About Me

My photo
This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in family & local history, cemeteries, reading & libraries, old stuff, research & writing, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend doing the things I love!

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Remembering Jack Porter 1882-1918 ~ 100 years ago

One hundred years ago today, just months before the end of World War 1, ‘Jack’ Porter was killed in action in Belgium. Jack played an important role in our family, having been married to Amy Richardson, sister to Annie, our gt Grandmother.

John 'Jack' Porter as a young man

John James Porter known as Jack, was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire on 26 February 1882, the son of John Henry and Frances Porter. His father was a shoemaker and operated a shoe store. A bright boy, Jack attended St John’s College, Cambridge and studied to become a teacher. Whilst at St John’s he won a swimming race and was awarded a set of silver spoons. By 1901 he was employed as a National School teacher.   
Amy and Jack Porter

Amy met Jack sometime in the early 1900s and by 1908 he was an Assistant schoolmaster at St. James School House in Fortis Green Road at Muswell Hill, near north London. They married at the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Muswell Hill North on the 16 April 1908. Amy’s employee and long-time friend Percy Livingstone Parker and her sister Helena Richardson, witnessed the marriage. They were obviously devoted and Amy fondly referred to her husband as "My Jack". 

From 1911 Jack was the Headmaster at Gosberton Clough School at Spalding. Following the eruption of hostilities in Europe which resulted in World War 1, many young men joined up. Jack, although married was in his early 30s when he enlisted in the London-Scottish on the 13 February 1915 and departed for France following his training on the 21 June 1915. His number was 511051 in "B" Coy, 2nd/14th Battalion and he was appointed to the rank of Sgt-Major and miraculously managed to survive the horrendous circumstances of the war to the final stages. In the early part of 1918 he was serving in Jerusalem. 

Jack enlisted in the London-Scottish "B" Coy, 2nd/14th Battalion in 1915 

Unfortunately Jack was “Killed in Action” in Belgium on the 21 August 1918 aged 36 years. Older members of the family used to say he died the day the Armistice was signed however he died several months prior to this. Jack was buried at site A.8 at the Locre No. 10 Cemetery at Heuvelland, West-Vlaandereb in Belgium.  Following his death Amy is listed as living at 161 High Street, Watford. 
Amy was heartbroken with the death of her husband. She records in her diary on the 4 December 1918, "left home for business, alone and sad."

Documents from Commonwealth War Graves Commission Archives 

Following her mourning for her beloved husband Amy made a decision to travel to Australia to visit Annie, Ern and her nephew Bill. She travelled by boat and arrived in Australia via Fremantle in WA. In October 1929, Amy visited Jack’s grave at Locre Cemetery at Heuvelland, West-Vlaandereb in Belgium.

Amy and Jack did not have any children, and although she married again, Amy conveyed to her family how much she cherished Jack, her first love. Subsequent generations are justifiably proud of Jack, his contribution and ultimate sacrifice in the Great War. To find out more about Amy, read the following post. 

Certificate for John James Porter from CWGC

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

William Robert Nichols 1903-1958

Sixty years ago on March 9, our Grandfather William Robert Nichols passed away. Sadly he did not get much time to spend with his youngest daughter and grandchildren but his memory lives on. What was his story?

Born on 2 July 1903 in London, he was the much much-loved only child of Ernest Nichols & Annie nee Richardson. William (who was known as “Bill”) travelled with his mother, Annie to Sydney onboard the Scharnhorst, arriving on 7 February 1913. As his father had arrived earlier, in December 1912 on the Zicten they would have been met at the ship. 

Bill and Annie on the Scharnhorst

The family lived at Tilba Tilba for a while and you can read more about their time here. Bill’s cousins Ern and John Nichols joined them at the end of 1913. Bill attended school at Central Tilba and was still at school in November 1916. 

Annie, Bill and Ern at Tilba Tilba

The family moved north to Tweed Heads but eventually they settled in Richmond. Bill’s father Ern ran the Nichols Bakery and General Store which was located in Windsor Street, Richmond. Following his leaving school, Bill was apprenticed to Wally Heap who was an Auto Mechanic also in Richmond. He eventually learnt to drive and also drove hire cars for Wally Heap. During the 1920s Bill commenced a Hire Car Service in Richmond.

Around this time Bill met Florence Lucy Jennings, known as “Flo”. She was the eldest daughter of Charles Robert Jennings and Helena Bridget nee Smith.  Florence was born on the 16 September 1905 at Wyong. Her family had moved to Richmond from Wyong on the Central Coast in August 1921. Her father was sent to Richmond to assist with the establishment of the Sawmill near Richmond Railway Station. 

Bill's certificate for completing studies on petrol motors in 1921

Bill and Flo started keeping company and often went to dances together. Flo’s family moved to a property in Hamilton Road in Riverstone in June 1926 and established a poultry farm. Whilst visiting Flo and her family, Bill became interested in the potential of Riverstone and eventually moved there, leasing an old stable building opposite present Post Office in Garfield  Road. This was the first motor repair shop opened in Riverstone. 

Bill’s also owned an eight-seat Studebaker which was often in demand. Taking passengers to their destinations and also transporting car loads (in excess of his eight seats) to sporting events as well as to dances all over the district. In about 1927 Bill moved to workshop partly occupied by Harry Williams, Blacksmith, corner of Garfield Road and Carlton Streets besides Riverstone Park. He worked long hours from 8am to 8pm (often later) and closed only for a short period on Sundays but sometimes working all day Sunday when work demanded. 

Bill and Flo posing in their wedding finery 1929

On the 2 February 1929 Bill married Flo at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Riverstone. Cousin John Nichols was a witness and he also drove the wedding car. Flo’s sister Eileen Jennings was the other witness. Many photographs were taken at the wedding but unfortunately a young family member managed to pull the film out the camera and they were all lost. The couple dressed in their finery and travelled toa professional studio in Parramatta, and the above image was taken. Following their marriage they moved into 20 Castlereagh Street, Riverstone living with Bill’s parents Ern and Annie while saving for their own home. They lived together until 1939. The couple had four children:

  • Geoffrey Alan 1930-2012
  • Ernest Charles 1932-2004
  • Warren Ellis 1935-1977 
  • Janice Ann 

Bill progressed with his business and established the first purpose built garage, Nichols Service Station in Garfield Street in Riverstone, opening in 1935. Read more about the Service Station here

Bill, Geoff, Ern and Ernie at Nichols Service Station, in Riverstone early 1950s

Bill was able to build a new “all electric” home for his young family. Hostilities of the World War II commenced on the 3 September 1939 and the Nichols family moved into their new home in Pitt Street, Riverstone on the 12 September 1939. It was around this time that Bill was approached and joined the Masonic Lodge.

Bill in uniform.

Things became difficult as the war developed, with Bill joining the VDC (Volunteer Defence Corp) in Riverstone. Early in 1942 he enlisted in the A.I.F. and was a mechanic/fitter in the Australian Armoured Division, and served his time in the north-west including places such as Alice Springs and Marble Bar. He was always disappointed not to have been in action. 

Towards the end of the war, he applied for a discharge as he was very concerned with his father’s health. His father, affectionately known around the town as “Pop” was now seventy years of age and had looked after the business single-handed, whilst Bill was away. 

Bill planned to relocate his business and other venues were investigated  and with foresight he eventually purchased the block next to Tozer's old house, opposite Oxford Street. In the mid-1950s he obtained the Chrysler Peugeot agency and also sold second hand cars. Bill enjoyed his family life and would take the family on annual holidays mainly by the beach, to places such as the Central Coast, The Entrance, and south at Sussex Inlet. He loved fishing as well. He also liked to draw and attended some classes by correspondence.

Both Bill and Flo became very ill in the late 1950s with flu, as a result Bill developed heart trouble and the relocation plan was set aside. Following a short illness, William Robert Nichols passed away suddenly on the 9 March 1958, as a result of myocarditis, heart disease. He was only 54 years of age at the time of his death. He was cremated and his ashes are at Rookwood. 

I never had the opportunity to meet my Grandfather, as he died a few years before I was born. As I look into his eyes in old photographs, I feel a strong connection. His stories have been shared with family and his story lives on. A quiet and thoughtful man, he was well-loved and his memory is still treasured by his family.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


The post celebrates four years of this blog, Pieces of Me and the twenty-first story of my family history.

Flintshire was home to my maternal forebears the Leach and Ellis families who lived in Wales from at least the 18th century. Hawarden (pronounced Harden) lies in the north of Wales in Flintshire. After years of conflict, Edward I proclaimed in 1284 the Statute of Wales at Rhuddlan and the County of Flint was established. Wales was incorporated into England following the passing of the Act of Union by Henry VIII in 1536.

In the 18th century Flint contained about 160000 acres with about 28 parishes and just over 3000 houses. The area produced corn, wheat, barley, oats, butter, cheese and honey. Flint was also known for its lead, millstones and pit-coal.  Coal has been used by man for centuries as an energy source. Underground mining of coal was developed in Britain and by the late 1700s and early 1800s was a large scaled industry fueling the Industrial Revolution.

Historic Hawarden is only a village, little more than a main street with shops and houses situated along the way. The other townships close to Hawarden include Ewloe and Pentrobin known for their potteries and production of earthenware.

Main street in Hawarden, Flint. Photo M. Nichols, 2007.

John Leach was born in Pentrobin on 2 March 1819. He was the second son of William and Anne Leach. William was born in Hawarden in about 1789 and was a collier and married Anne Ellis who was born about 1792 also from Hawarden. The couple had at least three children, Joseph born 21 March 1816 and John, both baptised in Hawarden. The youngest child was a daughter Mary who was born circa 1826.

Baptism of John Leach in 1819. Courtesy Cheshire Public Records.

John followed his father William into the coal pits and became a collier during the early 1800s more than likely employed around Hawarden in Wales. There was a huge demand for coal and productivity increased due to the Industrial Revolution and many Welsh miners migrated eastwards to the coal producing counties of Northumberland and Durham.

The eldest son Joseph was a shoemaker and in 1838 married Hannah Bennett making their home in Pentrobin. They were married 11 years before they were blessed children. They included John 1838, William 1841, Ellis 1843 and Sarah Ann 1849. By 1851 they were living at Knowll Hill Lane in Pentrobin, with parents William & Hannah living next door.

Of Joseph and Hannah’s children, John their firstborn who had attended school was also recorded as being blind. Ellis became a gardener and married and had a large family of four sons and daughters moving to Great Boughton in Cheshire. The youngest child, Sarah married Edward Nixon a Mining Colliery Engineer and they had at least one daughter and for a time they lived with Joseph and Hannah in Ewloe Town in Hawarden.

Joseph continued with his profession of shoemaking and both he and Hannah were still alive in 1881, both aged 65 years living in Buckley. It is not known when Joseph and John’s parents died but they were still alive at the time of the 1851 Census living at “Drury” in Pentrobin, William aged 62 and Anne aged 59. Descendants still lived in Hawarden today and a street called Leach Close commemorates the family.

Marriage certificate of John Leach and Ann Moore. Courtesy Nichols Family Archives.

Our ancestor, John Leach, joined the migration and by the late 1840s was living in Hougton Le Hole in Durham and was employed as a Pitman. In 1849 and aged 30, he married Ann Moore. At the time he was living at Brick Garth, Hougton Le Hole. The couple had two children in Durham, William Thomas born 21 February 1854 and Mary Ann born 17 December 1855 in Brick Garth, Hetton le hole.

Several years later, the couple migrated to Australia sometime between 1855 and 1858 with their children Mary Ann and William, settling in Tasmania for several years where Ann gave birth to two daughters, Rebecca born 18 April 1858 and Sarah born 4 May 1860 at Port Sorrell, west of Devonport.

By the end of 1861 the Leach family had moved north, this time settling in the Newcastle area in NSW, renowned for its coal deposits. Ann, in particular, would have felt at home here with the names of localities such as Pit Town, Newcastle, Wallsend names of towns in her native Durham. Soon after settling at Wallsend, son William Thomas died 8 April 1861, Wallsend, aged seven from "scald and irritative fever from the effects of scald on the constitution."  Three more sons were born in Wallsend, John William born 27 July 1862, Ellis named after his father’s maternal family, born 19 November 1864 and Thomas born 19 November 1867.

Tragedy struck the family when three of the Leach children died in the early 1860s and you can read more about the deaths of William Thomas Leach who died in 1861, seven months later, Sarah succumbed to illness. Mary Ann died in a tragic accident in 1864 and you can read about this in a post titled Childhood deaths in Wallsend.

John Leach died before reaching his fiftieth birthday. His death was recorded on 23 October 1868 at Wallsend, and the cause was pyaemia, a miner's lung disease. A further tragedy struck the family when 19 year old, Thomas Leach was involved in a colliery accident in 1886 at the Wallsend Colliery. More about this tragedy in an earlier post.

Following the death of her husband, Ann Leach another miner, Thomas Sinclair, in 1871 at the Registry Office, Newcastle. Thomas Sinclair was about seven years younger than Ann. The couple extended their family with four more children, including triplets Samuel George, Thomas and William Arthur born 27 March 1871. William died a few weeks after he was born and there is no birth certificate registered for him however he was aged three weeks at his death on the 17 April 1871. Samuel is listed on his birth as "elder born of twins" and Thomas as "younger born of  twins" registered on 4 May 1871 after William Arthur's death

John William Leach 1862-1920. Courtesy Nichols family archives
When she was aged 48 years old, Anne gave birth to her last child, on 31 January 1874, whom she named Arthur.

The “old” cemetery in Wallsend which was used by the Leach family closed in 1896 and it was apparently converted to parkland in the 1950s. Information from the headstones were recorded before removal. The first burial at the “new” Wallsend Cemetery was in 1896 and this cemetery is still use today. It is situated on Sandgate Road. See Newcastle City Council for more information.

John William continued to live with his mother Ann and stepfather, Thomas Sinclair at Pit Town, Wallsend. Anne Sinclair formerly Leach nee Moor(e) aged 80 years died on the 19 November 1907 at Pit Town in Wallsend. She died as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage and was buried the following day in the Methodist Section of the “new” Wallsend Cemetery.

The story of John William Leach 1862-1920 will continue in a future post, the Leach family from Wallsend.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Happy birthday Grandma Belshaw

Our great grandmother, Florence Amelia was born on the 2 October 1886. Also known as Florrie, she was the eldest surviving child of hotelkeeper Henry Ponting and his wife, Louisa nee Richey. Born in Temora, in south-western NSW, her siblings were Harry Francis 1888, Alice Maude 1890, Phoebe Louisa 1892 and Lily May in 1893. The eldest child, a daughter, died in 1886.

In the late 1890s her parents parted ways with Henry remaining in Temora operating his hotel, while Louisa left, heading to Sydney. Louisa met Alfred Petty and by 1898 was giving birth to their first child. Henry Ponting died in Temora on 3 April 1903 in Temora, leaving Louisa and Alfred able to marry, which they did, six months later, on 30 October 1903 in Sydney. 

Florence met Robert Belshaw and when she was 20 years, the couple married in Sydney on 27 October 1906. The marriage was witnessed by her step-father Alf Petty and her sister, Maud.

Robert and Florence Belshaw's marriage certificate in 1906

Florence had four younger Petty step-brothers but lost her brother Harry, in June 1908 just before his 20th birthday. Harry was working as a labourer in Mudgee and died with enteric fever at Mudgee Hospital. Just a few weeks later, Louisa Petty died on 18 July 1908 in Sydney Hospital. The cause of death was a malignant gall bladder. She was only 44. 

Her sisters also married in their 20s. Phoebe married John William Nolen in 1912, Maud married John Joseph Moore in 1913 while Lily married chemist, Alfred Hynard in 1915. An interesting incident occurred in 1909, when Robert, and his sister-in-law Maud, were charged with stealing a trunk in Sydney. Read more about this here.

Rob and Florence Belshaw

Sadly Flo and Rob lost their eldest daughter Doris from appendicitis, she died in 1915, she was only 8 years old. Read more about the story of Doris here

A lot of Flo’s life was tragic. She lost two more siblings with Phoebe dying in 1936 while Lily committed suicide in 1946. There is more about Lily’s life here  Two of her stepbrothers died tragically. Syd Petty died in 1943 in what is now known as Thailand and Abe died in 1944 aged 43 as a Prisoner of War in Indonesia. More about her Petty brothers here.

Flo and Rob had eight children, all born in Sydney:

1. Doris May 1907 – 1915 (She died aged 8 from appendicitis and is buried at Rookwood.)
2. Edna May 1908 -1992 married Arthur F. Green.
3. Florence Muriel 1910 - 1979 (my Grandmother) married John William Leach 1933.
4. Phyllis Roberta Maude 1913 - 1994 Married Alfred George Patterson in 1946 & following his death Clarence Chislett Davis in 1949.
5. Lillian Irene 1915-1982 married Tom Ryan.
6. Robert Francis 1919 - 2012 married Jean Emily Caldwell Wearne in 1948. He had also married Norma Alix McClelland in 1943 who died in 1946.
7. Leonard Allen 1921 - 1991 married Olga Merrickley
8. Arthur Maurice 1923 - 1944 Died Borneo, SIN during WW2.

For many years the family lived in Lower Campbell Street in Surry Hills, one of Sydney's inner suburbs. Flo’s youngest son Artie was keen to join up when he was only 16. He had been in the air cadets and was desperate to enlist and eventually enlisted in the RAAF in the 43rd Squadron in July 1942, three months before he was legally allowed. His older brothers Bob and Lenny had already joined up. Artie, a bombadier, died 21 April 1944 when the Catalina he was in, crashed near Borneo, he had only just turned 21. His family were devastated. 

Rob and Flo with their three sons, L to R Len, Artie and Bobby.

In the 1940s after Artie’s death, Flo and Rob moved to Melbourne Road Riverstone. Rob died in 1948, family ascertain from a broken heart after the tragic loss of Artie. Flo continued to live in Melbourne Road with most of her family living closeby.

She died from chronic cardiac failure in 14 June 1969. She was not buried with her husband Rob at Rookwood, but cremated at Pine Grove Memorial Crematorium at Eastern Creek.

Our Great Grandma Belshaw

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Charles & Helena Jennings

Helena and Charles Jennings, Nichols family archive

My Grandmother, Florence Lucy Nichols 1905-1988 was the daughter of Charles and Helena Jennings. Her father Charles Robert Jennings was a sawyer born near Braidwood in 1867. The family moved at some stage to Tomakin on the South Coast, where his father, Robert Jennings, died in 1885. His mother, Lucy Jessie nee Havens married for a second time to Francis Cameron, a timber merchant, at East Gosford in 1889. It is not known when and why the family moved north other than there was work and it is possible Charles obtained work through Francis. The marriage between Francis and Lucy was not happy and did not last long, but that's another story.

Charles married Mabyn Bridge in 1892 in Newcastle. Mabyn was a member of the well-known Bridge family from the Hunter area and the couple had four children Gladys born 1894, Ivy 1896, Mildred 1898 and Warrington 1900. The marriage soured and Mabyn left Charles when Warrie was only a baby, and moved to Sydney. Mabyn eventually met someone else but did not want to return to Charles despite him visiting her in Sydney and begging her to return. Divorce proceedings commenced but did not proceed for some years. In the meantime, Charles employed a young woman, Helena Bridget Smith aged in her early 20s, to housekeep and look after the young children. Eventually, the couple fell in love and moved in together, living as husband and wife at Wyong. They had six children, Florence  (my grandmother) born in 1905, Charles 1907, Eileen 1908, Gordon 1909, Lilian 1910 and Gwendoline 1912.

The marriage between Charles and Mabyn was finally dissolved on the 14 March 1916 and just a few days later, Charles married Helena on 20 March at St James Anglican Church in Sydney.

The Jennings family moved to Richmond in the Hawkesbury in the early 1920s where Charles obtained work at the sawmill near Richmond Railway station. It was whilst he was working in Richmond, Charles was involved in an accident and he lost his leg. After a number of years in Richmond, the family moved to Hamilton Road in Riverstone where Charles became a poultry farmer. You can read more about Charles in the earlier post about his wooden leg. Charles died 26 August 1936 and was buried in Riverstone Cemetery. Thanks to the historic digitised newspapers on Trove, available to search online for free, we can read the death notice which appeared in The Cumberland Argus & Fruitgrowers Advocate, 27 August 1936 p. 4.
Mr Charles Robert Jennings (68), of Riverstone, died in the Prince Alfred Hospital yesterday. He leaves a widow and family of ten. The interment will take place at the Church of England cemetery, Riverstone, today.

Helena survived another a few more years. She died 20 March 1943. Helena's death was reported in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette 24 March 1943, p. 2. 
The death took place at the Hawkesbury District Hospital on Monday evening of a well-known and respected Riverstone resident in Mrs Helena Bridget Jennings, relict of the late Charles Robert Jennings, at the age of 67 years. A member of the Smith family, of Wollombi, she is survived by a grown family of two sons and four daughters, to whom the condolences of district friends are extended in their bereavement. The funeral takes place this (Wednesday) afternoon, when the interment will be conducted in the Church of England cemetery, Riverstone.

Check out more about Charles and Helena on the Nichols family tree.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Remembering Cemetery Day

Alona Tester has encouraged family historians to remember Cemetery Day on 18 June. 

I have always been fascinated by cemeteries and as a teenager encourage my parents to drop into various historical cemeteries when we were travelling around including Forbes, Gulgong, Bathurst and Port Macquarie. I also remember being very impressed when I visited bushranger Ben Hall's headstone.

When I was in year 9 at High School, we had a passionate history teacher, Garrett Barry who had attended some workshops with the very innovative Lionel Gilbert

Here I am cleaning a grave,  Rouse Hill Cemetery, 1975.

My friend and I decided to do an assignment on Rouse Hill Cemetery. It was very overgrown so not only did we have to clean the sites but also transcribe them. We also visited St Paul's Anglican Church in Riverstone and copied some of the Burial Register pages.

A few pages from my cemetery assignment from Year 9.

When I was studying Local History at Armidale in the 1980s, I was very fortunate to have Lionel Gilbert as a lecturer and I cherish both copies of his books that focus on cemeteries, "A Grave look at History" and "The Last Word: Two Centuries of Australian Epitaphs."

Wherever I have travelled, I always have managed to locate interesting cemeteries to visit both within Australia and overseas. I sometimes research and write more about these for various newsletters, blogs or facebook.

In 2003 my husband Jonathan Auld and I established the Hawkesbury Cemetery Register. Over the years we have been photographing, transcribing and mapping many of the historic cemeteries in the Hawkesbury district of NSW. We have also included some of the private cemeteries on private property. These days we continue to transcribe and I also manage the Hawkesbury Cemetery Register facebook site, in my spare time, which keeps me on my toes.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A carter and his sister-in-law ~ Trove Tuesday

Robert Belshaw 1886-1948

Our family were quite shocked when I located this newspaper article about our great Grandfather, Robert Belshaw charged with stealing a trunk with his sister in law Maud Ponting in Sydney in July 1909. 

POLICE COURTS. A CARTER & HIS SISTER-IN-LAW. Sydney Morning Herald 11 June 1909 p. 11.  

The trunk, with its contents, belonged to Alice Walford and was valued at £14. The trunk was to be delivered from the wharf at Darling Harbour after a journey. Aged in his early 20s, Robert was employed as a carrier and rather than deliver it to the Walford's at Neutral Bay he was encouraged by Maud, aged 19, to keep the trunk. Maud was also known by the name Petty, her step-father's surname. At the time Maud was employed by Alice Walford.

Maud was sentenced to one month's imprisonment however Robert's sentence of three month's imprisonment was suspended as it was his first and apparently only, offence. Due to his good character he was placed on good behaviour bond. Robert had only been married for a few years and was more than likely, pleased with the court's leniency.