Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blog of Logs

Looking for an account of the voyage of the Panama from London to Melbourne in 1852, I consulted the three volume work Log of Logs by Ian Nicholson. These volumes list the whereabouts of known accounts of ships voyages - logs, diaries, newspaper accounts.

In Volume 2 there is a reference to a voyage by:

1852   clipper ship, Captain Lane, London 30.6 to Melbourne 12.11.52; +extracts from Edward Mallandaine's diary, *RHSV  MS00065. 

As a member I can consult that record for free.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ship Panama from London

This ship Panama  is, at 1100 tons, twice the size of the one which sailed from London to Melbourne in 1852.
Now this is embarrassing. I have been caught by the oldest trick in the book.  Assuming that there is only one person, or in this case, one ship, of the same name.  Having previously searched through Trove looking for evidence of a ship called Panama arriving in Melbourne in 1852, I lighted upon a ship of that name which was on the California to Melbourne run BUT!!!  there was another one, at 511 tons, which left London for Melbourne in 1852, and that was the one that carried a George Griffiths.

Fortunately I did actually look at the passenger list for the Panama, and all was revealed.  Well, some of it was revealed.  The bit that was revealed was that the Panama had sailed from London, with the Master T S Thomas and 191 statute adult unassisted passengers.   The George Griffiths, aged 26, occupation clerk and an Englishman, arrived in Melbourne in October 1852.

The bit that was not revealed was whether or not this George was my gt gt grandfather George Griffith, a musician from Liverpool. He usually gave an age on records consistent with him being born in 1824, so by 1852 he should have been aged 28.  I don't necessarily expect to find the occupation of musician on the shipping records, but he was certainly sufficiently well educated to have the position of clerk, and this is the most likely occupation to date of any of the George Griffiths' who arrived in Melbourne around this time.

He may, of course, have come to Melbourne via a different port - too difficult to even contemplate at this stage.   

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Was George a 49er?

In the three years since I began this blog I have examined in some detail the movements of George Griffith, and discovered quite a lot more than I knew when I began, but that old conundrum of just when George arrived in Victoria is still unresolved. 

I lately drew up a timeline for known movements built up through newspapers and birth and death certificates.  George first came to notice in Beechworth in 1855 when he advertised that he was available for weddings, parties, anything.  He had a child born in Wangaratta that year, and the child died in Wangaratta in 1856.  Later in that year he was at the Woolshed diggings, and in 1857 back in Beechworth.  They lived in Silver Creek in 1857 (and a child died there in 1859), with mentions in Beechworth and Woolshed in the same year.  In 1858 they were in Beechworth, and by 1859 had followed the rush to Indigo, later known as Chiltern.  Although the child died in Silver Creek in 1859, they were still in Chiltern (or back in Chiltern) in 1860.  The last reference to George was in Beechworth in 1863, and by 1865 the family had moved down to the Melbourne suburb on Fitzroy.

But George did not sit quietly in Fitzroy - by 1866 he had followed the goldrush to Hokitika in New Zealand, probably without his family, but had returned to Melbourne by 1868.

Whether the movements in the Ovens goldfields represents constantly moving around, or merely travelling from place to place taking up musical engagements is difficult to say.  Probably a bit of both.

 However, a pattern has emerged from all this, which is that there was a commitment to following the goldrushes, and it finally dawned on me that perhaps I had been too hasty in rejecting one arrival in Victoria in 1852:

"The other 26 year old George Griffiths who arrived by the Panama in 1852 is less likely as the ship appears (from advertising in The Argus) to have been engaged in a run from Australia to San Francisco and return".
Unfortunately there was a very well-known George Griffith who discovered one of the California goldfields, which tends to clutter up search results, but at this stage I think revisiting PROV to check the passenger indent of the Panama is the next item on the list.

I have in the past been unable to pin him down in Liverpool in the 1851 Census (though he may have been anywhere in England), and this would be explained by his taking off to California by 1849. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

'Poses Plastique', 1858

Unidentified man wearing classical costume, from the State Library of Victoria Collection, H88.50/44.
The last story about George Griffith at the Ovens goldfields comes from a very interesting publication called Nobblers and Lushingtons: a History of the Hotels of Beechworth and the Ovens District, by Richard Patterson (Endymion (Australia) Pty Ltd: Beechworth, 2009.)

In this Patterson reports on a violinist called Griffiths (probably George Griffith), who took the licensee of the Telegraph Hotel, Thomas Mooney, to court for unpaid  wages.  Mooney had employed a performer called Donovan who presented a series of tableux - 'Poses Plastique' - based on classical themes at the  Hotel, with Griffith providing a musical accompaniment.  However, Mooney took exception to the tunes selected by Griffith - an Irish jig for a pose as a "Greek Statue", and "Tow Row Row" (which I think is the British Grenadiers March) for a scene depicting the Rape of the Sabine Women. Mooney dismissed Griffith for what might be characterised as a disrespectful choice of music, but Griffith successfully defended himself by saying that as a classical musician and composer, he didn't even know the tune of "Tow Row Row" (though one could point out that he knew the Irish jigs.)

Patterson gives the reference for this story as the Ovens and Murray Advertiser 14 September 1935.

Griffith's reference to himself as a composer is an interesting one, though to date the only evidence of that is a program which advertised a polka called "Beechworth" in a concert  in Beechworth. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Return to Melbourne, circa 1863-1865

Beechworth, c 1922, showing the Bank of Victoria centre right. From the family collection.
The above photo postcard of Beechworth is annotated on the back with "Taken 66 years after other card 1922".  The two storey stone building to the centre right was built in 1867 for the Bank of Victoria, at 29 Camp St, corner of Ford St.  The Bank of Victoria amalgamated with the CBC in 1927.  Someone made a sentimental return to Beechworth - perhaps Mary Jane, born there in 1857.

The building in the right foreground is interesting.  It has the look of an old hotel, but from Camp Street, when looking via Google Maps, the building has a narrow shop front and the verandah only along the front and Ford Street side. Does anyone know what this building was?

We are almost done with the Ovens goldfields - I am waiting on one more reference.  By 1865 the Griffiths had returned to Melbourne.  They'd spent about ten years in the chaotic life of the goldfields, but now the easy surface gold was gone and deep lead mining was replacing the panning and winnowing of the old days.  Economic times were hard.  The population on the goldfields began to drift back to Melbourne, or buy landholdings and turn their efforts to farming.

George and Susan returned to Melbourne with their three little girls - Mary Jane, Ann Catherine and Louisa -  leaving two little boys in the Beechworth Cemetery, it seems in unmarked graves.   Mary Jane, who turned five in August 1862 had probably started school in 1863.

Did they return to Melbourne with a nice sum in a Bank of Victoria account, or had their fortunes declined with the goldfields?  That is a question that would warrant some investigation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Another daughter, 1863

"The Cottage Girl; or, the Marriage-Day. By the author of “The Gipsey Bride,” etc., etc. [i.e. Mary Bennett.], London 1867. Courtesy of the British Library Photostream.
In June 1863 the Griffiths added a third little girl to their brood.  The two little boys had died as infants.  The births index shows that the daughter, Louisa, was born at Beechworth.  Together with the performance with the Beechworth Philharmonic Society the next month, this may indicate the Griffiths had moved back to Beechworth from Chiltern.  It is hard to say without a copy of the certificate.

Beechworth Philharmonic Society, 1863

'To Gipsyland ... Illustrated by J. Pennell', London, 1893.  Courtesy of the British Library Photostream.

A long-winded article in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser, evidently paid for by the word, didn't really tell us much about the concert, but that the Philharmonic Society was an amateur organisation which made enthusiastic attempts to play classical pieces.  They were supported by three professional musicians, Herr Schmidt on the violin, Mr Griffiths on the violin, and Mr Ruxton on the piano

"[N]o notice of the Concert would be complete without mention being made of Herr SCHMIDT's exquisite performance on the violin, and the manner in which he has instructed his pupils. Mr Griffiths and Mr Ruxton also deserves much praise for their masterly execution on the violin and  piano. We, unfortunately, were not present at the 'First Part,'- but MOZART's Twelfth Mass is decidedly the very best selection that could have been made by amateurs,-— the one in fact that is generally attempted by non professional associations. We hear it was admirably rendered, and to judge from the subsequent successes, we should think the applause which it called down was well  deserved. -We wish all prosperity to our Philharmonic Society, aud feel convinced that it will exert a powerful influence, both morally and socially, in Beechworth."
 The Ovens and Murray Advertiser. (1863, July 4). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from

Henri William Ruxton is described in Graeme Skinner's Austral Harmony as " late member of the Philharmonic Society, Liverpool". Ruxton is interesting because not only was he from the Liverpool area, but he gave Wilkie in Melbourne as a referee when he advertised in Melbourne as a music teacher in 1853.

Herr Schmidt may have been the viola player, active in Ballarat in 1859 according to Austral Harmony.