When more than thirty years ago I began researching the family history of my husband Greg I was given some postcards belonging to his grandfather, Cecil Young (1898-1975) which had been handed down to father, Peter Young (1920-1988).

At that time I didn’t know much at all about the people and places mentioned on the cards. They were from Bob. Who was he? They referred to Homebush. Was this the Sydney suburb of that name?

I now know much more. Bob was Cecil’s older half-brother. Homebush was a gold-mining town in central Victoria.

Bob, born Robert Henry Whiteman on 10 March 1883 at Parkes, New South Wales, was the oldest child of Sarah Jane (1863 – 1898) and Robert Henry Whiteman (1839 – 1884), a miner. In February 1884 Robert Henry Whiteman senior died of pneumonia. Bob was eleven months old. His sister Mary was born six months later.

In Melbourne in September 1894 Sarah Jane married John Young, a gold miner. Bob was then aged eleven and Mary was ten. In 1894 Sarah Jane had given birth out of wedlock to another child (who came to be known as Leslie Leister). She left this child in Parkes, where he was brought up by her mother and sister. It appears that Bob and Mary came to Victoria to live with John Young and Sarah Jane.

John Young and Sarah Jane had three children together:

  • Caroline 1895-1895, born and died at Timor aged one month
  • John Percy (Jack), 1896-1918 born at Bowenvale near Timor
  • Cecil Ernest 1898-1975, born at Rokewood

Sarah Jane died of postpartum haemorrhage the day after Cecil was born, leaving John Young a widower with two step-children: Bob now aged 14 and Mary 13, and two infants: Jack, almost two, and the newborn Cecil. John’s sisters appeared to have taken care of these children. Jack and Cecil grew up in Homebush with their aunt Charlotte.

John Young in 1899, his two sons Cecil and Jack, and his two step-children Bob and Mary Ann Whiteman. Photo colourised using the MyHeritage photo tool.

The postcard collection has five written by Bob Whiteman to his half-brother Jack. Jack’s birthday was 24 August; three are birthday cards. All five were written between 1906 and 1911. Most are from Moriarty in northern Tasmania, a small settlement fourteen kilometres east of Devonport.

The post card album
Dear Brother Jack
I think you have been a long time answering that postcard that I sent you. So I think when you get this boshter you ought to write.
Give my best respects to all.
Good Bye for the present.
Your loving brother B. W.

(Boshter’ was Australasian slang for someone or something first-class or impressive. See: Green’s Dictionary of Slang https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/6mealla)

Road near Cora Lynn, Tas. painted by L H Davey. The State Library of Victoria has a copy of this postcard.
Moriarty 21st 9th 1908
Dear Brother Jack
I hope you don’t think that I have forgotten you I have been very busy lately one way and another. I have got my potatoes in I will have to chance what they turn out like now. Hoping you are well as I am myself at present I will say Good Bye.
Moriarty 8th 12th 1909
Dear Jack I suppose you thought I had forgotten you. We are having dreadful cold weather over here for this time of the year. Wish Aunt and Uncle and Lora a Happy xmas and a prosperous new year for me and accept the same for yourself and Cecil. All this time Good Bye Bob.

(Aunty and Uncle were Charlotte Wilkins née Young and her husband George Wilkins the Lower Homebush schoolmaster. ‘Lora’ was almost certainly Laura Squires, the school sewing mistress. In 1925 she married George Wilkins after the death of Charlotte.)

Moriarty 12.9.1910
Dear Jack
No doubt you will think it funny me sending you a birthday card after letting it pass so long but better late than never I suppose you are both growing fine big boys by this time. I will write you a letter when you answer this so don’t be too long. Have you seen Father lately.
Moriarty 8th 1st 1911
Dear Jack, I suppose you were beginning to think I was never going to write but I hope you had a Merry Xmas & New Year. Things were quite enough over this way. How is Aunty & Uncle & Lora getting on wish them all the compliments of the season for me it is rather late but better that than never. I hope you enjoy your holidays. All this time so Good Bye Bob.

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