Friday, June 29, 2012

US Fires

Residents of Canberra, particularly those on the western edges of this city, fully understand the danger and disruption to lives being created by the current fires in Colorado and Utah.  With the dreadful 2003 Canberra fire still clear in our memories, our thoughts are with the people in western USA as they deal with their terrible firestorms.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Story of John Hornby - Part 5

Once John and his family were together again, life began anew in Zeehan. School for Grace. Mary minded young Meg and kept house. John went to the mine every day, where he worked underground chiselling tunnels into the rock face to retrieve the metallifeous ore. This was known as working on tribute.

 The girls grew older. Meg started school (where she was known as Maggie).

On 8 August 1897, John left Mary and the girls temporarily, to go to the Klondike goldrush in the Yukon River district (NW Territory of Canada, near the Alaskan border). His departure was described thus: "Mr John Hornby, for several years connected with Zeehan British Mine, has left Zeehan with a bad attack of British Columbia gold fever". While absent, on 30 December 1897, Zeehan endured a dreadful bushfire, which burnt close to Argent Tram (near the Hornby house). Luckily, Mary and the girls survived, as did the house. Many of the miner's houses were destroyed. Like the majority of prospectors that went to the Klondike, John found very little (only enough metal to have mounted into a broach). The conditions were very harsh and so he returned to Tasmania, where he resumed mining work in Zeehan sometime in 1898 or 1899.

On the 6th of June 1903, John's brother Thomas uplifted his family from Zeehan and relocated to South Africa, where their brother Joseph was now well established. Thomas had "occupied the position of engine driver at the Montana mine for the past 11 years".

Zeehan had an active industrial environment. In 1906, John was appointed to a working committee to help a Mr Lamerton represent a break-away movement from the Workers Political League. John was also active as a member of the Druids.

Mostly, John worked the hard life of extending tunnels in the mines. Periodic reports on the progress of miners involved in tunnelling made the press. Mr Hornby and party were occasionally mentioned.

In 1909, John and Mary had an addition to the family, a son, John Bainbridge Hornby.

On 12 October 1912, Australia's worst mining disaster occurred when a fire in the Mt Lyell mine caused the death of 42 miners. On 25 November 1912, the Tasmanian Government established a Royal Commission of enquiry. John Hornby was appointed as one of three miners and four ratepayers comprising the Commission.

The Commission was unable to identify the cause of the fire and returned an open verdict.
Daughter Grace moved to Melbourne to work as a milliner. Meg moved to Penguin to work as a bookeeper and, in 1920, married Herbert Rowland. They settled in Ulverstone. John and Mary lived in Zeehan until their son John was an adult and left home to become an electrical engineer.
In 1927, John and his brother Joseph were reunited when Joseph (Jos) and his wife Elizabeth visited Tasmania while holidaying. This event made local news.
Joseph and Elizabeth Hornby (left) with Mary and John Hornby (right) - 1927

In 1931, John retired and he and Mary relocated to a new house they had built in Shaw Street, Ulverstone. Unfortunately, within six months (on 19 October 1931), John died suddenly, a victim of silicosis at the age of 64. Mary survived him by many years, eventually passing away on 2 August 1950, aged 83.

So ends John Hornby's story. I've described Patrick McCarthy's arrival to Australia in 1804 - he was the earliest arrival of any of my ancestors. John and Mary are at the other extreme - being the most recent emigrants to Australia in my ancestry (1892 and 1894, respectively). John and Mary Hornby - my great grandparents.

Back to The Story of John Hornby - Part 1

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Story of John Best - Prequel to "The Road to Hollow Tree"

I've been researching one of my ancestors - John Best. 

Here's a little story starter to create a bit of hype amongst Best family and genealogists with Van Diemen's Land connections.

It was August 1817. Ireland. County West Meath. John Best, of Kinnegad, was tried at the Trim summer assizes.  He was found guilty of burglary and robbery.  He was given a life sentence.  He was to be transported to a penal settlement in New South Wales.

John was a married man with four young children.  In 1817, the family's standard of living had been deteriorating.  The wet summer of 1817 reduced income from their main cash crop (potatoes).  Rent was steep. Absentee landlords cared little about their tenants. Who knows? Maybe John was tempted to steal simply in order to make rental payment on his family cottage and land. Default on his rent would have meant eviction for his family, literally being ejected out onto the street. John may not have acted alone - a George White was also tried for burglary and robbery at the same hearing.  White appears to have lived close to John and there are tantalising suggestions that he might have been John's brother-in-law (or married to a close relative of John Best).

That John was caught suggests robbery was not something he was particularly good at!  The impact of his capture on his family is hard to know - were they evicted?  Did John's wife, Mary, and the children have to move into a relative's cottage to try and pick up their lives?

John was despatched to Van Diemen's Land on New Year's Day, 1818. On the 7th of June 1818, the convict transport 'Minerva' arrived in Hobart Town.  John was 35 years old, not a young man in those days. He may have thought he had lived out most of life by then.  Little did he know that the second half of his life in Van Diemen's Land was just about to begin.  Nor would he have been aware of what a ride he and his family were in for!

Read about John's story in "The Road to Hollow Tree".  It is a limited print, but a hard copy will be available at the National Library, the State Library of Tasmania (LINC Tasmania), the University of Tasmania Library and the Historical Information Centre, New Norfolk.

For my blog readers - I'm sorry but 'The Story of John Best' as it appeared on my blog has now (as of 19 December 2017) been removed.

If you have a family connection with the Best family (or the White, Bennett, Bell, McCarthy families etc.), I welcome you making contact with me via email.


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