Friday, May 14, 2021

A little lady from Hobart, Tasmania

I am always curious about the folk who lived in New Zealand and Australia in 'pioneer' days, and after my happy experience delving among the Ellises of Collingwood, I looked around this morning. And I found this little lady ...

Sarah Rachel, aged eleven, from Hobart Town.

I think mother's fashion sense was a bit off. It looks as if the peddler-man had been by, selling beads and bows. Hair ribbons might have been more useful. Well, I guess this was colonial Hobart, but mamma was a English-born colonial vicar's daughter.

Yes, I identified the lassie very quickly. A quick estimate of the age of the photo -- late 1870s? -- a quick look at the Hobart birth registers ... Her name was Sarah Rachel SHIELD and she was born in Hobart 29 April 1867. Father: Rippon Shield. Mother Elizabeth Hawley née Barnett.

Well, this is going to be a doddle, I thought. Even if mother seems to have been married under two different names. A father named 'Rippon'? Anyone who knows anything about Tasmanian history knows of Rippon Shield: he was a South Shields stonemason who emigrated to the colony in 1853, and to Hobart in 1856, and there became a prominent builder of public buildings.

Wrong. Wrong? But Rippon Shield, stonemason, from North England, born 1822ish ... you can't tell me there were two of them, who both emigrated to Hobart in the 'fifties, both worked as builders ... Oh, yes, you can. 

The name of Rippon Shield goes back for generations, and, as such names are, was handed down through sons and sons of sons: Rippon born 1769, Rippon born 25 April 1798 ... and these guys had multiple sons, who named their sons 'Rippon'. And so we have the situation of one Rippon being born in South Shields (father: John, bapt 27 January, b 1822) and another in Newcastle (father: Edward, bapt 24 November, b 1822). Anyway, Rippon (1) appears to have arrived in Brisbane on the Caroline 1853,  before progressing to Hobart. Rippon (2) came the following year ...  And they weren't the only members of the Shields family to head for Tasmania, others followed. Some stayed.
Anyway, Rippon (1) is the well-known one, Rippon (2) 'of East Cramlington' is our man. And, yes, the family historians have muddled the two up hideously!

Son of Edward Shield of the Cramlington Colliery (stonemason), who built the local Methodist Chapel and preached therein, and his wife Isabella née Chicken. He can be seen in the 1841 census in Blyth, then in 1851 with his new wife, Mary Anne née Athey 'of Windy Nook, Gateshead. And a couple of years later they set sail south. It was a tragic trip: Mary Anne died on the voyage (22 November 1854) and their baby, Ann, soon after Rippon's arrival in Geelong 23 January 1855.

 The widower headed on to Hobart 'Rippon Shield junior, New Town, Hobart, builder'. Seems that both the Rippons benefitted from something called an 'immigrant bounty ticket'. Nowaday you have to pay heaps to buy property, as a foreigner, in Australia: in those days, they paid you!

Rippon (1) became a civic worthy, Rippon (2) is less in evidence. I see both of them at the foundation-stone laying of the Seymour of the coal-mining company's fire-clay works on which both men were engaged in the construction. Just like home!  Rippon (1) was a thoroughly married man and multiple father, Rippon (2) aftermore than a decade of widowhood, had remarried (Hobart, 12 January 1864). The marriage was registered, but ... well, the lady in question, née Elizabeth Barnett, daughter of the now late Rev William Henry Barnett, had been previously married, to one William Hawley, seemingly a local stationer, and sported a large number of offspring. I haven't followed them, or her extant husband up, but neither do I find any divorce. But this is Tasmania, and as Ive found in other cases -- including the famous Alexander Henderson one -- things could happen (or not happen) down there which the rest of the world couldn't disprove.

Rippon (d Alpha Road, Willoughby 10 June 1898) and Elizabeth (d 5 November 1892) had two daughters: Ethel (1864, Mrs Sims, Mrs Parker, the odd scandal) and Clara Rachel ... so here we are!

Things get less complex now. Clara married Mr William Macrow, son of Albert Owen Macrow (d 1927) of the merchanting company of A Macrow and Son and Miss Belinda Colina née Fairburn. Ah, yes, Macrow's Furniture Shop 106 Charles St. Mr William Macrow had social ambitions and Clara went too. All the right afternoon teas and fêtes. 

They had five surviving children, three daughters who married as papa wished -- Ethel Colina married a Circketer, Vernon Ransford and made the news -- a fourth who didn't (Frances Elizabeth ka Bobbie), and one son William Reginald Fairbarn Macrow, whom I see serving in Egypt in WW1.  Papa disinhertied Bobbie, who stayed at home with mother, allegedly because she wanted to take a job, and papa found that injurious to his social status. His executors and the courts reconstitued her 'rights' and gave her a tidy annuity. 'Bobbie' sounds interesting.

The Ransford wedding. Clara 2nd from the left.

William died 4 November 1946, aged 86. Clara, after years in Kooyong, in the Prince of Wales Hotel, Fitzroy Street, St Kilda 29 July 1949. Daughter Ellinor Glinn Iris Campbell (Mrs) -- oh! what sins the movies committed -- had predeceased her (1947). The other daughters ('Dolly' Ransford and Clara Zoe) and Bill ... oh and Bobbie (d Sandringham 23 October 1983, 'gentlewoman') ... I haven't followed up. 

I say! The family started off with a Miss Chicken and ended up with a Ma-crow ...

Enough for today. Enjoyed my trip to Hobart. And the Yamba sunshine. And the gentle sea breezes. And the quiet ... and here I am at 5.30pm with my iced chardonnay, the waves crashing sonorously over the rocks, thinking 'to where shall I voyage tomorrow"?

And, please, family historians ... untangle the Rippons in your trees (74 of 'em! on ancestry!)

PS, I see the family who stayed home had the odd tragedy, too:

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Eating Lotuses ... or, The Kiosk and the Kid


The sun came out, 20 degrees of delightful warmth ... today was not going to be a desk day. I took my hat (obligatory with my melanomic scalp), my purse, and a book and headed for the Kiosk on Main Beach ..

That's my spot, last blue-and-white brolly in the front stalls ...

The beach was only lightly populated. Only one swimmer braving the waves. And they looked soooo inviting ..

One apple and spinach juice, please, and one ham and cheese toastie ...

Take in the view ... the sparkling waves, the quiet, happy, relaxing people. 

Into my little brunch, and my book ...

It is a Yamba book, and I've been waiting for it for a year. The author is a young local man named Solee, nom de plume, Stagbeetle. I read his first book two years ago and I was delighted with its original mixture of fantasy, fact and physics. I promptly ordered the sequel. But covid made me wait. This week, Solee, his wife Esther and their kid, Jasper came into town and brought me my book ..

Jasper stopped the traffic! He must be the most photographed baby in town!

Solee can write. Truly, too many people who do, can't. He can. And his books need to be diligently read. Slowly. Not in my usual fiction style, skipping over the descriptive bits and the longueurs. So I am doing a few chapters at a sitting. A few chapters with each Kiosk toastie, I suspect!

The sea was so inviting, I finally ventured to put a toe in. Not much more, for there is quite an undertow which can destabilise a wobbly-man such as I ... and if I go down, I can't get up! But a wee paddle is so much nicer without my walking stick. 

After two weeks here, I think I finally feel at home ... I think today was my favourite day so far ...

But I suspect there will be lots of favourite days so far!

The World of Waimea or, Ganzl to Ellis in fourteen steps ...

On this little plot of land, I was brought up, not knowing ...

After the shock of finding a bevy of distant relations (really, my cousin Nerole's relations, but that makes them mine by marriages interposed) on geni, I thought I had better find out who these folk were that linked me to the Post Office Hotel in Collingwood. Follow that geni ....

Cousin Nerole and cousin Neville

The start of the chain, going backwards, is simple.

 (1) me [and brother John] 

(2) our wonderful mum, born Agnes Ada ('Nancy') Welsh 

(3) her elder sister Margaret Hudgson Welsh 

(4) Margaret's husband, lovely Uncle Eric Newton Jones, accountant in Lower Hutt. Nerole's father. 

(5) Eric's father, book-and-stationery shopkeeper Newton Calvert Jones (b Ashburton 3 December 1877; d Ashburton 24 October 1962) in Ashburton for 30 years. 'Good toys that we heartily recommend. Gilbert Erector and Electrical Sets, Meccano, Metal Tea-sets, Unbreakable Balls, 7s6d Go-carts ...' (1922). 

(6) Eric's uncle Rewi Melville Stephenson Jones (b Ashburton 15 January 1894; d Palmerston North 8 January 1963) and (7) his wife Hazel Pearl née Humphreys (b Ashburton 13 October 1897; d Feilding 30 October 1985) whom I am not sure that I ever met, but, of course, Nerole did.

Now into the previously unknown. (8) Hazel's father was Harry Arthur Humphreys (b Southbrook, Rangiora 28 February 1874; 14 July Ashburton 14 July 1953). Oh, heck, I shop weekly in Southbrook and Rangiora. Its 15-20 minutes from Gerolstein ... I see he was for a while a draper in Kaiapoi. This is all awfully close to home ... Harry became cornettist, conductor and bandmaster of the Ashburton Brass Band in the early years of the 20th century, and I see him still, in the 1940s, as choirmaster of the Baring Street Methodist Church Choir.

(9) Harry's mother was Elizabeth née Lines. She ('late of Payne Street, Rangiora', died in Sydenham and is buried -- oh no! in Rangiora 18 February 1922. I've often wanted to explore the old Rangiora cemetery. We pass it half a dozen times a week. Elizabeth was born in 1839, and she and her father, stepmother and two brothers can be seen in the little village of Maidford, Northants (I bought my first house in Rothwell, Northants) in the 1841 census before they all emigrated to Nelson the following year. She was married in Holy Trinity, Richmond, in 1858, and Elizabeth and her husband Frank Humphreys, also from Northamptonshire, had thereafter nine children. I need not say that I spent my schoolyears living in the village of Richmond and knew the little clapboard church well (from the outside), a hundred years later ... oh! maybe it wasn't so little, the school path (1956) only led past the front view  ...

I see that Frank, who seems to have been a chaff-cutter, after various vagaries including bankruptcy, died after being thrown from his horse and cart in Kaiapoi in 1890 (23 May) and that he, too, lies in Rangiora Cemetery!

(10) Elizabeth's father was Thomas Lines, an agricultural labourer in Maidford, and she was the child of his second wife, Ann Sarah née Blackwell. 


However, Thomas had two sons by his first wife, Sarah née Jones, who had died in childbirth of a third in 1833.  On their arrival in New Zealand, they settled in the tiny almost-village of Hope and Thomas was still there when he died, forty years later, 23 April 1885. Eldest, English-born son, John, died at Hope 21 December 1883, but Thomas's New Zealand-born children populated the Nelson province for many years.
When Thomas died, aged 83, his obituaries were printed from one end of New Zealand to the other as 'one of the pioneer settlers'. He is buried in Richmond cemetery. I wonder if that's the same Richmond cemetery a few hundred metres from my Cheyne Walk home ...

Ah! How often did the young Kurt ride through all these places on his maroon Raleigh bicycle in the 1950s ...

Now we're on the descending track ....

(11) The other of those sons/Elizabeth's half-brothers who was born in England was Benjamin Robert Lines, who arrived with the family 25 October 1842 on the 400-ton Thomas Harrison at Nelson, after five months' journey, at some 11 years of age. He seems to have worked as a thresher, had a property at Ranzau (yikes! I can smell the silage on Ranzau Rd to this day, but I had to go there for the comb honey!), and at Wakefield ...

But hang on. So who was the Benjamin Lines drowned in the Wai-iti River in January 1847 and buried at Wakefield Church? 

Born Maidford 1828, to Benjamin and Elizabeth ... Maidford, again? There are only 339 souls in the village in 1841!

Well, it seems that some folk may have their Lines a wee bit crossed, for he is not our man but a cousin or something. That census shows three Benjamin Lines amongst the population, all three of whom emigrated to New Zealand. I gather the local vicar was behind the exodus.

Here they all are! The passenger list for the emigrant ship lists Thomas (38) and wife Ann (27), Benjamin (36) and wife Elizabeth (26), plus Eliza (15), John (12), Sarah Ann (11), Benjamin (10), Elizabeth (3), Leah (2), William (1), John (0) and Thomas Harrison (born on the trip) ... the whole fam-damily! Brothers, cousins and aunts.

The elder Benjamin was to become a farmer at Woolston, and lived to the age of ninety (d 14 January 1895)

Our man, 'contractor', died at Wai-iti and the village of Foxhill, aged 72, 13 June 1904 and lies in the cemetery there. 

So, Benjamin 'of Wai-iti' married one Sarah Tunnicliff (oh! I went to school with the Tunnicliff boys! Thought. I was related to them?), daughter of Thomas Tunnicliff (d 25 October 1882) 'of Hill Hall Wakefield' another landholder in the Wai-iti Hills. The Tunnicliff Forest at Wai-iti Domain commemorates the family. Benjamin and Sarah bred six babes in ten years before Sarah's death at 35. The widower had to adopt out his third surviving daughter (who wed a scion of another notable local family, the Baigents), but it is second surviving daughter Minna Lucy Lines (b Nelson 22 February 1857; d 4 Grove St, Nelson 2 February 1938) whom we now follow ...

Benjamin remarried, Sarah Allcock, who died at Wai-iti 28 August 1901.

(12) Minna married (Spring Grove 30 December 1874) Joseph Holland son of George Holland of Foxhill. I see that father and son had 300 acres in the Wai-iti Hills 'in a valley running in a south-westerly direction from the south-west corner of Higgins's leasehold ..' and that Joe added the lease 'for agricultural purposes' of 200 acres in the Aorere valley to his portfolio just before his marriage. I see him thereafter contracted for 'thirty two chains of gravelling' by the Waimea Road Board (father was on the board), appointed secretary (father was chairman) to the Foxhill School Board, and adding yet another 200 leasehold acres in Collingwood to the holdings of "Holland and Thomas". In 1885 I see him tendering unsuccessfully (vastly undercut) for the construction of Motupiko school. In 1888 I see he is growing hops and brewing beer 'at Belgrove and Owen', and suffering a broken leg in a riding fall on the way home from Lyell. 'By dint of coo-eeing a Chinaman who was in the neighbourhood was attracted to the spot and ...'. In 1890 he made the news in a less painful way when the Belgrove-Motueka Railway was constructed through his land, in 1892 'Mr Joseph Holland's Brewery at Fern Flat, Buller' was burned down, and he then tried to sell his Belgrove property, but let it instead and it too was destroyed by fire. 

He next purchased D M Chapman's property 'on the Waimea Road, with brewery, hoptonic factory, fruit gardens and vineyards &c', next to the Church Trust property, in 1898. I see in 1910 he is President of the Nelson Defence Rifle Club and 'supplying the Railway and White Hart Hotels, Richmond'. Omigod, do I remember Frank Wilson and the Railway Hotel in the 'fifties ..!.

Joseph died at Waimea 17 November 1925.

(14) and Gladys married Theodore Mardoc Ellis, grandson of Montague of the Post Office Hotel, and son of the Francis Montague Ellis of the Waiwera winery!

So, in 14 steps, Gänzl meets Ellis ... well, well ... and even at a further distance Ben senior's daughter of whom it was reported in 1940 ..

Minna gave birth to six children including (13) Gladys Irene Holland (b Nelson 1894; d Cromwell 13 September 1938. Cromwell! At last. A town with which I have nothing to do! 

I see that 'the Roe family', descendants of Thomas and Benjamin Lines, have researched the Lines family minutiously at so I sha'n't do it again. Their 'contact us' button isn't working, but they may be surprised to find a Kiwi-Scottish-Austro-Hungarian Jew on their very extended family tree!  Of which but a fragment appears here :-)

I should say that my immediate family only ended up in Richmond by pure hazard. Father Fritz Eduard Ganzl (by then known as Dr Fred Gallas) immigrated to Wellington in 1939 to take up a post at Wellington Technical College. We removed to Richmond when he was appointed foundation principal of the new Waimea College. Little did we know that mother's family had pioneer roots there. He would have loved to know that!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Willie John: 'famous' for a little while ...


I couldn't pass up this German photo. A chappie dressed to play the memorable leading role ('The Hunter') in the hugely popular Conradin Kreuzer opera Das Nachtlager in Granada (1834). And better still, a production at Trier ...

But what intrigued me was his name:

An American, I guessed. And I was right. 23 year-old Willie John Farmer, from Keokuk, Iowa. But it wasn't that simple, for Willie John had a few names during his lifetime ...

He was born in Keokuk on 2 June 1886 (or 1885, he filled in official documents with both dates, but he's not in the 1885 census) as William John MERKEL, son of John C Merkel from Mississippi, a machinist, and his wife Ruinda Hestelia BOUGE (?). Father John died at 26, 27 April 1889, when Willie was still an infant, and Ruinda married Thomas FARMER, a local restaurateur, the following year (3 August 1890). Her son grew up as Willie Farmer.

He came early to music, evidently, for I see him in 1906 mentioned as a member of Hans Conreid's Metropolitan Opera Company. A minor member I would guess. In 1908 he set out for Germany where he, allegedly, 'made his debut' at the Berlin Opera House. I can't find that, but here he is in 1909 playing a leading role in opera at Trier.

The experiment didn't last too long, and his was soon back in Keokuk ('professor of music') with his parents, singing in the occasional concert 

However, in a few years he had forgotten his operatic ambitions, and turned his sights towards the musical theatre. And with some success. In 1913-15 he appeared on Broadway and the touring circuits in Der liebe Augustin, the Mizzi Hájos shows Her Little Highness (King of Bosnia) and Sári (Count Estragon), and with Hazel Dawn in Adele (Charles de Chantilly) and The Debutante (Philip Frazer) but not as Willie John Farmer. He had now become 'Wilmuth Merkyl' ...

Hazel Dawn was headed for filmland ... and, allegedly talent-spotted by director Harry Macrae Webster, Wilmuth took the same route. In 1915 he was featured with Betty Nansen in what had been Jose Echegaray's A Celebrated Scandal, in Gretna Green with Marguerite Clark, in Niobe with Miss Dawn, in The Price with Helen Ware, in Wife for Wife and in The Victory of Virtue with Gerda Holmes ...

as the filmland publicists did their utmost to work him up to stardom with puff paragraphs and a rather slicker image than had had Willie John Farmer ... and 'look our girls, he is a bachelor!'  Well, of course he was: and thus would remain.

In 1916 he was featured in the Ocean Film Company's The Fortunate Youth, in Blazing Love with Virginia Pearson, in Her Surrender and opposite Petrova in The Soul Market. The puff didn't entirely come off, however. The New York Tribune commented sourly 'perhaps Merkyl was induced to go into the silent drama by someone who had heard him sing'.

In 1918 he returned to the screen as Count Vladimir Androvitch to the Fedora of Pauline Frederick, alongside Billie Burke in a version of Divorçons (Let's Get a Divorce), in A Man's World, Suspicion, The Burden of Truth but, by the time the 'twenties arrived, his time in the sun was done. In the 1920 census he no longer describes himself as 'film actor' but as 'professional singer'. And he is living in New York. He had returned once more (now as John Merkyl) to the theatre, and I spot him playing Mortimer Bayne in the George Gershwin musical Our Nell (1922). However, by the mid-1920s he was back in filmland, now no longer a billable leading man, but playing waiters, escorts and walk-on bits in the latest type of films ...

Mother and her third husband, William Morris, moved out west too, and the three of them made their home together is Los Angeles. Willie John was now calling himself 'John David Merkyl'.  Ruinda died 3 September 1950. Willie on 1 May 1954.

I don't know when, how and if he appeared in those countries mentioned in his soi-disant biography. In the gap 1911-13 perhaps ... I shall keep my eyes open, without a whole lot of hope. As for his 'long career in grand opera' .. well ....