My great grandmother, born Elizabeth Mackintosh on 20th February 1885 in Edinburgh, Scotland, travelled halfway around the world, and died aged 91, on 20th May 1976, in Bundaberg, Australia.
Those 91 years were filled with much life, death, children, family, travel, serving, farming – all whilst keeping her Scottish accent to the end – what must her life have been like?
Young Elizabeth was the second oldest child, oldest daughter, to Allan and Elizabeth, nee Sullivan, born a couple of years after their marriage and settling in Inverness, Scotland, a town where Allan grew up, himself the oldest of 12 siblings.
All of Elizabeth’s siblings were born in Inverness, so it is unusual that she was born in Edinburgh, some 250 klms away, however the address on records could well be a hospital.
Elizabeth’s siblings continued to be born every year or two, however sadness was felt as regularly as the joy of the growing family – for I am sure Elizabeth, her parents and siblings. Some siblings only lived for a few months to a few years and passed away from causes such as pneumonia, meningitis, convulsions, and diphtheria.
By her 16th birthday, Elizabeth’s older brother Alexander had passed away, as had six younger siblings being, John Allan, Edward Chilcott, Mary-Anne Chilcott, Frederick Knight, William John, Margaret Helen.
Elizabeth was also out in the workforce as a Shop Assistant, however still living at home at 21 Telford Street, Inverness.
Elizabeth’s parents, Allan and Elizabeth, lived all of their married life in Inverness, except for some period of time when Allan worked away, as a Plasterer (Journeyman) – Allan had served his trade apprenticeship and mastered his craft and was not bound to serve a master. Allan’s father Alexander was also a Plasterer, so continued the family trade, which is not surprising given he was the oldest child.
In 1909, aged 24, Elizabeth saw her Mum give birth to her 13th child, Farquhar. However, of those 13 children, only six were still living, being Farquhar, Catherine, James, Harriet, Allan and herself, and interestingly all lived into old age except Catherine who passed away aged 57 years. But of more interest to my family is that all of Elizabeth’s siblings, and her parents, all lived and died in Inverness.
What made Elizabeth leave? Was it the depression in the country; was she concerned about her job as an unskilled person[i]; was she able to think about herself after her mother had ceased having children? At 24 years of age it was unusual to still be unmarried in those times, so was she leaving a broken heart behind? Was she on an Assisted Passage, coming to one of the British colonies? I don’t think we will ever know for sure.
[i] ‘Archive Research Guides (2); Emigration and Immigration in Scotland’ – ‘For the impoverished Scot, however, Australia and New Zealand were the lands of opportunity’. ‘The height of emigration corresponded with years of harsh economic depression…….and the period of 1906 to 1913.’ ‘Unskilled labourers seemed to prefer emigrating to Canada and Australia.’
So, on 13th November 1909 Elizabeth boarded SS Morayfield departing Liverpool, bound to Auckland, via Capetown and Sydney, for a journey that could take just over two months at sea, arriving 18th January 1910. There was another McIntosh family on the Passenger List, so she may well have travelled with family.
Auckland would have been an exciting place to be, for a 24 year old single woman, planning the rest of her life. It was here that she met a young Irish lad, Michael Hoy, who had also emigrated to New Zealand early 1910. Michael came from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, which lay awkwardly between two competing and often hostile communities – the Ulster unionists in the north, and the Irish Nationalists in the south. This could well have led him to want a new and safe life in his early 20’s.
Elizabeth and Michael married in Auckland on 13 November 1912, to start their life together, with Michael working as a plumber at that time. It appears that Michael could turn his hand as anything, working as a plumber, timber cutter and even a miner.
My grandparents were both born in New Zealand, along with their five siblings. My Nanna Smith (Rita Elizabeth) was their oldest daughter and my (adoptive) Grandad Hoy (John Allan, known as Jack) was their oldest son. The family appear to have moved around, likely for Michael’s work as the seven children were born in places such as Tikipunga and Whangarei between 1913 and 1924. Unlike the sadness Elizabeth left in Inverness, all their children lived into old age.
The next adventure came as a family; in 1927 they packed up and emigrated from New Zealand to Australia on SS Ulimaroa in steerage. It is hard to imagine being on a ship for weeks with seven children between the ages of 12 and 2 years – Elizabeth would have certainly had her hands full.
Once arriving in Australia, the family headed to Queensland, first living near Brisbane with Michael finding work as a Quarryman. However, work appears to have led the family north, firstly to Monto and then to Builyan, just outside of Gladstone, where their eldest son John Allan found work, love, family and stayed.
The children forged their own paths, and families in Monto, Gladstone and Bundaberg areas.
Sadly, Michael passed away on 20 July 1943 in Monto in his 50’s. As Elizabeth lived into her 90’s, she had many years without him, but am sure her family filled her heart.
Elizabeth made her home in Monto, even without Michael, but then moved to Bundaberg, where she lived until her passing on 20 May 1976. Elizabeth still has several ‘grandchildren’ living, however no-one has any knowledge of the ‘why’ – why did she travel away from family and everything she had ever known? But I, for one, am certainly glad she did.