Dead Central — and my convict ancestor

The State Library of NSW has an interesting exhibition now: “Dead Central, a new exhibition that opens on Saturday, pays tribute to the lives of those buried at the cemetery between its opening in 1820 and closure in 1867.” See also the exhibition site.

A vast cemetery once sprawled across the land bound by Sydney’s Elizabeth, Pitt and Devonshire streets — where Central Station now stands. The Devonshire Street cemetery opened in 1820, but the city’s major burial ground filled up quickly in the decades following, only to become overgrown and abandoned. In January 1901, when the state government announced its intention to clear the cemetery, well over 30,000 bodies were buried there.

It is most likely that Jacob Whitfield, my convict ancestor who arrived in Sydney in 1822, was buried there, though there is no record of this. Many of the records are lost.

Here is an image from the exhibition site:

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Last November I posted Hey you! That might be my great X3 grandfather!

Bizarre story from the Sydney Light Rail project a few days ago….

My great-great-great grandfather Jacob Whitfield was buried there. Or so we believe. See my series of family history posts, particularly on Jacob.

There is a Wiki Tree page on Jacob too. I first accessed it last Friday. An extract:

Death date and place unknown – Jacob is found still living in 1851 according to a news article. This would make him 92 years old !

Death and Burials : Friends Burial Ground – Old Devonshire Street Sandhills Cemetery, reference : “Burial Notes missing : Jacob Whitfield” no indication of his date of death or burial….

Friends Burial Ground – Old Devonshire Street Sandhills Cemetery, reference : “Burial Notes missing : Jacob Whitfield” no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from after 1851 ..

The Devonshire Street Cemetery (also known incorrectly as the Brickfield Cemetery or Sandhills Cemetery) was located between Eddy Avenue and Elizabeth Street, and between Chalmers and Devonshire Streets, at Brickfield Hill, in Sydney, Australia. It was consecrated in 1820.[1] The Jewish section was used from 1832.[2] By 1860, the cemetery was full, and it was closed in 1867….

That Wiki Tree page has lots of information congruent with the researches of Bob Starling and other family historians, and some that isn’t. Interesting. See also my Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days which features quite a few contributions by those family historians…

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60 years ago in Shellharbour

Back when I was 15/16 I attended the centenary of Shellharbour Public School. I was in the company of my parents, Jeff and Jean Whitfield, my grandfather Roy Christison and various Whitfield relatives in Shellharbour, such as Una Gerke. My grandfather was there as the oldest living headmaster of the school. Here are some images I posted last year:

post on Facebook’s Shellharbour History and Pictures has generated this wonderful war-time picture of my uncle Roy Christison Junior, my grandmother Ada Christison, and my grandfather Roy Christison Senior in Sydney. (Note the tram!)  Posted by my cousin Linda Christison.

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In that same Facebook thread someone asked if anyone had seen a photo of Ada and Roy taken in the 1930s when Roy was headmaster of Shellharbour Public School. Well, I have: it is in my collection. That is the headmaster’s residence in Shellharbour.

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So I looked over Trove and found three items. The last one should say Caringbah, not Callimbar! The middle one refers to my aunt Beth, Beth Heard in later life.

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Interesting story — but don’t get carried away!

Just some reflections on last night’s Who Do You Think You Are? on SBS. It was an interesting episode, concerning television journalist Jennifer Byrne.

The TV show’s film crew follow her as she visits England to discover a series of royal connections – before ultimately finding out that her 12 times great-grandfather was Sir Edward Neville, a courtier in King Henry VIII’s court.

She then follows her mother’s bloodline back even further and incredibly discovers that her 15 times great-grandmother was the granddaughter of King Edward III – officially making her a royal.

Well, don’t get too carried away!  They went down quite a few female lines to reach Edward III — and, after all, “Mathematical models imply that virtually every English person is a descendant of the Norman and Plantagenêt kings, including those who ruled 500 years after Alfred the Great.”  So Edward was back before the 15th great-grandparents of Jennifer Byrne. So one out of… a sizeable village or town!

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I mean no disrespect here. And it was worth seeing the Nevilles’ modest castle, not to mention learning about the intriguing Katherine Swynford.

The program turned to the Chinese background of Jennifer Byrne’s father, whose father was interned by the Japanese in Shanghai’s Lunghua Camp, made famous in J G Ballard’s novel and the movie Empire of the Sun, one of my favourites. Ballard was interned there as a child. Here is Christian Bale as Jim in the movie:

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I was surprised that the program did not mention that connection; it even appears that it didn’t occur to Jennifer Byrne, which surprises me rather. Sadly, Byrne’s paternal grandfather died soon after being interned.

From the South China Morning Post — ‘Empire of the Sun’ internment camp forgotten in Shanghai.

Former internee Betty Barr entered the Lunghwa camp in 1943 at the age of 10 with her Scottish missionary father, American mother and older brother.

Her most vivid memories are blistering summers, freezing winters, and an obsession with food.

“I was old enough to know what was happening. I didn’t think it was a picnic,” said Barr, 80, during a return visit.

She still guiltily recalls taking a sip of milk produced by the camp’s only cow from a mug she was taking to her brother in the hospital.

“My father rose to be the manager of the kitchen, though he could not boil an egg, because he could be trusted not to steal vegetables,” she said.

Betty Barr appeared in last night’s episode.

Concerning Jennifer Byrne’s paternal grandfather the program makers produced an embarrassing historical clanger. The old man was rewarded for his sterling efforts during the Revolution of 1911. Here is Shanghai during that revolution:

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The Chinese historians interviewed in the program didn’t make the clanger, nor did Jennifer Byrne — though I was again surprised by her apparent lack of knowledge about this key event in 20th century Chinese history. No, it was whoever produced what we saw because they seemed to confuse the 1911 revolution, which saw the end of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, with the 1949 beginning of the People’s Republic of China! Still, what’s 38 years!

Happens I have had a longtime interest in the subject: My Asian Century. But even if all you had to go on was the movie The Last Emperor — which I think Jennifer Byrne probably saw — you’d have some idea of the significance of 1911-1912 in China! Who Do You Think You Are should be more careful about its history!

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Anzac Day 2019

What better than to repost from last year?

I have posted often on this, as Anzac Day reposts: 1 shows. In 2015 I posted:

In my Neil’s Decades series you will find much that is relevant.

See

And going back to the South African War I should add:

….pictures of the people – all relatives – mentioned in those posts…

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John Hampton Christison in South Africa; David Christison, his son, a sapper on the Western Front in WW1; Keith Christison, my uncle, WW2

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Neil Christison, my uncle, RAAF WW2; Jeff Whitfield, my father, RAAF WW2

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Norman Harold Whitfield MC and bar, German New Guinea, Gallipoli, Western Front – from Wollongong; Kenneth Ross Whitfield, my uncle, from Shellharbour

One hopes that 2019 Anzac Day will pass without incident, given recent events in New Zealand, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.

 

More on my link to Flinders and Bungaree

By marriage, not directly — but directly in the case of my nephew Warren. See the previous post, where I mentioned that he would be posting some pics on Facebook. Here are some of them:

Warren at Yarralumla with then Governor-General Michael Jeffery. See Placenames Australia December 2004 (pdf).

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Warren with partner Leonie and NSW Governor Marie Bashir. Relates to the 2004 story mentioned in the previous post.

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The Matthew Flinders the Ultimate Voyage exhibition was presented at the State Library of New South Wales from 1 October 2001 to 13 January 2002 and then toured nationally. Warren had a part in it. I attended; it was very good.

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