Friday, June 29, 2012

Country tennis - a family event

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A long way from Fort Lauderdale, Florida my tennis photos are from a small country town in Victoria, Australia, where tennis among other sports was a popular past time and a time for the family and community to get together.

Please click on the photos to enlarge them and to see them better.

1923/1924 Winiam Tennis Premiers

About 1930
Winiam tennis court with the school in the background
My Grandmother is behind and touching the net,  3rd from the right

My Grandmother ready for tennis
She played competitive tennis until she was in her 50s

The Pilgrim family often got together to play a friendly social tennis match
My grandmother is holding the box brownie (centre) which took many of the photos that you have been looking at in Sepia Saturday

My Mum in 1961

H is for HORSES

Horses played a big part in the life of our ancestors.  I thought I would share a few of my grandmothers memories and photos about horses.

Almond Dale horses
My grandmother wrote;  "I only had 6 years of schooling, as we lived over 3 miles from the school.  At first we had to walk.  They kept me home till I was 8 and John was 6.  Then Dad bought a pony for us and we got boils in summer from horse sweat, as we rode bareback.  So then he bought a flap, big enough for 2, but quite flat, with stirrups and we didn't get so many busters.  Old Trix was very quiet, but would shy at anything different – even a piece of paper on the road.  One day Miss Darker – our teacher – came around the dunny – as they were always known then, and Trix lashed out and broke a button on her cardi.  Dad reckoned Trix must have been asleep and got a fright.  After that we had to put her in a small yard at Uncle Ned Pilgrim’s – a bit further on.  One day one of the neighbors went by on his tractor and Trix jumped out and went home.  She always went home if we fell off.  While at High School, I always went home for week ends and often got a ride back with the minister on Sunday.  If not, I rode Trix in Monday morning – 10 miles.  Tied the reins up and let her go.  Once she didn't arrive home so Dad went looking for her.  She had pulled in to a farmers stable.  It was a paddock away from his house and he only worked there some times.  There was a dam, green feed and some chaff in the mangers.  This old Trix was cunning and would come up with the horses Saturday and Sunday but not week days.  When we had holidays, it would put her out.  I had to go and catch her as my brother could not.  I think he was cunning too.  He had a horse later – Kit.  Dad would drive Kit and Tammy in the buggy and the fruit van (before he got a motor vehicle) and they were a flighty pair.   In the van, we all sat on a board across the width of it and no back.  It used to take us over an hour to trot into Nhill – 10 miles – with a load and under the hour to go home.  The horses were always in a hurry to get home.  I love horses and working dogs, but not lap dogs. 
About the boils, Mum used to sit us up on a jerry half full of HOT water to bring them to a head and then prick them. 

Pilgrim children going to school on Trix
My Grand Aunt on Kit with Joker the dog
I remember one time we went through the scrub to visit mum’s sister at Gymbowen 14 miles.  The buggy wheels kept hitting the bushes and frightening Tommy.  He’d jump ahead and Trix didn’t mind loose traces, so he did most of the pulling, and on the way back he was puffed out and dad had to use the whip on him – only time ever.  I did feel sorry for Tommy.  

Geyer & Pilgrim family members
Trix was Kit’s mother.  Later we had a white one – Danny and a chesnut – Bennie.  Danny was beaut by himself, but with a mob, he would jig all the time.  We often got up a party of about 20 and would ride up to 40 miles in the day.  One day there was a fence across the road, so the farmer could feed his sheep on the road.  No one knew and came out in a hurry.  Three horses went down, but they and riders were not hurt.  I was glad I wasn’t on Kit that day or I might have been in the lead. 

You weren’t allowed to kill roos in those days, but no one said you couldn’t chase them and it was great fun.  Occassionally we smelt a fox but rarely".

My Grandmother

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

G is for Grandfather Gordon

Mother & Son - Mary and Gordon Walker
I was 14 when my grandfather died, but I don't remember much about him.  I don't think he had much time for children and I was a little scared of him.  He brought up his 6 children with tough love, which was the opposite to Nanna.

When we stayed over at our grandparents house, my sister and I would wake early in the morning but stay still and quiet.  We would wait until we heard the outside toilet flush, which was the sign that Granddad had gone to work.  We would then quickly run and hop in Nanna & Granddad's bed.  Nanna would make us a drink of Milo and have colouring books for us to play with.  She always spoiled us and made everything fun.

Gordon Stanley Allen Walker was born at Havelock, a small mining community near Maryborough, in 1904.  

circa 1909
Brothers - Gordon & Frank Walker

Although my grandfather would have liked an education, his family did not have the money to put two children through education and this honour was reserved for Gordon's younger brother, Frank, who showed greater scholastic potential.

Gordon followed in his father's footsteps and commenced work at the mines in Maryborough, until he could obtain an apprenticeship as a wheel wright.  It was while completing his apprenticeship that he met my grandmother, Rita Jones and they married in 1925.

Very soon after, they moved to Yallourn in Gippsland, where Gordon worked initially as a wheel wright and then as a carpenter for the SEC (State Electricity Commission).

Rita & Gordon Walker
In 1946, my grandfather and a colleague/friend were working in the fire tower.  At lunchtime they were watching the traffic and Gordon said to Wally Bennie, "there's the gateway to Gippsland.  We ought to get out of this and start a joinery business of our own."

The Country Leader newspaper reports;

"They were both over 40, with growing families and secure jobs, but they thought it over and decided the risks were worth it.
They bought the site in Moore Street, cleaned it up and set to work to build a factory. This took nearly every weekend for two years, while they continued in their jobs at Yallourn.
They bought plant piecemetal, a machine whenever they could, and in 1948 they resigned and went into business.
Mr Walker had been with the SEC for 23 years and so had earned long service leave.
The SEC was some years ahead of the law in providing for long service leave, but it had a rule that a man had to be 45 to collect.
Mr Walker wasn’t old enough officially but he talked the Commission into giving him his six months pay.
Mr Bennie had his deferred pay and a bonus from the Air Force and an insurance policy had matured when he was 40.
The site of the factory was swampy, so, if the partners were to lay the usual sunken railway track for the truck carrying timber from stack to kiln they would have to concrete it.
Since they couldn’t afford the concrete, Mr Walker designed a different kind of truck that could be used on rails laid above ground. This incorporates its own hydraulic jacking system and its own turn-table and has turned out better than the usual one".

The start of a new business
My Grandfather is on the left

Gordon Walker and one of his shooting medals

My father says that Granddad was an excellent shot and he would often go to the shooting range on a Saturday afternoon.  Dad would sit behind the targets keeping his head down and be given a signal when he could come out and change the targets.  Dad would be paid a shilling to change the targets.

Fishing was also a passion.  My grandfather and uncle took two years, working weekends, to build the Vagabond; a 27ft motor cruiser.

The Latrobe Valley Advocate reported October 7th 1958;
Few men would have the courage to tackle the building of a 16 seater motor cruiser with no experience of the craft, but it is exactly the task that Gordon Walker and his son, set themselves two years ago, and on Saturday they realised an ambition when they sailed their beautiful boat along Manns Beach and then to 90 Miles Beach.  The behaviour of the boat? Perfect, was the opinion of the big party that sailed on this trip."

4th October 1958
Launching the Vagabond

Gordon Walker

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 Gordon is the son of Ambrose Walker and brother of Frank Walker and Nellie Walker

Friday, June 22, 2012

Taking a Ride

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What do we like to do at amusement parks?  Go on rides of course.....Well I do.  Therefore my twist on this weeks theme is "Taking a Ride".  When I started going through my photos, there we so many to choose between so I have included a selection of different types of "rides".

I have always loved this photo of my Great Grandparents, Mary & Ambrose Walker, with Buzz and Silver
My Great Grandparents, Mary & Ambrose Walker again.
My Grandfather, father and uncle (and family) on-board the Vagabond, the boat built by my grandfather and uncle.
About 1925
My Grandfather, Gordon Walker

Sorry that the quality of the next photo is not the best but I love the old seesaw.
My grandmother with her younger siblings

My Grand Aunties

My Grand Aunty, Lorna Pilgrim, on the trike

My Grandfather, Allan Scott with Brumby 

My Uncle is the one standing
My Great Grandfather with my Uncles and Aunty

My Uncle, Mother and Aunty - ready for Sunday School

My Great Grand Uncle on a load of hay

My Grandmothers first flight

My Grandmother on the camel

Saturday, June 16, 2012


"Ag Lab"

How many people have an "Ag Lab" as an ancestor?  I have many.

My Great Great Grandfather, James Pilgrim, was so much more than a farmer.  James was a visionary, an achiever and a leader.  He wanted to make a difference.  He was also stubborn and determined, which is reflected in a letter from home (Earls Colne, England) which states "but of course James will please himself".  Maybe that's where I inherited my stubbornness and determination from?

James Pilgrim
1836 - 1929
The title of this blog site "Strong Foundations" was inspired by James, who left school at a relatively young age and was apprenticed to the trade of stonemason, but after meeting with an accident and seriously injuring his foot, he took to gardening and farming.  In 1858 at age 22, James embarked on the long journey to Australia aboard the Lady Milton.

It is extremely difficult to summarise James' many achievements as he was actively involved in so many endeavours and community initiatives over his lifetime.  This prominence has made it easier to build a really good sense of his strong minded, generous and pioneering character as there were regular reports in local papers about his influence within the community, his charitable and helpful nature and his farming successes.

Before I get to James's farming and fertiliser achievements I must also share that James was a very religious man with very strong beliefs.  His granddaughter wrote, 
“He was very religious – no work on Sunday except the very necessary.  The cows were milked and the calves got milk.  Also no rowdy games. Dad said cricket was often played behind the stables and some one keeping nit.”  

Many of the letters written from England also included a reference to religion and made me very aware of how difficult it must have been for a mother to be separated from her children; "I hope the Lord will have mercy on you and I hope you will think of him. I hope that if we do not see each other in this world I hope we shall meet in heaven that will be joyful if we can do that and I hope the Lord will have mercy on us all and pardon our sins before he calls us hence which he will if we look up to him the right way”.

The first record and indication of James' leadership
In 1878, the Crown was releasing additional land and had eased the rules for selectors with lease periods being doubled and rents halved.  This is likely what attracted James to Winiam in Victoria (from South Australia) and he is listed as one of the early selectors to move into the district, first selecting land in 1881.

During the first year, James built a five room house of pug and timber with an iron roof, at a cost of £50.  Together with his growing family, he initially cleared and cropped five acres by hand.  He then used a team of bullocks and continued to clear more land each year until he was cropping 250 acres in 1888 with an average yield of wheat of 12 bushels to the acre.
The same year,
 Alexander Sutherland wrote about “the people of Victoria who are making a difference” in the book Victoria and its Metropolis.  James Pilgrim is mentioned and it is stated that he “has one of the nicest gardens in the Wimmera, fruit trees, grape vines and flowers growing luxuriantly”.

James Pilgrim's farm and orchard, Winiam

James Pilgrim's Garden, Winiam

James lost stock, feed and sheds in a fire, which was allegedly caused by his children playing with matches.  He also lost sheep due to "sand disease" and his wheat crops had failed due to drought and continuous cropping.  By 1895, he was having financial difficulties.  He was paying 3% interest on a £512 unregistered mortgage for both his and his daughter Emma’s selections. He also had other debts totaling £50.  


However being such a determined person, James looked to alternatives to improve his farming fortunes.  When Dr. Howell, a chemist from the Victorian Agricultural Society visited Nhill, James was initially sceptical about his ideas. 

 “When Dr Howell gave his first lecture in Nhill, a few years ago, a neighbour of mine said to me when we came out ‘Well what do you think of that chap’s idea?’ ‘I don’t know.’ I replied. ‘It does seem stretching it a bit to say that 50lb of superphosphate spread over an acre would do any good.  Why, you couldn’t even see any trace of it; but I’ll give it a trial’ I did so, and so did some of my neighbours.  We all believe in it now.”

James worked with the Victoria Agricultural Society to test the impact of manure, superphosphate, crop rotations and tillage methods on 12 acres of his land over 6 - 7 years.  

In 1904 the Argus reports "Two acres are devoted to summer fodder crops, and the rest to wheat experiments.  There are wheat plots on stubble, on fallowed, and on sub-soiled land: some unmanured, some manured lightly, and others again more heavily; some horse-hoed during the growing period, and some left untouched.  The plots run side by side and were drilled in on the same day, and with the same variety of wheat.  When harvested the yield of each plot will be weighed, and duly recorded, and the work continued over a series of years.  But there is no need even to wait for the harvest to learn the striking lessons this living book of nature has to unfold."  

The experimental plots were very successful and James increased his yield to 24 bushels of wheat to the acre.  Many of the techniques trialed are routine procedure now, however at the time James's experimental plots were considered innovative and assisted improve and change the future of farming.

James Pilgrim is seated in the middle row on the far left at the Agricultural Conference at Noradjuha

In recognition of his farming services James Pilgrim was made a life member of the Nhill Agricultural society – a distinction conferred on no other member at the time of his death.  He officiated as judge for the Nhill show for years, and for 45 years did not miss attending once.  In addition to his farming pursuits and awards, James Pilgrim was very involved in all aspects of the community.  He was known affectionately as “Grandfather Pilgrim” throughout the Winiam, Winiam East, Nhill and Kinimakatka area.  He was well known for his generosity and willingness to assist the community and his neighbours however he could.

“His bright, cheery, optimistic disposition made him popular with all sections of the community, which regret the loss of a sterling upright citizen” 
Nhill Free Press 30 May 1929

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Long way from home

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This week it was very difficult to stick to the theme as although I have lots of pictures of dogs, there are very few with cats included so therefore my post this week relates to affection and men in uniform.

The photo below is of my Grandfather with my Uncle and Aunty.  This was taken in 1942 before my grandfather went off to fight in the Middle East.

My grandmother wrote, "Rob was only 18 months when Allan went into camp, but he never forgot him – or rather the uniform.  It was very embarrassing; he claimed every one as Dad.  In the street I used to turn the pusher around if I saw a uniform coming"

My Grandfather wrote home every week and numbered his letters with only a few letters missing.     On Christmas Day 1942 he wrote a letter from "Abroad".  My grandmother would not have known where he was at the time but we know now that he was in the Middle East.

"Well Christmas is about over now for this year & I hope you had a good time tho I know how you would miss me very much but better luck next time.  We had an extra good dinner of turkey & pork & plenty of roast vegetables, plum pudding, fruit salad and sauce.  The tea was very good too but I missed the good old Xmas cake".  
The letter was closed with "All my love & kisses to you all now & forever from your own lonely husband who is longing to see you all again & very soon. Cheerio now with all my love darling & just keep on smiling for my sake.  Yours always and forever, Allan"

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Google Maps

The Pilgrim family have lived in Earls Colne since at least 1568.  However the first confirmed record of our family is in 1801,   being the marriage of James Pilgrim1 and Hannah Hales. (my Great Great Great Great Grandparents).

In researching my family I was extremely fortunate as Earls Colne is one of the best recorded villages in England due to a study undertaken between 1972 and 2002 by (retired) Professor Alan Mcfarlane and his team from the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

From the census records I was able to determine that in 1841, there were 298 households in Earls Colne with about half of the working population, including my ancestors, employed on the land. 

It was primarily mixed farming with crops of grain, hops, fruit and vegetables. Cattle, sheep and pigs were also bred.  By 1851, the number of households in Earls Colne had grown to 318 and there were as many as 235 farm labourers with about 150 regularly employed on farms in the parish.  Additionally, seventy three labourers’ wives or daughters worked as straw plaiters and 21 as tambour lace makers. The professional or richer residents employed 53 servants in the village.

The available work for agricultural labourers then fell steadily and times were tough, which is likely what motivated my Great Great Grandfather, also named James3, his brother John and sister Emma and her husband to make the journey to Australia for a new life. 

The Records of Earls Colne showed a map of Lot numbers
I was able to locate where my ancestors had lived, by looking at the census records and an old map of Earls Colne, obtained through the Records of Earls Colne website.

Then by using the street view on Google maps and counting the houses and blocks, I located the address of what I thought to be the correct house.      

Writing to the residents of this house, resulted in a very friendly and prompt reply  but I had the wrong house.  It was the house next door that I wanted.

Through my research, I had made contact with distant cousins who lived in England and were only too happy to visit the house and were openly welcomed and able to obtain further details and copies of documents relating to the property and my ancestors. 

Home of the Pilgrim family, built in 1854

On the 25th October 1847, My Great Great Great Grandfather, James Pilgrim2, purchased a cottage in Holt Street, Earls Colne (also known locally as Bridge Street) for £80, with annual land tax being 3 shillings 4 pence. In 1854 he built a new home on the property, which remains standing today and is pictured. The property previously incorporated a shop and James2 was listed in 1851 as a dealer in coal and chandlery.  He continued to be listed as a shopkeeper until 1859. 

One day I shall visit Earls Colne and see where my ancestors lived and worked.  It is my dream to complete a research trip to UK and visit the places where my ancestors originated. My previous post was "D is for Determined and Dedicated".  And I really am.  I'll get there!

Google Maps - A summary of the places where my ancestors originated.
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