A monument to loss, and a touchstone for action

A monument to the short life of Emily Keeling; murdered aged 17. Monument erected by members of her church and other well-wishers. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

A monument to the short life of Emily Keeling; murdered aged 17. Monument erected by members of her church and other well-wishers. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Monument: something erected in memory of a person, event, etc., as a building, pillar, or statue

A headstone (tombstone, gravestone) is – for most of us – the only monument that will be erected in our memory. Whether it is a simple wooden cross, an elaborate marble angel, or anything in between, the placing of a headstone is an act of remembrance.

The headstone of Emily Keeling stands next to that of her parents. It is weathered and damaged and the ground around it is broken and uneven, but the inscription is clear and tragically poignant.

Sacred to the memory of Emily Mary the beloved daughter of George and Emily Keeling of Arch Hill who was shot while on her way to the Primitive Methodist Church Bible Class Alexandra Street April 2nd 1886. Aged 17 years.

I discovered Emily’s story because of her monument. The Big T and I were wandering around Symonds’ Street Cemetery in central Auckland and read the inscription. Curiosity about that word “shot” sent me to Papers Past* to find out more. New Zealand even now is not a nation of gun-owners, and the idea of someone – especially a young woman – being shot in 1886 seemed not only tragic, but quite bizarre. Was it an accident? Or murder?

Sadly, the latter.

Emily Keeling was murdered a few metres from her home by a man who had that day written to his family ‘… I am going to shoot myself tonight. I love Emily Keeling as no-one ever loved before.’

It was an autumn evening and Emily was on her way to Bible Class. After shooting her, the man – Edwin Fuller – ran a few hundred metres to an adjacent street and fatally shot himself.

Emily Keeling was a victim of domestic violence; another name on a too-long list of women attacked and killed by men who claimed to love them. It is shocking that Emily was so young, a teenager living with her parents. It is shocking that she died in the arms of her neighbours on the street where she lived. But for me what is truly shocking is that Emily Keeling died one hundred and twenty eight years ago but her story is that of countless women now; women who are still suffering and dying at the hands of their husbands, partners and lovers – past and present.

Buried next to, but many years before, her parents. George and Emily Keeling (snr) grew old, robbed of their only daughter. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Buried next to, but many years before, her parents. George and Emily Keeling (snr) grew old, robbed of their only daughter. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

An anniversary and a chance to reflect

Today is the anniversary, not of Emily Keeling’s death, but of her birth; 18 April 1868. Had her life not been so brutally cut short, she might have married, had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who would remember her. She might have become a teacher, a nurse, a businesswoman. She could have been one of the 25,000 women in New Zealand who signed the Suffrage Petition in 1893 and been amongst the first women in the world to cast a vote in a general election.

Page 1 of the Suffrage Petition; signed by over 25,000 women. New Zealand was the first country in the world in which women gained the right to vote – in 1893.

She may have joined – or been part of the formation of – the Society for the Protection of Women and Children (1893), or the National Council of Women, formed in 1896.

We can imagine any number of lives for Emily Keeling, but she experienced none of them.

Small country, big problem

New Zealand has a shockingly high incidence of domestic violence. In 2013 alone, the Independent Collective of Women’s Refuges helped 20,000 New Zealand women in abusive relationships. And if that number seems high, it represents only a small percentage of the victims of domestic violence. For this is a crime that is terribly under-reported.

NZ Police statistics show that:

– 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime

– 78 percent of partner homicides in NZ are men killing their current or ex female partner

– on average, 14 women and eight children in New Zealand are killed by a member of their family each year

Fourteen women and eight children

That’s twenty two names on headstones; 22 futures we can only imagine; 22 lives remembered in monuments to pain and violence and loss.

I went to see Emily today; as I know a friend went on the anniversary of Emily’s death. I went in sadness; having read in the newspaper this morning that police going to tell a woman of her husband’s death in a car smash instead found her dead body. According to the news Police are treating the woman’s “violent” death as a homicide and say it is linked to her husband’s fatal crash this morning. This comes only one day after a man was charged with the murder of his estranged wife in Wellington, and a week after another man was arrested in Auckland for the murder of his partner.

I would have liked to tell Emily that things have got better; that men don’t kill and maim and terrify women and children in the name of “love” any more. I would have liked to tell her that organisations like Women’s Refuge – which didn’t exist in Emily’s lifetime – are no longer needed now.

But I can’t

So instead I’m doing what I can to make sure that domestic violence isn’t buried away as a “family matter” – something that can be ignored or downplayed. For me that means involvement with NZ Sculpture OnShore, a biennial sculpture exhibition that raises funds for Women’s Refuge. Established by a group of passionate, creative and highly organised women who began fundraising for Women’s Refuge twenty years ago, NZ Sculpture OnShore will hold it’s 10th exhibition in November 2014.

 

Bernie Harfleet 14 2012 photo Gil Hanly

Bernie Harfleet, 14, 2012. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore in 2012, each coffin represents a women killed in any one year in NZ by a family member. Photo Gil Hanly.

Like many people, I’m doing what I can, so that one day I can visit Emily and tell her that truly, things have got better.

Until then, if you would like to know more about the work of Women’s Refuge, click here.

And if you want to know about a NZ Sculpture OnShore, click here.

* Papers Past is an initiative of the National Library of NZ to digitise historic newspapers from all around NZ.

This post was written as part of the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. Here are some other “Monuments” I liked:

http://dunelight.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-2/

http://bmagpub.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/wpc/

http://priorhouse.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-richmond-virginia/

http://janeykate.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://thisisfaa.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://photorambles.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://mrsaylasadventures.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://everythinginthemoment.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-old-burying-ground/

http://cindi-keller.com/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://theapersson.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://rosekebab.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://leeannewalker1.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/monument-a-little-tribute-to-daisy/

http://2e0mca.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://drycrikjournal.com/2014/04/13/wpc-forgotten-monument/

http://kaldirimlar.com/2014/04/13/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://retireediary.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-hill-of-crosses/

http://tanzalongs.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-5/

http://nomineuk.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://ceenoa.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://ruraliowapastor.com/2014/04/17/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://katieprior.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-2/

http://lindylecoq.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/greatness-and-sacrifice-weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://pogirlshines.me/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://isatinsilentmusing.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://pieterk515.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://nelabligh.com/2014/04/15/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://marialackey50.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://kcinaz.me/2014/04/14/monument-library-of-congress/

http://bluejbluej.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/momument/

http://bmagpub.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/weekly-photo-challenge-monument/

http://undefinedbydesignblog.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/weekly-photo-challenge-monument-roadside-monument/

 

 

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On abandoning sacred places

As if I didn’t have enough to do researching my own family … I can’ t resist knowing about other people’s!

Zimmerbitch

Kohekohe Presbyterian Church, Awhitu Peninsula, Auckland. Deconsecrated in 1976. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013 Kohekohe Presbyterian Church, Awhitu Peninsula, Auckland, New Zealand. Deconsecrated in 1976. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013

There are many littled churches like Kohekohe dotted around New Zealand. Our devout nineteenth century settler ancestors built churches as a matter of course wherever townships sprang up.

Population shifts and a decline in church attendance has led to the abandonment of many of these small, rural places of worship.

The old church at Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Su Leslie 2013 The old Free Kirk, or Duff Memorial Church at Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Like the Kohekohe church, the now-abandoned Free Kirk in Kirkmichael was built in the 19th century. It came into existence because of a schism in the Church of Scotland whereby the evangelical wing of the church broke free from the established Church. In Kirkmichael, the Free Kirk stands south of the River Ardle, along a narrow farm track, while the established Church is on the north side, on a…

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An obscure object of affection

A gift to my father, aged 12, from his mother.

A gift to my father, aged 12, from his mother. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

I’m always impressed and slightly amazed when friends and fellow family historians reveal a collection of treasured heirlooms, photographs and other memorabilia. How do families keep such treasures from being lost, thrown out or sold? How do they find their way into the hands of those who will preserve and treasure them?

I thinking about this because I’m now the custodian of a (very small) collection of photographs and objects given to me by my mother. At the moment, it’s all stored in an archive box, but I know I’ll need to do more not only to preserve these things now, but to keep them from being tossed out after I’m gone. The former task is easy.  The latter — persuading my offspring to preserve his heritage no matter how trivial it appears, because one day he will come to appreciate his connection to the past — well, that’s the challenge isn’t it. The boy-child shows absolutely no interest in the past. His father has only recently started to wonder about his own family, and yet, I feel as though I’ve always been connected to my ancestors.  Perhaps it helps that my mother is a great story-teller, and that I actually had living great-grandparents as a flesh-and-blood presence in my life.

It probably helps too that I’m a bit of a Borrower. Years ago — when I was a child in fact — I persuaded my father to give me his childhood autograph book. I have no idea why I wanted it, but suspect it has something to do with not wanting my brother to have it. It’s somehow survived my globe-trotting and years of living in rented flats. Although I haven’t consciously treasured it, I have always kept it safe — again, I don’t really know why, but I’m so glad that I did.

My dad was given the book by his mother when he was fourteen. It wasn’t a birthday present — his birthday is in July and the book’s inscription is dated Nov 29th 1946.

Nov 29th 1946. To Ronnie from his loving mum. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Nov 29th 1946. To Ronnie from his loving mum. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

My grandmother died just three and a half years after she gave this gift. Although my father doesn’t talk much of his past, I know her death was a sorrow he’s never stopped feeling. He named me after his mother and I like to think that my family history project is, in some small way, honoring her memory.

William, Susan and Elizabeth Elder. Photo taken in Kirkcaldy, Fife, probably around 1914-15

William, Susan (my grandmother) and Elizabeth Elder. Photo taken in Kirkcaldy, Fife, probably around 1914-15

Most of the autographs in the book are footballers – mainly players for Dad’s local Club Raith Rovers, plus a few from Rangers F.C. and Celtic.

"Best wishes Ronnie, Sincerely Yours, Uncle ???" A page in my father's autograph book. Photo: Su Leslie 2014

“Best wishes Ronnie, Sincerely Yours, Uncle ???”
A page in my father’s autograph book. Photo: Su Leslie 2014

This page was a mystery to me; I’d never heard of the Gaumont British Junior Club. But is seems that Gaumont was a cinema chain of which the Rialto was part. I guess the Junior Club was probably a Saturday movie-fest for kids. The interesting thing about the page is that the inscription is:

Best wishes Ronnie,

Sincerely Yours

Uncle ??

I’m really curious about this entry, and will have to ask my dad which uncle it was, and about his connection to the cinema.

So my dad’s little book is not only a link through him to my grandmother — giving me the only example I have of her hand-writing, but also a clue to the story of a great-uncle I may not know about.

This post was written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge.

Here are some other bloggers’ posts that I have enjoyed:

http://artbea.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/weekly-photo-challenge-object/

http://ididitforjohnny.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/weekly-photo-challege-object/

http://amcnabb.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/weekly-photo-challenge-object/

http://photographictrek.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/object/

http://longingtostray.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/wpc-object/

http://privatemixture.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/weekly-photo-challenge-object/

http://anttijohansson.net/2014/02/05/wpcobject/

http://lolalilu.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/479/

http://sonyaliraphotography.com/2014/02/04/weekly-photo-challenge-object-the-bell/

http://wholeyjeans.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/weekly-photo-challenge-object-2-of-2/

http://wahinewednesdays.com/2014/02/04/object-found/

http://jennnadams.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/weekly-photo-challenge-object/

http://eye4beautie.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/weekly-photo-challenge-object/

http://fadedpaisley.com/2014/02/04/weekly-photo-challenge/

http://glittermoonvintagexmas.com/2014/02/04/weekly-photo-challenge-object/

Tombstone Tuesday: a small serendipity

Monument to John Lazar, Hokitika Cemetery, Westland, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie 2008.

Monument to John Lazar, Hokitika Cemetery, Westland, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie 2008.

I took this photo five years ago in the cemetery in Hokitika, on New Zealand’s West Coast. One of the Big T’s aunts had once lived in the town, and we’d gone for a little tiki tour to see if he could find her house.

Hokitika isn’t a big place, so it wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the edge of town; on a hilltop at the cemetery gates.

I love cemeteries; T hates them. So it probably tells you all you need to know about my partner that he was willing to spend the twilight of a summer’s evening in a graveyard.

I didn’t know who John Lazar was. I took the photo merely because – as we were walking back to the car – a last finger of sunlight rested briefly on his monument and it made for a nice shot.

It has taken me five years to wonder “who was John Lazar”?

The answer made me smile and think about the nature of co-incidence. John Lazar was born in Edinburgh in 1803; 158 years before I was born there. He emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s; my family did the same in the late 1960s. And John Lazar was a life-long Freemason – like my father.

He also sounds like an interesting character.

Born in Edinburgh, but brought up in London, he was Jewish – the son of a clothier turned stock broker and a German mother who died when John was relatively young. He worked as a commercial traveller and then a silversmith and jeweller in London before emigrating to Australia with his wife and children in 1836. Three of his ten children had died in infancy in England; three more died on the voyage. [Source: West Coast Times, June 1879]

Before moving to New Zealand he lived in South Australia where he was the the Mayor of Adelaide (1855-1858) and was an actor and impresario – owning theatres in Sydney and Adelaide. He was the first Town Clerk of Hokitika, rising also to hold the positions of County Treasurer and then Provincial Treasurer. [Source: NZ Electronic Text Collection. The History of the Jews in New Zealand, Chapter XV A Ghost Synagogue.]

John and his wife were were apparently well-known, and much loved members of the local Jewish congregation – and of the wider West Coast community. It was said of him that he “combined the rare qualities of immaculate dignity and witty joviality.” [Source: NZ Electronic Text Collection. The History of the Jews in New Zealand, Chapter XV A Ghost Synagogue.]

A report in The West Coast Times from 1873 describes him performing a comic song or two at the closing concert for the Hokitika Exhibition – in which he is described as “The Jolly Town Clerk.”

It seems that Lazar’s ties to Freemasonry were long-standing. He had held high-ranking positions in Lodges in Australia and in Otago before becoming the first District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge in Westland. When he died in 1879, the costs of his funeral and the rather beautiful monument were met by his Masonic brethren. [Source: Lazar Lodge]

I found this wonderful photo of John Lazar at Early New Zealand Photographers. The photo itself is in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

“Mr John Lazar, D.G.M. of Westland by Rudolph Haigh Reference: REF:natlib.govt.nz:tapuhi:1/4-006809\G Alexander Turnbull Library National Library of New Zealand”

I also found his obituary from the Hokitika Star which begins with the words:

“Today the remains of Mr John Lazar, the Right Worshipful District Grand Master, under the English Constitution, were interred in the cemetery with every mark of respect, and were followed by perhaps the greatest number of persons ever seen in a funeral procession in Hokitika.”

… while his obituary in the West Coast Times ends with:

“It may truly be said of him, that he was one of Nature’s gentlemen, an honest, conscientious, and noble-minded man, and one who will be missed in society for many years to come.”

If there is a point to this story – other than to celebrate a New Zealand pioneer (and that is a worthy point), it is to say thank you to the institutions and people who work tirelessly to make historical information available online; so that everyone from dedicated family historians (of which group I consider myself to belong) to the mildly curious (which is all I really was in this case) can know more about the characters who populated our past, and the events that shaped them.

In particular I want to acknowledge:

The District Grand Lodge of South Island whose website gave me my first glimpse into John Lazar’s life

Papers Past; a wonderful initiative of the National Library Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa which is working in conjunction with libraries, historical societies and others to digitise New Zealand’s newspaper archives.

New Zealand Electronic Text Collection – Te Pūhikotuhi o Aotearoa, part of Victoria University of Wellington Library. This wonderful initiative contains both digitised historical texts and born-digital materials relating to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Kirkcaldy Museum potteries exhibits: another stop on the UK roadtrip

I’ve been researching my Leslie family roots a bit, and discovered that my great grandfather David Leslie, worked as a kilnsman in one of Kirkcaldy’s potteries.

Bowl made by David Methven & Sons, Kirkcaldy. Photo credit: Scottish Pottery Society

It seems that most of my ancestors were working class – with many being involved in the flax and jute weaving industries, or working in Fife’s coal mines.

I knew vaguely that Kirkcaldy had potteries – my Cruden great grandparents lived in Pottery Street when I was a child (although at the time, I associated the name with pottering around – the way old people do) – but I didn’t realise until yesterday that Kirkcaldy was quite an important centre in the Scottish ceramics industry.

According to an extract from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical* (which has been scanned and is available online), in the 1880s, the potteries employed around 500 workers.  This is a relatively small number, compared to the weaving, coal and iron industries, but the town still sustained four separate potteries.

It’s likely that my great grandfather would have started work in the 1880s, probably when he turned 14. All subsequent records for him (marriage, census, death certificate) give his occupation as Kilnsman.

I don’t know which of the potteries he worked in, although I do know that the family lived around Links Street, at the southern end of town. The largest pottery was David Methven and Sons (Kirkcaldy Pottery) in Links Street, while the other three potteries were located around Dysart and Sinclairtown. It would make sense that he lived close to work (they rented their home so there were fewer barriers to moving), so I’m guessing he probably worked for Methven & Sons..

Aerial photo of Kirkcaldy, including David Methven & Sons pottery Photo from Britain from Above. http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/spw027213

The Kirkcaldy Museum has exhibits relating to the potteries including photographs, so this is definitely somewhere to visit while I’m in the UK!

* Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

Casting stones

So when they continued asking him, he lifted himself up, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone … — John 8:7. King James 2000 Bible (©2003)

Abbotshall Parish Church, Kirkcaldy. Photo: http://www.presbyteryofkirkcaldy.org.uk/

I’ve been browsing a Fife Family History Society publication (No. 21); Abbotshall Kirk Session Minutes 1793-1812* looking for anything that might help me find out more about my 3x great grandfather David Forbes.

I know that he was christened in Abbotshall Church on the 4th October 1807, so presumably his family lived in the parish.

The Minutes provide a record of the Kirk Session’s activities. The Session ‘comprised the minister and elders of the parish, and it was concerned with (in addition to the business of the parish) the morals of the parishioners.’ (source: Find my Scottish Ancestors blog http://findmyscottishancestors.blogspot.co.nz)

I had no particular reason to believe that David’s parents  – John Forbes and Susan Foulis (or Fowlis, or Fowls) – might have been hauled in front of the Kirk Session, but I have so few sources of potential information about them, it seemed worth trawling through the publication – just in case.

Well I didn’t find my ancestors, and for their sakes I’m glad. The Minutes make for depressing reading. It seems that apart from electing new school-masters, pretty much all the Session did was pass judgement on parishioners’ lives and give them a bollocking for their transgressions. These seem mainly to have involved adultery, bearing illegitimate children and running off to Edinburgh to get married.

Here are a few examples from the record:

31 July 1798, Benjamine Adams, Sailor on HM gunboat Rattle. Irregular marriage to Jean Mitchel. Clandestinely married 26 February 1798 in Edinburgh.

17 October 1805, John Moise, Mason, “(young man)”, child begot. The mother is named as Agnes Balflower.  The notes say “Child begot Feb 1805 – he denied guilt.” On the 4th November 1810, there is another entry for John Moise which says Restoration “Church privileges restored after upwards five years.” Presumably he’d continued to deny paternity.

31 March 1811 and 21 April 1811, John Chalmers and Ann Clark begot a child in adultery. She confessed she had brought forth child at the March session, and then in April she appeared and was rebuked for fornication.

7 June 1812, William Ferguson, Resident of Kilire. Sin of fornication with Ann Brodie. The Minutes say “she appeared – rebuked – to appear again next Sunday.” Interestingly, in November 1807, the same William Ferguson had been elected by the Session as Schoolmaster.

I wasn’t familiar with the terms irregular or clandestine marriages, but found the following at The Gen Guide: 

In Scotland a marriage was considered ‘regular’ after the reading of banns and if the marriage ceremony was conducted by a minister of the established Church of Scotland. The 1834 Marriage (Scotland) Act extended ‘regular’ marriages by permitting dissenting clergy to conduct marriage ceremonies. If these requirements were not adhered to the marriage was deemed ‘clandestine’ and illegal but crucially could be valid in the eyes of the state. Under Scots Law a marriage was considered valid (but not legal) under certain conditions as follows:

§  Both parties declared themselves married in the presence of witnesses.

§  Marriage ceremony followed by sexual intercourse.

§  Simply living together with the status of man and wife – by habit and repute.

According to FamilySearch, at around the time these Minutes were being recorded, the population of Abbotshall was about 2100 (although growing, to over 4000 by 1831). For the 19 year period  covered by the minutes I counted 59 cases of irregular marriage (43 clandestine), 35 cases of fornication and/or adultery and 14 illigitimate children born or baptised in the Parish.

That’s starting to read like a day-time soap, and I can’t help wondering if the Minister and Elders of the Kirk were themselves without sin – or just deft at not being caught.!

My family history hasn’t been enriched by the Abbotshall Kirk Session Minutes; but for you Adams, Bruntons, Fergusons, Galloways, Greigs, Hendersons, Hepburns, Kilgours, Padges – and especially Steedmans – with a Kirkcaldy connection, I’d recommend you take a look.

* Fife Family History Society Publication No. 21. Abbotshall Kirk Session Minutes 1793-1812 indexed by Ewen K Collins and Kirkcaldy Old Church Burials 1855-1972 compiled by Stuart Farrell.