Archive for the ‘Forster family’ Category

I’ve finally got around to keying up the reminiscences of Harold Forster as written down by his sister Hilda during her visit to England 1954-1955, which covers most of his long seafaring career. I typed it up originally in the 1990s from Hilda’s pencilled notes but couldn’t find the electronic version so keyed it all again. I’ve tried to organise it in chronological order as it jumps about a bit. I guess Harold told the stories as they came to him. Here’s the first page of the original:

Page 1 of “Dick’s digest” as written down by Hilda Forster

I’m sorry it’s taken so long as Harold was surely the most interesting of the whole interesting Forster family. For example in 1914 he was selected to navigate the plane for Gustav Hamel which was to be the first flight across the Atlantic. He’d navigated plenty of ships across it so why not? Hamel’s death over the English Channel put paid to the scheme – maybe just as well for Harold?

Yet to come are three letters he wrote to his sister Constance after sailing off “before the mast” at the very start of his career. He was Con’s favourite brother and her son Harold Beatty was named after him.

Here’s the link to the page with the text of Dick’s Digest It starts with a few photos.

Read Full Post »

I finally got around to writing more of the family saga. Being locked down has advantages. Fittingly it’s Chapter 13 – as everything went wrong for the Beattys of “Enniscrone”, Mont Albert and of Stanhope Grove over this period. Mind you a lot of other people’s lives were stuffed up during WW2 as well. I was going to call it “Camelot unravels” or somesuch, but thought maybe that’s too corny? Anyway, the section on Harold finally gives a point to the name of this website and the photo at the top of it, which is “Enniscrone”, Thornton (taken 1975) from Walker’s property looking across to Mt. Cathedral with Taggerty out of sight to the right.

I have to acknowledge the Diary of Peg Beatty as a really fabulous source. Unlike many diaries it isn’t a sounding board for her feelings and opinions, in fact she so rarely expresses either that it really gets your attention when she does. She just records every move she and members of her household make, including frequent mentions of numerous extended Beatty and Forster family that she sees or exchanges letters with, and she writes every day without fail for 55 years. Maybe I should offer it to the National Library?

I can’t write much further ahead now though I’ll think about it. My policy is the same as most family historians which is that you don’t mention people who are still alive, but you also don’t want to upset anyone – though I try to be very fair. I do have a fair bit of stuff about Harold Forster and Hilda Forster which ought to be up there and so I should get on with that next.

Read Full Post »

I’m sure now that Mary Jane McLean (and probably her mother nee Eliza Boak) lived at Woodford House in 1869 with Janey’s elder half-sister Margaret Shiels and her husband John Shiels. I don’t think they owned it but managed the house for the owner. This is also where William Mark Forster married Mary Jane in 1869. You need to imagine the shingle roof though apparently the building hasn’t changed much otherwise.

Woodford House (now Woodford Academy) Built in the 1830s in the Blue Mountains of new South Wales, owned by John and Margaret Shiels in 1869 and where William Mark Forster married Mary Jane McLean the same year

Woodford House (now Woodford Academy) Built in the 1830s in the Blue Mountains of new South Wales, managed by John and Margaret Shiels in 1869 and where William Mark Forster married Mary Jane McLean the same year

Here’s my reasoning: Towards the end of the inquest report into the fire at Shiels’ house at Regentville near Penrith we read “Thomas Ellison, sworn: I am a licenced publican of Seventeen-mile Hollow, Bathurst Road. I know John Shiels; he lives at Bass’s (Woodford), about three miles from me”. I could find nothing about a Bass’s, but lots about Buss’s at Twenty-mile Hollow on the Bathurst Road. Here’s a quote about the history of Woodford House

“In 1855 Hogan sold the property to William Buss of Cowra, who was an ex-convict transported for life on the ‘Phoenix’ in 1828 for horse stealing. Buss was granted a ticket of leave in 1836, and a conditional pardon in 1843. The inn became known as “The King’s Arms”. Buss was a colourful and popular publican, and the inn was also known as “Buss’s Inn”. The Gold Rush brought an increase in traffic travelling west to the Turon and Bathurst gold fields. The King’s Arms was one of a series of wayside inns providing accomodation and refreshments far travellers. Buss retained the property until his death in 1867. He bequeathed all his properly to his wife Bridget. In August 1868 Bridget Buss sold the property to Alfred Fairfax. Fairfax renamed the building “Woodford House” and lived there intermittently. The main use during the late 1800’s was as a mountain retreat or fashionable boarding house.”

Between January 1869 and 23 Oct 1869 the following advertisement repeatedly appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Advertisement for Woodford (late Buss's), Blue Mountains: from Sydney Morning Herald 6 Oct 1869

Advertisement for Woodford (late Buss’s), Blue Mountains by J. Sheils: from Sydney Morning Herald 6 Oct 1869

There was little else at Woodford in the 1860s in any case. Even the new railway station wasn’t called “Woodford” until 1871.

A footnote to this is the disappearance after Oct 1869 of not only Eliza McLean but also John Sheils. His wife Margaret is evidently managing properties in Bathurst without him by 1873. Does anybody know where he went?

CHANGE of AIR, BATHURST - Mrs. Sheils (late of Regentville and Woodford) has opened a place for the above...Smith's Cottage, Russell St., Bathurst. from Sydney Morning Herald 24 May 1873

CHANGE of AIR, BATHURST – Mrs. Sheils (late of Regentville and Woodford) has opened a place for the above…Smith’s Cottage, Russell St., Bathurst. from Sydney Morning Herald 24 May 1873

What do you think? I was going to post about James McLean, but this is already too long.
Thanks so much to a couple of you who got back with comments regarding my previous post. It encourages me to peg on!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been writing up more details about the early Forsters of the Coquet River valley in Northumberland (in the chapter on “The Forsters of Rothbury” – see link in right hand column), and think I’ll draw a map to make their movements around the valley in the 18th century a bit clearer. I’m also about to add a few paragraphs about the McLeans, and have just spent a couple of days trying to find out more about the mother of Mary Jane Forster. We do actually know a bit more than we did, thanks to Bruce and the wonderful TROVE. She was living with her eldest step-daughter Margaret (who had married John Shiels in 1856) at Regentville House near Penrith in 1869 when it burned down. There is a lot of detail in the Inquest report, including “Eliza McLean, sworn, states: I am Mrs. Shiel’s mother…” and “John Sheils, sworn, states: I principally reside at Regentville. I go up into the mountains occasionally as I have had a house at Eighteen Mile Hollow at Woodford which I keep as an accommodation house for the public. My Sister-in-law Jane McLean was up when I returned [to Woodford]”.

We know a few things about Eliza from this. Firstly she was obviously still alive and fit in 1869. Secondly, when her husband died in 1853 leaving her with four step children as well as her own 3 year old daughter Mary Jane, Margaret the eldest was only 14. Sixteen years later Eliza and Janey are living with Margaret, very much part of the family.

I concentrated on trying to find her death details rather than where she came from as we’re not even sure of her surname from the two documents we have – her marriage certificate where she is “Eliza Bolk” and signed her name X so was presumably illiterate, and the birth certificate of her only child Mary Jane McLean, where she is Eliza Boak. The death certificate should tell us where she came from. Except I still can’t find it!! This isn’t 19th century Ireland where many records have been lost. In late 19th century Australia when anybody died the death was registered! We’re probably not talking about a homeless person where identity might have been a problem but somebody with a family. I can’t find an Eliza (or Elizabeth) McLean who died in the Blue Mountains or Bathurst where her step-daughter Margaret is known to have lived. Her stepson Robert lived in Ashfield.   She died at 29, and was born in Middlesex, the daughter of a Joseph Millard McLean, bricklayer, and Louisa Stevens.

Trawling through TROVE hasn’t helped either. Should I send away for more certificates? There are a couple of possibilities. Could she possibly have remarried after 1869? You’d think if she was going to she would have already! Could she have gone to Melbourne to be near Mary Jane? If so there’d most likely have been a death notice and I can’t find one. Any suggestions?

On another note, does anybody know what happened to James McLean the 2nd son of Edward McLean and Mary Jane Gordon and who came from Ireland with them?

Update 14 Jan 2016: The James McLean mystery is now solved at least- see later posts.

Update 18 Jan 2016: To save others wasting time and money, and in case it’s useful to other families, here are some details from each fruitlessly purchased death certificate for Eliza McLean.

  1. Eliza Jane McLean died in Ashfield in 1900 in a private hospital aged 29. She was born in Middlesex, England to Joseph Millard, Brickmaker, and  Louisa Stevens. She was married  in Leichardt aged 24 to Donald Allan McLean and had a 4 year old daughter, Louisa.
  2. Eliza McLean died at Emu Plains in 1922 aged 80. She was born at Williams River NSW to Samuel Gibson, a Farmer, and  Mary Ann Russel. She married Donald Hugh McLean in Manning River in about 1900 and had 8 children.
  3. Eliza Heath McLean died in Woollahra aged 80. She was born in Hobart, Tasmania to John Heath, Lawyer, and Mary (surname unknown). She was married in Hobart to Robert Anthony McLean and had 9 children still surviving and 4 dead.
  4. Eliza Grace McLean of Emu Plains died in Lewisham Hospital (death registered in Petersham) in 1901 aged 4 years. She was born in Liverpool NSW, the daughter of Samuel Mclean, Constable and Colina Burges.



Read Full Post »

I’ve been in eighteenth century Northumberland visiting all the families in the Coquet River valley! Time travel courtesy of the handwritten Allenton (Alwinton) parish registers. They were so interesting I read through the lot. It took a few days on the microfilm readers at HAGSOC (my local genealogical society). You can see the recurring combination of family names and farm names, recognise each separate family and farm despite name and spelling variations and enjoy (as tis said), ye arcane terminology, appreciate the Minister who adds little extra details to the record, feel sad as his writing becomes shaky and the next burial is his own.

I’m afraid the Bygate Hall myth is totally blown. Jack Forster was apparently a bit of an old romantic! The Forsters never owned Bygate (or Byegate) Hall! From the parish registers it is obvious that numerous families lived at Bye-Gate-Hall at any given time. Also, going by this quote from a contemporary account (citation below*), it usually had absentee landlords:

Bygate Hall, Makendon, Loungesknow, and Sirdhope, all fine sheep-lands, were sold in 1792 for £16,000 by the late Matthew Bell, Esq. of Wolsington, to the late John Carr, Esq. of Dunston, in the county of Durham.

Jack’s map helps you work out what’s where in the valley:


Anyway, Back to the parish register. No Forsters at all are mentioned in it until 1727 when one or two marry into the district, including William Forster of Rothbury Parish who married Mary Taylor of “Make a dean”, presumably Makendon, a farm on the Coquet even more remote than Bygate Hall, right up on the Scottish border. These two are the probable parents of our Luke Forster. We know our Luke was probably born in 1741 because of the age given in his later death entry shown below.  William Forster had two sons, Mark, born at Peels in 1738 and Luke born at nearby Harbottle in 1741. Both boys are among the “births of protestant dissenters” in the register. Just a year after Luke’s birth, his father William Forster of Harbottle is listed among the burials. I wonder if his widow is the Mary Forster of Harbottle who two years later in 1744 married James Stevenson also of Harbottle? It must have been hard raising children as a widow.

In 1773 Luke marries Mary Stokoe. Here’s the entry for both the banns (where the Minister misspelled her name “Stoker” and where we see that both are living and presumably working at Bygate Hall before their marriage) and the marriage entry with both their signatures.

Alwinton Parish Register entry for banns and marriage of Luke Forster and Mary Stokoe both of Bygate Hall, 1773

 As they were probably both servants, this is how Luke and Mary could well have dressed in their early adulthood:

Below is the much later 1806 death entry for Luke Forster, “labourer” who died while working at another farm, Sheep Banks. At this period the death entries are really informative and it runs across two pages of the register.

Alwinton Parish register page with entries for deaths of Luke Forster in 1806, and also his son-in-law William Wilson in 1807 – page 1 of 2

Alwinton parish register entries for deaths of Luke Forster 1806, and his son-in-law William Wilson in 1807 page 2 of 2

The birth of Luke and Mary’s son Mark Forster isn’t in the Alwinton register but that of  “The Scotch Congregation at Harbottle”, and we know he also had an older sister Elizabeth born 1778. I wonder if I can get the Harbottle register?  Here’s a sad footnote to the story of the Forsters at Bygate Hall:

Death of baby Elizabeth Forster, daughter of Luke Forster at Bygate Hall 1776. Image from Alwinton parish register.

No baptism seems to be recorded for this child who died in 1776 so perhaps this first Elizabeth was stillborn. At this period, age at death was not being recorded in the register. The name of her mother must be an error. There will only have been one Luke Forster fathering children at Bygate Hall at the time and his wife’s name was Mary nee Stokoe.

At some stage between the birth of their son Mark in 1782 and Luke’s death in 1806  Luke and Mary left Bygate Hall and went to work elsewhere in the Parish. They may have been at Bygate Hall for as little as ten years. Son Mark went all the way up to Paxton in Scotland to be married to Margaret Wilson in 1801 though she was probably a neighbour. I wonder if that was to do with them being Presbyterians or to do with the marriage laws being different up there at the time? There were many other Alwinton entries relevant to our family,  especially to the Wilsons, who seem to have been in the district well before and well after the Forsters. After their marriage Mark and Margaret went to Rothbury to set up home and business, but that’s another story.

*Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County of Northumberland, and of those Parts of the County of Durham situated North of the River Tyne, with Berwick Upon Tweed, and brief notices of celebrated places on the Scottish Border. Mackenzie, E. 2nd Ed. 1825. Full-text online via google.

Parish registers on microfilm obtainable from LDS via genealogical societies.

Read Full Post »

Carron Vale, Mooroolbark, about 20 miles from Melbourne near Mount Dandenong, was the country home of Archie, Connie, Harold and Peg Beatty from 1913 until late 1927. Hilda Forster lived with them for most of that time, along with Connie’s  lady companion and various staff.

Verandah with “boy’s rooms” at Carron Vale

It had a golf course and tennis court, and every weekend Stan and Gordon Forster among other friends and relations would congregate there. It sounded like Camelot at Mooroolbark from the stories we heard from Harold, Peg and more recently from their cousin Gwen Taylor (nee Littleton) who, along with her older brother and sister Geoff and Ruth was a frequent visitor.  As with other Camelots there was also the sense that everything was not quite as perfect as it seemed.

It was an exciting place for Harold and Peg to spend their childhood though.

I’m posting this because I’ve written up all of the Carron Vale period into “Our family story” (see the chapters on the side menu), although I might add some more photos as I get around to it.  There are albums full of them!

Next I’ll deal with Harold’s jackarooing period and the 1930s. It might take a while though as there’s a lot of photos and documents to sort before a clear timeline emerges to hang all those stories of his on.

I’d love to hear from anyone with further information about the family at this period, especially corrections to, different versions etc. of this story.

Read Full Post »

The photographer noted “There’s something Heathcliffey about this place”

Byegate Hall, Northumberland. © Copyright ian shiell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Photo © Copyright ian shiell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 Have been trying to find out more about Bygate Hall, where Mark Forster was born 6 Dec 1782 according to this document.

Document 1 from Jack Forster research 1962

Jack Forster drew this map showing where the home was located when he visited there in about 1962.

Map showing Rothbury and track up to Bygate Hall from Alwinton

If you search Bygate Hall on the web you find “Bygate Hall Cottages” by the Coquet River, but these are not located in quite the right place according to Jack’s map. The link below shows both Bygate Hall Cottages where a stream called Croft Sike joins the R. Coquet, as well as the place which Jack indicated, which is midway between Bell Hill to the north and Long Hill to the south and well to the west of the Coquet River and called “Byegate Hall”. You might need to track to the south-west and zoom in as the map doesn’t seem to open at exactly the spot I intend it to.


I think “Byegate Hall” is where Mark Forster was born. They were less pedantic about spelling back then. It’s certainly the place Jack Forster meant, and Jack led us to believe that it was the Forster’s ancestral home.

Here are more photos of Byegate Hall, now apparently abandoned if not derelict If you want to copy them be sure to credit the photographer.


Just to muddy the picture though, Google quickly finds  a reference from 26 June 1760 to “William Marshall, Byegate Hall, gentleman” and from 15 Aug 1810 when a John Marshall of Byegate Hall, farmer, died of consumption aged 24 and was buried at Burness, to the southwest of Bygate Hall. These two dates straddle the 1782 date of Mark Forster’s birth, so where do the Forsters fit in at Byegate or Bygate Hall?

Postscript: Have answered my own question after spending a few days reading the Allenton (Alwinton) Parish register. Many people lived at Bygate Hall – it was pretty much a small village in itself in the eighteenth century. The Forsters were definitely employees! More in a later post.

Read Full Post »

I’m very proud to be related to this ever so elegant lady, but who is she? The photo is by “The Burlington Studios, 294 Bourke St., Melbourne”. They set up business in 1903, the hat is the 1905-6 fashion – I think. Mary Jane McLean would have been 58 by then, although they employed people to “touch up” photos. Maybe it’s Connie? I’ve put up every photo I have of both Mary Jane and Connie in the photo gallery so you can compare them. Is it someone else??

Update: OK, Thanks for comments. I think you’re right and it’s Connie. Further update Jan 2013: I now think this photo is about 1908, and am quite sure it must be Constance Forster.

Mary Jane? Connie? Someone else?

Read Full Post »

I think I’ve worked out a way to get the images displaying better in the image gallery, so have added some more Forster photos and have added the next part of the story, “The Forsters of Rothbury“, which you should see on the side menu. It is all a permanent work in progress of course. Let me know if any of it is wrong.

I found this photo, which HAP, when asked, had described as “various Forster brothers and sisters”:

About 1902?

It’s definitely Harold second from the left, Connie in the middle, Hilda seated left, and I think it looks like Ruby seated right. Archie isn’t there, so could it be either Arthur or Willie with his arm around Connie?  I think it might be Annie on the far left too. It looks within a year or two of the wedding photo? Probably earlier as Harold is in this one. Any theories?

Read Full Post »

What do you think of this? Bruce Forster has run an “ageing processor” over our mysterious portraits from the post before last. You need to ignore the hair though. I think it has to be them. Apologies for not having worked out how to organise images on the page yet.  I may have to study (shudder) HTML.

The real Luke Forster in old age

Possible portrait of Luke Forster after ageing processor

The real Anne Forster nee Blackett in old age

The real Luke and Anne Forster

Possible portrait of Anne Blackett after ageing processor

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »