Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Comings and goings

Australia's first boat people
Yesterday was Australia Day, the day when Australians remember the arrival in Port Jackson (in 1788) of a fleet of British convict ships. From these ships staggered several hundred disgruntled prisoners and their guards, while the local Aboriginal people looked on in disbelief.

The day got me thinking about the people in our own family history who left the land of their birth to migrate, willingly or otherwise, to another country.

Irish migrants to Manchester

On the maternal (Orton and Bentley) side, most of the migration seems to have been from Ireland to Manchester in England. I've mentioned previously that it seems likely that Samuel St Ledger and Alice Dodd both had Irish parents.

One of my grandmother's great grandmothers, Elizabeth Hardman, the child of Patrick and Margaret Hardman, was also born in Ireland, in Galway. Her family migrated to Manchester around 1840 when she was a young child. She  married John Holt in 1853.

The most notorious 'migrant' on the Bentley side of the family was Alfred Pearson Bentley, who in 1879 left his wife and 4 children in Salford and sailed to Massachusetts. There he married (bigamously) and had another son. He and his new family eventually returned to England and lived not many miles away from his first family. More of him in a later post.

One of Samuel and Alice St Ledger's grandsons, Frederick Helliwell, migrated to New South Wales in Australia some time after his marriage to Frances Beatrice Farmer in 1903. Frederick died in Redfern in NSW in 1933 and Frances in 1968. As far as I'm aware they had no children.

To Australia and back

On the Beales side of my father's family, we have John Mason, who was probably an Irishman, and quite possibly a convict. He arrived in Sydney quite early on, sometime before 1841, and married Catherine Murphy, another immigrant. They moved to Adelaide in 1845, and remained there for the rest of their lives.

One of their 8 daughters, Susan (born 1849) married an English soldier, David Whybrew, who was stationed in South Australia for a while. Susan returned to England with David after the birth of their second child, Eliza, (who became my paternal great grandmother). Their first daughter, Harriet, born in South Australia, was left behind and didn't join them in England until her late teens.

Susan's younger sister, Eliza (born 1850), also married a British soldier, Jeremiah Murphy. They moved with the army to England and then to Scotland. The rest of the Mason's daughter seem to have stayed in Australia.

David Whybrew's older half-brother, Jeremiah, migrated to Canada with his employers in 1850. He married and had a family and died there in 1878.

Two of David and Susan Whybrew's daughters, Alice and Rose, migrated via Canada to Cook County in Illinois in the early 1900's. Unfortunately neither of them seem to have had happy experiences there. Alice died not long after she arrived, leaving a husband and young daughter, while Rose lost her only son when he was six.

The Ward side of my paternal family all seem to have remained staunchly in Lancashire, except for an occasional foray into the wilds of Yorkshire. The only migrant I've discovered is Henry Heaps (born 1832), a nephew of Matthew Cragg, who migrated to Utah, USA in 1869.

And then, of course, there are the members of my own childhood family, who came to Australia unaware that we had forbears and distant relatives here.

Does anyone know of any other migrants in the family?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fustian cutters

Samuel St Ledger (1821-1882) was a fustian cutter all his life, and so were his sons Ralph, Samuel, William and David. In her younger days his wife, Alice Dodd, was also a fustian cutter. But what did a fustian cutter do?

Corduroy: This modern diagram shows the warp (3) 
and the long (red-4) and short (green-5) weft threads; 
traditionally the knife (1) and the guide (2) 
are attached and the cutting motion is upwards.
"Cordsamt 6" by Ryj - Digitalkamera FinePix A 201. 
Licensed under Public Domain 
via Wikimedia Commons

Fustian refers to several types of heavy cotton cloth such as corduroy, velveteen and moleskin, which were once used mainly to make work clothes. It had ridges running along its length formed by loops of thread woven into the weft. For corduroy and velveteen these loops had to be cut to give the cloth a soft, thick surface.

The fustian cutter (sometimes called a cord cutter) used a tool rather like a modern-day stitch cutter (or button-hole cutter) on a long handle. This was run carefully along each ridge, cutting the loops.

At 7 ridges per inch, a bolt of corduroy cloth 31 inches (~ 80cm) wide would have been over 200 ridges across. Each bolt was many metres long, so cutting every one of these ridges was a laborious and skilled job.

The material was stretched across a long table and the fustian cutter would walk along the length of it, cutting one ridge, then back to cut the next one. Some fustian cutters were able to use two knives simultaneously. Once one length had been cut, the fabric was advanced. After the whole bolt had been cut, the material would be processed further to clean and brush it and then it was dyed.

Since each fustian cutter held their knife at a particular angle, it was important that only one person work on a bolt of cloth, otherwise it would be obvious where one stopped cutting and the other started. In a 60 hour week, a good fustian cutter could cut 500 yards (457 metres) of cloth. For this they might be paid 15 shillings.

Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire was particularly well known for its fustian manufacturing, and it was sometimes referred to as Fustianopolis. Foster Lane, where the St Ledgers lived, was the centre of fustian production. Some of the moleskin cloth produced here was exported to Australia, where it was used to make the iconic moleskin trousers worn by stockmen and other bush workers.

The first part of this video demonstrates what was involved.

Fustian cutting from Alternative Technology Centre on Vimeo.