My Maternal Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather.
Today is the 2nd of February 2023 it is the 55th anniversary of Joseph’s death date. He passed away in 1968 at the age of 75, just 13 months before I arrived in March of 69.
Here is the most wonderful photo of my great-grandfather Joseph taken on his wedding day to my great-grandmother, Kathleen Teresa Ashton. I say wonderful because it is over 100 years old now.
I used to look at this photo as a kid and hope like hell that I would take after him somehow when I grew up and that hair, I mean come on, that is some great genetics but it was not meant to be.
My cousin Greg, my Aunty Jan’s son, got Joseph’s looks (he looks similar in my opinion), and the b__tard has kept his hair even into his 50s.
I on the other hand, from around the age of 14 looked like a clone of Frank Thring (a famous Australian Actor from the Golden Years of Hollywood) nothing against Frank but he, like me, can only be described as a bit of a rough head. Oh yeah, and my hair? Started to go from about 25 years of age.
Oh god, looks like I was adopted and I have found my real father. Anyhow back to Joseph and Kathleen.
Here is the full photo of both of them from their wedding day on Wednesday 2nd September 1914.
Following is a copy of Joseph and Kathleen’s marriage registration. I can’t remember where it came from, I don’t have it as a record as one of the certificates I have purchased, so whoever shared it, thank you so much.
What a document to find, just filled with information I had no idea about. First off it states they were married by Father John Parker at the Presbytery in Gilgandra.
Gilgandra is a country town in the Orana region of New South Wales. It is approximately 432 km northwest of Sydney and sits on the lands of the Gamilaraay, Wiradjuri and Wayilwan people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgandra,_New_South_Wales
Interesting to note here that Kathleen and Joseph weren’t actually living at Gilgandra, both are noted as living at Gular. What the hell? Never even heard of that name before, we will come back to that but first Father Parker and the presbytery.
I cannot for the life of me unearth a photo of Father John Parker, he was the first Roman Catholic Parish Priest appointed for the town of Gilgandra in 1913. I even scoured Ancestry, his sister and brothers appear but there was no listing for Father John. I set one up for him, hopefully, if any of his future family go looking for him they will stumble across it.
I did find this photo of a plaque in remembrance of his service to the Gilgandra parish along with a Father Eviston.
When Father John first arrived in Gilgandra, he lived in a rented cottage on Myrtle Street. I discovered this information from a thematic history report completed for the Gilgandra Shire back in 2009, authored by Ray Christison. In the report, he outlines that the original St Joseph’s church was a small wooden structure on Morris Street next to the Chinnock Private Hospital. https://www.gilgandra.nsw.gov.au/files/assets/public/planning-amp-environment/gilgandra-shire-thematic-history.pdf
I got us close but not quite enough. What random luck again, I’m sure Joseph and Kathleen would recognise this building. It was originally the convent for the Sister’s teaching at St Joseph’s school.
According to the Thematic Report by Ray Christison, the convent was built in 1908, and Google Maps shows it is still standing 115 years later.
I did find out that Father Parker ministered in the Gilgandra area for 18 years and I can only imagine in that time he would have remained a part of Kathleen and Joseph’s spiritual life in some form or another.
Unfortunately for Father Parker his health took a turn for the worse in the early 30s, and he had to retire from Gilgandra, he took on a role as Chaplain at Perthville.
There was a severe shortage of Priests at the time, and he had to relieve the priests working in Orange. At the age of 49 on the evening of Sunday, the 28th of May, whilst in the middle of service, Father Parker collapsed and then died two hours later in the local hospital.
Figure 12-15: Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
Of course, I’m focusing here on the site of the old church trying to pin down where the presbytery was that Kathleen and Joseph married. My thinking here is that they are usually pretty close together if not on the same property, and we might catch a glimpse of it that way.
The thing that is confusing me a bit here, is that a new church and presbytery were built in 1914, the same year that Kathleen and Joseph married. So does this mean that they married in the rented house in Myrtle street or the new presbytery? I found this notice of the new churches opening in October 1914 just a month after their wedding.
I’m thinking that as it was only four weeks after Kathleen and Joe’s wedding that the new church opened that any presbytery that might have been being built at the same time, was probably not completed in time for the wedding, so the Myrtle Street address it is.
Below is a Google map of Morris Street where the original wooden church stood, right next to the hospital (highlighted in yellow) and then the first block of Myrtle Street. I wonder if that rented property of Father Parkers was here somewhere, which would mean that this is potentially the spot where Kathleen and Joseph had their wedding ceremony.
Here is a selection of what looks like, to my highly trained eye, original buildings that are still standing in this section of Myrtle Street, from Morris Street to Wamboin Street. I wonder, again, if I have been lucky enough to capture the correct house or, was it one of those that didn’t survive and was demolished long ago. There is absolutely no way to tell, but what we can do is just look at these amazing old houses and wonder.
The building pictured here in the middle was the original courthouse for Gilgandra built in 1915 and moved to this site in 1929. https://historicalaustraliantowns.blogspot.com/2021/05/gilgandra-nsw-on-banks-of-castlereagh.html
Having just said that we can only wonder, I did manage to track down contact details for the Church Archivist in the Bathurst diocese. I have sent off a request to see if anybody knows where the house stood in Myrtle Street that Father John lived in and whether anyone has the details of when exactly he moved to the new presbytery. Waiting on a response now.
I did manage to find a photograph of the new church that was built in 1914 and right next to it, looks like a building that could be the presbytery, again no way to know if this was even finished when Kathleen and Joseph married but what a great find.
What is so sad here is that there are many other churches in Gilgandra of other denominations that survived and are still standing today, but unfortunately, this beautiful building above was demolished in the late 1960s to make way for this 1970s creation.
Let’s move on to Gular, Gulargambone the town they were living in as indicated on the marriage registration, where Joseph was working as a Grocer and Kathleen as a Domestic.
Gulargambone is a small town that sits, according to the Gulargambone Community Working Party, on the traditional land of the Weilwan and Kawambarai people. It is nestled on the banks of the Castlereagh River under the shadow of the Warrenbungles. http://mpra.com.au/uploads/images/Gulargambone%20CAP%202019%20FINAL%2028.11.19.pdf
It is about 550 km to the northwest of Sydney. I have no idea why my family, the Raymonds, and the Ashtons were living there. There are no links to working the land or running cattle or sheep that I can find so far. This, I have been told, is the side of the family that had no money, the side I most identify with. But presumably, somewhere in this block of streets on the map above, both Kathleen and Joseph lived with their families.
Now, it has been a few weeks since I wrote this section above, and in that time I have now become aware that even though in general Gulargambone is referred to as Gular, there is actually a place called Gular as well.
Gular sits about four km to the Northwest of the town, you can see it marked on the map above, it is where the old railway station used to be. Just to the left of the tracks, there is a small rectangular section of houses. This may be where Kathleen and Joseph were living before they married.
How lucky again to have these two photos of James Brook’s, that gets us almost into Gular. Google Maps doesn’t even have these roads into Gular scanned in yet.
As you can see I have been doing the rounds on Google and Trove to see what I can find out about Kathleen and Joe’s lives but in relation to them personally, it is coming up virtually blank. The problem for me with Joe is with a name like Raymond, it picks up everyone with either a first or second name of Raymond as well as the surname and the results list is huge. I tried narrowing it down by coupling it with Gular and this was the first result that appeared. Just amazing.
I just couldn’t believe it. What an insanely specific article to find on Joe. This article is printed at the end of July 1914 just one month before the wedding date in September. I’ve gone back and looked at that photo of Joe from his wedding day to see if there is any sign of that trauma left. Are they faint marks on the left side of his chin and cheek or just marks on the photo?
I have been trying to track down some photos of what the town might have looked like at the time and I came across a Facebook group called, “I know someone from Gulargambone” I scoured it and found a few photos of shops at the time, but then came across this one of a horse and sulky.
I know it isn’t the one Joe was driving, but it gives us a pretty good idea of what it might have looked like and gets us pretty close. A horse and sulky pictured in Gulargambone, at the same time? I mean I can almost see my great-grandfather Joe hanging from it. Yeah, that sounds so wrong.
In regards to Joe working at the IXL Store, there is virtually nothing online about its existence except for these two tiny examples. The first is from the Thematic report I mentioned earlier in this post by Ray Christison. He shared this background information on Albert F Garling who was a local retailer in the district and so much more.
In this excerpt below, Christison is talking about a site in Gilgandra that Garling and his family owned.
The second example comes from another family history blog, the Jude Family in NSW.
The author of this blog mentions a relative of the family by the name of Alexander Ferguson who was a well-known resident of Gulargambone for over 60 years. His family established the Youlbung Station in the Tooraweenah district about 60kms east of Gulargambone and apparently had the custom of heading into Gulargambone every Tuesday and Saturday to do business at the IXL stores. https://johnjudeconvict.blogspot.com/p/the-fergusons.html
I’ve realised that I have just made myself out as a liar again. Now that we know the store was sold to Mr Bourke I tried a search with his name added. Still no picture of the store, but I did find these mentions of Mr Bourke.
These just give such great details of the community that Kathleen and Joseph were living in. And here is another example, wow and this one gets us right to the bullseye. It confirms exactly where the store was in Gulargambone and it comes from a small mention of Mr Bourke some thirty years after he was there.
I went looking for details of the fire, imaging that this would have been big news at the time but there is absolutely nothing out there about it. When I dug a bit deeper, there are no newspaper archives for Gilgandra from the late 1920s. I don’t know if that means they just haven’t been scanned in or they just haven’t survived.
I did find this one mention from the Sydney Morning Herald stating the fire was in 1927.
Even having the exact location as a result of the details in Figure 37 doesn’t help us with a photo but it does enable us to have a look on Google Maps and see what is there. Coonamble Street ends at a T section with Bourbah so it is one of these two corners that the IXL stores operated from.
I suspect it is the one on the left as I think this article below might explain why the other corner is just an open grass section.
You may be able to notice the 2008 date on the picture above, it is the latest photo that Google Maps have of the Gulargambone area and it is well overdue for an update in my opinion. However, I didn’t give up my search and found this more recent photo of the site from a Google Map uploader. Thanks, Christine Millard.
It of course is the shed behind the wire bullocks, on the left. If you scan over to the right of the photo, notice the building with the Gulargambone Rural name on it? Well, here it is pictured below, in the late teens or early 1920s. This building managed to survive and Kathleen and Joe, I think would recognise this one straight away, seeing as it is directly opposite where Joe was working.
Here it is again below, courtesy of the “Pave the Way to Gular” festival Facebook page. This is from 2018 and it is obvious when you look at it, that the building has had a few facelifts over the decades but is essentially still in the same form.
You may have noticed in this post so far, that there is little information about Kathleen, my great-grandmother. It is not a surprise, is it? As we have discussed in previous posts the details of the female ancestors are often more than not just, non-existent.
In all my hours of searching for Kathleen and Joe, (I’ve been working on this post for about two weeks now) I’ve managed to find only one mention of Kathleen, just one!
In an absolutely brilliant piece of coincidence or kismet and realisation, after reading this description of what Kathleen was wearing I went back into the small collection of photos Nan gave me of her mum and I was stunned to find this one.
It sat on Nan’s entertainment unit above her TV for 20-odd years. I have seen it thousands of times but any details of it apart from the subject were long gone, until now.
Now, I’m no fashion expert, although I did work in my mate James’ costume shop for a number of years, but that looks like it might be cream satin that Kathleen is wearing. It also looks suspiciously like an overdress of a chiffon material that is definitely in a dew drop style and that is fur trim on the sleeves and the overdress.
I’m confident in calling it, this is most probably a picture of Kathleen at the ball in July 1914. (That was confident wasn’t it?)
Oh, I so wish I had been able to make this connection before Nan passed away. She would have got such a thrill out of this, she adored her mum and would have loved to know when the picture was taken and what her mum was doing. Oh, I’m such an idiot, I actually got teary while writing about this and thinking of my Nan. Just sort of sneaks up on you. And after eight years, damn.
It is interesting to note in the article above that the ball was a fundraiser for the church of England. Nan always said what a staunch catholic her mum was and in actual fact, my grandfather Norman Nicoll had to convert to Catholicism in order to marry Nan, Kathleen’s daughter. This begs the question what is a staunch catholic doing going to the opposition’s ball?
Check out those two lines above in Figure 44, saying that it was purely a social event and the proverbial chalk line was not drawn. I mean they are some pretty amazing words to put in the article and just go to show how much division there was between the two faiths even in a small western New South Wales rural town at that time. What a fantastic insight.
And to answer that question, I think you only have to look at that photo of Kathleen. The chance to wear that gown and to attend the ball, the social event of the district, oh wait, now that sounds familiar.
Having checked out that photo, you might have noticed the faint outline of a brooch on Kathleen’s neckline. This is a very famous piece of jewellery in our family and one of those stories I grew up hearing about from my Nan from a very young age.
Here are some beautiful photos of my great-grandmother wearing the piece at different times in her life. I’m so grateful to my Nan for keeping these safe all these decades.
What a collection to have and I’m so happy to be the custodian of them now that Nan has passed on.
As you can see, the brooch obviously was very important to Kathleen and as to the story I grew up hearing, it was that the brooch went missing and Kathleen had no idea what happened to it, that is until this happened.
I mean it is an incredible story and one I knew well but I had never seen the article until now. And wow there is so much in there. Imagine the Police being able to decide like that now, ownership with no legal recourse. I never knew about Kathleen receiving the brooch from her brother-in-law at aged 13. What an incredible gift to receive but it begs the question, why?
The thing I’m most excited about in this article is the mention of the photograph that Kathleen produced to prove ownership when she was 18 years old. I’m fairly confident again, that I have it. Here it is below.
There is the brooch, clear as day. It is such a distinctive natural shape and really a one-off, so very easy to identify. Also the pendant Kathleen is wearing here looks to be the same as the one she is wearing in Figure 44, the night of the Gulargambone Ball.
My Nan was always adamant that this was a photo of her mum, Kathleen and I have to admit I always had a bit of doubt. I felt it looked earlier, the late 1800s. I was thinking that maybe it was a photo of her mother, Catherine Boyce. I even asked my Aunty Jan just this week what she thought about the photo, but now thanks to the article above, we know Kathleen was given the brooch at 13 years of age. This is definitely Kathleen at 18 years of age wearing the brooch proudly. Sorry Nan, that I ever doubted you.
As usual, what I thought was going to be a Quick Glimpse has turned into more and I have so much more to share with you about Kathleen and Joseph and their story, but I’m going to finish off here for the moment.
Part 2 will be completed soon. Thanks for reading.