The Family History and Autobiography of Una Martin
Published March 2004 to celebrate the Author’s 9oth Birthday.
Una Martin – died in 2007
ISBN 0-9752031-0-X, Yardarm Press Tel. (08) 8683 0984
Post Script to ‘Treasure Girl’ from Judy Pearce – October 2009.
Print SOLD OUT but is available from your local Library or on Inter Library Loan from the Port Lincoln Library.
The idea to write a book grew in my mind as events unfolded later in life. My mother Rosabel sowed the seed long ago in the 1950’s when she carefully wrote down some facts gleaned from her aged Aunt Florence Elworthy. She meticulously noted names, places and dates of her family history. Being widowed at 57 and my children all married, I was free to go overseas to search out the origins of some of my forebears. During the first trip to England in 1972 I barely touched the edges of my family’s background but my quest for more knowledge had begun. I started researching in earnest, discovering like others, that so much of my personal history was woven into South Australia’s colonial past. I have found it an exciting adventure to explore the lives and exploits of my predecessors, making it easier to understand them, myself and my children.
We all know that points of view differ with each individual. If I have made omissions or errors in fact or judgment in the telling of this story, unwittingly creating any false impressions of people or events, I apologise. I hope that anyone who reads this book will find some pleasure and perhaps be inspired to write their own story and add new threads to the colourful tapestry of Australian history. There are many people I wish to thank for encouraging me to put pen to paper, even though or perhaps because, I’ve reached a mature age! These writings were actually completed in 1994 after my successful heart surgery at the age of 80. Publication has been achieved for my 90th birthday. Although I have enjoyed writing, I would never have had the temerity or the knowledge to present anything for publication without the encouragement and tutoring of that very valuable friend of writers, Madeleine Brunato – Arthur.
Putting this story together, I have used information collected by myself and others and flavoured it with a little imagination to create my perceptions of some aspects of my family history. Thanks are due to cousin Erica Cox for keeping the trunk containing all the wonderful old letters of yesteryear which have added authenticity to the story.
I thank my parents and brothers and sisters for providing a happy home for me where the value of family life was treasured. I am grateful to my children who have encouraged my writing over the years, and who have supported the publication of this book. And I’m thankful for all the events in my life – good, bad, happy and sad – that have helped to mould and strengthen my faith in God first shown to me in childhood.
My mother and I have known each other for 68 years. Her archival collections and snippets of history and relationships have influenced me by osmosis for a long time. Curating the family archives is both a privilege and responsibility. As I have pursued this task of seeing Mum’s writing efforts come to fruition, these characters of the past have begun to take form. Family traits have become obvious, and my understanding has grown. I have enjoyed selecting the photographs, researching the footnotes and collating the appendices for the book.
There are women appearing in this story who are subjects in themselves. I am attracted to Matilda Lincolne of Hong Kong, my great-great-great aunt, a prolific letter writer, musician, traveller and enlightened woman. Another book, referred to herein and published in Hong Kong has already been devoted to her. Her remains lie in the Happy Valley cemetery in that distant city.
One particular chapter tugs at my heart – the death of Catherine Bishop in Port Lincoln, the place where I now live. She lies in our Happy Valley Pioneer Cemetery. What a remarkable link. For me, this death is the pivotal point of the book’s tracery of mothers and daughters. I remember my mother’s emotion in a back room of the local courthouse in 1990 as we discovered her grandmother Catherine’s death certificate in the official register. This enabled Mum to commission an official marker for the previously unknown gravesite, which I can easily visit. She had filled in a part of the jigsaw her own mother Rosabel had tried to piece together all her life.
What a heart rending tragedy. A young woman already scarred with the Victorian era stigma of illegitimacy before she married, giving birth to seven children before the age of 35 in several remote country areas of South Australia, finally bleeding to death from a miscarriage in Port Lincoln in 1885.
It is hard to imagine the chaos within that family. The eldest child Marian was 10 and had some memories of the calamity, and it was these that my grandmother, the baby Rosabel, clung to in her attempts to know her parents. With the family breaking up and moving to various parts of the State and overseas, it was a very unstable period for the keeping of records. Understandably, dates and events in the collected family archives do not always add up.
As publisher of this book, I have endeavoured to authenticate this clouded period with help from the local Family History group, and have added names and dates from official records of Births, Marriages and Deaths, SA, NSW and WA which may interest some family historians. My mother’s imaginative written account remains, and includes reference to characters whose names may not be actual according to the circumstances. We can only guess, reading between official lines, and from young flawed memories handed down, how and when journeys were made from one place to another, and who helped the motherless family along the way.
From a personal perspective, I have found new poignancies in the loss of our father Phil Yeatman and other deaths in the family. At times during the six months of book preparation, my emotions became inextricably entangled with the task in hand. And now Una Martin, formerly Yeatman, born Farmer, is the oldest and only living holder of her family’s history from those past times. A true social historian, she has never knowingly thrown anything away, and has filed collections of letters, photographs, writings and artefacts all labelled, dated and sorted in exemplary fashion. We will all treasure this written legacy.