Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Chancing one's arm

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There is a conversation raging in Australia about asylum-seekers, and whether they are seeking refuge from persecution or whether they are economic refugees. In my wander through Camperdown Cemetery last week, I stumbled upon some economic refugees from an earlier era.

This is the family vault of Mary Chisholm (nee Brown) who died in 1817, aged 32. This is a very old vault and, seeing the first burial at Camperdown did not occur until 1849, she must have been transferred from The Old Burial Ground, beneath the current Town Hall which closed to interments in March 1820. When I first decided to trace her lineage, I thought her to be related to Caroline Chisholm, but not so.

Mary Brown emigrated from Scotland with her father, David John Drummond Brown, aboard the 'Earl Cornwallis' in 1801, together with her three brothers. Their mother and two sisters had perished in the two years prior, and their father had failed in various court attempts to regain land he considered rightfully his. A new start was required, and the Colony of New South Wales fitted the bill.


James Chisholm was one of those caught up in the tide of enthusiasm whipped up in the mother-land by Captain Francis Grosse who was putting together a regiment to maintain law and order in the new colony. Chisholm enlisted as a Sergeant in England in July 1790 and sailed on the 'Britannia' in the Third Fleet arriving in the fledgling colony in March 1791. He was discharged from the NSW Corps in February 1810. By then he had married Mary Brown, who bore him a son, James, in 1806. However, by then James Snr was set up for life. With his commission came the pledge of a grant of 60 acres of land. And he selected his grant at what is now the Eveleigh Goods Yards. However, his wife, Mary, departed this life in December 1817. Their son, James Jnr, pictured went on to begat 9 children, all but one living well into adulthood. James Snr died in 1837 and was interred here with his first wife. Looking at the dates, Mary had been re-interred into the Devonshire Sandhills Cemetery in 1820, and they were both re-interred into Camperdown when Devonshire was converted into Central Station in 1901. Tough journey.

However, with its compensations. For James Snr, at least. On his grant of 60 acres, he built Calder House (named after the village in Scotland from whence he, too, came), pictured here. So, even economic refugees add value.



This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.

12 comments:

Gemma Wiseman said...

A great story here! It still amazes me how Central Station was once the Devonshire cemetery area. All that seems to remain is the damp underground Devonshire Street tunnel for walkers from Central to George Street! I noticed your Monday Mural post in February showed lovely wall inserts and a tiled walkway! It used to be damp black tar that rolled down to the sides! Difficult to walk if you were unlucky enough to be near the wall with the gathering of water there!

diane b said...

You dig up such interesting snippets of history.

Joe said...

A fascinating history Julie. I like the connection with todays refugees. Gee they were reinterred a few times. So much for the term "resting place".

biebkriebels said...

You always have such nice histories. Unfortunately here is the same attitude. We always have been a tolerant country but a certain part of people want to close the borders to refugees or immigrants.

VioletSky said...

Not much rest for these poor souls.
I wonder if anyone ever thinks about the past cemetery as they walk through Central Station?

hamilton said...

It is truly astounding what the 'refugees' could accomplish in those days. I doubt we will see that kind of success again.

Julie said...

No, I think I diszgree, Hamilton. I feel I could go back into the lives of some of the Vietnamese refugees and find them similar pillars of the community. I expect the same will be able to be said of the Afghani refugees in 50 years time, too.

Deb said...

An interesting story, a family still on the move, even after they died! Does Calder House still exist?

Julie said...

No, I read a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald from one of the subsequent owners, and Calder House was demolished in about 1925. In that area there is still a lane called Cornwallis Lane after the boat which transported the early-deceased Mary. Calder House was on Wilson Street and it no longer exists either. The government of Sir Henry Parks resumed the 60 acres for the building of the railway yards in about 1875. The government paid the family 100,000 pounds. Calder House was then used as the superintendant's office, of all things.

Nicola Carpenter said...

What a facinating story. I really enjoyed reading it.

Herding Cats

CaT said...

me and tim have discussed a few times what would happen if there would be no borders. at all. everyone being free to go wherever he/she wants. whenever.
we concluded that most likely life for "us" will become a bit less good, but overall life will be so much better for many people... but im sure it will never happen.
i once brought it up during lunch somewhere. some became uncomfortable.. :) tim is very much for it. me? sometimes yes, sometimes no. im more selfish than he is i guess.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I think most refugees add value. I just wish we could get the community at large to understand this and hence make it easier to find a humane way to get them here.