member to arrive for duty. There he met Edna Drummond, David Drummond's eldest daughter and the College's first librarian. The photo below shows mum and dad on their wedding day, 8 January 1944.  Belshaw wedding 1944

The Belshaws were a Lancashire working class family. Both grandfather and grandmother Belshaw left school at twelve, one to go into the pits, the other into the mills.

Grandparent Belshaws emigrated to New Zealand in 1908. There, unable to become a minister because of his limited education, grandfather Belshaw became a home missionary in the Primitive Methodist church. This religious link is strong on both sides of my family.

I am not sure where the Belshaw drive for education comes from, although it is typical of many English working class families of the time. However, of my grandparents' three children, one (May) became a teacher, two (Dad and Horace Belshaw) became senior academics in economics.

In the next generation, both of Horace Belshaw's children (Cyril and Michael) became senior academics with a focus on anthropology.

If my new state and New England populist views come from grandfather Drummond, my love of economics, history and anthropology comes from the Belshaw side. In writing as I do about Australia's Aborigines, I am conscious that I am carrying on a family tradition, if in a somewhat different way. It seems that we cannot escape our pasts! 

One of grandfather Drummond's dreams was to own his own place. Finally he achieved this, buying Forglen around 1938, only to sell it in 1951 because he could not manage the property and his role as member of parliament.

While I was very young when the property was sold, I  remember it very clearly. Go faster, go faster we would say on the way there. Go slower, go slower on the way home.

The following photo shows Gran on a horse. This is a younger Gran than I remember her. I was probably born around the time this photo was taken. Hard to believe that I could ride when I was five, only to forget it later.Pearl Forglen

The next photo shows me on the verandah at Forglen.

I remember this verandah very clearly. The fruit trees were to the immediate left. Further down to the left was the wool shed. In the front was the home paddock. Memories! Jim Forglen


Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post Jim. As you probably would have guessed by now, I am in love with the colonial/British Empire period of history. This story is representative of everything that people of those days endured and left as legacies. For instance, the Indian Railways, Tea plantations, etc are somethings that today one cannot imagine coming up with all the modern tools to hand, the way they did in those days of manual labor when forests had to be cleared, wild life fought, diseases overcome and so on. What spirit. I am so touched that you have such a collection of photographs and records and memories. It is fantastic. I salute you.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, Ramana. One point about the colonial Empire period is that it created a shared history between, for example, India and Australia. And its not just crocket! Modern Australians are slowly forgetting this.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoy reading this post. Thank you for sharing your family photos. According to me, you look like your father.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Tikno. I do, indeed, look like my father, and more so as I get older!