Getting a more rounded picture

Yesterday I mentioned I had come across something about my great-grandfather Louis who died in 1895, just before his fiftieth birthday. Because his children were so young when he died, and because they were not exactly close to his family, we don’t really know much about him.

yesterday I discovered that he had been interested in the arts, and had been involved in the setting up of a Mutual Improvement Society, in Denman, New South Wales in the 1870’s. this showed he was not only interested in ‘the arts’ but that he was keen to be involved, and was elected as secretary.

A little more investigation and I come across another aspect to him, he was interested in cricket too! When he came to England in about 1880, did he support the Aussie cricket teams who toured over here? I hope he did! His interest led to him joining the Bombala Cricket Club – I’m not sure as a player or supporter – he would have been twenty-eight years old:

Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser
Wednesday 5 November 1873

The annual general meeting of the Phoenix Cricket Club was held on Saturday evening at the Commercial Hotel, Mr. Jones in the chair.
The following gentlemen were proposed as members of the Club and duly elected: Messrs. I. Levy, .J. Lanhorn, E. C. Sutton, J. Coronel, M. Solomon, L. F. Walford, A. Joseph, and T. Ryan.
According to the rules of the club, the election of office bearers for the ensuing season took: place at this meeting. The following gentlemen were unanimously elected: Mr. H. M. Joseph, J.P. President; Mr. W. V. M. Cooks, J.P., Vice-President; Mr. C. L. Tweedie, Secretary; Mr. K. Johns, Treasurer. Committeemen: Messrs. Coronel, Grace, Gleeson, Wallace, Levy, Asher, Button, J. Whyte, Strickland, and Mears. Messrs. Levy and Wallace were appointed captains of the practice ground.
The days appointed for practice are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in each week. It was proposed by Mr. Wallace and seconded by Mr. Thomas – ‘ That Rule IX (prohibiting all who are not members of the club from practising or in any way making use of the property of the club) be strictly adhered to.’ This was carried without a dissenting voice.
It was decided that the season be opened by eleven members of the club playing fifteen all comers on Monday, the 10th instant, the challenge to appear in the local papers. A vote of thanks to the officers of the past season having been carried, the meeting adjourned

So there he is, a member of the club, proposed and elected, L. F. Walford – Louis Frederick. It’s interesting to note that maybe he wasn’t the only Jew, there are other Jewish names, Levy, Solomon, Joseph and  Asher.

Getting to know him

My great-grandfather died just before his fiftieth birthday in 1895; his children were very young, so their memories of him were not that clear, especially as he may not have lived with them all the time… Although he, Louis, never married anyone else, he didn’t marry my great grand-mother, Lois, either. The reason? He was Jewish and she was not. My mum and her sisters knew her grandmother Lois, and there are plenty of stories about her as an old woman, and what sort of character she was in her old age. But Louis? We knew nothing apart from his name and that his family were very well-connected and very rich.

I have always been interested in family history, and the mysterious relationship between Louis and Lois, and I have done a lot of research, and even more speculation! He was born in Tasmania in 1845 to a very rich merchant family. When they returned to London, he remained in Hobart, and then moved to the Australian mainland – or maybe he just travelled between the two. I have a lot of records of him in his role in import/export , and of him as I guess a sort of land agent, arranging the sale of land and property.

I have quite a lot of facts, dates mostly, but no sense of him as a person… until I came across this gem. In 1872, he was living in Denman, New South Wales, and it seemed he was actively interested in the arts – well, how marvellous! My husband and I are passionate about the arts in all their form – literature, poetry and writing, painting, drawing, etching and sketching, music – listening and playing… every aspect…

In this newspaper report, Louis F. Walford is elected as honourable secretary of a proposed School of Art (not a just painting school as it suggests now, but a forum for talks and discussions as well) and Mutual Improvement Society.

Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser

Tuesday 19 March 1872, page 4


A preliminary meeting was held on the 20th Feb., at the Royal Hotel Denman, to take into consideration the desirability of establishing a School of Arts or Mutual Improvement  Society, and the formation of a library.
It was resolved to call a public meeting for the furtherance of the above object, and Mr Nicholson was requested to act as secretary pro tem. A public meeting was held on the 5th instant, when Mr. Brecht being called to the chair, Mr L. F. Walford proposed, and Mr. Murphy seconded “that a society be formed in Denman, to be called the Denman Mutual Improvement Society.”
This motion being unanimously carried, twenty gentlemen immediately gave m their names to be enrolled as members, 2s. 6d. entrance fee, and 10s annual subscription being settled upon. It was proposed by Mr. Ross, and seconded by Mr. Graham, “That the Secretary write to the Rev. William White, for permission to hold the meetings in the school room. ” – This Mr White kindly granted.
A meeting was held there last evening when Mr Edward White was elected president, Mr G. A. P. Kibble vice-president, Mr G Nicholson treasurer, Mr. L F Walford hon. secretary, Mr Jno. Wood librarian, and a committee of ten gentlemen for the management of the society.
Its commencement will have a very good opening on March the 20th, when a very popular debate and a selection of choice readings will take place.
We cannot do better than recommend this laudable endeavor to the notice of the philanthropic, and diffidently suggest the advantage it would be to these beginners to receive a few donations of books and periodicals, and we trust their number of member before long may be largely increased. They are loud in the praise of the hon. sec.. of the Muswellbrook School of Arts, who has tendered them assistance and much kind information.

Now I know an aspect to his character I can relate to, he was interested in things, he was social and no doubt sociable, he had the ability to speak in public and be in a position in a society, he had an appreciation of education and the arts…

it is only one aspect of the man, but suddenly I feel such a bond with him!

My family story in 10 objects

Object 1: Louis Walford’s match case

This little match case belonged to my great-grandfather, Louis. My grandma was his middle child, with two older and two younger brothers. He died when she was only seven, and her youngest brother was only three. We have a picture of him, but as a family we only had a very sketchy idea who he was – my grandma died when I was only eight so although I remember her, I don’t remember her ever talking about him.

I’ve always had a fascination with him; he “married” my great-grandmother Lois, after whom I was named, and I was intrigued from being a child by the similarity in their names, Lois/Louis. He was born Louis Moses in Tasmania, but he and his brothers changed their names to Walford, and that is the name our family had… although, actually, Louis and Lois didn’t ever marry. How very brave of them in the 1880’s – how very brave of her. They didn’t marry because he came from a very observant Jewish family, and she was Christian. I have found out a little more about Louis through my family research… but there are still many unanswered questions.

Maybe it isn’t a match case, but it is made of snake or lizard skin and I just wonder if it is something Louis brought with him from Tasmania. The picture above was painted in Tasmania, and maybe Louis had his little case in his pocket, maybe he had a cigarette or cigar case too – maybe they matched the little item I have. I won’t ever know…

Tasmanian adventure – Boa Vista

Every morning we woke up in Tasmania we had a sense of excitement – what would we do today? What would we see? What would we discover? What interesting things would we find out? Our first few days were spent in Hobart and from the first moments of driving into the city in the airport shuttle bus we could see what a really beautiful city it is – so many wonderfully preserved and elegant old buildings, so much new architecture to admire, so many stunning views and vistas…

One of the reasons for visiting the island state was to connect with my family – my family history to be exact for I don’t think any of my distant relatives still live there. My great-great-grandfather and his brother-in-law moved to Tasmania from London in the late 1830’s early 1840’s and set up an import export business, Nathan and Moses. They had warehouse, at least two shops, and several ships which traded across the Pacific, South China Sea and no doubt the Southern and Indian Oceans.

Samuel and his family moved out of the town, to a fabulous mansion called Boa Vista where they entertained lavishly. By the time they moved up from the town, they had several children, including my great-grandfather Louis. They returned to England in the 1860’s but Louis remained behind and I think eventually moved to live in Sydney on the mainland, or the Big Island, as Tasmanians call it. However, Boa Vista remained in the family, until both Samuel and his wife had died, and it was eventually sold in the early 1900’s.

Various things happened to the old mansion, but eventually, sadly it was pulled down, and, built on the site  now is a school, a Friends’ School – which is a little coincidence, since my son, their great-great-great grandson, went to a Friends’ School here in England. However, I knew from my research, that the gatehouse of the old place was still in existence, I had seen many photos of it, so on our first full day in Tasmania, we set off to look for it.

It was a most glorious day; brilliant, crystal clear blue skies, perfect gorgeous sun, just right for a stroll to see the old family residence… it was a little further than we anticipated. It was a very easy walk in one sense, a main road out of the city, past the synagogue in which my family had such a significant role, up a very steep hill, through an area of low-level industrial and business units, past some wonderful and interesting houses – we did stop to take a lot of pictures on our expedition, partly because the buildings were so interesting, partly to have a rest in the shade…

To be honest, it got to a point when we thought either we had somehow missed it, or that it was going to be too far for us in this unaccustomed heat – almost straight from a very wintry England to a brilliant summery Tasmania – and I had just said, ‘we’ll walk to the next rise and if we don’t see it we’ll turn back and catch a bus up here on another day…‘ when we saw it!

There was the gatehouse! The porticoed gatehouse or lodge! I was so excited I was almost beyond words. Originally this would have been in open parkland, now it is all built up, with houses on either side and on the opposite side of the busy road, the school behind, but the views, oh the views! Standing by the gatehouse I could see straight across rolling hills to kunanyi – Mount Wellington – no wonder it was called Boa Vista, Beautiful Vista, it was just breathtaking!

tasmania-17-93The gatehouse

The view – the boa vista

I stood, imagining Louis as a little boy then a young man here…  maybe arriving at the gatehouse and getting out of his carriage or off his horse, or maybe setting off with pet dogs to walk around the estate and see wildlife which to our English eyes was exotic but to him would have been as usual as rabbits or badgers are to us.

One of the first things which struck me when I got off the plane was the smell, the distinctive, perfume of the island – Louis, born in Hobart would have grown up with this, it would have been natural to him… did he dream of it when he moved to England, to the ‘great stink’ of London?

Maybe I am fanciful, but I felt very close to my unknown ancestor, here and in other places we visited…

After our exciting discovery, the long walk back to town, but at least it was down hill!

At the risk of Louis F. Walford, former purchaser…

My great-grandfather, Louis Walford was born in Tasmania in 1845; his parents returned to London, and I believe Louis also travelled to England, but then returned to Australia, this time to New South Wales. Here are two adverts for auctions held in 1874, one at 2 o’clock and one at 3 on the afternoon of 28th May:

At the risk of Louis F. Walford, former purchaser.

Thursday, 28th May. 1400 HEAD CATTLE, for positive and unreserved sale, to dairymen, graziers, & others, H. Hogarth has received positive instruction from C. Bannister, Esq., to sell by auction, at the Bombala pound yard, in lots, on Thursday, 28th May, the whole of the choice & well-bred dairy cattle, formerly the property of Mr John Murphy Bibbenluke, and known as the celebrated “Kybean” herd. This fine lot of quiet cattle, consist of a general mixed herd of 1400 head, comprising bullocks, steers, heifers, and about two hundred head of very superior milking cows. They will be offered in lots to suit purchasers the auctioneer specially calls notice to this bona fide sale and begs to remark that such an opportunity rarely occurs of getting superior quiet dairy cattle. Sale to commence at two prompt, terms at sale. N.B.- the public are assured that the vendor’s instructions are imperative to sell.

At the risk of Louis F. Walford, former purchaser.

Thursday, 28th May. “Kybean” Station (without stock,) for positive and unreserved sale. H. Hogarth has been favoured with instructions from C. Bannister, Esq., to sell by auction, on Thursday, 28th May, at the Imperial Hotel, Bombala “Kybean” station, without stock, situated in the Manaro district, 40 miles from Bombala, 25 from Cooma, estimated to contain over 80,000 acres; and capable of grazing 8000 head of cattle. This fine station was originally taken up by the late Chas. Throsby, Esq., one of the most sagacious of our pioneer squatters, and selected by him principally for its qualities to stand any season. It consists of good open forest, of park-like appearance, well grassed and permanently watered, all available and good cattle and dairy country. The improvements consist of new stockyard for 2000 head of cattle, 4-roomed house, milking yards, &c., and 2 small paddocks. The purchased land will be given in with the station. Sale to commence at three o’olock after the sale of the cattle. Terms at sale.

More about the Throsby family:



A different family history

My great-great-grandfather took his family to Tasmania along with his sister-in-law and her husband, to Tasmania in the late 1830’s. They went to start a business out there and they ran what I guess would be called an export import company these days. They had ware-houses and at least one ship (but I have no doubt they had many more) and they brought goods into Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s land as it was then, and traded goods out. They brought cargoes in from across south-east Asia, their ships going backwards and forwards all along the south China Sea, and across the ocean to New Zealand, and even further across to North America and San Francisco. They brought in silk, porcelain and ceramics, tea, wine, exotic goods, and traded out some of those cargoes plus wool and whale products.

they lived in a fine house and entertained the governor of the colony with grand balls; they were respected members of the community even though they were Jewish, and my great-grandfather became the first Jewish JP in Australia, and he and his brother-in-law were founders of the first synagogue in Tasmania as it had become. They became wealthy and eventually returned to London and lived on Regent’s park in a magnificent house built by John Nash.

There is an excellent BBC TV programme called ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ which follows the genealogical history of famous people. Tonight the actress Anne Reid followed the trail of her ancestors, in particular her great-great-grandfather, who like mine, went to Tasmania. he however did not go of his own volition. he was a Scottish school-teacher who fell into debt, was convicted of forgery, and sent to Van Diemen’s Land as a convict for seven years. One can only imagine the horrible 119 day crossing with three hundred odd other convicts – very different from the journey my wealthy family made. When he arrived he had to do two years hard labour before he was allowed to finish his sentence working as a clerk. He was freed a year early and became a small trader. he must have known my great-grandfather, but his life was very different. He had a respectable job, but he never accumulated enough money to afford the fare home, unlike my ancestor who returned to a life of wealth and comfort.

We hope to visit Tasmania; when I go I shall try to find places associated with my family, but I am sure I will also remember Anne Reid’s genealogical journey too.


Finding a way to tell a story

The story I want to tell is about my grandparent; the truth of their love affair is lost in the secrecy imposed on their relationship by disapproving relatives and discrete,and maybe ashamed descendants. I have some of the facts, some dates of births and deaths, some half-remembered family memories, and some collateral information I have discovered about residences, businesses, and travel.

My difficulty is, how to present it so it is not just a list with some amplified explanation? I want to write their story, to make it accessible to my cousins and my children so they will grasp the events as I know them, and add a little colour to the bald facts… the few facts that we actually know.

I set my writing group the same task, to take an autobiographical event (not necessarily true, I don’t want to pry) and write it in a way which engages the reader and brings the story to life. There were some amazing results; a story of grandparents, the biography of a skylark, the sad but fascinating details of a parent’s life, and a great imagining of an episode from the life of my favourite poet, John Masefield.

I don’t always write something myself, but on this occasion I did… except we ran out of time; the exercise was useful, as I began to see how I might write something about them which would put over what I knew of their lives, a hundred and twenty-five years ago. Here is what I wrote about my great grandparents, Louis and Lois:

Maybe they were at an exhibition, maybe she was standing, admiring a picture, standing with a natural elegance and grace, and maybe he noticed her, noticed her lovely form, her erect posture, the dreamy expression on her face as she stared…

Engrossed in the works of Charles Robert Leslie and Clarkson Stansfield, maybe Lois Penney didn’t notice the man with the extravagant moustache, immaculate attire and jaunty air.

Or maybe they met like this.

Maybe she was in Regent’s Park, strolling arm in arm with her sister Sarah beneath their parasols, gossiping about their family, their oldest brother George who was so taken up with business and commerce, George who had changed their father’s basket making company into an enterprise, with factories in Mansfield. Or maybe they were gossiping about their father’s second wife and brood of step brothers and sisters she had brought into the marriage with her.

Maybe as they strolled a glove was dropped, a handkerchief escaped, and maybe a man with a fashionable moustache and even more fashionable and expensive clothing saw the two young women, saw the dropped glove, the fluttering handkerchief.

Somehow an encounter happened, somehow the young woman from Northamptonshire became acquainted with a handsome man from an immensely wealthy family, a young man recently arrived from his native Australia.

Did they take tea together? Was that what might have happened, maybe with Sarah as chaperone, with Lois and her new acquaintance barely aware of the sister, only conscious of each other.

Was it love at first sight, were their feelings so overpowering that they threw convention aside? Because he was a Jew from a strict and observant family, his father Samuel a pillar of the great Synagogue in London, and joint founder of the new synagogue built in Hobart Tasmania, the first synagogue in the Antipodes.

Louis could not marry Lois, however willing she might have been to leave her Christian faith behind, he could not leave his own family, he could not go against the traditions of his faith and his upbringing.

How did they meet? No-one will ever no, but maybe, maybe, maybe they sat beside each other in the Albert Hall at a morning concert given by Her Majesty’s Opera Company, conducted by Signor Calsi… Maybe…