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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!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Aunty Amy

My great grandmother’s sister, who is affectionately known in the family as “Aunty Amy” was born in England and migrated to Australia in the 1920s. Following a shipboard romance she married and for a time lived in New Zealand, and then spent the last years of her life at Cronulla NSW.  This is some of Amy’s story. 

Amy’s father was William Richardson, born 1832 in Newcastle on Tyne, England. William’s occupation is recorded as Decorator and sometimes Painter. An oral story passed on, notes he worked on decorating the interior of churches but this has not been confirmed. Her mother was Mary Potts whilst they were both living in Chester, England. William and Mary married on the 30 January 1862  in the Parish Church at Poynton in Chester and sometime following their marriage they moved to London. William was 10 years older than Mary and their union produced eight known daughters, the eldest Mary born in 1863 the youngest Kathleen born in 1886. This story concerns Amy born 24 July 1878, the sister of our Great Grandmother, Annie both of whom were born in Acton on the outskirts of London.

Following the birth of Annie in 1882, Mary aged 40, was warned not to have any further pregnancies due to ill health. However she had another daughter, Kathleen in 1886 but eventually succumbed to her illness and passed away in 1888. The cause of death was listed as Uterine cancer, or Cancer of the womb. There were gaps between the births of her children, and this may be because Mary endured more than one miscarriage or stillborn children. Annie told members of her family that when her mother died her father was left with eight daughters to rear, however the eldest Mary, was 26 years old and capable to care for her younger siblings. Apparently William met a lady who promised to care for his daughters, “like her own”. She had 2-3 daughters of her own. Following the marriage in 1889 she sent William's younger daughters to various relatives. Some of the girls were not happy in the homes they were sent.  

It is not known who cared for Amy after her father remarried but when she completed her schooling, she entered the workforce as a servant. By 1891 as a young teenager, she was employed as a Domestic Servant in Kensington for the Westaway family. By 1901 she was employed by Percy Livingstone Parker a journalist/author and his wife at Muswell Hill. This couple became life-long friends of Amy and treated her as family and Amy was left a large bequest when Percy passed away. 

Amy photographed with friends from work, possibly prior to her marriage in 1908.

By 1908 Amy was listed as a draper's assistant and living at Crouch's End. Aged in their 20s, Amy met John James Porter. Known as Jack, he was born in 1882 at Grantham in Lincoln and was a few years younger than Amy. Jack was the son of John Henry and Frances Porter, a handsome tall young man he had trained as a schoolteacher. 

'Jack' Porter - a handsome young man from Grantham.

By 1908 was an Assistant schoolmaster at St. James School House in Fortis Green Road at Muswell Hill North. They married at the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Muswell Hill North on the 16 April 1908. Long time friend Percy Livingstone Parker, sister Helena Richardson and W. H. Tindall, witnessed the marriage. 

Marriage certificate of Amy Richardson and Jack Porter

The couple were obviously devoted and Amy fondly refers to her husband as "My Jack". From 1911 Jack was the Headmaster at Gosberton Clough School at Spalding, Lincolnshire.

Household listing from 1911 Census RG14PN7248RG78PN354

Amy and Jack Porter

When hostilities in Europe resulted in World War 1 in 1914, many single young men joined up. Jack, although married was only in his early 30s and 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. He was appointed to the rank of Sgt-Major and miraculously managed to survive the horrendous circumstances of the war to the final stages but was unfortunately “Killed in Action” in Belgium on the 21 August 1918 aged 36 years. He is 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."

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

Following her mourning for her beloved husband Amy made a decision to travel to Australia to visit her sister Annie. She travelled by boat and arrived in Australia via Fremantle in WA. Whilst onboard she made friends with people from New Zealand, including a chap called Edward William Sheeran, who was known as Ted. She stayed with Annie, brother in law Ern and nephew Will, for a while. Sometime later Ted and Amy decided to marry and tied the knot in November 1925 at the Methodist Church in Windsor. 

'Ted' Sheeran and Amy possibly on their wedding day in 1925.

Ted had also been previously married and was a widower and he had a grown up family in New Zealand, nephew Geoff recalls that Ted said he had 12 sons in New Zealand, although this has not been confirmed!! Amy & Ted travelled overseas several times as there are photographs of Amy with various relatives in England after their 1925 marriage. In 1929, Amy visited Jack’s grave at Locre Cemetery  in Belgium.

Following their marriage the Sheerhans lived for a while in Huntley, New Zealand and then moved back to Australia, making their home in Parramatta. Then moved to 26 Gosport Street in Cronulla. They joined the Cronulla Methodist Church and worshipped regularly. The family remember that they had a very fine home with a lovely garden.  Ted and Amy often visited their relations in Riverstone and travelled by train for the day. Amy showered her nephew Bill and his family with thoughtful gifts. 

Ted died on the 21 September 1952 and Amy continued on at Cronulla following his death. She remained a faithful parishioner at the Methodist Church where she had many friends. Amy died on the 18 November 1956 and was cremated & interred on the 8 January 1957 at Woronora Gardens. (Location no.32 of Rose Bed 20AA) Like her sister Annie, Amy was remembered by her family as a kind and generous soul. She had a certain “sadness” about her and even though her life had dealt her several tragedies, she had an inner peace that let her get on with life. At the time of her death, Amy had  reasonably large estate. She left her furniture, jewellery and personal effects to her sister Annie and £250 to her sister Helena who was still alive in London. Her nephew William Robert Nichols was the executor of her estate and she also left him £500. She left £100 to the Cronulla Methodist Church. Her house was sold and the proceeds were divided between her surviving stepchildren in New Zealand.  Some of the stepchildren were listed and their names were Hazel Sheeran, widow of Fonce; Bill, Kattie, Tui and Daphne. No further information is known of the Sheeran family in New Zealand.  

Amy left, with Ern, Flo and Annie Nichols at Pitt Street Riverstone

Amy did not have any children of her own, yet her memory lives on through her sister Annie's descendants. Her legacy remains as she was concerned about her heritage and took pains to care to pass on stories, photographs and objects that have helped piece together her story.

Aunty Amy


  1. What a wonderful record of a beautiful, gentle and loving lady. I have a tiny cup and saucer that was Aunty Amy's. Thank you Michelle.

  2. You're lucky Karen. What a lovely story. I remember hearing her name mentioned in our house a lot so in that way she lived on. What a strong woman but a sad tale.