Friday, May 1, 2015


Class C Tram constructed by J. Morrison Sydney. Image Sharn White ©©

Newspapers can be a truly amazing source of information about ancestors. There is no better way to 'fill the gaps' in an ancestor's life story, than from the wealth of information waiting to be discovered in advertisements, personal column, obituaries, births, marriages and the many stories chronicled in newspapers. Many of our more notable ancestors, simply couldn't stay out of the news but for most of my ancestors I have found particular details from newspapers which I would never otherwise have know. 

The nature of news has changed considerably over time. Newspapers in past times published far more personal accounts of people's lives than the information contained in news reports today. You may find items of minutiae such as where your ancestors holidayed, their mode of transport to such destinations, what cakes and crafts they entered in local agricultural exhibitions, particulars of functions they attended, sports they participated in and reference to their places of employment. It is these intimate gems of information which makes newspapers such an invaluable resource for family history research. Newspapers can indulge a wonderful timeline of events, in an ancestor's life. 

I have written previously about my two times great grandfather, John Morrison, builder and rail carriage maker, and the way in which I was able to construct a timeline of his career through the illuminationg information I found in newspapers. Increasingly as more newspapers are digitised by The National Library of Australia, and made available on its  TROVE   website, I have been able to expand my awareness of John Morrison as my great great grandfather,  to a considerably more detailed understanding of his life and that of his family members' lives. Significantly, newspapers have enabled me to fill in gaps in information which other genealogical research sources could not possibly provide. Without the information I discovered in newspapers, I would have had little more than the bare skeleton of a story about my ancestor. Finding my forebears in the news has enabled me to construct colourful life narratives, enriched with fascinating and credible anecdotes, enhanced by authenticity. 

My two times great grandfather, John Morrison was born in 1847 in Aberdeen, Scotland. After marrying in Newcastle Upon Tyne, John worked as a house carpenter, before he and his Northumberland born wife, Hannah Tait Gair, (born 1846), emigrated to Melbourne, Australia  on board the ship Kent as unassisted passengers in 1878.  Travelling with them were their four children, Martha Ann, 8, Alice Jane, 6, Elizabeth, 4, and John William aged  2.

John Morrison and his family journeyed from England to Australia in the age of steam. Although I have not found a news article relating directly to the Morrison's arrival in December on board  the SS Kent in 1878,  a report which appeared in the Hobart Mercury, on January 7, regarding a voyage of the Kent earlier same year, conveys the tremendous  public excitement generated by the speed  at which the Kent travelled. This very fast steam ship considerably shortened the journey from England to Australia and must have been viewed as a great advance in technology. I imagine that for at least the two eldest children,  aged 8 and 6 years, the voyage on  the SS Kent would have caused great excitement. The January 1877 article, below, provides me with some understanding of the voyage that my great great grandparents made later the same year, in what would have been simliar weather conditions.

The Argus of Friday last, in referring to the arrival of the SS Kent in Melbourne on Thursday says:- 
" The present is the third trip of this favourite passenger steamship to Melbourne, and the performance has been somewhat of a surprise, as well as a most unqualified success. It has also the additional distinction of being the quickest ever yet made by an auxiliary screw boat.The 40- day steamers via the Cape and the mail boats, have a monopoly almost in furnishing the latest home newspapers and periodicals, but the 'Kent' by her arrival yesterday, has forestalled everything in this respect, and brings 17 days' later papers. Very little help was received from the canvas sail, having been set for only three days, and the voyage which has been accomplished in  45  1/2 days from Plymouth to Port Phillip, may be regarded almost as one of pure steaming. The engines have done their work well, and as proof of their fitness, it may be mentioned that the average rate of speed from the Channel to the Line was 258 knots; thence to the meridian of the Cape, a fraction over 228 knots, and afterwards to Cape Ottway, a fraction over 285 knots, and for nine days the runs were over 300 knots... the distance run was 11,906 miles and the average daily run was 260.... the weather generally was pleasant and the passengers... enjoyed themselves very much on board."

On some  passenger ships, newspapers were published and circulated as a means of communicating with passengers. Should they so wish to, passengers could place advertisements in ships' newspapers. Young women might have offered their services as governesses during the voyage and more than one man was even known to apply for a wife through a ship's newspaper.  The imortance of these papers is that they chronicled events throughout voyages. Among ships' newspapers with fascinating titles such as The Port Hacking Cough, and The Kangaroo out of his Element, I discovered the existence of the Kent Argus. This was a newspaper published on board the ship Kent, the very ship  on which my great great grandparents journeyed from England to Australia. I have been unable to find evidence of surviving copies of The Kent Argus, for the December 1878 voyage of the Kent, however, The National Library of Australia holds copies of this publication for 1877. The Bibliography of Australia, Volume VI: 1851-1900, by John Alexander Ferguson, says the following of the Kent Argus,

The Kent Argus. A Weekly Journal. " Pour passer le Temps". A Chronicle of the Voyage of the S.S "Kent", Captain G.F.  Gibbs, from London to Melbourne. [Vignette - S.S. "Kent".] Melbourne; [Stillwell and Knight, Printers, 78 Collins Street East. 1877.... Contains the seven numbers circulated during the voyage. There are original articles dealing with the Eureka Stockade Riots, Hunting Reminiscences,( by a Very Old Bushman), the ports and islands passed on the voyage, and other subjects.

Even if there are no surviving publicaions of a ship's newspaper for the exact year you are researching, it is well worth reading accounts of voyages of ships your ancestors journeyed on. If the publications are within a year or two of the voyage you are researching, the information contained within may still be very relevant. Certainly the 1877 copies of the Kent Argus will be a valuable resource for me in my quest to understand the voyage which my two times great grandparents made to Australia.

I have not yet discovered why John Morrison chose to settle in the own of Mortlake, situated in the Western District of Victoria, more than 230 km from Melbourne. I have found no family connections to explain the family's first choice of residence and  so have turned to researching the town itself for clues to explain John Morrison's choice of place to reside. There is a wealth of information one can discover through newspaper advertisements and articles. Newspapers contain first hand and eye witeness accounts of  historical and personal events which occurred in the places one is investigating. Newspapers tell me when and how my ancestors received meil, report on fundraising events which took place, crime that occured and give an excellent synopsis of daily life in Mortlake from 1878 onward. Mortlake was a bustling and growing township following the Victorian Gold Rushes. A testament to Mortlake's past wealth, are the significant bluestone and timber buildings that this town boasts. These, now heritage listed buildings, were constructed from around 1853 onward.  Australian newspapers dating from 1878 and 1879, offer possible clues as to why a carpenter/builder might have chosen to journey with his family by Cobb and Co coach, a distance of more than 200 km, from Melbourne to Mortlake to establish his first home in Australia.  In July of 1879, a notice appeared in the Geelong Advertiser calling for tenders for the erection of a Roman Catholic Church at Mortlake. 

Given that John Morrison constructed numerous significant churches in Sydney during the 1880's, it is not inconceivable that he may have answered this or a similar  advertisement for building tenders. He certainly made a career in Sydney, as the builder of significant and now heritage listed buildings, including a number of fine Gothic style churches. Below is pictured the beautiful Gothic style St. Enoch's Presbyterian Church, which John Morrison built and  completed in 1887. It was designed by the same Blackett Brothers Architects who designed Chapter House.

St Enoch's Presbyterian Church, Newtown, built by John Morrison in Newtown. 

I am able to follow the family's movements from birth notices in newspapers in Victoria firstly, and later in Sydney, New South Wales. In 1879, in the town of Mortlake, Victoria,  the Morrison family welcomed  to their family a daughter, and fifth child, a daughter, whom they named named Alexandra.

John Morrison did not settle permanently in Mortlake and by 1881 he had moved his family to live in Sydney where that same year, a son named George was born and registered in the Canterbury district.

John Morrison quickly built up a successful life for himself and his family as a builder in Sydney and life must have felt blessed for the Morrison family. until in 1882, tragedy struck the family, when their one year old baby son, George, died.

By the mid 1880's John Morrison had earned a considerable reputation as a master builder, with works such as Chapter House adjoining St Andrew's Cathedral, in George Street, Sydney, large homes and villas, Strathfield Council Chambers and a number of splendid Churches to attest to his talent and tenacity. Much of the work completed by John Morrison, was designed by the reknowned architects, the Blackett brothers, the sons of colonial architect, Edmund Blackett. An article in the Goulburn Herald, Saturday, October 30, 1886, describes the opening ceremony for Chapter House as follows:

The Chapter House which has been erected in connection with St Andrew's Cathedral, in memory of the late Bishop Barker, was opened on Monday, by His Excellency, Lord Carrington...... the building is described as of very handsome ecclesiastical design, and comprisies a commodious synod hall and gallery, and a number of offices and rooms. Messrs Blackett brothers are the architects and Mr John Morrrison of Burwood carried out the architects' designs.....

Advertisements calling for tenders and delivery of building materials, which John Morrison placed in the Sydney Morning Herald during the 1880's  provide a wonderful timeline of his career as a builder in Sydney and a wonderful window through which to view his work. I have been fortunate to have located and in many cases visited the beautiful buildings he constructed in Sydney in the 1880's.

The Strathfield Council Chambers built by John Morrison Image Sharn White ©©

Throughout the 1880's John Morrison called for building tenders by way of advertisemenst placed in the Sydney Morning Herald.

October,5, 1881
TENDER wanted for Brickwork - labour only, for two Houses at Homebush.
Also Plastering four houses at Burwood, and large Villa at Ashfield.
Plans seen at JOHN MORRISON'S, Burwood Street, Burwood.

October 18,1887
Tenders are invited for Quarrying a Quantity of Stone and Tank Sinking, at Woolich, Lane Cove. Apply John Morriosn, Contractor, Burwood.

In the 1870's and early 1880's, a hot topic of debate in the news was whether steam or horse power was the better mode of power for trams.  John Morrison would most certainly have read with interest, news articles such as the following:

June 28, 1883, Sydney Morning Herald
...The proposed car may be described as a combination of an ordinary tramcar, with a motor of somewhat novel design, the consequence of which, and the principle of engine adopted, an increased number of passengers are conveyed at a minimum expenditure of steam power....

The first steam powered tramcar was introduced in Sydney in 1879 and the tramways expanded quickly. 1898 saw the electrification of Sydney's trams, the first of these being the C Class Saloon cars.

John Morrison, clearly a man of vision, had envisioned a future for himself, in the construction of  trams and from newspapers advertsiements I know that by 1890, John Morrison was building trams to fill Government contacts. Below is pictured one of John Morrison's  C Class tram. Number 290 is the oldest preserved electric tram and is housed at the Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus.

C Class Tram c 1890 built by John Morrison, Carriage builder. Image Sharn White ©©

The railway in New South Wales was also rapidly expanding and I discovered through an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald that John Morrison was not a man to miss an opportunity. In 1887 he called for tenders in the SMH, which   invited offers to advertise on a ' large railway frontage at Strathfield Junction'.  

I now knew that John Morrison had acquired a large portion of land fronting the railway at Strathfield. The reason he purchased this land soon became apparent, via information found in an advertisement the news. 

The Sydney Morning Herald carried the following notice on April 19, 1890,

'The Railway Commissioners yesterday took delivery of the second chain of railway carriages built by Mr John Morrison of Strathfield ...',  The article mentions John Morrison'srailway carriage factory, Strathfield'.

By 1890, in addition to building trams, it was obvious that John Morrison heavily involved in the construction of rail carriages.

I have been privileged to be able to follow my great great grandfather's successful career as one of New South Wales' most prominent rail carriage builders in the 1890's, through tender advertisements, notices, and news items. John Morrison was well established, in the 1890's, as a trusted builder of rail carriages, receiving large contracts from the New South Wales Government. All looked to be going extremely well for my two times great grandfather indeed, until I realised that the devastating economic crisis of the 1890's in Australia, had a devastating consquence for John Morrison and his family. By 1891 small  banks and societies were collapsing, however in 1893, when the Federal Bank crashed, there was widespread panic and the country was plunged into depression.

The following notice, published in the Sydney Moring Herald in 1894, demonstrated how John Morrison's business was affected by the economic times in which he lived.

 'Favoured with instructions from Mrs John Morrison.... the auctioneers will sell the whole of her exceedingly Handsome, modern and substantial furniture and household effects...Dining, Drawing, Breakfast and bedroom suites... Seven grand carpets, all bordered...Magnificent Overmantel and mirrors, Really splendid water colours by Huddlestone, Fletcher Watson and other artists of great ability....two pianofortes ... Expensive jewelery, designed by well known craftsmen, Ladies riding for sale owing to the terrible losses sustained by Mr John Morrison and family, owing to the cancellation of Government contracts and consequent closing of the carriage-building shops at Strathfield station.'

In another adcertisement, an apology that my greta great grandparents beautiful furniture and paintings were not shown off to their greatest advantage, due to the fact they had been forced to leave their large home and sell their possessions in the small house which they were now renting, greatly saddened me. I could not fail to understand how much this family had lost. 

The story that was unfolding before my eyes, through newspapers, explained why John Morrison had relocated the family to Ipswich, in Queensland in 1900. 

I had known that both John and Hannah Morrison died in the same year, 1927, in Cooroy, a town inland from Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, however, I had never known why they had moved from Sydney to Queensland. An article entitled 'Overland Passengers' which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail, on Saturday January 27, 1900 informed me that: 

Hannah Morrison, wife of John, and several of their daughters had left Sydney bound for Ipswich by rail, the previous day on January, 26.

I discovered that John Morrison had left Sydney prior to late January of 1900 and it wasn't long before a search of newspapers explained the reason for his move.

On Saturday, September, 3 1910, a story appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail under the heading; 'Carriage and Wagon Shop - XII, by W.B.D', in which John Morrison was mentioned as the carriage works foreman  for the Ipswich Rail Carriage Shop.

One can only imagine what a huge blow the loss of the business he had built up in Sydney must have meant to John Morrison and his family. As foreman of the Ipswich Rail Carriage Workshop, John Morrison's wage was good, although his son John William earned far less than his father as a general employee. At least John senior's experience and expertise allowed him to provide for his large family. Five more children had been born to John and Hannah Morrison  while living in Sydney, including my great grandmother Florence who was born in 1885, as well as Minnie 1883, Jessie 1887, and Wallace Dalkeith in 1892. In Ipswich, the family lived in a house in Harlin Road and John worked hard to rebuild a life for them. 

Ipswich Rail Carriage Workshop employees. John Morriosn is in this photograph. 

John Morrison was part of a new era of train carriages to be built in Queensland. The Courier Mail, Monday, June 9, carried a story entitled  NEW RAILWAY CARRIAGES, Trial Trip on Saturday. 
Reading this story, I can't help but wonder if John Morrison's expertise as a prominent carriage builder in Sydney contributed to some of the improvements to rail carriages constructed at the Ipswich Rail Carriage Workshop.

Two new carriages have recently been built at Ipswich shops for the suburban traffic, and they possess many features about them which are distinctly new in the construction of rolling stock for the Queensland railways... 

John Morrison had applied for quite a number of patents for new design mechanisms to improve the performance of rail carriages before departing Sydney. I am hopeful that some of his ideas may have been implemented at the Ipswich Rail Carriage Workshop.

Life was not as easy for John Morrison's wife, Hannah as it had been in Sydney. Living in Sydney, as the wife of a prominent business owner, she lived a life in luxurious surroundings and with ne shortage of money. In 1907, according to a notice in the Queensland Times (Ipswich), Hannah took over as Licensee of the Glamorgan Vale Hotel. In 1909 an article appeared in the same newspaper on June 9, stating:

At the Ipswich Police Court yesterday, before the Police Magistrate, Hannah Morrison, licensee of the Glamorgan Vale Hotel, was charged with having commited a breach of the Licencing Act, for keeping her premises open for the sale of liquor on Thursday, the 25th of March....

I felt most saddened for Hannah Morrison's circumstances. Far from her previous lifestyle, she was operating a hotel in a country town. Before I could think too badly of her, I discovered that it was through no fault of her own that she had fallen ill of the law.

Seargent Nagel, of Marburg staed that the licensee conducted the hotel very well, but so far as he could judge, she appeared to have no control over the young men. 

Hannah's circumstances were taken into consideration and although it was suggested that the offending young men be brought to justice, my two times great grandmother received a fine of £2.
Notices in The Queensland Times informed me that John's daughter Alexandra, was the licensee of the Royal Post Office Hotel by 1909 and daughter Jessie's husband Colin Garson held the licence for the nearby Kirkheim Hotel (Kirkheim is now known as Haighslea). John Morrison and his family undoubtedly worked hard to rebuild their lives. From a 1911 article in The Queensland Times (Ipswich), I realised that not only was Hannah Morrison the licencee of the Glamorga Vale Hotel, but in fact, John Morrison was the owner. In 1911 he sold the hotel:

Ernest Cole and Co., Auctioneers, by instruction from Mr J Morrison, will sell by auction in Glamorgan Vale, on Wednesday, on the 29th instance, at noon, the freehold of the above hotel with 4 acres of land etc.... this house has and still retains the reputation of being classed as a first rate business hotel.

The two older Morrison daughters, Martha Ann and Elizabeth had trained as nurses in Sydney when the family's circumstances were more properous and were employed in Queensland hospitals. The Courier Mail, April 4, 1908 tells me that Nurse Morrison was an overland passenger, her destination, Laidley. I know from electoral rolls that this was Martha Ann Morrison. Perhaps she had been holidaying in or near Brisbane and was returning to her hospital. I imagine this because Margate, north of Brisbane became a favourite holiday place for the Morrison family with the later purchase of a magnificent holiday home there named 'Orkney'.

Scarborough near Margate on Moreton Bay Qld Image Wikipedia ©©

Life is shaped by significant events. I am certain that John Morrison would have planned to educate all of his son and daughters, however, the loss of his business interests in the mid 1890's changed the course of the lives of  members of the Morrison family. Florence, my great grandmother was only nine years of age when her father's fortune changed because of an economic downturn and the cancellation of a contract of 180 rail carriages already under construction. She was 15 years of age when she moved to Ipswich in Queensland. As good as were her father's wages as Foreman of the Rail Carriage Workshop, I doubt that the family's situation extended to paying for further education  of any kind. Florence was not destined to be trained as a nurse like her older sisters. She worked with her mother and sister Jessie in the hotels they owned and held publican's licences for.

 In 1909, The Queensland Times, published an item about the enchanting Miss F Morrison singing at the Royal Post Office Hotel in Marburg, accompanied by a famous New Zealand tenor, Mr Leo Reece. Mr Reece, it was reported, was on tour with the Fisk Jubilee Singers who, while touring the country, had stopped in Marburg on their way to perform in Warwick on the Darling Downs.

Mr Leo Reece must have been quite taken with Florence Morrison's singing, and she with him, since they again appeared in the news performing together in 1910, at a fundraising event in aid of the Marburg State School. The event was recorded by the Queensland Times, on April 26.

Miss Florence Morrison, accompanied by Mr Leo Reece (piano) sang with much acceptance, 'A Little Child Shall lead Them'. 

Since their son, and my grandfather, Ian Cuthbert Reece-Hoyes was born in September of that year, Florence Morrison, my great grandmother would have been around 4 months pregnant when she sang with Mr Reece. Mr Leo Reece was mygreat grandfather, Leonard Cuthbert Hoyes, born in Auckland, New Zealand. I might have been inclined to believe that he used the name Reece as a stage name, however, the news alerted me to the true reason for his name change.

When my great grandfather first arrived in Australia in 1907, he sang under the surname of Hoyes. Sydney newspapers, including The Catholic Press, October 12, 1905,  tell me that his singing career as an opera tenor began with him described as a new tenor from New Zealand, Mr Leo HOYES...who  possesses a light voice of beautiful quality. 

In some newspapers, he was described as a famous American tenor. Either he was intent on furthering his singing career and felt a touch of embellishment would not do him harm, or the press misquoted him. I found a likely explanation for my great grandfather's change of name and nationality, however, when I read a notice which was placed in newspapers all around Australia, in 1911, by Leonard Hoyes'  wife in Auckland. Muriel Hoyes was searching for her 'missing' husband, Leonard Cuthbert Hoyes, who she had decided to divorce on the grounds of desertion, having had no word from him for several years. Bu this time, Leo REECE and Florence Morrison were living together as 'husband and wife'. Following the divorce and the birth of a second child, the couple married in 1913, and my great grandfather added HOYES and a hyphen to his adopted name of REECE. Needless to say all the family stories of Welsh fencibles and castles in Wales belonging to our Reece ancestors came from the imaginative mind og my great grandfather himself.

Leonard Cuthbert Hoyes aka Reece-Hoyes, was by all accounts a talented tenor, and I have been able to follow his singing career through newspapers all around Australia and in New Zealand.

My great grandmother Florence Reece-Hoyes nee Morrison

In February of 1914, misfortune once again struck the Morrison family. A headline in the Queensland Times printed on February 2, 1914 caught my attention with the following headline:


At about 1.15 am yesterday morning, a nine roomed house, situated on Harlin Road, and owned by Mr John Morrison, was burnt to the ground. The house was unoccupied at the time as the Misses Jessie and Inez Morison ( who were the only persons tenanting it) were staying with their married sister mrs Shannon of Woodend, for the night.....with the exception of two canvas chairs, none of the contents of the house were saved. The dwelling was, with the exception of the brick chimney, constructed entirely of wood. it was an attractive looking and superior buidling and consisted of nine rooms. It was owned by Mr John Morrison, who for some time was the foreman in the wagon shop at the railway workshops at North Ipswich. During the last 6 months, however, Mr and Mrs Morrison have lived in Dorrigo, New South Wales, where Mr Morrison holds a position in the Leigh Sawmills. The building was used by Nurse Morrison (a daughter) as a maternity home, and was as stated occupied lately by the misses is understood that the building and the furniture in it were insured. Nurse Morrison, who is on a trip to England, and is expected toreturn in a couple of months, had intended resuming business in the house as a maternity home when she returned.

This particular story in the newspaper held important information about my Morrison family. I knew that John Morrison had lived in Harlin Street, Ipswich in 1913 but had no knowledge of where he had gone between then and 1925, when he was living in Cooroy. In 1920, John's daughter Martha Ann, referred to in the above news item as Nurse Morrison, was a Matron, was running her own private hospital with her sister Nurse Elizabeth Morrison at 50 Maple Street. The article filled in those missing years and I now knew that John Morrison had been living and working in Dorrigo, New South Wales at the Leigh Sawmills.

The Morrison sisters on the verandah of their private hospital in Cooroy. Image used with permission Pomona Historical Museum.
A further news item in the Personal column of the Queensland Times on  August 12, 1912, placed John Morrison in Dorrigo two years earlier 1914. 

A pleasing ceremony took place in the machine shop, North Ipswich railway workshops, before starting time on Saturday morning last, when Mr John Morrison jnr, who has severed his connection with the department to join his father in a saw milling business, was made the recipient of a few appropriate and useful presents....

As is often wont to happen, when you discover one piece of information, it connects to another. The news of John and Hannah Morrison's move to Leigh, makes it clear why John Morrison sold his hotel in Glamorgan Vale Queensland, in 1911, (where his wife Hannah had been the licencee). The sale was directly associated with his plans to move in 1912 to take up a position and possibly invest in the timber industry in the Dorrigo area.

Searching for information about the Leigh sawmill, I found that  The Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton), had printed regular articles with the then current news of Leigh and the town's happenings. An item on November 19, 1912 read as follows:

The new sawmill at Leigh has started operations and has had a very satisfactory trial run.....

In 1912, the town of Leigh, just over 300 kilometres south of Brisbane, and almost 6 km from the neareast town of Dorrigo, was an exciting and pioneering part of New South Wales. According to the Clarence and Richmond Examiner, on November 2, 1912:

Our new saw mill is starting work next week and will prove a great boon to the settler, on account of the large quantity of pine growing here.
The tramway from here to Bellingen is almost completed, which will be used for conveting logs down the mountain.
A deputation is to be sent to Sydney to urge an immediate start of the Dorrigo-Glenreagh Railway.

With the mention of the construction of both a new tramway and railway in the Leigh area, it is possible to gauge John Morrison's enthusiasm for a new venture. Here was a man who had proved he could look towards the future and envision possibilities. The small growing town of Leigh must have ignited the flame which had driven him two decades earlier, when he had seen a future for himself in construction of trams and rail carriages. John Morrison was 66 years old in 1912, when he embarked on this new adventure, and though he had seen difficult times he had obviously not lost his pioneering spirit.

On Saturday, 28th of  February 1914, the Clarence and Richmond Examiner, reported that;

Mr John Morrison, local mill manager, has returned from a trip to Queensland.

Since John Morrison's home in Harlin Street, Ipswich had burned to the ground on February 2nd, 1914, the purpose of the above mentioned trip, undoubtedly would have been to deal with the distressing fire which destroyed his home. The Harlin Street house was reported in the news to be insured, however, he had lost many of his possessions in the fire. How greatly relieved he and his wife Hannah must have been however, to have received news that his two daughters had not been in the house on the night of the fire.

John Morrison seems to have slipped out of the news until he had an accident in Cooroy in April of 1927. In the Brisbane Courier an item of news appeared on April, 25th which reported that:

Mr J Morrison, a resident of Redcliffe,...when cutting a bunch of bananas at his daughters residence, on Saturday morning, fell and sustained a fracture of the right thigh.

This story corroborates an oral account by a local resident of Cooroy, who as an elderly resident recalled the fruit trees at the side of the Morrison's Private Hospital attracting fruit bats. He attested that the patients in the hospital had not been able to sleep for the noise made by the nocturnal creatures and so the fruit of the banana trees and date palms had henceforth been regularly cut. John Morrison was aged 80 years when he fell from a ladder whilst cutting bananas from the trees at his daughter's hospital in Cooroy. He never really recovered from that fall and  he died in June of the same year.

From The Chronicle and North Coast Adviser, 18th June, 1920, I was able to establish when the Morrison sisters, Martha Ann and Elizabeth first opened their private hospital in Cooroy.

The private hospital Cooroy, formerly known as Camgnore, which was vacated some considerable time ago, and has since been occupied as a private residence, is again being utilized in its former capacity, and has been opened recently as a private hospital, by two sisters, Nurses Morrison.

In July 1922,  the following article appeared in The Brisbane Courier;

Bed For returned Soldier Patients
The Ladies Red Cross Society met on Wednesday to consider ways and means  raisingfunds for the support of a bed for the use of returned soldiers at Nurse Morrison's Private was decided to hold a concert and dance on July 28.

A later news report tell me that younger sister, Mabel, also nursed at the hospital in Cooroy up until 1925, when according to the Nambour Chronicle which stated on February13, 1925, that:

Matron Morrison, of the Hospital, is spending a holiday in Sydney. Her sister (Nurse Mabel Morrison) had left to reside in Cobar, (NSW).

With five of their daughters trained as nurses, (Martha Ann. Alice Jane, Elizabeth, Jessie and Mabel), sons John and Wallace living in Townsville and Brisbane, and with most of their daughters, (including my great grandmother, Florence)  married, in around 1920, John and Hannah Morrison retired to the seaside village of Redcliffe, north of Brisbane. John and Hannah were aged 76 and 75 at this time.  It is possible that they chose to live with their married daughter Jessie and her husband Colin Garson, who had made their home at Redcliffe.  John and Hannah must have been closely involved with the Cooroy district as they are named on the Pioneers of Cooroy Roll. I know from news accounts that John had interests in the Cooroy Butter Factory and that he helped his daughters with maintenance at their private hospital in Cooroy.

The Morrison family continued to be an integral part of the Cooroy community. Various newspapers, give accounts of their participation in local fundraising events and agricultural shows with many prizes won for fine exhibits of knitting, sewing and cooking. The Morrison sisters must have been excellent cooks since they regularly won first prize for their coconut ice and jellies. I have my mother's recipe for both of these delicious sweets and it is the very same recipe which won prizes for the Morrison sisters.

Many letters were printed in local newspapers from patients expressing their gratitude for the great care rceived from the Nurses Morrison and in particular Matron Martha Ann. Parents especially gave thanks for the safe arrival of babies under the expert care of the Morrison sisters and others expressed sincere gratitude in time of loss.

Bereavements The Brisbane Courier, 29 May, 1928
Mr and Mrs EG Nugent,and Daughter, of  "Fairy Dell", Cooroy, tender their sincerest THANKS to Dr Davidson and Matron Morrison and staff and neighbours for their untiring efforts during our Late Son's and brother's illness.

Holidays that were taken by the Morrison sisters were reported in the news and when family members visited Cooroy, the family reunions were given much attention in the newspapers. The Brisbane Courier reported on one occasion that:

Nurse Morrison, of Cooroy, is spending a short holiday at her seaside home 'Orkney' at Margate.

On February7, 1925, The Queenslander, reported the following:

Miss Morrison (Matron of the Cooroy Private Hospital) and Miss Mabel Morrison  have left on an extended holiday for Sydney and Cobar.

I learned, from reports of Country Sports matches, in the Brisbane Courier, that the all of Morriosn girls were excellent lawn tennis players, regularly competing in tennis tournaments. My mother passed her inherited love of tennis on to my sisters and myself.

Little more mention is made of John and Hannah Morrison in the news until the death of John Morrison on July 5, 1927 and Hannah the same year on September 7, in Cooroy.

I found Hannah's obituary first in the Brisbane Courier, dated September 8, 1927. It contains a wealth of information.


Mrs Hannah Morrison, relict of the late John Morrison, died at Cooroy this morning, at the age of 81 years. Born at Cramlington, Northumberland, England,the deceased whose husband passed away only last July, came to Australia in the steamer Kent, 42 years ago. She first settled with her family in Victoria, and then moved to Strathfield, Sydney, remaining there until 1901, when she moved to Ipswich. About 8 years ago, Mrs Morrison took up her abode in Cooroy, where she had abided almost continuously. She is survived by two sons, Messrs J. Morrison (Townsville), and W.D. Morrison (Sydney), and eight daughters, Matron and Nurse Morrison (Cooroy), Mesdames C Garson ( Redcliffe), R Wilson (South Brisbane), L Rees, H. S. Shannon (Bundaberg), D. Floyd and Miss I Morrison (Cobar, New South Wales). There are 13 grandchildren. 

On the 7th of July, 1927, The Brisbane Courier, printed the following Obituary for John Morrison:

The death occurred in Cooroy on July 5th, of Mr John Morrison, a very old and esteemed resident of the Southern part of the State, at the age of 80 years. A native of Aberdeen in Scotland, Mr Morrison arrived in Queensland 42 years ago. For a long period he was Foreman of the carriage workshops at Ipswich, but retired about nine years ago, and since then had lived mostly at Redcliffe and Cooroy...

This is but some of the information I have discovered about my Morrison family in newspapers dating from the 1880's onward. This family it seems really could not stay out of the news! The more i have learned about my family through newspapers, the better I have been able to weave together the threads of John Morrisons life story in Australia. Incredibly, his story has evolved almost exclusively from information found in newspapers. With each piece of information I found, I unearthed clues which led me to find more about the Morrisons. I have also followed the opera singing career of my great grandfather, Leo (Leonard Cuthbert) Hoyes aka Reece as he toured the country with the Fisk Jubilee Singers and searching the PapersPast,  website for digitised New Zealand newspapers, I uncovered many news items about my great grandfather, Leo Hoyes singing in venues in Auckland before came to Australia. There is much more in newspapers about the Morrison sisters who were nurses, in the years after John and Hannah Morrison died. I look forward to constructing a story of my nursing Morrison great aunts with the assistance of newspaper records.

Newspapers are one of the most valuable  historical and genealogical resources that we, as family historians, have at our easy disposal. Our ancestors, I am sure, thought that they safely took their secrets to the grave with them. I wonder if they realised just how often significant fragments of their lives appeared in the news for us the READ ALL ABOUT IT!

On my 'to do in the future' list since conducting this research, is a trip to Leigh, inland from Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, to research locally, John Morrison's involvement with the Leigh Saw Mill.  I also plan to visit to Mortlake in Victoria, where I hope the Mortlake Historical Society  might be able to help me in finding whether John Morrison left a legacy there in the way of a building.




The National Library of Australia

Cobb & Co Coach, Melbourne Museum


  1. Hi Sharn, a very comprehensive history well informed by the newspapers :)
    Jill Ball's Geniaus Gags post for this week alerted me to your post.

  2. Great post, I'm a great Trove afficionado - so much to find there you have provided a comprehensive coverage.

  3. Wow - what a fascinating account Sharn. I too love using newspapers to discover my family history. You really have found an absolute treasure trove here. So many connections to so many places here - I'm not familiar with Mortlake but know Strathfield and Burwood and Ipswich, Cooroy and Redcliffe. Great stuff!

  4. Sharn, I never fail to be intrigued how often those of us with Qld origins trip over each other in terms of place, occupation or place of birth. It's interesting to think your 2xgreat grandfather was railway carriage foreman in the 1890s and my grandfather in the 1940s...small world. We would "never" have been able to find these wonderful stories doing it the old-fashioned way pre-Trove. It is the single thing that has enabled us to round out our family's stories in a way that was virtually I,possible before.

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  6. I appreciate your post, i like your content which is very informative...

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