Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A song of the sea


One Wednesday evening late in October 1855, the Court Perseverance of the Ancient Order of Foresters met in the Prince of Wales hotel in Adelaide for their anniversary dinner. After a meal which "for abundance and variety of delicacies, for exquisite cookery and choice wines, would bear favourable comparison with some of the crack hotels of the mother country", they got down to the important business of proposing the loyal toasts. 

After singing the national anthem, they toasted Her Majesty's health and then the health of Prince Albert and the rest of the Royal Family. Next they drank a toast to the Governor, and then to the Army and Navy, each toast being accompanied by a song from one of the Brothers. Someone proposed a toast to the High Court and Executive Council of the Ancient Order of Foresters. This was drunk "with the Forester's fire" (which I assume means enthusiastically.)

Then, perhaps made bolder than usual by alcohol, Brother Mason sang a song, The White Squall. After this the meeting settled to hear an account of how the Foresters had fared over the previous twelve months.

Brother Mason, I was surprised to discover, was none other than John Mason (my great great great grandfather). It's quite likely that this was the last meeting of the Court he would ever attend. Early the next year he became bed-bound and unable to work. In January 1857 he died, leaving his widow Catherine and eight children to fend for themselves.

The day after John's death, this announcement appeared in the Adelaide Times:



John's wisdom in joining the Foresters soon became apparent. The Ancient Order of Foresters was a mutual aid or Friendly Society, rather like the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) that my grandfather Albert Orton belonged to in Manchester. Members each contributed a levy, a small amount of money regularly, which was invested. If they died, the Order paid for their funeral and provided a sum of money for their widow and children.

They were not a masonic order, although they had some of their own rituals (including the making and drinking of many toasts, accompanied by song, it seems). Members came from all denominations, all social classes and levels of education. Local groups were known as Courts, each with their own fanciful name, and these belonged to larger Districts.

The Foresters would likely have paid for John's funeral from their funds and then provided Catherine with some financial support. This explains why she was able to avoid going back to the Destitute Board until several months after John's death. 

This fascinating and previously unknown detail of John's life was discovered through a 'hint' from the software I use (Roots Magic) which pointed to the funeral notice. It provoked my curiosity. What was the Ancient Order of Foresters, and what was the song that John sang at that anniversary dinner, when he and his fellow Foresters were well fed and probably already a little inebriated?

It was probably this one by George A Barker, sung here by Phillip Ritte:





The White Squall

The sea was bright and the bark rode well,
The breeze bore the tone of the vesper bell:
'Twas a gallant bark, with crew as brave,
As ever launch'd on the heaving wave.
She shone in the light of declining day,
And each sail was set and each heart was gay.

They near'd the land where in beauty smiles
The sunny shores of the Grecian isles:
All thought of home, of that welcome dear,
Which soon should greet each wand'rer's ear.
And in fancy join'd the social throng,
In the festive dance and the joyous song.

A white cloud glides thro' the azure sky,
What means that wild despairing cry?
Farewell, the vision'd scenes of home!
That cry is Help! where no help can come.
For the White Squall rides on the surging wave,
And the bark is gulph'd in an ocean grave.

A white squall is a violent windstorm that arrives without warning. The words are sadly prophetic for a man who was just beginning to get ahead in life when disaster struck him and his family.

Fix this textcomparison with ecme of the crack hotels of the mothercountry

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rosanna (Rosina)Bines

It's difficult to know what name to use for the woman who would become William Beales' mother. Her birth, late in 1846, was registered as "Rosana" Bines and that's how her name is spelled on the 1851 census. But in 1861 she was recorded as "Rosina" and in 1871 as "Rose Anna".

When she married James Beales in 1867 she was "Rosanna". The confusion is perhaps an indication that she and her family were illiterate and didn't really know how her name should be spelled. For this post, I'll refer to her as Rosanna.

Rosanna Bines was the first child of John Bines, an agricultural labourer from Little Clacton in Essex and his wife Eliza Barnes from the adjacent Great Clacton. Rosanna lived in Little Clacton until her marriage to James Beales, then spent the rest of her life in St Osyth, less than 7 kilometres (4.5 miles) away. Apart from her name appearing on the census every 10 years, and the records of her birth, marriage and death, her life went mostly unrecorded.

But not quite. Surprisingly, photographs of her still exist. The copies I have posted on this blog came from the internet some time ago, but who originally posted them and when is unknown. (If you know, let me know and I'll give them the credit.) I've also received copies of the same pictures from a cousin.

In the oldest of these, probably a wedding photo, a young Rosanna sits in a voluminous white dress besides the heavily bearded James Beales, looking a little startled by the camera. She holds a book in her hand, most likely a prayer book. James is neatly but rather shabbily dressed.

Many years later she and James have their photos taken with their grown up children, all dressed in what would surely be their Edwardian Sunday Best and wearing buttonholes. It's not clear whether the two photos - one with their daughters, the other with their sons - were taken on the same occasion. The clothes that Rosanna and James are wearing and the barn wall behind them are different in the two photos.


In these photos, Rosanna looks composed and remarkably well preserved for someone who has given birth to 15 children. Only two of her children failed to reach adulthood. Emily died in 1895 at the age of 9. The other child missing from the photo was possibly Ann*, born in 1874, who died in 1876.

None of the Beales' children seem to have been baptised as infants. Their names are absent from the on-line records of either the parish church of St Peter and St Paul or the Wesleyan Methodist church in St Osyth.  Other Beales names are recorded, presumably cousins and more distant relatives. Whether this was because the family belonged to a non-conformist church or sect, or they simply didn't have any religious affiliation before they joined the Salvation Army is another unknown.

They wouldn't have had to look far to find an alternative to the local Church of England parish. Essex seems to have attracted a number of unusual religious groups in the 19th century. St Osyth had a chapel belonging to the New Church, or Swedenborgians, based on the teachings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

The Peculiar People, a puritan offshoot of the Wesleyans founded by Robert Banyard in 1838, was also active in east Essex at this time. They believed strongly in healing by faith and refused to allow their children to be vaccinated against smallpox or to receive medical treatment. The deaths of some of their children led to the parents being taken to court.

St Osyth is reputed to be the driest place in England. Perhaps it was the salubrious climate, her life as a farm labourers' wife or the disciplines of the Salvation Army lifestyle that preserved Rosanna's health. She lived to the venerable age of 85, dying in 1931.

* Some online family trees list Anna Maria Beales as a child of James and Rosanna, but the only child I can find by that name was born in 1881, the same year as John Beales, and seems to be the child of George Beales. Possibly Ann was also known as Anna Maria. Her birth in 1874 fits in well between the births of George and Alfred, though I don't have confirmation that she was a child of Rosanna and James.