Monday, 27 October 2014

Madness Monday - Magdalene Asylums

Asylum - late middle english (in the sense of 'place of refuge', especially for criminals): via Latin from Greek asulon 'refuge', from asulos 'inviolable', from a-'without' + sulon 'right of seizure'. Current senses date from the 18th century (Oxford Dictionary).
The obvious asylums are those for the mentally ill, the large institutions we have all heard about, e.g. Bethlem (Bedlam) Hospital in London. But those are for another day. Today I am going to write about the Magdalene Asylums.
Magdalene Asylums, you say, what are they? Well, read on and I will try to paint a picture for you.
Magdalene asylums, also known as Magdalene laundries, where institutions from the 18th to the late 20th centuries ostensibly to house 'fallen women', a term used to imply female sexual promiscuity or work in prostitution. The institutions were named after the Biblical character Mary Magdalene, in earlier centuries characterised as a reformed prostitute. (Wikipedia)
Magdalene Asylum, Cork Ireland

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Faces from the past Friday - the last cousin

Well, here is the story of the final cousin, Guy Sydney Connor, who perished in the Great War. Guy was my second cousin once removed.

Guy Sydney Connor was born in Manly (a suburb of Sydney), New South Wales in 1897 to Angus Connor &  Christina Charlotte Simpkins. Guy was the youngest son of seven children, five girls and two boys. Angus Connor died on 12th August 1905.

Guy enlisted on the 4th September 1916 with the occupation of Shop Assistant. On enlistment the following was recorded: Age 21 years 10 months; Height 5' 10"; Weight 150 lbs; Chest 36 - 38 inches; Complexion Fresh; Eyes Blue; Hair Light Brown; Religion Church of England; he had no distinguishing marks. So this is how we can form a mental picture of Guy.

He was posted to the 1st ANZAC Battalion, No. 2 Company Imperial Camel Brigade. Guy embarked at Sydney per A7 "Medic" on 9 December 1916 and embarked at Melbourne per A44 "Vestalia"on 12 December 1916. He was taken on strength at Abbassia (Cairo, Egypt) on 24 February 1917.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

Faces from the Past Friday - Harry Surman Connor

Today it is the turn of the fourth cousin, Henry (Harry) Surman Connor (my second cousin 1x removed).

Henry Surman Connor was born on 31 January 1898 in Lismore, New South Wales. Harry was the third son of Dr Francis (Frank) Gillies Connor and Jane Surman and one of four boys and three girls. Harry's father trained in Edinburgh and arrived back in Australia in 1886 as a qualified doctor.  In 1895 he received his Degree of a Doctor of Medicine and the Degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery in the University of Edinburgh.

In Harry's early years the family lived in Coraki, Lismore, Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads - all in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Frank Connor retired in 1903 and the family moved to Willoughby in Sydney.

Harry enlisted in Sydney on the 14th September 1914. His age was 21 years and 9 months. Harry's description is as follows: Height 5'6"; Weight 9 stone 8lbs; Chest measurement 35"; Complexion Fair; Eyes Grey; Hair Brown; Religion Presbyterian. He was noted as vaccinated and that he had a tattoo on one arm. His occupation on enlistment was farmer of Oatha, Parkes, New South Wales. Harry's regimental number was 487 and he was posted to the 13th Battalion. The 13th Battalion AIF was raised from late September 1914, six weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. The battalion was recruited in New South Wales, and with the 14th, 15th and 16th Battalions formed the 4th Brigade, commanded by Colonel John Monash.(AWM)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Madness Monday - Londonderry Lunatic Asylum

After writing about the Magdalene Asylums last Monday I started to think about other types of asylums in Ireland, particularly those for people deemed 'mad'. I will focus on the development of an asylum in County Derry, as this is where the Connor family lived.

There was scant specific legislative provision for the mentally ill in Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and while various pieces of legislation in the 1700s established a network of workhouses and houses of industry for the destitute poor, many individuals with mental illness spent significant periods in workhouses which were inadequate and inappropriate for their needs as there was no dedicated asylum accommodation.  

Prior to the 1830s, mental health care in Derry, as in the rest of Ireland and in most of the Western World, was ad hoc at best, unkind and cruel at worst. In Derry, a city growing in population and commercial importance, the early part of the 19th century saw patients with any form of mental illness housed at the city's infirmary - in twelve cells in a shed on the hospital grounds or, in the absence of any other suitable accommodation, in the cells at Lifford Gaol.

Old Derry Asylum
But, in the early part of the century, a new wave of social reformers were campaigning for change and compassion and, in 1821, Parliament passed a law allowing for the foundation of a network of district asylums. These institutions would be, according to reformer John Leslie Foster," the only mode of effectual relief... for the reception of the insane."

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Callan Park Lunatic Asylum

Callan Park Lunatic Asylum, Rozelle, New South Wales

From Derry to New South Wales -part 3 - why did they leave

For this third part of From Derry to New South Wales I thought I would further explore why they left Ireland in 1838 before 'the famine'.
Previously, I wrote about the Poor Law Act of 1834 as an attempt to address the widespread poverty and hunger in Ireland and I will attempt to put some context around what was life was like in the pre-famine years.

Under the dry and official title of The First Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer Classes in Ireland  (1835) comes an enormous amount of opinion, reminiscence and description of life by ordinary Irish people in the early nineteenth century. 

Ireland was the subject of innumerable investigations throughout this period, due to a large extent to the growing economic and social crisis in rural Ireland after about 1820. Grain prices declined, the textile industry collapsed outside north-east Ulster (the weavers of Ennistymon are described in the report as being completely destitute) and the population continued to grow.

Beggars, County Kerry
The result was a society of massive unemployment, tiny landholdings and large-scale poverty. This poverty struck all observers at the time, and contemporary accounts are full of descriptions of poor housing, lack of clothing and enormous numbers of beggars. In the summer months in particular, before the potato harvest, tens or even hundreds of thousands of people would take to the road temporarily.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Madness Monday - sent to the asylum

Mental Health Week is over for another year. The ABC did a great job this year with Mental As ... campaign. It amazes me that government and not-for-profit groups make such a fuss over Mental Health Week, I have always thought that mental health awareness should be part of every week.

So, thinking about mental illness and the way our forebears were treated, I thought i would write a little today about the history of mental health care for women in the Victorian era. This follows on from a previous post about my great-grandmother, Mary Connor.

These days, work stress, postnatal depression and anxiety are addressed with compassion. But just a few generations ago, the women who suffered from these conditions, were confined to an asylum.

New York lunatic asylum on Blackwell's Island in 1868
In the mid to late 1800s women were expected to behave according to society's expectations, held to the archetype of a obedient housewife and mother. As such, if a women was to behave in a way that opposed the views or opinions held by her husband, the husband would then declare the wife insane and have her sent to an asylum.

Many women ended up in the asylum even if they were in perfect mental health.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Faces from the past Friday - we called him Dave ...

Continuing on from the previous four cousins + 1, today I will talk about one of the cousins: David Ernest McCann (my first cousin 3 x removed).

David Ernest was born in Warrion Hills, Colac, Victoria in 1888. David was the 8th child of James McCann and Mary Harriett Wilson, a family of 6 boys and five girls. 

In the 1914 Commonwealth Electoral Roll, David was living at Rewa, Howson Street, Brunswick (an inner suburb of Melbourne) with an occupation of painter.

He enlisted in the AIF on 22nd February 1916 and gave his occupation as telephone linesman. His service number was 628 and he was assigned to B Company, 37th Battalion. David was single and aged 26 years and 3 months. His description on enlistment was: Height 5' 6"; Weight 142 lbs; Chest 36 ins; Complexion Fresh; Eyes Hazel; Hair Brown; Religion Methodist. This is the only mental picture we have of David.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Rev Samuel Marsden

Rev. Samuel Marsden (1765-1838)
My 4th great-grandparents on 9th January 1804 were married at
St John's Parramatta by Rev Marsden.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Arthur Llewellyn Roberts & Premature Senility

Arthur Llewellyn WWI
While sorting through some family history yesterday I came across Arthur. He was the husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed, Agnes Blair Oswald. 

Arthur was born Abt. 1866 and married in Wallsend, New South Wales in 1866. Arthur and Agnes had five children, two girls and three boys.

Arthur was a blacksmith by trade, so I imagine quite a handy fellow.

Arthur heard the call to arms on 28th February 1916 and as a blacksmith was posted to the 35th Battalion Reinforcements, 3rd Divisional Veterinary Section as a Substantive Farrier. He was 44 years and 1 month of age.

All went well for Arthur, he was posted to France and on 19th October 1916 was transferred to AAVC (Australian Army Veterinary Corps) as a "shoeing smith" and promoted to S/Smith Cpl on 10th January 1918.

Then on 10th June 1918 he was transferred to Dover and London Headquarters to proceed to Australia for discharge. What I found very interesting is the reason for his discharge - "Premature Senility". 

What had happened to Arthur in the previous six months? He was obviously fine in January when he was promoted. He was 46 years old at this time. Was he ''shell shocked"? Was he kicked in the head by a horse? We will never know the real reasons. Perhaps it was all too much for Arthur.

Arthur returned to Australia and lived a quiet life in Newcastle and died on 19th October 1942, aged 76. I hope that he recovered and enjoyed the rest of his life. He was listed in the electoral roll as a retired blacksmith.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Madness Monday

It's Monday - and Mental Health Week started in Australia on Sunday 5th October, so, it must be Madness Monday.

I know of two other members of my family, apart from myself, who have experienced 'madness'. My paternal great grandmother and my father. Both were in asylums at some stage, for long or short stays. Today I will write about my great grandmother, Mary Connor.

Mary was born Mary Cameron in 1835 in Glenmore Ardnamurchan Scotland, the sixth child of Dugald & Christian Cameron. The Cameron family left Scotland on the Blenheim 29th August 1840 and arrived at Port Nicholson (Wellington, New Zealand) on 27th December 1840. There is evidence of  the family arriving in New Zealand but no proof of the family 'crossing the ditch'. However, Ann Cameron. Mary's older sister married Hugh Connor on 20th April 1845 at Williams River, New South Wales. Mary married Hugh Connor's brother, William Connor, on 19th July 1853 at Bartie's Farm near Hinton, New South Wales. Mary was unable to read or write at the time of her marriage.
Marriage of William & Mary 1853 by Robert Blain, Presbyterian Minister

Friday, 3 October 2014

Faces from the past Friday - the four cousins + one

Last week on Faces from the past Friday I wrote about Harold George McKerihan and his death at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. Shortly after writing about Harold I remembered another cousin that I had temporarily mislaid, if you can mislay a cousin that is.

He is Leonard Alexander Thomas DSM (my 3rd cousin 1x removed) so, having 'found' Leonard I'll write about what i know of him.  

Leonard was born on the 20th October 1896 in Grateley, Andover, Hampshire, England to Jonas William Thomas and Agnes Alexander. Leonard was the third son of eight children, four boys and four girls. Leonard was 13 at the time of the
1911 census and a school student.
HMS Glory 1899

He joined the R N R (Royal Navy Reserve) as a Trimmer on 14th August 1915 and was soon aboard HMS Victory. Leonard's vital statistics were as follows: height 5' 10";  complexion Dark; eyes Blue; Chest measurement 35½". He was confirmed navally medically fit for confirmation of rating. So perhaps we can imagine this young man aged just 19, excited about a great adventure.
Crew of HMS Vivid in the time Leonard was there
I wish I knew which one he was

Wednesday, 1 October 2014