Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jessie's story continued

The photo above, entitled ‘ Wirlong on the Murray’, was taken by Burnell and Cole in early February, 1862, and was number 22 in the series ‘Stereoscopic Views of the Murray River’. Another tiny, battered copy of this photo (next page) was passed down to Jessie McCallum’s descendants, and numbered left to right 1, 2, 3 and 4 with the following identifying remarks:1. Uncle Allan 2. Black boy 3. P. Beveridge 4. H. Bishop
In a clearer version of the photograph, it apparently becomes obvious that a further two people are in view- Allan Hughan is holding his young niece Ivy McCallum, and Jessie McCallum is standing shaded in the doorway leading on to the verandah.
The ‘black boy’ in question is young Wirlong, who was born on the ‘Youngera’ property c. 1843.
‘P.Beveridge’ is neighbour, Peter Beveridge, and ‘H.Bishop’ is my great-great grandfather, Henry Bishop, a recent arrival at Beveridge’s ‘Tyntynder Station’ to learn how to run a pastoral enterprise. Henry met Bertha Hughan whilst at ‘Tyntynder’, and in July of 1862 they became engaged, marrying in March 1865.Henry had just turned 21 years old at the time of the Burnell and Cole photograph, and Bertha was two years older (although she always adjusted her age to appear to have been born in 1841- the same as Henry- rather than the correct 1839!)
Allan Hughan, Jessie’s brother, had married music teacher Phoebe Berry Hall in 1859 whilst the McCallums were still in England. Their first child Ruth was born c. 1860 (her birth was apparently not registered), and then there was a period of five years before their second child arrived in 1865. Phoebe Hughan did not enjoy the best of health, and it is doubtful whether she lived at ‘Youngera’ during the period in which her husband was managing the property. She and daughter Ruth more likely resided in Melbourne, and were visited by Allan Hughan when he could take leave or station business necessitated a trip to Melbourne. Allan still had charge of ‘Youngera’ in 1866, but the birth certificate of daughter Marion in October of 1865 records him as a “Gentleman” of High Street, St. Kilda.

The residents of ‘Youngera’ homestead in the period 1861-1865 are thus revealed to be as follows: Jessie McCallum, aged in her early thirties; her three children Margaret, Gilbert and Ivy; her siblings Allan and Bertha Hughan, and various employees managed by Allan in his capacity as ‘superintendant’. Following paragraphs have been copied from government reports from the period 1865-66 which deal with the aboriginal populations of various large pastoral stations in Victoria, including ‘Youngera’ and ‘Tyntynder’.

“ Mr. Allan Hughan, when he resided at Youngera station, Swan Hill district, had charge of the Aborigines, and in September, 1866, he wrote as follows :—
‘I consider that the condition of the blacks here has very much improved during the past year. The young men continue most useful and faithful servants. I have not known of one instance of intoxication during the past nine months.
The habits of the young people, especially with regard to the young women, seem much improved. Most of them hunt and fish during the respective seasons when not otherwise engaged, i.e., in regular work.
I have observed some distress amongst the Aborigines when sick or disabled at other places. Many apply to me for " physic." Only to-day, when at an adjoining station, one fine old fellow pleaded sadly the want of medicine, wishing he was here. He was suffering from a severe cold. I wished he was well enough to come up here and receive some attention.
A few weeks since I had a poor blackfellow suffering from paralysis brought up here from a camp eight miles away. I had no hope of him, but I made him as comfortable as possible, and provided him with suitable food, soup, maizena, rice, &c, and I wrote to Melbourne for medical advice , but he gradually sank and died a fortnight since. With their usual care,
they burled him and his clothes, and erected a neat structure of bark over him. During his illness, it was most pleasing to observe the real kindly care exhibited to him by the other blacks, the more especially so as none were related to him.
The shearing season has now commenced, and many of the blacks are excellent shearers. I saw four engaged to-day, and soon hope to have a larger number shearing for myself. One of the four said to me to-day, " Please keep me a place in your shed, Mr. Hughan," which I willingly promised. I much fear that many of the blacks will, after shearing, follow only
too faithfully the example of other shearers ; but I will exert my utmost to deter those under my more immediate control from going to the public-house. On giving a £1 note to the chief this morning for cutting me some canoes and bark, he was much pleased and said : " By-and-bye mine buy em flour along (with) a this one, bael mine want em grog." This was
spontaneous and sincere.
Of the clothing last furnished I still possess a large share, owing to so many of the blacks working for me upon wages, which I induce them to spend in clothing rather than to reserve it for the publican.’ ”

“In July, 1866, Mr. Peter Beveridge reported upon the blacks at Swan Hill as follows:—
‘The state of the blacks this season is, I think, better than it usually is at this time of the year; this is, in a great measure, attributable to the good supply of clothing they have had during the last year, as ailments of a pulmonary nature seem to be what they are prone to, and good food and plenty of clothing is the best preventive of that insidious disease.
The mortality amongst the blacks during the past year has been seemingly large; but then it must be taken into consideration that all who have died during that time were either long-confirmed invalids or old men who had seen their three-score-and-ten. I think that altogether there may have been six or seven.’ ”

“In September, 1867, Mr. B. W. Grummow reported as follows upon the condition of the Aborigines at Swan Hill :—
‘The general condition of the Aborigines is better than for some years past, there being less disease and mortality.
The stores forwarded by the Central Board have been of a very excellent quality. The mode of distribution has been by requisition, giving the names of adults and children, but supplied only to those in whom I could place the confidence that they would be properly distributed without exactions.
The blacks at Swan Hill receive their rations on Monday, weekly, unless some sick ones arrive ; then according to their requirements. On the various stations the stores are forwarded and issued, I believe, with proper discretion, in quantities in proportion to their numbers.
They hunt native game extensively, and fish likewise, of which there is abundance continually. They indulge in intoxicating liquors to a fearful extent. They have been arrested and imprisoned, their supply of rations temporarily stopped, and the greatest displeasure
shown as to their misconduct.
In conclusion, with regard to their propensity for swallowing strong drinks, I think it is their chief vice, and I am disposed strongly to believe that the indulgence of the Central Board tends strongly to assist this evil. Blacks are very fond of tea, sugar, and tobacco, which we may class among the luxuries of their existence, but so long as they are supplied
with such articles they will not spend the money they earn otherwise than in strong drinks. Alluding to the money they earn, let me inform the Board that each able-bodied black could receive four or five shillings a day on this township for his fish or game. I have frequently offered, and been refused, to purchase ducks at one shilling each. No, they prefer the
publican's market, where they obtain adulterated spirits and spend the night to the annoyance of the neighborhood with their drunken orgies, the poor gins hiding their spears and waddies to avoid bloodshed, often having to seek the protection of my premises from their fury and madness.
Gins, with their heads cut by blows from waddies, fingers knocked off, are not infrequent, perhaps more since they are afraid of making known such brutality for fear perhaps of some worse calamity befalling them.
This unhappy state of things does not apply to every individual amongst them; there are some who would not touch spirits, but they suffer and are coerced. It is sometimes attended with danger to interfere with them, as their savage nature is then fully shown.
Police have done what they could, but they escaped over the river in their canoes and set them at defiance. Nothing will ever put a stop to this evil until Parliament pass a clause in the Publican's Act making it punishable to any individual supplying them with intoxicating drinks, in a summary way, to the extent of a £50 penalty or six months' imprisonment, and that the evidence of Aborigines should be considered as prima facie.
Under the present state of things it is worth the publican's while to risk conviction for the remuneration he obtains by selling adulterated and diluted spirits.
At the present time I am writing this, every able-bodied blackfellow is now engaged either washing sheep or shearing, for which they get the wages of a white man—the old men, the gins, and children getting rations from the squatters. The sums spent in drink are something considerable. As matters rest things will become worse.
Constables or magistrates will not incur the odium and revenge necessarily following an attempt to bring the parties offending to justice, where the penalty is so small.
Adequate imprisonment or fine should be inflicted, and that should be optional with the bench. Blankets and flour, I think, would form the best stores that could be sent. Soap is an article that I have reason to believe is disposed of and not used’ .”
Life at ‘Youngera’ in the early 1860s was seemingly idyllic for the young McCallum family and associated Hughans. Bertha was falling in love with Henry Bishop, who was a constant visitor from ‘Tyntynder’, and the three McCallum children were growing up strong and healthy in the Mallee country surrounding ‘Youngera’. The actual homestead at ‘Youngera’ was named ‘Wirlong’, presumably after their Aboriginal friend. Letters from Joseph Bishop, Henry’s uncle in Melbourne, mention visiting Bertha and the McCallums at ‘Wirlong’, and a letter to Bertha dated May 20, 1862, ends with:
“ I do hope you will write me particulars of the passing events at Wirlong.”
Joseph also mentions the social activities of Bertha and ‘Harry’, as Joe was wont to call his nephew: “ I notice how nicely you describe the amusements of Harry and yourself, viz- cribbage, ride, walk, fish etc- this is all very well and right he should indulge in such pastime occasionally but please young lady to bear in mind that I want and beg you will encourage all you possibly can his soon obtaining a thorough knowledge of sheep and their management- he has his living to get, his way to make in the world, beside which I may want him to be of use or render some service to this “nasty old buffer” who is sometime seized with the notion that he will require some such aid in his old days.”
Allan Hughan also resided at ‘Youngera’, and as previously mentioned his wife and daughter lived in St.Kilda during this period. Phoebe Hughan was a “professor of music” and piano teacher, and most likely earned a secondary income by teaching music in Melbourne. This separation for convenience probably explains why no more children were born to Allan and Phoebe between 1861 and 1865!
Jessie continued to manage her sheep station until October of 1865, at which time catastrophe struck the McCallums in a cruel and savage way that left her three children deprived of a mother and with a father ill and inaccessible on the other side of the world.
A newspaper of the time described the events that resulted in Jessie McCallum’s death at the age of only 31 years (although her death certificate stated that she was 30, Jessie was actually only two months off turning 32):
" Our Swan Hill correspondent sends us the following:- "Lower Murray. 3rd November- In Memoriam.- Mrs. Alexander McCallum died at her station (Youngera) on the 31st ultimo. Her illness was caused by her getting wet and neglecting to change her clothes, whilst visiting a lady neighbour. She left three children to lament her untimely end. It is sad enough when a person leaves this life who has not been of any general service in society; but when one like the said lady passes from amongst us, it is doubly so. She was one of the oldest residents on the Lower Murray, and was famous for her charity to the sick and poor bundlemen who travelled along the river. She was hospitality personified, and was esteemed by everyone. She were (sic) buried at Swan Hill yesterday, and her remains was followed to the grave by all the inhabitants of the township. All places of business were closed, and there were many ladies and gentlemen from distant stations in attendance, and it is questionable whether there ever was such an assemblage at any such interment before."
A newspaper article published in 1985 in the ‘Swan Hill Guardian’ newspaper tells a slightly different tale. Written by local historian Arthur Feldtmann, it stated:

“While the children were at school on October 9, 1865, Jessie McCallum went to the aid of a sick shepherd on the Lette Station in NSW. She swan her horse across the Murray River to attend him, remaining in her wet clothes for some time. As a result she contracted pneumonia and, although attended by Dr. Gummow, she died 12 days later at the age of 30 years. She is buried in the Swan Hill Cemetery where a marble tombstone is erected on her grave.”

Bertha Hughan had only been married for seven months when she lost her much-loved sister. It was she and Henry who found themselves helping to take care of Jessie’s children before they even had started a family of their own. Eldest McCallum child was Margaret, who had turned thirteen the month before her mother’s death. Only son Gilbert was 11, and the baby of the family, Ivy Jessie, was just seven.
Initially I had been told that Ivy went directly to her aunt Bertha’s to live, but recently it has been suggested that she spent some time after Jessie’s death with the neighbouring Beveridge family. Gilbert spent a period later with his uncle, Allan Hughan, in a boy’s own adventure trip sailing the west coast of Australia in Allan’s schooner, Pilot, diving for pearl shells, amongst other things.
Margaret, Gilbert and Ivy McCallum spent from 1865 until 1870 with the Bishops in Mount Rowan, near Ballarat, as their uncle, Henry Bishop, was a store keeper there. Two Bishop cousins were born in this period-Roland in 1866 and Olive in 1868.
By the time Bertha’s third child Guy had arrived in 1870, the Bishop family with Margaret and Ivy had moved to Trinity Cottage, Hotham (known these days as North Melbourne). By 1873, at the time of Margaret McCallum’s marriage, the family had moved to Victoria Parade, Fitzroy. With her sister married to a surgeon and moved away, 15 year old Ivy would have been like an older sister to her little cousins, who by 1874 numbered five, with two more to come.
Ivy remained with the Bishops until her own marriage in 1885 at the age of 27.
Alexander McCallum supposedly spent his last years in a convalescent home in England or Scotland, where he died in 1870. The fact is, however, that at the time of his death he was a patient in the Leavesden Asylum near Watford in Hertfordshire, one of about 1,600 patients who were considered by authorities to be “chronically and harmlessly insane”.
He certainly may have been in a convalescent home in the decade prior to this, as the Leavesden Asylum did not open until 1870. On the afternoon of 9 October, 1870, the Leavesden Asylum opened its doors to admit its first patients. The Metropolitan Asylums Board, which had been established by the government of Queen Victoria in 1867, spent £7,600 for 80 acres in Hertfordshire on which to build its hospital for “quiet and harmless imbeciles.” Over the course of its 125-year existence, the purview of the institution would expand to cover victims of lunacy, psychosis, and epilepsy.
Patients at Leavesden were segregated into male and female wards and watched over by a staff that numbered nearly 100 by the 1881 census.

Alexander McCallum appeared in the 1871 census as:
“Alexander McCallan, patient, 64 years, not at present occupied, not known where born, and of unsound mind.” All twenty five patients on Alexander’s census page were of ‘unknown’ birth and ‘unsound mind’.
Various articles online refer to Leavesden as being an asylum for paupers. Certainly, the assets referred to in Alexander McCallum’s will of 1856, including ‘Youngera Station’, were not in his possession by the time of his death in May of 1871.Alfred S. Kenyon’s book “the Story Of The Mallee” states:
“ Youngera- A. Mccallum occupied ‘Yangorah’ in September of 1846, and obtained a licence. ‘Youngera’ was the spelling in 1848. No change in ownership occurred until the Oriental bank acquired the run in1870.”
At the time of their father’s death, the McCallum children were aged 18, 16 and 12. I had wondered if they had ever seen their father again after farewelling him in England in 1861- the circumstances of his death suggest contact was limited, if any.

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