Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The trip back to England, 1858-1861.

The McCallum party, including newborn Ivy Jessie and her aunt, Bertha Hughan, arrived in England in July of 1858. Whilst overseas, the McCallums and Bertha travelled throughout England, France and Scotland, presumably visiting family and friends as well as taking in the sights. Bertha bought back beautiful crystal scent bottles embellished with ormolu filigree and decorated with eglomised Grand Tour miniature portraits of Paris. They were passed down to me by way of her eldest daughter Olive and then to Olive’s granddaughter Margaret Oakley, my mother.
No family stories have passed down as to what exactly the McCallums and Bertha did during their 2 1/2 years away, beyond "visiting family and friends".Alexander McCallum's health had not been the best, and when it came time to leave and sail back to Australia, he chose not to accompany his family and remained in England.
There was obviously more behind the story than just Alexander's ill health...it was quite amazing that Jessie returned to Australia with three young children to continue to run Youngera alone, with the assistance of her brothers Allan and to a much lesser extent Fergus.One would have thought that the logical thing to do would have been to sell Youngera and for the McCallums to remain united as a family in England.For Jessie and the children to travel back to Victoria and never see Alexander again was extreme to say the least.
I may have an extremely good imagination, but I have always wondered about the relationship between Jessie Hughan and her neighbour Peter Beveridge from Tyntynder Station.His relationship with Jessie McCallum is certainly an interesting one. There was only four years age difference between them,as opposed to the 30 years between Jessie and her husband, and they perhaps would have had a great deal more in common than Jessie and Alexander. Jessie was still in her teens when they first met, and Peter was only 21 years old. There are several photographs of Peter Beveridge in collections belonging to Bertha Hughan- in fact, before I had seen a photo of Peter Beveridge I had assumed that the man who faced Jessie McCallum on opposing pages in Bertha’s album from the 1860s was her husband, Alexander.I think it is telling that as far as we know, there are no photographs of Alexander McCallum at all in any of the Hughan family albums. There was also a large portrait in a gilded oval frame of Peter Beveridge, which came to me through the family of Bertha Hughan's daughter Olive Bishop.
At the very least there was a very strong friendship between Jessie and Peter, and he visited Youngera often when she and Bertha returned to Youngera from England.He was visiting Youngera in 1862 when a wonderful photograph- the circumstances of which is explained in the following paragraph- was taken.
Two photographers in 1862 decided to take a voyage down the Murray River from Echuca to Adelaide, photographing everything from Murray River scenery to homesteads and their occupants. George Burnell and Edward William Cole ventured forth on January 1, 1862, and we are fortunate that along the way they stopped at McCallum’s ‘Youngera Station’ and captured a wonderful moment in time.
The photo, featured above in a very poor photocopy, is called 'Wirlong, Murray River' and features six people standing outside the McCallum's homestead, which was named Wirlong. Wirlong himself is in the photo- a young aboriginal man who was born on the land encompassed by Youngera Station.In the foreground is Henry Bishop, a 20 year old Englishman not long arrived in the Colonies. He had been staying at neighbouring Tyntynder Station with Peter Beveridge, who is standing next to him. Allan Hughan, Jessie's brother who helped manage Youngera in her husband's absence, is the last major figure in the photo, holding his 3 year old niece Ivy McCallum. Barely seen, standing in the doorway in the shade of the deep verandah, is Jessie McCallum.Bertha most likely would have also been staying at Wirlong, but there is no sign of her or the two eldest McCallum children, Margaret and Gilbert.
If my frivolous imaginings can ramble on for a little longer...convention would have made it so difficult for Jessie and Peter if there was more than friendship felt between them. Peter did not marry until late in life, long after Jessie's death, and Jessie was separated from her husband and living in relative isolation at the age of 29 or 30. Alexander McCallum was not dead nor were they divorced, so Jessie would not have been free to legally pursue a relationship with any man. The strict Scots Presbyterian faith of the Hughans, McCallums and Beveridges would also have served to keep any 'wayward' affections in check.
While this sadly romantic scenario has been conjured by me in a "What if??" train of thought, another relationship was developing at Youngera in the early 1860s that in no way is a figment of my imagination.
Henry Bishop was born on January 22, 1841, at Stamford in Lincolnshire, the elder of two sons born to William Bishop, a glazier and plumber, and Eliza Gilbert, his wife.The family lived for many years in St. Pauls Street, Stamford, where Henry and his brother Charles, who was five years younger, attended a nearby school.Charles died in August of 1854, when Henry was 13. He had just started his education at Bambury College(a college of Oxford University) when, in September of 1859, his father died at the age of 50.
With the breadwinner of the family gone, Henry's studies were called to a halt and he returned to his mother in Stamford to decide on his future.His life line came in the form of an uncle, Joseph Bishop, the eldest brother of his father who had emigrated to Australia with his wife Mary Ann in 1854 per the ship 'South Carolina'.
Joseph was a very wealthy hardware merchant, and he and his wife Mary Ann, who was also his first cousin, were childless. It was arranged for Henry Bishop to come to Melbourne and work for Joseph, who had been widowed in 1858.
Henry Bishop arrived in Melbourne per the ship 'Orwell' on May 4,1861.The McCallums had arrived back in Melbourne per the Themis in January of the same year.Henry, aged 20, settled in with his uncle at 37 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, and joined him at work in his hardware business.
I have a letter written by Joseph Bishop on December 19, 1861, to Jessie McCallum at Youngera, and it reads as follows:
37 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.
December 19, 1861.
My dear Mrs. McCallum,
Pray accept my warmest best thanks for the hearty manner your kind invitation is given for Henry and myself to visit you. I am not so certain about my trip to England- therefore am doubtful whether I do "leave my boy" should I be fortunate enough to get off.
I shall feel quite happy and comfortable as to the care and watchfulness that you, my dear Mrs. McCallum and Bertha and Allan will bestow upon him- bless the dear boy, how sincerely I hope he will be pleased with the change.Will write you a longer note- my correspondence today is like your mailman calling All aboard- time is up. bye bye From Yours Ever,
Joseph Bishop."
I don't know if this invitation was ever taken up by either Henry or Joseph, but Henry certainly made his way to Swan Hill in 1861-62, because he stayed for a long period with the Beveridge brothers at Tyntynder Station, learning how to become a gentleman sheep farmer.
Here on the Murray River Henry met Bertha Hughan, and many years later Henry would tell his grandsons how at the very moment that he set his sights on the blue-eyed Bertha he swore "That's her...that's my wife!"
The young couple spent a great deal of time together, which prompted Joseph to write to Bertha in May of 1862. This letter is fascinating, and I will reproduce it in the following blog.

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