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Funny Ancestor Stories::FamilyTreeCircles.com Genealogy (Alt+Left)

I want to tell you about my great grandmother, Mary Ann Armstrong. Mary Ann was born on 14 April 1844 in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Ireland. She travelled to Australia on board the ship "Indus", arriving on 21 July 1871. Her purpose was to find her brother and sister, William Armstrong and Margaret Jane Armstrong. William had settled in Geelong, Victoria, and Margaret married Donald Fraser in Rockhampton, Queensland, later settling in Sydney, New South Wales. Mary Ann had seen an advertisement for a job as cook at Talgai East Homestead in the Allora district of Queensland and thought she would come to Australia in the hope of finding her brother and sister. She had no idea of the distances in Australia, so it was many years before she actually met her brother and sister.

While she was working at Talgai East Homestead, Mary Ann met Alexander Munro who was born in 1836 in Kilmuir Easter, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. He had trained as a horticulturalist at Dunrobin Castle, the Duke of Sutherland's estate in Scotland. Mary Ann and Alexander were married on 12 July 1872 in Warwick, Queensland. Alexander and Mary Ann went to Ormiston, Queensland, where Alexander worked for Captain Hope. They were endeavouring to establish the first sugar plantation in Queensland. However, there were so many snakes there that Mary Ann told Alexander that, if he didn't get her out of there, she would leave him and go back to Ireland!

Alexander went back to the Botanical Gardens in Brisbane, where he had worked previously. In 1882, he went to work as curator in Queens Park, Ipswich, Queensland. Alexander, Mary Ann, and their 3 children lived in a cottage in the park. Mary Ann had trained as a cook (in today's parlance, she would have been known as a cordon bleu chef) in Ireland. She was an excellent cook, and, if things didn't turn out as they should, they were thrown out, down the hill! I believe that she even baked cake for my grandfather to have for breakfast! Alexander was forced to retire in 1909. His comment at the time was, if he had known that the job wasn't permanent, he wouldn't have taken it!

One day Mary Ann saw an article in a newspaper which referred to her brother in Geelong. This was 20 years after she came to Australia. She and my grandfather, who was 12 years old at the time, went on a sea voyage, calling in at Sydney to see Mary Ann's sister. They then travelled on to Victoria and stayed on an orchard with Mary Ann's brother, William, for 6 months. When they left Queensland, my grandfather had shoulder-length auburn curls. His mother had made him a pepper and salt (houndstooth) outfit and a sailor hat. This was the fashion of the day. Somehow the sailor hat went over the railing of the ship into the sea! When my grandfather returned to Queensland, he no longer had the long curls!

Mary Ann died 25 April 1912 and Alexander died on 23 June 1923. They are buried side by side, with a single headstone, in Ipswich. We had a family reunion a few years ago and a new road through Queens Park has been called Alexander Munro Avenue.

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