Remembering Helena Gill drowned 10 July 1932

Eighty-nine years ago Helena Lucy Gill née Hughes, my second-great-grand-aunt, drowned when the SS Casino sank in Apollo Bay, Victoria. She was 65 years old.

Helena was the second youngest of eight children of my third great grandparents Samuel Hughes (1827-1896) and Sally Hughes née Plaisted (1826-1900); she was the younger sister, by twelve years, of my great-great-grandfather Edward Walter Hughes (1854-1922).

Drowned Stewardess (1932, July 11). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

In April this year Greg and I went for a drive along the Great Ocean Road. We visited Apollo Bay and had lunch at the Apollo Bay Hotel. The hotel has a memorial to the Casino, which includes the ship’s wheel.

sign remembering the SS Casino in Apollo Bay opposite the Apollo Bay Hotel
extract from newspaper clipping on display at the Apollo Bay Hotel
Green, A. C. (c. 1900). Casino. Retrieved from the State Library of Victoria image H91.325/1112.
The “Casino” at Apollo Bay. (c 1920). Rose Stereograph Co. Retrieved from the State Library of Victoria Bib ID 1731943.

The Casino carried cargo and up to 25 passengers between Melbourne and Portland, stopping at Apollo Bay, Warrnambool and Port Fairy, for almost 50 years, from July 1882 to July 1932. She made more than two thousand of these coastal passages.

From about 1914 Helena Gill worked on the Casino as a stewardess. Her bravery in the shipwreck is recalled in a newspaper clipping, part of the display at the Apollo Bay Hotel.

Tomorrow there will be a small ceremony to mark the anniversary of the sinking. A service will be held at the Casino memorial in Gipps Street at 10 a.m. on Saturday 10 July.

S.S. Casino memorial, Port Fairy. (no date). Image from State Library of Victoria Image No: a07643.

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My yellow card

In 1971, when I first travelled overseas, Australians were required to carry an ‘International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP)’, also known as the ‘Carte Jaune’ (yellow card). This was an official vaccination report recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

My card was printed by the Government Printing Office in Canberra in 1969. My first vaccinations, on 19 April 1971 were for smallpox, cholera, and typhoid. I received boosters on 3 May 1971. I was not vaccinated against yellow fever.

The Certificate was introduced following the International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation of 1933, meant to protect communities and air crew against diseases spread by air travel. The convention established regulations to prevent the spread of plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhus and smallpox..

The World Health Organisation was formed in 1946 and the Fourth World Health Assembly adopted the International Sanitary Regulations (alias WHO Regulations No. 2) on 25 May 1951, replacing the earlier International Sanitary Conventions. International certificates of vaccination replaced the old International Certificates of Inoculation and Vaccination.

In 1969 the International Health Regulations (IHR) were adopted by the WHO’s World Health Assembly. The 1969 IHR focused on four diseases: cholera, plague, smallpox, and yellow fever. A model International Certificate of Vaccination was introduced. My Certificate was in line with this.

After smallpox was successfully eradicated in 1980, the International Certificate of Vaccination against Smallpox was cancelled in 1981, and the new 1983 form lacked any provision for smallpox vaccination.

Greg’s certificate was issued by the Australian Department of Health and printed in 1984. It includes the statement, “WHO declared on 8 May 1980 that smallpox had been eradicated. Smallpox vaccination is therefore no longer justified. It may even be dangerous.”

I can’t detect my smallpox vaccination scar on my upper left arm anymore. It looked similar to this one, though this scar in the photo is from the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine which is used to protect people against human tuberculosis. Photo from Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

My travels since 1989 have not required my vaccinations to be recorded on a certificate.

I have recently been vaccinated to protect against infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I have a digital immunisation history statement which can be viewed on my mobile phone. My influenza immunisations are shown as well as my Covid-19 immunisation. The immunisation history statement is not a vaccine passport and there is no easing of travel restrictions within Australia as a result of immunisation. In fact there is no international recognition of Covid-19 vaccinations and in April 2021 the World Health Organisation in April 2021 that it does not recommend that countries “require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution.”

It seems likely that any update to my Yellow Card to certify that I have met vaccination requirements for international travel in the future will be digital and not paper-based. Digital versions of the Yellow Card have already been developed for Yellow Fever.

Philip Champion Crespigny married Clarissa Sarah Brooke 1 July 1774

Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803), one of my fifth great grandfathers, married four times. His third marriage was to Clarissa Brooke on 1 July 1774 at St Marylebone. They married by licence with the consent of her father, James Brook(e) of Rathbone Place. She was a minor, of the parish of St Marylebone. Philip was recorded as an Esquire, of Walton upon Thames, County of Surry, widower. He signed his name PC Crespigny. The witnesses were James Brooke and Hester Brooke.

Clarissa Sarah, daughter of James Brooke an engraver, and Esther Brooke nee Bent of Fleet Street in the City of London, was born on 29 April 1755 and baptised on 3 June 1755 at St Bride’s Fleet Street. Clarissa’s mother Esther later left her husband and became an actress.

The Gentleman’s Magazine London, England July, 1774

Clarissa and Philip had four children:

  • Clarissa (about 1775 – 1836) who married Edward Toker
  • Maria (1776 – 1858) who married John Horsley
  • Harry (1777 – ?) baptised 14 August 1777 at Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey and presumably died young
  • Fanny (1779 – 1865)

Clarissa and two of her daughters were painted in 1780 by George Romney. By 1780 Romney’s portraits, according to Horace Walpole, were ‘in great vogue’. Romney’s diary notes that the painting was oval and he charged fifty pounds.

Fifty pounds in today’s value is around £7,000 ($AUD13,000) when measured as a real price. However it could be valued as the labour earnings of that income or wealth equivalent to £80,000 ($AUD150,000) or looked as relative income value of that income or wealth being £95,000 ($AUD175,000). I think the two latter values more closely measure how much Romney was earning and thus what Philip needed to earn in order to pay him.

Clarissa Champion de Crespigny and two of her children by George Romney. It would seem that the daughters shown are Clarissa born about 1775 and Maria born about 1776.
The painting was last sold in 1989 from a private seller to a private buyer through the London dealers Leger Galleries. This image is from a reproduction of the painting and came from Alex Kidson, Research Fellow of the Romney Society.

Clarissa had appointments to sit for the portrait on 14 and 17 April and each of the four days from 13 to 16 June 1780. She cancelled four further appointments around those dates. In his 2015 catalogue of the paintings of George Romney, Alex Kidson notes the unusual landscape oval format and the “subtleness of design in the angling and interlocking of the figures”.

Clarissa died on 15 May 1782 in Palace Yard, Westminster, and was buried at St Marylebone on 22 May. She was twenty-seven years old. A short biographical piece on her father refers to her as an amiable and accomplished lady who died in the prime of life.

Smith, Thomas. (2013). A Topographical and Historical Account of the Parish of St. Mary-Le-Bone, Comprising a Copious Description of Its Public Buildings, Antiquities, Schools, Charitable Endowments, Sources of Public Amusement, &c. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1833) retrieved from The same obituary appeared elsewhere, for example in the Hampshire Chronicle of 2 November 1807.

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William Pulteney Dana died 29 June 1861

William Pulteney Dana, one of my 4th great grandfathers, died at the age of 84 on 29 June 1861, 160 years ago today.

William Dana was the 7th of 13 children of the Reverend Edmund Dana and his wife Helen Dana nee Kinnaird. He was born in Wroxeter, in Shropshire, on 13 July 1776.

Dana married twice, first, in the United States, to Anne Frisby Fitzhugh about 1800. They had two children: a son, who died in infancy, and a daughter, called Anne . When Dana’s wife died in 1804, he returned to England, leaving his infant daughter to be brought up by her maternal relatives.

In England Dana joined the army, serving in the 6th Royal Garrison Battalion in Ireland. There he married again, to Charlotte Elizabeth Bailey in 1812. They had 12 children. In 1815 they settled in Shropshire.

To supplement his Army half-pay William went into business as a printer but was declared bankrupt. He was briefly imprisoned in the jail named after his father.

In later years William Dana lived with his daughter Anna Penelope and her husband W.H. Wood in Shrewsbury.

Anna Penelope Wood née Dana 1814 – 1890 and her father, William Pulteney Dana 1776 – 1861 – photograph now in the collection of my father
Obituary for William Dana in the Illustrated London News of 17 August 1861 page 172 retrieved through FindMypast courtesy of Illustrated London News Group.

Captain William Pulteney Dana, who died on the 29th of June last, at the residence of his son-in-law, W.H. Wood, Esq., Holywell-terrace, Shrewsbury, was descended from a family of some eminence which emigrated to America in 1640, and which was among the earlier settlers at Cambridge, in Massachusetts, where many of its members have, from that time to this, held high position in the legal, political, and literary world. His grandfather, the Hon. Richard Dana, and his eldest uncle, the Hon. Francis Dana, were Chief Justices of the State of Massachusetts in the reigns of the second and third Georges. The American branch of the Dana family still resides at Boston and Cambridge, in Massachusetts, and occupies a very distinguished position. Its present representative is Richard Henry Dana, Esq., a poet of note ; and his son, Richard Henry Dana, a leading barrister at Boston, is the author of “Two Years before the Mast.” William Pulteney Dana, the subject of this notice, was the second surviving son of the Rev. Edmund Dana, Vicar of Wroxeter, Shropshire, by his wife, Helen, eldest daughter of Charles, sixth Lord Kinnaird. He was born on the 13th July, 1776, and married, first, Anne, only daughter of Colonel Fitzhugh, by whom he had one daughter ; he married, secondly, Charlotte Elizabeth, third daughter of the Rev. Henry Bayly, Rector of Nenagh, in the County of Tipperary, Ireland (second son of John Bayly, Esq., of Debsborough Hall, in the same county, and a younger branch of the house of Anglesey), by which lady, who died on the 13of May, 1846, he leaves a numerous issue.

Related posts

William’s biography is included in the book about his daughter Charlotte: Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana (1820-1904) and her family in Australia.


The history of James Edwards and his family at Charlton

This post continues the transcription of the family history of the Edwards family at Charlton, Victoria, compiled by Frederick James Edwards (1884 – 1974). Charlton is in north-central Victoria in the east Wimmera. F.J. Edwards was Greg’s first cousin three times removed.


When the over all gold [alluvial gold] was booming, the squatters’ drovers became restless and left to go gold digging, and the squatters in desperation imported Chinese by the thousand, at one time 100,000 Chinese were here and they also left for the gold. They were paid by the squatters per month and keep. The pastoralists advertised In China and the Chinese paid £3 boat fare and brought their own food.

In 1862 the bill was passed to open up the land and started the selected going north. And in 1874 with his brother Thomas and a little money saved, James came to Charlton and pegged out two 320 acre blocks adjoining making the square mile. An Act passed in 1862 allowed a selector only 320 acres at £1 per acre with conditions such as, the selectors had to build, fence and clear with 10 years to pay off, which the selectors could not do, and the payment was extended from time to time.

The parish plan showing the two blocks selected by James and Thomas Edwards near Charlton
The land at Charlton in June 2021

James Edwards went back to Geelong after selecting land in Charlton and married Elizabeth Ann Nicholas on 29th December 1874 and started making preparations to come to Charlton. They got together 4 horses, a buggy, a light wagon and bare necessaries and started off in the late autumn of 1875. It took two weeks to arrive at Charlton and heavy rain slowed the travel,  it took three days to go from Charlton to the selection 12 miles out. It was a big trial especially for James Edwards’ young wife who had not been out of Geelong, she had known her husband quite a few years. She had three brothers and one sister Ellen, who married a Shire Secretary at Wagga and lived there all her life and reared a big family. Her own mother corresponded regularly and I remember how the letters were looked forward to. Our mother was a stout strong woman, as her father who, tradition says held the belt for wrestling In Cornwall.

The coming to Charlton, and the prospect of a home, allowed them to look forward to their future life. Her parents said to her when leaving, in 10 years you ought to be able to retire back to Geelong, little did they know the hardships of Pioneers. The first job after arriving at the selection was to build a home, which consisted of logs and mud, the roof was the tent and the house consisted of one room. With improvements to this they lived there three years, and during that three years they were building the home which we know. There were plenty of straight pine trees which were stood up 3 feet apart with slabs across and filled with mud.

I have often heard our mother say how lovely it was to get into this new house, bark of a big tree and flattened with weight was used a lot for roofing. A poem by Tom Murphy would fit in here

Wattle and Dab formed the walls of the hut
From gumsucker saplings the highbeams were cut
And the roof over the heads of my parents and I
Was the bark of a box from the gully near by
The furniture crude in the old fashioned shack
Was the pine from the pine ridge a mile or so back
And the hole still remains not far from the door
Where they puddled the clay for the old earthern floor
The flesh of the roo for mutton did pass
And faces were washed in the dew laden grass
This beautiful towel was the bright morning sun
And the moon gave them light when the daylight was done
Our porridge a corn twint, the wheat and the oat
Whilst we coloured our tea with the milk from the goat
But although they were days of trials and fears
They but used them as steps did our old pioneers.

Our mother was a wonderful woman and took her part in the pioneering of the district. A little woman named Jane Prichard came up with her and stayed with her for 10 years, a grand little woman. The first 10 years being the hardest for the pioneers. Our mother’s first born arrived in November 1875. She journed to her old home in Geelong for the event, the rest of her family were born at ‘Lamorna’. Ada the second girl was born in the tent, there was quite a big population coming there by that time, and a few of the old women acted as maternity sisters and the friendships in the District was a wonderful help to those old pioneers.


The Narrewillock school had 60 on the rolls and the families of those old pioneers always had 8 to 10 children, in fact 3 families adjoining us had 13 children. Within a few miles of our parents home there were a dozen big families, amongst the neighbours were the Douglass family of 12 only 1/2  mile away. Alec Coote, W. Coote and Tom Coote, O’Callaghan, O’Mearers, William, and a few others, all good neighbours and would all help one another.

For the first 10 years clearing the land carting water, and sinking storages was the big worry, the years 1875 to 1907.

The dingo gave them a worry, I have heard our father speak of the last dingo shot, he hid in a big bush one bright moonlight, expecting the old man dingo he came back to the kill of the night before and shot him. His 4 paws and tail were hanging up in the barn for many years. Kangaroos and Emus were all gone and driven back by 1880. About the early 80’s the rabbits put in their appearance, our father came home excited one day with a young rabbit and in a few years there was a plague of them. I caught the first fox in about 1890 with the sheep dogs. That was their first appearance and of course that pest will be always here now. The Shire gave a bonus of £1 a scalp and I got the £1 for the skin we kept for many years.

The native wild life that was on the Lamorna farm In the 1870s are now gone. Kangaroo, Emu, Native Cat, Wood mice, Curleu, Woodpecker, Ground Pluver, Chatterona Brown Bird, twice the size of a starling. The fox, rabbits and house cats, gone wild, are responsible for their disappearance.

Schooling for myself and four sisters was at Narrewillock five miles from home, the school had a few rooms attached, and an old man lived there named Brightwell, he kept the  Post Office. Our eldest sisters did all their schooling there, later there was a school built one mile away from home called Hallam school, myself and youngest sister went mostly to this school. All walking was the order of the day. A teacher called Os Derrick stayed at Hallam four years and this was really the only schooling I received. Our parents lost one of the family, a girl they called Mary Beatrice who died of quinsy in 1880 which was a heavy blow to our parents. Two of the biggest worries was the shortage of water and money, and carting water was a constant job and sometimes from the Avoca River 7 miles. This worry was not realised [relieved] till 1921 the year I tapped the Marmal Creek and filled our dam, when the creek ran in the winter time. This creek ran eight years out of ten, the farmers are now served by a channel from Lake Lonsdale, in 1948.

On the 640 acres there were two patches of about forty acres without trees and these patches got more than their share of cropping, as the clearing of this was a big job. Our father bought a mower with two horses to pull in 1877 and a little peg drum thrasher to thrash the barley, and in about 1882 bought a stripper and winnow from South Australia which was wonderful in those days.

This type of stripper was used till the turn of the century. Our father bought the first H. V. McKay harvester in 1906 and from then on harvesting became much easier.

Advertisement for H.V. McKay, Sunshine Harvester Works in Sunshine, Victoria about 1911. This image appeared in The Leader (Melbourne) on 11 March 1911, page 31 with the caption “Young Australia at work; 500 bags of wheat harvested, unaided, by the Sunshine Harvester in a week by two boys, aged 12 and 13 years, sons of Mr. James Murphy, Sale.” This image retrieved from Flickr but the original source not given.
HV McKay Harvester at Campaspe Run Rural Discovery Centre, Elmore, Victoria, Australia. Photograph by User GTHO retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

The horses named Darling and Jess were two good mares, they bred from them and their breeding was carried through right to the time the horses were discarded on the farms in about 1935, some farmers favoured horses earlier and some later. The prices for grain were too low for the farmers to prosper, the prices were controlled by spectator [speculators] being about 2/6 for wheat and as low as 1/- for oats, lambs 10/-. On less [Unless]  a compulsory pool was established in 1916 but still no price fixed. In 1928 the Wheat Growers Association was formed  which I was a foundation and executive member and from then on we gradually took control. The stabiliasion [stabilisation] scheme has been paying 12/- for quite a few years. I stayed on the State Council of the Victorian Wheat Growers Assoc. for five years and for the work and enthusiasm I put into the Association in the pioneering days, the Association at the Annual Conference in 1964, I was made a life member.


The season in this part of Victoria was uncertain, sometimes a very wet year and sometimes a drought. 1902 was the big drought and the next year 22 inches of rain. The big drought that I remember was 1902, 1914, 1920, 1929, 1940, 1944. I Frederick James took over the control of the farm in 1907. Nell the eldest married in 1902 to J. Findlay. Ada was music teaching in Ararat and Jean the youngest sister was with her, and Beatrice married P. Toose in 1909. I married in 1910 and had our 5 children there and for a while drove them to Narrewillock school but in March 1920 bought this house in Charlton and have lived there ever since. My wife Anne died 9th January 1963. Our family all turned out well they were all big, strong and good sports. Gwen (4 daughters) now Mrs. Richards, Bob married Joyce Parker (3 daughters) and is now at Beaumaris, Freda (1 son &  1 daughter) now Mrs. Piccoli and is now at Barraport. Joyce with two sons is on the farm, Nan (2 daughters) now Mrs. Nagel and lives at Black Rock.

The following is from my father James Edwards Diary.

1874. Met the surveyor from St. Arnaud and pegged out the two blocks at Narrewillock, the ground looks good plenty of grass but no water. I was married on 29th December 1874.

1875. Spent a few months in preparation in coming to Charlton, left Bullarook on 22nd May having lived there 14 years. My father has recorded they were very happy there. Arrived at the farm having spent 16 days on the trip. Very wet which made the travelling hard. First child born in November (Nell).

1876. Sowed the first patch of wheat, carting water.

1877. Second child born (Ada) .

1878. Drove to Geelong — one horse and buggy. We shifted to the new house having lived in a tent for 3 years.

1880. Rabbits were in plague proportion. Brought first stripper which proved a success.

1881. Lost two fingers, a sad event. Father suffered severely and was in St. Arnaud hospital for awhile.

1882. Started a Sunday school at Narrewillock which he kept on for 25 years.

1883. Shortage of water is causing hardship, sold 150 sheep 7/-.

1884 Received £11/7/3 as fathers share of Will B. Gilbart (London).

1885. Very bad year, 167 bags (4 bushels) total cheque £115/11/11.

1886. Another bad year 94 bags from 150 acres. Sold 61 bags for £34/19/6.

1887. First plague of Locusts.

1888. Sold 220 bags wheat price 2/10 ½ per bushel. Rev. Kirkwood started preaching at Narrewillock, he stayed there 20 years. Bought 125 sheep at 6/5d. , wheat price this year 1/9d.

1891. Sent two trucks of sheep and lambs to Melbourne, price £87/5/- for 226 sheep.

1892. Later sent 165 lambs to Melbourne, cheque £54/4/10. Bought stripper and winmower, the winmower is still at the farm. Bought cow and calf for £3.

1893. Sold 163 bags for 1/9 a bushel some at 1/7 ½, sold 115 bags oats @ 6 ½ d.

1896. Wheat price rose to 4/6 ½.  696 sheep were shorn, shearing cheque £5/2/- for shearers.

1897. Sent 130 lambs to Melbourne, cheque £41/1 2/10.

1898. Rented Howards 1200 acres for 3 years, £150 per year, this land is held now by Hillard, Blair, McGurk and L. Douglass.

1900. Ordered first seed drill, Massey Harris £45.

1901. Very dry, carting water takes the whole time.

1902. The first big drought, practically no rain for the year, horses went to Lang Lang and sheep sold, this from now on is  written by F.J. Edwards.

1903. The year was good and from now on the farming system very much improved.

1905. We bought a H.V. McKay harvester which made harvesting from now on much easier.

1907. [1908] Uncle Tom died, he had been a great help mate to father all his life  – age 81

1908. Our mother died, she had been in Ararat with Ada, but came home when she became sick –  age 65.

1909. Sister Beatrice married P. Toose

1910. Myself married to Annie Morcon of Bendigo.

1914. Another drought, no wheat, the first big war started.

1916. Our father died this year aged 81 both he and our mother are buried in Terrappee cemetery.

1920. Been having good seasons, my wife and self bought our home in Charlton, we have five of our family.

1921. I sank the big dam at the farm 9000 yds it took three five horse teams about three months, a big job.

1925. Ken McPherson took wheat growing on the shares, he and his wife stayed five years.

1929. Another drought, sent 24 horses to Tatura on swamp country, Gerald Buckley property, stayed 6 months.

1930. The Wheat Growers Association was formed this year the first big move to organise the wheat growers as a foundation member. I stayed on the State Council five years. The next ten years was the depression years, fair seasons but low prices.

1931. Bob 21 was now working the farm, I made over Pratts and Howards 560 acres to him.

1941. Son Bob married and built the new home at the farm, costing about £3,000.

1944. Very bad drought, Bob Edwards took over the full management and bought O’Mearers land 500 acres @ £7 per acre.

1948. Bob bought 2,000 acre property at Ballan and left the farm.

1949. Joyce and Bob Chambers left the Bank and gradually took over the whole farm, bought Bob Edwards’ land for £20  per acre.


1963. 9th January mother died and is buried in Terrappee Cemetery, her passing has left a blank in the family.

1964. Another good season, the Chambers have two good boys, one 19 and the other 13, these boys should and I think will carry on and uphold the tradition of the Pioneers, and who will carry on the farm at Narrewillock.

I am now 80 years.

Related posts

Wikitree links:

Peggy de Crespigny and Ruth Smith in the Australian Women’s Army Service 1942

A week ago I received an email about a photo in a family collection: “I have come across a photo of Peggy Champion De Crespigny with my mother, Ruth Smith, circa 1942, both in Army uniform.

They enlisted in the army around the same time and were good friends. I don’t know if this friendship pre-dated the war, but mum used to talk about the Champion De Crespigny’s with great affection. I don’t think they ever met up in future years even though they both eventually lived in Adelaide – mum since the mid-1950s. Mum passed away in 2005. [Peggy died in 1989.]

Mum has written on the back of the photo: Peggy de Crespigny and Ruth coming from the Torrens Parade Ground along King William Road near Govt. House, Adelaide.”

Peggy de Crespigny and Ruth Smith 1942

The Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was formed in August 1941 to release men from less important military duties so that they could serve with fighting units.

Isobel Ruth Smith (Service Number – SF64955), 23 years old, enlisted at Adelaide on 21 May 1942. Her occupation was clerk.

Margaret Champion de Crespigny (Service Number – S65003) enlisted at Adelaide on 26 May 1942. Her occupation was coding and deciphering, she had just started the signals course the day before.

From 25 May 1942 to about August Ruth and Peggy attended a communications course called the Australian Signals Course No. 41.

On 13 August 1942 Ruth was transferred to a special wireless school at Bonegilla near Albury. Ruth was graded as a Group 1 Wireless Telegraph Operator and later promoted to Sergeant. She was discharged in January 1946.

Ruth’s son sent another photo of Ruth “Also a photo of my mum, Sgt. Ruth Smith, who served in signals with the Australian Special Wireless Group a somewhat secretive outfit who were told that they were never mention their role, or mention the Aust Special Wireless Group, and were never to march in ANZAC Day parades (and she didn’t). Interestingly the ASWG became the Defence Signals Directorate.” He also recalled that his parents “would talk fluently in high speed Morse code, especially if they didn’t want [him] to know!”

Sgt. Ruth Smith

On 17 August 1942 Peggy de Crespigny became a Sig [Signaller] Wm Gp 2 with SA L of C [South Australian Line of Communications Area]. In July 1943 she attended the LHQ [Land Headquarters] School of Military Intelligence at Southport, Queensland. In December 1943 she was discharged at her own request on compassionate grounds. Peggy’s mother Beatrix had died 11 November 1943.

I was interested to see that the attesting officer on Peggy’s forms was Captain May Douglas. I met May Douglas many years later. She was a friend of my grandmother Kathleen—both played golf—and she was also much involved in the Girl Guides.


Remembering Captain Gordon Skelly

My sixth great grandfather Gordon Skelly was a Captain of the Royal Navy. He died on 22 June 1771, 250 years ago today.

He was born in 1741 at Warkworth, Northumberland, England to the Reverend John Skelly and Lady Betty Skelly née Gordon, daughter of Alexander the second Duke of Gordon.

He first joined the merchant navy in 1755, when he was about 14 years old. From 1757, probably as a midshipman, Skelly served on HMS Devonshire, a 66-gun third rate ship of the line. The commanding officer was William Gordon (1705 – 1769); it sounds as though they were related. William Gordon later became a Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.

In June 1758 Skelly saw action at the Siege of Louisbourg and at the Capture of Quebec in September 1759. He kept a journal from 1757 to 1759. This account seems to hold considerable importance to historical collectors. It was sold in 2003 for $US141,900.

Burning of the French ship Prudent and capture of Bienfaisant, during the siege of Louisbourg in 1758, Richard Paton. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Skelly’s journal has the title “A Journal of two Voyages to North America. In his Majesty’s Ship ye Devonshire, From June 1757 to December 1759. Containing the Expedition against Louisbourgh under the Admirals Holburne and Boscowen; with the Reduction of some places of less note after the Surrender of Louisbourgh in the year 1758. The transactions during the winter at Hallifax in 1759–The arrival of Admiral Saunders with a Fleet against Quebec…to the Surrender of Quebec, and our return to England….“. Skelly recorded the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, also known as the Battle of Quebec, on 13 September 1759. Just outside the walls of Quebec City, “the whole line of the enemy soon gave way, ours pushing on with their bayonets till they took to their heels and were pursued with great slaughter to the walls of the town.”

“Slipping and stumbling the men went on” The British under General Wolfe climbing the heights of Quebec, 1759. Illustration by J. R. Skelton for the book Our Empire Story by H. E. Marshall. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Gordon Skelly passed his lieutenant’s examination on 5 August 1761 and was commissioned as lieutenant on 1 October 1761. He served on several ships, among them HMS Baltimore, where from 10 October 1762 to 3 December 1762 he kept the Lieutenant’s logbooks.

On 10 January 1771 Skelly was appointed commander of the Royal Navy 10 gun sloop Lynx, stationed at Shields in north-east England. He and seven others were drowned there when the ship’s longboat was overturned by breakers when crossing the harbour bar.

Newcastle Courant 29 June 1771 page 2. Image (and subsequent newspaper image) retrieved through and reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive.
Leeds Intelligencer 2 July 1771
Entrance to Shields Harbour from The Ports, Harbours, Watering-places and Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain Vol. 1 by William Findon retrieved from Project Gutenberg

Gordon Skelly married Dorothy Harrison on 6 June 1766 at Yarm, Yorkshire, the ceremony conducted his father the Reverend John Skelly, Vicar of Stockton.

They had three children:

  • Gordon 1767–1828
  • Dorothy 1768–1840, mother of Sophia Mainwaring née Duff
  • Andrew 1772–1785

His granddaughter Sophia née Duff (1790 – 1824) married Rowland Mainwaring (1783 – 1862).


A visit to Charlton

Yesterday Greg and I drove to Charlton to look at the Wimmera land selected in 1875 by his great great uncles Thomas Edwards (1826 – 1908), James Edwards (1835 – 1916), and John Gilbart Edwards (1829 – 1912).

Last week I had found the properties on the parish plans, through the website of the Public Record Office Victoria. Thomas and James were in Narrewillock Parish north-east of Charlton. Comparing the plan to Google maps I discovered the road adjacent to the property was named—conveniently for us—‘Edwards Road’.

The land selected by Thomas and James Edwards from the Narrewillock Parish plan

John Gilbart Edwards settled at Yeungroon southwest of Charlton.

The land settled by John Gilbart Edwards from the Yeungroon parish plan.
Map of places visited near Charlton

We first found the property at Yeungroon, on Five Mile Road. The countryside nearby was in splendid condition after the rain. We stopped to look at a mob of sheep. They had a lot to say, much of it ‘maa’ rather than ‘baa’. Perhaps they were maa lambs, not baa lambs, a different breed.

Afterwards we looked through the Charlton Golden Grains Museum. The volunteers there had sent me a comprehensive list of newspaper articles about the Edwards, including obituaries for Thomas and James. At the museum we saw photos of the Charlton H.E.S. (Higher Elementary School) Basketball team of 1925. A couple of the photographs had the granddaughters of James Edwards Gwen (1910 – 2006) and Freda (1913 – 2008) Edwards in them .

Thomas died in 1908 at Charlton and was buried in Charlton cemetery. James, who died in 1916, was buried in Terrappee cemetery. We found their graves.

Charlton Cemetery is a mile west of the town.  From the obituary published in the East Charlton Tribune, which had been shared with us by the Charlton Golden Grains Museum, we knew that Thomas was buried there. At the cemetery is a directory of the site, erected by the Rotary Club, which lists all the graves and their location. The grave of Thomas Edwards has no headstone, but we were able to determine which plot was his by confirming the location of the neighbouring headstone. It is rare to find such a useful finding-aid at a cemetery.

On our way to Terrappee we drove past Mount Buckrabanyule which is covered with Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta), an invasive noxious weed, now listed as a Weed of National Significance.

The view west from Mount Buckrabanyule

Afterwards we visited the grave of James Edwards at Terrappee Cemetery, about 10 km northeast of Charlton. We knew in advance from FindAGrave that James’s grave there has a headstone.

James’s son Frederick James Edwards is buried next to James. Strangely, his gravestone has the wrong date of death. James died on 15 December 1974, the date confirmed by his death notice in The Age of 16 December.

Terrappee cemetery is a small bush graveyard, peaceful and calm, surrounded by enormous cultivated paddocks. It has a large peppercorn tree.

Then we found their property, formerly known as “Lamorna”, which had been selected by James and Thomas Edwards. A new crop of wheat had sprouted. James Edwards’s diary recorded that he sowed his first patch of wheat in 1876, a year after his arrival.

The land settled by Thomas and James Edwards in 1875 with a new crop of wheat.

From Terrapee we came back to Charlton and after a pleasant roast lunch sitting in the sun on the verandah of the Cricket Club Hotel drove home to Ballarat.

Wikitree links:

History of the Edwards Family page 1

I was pleased to receive a copy of a brief history of the Edwards family in Australia—one branch of it, at least—from one of Greg’s Edwards cousins, a descendant of his great great uncle James Edwards. Greg’s mother Marjorie was descended from Francis Gilbart Edwards, youngest son of Thomas and Mary Edwards nee Gilbart.

Marjorie was quite interested in her family history and passed on many stories to me. She was especially fond of retelling the history of her Edwards and Gilbart forebears and their connection with a missionary family named Tuckfield.

The history, six pages long, will be continued in future posts.

Page 1


This short history of the Edwards Family was compiled by Frederick James Edwards, the son of James and Elizabeth Edwards who was born at the farm in 1884, ten years after the parents came there as Pioneers.

James Edwards was a great reader and very literary minded and from the time he arrived on the selection he kept a day to day diary from 1874 to 1901, and at the end of this history I will note the principle events of each year from year to year. It was partly from this diary that I got the particulars that is in this history.

For the benefit of future generations the following is a brief history of the Edwards families just prior to coming to Australia and since that time.

The founder of the Australian family was Thomas Edwards who was born in St. Earth [Erth], Cornwall in the year 1798 and during his manhood of the 49 years in Cornwall he had interests and worked in a foundry known in those days as Rolling Mills and manufactured principally mining equipment, carts, shovels and picks.

He married in 1826 to Mary Gilbart, the daughter of a prominent Methodist family. It is traditional that John Wesley stayed with the Gilbart family when founding the Wesleyan Church in Cornwall, they provided land for the first church and copper laid pulpit for the church.

Mary Gilbart’s elder sister came to Australia in 1838 as the wife of Rev. Frances Tuckfield, the first Wesleyan Minister appointed to Victoria.

Thomas and Mary Edwards had 5 sons and one daughter [7 sons and 2 daughters], the continuation of our family was the third son James, who was born on January 28 1835, at St. Earth [Erth] and came to Victoria at the age of 14 with all the family as immigrants and arrived in Corio Bay, Geelong on Christmas Day 1849 [13 January 1849] in the sailing ship “Lysander” and on account of the poor landing facilities and adverse wind did not land until the next day, The time taken by the ship from Plymouth to Geelong was about 100 days. This ship “Lysander” of 475 tons had 238 passengers and there were 9 births and 7 deaths on the passage. The ship had one more trip to England for immigrants and bought back to Victoria the documents signed by Queen Victoria for the separation of N.S.W. from Victoria in 1851. It was then fitted out as a hospital ship and acted in that capacity for many years and acted as a Hospital Ship at the Crimean War.

The Victorian Government paid all shipping freight for tradesmen on all tools used by the trade. We have an anvil forged made and steel faced at the farm, brought out under those conditions.

The hardships of landing in a new country with no housing and a big family can be imagined. The father was a wheel right and carpenter and the eldest boys were also in the trade. And in Geelong, while there was plenty of work, later James with the eldest brother Thomas, who stayed with James and worked together through life, followed the gold rush without success, and then went farming at Little River, Buninyong and Bullarook where they stayed 14 years.

The farm at Bullarook proved quite a good farm, potatoes were the main crop. As the open up the land cry was on, and all the Western District was taken up they decided to select at Charlton. When the parents grew old they went to Bullarook with Thomas and James and died there and are buried in the old Ballarat cemetery, The years at Bullarook was 1860 to 1874 with the sale of the Bullarook land at £10 per acre gave Thomas and James a IittIe money to start at Charlton. The finding of gold in Victoria brought thousands of immigrants from overseas and the service [surface] gold soon worked out and selectors took up land going north as the Western District was already taken over by squatters. These dates were from 1853 to 1870.

Greg and I have visited the graves of Thomas and Mary Edwards at Ballarat Old Cemetery.

The grave site of Mary and Thomas Edwards Wesleyan Section Ballarat Old Cemetery : WN, Section 08, Row 2, Grave 09 The headstone is missing. Buried at this location are Mary Edwards nee Gilbart died 1867, her husband Thomas Edwards died 1871, and four grandchildren, the children of Mary and Thomas’s son William Edwards. (Grave location identified with reference to the adjacent headstone of David Cooper at WN, Section 08, Row 2, Grave 08)

We have also visited the land at Bullarook 15 kilometers east of Ballarat.

Related posts

Wikitree links:

Tree progress May 2021

In May 2018 I wrote about the progress I was making on my tree.  Out of the possible 1,023 individuals of the previous ten generations of my forebears, how many, I wondered, could I name?

I discovered that I knew the names of only 22% of the possible 1,023 on my side of the family. On my husband’s side I knew the names of only 13%. From our children’s perspective the combined figure was 31%.

Two years later, in March 2020, I had made only a little progress. I was then able to name 33.6% of the combined total, about 3% more. A year later, as of today I can name 352, 8 more, 34.4% of the possible 1,023 total.

For the last six months I have been transferring my research to WikiTree, a collaborative project intended to produce a ‘singular worldwide family tree’.  (The genealogist Kitty Cooper discusses the scheme in a post of 26 April 2019). By contributing my research to WikiTree it will be there as a resource for my cousins to use now and indefinitely into the future, safe, I hope, from accidental and malicious damage.

In places there are discrepancies between my personal research tree and WikiTree. I still have 15 of my children’s 5th great grandparents to transfer from my tree to WikiTree. Transferring means revisiting my research and making sure I have citations to justify the relationships and the asserted facts. I also have names of forebears on my personal tree about whom I know nothing more than their name. These people cannot be added to WikiTree until I have more information about them.

Using the “Ancestor Explorer” app developed by Chase Ashley (, I can see a sortable list of all the ancestors of my children for up to 20 generations back and I can monitor the progress of identifying their 1,048,576 18th great grandparents and of the pedigree collapse that reduces the number of unique forebears.

As of today, on WikiTree my children have 3211 unique ancestors named and 8914 duplicate ancestors (additional lines of descent from a unique ancestor) within 20 generations. Less than three months ago, on 28 February, my children had 2459 unique ancestors and 7705 duplicate ancestors (additional lines of descent from a unique ancestor) within 20 generations; in particular, as part of my exploration of our Irish ancestry, over the last few months I have added a large number of our Irish forebears.

When looking at the 1,023 individuals of the previous ten generations of our forebears, I have only 245 recorded on WikiTree, 24% of the possible forebears.

The application DNA Painter has useful charts to present tree completeness. I exported GEDCOM files from WikiTree and my personal research tree to compare the results:

Progress on my personal research tree as at 13 May 2021 from the perspective of our children – 352 forebears of a possible 1,023 in ten generations.
Surname groups from left to right: Young, Cross, Sullivan, Dawson, Champion de Crespigny, Cudmore, Boltz, Manock
Progress on WikiTree as at 13 May 2021 from the perspective of our children – 245 forebears of a possible 1,023 in ten generations.
GenerationAncestors identified WikitreeAncestors identified Personal research treeDifferenceTree completeness WikitreeTree completeness Personal research tree
Parents2 of 22 of 2100%100%
Grandparents4 of 44 of 4100%100%
Great-Grandparents8 of 88 of 8100%100%
2nd-Great-Grandparents16 of 1616 of 16100%100%
3rd-Great-Grandparents32 of 3232 of 32100%100%
4th-Great-Grandparents45 of 6457 of 64-1270%89%
5th-Great-Grandparents55 of 12872 of 128-1743%56%
6th-Great-Grandparents43 of 25677 of 256-3417%30%
7th-Great-Grandparents39 of 51283 of 512-447.62%16%
8th-Great-Grandparents41 of 102473 of 1024-324.00%7.13%
9th-Great-Grandparents54 of 204857 of 2048-32.64%2.78%
10th-Great-Grandparents69 of 409642 of 4096271.68%1.03%
11th-Great-Grandparents96 of 819230 of 8192661.17%0.37%
12th-Great-Grandparents122 of 1638420 of 163841020.74%0.12%
13th-Great-Grandparents187 of 3276818 of 327681690.57%0.05%
14th-Great-Grandparents276 of 6553615 of 655362610.42%0.02%
15th-Great-Grandparents34 of 13107215 of 131072190.03%0.01%
16th-Great-Grandparents12 of 26214412 of 2621440.00%0.00%

A useful challenge that categorises ancestral profiles was posed earlier this year by the Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink. She suggests there are six levels of profile beyond ‘Unidentified’ (where not even the name is known):

  1. Name only – perhaps the forebear is named in a child’s record but no other details are known
  2. Vital statistics – know the dates but little else
  3. Occupations, residence, children, spouses – know several key points of information; know when and where they were born, married, and died, but also where they lived between those key dates and what they did for a living; know who their children were, and if they married multiple times.
  4. Property ownership, military service, religion, criminal activity – filled in more biographical details about their lives; researched in court, notarial, cadastral, church and military records, where applicable; if they owned property, how they acquired it, how they disposed of it; whether they left a last will or if they had a prenuptial agreement; for men, whether they served in the army; what religion they were and which church they attended; if they were criminals, what they did and what their sentence was.
  5. Genealogical Proof Standard – Yvette categorises this as ancestors for whom she has finished reasonably exhaustive research and has proven who their parents are; finished researching them in a wide range of records, such as newspapers, town records, and tax records; documented them according to current genealogical standards, analyzed everything properly, resolved conflicts, written up her conclusion, and met the Genealogical Proof Standard.
  6. Biography – Yvette categorises this as ancestors for whom she has not only finished the research, but has produced a biography or family story with historical context from it.

I think these stages are indeed useful in measuring progress. I have a long way to go in compiling the profiles of our forebears beyond merely recording their names and dates.

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