Sunday, December 27, 2015

Treasure on TROVE ...Cubs as Cogs!

TROVE Treasure- CUBS AS COGS - How I discovered my father helped the War effort as a boy.

CUBS AS COGS. (1942, February 7). The Telegraph(Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), p. 3 Edition: SPORTS FINAL. Retrieved December 16, 2015, from
 While searching The National Library of Australia's digitised newspaper website Trove recently, I found this 1942 news article from the Brisbane Telegraph. The wording is difficult to read on the image so I will reproduce it here:

Two Bardon Cubs, Colin MacDade of Lewin Street and Douglas Lawrie of Garfield Drive with some of the aluminium they collected during the school holidays to help the war effort.

Colin MacDade was my father. I had never known that had been a cub scout as a boy, much less that he had aided the war effort, so this news article provided me with new information about my father's childhood. I was expecially excited, since as a seven year old, while living with my grandparents at Garfield Drive, Paddington, during the building process of our new home at a Brisbane suburb called The Gap, I had joined the Bardon Brownies. I had attended meetings and earned badges at the very same Scout Hall which my father had attended as a young boy, and only now through Trove, discovered this fact.

Since my father was someone who did not talk much about his childhood and passed away in the 1990's, I decided to search Trove for more information about the Scout, Cub and later, the Brownie Troop that both myself and my father were members of. I was also very interested in finding out why these boys had spent their school holidays aiding the war effort. I decided to try to discover more about Scout and Cub involvement in helping the second world war.

Bardon Scout Hall  Image Google Maps

Firstly, I looked at the information provided in the article itself, which provided my father's address as Lewin Street, Bardon and the other boy, Douglas Lawrie's address as Garfield Drive.  This was quite a coincidence, since a few years after this photograph was taken, my grandparents, my father and his two sisters, had themselves moved to Garfield Drive, Paddington, The house on the top of the hill, in Garfield Drive, with a magnificent view, and the Paddington Water Tower beside it, was the house that, growing up,  I knew as my grandparent's home.

A check of the 1947 and 1949 Queensland Electoral Rolls showed me that the family lived at number 49 Lewin Street. A quick look at google maps shows that the old house is little altered from the front, in Lewin Street.

49 Lewin Street, Bardon, Google Maps ( the house behind the tree)

My grandfather was employed by the Brisbane City Council Water Department and sometime after 1949. he moved his family to number 16, Garfield Drive in the house with the Paddington Water Tower alongside it. The tower is now heritage listed and the land on which it stands has been subdivided and separated from the house. I am planning to write a blog about the Paddington Water Tower and my memories of it in another post. But for now, I will return to my father's cub scout days and his effort to help the second world war as a young cub scout....

Looking up from below 16 Garfield Drive, Paddington. The hill I slid down as a child.  2015 Image Sharn White ©

My father was born on October 1, 1930, so at the time this photograph appeared in The Telegraph in February of 1942, my father, Colin John MacDade, was 11 years old. I looked to other newspaper articles on Trove's digitised newspapers, to find out as much as I could about the Bardon Wolf Cubs.

16 Garfield Drive as it is today. Image Bruce McDade ©

It did not take me long to discover that the Bardon Boy Scouts and Cubs were formed in 1935, and that they first met at St Bartholemew's Church Hall, Bardon.  In June of 1935, the Scout and Cub troops intended to purchase an acre and a hald of land in Bee Street, Bardon, where they planned to build a Scout Hall  [The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld; 1872-1947), Saturday 15 June 1935, page11]

Perhaps it was the first ever Australian Scouting Jamboree that was held between December 27, 1934 and January 13, 1935, in rural Frankston, 42 km east of Melbourne, Victoria, that enticed the founders of the Bardon Scout and Cub Troops to start the group. According to The Camperdown Chronicle, Victoria: 1877-1954), Thursday 19 October, 1933, Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement was invited to attend along with a member of the Royal family. For anyone interested in Scouting, this would have been a huge event and the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. []

The Bardon Scout and Wolf Cub Troops suceeded in building their hall and meeting place, two years after their foundation. The scout den was completed in June of 1937, although the official opening was in September. According to the Brisbane Sunday Mail, [Sunday 29 September 1937,page 16], a fete which included entertainment, was held in conjunction with the official opening of the Bardon Scout and Cubs Den.

The article decribes the event as follows,

The cubs had preliminary competitions for the final selection in the display for the totem pole under District Cub Master Harris. The Caledonian Pipe Band played selections. A dancing display, in costume, was given by a number of girls trained by Miss Alma Bedgood.

My great grandfather and grandfather, John and Colin McDade, both born in Glasgow, Scotland, were members of the Caledonian Club in Brisbane, Queensland. This is information I also discovered on Trove, and from numerous news articles and advertisements, I know that my grandfather's band, The White Heather Band, was a popular attraction at the Caledonian club.

Perhaps it was through his connection to the Caledonian Club, that my grandfather, knew of the opening of the Bardon Cub Den in 1935. My father would have been too young to attend Cubs until late in 1937, however it is a conncetion I cannot ignore. It is often such associations that help family historians to piece together their ancestor's lives.

Since the photograph of my father and Douglas Lawrie, appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph in February of 1942, it is more than likely that the boys would have participated in the Competition for the North Brisbane District Shield in December of that same year. The picture below shows members of the Ashgrove team lighting a fire by means of friction and cooking flapjacks. The Bardon Scouts and Cubs took part in this event and I can imagine how much excitement this activity would have generated amongst young boys. As a 12 year old, my father, Colin, would surely have enjoyed the comeraderie of his Cubs and Scouting acitivites. I am not sure whether it is by coincidence, that one of his specialties in later life as a father to myself and my sisters, was cooking flapjacks for us when our mother attended meetings. I do recall, however, that it was he who insisted that I join the Bardon Brownie Group as soon as I turned 7, so I can assume that he had fond memories of his days as a Cub and a Scout. My father's childhood years, about which I know little, has suddenly come to life through these stories.

1942 'Scouts and Cubs Compete For Shield.', The Telegraph(Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), 5 December, p. 2 Edition: LATE WEEK END, viewed 28 December, 2015,

It is very easy to digress when finding information on the Trove website. There is such a wealth of information to discover. I set out to find out about my father's participation in the war effort as a young cub scout and have ended up talking about flapjacks! So back to the Cubs as Cogs..... An article which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail, on January 9, 1942, explained how  Cub Scouts became involved in the collection of aluminium to be used in the manufacture of munitions, guns and planes.  Over 800 cub scouts were recruited to gather aluminim items and were requested to drop them off at designated post office 'receiving depots'. Girl Guides had already been successfully collecting aluminium since the previous December along with members of the public.
Following is the public call to Cub Scouts to play their part in helping the war effort, published in the Brisbane Courier Mail January, 9, 1942: 
The association desires that all wolf cubs shall assist in the collection of scrap aluminium to aid the war effort. Cubmasters will will arrange to record the effective time spent by cubs on this work and credit it to cubs in respect of their National Service Badge Award.
1942 'POST OFFICE, COUNCIL, CUBS ALUMINIUM DRIVE.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 9 January, p. 3, viewed 28 December, 2015,

With such strong words as those below, which appeared enticingly in bold print, what young boy cub could resist helping? 
Points to remember are:- 1 lb of aluminium alloy will make 1400 rivets, of which about 200,000 are used in one plane.A 5 ounce teapot makes 438 rivets, and every rivet is another in the coffin of the Nazi Regime.
I can just imagine the eagerness of the young cub scouts when they heard this call to help. The Brisbane Courier Mail carried a story  on February 3, 1942, which illustrates the determination and exhuberance of the boy cubs to play their part in the war effort.
When boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs go out after scrap aluminium they usuually get it. For example:- One persuaded a housewife who was making cakes to hand over her two aluminium cake tins  to him, and to put the mixture into a billy can.Another persuaded a man to part with a valuable washing machine casing.A third met  a woman who had no aluminium  but was inspired with a desire to give. So she presented him with a Pomeranian puppy.
I find these anecdotes to be delightful, especially the last, although I have to wonder if  the boy's mother was pleased to receive a Pomeranian puppy unexpectedly?
1942 'BOY SCOUTS GET THEIR ALUMINIUM.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 3 February, p. 5, viewed 28 December, 2015,

Cubs, Scouts and Girl Guides continued to work throughout the war years  to help in the collection of aluminium, other metals, paper, rags and clothing for parcels to be sent to European refugees through the UNRRA. The cubs and scouts  collected books and magazines while the girl guides knitted socks and scarves to be included in parcels to be sent to soldiers on the war front. The enthusiastic young helpers, assisted with the making of camouflage netting, crutches and packing cases and  eager Scouts and Cubs even took on farming jobs to help in the absence of farmers who had gone to fight.The Rockhampton newspaper, The Morning Bulletin, summed up the wartime contribution of the Boy Scouts, Wolf Cubs and Girl Guides, in its Headline on page 13, September 21, 1945 when it printed an article entitled, Scouts and Guides Worked for Peace
I am extremely proud of the contribution my father made from 1942 to 1945 towards the war effort. I am grateful to the National Library of Australia's wonderful website, Trove, without which, I would never have known about the wonderful contribution my father made as a child towards to war. I can now add this tale to the other threads I am gathering about my father's  life.  Eventually I will weave together a whole story. Colin John McDade, passed away in 1999 without ever telling me much about his childhood. Many thanks for yet another treasure from Trove! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Missing Great Uncle Rex in the 1939 Register...a puzzle solved.

Where is Uncle Rex on the 1939 Register ?

Marwell Hall, Hampshire Photo Siobhan White ©
I have written a number of blog posts about my most intriguing relative, my great uncle, Rex Morley Hoyes. You can read about Rex Hoyes in the following posts in  Sharn's Genealogy Jottings and FamilyHistory4u  His fascinating life  (1902 -1983) included him being charged with and aquitted of corruption by MI5 during WW2, when he was the managing Director of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft in England, a secret airstrip constructed at his home Marwell Hall (once owned by Kng Henry VIII which was given by the king to the Seymour family), his involvement in illegal gunrunning to Hyderabad in 1948, along with Australian pilot Sidney Cotton, and so far, unproved suspicions that he was a spy. The UK City and Country Directories, 1600's-1900's give a number of addresses for him in 1939, These are,  29 St James Street SW1 (TN Whitehall 2871), Marwell Hall, Winchester, (TN Owlesbury 6), Formentor, Malorca, Balearic Isles. That he had a very large super yacht registered in his name, could have explained the many addresses but when Findmypast announced the release of the 1939 register , I was eager to see exactly where my great uncle was living on September 29, 1939, when the register of every civilian living in the UK was undertaken. Information about the yacht Warrior can be found here . This site provides a link to my blog post about the Warrior.

The type of Avro Lancastrian
 that  flew guns to Hyderabad  
"Avro Sapphire Lancastrian VM733 Coventry 06.54" by RuthAS - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

This register, recently released by Findmypast was a joint undertaking by The National Archives and DC Thomson Family History. The register was originally used to issue identity cards and ration books and contains vital information such as change of surname, sex, occupation, age and address.

I was surprised when I searched for Rex Morley Hoyes that I couldn't find him. If he was not listed on the 1939 Register, on September 29, I wondered where he would have been so soon after the declaration of WW2. I had hope to find more about him from the register and hoped that he wasn't living at one of the overseas addresses that had been listed in the 1939 UK City and Country Directory ( ).

Results of my search for Rex M Hoyes in the 1939 Register  Image
My first search for Rex Morley Hoyes found no results (see above) and so I amended my search to Rex M Hoyes. I tried both of these searches, first  giving Hampshire, the county in which Marwell Hall is situated and then leaving the place of residence blank, with both searches finding no results.

Next I searched for R M Hoyes in Hampshire, but I found no sign of Rex Hoyes, I found a female by the name of Rose M Hoyes who was born two years earlier than Rex. Rose Hoyes lived in Winchester which is an historic town in the vicinity of Marwell Hall, however, I found no no sign of Rex Hoyes.

Widening my search, I looked for Rex's wife who was Patricia Margaret Hoyes nee Blackadder, formally Lady Waleran. Her affair with Rex Morley Hoyes had become very public in 1934, when news of it hit the newspaper headlines in the London Times. Lord Waleran divorced his much younger wife while Rex divorced his wife Muriel following the news scandal which even gave the address where Rex and pat had held their clandestine meetings. Rex Hoyes and Pat Blackadder married in 1935, having purchase Marwell Hall in 1934 prior to their wedding. Below is the result of my search for Margaret Patricia Hoyes. It was immediately obvious that I had found the correct person becaue her maiden name was shown as Blackadder. The showing of name changes on the 1939 Register is an excellent way to confirm that you have found the person you are looking for.

Margaret P Blackadder (Hoyes) in the 1939 Register. Image:
To the right of each name on the results page, there are two icons to click. The first takes you to a list of the people who lived in the same household as the person you have searched for. Below is the list of people in the Hoyes household which I found . And to my surprise, there, beneath Margaret P Blacckadder/Hoyes was Rose M Hoyes.

The Hoyes household, Winchester Image

Rose M Hoyes , a female, was born 30 March 1900 and her occupation is transcribed as Managing Director of Ca? Owner Aircaft Limited. This caught my attention immediately, since my great uncle Rex was born on the same day March 30, but in 1902, and in 1939, he was Managing Director of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Limited, based at Southampton Airport, Eastleigh, in England.

Rex Morley Hoyes, 4th from right with Culiffe-Owen personalities.
The only way to see the original image from the 1939 register is to pay to view and although I by now was certain that Rose M Hoyes was in fact, Rex M Hoyes mistranscribed, assumption can so easily lead one down the wrong path. I needed to see the original image to obtain evidence that Rose M Hoyes was really Rex M Hoyes. After all, the household listed Rose as a female and perhaps there was a Rose Hoyes whom I had not yet discovered in my family history research.

Paying to view the original image of the Hoyes household on the 1939 Register image paid off for me, because Rose turned out to bevery much my great uncle Rex. Original writing is often hard to read but I am able to read the name Rex, Perhaps becaue I a expecting it to be Rex, it is easier for me to read. I can also see, however, how the letters 'ex' looked like 'ose' and how easily Rex became Rose. But on the register my great uncle is clearly stated to be a male not a female. The mistake here was that whoever transcribed this record, assumed that the 'M' for male was incorrect and that 'ROSE was correct rather than searching for a male name that loked like Rose. An excellent  lesson for myself also when transcribing. Rex's occupation is Managing Director of Cunliffe Owen Aircraft Ltd, but for someone not looking for that name they can be forgiven for not being able to read it correctly. The address given is Marwell Hall, Owlesbury.

Rex Hoyes was not missing on the day of the 1939 UK Register at all.  But for for the original image I could not have proved this and thumbs up to Findmypast for providing this extra pay by view service. I am again reminded of the importance of finding original documents and not relying upon transcription. Volunteers do an exccellent job of transcribing often very difficult handwriting, but when you are searching for a particular name it is often easier to recognise it yourself.

1939 Register. Rex M Hoyes. Image

Of great interest in the Hoyes household in 1939, is the household staff listed on this register. Rex and Margaret Hoyes had a Butler, chauffer, head housemaid and a cook in the household on September 29, 1939. There are possibly three more household members, however, the three names below those that are listed are not yet available becaue they were born within the 100 year privacy closure period. Since they are not family members, I will not bother to apply to have the closed files opened. I will, though,  be looking into the lives of the Marwell Hall staff in the near future. Often the people who knew our ancestors can provide clues about their lives, so it is well worth investigating them.

It has come to my attention from a number of private sources, that Rex was possibly a spy. I have as yet found no evidence to support this theory, and I am pleased that I found him at home at his Marwell Hall residence on the night of the 1939 register. As Managing Director of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd, with government aircraft contracts, that Rex himself secured for the company, he travelled to America on official business in 1941. Had I discovered him anywhere but in England on September 29, 1939, so soon after Britain and France had declared war  (September 3), my suspicions about his wartime activities might have been fueled. So for now, Rex is safely patriotic... until I find otherwise. Saved by the 1939 register!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rootstech 16 Ambassador... and a Family Reunion thanks to Rootstech15.

Rootstech16 Ambassador - a look back at Rootstech15 and how Rootstech led to a family reunion...

Rootstech 15 Geneabloggers
I was thrilled to be invited recently, to join Jill Ball, previously the only Australian Ambassador for Rootstech Conferences, to be an Ambassador for Rootstech16. To say I am excited would be an understatement! I have my air ticket booked and paid for and my accomodation is booked as well. 
My Genea-friend Jill Ball conducting an interview with young 15 year old genealogist, Tas, from Australia
In February of this year, I joined a fairly large contingency of Australian attendees, many of them, like myself, were genealogy bloggers and good friends, and we travelled the long journey from various parts of Australia to Salt Lake City in the USA, to attend the Rootstech15 Conference. The 2015 Rootstech conference was combined with the FGS conference so it was a doubly exciting year to choose for my first visit to Rootstech. 

In addition to an exciting line up of keynote speakers (and a trip down memory lane with a fabulous rendition of Donny Osmond's Puppy Love  by the singer himself (showing my age now), an amazing and wide ranging choice of talks, engaging speakers to choose from and the wealth of knowledge  that I acquired, I met many friendly and like minded people. Some of these were already online friends from all around the world, whom I met at Rootstech for the first time in person. Others were new friends whom I am happy to say, I have stayed in touch with. 

The real Donny did appear, however, this cut out figure was fun to pose with!

The exhibition hall was tremendously exciting with so many exhibitors and products to peruse. I'm afraid I purchased too many 'goodies' for my luggage allowance and no doubt I will do so again in 2016! Ancestry DNA tests were popular with Australian visitors and some Australians took tests in Salt Lake City and received our results before Ancestry's DNA testing even reached the shores of Australia! 
The Exhibition Hall was very popular.

The media hub in the Exhibition Hall was a constant hive of activity. Jill Ball called upon me to do an interview on camera. Amongst the many people Jill interviewed was young 15 year old genealogist, named Tas, who had heard about Rootstech from me and earned his airfair by busking, so that he could attend. His story even made the Deseret News!  I met Dear Myrtle (Pat) whose blog and more recentley, her hangouts, I have been a big fan of, in person in the media hub as well as Randy Seaver. Meeting in person, my online genealogy friends, was a great highlight of my Rootstech experience.

Dear Myrtle in the Media Hub

Randy Seaver and wife Linda with my good friend from Australia, Pauleen Cass
During a conversation ( naturally about family history) with Randy and his wife, it transpired that Linda had an ancestor who had lived in Sydney, Australia, where I happen to live. He had followed the Californian Gold Rush and I promised to look up the address of the hotel that Linda Seaver's ancestor had been the licencee of in the mid 1800's on my return to Australia. I did just that and wrote a blog post about my find. If you would like to read about Linda's ancestor just click on the link on the word blog above.

Darling Harbour, not far from where Linda's ancestor had his hotel. 

The family history library was one of the great highlights of my visit to Salt Lake City. After a most informative guide of the library, by most friendly helpers, I set about finding a great deal of information about my German and Swiss ancestors. The books in the library had me positively drooling! Luckily I speak German, as most of the books I was looking at, were in that language. I discovered information that I would not have discovered anywhere else and certainly I would not have found not online. 

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City

I left a few days free after the conference to explore Salt Lake City and to take hundreds of photographs of the city, which was picturesquely nestled in amongst snow capped mountains.


In February, since I was making the trip to Salt Lake City from Australia, I decided to continue on to Chicago after the conference, to meet, in person, many third cousins whom I had discovered through my family history research. My great grandfather, John MCDADE emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, while his younger sister, Agnes MCDADE, with her husband Martin LEONARD emigrated to Illinois in the USA in the early 1900's. Three generations later, I realised a dream to bring together a generation of cousins who had lost touch but with whom I had been corresponding daily via facebook for three years. 

It was very cold in Chicago in February when I stayed with cousin Betsy. .

Six months later, in August, just a few weeks ago, I returned to Chicago, along with other Australian MCDADE descendants, for what my American cousins called "The Great Aussie Invasion". We had the most wonderful family gathering of MCDADE descendants and our American hosts were  the most amazing hosts. They are truly wonderful people. Despite three generations of separation, the MCDADE musicality and sense of humour has been passed down through family on both continents. 
Had it not been for attending Rootstech15, I most likely would never have met my wonderful, awesome cousins. Below are some photographs of our family gathering in Chicago on August 31, 2015.

My cousin Thom had gone all out on the Aussie/ American theme for our party.

A clever relative made these cookies!

Amidst American relatives.

Some USA and Aussie cousins.

What better cookies for a family get together!

Name tags made it so much easier with over 100 relatives attending, most of whom had never met before.
One of the family trees I drew up to explain our descendancy from James MCDADE and SARAH MCDERMID who hailed from Ireland c 1770.


At Rootstech15, I met a speaker from Chicago, named Paul MILNER.  At a conference in Canberra, Australia, the very next month in March, I again heard Paul speak and was very impressed by his skill as a speaker. We became friends on facebook in March. In July of this year, I discovered in my FamilyTree DNA results, a cousin named Paul MILNER. You guessed it! Its the one and same Paul that I met at Rootstech15. We are corresponding trying to work out our connection, however, I am fairly confident that it is through family from Northumberland, England, on my maternal line that we are related.

I am very much looking forward to returning to Salt Lake City, in February, 2016, for the next Rootstech Conference. I will once again be returning to Chicago after the conference to visit my family in the USA and this time Paul Milner and I will meet up as well..... I am gathering cousins thanks to Rootstech... Rootstech16, here I come!  Why don't you join me.... its an experience you will never forget.

I met Fran Kitto and Hilary Gadbsy in person for the first time at Rootstech15

Thursday, June 18, 2015

RUNAWAY HUSBAND - There's No Hiding The Family Skeletons in the News!

Newspapers Tell All

Lillie Herminnie Weston nee Nargar back left (Five Generations of my family from my great great grandmother to myself)
My great grandparents, Lillie Herminnie Nargar and William Joseph Weston were married on August 23rd, 1907, at the Baptist Church in Maryborough, in Queensland. I suppose as with most parents, theirs hoped they would have an enduring and happy marriage. For the first years of their marriage, the couple lived on a banana farm near Bauple, outside of Maryborough and I daresay they were happy with the birth of a son and two daughters.

Lillie was born in 1888, to a German father, John Gottlieb Nerger (later changed to Nargar) and a Swiss born mother, Barbara Lena Häberling. William's parents were Edward Joseph Weston, born in Suffolk, England and Sarah Frayne, the daughter of an Irish born convict, Michael Frayne.

I was very close to my great grandmother, who passed away when I was ten years old, but the husband that I knew as hers, when I was a  child was not William Weston. When I asked questions, of my grandmother and her sister, they always seemed reluctant to speak of their father, which of course as years passed, only served to increase my curiousity. The only information I had about William Weston was the following comment which my great aunt made just before she died in early 2001, when I asked her about her father.

"I met him in the street with my mother once, when I was about 21. My mother said, Dorothy, you remember your father don't you and I said, "You're no father of mine! I just walked away without speaking to him." 

I was consumed with curiousity as to what had caused his daughter to be so very angry with her father. My great aunt had told me that her life as a child had been one of hardship. Her mother, Lillie, pictured above, was the first female fruiterer in Brisbane, (in a male dominated industry). This occupation meant that she had to rise around 4 am every morning to go to the markets, before working long hours in the fruit shop. A family friend lived with the family  to help with the three children, but I always had the feeling that my grandmother and her sister and brother, had not seen much of their mother.

The great grandmother, I knew was a religious and loving woman, so I knew that it must have been from necessity and certainly not from lack of caring that she worked hard for a living and saw little of her children. It surely was not what she had expected on her wedding day in Maryborough. So.. what had changed her circumstances? I knew that Lillie had not been made a widow, since she and her daughter had met by chance her former husband while going to the bank in Fortitude Valley, in Brisbane.

I mentioned in a recent blog post about my great grandfather, John McDade,  that Trove, the National Library of Australia's digitised website is currently adding the Brisbane newspaper, The Telegraph to its wonderful collection. Today, thanks to the Telegraph newspaper,  I solved another mystery in my family history and you might have guessed by the title of this blog post, as to the nature of my discovery. Just released by Trove in a  Brisbane Telegraph report , I found the following most revealing item. I just love the title and something in the tone of the story tells me that my great grandfather, the runaway husband, left behind a very cross wife behind indeed!

...Lillie Herminnie Weston, the plaintiff,said that after living in the north for some years, she and her husband came to Brisbane in 1917, and opened a business in the Valley. Her husband collected around him a bevy of young ladies, whom he entertained in the shop and went out with at night. In May 1920, the defendant made the business over to his wife, and ran away with a young lady from a city hotel.

The above news report triggered another distant memory of my grandmother telling me that when she arrived in Brisbane as a child with her parents. the city lights went to her father's head. I also recalled of the mention of a barmaid. It often only takes something such as this news item to trigger old memories.

I do have to say, that I suspect that it was more likely the
'bevy of young ladies that he entertained in the shop' that swayed William Weston from his wife and his married life than city lights.

William Weston was born in 1887 in Gympie. He grew up on the land and had little experience of city life. In 1917, William and Lillie Weston were listed on the Australian Electoral Roll, living at Bauple. William was a farmer and Lillie, then the mother of three young children, was a stay at home mother.

William Weston working on the land.
I cannot find a World War 1 record of enlistment for William Weston, who would have been around 29 years of age when war broke out, so I have to assume that he remained on the land. Perhaps he failed the medical test. Some statistical studies suggest that men who enlisted from rural areas in Australia were, in general, unmarried and younger than William, however, that is a subject for future research. For reasons I have  yet I have also yet to discover,  the Weston family left their farm near Maryborough in 1917, and moved to Brisbane at a time when farming and food produce was essential to the war effort. In Brisbane, William and Lillie opened a fruit shop in Fortitude Valley, a busy area of Brisbane, not far from the City centre. There,  at 202 Wickham Street, Lillie can be found on the 1921 Electoral Roll , her occupation, a fruiterer. There is no sign of William, confirming the information in the news account, in which Lillie claimed her husband 'ran away' in 1920.

202 Wickham Street, The Valley Image Google Street View

I now also know that William Weston later married the woman he left my great grandmother for and together they had six children.

I am quite aware that this news item only presents one side of a divorce story. My great grandparent's marriage may very well have been already failing when he left, or perhaps, as my grandmother told, me, the 'city lights' did go to the head of the country boy William Weston, and he discovered excitement in the city that he had not known before.

My great grandmother, Lillie Herminnie was a strong woman. She worked hard to give her children what they needed. She was a very religious woman attending the Baptist Tabernacle in Wickham Street, Spring Hill. During World War 2. Lillie volunteered to work in the Australian Women's Land Army. Her friend who had helped to raise the children went on to become a prison chaplain and my great grandmother became very involved in working with women's prisons.

RUNAWAY HUSBAND  or not, Lillie Herminnie Weston (Nargar) went on to contribute much to society and to live her life to the fullest until she succombed to cancer aged in her 80's.

Lillie Herminnie Weston in her Land Army Uniform Image ©




Tuesday, June 9, 2015

WHAT KILLED GREAT GRANDAD.... a Curious Mystery solved on TROVE.. PartOne


My Grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade

When I was growing up in Brisbane, Queensland, the sad story about how my great grandfather was killed by a falling branch, was often talked about in my family. I knew, from a young age, that his untimely death in September of 1930, was a tragic tale of death by misadventure. I was familiar with the park where I was told the branch had fallen on my great grandfather's head and I had written about his death in several of my blog posts. I had no reason to doubt this well known family anecdote until a heart stopping telephone call one day. A relative who found me through one of my blog posts phoned me and related a far more chilling account of my great grandfather's death than the one I had been told. Her story was in no way similar to the one I was familiar with, and in fact, it echoed ominous overtones of a shocking and deceitful family cover up. That phone call, which sent chills down my spine, launched me on a lengthy quest for the truth. 

For many years since that conversation, I have been troubled by the curious mystery that surrounded my great grandfather's death. I could find no evidence, to prove which of the two distinctly different versions of how he had died, was accurate or even if either of them were true, until this week I had an exciting find. 

Several days ago, I finally discovered concrete evidence of how my paternal great grandfather, John McDade was killed. Let me to start at the beginning...


John McDade was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1872. Born into a family of generations of coal miners, John himself, was a miner who laoured in various coal mines in and around Glasgow, until 1923, when with his wife Elizabeth and nine children, he emigrated to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Having lived in Australia for less than seven years, John McDade died on September 9th, 1930. What caused his death bcame the subject of a curious mystery which just this week I finally solved.


Aged in his 50's, while walking home from work one evening, through Wickham Terrace Park, John McDade was hit on the head by a falling tree branch. When he arrived home, his family took him to the hospital to have his injury attended. After being examined by doctors and declaring that he was fine, John was sent home that same night. The following morning, complaining of pain in his head, he collapsed and died from his head injury. 

I was told that a falling branch killed John McDade Image Wikipedia ©©


Some years ago, a McDade relative whom I had never met, contacted me. She is, as I am, a great granddaughter of John McDade. I descend from the third son, Colin Hamilton McDade and she, from from my grandfather's younger sister.  I was of course, thrilled, and for many months we conversed on the telephone, sharing stories about our family history. During one of these telephone conversations, my cousin left me speechless, as she told me a very different account of John McDade's death, than the one I had heard previously. This story, she informed me, she had heard from her mother and as I listened quietly to her words, a chill darted down my spine....


My grandfather, and one of his brothers got into a heated argument one evening after a few beers, and the argument ended up in a fierce fist fight. Their father, John stepped in to try to stop the fight and was accidentally punched in the head. John died the next morning, from his head injury, and the family invented the story of the falling branch to avoid my grandfather and his brother going to jail.

Did a punch to the head really kill my great grandfather?  Image Wikipedia ©©


As you might imagine, this more sinister narrative of John McDade's death cast serious aspersions upon my grandfather and one of my great uncles. If the tale was true then, my grandfather and his brother were responsible for the death of their father. I was shocked to think that John McDade's death may have been cloaked in fiction to prevent my grandfather and his brother from being charged with manslaughter, or even worse, unpremeditated murder! My mind ran amok with visions of a drunken brawl between two brothers, which ended up in a fatal punch that killed their father. I could simply not erase this image from my thoughts, so shocked was I, and it was with a most unpleasant perception of dread, that I embarked on my search for the truth. I had a personal obligation to find the facts since, for my entire life, I had I avoided walking through the park in Wickham Terrace, where I believed my great grandfather to have been killed - just in case a falling branch might bring about my own demise. To add to this, my acute awareness of the dangers of falling branches, had prevented me from allowing my own children to play beneath the trees in our back garden, when there was even the slightest whisper of wind.  The story of my great-grandfather's death by a falling branch, therefore, had profoundly affected my life and suddenly something that had been a very part of the fabric of my background threatened to be untrue. I felt driven to solve the the burdensome question of 'whodonit' which now overshadowed my great grandfather's death.

Family anecdotes cannot always be relied upon as being the truth.


John's death certificate had been of no help in solving the mystery. It declared that he had died of a brain hemorrhage but made no mention of a head injury. I  had only hearsay that an injury to the head had been the cause of  John McDade's death. I had seemingly no way to determine if he had received a fatal injury, let alone whether  the culprit responsible for his to early departure, was  a branch ....or a punch in the head. 


If a serious incident had indeed been hushed up in my family, I wanted to know the truth. I searched for newspaper reports on the Trove website (newspapers digitised by the National Library of Australia), but I found nothing at all about my great grandfather's death beyond a funeral notice. Either my great grandfather's death had not been considered newsworthy enough to be reported, any newspaper in which the story had appeared had not yet been digitised. 


I asked other McDade relatives for their versions of my great grandfather's death. My paternal aunt, took immediate exception to the accusation that my grandfather, her father, had in any way been responsible for John McDade's death.  She was adamant that a branch falling from a tree had caused his death. One always has to keep in mind, that when family anecdotes are perpetuated, it is often difficult to find a path to the truth. The seeds of doubt had been planted in my mind by a more malevolent version of my great grandfather's death, and I could not help but wonder if the tale of the falling branch had in fact been nothing but a conspiracy designed to keep my grandfather and his brother from trouble with the law. I knew that finding the truth would require more than my aunt's version of this story, to convince me of its authenticity. I needed real evidence of a cause of death.

Last year, I travelled to Brisbane to meet with some of my McDade cousins. In a park, not far from the Wickham Terrace park where I believed my great grandfather to have been hit on the head by a falling branch, we discussed the death of John McDade. My father's cousin had also heard, from his own father, an account of what happened. He, like myself, was genuinely horrified to hear the injurious account that I had been told, which gave the cause of death as an accidental punch. His father, along with my grandfather, were the two sons, who allegedly in this previously unheard version of events, had caused their father's death in a drunken punch up. 

In the park that day, my cousin related the account of John McDade's death that he had heard first hand from his father. 


Bertie (Robert) McDade's account of how his father died went as follows. 

John McDade was working in a park, blowing up tree stumps, when a large piece of a tree stump landed on his head. His sons, Bertie and Colin (my grandfather), were out riding motor bikes together when they received a call to tell them their father had been injured. Riding their bikes home to see their father, they were involved in an accident. An ambulance was summoned, however, when it arrived, the sons refused treatment, saying that they urgently needed to get home to see their father who had been injured. 

You might think, as I did, that this seemed far too an elaborate story to be contrived and I began to think, when I heard this account, that I was nearer to finding the truth. My own story had involved a branch falling from a tree, and although in this version, John McDade's death was allegedly caused by part of a blown up tree stump, at least the culprit was looking like being a tree! And then,  just as I relaxed, and settled into some sense of relief, a dark and foreboding thought occurred to me....  a good lie is ALWAYS well contrived... My heart sank. All I had in truth, were three different versions of an accident, with now a tree stump to add to my list of offenders. I wondered if I would ever know the truth about how John McDade died.

I had written several blog posts mentioning John McDade's 'death by falling branch' and the thought that this might not be true, was not sitting comfortably with me. Although it would be much more convenient for me to accept the fallen branch version of my great grandfather's death, than to contemplate that he had been punched to his death, I resolved to continueto seek the facts.


Recently, on facebook, my good genea-friend, Shauna Hicks, alerted me to the fact that the Brisbane Telegraph newspaper had been digitised and was available to search on Trove. With a spare hour to myself, I logged onto the Trove website and entered 'John McDade' into the search box, also narrowing my search to Queensland newspapers. I had previously searched digitised newspapers for information about my great grandfather's death and found nothing, but it is important to remember that newspapers are continually being digitised and added to Trove.

The first article I found was from The Central Queensland Herald,  dated March 2, 1939, which described the death of a 55 year old man named John McDade,  entitled, "Fatal Explosion Caused by a Box of Matches". The date and place of death (after a near faint thinking I might have to add a box of matches to the growing list of suspects in my great grandfather's death), ruled out this particular man as being my great grandfather. Feeling sincerely sorry for the family of this man from Tennant Creek, who had dropped a box of matches into gun powder he was about to detonate, I was, at the same time, relieved that this had not been my great grandfather's grizzly end. This widely reported death in news reports continued for a number of pages of results, so I narrowed my search further, adding 'tree' to 'John McDade'. 


And then, there it was!  There before my eyes was a report about my great grandfather's death, entitled Struck by Falling Tree. The story was reported in The Week, on Friday, September 12, 1930. The address matched that of my great grandparents in electoral rolls, although my great grandfather had obviously fibbed just a little about his age, most likely for the purpose of obtaining employment. In 1930, John McDade was aged 58 years. 

The Week  Friday September 12, 1930  Image, Trove

John McDade, 54 a married man, of King Street, Windsor, employed by the Brisbane City Council under the relief scheme, was felling a tree in Victoria Park on Sept 5, when he was struck by a limb. He did not feel any effects of the injury at the time and continued to work. During the night, however, he complained of pains in the head and as he became worse on Saturday morning ambulance bearers were called. They found that he was suffering from a fracture of the skull and took him to the Brisbane Hospital in an unconscious condition. His condition is serious.

"StateLibQld 1 115724 View over to Brisbane from the hospital at Herston across Victoria Park, looking south, ca. 1936" by Item is held by John Oxley Library ©©


Two additional headlines from The Telegraph [Brisbane, Qld], dated September 8 and September 10, 1930, caught my attention on Trove. These were INJURED WORKER  and DEATH FROM INJURY. Unfortunately, both of these articles are listed as [coming soon].  By clicking on this blue link I have been able to request that the Trove website emails me as soon as the full articles are released for viewing.  Despite the articles being incomplete, sufficient information was available for me to be certain that these news reports were related to the death of my great grandfather. I am waiting with bated breath now for these two news items to be released for me to read in full.

INJURED RELIEF WORKER , September 8, 1930

John McDade, one of the relief workers employed by the Brisbane City Council... was injured when he was struck by a falling limb of a tree in Victoria Park, ...remains in a critical condition....

DEATH FROM INJURY, September 10, 1930

John McDade, of King Street Lutwyche, employed by the ...Brisbane City Council under the relief scheme... was injured on Friday when felling a tree in Victoria Park, died in hospital...


I knew from John McDade's death certificate, that he had died on September 9th, 1930. From his funeral notice which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail, I was aware that he had been buried on September 10th. Two days later, the the report in The Week on September 12th 1930, informed me that his condition was serious. I'm guessing that was the truth [tongue in cheek] considering he had been buried in Lutwyche Cemetery, two days earlier after passing away on Monday September 9th, (as reported correctly in The Week, September 10,1930) NOT EVERYTHING YOU READ IN A NEWSPAPER IS CORRECT!


Not everything we read in the news is correct, and although the news reports varied in minor details, they provided an accurate and an obviously well witnessed account of the injury that John McDade received whilst working alongside other relief workers in Victoria Park on September 5th, 1930. I had achieved what I had set out to do which was to establish the cause my great grandfather's death. Now, however, I had to face the realisation that I had spent my life avoiding the wrong park. John McDade was hit by a falling branch in Victoria Park, Herston and not the park in Wickham Terrace. On a positive note, however, I had dispelled an unpleasant accusatory anecdote and exhonerated my grandfather and great uncle from an action most unpleasant. Relieved, (an understatement!) that John McDade had not been killed by a blow to the head, from one of his own sons during an argument, I went on to research the actual circumstances of his death. I now had a number of questions which I felt warranted answers, including, whether safety measures were put into place for labourers employed by the city council, many of whom would have been unskilled in the jobs allotted to them, could John McDade's death have been avoided and was he the only worker killed in employment under the Brisbane City Council relief scheme?


I have yet to discover whether there was an inquest held into the death of John McDade, but the fact that he was working under the Brisbane City Council Relief Scheme, has allowed me to understand the circumstances of his death. John McDade was a victim of the Great Depression and as an unemployed worker he had been contracted to the Brisbane City Council to undertake outdoor work for pay to support his family. In 1930, his youngest child was only eight years old. News items in Brisbane newspapers provided me with some understanding of the relief scheme and the part that workers like my great grandfather played in the formation of Victoria Park and other notable Brisbane landmarks. I have also mentioned some informative websites in my sources below.

Workers employed under the relief scheme in Victoria Park, Herston, Brisbane, Sunday, September 21, 1930 Image  Sunday Mail  [Brisbane] TROVE 

Government Relief Scheme  Image:

After passing the Unemployment Workers Insurance Act, in 1922, Queensland was the only state in Australia which had a program to support workers who were unemployed. In July of 1930, the Country Progressive National Party in Queensland, passed another act know as the Income (Unemployment Relief) Tax Act. This act was intended to provide for the payment of relief workers in cities, towns and rural areas who were contracted to work outdoors by local councils. In Brisbane, relief workers were paid to construct and improve roads, bridges, schools, parks and playing fields. The construction of parklands involved the levelling and draining of land,  often the construction of concrete channels and drains, fencing and the felling of existing trees to make way for roads, and the planting of trees and gardens. So, this was the work that my great grandfather was involved in when he was fatally injured. Having been a miner for most of his life, it has occurred to me that he may not have had any or much experience in felling large Australian eucalyptus trees, such as were in Victoria Park prior to its being cleared.

The Courier Mail (Brisbane) 23 April, 1930


600 Relief Workers in Victoria Park April 1930


Family stories passed down from generation to generation can become like Chinese whispers. Members of different branches of my family had three different accounts of how my great grandfather had been injured and died. Not one story was entirely accurate although two were closer to the truth than the third. I am grateful to the National Library of Australia and its website, Trove. Without the digitisation of Australian newspapers, I might never have solved a worrisome mystery and proved that beyond doubt I can now hold a branch of a tree accountable for my great grandfather John McDade's death in 1930.







Queensland Historical Atlas


Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection