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A WINDOW INTO THE LIFE OF VIOLET DACRE (1875 - 1951)

One of the spin-offs in having an interest in writing family history is the enjoyment of building up networks of like-minded people. If you are lucky, an occasional long-lost relative will drift by in the sea of names. This is how I came to know of Sandra K.

Our common ancestor is one Samuel Cochrane (1813 – 1879), my 2x great grandfather. Sandra is descended from Samuel’s younger daughter, Sarah Cochrane, and me, Sarah’s brother, Samuel Charles Cochrane, the younger of Samuel’s two sons.


Family background

Perhaps it’s best not to continue Violet’s story without looking first into her family background, and in particular her grandfather, Captain Ranulph Dacre. In his obituary of 11/10/1884, he was described as “the oldest identity of Auckland”. First visiting New Zealand in 1820 soon after the infamous massacre of the Boyd, at the time of his death he was regarded as the oldest living person to have seen Auckland in its “native state when not a European dwelling was in existence.”

Born at Marwell Hall, Hampshire, England, Ranulph Dacre chose a seafaring life. After a lifetime of globe-trotting and multi-national business ventures, he settled in Auckland with his family in 1859.

One-time business partner to both James and Thomas Macky, both of whom had strong family ties to the Cochrane family, it was perhaps inevitable that a marriage between the two families should take place. And that’s exactly what happened when a young James Marwell Dacre, by this time in partnership in the auctioneering firm, Samuel Cochrane & Son, married Samuel’s youngest daughter, Sarah, in 1871. James would become the mainstay of this Auckland auctioneering business for many years to come.

James and Sarah acquired land in inner Auckland suburbs of Ponsonby and later, Parnell, with their four children, Ranulph, Violet, James and Margaret, known as Meta. To follow is a brief window into their daughter Violet’s life.


A life of music

Like many young women of Violet’s social background she indulged a passion for music. Although perhaps groomed for this lifestyle, it was still a very competitive vocation and you had to exhibit talent and dedication to win any sort of personal acclaim.

Violet’s her sister Meta faired just as well in her musical vocation, and the pair was frequently mentioned in the Auckland newspapers for their success and talent. Also mentioned was their cousin, Ella Macky. All three were pupils of piano-forte master, John Frederick Bennett.

The girls had the opportunity to put their talents to the test not only in local piano-forte recitals organised by their teacher, but sit examinations in practical and theory with the Associated Board of the Royal Academy and the Royal College of music in London.

In 1902, Meta, Violets’ sister, was the first music student in Auckland to receive a special certificate in recognition of her being successful in the entire range of the Associated Board’s series. Violet also achieved the same recognition along with the coveted gold medal from the Associated Board in 1901. (NZ Archives R10228461).

On 23/5/1902, just prior to her marriage to Alfred Stanley Orbell, Violet’s teacher, JF Bennett, tendered a valedictory concert in her honour. Violet was presented with a silver salver from her teacher and fellow pupils by visiting French soprano, Antonia Dolores Trebelli.


The wedding

Violet married Alfred Stanley Orbell just a few days later, on the afternoon of 28/6/1902. An account of the wedding can be found in “The Observer” of the same date.


LINEAGE/ GENEALOGY
Ranulph Dacre m. Margaret Sea (1831)
Children: Julia, George, Ranulph, Henry, Frederick, Harriet, James Marwell, Charles Cravan, Life Septimus, Frances Catherine

James Marwell Dacre m. Sarah Cochrane (1871)
Children: Ranulph George, Violet Sarah, William, Margaret Esther

Violet Sarah Dacre m. Alfred Stanley Orbell (1902)
Children: Joyce Dacre Orbell, Yolande Violet Dacre Orbell, Nyree Dacre Orbell

Yolande Violet Orbell m Carl Turner (1934)
Children: Derek Daken Turner, Carole Yolande Turner, Diane Turner


The Journey North

Te Rata: the doctor, Part II

Soon after Samuel Cochrane, purchased the steamship, the Novelty, he invited a party of guests from the Auckland business world on an excursion to test the virtues of the Waiwera hot springs. Venturing north from Auckland on 19/7/1865, an Auckland newspaper correspondent also joined him and his illustrious party of travellers.

Despite being a prominent businessman in Auckland, very little was documented about this part of his life, except what appears in the press. They were very interesting times, and Cochrane was widely travelled, his life experiences taking him to three continents.

Remembering that he was born in 1815, his known destinations included North America, UK and Ireland, France, Australia and New Zealand where he finally settled in 1859. Quite a remarkable feat in those early times.

Following his exploits as an auctioneer, the newspapers revealed many gems of information. Whether his attitude to life can be attributed to his Ulster Scots background or the events which characterised the era, I simply do not know.

What follows is based on the correspondent’s account of their journey that appeared in the Daily Southern Cross of 21/7/1865. I have tried to maintain the correspondent’s journalistic prose in summarising his account.

I can’t help wondering what he would have thought to hear his words echoed back to him some 150 years later.


The Journey North

With Captain Quance at the helm, the PS Novelty, new to the run to the Hotsprings, set off on its six hour journey. The trip was a private affair funded at Cochrane’s own expense to showcase both the resort and his new acquired steamship, only recently taken off the Manukau run.

Leaving Auckland drawing 45lb pressure of steam, the early part of their journey was to somewhat overshadowed by the incessant roar of the engines, our correspondent disdainfully remarking, “I must en passant give the makers of the engines of the Novelty all credit for the tremendous noise they make, similar to that caused by a half a dozen stone breaking machines” Nevertheless, (as he puts it) his discomfort was soon overtaken by, “the magnificent and picturesque scenery, afforded by the position of the City of Auckland and its suburbs” as the steamer continued on its way northwards.

Their journey proceeded without further ado until they reached the treacherous passage between Whangaparaoa and Tiri Tiri. By now the Novelty was sailing into a head wind and the steamship began to “rock about a little, and vibrate from stem to stern”. At this point, the correspondent made note that many of the ship’s passengers “appeared to have conceived a sudden fancy for the contemplation of the vasty deep”.


To add to the woes, the leg of pork intended to be the mainstay of their dinner was under-done, and with only a dozen or so contenders left unaffected by the sudden introspective malaise of the other shipboard guests, the correspondent observed that even Samuel Cochrane, “could not with all his eloquence dispose of as many slices as he would have done allotments in his mart”. However, with an abundance of other food, and a range of fine beverages to imbibe, those still well enough to partake, seemed little inclined to complain.

Speeches were made and forgotten, opinions expressed and arguments settled as the old Novelty continued on her way, rattling her machinery and “making a desperate headway of about one knot per hour”.

They eventually came to anchor just as their host had popped the cork on yet another bottle of a yet unknown, but most likely a beverage of a matured, malted variety imported from the old country.

The absence of a suitable jetty at the hot springs meant that the passengers were expected to first get into the steamer’s boat and then wade the final fifty metres to shore. Despite the odds all got to land without mishap.

Once on dry land those who had missed out on the shipboard meal because of their seasickness were once again treated to Cochrane’s hospitality and were able to dine on a sumptuous turkey dinner. Exhibiting a sense of humour that he would long be remembered for, our host, Samuel Cochrane, “dissected a turkey with admirable skill and by some wicked puns, kept the table, as Yorick was wont to do, in a roar”.


Fact finding

Tiritiri Matangi Island literally means tossed by the wind.
A lighthouse was constructed on the island in 1864
The Cochrane family has a reserve named after them at Arkles Bay

Image: Burton Bros. photograph showing steamer passengers being rowed ashore at Waiwera (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries)


Te Rata: The Doctor

The Waiwera Hot Springs, has been a commercial enterprise and much-favoured holiday destination for Aucklanders for almost 170 years. Set in an idyllic coastal landscape 24 miles north of Auckland, they were a much favoured escape for three generations of the Cochrane family. The area boasted a salubrious climate, an abundance of local produce, comfortable accommodation and health giving hot springs, so it was a perfect setting for a family retreat and must have been a welcome respite from colonial Auckland.

One of New Zealand’s earliest settlers, Robert Graham, was the resort’s first European owner, negotiating the purchase of the land, including the mineral springs, with its traditional owners in 1845. The waters, well-known for their health giving qualities, were known as Te Rata: the “doctor” and were much revered by the local Maori. Given its proximity to Auckland, Graham was quick to realise its potential as a tourist destination, building a hotel on the site and developing an extensive garden and orchard. Various hoteliers would lease the estate during the 1850s, 60s and 70s.

Although well and truly off the beaten track in the 1860s, the 1870s saw a continual improvement to the facilities with the development of the transport routes from Auckland.

My great, great grandfather, Samuel Cochrane, arrived in New Zealand some fifteen years after Robert Graham, setting up business as an auctioneer and shipping agent in Auckland in 1859.

Over the next decade and a half the Auckland newspapers bear witness to his evolving friendship and business associations with Robert Graham. In an attempt to open up regular steamship routes to the north Cochrane purchased the steamer the “Novelty”. As a local auctioneer he would already have been familiar with the Waiwera area for its real estate value and tourism potential. No doubt coming to his notice for the treatment of his own ailments, he invited several of his friends to test the virtues of the Waiwera hot springs for themselves.

Fact Finding
The Waiwera resort would come into its own in the 1870s with major renovations and an extensive advertising campaign, with the catch-phrase “throw Physic to the dogs”.

Bottled water from the springs exported to Sydney and its reputation soon rivalled that of its European counterparts for quality and alleged medicinal capabilities.


Image: Waiwera Hot Springs Hotel, painted by the Rev. John Kinder, 1877


The one that started it all

Of all the family stories I have told, this is the one that got my whole story-telling adventure underway.

There had been much family speculation that the Cochrane family had at one time owned the Flax and Tow spinning mill in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. This was based on information in a series of letters that appears on the Macky (NZ) family website www.macky.net and the speculation was further fuelled by the following information in our 2 x great grandfather’s obituary in 1879. (Samuel Cochrane of Auckland, NZ)

“He was brought up in the vicinity of Londonderry, and was there engaged in the linen trade.”

Research
Somewhat frustrated by the lack of information, even local anecdotes, it was a case of trying to verify the information in the family letters from scratch, and with the profusion of Samuels and Josephs that emerged in the family tree a lot of additional research was required to make sense of it all.

With the letters as a basis, additional information was sourced from Irish newspapers, and various accounts of the linen industry, academic papers (one written in German) and local histories in both Co. Donegal and Londonderry.

A longer version of this story (with references) was donated to the West Inishowen History and Heritage Society in early 2016.

So, enticing as it was, the facts proved much more interesting than the conjecture.

The Development of the Mill
Linen production has a long history in Ireland. In the early 1820s Derry’s linen market was one of the largest in the country with over a million yards of cloth handled annually. Linen was a key export dispatched to North America, Europe and England during this period.

After unsuccessfully venturing into cotton production by the 1830s, the Buncrana Mill switched back to linen production, brought about in part by improved technology. But such ventures were difficult to finance and viability was problematical and the industry only survived because its operators were prepared to accept lower returns with the competing cotton.

There also had been a new development in the purchasing of linen products. The larger processing plants began to employ their own buyers thereby by-passing the traditional Derry linen drapers. This shift forced the previously independent weavers into doing business with traders who could now dictate the market price, lessening the ability of the weavers to make a living wage. The resultant fall off in the quantity of linen produced both impacted on the associated industries and disrupted the rural economy that had previously depended on the linen industry to supplement their incomes.

This situation would also spell the end of linen manufactory in Buncrana but not before Derry brothers, Samuel and Joseph Alexander, purchased the site and rebuilt the then derelict mill in the mid-1830s.

The brothers were soon made welcome by the Buncrana community and a special dinner was held in July 1839 in their honour. But things can move quickly in the world of business and by the end of 1841 Joseph Alexander had left the partnership and returned to Derry.

Samuel Alexander continued to operate the mill, including upgrades financed by Richardson & Smith to increase production. The Richardson family was already involved in large milling operations in Belfast, so even though times were difficult, the venture had a much better chance of success than some.

After a short period of operation Samuel Alexander incurred further debt and this was compounded by him entering into a commission agreement for the purchase of the raw material and the sale of the finished product with Jonathon Richardson, with the profits intended to service the debt. This placed him in the position that the prices were dictated less by market forces, and more by needs of the lender.

Before long, the enterprise was over-committed, and Samuel Alexander made a huge effort to avoid insolvency, with the Alexander family attempting to sell various properties in Buncrana and Derry, including the mill itself.

In 1845 the bitter dispute over the debt and ownership of the mill became openly perceptible when Richardson attempted to remove property that he said belonged to him from the mill. At this time the mill employed upwards of 200 people or around one-fifth of the town’s population, and the towns people fearing that this would lead to the mill itself being repossessed, sabotaged the carts that would have been used to remove the goods from the mill. Although the dispute was settled peaceably, it was an omen that worse was to come.

At around this time, a Joseph Cochran of nearby Chrislaghmore, a family cousin as it turns out, was encouraged to take over the management of the mill, assisted by his young cousin, Joe. It is not clear why the Cochran family decided to invest their time in the running of the mill and the full facts can only be suggested, however, there were family ties to the Alexander family with Ann Cochran having married Joseph Alexander in 1839, and also some evidence of prior business dealing with the Alexanders in Derry. Joseph Cochran was also in the habit of lending money to other family members so it is also possible that he took on the management of the mill to secure his interest in an outstanding debt.

Following Joseph Alexander’s death in June 1851, and the transfer of ownership of the mill to Richardson in May 1852, the Cochran family’s involvement apparently reached its natural conclusion.

The Final Years of the Mill
After taking over the mill Jonathon Richardson again expanded its operations and the Richardson family became as popular with the townsfolk as the Alexanders had been before them. However, by the end of March of 1876, Jonathon Richardson had held an auction of goods and chattels at Buncrana Castle and was “removing to another part of the country”. The once thriving partnership between Richardson and his brothers was long since dissolved and by 1877 the Richardson name had by now, featured in the Dublin bankruptcy courts.

Although the mill closed its doors in 1876, its machinery was maintained in working order for several years afterwards, with the expectation of operations resuming, presumably in anticipation of the early sale of the mill. However, this was not to be. The mill was eventually demolished in the 1940s and the land around it converted to parklands in the 1965.

Written in 2017, based on research undertaken 2014-15.

Especial thanks to John Hopkins, Michigan


Photograph: Postcard showing the Mill Bridge with the spinning mill and outbuildings from the Linen Hall Library Collection, Belfast http://www.postcardsireland.com/about


In Memoriam: Cecil Frederick Cochrane, 1907-1923

Every family goes through its bereavements, but none would be sadder than when a child is taken from the fold. All hopes and dreams for a young life in a split second, dashed.

Cecil Frederick Cochrane, was born in Salford, Manchester in England in July 1907, the city of his mother’s birth. He emigrated to Melbourne, Victoria, as a two year old, with his mother Maria, and sister, Sybil. His father, William Frederick Cochrane, had preceded them several months earlier.

At first the family settled near Geelong, with his father clearing land for a living, working at first for a Joseph Mack of Berrybank, then, a John Calvert of Warring and Dr Brown of Colac.

By 1910, the family had moved to inner city, Hawksburn (South Yarra), and later, St Kilda. Cecil’s father had by then, set up a contract cleaning business, domiciled in Queen St, in the Melbourne CBD.

Scouting had been established on Australia only a year before Cecil’s birth and had proven extremely popular in most English speaking countries around the world. It was obviously a welcome addition to the Cochrane boys activities, as both Cecil, and his younger brother Hubert (Bob) were a part of the scouting tradition.

Scouting activities were probably very similar to today, and Cecil had attained the distinction of Patrol-Leader. In April 1923, Cecil took part in a scout camp on the Yarra, near Templestowe, a modern-day suburb 16km North East of Melbourne. The gentle rolling slopes and the picturesque Yarra Valley would have been a most pleasant backdrop to the camp.

Tragically, during the course of a scouting exercise, Cecil was accidently drowned in a canoeing accident. The canoe is believed to have capsized while Cochrane and his companion, John Gage, were trying to avoid a partly submerged animal carcass in the river. While his companion reached the shore to safety, it is believed that Cochrane got caught in a snag, causing him to drown. Both boys were strong swimmers.


Argus, Wednesday 4 April 1923, page 8
BOY SCOUT DROWNED.
Canoe Capsizes in River


Cecil Cochrane, aged 15 years, residing at Westbury Street, St. Kilda, who was, with a number of other Boy Scouts, in camp on the banks of the Yarra near Templestowe, was drowned in the river yesterday morning.
Cochrane had been instructed by Scout-master Arthur Watson, of Hawksburn road, Hawksburn, who was in charge of the camp, to deliver a message in Templestowe, and together with John Gage, aged 12 years, he commenced the journey in a canoe belonging to the scout troop. After going a short distance Cochrane leaned over the side of the canoe, capsizing it, and throwing both lads into the river. Gage succeeded in reaching the bank, but Cochrane, after making frantic efforts to reach the upturned boat, sank in 30ft. of water.
The Heidelberg police were summoned, and dragged the river for several hours, but without success. Dragging operations will be resumed this morning.


Herald, Thursday 19 April 1923, page 8
CANOE CAPSIZED
Boy Scout Drowned


While encamped with his troop on the banks of the Yarra at Templestowe on April 4. A boy scout named Cecil Frederick Cochrane, 15, of 103 Westbury road, East St. Kilda, went on a canoeing expedition together with another, boy, Jack Gage, 12.
The canoe collided with the body of an animal which was floating downstream, and while leaning over the side.to steer the craft clear, Cochrane capsized the canoe: Though Cecil Cochrane was a strong swimmer, he was drowned.
Giving evidence before Dr Cole, the City Coroner, this morning, Jack Gage related how when they were thrown into the water both boys made efforts to clutch the sides of the canoe, but before they could obtain a firm hold the force of the current carried it out of their reach. Deceased then seized him (Gage) round the neck, and as his weight dragged them both under. Gage pushed Cochrane under the chin to break his hold. That was the last Gage saw of him. In reply to the Coroner, Gage said that he himself managed to reach the river bank unaided.
John Daven, a mounted constable stationed at Templestowe, said that at the spot where the boy was drowned there was a strong undercurrent and it was quite possible that Cochrane was caught in a snag under the surface.
A finding of accidental death was recorded.



PERSONAL TRIBUTES

Argus, Thursday 5 April 1923
COCHRANE.—On the 3rd April, accidentally drowned, Patrol-leader Cecil Cochrane, beloved comrade of the officers, scouts, and cubs of the First Toorak Troop of Boy Scouts.

COCHRANE.—On the 3rd April, at Templestowe, Cecil, dearly loved pal of Frank F. Jones, of Toorak. Sadly missed.

Argus, Saturday 7 April 1923, page 17
COCHRANE.—On the 3rd of April 1923 accidently drowned at Templestowe Cecil F dearly loved second son of Mr and Mrs W F Cochrane of 103 Westbury street East St Kilda and loved brother of Hubert, Sybil, Betty, and Peggy aged 15 years 6 months.

So Many Questions: William Frederick Cochrane

William Frederick Cochrane, was born in 1877 in Belfast. His parents, Samuel Charles and Maria Cochrane were on a short visit from Montreal while his grandfather Samuel Cochrane Snr, was posted to that city as New Zealand Emigration Officer.

William’s family returned to Montreal and but tragedy overtook them a decade later. Following the death of his beloved wife, and three of his children, Samuel Charles Cochrane returned to New Zealand a widower. His three remaining children, Sarah, Alberta and William accompanied him.

William departed from New Zealand in 1898. His adopted life as a merchant seaman eventually saw him settle in Manchester where he met his wife, Maria Oakley. But his story wasn’t to end there. He soon took his young family to Australia, settling at first in Geelong, and later in inner Melbourne where he set up a business as a contract cleaner. His family in New Zealand only heard from him intermittently, and at the time of his father’s death in 1919, they hadn’t heard from him for several years.

His father’s Last Will and Testament allowed for equal shares of his property as tenants in common and specified what measures should be taken to locate him, including advertising in the Australian press and gazettes, to expire after a period of two years.

It was long thought, that William was never located, but after responding to one such advertisement, William was able to make contact with his father’s solicitor in Auckland. In those days when having any sort of formal identification was haphazard at the very best, William was able to describe certain family events and provide a copy of a photograph he had sent his family several years earlier. Copies of these letters are now in the hands of various family members.

Why William left New Zealand when he did was not known, even to his direct descendants. Because he went as far as using an alias in the early days, it was easy to assume that he didn’t want to be found. However, it could be safely assumed that married life and having children brought to him a new sense of responsibility.

William and Maria had six children, two of whom died young. William died in 1939 at the relatively young age of 66, and Maria, in 1950.

Some of the answers
When I first published this story, so many questions about his life remained unanswered, however additional information surfaced in the form of family letters written to his sister, Sarah Louisa, around the time of his departure from New Zealand.

While the letters didn’t reveal any reasons for him leaving New Zealand, they did reveal something of the family dynamics at that time.

After coming to New Zealand in 1886, William’s family was domiciled in the inner Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. Close family helped pick up the pieces of the bereaved family’s lives. However, as to be expected, many gaps still remain in our current knowledge.

As a young man, William worked as a farm labourer travelling to Taranaki and later Hawkes Bay. It may be that he also helped to support his sister, while she was at a low ebb in her life. In 1898 he decided to travel overseas, essentially just as his father had done before him.

To follow are excerpts from letters written to his sister Sarah from the period June 1896 to February 1898.

Wednesday June 3 1896, Oruamatua Station Erehwon.
'Ever since I left you I have been working on Stations principally in the Waikato & now although this is properly Hawkes Bay, yet it is what is called the Patea District. I am working for a Captain and Mr. W. Birch (you may know them) & may pretty well calculate on a Winters Billet'.

October 1896
'I have left them now and are in a place called Maraekakaho (pronounced Maria-Cocker) but I expect to leave here in a day or two & go to another station for the Shearing. I am thinking of going to Africa after all the Shearing is over & all the rest of all the work is over. I fancy I will be going to a place called Kereru in a day or two to a place called J. Anderson's Station only I am going by the name of R. C. Dudley.

These letters were signed ‘Your aff(ectionate) brother William Frederick Cochrane’

A letter dated Tuesday Jan 5 1897, is written from Poporangi Station, Kereru and is signed 'Yours R. C. Dudley'

Monday 17th May 1897. Pororangi Station Kereru
'I had no money when you wrote; but as I have blossomed out into an athlete in the last three or four months, having won a quarter and a half mile races, I entered into the race for the Ladies Bracelet (valued at 129) last Wednesday in Napier but owing to the recent floods & the extra work that it entailed so that I never had any time to train so that I only came third in the Half mile run. However I am training already for the October Sports & hope to surprize people slightly.'

The letter is signed 'I remain Yours. aff. R. C. Dudley'.

Sunday Feb 20 1898 'Lake Erie' Gisborne Roadstead (The Lake Erie is a barque, loading wool and tallow for London). He is writing to a Mr Nolan -

'Dear Sir,
You will be surprised to hear from me, but as I have two moments to spare I thought I would ask you to let Uncle Willie & Aunt Sophie know I have sailed for England. I would write to then but I am short of Stamps. You can tell them I will be back in about fifteen month’s time. We sail in a couple of days.

I remain yours Truly F William Cochrane.'


The letter was sent to “Uncle Willie” (William Stephen Cochrane) who in turn forwarded it on to William’s father, Samuel Charles Cochrane. Inside was written - 'Dear Charlie, This letter was written to Mr Nolan of Gisborne who sent (it on) to me. Fred is evidently fond of change & travelling. I hope he will arrive safely. WSC.'

The next information on him is when he calls into Montreal. He's a sailor, working on a ship called the 'Manchester Corporation'. In June the ship called into Montreal. In a letter dated June 9, from his cousin, Louie (Sarah Louise) Foster from Montreal, she called him Jackie but in the letter dated Sept 27 1900 she refers to him as Willie.

By September he is on a ship trading between Manchester and New Orleans and he has been promoted to quarter-master.


Genealogy
William Frederick Cochrane 1877 – 1939; Maria Dunnicliffe Cochrane (nee Oakley) 1872 – 1950

Their children:
Sybil Lilian 1904 – 1982, Charles Wilfred 1905 – 1909, Cecil Frederick 1907 – 1923, Hubert Ranulph (Bob) 1913 – 1989, Margaret Isobel (Peggy) 1917 – 1997, Beatrice May (Betty) 1917 – 1995


See also (please copy and paste): https://www.facebook.com/notes/nz-ulster-connections/a-letter-from-montreal/613387528829326/



Especial thanks to my second cousins, Linda Dodds (New Zealand) and Joy Ricks (Victoria, Australia)

Written and compiled by Wanda Hopkins, April 2019
E: nzulsterheritage@gmail.com.au


4 comment(s), latest 5 months, 4 weeks ago

FROM COUNTY DONEGAL TO COUNTRY VICTORIA: JOHN COWAN COCHRANE

Having visited family in Victoria twice in recent months, including a rail trip through familial territory, it seemed like the ideal time to begin writing up the history of my ancestral cousin, John Cowan Cochrane (1826-1903).

First cousin to my 2 x great grandfather, Samuel Cochrane (1815 - 1879) of New Zealand, John was the first born of William Cochrane and Elizabeth Cowan. Raised in Castruse, Co. Donegal, his family were farming a property owned by Elizabeth’s father in the late part of the 18th century.

John was born into an era progressing from a rural to an urban economy, and through a time of huge social change in education, science, commerce and industry. The world was also in transit with the opening of new opportunities in the Australian and New Zealand colonies. Like many of his extended family, this was the path that John chose to go down.

On 16/10/1849, John married a Jane Thomson who came from the nearby townland of Altaghadoire. Her father, William Thomson, a former ensign in the Donegal Militia, had died barely two years earlier leaving her mother, Martha, a widow.

(Altaghadoire is on the border of Co. Donegal and modern-day Northern Ireland)

Their match was apparently not approved by either family, with only John’s cousins, Joseph and Rebecca along with Rebecca’s husband the Rev. John Macky, Jane’s brother, Dr John Thomson and cousin Margaret Breaden attending the ceremony.

We pick up the threads of their story in a letter written to Thomas Macky in New Zealand a few months later, as the couple take stock of their new surroundings and begin a new life in Australia.

Pascoevale Near Melbourne,
Port Philip
July 20th, 1850

Dear Tommy
I suppose you have heard ere this that I had taken my departure from our dear native island, for some part of the Southern Hemisphere; for I was not determined, when I left home, whether I would stop here, or go on to New Zealand. However, I was tired enough of the sea when I got here and I was not in the humour to undertake another voyage so soon.

I intended to have written to you for your advice as soon as I landed, then I thought I would wait for a little, until I would see how I would like this country. However, after I had been here for some time I found there would soon be a greater objection to my going to New Zealand than want of inclination, namely want of means; so I left off writing to you from day to day, until I have spent nearly four months here.

If you heard that I came out here you heard also that I had joined my fortunes for life to Miss Thomson, for better or worse, for richer or poorer; if you did not hear of it I will tell you all about it, as far as I remember, but I think crossing the line obliterates from the memory occurrences that took place on the other side of it.

Well, I suppose you will guess the greater part of my friends were against the match at first, and made so much work about it that it took place much sooner than it would otherwise have done. Your brother, John, and Rebecca and young Joe Cochrane were the only three that stood to me through thick and thin; the others all gave in when they saw it would do no good, at least all but my father and mother, and they held out to the last minute. The Thompsons, when they saw the way things were going, turned against us also, but we got the indissoluble knot tied in Carrigan church, on the 16th October, 1849, took the train to Derry and a covered car from that to Glengollen, then back to Carnshanagh (sic) for dinner, according to a previous invitation.

(Glengollan was the residence of Thomas Norman, near Burnfoot; a large holding consisting of more than 5400 acres.)

(Carnshanagh or Carnashannagh is the townland where John & Rebecca Macky - nee Cochrane – resided. It lies just to the north of Burnfoot.)


We had a very small wedding party; I had no one but Joe Cochrane, and Jane had her brother, a doctor, and her cousin, Margaret Breaden; but your brother had a good number of young people asked for the evening, and we had a very pleasant night until 3 o'clock in the morning. In a day or two my father and mother came round, when they saw it was no use to hold out any longer; and they invited Jane and me down to the house; and we lived there after I left Sir Robert until we started to come here.

(Breaden is also spelt Bredin. This branch of the family came from Co. Londonderry)

We came out in the emigrant ship “Eliza Caroline” which set sail from Plymouth on the first of January and arrived here on the 30th of March. We had a very pleasant passage of 89 days; we had 275 passengers on board and not a single death and very little sickness.

(The Eliza Caroline famously transported 235 Irish orphans as a part of Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Relief Emigration Scheme, on this voyage.)


August 8th

We were very fortunate in having an excellent captain and crew, they were all Welshmen, and the greater part teetotallers. We sailed from Plymouth on the first day of the New Year and cast anchor in Hobson's Bay on the 30th of March, Easter Sunday.

We lived at lodgings then for about a month, during which time I engaged with a Mr Smith, as gardener, at the rate of £30 per year. However, he put me off from time to time, for two months. I thought I was all right, when I had a printed agreement, but when he came to take out my things he would not have me, unless the date of the agreement would be changed which let me lose my two months' time that he kept me doing nothing. So, as I had heard unfavourable accounts of him I was glad of the opportunity of being done with him.

I saw in one of the newspapers an advertisement for a master and mistress for the Pascoe Vale National School. I applied as a matter of course, and had the good fortune to be chosen, in preference to 13 others. We had to stand an examination. Jane teaches the female school, and I teach the boys.

It is just a new house. It was only opened on the 29th of July. It consists of two large schoolrooms, a classroom and three very comfortable apartments for our accommodation; the whole cost £305, so you may suppose it is a complete building of the kind; and there are two acres of land attached, of which I will receive the benefit. Government gives £40 per annum to each teacher, that is £80 for us both, but they will only give £40 for both for the first year. The children will average about 5d per week each, and we have 53 already, and it is supposed there will be near 100 when the days get longer.

August 9th
I like teaching tolerably well for the time, considering that I was always very much averse to it; Jane is getting on very well also; our hours are short, from 9 am to 4 pm, allowing an hour in the middle of the day for dinner, and it is very easy to reconcile a person to anything that they are well paid for. So you see, considering everything, we are comfortably situated for a beginning.

This is a fine flourishing country, I question if New Zealand is better. Everyone here that keeps steady is doing remarkably well; men who could not have bought a coat to their back, if they had remained at home, are quite independent now; some of them worth thousands.
There is a man and his wife living about two miles from us here, the man's name is George Orr, his wife's name was Haslett, she is sister to David Haslett of Derry, her mother was one of the Fultons of Drumbasnet; so you know she is the breed of the Mackys.

(John’s maternal great-grandmother was also born Fulton. His Uncle Joseph’s first wife, Rebecca, was born Orr)

They lived somewhere near the racecourse before they came out here. They are out now about nine years and although they met with losses since they came, they are living very comfortably and independently, and I am sure they never would have been that if they had remained at the racecourse. How many hundreds are in Ireland, living from hand to mouth, who could make a comfortable independency in this country.

I suppose you knew before you left home, that William Cunningham's elder brother, Andrew, was out here. He and a young man named McDougall from Conroy (Convoy?), and one of the Mackys near Newtoncunningham, who has a brother a clergyman, have been in partnership since they came to the colony; and they have succeeded remarkably well; they purchased a section (640) acres of land, between two and three years ago, and they have purchased another now. They are making money fast; they call their place Glenburnie; it is about 28 miles from Melbourne. We spent nearly two months with them, when we had nothing to do. Mr Cunningham told me to ask you when I would be writing to you, if you know anything of John Brigham, formerly of Derry. He went from Sydney to New Zealand some years ago; Mr C would like very much to hear from him. If you know anything of him, you will please be kind enough to tell him so. Mr Andrew Cunningham, Glenburnie, care of Mr Robert Gallagher, Baker, Melbourne, Port Philip, are his directions. Mrs Gallagher is sister to Mr Matthewson of the Waterside, they are doing very well in Melbourne and are very much respected.

I did not see my cousin, Kitty, for a year before I came out here, but I believe she was in fine spirits preparing for a trip to New Zealand; your brother William and her were to go together. I suppose she will be with you by the time you get this. If she is, I wish you both every happiness, which your constancy deserves.

(John’s cousin, Kitty Cochrane emigrated to Auckland in 1852, where she married Thomas Macky, the recipient of this letter.)

I need not tell you anything about how things were when I left home, as I expect William will be there. My father was appointed High Constable for the Barony of Raphoe. It will be worth about £300 per year, clear of all expense; but the country cess will be very hard to collect, owing to the bad times. Write as soon as you get this, and tell me as much about your country as I told you about Port Philip.
Jane joins me in kindest regards to you, your brother's family and to Kitty and William, if they are with you.

Believe me, dear Tommy,
very sincerely your friend,
John Cochrane


John and Jane Cochrane’s teaching careers were relatively short-lived. By 1853, they had taken up the lease of “Essendon Park”, 119 acres abutting the creek to the west of Pascoe Vale Rd, and it wasn’t long before John Cochrane began to make a name for himself in local circles for his expertise and innovative farming techniques.

A plaque at the Five Mile Creek reserve, Essendon, commemorates the site of the Pascoe Vale National School and John Cochrane, its first Head Master.