Mary’s Story


Losing the cottage for the first time

With no mother or father – or, indeed, brother – there were many things to adjust to in that period. It came to light that mother had mistakenly sold the cottage and acreage to my half-brother, Louis, for ten pounds. Father had left it to the children of his second marriage. As I was the only child left, it was rightfully mine.

Fortunately Uncle John had been executor of August’s will while residing in Melbourne and he was keen to get the will rectified.

It was such an exciting voyage. In Antwerp we saw a moving picture and ate the finest ice-cream sandwich.

We docked at Southampton, England on 13th July and passed the Isle of Wight where it was very foggy. It was very pretty around the Spanish coast and I saw whales.

On 20th July we saw bell ringers at Genoa, Italy. From there we sailed to Naples and saw a burning mountain (Mt Etna)

We stopped at Port Said, Egypt, for 9 hours and from there sailed through the Suez Canal and arrived at Suez July 26th. I was roasting hot sailing on the Red Sea for 3 days arriving at Aden, Yemen to a terrible sandstorm.

My diary entries tell of this exciting journey…
July 10th – “Arrived at Antwerp, Belguim 5:30pm Moving Picture in evening”
July 11th – “Museum at Antwerp – great Holiday 30th Anniv. Ate finest ice cream sandwich”
July 13th – “Arrived at Southhampton, England 2pm passed the Isle of Wight very foggy”
July 18th – “Very calm – beautiful day, saw whales, very foggy at midnight – Mediterranean Sea”
July 19th – “Ship stopped half hour because of fog until 7AM. Beautiful in afternoon Saw whales, saw smoking mountain – Arrived at Genoa, Italy.”
July 21st – “Arrived Naples Saw burning mountain.”
July 22nd – “Left Naples 7:30AM. Saw burning mountain”
July 23rd – “Went thru Straight of Messina in the evening, saw the ruins between 7-8pm Passed burning mountain.”(Mt Etna)
July 28th – “Red sea – roasting hot”
July 29th – “Red sea – melting hot”
July 30th – “Red sea. Arrived at Aden, Yemem 3pm left 5pm terrible sandstorm in Gulf of Aden”

During the voyage there were rough seas. My diary entry on 2nd August reads “Indian ocean – extra high waves – Narrow escape from drowning. Playing cards washed nearly overboard… There was a death on board from falling down stairs.”

We arrived in Melbourne on 23rd August and set to our business. There were two properties to claim: the cottage on 5 1/2 acres in Mitcham and the Northcote property, where my father had bought acreage and established a market garden soon after arriving in 1849.

We stayed with my half-sisters: Minnie in Prahran and Cissie (and Louis) in Nunawading. The family in Prahran included nephews, Charles and William, and a niece, Clara. While staying with them Clara became very ill and was taken to hospital. She died suddenly of peritonitis at age fifteen. Charles was seventeen and William was fourteen. I corresponded regularly with my nephew Charles throughout my life.

I had lost my brother, John, at a similar age. I felt particular sympathy for the boys at losing their sister, Clara, so suddenly and so young. Looking back, it was more common then than it is today, but still an awful load to bear.

While in Nunawading we stayed with Cissie and her family. Cissie was my older half-sister from my mother’s first marriage. She had married Louis in 1890 and they had five children together. Of their children, I was closest to the eldest, Louisa. She was three years younger than me, but married before me in 1910.

With the titles to the cottage and the Northcote property claimed, all was settled. My uncle was anxious to return to America to be with his three married children and 14 grandchildren for Christmas. He boarded a ship and returned to the U.S. without me, arriving Christmas Eve. I decided to wait another three months for the Seydlitz to sail from Melbourne because I was attracted to Emil, the ship steward, and I wanted to get to know him better. I boarded the Seydlitz with a sulphur-crested cockatoo. “Cocky” lived until April 1946.