Bird flies in at last

This bird:


That painting of a Palm Cockatoo is by my sister-in-law Aileen.

There is quite a back story to this painting. First you have to understand that my brother Ian and Aileen married in 1955 when I was 12. Their marriage lasted for around ten years, producing four children, two now in Queensland and two in NSW. And lots of the next generation all over the place — some I have only discovered through Facebook quite recently.

I did not see Aileen, with one exception at the Cecil Hotel in Cronulla in 1978-9, after the marriage ended — so that’s over FIFTY years! In the past couple of months I have spoken to her on the phone. She lives around 100 kilometres further down the NSW south coast and was affected by the summer bushfires of 2019-20. Contact arose when her youngest, Maree, got in touch — through Facebook.

In due course Maree posted this image on her feed:


I praised it, and next thing I knew Aileen was asking me if I would like to have it. Well, what would you have said? There was a mix-up over my address and the package was returned to Aileen by Australia Post. We sorted that and the package was delivered to the local post office last Friday — but not to Wollongong Post Office. Instead it went to Keiraville, a nearby suburb just north of West Wollongong, but not on my usual bus routes. Then came the rain! So it wasn’t until yesterday that I got to Keiraville to collect.


Had coffee with the package — much bigger than I expected! And the coffee was a nostalgia trip in itself because they source from the excellent The Coffee Roaster which back in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills days was my coffee shop of choice, being in the same complex I lived in!  So I think I will be returning to Keiraville shops which is, as you can see above, charming. “The Village”, they call it.

019march 016a

March 2009: where Coffee Roaster used to be! Memories!

I caught the 10 bus to Wollongong — there being just one other passenger, a lady who had been living in Keiraville for 58 years! One more joined us on the way. I was masked, and social distancing was not a problem. What a scenic, wandering route the 10 takes!


Lunch at City Diggers, where on Facebook I shared the day’s doings.


So now I am at Diggers — well fed with an odd but tasty dish of curried sausage and jasmine rice!

The #10 bus from Keiraville to Wollongong proved to be very scenic. In this photo I am in the Keiraville coffee shop with the Mystery Package — collected at last. Let’s just say it is from someone I hadn’t seen or spoken to since 1978-9 — and that in Cronulla at the Cecil Hotel. I suspect we are all getting far too old to be hanging on to past issues. And this is a gift I am glad to have. More later perhaps.

It’s bigger than I expected though so that limits today’s shopping.


What is in the Mystery Package. I am still at Diggers and about to go, but decided not to leave you in suspense. Thanks to my niece Maree I can share an image of quite a wonderful painting by my (former) sister-in-law Aileen, who quite literally until very recently I had not spoken to since 1978-9. I won’t bother you with the details, except to say none of it was really anyone’s fault. Aileen is now 81. I think we have both decided life is very very short….

But what a painting!

And I am now the recipient of it….  I suspect my brother Ian would not be unhappy. Hope the same is true of all our family — though I have a strict policy of not taking sides. How can I? I was only 11 or 12 when Ian and Aileen were married.

That painting, whatever, is bloody good!

So thanks to Facebook the painting has overnight been seen in New York, California, India — and one LIKE in particular was rather nice. Here is why:


61 Auburn Street, Sutherland 1946 or early 1947

Left to right: Me, my sister Jeanette (1940-1952),  my cousin Helen, my mother. The figure far left is my older brother Ian.

On Facebook I wrote: “I have mentioned this to Maree, but you may as well all know. One of the Facebook friends who has liked this post, Louise D., aside from being a Professor at Macquarie University, lives in the Auburn Street Sutherland house that was Ian’s and my childhood home! How is that for closing the circle, or something.”

Blogging the 2010s — 117a — December 2013 — mainly family history

Ending with a Scottish moment at the turn of  the year.

Family history–some news on the Whitfield front

Yesterday I had an email sent via Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days from a granddaughter of my grandfather’s older sister – if you can work that out. The list as in William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 14 Aug 1836, d. 22 Jun 1925) on the Bailey Family of Ireland & Australia family tree is:

Children of William Joseph John Whitfield and Elizabeth Ratcliffe are:

  1. Joseph Ratcliffe, b. 18 Jul 1860, d. date unknown.
  2. Susan Caroline Whitfield, b. 23 May 1862, Picton NSW Australia, d. 13 May 1954.
  3. John Whitfield, b. 24 May 1864, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Nov 1956, Burwood NSW Aust.
  4. +Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield, b. 21 Dec 1866, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Jan 1948.
  5. +William Joseph Bent Whitfield, b. 7 Oct 1868, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Aug 1957.
  6. James Albert Whitfield, b. 18 Aug 1870, d. date unknown.
  7. Sara Brittania Whitfield, b. 24 May 1872, Picton NSW Australia, d. 16 May 1967.
  8. +George Richard Whitfield, b. 10 May 1874, Picton NSW Australia, d. 20 Apr 1953.
  9. Ann Elizabeth Whitfield, b. 25 Dec 1875, d. 24 Jun 1978.
  10. Eliza Mary Whitfield, b. 5 Apr 1878, Picton NSW Australia, d. 4 Feb 1930.
  11. Jane Amy Bent Whitfield, b. 27 Feb 1880, Picton NSW Australia, d. date unknown.
  12. Jessie Winifred Ethel Whitfield, b. 21 Mar 1882, Picton NSW Australia, d. 29 Aug 1912.

The only ones I really remember myself in that list are TDS (#4), my grandfather, William Joseph Bent (#5) and Ann Elizabeth (#9). BTW the Bailey tree, while an amazing ongoing effort. has errors and omissions in it. For example, the list of TDS’s children omits one of my father’s brothers, Colin, and his sister Ella.

The cousin who wrote to me wanted to point out that Bob Starling   — referred to in my page at the head of this entry — also has not got everything perfectly correct. Here is that cousin, the granddaughter of Susan Caroline Whitfield:


She is the one on the left and she is over 90 years old. As she gave her phone number I rang her last night and she sounded fantastic – as bright as a button. She could recall my father as a blonde god of a lifesaver at Shellharbour in the early 1930s!

She referred me to Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant. It is in Wollongong Library and I will surely check it.

William Joseph John Whitfield was the son of William Whitfield and Caroline Philadelphia West. For the first time ever I have found her portrait!


Caroline Philadelphia West

She arrived on the Grecian as a free settler on 16 April 1832, marrying my ancestor William Whitfield in Sydney on 20 June 1836. (The Second Officer of the Grecian drowned in Sydney soon after the ship arrived.)

William Whitfield


Henry Curzon Allport, George Street, Sydney, looking south, January 1842, Watercolour

I see they resided at Elizabeth St, Alexandria, Sydney, New South Wales from 1836-1846. That means in the parish of Alexandria, but in fact in Strawberry Hills or Surry Hills according to other sources. In 2008 I did a series called Looking for Jacob – William’s father — and the following picture is as close as can be to where William and Caroline Philadelphia lived, or perhaps Jacob.

… and why would I like a “Time Team” dig around it? It runs from Wentworth Avenue Surry Hills to Foy Lane, where I took this photo…

See :-Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 12: Zeroing in

That was posted on my new photoblog earlier this week.

You will recall that we “found” Jacob, my convict ancestor, or we at least found the part of Sydney where he is known to have resided in the second half of the 1830s through early 1840s. By the 1860s the family had moved on – Braidwood, Picton… My grandfather was born in Picton in 1867. Him I remember. Just. He died in 1948. His brother William I remember more clearly, because he survived well into the 1950s. That William – son of William, the son of William, the son of Jacob – was still riding horses and ploughing his orchard almost to the year of his death. I remember his house, with its (to citified me) rather magic rural air, and tales of this one and that one, and timber getting, and horse breaking, and blacksmithing, and bullock teams… And Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese…

The tales never went back more than about one generation…

I think I can see why, for several reasons. Sometimes my father would mutter about the Old Testament curse on “the sins of the fathers”… Perhaps too, given what the area they had left behind in Surry Hills had become by 1900, you will see why it didn’t figure in the stories… Anyway, it was not part of my grandparents’ generation’s personal memories. They had become country people.


That whole Wentworth Avenue area was one of the centres of the Bubonic Plague scare of 1900, after which it was largely razed and then reorganised and rebuilt, giving us the streetscapes of the “Looking for Jacob” series. See Purging Pestilence – the Bubonic Plague from the State Library of NSW. Visit that site for bigger pictures.


Exeter Place off Market Lane 1900

Campbell Street 1900

And here is William Joseph John Whitfield, the great-grandfather of both myself and my correspondent Lilian Lee.


On this blog there have been this year several substantial additions to my understanding of or memories of the Whitfield family. Do check them, as they are also, I think, of general historical interest. You will find on some of those posts cross-references to my earlier posts.

An interesting insight into why William and his family would have moved to Picton in the 1840s is to be seen at Picton NSW – The Early Years.

Though much discussion has been held over the years as to who named Picton and for whom, it is believed the name was probably decided on by Governor Brisbane perhaps in honour of an old soldier friend Sir Thomas Picton. In 1840 George Harper decided to take advantage of the natural development of the private town on Major Antill’s land. He advertised in April 1840 that 45 building allotments in the township of Stonequarry would soon be for sale by auction. They would be from one half to one acre in size and situated on his land on the southern side of Stonequarry Creek on either side of the main road.

His private town never took off. Mr Harper unfortunately died in March 1841 and the property was leased in full. George Harper’s property “Abbotsford” extended from the Stonequarry Bridge out along the road that led to The Oaks. The remains of the house are still on the property just past the Abbotsford Bridge. Major Antill, in July 1841 advertised in the Sydney papers, the auction of his sub-division to be called the Village of Picton, late Stonequarry in August that year. He stressed that many blocks had frontages to the main road up which all the wealthy owners from the south travelled with their wool clips.

In 1845 the government made moves to lay out its own town just south of the private town. Surveyor Galloway was employed to survey the area and make half acre blocks for purchase. These blocks were first offered for sale in 1847. They were all sold by 1855. Land was held back for grants to churches and for the school and courthouse. The government town was also called Picton. This led to confusion and it was re-named Upper Picton in 1847.

A petition was made to the government to name its village Redbank but the government decided it was to be called Upper Picton. Even to this day, over 150 years later, local residents still often refer to the area as Redbank. On a number of occasions when money was allocated for a public building, arguments developed on where it was to be located. It seemed each time the government called tenders on a site in its town, the Antill family would offer land in its private town and that was where the building would ultimately be erected.The Upper Picton residents who had purchased land in Upper Picton naturally felt cheated. Unfortunately they had no friends in government and though they fought for the government’s support in its own town they were unsuccessful.

For many years, the resentment between Upper and Lower Picton festered. It lay like a boil beneath the surface of life. When an issue arose where Upper Picton residents felt they were being placed second to Lower Picton, it would erupt and once again cause disagreement and division. As the years passed, the private town flourished and the government town languished. Though it had some businesses, churches and a school, eventually it subsided into an existence as the poor relation. To-day, those resentments have totally disappeared and many people are not even aware of its happening.

2013 to 2014

Uncles and aunts

I had so many! Christmas Dinner at Auburn Street in the 1940s and early 50s was a hectic affair. Grandpa Christison’s old oak table was one of those that could be extended by turning a creaky screw apparatus to open the table up so that an extra slab could be inserted. Rather like this:


So from my colourised photos I select aunts and uncles that may have sat around that table to Christmas 1951, after which we had moved to 1 Vermont Street. I never did know what happened to that table, which had quite a history in our family. As my mother tells it:

The tornado

The following day, Monday, was Anniversary Day. Dad drove into Quirindi to get supplies; there were Chinese shops always open. Before his return we children had been watching the sky. At first we thought a dust storm was approaching across the Breeza Plains. The sky went from red to purple and then to deep indigo. Thank goodness Dad arrived home, and he said to Mother who was ironing in the kitchen, “There is a storm going to hit the back of the house, and we had better go into the bedrooms.” She refused as she wanted to finish her ironing. Within moments the verandah had gone and dad hustled us all into the dining room and under a heavy oak table. It became pitch dark. The storm only lasted for twenty minutes, but the dining room was all that was left of our home! If it had not been for a 10,000 gallon water tank which was luckily full and sheltered that room only, I would not be here today.

Yes, THAT table!

Well there would have been the eldest — Eric Christison and Gwen, but I don’t have separate pictures of them. However Eric is seated on the left-hand side of this early 1940s Christison group, with my brother Ian at the right extreme.  My great-grandmother Sophia Jane is in the centre, and she could have been at Christmas dinners up to 1951.


Next would have been Beth. Not yet married in 1951, so I will use a photo from my other archives which came already coloured.


After her Keith and Ruth, the two in the middle — and you have seen this pic of their wedding before.


Keith and Ruth had two children, Helen and Patricia, by 1951. They are some years on in the front of this photo of Eric’s daughter Joan who, along with her brother John and sister Elizabeth, just may have been around the table too.


The youngest Christison son, Roy Junior, may have also been there. He is far right in that photo.

Towards the end of our time in Auburn Street we might also have had the newly-weds Neil and Fay Christison. They were married in Wollongong Presbyterian Church as Fay was from Unanderra. Not sure what year: 1951?  They were a splendid couple though.



Another colourised family snaps selection

These have been on Facebook over the past few days, but here a different order. First, some of my sister Jeanette (1940-1952) that haven’t been on this blog yet.

Sutherland Public School 1951 — with some friends in 6th Class, the last photo ever of Jeanette. She died in January 1952 during the school holidays.


I can almost remember when this was taken. We were all out on a drive when Dad saw the pole and got Jeanette to stand in front of it to show how tall she’d got! She was a good runner by the way:


Sutherland Public School 1947. Jeanette in the front row. Can’t help noticing the little girls on the right with no dolls. Poverty was not unknown in 1947 Sutherland. Note the slouch hat too front row right. Could be a story there. I was in 2A in 1951, mind you, and bits of military uniform were not unknown among us:


More of my brother Ian (1935-2017)

Sutherland Public School 1947. Ian is back row, second from the left:


Auburn Street Sutherland around 1940:


This is most likely at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland around 1938-9. Notice the small chimney on the building behind, indicating the laundry with a wood-burning copper to boil the washing.





Colouring unlocked the story of my family in the late 1930s!

One of the old family photos I colourised today is this one of my brother Ian (1935-2017).


By the brickwork I know this is my own early childhood home, 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland NSW. Other than the fact Ian looks a bit real-boy mucky, he also looks under five years old, wouldn’t you agree? Now that puzzled me as I thought my immediate family arrived at Auburn Street as a wartime thing. Before that, I thought, they had been in Shellharbour, where they married, then Wollongong.

But that picture has to be no later than 1939, possibly before war broke out.

I knew that my grandparents Roy and Ada Christison had moved from Shellharbour to Sutherland in 1938 when Roy took up headmastership of Caringbah Public School. I find a NSW Teachers Federation Illawarra Association Annual Report dated 18 March 1938.

Screenshot (254)

Nice to see Grandpa was a conscientious Federationist!

Now my parents were married in 1935, Ian being born in October. Going on stories my parents told (especially my mother) I know they first lived with my Whitfield grandfather, Tom, in Shellharbour. I have seen the house, which is/was in Addison Street. It was not a totally happy arrangement as Tom was a bit of a Tartar and mum stood up to him. Mind you, it turned out Tom rather liked that…. I recall a story of my mother being shocked one day when he turned up with two dead Rosella parrots and told her to pluck and cook them.

Dad was working for Tom but itching to leave, not discouraged I suspect by my mother. I think, but am not sure, that he worked briefly at the Port Kembla steelworks, while he, mum and Ian moved to Wollongong — somewhere near the Catholic Church. A flat or boarding situation, where there were bedbugs.

So what happened next? Without realising it, I had the likely answer in a post on this blog some time ago: “Elizabeth Anne Hunter had married one Albert Boyne in 1891. My father for some time just before World War 2 worked for their son, Cyril Boyne, who was a Real Estate Agent and Auctioneer.”


That is a reference from Cyril Boyne, dated 3 May 1938. So now I think that at that date my mother, father, and Ian were already living at 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland.

Contemplating the photo of my brother generated this sorting out of my family’s story!

Next day

In the uncertain hour before the dawning (thanks, TSE) two things occurred to me about the above. From somewhere in my buried memories came the possibility that Dad worked for a while in Wollongong for Vandyke Brothers, builders, who were active in the region in the late 1930s.  I should mention that Dad was a carpenter, and old Tom a builder of some repute.

Second, I think that the first place Mum and Dad lived on his taking up employment with Cyril Boyne was Earlwood, an inner western Sydney suburb. I think it is fair to say that Dad, while an excellent carpenter thanks to Tom’s sometimes harsh tuition, was both ambitious and a dreamer. His ultimate goal was to be a businessman in his own right, a goal he at times achieved after the War, but which eventually came crashing down on us all — though not through anything shameful Dad did. I suspect Dad’s agenda was to outdo old Tom, even after Tom had departed this life (1948). Dad used often to say disparaging things, not always appreciated by my Christison uncles, about “wage plugs” — those who worked for others. So I also suspect Dad chafed under Cyril Boyne, especially maybe given the job with him had been organised by the Christison/Hunter side of the family, no doubt to help Mum. Therefore perhaps taking up residence in Auburn Street coincided with Dad’s leaving Cyril Boyne’s employ. Then came the War, and Dad joined the RAAF 8 April 1940. In many ways this was a good period for him, and his contribution respected.