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

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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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.