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!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The 1828 Census

I am participating in the weekly blog challenge for National Family History Month 2016 and Week 1 is My Census Story.

The 1828 Census of NSW has always been a favourite research tool of mine. It was published by Sainty and Johnson of Library of Australian History in 1980. It was also one of the first expensive reference books I ever purchased.

Taken in November 1828, it was Australia’s first census and took place in November. Sadly this is the only complete census that has survived from the nineteenth century. The population at the time was 36,598 (20,870 free settlers + 15,728 convicts). The book also has some wonderful statistical information in the beginning including occupations, land holdings and descriptions of where the census was taken.

For my own research, I was able to locate a number of my ancestors in this informative census including John Pendergast (c.1760-1833) who arrived on the "Minerva" in 1800 and Jane Williams from the "Nile" 1801; Henry Warren (c.1801-1876) Aaron Pearce (c.1786-1849) plus Patrick Mannix (1766-1863) to name just a few.  

One unusual thing about the Census was some wrongly interpreted information about Charlotte, supposedly the daughter of John Pendergast and Jane Williams, and born in 1810. The presumption obviously came about due to the way the names were listed. James, a farmer, and his first wife Sophia Hancy or Hancey were living at Lower Portland with their young son. James and Sophia had married at Parramatta in May 1828, their son James was aged about one years.  

Transcribed from the 1828 Census of  NSW
Many people presumed, myself included, that Charlotte and Bridget born in 1810 were in fact twins, as did the census taker. Although a little information was located about my ancestor Sarah (1806-1873) and her younger sister, Bridget (1810-1885) in various sources - nothing could be found about the supposed twin, Charlotte. One day I came across some information about the Hancy sisters who married the Pendergast brothers, James and Thomas. Sophia and Elizabeth Hancy were daughters of William Hancy and Sarah MacDonald who had a large family including their younger daughter Charlotte born in 1810.  Despite there being 247 "Charlotte's" listed in the 1828 Census, Charlotte Hancy does not appear.  Charlotte Hancy is obviously the Charlotte listed at Lower Portland and was either visiting her sister or perhaps living with her when the census was taken. When this information was verified many researchers were contacted however many family trees still include Charlotte Pendergast.

The full list of John Pendergast and Jane Williams children are:

  • James (1803-1865) Hawkesbury m. I. Sophia Hancey II. Susannah Cunneen 
  • (stayed Windsor area)
  • Thomas (1805-1862) Windsor m. Elizabeth Hancey (eventually settled at 
  • Moonbah, nr Jindabyne)
  • Sarah (1806-1873) Hawkesbury m. I. Patrick Tunney II. John Lynch (Hawkesbury 
  • then Wollombi)
  • William (1808-1850 & m. Sarah Holland (stayed around Windsor)
  • Bridget (1810-1885) Hawkesbury & m. Patrick Reed (lived Lower Hawkesbury & Inverell area)

John Pendergast also had a son John (1800-1867) but he was born before Jane arrived and his mother is not confirmed. John m. I. Elizabeth Dwyer & II. Emma Taylor (they lived Campbelltown & then Cooma)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

TROVE TUESDAY and Timothy Mannix

Ancestor Timothy Mannix arrived from Cork (Ireland) in Sydney as a steerage passenger on-board the "Blenheim" in November 1834. 

His father, Patrick (1766-1863) was a rope-maker who was convicted of cow stealing and sentenced for 7 years for his crime. He was transported to Australia on the "Earl St Vincent" in 1818. Patrick's wife Mary petitioned to join her husband and in 1834 travelled via the "Andromeda" arriving in September 1834. Patrick and Mary had about eleven children, but Mary was only accompanied by daughter Margaret on the voyage. Two months later Timothy apparently aged about 16 years, arrived. His occupation was listed as servant. A number of other young men, sons of convicts also arrived on this voyage.

His arrival was recorded in the Shipping Intelligence of the newspaper of the day, The Australian which is accessible on Trove

The Australian 18 November 1834 p. 2

Timothy Mannix married Bridget Tunney, daughter of Patrick Tunney and Sarah Pendergast, on 10 February 1841 at St. John's Church, Maitland. The couple made their home in Wollombi and had a large family

Several years later, Timothy appeared once more in the newspapers.  Timothy Mannix was held up by bushrangers at a "place called Deadman's Creek, on the Wollombi road" one afternoon in June 1843. "Two men armed with pistols stopped a man named Timothy Mannix...who was coming with a dray to Maitland, and robbed him of £2 18s in money, and a part of his rations; they then made off again into the bush. On reaching Maitland the man gave information of the robbery, and the police were immediately despatched in search of the robbers." 

Timothy died on 28 June 1887 at Wollombi and is buried in the local cemetery alongside his wife, Bridget. 

Grave of Timothy and Bridget Mannix, Wollombi Cemetery
Photo: M. Nichols 2016

Note there is a discrepancy with Timothy's year of birth ranging from 1803 to 1818. His death certificate and headstone give his age as 84 however this information was supplied by others.

Friday, 20 May 2016


John Leach, who was born in Hawarden Flint,Wales married Ann Moore in 1849 Brick Garth, Hougton Le Hole, Durham. John, a coal miner, had moved there for work. A few years later they migrated to Australia, sometime between 1855-1858, with their children Mary Ann and William. They stayed in Tasmania for several years where daughters, Rebecca and Sarah were born.

By the end of 1861 the Leach family had moved to the Newcastle area of NSW, renowned for its coal deposits and made their home in Wallsend. Four more sons were born William Thomas, my Great Grandfather John William, Ellis and Thomas (1867) named for his maternal grandfather. Tragedy struck the family when three of the Leach children died in the early 1860s and you can read more about their deaths in an earlier post. Sadly the patriarch John Leach, passed away on 23 October 1868 from the miner's lung disease, pyaemia. At the time Thomas was just over 18 months old.

West Wallsend Colliery, 1888. Courtesy State Records NSW

Another tragedy struck the family when 19 year old, Thomas was involved in a fatal colliery accident at the Wallsend Colliery on 23 October 1868.  Thomas had just knocked off work for the day and was coming out of the tunnel, leading his horse. It was reported in the Department of Mines, Annual report 1886 that he “was employed as a brakesman on a self acting incline in the Wallsend Colliery” and “was engaged in bringing some damaged skips up on the no. 1 tunnel to the surface" but was hit by some skips. The accident killed Thomas and Dr Tomlin who examined him, advised the death was caused by a "fracture of the skull, and must have been instantaneous." Numerous accounts of the accident appeared in Trove newspapers all over the country. The most in-depth coverage was from the Newcastle Morning Herald and the Maitland Mercury

Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 3 August 1886 p. 6 

The consequence was a collision and the infliction of a fatal injuries to the unfortunate young man. Thomas was killed instantly, as was his horse and another. Maitland District Coroner gave a verdict of ‘accidental’ to the death of Thomas Leach. 

Wallsend Colliery, Newcastle from the Australian Town & Country Journal 18 January 1890, p. 24

According to the Newcastle Morning Herald The jury considered all of the facts surrounding the incident and reported the following verdict:
That Thomas Leach died at the Wallsend Colliery on the 29 day of July 1886. We are of opinion that his death was accidentally caused by a collision between skips being driven by the deceased and several loaded skips coming in a contrary direction.We desire to express our opinion that sufficient care has not been used heretofore in the lowering of these loaded skips, and recommended that more stringent rules should be adopted by the colliery authorities in order to avoid future accidents.

Thomas was buried the same day at the Old Wallsend Cemetery and a headstone once marked his grave. This was possibly paid for by the colliery or a subscription from the local community. The inscription on his headstone was recorded, and states "What partings here we have. How hard they seem to come, but we have to part no more when we get safe at home."  Sadly the headstone no longer stands as this cemetery closed in 1896 and was apparently converted to parkland in the 1950s. Fortunately information from the headstones were recorded before removal. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


My Great Grandfather John William Leach (1862-1920) was one of seven children born to Welshman John Leach and his wife, Ann Moore who came from Durham. The family migrated to Australia in the mid-1850s and first settled in Tasmania for several years before moving to Wallsend near Newcastle, NSW by 1861. Three of John and Anne’s children lost their lives in early childhood in Wallsend and up until recently little was known of the details. Searching the historic newspapers on Trove has provided more information. 

The eldest child of John and Ann, William Thomas Leach died 8 April 1861 as a result of “Scald and Irritative Fever from the Effects of Scald on the constitution” according to the Coroner. He was seven years old and was buried in the Christ Church Burial Ground at Newcastle. 

Just over six months later, tragedy struck again. Eighteen month old Sarah suffered for two days with pneumonia before succumbing, on 30 November 1861 at Wallsend. She was buried the following day at Christ Church cemetery in Newcastle as the cemetery in Wallsend was not established until 1864.  

The Newcastle Chronicle 3 August 1864 p. 3 
Mary Ann Leach was born 17 December 1855 Brick Garth, Hetton-Le-Hole in Durham and travelled to the other side of the world with her parents. On 30 July 1864 Mary Ann was helping her mother Ann, with washing and hanging out the clothes. Her father, John Leach provided the following information at the inquest: He stated he was a miner living at Wallsend:
on Saturday, the day preceding, he saw the child on his return from work ; she was assisting her mother hanging out clothes. Afterwards deceased went to the creek to get some water, and he heard, ten or fifteen minutes afterwards, that deceased had fallen in. He went down to the creek, and with the assistance of a clothes prop managed to secure the body and bring it home.

She went to the nearby creek to collect water and accidentally fell in. Her little friend raised the alarm several minutes after and despite being rescued from the muddy water she passed away. The creek was about 9-10 feet in depth and a child’s hair net was found floating on arrival. Dr Pierce who arrived at the scene tried every method to “restore animation but without success” and he gave his opinion at the inquest that death was caused by phyxia from accidental drowning.  Mary Ann was only eight years old. She was buried at what is now called the old Wallsend. The children lay in unmarked graves. 

Death certificate of Mary Ann Leach 1864

Very sad circumstances for the family. But sadly there was more to come.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


This Trove Tuesday post is about my Nanna's eldest sister who died as a young girl with a disease that is now treatable. Doris Mary Belshaw was born 30 Apr 1907 at home at 4 Little Bourke Street, Sydney. Two nurses were present at the birth Nurse Yarrowick and nurse Verco. She was the first born child of Robert 'Rob' Belshaw and his wife, Florence Amelia nee Ponting. Doris was born six months after their marriage on 27 October 1906.

Four more daughters were born to the couple, Edna May born 1908, my Grandmother Florence Muriel 1910, Phyllis Roberta Maude 1913 and Lillian Irene born early 1915. The girls were treasured by both sides of the family.

Doris with her Aunty Muriel Belshaw, her father's younger sister.
Source: Nichols Family Archives.

In the latter part of 1915, when Australia was in the throes of World War 1, eight year old Doris was struck down with appendicitis. She was taken to Sydney Hospital and attended by Dr Arthur Meehan and would have been in a fair amount of pain with the tenderness, fever and abdominal pain. Unfortunately she succumbed to the infection and passed away on 3 November 1915. The official cause of death was suppurative peritonitis and toxaemia. 

The funeral procession for Doris Mary Belshaw near Central Railway heading for Rookwood.
Rob Belshaw is seated next to the driver on the second wagon.

Source: Nichols Family Archives.

On 5 November, the small girl was buried at Rookwood. The undertaker was T. Dixon

Memoriam card for Doris, eldest daughter of Robert & Florence Belshaw

After the grief and sorrow of losing Doris, the Belshaw family expanded. Three sons were born to Rob and Florence, Robert Francis in 1919, Leonard Allen 1921 and Arthur Maurice completed the family, born in 1923.

Family Notices. Sydney Morning Herald 4 November 1918, p. 6

However the family did not forget Doris. For many years after In Memoriam's were placed in the newspaper. Many notices appear in Trove, historic newspapers. Notices were inserted by her parents and sisters, as well as aunties and friends. Well into the 1930s her parents were still inserting a notice. Her sisters and brothers did not forget her either. Her memory was passed on through several generations.

Family Notices. Sydney Morning Herald 3 November 1931 p. 8

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


I have often searched for information about my Great Grandparents in Australian newspapers without a lot of success. Recently I was able to discover several pieces of information about Ern and Annie Nichols that I wasn't aware of. 

Following a decade of marriage Ern and Annie and their son William Robert, resolved to migrate to Australia. With the decision made, Ern resigned from his job in Finchley. As a baker with the Purvis Company, the manager supplied Ern with an excellent Reference. It stated that Ern was leaving entirely of his own accord, to try his fortune in a new country. The reference stated, "we are very sorry and very reluctant to lose his services and we have no hesitation in recommending him for any position suited to his abilities and capacity. We consider him absolutely trustworthy and hard working and have always found him to take an intelligent interest in anything he had in hand."

The couple were unable to travel on the same ship so Ern travelled on the "Zicten" in December 1912 to make preparations while Annie and young Will arrived a few months later, February 1913, on the "Scharnhorst."  

Ern and Annie settled at Central Tilba, the small timber town situated on the South Coast of NSW, and where their young son Will attended school. 

Will's class at Central Tilba. He is identifiable on the right - nicely marked with blue pen by his mother, Annie.
Photo: Nichols Archive

Several newspapers articles recently located online in Trove Digitised Newspapers provide some more insight into their first few years in Australia.

Ern established a bakery and it was reported that he produced exceptional loaves of bread.  In October 1914 it was reported that local baker Mr. Nichols, had established a small-goods in connection with his bakery.

The Cobargo Chronicle 16 October 1914 p. 2

On Saturday 12 June 1915 Mr Juleff conducted a clearance sale at Central Tilba, on behalf of Ern. The sale included household items, furniture and effects. One wonders what was sold in the sale and whether these were items that family had brought from England? A list of the effects is in the advertisement below.
Advertising from The Cobargo Chronicle 28 May 1915, p. 2 
It appears the family moved to Cobargo with Ern giving up the Bakery. However just a few weeks later (mid-July) he returned to Central Tilba and re-opened his business.

The family settled into the small village getting involved in community life. They attended an Allies Day event in November 1915 and Ern was recorded as donating five shillings. Over £70 was collected by residents.Will attended a fancy dress in June 1914 and dressed as an Indian and participated in a number of school events including a concert in September 1915 where he sang 'Advance Australia Fair'. In August 1915 more money was raised, almost £200, in Tilba with Ern donating four shillings.

Annie, Will and Ern, thought to be taken at Tilba.
Photo: Nichols Archive
Afterwards the family moved north to Tweed Heads where Ern did a bakery run between Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. Later the family moved to Richmond, but that's another story.

Bate Street, Central Tilba by William Henry Corkhill
Courtesy National Library of Australia

Postscript: The Bate family was one of the pioneering families of Tilba. The local MP, Jeff Bate more than likely attended school with Will. He married Dame Zara Holt in 1969. She was the widow of Prime Minister Harold Holt, who went missing in 1967 presumed drowned, although his body was never recovered.

After the Nichols family left, little changed in Central Tilba, so much so that in 1974 the whole town was classified by the National Trust.


(1915, September 17). The Cobargo Chronicle, p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109723957
(1914, October 16). The Cobargo Chronicle, p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109722934
(1915, November 26). The Cobargo Chronicle, p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109724202
(1915, June 11). The Cobargo Chronicle, p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109723616
(1915, August 13). The Cobargo Chronicle, p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109723825
(1915, July 16). South Coast Times & Wollongong Argus, p. 26. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141644123
(1915, May 28). The Cobargo Chronicle, p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109723569

Friday, 22 April 2016


Today Australia commemorates Anzac Day, the day that not only marks the Gallipoli landing in 1915 but also “the day on which we remember all Australians who served and died in war.” Several members in our family, and connected to our family, served in World War 1 and 2 and a number lost their lives. This is their story, lest we forget.
Bob, Len and Artie Belshaw
Olga Belshaw

The three sons of Robert and Florence Belshaw all enlisted in World War 2 (WW2), much to the dismay of their parents and older sisters: Florrie, Phyllis, Lily and Edna.

ROBERT ‘BOB’ FRANCIS BELSHAW 1919-2012 enlisted in August 1940. His brother LEONARD ALLEN BELSHAW 1921-1991 enlisted in the AIF in August 1942 and was discharged six years later in 1948. In 1945 he married OLGA MERRICKLEY who had enlisted in December 1943. Olga was discharged in June 1945, two months after their wedding.

The youngest son was ARTHUR MAURICE ‘ARTIE’ BELSHAW 1923-1944 who wanted to join up when he was only 16. He had been in the air cadets and was desperate to enlist. Artie finally enlisted in the RAAF in the 43rd Squadron in July 1942, three months before he was legally allowed. He was a bombardier and flew with the Flying planes.

Artie Belshaw
Artie was killed in action when the Catalina he was crew member of, was shot down near Borneo. He died shortly after his 21st birthday, on 10 April 1944. His remains were eventually laid in the Labuan War Cemetery in Malaysia. His signet ring a 21st gift from his parents, was used to identify him. His extensive Service Records and information about his death and repatriation can be viewed on the National Archives website. The family were very close and were devastated when they received a telegram advising them he was Missing In Action (MIA) and held out hope until they finally got official confirmation. To this day the extended family cherish his memory.

One of the letters from Arties' mother, Florence still waiting for confirmation of her son's death two years after he was presumed dead.  Service Records, National Archives of Australia, A705 166/5/501

Our Gt-Grandmother Florence Belshaw, had four younger half-brothers, who served.

ALFRED ARTHUR PETTY 1899-1975, known as Arthur he enlisted at the end of WW1 in 1918 in 33rd Batt, His guardian at the time was listed as his half‐sister, Phoebe Nolen. ABRAHAM CHARLES PETTY 1901-1944 was as “Abe” and began his military service in the Australian Army in 1940 at Cowra, Service Number NX52875.  He died on 23 Aug 1944 aged 43 from dysentery as a Prisoner of War (POW) a at Ambon and at the time was a Rank Gunner and posted on the 18 Anti‐Tank Battery. He had a daughter called Joyce F. Petty who died in 1924 aged about 3 and it is believed our Mother, Joyce Nichols nee Leach was named for this child. He is buried in Ambon War Cemetery in Indonesia, grave reference 20. A. 7. HENRY GEORGE PETTY 1903-1943 but always known as “Syd” joined the Navy as a young man and served on HMS Platypus from 1918 and later the Penguin. In 1919 aged 16, he deserted but joined the Royal Navy in 1921. He enlisted in WW2 in June 1940 and was in the A.I.F. 2/30 Battallion, and his rank was Sergeant, service no. NX57356.  Syd was reporting missing in Malaya. His wife at the time was issued  with  a  notice  to  quit  their Government  tenement  at  Westlake despite being married to a member of the A.I.F. who was been reported missing and whose whereabouts are unknown to the Army authorities. He died from an illness in November 1943 in what is now known as Thailand aged 40.  According to the newspapers, his wife did not find out until 1945, two years later that he had died. His Grave reference in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery is A5. G. 2. He was survived by his 2nd wife and 2 daughters. The youngest was ERNEST WILLIAM PETTY 1905-1989. He enlisted in Sydney in 1941, service no. was NX66790. At the time he said he was born in 1911 not 1905. He served in the Middle East in the 6th Division between 1941 and 1942. He was promoted several times, his last as Staff Sergeant in 1944 and discharged in February 1946. He was married 4 times and after the war migrated to NZ where he remained for the rest of his days.
Petty brothers, believed to be from left - Abe Syd and Ern early 1940s.

ROGER BELSHAW 1898-1970 enlisted in 1917 in Sydney having been in the Cadets for 2 years previous before serving in World War 1. Roger was a cabinet maker, the son of John and Georgina Belshaw and youngest brother of Robert Belshaw. Roger was born in Sydney and sadly was only a young child when his father, John was killed by a train at Redfern. He served in the 1st Battallion and was fortunate to return home. He also served his country again in WW2.

Roger Belshaw

JOHN WILLIAM NOLEN 1888-1917 was a Private in the 29th Battallion, Australian Infantry. He had married Phoebe Ponting, sister of Florence Belshaw in 1912. He had two daughters Gladys and Dulcie. He died of his wounds in the field, in October 1917. His death is commemorated at The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

Record of J. W. Nolen's death from his Service Records NAA: B2455
Courtesy National Archives of Australia

As things became difficult and the war developed, WILLIAM 'BILL' ROBERT NICHOLS 1903-1958 joined the Volunteer Defence Corp in Riverstone. On 22 April 1942, he enlisted in the A.I.F. and was a mechanic/fitter in the 1st Australian Armoured Brigade and served his time in the north west including places such as Broome and Marble Bar. He was always disappointed not to have been in action. Towards the end of the war William applied for a discharge as he was very concerned with his father’s health and was discharged on the 8 February 1945.

William Robert Nichols

His cousin JOHN NICHOLS 1906-1989, a mechanic, was also in the AIF joining up in June 1940. Service no. NX29590 During the fall of Singapore he was taken by the Japanese as a Prisoner of War (POW) and taken to Changi Prison Camp, a most wretched and desperate place, a place in which words possibly cannot describe. The Japanese soldiers discovered that John was handy as mechanic/driver so he was sent to Japan to work in a production camp. At the end of the war, he was liberated by the US Forces and fed nutritional food, for the first time in 3 years. He weighed only about 6 stone, he had been about 16 stone. Whilst John was being held in Changi as a Prisoner of War, he was declared “Missing in Action” with most of his family thinking he was missing and dead. He dreamt of home and wrote this poignant poem to remind him. John was finally discharged from the 2/20 Battalion in January 1946.

My Prayer compiled by John Nichols whilst a POW in Changi

Bill’s other cousin ERNEST WILLIAM NICHOLS 1902-1959 also enlisted at Richmond in April 1942 and was discharged in October 1945.

Bill Nichols rear left,  with his cousin Ern on right plus family. My Dad, Ern is left front and his brother Warren on the far right. Taken at Parramatta Park, while Bill and Ern were on leave
Another shot of Bill and Ern

Uncle Bert, ALBERT LEWIS LEACH 1916-1974 enlisted in the Australian Army in Sydney on 12 August 1942. He had two Service Number NX102768 and N107096 and was discharged on 10 May 1946.

Aunty Amy, Annie Nichols nee Richardson’s sister, was married to Jack, JOHN JAMES PORTER 1882-1918. They were obviously devoted and Amy fondly refers to him as "My Jack". From 1911 Jack was the Headmaster at Gosberton Clough School at Spalding, Lincolnshire. He enlisted in the London-Scottish in February 1915 and departed for France following his training in 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.

Jack Porter taken in Jerusalem in January 1918

Although not technically a family member, EWAN QUINE KEWLEY 1890-1917 was the defacto partner of Aunty Maud nee Ponting. They were together from about 1915 and during this time and up to 1920, she went by the name Mrs Maud Kewley. At the time she was married to John Joseph Moore but her divorce was finalised until 1920. Ewan Kewley came from the Isle of Mann, and migrated first to NZ in 1909 then onto Australia at a later date. Ewan enlisted in January 1916 in Sydney and described as 5’9” with brown hair, blue eyes and a tattoo of a coat of arms on his left forearm. He was Driver 9950, 31st Coy Australian Army Service Corps. In May 1916 he embarked in Sydney on the HMAT Karroo A10 and sent overseas but sent back to England to recuperate after an illness. He died from pneumonia and meningitis at the Tidworth Military Hospital on 25 September 1917. He is buried in a private grave at Kirkmouran Cemetery at Douglass Isle of Mann and remembered with honour at Kirk Marown St Runius, Churchyard. In his war records Maud states she is his wife and is listed variously as next of kin, punitive wife and friend. Maud travelled to the UK to be with him, living in Seaforth Lancashire and later Walton near Liverpool before returning home to Sydney. She later married Willie Russell and Jack Hanlon.

Family Notices The Sydney Morning Herald 29 Sep 1919 p. 8.  
Ewan's final resting place on the Isle of Mann

Our extended family are proud of those who served and will proudly remember them particularly those who sacrificed their lives.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


On 29 January 1938, my Grandfather, John William 'Bill' Leach was riding pillion with his mate Michael Robert Andrews.  A car driven by Frederick William Gray, overtook the motorbike three times on a journey from Mascot Bridge. The third time, the driver swerved towards the bike and on the corner of Botany Road and Coward Street, Mascot, the motorbike struck a post and the driver was killed. Gray was charged with murder.

Bill Leach with wife, Florence on his own motorbike in the early 1930s
Source: Nichols Family Archives

This was the 1930s and times were tough. Bill often fished around Botany Bay and then went around to some of the local hotels to sell his catch. On the day of the accident, Bill and Michael had been to Kogarah Bay.  Bill gave evidence at the inquest, he said that they were returning to Sydney when he noticed a car "that after crossing the Mascot Bridge and turning the corner 100 yards farther an Essex car crossed in front of them and to avoid it the cycle swerved from the concrete road to the side of the street." Andrews and Leach said together, "That was close." Further along the road, the car slowed down and the cycle went past. As drove past, Andrews shouted to the driver, "You fool" and words were exchanged.  Bill then stated that the car "seemed to swerve in upon the cycle" and he shouted, "Look out! Look out!" but the back wheel or some part of the car caught the front wheel of the cycle. He continued, "I had an impression of Andrews being hurled against a post. The next thing I remembered was sitting upon the roadway about 20 feet from the cycle. The car had gone on." 

A witness to the accident, Mrs Irene O'Donnell of Botany, "said that she saw the collision. She would say that the car was deliberately aimed at the motor cycle."

Mr Sabine, a Detective said that Gray had told him he had not stopped because he did not think he was responsible for the accident. Witnesses also mentioned that despite Gray seeing the accident he had not stopped. Andrews was admitted the Royal South Sydney Hospital but died within thirty minutes of admission, from a fractured skull. The coroner found that the death of Andrews was due to a fractured skull and brain injuries that were suffered in the collision. Michael was aged 37 and a fireman living at Alexandria. 

Evidence was given that Gray was an acceptable driver and his car in a satisfactory condition. Gray denied he was guilty but did admit to having consumed several drinks on the day. His version of events were supported by his two passengers, his wife and his brother-in-law.

The original charge of murder was reduced to the lesser charge of manslaughter. "There is no doubt that this is homicide," said the coroner, Mr. Oram, "and, to me, it certainly is punishable homicide. But there is no evidence of express malice, such as is necessary to sustain a charge of murder." Mr Oram said "the evidence did not indicate criminal maliciousness." Bail of £200 was set with two sureties of £200 was allowed. He was later sentenced to two years gaol for the manslaughter.

My grandfather was 27 years old and a building labourer. As a result of the accident he severely injured his wrist, arms and knees. The injuries plagued him for the remainder of his life. Due to his injuries he was in out of hospital and was unable to work for about six months. My Grandmother, Flo had to return to work as a box-maker to make ends meet. Joyce, my Mother, aged four and her two year old sister, Fay had to attend a special nursery school while she was at work. Andrews also left a widow and family.  

Sydney Morning Herald  22 February 1938, p. 12

MOTORIST FOR TRIAL. (1938, February 22). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 12. Retrieved March 28, 2016
Drove Cyclist Off Road To His Death (1938, March 27). Truth, p. 25. Retrieved March 28, 2016
ROAD ACCIDENTS. (1938, January 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), , p. 14. Retrieved March 29, 2016