Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Prince Alfred

The people of Western Australia were in a constant state of excitement. The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Alfred; the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) was sailing his ship ‘Galatea’ around the world and was planning to visit the Australian Colonies (the very first Royal to do so).

No news had yet been heard. It was a time before email, telephones and even the telegraph and the only form of communication was by letter. With travel being only by ship, it meant that letters could take months to arrive. Rumours were rife but as the east coast of Australia had not yet heard anything either, the people of WA seemed content to apply the saying ‘no news is good news’.

The newspapers soon turned to discussion about giving the Duke the best welcome possible for when he arrived. It was fully expected that all the settlers should come out to greet him but it was further stressed that perhaps something more could be done to entertain him. A careful provision was placed at the end of the article:

It will be seen that the visit is but a probability, nevertheless we should be prepared [f]or a reality.

Eager to please and desiring to show a visiting Royal just how loyal the people of WA were to Queen Victoria (and perhaps a little concerned at not being prepared should he arrive) articles began to take on a slight change of tone.

Prince Alfred Visit

Despite again stating that the visit was ‘probable’ the rest of the article implies that there was an awful lot of excitement despite the lack of confirmation.

Committees were soon formed and meetings were held for the purpose of superintending the arrangements for the Duke’s reception.

Every effort will be made to give the son of our beloved Sovereign a warm and hearty reception. Among the arrangements in contemplation are the formation of a Body Guard and the erection of a large banqueting room at Government House.

By early August the Committee had decided that a speech on behalf of the settlers should be given; that decorative arches be constructed and placed at points around Perth, Fremantle and Guildford; that arrangements be made to house members of the Duke’s staff who could not fit in Government House; that the expense of entertainment associated with the reception be paid for by the public funds and all other expenses be paid for by Governor Hampton; that banners be constructed; that a number of Aborigines be invited to hold a grand corroboree in the Duke’s honour and that as many children as possible be gathered in one spot to wait for his arrival so that when he went past them they could salute him and begin singing the National Anthem.

Furthermore, the new Causeway Bridge was nearing completion and it was decided that the honour of officially opening it should be given to the Duke of Edinburgh. It would mean waiting a little while longer before it could be used by the public, but all agreed that such an honour would make it worth the wait.

If the word ‘probable’ had raised any doubt as to whether or not the Duke would visit WA, a notice sent to the Governor sometime later providing instructions on how to receive the Duke (should he arrive) would likely have quelled such fears.

Government Notice

Days passed, preparations continued and the initial trepidation as to whether or not he’d visit WA, seemed almost to vanish. The papers began reporting on the Duke’s whereabouts in the world and the reception he received at that particular place. Such was the excitement that details of his life were published as well as anecdotes which illustrated the type of man he was. Royal fever had well and truly hit the Colony and various memorabilia commemorating the Duke’s visit began to show up in the advertising columns.

By September, construction of the arch on St Georges Terrace had begun and all were pleased with the preparations that Western Australia had undertaken.

The preparations for the reception of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh are nearly completed, and all things considered, they are truly on a scale that does credit to the Government and the loyalty of the people.

There was still an undercurrent of worry that WA would be missed completely and so (in the same article the above quote was obtained from) the newspaper sought to show just how bitterly the slight would be felt. It went even further and indicated that should the Duke stop at King George Sound in Albany, a Despatch would be given to him (stating that the people of Perth were expecting him) in the hope that such knowledge would induce him to make a visit (even if it wasn’t planned).

Sincere Regret

By late September, all the decorations were completed and the people of Western Australia had nothing more to do than to wait (and hope) for the arrival of the Galatea within the next fortnight.

Adelaide Terrace Decorations

Decorations on Adelaide Terrace

Prince Alfred Arch

The Arch on St Georges Terrace

September came to an end and October began. The days slipped away and October soon reached its end. The preparations had been finalised but the Galatea still had not arrived in WA. All were eagerly awaiting but in the latest mails there had been…

…no despatches to the Government, no letters for the Prince, his officers, or crew; and more, we had tidings of a rumour at King George’s Sound that the vessel had passed on her way to Port Adelaide…

Again the people of WA refused to accept that they wouldn’t receive a visit by the Duke and decided that, after all, such talk was simply rumour. Until they knew for sure, they would remain hopeful. It wasn’t until the start of November that all hope vanished with the receipt of a police express letter sent on horseback from Albany to the Government in Perth. The Duke had been in South Australia since the 29th of October. He had completely missed Western Australia.

Letter from Albany

All were disappointed and none more so, it seems, than those at The Inquirer and Commercial News who became rather melodramatic about the whole affair.

Our flags are half-mast high, and our decorations left to wither in the summer heat. There is but one course left to us, and it is a very simple one: — say nothing more about it.

Embarrassed, the reaction by the Government was swift.

Almost immediately on receipt of the intelligence from Albany that the Galatea had arrived at Port Adelaide, a large number of prisoners were at once detached to demolish the canopy in St George’s Terrace, over which so much labour had been expended to make it becoming the occasion.

After only a few hours the arch on St Georges Terrace was no more. Disappointment had turned into anger and what was left of the arch as well as the other decorations were soon set on fire as a demonstration of the resentment felt by some of the citizens in Perth.

So, what happened? Was Western Australia one of the places that the Duke was expected to visit? Or, was there some misunderstanding? As it turns out (and if you haven’t already guessed from the inverted commas surrounding the word ‘snub’ in the title) it was the latter.

The confusion, it seems, arose from the wording of the letter from the Admiralty which stated that the Duke would proceed to the “West Coast of Australia” and would be visiting “Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land and also Auckland and Wellington”. While ‘proceeding to’ and ‘visiting’ are rather different terms, the word proceeding in itself is quite vague. Coupled with the Governor’s receipt of various despatches (which apparently shouldn’t have been sent in the first place) it is understandable to see how the misunderstanding could arise. In a time where such matters couldn’t be cleared up with the sending of an instant text message, perhaps those in Western Australia (who also harboured doubts as to the wording) decided it was better to be sure than sorry. After all, what if the Duke had visited and no preparations had been made. That, too, would’ve been embarrassing.

Personally, I find the whole affair of 1867 to be highly amusing (and slightly cringe worthy). Western Australia has long been nicknamed ‘Wait Awhile’ and, for those of you wondering, the people only had to wait a little while before the Duke of Edinburgh would make an informal visit. In February 1869, just over a year after his first visit to Australia, he finally arrived in WA and WA finally had the opportunity to show just how loyal they were to Queen Victoria.


Lifebuoy soap (though not invented by them) was promoted by the Lever Brothers in England in 1895. It was propelled into the advertising world with ads claiming that it would save you from illness and protect you from germs (hence the name) due to its antiseptic nature. Early ads focused on the fact that it was carbolic (it contained carbolic acid) and would keep you healthy but later ads simply stated that it contained a “special health ingredient” that would protect you from the perils of illness as well as body odour. It is the latter claim which provides us with very amusing ads, mostly from the 1940s. Incidentally, Lifebuoy used the acronym ‘BO’ instead of the words ‘body odour’ and, it is believed, it was their ads which resulted in BO becoming a commonly used term.

While most of the ads appear to be targeted towards women, I have since found that men were not completely excluded. All kinds of storylines were used in Lifebuoy’s “comics” in order to incite fear and play on a person’s insecurities. If people were snubbing you, excluding you or didn’t want to date you it was because (according to Lifebuoy) you probably had BO.

Wondering why no one wants to go to the dance with you?

Lifebuoy, Advocate, 20 November 1945, Pg 6

Is there a reason you’re not married yet and, by golly, you’re 32!?

Lifebuoy, Canberra Times, 11 June 1941, Pg 2

Do people think you’re not as dainty as you used to be?

Lifebuoy, Recorder, 4 June 1945, Pg 4

Feeling a little hot under the collar because the chaps are snubbing you?

Lifebuoy, Recorder, 20 January 1941, Pg 3

Does your fiancé continue to put the wedding off?

Lifebuoy, Women's Weekly, 26 July 1947, Pg 22

Perhaps there’s another reason why your guests aren’t showing up…

Lifebuoy, Women's Weekly, 29 November 1941, Pg 15

When dancing is skipped there simply must be a reason…

Lifebuoy, Women's Weekly, 9 March 1946, Pg 47

The cake of Lifebuoy soap was coloured red and though I can’t be completely sure, I don’t believe it was ever used by my family (I certainly don’t remember red soap – we tended to use Imperial Leather). It’s possible however that my youth is against me because, to be honest, I don’t really recall the Lifebuoy brand at all.

I’d love to read about your memories though. Do you remember red Lifebuoy soap or the brand itself? Are there any other ads that left such a lasting impression that you still remember them?


Every now and then I’ll search through online catalogues for names that I’ve already searched for many, many times before. I don’t get my hopes up. And I certainly don’t expect to see anything new. Searching for anything relating to the Barratts is particularly unexciting. Being my own surname, it’s a name that I have searched for many times over. If there’s a record relating to them, I’ve most likely found it and added it to the collection. But, rather than designate some catalogues as having been ‘tapped out’ I continue to search them. You never know when something new may be added.

There’s no doubt that the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) employment records at the State Records Office of Western Australia have been in existence for much longer than I realised. With a tendency to rely on ‘name searches’ this valuable record would’ve been overlooked had I not happened to search for “Charles Victor Barratt” on one particular day.

Much to my surprise, a listing relating to my Great Grandfather popped up. I suppose, in the end, searching for just a name did have its benefits as it’s opened my eyes to a new resource which gives more depth to my ancestors’ stories and their working life.

Barratt Charles (far right) with railway workers - 2

Railway Workers [date and names unknown]

Vic first applied for a position as an engine cleaner sometime in 1913. He was 18 years old and met the minimum age required to obtain the position (the minimum age being 18). As part of the interview process, he had to bring along his birth certificate to prove his age as well as three certificates or letters testifying to his character. There was also a height requirement; potential candidates had to be 5ft 6 inches tall. Luckily for Vic, he was 5ft 8 ½ inches tall. Once he had all the documentation in order he went before the Selection Board and on 7 November 1913 he was deemed to have passed and was awarded the position.


Donnybrook. August 12th 1913. To those whom it may concern, This is to certify that the bearer of this, Victor Barratt has been employed by me for nearly two years, and that during that time I have found him trustworthy and industrious of good conduct, and in all ways reliable. Signed J P Parke.

Three months later, on 15 February 1914, he passed his medical exam and two days after this, he officially began his working life as an engine cleaner with the WAGR at Midland Junction.

As is often the case with first time employment, he started at the bottom and worked his way up. According to Michael Reynolds’ book ‘Engine-driving life: stirring adventures and incidents in the lives of locomotive engine-drivers’ (1881) the cleaner…

…is supplied with waste, oil, and tallow; and he comes on duty when the engine is due, whatever time that may be, either in the day or in the night.

Reynolds further states that a cleaner who his thorough and smart would first clean the engine (while it is hot and the grease is easily wiped away) then move onto cleaning the other parts and finally clean the wheels and framework (which are cold).

It was hard, tough, dirty work.

It takes ten hours at least to clean an engine. It requires no small amount of courage, perseverance, and endurance to clean an engine regularly all the year round…

The next step up from an engine cleaner was the fireman, who was responsible for tending to the fire which enabled the steam engine to run. Vic sat the exam and on the 31 August 1915 it was noted that he had passed and was issued with a Fireman’s Certificate. Despite having passed the exam, he continued to work as a cleaner.

With the world still at war, Vic decided (like so many other young men) to do his bit to help his country by enlisting to fight. His employment records reflect this fact. It had been just over a year since he passed his fireman’s exam but he was nevertheless granted leave on 27 September 1916 to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces. Vic left Western Australian on 9 November 1916 and would not return until 3 August 1919.

Between August and October 1919 Vic most likely recuperated, visited family and friends and was reunited with his beloved, Kitty. The pair may have been engaged prior to his departure in 1916 as wedding plans were immediately put in place. They were married in Bunbury on 11 October 1919 and eight days later it was noted in his employment records that he returned to work. For the next four years he was intermittently designated both a cleaner and fireman.

His permanency as a fireman began on 1 January 1924. While previously he was only located in Perth, this permanent position resulted in several moves. From 27 October 1924 to about 1928 he was located in Busselton.

Vic, accompanied by his wife, Kitty, young son, Ron (who was four) and one month old daughter, Pauline, moved into a home on Gale Street (which he had built himself). My Grandpa, Ron, was a young boy at the time but the happy memories associated with his time in Busselton must’ve left a lasting impression. Photos from this time were lovingly collected and placed together in a small envelope entitled ‘Busselton Days’.

Barratt Charles - Built this house in Gale Street, Busselton in 1924

The house Vic built on Gale Street in Busselton [1924].

Barratt Charles (third from left) in Flinders Bay with Busselton train crew [1927] - 2

Vic (third from left) in Flinders Bay with the Busselton train crew [1927].

After his stint in Busselton, Vic was posted to East Perth in 1928 and he and his family returned to 62 Wasley Street; the home that he had purchased in North Perth in the early 1920s. Throughout the next seven years he worked hard and strived for the next step in his employment at the WAGR. On 14 January 1929 he passed an exam relating to Driver’s Duties and was presented with a certificate. On 3 September 1931 he passed the ‘Timetable & Rostering’ exam (first year course) and scored a respectable 84%. A year later he sat the advanced ‘Timetable & Rostering’ exam and scored a very impressive 93%.

He was again relocated in September 1935 and spent a year in Mukinbudin before eventually being posted in Merredin on 21 September 1936. It was here that he remained.

Vic had a great love of the steam locomotives. He grew up at a time when railway lines were being built and steam trains were transporting people from all walks of life from one town or state to another. I’m unsure as to whether he had any particular aspirations with regards to working at the WAGR but certainly driving one of these majestic locomotives would be high up on the list. All his training and exams paid off and on 1 October 1936 he was designated a driver.

Train and floods near Merredin

An example of a train Vic may have driven in Merredin. This one’s surrounded by flood waters.

Perhaps it was this promotion which filled him with pride and inspiration that led him to contact The Meadmore Model Engineering Co. who specialised in model trains and other train related accessories. Vic placed an order and soon began construction of his model train; eventually finishing it many years later. See my previous blog post ‘Vic’s Model Train’.

Barratt Charles Victor's model train

Vic’s Model Train

For the rest of his working life Vic remained located in Merredin and continued working as a driver interspersed with the occasional stint as the acting shed foreman or acting sub foreman. He was granted long service leave in 1937, 1948, 1951 and 1956 with the last three times consisting of approximately 13 ½ weeks off each time.

On 23 May 1956 Vic was 60 years of age when he reached a milestone of having worked 40 years for the Western Australian Government Railways in adult service (adult back then was 21 years and over). To commemorate this anniversary, he was presented with a small medal.

Medal Front

Medal Back

He continued to work as a driver and acting shed foreman or acting sub foreman for four more years. On 18 May 1960, a week shy of his 65th birthday, his employment record with the WAGR officially came to an end with the word ‘retired’. All up, Vic had worked and served the railways and the Government for 46 years of his life.

Barratt Charles with another railway man in front of train

Vic (right) with an unknown railway worker [date unknown].

The records themselves are fascinating and have enabled me to confirm certain facts that I had only ever assumed. I knew Vic and his family had lived for some time in Busselton but I didn’t really know why. My assumption was that his work with the railways brought him there and it’s gratifying to have that finally confirmed with a record. Such confirmations also didn’t only apply to Vic. I have other family members who also worked for the WAGR and when I realised what gold was staring back at me from the computer screen, I eagerly began scrolling through the entire microfilm in order to hunt down other relatives with employment records (thank goodness for alphabetical order!). What initially started as a search for a record for one person eventuated in me obtaining records for four other people.

The Record of Service Cards can be found at the State Records Office of Western Australia on microfilm (Consignment: 3393). They can be viewed Monday to Friday during office hours or can be requested to be sent to the State Library of Western Australia for viewing on weekends or outside of office hours. For more information please visit:


  • State Records Office of Western Australia; Record of Service Cards; Barratt, Charles Victor (Service No.: 10812), Cleaner/Fireman/Driver 4th Class/Driver 3rd Class/Driver 2nd Class; 17 February 1914 to 1 October 1939; Consignment: 3393.
  • State Records Office of Western Australia; Record of Service Cards; Barratt, Charles Victor (Service No.: 10812), Driver C1/Actg Shed Foreman/Actg. Sub Foreman/Driver; 1 October 1941 to 18 May 1960; Consignment: 3393.
  • 1914 ‘Miscellaneous.’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 19 April, p. 15, viewed 19 February, 2015,
  • Engine-driving life: stirring adventures and incidents in the lives of locomotive engine-drivers; Michael Reynolds; 1881;

A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. Lois Wyse

In our quest to find our ancestors as well as their siblings and extended family such as aunts, uncles or cousins, we can tend to forget that there were other people in their lives besides those related by blood; there were also friends.

Unfortunately, the further we delve into the past, the less chance there will be of finding out who exactly these friends were and the role they played in our ancestors’ lives. It is with the closer generations (parents, grandparents and perhaps great grandparents) that we can work to ensure that photos are labelled and stories are told. Even though they may not be related, friends still play an integral part in helping shape the people we become.

My Nanna, Gwen Harwood, spent her teenage years in the 1940s living with her family at 111 Hay Street in Subiaco. A few doors down, at 115 Hay Street, lived the Hatch family. Walter and Rita Hatch’s daughter, Audrey, was born on 21 October 1934. Nanna was two years older than Audrey but living so close to each other resulted in a friendship being established.

Gwen Harwood & Audrey Hatch at Kings Park

Nanna and Audrey at Kings Park

The friendship between the two girls may have been the catalyst for a friendship that was also established between their mothers. Or vice versa. After the early death of his parents, my Pop’s brother, Ray, moved in with the Harwoods for a short time. While chatting on the phone with him, he recalled an amusing story where Mrs Hatch, in her house, would yell across to Mrs Harwood (in her house) asking if she had something or other that she needed. Their “conversation” would often result in Mrs Hatch coming over for a cup of tea.

Gwen Harwood & Audrey Hatch

Gwen and Audrey out the front of 111 Hay Street

As their lives started to change (Nanna married my Pop in 1950 and the Harwoods moved away from Subiaco in the early 60s) it is unknown whether these friendships continued via letters, cards or phone calls. It’s probable that they didn’t, but I like to think however that for me to know who these people were (passed down in stories by my Mum and Uncle Ray) the friendships themselves must’ve left a strong impression on both my Nanna and my Great Grandmother.

The friendships forged by my Grandpa, Ron Barratt, truly stood the test of time. His closest mates were Geoffrey Higginson and Glen Anderson and their bond most likely began when they first started school together (they were all the same age). Though I don’t have specific details, photos of them mucking around and standing in a group at Scouts or at a Sunday School picnic indicate that they were obviously quite close and that their friendship went beyond the schoolroom and into social activities.

Barratt Ronald (top), Higginson Geoff (left) and unknown boy (right) at 62 Wasley Street North Perth [1930s]

Geoff, Ron (on top) and Glen

Barratt Ronald (back fourth from left) with Higginson Geoff on his left - Sunday School Picnic at the Zoo with Miss Haseldine [1931]

Sunday School Picnic – Ron is at the back (fourth from the left) and Geoff is standing next to him (fifth from left).

Their mateship continued throughout their teenage years and remained strong after they married and had children of their own. Photos were passed between them and their families and Grandpa even named his first born son after his friend, Glen.

Geoff’s early death due to a tragic gliding accident in 1989 absolutely devastated Grandpa and was a terrible shock. They had been friends for well over fifty years. The friendship between Grandpa, Geoff and Glen (from adolescence to old age) really is inspirational and for it to last as long as it did, I believe, is an indication as to their characters and the good people that they were.

After the shock death of her Uncle Tom in 1915 (whom she was living with at the time), my Great Grandmother, Matilda Maria Crampton (known as Kitty) ended up living with her Uncle Abe on his farm in Argyle. It turned out to be a fateful move. Not only did she meet her future husband, Vic Barratt, she also met one of her closest friends, Jessie Knight.

Jessie and Kitty were both aged about 21 when they first became friends and it seems that they instantly hit it off. When Kitty eventually married Vic after his return from WWI, it was Jessie who was the maid of honour. She was dressed in “a very pretty dress of cream crepe de chine and carried a bouquet of watsonias and marguerites” and can be seen in the header image of this blog (standing left of the groom who’s sitting).

Knight Jessie [1920] - Front

Jessie Knight in 1920

Knight Jessie [1920] - Back

The back of the above photo [To Dear Kitty, Wishing you many Happy returns for your birthday. With love, From Jessie]

Photos, cards and best wishes were constantly mailed to one another throughout the years and even though no letters survive, the photos, however, do. Jessie herself married Irem Thompson in 1924 and though the couple had no children, they were however close to Jessie’s sister’s children. Proud of them, as they grew, it was photos of her nieces and nephews that were also sent to Kitty throughout the years.

Knight Jessie [1918] - Front

Jessie Knight in 1918

Knight Jessie [1918] - Back

The back of the previous photo [To Dear Kitty, Wishing you the compliments of the season. From Jessie. Hoping to see you soon].

The correspondence appears to have continued at least until the late 1930s and though it’s possible it continued longer than the evidence allows us to see it sadly would’ve come to an abrupt end in 1947 when Kitty passed away at the relatively young age of 53.

Physical evidence, stories and long lasting friendships have enabled the names of these friends to continue to be passed down my family throughout the years. Where such things do not exist, one can only wonder who the people were, especially when their faces stare out at us from photos. The following are a few photos of my relatives with their friends or of just the friends on their own; all of whom are unknown. If you happen upon this post and recognise a face, please let me know.

Flynn Audrey (right) with unknown friend playing tennis

My Grandma (Audrey Flynn – right) with an unknown friend in Merredin.

Flynn Audrey with unknown friend

Audrey Flynn with an unknown friend

Reece Nicholson's friend with his children

My Pop’s (Reece Nicholson) friend with his children

Unknown - Mechanic Pal & Partner (Photo)

Friends of Charles Victor Barratt and Matilda Maria Barratt (nee Crampton)

Unknown - Mechanic Pal & Partner (Postcard Back)

The back of the previous photographic postcard.

Unknown - Couple (Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year)

Unknown Couple (probably friends of Vic and Kitty)


  • 1934 ‘Family Notices.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 23 October, p. 1, viewed 6 February, 2015,
  • 1919 ‘Mainly About People.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 23 October, p. 3 Edition: THIRD EDITION, viewed 6 February, 2015,
  • WA Births, Deaths & Marriages; Marriage; Jessie C Knight and Charles E I Thompson; Registration Number: 59; Registration Year: 1924

Late last year Matt and I were visiting our mutual cousin in Australind when she made mention of ‘letters edged in black’. Being of a different generation and never having heard it spoken before, we both looked at her blankly. She gave an explanation to us and the ‘letter edged in black’ has left a lasting impression. So much so, that when visiting another distant cousin of Matt’s and having a look through her photos and documents, we both exclaimed and looked at each other in excitement when we saw a conspicuous envelope with black edging all around it.

Black Edge 2

Despite being commonly known as letters or envelopes ‘edged in black’ it was properly known as mourning stationery or mourning paper and harks back to the Victorian era when being in mourning meant adhering to certain rules.

Throughout this era the loss of a loved one was memorialised in many different ways. They took photographs of their relatives after they had died and posed them to make them look alive and at peace. They cut a lock of hair from the deceased and kept it as a memento or had it turned into jewellery such as a ring or locket. Elaborate funerals were held, death notices were placed in the paper and letters and envelopes with black edging were used to break the news gently to the recipient that the contents contained information of a loved one’s death. This wasn’t always the case however. Generally, letters continued to be sent ‘edged in black’ for up to a year after the death and was considered a mark of respect for the deceased.

While there were official books concerning proper etiquette to follow while in mourning, newspapers also printed brief guides for those who did not have access to such books. Readers often sent in their questions asking about the correct rules to follow when in mourning and the papers would happily answer them by printing such rules in their editions. These articles provide a fascinating glimpse into what was right and was what wrong when it came to mourning etiquette and gives insight into the behaviours and customs that our ancestors may have adhered to.

The following snippets from an article printed in 1874 illustrates how restrictive mourning could be for widows in particular. Considered the “deepest mourning” the dress requirements could last for two years and women were advised that they should “accept no invitations, and should frequent no public places” for a year. After the year had passed it became acceptable for widows to slowly make their way back into society.

Widow Mourning

The guidelines further state that children should mourn their parents for one year with strict requirements as to what type of dress they should wear and for how long. For two months they had to abstain from society but after that time they could re-enter it.

Mourning etiquette also applied to the deaths of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, first cousins and on occasion, second cousins. It became even more complicated when considering extended relationships that came through marriage. For example women who’d married a man who was a widower often had to wear mourning if either of the first wife’s parents died. Though not considered compulsory, it was however considered good taste.

Extended Relationships Mourning

Funnily enough, such rules and restrictions seem only to be applicable to women. While men were also required to be in mourning after the death of a relative, they could however get away with wearing their usual black suits and gloves for six months to a year accompanied, perhaps, with a black band in their hat. They could also continue to be seen in public and at work and were not restricted socially as women were.

Half Mourning 1890

Half Mourning Costumes in 1890

Deep Mourning and Half Mourning

Examples of Deep Mourning (left) and Half Mourning (right) in 1899

Mourning stationery had its own particular requirements. Generally the paper was cream or grey with a black edge and was to be used for the duration of the time that the person was in mourning (this was of course dependent on the person’s relationship to the deceased). It would also appear that during the Victorian period the stationery would be edged with an extremely thick black border and as time went on, and mourning requirements began to relax, the border would become thinner until it ultimately disappeared once mourning clothes were put aside.

The following article from 1918 illustrates some of the changes in mourning etiquette that occurred after the Victorian era.

Mourning Etiquette

Though the extremity of Victorian era mourning was eased amongst most of the population, letters edged in black continued. Various State Governments also often carried out the tradition as a mark of respect for a deceased sovereign or dignitary.

Mourning Stationery

The Commonwealth Government itself issued a special Gazette “heavily bordered with black” on 22 January 1936 which formerly announced that King George V had passed away.

Gazette Extraordinary

While the ‘letter edged in black’ is more commonly associated with the Victorian era, a search on Trove indicates that it continued into the early 1940s with advertisements for mourning paper still being printed in newspapers. Perhaps however this was a slight carryover from the older generation who still adhered to such traditions. It was most certainly out of fashion amongst the younger generation and by the late 1940s the advertisements for mourning paper reduced significantly.

Today letters edged in black are non-existent except amongst old family papers and archives. We may no longer write letters on paper with an ominous black border or follow strict mourning guidelines but over time we have developed our own ways to respect and commemorate the death of a loved one. Who knows, perhaps in another 200 years the traditions will have evolved again and our own practices will look as archaic as those of the Victorian era.


Enoch & Mary Ann

Today I met with a wonderful group of people who were largely involved with organising the three Barratt reunions. They began in the 90s when I was about six years old and the last one held was in 2002 at the Fremantle Prison. One reunion in particular took place at the East Perth Cemetery where Enoch Pearson Barratt and Mary Ann Fleming’s restored headstone was unveiled (it was previously in two pieces on the ground).

The headstone was repaired according to the standards of the time but, times have changed and its repair is no longer considered correct for headstones. It is however still standing and looks to be quite strong. At the moment no actual decision has been made with regards to further repair work so the request is not monetary. This post and my “call out” is simply to collect names and contact details and to establish whether there is any interest amongst descendants of Enoch and Mary Ann Barratt.

If you’re proud of your ancestors and wish to reach out and acknowledge your interest please do so in either of the following ways:

Please also feel free to send the word around and share this post with other members of your family who may not come across it.

Thanks in advance, Jess

An afternoon spent wandering in Fremantle admiring the historical buildings has inspired me to look into the earliest history of Western Australia’s port town.

Though all the buildings provide fascinating glimpses of history, I once again found myself eagerly climbing the steps to take a closer look at the Roundhouse. While standing in front of it (trying to take the perfect photo) I reminded myself that I was looking at a building that was associated with the very earliest years of the Swan River Colony. What stories these walls could tell if they could talk.

Round House Fremantle

Built of locally sourced limestone, it was the Colony’s first permanent structure and was completed in January 1831. It’s main purpose was to hold prisoners. Two years after its completion the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal reported that two men had escaped.

William Booker was a 32 year old labourer who resided in Fremantle and though it’s unknown when he arrived in the Colony, it’s logical to assume that it was sometime between 1829 and 1832. In April 1832 at 1am in the morning, William used “force and arms” to enter the Habgood residence to steal numerous goods belonging to them including a Watchmakers Turn Bench and several watches. The Habgoods weren’t home at the time and the crime went unpunished for six months until Booker sold some of the stolen property and started to tell people about the goods he had hidden under a tree. Despite pleading ‘not guilty’, Booker was found guilty and was sentenced to 14 years transportation.

Benjamin Hinks was also around 32 years old and was a labourer living in Fremantle when he was brought before the Courts in July 1832. He was indicted for breaking and entering a building (separate from the dwelling house) on the property belonging to Philip Heymen Dod with the intent to steal goods. Hinks pleaded guilty, was found guilty and was sentenced to five calendar months in Fremantle Jail (the Roundhouse) as well as five dozen lashes out the front of the jail in full public view.

By January of 1833 Booker had been incarcerated for about three months while Hinks was fast approaching the end of his sentence. It wasn’t until this time however that Hinks began thinking about his escape. On 4 January 1833, using a large spike nail to scratch the wall, Booker and Hinks created a hole which allowed them to break free.

Escape of Two Prisoners

The New South Wales papers, in reporting the escape, weren’t quite as kind and referred to the Roundhouse as “that flimsy concern called the jail”.

Long Bill

The limestone wall was quite a soft material which meant they were able to scratch away at it without making too much noise. Once free, Booker made it all the way to Bull Creek before he was apprehended while Hinks only made it as far as a pub in Fremantle where he promptly became intoxicated.


After William Booker was recaptured he didn’t remain in the Swan River Colony for much longer. He had been sentenced to 14 years transportation and as his offence took place before the time the Colony itself became a convict establishment, Booker was soon transported from Western Australia to New South Wales. He left on the ship ‘Governor Bourke’ and arrived on 21 February 1833. The New South Wales Convict Indents provide a detailed description of Booker’s physical appearance.


There are also additional clues; his father was called William Booker and had been transported to New South Wales in 1818. The Certificate of Freedom records show however that William Booker Senior was born in the same year as William Booker Junior and scrawled on the side of the entry is…

Cancelled Booker having been transported to the Colony again for fourteen years on the Governor Bourke from Swan River Settlement 1 Oct 1832.

William Booker’s claim that his “father” was in New South Wales was essentially a cover-up for his previous conviction.

What Booker was up to in Western Australia is a mystery. Perhaps he was checking out the new Colony to see whether it was a viable place to live and couldn’t resist returning to his old ways in a place where no one knew him. Whatever the case, he ended up back in New South Wales and, this time, made a better go of it. He eventually became a land owner north of Sydney and the area itself was named Booker Bay after him. William Booker died in 1850 at the age of 50.

Benjamin Hinks remained in Western Australia for a little while longer but soon turned to his old tricks again. By April of 1833 he’d broken into the Harbour Masters Office where he was found by Frances Hagan removing the books. Unperturbed at being caught in the act, Hinks simply stated:

You see Hagan I’m reading a bit.

This time it was the last straw. Benjamin Hinks was found guilty and was sentenced to seven years transportation. He left Western Australia on the ship ‘Jolly Rambler’ and arrived in New South Wales on 19 May 1833. Again, the New South Wales Convict Indent provides a detailed description of his appearance.

Hinks Description

Hinks was given his Certificate of Freedom on 10 August 1843 but unlike Booker, no additional information is scrawled on the side which gives us an indication as to what happened to him. I have also not found any records relating to a marriage or his death and he does not feature in the newspapers at the time. For now, the rest of his story remains unknown.

The Roundhouse is open daily from 10:30am until 3:30pm and entry is by gold coin donation. For more information please visit:


  • Photo of the Roundhouse courtesy of Wikipedia (
  • 1833 ‘THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL.’, The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), 5 January, p. 2, viewed 4 January, 2015,
  • 1833 ‘ARRIVALS.’, The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), 25 February, p. 2, viewed 4 January, 2015,
  • 1833 ‘THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL.’, The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), 12 January, p. 6, viewed 4 January, 2015,
  • Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc; WAGS Transcriptions; WA Quarter Sessions Indictment Files; Cons 3472; Case 43; October Session 1832; R v William Booker
  • Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc; WAGS Transcriptions; WA Quarter Sessions Indictment Files; Cons 3472; Case 33; July Session 1832; R v Benjn Hinks
  • State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X635]; Microfiche: 703
  • 1833 ‘QUARTER SESSION, Fremantle, 1st April, 1833.’, The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), 6 April, p. 53, viewed 4 January, 2015,
  • State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X635]; Microfiche: 704
  • New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867 [database on-line].

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