Balmain businesses 1902

365 Darling Road, Balmain - W J Laws

From The Australian Town and Country Journal of 10 December 1902 comes this item in a special edition of businesses in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney.

My suspicion is that it was a promotional feature which may have involved payment for the placement of what were, in reality, advertisements.

Disclosure:  W J Laws was my great-grandfather who went on to become the Mayor of Balmain in 1907-1908.

W J LAWS

The most imposing block of buildings in Balmain, without doubt, is that which comprises the Town Hall and Post Office, situated, as it is, in the centre of the suburb’s main thoroughfare, and upon an eminence which renders it visible from almost any part of the city, and even of the more distant suburbs. Right opposite the Town Hall, and within a yard or two of the tram stopping place, are the premises of Mr. W. J. Laws, auctioneer, valuer, and property agent.

In such a thriving district there is a lot of business requiring the attention of an expert real estate agent, while a lot of property owners have interests which they must of necessity employ someone else to look after. Of this business and these interests a very large proportion are in the hands of Mr. Laws, who has a local standing of very nearly 18 years, during which period he has not only gained a most intimate knowledge of local properties, but has established a reputation for business aptitude and integrity. Some three years ago Mr. Laws took over the business of Messr. J. Garrard and Company.

Since he first started in the business of real estate agency Mr. Laws has probably had the bulk of the property in Balmain in hand, and his acquaintance with local values is, therefore, of such a character that his advice may be regarded as practically infallible. The fact that he has lived in Balmain, too, since he was but a few weeks old is an advantage in a business requiring judgment as to the relative prospect of advancement as between different localities. He is at the present time a member of the borough council, and he has had, too, a wide experience in local municipal valuation. The list of properties passing through Mr. Laws’ hands is such that it is safe to say that anybody, no matter what class of house was required, could be accommodated almost immediately. Once in each month, or at any time, by arrangement, Mr. Laws holds land and property sales at auction. As an adjunct to his business he conducts the local agency of the United Insurance Company.


first steps in researching family military service records

My paternal grandfather and maternal great-uncle both served in the First World War.  An increasing amount of source material is now readily available to begin to understand some of the experiences of soldiers at war.  Some links to those sources are provided here to assist new researchers to discover their own family stories.

Alfred Buckler

George Elliott 1889-1917

George Elliott

The National Archives of Australia holds the personal service records of Australians at war.  Many of those records are digitised and available for download.   This mine of information can include movements from country to country, training, periods of leave, wounds suffered, hospitalisation periods, promotions and letters from family members particular to the soldier’s service.

The personal service record of a soldier only includes so much information as to specific whereabouts.  However, knowledge of the Division in which someone served can lead you to the battles and incidents of the war your ancestor may have experienced.

Alfred Buckler’s service record includes details of the Military Cross he was awarded.

Once you’ve got some clues, you can take your research to another level.

Charles Edwin Woodrow (C E W) Bean, compiled the multi-volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918.   The military sections of old and new book stores provide indexes to scour.  I found the following reference to A J Buckler in Volume VI (The AIF in France: May 1918 to The Armistice) of Bean’s magnum opus.  It relates to the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918.

Engineers of the 4th Field Company with specially trained platoons from the infantry constructed strong points in that alignment. Footnote 77. The 4th Brigade was to have dug three of these points; but the allotted platoon of the 15th Bn apparently became involved in the heavy fighting at Pear Trench, where Lt E S Davidson (Neutral Bay NSW), the engineer officer detailed to direct the digging of the northern post, was killed.  After his NCO had been wounded, a sapper R A Miller (Sydney) helped with the fortification of the front line.  Lts R S Carrick (Sydney) and A J Buckler (Sydney) duly saw to the completion of the other two positions.”

My mother’s uncle George Elliott was 28 years old and serving as a stretcher bearer when he found himself right in the thick of the Battle of Messines.  The long planned assault on the ridge in the early hours of 7 June 1917 saw 19 huge mines detonated within 20 seconds.  The blast was so loud that it was heard across the English Channel and in Ireland.

According to Robert Likeman’s Men of the Ninth – a History of the Ninth Australian Field Ambulance 1916-1994, ambulance bearers encountered heavy shell-fire on the first day.  George  suffered gun shot wounds to his neck and both knees and succumbed to those wounds on 8 June.

The Australian War Memorial now has Red Cross records available on its Biographical Database.  This note in George’s Red Cross file demonstrates the work of the Red Cross in following up details for the grieving families.

Details of his grave in Pont D’Achelle are also available at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.

Service records provide all sorts of interesting information.  I won’t go into the details here, but this link hints at the reason for other medical treatment George received before his death.  Frankly, if I’d been him …..

If you’re browsing for your own interest, have a look too at The National Library’s Trove : Australian Newspapers 1803-1954 – a source of news of battles, awards and, sadly, family notices of loss.


every picture tells a story

Middle aged woman - gravesiteOften when you come across old photographs, it’s difficult to find any detail to add to an understanding of the subject matter.  In this out-of-copyright photograph (a glass negative) via The State Library of Victoria (ca 1888-1894), the gravestone inscription provides some clues.  The young man, Mark Marston, was almost 19 years old when he died from the effects of a snake bite.

It didn’t take much sleuthing in Trove’s Digital Newspaper collection to find a number of reports echoing the news of this sad event in the Sunbury district in Victoria.  Here’s one of those as noted by The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser of 18 March 1880.

Mark Marston - report of his death by snakebite

The photographic record describes “a middle-aged woman standing beside headstone and grave, iron fence surrounding headstone and fairly well-established garden”. One might surmise that this woman is his mother. A search of Ancestry.com provided the following information.

Frederick MarstonMark’s parents (Thomas and Elizabeth Marston (nee Beeson) emigrated from Lincolnshire shortly after their marriage.  They had six children, the eldest of whom was a daughter who died in the first year of her life. At the time this photograph was taken, Elizabeth would have been in her mid-late fifties.

Mark was not the only son who pre-deceased Elizabeth and Thomas.  Another son Frederick (a railway worker) died at the age of 31.  The Argus of 30 September 1893 reported this inquiry into his accidental death.