Monday, August 5, 2013

You are not forgotten - Not on your Nellie!

On 23rd January 1931, Nellie wrote to my Grandmother "I think I will soon be leaving Morwell and then you will see quite a lot of me".   Neither of them knew that Nellie, who was only 19 years old, would be dead within two months.

Ellen Elizabeth Walker, who was known as Nell or Nellie, was my Grand Aunt.  She did not have the opportunity to marry or have children and therefore does not have descendants to remember her.   Very little is known about Nellie so my memorial is primarily pictorial.  However her photos and memorabilia give some insight into her short life.

I am now the guardian of Nellie's suitcase, books and photos,
which were given to me for safekeeping by my cousin Janet (suitcase) and Aunty Phyllis (books and photos).
The photos of Nellie have also provided me with a greater insight into her short life.
Nellie was born on the 16th March 1911 at Havelock,  a small mining community near Maryborough, Victoria, Australia.  Her father, Ambrose Walker, was a miner in the area but at the time of Nellie's birth was listed as a "carter".

Circa 1929 - Nellie's family - Nellie is in the centre
Elizabeth Mottram (Nellie's grandmother) , Mary Walker (mother), Rita Walker (sister in law - wife of Gordon),
Nellie Walker, Frank Walker (brother), Edna Walker  (sister in law - 1st wife of Frank), Ambrose Walker (father),
Gordon Walker (brother)
Front: Phyllis Walker (niece - daughter of Rita and Gordon) and Bobby (nephew - son of Frank & Edna)
The first pages of Nellie's Autograph book show the birthdays of many of the family members pictured above, as well as her good friends Gwen & Edna Tydell, who are in photos below.

From records, photos and Nellie's books,  I have been able to determine some of the places that Nellie lived in her short life.  Click on the pins below for further information.

View Places in Nellie Walker's life in a larger map

"Nellie Walker as a young girl"

On the back was also written
by my Grandmother "Nellie and Nole"
by an unknown person "To Nellie from Gladdie"
"The girl Stent took Nellie at the convent going to school"
It is from this photo that I have been able to determine that Nellie went to secondary school in Ararat. When the photo is enlarged, it is possible to read "Ararat" on the sign on the gate in the background, which then lead me to confirm that the walls and gate belong to the Brigidine convent, Ararat.

Nellie Walker (on left) playing quoits

Nellie Walker
11 November 1926

Nellie Walker (centre) 11th Nov 1926
Believe it is Tydell sisters on right of Nellie

"Nellie Walker and a Tydell"

Nellie Walker on right (with black hat)
"Taken 1st February 1926 at a Picnic"
Believe it is Gwen Tydell seated near Nellie.

Gwen Tydell and Nellie Walker
On my grandfather, Gordon Walker's, bike
18 September 1927

Nellie Walker and her maternal Grandfather Samuel Mottram
Prior to August 1928

Nellie Walker
Nellie also wrote in January 1931 "My bloke went away Thursday morning for 3 weeks holiday so I had to spend Wednesday night in saying goodbye to him".  There are several photos showing Nellie with male friends, but unfortunately most are unlabeled and do not appear to be the same gentleman.

Nellie doesn't look happy.  Maybe she didn't win?
Nellie often wore this style of shoes, which do not appear suitable for tennis.

Is the photo below of Nellie with a family member or a friend?  It appears that the photo belonged to the male in the photo so how did the photo come to be in my Aunty's possession if it did not belong to a family member?  Is this her "bloke"?
Also written on the back of the photo is "P Note 662857".  Does this mean Promissory Note?  Could there be further meaning to this photo than we will ever know?
I have made inquiries to the local historical society to see if I can locate local funeral notices or the names of pallbearers, which would give a good indication of closest family and friends.
"Nell & I - 1928"

Nellie Walker and Reg Alford

Nellie Walker & Reg Alford
It seems that Reg was a friend of the family and lived with Nellie's brother Gordon and wife Rita (my grandparents).  I believe that Nellie is referring to him in her letter "You could get Gordon and Reg's dinner ready and catch Jim and he could bring you in."  

This book was originally given to Nellie by Edna and Gwen Tydell (pictured above).

This book tells me that Nellie lived at Charlton at some time

My Grandparents (Nellie's brother and sister in law) gave this
 book to Nellie but it was returned to them after Nellie died

Another book (Sails of Sunset by Cecil Roberts) given to Nellie by  her friends Edna and Gwen Tydell.
The book was then given to my grandparents (Nellies brother Gordon and sister in law Rita) after she died.
I was given the books after my Aunty Phyllis (daughter of Gordon & Rita) died in 2008.

It is sad to think that Mary Walker saw the death of 3 of her 4 children.
No wonder she was described as a "tough" lady.
Only my grandfather, Gordon, survived her.

This book was published in 1925 and belonged to Nellie.  I am the 5th recipient.
It passed to Nellie's brother Frank when she died.  Frank died in 1957 when it was ,
passed to his brother Gordon, who died in 1981.  It then passed to his eldest child, Phyllis.
I received when my Aunty died in 2008.

Letter from Nellie to her sister in law Rita Walker
23 January 1931

Click to enlarge

This letter was written 23rd January 1931 to my Grandmother.  Was it the last letter that Nellie wrote?  She died on 13th March 1931, which was three days prior to her 20th birthday.

"Dear Rita
I am answering your letter.  I can't come out Saturday.  Jun and Mollie are going to Bruthen for the weekend that is 20 miles from the lakes and they asked me last night to go with them. Of course I jumped at the chance.  It is 90 miles from here.  We are leaving here at 2.  The boss didn't want to give me time off but I would have taken it whether he liked or not.
Edna wants you to come in here for the weekend.  You could get Gordon & Regs dinner ready and catch Jim and he could bring you in.  You would have a decent time in here long night Saturday night and there is a Merry-go-round up here.  Phyl would enjoy that.  What is the matter with her.
I was coming out Wednesday but Eilleen went home Monday.  I couldn't get a lift & I hated the thought of walking out  on my own.
My bloke went away Thursday morning for 3 weeks holiday so I had to spend Wednesday night in saying goodbye to him.
Well Rita, be sure to come and stop at Edna's. I think I will soon be leaving Morwell and then you will  see quite a lot of me.
Your Sorry Nell".
Nellie died in the Sale hospital from peritonitis (12 days) caused by complications associated with Appendicitis (14 days).   About a month later, her friend and sister in law, Edna Walker age 23 (pictured and mentioned above), died in the Yallourn Hospital after an operation to remove tonsils.

A very sad time for the family.
Supplement to "The Narracan Shire Advocate"
Friday, March 13 1931
Source: State Library of Victoria

This post was inspired by Sepia Saturday
Click to see more posts

"Not on your Nellie" is slang for "No Bloody Way"

Nellie is the daughter of Ambrose Walker and sister of Gordon Walker and Frank Walker


  1. How sad that both young ladies should die as complications of surgery within a short space of time.

    1. Yes my thoughts exactly.

      So sad that Nellie didn't get the opportunity to have children and Edna left two very young children who were too young to remember their mother.

  2. So sad that she died from something like that. My son ended up in hospital with appendicitis, in fact they had burst and were trying to heal to his bowel. He came through after the consultant had to operate on him. Now a days both women would no doubt have lived.

    1. It sounds like your son was lucky. Good thing he didn't live in the early 1900s!

      Yes today, very few people would die from such operations.

  3. Sharon, this is such a beautiful, thoughtful, well planned and well presented tribute to your great aunt. It is such a sad story and so tragic given that most people with appendicitis now survive (I had it myself when I was 24). All the images you have used really celebrate Nellie's life. Thank you for sharing these.

    1. Thank you very much Aillin. I appreciate your kind words. I write to remember and record my family history and it is a bonus if others enjoy too.

  4. What a legacy you got there.
    Thanks for sharing with us now,
    and others in the future.
    Surgery has evolved quite a lot since,
    but back then, it was near still the Dark Ages,
    so to speak...
    Pity to see such youth coming to an abrupt end.
    I hope you have already determine who will be the next keeper in your will. Such detail can't be left to hazard.
    Again, thanks for sharing.

    1. I have wondered who will take over from me. My children show no interest in family history but have been told that they are not to throw anything out ever; to store it until a family member is born who is interested!

  5. What a wonderful collection of old photos and books you have in that precious suitcase. How well you have pieced together the life of your great Aunt Nellie. It is sad that she and her sister in law both died at an early age and at about the same time and both from surgery complications.

    1. Thank you.

      I feel that there is more to know but I haven't quite managed to find it!

  6. I agree with you. I find photos are very useful for providing insights into the lives of people, particularly thos you never knew, but even those you did.

    1. Definitely. I learn from your posts all the time. You really are the Photo Sleuth!

  7. What a mammoth post and beautiful tribute to Nellie. I really enjoyed looking at your images. Thanks, Sharon.

    1. Thanks Jill. Yes it is the longest post that I have ever done. I hope that the pictures made it easier to view. I wanted to include everything that I have about Nellie.

  8. Oh Sharon - this is a fabulous post. I wouldn't have seen it if you hadn't posted a link on our Facebook page so thanks for doing that. Such wonderful photos. You have put so much work into laying this out beautifully. You are just the right person to be looking after these precious heirlooms. You do them great justice. I need to read this several times there is so much information.

    1. Thank you Alex. I enjoyed putting it together. It does seem ironic that after all these years, I ended up with so many of Nellies possessions.

  9. Rest In Peace Nellie. Strange How We Never Realise ,At The Time ,The Traces We Will Leave Behind.

  10. I always "love" how they say the operation was a success but the patient died! A great representation of Nellie's life from photos, books and the map. You've certainly brought her to life. She was far too young to die.

    BTW hope it's okay but I'm also using this comment for my talk on reading blogs.