Denis Bennett in Liverpool

Patrick stood open mouthed. After a time he managed to say, “Oh that is so pretty. I wish I could buy that for Ma.”

Denis smiled.

John laughed, a wisdom bestowed by his extra six years. “Oh yeah, that would look lovely, sitting on the box in the corner of our room.”

Patrick pouted.  “Well I’m going to shoe horses like Bernard when I get bigger and have enough money to buy Ma a silver tea set. It will have writing on it, just like this one. It will say ‘to Ma from Patrick.’”

Denis smiled again. “Come on boys, we should be getting back to yer mammy. You can tell her about the tea set, Paddy. That will be almost as good.”

They left the store window. Patrick’s shoulders drooped, his arms were limp at his sides. He barely managed a glance at the Town Hall, situated at the head of the quadrangle of the Exchange Buildings.

“We can go and see Nelson first,” Denis added. A slow smile brightened Patrick’s face, and he managed a small skip as he moved towards the Town Hall.

Denis and his sons crossed Water Street and stood momentarily in front of the Town Hall. They then walked down beside the establishment, part of which was rebuilt after a fire damaged the municipal offices in 1795. As they rounded the corner of the building they saw the immense structure, a bronze statue of an unclothed Lord Horatio Nelson, draped in conquered flags, one foot on a canon, with other figures representing his four major battles. The whole monument stood 29 feet tall. Patrick was in awe of the sculpture, but Denis was not impressed with any depiction of the great English hero.

Nelson Monument Liverpool

Nelson Monument Liverpool

“Look at the skeleton,” John said, pointing to the form reaching out from beneath a sculpted flag.

Part of the Nelson Monument Liverpool

“Chase you,” Patrick said, as his older brother started to walk around the 95 foot circumference of the monument base. He had forgotten his earlier dismay. After two laps of the statue, the boys came back to Denis, their exertions evident from their flushed faces.

They walked the rest of the thoroughfare along Dale Street buried in their own thoughts, Denis’s sombre mood returning. The bustle of central Liverpool gave way to an atmosphere of quiet resignation. Alleys that led to housing courts jutted off the main street. These were filled to overflowing with the ever-increasing numbers of Irish labourers and their families in their bid to escape the Irish famine. Tainted air drifted out of the alleys. The stench of rotting potatoes in Ireland had been replaced by the stifling smell of garbage and the privy middens of the courts.

“Want any chips?” one lad said as they passed. “Just a ha’penny.” Denis stopped, reached into his pocket for a coin and gave it to the urchin in exchange for a bundle of wood chips. Whole families were involved in the purchase of demolition timber, the making of the sticks and tying them into bunches, the children then sent out to hawk the product.

“But, Da,” John said, as he watched the halfpenny exchange hands, “we could get that ourselves.”

“I know, and we will. Tomorrow. But let’s take these back for yer mammy to heat us some soup.”

They came to Cumberland Street and changed direction to the right.

“Ma,” the boys shouted, when they saw Hannah, eager to tell her of their walk through the town centre. She was trying to settle James to sleep, in the house the Bennetts shared with four other families.

“Sh.” Hannah waved the boys outside. She laid James down and turned to Denis with an enquiring eye.

“Naw work,” Denis said with a shake of his head.

“I know, Ah’ve spoken ter Catherine. Paddy Kelly beat you home.”

“Did you hear about the steamer?”

Hannah nodded.

Denis caught his breath, as if he was about to hiccup. “That poor woman.” He paused. “Frozen ter de deck, ‘annah,” whereupon his voice broke, ever so slightly, and he buried his head in Hannah’s shoulder.


This post continues on from my previous one about a fictionalised, chance meeting of  two ancestors. Denis and his two sons arrive home in Cumberland Street.


Genealogy Snapshot

Name: Denis Bennett (abt 1810-1867)
Parents:
Spouse: Hannah Hanlon (abt 1810-1866)
Spouse’s Parents:
Surnames: Bennett, Hanlon
Relationship to Shelley: great, great, great grandfather (3x great grandfather) Denis is Shelley’s 3x great grandfather

  1. Denis Bennett (abt 1810-1867) 3x great grandfather
  2. Francis Bennett (abt 1832-1877) great, great, grandfather (2x great grandfather)
  3. James Bennett (1872-1914) (great grandfather)
  4. Walter Henry Bennett (1896-1934) (grandfather)
  5. Father
  6. Shelley

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Crossed Paths

Denis Bennett stepped out the door of the Old Fort Tavern onto the cobbles of Bath Street and into the dank air. Dark, dreary air that, with one brushstroke, coloured the Liverpool canvas grey. Denis turned up the collar of his coat against the biting north-east wind that licked the waters of the Mersey into short, sharp waves. A forest of ships’ masts stood above him, piercing the fog as it dispersed above the walls of Prince’s Dock.

Ships, that Denis had hoped he would be unloading that day. He had managed only two days work in the past week, earning seven shillings. It wasn’t enough; a guinea and his family could live in comfort, but work was scarce. That morning, after waiting with the other porters and hoping for a day’s work, he’d been rejected again. How to tell Hannah?

Liverpool Docks

Liverpool Docks

It wasn’t his intention to stay long at the tavern, but Paddy Kelly was there after finishing up at Clarence Dock. Kelly told Denis a grim story of famine refugees; a steamer had spilled out another miserable flood of 250 desperate souls from Dublin. Continue reading

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Tasmania to the Transvaal

The change room at the Western Mine could hardly contain those assembled. With much hand shaking and back slapping, the group of men wished their two colleagues the best of luck – give it to them warm, stay alive and come back to us. There was a call for quiet, moderating the din. Mr Deakin spoke on behalf of the mining company, and collective silence filled the room, interrupted only by the occasional murmur of approval when he voiced the admiration for the volunteers. He then presented a silver pipe to Maurice Keys. And to Victor Peers, a gold medal, a fine piece of local workmanship made by Mr Wathen of Main Street.

The two were members of the Zeehan Rifle Company, part of the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment, who responded to the call for infantrymen. Three others from Zeehan were also selected. Australia’s colonial governments sought volunteers to fight for Britain in their war with the Boer Republics. It was 1899, Continue reading

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The Search for my Irish Bennetts

“It’s those Bennetts, again…still,” I said. There may have been a swear word in there as well. Chris had asked how I could spend so much time on my iPad, with the occasional swipe at the screen and tap tap at the keyboard, or ponder over papers, spread out across the table. Those Bennetts have been the main focus of my family history research over the past 3 months, spurred on by a windfall in records that are now available.

Francis Bennett, my great, great grandfather, has led me on a merry chase over the years and there is still much I want to find out about him. Continue reading

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Our Annie

I was impatient to receive John Willis’s birth certificate once I’d sent for it. I had put the required details on the form – “as much as you know,” information garnered from his marriage certificate. He was born in Bowden about 1871 (at that time, a town two miles from Adelaide), father John Willis and mother, Ann Unknown.

If I was ordering the certificate today, I could get a copy emailed within days, but this was the early stages of my hobby of researching my family history.

Weeks later the expected mail arrived. My eyes scanned the document, picking out the relevant facts and mentally checking them off. John Willis, born in Bowden in 1869. The two year discrepancy in the birth date was acceptable. So far, so good. Father – George Gubbins, mother – Ann Willis.  No, that wasn’t right. I sent the certificate back, with a note telling the department they had provided the wrong one. No no, was the reply; this is the only one that fits the date you gave us, and the certificate winged its way back to North Queensland.  Oh, how could I have been so naive! Continue reading

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Skildergat (Peers) Cave

Victor and Bertie bent over their task, clearing away the sandy earth from their latest discovery. With each, painstaking brushstroke a blackened skull began to take shape.

Victor Peers stood up, and with hands on hips he pushed his shoulders back to relieve the aches. He walked over and looked out from Skildergat Cave. Grasses outside swayed under the north-westerly wind, but the sandstone shelter protected him and his family from the rain the wind brought. Victor could see Fish Hoek, nestled below in the sand hills. His lookout, more than 100 metres above, gave him the perfect vantage to view the panorama of the Atlantic Ocean in the west or across False Bay towards the Indian Ocean in the east. The sea (a bountiful supplier of fish, mussels, shellfish and crayfish collected by the cave’s ancient inhabitants) lapped the wind-swept valley of shifting sand dunes on two sides.

The voice of his son broke Victor’s reverie. Continue reading

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Doublegee Dan

Hannah could stand it no longer. She had placed the dough into the oven earlier, and now the smell of the freshly-cooked bread twisted her stomach into knots. Feeling ill and lightheaded, she raised her hand to knock. Her nerve weakened. She turned and walked back towards the kitchen. Again, as if dancing, she wheeled away from the cooked loaves she had turned out on the table. She advanced to the entrance of the room where her employer’s wife sat, concentrating on her baby on her lap. Hannah tapped with shaking hands beside the open doorway to get the attention of the woman within. Hannah bit her lip. With eyes to the floor and before she could change her mind, she blurted out her request.

“Mrs Phillips, could I please have some of that bread I’ve just baked?”

Mrs Phillips looked up at the slight figure of the young woman framed in the doorway, and then to her baby, which was about the same age as Hannah’s baby, John. Hannah needed strength to be able to work and feed her baby as well. Both of them were so thin.

“Hannah,” Mrs Phillips said, “you take half of one of those loaves for you and Daniel.”

Hannah could hardly contain herself. She ran over and hugged Mrs Phillips, who was taken aback at the show of affection. Then, it was back to the kitchen at almost a run. She bent down and kissed baby John, who was asleep in his basket in the corner. Hannah cut one of the loaves in two, and before wrapping one half in a cloth to take to Daniel, she broke a piece off. That bread appeased her ailment more than medicine, as she savoured the taste of each, small bite. Continue reading

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Murder at Meredith

A shot split the night, and William Purcell buckled at the knees and fell forward to the ground. He groaned momentarily, the charge from the gun shattering his heart. William Patrick Purcell, an Irish baby thirty-four years before, baptised in hope in Cork City, put into Grangegorman Prison, Dublin as a four-year-old with his mother, a thief, and transported for his mother’s crime across the seas to the Queen’s Orphan School in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land. William Patrick Purcell, a young, itinerant saddler and harness maker, the profession of his step-father, who crossed the seas once again for a new life in the Victorian goldfields. Here he met the daughter of a Ballarat miner, and a new family was started. William Patrick Purcell lay there, his life expired. Dead, before his eighth child was born.

Saddler William M. Jackson with his display of saddlery and leather work in the pavillion at the Stanthorpe Agricultural Show, 1920 Saddler 1920
Item is held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Public Domain This work has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

 

 “Another drink, Will?” Continue reading

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The Burden Riflemen

It has been interesting to discover that some of the Burden ancestors of Chris were involved in volunteer military groups. The first part of this blog post is an imagined scene – but based on facts.


Philip Burden woke early on the Saturday in March 1863 that had been chosen for an intercolonial rifle match between New South Wales and South Australia in their respective capitals. He was eager to see what weather the new day had brought. The day before, when he had been participating in a competition between his club and the Adelaide Rifles, the wind had picked up in the afternoon, so that it was impossible to keep his rifle steady when he fired his 10 shots at 800 yards. He winced when he remembered how his score had fallen off badly as the distances and the wind increased in parallel.

Philip and Mary’s two boys raced into the bedroom. Continue reading

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Pryors from Gwennap

It’s time for one of Shelley’s mysteries, and by discussing it here I hope that I can produce an interesting read and possibly make contact with living descendants of those mentioned in this post.

Did William Pryor and Mary Hosking have more children than Joseph and John that most researchers of this family acknowledge?

Joseph Pryor and his wife Ann Hosking were my g g g grandparents (3x great). Their daughter married a son of Richard Grenfell and his wife Ann from Creek Street, Burra, whom I wrote about previously. The Pryor’s also came from Cornwall to Burra, South Australia. They had 12 children, so there are many Pryor descendants in Australia.

All Pryor researchers (that I can find) agree that Joseph’s parents were William Pryor, a blacksmith, and Mary Hosking, who were married in Redruth in 1804. They also had another son, John, baptised in 1805. Joseph was baptised in 1810. A search for information on John yields nothing. Continue reading

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