Sunday, 2 February 2014

They were tough women in the old days

My great great grandmother was born Keturah Patch in Somerset England 1835. In April 1855 when she was 20 she married my great great grandfather Richard Michael Hallett, he was 21. I dont know how they met or if it was a marriage of love or of convenience but only weeks after the wedding they left England for good on a ship to Australia, and looking at the date of the first child born - she would have been pregnant while on the 3 month ship journey.
You would have had to be tough to be pregnant, on a ship on the high seas and leaving your family and homeland for ever, knowing you would probably never see your parents, sister and friends again.

They arrived in Australia on the ship Cambodia in August 1855 disembarking in Brisbane - which at that time was still part of New South Wales (Queensland did not become a state till 1859). It was a pretty rough and new town with dirt roads and no bridges across the river that divided it - they settled in South Brisbane and Richard worked as a labourer and as a butcher (his family trade in England). 

Keturah gave birth to their first child Henry (Harry) in Dec 1855 - Henry/Harry died before his 3rd birthday in 1858.
In 1857 their second son and my great grandfather George was born, 2 years later another son Harry was born in 1859 - named after his late brother. Harry lived to be 16 before death took him (there was an inquest into his death?)
In 1860 their first daughter was born - Mary. 
In 1861 Frederick was born only to pass away a year later.  
In 1863 another son was born and named after his late brother Frederick - this one survived to 19 before passing.
In 1864 Samuel was born but he died aged 7, Joseph was born in 1866 and Grace in 1868. 

So after 13 years of marriage in a strange land - Keturah had given birth to 9 children. She then fell pregnant again in 1869... this time it did not end well - the child was born deceased or died soon after as the birth was not registered and Keturah died of "laceration of the womb" - she bled to death after the birth. In those days there was not much that could be done and as births were at home with no medical help other than a midwife if you were lucky, then it was risk every time. It would have been a painful death but she would have had her family around her.

It has to be mentioned that her husband Richard does not come across as the loving father you would want with this many children. In searches of the newspapers of the time - Richard Hallett is mentioned many times - usually in the police reports for being arrested for drunkeness and vagrancy (having no means of support - so probably no money on him and perhaps no job at the time). His eldest son George had to bail out his father a number of times and had to start his working life young to try and support his mother and siblings as his father couldnt or wouldnt. When Keturah went into labour the last time in 1869, Richard was once again out on the town getting drunk and had been arrested - George had to plead his case and tell them his mother was dying so that they dismissed the charges and released Richard so he could go home to his wife. 

So in 1869 - Keturah died aged 34 after leaving her family and home in England, living in a strange and hot land, having babies almost constantly and seeing them get sick and die, having a husband who was never home and if he was, he probably wasnt the nicest person. I think she must have been a very strong woman to go through all that - I wish I could have known her - I dont even have a photo of her, but I imagine a strong and proud woman who loved her children and did her best for them. 

I feel this as her eldest son George (my great grandfather) was nothing like his father and I think he got his strength and commitment from his mother. He started work when he was young to help out his family as a clerk and ended up working for Baynes Brothers Butchers for 56 years.  George was for many years Honorary Secretary for the Labor organisation in South Brisbane and secretary to the committee of the South Brisbane State School. He was also honorary secretary for the Light Gear Club (a fishing club) and a keen member. (Now I know why I was drawn to be secretary of the African Violet Society! Its in the blood!) 

George married a Sheffield girl Louisa Bowler in Brisbane -1883 and their youngest surviving son was my grandfather Eric. My grandfather didnt know about all the extra siblings his father had as the only ones that survived to adulthood and married were Mary, Joseph and Grace. He would have been surprised to know about the other 6. I certainly was when I found them in the records when researching at the State Library. I almost yelled out every time I found another child of Richard and Keturah Hallett in the records! 

We dont realise how good we have it these days - they bred them tough in the old days - I tip my hat to you Keturah - you are my heroine! 

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