Family Heirloom- Dead Man’s Penny for James Joseph Stapleton

A family heirloom on our children’s paternal side of the family is a World War I Memorial Plaque, but is more popularly known as a ‘Dead Man’s Penny’. It is in memory of James Joseph Stapleton who was killed in action on the Somme on 1 September 1918.

J J Stapleton Memorial Plaque-Copyright Nola Mackey 2013

This Photograph is Copyright-Nola Mackey

These Memorial Plaques were issued after World War I to the next of kin of all British and Empire soldiers, sailors and airmen who were killed or died of wounds during the war.

In 1919 the British Government held a design competition for the proposed plaque. There were over eight hundred designs submitted. The winner was Edward Carter Preston a renowned sculptor and medalist for a prize of £250.

These plaques were made of bronze and about five inches or 120 mm in diameter.

The medal design was only on the front and is an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion. In Britannia’s outstretched left hand is an oak wreath. At the bottom of the plaque is another lion tearing apart the German eagle symbolizing Britain’s superiority on land. Dolphins swim around Britannia symbolizing sea power.

A rectangular tablet to the right of Britannia is where the deceased’s full name is inscribed. No rank is included as all gave the same sacrifice- their life. Around the edge of the plaque in capital letters reads: “HE/SHE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR.”

The initial plaques were made at Acton in London, but later, manufacture was shifted to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. On the back of this plaque is “WA”(the A being formed by a bar between the upward strokes of the “W” ), which indicates it was made at Woolwich.

These plaques were issued with a commemorative scroll from King George V.

On receipt of the scroll and plaque the next of kin were required to officially acknowledge by letter and form. These can be found within the service personel records at the Australian Archives.

From the 18th Century the British ‘penny’ was made of copper and a ‘Britannia’ design featured on the face of the coin. It is described as- “Britannia seated facing right, wearing a helmet, holding a trident in her left hand and her right hand resting on a shield with the words ‘one penny’ in the field and date below.” This design with few variations remained as the face of the British penny from c 1780 to 1967.

During World War I the soldiers used these coins as ‘Two-up’ Pennies and even today many surviving sets come out on “Anzac Day”. This is the only day ‘Two-up’ is legally sanctioned.

Due to the similarity in design of the Memorial Plaque and the British penny the Memorial plaque became known colloquially as “The Dead Man’s Penny”.

See also

posted 21 April 2013 at World War I Family Heroes – The Stapleton Boys

posted 13 October 2014 at Australian World War I Battlefields Tour – Family Heroes J J Stapleton and R E Sherwood – Mont St Quentin

 posted 13 October 2014 at Australian World War I Battlefields Tour – Family Heroes J J Stapleton and R E Sherwood – Peronne

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Family Heirloom- Edwardian Birthday Book

One of the family treasures on our children’s paternal line is a ‘Birthday Book’ that belonged to their Great-Grandmother, Fidelis Ann Finlay.

‘Fidelis’ is a Latin name and translates to ‘faithful’. In some countries it is used as a male name as well.

Fidelis Ann, was the fourth child and daughter, of Edward and Elizabeth Finlay (nee Cafe). She was born at Murrumburrah, New South Wales on 24 May 1884.

When I was growing up we knew this day as Empire Day. It was the birthday of Queen Victoria who was on the British throne from 1837 to 1901. After her death it was a designated holiday, mostly for children, throughout the British Empire from 1905 to 1958, when it was changed to Commonwealth Day.

Fidelis Finlay was known as ‘Del or Della’ by her friends and family and grew up in Murrumburrah where her father was employed as a labourer, often on the railway line built through the area.

Birthday Books were a popular gift for young ladies in the Edwardian Era. Many had a theme such as flowers. This one was on ‘Wit and Humour” with prissy quotations for each day of the year.

Mackey Archives-Family Photograph

Della Finlay Birthday Book

This book is only small, of some 85 millimetres by 105 millimetres, bound in red calf with gold embossing on the front cover and spine. On the front title page is an inscription “ To Dear Della. Wishing her a happy Birthday from JET”, and dated “24.5.1909.”

HODGETT, Fedelis Birthday Book,2016,Clarence Way,Photograph1

On the date of the 16th June is entered the birthday of “Jessie E Flower 1884”. Jessie was the second child and daughter of Thomas and Adelaide Flower, who had been married in Grafton in 1880. The family moved to Sydney in 1883, where Jessie was born. I can find no family connection to the ‘Flower’ family and believe she was probably a childhood friend. She gave Fidelis Ann Finlay this gift in 1909, the year before her marriage to Vernon Edward Hodgetts in 1910.

Among the family photographs is a photograph of a young woman with the inscription on the back “Daisy”. Using the information in the Birthday Book I believe I may have identified another of “Della” Finlays childhood friends.

Daisy Thorogood is entered with a birthday of 18 April 1885. According to the records of the Registrar of Births,Deaths and Marriages in Sydney, “Daisy F” is the daughter of William John and Annie Thorogood of Murrumburrah.

Fidelis Ann Finlay entered the birthdays of many of the family as well as close friends and it has been a great help in sorting birthdays for our family history.

My mother-in-law, Valerie Mary Mackey (nee Hodgetts) was the eldest daughter in the family and inherited the Birthday Book from her mother. She then entered the next generations of children and grandchildren. Again this was helpful in confirming dates of birth for many family connections.

This family treasure has been wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and enclosed in a small box. The story of this Birthday Book has been included, and the box deposited in our “Treasure Cabinet’ for safe keeping for the future.

Family Heirloom- Oil Portrait of George Bell

 

As I write the history of our ancestors I always include the story of artifacts or heirlooms that have been passed down through branches of the family and remain with descendants today.

One in our “Bell family” is a framed oil on canvas portrait of my Great-Great-Grandfather, George Bell, in his mature years. Although it is unsigned, and undated, a printed label on the reverse side of the painting states “Sue Hing Long and Co agents of 181 Lower George Street,(Sydney) agents for Chinese Oil Painting”.

According to Sand’s Directories they were general merchants and importers in Sydney, at least in the 1870 and 1880, and perhaps later.

This photo of Lower George Street from the Sydney Living Museum [http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/file/looking-north-along-george-street-no185-sue-hing-long-co-no183-mrs-hgoldsmide-pawnbroker-and ] shows Sue Hing Long and Company at 185 Lower George Street about 1890- not 181 Lower George Street as on the label. Was this an earlier address?

 It would appear a client would have a photograph taken at a professional photographers and supply a carde-de-visite photograph to Sue Hing Long and Company, who sent it back to China, where an unknown artist, would paint the ‘likeness’ portrait in oils. The painting was then framed and returned to Sue Hing Long’s in Sydney, from where the client was notified by post for collection of the painting.

I am fortunate to have  a copy of the photograph, shared by another family member, of the ‘carde-de-visite’ photograph, which is believed to have been the one used for this portrait. It is imprinted with J T Gorus, Sydney.

There are also two similar oil portraits of George Bell Jr and his wife Ellen done about the same time.

Over the last few months we have been down -sizing and generally cleaning out clutter of a life time.

Childhood ‘treasures’ I have come across are some of my drawings and watercolour paintings.

Between my tenth and twelfth birthdays I spent much of the time I wasn’t at school, with my maternal grandparents on their dairy farm at Kunghur, in Northern New South Wales.

At the time my grandmother Harriet May Baxter was a survivor of Breast Cancer, and had had surgery many years before, when all the muscles and tendons on her right side had been removed . There were many things she needed help with in cooking, washing and cleaning. My grandfather, Arthur, was seriously ill and bedridden most of the time and needed twenty-four hour care.

Although, my parents and some Aunts and Uncles did assist from time to time, it turned out I was their primary carer and companion for much of that time. We lived in the country with no electricity, TV or any gadgets, so not a lot of entertainment for a young girl, but I did love to draw and paint.

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All Rights Reserved to Author

On my grandparents dining room wall were several family portraits, including one of my grandmother’s paternal grandfather, George Bell.

I can remember the wet afternoon in the May School Holidays -between 1st and Second Term in those days- when I was undecided what I should draw or paint. My grandmother must have been quite exasperated and suggested I should ‘paint’ our ancestor “George”. Above is the result of that afternoon’s work.

 

Family Heirloom – The Chain-mail Purse

My mother, the fifth child and fourth daughter of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter was to be named ‘Margaret Alice’ in honour of her two grandmothers. Arthur’s mother had been, ‘Margaret Jane’, born 1858 to Gilbert and Ann Kennedy, and Harriet May’s mother ‘Alice’, was born in 1854 to Robert and Margaretta Sherwood.

 However when my grandmother,Harriet May went to register the birth of her new daughter, at the Murwillumbah Court House, she gave her the name ‘Margaret Nola’.

 Having grown up with the story of how my mother was to be named for her grandmothers, but only received the name of her paternal grandmother, I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, why the change?

 She explained to me that she and Arthur had originally decided to name their fourth daughter after the grandmothers because although by this time Arthur’s mother had eight granddaughters, only one had been given the first name ‘Margaret’ and that granddaughter had died in an accident as an infant. One other had Margaret, as a second name.

 Harriet May’s mother had eleven granddaughters by this time. Only one had been given the name ‘Alice’, but it was used as a second name. The maternal grandmother wanted the ‘new’ grandchild given the name ‘Alice’ as an only name, like herself. However, my grandparents had privately decided to use it as a second name.

 My grandmother called at the Murwillumbah Court house to register her new daughter, shortly after being released from the Newbrae Private Hospital. However, when it came to the actual registration my grandmother used ‘Nola’ as the second name. My grandmother had two nieces, one on each side of the family named ‘Nola’, and she liked the name.

 I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, again, why the change?

Her reply was that she and Arthur had been engaged shortly before her seventeenth birthday, but her mother was set against the marriage and would never give her consent and blessings.

Arthur and Harriet May were married a week after ‘Harriet May’s’ twenty-first birthday.

Although her relationship with her mother was quite cordial in most ways, she could never quite forgive her for withholding consent and blessings for the marriage.

 My mother first met her grandparents in 1928 when she, her mother and baby sister, Joan, travelled by train to Sydney for Harriet May’s parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary at Thirroul, on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Afterwards they went to Picton to visit Arthur’s parents, who had also celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary earlier in the year.

fhp000333 Left: My mother ‘Margaret Nola’ (left) with her Aunt Milly and cousins Phyllis and Heather, in the front garden of her paternal grandparent’s home, at Picton, October 1928

 

It was on this visit that Arthur’s mother,’ Margaret Jane’ gave her namesake granddaughter, ‘Margaret Nola’ a gift, in honour of the name. This was a small Victorian chain-mail purse, ‘to take her pennies to church in’. It was always one of my most mother’s prized possessions, and my sisters and I, when children, were never allowed to use it to carry our pennies to Sunday School and Church.

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My mother didn’t know if her grandmother Margaret, had purchased it as a special gift, or if it had originally been her prized possession as a child. I have not been able to solve this question either.

 By the way, there are thirty grandchildren on my maternal side. Seventeen are female and not one was named ‘Margaret’ or ‘Alice’, which was most unusual for the time.

PS: The ‘sixpences’ in the above photograph were used by my family for many years as the ‘pudding’ money at Christmas. They were kept in a little cigarette tin and wrapped in the calico cloth used to make the ‘boiled’ pudding for Christmas Day.

Oh! The funny stories and laughter those coins evoke each time I look at them.

 

 

Family Heirloom-Bell Family Bible

On the death of my maternal grandmother, Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell) I was very fortunate to inherit some of the family treasures.

One such item was the ‘Bell Family Bible’. It is not a large tome with specially printed pages of ‘Family Register’, as found in many printed Victorian Bibles.

 It is a small volume of 11 X 18 mm, bound in brown cloth. It is the ‘King James’ version printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. img_4899

 The British and Foreign Bible Society dates back to 1804 and from the early days, the Society sought to be ecumenical and non-sectarian. It’s aim has always been to translate, revise, print, and distribute affordable Bibles throughout the world. Although it began in England and Wales it soon extended its work to Australia, India, Europe and beyond.

 Baskets of Bibles and religious tracts were put on board convict and immigrant ships for ‘instruction’ and education on the voyages to Australia. Later they were also available in bookshops and other outlets in Sydney.

 In my small volume, no year or place of publication has survived as the cover has come off and the title page is missing.

On the inside of the front cover and fly-leaf are written, in possibly two hands, the names and birth dates of my Bell family:-

George Bell Senior

Sarah Bell wife of George Bellimg_4902

George Bell Junior

James Bell Junior

Thomas Bell Junior

Harriet Bell

Henry Bell Junior

John Bell

Emma Bell

Alice Bell

 There is no indication when these were written into the bible, but it must have been accurate personal knowledge as all dates can be confirmed by church infant baptism entries and birth certificates where applicable. Comparing signatures of George Bell (Senior) from land records and his Will, it would appear to be the hand of George Bell up until the entries of ‘John , Emma and Alice Bell’, which appear to be in another hand. Maybe Sarah Bell, his wife, or another altogether. I have no examples of Sarah Bell’s hand writing for comparison.

 A couple of things puzzle me, which I plan to research further. ‘George Bell Senior’ and ‘George Bell Junior’ are self- explanatory as they are ‘father’ and ‘son’. Even ‘James Bell Junior’ as he was named for his uncle ‘ James Bell’, who was George’s older brother and came out to Australia on the same ship. He and his family lived at Picton for a number of years too, so there may have been a reason to differentiate . However who were the ‘Thomas Bell Senior’ and ‘Henry Bell Senior’ who lived in the area and necessitated the designation of ‘junior’? Is this a clue that other members of the family came to Australia and lived in the area? Or were there other Bell families in the area?

Another puzzle to investigate.

 

Family Heirlooms -The Broach

We have all heard the traditional bridal rhyme, which details what a bride should wear on her wedding day to bring good luck to the marriage –

Something old,

Something new,

Something borrowed,

Something blue.’

For many traditional modern brides the ‘something blue’ usually takes the form of a ‘garter’. It certainly did in my case, and after my marriage I lent it to my sisters and some friends, so it was ‘borrowed’ as well as ‘blue’. However it was always returned, and I still keep it with ‘my’ wedding dress today. (By the way, I made my own wedding dress, and embroidered the Chantilly lace with thousands of seed pearls, which took me nearly a year to complete, and it was only finished a few days before the wedding).

I do not know what the item of ‘blue’ was for my maternal aunts’ or mother’s wedding, but I do know what the ‘old’, ‘new’ and ‘borrowed’ were.

The ‘something new’ for each of the five brides, who wore the family heirloom wedding dress was satin ‘ underwear,’ which had been carefully stitched and embroidered by each bride as part of their trousseau some months before, and had been carefully laid aside for the occasion.

The ‘something borrowed’ for each of the five brides who wore ‘the wedding dress’, was a long, hand- embroidered Brussels net veil, which was caught high on the head with a halo or half circlet of flowers.

When my mother’s eldest sister was married in 1937, she borrowed this veil from her closest and life- long friend, Arlie, who had married the year before. Subsequently each of the brides ‘borrowed’ it for their wedding, but each time it was returned to Arlie.

Now we come to the ‘something old.’ This was a gold ‘broach’, which was worn at the neck of the lace collar on ‘the wedding dress’ for each of the five afore mentioned brides.

‘The broach’ was not only worn by these brides, but the other daughters, and many of the granddaughters and great-granddaughters of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter.

Some of the brides choose to wear it as ‘a broach’, others as ‘a pendant’ and still others as a ‘bouquet ornament’. A true family heirloom.

The broach is a small circle of gold, enclosing a branch of delicate moulded gold leaves and petals. It is reputed to have been owned by a grandmother of Harriet May Baxter, and therefore a great-grandmother of the original 1937 bride and her younger sisters.

Although the details are sketchy, it is believed to have been fashioned from small gold nuggets found on the Lambing Flats (Young) goldfields in the early 1860’s.

The grandmother (and great-grandmother), is believed to have been Sarah Bell (nee Sargent), the daughter of immigrants, Thomas and Ellis (Alice) Sargent. Sarah Sargent married George Bell in 1844.

This couple had settled in Picton and raised a family of five sons and three daughters.

Sarah Bell died in 1865 and the broach passed to her eldest daughter, Harriet. When Harriet Bell died it passed to her younger sister, Emma.

Emma Bell died in 1936, and when the original Bell family home was dispersed, the broach was passed to Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell).

When her eldest daughter married a few months later in 1937, this broach was chosen as the ‘something old’.

The Broach

As I mentioned before it was also chosen as the ‘something old’ by many other subsequent family brides.

This heirloom remains in the family today, but not on the same branch as the heirloom wedding dress.

Family Heirlooms – The Wedding Dress

The wedding dress was originally made for my mother’s eldest sister in 1937. The seamstress is unknown, but is believed to have been a friend of the bride from her ‘dress-making’ days at Murwillumbah Technical College. Over the next eight years it was worn by three younger sisters, and a sister- in- law of the original bride. A total of five brides, my mother being the fifth.

The dress was made of magnolia bridal satin on princess lines, with a long fantail train, finished with scalloped and picoted edges. It had fagoting from the back-seam and several four-inch circular inserts of ivory Chantilly lace around the edge of the train.

At the neckline, was a small high collar of ivory Chantilly lace, edged with colour- matched Guipure lace.

Small satin covered buttons ran down the front of the dress, from collar to hemline.

Long sleeves, full and ruched at the shoulders, fitted from the elbow with an overlay of ivory Chantilly lace pointed at the wrist and edged with ivory Guipure lace.

A long ivory taffeta princess line petticoat went under the wedding dress, and had a dainty pattern of scattered small eyelets high over the bust line.

As I said my mother was the last bride to wear it, and as young children we remember it hanging in a calico bag in the back of our mother’s wardrobe. Occasionally after much ‘begging’ on my younger sister’s part, as well as my own, our mother would get it out, and we ‘oohed and aahed’ over it. Although we could run our little hands over its smooth soft surface, and trace out the fine lines on the lace, with tiny fingers, we were never permitted to wear it, nor take it out of its hanging place ourselves.

However, our mother ‘gave’ us several ball gowns she had made and worn before her marriage, which we loved and often ‘dressed-up’ in as young children.

In early 1960 I went off to ‘High School’, an educational opportunity neither of our parents were able to have, although they would have done very well. My early high school days meant a long daily ride on a bus, and in later years having to board away from home during the week and returning home only at week-ends and holidays.

In 1963 the place of employment of our father closed, which necessitated the family moving to a town some hundreds of kilometres away. I was still boarding away from home, and it was up to our mother to pack up the home ready for the move.

There was a delay in our ‘new’ home being made ready for the family, so our mother and younger members of the family went to live with our widowed grandmother, on the family farm.

Finally our family moved and we settled into our new life.

However about this time, the children of my parent’s older siblings, were contemplating marriage themselves, and every few months a ‘wedding invitation’ would arrive in our mail-box.

With all the talk of weddings, the conversation turned to our mother’s wedding dress in the calico bag at the back of her wardrobe. My sister (closest in age to myself) and I calculated it would have been ten years since we had last seen it, and our youngest sister,(many years younger than us), who had arrived during that time, professed she had never seen it, and didn’t know it existed.

All the laughter and gaiety came to a sudden stop, when we looked at our mother. Tears welling in her eyes, she said she didn’t know where it was. The first question, which broke from our shocked lips was, ‘What happened to it?’

Then through tears our mother admitted, somehow it had been ‘lost’ in the move. She didn’t know how, but it may have been mistakenly placed with a pile of belongings she felt she could not pack for the move and choose to burn, (although she always regretted doing this for the rest of her life.) These included many things we would be glad to call family heirlooms today, such as letters, keepsakes and mementoes of her life as well as ours.

After many tears that afternoon, the wedding dress was never mentioned again, although I know we all thought of it often, especially as our own weddings approached. This was out of respect and love for our mother, who felt such guilt over its disappearance. Although she was the last to wear it, she felt it belonged to the family, and would not have knowingly disposed of it.

Fast forward some forty years, and my siblings, myself, as well as our fifty first cousins, have married and raised families of their own.

Our parents, as well as most of our aunts and uncles have died.

I have spent more than forty years tracing our ancestors, with promises to write them all up in books some-day, and I have also dabbled in ‘scrapbooking’, making special albums for our grandchildren as well as for my siblings.

A few years ago I visited an aunt, one of my mother’s younger sisters, with whom I have always been very close. I was showing her the scrapbook I was putting together for one of my sisters. This included photos and the story of our parent’s ‘Wedding Day’. I recounted to her the sad story of the ‘missing wedding-dress’ and how guilty our mother felt about it being lost.

My aunt gave instructions for me to ‘pour the tea’, which had been put aside to ‘brew’ in the teapot, and she disappeared into her bedroom. She soon emerged with a crumbled calico bag and inside was ‘the wedding-dress’. She never knew my mother thought she had destroyed it.

It would appear my mother had returned it to the ‘family home’ when she was staying there between packing up and moving, and in all the rush and confusion had forgotten she had done so. When the old family home was broken up some eighteen years later, my mother wasn’t present, and didn’t know about the ‘rescuing’ of the wedding dress. How I wish I could have told her before she died.

For the last couple of years it has been one of our most cherished family heirlooms packed away in a cupboard.

Wedding Dress

Recently I brought it out, and a sister and I carefully mended, ironed and then displayed and photographed it, before packing it away carefully in archival tissue paper and box.

Wedding Dress 2

Next weekend we are having a ‘Cousin’s Day’ at Murwillumbah for all the descendants of my maternal grandparents, Arthur and Harriet May Baxter. For the occasion I have written a book, with lots of photographs, recounting the story of this couple and their children. Included in the book is the story of this wedding dress and the five brides who wore it.

Wedding Dress 3