Discovering Some Old Family Treasures

The Nicoll Watch

During the Easter break this year, 2021 we weren’t in lockdown and were able to still travel. We visited Uncle Pete at Fishermans Reach, probably the last time, as he was selling up after 29 years. Uncle Pete is my Mum’s Brother.

Uncle Pete, (Pippo) & The Macveans
Figure 1: Courtesy of Macvean Family Archives

In preparing for the big move, Uncle Pete was going through lots of family history treasures that he had in storage and amongst two boxes worth of gold that he has given us to keep safe was this little gem. (not gold literally, but in terms of family history worth.)

The images below are in a gallery, just click on the image you want to view, and it will open the entire image.

A battered old fob watch that belonged to my Great Grandfather, Norman Rupert Nicoll and then my Grandfather, Norman Henry Nicoll. I checked out the dates, they are their birthdays for those particular years.

William Norman Rupert Nicoll, & Norman Henry Nicoll
Figure 5: Courtesy of the Nicoll Family Archives
Grace, Ken, Norman R & Norman H Nicoll
(Great Grandparents, Grandfather & his brother, Ken)
Figure 7: Courtesy of the Nicoll Family Archives

My Great Grandfathers inscription in 1906 was for his 18th birthday, and my Grandfathers in 1927 was for his 13th birthday.

William Norman Rupert Nicoll, (Marine Engineer)
Figure 7: Courtesy of the Nicoll Family Archives
Norman Henry Nicoll, (Cash Register Mechanic)
Figure 8: Courtesy of the Nicoll Family Archives

By this date of 28.11.27, (engraved on the watch) my Grandfather’s 13th Birthday, my Great Grandfather had been dead for six years.

William Norman Rupert Nicoll, Death Certificate
Figure 9: Courtesy of Birth Deaths & Marriages, NSW

My Pop, carried his Father’s funeral notice in his wallet. This is a photograph of the one he had all those years.

William Norman Rupert Nicoll, Funeral Notice carried by his Son, Norman
Figure 10: Courtesy of the Nicoll Family Archives

I found a local watchmaker, and he cleaned up the watch and found a crank shaft for the winder that fit.

Disappointingly he advised me that he wouldn’t be able to restore it as it was too big a job and would cost too much. He suggested a restoration service in Sydney.

I took a trip to Sydney in May and then just before the Delta Strain outbreak of Covid in June, I went back to collect and I was told they couldn’t restore it. The watchmaker wasn’t there and they couldn’t tell me why.

Nevertheless, what a gift! And what a family history talisman, another one. I can’t describe what it is like holding an item that I know most probably my 2x Great Grandparents handled when they originally purchased the watch for my Great Grandfather. My Great Grandfather carried it for years and then my Grandfather. I can’t wait to get it restored. Thanks so much to Uncle Pete, love you heaps mate for passing on this important link to our family, no matter how battered.

I haven’t given up, I will keep looking for someone who wants to take it on. It would be wonderful to carry it even if it isn’t working, but working would be amazing.

More Family Treasures

This is my Great Grandmother, Kathleen Teresa Raymond, Mum to my Nan, Kathleen Ashton Nicoll. This is her harmonica. My Great Grandmother was apparently an accomplished harmonica player. The things you learn. Wish there was a recording of her playing.

The following gallery of pictures relates to Anthony Hordern and Sons. My Grandmother started her working life there as a sales assistant in the Hosiery and Gloves section and then moved on to the Millinery department.

My Grandfather was for many years one of the senior cash register mechanics for the company and actually invented a device that helped with the transition of all of their registers over to the decimal system when decimal currency was introduced in 1966.

This is the iconic Globite bag. I only ever knew it as a school bag and in fact it was the first school case I had as a child. But this one was specially designed to carry tools, and it was what my Grandfather used to carry all his cash register tools in.

My Grandfather, probably like most men of his era, was a smoker. I remember as a child being fascinated with the number of ashtrays sitting on elaborately crotchet doilies all around Nan and Pop’s unit. This was his lighter and automatic cigarette rolling machine.

These next few photos are a small collection from a number of boxes of different curios that pop had accumulated. Again the value is in history, the snapshot that they give of his life, which is invaluable in my opinion.

The Capstan cigarettes will I suspect be nearly a century old. Unbelievable that there are still some in the box. They were invented in the mid 1890s and became the most popular selling brand to the working man in the early 20th century. A quick search online and these look like early teens, 20/30’s. Interestingly, Capstan had the highest amount of nicotine in their mix as apposed to any other brand available at the time.

The signaling mirror I’m sure is from Pop’s time in the war. The Australian War Memorial has one in its collection attributed to a serviceman from Mount Gambier who enlisted in 1942, Flight Lieutenant Colin Cecil Linn.

There are rows and rows of coins that Pop has in the collection. The 1916 Florrin is the earliest in the stack, and the 1927 I pulled out, as it is the same year as Pop’s 13th B’day year on the watch. I’m a sentimentalist at heart if you hadn’t worked that out already. I did a quick Google search and pristine condition can go for $4000 – $6000, battered ones like these, much less, $35 each. But still, there are a few of them in the collection.

The matchbox is very interesting. It is actually a very sturdy metallic box. I vaguely remember hearing somewhere that you could get them made up with your own photo inserted into the top. I have been digging and can find no mention of this anywhere.

This is not a picture of my Pop, but I think it could be a picture of his Uncle, Horace John Blackwood, who died just 12 months after his return to Australia, having survived the entirety of World War 1 in Europe. I just can’t be certain. So frustrating! The line of the lip, the shape of the nose and the flat edge to his right ear all seem to match. See what you think.

Horace John “Jack” Blackwood
Figure 37: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives
Could it be Horace John “Jack” Blackwood?
Figure 39: Courtesy of the Nicoll Family Archives
Horace John “Jack” Blackwood
Figure 38: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives
Horace John “Jack” Blackwood
Figure 40: Courtesy of the State Archives of New South Wales

This amazing picture is from Jack’s internment documents on the Sobroan. Boys reformatory ship that sat in Port Jackson just off Sydney Cove (Circular Quay). Jack was incarcerated for habitual wandering and turned in to the police by his Father, Henry John Blackwood, my 2x Great Grandfather.

Figure 41: Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia
Horace John “Jack” Blackwood
(look closely at the top of Jack’s nose, and you will see the outline of a scar running right up to the top between his eyes.)
Figure 42: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives
Figure 43: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
Figure 44: Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia

I had the honour of being able to visit Jacks memorial at St Stephen’s Church, George Street, Sydney.

Figure 45: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives

The Remembrance Board used to hang in the original church site in Phillip Street, Sydney, which was also the Families place of worship and many weddings. When Martin Place was extended, the church was demolished and rebuilt in the present George St site in 1933.

St Stephen’s, Phillip Street, Sydney circa, 1925
Figure 46: Courtesy of Fairfax Photos
St Stephen’s, George Street, Sydney, 2016
Figure 47: Courtesy of Google

Alex, the Boys and I also had the honour of finding Jack’s War Graves Memorial in Rookwood Cemetery.

Figure 48: Courtesy of the Macvean Family Archives
Figure 49: Courtesy of the Macvean Family Archives

On the same day and after about an hour of walking and counting graves, we had the great fortune of finding Jack’s gravesite. Unfortunately, his name does not appear on the headstone, and at first, I thought we had the incorrect grave.

Figure 50: Courtesy of the Macvean Family Archives

The Trustee’s Office at the Cemetery confirmed for us that we had the correct grave. They had him recorded being buried with a Jean White.

At first, I thought Jean must have been his girlfriend or fiancĂ©. It didn’t take too long to find out that Jean was actually his Step-Mother. She was Henry John Blackwood’s second wife and the reason she is named, White and not Blackwood on the headstone? Sensationally they divorced in 1921, and I’m sure, mortifying for the time, it was splashed through the Sydney newspapers of the day.

I found one of the reports on Trove. It is a few pictures long, but it is well worth the read.

Slide Show 1: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia

This article which is obviously written at the time to be salacious is so full of information about the family that I was unaware of. Although sad in content, it is a wonderful find for filling in that lost family information. But at the heart of this is a family and a young woman who was obviously dealing with a serious addiction and a lot of mental demons.

I was so lucky to find the original paperwork that both my Great Great Grandfather Henry and Jane had to lodge for their divorce on one of my research visits to NSW Archives. Contained within the legal-speak documents were these heartfelt words written by Jane to Henry and also one to “Sid” (Sidney Johnstone) who was married to my Great Aunt Jennie (Jean Blackwood).

Slide Show 2: Courtesy of New south Wales State Archives

These are such a gift to find buried in these dusty old records. These are so special, and I can only imagine would have been very hard for Jane to admit to, let alone having to write out her failings for all to read. I hope she knows that I’m so aware of their value and treating them with the respect that they are due.

The story is very sad and obviously had an impact on the whole family, who appear very close. The story unfortunately doesn’t get any better. Just two years after Henry and Jane divorced, these reports appeared in the newspapers at the time.

Figure 51: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
Figure 52: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
Figure 53: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
Figure 54: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
Figure 55: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia

Obviously, there was still a bond there between Henry and Jane. The fact that Henry still supports her with money and a job. These photos below show the area that Jean’s body was found. White Bay, just behind the White Bay Power Station. These photos were taken around 1930 so only 6 years after Jane’s drowning.

Figure 56: Courtesy of Dictionary of Sydney;
Figure 57: Courtesy of Pyrmont History

If you follow the point up on top of Figure 56 and the bottom of Figure 57 it ends in Long Nose Point. It is the point of land that extends out from Birchgrove. This is where the matrimonial house mentioned in the articles was situated, at 22 Louise Street.

22 Louisa Street, Long Nose Point
Figure 58: Courtesy of Blackwood Family Archives

Unfortunately there are no names on the Blackwood photos so a lot of them I have had to try and workout for myself. I think that Jean will be one of the women sitting here in front of the house.

I thought this lady second from the left was Jean, up until I read the description of the body in the article above. She is described as slim.

Figure 59: Courtesy of Blackwood Family Archives

This is my 2x Great Grandfather, Henry John Blackwood, on the left. Next to him, who I thought was Jean Blackwood (White)?. Then Ollie Blackwood and her husband, Robert, “Bobbie” Blackwood, (my Great Uncle). I’m not saying that this lady is big, but she is certainly not what I would expect when they describe someone as slim. It could be that she lost weight with all the stress of what was going on in the two years that the marriage ended and the time that she is pulled from White Bay.

At this stage Jean would be early 40s, I’m not sure this woman meets that criteria. It is so hard to know, but my gut is telling me this is not Jean. Here is another that shows, that she could be older than early 40s.

Figure 60: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives

This is Horace “Jack” Blackwood, Jeanne Johnstone (his sister) bottom left, Ollie Blackwood, (sister in law) bottom right. I think the older woman in the middle might be their Aunt. Henry John’s sister, Annie Elizabeth Price. She would be early 50’s at this stage and I think this fits better. Also Annie lived in Balmain as well so very close to this property.

I think this might be Jean.

Figure 61: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives
Figure 62: Courtesy of the Blackwood Family Archives

I think this woman on the right might fit the description for Jean. One of the reports mentions that she has a daughter from her previous marriage to Mr White, might be her on the left in Figure 61. It is all speculation and nothing changes the fact that it was a sad ending for her and the family.

I think this has really highlighted what amazing stories can come from some old boxes stored in your Uncle’s garage. Hope you have enjoyed reading about these family treasures and their stories, and maybe it might be time to visit your Uncle?

2 thoughts on “Discovering Some Old Family Treasures

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