Shellharbour on my mind — Roy Christison

A 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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Christmas snippets

This one just because I like it! Three of my grandnephews/nieces: Nathan, David and Lauren Parkes:

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I spoke to their uncle, my nephew Warren, who lives in North Queensland on Christmas Day. This is Warren:

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You might like to read A Guringai Family Story.

Since I came back to Wollongong it has become something of a custom to spend Christmas lunch, or in the case of this year Boxing Day lunch, with my cousin Helen Langridge and her husband Jim. See So, Christmas Day! (2016). This is Helen and Jim ten years ago on Jim’s retirement.

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Quite a distinguished fellow is Jim. As usual there was much great conversation, including among other things the fact that next month will be their 50th Wedding Anniversary! Here is a picture of my mum and dad at that wedding in January 1968:

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Jim brought out the wedding album which includes a photo of me looking SO THIN! And of course young.

Helen has a copy of her brother Ray Christison’s recently published book Shapeshifter. The strange life of John Hampton Christison, Professor of DancingThat is about our rather spectacular great-grandfather.  Ray’s book is beautifully done!

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See among my posts Neil’s personal decades: 14 – 1885 — Christisons.

You can read more about this rather amazing but tricky character in my post My great-grandfather: “morally dubious to say the least.”  My cousin Ray Christison is mentioned quite a bit on that post; he has written a book about John H: Shapeshifter – the strange life of John Hampton Christison, Professor of Dancing. Here is an interesting snippet by Ray from the comment thread on my post:

Neil, I have been trawling through my old notes and have begun writing a full biography of John Hampton Christison (currently about 5,000 words and growing). I will publish it as a small book. You asked about John dancing before Queen Victoria. John listed his major dancing awards in the 1882 Manual of Dancing & Etiquette. He stated this: “at Edzell Castle, 1873 I took first prize, a Highland dirk, at Balmoral Castle in 1875, second against thirty, most of them professional men”. Queen Victoria may or may not have been present when John danced at Balmoral Castle. Given John’s penchant for self-promotion I find it bizarre that he would not have specifically mentioned this in a work as important as his Manual of Dancing & Etiquette. I have a very vague memory of Kathleen Christison telling me that he danced there before one of the other royals, however I can’t find any notes to corroborate this.

A hundred years ago in Belgium

There was a special commemoration in Belgium yesterday.

ALMOST 1000 people have made an emotional journey to Polygon Wood in Belgium to honour the 5700 young Australian soldiers killed in battle there 100 years ago.

Descendants and friends of the fallen gathered among the headstones at the Buttes New British Cemetery outside the township of Zonnebeke for a dawn service, honouring the sacrifice of the young soldiers killed a century ago on September 26, 1917.

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I thought of two of my family, an uncle I knew and an uncle I never knew.

This man was for sure my favourite Whitfield uncle – well, the only one I ever met in fact. [There was Uncle George of course, but he was “by marriage”.] But he was a really good man, as I recall, with snowy white hair and a crack shot with a rifle – he had competed in that sport. See my April 2014 post Shellharbour.

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Kenneth Ross WHITFIELD (b.1897  d. 1967) m 1920 Esma H. EAST (b. 1895 d. 24 Mar. 1971)

The other uncle — great-uncle actually — was David Belford Christison.

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His life was short. He married Flora Fletcher in 1907 and had three children, all daughters as far as I have been able to find out. According to one source Flora died as recently as 1971. I never met her. David died four years after returning from World War 1.

His military record is available. He was a sapper.

Engineers, also known as sappers, were essential to the running of the war. Without them, other branches of the Allied Forces would have found it difficult to cross the muddy and shell-ravaged ground of the Western Front. Their responsibilities included constructing the lines of defence, temporary bridges, tunnels and trenches, observation posts, roads, railways, communication lines, buildings of all kinds, showers and bathing facilities, and other material and mechanical solutions to the problems associated with fighting in all theatres.

In civilian life he had been a postman.  He managed to get himself blown up by an exploding shell in 1918 leaving a permanent knee injury.

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David Christison was in 14th Field Company Engineers, attached to the 5th Division AIF which did indeed take part in Polygon Wood in 1917. His injury came in April 1918.

Initially, the division was stationed on the Suez Canal. In June 1916 it moved to France, taking over part of the “nursery” sector near Armentieres. There it became involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July. In October it joined the First, Second and Fourth Divisions on the Somme around Flers.

In March 1917 a flying column of the Fifth Division pursued of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line, capturing Bapaume. In May the Division relieved the First Division in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, holding the breach thus gained against furious counterattacks. In September it managed to turn an allied defeat into a major victory at the Battle of Polygon Wood.

In March 1918 the Fifth Division was rushed to the Somme region to help stem the German Offensive. There it guarded the vital Somme River bridges. In April it counterattacked at Villers Bretonneux, recovering the town.  

The Fifth Division fought in the Battles of Hamel in July and Amiens in August. In September it forced the Somme River at Peronne and fought on to the Hindenburg Line.

Ken Whitfield arrived in England in December 1917. He has part of a reinforcement for the 3rd Battalion AIF. However, his service with the 3rd Battalion was cut short somewhat by illness. He returned to Australia invalided quite late in 1919.

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Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder

I spent most of May setting up a sequence of posts about the Whitfields and Christisons, my paternal and maternal lineages. If you go to Neil’s Family Specials you will be taken back to 1815 and Ireland and Scotland. Keep scrolling and the posts will take the story from convict days here in NSW through the 19th century, World War 1 and finishing in the late 1920s on the south coast of NSW where my mother and father eventually met.

Do look. I have enjoyed creating the resource, primarily for family connections but family history so often is a good way into history more generally.

Here is a letter from my great-grandmother, Sophia Jane Christison, on the occasion of the death of my grandfather, Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield in 1948. You can read more about both as well as about other ancestors in that family history sequence.

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Feedback can be nice

Had an email concerning Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield:

I have just come across your web story concerning the Guringai Family and in particular the part of your story about Joseph Ashby born in 1810 Colchester Essex UK.

As you see above my name is also Ashby, I am 81 and I live in Colchester. Joseph Ashby 1810 was my Gt Gt Uncle. Until I read your story I had no idea of his life after his release, so as you can imagine my interest was instant.

Joseph was one of eleven children born to Joseph Ashby born 1776 in Ellingham Norfolk UK and his wife Lydia Hardy of whom only five survived their teenage years. Three girls and two boys. Joseph 1810 and William 1814. They were both convicted of larceny and transported to Australia.

William stole a silver watch and was sentenced to seven years on 11 Oct 1834 arriving in NSW on 3 Nov1835 on the ” Westmorland” He gained his certificate of freedom 4/4366 in 1841.

Later he wed Caroline Lee in Melbourne in 1841 and that is all that I know of him.
If this little bit is of interest I would appreciate any info on William if you have any.

Sincerely
Tony Ashby

Time: February 28, 2017 at 12:25 am

I can’t add anything though. Nice bit of history in Tony’s letter. If you check the post Tony refers to you will see a correction that came from another email a short while ago.

NOTE  16 Feb 2017: “The photo of Charlotte Webb is in fact Hannah Ashby.” Thanks to Carolyn Cartan by email. Last week Warren told me on the phone that he had erred in attributing that photo.

More emails, this concerning my mother’s family. See Neil’s personal decades: 23 –- 1915 — Christisons and More tales from my mother 2 — Felled Timber Creek.

Just after the outbreak of World War 1 Dad [my grandfather] was sent to a place with the lovely name of “Felled Timber Creek” which was six miles — walking — from Dalton and about twelve miles from Gunning, the nearest rail head.

I remember as a very small girl being taken from the train at some ungodly hour and then a long drive on a Cobb & Co Coach over rough roads until in the early dawn we were set down as close as the coach could take us to our new home. We trudged wearily about a mile down a bush track, and again, as at Spencer, the school was a slab built building, beside which was a mud floored slab hut which was the kitchen of the residence. The Department had out of the goodness of its heart erected a four room building of timber containing three bedrooms and a dining room, with the ever present verandah across the front where the lucky schoolie and his family were to live. The kitchen-cum-laundry — it had been used as a shearer’s hut originally — was some distance from the main house. I know it was mighty cold going from the kitchen to bed in winter when the south-west wind blew, and in the summer in that area of red clay country the heat came down as only the heat can in the real “Outback”.

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The emails from Bob:

  1. I have just purchased Felled Timber on Offely’s Lane. I have been told the part of the house is the original Felled Timber School. It is only about 500m from the school grounds. Do you have any pics that you would share with me of the School buildings..
  2. I took pics at the old school grounds the other day and have some of the house as it is today. I’m in the middle of moving but I will get a collection together and send them to you it may take a few weeks to get sorted.
    If you don’t hear from me a reminder would be good.
    Regards
    Bob