Saturday, October 22, 2016

Letters from Walter and Mary McKenzie 1915-1916

And so we continue to "unpack" the Pandora's box of Nancy May McKenzie.

I have started to transcribe some of the letters to get a picture of what was happening to the McKenzie family in the early part of the 20th century.

But first a bit of an outline of who's who in the zoo.

Nancy May McKenzie was the daughter of Colin McKENZIE and Isabel Alexandra Manclark FORREST.  I tell you, I'm not related but yes, the Isabel and the Alexandra leapt out at me. But back to the family tree.

Colin McKENZIE was the eldest son of - you guessed it - Colin McKENZIE  - and Mary Tennent ROSS.  Mary was a widow when she married Colin so she is also known as Mary MORTON (her first husband's name).  

Colin Junior had four younger brothers - Alex, James, John and Walter.  

From what I can gather, Colin Senior died in 1912 and James and Colin came out to Queensland in 1914 to make a new life.  I think John was in the Navy and Alex was about to join the Army leaving Walter, Colin's 14 year old brother at home with his mother or Mamma. Here is a transcription of the letters from Walter and occasionally his Mum to James and Colin between 1915 and 1916.

81 Inchview Terr
10 Oct 1915

Dear James
We received a letter from you and one from Colin yesterday.  We are sorry to hear that Colin was not well.  He says that he is going to sea, well, I am going to come out as soon as I can to help you.  I wrote to London to the Agent General for Queensland and have asked him about the nominated passages.  If there are any I will be sending you the money by the next mail.  If there are no nominated passage. I will just need to go 3rd class or as Alex has suggested I might work my way out, but I doubt if they would be agreeable to that as I would need to come back here again.  However I will try and be out at the beginning of next year.  The Office I am in just now is not up to much in my line.  We have nothing but writing all day long and what is more I only get a half hour for dinner of course I can get ??? which is always a help.  I make it myself so it does not cost any money more than the buying of the cocoa, Colin is right about our firm and another one being the only official Searchers.  We go to the Register House and search up old deeds and Bonds etc and so forth against the persons stated by the lawers (sic) we search for.  In my spare time I searched up our name and found the Bond as you know and also one for P. Charles and found that they have a Bond over Cobden Crescent for £500 and mamma says they got it for very little (about £750 or so) Also Mr Clelland in Darvel and he has a bond over his home and factory in fact they are not really his own.  I forgot to tell you that my boss is going to pay my fees at the University and all fees for my learning.  It is really decent of him but I will not be staying so it does not matter to me (I have not told him that I am leaving .  He also gave me a ? holiday.  I go back tomorrow.  I just went about on the byke (sic) for a day’s run.  One day I went to Roman Bridge and on to the road to Peebles where the ?? and the Forth meet.  You will know that place.  When I hear from London I will write again.  Perhaps I will be enclosing the money if I can get a nominated passage.  We have been clearing up lately.  There is now nothing in the shed hut 1 chest 2 boxes and the mangle and one or two odds which can be put in the bucket at the last minute also a few tools which I will be bring out viz: hammer, a few chisels, brace & kits, the big long borer etc.  Your loving brother Walter
PS. Received word from London and now send you £7.50 for my passage.  Will write again.  W

Advertisement featuring gardening tools sold by A. J. Hockings, Queen Street, Brisbane, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Negative number: 177569

81 Inchview Terr
20 Oct 1915
Dear James
We have not received any letter from you since I wrote last.  I hope you have received the £7-5 or perhaps you will get it at the same time as this because I see from the Post Office Guide that the mails for Australia only leave about three times a month.  The last one left on the 7th and then the next mail leaves on the 21st Oct.  I sent 5/- for expenses but the price has gone up you will perhaps be able to get the money someway and I will settle up with you when I come out.  I have painted a notice board to put up for the house to be sold and I am getting everything ready.  I suppose this will do for my outfit: - 2 pairs boots (with tackets in them): the kind we used to get in Dolphinton) as many socks as I can (all my stockings are done and I mean to wear them on the road out and then pitch them overboard) Three shirts (new ones) two pair of suits, one new and the other I have been wearing from June this year but its quite good. Two pair blankets and a bed cover and a few odds.  Then I will be bringing out some tools, hindges (sic) and small padlocks (which we have had in the shed). If you have any hints to give now is the time.  I wonder if you are alone again, perhaps by the time you get this you may be but I will be out as soon as I can and have a look at things and get to work.  Christmas will soon be here then by the end of January I will be looking for the letter from you.  We had a letter from John today and he is going to the Dardanelles again.  I hope Colin gets on and keeps well.  The sea should be good for him.  I have nothing more to say now I am your loving brother Walter P.S. Hope to see you soon.

Page 21 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 24 July, 1915. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland 

(On the back of the previous letter)
21st October 1915
My dear Colin
I hope by now that you are all right again and that it was only a bad bilious attack.  Glad to know Jim keeps well.  Walter is making all preparations for coming out.  Alex is still at home..  W. Hobbs, Superintendnet of Sabbath School died on Monday last aged 69.  The coldest of your weather will be past now.  That is all the news for this week. Love to you both from your loving Mother.

81 Inchview Terr
5 Jan 1916
Dear James
I am looking forward to hear from you again.  I should get the reply of the letter I sent you (with the money in it) about the end of January. It is now the fifth so I have not a month to wait now perhaps only two weeks. I hope by the time you get this one I will be setting out for Australia or at least it won’t be long after that.
John is still at the Dardanelles but we expect to see him soon again as his three months are over (he gets a free pass home every three months.  We are getting an awful lot of rain here.
Your loving brother Walter
PS A Happy New Year to you. W Hope to see you soon
(on the back)
Dear Colin
Many thanks for the PC you sent me on Christmas. I hope by the time this reaches you you will be on board a ship.  I think it will suit you.  You will see from James letters I sent him that I am coming out soon. We have got things cleared up here.  We sent a lot of old books chemicals desks & co to “Dowells” auctioneers, a good while ago and today we received the money for them £2:6:4 that is after com cartage & c is taken off. It is not really bad.  A Happy New Year to you and the best of health Your loving brother Walter

Inchview Terrace
19 Jan 1916
Dear James
We received a letter from Colin on the 6th January and one from you on the 3rd.  I have not received a reply to the letter I sent you with the money for my nominated passage yet but expect one in a few days now.  I am getting everything ready for coming out.  We had a letter from John on the 14th and he says he was at Suvla Bay when the evacuation took place.  His ship took off the last of the men that the RAMCs so you see he is seeing a little bit of the war.  His ship was within rifle fire of the Turks.  A few stray bullets come on to the deck of his ship and wounded one man in the leg.  We are now advertising the House in the Scotsman For Sale 4 days Wed Sat Wed Sat this is the first day it has been in and when I came home at night a postcard from a man in Gillespie Crescent had come and he was asking the rive.  We will have had since putting up the notice board about ½ doz companies asking about it but none said any more about it.  However we shall see this man.  He seems to be after a house right enough.  He has taken the bother to write to us.  We are asking £430 for it and I think that is not to (sic) much for when I was clearing up I came across a note of expenses in connection with the buying of it and it was £15 of course that was recording the bond &c but it will likely take as much to sell it so that would be £30 for buying & selling House and you know what we paid for it. Then we may have to lower that price a little. We will do our best. Tell Colin that we have heard a lot of people saying that they have received a PC on Christmas viz: Grandma Miss Bain ; Reids (GW); Anderson Misselburgh; that’s all I remember just now. 
I hope he is keeping well and on a ship by now.
I will soon be out to see you again I hope.
We have had very wet windy dreary weather here. You can take some rain from here if you like or will I bring some out. Your loving brother Walter PS Excuse scribble. Bad pen WMcK More news about House next week.

Page 21 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 1 April, 1916. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland 

81 Inchview Terr
23 Jan 1916
Dear Colin
We received a letter from you yesterday which was written on the 12 Dec 1915.  The letter we got before that was from you too which had been written on the 28 Nov so we think we must have lost one from James that is if you write every week. I was very pleased to hear that you have got the £7.5 and am waiting till I get the Passage Warrant from you before I can do anything special. It should come by the next mail.  I hope that it will not get lost on the way.  Thanks very much for nominating me.  It was as well for me that you were not away to sea or it might have wasted a little while longer.  Thank James for me for trying to get me nominated.  I will tell you more news of how I get on next week when I get the Warrant.  We have been advertising the House in the Scotsman for four days (I think I told you about it last week); well the man who sent us the Post Card came to see it yesterday.  He did not say much but he had a list of Houses to see so we may hear from him again.  John is still at the East ed of the Mediterranean.  We hope to see him soon.  Alex & I especially to see him before we go.  Last time he was coming home he sent us a telegram and when we received it about 10 o’clock at night we did not feel inclined to go to bed but rather go up to the Waverly station and meet him.
We are having very blowy wet weather here.  I am glad to see the notice board still up.  It has been well tested. 
The cars in Edinburgh are always breaking now.  Every day last week the “Ports” Route was either broken or stopped.  Alex has had to walk up to Easter Road barracks a good many times.  They say that they cannot get experienced Drivers.  The other routes are not much better. 
Alex is still at home. It is just as well for us. He had a Colonel inspecting the RAMCs and he said they were doing more good in Edinburgh by going to Hospital Trains & c than by going to Hawich where they would likely have nothing to do.  The other day he & and another lad were set to Rothesay with an Hospital train.  It was a fine day’s outing for him.  Your loving brother Walter
PS Your last letter had been censored. Whether it had been opened or not we don’t known but it was marked “Pased by Censor.” WMcK

Transfer of patients from ambulance to train during evacuation to England, No. 2 Canadian General Hospital, Le Tréport, France. /Éditions Arnault. Library and Archives Canada

81 Inchview Terr
Dear Colin
Last Saturday I received word from the Agent General London that I had been accepted and had to sail on Feb 16th that gave me 11 day to get everything ready.  I got a form to fill up and send to Passport Office with two small photo’s of me and a Postal Order for 5/-.  I got every ready and yesterday I sent away my luggage to London. This morning I got word that I had not to sail till the end of the month and I also got the form back from the Passport Office saying I had not filled up my description (which I thought was meant for the Applicant’s wife). However I have time now and am sending it away again.
Alex went away to Hawick this morning so we will miss him.
John is not home yet; we are expecting word from him soon.
I gave up my situation last Monday. I had been working for 7 months. We got paid monthly and it was the 7th Feb when I left. PR Bryce (my boss) gave me £3-3-0 that was real nice of him. It helped to pay for expenses. I will write again next week. How are you getting on now and how is James. Your loving brother Walter
PS Tell Jas I was up at Kirkehope’s and they have rececived the Queenslander from him. J.K. has enlisted in the Derby Scheme W McK

O.T.C tent group at Stobs 1914 From Great uncle Jim's Photograph album.Sergeant Jock Sillars, Davidson, J B Laing, B Patrick, K Kirkptrick, J Taylor, C Jefferson, I K M Bovery
Transcription of letters from Walter to Colin from Montville (Walter had come out on the Waipara as per Index to Immigration on QSA website here.)

c/- J L Hutton Esq
14 Sept 1916
My dear Colin
I received your letter last Monday night John’s enclosed which I return.
You say the five acres below yours are no good well I might get some other bit. You say they may be cutting up more land; we shall see if it is any good. I would only buy 5 ac to begin with at £4 per ac = £20. In other 5 weeks I will have that.  I could keep myself by selling the wood.  Then if I turned ill it would be no worse than if I was here. But as for keeping cows (I did not mean to keep milking cows) I am a bit doubtful because one might die and that would mean a big loss. One of Mr H’s calves died the other day because it had been fed on green grass only and it could not pass it through.  I might try ducks as they increase pretty quickly and the could feed themselves.  Duck’s usually lay every 4 months and the best time for selling them is when they are 12 to 15 weeks old.  I could try anything that could bring in something beyond chopping wood. 

It is a bit rough here.  Huttons are very nice indeed but they can watch themselves.  The porridge is lumpy and weevils in it.  Then bread is always mouldy and tea is made from tea-leaves.  After they have used them.  That’s my breakfast every morning.  At dinner the only good thing is a milk pudding.  Then I am getting up earlier every morning and stopping later at night now, just as long as it is daylight I have to work.
This last week has been more exciting.  We were ploughing with a disc plough and cut a snake in two which was six feet long.  Then on Thursday I nearly put my foot on one five feet long.  I just missed it by an inch or two.  However I soon killed it.  They were not deadly ones but they could lay you up for a day or two.  There might be worse ones about.  Mr H saw a black snake last Sunday.  It was a deadly one.

Yesterday I was going to the store on horse back when it shied and bolted.  I landed on the ground somehow.  I don’t know how but I landed and saw the horse flying on along the road when another chap caught it.  I was not hurt but I might have been.  The horse is very excitable and does not get much work which makes it all the worse.  Mr Hutton says it is real wild.
I got a letter from the chap who is working for Curran and he says they would like me back but thinks I would not get as much as I am getting here.  Anyway I don’t want back.  Mr H did not get the 42 cases sent to Sidney (sic) last wk as the dockers were on strick.(sic) They would be sold in Brisbane at 4/6 instead of 12/6 at Sydney.
The bit we were ploughing was the bit that was full of weeds.  He is going to put in trees so I will see and help him to do it.  It will always be more experience for me.  I am you loving brother Walter.

Pineapple farm at Montville John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Collection reference: 7803 Joe Barrett photograph collection Accession number: 7803 View related images:
c/- J L Hutton Esq
Wed night
My dear Colin
I received your letter on Monday last with the Home ones enclosed.  I posted a letter to you last Friday night which would go to town I expect with the morning mail train arriving at Brisbane about 12.15 on Sat. and you should have got it on Sat. night or Monday at the latest.  I hope you got it as I had all my news in it.  I also got your last letter with home ones enclosed.
I am glad to hear that you are getting a rise in your screw.
If you like to come up here I will be very glad to see you but you must remember the cost. I think it would be worth it as you could see the country up here and we could have a talk about things.
There is a boarding House at Montville. It is a high class place. I think it would be about £2 per wk or 5/- per night & breakfast (of course I don’t know but I have heard as much)
In my last letter I was saying about planting pines in double rows well perhaps single would do as you get a lot of buttons off them with the first crop and you could plant them alongside the others.  This week I have been putting buttons in bags for Mr Hutton. 100 in each bag and I have bagged 5,000 which is a terrible lot of work.  My hands and arms were all skinned with them.
If you are buying pineapple suckers soon watch that you do not get buttons as they are very like suckers except that they take 2 years instead of 15 months to give pines.
Mr. H sends about 30 cases of pines away every wk. This wk he has 48 which is an extra lot.  He sends them south and he says they are selling at12/6 per case just now.  Some pines are sent to Brisbane (only the ones that are too ripe and the “not as good ones”) which only get 4/- to 4/6 per case.  Say 40 cases at 12/6 equals £25 and 8 at 4/ equals 32/- which would pay carriage for the lot.  Then 48 cases making at 1/- each equals £2.8. He would have about £20 gain this wk.
There are plenty of snakes up here.  Last Sunday Mr H saw two.  One was near to where I had been pulling and eating cape gooseberries which are growing wild on the 1 ½ acre of grass and weeds (the shaded part on plan I sent with last letter)
Hope to hear from you soon
I am your loving brother
Say when you would like to come up and I might find out the cost of boarding here if you like. WMcK

Cover - Hotel &​ boarding house directory of the principal cities, towns, and tourist resorts in Queensland /​ compiled and issued by the Queensland Government Intelligence &​ Tourist Bureau. 1912

c/- J L Hutton Esq
1 Oct 1916
My dear Colin
I got your letter with the two home ones on Tuesday night.
You say you are going to get some pines planted soon.  2000 of each kind; why not plant all smooths? If you sent them to Sydney or Melbourne you would get a better price for smooths than ripleys.  I asked Mr H if the knew of anyone selling suckers up here and he said that he was selling some but he had promised them to somebody else.  He would find out if anyone else was selling them.  I think they would charge pretty dear up here.  You might try E Smallman at Ormiston or JJ Nagel at Cleveland.  They are nearly always advertising them in the paper.
I have not found out the price of staying at the boarding house yet. My wee room would be too small for us both as there is only a narrow bed in it.  However we shall see if you come up.
Will you be called up on Tuesday? This is rather sudden. I don’t think you will have to go as it says if more than half of the family is serving you can be exempted. If you do have to go you would be done with Mrs Bean so I would need to get my boxes taken out. If that is the case I think Petrie would be the best place for them so I might take a run down to see about them or you could get Bryce to carry them to the station.
I have been harrowing this last week first with the spring tooth between the young trees where there are no pines and then with ordinary lever harrows.  I used two horses and could easily manage them. I was harrowing the bit we had ploughed.
I am getting up now about 5:15am and stopping a good bit after six, just as long as it is daylight.
Trees are a bit of a nuisance. They need spraying a lot. Some are covered with white lice and some get a grub  in them called the “Bourer”. It bours into the bark and east round the tree which ring barks it. Then some have a fungus on them called The Muusle. It is just like a mussle and is pink. It spreads very quickly. All the orange trees are in bloom just now; they look lovely. I am your loving brother Walter
PS I might write during the week. It depends what you say in your letter. W

So what do you think?  Interesting huh?  Searching Trove I found out that poor Mr Hutton died later that year....

Family Notices (1916, December 2). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 4. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from


diane b said...

You amaze me

Alex Daw said...

Yes well Diane...what is amazing is that the house is still standing because no housework gets done, that's for sure!

Genie Jen said...

What an amazing insight into emigration and WW1.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Genie Jen - I think so too. If you wanted to get an idea of how nominated passages worked, this is a good example yes? And it's interesting having letters from 3 of the brothers because it's a bit more of a rounded view.