Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The interconnectedness of things: the Catron brothers

I wrote in an earlier blog about the joy of discovery when one seemingly unconnected research project meets another and I find that there is a link between the two.

This is the case with the Catron brothers, whose father William, a teacher with the Victorian Education Department, was among a number of teachers who began their careers in the early 1880s and who became known as ‘Twilighters’. These teachers, who spent nearly sixty years in pursuit of justice in a superannuation claim (ending in 1920), were the subject of my Masters of Education thesis at Monash University in the late 1990s.

Now, nearly twenty years later, I have a new interest in the Catron family and much of the research I did way back then is useful again!

William Catron was a teacher at the Humffray Street State School in Ballarat East when his sons Joseph and William enlisted in the AIF. His was a teaching family. Two brothers and a sister were teachers, as were his sons at some stage of their lives.

2nd Lieutenant Joseph Edward Thomas Catron MC, 8th Infantry Battalion.
Image courtesy AWM. Image DA15101.

Joseph Catron was born in Kilmore in 1891. By the time he enlisted in the AIF he was a married man with two daughters and was living in Brunswick. He left with the first contingent in October 1914, was wounded on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 8 May 1915, evacuated to Malta, then England and returned to Australia. Once he’d recovered from his wounds, he re-enlisted and left for the front again in July 1916. Promoted to Captain, he was awarded the Military Cross in September 1917 and was discharged that December in order to take up a commission in the Indian Army. On his return to Australia he became a primary school teacher and was stationed at 1222 Skye (Lyndhurst South) from 1929 to 1936. At the time he enlisted in World War Two he was teaching at Newhaven Special School on Phillip Island. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Joseph Catron (fourth from left), with wife Zoe, children and other family members. c 3 May 1916. Image courtesy AWM. Image DA15124.

1058 Sergeant William George James Catron, 8th Infantry Battalion.

William Catron was a married man living in Hudson Street, Coburg when he enlisted in the AIF. Born in 1886 while his father was teaching in Omeo, he began his working life in 1908 as a teacher, but resigned in 1912 to take up a position as a warder at Pentridge Prison. An early enlister, he embarked for the front in October 1914, rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant, briefly served on the Gallipoli Peninsula and was invalided back to Australia in April 1916 following an operation for appendicitis. When he was well enough, he returned to the front where he was killed on 3 March 1917. By this time his wife Ivy and daughters Muriel and Unity had moved away from Coburg.

William Catron is remembered at the Memorial Avenue of Trees, Lake Reserve, Coburg. His was tree number 20. On the day of the planting ceremony in 1919, it was the second tree to be planted – by ‘Pompey’ Elliott’s wife.

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