Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 72 — FB delivers more family history

Isn’t this delightful?

In Memoriam:
Graham, Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes). (11.12.1892-5.10.1991)
Daughter of Jonathan & Susan Caroline (nee Whitfield) McInnes.
Wife of Stanley Keith Graham.
Mother of Jonathan Adolphus & Lilian May.
Photograph: Ruby aged 10 years courtesy Whitfield/McInnes family collection.

Thanks to the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook on 5 October. I commented: I met them! Really! And indeed spent time with daughter Lilian as recently as April 2014. Lilian turned 100 this year and is still living in Gunnedah.

I learned of Lilian’s birthday in February, again thanks to the Wollondilly Historical Page. This is what I said then:

Whitfields — this is a must read!

So here is a Whitfield relative who has cracked the ton! And I can vouch for her being an amazing woman and a fount of family history. I was privileged to have met Lilian at Stanwell Park in 2014. She recalled my father as a bronzed beach god — from her memories of Shellharbour in the late 1920s!

“At Stanwell Park yesterday. She had a shopping trolley of Whitfield family pics, photos and documents going back to the 1830s! Amazing stuff! The four hours I could spend didn’t do it justice. Lilian Lee. 90+ and sharp as… She has been a TAFE teacher in her time. Recalled I met her father and mother too sometime around 60+ years back and he gave me a ride in his buggy.

“She really was just wonderful. And I am sure you can see the intelligence and humour in her face. She had at 90+ walked up the hill to Stanwell Park Station to meet me — and it is quite a climb.

When she was a little girl she saw William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 1836), the son of William Whitfield, in his turn the son of Jacob Whitfield, the convict who arrived in Sydney from Ireland in 1822. When you contemplate that….

Lilian at 100

This is what the Wollondilly Historical Page said:

Lilian Lee of Gunnedah is today celebrating her 100th Birthday (10.2.2021)

Lilian May Graham was born on 10.2.1921 at Lidcombe N.S.W. her Parents being Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes) & Stan Graham. Lilian’s Grandparents were Susan (nee Whitfield) & Jonathan McInnes.Lilian married Raymond Lee on 24th October 1942.

Their children were Alan (Sadly was killed in accident at 37 leaving 3 children and a wife.), Graham & Jennifer.

Lilian has eight grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren and looking forward to the arrival of another two.

Lilian is still a dedicated member of the Gunnedah Country Women’s Association where she held various positions such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, International Officer, Cultural Officer, Land and Cookery Officer. She volunteered in other capacities, such as Art Gallery attendant, Bible Shop attendant, and Treasurer at the Uniting Church.

Lilian taught as a TAFE teacher teaching Secretarial Skills and was a Secretary at the Roads & Traffic Authority. On 30th November 2020 Lilian Lee was granted Life Membership to the Country Women’s Association for thirty years of dedicated service. The Citation that was prepared for her Life Membership described Lilian as an “immensely popular member, well-respected by our younger members and our more mature members alike.”

Lilian often inspires and advises others to reach their potential and is instrumental in making a beneficial difference in many people’s lives.

Photograph of Lilian May Lee. (3.2.2021) Information & photograph courtesy of Jennifer Lee-Robins & Whitfield family files.

Church of England cemetery, Picton

See my posts To Stanwell Park: 1 (2014) and Still in Dharawal country — but among the Whitfields, contemplating centuries (2021).

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 40 — our town and some brilliant finds

Yes, the 40th in the series! OMG! Longer actually, as our lockdown began 26 June. So Day 61 in fact.

In accordance with NSW Health advice Saturday 26th June Collegians will be closing its venues from 4pm today. This includes:

Collegians Wollongong, Collegians Balgownie, Collegians Illawarra Leagues, Collegians Figtree & Collegians Port Kembla

At this stage we hope to re-open our doors on Saturday 10th July in accordance with the end of the lock down Midnight Friday 9th July. Pending further advice from NSW Health.

Thank you for your understanding. Stay safe and take care. Collegians Management

Well here we still are… As I have said City Diggers is taking advantage of the lockdown to do major renovations.

The coffee shop bar yesterday!

Talked to a club friend from early on in my return to The Gong, Steve Hitchens, about this yesterday on the phone. BIG changes. But as I said to him, I hope the Bistro menu is better than it was in the lead-up to lockdown — the reason I and Maurice and many others migrated to Illawarra Leagues. Be interested to see the changes though.

Speaking of The Gong, on Thursday I went to town to the chemist as I had to renew some medication. Waiting for the bus at this bus stop I had a conversation which I later reported on Facebook:

At the bus stop in The Gong this morning — a woman around my age was consulting the bus timetable as I scanned the intersection of Crown and Keira for a bus…

“Are they after you?” she suddenly said.

Apparently some kind of police or public order officers had just gone past. I hadn’t noticed…

She laughed and said, “You never know these days, do you?”

We chatted about how things were going. “It’s bad,” she said.

“Yes, but our parents lived through the War,” I replied. “This is not as bad.”

She agreed. “Yes, I was born just after and I remember…”

And told stories of shortages and rations.

“I was born during,” I replied. “And I think now we should be tapping into the spirit our parents had back then.”

“True,” she replied. And went on her way.My bus arrived. A 39. Good, Mount Keira Road service. And I was the only passenger.

Meanwhile the internet continues to deliver, especially through Facebook, some amazing things.

First a family history treasure from the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook. I have colourised the image.

John (Jack) Whitfield (1864-1956) joined the Police Force as a Probationary Constable on 28th October 1889. Previous to this he worked as a sawyer with his father W.J.J. Whitfield at his Bluegum Creek Sawmill near the Thirlmere Lakes.John Whitfield was the last constable with the Police Force at Appin. The Court House/Police Station was closed in 1933. Photograph from Whitfield family collection.

Uncle John deserves colour! I met him when I was a kid, but I hardly remember him I’m afraid. I better remember his brother Bill and indeed his other brother, my grandfather Tom. And his sister Annie, who attended the reception in Shellharbour in 1972 for my gold medal Olympian cousin Beverley.

Then on a completely different tack is this brilliant video from journalist George Monbiot on climate change.

So very true! I am ashamed to see that Aussie motormouths like Alan Jones PhD (not) are a significant part of the picture! Game, set and match George! He uses plain and sometimes Anglo-Saxon words at times — perfectly justified, in my view! But if you are a bit precious about such things. be warned if the letter F frightens you….

And yes — kind of contradictory of me, but I really love steam trains! This wonderful footage is of my favourite steamer of all time — the C38! Beautifully edited too. The ending is so apt, given this was the end of the era really. Enjoy! Sorry that you have to watch on YouTube instead of here, but it is very much worth it!

Yes, I know absolutely dreadful things have been happening in Afghanistan. On Facebook first thing yesterday I wrote:

I will not spend too much time on this but like everyone I will be following these events closely. Nothing but absolute revulsion can be our attitude, There is nothing good about ISIS, nothing worthy in their cause or their tactics. They appear to hate everyone except themselves.

Any here or in the USA who turns this into partisan politics of any kind is simply contemptible.

But soon after I did share an item from blogging and FB friend in California, Kanani Fong with this note:

Kanani Fong shared this saying “I thought of this photo this morning, when I heard the news about the Kabul airport. It was the last image I saw last night before tucking in. The Marines have always brought a dose of safety and clarity wherever they go. Much love to their family, friends, and fellow Marines.”

Her husband worked as a surgeon with the US military in Afghanistan. She was involved in that excellent documentary Restrepo.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 19 — a year ago…

I notice looking through my posts for August 2020 that I hardly mentioned COVID. That is because by then here in NSW (and The Gong in particular) we were pretty much back to normal life. Well all that changed when one driver ferrying people to and from quarantine led to the monster Delta starting up around Bondi Junction. The NSW government was slow to realise what was going on. So came the lockdown we are now in — Illawarra Leagues Club, for example, putting up the shutters on 26 June 2021.

In the USA in August 2020, under that incompetent narcissist Donald Trump, things were going from bad to worse. What a nincompoop he is! This was there for all to see in an interview with an Australian journalist which I posted about on 7 August: Donald Trump meets Dr Norman Swan’s clever son. Who can ever forget it?

With the US election looming I posted several very genuine views from Republican voters who for one reason or another had had enough of The Donald. For example:

One of the few times I mentioned COVID was on 17 August: COVID takes me back to that old school again. Just over a week later came Sydney High — lively Facebook discussion about that slogan — do look if that seems interesting to you. It was a very good exchange of views, in my opinion. The issue was a slogan the school now uses:

There were some good family history posts too, for example That convict Jacob again on 20 August. That post included this remarkable document:

Whitfield-681-2a
New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1830 for Jacob Whitfield

There were so many good posts in August 2020, but I will finish with another family-oriented one from 13 August: Bird flies in at last.

This bird: the original post follows.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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!…

WIN_20200812_10_37_44_Pro

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.

LATER

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!

There were plenty of other topics raised in my August 2020 posts — but that will do, save for some music I shared, something of a favourite.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 8 — tweak family history

You may recall that during NAIDOC Week I dealt with the question “Are you of Indigenous descent” by referring you to the story of my grandmother, Henrietta Whitfield (nee Bursill) 1874-1931.

henrietta

Question: Am I of Aboriginal descent?

Answer: Possibly, even probably. And no, I have not had a DNA test. But the story is in a way simple. I have (as you do) eight great-grandparents. I can account for all but one of them. In the case of my grandmother’s parentage — and a fine woman but troubled she was by all accounts — the father is unknown. That is, my father’s mother’s father.

The story — which I heard from my father and mother themselves — is that this grandmother was the daughter of an Aboriginal man, probably Dharawal (or maybe Yuin). We know nothing much about him.

But it is enough to make me look at Merrigong from my window with different eyes. The story was enough for Aboriginal actress Kristina Nehm, knowing the story, to always introduce me to Aboriginal people thus: “This is Neil. He is family.”

This is apart from the story of my brother’s wife, who is a descendant of the family of Bennilong.

In the last week or two I had an email exchange with one Rowena Gough, who has for years been researching the Bursill family. A Google search had led her to my 2011 post Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection. She quite rightly called me out on my speculative history of the Bursill family, and I have added her correction verbatim to that post.

Update 18 July 2021

An email from Rowena Gough clarifies and corrects some of the material above, especially on the early connections of the Bursill family. It looks well-researched to me, so thanks, Rowena!

Doing a google search on Bursill trees I’ve come across your website. I think that I can provide you with clearer family tree information for Henrietta Bursill (1874-1931).

She was the youngest child of Thomas Russell Bursill (1832-c.1870) and Henrietta Woodley (1837-1921), and named after her mother. Father Thos Edw was bapt. 1832 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng, married Henrietta 7 June 1858 in Redfern, Sydney, and died c.1870 at Shellharbour, NSW. Mother Henrietta Woodley cme from a farming family, born 1837 Englefield, Berkshire and died 28 June 1921 Shellharbour, NSW.

Your Henrietta had 4 siblings.

My great grandfather Edward Bursill was the younger brother of Edward Russell Bursill and he emig to the Maryborough area of Victoria. The parents of Thomas and Edward were Thomas Bursill (1808-1846 and Elizabeth Russell (1812-1888).

I’ve spent anout 25 yrs on the family history and am quite sure that this is your family line. The William Busill (convict) line is not as yet, connected to our family, and were from London. Our line is from Cambridge, and Yorkshire. So at the moment the story on you blog re family tree probably needs to be reviewed.

Very interesting. We are still left with this birth certificate entry, however. And also — which coincides with what my mother and father told me — that c.1870 death date for Thomas Russell Bursill and the (agreed) 1874 birth date for my grandmother Henrietta was put this way: “Her alleged father died several years BEFORE her birth.”

henrietta5

See the additions at 13a — Whitfields 1880s-1930s. (I will add a reference there to these corrections.)

Thanks, Rowena! She added in a later email:

My notes for Henrietta Bursill:

The birth of Henrietta Bursill was registered in 1874, in Kiama District, mother Henrietta Bursill (NSW Birth Reg. No. 12644/1874). Her mother was one of the pioneers of Shellharbour area, who was a widow with dependants and managing a farm when her last child was born. Henrietta may have had an aboriginal father. According to family (from Charlie Bursill, an older brother of Henrietta) she “was born a long time after her father had died”. The birth registration confirms this. One Whitfield family tale tells that she was the illegitimate daughter of an aboriginal or part-aboriginal farm worker and a widow. Thomas R. Bursill had died by 1872, as the 1872 Greville’s Post Office Directory of Shell Harbour only lists a Mrs Bursill, as a farmer in Shell Harbour.

The marriage of Henrietta Bursell and Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield was registered in 1892, in Kiama District (NSW Marriage Reg. No. 4444/1892). They had six children between 1893 and 1912, in Picton, Albion Park and Kiama. Three of those children died in 1906 and 1915.

The death of Henrietta Whitfield, parents Thomas and Henrietta, was registered in 1931, in Kiama District (NSW Death Reg. No. 6705/1931).

I had posted in 13 – 1885 – Whitfields, Bursills an account of the funeral of Henrietta’s mother, also Henrietta.

That Henrietta’s mother was also Henrietta, as I note in this 2013 post. Yet an obituary for Henrietta Senior dated 1921 – reproduced in that post – states that she was survived by two sons (including Charles) and ONE daughter “Elizabeth, Mrs. Whitfield.”  That of course should be “Henrietta”.  There is another obituary for Henrietta Senior in the Kiama Reporter and Illawarra Journal 6 July 1921.

On 28th June, 1921, at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Thos. Whitfield,of Shellharbour, one of our best beloved and most highly esteemed residents passed quietly away to her rest in her 85th year. Mrs. Bursill was born at Bradfeld, England, in 1837, and at the age of 18 years took passage for Australia by the sailing ship “Asiatic,” and after sailing 97 days, entered Sydney Heads, 24th May, 1855. When 21 years of age she married Thomas Bursill, and they came to Illawarra in search of a new home. They settled on a small farm near Shellharbour over 62 years ago. Mr. Bursill passed away many years ago, leaving his partner the care of five children, three sons and two daughters. The two elder sons, Mr.E. Bursill, builder, of Robertson, and Mr. Chas. Bursill, builder, of Shellharbour, and are both highly esteemed and respected residents of both districts, the third son, George, passed away, from heart failure.It is safe to say we have never had  a resident more universally beloved and esteemed than was Mrs. Bursill,always bright and cheerful, and ready to help, going about doing good. The district is better for the lives and examples of such as she, and very much poorer for their loss.The Rev. Gallop, of Jamberoo, con-ducted the funeral service, at Shellharbour cemetery on 29th June, and spoke of the good she had done and of her kind way of doing, of a long life of usefulness, then entering into rest.

You may have noticed that the “two daughters” left when Thomas B died could not have included my grandmother Henrietta Jr. Do the Maths and study that birth certificate extract carefully.

George Bursill, by the way, died in the middle of a cricket match at Dunmore near Shellharbour in 1913.

None of which reflects on my grandmother’s character, of course. She did have severe mental health issues in the latter part of her life, however, but given the horrendous losses she had experienced, and the times, little wonder.

On who her father was I further said to Rowena:

My parents of course actually knew Charlie Bursill! What he said about Henrietta to my mother’s father, Roy Christison (headmaster of Shellharbout School in 1935), was the real starting point of my story.

She replied:

Back Again Neil,

Yes, thinking about it. He would have known as an older brother what was happening in his household. Father dead, and mother carrying a baby and then a new little one in the house. They live on a farm with livestock, so would have known what was going on.  And of course, the shame of an illegitimate child in those times, and the gossip of local people. Charlie might have had to keep quiet for a long time and then later in life, just needed to release the pressure, so talked to family members. Anyway, it’s Henrietta [senior] I admire, and she seemed to have been held in some esteem in the area after a long and hard-working life.

So just to confirm, there is no connection with the convict William Bursill from London. But quite possibly, if you go digging back on all lines in your tree, there’ll be someone in there.

Cheers, Rowena

I should have told Rowena more about the context of Charlie Bursill’s revelation. He was warning my grandfather Roy Christison against the proposed marriage of my mum and dad. I was told Grandpa Roy told him to take a flying leap into Lake Illawarra, or words to that effect. Proud of you, Grandpa!

Finally:

Hi Rowena

“Touch of the tarbrush” were Charlie’s words, apparently. And yes, several convicts, most notably Jacob Whitfield, horse thief, life sentence, arrived 1822 on Isabella 1!

Thanks – and I have left the speculation on early Bursills up, but added your correction at the end of the post.

Neil W

Family history is kind of fun… In brief, Rowena’s information confirms the circumstantial details I had been told about my grandmother, excepting of course exactly who her father really was. But it does make my descent from the Dharawal or Yuin more probable.

And something just occurred to me — it is weird that it had not before! Charlie Bursill and my grandmother had the same mother (obviously) so he was my father’s uncle, and thus my great-uncle. Not some random dude…. Regardless of who my grandmother’s father was!

One hundred and ten years ago today — my mother

Here is Spencer, on the Hawkesbury River in NSW, in the early 20th century. In those days it was only accessible by boat. My mother’s mother, Ada, and father, Roy Hampton Christison, were living here in 1911, along with the first-born son, Eric.

My grandfather was the schoolmaster. My mother many years later wrote her account of the place.

Dad [Roy Christison Snr] completed his training at the age of 20 and his first school was then a very small place called Spencer on the Hawkesbury River. It was eleven miles down or up river from Brooklyn Railway Station. In those days it was only accessible by water so Dad was met at the station and rowed by the mother of a fisherman to his place of work.

He was perhaps one of the luckier ones because he had his mother who at a very young age had been left to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up her family alone. To do this she took in boarders and she herself, a very refined lady, went out to work starting at 3 am to scrub and clean office buildings in the city. With two of her children married and the youngest daughter able to stay with her married sister, Gran was left free to go with Dad to become his Housekeeper. He felt he owed her his help and care now he was in a position to give it to her. I think his wage was about nine pounds a month.

He was able to rent a sort of cottage — slab built — which had belonged to a fisherman or an orange orchardist who had found life just too hard. In front of the house was a bush track which led to the school building — also slab built; and here a very dedicated and ambitious young man started his career as a teacher.

The school had an enrolment of about 22; the knack with small school teaching was to divide it into sections: 1st & 2nd Class; 3rd & 4th Class; 5th & 6th Class. Preparation work was very much the order of the day. One composite class had only oral work while the others were given History, Geography, Reading, Maths or English which “Sir” had already given details of on the blackboard, times and classes being clearly indicated. Tables charts, charts for grammar, charts for important dates in history with emphasis on Australian History, maps of the various states of Australia and of the World, with occupations carried out in different countries both here and overseas, were all in places where the pupils could learn of the world at large besides being taught the Three R’s.

Most of the pupils at Spencer came from the families of orange orchardists or fishermen. I think 10 of the 22 pupils were from one family. Some of them were rowed across the river and some walked along rough bush tracks.

At the age of 22 Dad married a lass from Sydney [Ada Hunter] who had been to “Ladies College” and had no notion of life in the bush. Gran, after helping the bride to settle, returned to Sydney and made a home with her younger daughter.  Mother was a dainty little soul, brown-eyed and dark haired, with an hourglass figure. She was a delight to the older girls, to whom she taught sewing — that was part of the contract, that the teacher’s wife taught sewing. Looking back, I do not know how Mother adjusted to the rather primitive conditions. Her only shopping was done from the Trading Boat — a paddle-wheel steamer that came down from Wiseman’s Ferry once a month. Dad had bought a rowing boat and became quite an accomplished oarsman.

About this time my father sent his first he thought ready for a State Bursary and the honour of the first state bursary ever won by a small schools pupil went to this lad [Austin Woodbury 1899-1979] who later became one of the heads of the Marists in this country. When he died this year — 1979 — at Toongabbie NSW there was quite a bit about Dr Woodbury in the papers. Following Austin, State Bursaries came the way of several other pupils, two of these brothers and sons of fishermen who after an education at St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill and Sydney University became doctors. One had a distinguished career in Queensland and the other became a Macquarie Street specialist. Some of the girls became nuns and rose to Mother Superior in the different orders of the Roman Catholic Church. My father was the son of a Scotsman and a Presbyterian, so religion had no bias in those days. [For my grandfather at any rate, who was really an agnostic, if a conservative one.]

Life meantime had brought to my father and mother a son [Eric]. Mum was sent to Sydney in the company of Gran — Dad’s mother — and what a tower of strength she was then and in the years following. My brother was born at my other Gran’s home in Dulwich Hill and when Mum was well enough she returned to her duties as wife and now mother. Later she was to repeat the journey and I arrived in the world [1911] — again born at my Grandmother’s home, only I arrived the night Mum arrived in Sydney and caused complications which nearly cost my mother her life.

The Dulwich Hill family — where my mother was born. This is during WW1. Eric is the boy with the boat; on his left with crossed legs is my mother. The baby may be my Aunt Beth.

Dad meantime had become part of the community — playing Cricket with a local team which consisted of quite a few school boys; conducting a funeral service on a very wet day when the priest could not make the trip to say the last rites by the graveside. He had also become known as an expert with the mouth organ and the old squeeze box accordion and was much in demand to supply music for the local dances.

He always remembered his seven years and seven months at Spencer where he had toiled long and hard, but he felt he had done some of his best work for those pupils.

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A letter my mother wrote from Braefield where they lived 1916-1923.
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At my graduation, Sydney University 1965

My mother passed away at Annandale in March 1996.