Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year!

Thanks to Kylie McKay of Romsey for supplying this postcard. 

The writer is Elsie of Chandos Street, Coburg. Fanny McKay lived at Hill Croft Farm in Newlands. Elsie refers to two former students of Coburg State School - C. Phillips and L. Libbis - and there's been some sort of tiff because she's not speaking to them.

I'm not sure who C. Phillips was, but the Libbis family lived in Mayfield Street, Coburg between 1909 and 1912 when they moved to Nelson Street. Leslie and Bill Libbis both served in World War One (Bill was killed in August 1915). They had a sister Myrtle Lilian, so perhaps she was called Lilian. Otherwise, it appears Elsie's argument was with Leslie. We may never know!

Both Leslie and William Libbis are featured in my book The Old Boys of Coburg State School Go to War which is available from Coburg Historical Society.   

Monday, 24 December 2018

Season's Greetings!

Thanks to Kylie McKay of Romsey for providing this card. 

Fan is Fanny McKay of Hill Croft Dairy, Newlands. The Hugh she refers to is Hugh Hilliar and Will Geddes is his nephew. They, with Will's cousin William McKay, died in a boating accident at Tarwin in July 1917, just before the cousins were due to leave for WW1. You can read about it here

The stories of William McKay and William Geddes as well as that of Kylie's grandfather Gordon McKay, are told in my book, The Old Boys of Coburg State School Go to War. They were all members of the pioneering McKay family who owned some of the earliest quarries in the area and went on to be prominent dairy farmers.

William Geddes. Courtesy Cassy Twomey.

William McKay. Courtesy Cassy Twomey.

Gordon McKay. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Cricket - it's the season!

Cricket team - Coburg? I'm guessing it is, because of the logo/emblem on the caps. Gordon Alexander McKay is third from the left sitting down. But who are the others? And what year was the photo taken?
Image courtesy Kylie McKay, Romsey.

Current logo from the Coburg Cricket Club's Facebook page.

It's a cricket team again and I've guessed that it's taken at Coburg. Gordon Alexander McKay is third from the right in the front row.
Image courtesy Kylie McKay, Romsey.

I wonder if you noticed the woman looking on at the top right of the image. Sometimes these little extras provide a bit more 'personality' to a photo. I don't suppose anybody recognises her? Or could help date the photo from her clothes? (If it's Coburg, then it would have to be before Gordon McKay's enlistment in July 1915. If it's after the war, it could be anywhere up to April 1922 when Gordon McKay died. And if it's after WW1, then it's likely it was taken at Cowra, NSW, although he had big problems with arthritis in his knees from the time he joined up, which probably meant he couldn't play cricket any more.) 

I also noticed that homemade cakes and scones were on offer (close to lunchtime for me as I write this and it's just made me very hungry!) The curved opening of the building behind the players is also very distinctive and I'm hoping that someone reading this will recognise that feature.

Gordon Alexander McKay served in WW1. He married Annie Forbes in 1913 and was living in Preston with his wife and two children when he enlisted. 

Gordon Alexander McKay, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

After the war Gordon McKay moved to Cowra, NSW with his brother-in-law Archie Sutherland. By now there were four children in the family, the last, a girl, born just two months before Gordon died in April 1922 of blood poisoning after his knee was injured when he was run over by a waggon. After his death, the farm was sold and Annie moved to Essendon brought up her four children. She remained in Essendon until her death in 1964.

Gordon McKay is featured in my book The Old Boys of Coburg State School Go To War, which is available from Coburg Historical Society.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Coburg RSL's Remembrance Day Service

This morning I was honoured to be the guest speaker at the Coburg RSL Sub-Branch's Remembrance Day Service as we reflected on the 100 years that have passed since the Armistice was signed at 11am on 11 November 1918.

The compere was Kathy Doyle. Sub-Branch President Michael Pianta spoke movingly about the war itself and its global and local impact. It was my turn then and I chose to look at how local people rebuilt their lives and found a way forward after the war was over. 

Music was provided by the 4th/19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse Regiment Association Band under the baton of Ian Davidson; vocalist Hannah Desmond; buglar Gavan Stray and piper Ian Arrell. The catafalque party was made up of members of the 7 Transport Squadron.

A group of World War One re-enactors showed us what some of the equipment and a Casualty Clearing Station would have looked like.

And wreaths were laid as a moving tribute to all service personnel who have fought for Australia over the past 100 years.

The service was a time to reflect on the losses but also on the impact of that war on the local community.

I leave you now with my final words this morning:
'We are here today to remember those who died, those who returned, and their families, friends and the community. The individuals I have just spoken of looked their futures squarely in the face as they set about creating their new world. I would like to think that in the same situation, we would all do the same.'

Friday, 9 November 2018

After the war was over

The National Archives of Australia has just launched an online exhibition on how Australians faced life after the war.

It's well worth a visit and you can see it here.

If you are in the area and are interested, I am speaking at Coburg Library next Monday (12 November) at 5pm. Find out more here

'The crowd in front of the Age office yesterday afternoon', Age, 13 November 1918

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Coburg RSL celebrates its centenary

Yes, Coburg RSL is one of the oldest sub-branches around and it's just about to turn 100.

Here's some information about the Centenary Celebrations.

 Click here to book your ticket through EventBrite.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Coburg Cycling Club's WW1 Honour Board

I took this not very good photo of Coburg Cycling Club's WW1 Honour Board in January 2015. 

There were many articles about members of the Cycling Club who enlisted in the local newspapers. One of the most detailed was this one from the Brunswick and Coburg Leader4 August 1916.

Coburg Cycling Club: It is the great pride of the club that they have sent so many champions to the front. A roll of honor board was made some time ago, but it is full: 40 names in all. There are 20 names to be put on yet, hence the necessity of another board.
Among the latest members who have been wounded are L. Cpl. Broome and Pte. Lou. Ambler. Both are progressing favorably, according to latest advice.
Recently we announced that Pte. C. Jones, our great champion, had been 'seriously wounded' receiving a bullet in the head. We are now pleased to report that he has been through a successful operation and is on the road to recovery. He will be remembered as one of our foremost road and track champions, representing the club in Nella Shields and road premierships, gaining 2nd place in the 25-mile premiership, and other races too numerous to mention. His cheerful, willing disposition, his good nature, gained for him many friends in the ranks, as it did in the Coburg Cycling Club. He enlisted in July 1915, in company with J. Sheppard and W. Cooper, who, we are pleased to report, are in the best of health.
Corporal Gambetta, who enlisted and was rejected, was for several months on home service. He has now received his discharge. We will now see his well-known figure on the road. He is training hard in preparation for the big wheel race at the Exhibition, to be held this month. He has every hope of getting into form again and repeating his former successes. His ambition is to get to the front and fight for King and country.

In the end, the Honour Board listed 86 Club members, 16 of whom died. 

Monday, 27 August 2018

Mud and Blood - and 'Pompey' Elliot

There's a new play out about 'Pompey' Elliot, written by Moonee Ponds writer Meg McNena and performed at the Clocktower Theatre.

'Pompey' Elliot attended many local events, including the 1919 Dinner for Returned Soldiers at Coburg Town Hall. You can read about that here. He was also at the planting of the Memorial Avenue of Trees at Coburg Lake Reserve, which you can read about here.

If you live locally, this is a 'must attend' event.

Thanks to Lenore Frost and her The Empire Called and I Answered blog for publicising what will be a very special event.

Check out the Clocktower Theatre's website for further details.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Female Relatives Badges

A World War One Female Relatives Badge

Recently Lenore Frost posted an interesting piece regarding Female Relative Badges on her blog 'The Empire Called and I Answered'. You can read it here.

Not too long ago, I was shown another badge - a Mother's badge - that was worn by a local Coburg woman - either Emma Ashcroft or Maria Templeton. You can read more about the Ashcroft and the Templeton families lives during WW1 and beyond here and here.

Image courtesy Jean Taylor

As we look back on the years of World War One, our focus is mostly on the soldiers who went off to war and it is easy to forget the sacrifices of those left behind. These badges, and others like them, are reminders to everyone that mothers, sweethearts and wives all made their own important contribution to the war effort. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

1834 Private William Tardif, 7th Infantry Battalion, 4th Reinforcements

William Tardif was the eldest of six children born to William Reilly Tardif and Clementina Ross between 1893 and 1905. He was born in Wedderburn, a small rural town in Central Victoria. His mother was from Wedderburn, his father from Eaglehawk.

Wedderburn High Street, circa 1906. Image H90.140/1130. 
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria. 

His parents married around the same time they moved to Brunswick, in 1903, the year their fifth child Florence was born. One more child was born in Brunswick – Clarence Hector (known as Hector) – in 1905.
In October 1906, William Reilly Tardif, aged only 36, died of pneumonia at the Melbourne Hospital. He left a destitute Clementina to raise their six children. The newspaper headlines declared ‘A Bequest to the State: Six fatherless children’. The children were boarded out to their mother and remarkably she kept her family together. Clementina had pleaded with the court to keep the children: ‘She could not part with her children, but could pull along if they were boarded out to her.’ (Coburg Leader, 20 October 1906)
They remained in Brunswick, where William Claude Tardif, a trucker, enlisted on 5 January 1915. He was 21. On 16 May 1915 he joined his battalion (the 7th) on the Gallipoli Peninsula but by early July he had been sent to the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital on Lemnos with epilepsy.

The tents of the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital, Lemnos, which the Allies used as a base during the Gallipoli campaign. Image C02290. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. 

No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital, Lemnos. Image C02263. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

William Tardif returned to Australia in September 1915 and was sent to the newly opened Soldiers’ Convalescent Rest Home at Clifton Springs for treatment. 

Clifton Springs Hotel, c1914-1916. The hotel was used as the Clifton Springs Soldiers’ Convalescent Rest Home from December 1915. Image H2002.19892. Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.

Although Major J. Mitchell, the CO of the Rest Home wanted him to stay and work as an orderly, William remained there until at least February 1916, but then returned to the family home in Brunswick.

 Pages from 1834 Private William Tardif’s war service record, Courtesy National Archives of Australia.

The family moved to Coburg and for a while William and his mother survived on a war pension. but he soon resumed his place in the workforce and by 1921 is listed in the electoral roll as a municipal employee. He continued to work as a driver.

The Tardif family lived at ‘Wedderburn’, 47 (later renumbered 59) Main Street, Coburg. His sisters married and eventually moved away. His much younger brother Hector (Hec), who was only ten when William went to war, remained in the area.
His remarkable mother, Clementina (Teeny), had kept her young family together under very stressful circumstances. She lived with her eldest son until her death in 1950 aged 76.
William remained in the family home. He died in 1965. He had never married, but survived the war and the condition it brought into his life and despite the prejudices of the times, remained in the work force and enjoyed what appears to have been a productive and happy life. Looking back on his war experiences and the development of what was then termed ‘epilepsy’, it is hard not to wonder whether his epilepsy was actually a form of shell shock. If you are interested, you can read an article on The Conversation website on the myths and realities of soldiers with shell shock here.

Sources:Australian War Memorial
National Archives of Australia
State Library of Victoria picture collection
Victorian Places website
Victorian birth, death, marriage indexes
Victorian electoral rolls
Sands and MacDougall Street Directories
The Conversation website
Bendigo Advertiser, 26 June 1894
Age, 13 October 1906
Age, 18 October 1906
Argus, 19 October 1906
Coburg Leader, 20 October 1906
Age, 27 October 1915
Evening Echo, 29 December 1915
Geelong Advertiser, 16 March 1916
Age, 19 October 1920
Argus, 17 June 1950
Age, 16 June 1953

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Staff Sergeant-Major Frank Taylor, hero or fraud?

I'm going to begin this post by going back to a story I've told before: the story of Staff Sergeant-Major William Dalton, who was based at Coburg. In February 1914 he became Staff Sergeant-Major Instructor in Cookery to the AIF Camps in Australia, based at Broadmeadows. In late August 1916 he was court-martialled for having received a large quantity of stolen tea. He was given the option of enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force rather than serving a prison term. This he did. By 3 October 1917 he was dead, killed in action at Ypres. You can read his story here.

I've started with William Dalton's story to show that even amongst men with previously spotless records, there were falls from grace.

Just down the road in Brunswick, Staff Sergeant-Major Frank Taylor sprang onto the scene with great acclaim in January 1917 (by which time Dalton was already overseas). He was appointed Brunswick's official recruiting organiser, based at the Mechanic's Institute on the corner of Sydney Road and Glenlyon Road. 

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 19 January 1917

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 March 1917

Brunswick Mechanic's Institute, taken by me, 4 March 2018 (day of the Sydney Road Street Party)

An imposing figure (powerfully built and 6 foot 3 inches tall), he arrived to great acclaim:

Sergeant-Major F. TAYLOR, the official organiser, is an old warrior and a much-travelled individual. He is a fine upstanding fellow, being 6 feet 3 inches in height, a native of Hawkesbury NSW and of massive proportions. 
His father was the late Sir Charles Taylor, KCMG, and he is a cousin of the late General Sir Edward Hutton, a former Commander-in Chief of the Commonwealth Forces.
The Sergeant fought right through the Matabele War (1896), Bechuanaland War (1897), Boer War (1899-1902), Somaliland War (1903-4), Swazi rising (1905), Zulu rising (1906), and in the late South African rebellion. He also experienced a lot of tribal fighting in Egypt and the Soudan.
Gaining the DCM in the Matabele War, he was decorated by the late Queen Victoria in 1897, by the late King Edward in 1902, and by his present Majesty King George in 1911.
He possesses also general service decorations, and was formerly a Captain in the Field Intelligence Department of the Military Forces of the South African Union. (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 February 1917)

Who could fail to be impressed? There was more:

 Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 2 February 1917

On his return to Australia from South Africa in 1915, he went to New South Wales, we are told, where he took part in the 'Snowball' marches of 1915 and 1916:
Staff Sergeant-Major T (sic) TAYLOR DCM,  is accompanying the 'Boomerangs' to Bathurst NSW as instructor on their route march, is a soldier possessing a remarkable career. As the 'Boomerangs' marching from the Parkes and Forbes districts are going into the Bathurst Camp a few particulars regarding Staff Sergeant-Major Taylor will be read with interest. He first saw active service in the Matebele War 1896 as a Sergeant in the British South African Police, and was recommended for the Victoria Cross. .. etc. (The Bathurst Times, 3 February 1916)

'Western Champion' (Parkes), 27 January 1916

There were ten recruiting marches in NSW and southern Queensland in 1915 and 1916. They had names like the Waratahs, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Dungarees, Men from Snowy River, Kurrajongs, Kookaburras, Central West Boomerangs and North Coast Boomerangs

Image H11586. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Taken near Wallendbeen, NSW, c1915. The ‘Kangaroos’ march along a country road. This group started in Wagga Wagga in December 1915 with 88 men. By the time they walked the 350 miles to Sydney their group had grown to 230.

The accolades for Frank Taylor were repeated throughout the rural press, in Victoria and New South Wales.

Then came the fall from grace. 

Frank Taylor's stay in Brunswick was brief. He was 40 years old, single and lived at 74 Smith Street west, Brunswick, according to the 1917 electoral rolls. He was in Brunswick from January, when he was appointed, until 17 March, when he was 'relieved of his duties' (Evening Echo, 13 April 1917) and he left Melbourne en route to Adelaide, where he later claimed he was going to try to find similar work.

He got no further than Ararat. There he was intercepted and on 19 March was charged with a number of offences:

Soldier Prosecuted. Ararat Vic. Wednesday 28.3.1917. At the Ararat Police Court this morning, Frank Taylor was fined £3, or three weeks imprisonment, for having used insulting language at the Ballarat railway station to a guard on the Adelaide express. A second charge of travelling in a railway carriage on March 19 without being in the possession of a ticket or pass was dismissed. It was stated, in evidence by railway and recruiting officials, that Taylor was a recruiting officer at Brunswick till March 17. Taylor was next charged with having on March 19 worn a military uniform contrary to the War Precautions Act. It was deposed that he was in the uniform of a staff-sergeant at the Ballarat refreshment rooms. He came on to Ararat by the midday train and changed to plain clothes on the way up. (Argus, 29 March 1917)
Not too long after this, Taylor was arrested again, this time on 3 April 1917 at Lorquon, near Nhill (in the Wimmera). The charges ranged from forging and uttering to perjury and he was sent to Melbourne to the Supreme Court for trial. This time he did not get off so lightly. He was sentenced to 12 months. He served the first few months in Melbourne Gaol and the rest of his sentence at Pentridge Prison. 

Frank Taylor's prison photograph, taken April 1917.

His prison record (Prisoner 34589), available online at the Public Record Office of Victoria (Central Register of Male Prisoners, VPRS 515/P1, item 67, record Page 388) provides a little more information: He was 6' 2 and 1/2" tall, had brown hair and blue eyes, was a labourer and his religion is given as Church of England. It also records that he was born in New South Wales in 1877.

I have found no further trace of Frank Taylor after his release from Pentridge on 6 March 1918, but as I attempted to verify the stories about the early life of this 'modest' man who was never heard boasting about his exploits, it became clear that all was not right with his back story.

So, this is what I have found:

Family: He claimed his father was Sir Charles Taylor, but I have found no evidence of this. I can't even discover who Sir Charles Taylor was or what he did or where he lived. He said his cousin was Sir Edward Hutton, but again, no link has been found, although Hutton's life is well outlined in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Birthplace: On a number of occasions his birthplace is given as New South Wales, often the Hawkesbury is mentioned, but I have found no record of his birth in the Birth Indexes for New South Wales. On one other occasion, his birthplace is given as Serviceton, Victoria. This is a possibility, as Nhill was where he was apprehended in April 1917, and it is not far away. Again, he is not listed in the Victorian Birth Indexes.

Birth date: Almost all references to his age in newspaper articles suggest he was born between 1877 and 1879.

Occupation: He was described variously as a labourer, an engineer, a master mariner, a soldier, a recruiter and organiser, a dairy farm hand (in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW).

War experience: His supposed war record in South Africa was repeated endlessly in newspapers around Victoria and New South Wales, but nothing can be verified. Believe me, I've exhausted all the usual sources.  One newspaper said he left Australia for South Africa when war broke out and another that he returned to Australia in 1915 from South Africa. Yet another said he served at Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula and another that he had just returned from France.  I even found an article in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post (30 September 1915) that said he had just passed the medical for active service. He is also said to have worked at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. There is no record of war service on the National Archives of Australia website, however.

So, I'm left wondering what is the real story behind this man with the 'unassuming disposition and cheery manner', a man who was 'immensely popular with the staff at headquarters'. (Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, 18 April 1916)

It's quite a story whichever way you look at it. I don't suppose I'll ever discover the 'truth' of his past or what happened to him after April 1918, but if you have any suggestions of where I could look, please let me know.

Victorian electoral rolls
Victorian Birth indexes
New South Wales indexes
Fighting the Kaiser
Australian Dictionary of Biography
Australian War Memorial encylopedia
Australian War Memorial images
Public Record Office of Victoria, Central Register of Male Prisoners, VPRS 515/P1, item 67, record Page 388
Anglo Boer War website
South Bourke and Mornington Journal, 28 January 1915
Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 30 September 1915
Western Champion (Parkes), 27 January 1916
The Bathurst Times, 3 February 1916
Sunday Times, 2 April 1916
The Globe and Sunday Times War Pictorial, 8 April 1916
Richmond River Herald, 18 April 1916
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 19 January 1917
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 2 February 1917
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 February 1917
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 March 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 20 March 1917
Ararat Chronicle, 20 March 1917
Argus, 21 March 1917
Age, 29 March 1917
Argus, 29 March 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 29 March 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 12 April 1917
Ballarat Courier, 13 April 1917
Evening Echo, 13 April 1917
Herald, 13 April 1917
Warrnambool Standard, 13 April 1917
Herald, 19 April 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 29 April 1917