Buccleuch who?

In an earlier post (HMAS Sydney Lost 75 Years Ago) I alluded to the unusual middle name of my 1st cousin 1 x removed, Henry Buccleuch Shipstone. So, for all those wondering, “what the …”, rest easy, all (well, what I believe to be true) will be revealed. If there are any inaccuracies, my apologies in advance. Please set me right (with evidence) in the Comments Section.

We’ll start at the beginning of my line of the Shipstone family in Australia. My great-grandfather, Samuel Henry Shipstone, was born on 16 January 1854, in Star Lane, Bullwell, Nottinghamshire, England to parents John Shipstone and Isabella Glover. At the age of 22 in 1876, Samuel married Frances (Fannie) Burton and in 1881 their son James (Jim) was born. According to the 1881 census records the family was living in Openshaw, Manchester and Samuel was working as a railway wagon maker. By 1883 they had decided, along with many others in Britain, to emigrate to Australia. This was probably due to the recruitment drive by the new Queensland Government to attract families and workers to the new State of Queensland. See Colonial Immigration in Queensland for an overview. So, they packed up their possessions and their small son and boarded the Duke of Buccleuch.

DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH – iscs 3,099gt 1873 Barrow
Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom (G2228)

You may already know but, on 27 August 1883 the island of Krakatoa, located in Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies) erupted three times on that day. It is considered one of the most deadly volcanic eruptions of modern history and it is believed that more than 36,000 people died due to the subsequent tsunamis following the eruptions. It was a significant global event. See 1883 Krakatoa Eruption for an excellent essay by Monique R Morgan. By October 1883, the Duke of Buccleuch was sailing by Krakatoa on its way to Queensland Australia. The main eruption was over but minor eruptions, mostly of mud, continued.


Krakatoa eruption 1883 – Image courtesy mentalfloss.com

The eruption of Krakatoa was not the only drama unfolding for the young Shipstone family. Fannie Shipstone had embarked on her journey to Queensland with an extra passenger. Fannie was pregnant and on 19 October 1883 gave birth to their second son. To honour their son’s birth at sea aboard the Duke of Buccleuch, he was named Samuel Buccleuch Shipstone.  In turn, Samuel Buccleuch named his only son similarly, ie, Henry Buccleuch Shipstone.

Family legend held that Fannie had died in child birth and Samuel Henry was left to care for his two young sons. It was further believed that a fellow passenger, Alice Bray, was passing by the cabin when Fannie had “died” and helped out with the children. However, the ship’s records show that Fannie arrived in Brisbane, Queensland in November 1883 with her family. The records showed that Samuel Buccleuch was born on board the vessel and some passengers had died. But not Fannie. The sources show Fannie died and was buried in Brisbane in 1885. That was two years after her alleged death on board the Duke of Buccleuch.

Great story. Just not all true. Interestingly, Alice Bray was to become Samuel’s third wife in 1888 and my paternal great-grandmother. My grandfather, John William (Jack), was the youngest of Samuel Henry and Alice’s six children. I guess that is a story for another day.

(As an aside, while trawling through the shipping lists, I found two other babies were born on the same voyage. What do you know? One of them was named Alice Buccleuch Lake. Might follow that up one day.)

(As a further aside, the Duke of Buccleuch was lost with all hands following a collision with the Canadian vessel Vandalia in the English Channel on 7 March 1889. See Loss of Duke of Buccleuch for an interesting read).

I trust that you are not too confused. Family history takes many twists and turns and I am along for the ride. Have you had any family myths that have been busted? Let me know your story in the Comments Section. I would love to hear from you.


Another Year Over

Well, here we are on the cusp of another new year. I am left wondering what happened to 2016. I am sure we were only celebrating Christmas 2015 and now Christmas 2016 has passed.  New Year’s Eve is here!! It feels as though the older I get the faster the years pass. Looking back on 2016, it has been filled mostly with good times. I have been fortunate to spend time with my children and grandchildren. Times which I cherish. The grandkids are growing up so fast! If only we could keep them little for longer. But, alas, that is not how life works. On the other side, it is great to see them grow up, healthy and happy even though all of them have been through some difficult times in one way or another. Mostly, children are resilient.

When I was young I always envied those “perfect” families. Mum, Dad and the happy, smiling kids. My family was less than perfect. Dysfunctional, you could say. Through the years, though, I have found that most of the “perfect” families were not so perfect afterall. They were just better at hiding their problems. My family’s problems were a little more visible.

On another note, this year I haven’t been able to spend as much time with dear friends as I would have liked. I might be retired, but there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I want to do.  My hope and plan is to rectify that in 2017 and spend more time with friends who are dear to me. For those friends that read my blog, take note. I will be in touch … soon.

I didn’t get to travel as much in 2016 as I would have liked. However, a week in Hong Kong and Macau in April both satisfied and whetted my appetite for travel.


Hong Kong

My family is at the Sunshine Coast (just north of Brisbane, Queensland) to see in the New Year. We will be having some rest and relaxation at the beach and beside the pool for two weeks. Can’t wait!

As 2016 comes to an end, I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year. One filled with Joy and Hope for a Brighter Future.

Let me know in the Comments Section how you will bring in the New Year. See you in 2017!

Art for Art’s Sake

During the week I caught up with a dear friend for lunch and then a wander through the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QAG and GOMA) followed by a brief visit to the Art Gallery. While I am not an art aficionado, I do enjoy art galleries. Whether it is to just wander through, exploring what is there or taking a guided tour which can be so informative.

We started with a lovely lunch, including a glass of wine, at GoMA overlooking the Brisbane River on a warm Brisbane Summer day. Then off to explore the gallery. It was school holidays so the place was a buzz with little people everywhere. For me, that added to the joy. The children enjoyed themselves, taking in the different installations as well the ‘hands on’ experience of creating wonderful things including the white Lego. It is GoMA’s 10th anniversary celebration with the amazing Sugar Spin: You, Me, Art and Everything exhibition which features over 250 contemporary artworks. We wondered about the thought processes that created some of the exhibits and installations. My friend reminded me that what we see on display comes after much planning and a long process, and of course, the inevitable ‘failures’. We only see the successes. As it should be.

A sample of the Sugar Spin installations currently at GoMA.

Art can have a profound affect on people. My spirit is always lifted by the genius that surrounds me. I am always in awe of people who can create beautiful things. Beauty, of course is subjective and definitely in the eye of the beholder. For me, though, it is important to visit galleries including those of modern art. We can become stinted in our world view, when not challenged by the unusual. We may not always ‘like’ what we see in the modern galleries but we need to be exposed to it. Especially children, before they have too much information about what is considered normal or right or good art. Children have that advantage. Minds not clogged with preconceived ideas.

I like to visit all types of art galleries. I have visited some famous galleries such as the Louvre and Prado which house some amazing artworks. Our National Gallery of Australia (NGA) located in Canberra has some great exhibitions. Currently on show is Versailles: Treasures from the Palace which I hope to see before it ends in April 2017. We visited the Palace of Versailles last year but I am sure there will be some ‘real treasures’ at the NGA. If you would like to find out more, see NGA. The Tweed Regional Gallery is fabulous, too, especially since they have recreated the home of the late artist, Margaret Olley. For further information, visit Tweed Regional Gallery. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

So, for me, I like to think that art and the galleries, affect my thinking and hopefully, push my boundaries. By immersing myself in these artworks, surrounded by the end results of people’s thoughts and talents, that just maybe, some of that will rub off on me.  While I may not understand it all, Art for Art’s Sake is what truly matters.

What is your favourite gallery? What does Art for Art’s Sake mean to you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

Just Cruising

Cruising is my favourite form of travel. That does not mean I don’t enjoy other forms like plane, rail, coach and car travel. Because I do. I have had some incredible land journeys but I do love to cruise. People either love it or hate it. I love it. If I could (translates to “enough money”), I would cruise most of the year. The only downside is I would miss my family and friends. Apart from that, I love cruising.

Thinking about some of the wonderful places I have been fortunate enough to visit over the years, it is impossible for me to choose a favourite destination. Not that I have been everywhere. Nowhere near. But, today I am thinking about a great 28 day cruise around Asia undertaken with my husband in 2014.

Firstly, this was not a cruise that had been planned for years or months, although it was on my loooong list of places to visit. This was a last minute “deal” that we couldn’t pass up. We had a short time to organise ourselves but when you are on a mission you just make it happen. We always hoped that being retired we could take advantage of cheap, last minute cruise fares. So, here was our opportunity!

Our itinerary was full of exotic destinations starting in Singapore. Then followed by

  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Hong Kong
  • China
  • South Korea
  • Japan

As you can see from the photos above, we managed to see some amazing places. These are just a small sample of places we visited on this cruise. Can you work out where the photos were taken? Some will be easy, some not so. Let me know in the Comments Section if you know where they were taken. Sorry, no prizes for correct answers.

All in all it was 28 days of cruising and a great way to visit amazing destinations! Fantastic! I love to cruise. Unpacking once is a huge advantage. When you travel on land, either on tour or independently, living out of your suitcase can take its toll, especially on long trips. So, to be able to hang your clothes in a wardrobe makes life much easier. There are plenty of other reasons I love to cruise. Wonderful choices of food and drinks in the restaurants and bars. Just love “happy hour” and the opportunity to try some interesting cocktails. And for me, not having to plan meals, shop for food, prepare the food, cook the meal and clean up after the meal is probably the best part. The entertainment is usually first class and there are so many other things to do. I think there is something for everyone. Whether it is shore excursions to exotic places or just finding a quiet nook to read that special book. There are plenty of classes to take advantage of such as dance (which I am not good at), Tai Chi (on the Asian cruise anyway), wine appreciation, exercise and cooking. There is also the daily Trivia competition (plenty of rivalry between teams) or you can grab a coffee and just roam around the ship discovering what is available. The choices seem to be endless. You never need to be bored.

Dinner is a great opportunity to meet other cruisers and we have met people from all over the world. We opt for flexible open dining rather than a set dining time which allows us to meet a range of people in either small or large group settings. In these scenarios I have heard many wonderful life stories. One that comes to mind is the US Vietnam Veteran who, in 2014, was making his first trip back to Vietnam since he left in the late 1960s. He mentioned how he suffered (still suffered) Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome following his war experiences. However, through all of that, he had managed to attend university and became a university professor. His trip to Vietnam was an emotional time for him but he was determined to visit the place that had shaped so much of his life. What an inspiring story. He refused to be defeated.

As you can probably tell, I enjoy cruising. It is a special type of travel. I have a few more stories up my sleeve and hope to share them with you down the track. So, please, watch this space…

Do you enjoy cruising? What is your favourite or least favourite part of cruising? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for visiting.

A Life Not Lived …

Today I have been thinking about my paternal grandmother Mona May Holbeck and her family. Mona May was born on 30 October 1904. Mona grew up and married my grandfather, Jack, in 1930.  My father, William John, was the eldest of their four sons. I was fortunate enough to know both grandparents. I thought about Mona and about some of her siblings who never had the chance to achieve their potential. The ones who never grew up. The ones whose place in time will always remain as a child or an infant. Those who research their family history know very well the tragedies that befall families. They have in the past and will continue in the present and into the future. We can’t change that.

I want to provide some background to the family in Australia so we will wind back the clock, just a little. James Louis Holbeck, was Mona May’s father. He was the son of Charles Alfred Holbeck, who, as a 12 year old, had sailed from England with his father James Holbeck in 1859 aboard the vessel Lloyds. It appears they left England following the death of Charles’ mother, Mary Ann Wood in 1858. They, like so many others were seeking a new start in a new land – Queensland, Australia. Charles Alfred grew up and married Jane Ruddy, an Irish immigrant, in 1865. By 1866 their first child, James Louis (my great grandfather) was born. Another seven children would follow.  In 1889, aged 23, James Louis Holbeck married Annie Sixsmith. They were to have 10 children between 1890 and 1914.

Like many families, not only in the beginning of the 20th century but also in the 21st century, the Holbecks were not unfamiliar with grief and loss. On 15 January 1903, Annie Holbeck (nee Sixsmith) gave birth to twin boys Stanley Edgar and Leslie William. However, in less than six months, on 1 June that year, baby Leslie had passed away. Infant mortality was common. Too common.  On 25th February 1914, at aged 45, Annie gave birth to her tenth child, Arthur Edward. But by 28 February 1914, just three days later, he was gone. My family history, as with most people, is littered with stories of children who died at birth or shortly after. While the loss of infants is tragic enough, dealing with the death of a child who has seemingly survived infancy is probably even more so.

Emily (Emma) Agnes Holbeck was born on 9 November 1899, the fifth child and second daughter of James Louis and Annie. Emma lived in Maud Street, Newstead, Brisbane with her parents and her siblings. She attended Breakfast Creek School and by all accounts was an excellent student. Her handwriting was good and her books were kept clean and neat. I have three of her school books and in her “General” exercise book dated September 6th 1910 is the start of a Parsing exercise. Some of you will know what that means. For those who don’t, parsing involves breaking down a text into its component parts of speech with an explanation of the form, function, and syntactic relationship of each part. I am not sure, but I don’t believe that it is taught in the school curriculum anymore. But remember it was 1910.

So, on the afternoon of 6th September 1910 Emma went home from school. I have been told that shortly after that Emma fell ill and never recovered. Great aunt Emma died at her parents’ residence on 12 September 1910, aged 11 years and 10 months. The child who had written so beautifully in her books and had taken such care with her school work was gone. The Death Notice was very precise about Emma’s age as were the Memorial Notices that were placed in the newspapers in the following years.

Interestingly, the death notices of 17 September 1910 mention two other children who passed away that week. As I read these newspaper notices, it was a stark reminder that all those children were real people who lived real lives. Children who loved and laughed and were sometimes naughty. Children who played with their siblings and friends. Went to school, studied hard, or not. They were real and their deaths devastated their families. While we understand that child mortality was greater in the 1910s than in the 21st century, it did not make them immune to grief and pain. I know the Holbeck family carried the grief of the loss of Emma their whole lives. They never got over it. And here I am, more than 100 years after Emma’s death, still wondering what might have been. Would she have married and had children? Would she have had a job or a career? So many questions that don’t have answers. A life cut short. Potential not achieved. A life not lived…


Ah, Athens. Thanks for the Memories.

It was the trip of a lifetime. My husband and I had long wished and dreamed and hoped and planned to travel to Europe. To see all the places we had read and learned about our whole lives. We were going to Greece, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Britain and Ireland. We would visit the ruins of the Parthenon in Athens and Ephesus and experience the Greek Islands. And as for Italy, we would visit the Vatican, Rome and all its ancient ruins. We would spend time in Naples and Pompeii and the Isle of Capri. We would explore Venice, Florence and Pisa and drive down the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento. Then on to Switzerland and France. It was amazing! The trip through Britain and Ireland would be great, as we wandered the streets of towns and cities we had only heard and read about. All in all, we would be away almost seven weeks. Yippee!! I could go on and on about that trip and I probably will in future posts – watch this space.

We had a fantastic flight with Emirates (still my favourite airline) from Brisbane to Dubai and then on to Athens. This was post-9/11 so we expected security to be high in Athens. Well, we got that wrong. After collecting our luggage we were merely ushered out into the arrivals area with no security checks. Interesting.

From there to the hotel. We were tired from our flight so had a rest and then took a walk and decided we would go to a nice looking little restaurant for dinner that night rather than eat in the hotel. Afterall, we were seasoned travelers. We had managed to fly from Australia to Greece without incident. How good were we?? We had our first meal overseas in an almost deserted restaurant (remember, it was Athens). The eatery was near the hotel so catered for tourists of which we were and still are, unashamedly. We thought we were eating late at 8pm. The Athenians don’t come out to eat until much later. I still can’t do that. Sigh.

The following evening we met our Tour Director and our traveling companions for the next three weeks. We met folks from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We had a pleasant time of meeting and greeting and then a light dinner and an early night. The next day was the beginning of our adventure. We were visiting the Parthenon on the Acropolis, for goodness sake. Need to be on the ball.



On the Acropolis, we were given an informative talk by our experienced local guide and afterwards explored the ruins on our own (translate to, with the other 10 thousand tourists doing the exact same thing) until it was time to board the coach (remember, it is not a bus). It was arranged that we would all have time in the Plaka and the city centre for shopping and lunch and that the coach would pick us up at a designated time. So off we went on our separate ways.

We found ourselves in a part of the Plaka that is a roadway and therefore not for pedestrian traffic. We realised that and I was stepping from the roadway onto the footpath. I literally had my right foot on the footpath and was lifting my left leg up when I felt a heavy weight on the calf of my leg. In a split second, a car tyre had nudged my leg and I immediately felt my leg begin to swell and become very painful. My first thoughts were, “Oh, no, this is the end of my holiday!” and “Ouch – that really, really hurts!”

The woman (Katherina) who ran into me, parked her car and came over to me to see if I was alright – which I wasn’t. Katherina was a consultant engineer and an academic who spoke excellent English. She was very upset and insisted on taking me to the doctor. She left her car in the city and we caught a cab to the hospital that only treats broken bones and accidents – no sick people. Well, that was an experience in itself. Athens’ cab drivers are notorious for their crazy driving and their bright yellow cabs are known as yellow demons – referring to their drivers, no doubt. We arrived at the hospital and I thought we were going to drive through the glass front doors, we were so close. However, he wanted to get me as close to the entrance as possible as my leg was swelling at a rapid rate.

Into the hospital we go and I think “where am I?” The paint is peeling off the walls and while it is clean it is quite dilapidated. Nothing like the hospitals I am used to in Australia. It wasn’t very long before I am X-rayed and then seeing a doctor, all in record time. During this time I had noticed that Katherina had discreetly slipped money to attendants and whoever needed to be hurried along to ensure we passed through the system in the minimum time. The upshot was that I had no broken bones but a very bad sprain and so I was duly strapped up and told to keep off my leg for THREE WEEKS minimum (how long was this tour , yes, that’s right THREE WEEKS argh!!). The doctor provided a handwritten recommendation (not a prescription as in Australia) for pain killers. Katherina has had the cab wait, so off we go again. We stop at the ATM for her to access some cash and then to the pharmacy to purchase my painkillers and crutches.

Then back to my hotel. Katherina is upset – Ummm, so am I, let me tell you – so she calls one of her friends who is a doctor to check me out. I am in my hotel room feeling very fragile when the older doctor arrived. Following our conversation about my medical history and my current injury, he advised that I should probably be medivacced back to Australia but given my situation, there may not be an airline that would take the risk. Well, that’s handy.

My husband says that if I have to go back home, he will miss me but … he is not going home with me. We would see about that. Following discussions with our Tour Director, we  delayed the decision to go home until after the upcoming three day cruise around the Greek Islands.

Well, that’s what we did. And, no, I didn’t fly back to Australia. I wheelchaired, crutchered and hobbled my way around Europe. I went everywhere. Even hobbling around Pompeii on their huge cobbled streets. I had waited far too long for this trip and I was NOT going home. A big thanks goes to our Tour Director, Jonathan and my wonderful tour mates for their support during that time.

There were some good things that came out of the incident. Firstly, we made some great friends that we still keep in touch with. Some live close by and we regularly meet for lunch and catchups. We have had further travels with many of those on that tour in 2009. The other is my love for travel was strengthened after that first European trip. We have since been back to Europe another few times. Each time staying a little longer. But, ah, Athens. Thanks for the memories!

Do you like to travel? Have you found yourself in unfortunate circumstances while traveling? What is your favourite thing about travel? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments Section. Thanks for visiting.



HMAS Sydney Lost 75 Years Ago

Today, Saturday, 19 November 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Sydney off the Western Australian coast.  The Sydney was sunk with the loss of all the ship’s company of 645. It remains Australia’s worst naval disaster. The Sydney was sunk by the German HSK (German Navy) Kormoran disguised as the Dutch merchant ship Straat Malakka. Until 2008, the resting place of this ship and its company remained a mystery. There have been many countless words written on the history of this disaster by professional historians, and I am not in that illustrious company, so will not be adding to that. So, for those interested, you should check out this link HMAS Sydney History

My thoughts today go to Petty Officer Henry Buccleuch Shipstone. According to the records he was my first cousin, 1 x removed. My grandfather and Henry’s father were half-brothers (they shared the same father). Confused? Family history is a bit like that. Many’s the hour I have spent trying to work out just who is who in the family zoo.  Anyway, we are related. That’s what counts – I think.

Back to Henry Shipstone. In 1941 Henry was 28 years old when he and his 644 companions went down to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Evidently, Henry liked to write. He wrote poems. A few days, or weeks before the sinking of his ship, Henry wrote the poem below, A Sailor’s Prayer. This poem was read as part of the memorial service for those lost on the Sydney after its discovery in 2008. I am fortunate to have a framed copy of the poem which was given to me by a much-loved uncle.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened to Henry if he had survived the awful war that did indeed take his life. He was 28, single and had grown up in Graceville, a leafy Western suburb of Brisbane with his mother, father and four sisters. I didn’t know the family personally as I was born in the 1950s.  I didn’t find out too much about Henry until more recent times. Would he have gone on to be a writer or author of some kind? or would he, as so many did after the Second World War, work in an ordinary job, have a mortgage and a family. Just one of the crowd. Of course, this is just musing because Henry never did get to do anything after the War. His war ended on this day 75 years ago. Along with so many other young and, not so young, men and women who never reached their potential. War does that. It robs a generation of so much potential. Families grieved for never to be seen again, husbands, wives, children and siblings. What is sad about the sinking of the Sydney is that the families left behind never really knew where their precious loved ones were lying. Many of the immediate families had passed on before 2008, when they discovered the whereabouts of both the Sydney and the Kormoran.

It’s funny, though, if it wasn’t for this tragedy I probably wouldn’t have given Henry Buccleuch Shipstone much of a thought as I worked through the family history. That is, except for the unusual name. That my friends, is another story for my Saturday Arvo Thoughts…

Poem A Sailor's Prayer by Late Petty Officer H.B. Shipstone, of HMAS Sydney II

First blog post

Welcome to my first blog post. WordPress suggested I introduce myself and let you know what to expect from my ramblings on Saturday Arvo Thoughts. Well, I am a retired 60 something female. I am married with two children and a swag of grandchildren. For more than 25 years I worked in university administration. That’s right, not everyone who works at a uni is an academic. There are many of us behind the scenes, helping everything to flow smoothly. I enjoy family history and history in general. Although, as my friends know, I prefer European and Australian history. My other passion is travel. I haven’t been to all the places on my bucket list, but I am working through it. As time goes on, I hope to explore some of the issues I am interested in and if any one else is interested, that will be a bonus. Hope you will join me on the journey.