Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Trove Tuesday – Singing Francis Ancestors

26 October 1889
My Dad often jokes about being able to sing and then proceeds to do so in a most un-tuneful manner.
I think he actually can sing, he was in a choir as a boy, but he just puts on an act.

Here are a couple of articles about his grandfather who shared his birthday, William Collier FRANCIS (1864-1946) – who really could sing!

It seems from more articles that his great grandfather, William FRANCIS (1835-1915), and his great aunt Miss G Francis – Gladys Victoria FRANCIS (1881-1945) could also sing pretty well.

Perhaps Dad got part of the 'comic' gene of his grandfather: WC Francis sang a comic song as part of the Coal Minstrels at Morwell in Victoria.

The singing genes have returned in a future generation of ‘men’, great great grandsons of WC Francis:
My nephew (age 17) sings really well and I have just seen on Facebook that my second cousin’s son has just starred in his school concert.

WC Francis sang two "well-received" songs
Dad's great grandfather, W Francis, "had a fine voice".

WC Francis provided a "rare treat" and included his little sister Miss G Francis

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sepia Saturday – Let’s celebrate the birthday with a picnic!

This week is the 200th ‘birthday' of Sepia Saturday – a great achievement. I have only been participating this year, and not every week. To celebrate we revisiting our Sepia Saturday posts and choosing a favourite one to republish.

The post I have chosen is my response to prompt # 190 (17 Aug 2013) and was one of my most commented on posts. This post represents some of the main reasons I am writing a blog – I have so many old family photos and by posting them it prompts Mum and Dad to tell their stories (and produce more photos).
For example, they recently tracked down the exact place where the first photo was taken!

Fri 16 Aug 2013
Sepia Saturday – A Family of Picnics
Sunday School picnic at Terang c1910
my Uncle Bill (8-year-old) is just right of centre with a handful of cherries
on his way to his mother, my great grandmother
I have so many photos to go with this prompt I hardly knew where to start. 

We are a family of picnickers over many generations. Australia certainly has the weather for picnics, and the space.

I guess many families have picnics but ours not only photographed themselves on picnics, leaving the evidence many times over, but they also kept the photos for generations and generations.

This week’s photo prompt, as usual was accompanied by some ‘word’ prompts:
- picnics (check),
- kettle (does a billy count?),
- primus stoves (does a campfire count?),
- teapots (again the billy but I think I have a silver teapot),
- chickens (well they always ran around in our backyard / farm – just too fast for the photos, but I'm sure we ate chicken),
- gardens (Australia’s ‘big backyard’ was our garden, but here is one of my Nanna in her garden),
- straw hats (and white hats and bowler hats and more at the Terang Sunday School picnic),
- blankets (also plentiful),
- shy girl (that’d be my mum)

So here's way less than half the picnic shots I have:

Pretty ladies in white with flowers in their hair in the garden
at Watch Hill (my Nanna is in the centre)
No blanket here - tough country people. My mum (right) hiding behind her mug
Waiting while the billy boiled - Nanna, her daughters and their cousins.
Mum hiding (again) behind her mum. 
Mum not hiding this time, but a new picnic trick? Balance a bottle on your head?
A typical birthday party in the 1960s, card table, plastic tablecloth, Mum's hair!
My brother trying to cut the cake with a boomerang! 
Great grandfather sitting on the running board surrounded by ladies
Great grandfather, his sons and friends picnicking in the sand dunes
Much younger great grandfather (left), next to his mother and sisters
c1895 Black Rock, Victoria (his niece, the baby was born in 1894) 
Author, Lindsay Russell (centre), 2nd cousin of my grandmother
possibly on the 'shores' of Lake Corangamite, Colac.
Can you spot the silver teapot?
I love the happiness in this photo! My Nanna is centre back.
My grandfather's brother (Uncle Ricky - see Anzac Day blog) is at back.
And a couple of extra photos for good measure:

Another shot of the fabulous attire (and hats) at the Sunday School picnic
Another birthday picnic on the farm, this time I'm the shy one!
Happy Birthday Sepia Saturday!!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Trove Tuesday – Continuing with Uncle Rue

I wrote about Uncle Rue’s (Rupert Alfred FITTS) time in the Navy in my last blog.

I made a reference to the rumours about the ship he was on, the HMAS Australia being sunk and lives being lost. 

What a worry a rumour like this must have been to those back home in such an early stage of the war.

Here are a couple of articles about that: 
one disclosing the rumour, and 
one refuting it and claiming triumph in the sinking of a German ship.

Another article gives some details of Uncle Rue’s life after the war, with the Victorian Broadcasting Network, working his way up to become General Manager. 

He worked in various parts of Victoria, including Hamilton, Swan Hill and Sale.

This article also mentions Frank S CHAMBERLAIN who became his son-in-law, marrying Uncle Rue’s eldest daughter Marjorie FITTS.

Another marriage to come out of his employment with the radio network was that of his sister, Dorothy Louise FITTS. Auntie Doff was unmarried and moved to live with Rue and his family in Hamilton. 
As Margot, she had a children’s show on the radio. 
She would have been perfect for this as she was such a sweet lady, and right up until the day she died she had a wonderful sing-song voice. 
It was while living there she met the larrikin ex-soldier, Laurence Alexander HENDERSON who became my Uncle Hendy.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Sepia Saturday – Uncle Rue and the Navy

This has been a big week (and a bit) in Sydney with the International Fleet Review here to commemorate the centenary of the first entry of the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet into Sydney in October 1913.
So, when I saw the Sepia Saturday prompt for this week was the launch of a battleship, I thought it appropriate to write about my grandfather’s brother and his time in the Navy.

Rupert Fitts
My great uncle Rupert Alfred FITTS enlisted in the Navy as a ‘Boy 2nd Class’ on 22 January 1913, he was 15 years old and 5 foot 4½. He was on the Tingira

My grandfather was only 4½ years old, so would hardly have got to know his big brother.

About the time the first RAN fleet was sailing into Sydney, Rue was promoted to Boy 1st Class. 

In June 1914, still a Boy 1st Class, he was transferred to one of the RAN ships, the Australia.

In January 1915, there were rumours that the HMAS Australia had met with disaster – such a worry for his mother at home with little children, and her son onboard the Australia only 17 years old and not officially old enough to go to war.

There are reports in the newspapers refuting these rumours and assuring everyone that those on the Australia were well and “doing excellent work in upholding the Empire’s position on the seas.”
Alice Fitts nee Dineley

Rue moved up through the ranks, from Boy, to Ordinary Seaman, to Telegraphist, to Leading Telegraphist.

In August 1918, just three days after his 21st birthday, Rue married 19-year-old Alice Maud DINELEY of Birmingham in England.

He must have met her in 1917 (if not before) as his brother (Eric/Ricky) wrote in his WWI diary in August 1917 that he had taken the Midland train for Birmingham where he was met by Rue and Alice, and stayed at Mr Dineley’s that night.

It must have been good for the brothers to meet up so far away from home in the middle of the war.

Rue and Alice’s first daughter, Marjorie Alice Joy FITTS was born in Kings Norton, Birmingham in July 1919. 
Alice and Marjorie moved to Australia where three more children were born: Dorothy, Desmond and Barbara.

At the end of WWI, in September 1919, Rue was posted to the Cerberus, and then in July 1920 to the Platypus

He was invalided out in March 1921 at the age of 23 years. 
The only thing I can find related to injury in his file is that the top of his left mid finger was damaged. He was discharged in August 1922.

His file says that on his ‘advancement to Man’s rating’, he had grown to 5 foot 7½ and had had his appendix out, and had a tattoo on each forearm. 
I don’t remember ever seeing his tattoos.

A couple of weeks ago, in Canberra, I met a grandson of Rupert (my second cousin) for the first time – but that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Trove Tuesday – High Praise for WC Francis

William Collier FRANCIS (1864-1946) was my great grandfather.

I’ve written about him before, including here.

Trove is helping me fill in the gaps and learn more about his life before he was my dad’s old grandpa who shared his birthday.

Here are two articles from the Morwell Advertiser.

In 1891, William was 27 years old and the Secretary of the Yinnar Cream and Butter Factory. 

Two years later in 1893, he was still Secretary and had just had a pay rise.

I still have some gaps to fill in, as he didn’t go off to the Boer War until seven years later and married another five years after that.

Back to Trove...

The second article ends with:

The luck of the company did not end here either, for they were very fortunate in securing the services of Mr W C Francis as secretary, a gentleman whose unflagging energy and indefatigable perseverance in promoting the interests of the company have contributed much towards its standing out today in an unrivalled position, and we are extremely glad that the shareholders on Saturday decided to increase his salary, for honest straightforward secretaries in these degenerate days, are nearly as scarce as tortoise-shell tom cats or snakes in Ireland.

High praise indeed!

And, you don't hear colourful phrases like those used in the last two lines anymore!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Trove Tuesday – WC Francis in Quarantine

The eldest son of the William Francis I wrote about in my last Trove Tuesday blog went to the Boer War with the Victorian Mounted Rifles / the 4th Imperial Contingent. 
His name was William Collier FRANCIS (1864-1946).

It seems when these country lads returned from the war, probably anxious to get home to their families and farms, they faced a delay as their ship was quarantined.

My great uncle, WC Francis’ son told me that his father got off the ship in Albany and walked to the goldfields in Kalgoorlie.

Luckily (for me) W C Francis was in the 4th contingent and not the 5th contingent that went to the Boer War the following year. The 5th suffered the worst casualties of any Australian contingent in the Boer War, and large numbers did not get to come home at all.
It wasn’t until four years later, in 1905, that William married my great grandmother.

These articles in local Gippsland newspapers of the day showed me it pays to search across a couple of titles. 

The first I found, in the Traralgon Record on the 9 July 1901 was really faint and very hard to read. 

Continuing to search, I found an identical article in the Morwell Advertiser three days later that was in nice bold print - only the names of the soldiers have been moved around. 
It was clear to see the reason for the quarantine – an outbreak of measles and scarlet fever.

The Victorian Mounted Rifles were the first to wear khaki uniforms and the slouch hat. They were a voluntary force that formed in about 1885 in Gippsland and established the mounted infantry model that was adopted by other colonial forces.
Victorian Mounted Rifles activities included learning musketry, mounted and dismounted parade drills, and in later years, they also had sham fights, tournaments, local and inter-company encampments and shooting competitions interspersed with social evenings, smoke nights, and concerts.

William Collier Francis, third from left kneeling