Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Tyrolese Minstrels. June 1857

The Tyrolese Minstrels may have looked a little bit like this image which shows a group of the same name in The Illustrated London News, London, Saturday, 6 December 1851, p. 699.

Star Theatre
THE TYROLESE MINSTRELS. These performers made a successful debut in this district at the Star Theatre, attired in their picturesque national costume Madame Haimberger and Miss Kramer attracted the admiring gaze of a crowded audience, while their finished delivery of the mountain airs peculiar to their own homes, astonished and delighted all alike. The musical "Iodelu", which is the refrain of almost all their songs, never fails to hang on the ear and to please the memory long after its sound has ceased. The ladies really deserve the. high encomiums which have been passed upon them elsewhere, and which they most assuredly find echoed by the good folks of the Ovens. It is a great pity that the racy and original words of their songs cannot be understood by the majority of their hearers, as the absence of this understanding deprives the performance of half its merit......
...The entertainment was varied by performances on the harp and violin by Messrs Zeplin and Griffith.

THE Ovens [?] Advertiser. (1857, June 9). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from

Again George performed in partnership with George Zeplin.  George Frederick Zeplin, a member of a musical family, arrived in Melbourne in October 1852 on the Nepaul aged 20.   The rest of his family, including parents, arrived in 1859 and were immediately employed as Zeplin Family Quadrille Band.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Unpaid Wages, March 1857

Robert O'Hara Burke, circa 1860.  Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection
Friday, March 27, 1857
(Before R. O'H. Bourke, Esq., J.P. and J, S. Morphy, Esq., J.P.)

George Zeplin v John Johnson.
A claim for £5 6s 8d, balance of wages, for playing a harp at defendant's house for two weeks and two days at £5 per week. Plaintiff had received £5, and now sued for the balance.
Mrs Griffith was sworn, and stated that she was present when Zeplin agreed with Johnson to play for him at £5 per week each. Would swear positively that the word "each" was mentioned.

Mr Johnson, having been sworn, stated that he engaged the plaintiff and his mate for £5 per week, and board, but never dreamt of paying them that amount each.

The magistrates said they had no...........the amount claimed.  

[There appears  to be a fold in the newspaper in the above sentence, and it is not clear just what the magistrates thought.] 
George Griffith v John Johnson. A claim for £5 6s 8d.
This case was exactly similar to the last, and judgment for the amount was taken by consent.

POLICE COURT. (1857, March 28). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from

George Zeplin was a fruiterer and greengrocer (and evidently a harpist) at Woolshed, per Ovens directory 1857.  John Johnson was a publican at One Mile (about one mile south of the centre of Beechworth).

The most interesting aspect of this post, to me, was George and Susan's brush with fame - the case was heard before Police Magistrate Robert O'Hara Burke, who would later go on to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition in 1860.

In the nineteenth century citizens were probably more familiar with the inside of a Magistrates' Court, which they used to chase wages owed, payments for goods, unpaid rent or board, and so on.

We learn from this that George was employed at £5 a week in a hotel to play what one imagines woud have been popular music.   We don't know what sort of week that entailed - all day for six days, or every evening for six days, five days?  The wage for a carpenter was £1-10-0 per day, a bricklayer could earn £1-5-0 per day, and a labourer between 15 shillings and £1 a day.  So these musicians (had they been paid) would have been earning less than a labourer - or the day was not a full working day.  It is hard to know unless we can shed some more light on it.

At the Ovens goldfields, 1850s.

This photograph by Walter Woodbury, said to have been taken circa 1855, shows the mining settlement at Woolshed Creek, a village of canvas and shingles.  Woodbury set up a studio in Beechworth in 1857, so it is possible that the image dates to this later period.  Source:  The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum. Inventory no: 2003-5001/2/23789

I am now going to wind back the dial on the time machine to 1855 when we will find George and Susan Griffith on the Ovens goldfields of northern Victoria.  I have already mentioned the children born and baptised in Fitzroy between 1865 and 1876, but there was an older group of children born among the tents, bark huts and gold workings in the Ovens Valley.  These were:

Edward George,  born 14 Apr 1855 at Wangaratta  (died 24 Feb 1856 Wangaratta)
Mary Jane           born 10 Aug 1857 at Silver Creek
George                born circa 1859 Indigo                     (died 1859 Indigo)
Ann Catherine    born circa 1861 in NSW
Louisa                 born 2 Jun 1863 at Beechworth

George was listed in the 1857 Ovens Directory as a Professor of Music, Woolshed.  Woolshed Creek was north west of Beechworth.  It had long been a matter of puzzlement to me as to whether George used his musician's hands to dig for gold, and I spent a bit of time researching this in the dark ages of research prior to the widespread use of the WWW.   I was able to find some traces of him, which didn't really resolve the question.   He invariably gave his occupation as 'musician', but it turned out that he did have a Miner's Right.  This information came from the card files of Fay Johnson, who had recorded that in the 1856/57 Electoral Roll - Legislative Assembly - Reid's Creek and Woolshed Division (Ovens District) on page 31, George GRIFFITHS of Woolshed, miner, was included on the roll by virtue of a Miner's Right.

Ros Shennan, another researcher of the Ovens history had recorded an advertisement which was included in a publication called History of the Parish of Beechworth about the Catholic Parish of Beechworth, by Father Leo Lane.  In this ad for St Patrick's Day at St Joseph's Church, Beechworth to be held on 17 March 1858, a Grand High Mass was to be held with orchestral accompaniments provided by Mr G Griffiths, first violin; Mr Welchman, second violin; Mr P Hurley, flute; Mr W Radford, viola; Mr Barlow, cornet; Mr Jenkins, sax tuba, Mr Wright violincello and Herr Esther double bass.

I found this interesting because it placed George's musical skills at the top end of the scale of fiddlers, with the capacity to play complex liturgical pieces, and also as the first violinist - the orchestra leader.

That was about the extent of my findings until last year when I decided to give the Ovens and Murray Advertiser (1855-1866), based in Beechworth  a thorough going over to see what else I could find about the activities of the Griffiths family, and shed more light on what type of music George was performing, and was he combining that with mining.

The next few posts will have a look at those findings.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Potchefstroom again

Potchefstroom King Edward Street
Potchefstroom Lombard Street
Potchefstroom Market Square & Dutch Ref Church & Government Buildings
Just checking the eGGSA postcard collection, I found further pictures of Potchefstroom had been added since I last looked.  It is a wonderful site if you are looking for particularly South African postcards, but there are others from elsewhere in Africa and world-wide, with more being added all the time.

Four little Owens

"Dear Mary Jane, Just a few lines to wish you a Merry Xmas, hope you are quite well also the Family. Lou is quite well also Hughie & myself. No more. Your affec sister Em. x x x x x x   Happy New Year to all".  Photographer: Sidney Riley.  Rozelle & Rosetti Studios, Balmain.

This postcard from Emily Owen in Sydney to her sister Mary Jane in Melbourne has turned up in a tin box which had belonged to Mary Jane.  This appears to show Emily's four living children: Gwendoline, Emily, Winifred and baby Jack who was born in Balmain in 1912. All were born after their parents' return from South Africa. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Return from South Africa, 1904

SS Narrung.
Emily's sister Charlotte Blay, who was present for the baptism of Emily's baby, Alfred George Henry Owens at Potchefstroom on 24 April 1904, was still there to support Emily when the baby died six weeks later.  Charlotte finally returned to Melbourne on the Medic.  The Medic had left Liverpool and picked up passengers in Cape Town, where Charlotte joined the ship.  She was recorded as being married, aged 30, occupation 'household duties', destination Melbourne.  The Medic arrived on 21 July 1904.    There was no-one else on the ship with whom she would appear to have been travelling.

A few months later Emily returned via the ss Narrung, in steerage.  She had joined the ship in Cape Town, listed as Mrs H Owens, aged 31, occupation 'Lady', nationality Australian, her destination Melbourne.  The Narrung arrived there on 2 November 1904.   Again, Emily was not obviously accompanied on this journey. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Owens family

"Gwen aged 2 years and 1 month, Emily 4 months."

Perhaps the death of her first baby was the impetus for the return to Australia.

The unassisted inwards passenger lists show Mrs H Owens, aged 31, arriving in Melbourne on the ship Narrung in November  1904.  Trove newspapers report the Narrung had arrived from Cape Town. There is no sign of Hugh, but it occurs to me he might have worked his passage as a ship's carpenter, though it was a short enough trip to bother.

On 17 May 1905, Emily and Hugh had a little girl called Gwendoline Louise, born at 492 Lygon St, Carlton.  Whether that was a small hospital or a residence I don't know at this stage, but when Emily gave the information on 14 June 1905 for the registration, she gave her address as 28 Laurie St, Northcote.

The children whose births I have been able to discover are:

Alfred George Henry Owens, bp 24 April 1904, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Gwendoline Louise Owens, b 17 May 1905, Carlton, Victoria
Emily Elizabeth Owens b 1907, Leichardt, NSW
Winifred Frances Owens, b 1909, Balmain, NSW
Jack Henry Owens, b 1912, Balmain South, NSW

By 1930 the family was living at 9 Parsons St, Rozelle, where Hugh was working as a carpenter, Winifred as a typiste, and Emily junior as a milliner.  When Jack was listed, his occupation was electrician.  Gwen appears to have married in Victoria and lived there.

Emily Frances Owens died in 1945, registered at Rozelle, and Hugh Owens in 1947, registered at Balmain.    Hugh's parents were recorded as Hugh and Elizabeth.