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Born at Inglewood in central Victoria, Mary Jane Kersley (1861-1919) married William Joseph Laurence (1855-1929) at the St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in West Melbourne on 3 July 1884. Their best man was James Napoleon Burns (1857-1941), who married Mary Jane's sister Lucy Ann Kersley (1868-1951) the following year (click here to read about James and Lucy and their family). The bridesmaid was one Annie Clancy. Their wedding certificate indicates that Mary Jane had earlier moved from St Arnaud to West Melbourne where she was working as a domestic servant (and where her brother Cornelius Kersley then resided). William, a labourer whose 'usual address' was said to be Creswick, was also living in Melbourne at the time. According to one of their granddaughters, Christina ('Teen') Bainbridge nee Cheeseman, William and Mary Jane had met at a boarding house that was probably in St Arnaud and was either run by her mother or was where the family was then living. William and a number of other young men were boarding there at the time. In discussing which of the visitors they liked best, Mary Jane declared that she favoured William, the 'one who was giving Mum cheek at dinner time'. This exchange probably took place some time before December 1883 when William and Mary Jane were witnesses to the marriage, at St Arnaud, of Mary Jane's older sister, Emily Kersley to Samuel Claxton (indeed were Samuel and James Napoleon Burns also residents at the boarding house?).
We think that the photo on the left, which came from 'Con's trunk' and was taken at the studio of F.C. Burman of St George's Hall in Bourke Street in Melbourne, may be of William at around the time of his marriage to Mary Jane (a feeling enhanced by his strong resemblance to his future grandson, Wayne Cheeseman). The woman he is with may be Mary Jane although we think it unlikely when we compare her with the known photo of Mary Jane below. It is possible she may be one of William's sisters about who we know very little.
Indeed our knowledge of William Laurence's family and his early life and times is very sketchy. His wedding certificate states that Creswick in Victoria was both his birthplace and his 'usual residence' suggesting that he may have grown up there although I have found no other evidence to support this. Creswick is located about 18 km north of Ballarat and halfway between Beaufort and Daylesford. William's parents, said on his marriage certificate to be Alexander and Catherine Laurence, had probably moved to Creswick, or met there, during the 1852 gold rush which, by the time of William's birth in 1855, had a population that exceeded 25,000 people. There is no record of William's birth which may not be that unusual for the times for, as Norman Lindsay wrote in his 1930 novel Redheap, in those days Creswick was 'one of those eruptions of human lunacy called a mining centre. Its population of muscular adventurers spread themselves over the earth like feverish ants, tearing at it, piling it up in heaps, burrowing in its depths, and slashing its grey-brown surface with great scars of mullock and gravel, thrown up from the beds of buried rivers'. Creswick was literally a tent city which spread haphazardly in every direction, with only poor amenities and very little civic administration or sense of civic responsibility or ownership on the part of its itinerant inhabitants.
Searches of the various genealogical databases have yielded a few snippets that may or may not be relevant. Registry records show that an Alexander Fenwick Lawrence married a Cath Brennan in Melbourne in 1852. According to the 'London Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1917', Alexander was baptised at St Paul's Shadwell in Tower Hamlets in London on 22 August 1927 (he had been born on 30 July). His parents were Samuel, a labourer, and Lilley Lawrence. The 'Australian Convict Transportation Registers, Other Fleets and Ships, 1791-1868' and the 'England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892', both also available through Ancestry, show that the 14 year-old Alexander Fenwick Lawrence, was convicted at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) in London on 31 January 1842 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the penal colony of van Diemen's Land. The published proceedings of the Old Baily tell us Alexander was found guilty of stealing 3 half-crowns, 12 shillings, and 1 sixpence, the monies of a Henry Abrams, his master and a potato-dealer who resided in King David Lane in Shadwell. As Abrams told the court, 'the prisoner was my errand-boy. I sent out for one shillings worth of silver on the 15th of January - I placed it on the mantel-piece in the back-parlour, two rooms from the shop - I went down stairs with the prisoner, and left my wife in the room - I sent the prisoner up to fetch some empty baskets - he did not return - I went up, and missed the silver off the mantelpiece - no one was in the place but the prisoner'. Alexander was transported (with 239 other unfortunates) on the sailing ship ELPHINSTONE which departed from Sheerness in England on 10 April 1842 and arrived at Hobart Town on 28 July the same year.
The Victorian index of BDMs show that an Alexander and Kath Laurance had a son, Luke Alexander, in Loddon in Victoria in 1853. A Luke A. Lawrence, aged 8 years, an Arthur Laurence aged 13 years, and a William Laurence aged 5 years, were admitted into children's custody in the immigrant's home in Melbourne on 31 August 1863, 11 August 1862, and 11 August 1862 respectively. While Luke and Arthur's parents were unknown, William had one parent living and was said to be a Roman Catholic (cited in 'Children in Victorian Institutions 1860-63'). In the year before William and Arthur were admitted to the home, an Alexander Laurence died of dysentry in the Melbourne hospital. His death certificate states he was 31 years of age, was born in London and had been either 10 or 15 years in Victoria (the entry is difficult to decipher). Significantly, perhaps, this Alexander was also said to be single. The 'Death Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us that Alexander and Catherine's son, Luke Alexander Lawrence (1853-1945), married Emily Harriet Death (1875-1944) at Wilcania in NSW in 1894 and had five children: Frederick William (1893-95), William Alick (1896-1926), Florence Emily (1898-9), Gordon Lindsay (1908-96) and John Lawrence (1911-81). Around the turn of the century, the family moved from NSW to South Australia where Emily died at Victor Harbour in 1944 and Luke at Goolwa the following year.
The Victorian Public Records Office's central register of male prisoners includes a William J. Laurence, aged 8 years, who was convicted of vagrancy on 13 October 1862 and served twelve weeks imprisonment (which was extended by several weeks as a result of a range of minor misdemeanours while in custody). When apprehended he was living in a tray or dray in Little Collins Street. The records show that his native place was Melbourne, he belonged to the Church of England and could read but not write. No details of his family were provided. Finally a Catherine Lawrence, aged 44 years, died in the Yang Yeen lunatic asylum in Hiedelberg on 22 November 1880. She also had been born in London, but it was unknown if she had been married or had any children.
Whatever his upbringing, William evoked strong reactions on the part of those who remembered him. Another granddaughter, Winnie Stafford nee Cheeseman, described the adult William in her memoirs as an Irishman, tall for the times (five feet eleven inches), fairly thick set, with 'a mop of curly sandy coloured hair and a very likeable personality, which made him very popular, especially with his work mates'. He was also, she added, 'a bit too fond of alcohol to suit Marn' (the name by which he called his wife Mary Jane) who, when he imbibed, would 'tell her children "your father is a good man" [which] seemed to fix everything'. Winnie's sister Christina ('Teen') remembered him as a 'bigoted Catholic' who lived with his two sisters and one brother (whereabouts unknown) but walked out on them after the girls forgot to iron his collar for mass. She too said he was a drinker and was possibly violent although he was always good to his grandchildren when he visited his daughter Alice Maud's farm in Skipton. She believed he was of Irish descent which seems to be born out by stories of him: 1) castigating Alice for renouncing her Catholicism and not supporting Archbishop Mannix, and 2) being critical of Australia's involvement in the First World War, declaring that 'he would not let his sons fight for England'. He and his local priest were instrumental in my grandmother, Alice Maud Cheeseman nee Laurence, renouncing her Catholic faith and everafter being hypercritical of Catholics (or the 'Irish' as she called them which was most confusing to a young boy sitting at the edge of her conversations). It turns out she had good reason. At the urging of William, she had given money she could not afford to the local priest in Narrandera to pass on to her mother Mary Jane. All too predictably the priest and William ended up spending the money in the local pub.
After they were married in West Melbourne in 1884, William Joseph and Mary Jane Laurence travelled north to Kiama in New South Wales with their first daughter, Florence May, being born en route in Queanbeyan. The NSW 1891 census shows the family, then comprising one male and five females, living at East Kiama. William was said by his granddaughter to be working for the local council. It is likely he was involved in the basalt-quarrying industry where the black rock mined from the nearby Bombo quarries (pictured below) was transported by horse and cart to the Kiama Harbour and then shipped to Sydney for that city's expanding tram and rail networks. During their time at Kiama, the couple had five more children: Mary Jane in 1886, Emily in 1888 (the same year that Mary's younger sister Alice Kersley died in an accident at St Arnaud), Alice Maud in 1889, Catherine in 1891 and William in 1893. The four oldest of these are pictured with their parents in the photo on the left, taken at Kiama in around 1890.
But William Joseph soon became disillusioned with his lot at Kiama and yearned for a new start. His unhappiness was no doubt compounded by mounting debts which had forced him to declare himself bankrupt in 1891 (the Bankruptcy index of the NSW State Records shows a William Laurence, a labourer of Bombo Kiama, was sequested for bankruptcy on 30 November 1891). He and a friend became convinced they could make their fortune farming. The local newspaper had advertised blocks of land with 'good prospects' in the Riverina district north of Narrandera. The blocks were said to have been partially cleared and each contained a house and a dam. The two men decided this was too good an opportunity to miss and that they should buy adjoining blocks in order to increase their chances of success. Both women were reluctant to leave their friends and the security of coastal life for the uncertainties of the bush. But the men prevailed and, after selling most of their possessions to friends and neighbours, William and Mary Jane and their five children aged from one to ten years began a three hundred mile journey into the unknown. The families travelled overland by horse and cart. According to the memoir of Alice's oldest daughter, Winifred ('Winnie') Stafford nee Cheeseman, in addition to their personal belongings and supplies for the journey, they each took a tent, a camp oven and a water container which was hung from the back of the wagons. At first an adventure, the journey soon became tiring and tiresome:
Some of the roads were not much better than bush tracks, and the trees that looked so good at the beginning soon became monotonous, the mothers and children would get out and walk for miles to stretch their legs and spell the horses. They saw a few black fellow's camps, kangaroos and rabbits and once there was this terrible creature, sitting on top of a post with its tail almost touching the ground. William said it was a goanna and told the children they might often see one at their new place (they hoped not).
After a three week trek, the families finally arrived at their destination. Needless to say the reality was far removed from the newspaper description that had lured William and his friend. The blocks were extremely isolated and covered in thick bush. The houses were nothing like those they had lived in in Kiama. They were makeshift huts, made of stripped saplings held together with mud and wire, with shingle roofs, earth floors, and roughly constructed stone fireplaces and chimneys. The dams were very small and only half full (of muddy water) although each house had an adjoining tank which collected rainwater from the roof. Jim's wife, Nell, claimed that the huts 'looked as though they had been abandoned by blacks' and refused to stay (the family left for Sydney the following day). Knowing William would not be so easily deterred, Mary Jane declared the place could be made more liveable if they could find some hessian, wallpaper and whitewash to line the inside walls. These, together with two milking cows and some hens, were duly purchased from Narrandera and adjoining farms and the family settled in to their new life.
William and Mary Jane's bush block was in South Yalgolgrin, in the northern reaches of Barellan station and near where the township of Barellan is today (Barellan was originally called Barralong which means 'meeting of waters' or a 'collection of water'). William and Mary Jane were part of a 'third wave' of selectors who took advantage of changing land laws - designed to break the power of the squatters and develop a kind of yeomanry within rural NSW - to move into the Riverina and make their living on the land. The first wave had come in the 1870s well before the railway line to Narrandera had been opened and within living memory of Robert Cotterall (alias Blue Cap), Dick the Devil, John Williams and the other bush rangers who had terrorised the region only a decade before.
These early settlers could only purchase small and unviable plots of land. Many were supported by, or were in the employ of, the squatters who used them to protect their own holdings of land (by, for example, acquiring blocks which guaranteed access to existing roads or river or creek frontages). There were a number of genuine settlers who sought to make a living from the land, including, in the area where William and Mary Jane were to settle, John, James and Christopher Foy, and the Comyn, Stivens and Ridout families (the 1899 electoral roll for the NSW seat of Murrumbidgee (Narrandera Division) records that William's immediate neighbours included, in addition to the Comyns, Ridouts and Stivens, a James Chammen, James Powell, Bernard O'Neill and Charles Roche). Like the squatters, these first settlers had not only to clear their land but also deal with wild cattle and horses, rabbit plagues and droughts. These took their toll and forced many to walk off their properties. The second wave of settlers, mainly from Victoria, were able to purchase much larger areas of land although they, too, were affected by rabbit plagues, droughts and a generally hostile environment. Those who left and had not been bought out by their neighbours were gradually replaced by those, like William and Mary Jane, who came into the area in the 1890s.
As Gow and Gow's Early Days in the Barellan District described, while it had been partly improved by earlier inhabitants and owners of Barellan station, the country remained 'wild and untamed from a small settler's point of view and they had much to do in the way of fencing, making dams, ringing, clearing, etc'. There was no township close to where they were - the nearest township was Narrandera some fifty kilometres to the south - no schools, no churches, no stores and very few dwellings. At the time of William and Mary Jane's arrival, there were less than 20 school-age children in the district overall, insufficient to warrant the despatch of a trained school teacher to the area (in August 1896, James Foy wrote to the NSW Minister for Education on behalf of the small community, asking for a school to be established at Barellan. His application was turned down and no school was established there until 1911). As a result, the older children received little formal education beyond the rudimentary reading and other skills their mother was able to give them.
The photo above on the left is of Florence May and Mary Jane Laurence before they were married. That on the right was taken in 1908 and is of, from L/R: Lucy Margaret, William, Alexander Charles and Bridget Ellen ('Nell') Laurence.
Life on their block was both isolated and very hard. As Winnie described, water for washing had to be carried up from the dam, cleared with alum, and then heated in kerosene tins that were hung over an open fire. The stove in the house didn't work properly so Mary Jane had to use the little camp oven they had brought with them from Kiama to bake bread and cook most of their meals. Alice and her sisters were responsible for looking after the cows and other animals. This involved the cows being herded through the bush in search of grassed areas or the girls climbing the small kurrajong trees and picking the newly grown leaves for the cows to eat. On these excursions 'they met plenty of lizards, a few goannas, plenty of rabbits and occasionally a snake, and soon became real bush girls'. Because there was little to be earned from the property, William was forced to seek work as a labourer and road contractor which meant that Mary Jane and the children were often on their own. Confronted with the reality of his choice and craving good company, William would also head into Narrandera where he would spend much of the family's hard earned money on drink.
At the end of their first year in the district, the family was invited to the Ridout's farm to celebrate Christmas. As described earlier, the Ridouts had settled in the district in the 1870s and, by 1895, were well established. As Winnie described, the visit was particularly exciting for Mary Jane and the children who, unlike William, very rarely travelled far beyond their property. On the day of the visit the girls
were up very early bathed, dressed with their white starched pinnies over their dresses and all in the wagonette bound for Mrs Ridout's house. It was a long journey and at last the house was in sight. The girls gasped in amazement, fruit trees covered with fruit on each side of the drive and grape vines all over the porch at the back door. Mr and Mrs Ridout met them at the gate, the Ridout family were much older than them. Inside they had never seen such a long table, filled with such beautiful things. After dinner the older Ridout children played games with them and showed them their pets, they had a Christmas they would never forget.
By the turn of the century William and his family had moved from North Barellan onto another farm, which they called 'Glenidol', at Gillenbah on the southern outskirts of Narrandera (the NSW 1901 census shows the family then comprised two males and six females). The parish maps contained on the NSW Land & Property Management Authority's Parish Map Preservation Project show that 'Glenidol' comprised two adjoining blocks of land (one 97 acres in size, which had been purchased from a Robert Rogan, and the other 25 acres). These were located to the southeast of the main railway line to Narrandera and a few kilometres north of the Gillenbah state Forest. The blocks, which appear to have been obtained sometime before 1894, adjoined three others owned by Arthur Conrad Beecher, who married William and Mary Jane's eldest daughter, Florence May Laurence, in 1905.
William and Mary Jane's younger children were able attend the Gillenbah Public School, which had been established in 1900, and no doubt would have gone to the school picnic, organised in 1902 by the popular teacher Miss M. Vile. A subsequent report in the Narrandera Argus informed its readers that some '400 people assembled and indulged to their heart's content in all the usual games...Mr Millington distributed the prizes to the school children, saying a few kindly words of encouragement in his usual genial way. Refreshments were most generously provided, and everything went merrily till a late hour in the afternoon when elders and children returned to their homes well pleased with their day's outing'. The school's 1910 prizegiving ceremony saw Alex Lawrence of the lower third class awarded a prize for general improvement in arithmetic. His sister Lucy was given one for 'reading, writing and good behaviour'. The following year Alick, who was still in the third class, was awarded a prize for general improvement. The newspaper report of this latter occasion also noted that a special vote of thanks was given to 'Mr W. Lawrence, of "Glenidol", who interested himself very appreciably in the children's behalf' (Narrandera Argus, 22 December 1911).
Gillenbah Public School in around 1910.
We think the boy standing fifth from the left may be Alexander Charles ('Alick') Laurence.
His sister Lucy was probably also present.
A few month's later William and Mary Jane's house at Gillenbah was destroyed by fire. As reported in the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express on 21 April 1911: 'Glenidee, the residence of Mr W. Lawrence of Gillenbah, together with the furniture etc was totally destroyed by fire on the morning of Wednesday of last week. It is believed the fire originated in an ash-bucket. Mrs Lawrence who was the only person present at the time had her arms burned slightly while endeavouring to rescue two pet parrots from the building. The house was insured for £100 in the Royal Co and the furniture for £50'. A second report in the Narrandera Argus (dated 21 April 1911) confirmed the destroyed residence was 'Glenidol' and added that William was 'away at Morundah engaged in census collecting, the children were at school and Mary Jane, who was washing in an outdoor laundry, was alerted to the fire by the screams of their pet parrots'. The article continued that:
Mrs Lawrence burned her arms rather severely. As she had just recovered from a critical illness, the shock was a serious one. Nothing in the place was saved, but the building was covered by insurance in the Royal Co for £100 and the furniture, which was quite new, for £50. Fortunately there was not much money in the house, but the whole of the family's clothing was lost, including some recent purchases made by Mrs Lawrence's daughters with a view of enabling their mother to take a holiday to regain her health.
We know from letters she wrote to her daughter Catherine (pictured in the photo on the left which shows, from left to right, Bridget Ellen ('Nell'), Lucy and Catherine Laurence), that Mary Jane was eventually able to have her holiday, in Sydney in 1915. This was the year her eldest daughter, Mary Jane Stirrat, had her second daughter, Florence, there although it is possible she went to Sydney to consult a specialist about her health. Whatever the reason, the two months or so spent in Sydney was probably the first time she had been able to leave the Riverina and would have reminded her of the family's earlier times at Kiama. In one of numerous letters she wrote to her daughter she declared she was 'greatly in love with this place and would love to leave out there and try our luck down this way'. In another she wished 'to goodness that we were settled down in a place like this ... only 6d to Sydney in the boat and a boat every half hour and a tram to Burwood every twenty minutes and the fare 2d, it would just suit me nicely'. In yet another despatch home she reported that:
I am enjoying myself alright but not able to see much as nobody is able to go out with me. I was out to a bazaar at Miss Walker's on Saturday and seen the lady herself. The bazaar was nice but her place and gardens were just lovely. I enjoyed myself well then we was pulled home in a little boat across the bay. I have had a few boat trips back and to Sydney and was out to Manly beach but the sea was a bit rough and made me sick but it was a lovely place. Nell [probably Mary Jane's younger sister Ellen Louisa Smith nee Kersley although it could have been the friend who travelled with them from Kiama to Yalgolgrin] is going to take me out to Coogee one day this week to see a girl I used to know in St Arnaud. We are going to drive so that will be nice. I can see the place. I like being down here and wish we were living somewhere about here instead of that hole of a place Narrandera.
The thrill of being in Sydney increased when she was joined by her beloved youngest son, Tommy, who had sailed there from Melbourne with his Aunt Lucy. Although she loved Sydney and the freedom it gave her, Mary Jane also missed home and being with her other children. A lifetime of hard work, enforced frugality and self-sacrifice probably also made her feel guilty about being away from the farm. Thus towards the end her of stay she confided to Kit that she now wanted to come home where she could be useful. 'I expect the busy time is near at hand now and I hope we will have a good crop this year and how about Dad's peas, I expect they are all going to waste for the want of someone to pick them'.
Mary Jane's enjoyment of Sydney was also tempered by her limited finances. This was clear from a letter written to Kit on 8 November 1915 in which she declared 'I don't mind telling you that I have been short enough that I wrote to Will [Kit's brother] to see if he would send me a couple of pounds but have not had an answer as yet. Dad and Lucy sent me three pounds today but it will take all that for mine and Tommy's fare home of course. It cost me a good bit for the doctor and medicine since I have been here so if you can help me out of the difficulty do so'. In another letter to William Joseph (who she addressed as 'Dear Husband') Mary Jane concluded that 'by the tone of this letter you might think that I am in a hurry home but I am not, only I don't want to stay away when I might be wanted at home as I would like to make what we could in the harvest time for we will want it later on'.
Not long after sending this letter, she received news that her daughter Lucy was ill in hospital and rushed home. Back in Narrandera she found 'plenty to do but no pay attached to it' and continued, as she had always done, to help others in need, visit her daughters and their families and mend her son's clothes. We get a sense of how hard life was from a letter Mary Jane wrote from Glenidol to her son, William Laurence in Sydney, on 26 October 1918. She began by saying she had 'had a fair share of indigestion of late and must be more careful of what I eat and how I eat it'. After lamenting the absence of rain and the likelihood of a poor harvest, Mary Jane went on to say:
...we have Dad and Alick home again now they finished up their contract on Tuesday last not before it was time and we were glad to see them home as we were near knocked up with all the work we had to do. We are milking 16 cows just now and doing real well with them if only the feed would grow and we could get the rain ... Have you seen Auntie Nell or Mirtle since she left here? We missed her a bit but I suppose she would be glad to get back home. Tommy is going to school every day now ... I think he misses Mirtle
Gillenbah homestead, 'Glenidol' in around 1912 showing (from L/R): Alex, William Joseph,
Tommy (on the bike), Mary Jane, Bill and Lucy Laurence (the two children on the steps are probably
those of their eldest daughter Florence May).
The year after she wrote to William, the digestion she had complained of saw her admitted into the Narrandera hospital where she died on 20 January 1919. A few days later the Narrandera Argus published the following obituary:
Deep regret was felt locally on Wednesday morning when it became known that Mrs Mary Jane Laurence, wife of Mr William J. Laurence of 'Glenidol', Narrandera had passed away at the hospital early that morning. Mrs Laurence, whose age was 57 years, was a resident of the district for many years and was well known and highly respected. The funeral, which was a lengthy one, left Mrs Longford's residence yesterday. The Rev Father Hartigan officiated at the graveside. The deceased leaves a widower and a family of sons and daughters to mourn their loss.
More poignantly, and perhaps tellingly, the words on her grave - which was paid for by the family - said simply: 'In Loving Memory. Mary Jane Laurence. Died Jan 22nd 1919. A faithful wife and loving mother'. Subsequent 'In Memorium' notices published in the Narrandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser showed she was sorely missed by (a possibly contrite) husband and a loving family: 'LAURENCE - In sad but loving memory of our dear mother, Mary Jane Laurence, who departed this life January 21 1919. "Today brings back sad memories, Of a loved one gone to rest. Sadly Missed". Inserted by her loving family'. And 'LAURENCE - In loving memory of our darling Mary Jane Laurence, who passed away at Narrandera, 22nd January 1919.
Passed away! her Rosary ho'ding
In her cold and lifeless hand,
To yonder bright and happy land,
She has crossed death's gloomy valley,
Laid life's griefs and sorrows down,
That she with her loving Saviour,
May bear no cross, but wear a crown.
Mary Jane Laurence's grave at Narranderra.
The Gillenbah parish maps described above indicate that within a year of Mary Jane's death, William had sold 'Glenidol' to an Emily A. Thompson and dispensed with all his stock and farm goods. These included his daughter Catherine's milking cows which, according to a letter written to her from Darlinghurst in Sydney by her brother Will, brought in £4/10/- out of a total return from the sale of £67/10/- (Catherine's overall share from the sale amounted to £13/10/- which William thought would help her and Emily and Alex look after Tommy). William, who had married Claire Blucher in Sydney in 1919, also reported that, like his mother before him, he was loving the freedom that came from living in Sydney and fervently hoped 'Kitty' would soon 'wake up and travel and get a bit of experience in worldly ways [and so] loose that self crucificing manner of yours' [sic].
William further told his sister that their father had written to him saying he 'has gone up the Murray and ... would write as soon as he got settled'. It seems that following the sale of the farm, William Joseph had moved first to Berrigan and then on to Albury. In a letter written from the latter place in July 1924 he chastised his youngest son for not writing to him for over three months, complained of various illnesses that had prevented him from working and reported that 'Alex was up to see me at last. He stayed two days and I went up to see Emily with him. He looks well and has passed for fireman [with the NSW Railways]'.
In a letter to Catherine in July the following year, William Joseph told his 'dear daughter' that he had recently had a letter from Lucy 'saying Jane was married again' and added 'I hope she has a good husband but there are some doubts about it'. He continued that he 'cannot say how Nell is getting along as I have not seen her only once since you were here and then she came down to the place where I have a room to see if Mrs Davis would go up and do some washing for her. I was sitting at the window writing to Alice when she passed'. He finished by asking Kit in future to address her mail to W. J. Laurence as there 'was another W. Lawrence living where he was who opens all of his letters'.
Lucy's youngest son, Royce Pearson, tells us that William Joseph also lived for a time at Narrandera with Lucy and her family (Lucy had married Edmund Pearson, the son of William Pearson and Maria Hounsell, at Narrandera in 1919). At this stage William was incapable of looking after himself, and posed a danger to the lives of Lucy's small children (by, for example, dragging the coals out of the open fire and onto the floor). He seems to have spent his last years with his daughter Mary Jane King in Sydney. William and Mary Jane are pictured in the photo on the left, on the back of which Jane has written: 'This is a snapshot taken at Woy Woy at Xmas time of Dad, Lucy and myself when we were on holidays. I thought you would like it so am sending one to all the girls and Alex. Taken Xmas 1928'.
William Joseph Laurence died at Mortlake in Sydney on 15 June 1929. The following notice was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 June 1929: 'LAURENCE - June 15 1929, at his daughter's residence, 3 Braddon Street Mortlake, William Laurence late of Narrandera, aged 84 years. Interred Catholic Cemetery Narrandera on the 17th instant'. A slightly longer obituary notice was published in the Narrandera Times on the 18th of June 1929:
An old identity of the Narrandera district in the person of Mr William Joseph Lawrence [sic] died in Sydney on Saturday last. Mr Lawrence was at one time a farmer at Gillenbah and a road contractor, and was well known and highly respected throughout the district. He was 84 years of age. He is survived by a grown up family, his wife having died at Narrandera some years ago. The remains were brought to Narrandera yesterday afternoon. The funeral moved from the residence of his daughter Mrs E. Pearson. Messrs Watkins Bros had charge of the funeral arrangements.
William and Mary Jane had 10 children between 1884 and 1906: Florence May (1884-1915), Mary Jane (1886-1956), Emily (1888-1954), Alice Maud (1889-1967), Catherine (1891-1979), William (1893-1957), Bridget Ellen (1896-1949), Lucy Margaret (1898- 1985, Alexander Charles (1900-76) and Robert Thomas Laurence (1906-62). Click here to read of their lives, times and families and here to see more photos of William and Mary Jane and their family.
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