I chose the above title as this is how I felt about this couple when I first started my research. They were almost silent in fact. George Alfred Nicoll and his wife, Kate Carina May Nicoll nee Thorne. Like so many on my family tree, they were a complete mystery to me until I started digging.
George is my 1st Cousin 3 x removed. Youngest son of Bruce Baird Nicoll and Jane Anne Zahel. Cousin to my Great Grandfather William Norman Rupert Nicoll.
Kate is the youngest daughter of Ebeneezer Thorne and Kate Hooppell. Her father was a famous journalist and her uncle was Mayor of Brisbane at the end of the 19th century. Her mother like so many other pioneer women of her time, is virtually non-existent when it comes to the male-dominated historic records.
These pictures are the only ones I have uncovered of George and Kate to date. They are very precious as I stumbled upon them by chance on one of my many Trove dives. From what I have uncovered so far, theirs is an intense, passionate, and short-lived tale. They found each other late in life, married in their late 20’s, had 9 amazing years together, and then both of them were dead by their mid 30’s leaving no children behind to carry on their legacy or memory.
How is that for a start?
It is 105 years and 2 months since George passed on and 107 years and 7 months since Kate but I have been extraordinarily fortunate in the amount of information that I have been able to uncover on them. I have found myself immersed in their world for the last couple of weeks searching, reading, and trying to knit together a cohesive story. But as always, the struggle is how to present it to you. I have decided, their stories can’t be separated so it will definitely be a two-parter.
As you have probably guessed from the photo of George, he served his country and what a service it was.
The above picture is just the top part of George’s Attestation Papers. When I first saw this I was completely ignorant of the significance of the information presented there. Now my heart just swells with pride and at the same time sadness for George as I have come to learn the meaning behind them. Of course the big red “Missing” emblazened on the top is pretty hard to miss but I will come back to that.
The next thing I want to direct your attention to is the date that George enlisted: 23rd August 1914. This is significant as it is only 19 days after Britain and therefore Australia as one of its colonies, declared war on Germany on the 4th of August. This was after Germany ignored Britains written ultimatum that it not violate Belgium’s neutrality (established in the Treaty of 1838) by marching troops through her. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/58200/wwi-centennial-britain-declares-war-germany
The next thing to note is the Battalion that George is assigned to, the 9th. This along with the note on his photo, “B Co.”, place George right at the center of one of our defining moments as a nation. It also enshrines him as one of the many silent heroes who’s legacy, Alex, Xander, Calan and I celebrated this year at the end of our driveway, in pandemic lockdown. Also the 115th anniversary of Georges’ death.
Kate’s own story is no less enthralling than that of George’s. I was really saddened to learn though, that at the time of George signing his attestation papers on the 23rd August, Kate had been dead for 20 months.
Kate Carina May Thorne was born 31st of May 1876 in Queensland, the only daughter and child to Ebeneezer Thorne and Kate Hooppell.
They had one other daughter born in 1874 but she died before her 1st birthday. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that history is so often light on with the details of women in the past and the marking of their life milestones. Despite this, I did manage to come across an obituary for Kate Hooppell, Kates’ mother.
I just love that style of phrasing that turns up in so much of the written content of this time, “… well-known excellencies of her personal character, elicited the sympathies…” Also interesting to note the use of the male honorific once again, in relation to Kate. No mention of her name at all, just Mrs. E Thorne. Did you also notice just how much was packed into Kates’ obit? I could spend pages discussing and unpacking those couple of lines. I won’t, as I have to have a limit as to how far out of the tree I venture but it is by no means any less interesting. I just did a bit of a Google surf and got lost for about an hour. Hugenot family, Bigbury, George Dawson, Factory Girls, and the night and Sunday schools. I believe Mrs. Kate Thorne, nee Hooppell would have been an amazing person to spend some time with. From what I have been able to discover about Kate Carina May, her daughter, it seems like the “…excellencies of her personal character.” of her mother were certainly passed on. Kate is 15 when she loses her Mother.
Kate’s Father, Ebeneezer Thorne is described as a journalist in some of the journals in the 1880s. He was an editor for a Brisbane periodical focusing on agricultural issues. He is rumored to have owned the “Wide Bay News” in the 1870s and he published his own book, “Queen of the Colonies” which discussed the types of assets that Queensland had at the time. He was a longtime representative on the Belmont Divisional Board, the predecessor of the Belmont Council and known to have championed many shared issues for the residents of the Belmont area. (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)
There are many mentions in the board’s minute books describing his altercations with other board members and he even at one time instigates legal proceedings against the Chairman of the board for road closures that occurred near his properties. He apparently sells up in 1909, immigrates to New Zeland, and changes his name. His brother, Kate’s Uncle, William, becomes Mayor of Brisbane in 1898. (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)
Kate attends the Belmont State School in the mid 1880s. She rides a donkey there and back every day and apparently develops into one of the most accomplished equestrians in the district. (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)
I searched for a picture of the school to see what it might have looked like at the time but no luck. This was the closest I could come to, bit sad hey?
I did however find a wonderful photo of the Walker Family posing out the front of the Belmont Shire Hall in 1900 which is situated on Thorne Street in Carina. Can you see there is a bit of a theme happening here?
I know this is about 15 years out of Kate’s time but I can imagine that she and her father would have been very well acquainted with this building and it provides a great idea of what they might have looked like at the time. Mr. Walker pictured above was the Town Clerk.
The running theme? The notoriety of the family. Thorne street where the hall is located, named after Ebeneezer and of course this part of Belmont changes its name to Carina named for his daughter, Kate Carina May Thorne, our Kate and the original family homestead.
Carina the homestead was situated on Creek road Belmont. In a Belmont and Bulima Creek Heritage Page post, author John Godfrey shares the reminiscience of an early resident.
“Mrs. Grace Mischlewski nee Keenan remembers seeing the home in the 1920s-30s which by then was unoccupied. As a child Mrs. Mischlewski used to play in the grounds which occupied several acres. She recalls a large grove of bamboo, a Moreton Bay Fig and a couple of Bunya trees from which she and her playmates would take the nuts to eat . Grace remembers the home as a large sprawling building of a dirty white colour, from which several later houses were to be built when the home was eventually demolished.” (John Godfrey, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/belmont.history/Ebenezer%20&%20Kate%20Carina%20Thorne-Progenitors%20of%20Carina.htm)
Carina the homestead remains lost to time as well but I did find a home called Springfield in the same area and of the same vintage. I could imagine that it looked very similar to this.
This is the site today. Intersection of Creek Road and Nancatta Road. Carina stood somewhere behind that tree line.
Records of George’s early history are virtually nonexsistant. There are no mentions of his school life or any life events in the press until he is in his mid-20s. (No spoilers yet) He writes on his attestation papers that he was born in Bowral, NSW.
It is interesting to note that the Attestation Papers don’t ask for a date of birth, just age. Which is very frustrating. Unfortunately for us, there are no records of Georges’ birth that I can find. I have tried every variable of the spelling of Nicoll with no luck.
We can reverse engineer an approximate date of birth from the age George states on the paper. If he is 35years and 2 months on the 23 Aug’ 1914, that means his birth most likely was in June 1879. Trove comes up blank as well. I was surprised to discover that none of George’s siblings had a birth announcement. The only notice I could find was one marking the passing of Georges’ sister Lucy.
George was born to Bruce Baird Nicoll and Jane Anne Zahel. Fun fact, the Zahel’s and the Nicoll’s have quite a few connections in their shared histories. Janes’ brother Captain Charles Zahel works with Georges’ Dad, Bruce and his brother, George Wallace Nicoll. He sails out the steamship Australia from Scotland to Australia for their steamship company. He, unfortunately, dies shortly after arriving in Australia when a gear from a winch that is being used to unload a steam engine at the dock comes loose, breaks free and strikes him, and a deckhand in the head.
In a sad coincidence, on the same day, Georges’ mother, Jane, Capt’ Zahels’ sister is knocked of the ship and falls overboard at the dock.
The Mr See mentioned at the end of that article becomes Sir John See, Premier of NSW and also Chairman of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company and negotiates the final sale of all of George’s Dad’s and his Uncles Steam ship holdings on their deaths in 1905. See you get more bang for your buck with this blog, excuse the pun. And wait there is more. Georges’ other Uncle on his Mums side, John Alfred Zahel transfers the licence to the original Belle Vue Hotel in Brisbane to his Dads’ brother, George Wallace Nicoll in 1881.
This Uncle of Georges’ (J. A. Zahel) is married to a woman named Thirza Vick, (who actually established the original Belle Vue building as a School for Girls before they married) and they have a daughter named Thirza Vick Zahel and I discovered her name in a random article mentioned with someone else of importance to George.
Just a reminder, Carina is of course our Kate. What a find this was, to have all those details confirmed in one small article. 1903 is also the year that George and Kate get married. I know it might not seem like much but when you start with no knowledge at all and then eventually over time and many hours of searching you start making all of these connections, well it is just great. Mind you though they only came about after I finally realise, “…oh I have seen that name somewhere before.” It’s lucky with a name like Zahel, it stands out. Oh, and don’t worry I haven’t missed the whole “…medical student, …treating 80 consumptives and …developing an unknown treatment,” thing. I mean come on, this is an amazing article. We will circle back to these gems soon.
Now the final connection and with a twist, look at who Georges’ brother, Gordon Bruce Baird Nicoll marries the year after George and Kate marry.
Yep, Miss Thornes’ “…inseparable companion.” Miss Zahel, and the twist? Gordons’ mother (ie. Georges’ mother) Jane Anne Zahel and Thirzas’ father, John Alfred Zahel are brother and sister. Ewwww,… no sorry, no judgment. This is not the first time I have come across 1st cousins marrying in the tree.
See, I was right, George and Kates’ stories are very much interwoven and there is still heaps more to share. I will, however, give you a break for now, hopefully see you in the next post when Kate and George’s stories really take off.
4 thoughts on “A Quiet Couple Revealed”
Thanks Sweet, appreciate your feedback. x
Fantastic we certainley have it easy compared to those early times
This is so wonderful!! I would love to be in touch – i live near 1 Gertrude Street and am currently unpacking some of the history about the house as a hobby. Carina Kate May Thorne lived here between 1893-1896. I am trying to track down further some of her journalism etc. Please be in touch.
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