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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, 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