William Joseph Laurence (1855-1929) and
Mary Jane Kersley (1861-1919)

II. Family and Descendants

(Last updated: 25 December 2019)

Laurence family photos

William Laurence jnr photos

Alexander Charles Laurence photos

Robert Thomas Laurence photos

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). As we will see most of these eventually moved away from Narrandera to live in places scattered across Victoria and New South Wales. As we have already seen from the sample of letters and photos that were kept by Catherine ('Kitty') Laurence, in spite of the distances involved, they continued regularly to write to each other and, whenever possible, to visit and spend time together. These close friendships extended in many cases to their children such as my father, Laurence Alfred ('Laurie') Cheeseman, who as a young person worked on one of his uncle's sawmills in the Narrandera area and always delighted in visiting (and being fussed over by) his various aunts and cousins.

sawmill at rankin springs

Sawmill at Rankin Springs. Laurie Cheeseman is the person nearest the steam engine.
We think Laurie's uncle, Tom Laurence, is the worker on his left.

may laurenceWilliam and Mary Jane's eldest daughter, Florence May Laurence (1884-1915) - pictured on the left before her marriage - was born at Queanbeyan while her parents were en route from Melbourne to the New South Wales seaside community of Kiama. As a girl she travelled with her family first to Yalgolgrin South and later Gillenbah near Narrandera where she married a neighbouring farmer, Arthur Conrad Beecher (1882-1931), in 1905 (Arthur is pictured in the wedding photo shown below). May died at Narrandera in 1915 and Arthur went to live at 'Rosedale', the Beecher family home at nearby Dellapool, where his and May's children were looked after by May's younger sister, Catherine ('Kitty') Laurence, until Arthur re-married in 1917.

Click here to see more information and photographs of May and Arthur Beecher and their family and descendants.

mary jane laurenceTheir second daughter, Mary Jane Laurence (1886-1956) - pictured on the right - married Hugh Stirrat (1890-1919) at the St James Parish Church in the Sydney suburb of Croydon on 17 May 1913. Her wedding certificate, contained on Ancestry's 'Sydney Anglican Parish Registers, 1814-2001', shows that Jane was then a 26 year-old domestic servant who had been born at Kiama and was a resident of Narrandera. Hugh was 23 years old, worked as a labourer and lived in the nearby suburb of Mortlake. His parents were said to be Robert Crawford Stirrat, also a labourer, and Mary Morrison. The wedding was witnessed by Hugh's brother, Bert Stirrat, and a Jessie White.

According to the 'Families of Wilson, Stirrat, Reynolds and Tate' and a number of other family trees on Ancestry, Robert Crawford Stirrat (1852-1926) and Mary Morrison (1853-1940) were both from Dalry in Ayrshire in Scotland where they were married on 31 December 1873. They had four children in Scotland - including James Stirrat (1874-1964), who later married Elsie Nicholls at the St James Parish Church in Croydon in Sydney in 1894, and Robert Crawford Stirrat jnr (1881-1946) who married a New Zealander, Mary Theresa Foley, there in 1906 - before emigrating to New South Wales in around 1885. There they had another four children: William Stirrat (1886-1961) who married Mildred Wilson at Croydon in 1911, our Hugh (1890), Bertie Stirrat (1892-1972) who married Johanna/Josephine Sparrow in 1920, and Robert J. Stirrat (who was born in 1896).

Jane and Hugh Stirrat lived in the inner western suburb of Mortlake after their marriage and had three children there - Annie May ('Mollie'), Florence May and Lily Stirrat - before Hugh's death in 1919 (probably from the Spanish flu epidemic that swept across the world in the wake of the Great War). As the following newspaper notice indicated, he was buried at Sydney's Rookwood cemetery on 13 June 1919:

STIRRAT - The Friends of Mrs Jane STIRRAT are invited to attend the funeral of her beloved husband, Hugh; to leave his parents' residence, Dairy Villa, Erlwin Street Mortlake ... for Church of England Cemetery Rookwood via Burwood Station'.

According to the NSW index of bdms, the widowed Jane married Sydney Arthur King, son of George and Mary Jane King, in the Burwood registration district of Sydney in 1925. The electoral rolls show Sydney, who worked as a labourer, and Mary Jane King living at 9 Braddon Street in Mortlake between 1930 and 1954 (the year of Sydney's death). Her grandson, John Essenstam, tells us that Jane, who he thinks suffered from Alzheimer's disease and dementia towards the end of her life, died in the Gladesville Hospital two years after the death of her second husband. She and Sydney had no children.

laurie cheeseman and mollie stirrat at hentyWhat of Jane and Hugh Stirrat's children? The NSW index of births, deaths and marriages shows their two youngest daughters - Florence and Lily Stirrat - both died in 1916. Their eldest daughter, Annie May ('Mollie') Stirrat, pictured on the left with her cousin and my father Laurie Cheeseman, grew to adulthood and was married at Mortlake in 1943. Her husband was a Dutch seaman, Jan Essenstam (1918-88), who was born at Ede in the Gelderlander province of the Netherlands. His parents were Jan Essenstam snr (1891-1939) and Alida in't Hout (1894-1945) who were both born at Apeldoorn and died in the Netherlands. John adds that during the Second World War his father 'escaped from Surabaya [in what was then the Dutch East Indies and later Indonesia] on a small Dutch minesweeper, 'HM Abraham Crynssen' on 6 March 1942 when the japanese invaded the island, and landed in Australia at Geraldton' nine days later.

In 1951 Jan applied to become an Australian citizen. His naturalisation papers, contained in the Australian National Archives, show he was then living at 37 Kingston Avenue in Mortlake in Sydney, was married and had one child, John Laurence Essenstam who was born at Camperdown in Sydney on 1 June 1947 (Jan and Mollie had a second son, Gary Leonard Essenstam, in 1953). Jan's application was supported by Sydney Arthur King, of 9 Braddon Street in Concord (who was said to have known the applicant for eight years) and James Stirrat of 45 Kingston Avenue Mortlake (who had known him for nine years). His file further shows that at the time of his application, Jan was working as an engineer for Timbrol Ltd of Walker Street in Rhodes. He had lived in the Netherlands from 1918 to 1937, the Netherland East Indies from 1937 to 1942, Australia and New Guinea from 1942 to 1945 and the Philippines and China from 1945 to 1946. A letter from the Netherlands-based Royal Interocean Lines says he served on their ships 'Stargen', 'Swartenbondt', 'van Spilbergan', 'van der Idjen', 'Haijnat', and 'For Renesselaer' between 1942 and 1947.

The Australian electoral rolls show that Annie May Essenstam was living at 37 Kingston Avenue in Mortlake in 1949. The 1958 and 1963 rolls have her and Jan, a fitter, living there. Annie died in 1967. The 1980 electoral roll shows Jan, still working as a fitter, and Doreen Iris Essenstam living at 13 Heath Street in the Sydney suburb of Concord (Jan and Molly's eldest son, John Laurence Essenstam, a meat inspector, and his wife Julia Kay were then living at 12 Burrebury Street in Orange). The Ryerson Index shows that Jan Essenstam, 69 and late of Concord, died there on 24 August 1988. His second wife Doreen Iris Essenstam, 86 and late of Concord, died on 8 October 1999.

As we have seen, Jan and Mollie Essenstam had two children, John Laurence and Gary Leonard Essenstam (1953-2014). In an e-mail sent in 2001, Gary told us he remembered going

... to Melbourne with mum and dad in January 1966 via Narrandera and Berrigan and met your grandmother (Alice). [In Melbourne] we stayed with [Alice's eldest daughter Winnie Stafford nee Cheeseman] Winnie and mum were particularly close even though in those days a trip between Sydney and Melbourne was not the everyday event it is these days. Winnie visited us often and of course Merrill worked on the stage in Sydney in both 'The Merry Widow' and 'Hello Dolly'. On the trip to Melbourne I became quite good mates with Greg as well even though he is a few years older than me. Isobel [the daughter of Mary Jane's sister Florence May Beecher nee Laurence] was also a regular visitor...I can just remember uncle Tommy (God he could snore) and his daughter Anne [who] often would stay while she was in the Air Force. Aunty Lucy would visit as well and Aunty Kit and Uncle Alec.

mary jane laurence mary jane and molly stirrat

Mary Jane Stirrat nee Laurence before she was married and with her daughter Annie May ('Mollie') Stirrat.

tom laurence and family

A Laurence family gathering in around 1950. Back (L/R): Charlie Thornton (holding Sandra), Lily Laurence nee Malcolm,
Kathleen Thornton nee Clarke, Tom Laurence, Lottie Barclay (holding Michael), Mollie Essenstam, Ronda Laurence, Jan Essenstam,
Emily Clarke nee Laurence. Front: Malcolm Laurence, Ann Laurence, unknown and John Essenstam.

emily laurenceEven though the 1915 electoral roll showed her living with her parents at Gillenbah, my grandmother, Alice Maud Laurence (1889-1967), was then at Beaufort in Victoria with her husband Alfred William Cheeseman (1881-1949). Alice had met Alfred while working as a domestic servant at the Bynya homestead located to the west of the Riverina township of Griffith. They were married at Narrandera in New South Wales in 1910 (see the photo below) and farmed at Beaufort, Skipton and Walpeup in Victoria (where Alfred died in 1949). Alice died in the Melbourne suburb of Preston in 1967. She and Alfred had seven children: Alice Winifred ('Winnie') Stafford (1911-2000, Christina Mary ('Teen') Bainbridge (1913-2011), Laurence Alfred Cheeseman (1915-82), Leslie William Cheeseman (1917-90), Lance Edward Cheeseman, Reginald ('Reg') Cheeseman and Alfred John ('Freddie') Cheeseman.

Click here to read a more detailed account of Alice's time at Bynya and her and Alfred's subsequent married life and times.

Alice's place at Byna was taken by her older sister Emily Laurence (1888-1954), pictured on the left, who worked there until the property was sold in 1912. We think she then lived and worked at Narrandera until her marriage to Edward William Clarke (1889-1966), the son of Edward George Clarke and Kate Elizabeth Kearns, at Albury in 1920. One of their granddaughters, Sandra Thornton, tells us that Edward came from the Snowy Mountains where he worked as a drover. After their marriage Emily and Edward lived in the NSW town of Henty where Edward carted wood and helped his brother Bill construct farm sheds. Sandra continues that Emily and Edward had two children there:

1) Kathleen Mary Clarke (1921-68) who married Charles William Herbert Thornton (1927-93) at Rydalmere in Sydney in 1948 and had four children (Charlie, Kath and their eldest daughter, Sandra, are pictured in the photo of the Laurence family above); and

2) Alfred William Clarke (1923-92) who married Veronica Gwendolyn Grimes (1921-89) and had one son.

Emily Clarke nee Laurence died in the Ryde registration district of Sydney in 1954. We think that Edward, who continued after Emily's death to live and work at Henty, died in the Parramatta registration district of Sydney in 1966.

Click here to read and view more photos of Emily Clarke nee Laurence and read her poem about Byna and her treasured time there.

wedding of alfred and alice

Alice and Alfred Cheeseman's wedding photo showing (L/R): Emily Laurence, William Joseph Laurence,
Alfred William Cheeseman, Alice Maud Laurence, Arthur Conrad Beecher, Catherine Laurence and Mary Jane Laurence

Catherine ('Kitty') Laurence (1891-1979) was born at Kiama in NSW and married John Robert ('Jack') Barclay (1897-1979) at Narrandera in 1920. Jack was born at Berrigan in NSW, the son of John Robert and Charlotte Eliza Barclay. He enlisted in the Australian Army at Berrigan on 9 March 1942 and served until 10 October 1945 at which time he was a private soldier in the 17th Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps. The Australian electoral rolls show that Jack and Kitty lived all their married lives at Berrigan where Jack worked as a labourer. Jack's mother also lived with them at Berrigan until her death there in 1947. We believe Jack and Kitty had eight children: Lawrence William John Barclay, Dorothy May ('Lottie') Hannan (1924-2009), Betty Jean Brady (1926-2006), Isobel Margaret Barclay, Christina Winifred Sweeney, Catherine Lucy Sweeney, Robert Alexander Barclay and Thelma Lorraine Ryan.

Click here to read what we know about Kitty and Jack Barclay's family and descendants.

catherine ('kitty') laurence jack robert and betty barclay

Catherine ('Kitty') Laurence before her marriage to Jack Barclay. Jack at home on leave with his children Betty and Robert Barclay.

Kitty's younger sister, Bridget Ellen ('Nell' or 'Nellie') Laurence (1895-1949) married Robert Alfred Williams (1887-1960) at Narrandera in 1914 (a photo of them on their wedding day is shown below). Robert was born at Granya, a small town on the Victorian side of the border with NSW some 50 km east of Albury. His parents were Thomas Williams (1864-1913), and Ellen Mary Carlile (1869-1922) who were married in the Roman Catholic Church at Chiltern in northern Victoria on 9 October 1886. They had fourteen children of whom Robert was the eldest. Thomas, who worked as a miner, was born at Forbes in NSW and Ellen at Albury, the eldest daughter of Robert Carlisle/Carlile (1829-1903) and Mary Clancy (1838-1911) who were married there in 1868. Robert hailed from Belfast and Mary from County Limerick in Ireland. He had emigrated to Australia in 1854 and she in around 1861. They had seven children in addition to Ellen who died at Tallangatta in 1922.

After their marriage at Narrandera Robert and Nell lived in Albury where Robert worked as an engine driver and he and Nell had twelve children we are aware of: Robert Thomas, Mary Ellen, William Henry, Clarence Raymond, Charles Alfred, Clive Laurence, Myrtle, Kevin Royce, Joan, Kathleen Josephine, Norma June and Allan Wilfred Williams. The electoral rolls show them living on Elm Street in 1930 and on Western Hill in Albury at the time of the 1936/7 and 1943 elections. The 1949 roll has them at Day Street along with a Charles Alfred, Clarence Raymond, Kevin Royce, William Henry (all working as labourers) Florence and Rose Mary Williams. Nell died there the same year, the Narrandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser (20 May 1949 issue) informing its readers that: 'At the Albury District Hospital on Saturday last the death occurred of Mrs Nellie Williams aged 63, wife of Mr R. Williams of West Albury. Deceased was a native of Narrandera, having spent her childhood there and attended the Gillenbah public school. She was a daughter of the late Mr and Mrs W. Laurence of Gillenbah, and a sister of Mrs Ned Pearson of William Street Narrandera. She is survived by her husband, seven sons and four daughters. Six sons served in the last war with the Australian forces'. Robert continued to live at Albury until his own death there on 15 March 1960. He is buried with Nellie and their youngest daughter, Norma June Williams (1932-43), in the Albury Pioneer Cemetery.

bridget and robert williams wedding

Wedding photo of Bridget Ellen ('Nell') Laurence and Robert Alfred Williams at Narrandera in 1914.

As mentioned above, Nell and Robert had twelve children, five of whom - Kevin, Kathleen, Myrtle, Norma and Joan Williams - took part in a fancy dress ball that was held at the Albury West Primary School in November 1938 to raise funds for its local P & C Association. Norma died when she was only eleven years old. Her eleven siblings all reached adulthood and most if not all married. At least five of their seven sons served in the Australian Army during the Second World War: Robert in the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, William with the 21st Supply Depot Company ASC, Clarence with the 2/12th Field Regiment, Charles with the 11th Workshop and Park Company RAE, and Kevin with the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion. While a number of Nell and Robert's children lived all their lives in the Albury region, a number also moved away although, like the generation that preceded them, they continued to return either to spend time with family and old old friends or, in some cases, to see out the remainder of their lives there. We know nothing about Ellen and Robert's youngest son, Allan Wilfred Williams, beyond the fact that he married and had at least four daughters (shown in the photo below), and nothing about his sister Joan Williams. We know that William Henry Williams married Florence Curtis at Albury in 1940, but little about their lives and family. William's younger brother, Clive Laurence Williams (1922-2002) lived and worked for a time in Albury before, with his wife Mary Wilbur Williams, moving to Inala in Brisbane where Clive died in 2002. Although still to be confirmed, we think Clive and Mary had at least two children: Douglas Gordon and Laurence Clive Williams. Another brother, Kevin Royce Williams (1926-72), married Patricia Joan Robertson (1929-2014) in Victoria in 1948. According to the 'Angee family tree' on Ancestry, Joan's parents were James Robertson (1899-1978) and Alma Elizabeth Grace Roberts (1911-90) who were married in Victoria in 1932. Kevin and Joan lived all their married lives in the Albury/Wodonga area. Although still to be confirmed, we think they had at least one child, a son Kevin Royce ('Willy') Williams, who died at Rushworth in Victoria in 2005 aged 56 years. We have discovered a little more about Robert and Nell's remaining five children as follows:

1) Robert Thomas Williams (1915-73). Born at Albury, Robert married Ruth Lilian Fraser there in 1936. The Department of Veterans Affairs' WW2 nominal roll shows he enlisted in the Australian Army at Caulfield in Melbourne on 14 May 1940. He was then living at Albury and gave as his NOK R. Williams (presumably his wife). He was discharged on 19 February 1946 while serving as a private soldier in the 2/2 Pioneer Battalion. The Australian electoral rolls show he and Ruth living at 412 Wodonga Place in Albury in 1949 and then at 606 Parkinson Street until the late 1960s. It seems they may have then separated as only Ruth was registered at 606 Parkinson Street in 1972 and at 605 Jones Street in Albury in 1980. The Ryerson Index tells us that a Robert Thomas Williams, aged 56 and 'late of Sydney', died at Albury on 29 August 1973 and a Ruth Lilian Williams, aged 88, died at the Marionella Nursing Home in Albury on 7 July 2005. We don't know if they had any children.

2) Mary Ellen Williams (1916-82). Also born at Albury, Mary married Myron Vincent ('Duke') Butler (1908-79) there in 1946. Born at Tallangatta in Victoria, Myron enlisted in the Australian Army at Albury on 7 January 1942. He was discharged on 17 June 1944 at which time he was a private soldier in the 'MGO BRCH DES DIV'. According to William Butler's 'Butler Family Tree' on Ancestry, Myron's parents were William Butler (1872-1952) and Bessie Regina Yaensch (1875-1937) who were married at Wentworth in NSW on 10 October 1891 and had 17 children between 1893 and 1919. William was born at Bright in Victoria and Bessie at Kapunda in South Australia. Her father, Johann Wilhelm Heinrich Yaensch (1844-1923), who was born at Gross Lessen, Gruenberg Silesia in Germany, married a Mary Ann Brownlee (1839-1920) at Kapunda in 1859. William Butler's parents were Henry Butler (1828-1915), who hailed from Benenden in Kent, and Sydney-born Hannah Smith (1843-1919) who were married in Victoria in 1860.

In a posting on her 'My Family Tree Connection' Facebook Account, Dianne Coleman tells us that, as a young man, Duke Butler 'became a hard worker, trapping and selling rabbits. He would hang the rabbits in rows on the shafts and in the sulky leaving no room to sit so he would have to walk and lead the horse'. He and Mary Ellen 'had seven children: Morris, Ellen, Joan, Shirley, John (who died in childhood), Myron Jnr and Robert . . . In later years the family moved to Albury where Myron worked at "Young Husbands Wool Store" . . . he also carted firewood, splitting red gum and carting it in a spring cart. Ellen his daughter used to help him with the firewood - splitting the red gum with a 16lb hammer and five iron wedges, his only possessions - of which Ellen is so proud that she has refused all offers and "will never part with them". During WW2 Myron's wife Mary lost an eye through a mishandled operation, and had to "purchase a glass eye".' Diane adds that Duke died in 1979 and is buried in the Tallangatta Cemetery. Mary Ellen died three years later and is buried in the Wodonga Lawn Cemetery.

William Butler's 'Butler Family Tree' on Ancestry provides us with a few more details of Duke and Mary Ellen's seven children as follows: 1) Morris Vincent (1936-2011) who married Ruth Robertson and had six children (Fay, Clive, Michiel, Peter and Joyce Butler). Like his father, Morris is buried in the Tallangatta Cemetery. 2) Ellen Mary who married James David Edgar and had six children; 3) Joan who married a Booth and had four children (Sharyn, Raymond, Patricia and Coral Booth); 4) Shirley (1941-2013) who married a Boon and had five children (Mary Helen, Shane and three others); 5) John Robert (1946-8); 6) Myron Royce; and 7) Robert John Butler.

3) Clarence Raymond ('Clarrie') Williams (1919-85). Born at Albury, Clarrie enlisted in the Australian Army at Royal Park in Melbourne on 17 April 1941. He was then living at West Albury and gave as his NOK his father Robert Williams. He was discharged on 21 June 1946 while serving as a gunner in the 2/12 Field Regiment. The 1949 electoral roll shows him living with his parents in Albury and working as a labourer. The 'Gossip from Joan' column in the Wellington Times on 3 April 1950 tells us that a Mrs H. Williams of 'Oakville' at Baker's Swamp and her husband 'had the pleasure of a recent weekend visit from their granddaughter, Nurse Edna Syphers of Albury Hospital, accompanied by Mr Clarrie Williams, of the railway department, Albury'. The report added that the 'visitors also spent a few days in Wellington and were delighted with the town and the district'. The NSW index of BDMs show that Clarrie and Edna Pauline Syphers (1929-99) were married at Albury later that year. The Australian electoral rolls show them living in Lavington in North Albury in 1954 after which they moved to Canberra's Cotter valley region and later the northern suburb of Watson where Clarrie worked as a gardener and Edna as a factory hand. They separated in 1973 and Clarrie moved to the inner Canberra suburb of Turner where he died in 1985. Edna died in Canberra in 1999. She and Clarrie had one child, a daughter Lorraine.

4) Edna's older brother, Leonard Francis ('Len') Syphers (1928-95), married Edna's sister-in-law, Kathleen Josephine ('Kassy') Williams (1930-2017), at Albury in 1951. Len was then living at the Afforestation Camp at Uriarra and working as a labourer and an occasional rodeo competitor (the Yass Courier reported in its 1 May 1950 edition, that a Len Syphers of Uriarra fractured his leg 'when he jumped off a bullock . . . [and] was conveyed by Ambulance to the District Hospital arid admitted for treatment'). The Australian electoral rolls show that after their marriage, Len and Kassy lived at Albury where Len worked as a labourer and later a welder and he and Kassy had three children: Michael James, who worked as a motor mechanic, Owen Thomas, panel beater, and Sandra Therese Syphers who was working as a waitress in 1980. We believe that Len died in 1995 but have not yet been able to confirm it. Albury's Lester & Son Funeral Directors website tells us that: 'SYPHERS, Kathleen Josephine (Kassy) Passed away peacefully on Friday March 3, 2017. Beloved wife of Leonard (dec). Loving mother of Owen, Leon (dec), Michael, Sandra and their families' and that Sandra Therese Syphers (1961-2019) 'Passed away at home with family by her side. Cherished partner of Michael. Adored sister of Owen and Jack. Sister in law and aunty to their families'.

williamsAnother of Edna's brothers, Jack Syphers, who was born at Cowra in NSW in 1924, enlisted in the Australian Army at Dubbo in June 1943 and served as a driver in the 2/5th Australian Infantry Battalion until his discharge from the Army in December 1947. He then returned to Uriarra where he worked as a ranger at Uriarra Crossing. Jack married Ellen Marion Meehan (1924-1983) at Goulburn in NSW in 1947. According to the 'Maxine Davis Family Tree' on Ancestry, Edna, Len and Jack Syphers' parents were Aubrey David ('Billy' later 'Bill') Syphers (1896-1949) and Mary Agnes ('Molly') Owens (1904-63) who were married at Wellington in NSW in 1924. The report of their wedding, published in the Wellington Times on 11 August 1924, tells us Molly was the 'eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Owens, of 'Oakville' Baker's Swamp', and Aubrey 'the second son of Mr. and Mrs. James Syphers, of Dripstone', The report continued that the bride, 'who was given away by her brother, Mr. Stan Owens . . . was attended by her sister, Miss Biddy Owens, in the capacity of bridesmaid [while] the duties of best man were carried out by Mr. Laurel Sloane, of Cundumbul' (see the photo on the left). The 'Maxine Davis Family Tree' further tells us that Billy's grandfather, John Woodruff Syphers (1823-63), hailed from Vails Gate in Orange County in New York State. After arriving in Australia in around 1848 he married a Sydney girl, Mary Ann Real (1828-99), at Yass in NSW in 1851 and had seven children.

revisiting uriarraAfter living for a time at Bourke in outback NSW, Bill and Molly Syphers moved to the Australian Capital Territory where Bill was employed as the manager of the Uriarra Station until his death there in 1949 (the 1930 electoral roll has a Lancelot Eric Syphers also working at Uriarra as a station hand). Bill's death notices, published in the Canberra Times on 27 December of that year and in the Wellington Times on 9 January 1950, inform us us that he and Molly had seven children in addition to Edna: Aubrey John ('Jack') (1924-2003), Lorna Daphne (1926-87), Leonard Francis (1928-95), Elwyn Kieth (1931-2013), Maureen, Moya and Shirley Syphers. These all attended Uriarra Public School which was established in 1936 to service the forestry workers and fire surveillance officers living in the Uriarra Forestry Settlement as well as local farmers and their employees. The original school, known locally as the 'red school' because of its colour, was housed in the old Uriarra Post Office building. The following year it was relocated to a purpose-built structure situated on the edge of the settlement. We know, from a letter written in 1937 by Lorna Syphers to the children's pages of the Australian Worker, of which her father was a regular reader, that the children had to walk some two miles to school each day through 'acres and acres of pine trees' (the 13 year-old Edna had earlier told the same column that her 'favourite hobbies were singing, dancing, drawing and tennis'). The photo on the right, published in the Canberra Times on 22 September 1986, shows Edna Williams and two of her brothers, Jack and Elwyn Syphers, back at the Uriarra Public School to help celebrate its 50th anniversary. The brothers were in the school's original enrolment of 15 students while Edna was part of a later intake of students in 1936.

5) Myrtle Williams (c1926-2004) married a Scotsman, John Taylor Blair (1924-89), at Albury in 1944. Born at Glasgow, John enlisted in the Australian Army at Albury on 16 September 1942. He was then residing at Kew in Melbourne and gave as his NOK his father William. He was discharged on 30 January 1946 at which time he was serving in the 16th Advance Ordnance Depot in Albury. John's father was William Dickson Blair (1898-1982) who was also born in Glasgow and married John's mather, Jane Lyle Taylor (1900-27), there in 1920. Jane died in Glasgow in 1927 and William and his three children emigrated to Australia some time later. The Australian electoral rolls show that Myrtle and John Taylor, who was then working as an electro plater, lived in Albury until the early 1950s when they moved to Melbourne's western suburbs where they lived first at Sunshine - where John's father was living - and then Deer Park. The Greater Melbourne Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust website tells us that John Taylor Blair died at Deer Park on 29 December 1989 and is buried in the Rock Pool section of the Altona Memorial Park Cemetery (where his father had been buried on 8 November 1982). Sometime after John's death, Myrtle returned to Lavington in North Albury where she died on 20 April 2004. The electoral rolls indicate she and John had at least two children: John Robert Blair who, with his wife Lorraine Theresa, was living in Sunshine in 1980 and working as a mechanic, and Colin Royce Blair who, with his wife Carol June, was living at St Albans in 1980 and working as a leading hand.

williams bridget and son allan

Nell's eldest son Robert Williams and Nell with her youngest son Allan Wilfred Williams.

allan williams daughters

The four daughters of Nell's youngest son, Allan Wilfred Williams.

William and Mary Jane's youngest daughter, Lucy Margaret Laurence (1898-1985) was born at Narrandera and attended primary school at nearby Gillenbah where her parents owned a small farm. She married Edmond ('Ned') Pearson (1899-1990) at Narrandera in 1919 and had four children: Thelma Mary Miles (1920-84), Muriel Pearson who died as an infant in 1925, Edmund Royce Pearson (1928-2016) and Laurence Raymond Pearson (1935-93).

Click here to read more about Lucy and Ned's life, times and family, and here for more photos of Lucy and her siblings.

lucy and emily laurence

Lucy Margaret Laurence on the left and her sister Emily.

William and Mary Jane's eldest son, William Laurence (1893-1957) - pictured below on the left - was born at Kiama the year the family moved from there to their bush block at Yalgogrin South and thence to Gillenbah. During the period of the First World War he went to live in Sydney where he worked as a labourer and married Clare Elizabeth Blucher in the Ashfield registration district in 1919. Although still to be confirmed, we think Clare had been previously married and had a daughter - Winifred Claire Laurence (1908-86) - who William adopted. The Australian electoral rolls for 1930 and 1933 show William and Clare Elizabeth Laurence and their daughter Winifred living at 10 Gallipoli Street in the Sydney suburb of Concord (Winifred was then working as a typist). They were all registered at 18 Grosvenor Street in Croydon from at least 1943 until Clare and William's death there in 1956 and 1957 respectively.

Their daughter, Winifred Claire ('Winnie') Laurence, and her husband, Croydon-born Joseph Wood (1907-67) who she had married in the Burwood registration district in 1938, continued to live at 18 Grosvenor Street until Winnie's death there in 1986. Her husband had died in the Repatriation General Hospital in Croydon in 1967. The Department of Veteran Affairs' Second World War nominal roll shows that NX55324 Gunner Joseph Wood, born at Croydon in Sydney on 12 July 1907, enlisted in the Australian Army at Paddington on 1 July 1940. His NOK was Winifred Wood. He was discharged on 22 March 1943 while serving in the 5th Reinforcements for the 2/6 Field Regiment. We don't know if he and Winnie had any children.

Click here to see photos of William, Clare and Winifred Laurence.

Born at Narrandera, Alexander Charles ('Alick') Laurence (1900-76), lived with his parents on their farm at Gillenbah and attended the local school there. Records in the Australian National Archives show he enlisted in the First AIF at Narrandera on 11 July 1918. His enlistment papers show he was then single, working as a labourer and had previously served four years in the cadets and one month in the Australian Militia. His NOK was William Joseph Laurence of 'Glen Idol', Narrandera. It is not clear from his record whether and what unit he served with although he was discharged on 1 December 1919. After the war he worked with his father as a contractor before joining the NSW railways.

The 1930 electoral roll shows Alexander Charles Laurence, a railway employee, living on Darling Street in Dubbo in central NSW. The same roll has an Ellen Jane ('Nellie') Bult registered as living at the Railway Refreshment Rooms in Dubbo (a Levinia Bult was also working there as a waitress). Three years later, on 22 November 1933, Alexander and Nellie were married at St John's Anglican Church at Rockdale in Sydney. Their wedding certificate shows that Alex was a 33 year-old bachelor and railway fireman who was then living at Capertee (near Lithgow) in NSW. Nellie was a 30-year-old spinster who was born at Coonamble in NSW and, at the time of the weddingg, was engaged in domestic duties in Dubbo. Nellie's parents were Alfred Bult and Blanche E. George. According to The 'descendants of lamont' family tree on Ancestry, these were married at Warren in NSW in 1892 and had eleven children in addition to Ellen: Ethel M. (1893), Edith M. (1895), William A. (1898), Edward E. (1899), Charles V. (1901), Herbert H. (1903), Annie L. (1904), Arthur I. (1904), Ernest J. (1905), Lavenia B. (1908) and Sydney T. Bult (1910). It adds that Nellie's paternal grandparents were Eli Burchall Bult (1826-86) and Mary Ann Fuller (c1845-1920) who were married at Dubbo in around 1868. Eli came from Tiverton in Devon in England. After being convicted of theft and breaking out of gaol, he was transported, on the sailing ship SUSAN, to Van Dieman's Land in 1842. After being granted a conditional pardon in 1852 Eli left Tasmania for the Victorian gold fields.

In 1934 The Dubbo Liberal and Maquarie Advocate informed the followers of its 'Over the Teacups' column that:

Mrs A. Laurence was over from Capertee for the Wallace-Bult wedding. It is only three months since Mrs Laurence (the Miss Nellie Bult), a popular unit of the R.R.R. staff, whispered 'I will'. She is brighter than ever, and asked 'The Liberal' to convey her greetings to all old friends.

In 1936 and 1937 Alexander, a fireman, and Ellen Jane Laurence were living at 60 Ferro Street in Lithgow. In 1943 they were back at Dubbo (at 60 Darling Street). On 3 June 1947, the Narrandera Argus reported that 'Mr Alick Laurence, of Dubbo and formerly of Narrandera, has been spending a fortnight's holiday with his sister, Mrs Ned Pearson, of William Street, Narrandera, and his niece, Mrs R. E. Miles, of Sandigo. He is accompanied by his wife and family'. The electoral rolls show Alick and Nellie lived in Dubbo until 1958 when they moved to 71 Pierce Street in Wellington where they lived until Alex's death there in 1976. We have yet to discover when and where Nellie died. She and Alick had at least two children we know of:

1) Marie Ellen Laurence who was working as a telephonist in Wellington in 1958 and, we believe, married Kevin John Burrell, a labourer, at Wellington the same year. Although still to be confirmed, we further think that Kevin's parents were Percy Robertson Burrell (1908-77) and Neita Davis (1906-70) who were married at Orange in NSW in 1930 (the 1963 electoral roll shows Marie Ellen and Kevin John living on Obley Street in Cumnock in NSW together with a Percy Robertson Burrell, drover). Kevin and Marie were at Lot 35, Leonard Street in Dubbo in 1968 and 1980 (the latter roll also has a Jenny Ellen and Peter John Burrell registered as living there). According to the 'DuncanDavis' family tree on Ancestry.com, Kevin, born at Wellington on 17 December 1936, and Marie had three children: 1) Peter John Burrell, born at Wellington in 1959, married Tamara Shepherd in Dubbo in 1981 and had three children; 2) Jenny Ellen Burrell, born at Wellington in 1961, married Douglas Piesley at Dubbo in 1980 and had four children; and 3) Neil Anthony Burrell who was born at Wellington in 1964.

2) Edna Marion Laurence who was working as a nursing sister in Wellington in 1968.

Click here to see more photos of Alexander and Nellie.

Barn at Narrandera, Robert Thomas Laurence (1906-62) married Lily Mildred Malcolm (1911-97), the daughter of Thomas Frederick Malcolm and Elizabeth Jane Pitt, at Narrandera in 1934. After working for a time around Narrandera and the Dolby Downs in the Northern Territory, the family settled in the Kempsey region of New South Wales where Tom ran a sawmill at the town of Willawarrin. Lily continued to live at Willawarrin after Tom's death there in 1962 until her own death in 1997. She and Tom are buried in the Kempsey East cemetery together with their son Malcolm Bruce Laurence (1947-94). Tom and Lily had four other children in addition to Malcolm: Geoffrey Neil Laurence (1931-2012), Unita Fay Laurence (1935-39), Ronda Alice Laurence and Annette Mary Laurence.

Click here to read more about the life and times of Tom and Lily Laurence nee Malcolm and their family, and here to see more photos of them.

william laurence alexander charles laurence robert thomas laurence

William and Mary Jane's three sons: William, Alexander Charles ('Alick') and Robert Thomas ('Tommy') Laurence.

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