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Posts tagged ‘Rowley’

Persian Plantings

Recently, a chance mention of a ship called Persian by fellow writer and storyteller, Jackie Kerin, led to the discovery of an intriguing coincidence.

Jackie uses the Kamishibai format to tell the story of the historic voyage of the Persian in 1833 when it transported seeds and plants such as ferns, grasses and grape vines from England to Australia. The plants survived this long and arduous journey thanks to terrarium style glass boxes called Wardian cases.

The 1833 voyage carried an experiment by amateur horticulturist, Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, who wanted to see if the boxes he had designed could successfully transport plants and seeds across the oceans of the world when all other methods had failed.The experiment was a resounding success. After six months at sea enduring temperatures from  -7°C   to 40°C  (19.4°F to 104°F), the plants arrived ‘alive and vigorous’.

The Wardian cases were on the third voyage the Persian had made to Australia. The coincidence we discovered relates to the Persian’s second journey in 1830. This time, my paternal convict ancestor John Rowley was on board.

In 1830, John Rowley, an eighteen-year-old labourer from Leeds, and his partner in crime, twenty-two -year-old William Thackrah, were sentenced to death for breaking into a premises and stealing goods and chattels (such as  spoons,  sheets,  aprons, table-cloths & fabric).

Why the death sentence despite the fact the men had not hurt anyone? Crimes against property (and the Crown) were considered the most heinous by the British Government of the time, and no doubt the privileged class that owned property held the same view. So while thieves were hanged, a man found guilty of manslaughter was fined as little as one shilling.

Eventually, the death sentences imposed on Rowley and Thackrah were commuted to fourteen years transportation to Australia. Both men were on the Persian in 1830 when the ship transported 198 convicts (all male) to Van Diemen’s Land.

Three years earlier in 1827, the Persian had made her first voyage to Australia as a female convict ship carrying sixty convicted women including, to give an example, sixteen-year-old Charlotte Williams who had received a life sentence for a first offence of ‘stealing a watch from the person’.

All three voyages brought foreign transplants to the Australian continent.

Not all of the convict ‘plants’ had a beneficial impact but most of the 160 000 plus men, women and children who were transported across the oceans and transplanted on the Australian continent made positive contributions to the building of Modern Australia. When my ancestor, John Rowley, had served his time, he left Tasmania to take up land allotments in Gippsland, Victoria and played a significant role in the development of the township of Rosedale. Without convicts like him we would not have the Australia we know today.

Like the convict transplants, not all the exotic plants (or the microorganisms that travelled with them in the soil) transported in Wardian cases made a positive contribution to the Australian continent. However, without Dr Ward’s amazing case we would not be enjoying the health benefits of the Cavendish banana or locally grown delicious mangoes. In the 1840s the Wardian cases brought grafted mango trees to Australia from India, generating the establishment of mango production in Queensland.

The Wardian cases were so successful worldwide they revolutionised the transportation of plants and were even used in botanical espionage. In the19th century, China’s tea monopoly came to a halt when Wardian cases were used to successfully move nearly 20,000 tea plants from China to India. Likewise, Brazil’s monopoly on rubber ended when the Wardian cases facilitated the successful transportation of 70,000 germinated rubber tree seeds to Ceylon.

After bringing the first Wardian cases to Australia, the Persian returned to England in 1834, once again successfully carrying plants, such as the coral fern and the black wattle, across the oceans.

My ancestor was not free to return to his homeland but in his new land he planted many, many more plants starting with his own eight children who went on to ‘propagate’ numerous more Rowley ‘plants’.

Learn more about  Jackie Kerin’s story of The Amazing Case of Dr Ward .

Until next time….JB 🙂

References:

The Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases by N.B. Ward

A Commonwealth of Thieves by Thomas Keneally, Anchor Books 2007

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Holy Moly! My Name’s Rowley

As children, my siblings and I often proudly pranced around singing the chorus of A Frog He Would a Wooing Go.

With a rowley, powly, gammon and spinach,
Heigh ho! Says Anthony Rowley.

What a feather in our cap it was to know that our name was famous enough to be featured in a traditional nursery rhyme.

Rowley was my father’s name. Its origins date back to a small parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire in England. Before I started this blog I contacted the Rowley Parish Council in Yorkshire. They confirmed that the first syllable in Rowley rhymes with ‘bowl’ so that Rowley rhymes with ‘holy’ and ‘moly’ as in the song above. The catalyst for writing this rant about pronunciation was the straw that broke the camel’s back: something that happened to one of my nieces. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

Growing up in the small country town of Orbost, no-one ever mispronounced Rowley. So it came as a bit of a shock when, having ventured further afield to the big city, I first heard my surname pronounced so that the first syllable rhymed with ‘fowl’. I excused that person on the assumption that their education was lacking. However, when I heard it mispronounced a second time and then a third time, I started to get annoyed. It seemed to me that Rowley was incredibly easy to pronounce. How on earth could people get it so foully wrong?

This vexed issue was one of the reasons I chose the pen name Brigid George for the murder mystery series I have started writing; JB Rowley seemed too hard for many people. I’m waiting for the day when I’m invited up to the podium to accept my prize for best mystery novel at the Edgar Allan Poe Awards. Will they be able to pronounce Brigid George correctly?

For someone who has several names (June Barnes-Rowley, JB Rowley, Brigid George being the main ones) it might seem strange that I get my kickers in a knot about the mispronunciation of my family name. But I do.

I recall an instance when an English teacher in a secondary school mispronounced Rowley when she introduced me to her class as a guest speaker. When I corrected her, she objected saying ‘row’ rhymes with ‘cow’. To enlighten her, I wrote the word ‘bowl’ on her board. I could also have written: bowler, bowling, knowledge, etc. And I could have lectured her on different pronunciations of ‘ow’ such as in crow. However, since by this time she seemed willing to accept that I knew how to pronounce my own name, I didn’t.

Over the years, I resigned myself to the fact that on some occasions I will hear my name mispronounced and I should grit my teeth and remind myself that the Rowley motto is ‘bear and forbear’. HOWEVER, I knew I had to take action when one of my nieces recently told me that she had been informed by teachers at school that she was not pronouncing her name correctly. Her own name! For now, I’ll put aside the arrogance of those teachers and the damage they might have done to a young child’s confidence. There is something even more dangerous afoot.

Clearly, there is a conspiracy out there to brainwash all the Rowleys into mispronouncing their name! I knew I had to arm myself with my trusty pen and put a stop to this mischief. So here I am to set the record straight. All Rowleys will now have a reference to refer to and none of us need ever again be thrown into a state of discombobulation by non-Rowleys who think they know better.

I should point out that the Rowley coat of arms bears the wolf, so if you do mispronounce our name, beware of wolves!

Until next time…

JB 🙂

My father’s love letters

My father’s love letters to my mother show that, although Whisper My Secret is a heart wrenching story of loss and separation, it is also a story of romance and enduring love. When my mother, Myrtle Webb, was forced to give up her first three children, she walked into the arms of a man whose passion and love for her endured through time, through poverty, hardship and illness.

I’ll let my father speak for himself through two of his letters to my mother. I have quoted from both of these letters in Whisper My Secret and I thought you might like to see copies of the originals. (You might prefer to finish the book before reading the letters.)

The first one was written in 1945 when Dad was still in the army and desperate to get out to be with Myrtle and their first-born, Bobby.

The second one was written almost twenty years later in 1964, when Dad was in the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne terminally with leukaemia while Mum and us kids were miles away in Orbost. It is clear that his anguish at being separated from Myrtle was just as strong as it ever was.

Click on the images to make them larger.

For those of you who find my father’s handwriting difficult to read, I have transcribed the letters below.

Transcription of army letter 1945:

VX.62956 A.G.Rowley, 140 A.C.T. Coy, Site 16, Seymour, Vic

Dearest “Myrtle”,

Hello, “darl”, how are you today? It’s the old man again. Gosh, that makes me feel old as hell, ah well I guess we are getting old aren’t we? Well, I don’t know what to write about, “love”.

Well, there’s blokes here getting out every day all around me. There’s two went yesterday and three more today and there’s two more next week I know of. All except me. I guess my turn will come eh, “love”?

Well, “darl’ is there anything you want or anything about the place you don’t like up there. If there is just let me know and I’ll try and fix things up for you, do my best anyway, “Myrtle”. Well “Myrtle” how is “Bobby” getting on now, “darl”? I hope he’s alright. Well, “darl”, I’ll soon know now whether I can get out on my wrist in another 6 or 8 days or so.

[The top of this page is covered in kisses and a message under the kisses reads: All my love to you “darl’.]

I hope so anyway. Boy, I hope they say out of it altogether. Well, “darling” there doesn’t seem to be much to tell you except that this silly “sergeant’ here is trying to make me work hard and I’m just not going to do what he wants. I mean I am not going to ruin my wrist just for him, hang him. He thinks I am just putting it on and reckons it isn’t really sore at all. Well, I’ll give him something to think about. I’ve just been and saw the medical “sergeant” and he’s going to fix it up for me.

Well, “darl” I hope to see you soon and all my “love” and kisses from your ever loving “Husband”, George. All my love, “darl” and young “Bobby” – give him my love will you, “Myrtle”.

[The rest of this page is filled with kisses.]

Whisper My Secret is available as an ebook here:

Transcription of letter from Alfred Hospital, 1964

17.9.64,A.G.H. Rowley,Ward 23,Alfred Hospital,Prahran Vic

Dear Myrtle,

I got your letter today written on 12/9/64. Well, Myrtle, I don’t know when I will be home. It seems like they are testing me still. I don’t know what they are up to. I suppose I will have to leave it to them. I had a blood transfusion a couple of days ago.

How are you managing, Myrtle? I hope everything is going alright for you. Yes, I miss you a lot too but what can I do? It’s in the doctors’ hands and they don’t tell you much. Tell Peter I hope it’s very soon, because I’m a bit sick of hospital.

What did Joiner and Cross come over for? Just a sticky beak I s’pose.

Now, look Myrtle you want to look after yourself and don’t sit up at night because I’m quite alright. As a matter of fact I feel pretty good but I still sweat at night and I get a temp [temperature] now and again. Now you get your sleep and don’t worry. They will probably get sick of me before long. I hope so anyway. I weigh 10.10 [10 stone 10 lbs/68 kg] That was last Sunday but I think I have put on some now because they are giving vitamin tablets and I am eating pretty well.

I better go now but keep writing, Myrtle. I look forward to your letters. Look after yourself. Love from George. [Row of kisses here]

Notes:

1: ‘Peter’ is my youngest brother who was still a toddler when my father became ill. He fretted for his father when Dad was in hospital.

2: My father has referred to two of the local men by their surnames (‘Joiner’ and ‘Cross’).

Whisper My Secret is available as an ebook here:

More about Whisper My Secret:

Until next time… JB 🙂

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