Kate Carina May Thorne, we are family by marriage, but I couldn’t feel any prouder of her than if we were blood kin. The more I discover of this amazing person, and as I have mentioned previously, when you consider the time she was living in, straddling the Victorian and Edwardian age, the more my admiration deepens.
We left Kate in the last post with her words to the Council of Sydney ringing out offering suggestions on dealing with the dust problem in Sydney town. She is in her early 20s, either finished or in the final stages of her Pharmacy Diploma and developing a budding relationship with the young St George’s Rifleman, George Alfred Nicoll. Who is eager to demonstrate his honour to his country and Queen by attesting to fight the Boer in South Africa.
We are, (I promise) going to delve into the story of Kate’s amazing invention, the Micro-Cremator, but once again, I just have a couple of thing to discuss with you before we do, one of those things, Kate’s writing.
In uncovering Kate’s voice we now have a carpetbag full of treasures to choose from thanks to discovering Kate’s poetry on Trove and the Queensland publications who initially printed them. I’m confident from what I have read so far that I can identify those moments in her life or world events around her that might have been responsible for their creation and will present them to you as we continue our journey.
In preparation for that delve into that bag I think this article below is a pretty poignant find. A brief review, a mention really, of Kate and her poetry undertaken in the 1930s, by a Henry Arthur Kellow. Eighteen years after her death.
This whisper of a mention of course spurred me on to see if it was possible to find Mr Kellow’s book somewhere in order to add it to the family collection. I had the incredible luck of finding an original copy in a bookstore in Melbourne, $27.00 and a week later it was on the doorstep. I got a bit creative and did a collage for you below.
The little white copy on the bottom left, of The Morning Bulletin, is the excerpt from the article above discussing Mr Kellow’s book and also describes what category Kate’s style of poetry fits into. The one to the right of that is pretty self-explanatory, it’s the page Kate appears on within the book which is pictured behind it. The wonderful old battered slip of folio to the left is an original copy of Kate’s booklet held in the National Library, photographed as it is too fragile to handle any longer.
The mention in Mr Kellow’s book is slight, not even a full page of the book. The poignancy for me comes from the fact that this is due to Kate dying at such a young age, thirty-six. Her writing has certainly made an impression on me, we can only imagine what impression Mr Kellow might have had, had he been reviewing the work of a poet with another 18 years of creation behind her.
One of Kate’s earlier works was published in 1895, the subject, her mother Kate Thorne, née Hooppell who had died 2 years earlier. There is a note on the article suggesting that our Kate penned it from an earlier age.
Kate’s mother was born in Devon England in June 1838 but came from an ancient French Huguenot family which is evident in the recollections. Kate SNR was 10 when the Second French Republic is declared after King Louis-Phillipe I flees to Great Britain when the economic and social climate turns tense. She is then in her thirties when the last Emperor of France, Napoleon III is arrested with his army in the Franco Prussian War of Sept 1870. I wonder which Empress Fair our Kate is referring to in her poem? https://royalcentral.co.uk/features/what-happened-to-frances-monarchy-110579/
In 1899 Kate creates a poem in honour of the recently deceased Queensland Premier Thomas Joseph Byrnes.
I don’t think this was a random act of public compassion. A quick scan of Mr Byrne’s bio reveals that he was born in Spring Hill, virtually neighbours to the Thorne’s. That he and his siblings went to school in the same area as Kate and even though older than Kate by 16 years I suspect that she was a cohort of his younger sister, Matilda. Thomas leaves a piece of land in Camp Hill to Matilda in his will, she sells the land to the Catholic Church in 1918 and then bequeaths on her death £300 towards the cost of a church. St Thomas’s now stands as a monument to the memory of her brother. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Joseph_Byrnes#Early_life
Hopefully you don’t think I have strayed too far from the path here? But I feel these supporting pictures and information just add so much to Kate’s story in lieu of pictures of herself. The fact that Kate knew Thomas and looked at that face, like we are now, for me, just brings her into greater focus.
I know interpretation is at play here as well, especially with her poems and fitting the pieces together. I found another piece of her writing that I think fits with a major milestone in history albeit a long forgotten one. Kate is 22 years of age at the time.
I’m fairly sure that this poem of Kate’s is referring to the Spanish-American war of 1898. In a quick nutshell, the war came about from Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spanish rule. There was a large amount of American press about how cruel the Spanish were being in trying to quell the Cuban’s and this resulted in numerous calls for American intervention. The USS Main was sunk in Santiago harbour inexplicably and by the end of April 1898 war had been declared by both sides. https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/spanish-american-war
Wow, what you can learn with a few strokes of the keys and Google’s search engine. Not just about the war but also returning to Kate’s poem. Columbia as Kate references above in the poem is the female personification of the United States. Technically it is a new Latin toponym and referenced the original 13 colonies that would go on to form the United States. “Columb” is in honour of Christopher Columbus and “ia” was a common Latin suffixes for names of countries. Therefore, Columbus’s country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_(personification)
The other references that also lock the topic in place are, Kate’s use of “…the spangled banner…” which of course is a reference to the American flag and “…our sister land, vast empire across the brine…” referencing their shared English history, the enormous continent of the United States and finally, the brine, is the Atlantic. What I find really of interest here is the strong example of British patriotism that Kate is displaying loud and clear. Read that last quote above, and it is though Kate is sitting somewhere on the South West Coast of the UK looking longingly out over the North Atlantic with no thought of the fact of where she is actually sitting, Brisbane Queensland, roughly 16500kms away.
What a wonderful example of Kate’s poetic skill, thinking and state of mind. I can only imagine that the majority of women of the time would only have been expected to be thinking about the skills they might be acquiring to keep house and find and keep a husband but here is Kate ruminating on world events and being so motivated by them to put pen to paper and then to seek to have it published. I suspect that there were many other women like Kate who were shaking off that limited expectation, look at the era. It was the time that Australian Suffragettes were working so hard for political franchise.
I think it is easy to see that this sense of social conscience and patriotism was evident from an early age in Kate especially when you view this published piece. Kate pens “The Soldiers Dream” and has it published in Oct 1893 when she is only seventeen.
How prophetic these words must have seemed to Kate and George when seven years after this publication George is engaging with the Boer and is the one who is dreaming and Kate is the lass waiting but thankfully as it turns out, not in vain. It will be a very different story in 1915. The Soldier, will have been “…waiting in vain…” for 2 years and 3 months with no hope of his lass coming back again, as Kate has already passed. A reunion takes place in late April of that year, when the Soldier “…will never come again…” and his family are the one’s, “…waiting in vain…”.
This is actually the earliest example of Kate’s writing I can find so far. Published 136 years, 11 months and 25 days ago. It is the 11th of September 2020 today. For us the 19th anniversary of the Twin Towers terrorist attack in New York City.
By the way, just to give us some closure, the Spanish-American war ends around August 1889, one month after “A Song of War” is published. The whole Spanish Caribbean fleet was laid to waste. By December ’89, Spain has relinquished any claim over Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico and America has gained sovereignty over the Philippines for a $20 million payment to Spain. The Philippine-American war begins in February 1899 and lasts until 1902. https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/spanish-american-war
Since European invasion this young collection of colonies up until Kate and George’s time, had seen a number of world conflicts erupt. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica no less than thirty-four not counting the Philippine-American that had just started and fourteen of those since Kate’s birth. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/list-of-wars-2031197)
A quick delve into Trove and the Boer, British, Germans and Portuguese and their constant simmering tensions feature regularly throughout the ’90s intensifying in the latter part of the decade and exploding into the start of the 2nd Boer War on the 11th Oct 1899.
Is it any wonder that war and its associated loss featured in Kate’s work. The next two poems leave no doubt in my mind that they are about George and his impending departure for Sout Africa. The first published on 16 Dec 1899 two months after the declaration of war and four months before he boards the Armenian at Cowper Wharf at Woolloomooloo. (I know, spoilers, but it fits with Kate’s story, so I had to share where George departs from. This was a journey in itself getting that information and I will share it with you shortly.)
The hopeless romantic in me so hopes that Kate is clutching a copy of this in her gloved hand waving furiously from the wharf to George who will have one slipped into his inner top pocket standing on the deck of the Armenian. Oh man, I can literally see the film of this in my head.
Am I right or am I right? I mean correct of course. They are so pointed. The first poem, yes, maybe you might interpret it in a different light, I wouldn’t, but I can see how it might be fixed on some other topic, but this second one is on the money. There is an elephant in the room though. Kate’s, what can only be described in today’s term as, contemptuous use of the shockingly racist term, “…distant Kaffir lands…” The urbandictionary.com describes the word as being of Arabic origin and originally referring to an infidel or unbeliever of any skin pigment. It further states that it has been adopted into the Afrikaans language and is used as an insulting term for someone of African descent. (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=kaffir)
A New York Post article from as recently as October 2016 stated that South Africa had drawn up draft laws to make the use of the term punishable with a hefty fine and a 10-year jail term. (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/28/world/africa/south-africa-hate-speech.html)
This is one of those classic, bumps up against the uncomfortable truths of past held opinions and beliefs. Apart from the fact that Kate’s use of the term confirms that we are definitely talking about the war happening in Africa, it is not enough to assume if she held the same contempt for the people it refers to. I’m hoping against all hopes she didn’t but without that direct quote from her stating so, I can only keep hoping. The sentiment of that final piece is so simple and direct and speaks to the heartache felt by those left behind when the call of duty is answered.
I’m really sorry to have to inform you that we will wrestle with this issue again very soon, but it will be George’s father, Kate’s future father-in-law who will be in the hot seat, and we are left in no doubt as to his beliefs as they are in big bold quotes. And, oh, those beliefs sting, sting bad like a slap-up the side of the head.
But before that, I know this post has been all over the place time wise for Kate and George especially when you consider my last post finished on Kate’s Dust article published in 1902. But let’s face it folks, amateur writer at best here and my focus was on the topics that were raised and not how they fit chronologically. That’s my explanation, and I’m loving it. One of the issues that I have noticed when looking at this time period, late 90s to 1900, especially in Kate’s case, that it is almost impossible to work out where she was actually living and with whom. There is so much seemingly conflicting information but also some fantastic finds buried amongst them. Let me share.
The Best way to do that, I will show you how I have been putting all of this information for Kate together. I have been doing this for all the cast of characters or should I say my family or our family if you’re one of the 150 years in the future lot.
What we can state first off with no confusion is that Ebenezer Thorne, Kate’s father owned numerous properties in the Brisbane area. Carina Farm, mentioned at the top of Kate’s timeline, is the original property that I presented to you in the Quiet Couple Revealed post. It is referred to as the Old Cleveland road property in numerous listings. It was originally on 238 acres of land when listed in 1881 and obviously is sold off piece by piece as it is then listed for lease or sale in 1895 with only 50 acres of land remaining. The only reason I discovered any of this information was due to the fact that I stumbled upon this poem of Kate’s very recently.
Oh, bugger! Sooner than I thought bumping up against those old uncomfortable beliefs. Look at the end of that second line Kate has written, damn! I hadn’t really paid much attention to the content of this poem it was more the footnote that took my interest plus having read it now, I still have no idea what it is about without further digging. Back to the discovery, Highgate Hill.
I thought I had mined Trove dry for any of Carina Thorne’s poetry, this was her published name. I’m assuming Kate used this because there was another verse writer with the name of Kate Thorne in Queensland at the time. (Just my assumption.) But of course, the National Library is working away continually updating and adding new content to Trove and assuming again, this is how this poem came up. So the footnote, Highgate Hill, I hadn’t seen that on any other poem. This piqued my interest.
This according to Google, “…Highgate is an inner southern suburb of Brisbane…”
You might not remember but Woolloongabba in the right of the map above is where Kate is born in 1876. The other highlighted section there is Gertrude Street, this will be explained soon. At this stage, I still don’t know where exactly Kate is in Highgate Hill. So I broaden my search and put into Google search Highgate Hill and Thorne, it was one of those moments again. Check out what came up in the results below.
Delving into these two sites are the proverbial mother load in relation to the information I have uncovered on Kate and the family. I will be sharing with you of course but for the purposes of this issue, of where Kate was living let me just drill down to that for the moment. The heritage.brisbane listing above, is an historical study on Carina. A property at no 1 Gertrude Street, Highgate Hill which is still standing and as I was soon to discover in the accompanying PDF where Kate and Ebenezer were living from 1893-1896. This correlates to the Highgate Hill printed at the bottom of Kate’s published poems and here it is.
The Study confirms that the house was not on the site in 1886 and that it most likely was built the following year in 1887. Ebenezer had built it initially as an investment property to rent out. Post Office directories for that year list occupants in the house. The house was then left vacant after a bank crash in the 1890s. Interestingly Ebenezer passes the title of the house into his wife’s name and has his whole estate liquidated. (Maybe this was as a result of the crash.) Then of course Kate dies in 1892. Again hypothesising here, but I think Kate’s death is probably the reason why Kate and Ebenezer move into Gertrude St. https://heritage.brisbane.qld.gov.au/heritage-places/2228
The poor old thing looks pretty dilapidated now, but it has been there for over 130 years. In Kate’s day it would have been grand. The study reports it as having, “…six rooms, including two attic rooms, bathroom, kitchen and two brick chimneys. Verandahs encircled the house, taking advantage of the panoramic views then available from the ridge line of Gertrude Street.” https://heritage.brisbane.qld.gov.au/heritage-places/2228
A quick sidebar here. I recently received a comment on the previous post on Kate & George from a woman whose property backs onto Kate and Ebeneezer’s Carina property in Highgate Hill. Her name was Carmel, and she stumbled onto my blog whilst doing some research on Kate and the property.
I received a response from Carmel an extract from it below.
How lucky am I? I never dreamed when I started writing about Kate and George that anybody outside the family or friends on Facebook who follow the blog would be interested in what I put up. I’m so happy that what I have shared, particularly about Kate’s story has made an impact on others. Sidebar concluded.
Once again I love to suppose what Kate might have looked like here. With no specific photo of Kate and Ebenezer at Carina I turned to Google again. Queensland State Library had a wonderful example of a family taking tea on their Queenslander verandah in 1900, only a few years out from Kate and Ebenezer’s time.
Ebenezer meets and marries Sarah Lane, Kate’s Stepmother in 1893 and then according to the historic study they then make their next move in 1896 as a family out to “Thornemere” in Belmont. This is when things get a bit tricky in terms of where Kate was. I haven’t been able to link Kate to the Thornemere property, but I found these two listings for Ebenezer confirming he was there at least until 1900.
Going back to Kate’s timeline that I created we can see that she has multiple pieces published in the Queensland press from the time she moves to Thornemere right up until 1900. We know that Kate attends the Government House reception in 1897 when she possibly meets her future mother-in-law, Georges mother, Jane Nicoll. But then we are also surmising that in order for her to get her published exam results in January 1901 in Sydney, that she potentially needs to be starting the course in 1897.
And then to further confuse the mix, we have the report that Kate is going on an extended visit to Brisbane to stay with her Aunt & Uncle in December 1898. How does this work? I suspect what was happening is that Kate had lodgings in Sydney somewhere whilst working on her studies and then travelling back to Queensland regularly. I think if you read into the extended stay with Aunt and Uncle and see it as her travelling from Sydney, it makes more sense, especially in light of the fact that it is almost Christmas.
A couple of other points that lend weight to this theory of Kate having a base in Sydney, two we already know. The Dust Fiend article that I finished the last post on, when Kate was writing to the council about potentially hosing the streets of Sydney with seawater? That was published in June 1902 and then the other, the fact that she has to be in Sydney and for a fairly regularly amount of time as she develops her acquaintance with George to the point that they get married in December 1903. This we can be certain of and now the other thing we can be certain of is this brand-new information that has just revealed itself, an actual address in Sydney.
Yes in the time I have been working on this latest instalment of Kate and George’s story the information on Kate’s patent application for the Micro-cremator held by the National Archives has become available. What a stunning pack of information it contains too. I can’t wait to share it with you in the next post but for now I will share this document that confirms an address for Kate in Sydney.
There is our second picture of Kate, not an image of her but her signature. Check out how confident it is with the flourishes. That is the signature of a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, in my opinion.
So another fixed point in the timeline, 24th October 1902 Kate is living at 17 Forsythe Street, Glebe Point. Now check this out, look what is still standing:
How fantastic is that? Of course there is no listing for Kate in the Sands Directory.
I can imagine that it must have been a pretty rare occurrence a single woman listed by herself in this era. I did a quick scan for the whole Glebe listing and there are only six Misses listed. The above listing shows 17 Forsyth listed in 1902 to a Mr Dennis William. This would have been a great spot for Kate to be situated in. The University of Sydney is only a 30min walk up Glebe point road and across Victoria Park. It is also only a 2.5 mile carriage ride away from George’s family residence, Hillview in Petersham. To date a picture of Hillview still evades me.
We can now add another fixed point in Kate’s story, I just discovered another Patent Application in the bundle of info from National Archives and this second one is dated October 23rd, 1903. Just two months before she and George marry.
I feel confident that I have pieced together a pretty good supposition of how Kate was living in this time, of course realising it could be completely blown apart by the next discovery. The other interesting things to note on Kate’s whereabouts at this time are that when she starts to receive some press about her invention in early 1903 she is reported in the press as being from Lewisham. Now I can find no listing for Kate in Lewisham. Lewisham is only 10mins away from Glebe so was thinking that the writer might have been taking some liberties, which we are all too aware can happen even today.
I really do enjoy that detective work and trying to piece together an accurate picture or as close to, as I can get with the information I have discovered. The final instalment to share with you in this post relates to Kate’s exam results published in 1901. I previously shared that in my communication with Helen at TAFE she suggested contacting State Archives and doing a deep dive of their records in relation to Kate’s results. I did this and one of their amazingly patient and very helpful Archivists named Jennifer put together some records for me to search on my next visit. I took a day trip down to Sydney in early November 2020 and this is what I found. A 120-year-old Index book of exam results from Sydney Technical College for 1900.
Just holding this thing was incredible. It was so fragile and a cloud of dust and detritus ballooned from it when I placed it on the pillow. The index book, luckily was in alphabetical order, so I turned to T and hoped that something might be there. Remember this was just fishing there was no listing that said Kate would be here.
I just sat there beaming! Of course, I looked a complete dickhead and definitely scared a few of my fellow researchers away. But wow! There was Kate’s faded name along with my next task, Volume 2 page 378. I had over 40 items requested that day and because of Covid-19 and social distancing rules, Jennifer had preselected them all for me in advance and had them stacked on a huge rolling shelved cage which I had sitting behind me. Do you think I could find Volume 2? Then finally.
There she was, Kate listed with her Grade 2 pass in Materia Medica. Jennifer found one other item for me to check the actual Department papers of individual marks with the list of Examiners names for each of the courses.
Kate’s examiner, J H Burnet was a Chemist who lived in Croydon and had a shop in Lewisham. It is complete supposition on my part, but I’m wondering if J H Burnet could have been a family friend and maybe have offered Kate a place to reside whilst she was studying in Sydney. The whole Lewisham link mentioned earlier is playing in my mind.
I found a mention of Mr Burnet being involved in a murder case in Sydney reported in November 1901.
Back to the Examination Results book. After carefully searching through these centuries old pieces of paper I came upon this one below.
Look at that, Kate’s actual marks for the course, 64 out of 100 earning her a 2nd Grade. The only woman enrolled in that year and exactly 120 years ago.
If you have read any of my posts on this blog you will be aware of my passion for trying to uncover and highlight in whatever small way I can the history of the female experience which has so largely been forgotten or not even bothered with in so many instances. In this quest, I uncovered some wonderful old tomes from a recent visit to the historic Ulmarra Bookshop near Grafton on exactly this issue.
This one from Eve Pownall published in 1959 speaks for so many of the female members of my family.
If you have an interest “…from the female perspective”, this is an amazing read and gives a wonderfully rich glimpse into what so many of our female ancestors would most probably have experienced, in the 19th century, early 20th …if they were white that is. Of course, this book is a product of it’s time. Pownall mentions or refers to indigenous women regularly, but as “…blacks” or “gins”, describing how they are helping these white women and their husbands to in effect, conquer their ancient culture and land. There is a sense of sympathy for their situation in many instances in the book, but I feel it is an absolute must to keep this disposition of culture and land in mind while reading. I’m sure if there was an indigenous version of this book it would paint a very different picture to Pownall’s.
For Kate’s story I found a chapter of Pownall’s that may as well come straight from Kate’s personal journal. It highlights the very world she was inhabiting and the prejudices she was facing on a daily basis as a woman.
There is no supposing here. There it is in black and white, admittedly 60 years after Kate earned her 2nd Grade from Mr J H Burnet, but there it is. The struggle, the hostility and the limited and cloistering expectation forced on women, forced on Kate, acknowledged. And what a coincidence, Kate too dies of TB in her early 30s just 12 years after Dr Berne. Perhaps this was the cost of being ahead of their time.
2 thoughts on “A Woman Ahead of her Time and her Citizen Soldier”
Fantastic documentation and illustration of Kate, especially her talent and strength in challenging times for a young woman seeking a life beyond social expectation. X
Thank you wonderful
On Mon, 4 Jan 2021, 2:06 am John’s Family History Blog, wrote:
> John Macvean posted: ” Kate Carina May Thorne, we are family by marriage, > but I couldn’t feel any prouder of her than if we were blood kin. The more > I discover of this amazing person, and as I have mentioned previously, when > you consider the time she was living in, straddling ” >