Influenced by a Family Matriarch?

While rummaging through old photographs left by mother, I came across some that included my great grandmother. It got me thinking about her and my maternal side of the family, and in particular the influence she had on her own children and the ones that came after. So, hopefully my readers will indulge me as I explore (well, ramble really) about what helped to influence me along my life’s journey.

My great grandmother Anna Maria Morley (nee Weinert), was a strong woman with an innate ability to not only see a need but also to meet that need. My personal experience is very limited as I was only four years old when Anna Morley passed away in 1958 at the age of 85. However, some of my memories belie the life she lived. By the time I was born, she was already a very old lady who sat in her red-painted rocking chair and used her walking stick to harass small children. Or so it seemed to me. I recall veering out of range of that walking stick. I am sure she was only trying to attract our attention but to a small child that can be quite scary. As is often the case, people make assumptions about a person’s life based on their limited personal experience. As I grow older I have come to appreciate that what you see at the end of a person’s life can often  bear little resemblance of the life they actually lived. Hence, with more knowledge and understanding I want to share a little of the life of a good but strict woman, Granny Morley.

Granny Morley aged 83 in 1956 with Margo Jane aged 2 and baby Jennifer Leigh 6 months.

Anna Maria Weinert was born in Brisbane, Queensland in 1873, the third child and second daughter of Carl August Weinert and Christina Catherine Wittmann, both German immigrants. She was 18 when she married 31 year old Edward George Morley on Christmas Eve 1891. Edward was born in Goole, Yorkshire in 1859. He joined the Royal Navy at aged 18 on 3 April 1878 as an Ordinary Seaman and served on several ships during his 10 years service. He left the Royal Navy with the rank of Able Seaman and according to his official record, his character was ‘very good’. In 1889, at the age of 29 he departed England to start a new life in a new land. Edward would never return to England. Anna and Edward were married for 53 years and had seven children.

According to the 1905 electoral rolls, Anna and Edward were living at Stafford Street in East Brisbane with their growing family. They were later to move to 40 Connor Street, Kangaroo Point. Edward’s occupation is recorded as Mariner and he would continue in this employment for the rest of his working life.

Edward worked away at sea for most of their married life and therefore Granny was left to bring up their seven children almost single handedly. I understand that she managed the purchase of the land at Kangaroo Point and the building of the house which still stands today. Granny was not a woman to be messed with. Even though Granny had a large family and a home to run, my mother told me that she was a talented needlewoman and sewed many of the uniforms of her husband’s mariner colleagues. In addition, she was well known in the community for her care of neighbours, friends and family – anyone in need, really. Granny was known for her generosity and hospitality. She was always feeding people. This is something that has been passed down through the generations as my sister and I are also laughingly referred to as “always having enough food to feed the 5th Army!” It is a trait I am proud to have inherited. My daughter-in-law has said that if the local supermarket ran out of food, they could always raid my freezer and pantry. There is always plenty of food in the house!

The Morleys had their share of troubles too. For instance, their 19 year old son, Arthur (Jack) had just passed his teaching exams in 1918 and was about to embark on his career when his appendix burst and he died shortly after. From all accounts he was very bright and had excellent results. Another young person who did not reach their potential.

While Granny was good to her family and neighbours, she was very strict with her children. Even into adulthood. My great aunt Elsie wanted to become a teacher about 1914 but was forbidden as it would have required her to teach in rural areas. An unaccompanied woman in Western Queensland in 1914 was not going to happen. Aunty Elsie went on to have a good job in the Post Master General’s Department where she worked for 47 years, receiving the Imperial Service Medal on her retirement in 1961. Elsie never married but I have been told she was very popular and may have been engaged at one time. Great Aunt Vera was Granny’s youngest child, born in 1907. Vera worked as a sales assistant in her youth but gave up work to nurse her uncle, father and mother in turn. She was wonderful with children. Vera didn’t marry either. The maiden sisters lived together their whole lives and died within a year of each other (Elsie in 1987 and Vera in 1988).

Interestingly, although the Morleys had seven children, only one child, my grandmother, Marjorie, had  three children. Another two of Granny’s children did marry but had no children. Granny’s three grand children were my Uncle Johnnie (1932-1957), my Mother, Jean (1934-2012) and my Aunty Betty (1936-). Marjorie married James Park who was 34 years her senior, in January 1932. James passed away in 1939 at the age of 68, leaving her to raise the children alone. Of course, Granny was there to support them in every way she could. The family visited Granny’s house regularly and she ensured that the family was well cared for. However, another tragedy was to befall the family. Uncle Johnnie had a very bad stutter and suffered ridicule his whole life. As he grew older he drank to help numb the pain. Sadly, aged just 24 in 1957, while on his way home, Johnnie fell out of the tram and was then run over by a truck. In less than a year, Granny, too, had passed away. My grandmother, Marjorie died in 1960 aged only 55. We believe the shock of losing not only her son but also her mother contributed to her early death.

Granny Morley, my mother Jean, Margo standing and baby Jennifer

With regard to helping out neighbours, Granny came across the Lyle family. One of their sons was a gifted artist and … well that is another post for another day.

Obviously, Granny and Grandfather Morley contributed significantly to our family and the community in which they lived. They worked hard and raised a family. Things were not always easy for them (this applies to most families in any era) but they left an enduring legacy which continues today through me and my children and grandchildren. In particular, I was influenced by a strong woman who overcame adversity and shouldered much of the responsibility in the family and in her pragmatic way helped many people. No one is perfect but when I think of Granny I like to think there is some of her nature in me, just as there is from both sides of my family. Not only that, I believe that I have been influenced by many others such as friends and colleagues. We are all a melting pot of the past, present and our hopes for the future. Please let me know who were and/or are your ‘influencers’. How have you been influenced by your ancestors and others? I would love to hear from you.

By the way, I am ready for when the 5th Army passes my door!

Thanks for reading!

Granny Morley front left sitting beside Grandfather Morley. Vera holding baby and Elsie standing at the end on right. Circa 1930s

3 thoughts on “Influenced by a Family Matriarch?

  1. Thank you for your kind words. I do enjoy it as it helps me make sense of who I am and my place in the world. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Haha. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

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