Friday, March 2, 2012

The Princess of the Waters - Chapter Seven

Chapter seven
Photo: Hilda Gertrude Hasch Belchamber aged three,  with her baby sister Lilian, 18 months - 1895. Hilda has an air of melancholy about her even at this age.
Young Hilda Gertrude was six years old when her grandmother Eliza committed suicide and nine when her maternal grandfather, Isaac died.  Her paternal grandfather, Claus Hasch had died at the age of fifty-seven on July 3, 1886 before she was born and her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth would live for another sixteen years, dying August, 16 1916, at the age of seventy-seven, when Hilda was twenty two. At the ages of six and nine, she was certainly old enough to mourn the passing of her mother’s parents, if indeed she had seen anything of Eliza in the years that she and Isaac had been separated.
Who knows what impact it had on her mother but Sarah has come down through the generations as a woman who was a force with which to be reckoned and who gave her timid eldest daughter, more than one black eye long after she had married John Henry. One wonders what ‘Jack’ did about such attacks.
Or Johann for that matter. Probably nothing! Johann, or John as he was called, looks a placid sort from his photograph. He was born on February 13, 1862, in the small town of Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. His parents were Claus Hasch, born 1829, Barmstedt, a plasterer/builder from Schleswig-Holstein, duchies which belonged to Denmark and Germany at different times, and Elizabeth Johanna Sophia Catharina Kohlhagen, from Mecklenburg, Germany.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Johann Heinrich William Kohlhagen and Elisabeth Sophie Schoenfeldt and was born on June 17, 1839 in Wokrent.  I do not know the exact reasons as to why Johannn and Elisabeth decided to set sail for the Great South land but life in Mecklenburg could be harsh and remained so until the revolution of 1918. No doubt they left for the same reasons that hundreds of thousands of others left in the 19th century. There was absolute rule under the two Mecklenburgian duchies, even to such practices as applying for permission to marry to emigrate. No doubt my great-great-great grandparents had to apply and were grateful it was granted from the day they set foot in Australia.
The land they left behind had been a dark place for a long time.  With the annulment of serfdom in 1820 many landowners stopped caring for the poor and finding either work or housing became nearly impossible. The power of the trade guilds made it difficult for people to set themselves up in business and provide for themselves and so, in the early 19th century began a mass emigration which would include my ancestors. In all, several million people emigrated from Germany in this period to the new nations of Australia, Canada and the United States in the main.
Records show that many were reluctant to leave their homeland but they had no choice. To survive they had to leave. Some 261,000 Mecklenburgers left their home country between 1820 and 1890 for other lands. No wonder that Johann and Elisabeth were among them and were prepared to sail to what was ‘the ends of the earth’ to Europeans, to give their children a better life. As they did.

Photo: Johann (John) Henry Nicholaus Hasch c. 1882.
Johann’s parents Johann Heinrich and Catharina Maria (Randt) were still alive when the family set sail for Australia. Johann senior, born in 1775 in Grob Belitz, Mecklenburg died in 1849,  at the age of seventy-four, in Wokrent, three years after his son and family had arrived in Adelaide and Catharina, born in 1779 in Nuekirchen, Germany, died two years later, in 1851 at the age of seventy-two.
Johann would not have known of his parents deaths until some months later … or perhaps even longer given the vagaries of mail delivery in the 19th century.
Johann was a carpenter, as in fact was my father, and he and his family arrived in South Australia on the ‘George Washington,’ on Saturday, January 24, 1846. Johann was forty-two and Elisabeth thirty-five. My great-great-grandmother, Elisabeth, was six years old. Her sister Catharina was fourteen; Anna twelve; Dorothea four and Johann was a baby.
Photo: The Port of Hamburg in 1850. The Kohlhagen’s and Hasch families both set sail for South Australia from here.

Johann took his family to settle in the small German community of Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. The fact that he did so suggests it is possible he was fleeing religious persecution for this village had been established by the Lutheran pastor, August Ludwig  Christian Kavel as a place of refuge for his ‘flock’ just five years earlier. The Kohlhagens may not have come from exactly the same villages, but they certainly came from the same area. Given how people followed familial, cultural and religious connections when they emigrated – all very understandable – I don’t think there is much doubt that the Kohlhagen’s and perhaps Claus Hasch, had links with Pastor Kavel and his flock.
Lobethal is thirty-three kilometres from the city of Adelaide which was a reasonable distance at the time. To travel so far instead of settling in Adelaide itself, suggests that the Kohlhagen’s had a motivation to do so and that would have been the expectation of help and support when they arrived.
This community had its beginnings in 1838 when George Fife Angas went to London as a director of the South Australian Company to try and promote colonisation. While he was there he met Pastor August Ludwig Christian Kavel who was trying to organise for Lutherans (who were being persecuted by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III) to emigrate. Angas was moved by the plight of the Lutherans and not only persuaded Kavel that South Australia was a suitable place for emigration but also financially assisted them with a generous £8,000.
PHOTO: Johann Wilhelm Koelhagen and his wife Elizabeth (Schoenfeldt).
The first German settlers in South Australia arrived on November 25, 1838 at Port Adelaide which was still, unfortunately known by its original name of Port Misery. Surveyed by Colonel Light some years earlier, the site was swampy and a long day’s walk from the settlement of Adelaide. While Port Misery officially became Port Adelaide on May 23, 1837 it took time for those arriving in the new colony to see it in a more positive light.
The Germans who began to arrive in 1841 went on to establish villages at Klemzig and Glen Osmond, now suburbs of Adelaide and Lobethal and Hahndorf. The latter holds the title as Australia’s first German settlement and is still a popular tourist destination in the Adelaide Hills. It is also where we have a small farm which we bought in 1997 without my knowing how close the links were between area and ancestors.
In 1880 the Reverend I. Ey wrote: ‘The bulk of the persecuted Lutherans of Lobethal, with their beloved pastor, G.D. Fritsche, came out in the ship, Skjold, after an eighteen week trip, during which no fewer than forty-four deaths occurred. This must have been a ghastly voyage and when compared to the three deaths on board the ship which Eliza’s former employer, Dr John Grace, had charge of as surgeon, shows what a difference there can be in death rates on such a voyage. They were temporarily taken care of and welcomed by the somewhat earlier pioneers of Klemzig and Hahndorf, and some went up to the Tanunda district.’
Johann’s brother Christian, who emigrated with him, would move to the Tanunda area which is a part of the Barossa Valley and his descendants remain there to this day.            Lobethal's story begins in Prussia (now Germany, bordering Poland). From 1807 on, the emperor, Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, tried to unify his church, the Reformed (Calvinist) church, with the Protestant Lutherans in his country. The minority Lutherans refused as the Kaiser had named himself as Bishop of his new Union Church, effectively making himself its head. For Lutherans, separation of church and state was (and is) a fundamental doctrine, and the more they refused the more punitive the Kaiser became. The very name Lutheran was banned; pastor's property was confiscated and congregations were fined.  By the 1830s Lutherans were being jailed for their faith; even deputations sent to speak with the Kaiser were imprisoned.
There is a sense, tracing my German ancestors, that they were an argumentative lot at worst and strongly opinionated at best. The latter trait has made its way down the family line without a doubt.
There were many other reasons why Mecklenburgers were looking to emigrate so it is not surprising that these persecuted Lutherans looked to do the same. Getting an exit visa was not easy and often Prussians had to agree to emigrate with their pastor as a whole congregation. Pastors Kavel and Fritsche embarked on their plan with this in mind.
           By 1840, Fritsche's health was failing and he applied for permission to take his congregation to Australia, where he felt God wanted him to be. Pastor Fritsche and his congregation sold up, pooled their resources, and were finally granted an exit visa while they waited at the port of Hamburg. However, they were £300 short. British Quakers helped them with loans, as did Fritsche's fiancĂ©e's mother, Frau Nerlich, enabling them to charter a ship. However, that ship needed repairs and delayed the near-penniless group in Hamburg for weeks. A substitute vessel, Skjold, set sail on  July 3, 1841.
            Kavel’s vision was that all of the Lutherans from the various villages of Klemzig, Glen Osmond and Hahndorf would settle together. He looked at buying land in the Barossa Valley but those who had arrived earlier were settled and content and not everyone shared the same doctrinal views as Pastor Kavel. Tschicherzig, Klemzig and Kay, from where Pastor Kavel’s flock came, were small villages in Prussia, which no longer exists but which was, at the time an independent German state. All of the villages are now a part of Poland owing to border changes following the end of World War Two.     In early 1842 the Pastor and eighteen families at Hahndorf decided to go it alone. One of the group, Ferdinand Muller, had been working as a shepherd for the South Australian Company and he told them of a beautiful valley he had seen to the north, near the western branch of the Onkaparinga River, where there was land for sale.
            Once again Frau Nerlich came to the rescue and loaned money. As she was now Fritzsche’s mother-in-law this is not surprising. The group purchased 168 acres at one pound an acre. The same land today is worth many thousands of dollars an acre and no doubt the families which remained found themselves relatively wealthy landowners in the future. Mine had however long gone by the end of the 19th century.
But it was not as simple as it seemed because land could only be held by naturalised British citizens. This may well be why Johann Kohlhagen became naturalised within years of arriving in the colony, as did his son-in-law Claus Hasch. A tailor named Krumnow came to the rescue of the Lutherans and took possession of the land on their behalf. Something of a religious fanatic with communist leanings, he solved one problem while creating many more and it took the Lobethal Germans eight years to get their property for themselves.
Photo: Lobethal in the 1870’s.
On May 4, 1842 Pastor Fritsche read from the Bible and named their new home. The community drew lots to apportion the new land. The democratic Hufendorf  layout of Lobethal's house blocks was traditionally German; long, narrow strips of about three acres. The house was built at the end, by the road, and the creek ran across the blocks, accessible to all. Behind the houses were farm buildings such as cellars with lofts, then vegetable gardens and orchards and some of the animals were tethered by the creek. Oats, barley and rye grew at the far end. Other stock was pastured in nearby forest and fields. The main street was originally where Mill Road is now and many cottages along there are from the earliest days of the settlement.
Crude one-room slab huts were replaced in time by larger two-room cottages, barns, cellars, bake ovens and smoke-houses, most built in the German style. A high degree of craftsmanship can still be seen in the remaining buildings, some built entirely without nails. Roofs were thatched, and later covered with wooden shingles. Several shingled roofs are still visible under galvanized iron roofs today.
The traditional Prussian farmhouse was built with a cooking passage or flurkuchenhaus (black kitchen) and this is how the Lobethal houses were built. These large, vented or brick domed cooking halls would usually face the front door.  The centrally located wood-fired oven and chimney would heat the entire house. While winter in the Adelaide Hills is never as cold as Europe it can get below minus zero overnight and the sensibly built and heated Lobethal homes were probably far cosier than anything built by the British colonists. The Germans also built smokehouses on the rear of their homes to cure meat and fish.
Photo: The Lutheran Schoolhouse in Lobethal, 1850, where my great-grandfather Johann Hasch and his siblings went to school.

In 1843 work began on a permanent church building. Bricks fired in a kiln nearby were carried by women in bags and aprons on their way to Sunday worship. During the week, after work, the men of the town would work on the church. Finished and dedicated in 1845, Zum Weinberg Christi, or St John's, was the first permanent Lutheran Church built in Australia.
But all was not sweetness and light in the new community.  In the year that Johann arrived with his family there was a major doctrinal dispute within the Lutheran community and a second church, St. Paul’s established. Lobethal has the oldest Lutheran Church in Australia and work began on building the church in 1843. It was dedicated in 1847 and is still in use today.
Photo: The Lutheran Church manse in Lobethal built 1847.
Despite risking their lives to move to the other side of the world in order to be able to practise their religion without the interference of the State, the Germans were an interfering and argumentative lot themselves. In 1863 a third church was established called Zum Kreuze Christi and in 1876 a fourth church, Zum Kripplein Christi. In the 20th century these churches were all amalgamated as one but when Johann Kohlhagen and his family arrived and when Claus married Elizabeth, it is clear there was less agreement and more dissent.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Claus and Elizabeth ultimately moved to Adelaide was because of the disagreements and dissent which were rife in the Lobethal community. Or perhaps it was because some time in the 1860’s Johann Wilhelm and his wife Elizabeth and their sons moved to Victoria to work the land. Johann died at Green Lake on May 13, 1881 and Elizabeth returned to live in Adelaide where her daughters had settled. She moved in with Elizabeth and Claus and was no doubt of great support to her daughter when Claus died five years later. Elizabeth lived until the age of eighty-seven, dying at her daughter’s home in 1893.
I am just grateful that all of my ancestors on both sides dropped their Lutheran, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish affiliations and enabled me to grow up without the constraints of religion. Australia is the most secular of all the developed nations and there is a lot to be said for it when one trawls through the religious dissent of the past.
But, despite doctrinal arguments the Lutheran settlers established a productive and substantial agricultural community which continues to this day. Dairy and beef farming and orchards thrived then as they do now. The South Australian Almanac for 1844 recorded statistics for the Lobethal settlers as: 50 acres wheat, 10 acres barley, 1 acre maize, 10 acres potatoes, 17 acres gardens, 40 cattle, 2 ponies, 32 pigs and 11 goats.
But it was not enough to grow crops - they had to be sold. Fruit, wheat, vines, corn, potatoes, hops needed a market and provisions which could not be home-grown had to be purchased. Adelaide was the only place that could happen. When Johann and his family settled in the Adelaide Hills there were no roads as we know them and no public transport. Usually the men would work the fields and the women would walk the fifteen miles across the hills with the produce on their backs. They made them tough in those days and none more so than the German women.
But the community thrived from the very beginning and before long apart from farmers there were carpenters, cabinet makers, brick-makers, gunsmiths, bootmakers, tailors, locksmiths, organ builders, clock makers, four millers, saw millers and of course stone-masons. And there was local beer by the time Claus arrived. In 1851 F.W. Kleinschmidt built a brewery near where the Mill chimney stands today.  This building later housed the start of what was the famous Onkaparinga Mill at Lobethal, which produced some of the world’s finest woollen cloth for more than one hundred years. The mill closed in 1993 and is now a museum/craft/ art complex. My brother, Vince, had an exhibition of his photographic work there a few years ago – again with no knowledge of how close the family connection had been to Lobethal.
Eventually there would be two flour mills, two fruit and vegetable drying mills, two hop kilns and a cricket bat factory. There was also a small amount of gold mining in the Onkaparinga Valley from the late 1840’s and one wonders if Claus and his children went out on Sundays, after church of course, to see if they could find a few grains of gold to supplement the family income.  
And life in Lobethal would be very like life had been in Germany, as the writer Friedrich Gerstacker wrote when he visited South Australia in 1851, some twelve years after the first Germans had arrived:
About an hour later, as I saw everywhere to the left and right of me small friendly houses, I came upon a farm, which I just had to have a look at. From the outside, you see, it looked exactly like one of our small German farms, with barns, stables, sheds etc, and to begin with I stood for a few minutes quite surprised. It was as if I wasn't in Australia, as if some guardian angel had whisked me back to Germany at the speed of thought, and now... but the blessed gumtrees...I was in fact in Australia!

In the yard a boy was harnessing the horses. That was a German harness and a German wagon, I could have sworn to it; and a maid came out of the barn with a typical German pitch fork in her hand. I just had to enter the house too. I jumped the fence, walked across the yard, opened the front door – the door handle was definitely not made in Australia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my dear and amazing countrymen had brought the whole front door with them from Germany – and I knocked.

"Come in!" I stood in the middle of the room, and here, dear reader, if you want a really clear idea of what I saw, you must stop for a second and go into the first farmhouse you get to in Germany – the small quiet room which I entered was exactly like that in appearance and smell. Well, not quite so quiet, because a white-haired, red-cheeked and extremely grubby little boy sitting on his grandmother's knee at the fireplace was crying for all he was worth. The old grandmother herself was a true and outstanding example of an old German farmer's wife such as you would find only in the heart of Germany itself, and I am convinced that everything, right down to the brooches and shoe-laces, was genuinely German and that no English or Australian piece of clothing had ever touched her body.

But not only that: the oven, the chairs, tables, plates decorated with proverbs, the bowls with verses from the hymn book, the big chests with green roses and yellow forget-me-nots on them - in a word, everything was German and if you had taken a genuine farmhouse room, roots and all, from somewhere in Saxony or Prussia, carefully packed it in cotton-wool and transported it here, it could not have had a more genuine character about it than what I saw here.

(Friedrich Gerstäcker. Reisen um die Welt, Volume 4, 1853)
The biggest difference of course was that in Australia, despite the German appearance of their lives, the settlers had a freedom to live, of which those ‘back home’ could only dream. These Germans had sailed across the world in the hope of a new life and true freedom in this fledgling nation perched on the edge of Antarctica, and they had found all that they hoped for and more. The Germanness would disappear within a generation with language, clothing, homes and habits dissolving into a new and evolving form of Australianness.
The enduring things would be some foods and German-style dishes and some of the quaint houses and cottages which can still be found in Lobethal, Hahndorf and other small settlements in the Adelaide Hills. I have nothing of my German or Danish ancestry which has been handed down, except a few photographs and some family stories. The assimilation of settlers in early Australia was complete for most by the second generation. They anglicised their names, became naturalised and devoted themselves to the new country with dedication and passion. In many ways Germans were suited to Australia and Australia was suited to them. It was a ‘natural fit’ as it was with the English settlers and no doubt the reason why assimilation was so fast and so complete.
Whatever they had left behind it was not enough, as it was for many immigrants, to hold their hearts or even their culture. Having said that, no doubt they would be pleased to see South Australians in particular so ready to celebrate their German heritage and to acknowledge the gifts that these settlers brought. And no more so than in the wine industry, particularly in the Barossa and Clare Valleys but also in the Adelaide Hills. South Australia produces most of the country’s wine and some of the world’s best. Johann Gramp planted the first vines in the Barossa Valley in 1847 and they are still producing wine.
The world’s oldest grapevines are in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales and date from around 1830, but South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia are not far behind. Australia escaped the devastating Phylloxera outbreak, the grape root louse, which wiped out European vineyards and so still has vines which can be linked to the mid to late 1700’s. And many of them, thanks to our German settlers.
Claus Hasch the Third, had been born in Barmstedt, Schleswig-Holstein on April 1, 1829. Given the time-difference between Europe and Australia, my brother Wayne, would share a birthday with him 119 years later although while the first of April in Barmstedt it was the second of April in Adelaide. He arrived in South Australia nine years after his wife-to-be and her family had done so. Twenty-six year old Claus set sail on the La Rochelle, arriving at Port Adelaide on September 3, 1855. He claimed Danish nationality throughout his life but became an Australian citizen in September of 1865.
His arrival and his naturalization were in the same month that I was born. His family could trace their Schleswig-Holstein ancestry back for many years.  His father, Dierich (Dierck) had been born in Kattendorf, Germany on October 16, 1782 but his mother, Anna Catherina Cathor, had been born in Barmstedt, Schleswig-Holstein. Dierich had moved to his wife’s town and he died at the age of seventy, on April 29, 1853, in Barmstedt. Anna outlived him by twenty-two years, dying on November 15, 1875 in her home-town. We do not have a birth date for Anna so she may well have been a lot younger than her husband.
Dierick’s father, Claus Hasch I, had been born around 1740 in Schleswig-Holstein and he died around 1800 in Kattendorf, Germany. His eldest son became Claus Hasch II.  From the look of it, Claus Hasch I moved to Kattendorf when he married his German wife, Anna Schmuk. Kattendorf and Barmstedt are twenty-one kilometres apart and given the ‘back and forth nature’ of Schleswig-Holstein, in terms of whether it was Danish or German, the choice of ‘nationality’ was probably optional to some degree. My great-great-grandfather Claus, remained adamant he was Danish which makes me think that the family lineage as Danes went back a very long way.
Schleswig-Holstein had been Jutland originally and a part of Denmark but in the 19th century as the German Confederation grew in power, it made claims to the area. A war was fought in 1848 and a treaty signed in 1850 and both sides held claim to their rights. But the arguments continued and in 1855, the year Claus left for Australia, the arguments were growing more dangerous. In 1863 there was another war and by 1888 the only language being taught in Schleswig-Holstein was German.
Claus however was far away and could not have been greatly bothered because he had married a German woman, as had his grandfather, and had a family of young children who would call themselves Australian, as he now did.
He and Elizabeth married on July 22, 1861 in St. Paul’s Church, Lobethal.  Whether Claus went to Lobethal on arrival to work and married and settled there or whether he met Elizabeth elsewhere and settled in Lobethal so she could be close to her family, I do not know. My great-grandfather, Johann Nicholaus was born on February 13, 1862 … just seven months after the marriage and was, I am sure, the reason for the marriage. He was not to become Claus IV, and in fact, none of Claus’s four sons would carry on the name.
Elizabeth, like so many women of the times, would have her nine children roughly two years apart.  After her first-born, a son, there would be five daughters and then more sons. Anna Dorothea was born at Lobethal on May 21, 1864; Emma Friedericke Auguste arrived on May 17, 1866; Meta Friedericke on September 8, 1868; Ida Caroline on July 8, 1870; Pauline Wilhelmine on January 17, 1873; Hermann Dietrich on October 8, 1875; Henry on April 3, 1877 and Albert Wilhelm on May 26, 1880.
Henry and Albert were both born in Adelaide with Albert’s place of birth listed as Rose Park. Given that Claus will die at Rose Park in 1866 it looks like the family may have moved from Lobethal to Adelaide sometime in 1876. Perhaps the farm was not enough to support his large and growing family and Claus decided to go back to work as a stone-mason in the booming city of Adelaide, some 33 kilometres to the South.
Claus Hasch is mentioned in old newspaper reports as also running dairy cattle at his home in Rose Park, which had been declared a nuisance by neighbours for wandering into their gardens and damaging them. Claus died on July 3, 1886 at his Rose Park home. He was fifty-seven years old.  His children ranged in age from twenty-four to six. No doubt with five daughters ranging in age from twenty-two to thirteen, Elizabeth had plenty of help at home with the three boys aged eleven, nine and six.
As the oldest male the task of supporting the family would have fallen to Johann. He may well have been working for his father and learning the trade since the age of twelve and perhaps eleven year old Hermann, became his apprentice when their father died. Given that Elizabeth remained in the Rose Park home, it is safe to assume that when Claus died she not only owned her home but had enough support to remain in it and raise her children. That was not always the case for women who were widowed in the 19th century.
There is no doubt that Claus was a skilled builder, as was his son. The homes which they built remain standing and in this day and age, as colonial blue and brownstones, are now valuable properties. Johann (John) built two houses in Castle Street, Parkside, Number 18 where my grandparents, Hilda and John lived and Number 20 where he lived with his wife, Sarah. The style of the houses is the same as the one his father Claus had built in Rose Park, at 8 Watson Avenue.
Photo: A house in Watson Avenue in 2011, built in the same style and at the same time as Claus Hasch built his home.
The house at 18 Castle Street must have been like a palace for ‘Jack’ Belchamber who had grown up in grinding poverty in the East End of London. He remembered going hungry and barefoot to school, with dripping on bread a staple… when there was food to be had.
The Belchambers had a long history of poverty, at times, terrible poverty. ‘Jack’s’ father, Alfred was the fifth of six children born to Henry, a boilermaker and Sarah Ann Williams). Henry, married Sarah Ann, a servant, aged 22, on August 28, 1853 at St. Leonard’s Parish Church, Shoreditch. They both made their marks, which suggests they were illiterate, and they are recorded as living at 17 Maria Street. Henry put his father’s profession as grocer and Sarah Ann put her father’s as baker.
Henry was recorded in the 1841 census as living with his parents and siblings in Kent but by 1851, the year his father died, he had moved to London, where he met and married Sarah.  Henry was the son of James Belchamber, born about 1788 in Deptford, Kent and his wife, Elizabeth Bond, born about 1785 in Gosport, Hampshire. They were married by banns in St. Mary’s Parish Church in Lewisham, Kent on September 27, 1812. The newly-weds moved into accommodation in Effingham Place, which, was pulled down ten years later due to open sewage and rat infestation.
Photo: the brewery Lobethal circa. 1840.
If tracing my mother’s family ancestry reveals anything, it is poverty and suffering. The sad thing is that while this is not my life, it was hers from the time that she married. Certainly nothing like the poverty of her ancestors but poverty for 20th century Australia.  Did that make her stronger? She was certainly resilient as her ancestors had to be.
James was a labourer and a japanner, or tin-plate worker, in the victualling yard within Deptford  Dockyard. The yard was a place where provisions for the Navy were stored such as salt-beef, biscuits, beer, rum, chocolate, soap and tobacco. Little did he know his great-great-grandson, Max Belchamber, my mother’s brother, would become a merchant sailor during World War Two.  James and Elizabeth later lived at 11 Fairey’s Buildings, Deptford, where he died aged 63 on November 2, 1851.
Elizabeth went to live with her daughter, Mary Ann Palmer at 6 Kerbey Street, Bromley, London after James’s death. She died just three years later on March 12, 1854, of bronchitis. The lungs represent grief and after the death of her husband, perhaps Elizabeth had no will to live. It is perhaps a sign that she loved him.
            Deptford was home to Britain’s most important naval victualling yard until 1961. It was also where Peter the Great, the only Tzar to leave Russia, spent time learning ship-building.
            Henry and Sarah had six children. Sarah Ann Eliza was born April 6, 1854, less than nine months after their marriage and perhaps the reason for it. She was born at 5 Mary Terrace, Bromley.  Henry William was born October 10, 1856 at 5 New Street, Limehouse. Eliza was born October 24, 1858 at 28 Cottage Street, Poplar. Emma was born February 13, 1861 at 1 Caroline Place, Deptford, Kent. Whether both Henry and Sarah moved back to Kent with the children or Sarah went alone to seek help from family I do not know. But when my great-grandfather Alfred William was born on June 8, 1863 they were back in London and living at 15 Grove Street, Poplar. James the last son was born August 5, 1865 at 2 Cottage Street, Poplar.
            The family had moved six times in eleven years. I thought my nomadic life was exceptional, with twenty-five moves in forty years, but perhaps it is a family trait. It was the sixth move which would be the most devastating.
Photo: Poplar Workhouse in East London where my great-grandfather lived from the age of three to seven.

When Henry died of typhoid in 1866, at the age of 36 or 39, the latter being the age recorded on the death certificate, the six children - the youngest James, just nine months old - were put into the Poplar Workhouse by their mother. My great-grandfather Alfred was three years old. One hopes that Sarah Ann, who was twelve and Henry William, who was ten, helped comfort and care for the younger children.
The poorhouse was the only hope for survival when people reached the bottom – it was the poorhouse or the gutter. Often entire families would be admitted, or, as seems to be the case with Sarah, sometimes the children were placed so that the remaining parent, for it usually was a remaining parent, could continue to work and save the money to support them.  No doubt, as she said goodbye to her children, Sarah told them; ‘It won’t be for long.’  But it was for long, a lifetime to a child – four years and only four of the six would survive them.
Life was grim in the workhouse but perhaps they took better care of the children who were admitted on their own. Even when families entered the workhouse, parents were separated from their children and men and women also lived in different quarters. The workhouse was not meant to be a place of comfort but merely a place of survival for those who had no choice. The Victorian view was that if it was too comfortable the poor would be crowding at the door to get in.
As it was, they were, but that was from desperation and need, not for a better life. Little wonder that so many set sail for the colonies.

Photo Top: The sick ward at Poplar Workhouse where my great-grandfather’s sister and small brother died of tuberculosis and  Photo Below - children in the Workhouse.
But as the photographs show, the children look to be well cared for – at least physically. Given the unsanitary conditions of the areas where the poor lived in London and the malnutrition they suffered, the children in the workhouse may well have had a better chance of life. Young James and Eliza may have died of tuberculosis anyway, even if their father had lived and the family had remained together.
However, the trauma of their father dying and of being separated from their mother, whom they would only be able to see once a week on Sundays, must have wrought enormous psychological damage on the Belchamber children. In 1870 Sarah removed the remaining four children and took them home with her.  Little James had died of tuberculosis aged four and Alfred’s older sister, Eliza had died at the age of eleven of the same disease although on her death certificate it states, pthisis which is the Greek term for consumption or tuberculosis.
 It was six years before my great-great-grandmother married again but perhaps she had already met her husband to be and had enough support to care for them. Or perhaps after losing two she felt there was no choice.
When I first learned this history of my great-grandfather I was in tears. Having had children and now with grand-children of similar ages it upset me enormously. I have always had a great sensitivity to the suffering of children and had thought it was because of my own difficult childhood. But perhaps it goes further back than that and remains with me as a cellular memory of the terrible suffering a child would experience losing parents and home in this way. I wonder if this is what makes us who we are even more so, in that the ‘wounds’ of the past remain with us and trigger our responses accordingly.
My grandfather, John Henry ‘Jack’ Belchamber was the sixth of twelve children born to Alfred Bellchambers and Mary Ann Hambrook. They had married in 1883 and their first child was born in 1884. Of the twelve only five survived to adulthood and only four to mature adulthood. Three had died as babies, two at the age of one, one aged four and another aged five. Syphilis, which was so tragically common at the time, may well have been the cause of this mix of survival and death.
 This disease had been rife in England and Europe since the 16th century and it was not until the late 1920’s that any effective treatment was found. People often did not know they had syphilis and even if they did, had no understanding of the nature of the disease and its capacity and tendency to become active and inactive at different times. During an active period, any children born would be infected, although they could appear perfectly normal – but dying either within days, weeks, months or a few years; many would also be born blind. During an inactive, or dormant period children would be born without being infected by the disease and, with all other things considered, in good health. This is why people could have twelve or more children with three or four healthy; three or four dying young and another three or four or more healthy. Or the other way around – a series of deaths followed by survival, and then another series of deaths.
There is no doubt that Syphilis was a major factor in the deaths of babies and young children in the 19th century but so too were the effects of malnutrition and poor sanitation. Malnourishment contributed to pelvic deformities in women, as did rickets and subsequent death of babies and often mothers during childbirth. Poor sanitation led to compromised immune systems and epidemics of diseases like typhoid and cholera.
Death was a part of life for my grandfather. He was born into a family where more children had died than had lived. Mary Ann born at 25 Northumberland Street, Poplar in 1886 had died before her first birthday; Henry Thomas born at 9 Flint Street, Poplar in 1887 had died at the age of four; Edith Susannah born at 15 Northumberland Street, Poplar had died aged one and Sarah Maria born 84 Tetley Street, Poplar in 1890 had died aged 18 months. By the time John Henry arrived on June 20, 1893 his parents must have learned that life was both painful and unpredictable. By this time the family had moved to 71 Gill Street, Limehouse, Poplar where they now remained for some years.
The family had moved six times in seven years which was even more ‘nomadic’ than Alfred’s parents who had moved six times in eleven years, but the consolation for my grandfather was that he did not end up in the poorhouse.      Young ‘Jack’ had some certainty in that his family home remained a constant for the first eighteen years of his life, before he emigrated to Australia as part of the Boy Scouts 1913-14 farm apprenticeship scheme which had been instituted following a visit to South Australia by Chief Scout, Robert Baden-Powell, in 1912.
The scheme was advertised in the Scout newsletter and Scout column of the People newspaper in march and April 1913. John Henry William Belchamber is listed amongst the thirty-four scouts who arrived on board the SS Beltana and who formed one of the first scout troops in SA. Their story is told in Beginnings: The Story of the Beltana Boys (2008) by Anthony Aldous and Richard Mansfield.
            He was nineteen when he arrived in Australia, on June 23, 1913 after lodging his application to work as a general labourer two months earlier.  His first posting was to Wandearah East, via Crystal Brook, and not far from Port Pirie where some of our Camplins ended up, where he worked as a farm labourer for S.S. Searle for ten months before joining the Army in the First World War.  Again, in that synchronistic way of things, I and my family would move to Port Pirie to live just 18 months after his death and Crystal Brook and Wandearah East would be places I would come to know well. I do remember until his death in 1972, that every year he would go up to the Crystal Brook Agricultural Show but until starting this research I did not know why. Neither was I interested, as one is not, in grandparents in our youth.
The address on his application for place of residence was 2 Phoebe Court, Poplar, London and this is repeated on his war records as the address of his mother, Mary Ann Belchamber.  
            Given the almost constant presence of death at home, it is not surprising that Jack took the chance of a better life when he had the chance.  He was two years old when his five year old sister Eleanor died; eleven when his baby brother Philip died; twelve when his baby brother James died and twenty-five when his twenty-one year old brother William, died in action in the First World War.
 ‘Jack’ Henry also fought in the Great War, in the 43rd AIF. He joined at the age of twenty-two as a member of the battalion which was South Australia’s contribution to the Australian 3rd Division. A severe drought had hit South Australia in 1914 and during the following eighteen months the ‘farm labourer’ scheme began to fail as farmers put off their workers. The First World War had also begun and many went on to enlist, perhaps because they had little other choice.
Along with the 41st, 42nd, and 44th Battalions, plus support troops, it formed the 11th Brigade. The battalion set sail in June 1916 and after landing briefly in Egypt, went on to England for further training. No doubt Jack spent time with his family …. his first visit since leaving five years earlier.  Little did he know it but he would be back for nearly a year, but in and out of hospital being treated for wounds and when he left, it would be more than forty years before he returned to England.
The battalion arrived at the Western Front in late December of the same year. Jack Belchamber, along with his fellow soldiers would spend most of 1917 bogged down in bloody trench warfare in Flanders. Unlike so many, including his young brother, he would survive. As would my paternal grandfather, Charles Vangelios Ross. In a war when so many lost sons, and often more than one son in a family, both of my grandparents fought and survived.  Synchronistically, both were sent home after being injured – in the arm. My father and two uncles, as well as my father-in-law fought in the Second World War and all survived. Perhaps one other aspect of both sides of my family is more than just a little bit of luck!
Photo: John Henry ‘Jack’ Belchamber in his Australian Infantry Force uniform in 1916.

In June of 1917 the battalion took part in the battle of Messines and in October, the Third Battle of Ypres. In 1986 I went with my husband and children to live in Antwerp, Belgium for a few years, knowing nothing of my grandfather’s military past. I don’t think my mother did either because she never mentioned a connection. My paternal grandfather, Charles Vangelios Ross also fought in Belgium but recorded this experience by giving his eldest daughter, Jessie the middle name of Belgian.
I am struck by the fact that given the countless lives lost in the fields of Flanders that I should have both grandfathers fight there and survive.
Photo: Jack Belchamber fought and lived through the devastation of the Somme.
My grandfather, like so many men in both the First and Second World Wars, never talked about his experiences. I remember visiting Ypres and sitting in a ‘museum’ set up in the back of a tavern on one of the old trench sites and looking at photographs taken during the war.
It was odd to see the desolate, cratered landscape of mud strewn with dead horses and body parts; the occasional tree stripped to a skeleton with shreds of flesh hanging from its branches and then to look up and out of the window, onto a peaceful, undulating green.  That suck of blood and mud was something both of my grandfathers experienced.
Jack Belchamber, not only fought in these hellish death-holes of mud and blood, but he walked the streets of the same shattered towns and villages, which I, years later, would view as images during an afternoon visit to Ypres. So often I could see in the old photographs, the skeletal shapes of women and children searching for food. Those photographs were a reminder that always in war there are women and children, suffering, surviving and dying. The images on glass which I loaded one by one into the viewer had captured a horror which was a part of my history.  Although, at the time, I did not know enough of my family ancestry to appreciate the fact.

Photo: Both of my grandfathers fought in the trenches during World War One.
He left Australia June 9, 1916 and was wounded just over a year later  and admitted to the Rouen field hospital on August 2,  1917. He suffered a gunshot wound to his left arm and another to his left thigh. His upper arm bone had been fractured and reports state his thigh injury was severe.
But given the injuries of the times, these were minor. He would have gone to a dressing station and then been taken by field ambulance to a casualty clearing station before being transferred to a base hospital, in this case, Rouen.
Front-line units, such as infantry battalions, were able to provide only the most superficial medical care. Located near the front line, often in a support or reserve trench, would be a Regimental Aid Post, attended by the Battalion Medical Officer and his orderlies and stretcher bearers. A wounded man would either make his own way there if possible, or be carried. I am guessing Jack was carried if his thigh injury was severe. The facilities were crude and often a wounded man would get not much more than a drink and a few words of comfort before being handed down the chain to the Advanced Dressing Station. Hand carriages, wheeled stretchers and trolley lines were used to move the wounded. Those who could walk did. From 1916, relay posts for stretcher bearers were established every 1000 yards or so. To avoid congestion, certain communication trenches were allocated for the removal of casualties. By the time my grandfather was injured the system was giving much better survival odds for the wounded.
He was shipped out to England on August 28, admitted temporarily to Exeter hospital and later being transferred to Harefield, Weymouth and then London as his treatment progressed. It would be six months before he was well enough to be shipped home to Australia. He was discharged in Melbourne at Victoria Barracks, on May 28, having arrived back on May 10 on the Orontes.
He had served for two years 123 days and his service abroad had been for one year and 326 days… he was twenty-four years old..
Synchronistically, my paternal grandfather, Charles Ross was also wounded in the left arm during the First World War and discharged early as medically unfit. He had been wounded in 1915 in the Dardanelles and he had been discharged and sent home after being treated in Malta. I can only wonder if the two of them had more to talk about than they expected when they met in 1946 for the marriage of their children. They may have known each other already given that the Ross’s lived around the corner from the Belchambers, in Leicester Street, Parkside and my parents had met as children, seeing each other at school and in the street.
In those months after his return I like to think that while he did not have family, he had the support of friends. One assumes he felt relief at being safely home. No doubt there was pain as his injuries slowly healed. But was there physiological pain as well? The First World War trenches had been the scene of some of the bloodiest and most horrific fighting that soldiers had ever known.
Photo: The town of Ypres was destroyed by German bombing. Women and children scavenged in the ruins in order to survive.
Did he wake in the middle of the night in fear, the smell of blood and flesh and mud in his nostrils? Or was he the sort of man who took such things in his stride; buried it deep so it could not hurt? My mother said he was a hard man in many ways. She did not remember him being affectionate. But she did not remember her mother being affectionate either. Then again, my mother was not affectionate with me although she was with my younger brothers and sister when they were small.
Photo: Jack Belchamber arrived back in Australia on the Orontes in May 1918.

The guns would not fall silent until November 11 and most soldiers in the 43rd battalion would not be demobbed until 1919. By the time the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 8, 1919, Jack was back at work and living as normal a life as one can after such an experience. Two years later he married Hilda. If he was like my father he would never have talked to his wife or family about the war.
 My father was only seventeen when he went to war – he lied about his age – and fought in the jungles of the Philippines. The experience haunted him and turned him, in the main, into an angry man – an anger no doubt sourced in what would now be called post-traumatic-stress disorder and resulting depression. Anger and depression can be found in both sides of my family and depression has been linked to repressed rage.
There is a commonality to the human experience in that all of us have had ancestors who lived with fear; the difference I suspect is in the ability to handle fear. For some, like my great-grandmother, it is expressed outwardly as rage and for others, like my mother and her mother, it is expressed inwardly as depression.

Photo: Celebrating the end of the First World War in the city of Adelaide, south Australia. Jack Belchamber was probably amongst the crowd.

Jack Belchamber was much older than my father when he went to war but perhaps he was damaged all the same; how could one not be given the sheer level of horror which was trench warfare in Flanders.  He did not become an angry man, but he was, according to my mother, a man closed off to feelings. This was not the man of whom my great-aunt Maude spoke when I met her in England in the early seventies and then again in the mid-eighties …. the Jack she knew was a light-hearted young man; but that was the Jack who had not been to war and the Jack who returned for a three month visit nearly half a century after the war had ended.
Then again, his sober, serious, sensible side had no doubt been revealed when he joined the Boy Scouts. Or perhaps it was pragmatism – joining an organisation which offered some hope of advancement for an intelligent, but poor boy with limited opportunities for education.
The man my mother knew as father was a serious, severe man who joined the Independent Order of Rechabites, a benefit league for teetotallers originally founded in England in 1835. But the man his sister and family knew, staggered down the gangplank on his return visit to England in the late 1950’s. His teetotalling days had ended on the six week journey from Adelaide to London. We had all gone down to Port Adelaide to see him off on the ship; sent him home sober to his family and they were greeted by a drunk. Somehow I like to think that he was happier when he could once again have a drink.  I remembered my grandfather as a man who liked a glass or three of port but I never saw him drunk! Perhaps it took six weeks of boredom and freedom to achieve that.
We are formed by our experiences and there is no doubt that the man my grandfather was and as a result, the woman his daughter was, and who I am in turn, is linked back through the years to the experiences of our ancestors. My mother had a shandy – beer and lemonade- occasionally in the early years of marriage but for most of the time I knew her, was a teetotaller as her father had been for much of his life. She disapproved of my father drinking, which he did, often heavily, to such a degree that he kept his sherry in the shed and drank alone, as and when he could.
 I don’t remember my grandfather as a warm man; in fact I think I was frightened of him. He was not so much cold as distant but then he had been born to a father who had lost his father and his mother at the age of three and who had spent the four most formative of his years in the horror of the workhouse. And he had been born into a family which lived cheek by jowl with death. Not only that, but he had survived the horrors of the Somme and the Belgian trenches. Why would he risk feeling very much at all?
I don’t remember my mother talking much about her father, nor grieving terribly when he died. It was the death of her mother which haunted her. Hilda, she of the dark, sorrowful eyes who according to my mother spent most of her life in a state of depression …. as did my mother.
While there are no doubt genetic inheritances which help to make us who we are, I also believe there is something called ‘cellular memory’ and that is passed down through the generations as well. The feelings and experiences and memories of our ancestors make up this cellular memory.
My mother had generations of the most terrible poverty on the English side of her family as we know and probably similar levels of poverty on the German-Danish side. The Hasch-Kohlhagens did not emigrate for reasons of religious persecution so it must have been in the hope of a better life.
There is also evidence in the maternal line of emotional/psychological challenges. My mother suffered from crippling depression and anxiety for most of her life; her sister, Joyce Marina, eleven years her junior, also experienced a number of nervous breakdowns. Hilda Gertrude suffered from depression according to my mother and was often barely functional. My great-grandmother Sarah Ann had a terrifying temper, and given that depression is often sourced in suppressed rage it is reasonable to assume that all of them experienced disturbing amounts of frustration and rage, but merely ‘expressed’ it differently. My great-great-grandmother, Eliza Ann took an overdose of opium at the age of sixty-seven which is unlikely to be the act of someone who has led an emotionally and psychologically tranquil life. 

Photo: Hilda Gertrude Hasch(right) and her sister Lillian circa. 1915. The sadness in Hilda's eyes remains a constant.

I have had my own ‘battles’ with darkness although nothing like my mother or those who came before her. But then I was born into a different world, where psychological problems were not seen as shameful and where women, while still repressed, were not brutally subjugated in the way that they had been.
There is a sensitivity here and perhaps, in a world where women were not so subjugated and suppressed, my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother and beyond might have been seers, healers and magicians. Psychic energy denied turns into madness.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Princess of the Waters - Chapter Six

Photo: Royal Adelaide Hospital circa. 1900, where Eliza Ash Camplin died.

At the time of her suicide my great-great-grandmother was living with her son Thomas in Bridge Street, Kensington.  She was also sharing the house with Thomas’s de-facto, Mary Ann Guratovich who must be the ‘wife’ cryptically referred to in the police report, as the one with whom Eliza had not argued on the night of her suicide.
Mary Ann sounds like a formidable character. With one husband dead, another abandoned and the courage to take her children – somewhere between three or six of them, working on the ratio at the time of one child every two years, sometimes starting within months of a marriage – and to set up house with a man in 1900 and to ‘live in sin’ for twenty-five years until the death of her husband made it possible for them to marry, and one who trained and qualified as a nurse in her fifties, suggests a woman of character, independence, strength and determination. No wonder they quarrelled. However, it is the fact that they quarrelled which suggests Eliza may have had more in common with her ‘daughter-in-law’ than she thought. Not only do ‘opposites attract’ but we tend to react negatively to those who are most like us. Perhaps John Thomas, like so many men, had married his mother!
Can we find insight into Eliza’s character by knowing Mary Ann better? Perhaps.    She was the daughter of Isaac Horton, another synchronistic connection with the name of Isaac, an agricultural labourer, and Jane Orr and she had been born in Manchester in 1860. She arrived on the Art Union in 1864, one presumes, given her age, with her emigrating parents. In 1880 she married Robert Henry Foale, who died in 1891 probably in an accident, but certainly it seems, suddenly. The following year she married Matteo (Peter) Guratovich, a mariner of Port Adelaide who probably worked with Robert on the docks. Guratovich had been born in Ragusa, Dalmatia. Eight years later she was living in Bridge Street with John Thomas Camplin; no doubt with some, if not all of her children who would have been aged between nineteen and nine. It must have been a crowded house – no wonder Eliza was sitting on the back verandah.
She was also eight years older than John Thomas, something of a cradle snatcher, unusual for the times and this may well have been what annoyed Eliza most of all. Little ‘Tom’ had been taken in by a scheming older woman who was just looking for an ‘easy touch.’  Although, as it turned out, the relationship endured for more than forty years and appears to have been a loving one, but Eliza was not to know that.
According to the inquest report she had been living with her son for two weeks, having spent the previous fortnight in Royal Adelaide Hospital. If she had been admitted to hospital for such a long time and then needed to be with family then she was not well. Did she decide to end it all because of physical pain, emotional pain, or a combination of both?
 Perhaps the month itself stood in savage mockery of all that her life had come to be. Eliza had been admitted to hospital, a month earlier; a few days before her 46th wedding anniversary. She died in the same month that she had been married. But, on the other side of the world it was Spring, with Summer sighing in the wings, not Autumn whispering of Winter. From that second day of October, in far-away London, she had made her way through years of marriage and motherhood, to die estranged, probably disappointed in many of her children, and to all intents and purposes, alone. Her life began with high hopes and ended with no hopes, in the same month.
At the inquest Thomas said his mother had been sitting on the back verandah and had refused to take her tea, which at the time, is likely to have been what we now call dinner as opposed to a cup of tea. People ate earlier in those days, and in fact did so until well into the 1960’s at least amongst the working classes. Men arrived home about five and dinner was expected to be on the table. It would have been early evening when Eliza made her ever-so final choice, unless she had lingered, turning the bottle over in her hands, waiting for darkness to devour the world.
The verandah would have been more of a lean-to, added on later, probably stretching off from the kitchen.  There may have been a laundry at the other end with a wood-burning copper for washing sheets, actually boiling them, and a trough with a corrugated board against which clothes would be rubbed clean. There may also have been a mangle for wringing out the water before hanging on the line. I remember my mother in the early fifties boiling water in a gas-fired copper and scrubbing clothes on a board made of timber and corrugated glass. The troughs were made of cement and the mangle was bolted on one side with clothes rinsed in clean water and whites given a second rinse in water, turned blue through the slow, deliquescent dissolve of a square, dark blue tablet which was meant to brighten whites!
 Within sight would have been the backyard toilet, or ‘dunny’ as Australians came to call them – a narrow and upright rectangle box of timber or brick, within which was a hole dug into the ground, containing a metal can, covered by a wooden seat. The colloquial term for such outdoor loos was ‘thunderbox’ for all the reasons one can imagine. They were generally unlit and night-time visits were rare because of snakes and spiders, particularly the redback which loved to live in the ‘box’ where one sat, and bite intruders – more of a problem for men than women. The redback spider gives a nasty bite, which, until the 20th century, was often fatal so the ‘pot under the bed’ was a night-time ritual.
On the verandah, as there was still in the homes of so many of my country relatives and my grandparents, when I was a child, would have been a metal stand holding an enamel basin filled with cold, soapy water. Even in summer this water would be freezing. Or perhaps it just looked icy and the thought gave birth to the feeling. If it had been standing for days a brown scum would lace the edge of the water, dropping like blossoms when we dipped our hands in to wash them. A large bar of yellow soap would sit below on a narrow, circular, metal shelf and a towel would hang on a rail at the side. As often as not the towel would be grimy and ragged – country living encouraging little in the way of aesthetics. But hard work and social graces make uncomfortable bedfellows and such niceties would not become a part of family life until long after Eliza had gone to her eternal rest.
As Eliza sat outside, with her thoughts and her fears, Thomas and Mary Ann and a gaggle of children, would have been sitting inside eating their tea, in a small dining room as opposed to a table in the kitchen, the size of such rooms being generally small. Kitchens were very basic at the start of the 20th century. A typical kitchen had one sink with a cold water tap and a wood-heated or gas-fired cast iron stove and this is the sort of kitchen my grandparents had. Even in the early fifties the kitchens of the working classes were simple and we also had to keep our food cool in an ice chest; a cupboard with a tray at the top to hold a block of ice delivered every few days. The ice-man would take his enormous metal ‘tongs’ and grasp a huge block of ice from beneath the hessian covers on the back of his truck. The ice would be studded with bits of sacking and crumbs of dirt, which he would attempt to wipe off in perfunctory slide, with his large, leathery hands. It would be carried to the kitchen, dripping first on earth and stone path and then on the shiny, but worn linoleum floor, before being placed in the metal-lined compartment. It would have been little different in my great-great-grandmother’s day.
 If Eliza had taken her tea it probably would have been boiled potatoes or cabbage with roasted meat followed by rice pudding or tapioca or sago. This was the sort of food my mother cooked – English stodge, where the goal was to cook the living hell out of food to ensure that it was thoroughly ‘dead.’ It was certainly tasteless but it was all we knew. Why I and my siblings grew up to enjoy cooking and to love good food is hard to say although a food revolution rolled across Australia in the sixties, sweeping away the bland, boiled and baked horrors of our childhood and leaving in its wake a country which today possesses some of the best food and restaurants in the world.
 But for the Camplins such simple meals, supplemented with eggs and chickens and fresh vegetables and fruit from the garden, probably still boiled pretty much to death, was a diet they shared with most other Australians – at least those of Scottish, English and Irish descent. Breakfast was mostly porridge or toast and tea, the drink, was usually heavily sweetened, as it is still in much of the Third World today. There seems to be a rule that the poorer one is the more sugar one likes. But I can understand that in a way – if there is little ‘sweetness’ in life then, when you have the chance, take as much sweetness as you can. By 1900 the most popular condiments were tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce, which again, is hardly surprising given that when you boil and bake things to semi-extinction you need some way of returning taste to them.
But as in England the most reliable and nutritious food source, something which I believe contributed greatly to the general longevity of the Camplins, was the back garden. With no control over content or labelling it was not surprising that when foods were first tested in the early 1900’s they found coal tar in a raspberry drink and alcohol in lollies. This led to the Victorian Pure Food Act in 1905 which was the first law of its kind in the world –yet another first among many for the young nation.
 Eliza, by the time she died, would have known many of the things which Australians today would still recognise – Bushells Tea, Foster’s Lager, Arnott’s Biscuits and Rosella Jams. But she was not around to taste two great Australian food icons – lamingtons, the chocolate and coconut covered cake and Vegemite, the ubiquitous, black, salty yeast extract which Australians are first fed as babies and which everyone loves. It is an acquired taste however and one which needs to be developed young! For non-Australians it is probably the equivalent of being presented with ‘fried spiders’ or ‘soused caterpillars’ if you have not grown up on them.
No doubt food was the last thing on Eliza’s mind as she sat out the back, probably in a cane chair, the sort of outdoor furniture which was popular at the time, a small table by her side, on which the liniment would have stood. How long did she ponder it? Minutes or hours? Sitting there, what did she think, with the glass bottle in her withered hands and the evening sun washing the last gasps of light across the garden? In the embrace of that fading day, with the crisp call of birds settling in high trees, she made a decision which could not be unmade. And after those final, gulping swallows she called out: ‘Goodbye. Goodbye all.’
‘Have you been silly,’ said her son, as if asking if she wanted sugar in her tea. Her reply, he told the police later, was that she said she had drunk all the poison. The fact that he had left her with a bottle clearly marked, in two places, POISON, suggests he did not fear she would take her life. Or perhaps he did and it was a preferred option.
That may sound a strange thing to say but Thomas’s question sounds odd to me. ‘Have you been silly,’ he asks when his mother calls out, ‘Goodbye, Goodbye all.’ It is a rather simple and even odd thing to say after downing a bottle of poison. I mean, it just all sounds so normal. And then his response is equally queer. He thinks she has done something silly with the medicine, as in drink it, to kill herself. If he thought that why did he not rush to her side instead of asking what is in essence, a silly question? There is a stilted, scripted, convenient feel to the story which obviously has been told by Thomas to the police and the inquest.
Was she conscious when he found her, in that initial, brief, excited state which opium brings, even when it is mixed with soap and meant to be applied externally? Or had she slumped into the stupor from which she would not recover with closed eyes, contracted pupils, slow pulse and deep, stertorous breathing like endless snores? When he found her she would have looked drunk – for a Camplin, not a strange state at all. The sallow skin, she most likely had, given the look of her daughters of whom we do have some photographs and the police report of Ebenezer, of whom we have much in words and nothing in pictures, would be slightly flushed and she would still be warm, the coldness and pallor only appearing later, as she neared death.
Death in such cases usually follows within seven to twelve hours. Given that it was early evening and she was sitting outside in October, when it would be dark by about six, it sounds like Eliza lived for a lot longer than the average. It would be nearly midday the next day before she died – something like eighteen hours after the poison has slipped so easily and bitterly down her throat.
Toxic doses of opium paralyse the pneumogastrics and the heart, weakening the pulse which becomes more rapid. Large doses depress breathing and this is what usually causes death – centric respiratory paralysis. Perhaps the plus with dying from opium poisoning is that one is unconscious and therefore not aware of any physical discomfort.
Such attempts at suicide can be thwarted if treatment is quickly administered but Thomas and his wife, who had not that night argued with her mother-in-law, may not have known what to do. A teaspoon of mustard or tablespoon of salt in warm water should be put down the throat and cold water splashed on the face. Slapping the body vigorously and forcing the person to keep walking can also help. Her daughter-in-law may have been happy to help with this. Anything to keep them from surrendering to the sleep of death.
They called the doctor which proved to be yet another delay. How long it would take to get Eliza onto a cart or dray and into hospital is hard to say but the Camplins did have carts or drays and sold them as well; although that may have been a later development and on the night that Eliza chose to take her life, they had to find a friend or family member from whom to borrow the transport. It still would have taken a good hour or more to get into the city although one would have thought the shuddering and bumping of the cart might have kept her from the deep and deadly sleep.
 It was Friday, October 26, in the early evening and Eliza would not die until 11.30 the next morning in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  The doctors would have pumped her stomach but they probably knew that it was pointless – treatment after forty minutes from swallowing the poison being largely ineffectual. Her death was reported to the police and an inquest was held.
It is clear from the description of the ‘poison’ in the inquest report that what she had drunk contained opium or laudanum … a sedative with slightly stimulating effects, commonly used at the time for a variety of ailments including gastro-intestinal conditions and depression, or hysteria as it was more often known in the 19th century as well as for topical treatments.
The question is whether or not this bottle of opium-based liniment was the first exposure to the drug or whether there had been a close relationship between Eliza and the 19th century’s favourite ‘little helper’ laudanum.
Laudanum was used for the most and the least serious of conditions and it was also spoon-fed to infants. But it was easy to become addicted to opium and in fact many over-the-counter medications could be found to meet the need. More than anything it was used as a pain reliever… both physical and psychological. But it was also hallucinogenic and when used over long periods led to not just addiction but distorted thinking.
Whether or not Eliza had a long history of laudanum use, both for physical and emotional conditions, she had reached a point where life had simply become unbearable. But killing herself suggests that she was at a very low point indeed. Even more so given that from the sound of it what she drank was an anodyne treatment, or an opium and soap-based liniment designed to be used externally. 

What was going on in her mind, might be explained from some additional information. A Richard Holliday wrote to me:

I think I can fill in some details of where Eliza disappeared to. 
It seems to me that once her surviving daughters were married she was free to leave her violent husband and sons. 

She fled to Melbourne and on 24 Feb 1894 describing herself as a 58 year old housekeeper, widowed in 1890, with 6 children living and 2 dead, married 73 year old widower (a wealthy grazier) Richard Warren in Melbourne. She gave her parents as John Thomas Ash and Elizabeth Wilkins. Both gave their address as Barry Street, Northcote

This was only a month after her sister Sarah had posted the missing persons notice.

As we know, she made her way back to Adelaide at some point, taking her life in October 1900, having left Richard Warren, who died in 1904 in the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum. His death certificate does not mention Eliza. 

The report in the Adelaide Advertiser, three days later says:

The city coroner (Dr. W. Ramsay Smith) held an inquest on Monday morning at the Adelaide Hospital on the body of Eliza Camplin, who was admitted to that institution on Friday evening suffering from the effects of opium poisoning and who died the following morning.
Thomas Camplin, woodcarter, of Bridge Street, Kensington, identified the body as that of his late mother, who was about 68 years of age. Deceased had been living; with him for about a fortnight, and for two weeks prior to that had been in the Adelaide Hospital.
On Friday evening last she refused to take her tea, and afterwards she called out to them from the back verandah, "Good-bye, good-bye, all" Witness asked her whether she was silly, and she said she had drunk all the poison, and when asked what the poison was, told them it was the lotion which had been given for her complaint.
 He sent for Dr. Borthwick, who attended to her, and on the doctor's advice he conveyed deceased to the Adelaide Hospital. There had been no quarrel between his wife and deceased that evening.
William Frederick Hammer, dispensing chemist at the Adelaide Hospital, deposed to having dispensed the liniment to deceased on the prescription of Dr. Bickle. It consisted of 3 oz. of tincture of option and 3 oz. soap liniment. The bottle, which was similar to that produced, was labelled poison in two places.
 Dr. McDonald, resident medical officer at the Adelaide Hospital, stated that deceased was attended to promptly on her arrival at the hospital, and the usual treatment for opium-poisoning was resorted to, (pumping the stomach) but deceased succumbed at 11.30 o'clock on Saturday morning.
After further evidence the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict that deceased came to her death by administering to herself, with intent to kill, a dose of liniment containing opium.
PHOTO: 16 Bridge Street, Kensington where Eliza took poison, looks much the same today as it did then.
Then again, there is something oddly touching and simple, if not simple-minded about the words, ‘goodbye all, goodbye all,’ and I can only wonder yet again if Eliza had had a long history of laudanum addiction which had impaired her mental processes. Although, leaving her on the verandah with a lethal dose of poison if she had been depressed or addicted does not make sense, unless of course Thomas and the ‘wife with which she did not quarrel that night’ hoped it might be the temptation it proved to be.
If we give her son and his wife the benefit of the doubt, it suggests that Eliza did not have a problem with addiction, nor was she prone to depression or the sort of mental illness which might predispose one to suicide. However, instinct makes me lean toward the former theory if only because, even taking into account the language of the times, the ‘story’ of Eliza being left alone and then calling out, goodbye, goodbye all, only to have her son ask if she had been ‘silly’ seems a tad flimsy to me. And the mention that there was ‘no quarrel’ between her and her daughter-in-law that night, suggests a less than happy relationship between the two of them.
It is also significant that having been released from hospital and needing care, she goes to her son and his de-facto wife. Normally it was the daughters who carried the burden of caring for aged or ill parents. She could have gone to Mary Eliza, Louise Jane, Emily Edith or Sarah Ann!  Although Mary and Emily probably need to be left out of the equation because Mary was living in the mid-north of South Australia, hundreds of miles away, and Emily had not even mentioned her mother in the notice for her marriage to the Catholic James Dynon, so was not likely to take in a mother who had committed the sin of leaving her husband. But that still leaves Louise and Sarah and the fact that Eliza did not go to either of them suggests estrangement and that adds weight to the argument that it was Eliza who left Isaac and not the other way around. That in itself demonstrates a strength of character which none of her daughters may have wanted to live with anyway. Ebenezer’s wife had more than enough on her plate and may have simply refused to take on more Camplin complications.  William had wandered off and anyway, being unmarried may not have had a home which he could offer his mother, which left John Thomas and his ‘live-in lover.’
And there are clues to the fact that perhaps Mary Ann may not have been the easiest person to have around. Barely a week after marrying Guratovich, on March 18,1892 there is a cryptic clue that all was not well when the following appeared in the paper: MY WIFE (Mary Ann) having returned home  debts contracted by her will be recognised. MATTEO GURATOVICH, Alberton.
What we have here is what looks like an unpredictable spendthrift and given the problems Eliza had with her husband and own children, probably not a welcome addition to the family. Or perhaps Eliza disapproved of the de-facto relationship. There is a sense, because of the comment, that arguments between Eliza and her daughter-in-law were neither uncommon, nor unexpected. It also suggests a relationship of some duration.
John Thomas’s wife Sarah had died in 1896 and by 1900 Mary Ann is living with him which suggests, given the seeming ‘unhappiness’ of her marriage, she might have been ‘in situ’ for at least three years if not more.  If she had left her Croatian husband after one week of marriage she may have left again, for good, within a month or a year. She and Eliza may well have had seven years to decide they disliked each other and to argue.
Which raises the question as to whether Eliza willingly took the lethal dose or not! One could ponder the fact that she ‘refused to take her tea’ - perhaps because she feared being poisoned! There are some suspicious elements to the ‘report’ but clearly not suspicious enough for the coroner to consider.
 However, it is all conjecture and whatever the truth she was estranged from her husband, living alone it seems, disappointed in her sons no doubt, probably estranged from her newly converted Catholic daughter, if not all of her daughters, and certainly unwell, either physically or psychologically or both, or she would not have just spent two weeks in hospital. Whether it was suicide or murder, it was a blessed release.
One presumes given the hours between drinking the poison and death that Eliza’s children would have had time to see her and perhaps be at her bedside when she died. Sarah was living at Parkside which is barely two miles from the hospital in the city. Did she walk to her mother’s bedside? Probably.  Even if they had been estranged it would have been the ‘right’ thing to do. That is if she knew. There were few home telephones in those days and the distance between Kensington and Parkside was three miles but one presumes someone from the family would walk to Castle Street to tell her and that Sarah would then walk the mile and a half into the hospital. As it turned out there was plenty of time for any of her children who wished to be with her when she died, to do so except Mary Eliza who was living hundreds of miles away in the mid-north of South Australia.
The story of Eliza’s death was not one passed down as oral history. Such things would not be. It was re-discovered through ancestry research, as is often so much that is shocking, shameful or reprehensible about our ancestors. I am sure if my mother had heard the story she would have told it to me. One thing she always loved was a good gossip, especially about others and particularly when the information was of a negative kind.
And suicide was considered to be a shameful act until well into the 20th century. It is hard to know how many of Eliza’s children would have attended her funeral given the circumstances of her death. If they were estranged it is likely that Isaac was not there although perhaps he made the effort, emerging from his beer-soaked refuge to stand by the side of his wife’s grave.
There is no doubt that while Eliza may have finally found peace, there were troubles and torments aplenty for the remaining members of her family. Although in 1900 Isaac himself had only a few more years left to live. Did he go to the funeral? Who can say? I like to think that even if he was a serious drunk by this time that he made his way to the cemetery, standing in his shabby, unwashed clothes, perhaps to watch from a distance, as the body of his estranged and sad wife was laid deep in the dry, brown dirt.
It would have been a small funeral given her ‘crime’ of suicide and perhaps the only voices raised in song as she was lowered into the waiting earth, were those of the galahs and parakeets, screeching and gambolling in the nearby trees, as they do still today in so many Adelaide cemeteries.
She had been born in the shadow of one of England’s greatest estates, Woburn Abbey, and had died sad, and in many respects, alone, in a small city on the far distant side of the world. Her last farewell had been polite: ‘Goodbye, Goodbye All,’ as if she were setting out on a journey or a voyage to somewhere distant – which of course she was. It may have been a touch of the theatrical in her nature or it may have just been a simple courtesy as she said farewell before embarking on the longest journey and the greatest adventure of all – Death!
Whether after admitting to drinking the poison and before lapsing into a stupor she thought better of what she had done and said sorry, we can never know. But I doubt it. Upending a bottle of poisonous liniment is in its own strange way an act of courage and completion and after a lifetime of struggle, disappointment and probably pain, both physical and emotional, I like to think Eliza Ash Camplin was more than ready to take her leave and had no apologies for anyone.
For once she acted as her eldest son had so often done – she saw the ‘main chance’ and she took it, no matter the cost! I have been in a place where I understood why people killed themselves, but, having grown up with a mother who more than once descended to the depths of hell and returned, because, as she said, she might miss something – I knew that such tortured times always pass – and there is life beyond the hell of living.
Perhaps Eliza also knew that but no longer cared. As she neared her seventies, increasingly dependent upon perhaps resentful and unkind children, with no husband to support her, the future would have looked increasingly bleak. It is one thing to descend to the depths and know you can return during youth or even middle age, but at sixty-eight, for her times, Eliza would have been old and any future, no matter how positive a spin she could put on it, would have been hard, if not harsh, and limiting.
In the year that Eliza took her life there were 3.8million Australians and the country was in the grip of the worst recorded drought in the new nation’s ‘history’. It had spread with breathless heat and dust from its birth five years earlier and had three more years to run. The economic privation which arose from the drought no doubt played a part in some 1,500 Australians enlisting to fight in the Boer War in the following year, a year which Isaac would live to see, where Australia became a federation, the six separate colonies joining together as states to form the Commonwealth of Australia with Sir Edmund Barton, the nation’s first Prime Minister.
How much Eliza cared about what was happening or might happen in the world around her we cannot know,  but, there are times when death is preferable to life and for my great-great-grandmother, on that dimming October evening, sitting on the narrow back verandah of her son’s house, the realisation came, perhaps suddenly, that this was one of those times. Sadly, it would also be a place that one of her great-grandchildren would reach.
As a suicide and given the separation with Isaac, she is not likely to have been buried with family at Payneham, although neither was Isaac for that matter. There is no record of her name amongst the burial records for Payneham Cemetery, where some Camplins were laid to rest, and having taken her life it is highly possible she would have been denied burial in any consecrated ground. Since she died at Adelaide Hospital she most likely was buried at West Terrace Cemetery where they had a large area set aside for such ‘sinful deaths’ including stillborn babies, destined to spend their life in the next world in limbo. Although her name did appear on a headstone at the family plot at Payneham Cemetery some years later with an incorrect date of death which denied her a week more of life.
But someone, it seems, eventually forgave her or at least cared enough to add her name to the headstone some years later – perhaps when it was safe to do so. One likely candidate is her third daughter, Louise Jane Camplin Hodge who lived until her ninety-second year, dying two years after I was born in 1951. Hers was also death by accident and less tragic because of her age and perhaps the fact that there was an element of farce to it.
 Poor old Louise, who had left her Unley home to ‘go to town’ as one did as a special event in the times, was struck by a tram near the intersection of King William and Wakefield Streets, at about three o’clock in the afternoon. To add insult to injury it was December 24, 1951 – the day before Christmas. She was carried about 20ft from the point of impact and at the age of ninety-one, was not surprisingly dead by the time they got her to a ward at the Royal Adelaide Hospital which was literally around the corner.  Louise it seems was as deaf as a post and did not hear the tram coming with its warning sound of ‘ding-ding.’  A young friend was hit by a tram in Melbourne when I was living there in the 1970’s and he luckily survived, youth being on his side, to be forever after known as ‘ding-ding’ that being the last thing he said he heard. But Louise heard nothing and met her end with sudden indignity, leaving behind a lot of unwrapped presents and a bleak Christmas for her family.
But, given that Louise’s last surviving brother Thomas had died twelve years earlier and her last surviving sister, my great-grandmother, Sarah had died fourteen years earlier, Louise was the last surviving child of Isaac and Eliza and most likely to be the one who restored some measure of respect to her poor mother’s name.
Or is she? Perhaps it was Sarah, my feisty, strong-willed great-grandmother who didn’t care about the shame of her mother’s actions and who sought to return some semblance of respectability to her long-suffering mother. Or it could have been Ebenezer in a soft-hearted moment. His wife Alice is buried here and perhaps as he stood by her graveside he remembered his long-dead mother and decided to put things right. The date may have been wrong but it was the sentiment which was important. It probably does not matter who gave Eliza a carved name in death. Whoever did it we can be sure that Eliza would have been pleased.
And if she is at West Terrace Cemetery, despite no evidence from available records, she is, ironically, in death, back once more with Isaac. For what the available records do show is quite a few Camplins here, including the patriarch Isaac,76, along with their son John Thomas,70, who died in 1939 and his wife Mary Ann, 79, who died in 1940 and finally got her Tom ‘back’, as well as another son of Isaac and Eliza, the one who went missing, William Henry, 79, who died in 1942.  And buried with them are Ebenezer’s grandson, Ronald Arthur and his great-grand-daughter, Rosemary; stories of tragedy, accident and suicide.  Rosemary Ann Camplin died in 1944 at the age of one as the result of an accident and her father, Ronald Arthur, a butcher – one of the Camplin family trades, of Beulah Street, Norwood, was twenty-five when he shot himself in the head in 1948 leaving his wife to raise their four remaining children.
Ronald was the son of Ebenezer and Alice’s son, Thomas and his wife Ella. Thomas fought in the First World War and died in 1944 – the same year that his son Ronald lost his baby daughter. Like his great-grandmother, Ronald reached a point where death was preferable to life, and, like his grandfather Ebenezer, he had lost a child to a tragic accident. The newspaper report states he was ‘worried about housing’ and maybe he was; many of the Camplins were still living on the financial edge, but perhaps the truth was that he had never recovered from the death of his daughter, and that of his father, in one, ghastly year of grieving.
 And it was quite a year, because his remaining child, three year-old Leonard Ronald was admitted to the same hospital where his little sister had died, nine months earlier after drinking poison. They were ‘cleaning at the time’ said the report, and that is how the accident happened. A curious toddler and carless parents can be dangerous and little Leonard Ronald was a lot luckier than his baby sister. His condition was not however serious and he recovered. There is either carelessness, bad luck or something else at work with these Camplins to have two such accidents, one deadly, within months of each other. Ronald’s wife Alma must have been pregnant given that four years later, when Ronald commits suicide, she is left with four children.
There is also the possibility that Ronald may have played a part in his daughter’s death. Rosemary was badly scalded in an accident and died in the Adelaide Children’s Hospital on February 14, 1944.Was the alcohol and aggression factor at work in yet another Camplin? Ronald would kill himself close to that date just four years later – on February 25. Accidents, tragedy and suicide for another generation.
But, following the deaths of both Eliza and Isaac, for the remaining Camplins, life would muddle along in the same erratic and confused way that it had done while their parents were alive, demonstrating along with endurance, resilience and hard work a certain ‘oddness.’ And the ‘oddness’ is something which has been handed down in varying forms. Perhaps eccentricity is a more acceptable word but it means pretty much the same thing.
 In January of 1917 there appeared in The Advertiser Public Notices the following:

ANYONE found harbouring my ADOPTED SON,
WILLIAM THOMAS CAMPLIN, after this date will be PROSECUTED, as he left home without any cause, and he stutters very much.
T. CAMPLIN, 36, High-street. Kensington. 19/1/17.  
            It reads very much as if the young, stuttering William Thomas had good cause to leave his adoptive father’s home. This is the John Thomas, known as Thomas, with whom Eliza was living when she took poison and the William Thomas Camplin might be Mary Ann’s son by Robert Henry Foale but given that the children were born between 1880 and 1891 the age does not seem to fit. Another possibility is that Mary Ann was pregnant with Guratovich’s child when she moved in with John Thomas and he adopted the boy. This would have to be a birth around 1897 making him about twenty.
Although, the William and Thomas are very much Camplin names and he may also be an illegitimate son of Thomas’s brother William, who never married and who died in 1942 at The Salvation Army Eventide Home, Linden Park, Adelaide. But it is the mention of stuttering which makes me think either he was William’s son and of another possibility – that and the very Camplin names of William and Thomas, the latter being shared by John Thomas and his adopted son who stutters very much – the boy was the bastard son of John Thomas Camplin and Mary Ann Guratovich!
Stuttering was something from which my maternal uncle suffered as a child and that fact suggests a possible genetic link. My mother’s youngest brother Kenneth suffered badly from stuttering as a child and ‘cured’ himself of the condition as a young man through determined effort.  But whether the missing William Thomas was a Camplin or not, and whether he returned to the family home and his ‘adoptive’ father, remains a question without an answer.
John Thomas Camplin, commonly known as Tom, perhaps with the help of Mary Ann, became in later years relatively successful as a seller of drays and carriages. He had the hard work gene and unlike his older brother Ebenezer, seemed to leave behind the wild days and buckle down to sober living and respectability. Well, he was living ‘in sin’ but it seems he was otherwise respectable.
And even the feisty Mary Ann, or perhaps because of it, became a respected citizen, training, one presumes during the First World War, as a nurse and thereafter being referred to in various newspaper reports as Nurse Camplin. Then again, it was not until 1924 when they were finally able to marry that she could have called herself Mrs Camplin so using Nurse Camplin was a useful alternative.
In 1919 she is in the newspaper and in the wars with a report of a trap capsizing on February 3:
While Nurse Camplin, of High-street, Kensington, and her daughter, Mrs. Burns, And a baby were out driving the pony bolted along Margaret-street, and caused the vehicle to capsize, completely »mashing it. Nurse Camplin was thrown heavily to the ground, and sustained serious, injuries to her face. Mrs. Burns and the baby received only a few bruises. !
In that way of sloppy standards for journalists of the times, Mrs Burns is in fact Mrs Byrne as we know, having found a memorial notice in 1909 for Robert Henry Foale, from his only daughter Emily and her husband, Michael Byrne.
FOALE.-In memory of Robert Henry Foale, who died at Dale Street, Port Adelaide, on May 28, 1891.        
No matter how we pray, dear dad. No matter how we call,
 There is nothing left to answer, ' But your photo on the wall.
-Inserted by his only daughter and son-in-law, Emily and Michael Byrne.  
There was also a notice from his youngest son, Walter, who was not old enough to remember his father and who was probably the youngest in the family. In eleven years of marriage, given the habits of the times, there were probably three other children at least. It is not likely that the William Thomas with the stutter would have been one of them because why would John Thomas adopt one, and not the youngest one, when the other sons retained their father’s name? Michael Byrne’s sister married an H. Foale, as recorded in a notice for their father’s death – H no doubt for Henry.
Whether it is irony or synchrony there was more than one Camplin wife who had a dangerous relationship with traps and a tendency toward facial injury.  William Camplin, the son of Ebenezer and Alice, who had run away at the age of twelve obviously made his escape again at an older age and ended up in Port Pirie where his wife and daughters were involved in a spring cart accident in 1913.
It seems the horse, a ‘spirited animal’ took fright in Solomontown  and bolted into Ellen Street – some distance away – before it turned a corner sharply, overturning the cart as men tried to stop it.  As with Nurse Camplin, this Mrs Camplin suffered severe cuts to the face and shock although her children were only badly shaken. They were taken to Prest’s Department Store which was nearby and treated by the doctor. We lived in Port Pirie, near Solomontown, for four years in the early 1970’s and I shopped at Prests, and became friendly with the family, yet again, unaware of the connection; a connection which would re-appear with my maternal grandfather, Jack Belchamber, who was sent to work on a farm outside of Port Pirie when he emigrated to Australia in 1911 – just two years earlier. He and William Camplin may well have crossed paths in Port Pirie without knowing that within a few years they would become related through marriage –  William and his wife Hilda, being cousins. . William would live in Port Pirie for the remainder of his life and is buried in the Catholic Section of the town’s cemetery.
 Two years later Mrs Camplin was in the wars again when she was milking in the yard of her Warnertown home and a dog rushed in and frightened the cow which threw her to the ground and ‘trod on her face inflicting some ugly scars and bruises.’  Another accident and more facial injuries.
But, it is clear that the daughter-in-law with whom Eliza did not argue on the night she chose death went on to do good works as Nurse Camplin and that she had an enduring and loving relationship with her ‘Tom.’ She nursed him through his final, lingering illness and on the first anniversary placed a poignant notice in the newspaper:

CAMPLIN. —In loving memory of my loving! husband Thomas Camplin, died on the 30th of June. 1939. Today I am thinking of someone. Who to me was good and true. Whose smile was as sweet as the sunshine. Dear Tom. that someone Is you. —Inserted by his loving wife.

Within three weeks of putting the memorial notice in the newspaper, Mary Ann would join him. She died on July 21, 1940 at 16 High Street, Kensington, the home they had shared for many years. Whatever she may have been and whatever Eliza may have thought of her, Mary Ann Horton Foale Guratovich Camplin turned out to be the love of her son’s life.  A mother could wish no more.
There was less respectability for Ebenezer and his family. His son Thomas, known as Sonny, joined the Lighthorse in World War One and went on to be one of the more ‘colourful’ Camplins, perhaps coming second to his great-uncle William who copulated with an unconscious child prostitute.  Although for Thomas at least there is the excuse of war trauma and the relatively recent loss of his wife. In 1929 he is charged with exposing himself on a tram:

Thomas Camplin of King William Street, was charged with having exposed himself indecently on a tramcar on May 4 and with having given a false name to a tramway official on that occasion. He pleaded guilty, and asked for leniency.
He said, he had a few drinks in when the offence was committed, and he was sorry it had occurred. He was a widower with five children. He was ordered to pay £6 12/ in costs and 28 days were allowed in which to pay.

He was drunk of course, in that great Camplin tradition. His wife Ella Wallis had died three years earlier, leaving him with five children Jean, Ray, Ron (whose life would end tragically as would that of his baby daughter), Harold and Frank. A year after the tram incident, Thomas (Sonny) would lose his father. Ebenezer died at the home of his daughter. It is nice to think that despite his wildness he had a good enough relationship with at least some of his children to be cared for at the end.

CAMPLIN.—On the 9th December, at his daughter's residence (Mrs. Brown), No. 3. Sheldon Street. Norwood, Ebenezer Camplin, late of Kensington. Aged 75 years.

My great-grandmother and her brother Thomas were now on their own. William is also alive but it looks like he was no longer living in Adelaide, or at least saw little of his family. In 1930 Sarah had another seven years to live, Thomas had nine and William had twelve.
Apart from an ancestral ‘inheritance’ for hard work, drunkenness and aggression, it looks like there was one for resilience and strength because all three of the Camplin brothers lived to a decent age despite their excesses or perhaps because of them given that most of their sisters died relatively young, at least in comparison to their brothers. No doubt child-bearing and child-raising and 'husband-bearing' takes a greater toll than hard drinking and fighting does.
The ‘handing down’ of Isaac’s alcoholism and aggression to most of his sons and then to many of his grandsons, suggests that the inheritance was a strong one and perhaps exacerbated by the fact that Isaac married a woman who also had addictive tendencies. There is no doubt that alcohol and anger were two powerful forces at work in the Camplins.
And the genetic inheritance may have been magnified from the Ash-Wilkins side of the family about which we know little in any personal sense. The London Camplins, poor William aside, seemed relatively sober and hard-working although William and Isaac may not have been the only hard-drinkers in the family, just the only ones who got into trouble because of it.
Photo: Adelaide in the 1880's.
It may also be a question of how much more stable people were when they had an extended family to rely on for support. Eliza and Isaac were very much alone and given the drinking and the crime, albeit petty but crime all the same, one wonders how many friends they really had. They had both left their families far behind and from what we can see, there was little or no contact. If Eliza and Isaac were dysfunctional, through excess and addiction, their children would have been pretty much left to their own devices with no grandparents or aunts and uncles to whom they could turn. There is also a good chance, given the reports of brawling between brothers that their children were not particularly close. I may well have heard nothing about my mother’s Camplin ancestors because when Sarah married Johann she turned her back on all of them once and for all. In the same way that it seems her father had done with his family.
The lack of a supportive immediate family and an extended family to call upon would have encouraged certain levels of independence. But it would also have bred a tendency toward being a loner and perhaps lacking trust in family in general. The only way we learn that a family can be relied on is by experiencing that fact. From the look of it my great-grandmother could rely on neither her father nor her mother, or any of her brothers. How close the sisters were remains in question.
I am beginning to see why Sarah may have chosen a sober sort of man for a husband and why her daughter Hilda was drawn to a man who was a teetotaller. In that way of things however, my mother married a man who not only drank but who became nasty with it. There are patterns in families of that I have no doubt.
Sadly, for the Camplins they were often tragic ‘patterns.’ They drank, they fought, they lied, they stole and they endured. Although the crime factor did diminish, having reached a height with Isaac and Eliza’s children, and the last record of Camplin crime is in 1921 when Ida Camplin, of Bridge Street, Kensington, one of their grandchildren, is fined along with a ‘large number of girls and boys employed in the manufacture of confectionary at Walton’s factory in Grote Street’ for pocketing chocolates and sweets to take home. Of the forty-seven employees some thirty-one were dismissed but Ida got away with a fine because she confessed and no doubt, in that Camplin way, was a hard worker.
But beyond the petty crime and the alcohol and aggression there seemed to be a tendency toward accidents, particularly involving their children, suggesting some less than careful parenting, and perhaps related to alcohol and aggression. Little Rosemary Camplin was scalded and died; her three-year-old brother Leonard drank poison and luckily survived; In 1952 Rosalie Ann, the thirteen month old daughter of Harold and Shirley Camplin was strangled by the straps of her high chair after being left alone in the back garden; in the same year, David Camplin, 20 months old rolled ten feet down the stairs at a city theatre and luckily survived. Two other descendants of Isaac and Eliza died young – Alice and Lewis – perhaps by accident and of course, Ebenezer’s nine year old son, Ernest was crushed by the tight-wire stand.
Eliza took her own life and so did her great-grandson, Ronald.  Untimely death and violence dogged the Camplins for many years. One thing we do know is that whatever the source, nurture, nature or a combination of both, Sarah Camplin grew up to be a woman with a powder-keg temperament which could be suddenly ignited at great cost to others. There is no doubt, looking back and scrabbling together the dross and dregs of her parent’s lives that she had much about which to be angry.  And, as a woman she would not have had the same freedom to express that anger, as her brothers clearly did, through drinking and at times, fighting.
That level of repressed rage, passion, energy is the sort of thing which, in a woman can easily manifest as depression, neurosis or madness – and they did, in at least one of her daughters and two of her grand-daughters.
We ‘learn at the feet’ of our mothers more than we know and women in particular, unconsciously, will mimic and echo what their mothers have been or ‘decide’ to be completely other than that which their mother was. But there is no doubt, without conscious attention and resolution, the same ‘sins’ will be handed down from one generation to the next. Rage and addiction were the two ‘gifts’ offered in the Camplin inheritance – of that I have no doubt.
There is reason to be grateful that each generation participates, given good choices, in a genetic dilution process which means that not only do the ‘sins’ not have to be handed down, they can actually be bred out. I would argue that conscious attention to such inheritances can speed up that process. But consciousness, or common sense, or the capacity for self-awareness are also things which one finds in families to greater and lesser degrees and no doubt accounts for why those who are in the former category, have a greater ability to grow beyond the worst of what their family might have been in ways that others do not. 
If we should be grateful for anything it is the wisdom, albeit mostly unconscious, which our parents and ancestors have made in their choice of marriage partners for it is  this ‘kiss’ that decides whether or not we becomes ‘princesses and princes’ or ‘frogs.’