Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Laundress

As Elizabeth hung another shirt on the line she contemplated her life and that of her daughters.  It was no arguing that it was tough and she cursed her husband who had put her on this path.  Life in Shepton Mallet hadn’t quite turned out like she thought it would.  

After marrying her childhood sweetheart and having the four girls life was grand, yes it was tough and work was hard to find in the country for a builder but she still envisaged a peaceful life with Charles, a cottage and perhaps a bit of land.   The girls could go to school and hopefully marry a good man too.  

When work got even harder to find they had hatched a plan. After seeing the advertisements in the paper asking for builders under the Bounty Scheme they decided to apply, it seemed like an answer from heaven.

Charles left in 1841 for Van Diemen’s Land, the plan had been for him to go ahead and once settled she and the girls would follow.  She made excuses for him when the money and letters stopped a year later and resigned herself to the fact that he was dead.  In 1852 her sister in laws husband was sent out for life and wrote that he had run across Charles, with one of his sons. 


With one daughter dead, Elizabeth felt trapped, trapped in a cycle of hard work, poverty and illness all at the hand of that heartless bastard.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Miner

Charles sat out the front of his dusty tent, bone weary from another day digging and no gold. His son sat across from him and he wondered if he had done the right thing to bring him over to Bendigo away from his mother and home.

Ah home, thought Charles fondly.  He was homesick so he couldn’t begin to imagine how the boy felt.  Oatlands might not be anything flash but it was better than this godforsaken place.  What he wouldn’t do to be sitting in front of the fire with Betsy.  God, even her rabbit stew would taste good compared to the mouldy damper he’d just had.  He chuckled at the thought of this, things must be bad if he was remembering that stew fondly.  Betsy was the best wife a man could want, but as for cooking, he didn’t like to speak badly of his wife, but she wasn’t the best in the kitchen!

He closed his eyes to wander down the main street of Oatlands, to his cottage at the north end of the street then south past the mill to his friend George’s shop where they spent many hours discussing the town and beyond.


Dammit, he thought, why am I here working my guts out for nothing and getting into more debt borrowing money for Betsy to live on when I could just go home and work. And with that thought his mind was made up, it was time for him and the boy to head home.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Proposal

Elizabeth sat wringing her hands, quite obviously feeling stressed. 

“Bessie my love, it is quite simple, I love you and you love me.  Who is to say that is wrong” Charles said pleadingly.

“But Charles, we are both already married!” Elizabeth cried, before bursting into tears again.  “Just because my William ran off and your Elizabeth is still in England, doesn’t make it so we can just start afresh!”

“Ah, but that is where you are wrong, I’ve been out here seven years now and your William well, he’s dead for all we know so you are a widow and I’m a bachelor.” 

Charles now had Elizabeth’s attention.  “What is this seven year thing Charles?”

“Well, Bessie I heard talk of it when I was living down south, near Hobart.  Folk who have been out here, not voluntarily, you might say;  after seven years and with no hope of going back home can find a new wife and get on with their life.  Why should we honest folk be any different Bessie?” 
Charles went on, knowing he was near to convincing her, “I love you Bessie and want to be with you; that can only be a good thing.  As for Elizabeth, she has the girls and family back in Bruton and she probably has herself a new husband by now too!”


Elizabeth rose from her chair and moved to Charles, he embraced her tenderly “I love you too Charles and yes, you are right, we should be able to move on with our lives too.”

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Orphanage

Bill Smith tried to ignore his gut as he knocked on the front door at the orphanage.   He told himself he was doing the right thing, the brat wasn’t his and if that whore Mary was going to keep running off why should he be left with the kid. 
The door was opened by a large and imposing woman.  She wore a brown calico dress with a coarse and grubby apron over the top.  The apron looked as though your hand would stick to it if you touched it.  Bill took a step back from the woman, a bit surprised by her appearance.  She jangled as she moved and his eyes wandered down to the large black ring holding a variety of keys, nestled at her enormous waist. 
“Ahhh, s’cuse me Missus, but I come with me convict’s kid; Charles, his mum is Mary Neale.”  The matron’s eyes took in the little blonde boy at his side, no more than three years old and dirtier and scruffier than her current wards, if that was even possible.  She moved aside and let Bill and Charles in the door, without uttering a word.

As Bill’s eyes adjusted to the dark of the room he realised that his gut was trying to speak to him.  He knew this was not a good decision but he fought the feeling as he listened to the matron make her spiel and he signed the paperwork with his mark.  The last thing he noticed was the silence, not a sound to be heard, and this struck him as strange for a home apparently busting at the gills with children.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Bounty Immigrant

Charles picked up his pen to write to his wife.  It had been a year since he had come to Van Diemen’s Land as a bounty immigrant.  His skill as a carpenter was not put to good use.  Mr Ritchie had him pulling weeds most days and by the end of two months he had had enough.

 Looking back Charles realised he probably shouldn’t have gotten in with the two ex cons he met in Perth, but a night on the drink wasn’t going to kill anyone.  It did however see him being charged for larceny and sent down to New Town Bay; building roads made weed pulling feel like child’s play.

Now to tell Elizabeth why he had no money to send her or to pay for her and the girls to come out and join him.  The thought had crossed his mind that he could just stop writing altogether and let her and the girls think him dead.  She had family and friends, she wouldn’t be any worse off than she is now.  She could even find a new husband after a time.  In fact he could find himself a new wife and start again once he was away from this blasted chain gang. 


He just needed to put his head down, keep out of trouble and bide his time until he was  free again.  Charles put down his pen and walked away from the table.  Elizabeth would be better off at home than out here anyway.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The small things

This piece of jewellery was handed down to me from my great grandmother, via my grandmother.  My mother tells me that for many years as a child and teenager she asked to have it but was always denied it.  In turn, from when I was a toddler my grandmother tried to give it to me.  My mother always felt a little crabby that she was never the “keeper of the charm”.[1] It is a teddy bear charm, made in the silver repousse style with articulated arms and legs.  
It measures approx. 2.5x1cm considerably larger than modern charms that are usually around 1cm in size, or a circular bead style like the Pandora charm.

 

 
Figure 1. Kelli Schultz, Repousse style teddy bear charm front, 2017, digital image.
Figure 2. Kelli Schultz, Repousse style teddy bear charm back, 2017, digital image.

It is not known if my great grandmother was gifted the charm or whether she bought it herself, it may well have been handed down to her from her mother.  Alice Maude Thynne, nee Bracken lived all her life in Launceston so it would have been likely that it was purchased in Launceston.  Neither the Brackens nor the Thynnes were wealthy families and it is the only piece of its kind to have been passed down through generations.  Alice was born in 1872[2] and died in 1936[3]; so she grew up during the latter part of the Victorian Period when charm bracelets were all the rage, especially repousse and articulated style charms.  Perhaps she was given a bracelet at her christening or first birthday.  There is no way of knowing how or when she received the charm and we only have the word of my late grandmother, Mary Kathleen Thynne that it did indeed come from Alice in the first place.


Although charms have been used for thousands of years in conjunction with superstitious beliefs; and were commonly found in ancient Egyptian tombs and thought to be used by the early Romans to ward off evil[4]; their modern revival as part of a decorative bracelet rather than a superstitious belief could be said to have started with Queen Victoria in the mid 19th century.  Albert gave her a bracelet with a heart shaped charm engraved with the birth year of their first child.  He repeated this practice after the birth of each child. Victoria is said to have loved wearing, designing and gifting jewellery; in particular, charm bracelets.[5] 
The Victorian period of jewellery fashion is often divided into the Romantic Era (1837-60) and the Grand Era (1861-1901); the latter was Victoria’s mourning period after Albert’s death until her own death in 1901.[6]  Repousse jewellery became very popular toward the end of the romantic era.  Repousse translates literally as “pushed out” and was commonly made with sheets of silver cut into shape with patterns pressed into them using a variety of metal or wooden tools. As the process sometimes stretched the metal care had to be taken not to distort the shape of the original design, this was done by folding edges over on themselves, and can be seen in a side view of the bear.[7]


Figure 5. Kelli Schultz, Side view of repousse bear charm, 2017, digital image.
Repousse patterns were usually a floral design, presented as light and feminine. A popular style of charm at the time was also the articulated charm, with moveable parts.  This was seen in bears such as mine and cancan dancers with moveable legs.[8] 
Although the Grand era, was a mourning period for Queen Victoria, meaning that she wore only black clothing and black jewellery it was actually a period of rising popularity in repousse pieces for the rest of society.  Historians attribute this to the general public wanting a “reminder of happier times”.[9]
When searching online for this charm I came across a few second hand dealers selling the same piece and it appears to be highly collectable and somewhat rare; fetching quite a good price. This is indicative of the popularity of charms in modern society[10].  Although styles have now evolved to the more common “Pandora” style charm, which became popular in the mid 1980’s[11], the older style charm is still available to buy and collectors are still sourcing Victorian and Edwardian era designs.[12]
For me personally, the value is purely sentimental. My grandmother was already 63 when I was born and died when I was 21, for most of that time she was affected by dementia.  I was fortunate to have spent quite a bit of my early childhood with her and value that time immensely.  This small piece of silver is a connection directly from her to me.  I think she placed great value on this charm and the fact that she was adamant that I be given it out of all her children and grand children honours me greatly. I feel blessed to have this piece of silver, regardless of its dollar value.




[1] Genevieve Schultz, interview by Kelli Schultz, written record, Bicheno, 14 April 2017, in author’s possession.  
[2] Birth registration of Alice Maud Bracken 20 July 1872, Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office,  RGD 3/1/50 no.987
[3] Examiner, 31 Jan 1936, p1 (Alice Maude Thynne)
[4] The Charm Works, The History of Charms and Charm Bracelets: A Short Introduction by David Clark, https://www.thecharmworks.com/HistoryofCharms, accessed 29 April 2017
[5] Collectors Weekly, Charms and Charm Bracelets, http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/charms , accessed 29 April 2017
[6] Periods of Jewellery History – Victorian Era: 1837-1901, https://www.kalmarantiques.com.au/articles/periods-of-jewellery-history-victorian-era-1837-1901/, accessed 29 April 2017
[7] Ganoksin: Jewellery making resources, https://www.ganoksin.com/article/goldsmithing-repousse-chasing/, accessed 29 April 2017
[8] Collectors Weekly, Charm and Charm Bracelets.
[9] Hesse, Rayner W, Jewelry Making Through History: An Encyclopedia, Westport, Greeenwood Press, 2007,  p.192-3
[10] A History of Charms and Charm Bracelets, http://www.mymotherscharms.com/history.htm, accessed 30 April 2017