Sunday 7 June 2020

Early Deaths in the Flockton Family of Turpentine Distillers

By the mid 1790s two Flockton brothers from Green Hammerton in Yorkshire had moved to London to take over the turpentine works of their father's childless cousin Edward Webster and his wife Mary née Stephens. Their three surviving Flockton sons also worked in the business.

The business had been based at Potters Fields, opposite the Tower of London, but subjected the surrounding area to such extreme risks of explosion and fire that an Act of Parliament in 1785 provided compensation for the factory to be moved upstream to Battersea. The first record of the new factory in operation at Battersea comes in 1802.

From around 1825 another branch of the family business at Spa Road, Bermondsey manufactured pitch, tar, turpentine and varnish and in 1828 claimed to be the sole manufacturer of the patent resin.

The Battersea factory moved upriver again, around 1840 to the Twickenham oil mills, and again to Weybridge around 1842.  
Oil Mill at Weybridge, 1924
Oil Mill at Weybridge, 1924
Courtesy Elmbridge Museum, Surrey
It is interesting to consider the possible influence of their chemically-polluted working environment on the life spans of all the Flockton partners in the family business.

William Flockton, 1770-1818

Elder brother William Flockton, born in 1770, had six children, all born in the parish of St Mary Battersea, of whom only a daughter and a son reached adulthood. William was apparently responsible for the Battersea factory operations of the turpentine business, until he died early in 1818, aged forty-seven. No details have survived for his cause of death. His widow Elizabeth reputedly kept the Battersea factory going for some years, working with her son Thomas (Tom). By the early 1840s their oil crushing business had again moved upriver, to Twickenham.

Here William's son Tom died of 'fever' in 1843, aged forty-two and Tom's only child, born in 1841, died in 1847. 

William's daughter Mary Elizabeth, who had married the soap maker Samuel Thomas Moate in 1820, had 11 children. Two of their eight sons died in infancy. Their three daughters lived long lives in England. Their three sons who moved to Victoria, in Australia, lived longer than the three brothers who stayed in England, who died in their forties and early fifties.

Thomas Flockton, c.1772-1846

Younger brother Thomas Flockton, born around 1772, lived in the parish of St John Horselydown, Southwark where his two sons and two daughters were baptised. From 1828 he and his two sons ran the office side of the business from the family home at 20 Freeman's Lane,  Horselydown, and also factory operations at nearby Spa Fields, Rotherhithe. His sons having married, Thomas moved out of Freeman's Lane around 1833-4 and lived nearby. He effectively retired from the family business in 1839 through ill-health and died of 'general dropsy' in 1846, a condition he'd suffered for eight years. 

Webster was an industrial chemist and inventor and he worked at the family's various factories while it seems that his younger brother Thomas Metcalf Flockton was the business manager. Both continued to reside at 20 Freeman's Lane until around 1837, when Webster and his family moved to Spa Cottages, Bermondsey.  

In the early 1840s, Webster was also helping his cousin Tom at Twickenham. The relationship was close as Tom was also Webster's brother-in-law, being married to Webster's sister Thomasine. Tom died in 1843, the Twickenham site was soon abandoned and Webster moved with his family to Weybridge where a new seed crushing factory was built near the junction of the Wey Navigation Canal with the Thames. Webster's family now lived at Stanmore House, Weybridge.

Thomas Metcalf Flockton died four years after his father, in 1850. He died of dropsy of the chest, said to be aged forty-six although he had turned forty-seven. He had two stillborn daughters and one son, who died in a horse-riding accident in 1858, aged twenty-three.

Webster Flockton, who had spent his entire life in and around factories, died in 1853 at the age of fifty-one, of chronic bronchitis and effusion into the chest. His widow Maria Isabella née Cruikshank soon moved her family to Romford in Essex but kept the business going for another three years before amalgamating it with a similar business, in which she continued to play an active role for another decade.

Webster had 14 children and a number of his children also suffered from health problems which shortened their lives. The males who worked with chemicals generally lived much shorter lives than their sisters, who were not exposed to the same pollutants. Two of the sisters, Isabel and Thomasine, were artists who married fellow artists, but they were water colourists rather than painters in oils so were not exposed to the turpentine used to dilute paint and clean brushes. Thomasine succumbed early in life to typhoid fever but her sister Isabel lived a long life.

Webster Flockton's three children born at Freeman's Lane, Horselydown:

1833- ?Thomas, shipbroker, still alive in 1887, died of ?
1835-1917Isabel Mary, aged 82, senile decay & cardiac failure
1836-1836Ellen, newborn

Webster Flockton's five children born at 'Spa Cottage', Bermondsey:

1837-1901Webster, aged 64, gas manager, carcinoma of neck & bronchitis
1838-1922Anna Maria (Annie), aged 84, lifelong mental health problems but died of 'senile decay of considerable duration', Brookwood Asylum
1839-1882Squire, aged 43, mercantile clerk, suicide
1841-1873Berkeley St Vincent Cruikshank, aged 31, mercantile clerk, phthisis pulmonalia
1842-1903Mary Webster, aged 60, carcinoma of uterus (longstanding)

Webster's six children born at 'Stanmore House', Weybridge, Surrey:

1845-1870Thomasine Browning, aged 25, typhoid
1846-1927Arthur Cruikshank, aged 81, Royal Navy engine room fitter, senile decay
1848-1929Maria Isabella, aged 81, carcinoma of the bowel and heart failure
1850-1907John Cox, aged 57, gas manager, died in elevator accident
1851-1938Beatrice, aged 87, heart failure and uraemia following fractured hip
1853-1916Frederick Cox, aged 63, various occupations, cellulitis of the arm & toxaemia

NOTE: The author Louise Wilson is a descendant of the artist Francis Stephen Flockton and his artist wife Isabel Mary Flockton, Frank's distant cousin. She has researched the Flocktons for many years and the above notes briefly summarise one aspect of her work. Louise Wilson's biography of the scientific botanical artist Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory was published by Wakefield Press in 2016.

P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.

Saturday 11 January 2020

Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes

In my family there is an abundance of Flocktons. As Louise Wilson I have already written a biography about one of them: Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory. Although Margaret was an aunt of my maternal grandmother, she was still alive in my childhood and was known to us all as 'Aunt Mog'.

Aunt Mog's parents  - my grandmother's grandparents - were Francis Stephen (Frank) Flockton and his distant cousin Isabel Mary Flockton. Frank was a son of Stephen Fatt and Sarah Flockton, who was a daughter of Rev Jonathan Flockton and was living in the Vicarage at Melbourn in Cambridgeshire when she married. My grandmother passed down to us a family legend about how Stephen and Sarah first met, at a country ball. The tale even encompassed what Stephen wore and what he said.
All Saints, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire
From website
My younger sisters have good memories and vividly remember our grandmother's words. My role in recent years, as the family historian, has been to check out all the factual aspects of Stephen and Sarah's marriage and life circumstances. Fortuitously, I even found a document explaining Stephen's name change. It seems that Sarah made an excellent match when she married Stephen. They had ten children and lived in great comfort in a number of homes for the gentry close to London. All these highly interesting details are included in a non-fiction book I am drafting about the Flockton family.

Meanwhile, using the pen name Louisa Valentine, I have written a creative non-fiction version of Stephen and Sarah's love story. It was entered into a competition run in 2019 by the Historical Novel Society of Australasia, with a strict 3,000 word limit. You can read it here: Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes.

I'd love to know what you think of this story. Leave a comment below or contact me via my Louisa Valentine Facebook page.

Friday 13 December 2019

White Island and La Soufriere

In the major eruption on White Island in New Zealand this week, adventurous tourists and tour operators suffered loss of life and catastrophic injuries. Their sad fate reminds us that human beings remain ever-curious about the dramatic natural forces shaping our world.

And so it was more than 200 years ago when one of my relatives died as the result of climbing an active volcano, La Soufriere, on the Caribbean island of St Vincent.
Kingstown, St Vincent,, c 1830
Picture from Shephard, Charles, Esq, An Historical Account of the Island of Saint Vincent, (W Nicol, London, 1831
My 4th great-grandfather, James Cruikshank, a merchant then aged around twenty-five, and Sarah Young, an heiress then aged around thirty-six, married on St Vincent on 7 December 1808. The Cruikshanks operated two estates, 'Cummacrabou' Estate and 'Mesopotamia' Estate, both inherited from Sarah's father Dr George Young. It seems the estates were located some distance from La Soufriere volcano, as the owners were not compensated by the British government for financial losses sustained when the volcano erupted in 1812.

Two daughters of James and Sarah Cruikshank were born on the island: Maria Isabella in 1810 and Ellen Sarah in 1812. When Maria Isabella was only two months old she was taken by her mother to be brought up in England, where she remained for the rest of her life.

On 30 April 1812, around the time Ellen was born, La Soufriere erupted in a major volcanic event. The Times of London reported the eruption in graphic detail, including an article on 30 June that the Souffrier [sic]:
had for some time past indicated much disquietude; and from the extraordinary frequency and violence of earthquakes, which are calculated to have exceeded two hundred within the last year, portended some great movement or eruption. The apprehension, however, was not so immediate as to restrain curiosity, or to prevent repeated visits to the crater, which of late had been more numerous than at any former period, even up to Sunday last, the 26th of April; when some Gentlemen ascended it and remained there for some time. Nothing unusual was then remarked, or any external difference observed, except rather a stronger emission of smoke from the interstices of the conical hill, at the bottom of the crater.
Young James Cruikshank must have been one of these adventurous gentlemen. According to his daughter Maria’s recollections, he died at the age of twenty-eight from a chill caught by ascending the mountain. Inhalation of poisonous gases might have been the real cause. James was buried at St George’s in Kingstown, St Vincent on 1 May 1812, the day after the eruption. The Times described this day, May Day:
the birth of May dawned like the day of judgment: a chaotic gloom enveloped the mountain, and an impenetrable haze hung over the sea, with black sluggish clouds of a sulphureous cast. The whole island was covered with favilla, cinders, scoria, and broken masses of volcanic matter. It was not until the afternoon, the muttering noise of the mountain sunk gradually into a solemn yet suspicious silence.
Six weeks after the death of James, his second child Ellen Sarah was christened. The bereaved widow Sarah kept her second baby with her and remained on St Vincent until her own death there early in 1820. She'd spent most of her almost forty-eight years in the tropics.

Aged around eight, Ellen was sent to join her older sister Maria in England. Ellen was sick when she arrived and she eventually died in England in 1830, aged eighteen. Maria, through her husband Webster Flockton, retained ownership of both the estates on St Vincent until they were sold some time in the 1830s or 1840s, by which time they had been in Maria’s family since about 1773.

No Will has ever been found for James in England or Scotland. If only his Will could be found, it might explain some of his family connections and thereby indicate where he came from. There were other Cruikshanks on the island of St Vincent in the early 1800s, including another James Cruikshank. They must have been relatives, but a connection can’t be found. Can anyone help?

NOTE: This abbreviated James Cruikshank story forms part of a much larger and more detailed collection of material I have gathered over many years about the Flockton family. A book is planned but, as I have many other works-in-progress underway, I fear that I'm running out of time to finalise it. 

P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

On the Right Tram at Christmas

Some of us like to give ourselves a Christmas present ... so I was thrilled when one of my fellow family history writers, Bill Barlow, chose my book Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory as  his own gift to himself last Christmas. We both belong to the GSV Writers Circle in Melbourne (Genealogical Society of Victoria) and around this time last year Bill shared with our members an amusing story.

Busy and distracted by other events in 2017, I forgot to finalise it as a post for my blog (editing, pictures, etc). A tad belatedly, here it is now, before Christmas 2017 also becomes a distant memory. It comes with my best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy festive season and the very best of everything in the year to come.

The tale starts with Bill's comment to our GSV Writers' Facebook group a year ago ...
Spent the last part of today chasing down a copy of Louise's latest book - literally!
Having picked up a copy in Readings at State Library of Victoria, I made my way home on the train and tram with it in a nice brown paper carry bag - too big to fit in my normal bag. Walked home from the tram terminus in East Malvern and realised I had left it on the tram!
Ran back only to find the tram had already turned around and headed back to the city. So ran back home, jumped in the car and chased down the tram a few stops after Caulfield. Got on - but wrong tram, no book the driver said.
Off the tram, walked back to the car and then continued to chase the tram in front - all the way along Balaclava Rd and up St Kilda Rd till I spotted a no. 3 and managed to park and board that tram- crowded with city commuters. Driver said that he did notice his changeover driver carrying a brown paper bag off the tram, so probably it is back at Depot Lost Property by now.
Good news! After a long peak hour drive to the Glenhuntly depot, there it was sitting on a shelf. Now it is safely home and I will next see it on Christmas Day. I am sure it will be worth it!
No 3 Tram, St Kilda Rd, December 2017
Me: OMG, Bill. You'll never forget this book, will you? Unbelievable. I had to laugh though. It would have made a great skit for someone with a camera. Now I'm hoping and praying that, post Christmas Day, you'll think all this effort was worth it.


Me: I heard nothing for months. Was it so bad that Bill hoped I’d forgotten his story? Just after Easter I heard from him again on this matter, and we had this exchange of comments and responses via email. It was very valuable for me to obtain feedback from someone else struggling with the difficulties of writing family history. It often gets a bad rap as a genre!
Bill: Congratulations on the Flockton book! I held it over till Easter to read when I knew I would have a few days in a row to read it as a whole - rather than my half page in bed intermittently over a long period.
Me: I know exactly what you mean by the problems of reading a page here & there before your heavy eyes won’t stay open any longer. So thank you for saving your reading until you had time to properly evaluate the book.
Bill: I think it is a very complete and thorough biography that manages to deal with a lot of potentially boring technical quotes and source material but in a way that is interesting and readable.
Me: I had to laugh when I read the words you chose to describe the book: ‘interesting and readable’. That’s what everyone says about all of my books! It’s why I decided to describe myself as a ‘nerdy’ writer!
Bill: I wouldn’t describe you that way – your writing is too mainstream, readable and not wacky enough. Maybe ‘nerdy' if that means any writer investigating history and the truth.
Me: What did you think of the book overall? 
Bill: I enjoyed the book. It is very good and I am amazed at how you pulled it all together so successfully.
Me: I’m glad you think it did come together. I tried hard to generate a readable ‘text book’, to help art historians, art auctioneers, botanists etc have accurate information to work from. At the same time I wanted to create a ‘story’, showing readers who Margaret was as a person, although that was difficult given the scarcity of her private correspondence.
Bill: After our discussions about the value in having a strong opening I was mildly surprised by your ‘cool’, non-gripping, opening sentence and paragraph.
Me: I did run this introduction past the Writers Group back in 2011 and they liked it, but that was then! We've all progressed as writers since!
A Meeting of the GSV Writers Circle, Melbourne, 2014
And I seriously considered Prof Tim Entwisle’s suggestion several years ago that I start the book with Margaret’s life in the 1890s and her successes in Sydney (the ‘works of genius’ stuff) and then backtrack but, since I personally don’t like that kind of story ‘flow’, I didn’t rearrange the book. Call me stubborn! Also, I didn’t think you could understand Mog’s life and the choices she made without knowing where she came from.
Bill: I had the same response, and thought of suggesting this, but you have already published. I certainly agree with you that it is hard to understand Mog's life without knowing where she came from. (Which is why we all do family history.)
Me: So I should have tried to make her seem like a 'star' at the start of the book?
Bill: I did take a while to get into the story, as the early England years are not particularly special if the reader doesn’t already know about Flockton in her prime and thus want to know about her formative years.
Me: Don’t think you’re alone in thinking that the first part of the book was ‘slow’. That has been the reaction of almost every male reader to date, whereas women have generally loved all the family stuff. Interesting!
Bill: The core of the book was very interesting and carried me along (and I found myself getting out my Stan Kelly and gumnut books on the eucalypts to check things).
Me: By ‘core of the book’, did you mean the entire story concept, or just the central, middle part of the book, the career section of her life? I’m keen to know where the story flagged.
Bill: I did mean the ‘career section of her life’, not the ‘entire story concept’.

I did think the concepts listed in the Introduction were a bit romantic. Lots of those subjects perhaps get a mention in the book, as you say, they 'underlie the story', but I didn’t see this as enough to make it a book about those things, e.g. ‘becoming an Australian’.
Me: Point taken –the word 'underlie' would probably have been better than 'about' in the Introduction! But the various themes flagged in the Introduction are definitely drawn together at the end of the book.
Bill: I think your summary of her life is excellent.
Me: Thank you.
Bill: I also had some queries about whether anything in her life qualified her as a feminist, that is, one who advocates for women’s rights. I guess that is why she is a ‘quiet feminist’ - one who, if asked, would agree with women’s rights.
Me: You don’t have to be an 'advocate' to be a feminist. You just have to live a life where you decline to be subservient to men and, I think, remain financially independent of them. Don’t forget she was involved in the struggle to grant her equal pay with her male public-servant peers.
Bill: Her life was, as you say a ‘quiet’, non-squeaky-wheel one.
Me: Today’s readers seem to like dramatic, over-the-top stuff, with everything spelled out in a quick read. The subtleties of quiet personalities like Margaret’s leave them cold. Some readers of this book, clearly not attuned to nuance, have said ‘But who was she? As a person?’ I never quite know how to answer such a question from people who’ve read this book yet clearly didn’t ‘get’ Margaret. Others have understood the limitations of depicting an introvert when available source material is limited.
Bill: I think you have done a great job integrating all the letters, etc in the saga of her painting and scientific illustrator careers. 
It is great having so many pictures and they are well-placed, within a page of the relevant text. It is amazing how the WW1 gave us so many fine portrait shots of the men but of course there are only a couple of Margaret in later life. Maybe Picture 176 (pulled out of the office staff shot) is the only clear one of her face at the height of her career years. You used this on the dust jacket I now see, but I would have liked it perhaps enlarged in the book up-front, alongside the Introduction instead of the maps.
Margaret Flockton, 1912 (Pic 176 in the book)
Me: The publisher Wakefield Press prides itself on the quality of images in its books and the few pictures I had of Margaret were all less than satisfactory - often blurry and of low res. So they wouldn’t use her picture on the front cover or blown up from the original and they compromised by placing a small version of the office shot on the inside of the dust jacket. I was happy with that, as I think it depicts her character pretty well, right from the time you pick up the book.
Bill: I’m not sure why there is some feeling (at the end of the Introduction) of her being hard done by, in not becoming a professional botanist. I felt she probably could have been if she had wanted to or if she was in the right time and place. After all Sarah Hynes was not a male and also wasn’t born after 1861.
Me: There was no intention on my part to convey a ‘hard done by’ impression. Blame my choice of words. I’m sure it never occurred to Margaret to become a botanist, before she reached her mid-40s anyway, when she was working full-time at the Royal Botanic Garden. There are lots of reasons (not spelled out in the book) as to why her age-peer Sarah Hynes was able to become a botanist. Sarah did not need to work to help support her parents, for one, and by the time Sarah decided to go to University, in the late 1880s, she was living in Australia, where the class structure impeded much less on educational opportunities for women.
Bill: I was left wondering about the housekeepers and companions (p. 222). They must have shared her life quite a bit, especially if they were companions, but I can’t recall hearing anything much about them.
Me: I thought about them a lot too but, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find any information about them and I didn’t think it was fair to speculate. Many young women became spinsters because of WW1 and Mog may just have been doing ‘good works’ by employing a housekeeper and providing a roof over her head. The Flockton family had a tradition of employing servants.
Bill: I didn’t know what an INTJ personality type is (note 4, last chapter) - even though I was Myers-Briggsed years ago.
Me: Here’s a link summarising the INTJ personality profile. They are generally driven by a rational, big-picture view of the world outside themselves.
Bill: As you know, I'm in the process of writing a family history book myself. I wondered why the chapters did not get numbers?
 Me: Possibly that was a ‘style thing’ with the publisher. It didn’t strike me as a problem. The chapters have meaningful titles
Bill: The categories of the bibliography, especially your groupings of the genealogical sources, make a lot of sense.
Me: When you look at the bibliography, it’s amazing just how many sources I did have to consult in order to piece her life story together over so many years!
Bill: A chronological list of her known fine art paintings and whereabouts would have been good.
Me: Not possible, I’m afraid, but that’s why I included all the works entered to the Art Society exhibitions each year, despite the unhelpful nature of their titles. That’s the nearest I could get to a catalogue of her fine art. The Art Society hasn’t kept any sales records so I don’t know who bought most of the paintings, or where they are today. Maybe this book will flush out some art lovers. Most of the owners who I have located wish to remain anonymous.
Bill: It’s interesting how one’s view about life colours how we see the lives we write about.
Me: Pure objectivity is impossible!! And, if it could be achieved, I think it would detract from the appeal of family history books.
Bill: Thanks for sharing this opportunity for an exchange of views, via the communication channel your book has offered between the writer and a reader.
Me: Thank you, Bill, for taking the time to provide this valuable feedback ... an easy kind of Christmas gift to give an author. I think all authors crave the evidence that their book has provoked reader reaction. We need reassurance that, after all the effort involved in the writing of a book, it didn’t just drop into the void, that someone thought about what it meant! 

POSTSCRIPT: For your information, Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory sold out during 2017 but Wakefield Press has been collecting orders and looks likely to reprint it soon as a paperback. 

Thursday 14 December 2017

Bumping into Joseph Banks

Everywhere I went in England during November 2017 I kept bumping into Joseph Banks.
Header Picture on Sir Joseph Banks Society Webpage,
Banks and botany were not on my agenda when I left Melbourne on 1 November. I was on the trail of my Boulton forebears, significant mail coach contractors in London in the 1780s and 1790s. Tracing their origins, I spent three long days at the Lincolnshire Archives. Yet there was still time to pursue tourist activities in the very historic town of Lincoln and the massive Cathedral at the top of the quaintly and appropriately named road 'Steep Hill' called to me first.
Lincoln Cathedral
The light streaming in through the stained glass windows created a spectacular rainbow effect on the columns supporting the roof of this magnificent building. (A professional photographer would have captured the colours much better than I did.)
Inside Lincoln Cathedral
I turned around from taking this photo and there was Sir Joseph, with an unexpected tribute to him in pride of place, right inside the main door.
Tribute to Sir Joseph Banks, Lincoln Cathedral
A few days later I hired a car. Still pursuing my Boultons, I stopped in the market town of Horncastle – and walked right past the Sir Joseph Banks Centre, just off the main square in the heart of town.
Sir Joseph Banks Centre, Horncastle, Lincolnshire
Of course I crossed the road and discovered that Banks is a local as well as a county and national hero, for his work in draining the Lincolnshire fens, the extensive marshland of his home district, thereby turning it into productive farmland. The centre has created a small garden in his honour.
Sir Joseph Banks Tribute Garden, Horncastle
As I drove south through Lincolnshire towards Norfolk the evidence of his drainage idea was everywhere. The road took me right past his old house at Revesby, although the property’s in private hands and not a tourist destination.

In London I visited the National Army Museum to drop off a copy of my 'Brothers in Arms' book at their library– and there was London’s oldest botanic garden, the Chelsea Physic Garden, almost next door. It's not directly related to Banks, being established well before his day, but it continued the unexpected botanical theme to my travels.
Entrance to Chelsea Physic Garden
The National Archives at Kew is an unavoidable destination for dedicated researchers like me. When you leave the District Line train at Kew Gardens, you choose between turning right to head for the Archives or left and through the railway underpass to reach the Royal Botanic Gardens.
District Line Station at Kew
Naturally I turned left on one of my trips, to visit the living legacy to Joseph Banks, the magnificent gardens at Kew. Inside the Marianne North Gallery there’s a striking picture of a Banksia but photographs are banned. I ventured into the adjacent building, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
Shirley Sherwood Gallery in foreground, alongside Marianne North Gallery, Kew Gardens.
The beautiful painting of Corymbia ficifolia by Australian botanical artist Jenny Phillips grabbed my immediate attention.
Corymbia ficifolia by Jenny Phillips, at Shirley Sherwood Gallery
On a drab winter's day, the colours in her painting were just right when the Gardens were everywhere dressed for Christmas.
Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, late November 2017
The name Joseph Banks means a great deal to Australians like me, because it was his journey with Captain James Cook which led to the selection of Botany Bay as the place to send the first European settlers to Australia. Cape Banks at the entrance to Botany Bay and the Sydney suburbs of Bankstown and Revesby are named after him, as is a high school in Sydney and, of course, the Banksia genus of plants. Gnarled old Banksias are part of the environmental DNA of Sydneysiders.

When I became caught up in family history, I discovered that one of my ancestors sailed past Cape Banks in January 1788 and arrived in Sydney with the First Fleet. Another forebear Dr GeorgeYoung, born nearly 300 years ago, had even had dealings with Joseph Banks (not yet Sir Joseph). Dr Young established the first botanic garden in the western hemisphere, on the island of St Vincent in the 1760s, and in 1773 he was in England for meetings when Banks was setting up the Botanic Gardens at Kew. Dr Young was living in retirement on his St Vincent sugar plantation when the breadfruit tree was brought to the St Vincent Botanic Gardens in 1793 by William Bligh, who’d failed on his first attempt to do so because of the mutiny on the Bounty.  Introducing breadfruit as a source of food for West Indies slaves was an idea supported by Banks.

Banks stated in his will that he was 'deeply impressed with an opinion, which he still continues to hold and believes to be founded in truth, that the establishment of a Botanic-garden cannot be complete unless a resident draughtsman be constantly employed in making sketches and finished drawings of all new plants that perfect their flowers or fruits in it’. For this reason the artist Ferdinand Bauer had been employed at Banks’ own expense for 30 years and Banks donated Bauer’s drawings to the British nation. I discovered these facts when I wrote a book about Dr George Young's direct descendant Margaret Flockton, the first professional scientific botanical artist employed in Australia (in Sydney, from 1901-1927).

I'm thrilled that discussions are currently underway for 'Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory' to be offered for sale at Kew. The book in hardback format sold out earlier this year but the publisher Wakefield Press has plans to reprint it, most likely as a paperback. Orders are being taken, if you're interested in obtaining  a copy.

To cap it all off, when I arrived back in Melbourne in December I discovered that 'The Conjurer’s Bird', a novel by Martin Davies with Joseph Banks as the central character, has finally been scheduled for discussion by my book club group in 2018. I suggested it as a possible title back in 2010 - see my review.

P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.

Monday 19 December 2016

Flockton Street, Everton Park, Brisbane and the Trouts

Margaret Flockton is an inspiration to many women because she pursued a non-traditional profession, and had a career at a time when few middle-class women worked outside the home. She was also an inspiration to Sir Leon and Lady Trout, because they named a major Brisbane street after her.

This is busy Flockton Street, intersecting with Trouts Road in the inner suburb of Everton Park. It's a boundary road of what was once a large estate owned by the Trouts, who collected art and were involved with the Queensland Art Gallery.

Margaret Flockton, Gladesville, Sydney c 1914
Pursuant to my research for the Margaret Flockton biography, I’ve known about Flockton Street since 2007. Enquiries I made then at Brisbane City Council as to the origins of Flockton Street’s name revealed only that the street did not appear in 1920 street directories, and was named after 1920 in honour of ‘someone unknown’.

Since Margaret was most well-known through the 1890s and early 1900s, I looked for someone else named Flockton who might have been ‘in the news’ after the 1920s. For a time I wondered whether Flockton Street was named after a distant relative of Margaret’s, the well-known NSW cricketer Ray Flockton, born in Sydney in 1930 and constantly in the news through the 1950s.

Portrait of Sir Leon Trout
by William Dobell, Christies
Lately, thanks to Zoe Boccabella in Brisbane, I’ve discovered the Trout connection. The Trouts began subdividing their substantial property ‘Everton House’ from the late 1950s, selling off portions for residential housing. The newly-created streets of Everton Park needed names, yet Sir Leon Trout’s profile in the Australian Dictionary of Biography outlines his obvious patronage of artists but makes no reference to him as a cricket fan. A quick check on Google maps for his former landholding uncovers streets with the names of Nerli, Bunny, Cayley, Friend, Heysen, McCubbin, Namatjira, Streeton … and Flockton.

The Trouts, Sunday Mail, Brisbane, 11 Jul 1954  
I have no record that the Trouts ever met Margaret Flockton. She arrived from London in Sydney in 1888 and, apart from a year spent in Charters Towers in 1892, she remained in Sydney until her death in 1953. Clearly, since Flockton was chosen by the Trouts as the name of their longest street, Margaret's work represented something special to them.

The history of Flockton Street’s name is now abundantly clear to me. Why didn’t Brisbane City Council know this interesting history of Everton Park when I enquired years ago?

Sir (Herbert) Leon Trout died in 1978 and his widow Lady Peggy Trout died in 1988. The Board of the Queensland Art Gallery then sued her lawyers over her will, claiming that she had wanted to bequeath to the Gallery her collection, valued at $10 million. In June 1989 the Trout collection was offered for auction by Christies, the catalogue listing important Australian paintings and decorative arts. At the auction the Queensland Art Gallery purchased at least one painting, by Nerli.

Brisbane thus missed out on a significant bequest of fine art, unlike several other Australian cities. At the turn of the 20th century Sydney enjoyed the patronage of society matron Mrs Tom Marshall and later received the Marshall Bequest to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria benefitted from Alfred Felton and the Felton Bequest. Melbourne has also made much of its artist community centred on Sunday & John Reed, preserving their home Heide as a museum in memory of that era. It seems that Sir Herbert and Lady Trout were Brisbane's uncelebrated equivalents to these icons of Australian art history. There is a great deal of coverage of their activities in the digitised newspapers on the Trove website. Why don’t more Queenslanders know this?

The large home of the Trouts still sits at the end of a long tree-lined driveway entered through tall gates, but the Trout home is now surrounded by modern brick houses. The spot where the property stands is high on a hill and would originally have had sweeping views of the city and out to Mt Coot-tha and the Taylor Ranges. Pictures taken in November 1954 and December 1960 show a single storey structure with a pool. At some stage a second storey was added to the house. Inside the house was an art gallery.

Everton House, Nov 1954, Picture Queensland, Image 211776
Everton House, Dec 1960, Picture Queensland, Image 175783

Developers are now seeking approval for the Trout's house to be demolished, creating space to build a number of units. This little bit of history is in danger of being lost. The 'Lost Brisbane' Facebook page is running a campaign to save the house and the daughter of a cousin of Sir Leon Trout has offered to provide more information to help the cause (Beverley Henderson).

As a final touch of irony, Canberra also has a street named after Margaret: Flockton Place, a modest little cul-de-sac in the outlying Canberra suburb of Chisholm. I’m surprised that while both cities quietly celebrate her as an artist, neither the Queensland Art Gallery nor the National Gallery in Canberra has work by Margaret Flockton listed in its catalogue!

Read more about Margaret Flockton in my book 'Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory', available through the publisher Wakefield Press and at good bookshops.

P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Maiden's granddaughter Lucy Brown Craig

At the age of 40, Margaret Flockton achieved a goal - a dream job with an ideal boss.

This was the botanist Joseph Maiden, with whom she worked for almost 25 years. She developed a close relationship with his family too, especially his daughter Mary. She taught Mary lithography and attended her 1911 society wedding to Dr Francis Brown Craig.

My new book Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory (available from Wakefield Press) mentions that the Maiden family suffered a distressing loss during the Second World War. Mary Maiden’s 19-year-old daughter Lucy Brown Craig disappeared on 12 April 1940 after she left her place of employment around 5pm to return home. 

Police at the time believed the report that "Miss Brown Craig left a tram at King's Cross on the night she disappeared, and that she walked down Darlinghurst Road with a young man of athletic build, who had a "toothbrush" moustache and wore a grey suit. This report was made by a man who knew the girl well. Police would like confirmation from others who may have seen the girl and the young man on the tram, or later." (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 1940, p 15, col a, with picture of Lucy on p 16.)

Despite huge media coverage, a year later Lucy was still missing and her fate, if known, was never revealed publicly.

That was my conclusion from my review of old newspapers in Trove. Lacking contact details for the Brown Craigs, I couldn't discover whether the mystery had ever been solved.

It seems that this story has recently attracted the attention of others and her fate is still unknown. Read this article of interest from True Crime Reader.