Sunday, 3 August 2014

Young Ronald Lee Lowry bushfire victim

Ronald Lee Lowry was born in 1924 to William Lowry and Edna nee Laurence. 

Edna was a first cousin of my grandfather, Archie Fleming. 

I haven't found if William and Edna Lowry had other children but they tragically lost their young son Ronald in a bushfire in North East Victoria in January 1939.

TWO BURNED TO DEATH Buckland Valley Victims. (1939, January 16). The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 2. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from

Local news story in the Wangaratta Chronicle Despatch.
Wednesday, January 18, 1939 page 2

Man & Boy Hurt - Former Cheshunt Residents Fire in Buckland Valley

Failing to reach safety by a few seconds, a man and his nephew were burnt to death in a fire which destroyed 6 houses in the Buckland Valley, near Porepunkah, on Friday afternoon.  Their bodies were not recovered until Saturday afternoon.

The men were Messrs. James Charles Lowry, aged 41 years of Buckland Valley and Ronald Lee Lowry, aged 15 years, his nephew.  Frantic attempts to save their home led to the deaths of the two Lowrys.  Only 100 yards separated them from a creek, but when they realized that their fight was hopeless and made a dash for safety, three fires had converged and practically cut off their retreat Ronald Lowry collapsed when only 100 yards from the creek and James Lowry became entangled in blackberry bushes, both were overwhelmed by the flames.  Before attempting to save the house Mr. James Lowry, his wife and their nephew had been crouching in the safety of a tunnel.  The two men went to the house during a lull in the fire.

When the road from Porepunkah to Buckland Valley littered with scores of burning logs, First Constables Miller and Duncan of Myrtleford and a doctor, had to cut away for their motor truck along the bush tracks to recover the bodies on Saturday.  They succeeded in driving to within a few miles of the township.  The 30 mile journey occupied 9 hours.

Left Whitfield 2 years ago - Messrs William and James Lowry had been prospecting in the Buckland Valley for the past 2 years, having previously been engaged for 9 years in tobacco growing at Cheshunt, Mr. William Lowry's wife and son had been staying at Whitfield with Mrs. Lowry's mother, Mrs. Laurence, and only on Monday last week went to reside in their house at Buckland Valley.

Messrs Lowry had struck a good patch but poor supplies of water had forced them to go in for more development work in the way of building a larger race.  They saw the fire coming on Friday afternoon.  Mr. William Lowry placed his wife and son in a tunnel covering the opening with wet bags.   During a lull in the fire his brother said he would rush to the house to see if he could save anything, and the lad, although called back, rushed there also.  Suddenly three fires converged and the man and his nephew were trapped.  Mr. Lowry did not get very far from the house, but the lad got within 12 feet of the river when he was succumbed.  The grief stricken brother and father later found the body of his brother and son.

Situated 6 miles from the Lower Buckland post office, Mr. Lowry had no means of getting help until 2 men came along with a bicycle.  He placed his wife on the bicycle and wheeled her to the post office.  A man came along and left at daybreak to obtain assistance and later Constables Miller and Duncombe with Dr. Beaumont arrived from Myrtleford, to where Mr. and Mrs. Lowry were conveyed.  Mr. Lowry speaks appreciatively of the assistance given his wife and himself.  In addition to his house and mining equipment, 800 feet of piping was lost.

The late Mr. Lowry had 2 other brothers, Alfred and Harold, who reside in Melbourne.  Mr. and Mrs. Lowry left Whitfield 4 years ago for Buckland.  The funeral of the two victims left the home of Mrs. S. Laurence, Whitfield, for the Hyem cemetery on Sunday, a large number of people gathered at the graveside.  The Rev. J. Priestly read the burial service and the arrangements were made by Messrs. Bowden and Diggle.  In each case the coffin bearers were Messrs L. Bennett, J. Burrows, A. Owens, and A. Simmonds and the pall bearers were supported by Messrs. H. Thomas, A. Peipers, W. Fleming, H.H. Smith, W. Peipers and R. Lay.

Friday, 25 July 2014

A little bit of trivia

Yesterday I had occasion to put a dollar coin in a parking meter in our central business district.

The coin dropped through.  I tried again but again it dropped through.
I picked up the coin to check it and it turned out to be a New Zealand coin so I found another that it would accept.

As we walked down the street I idly commented to my husband that the coin must have been the wrong weight so the meter wouldn't accept it.

That prompted him to remember back to the days he worked for the PMG (Post Master General) in Numurkah, Victoria in the late 1960s.

He said he had to go around all the phone booths in town and call the operator and test their ability to know what coins were dropped into the slots by sound!

He had to carry around all coin denominations and once he had the operator on the line he would insert coins randomly and the operator would have to tell him whether the coin was a five, ten, twenty or fifty cents by the sound the coin made as it dropped.

He said he also had to carry metal washers with him and insert one at random to see if the operator could tell.

Some would say "that wasn't a coin" whereas others would name a coin they thought it was.

I was amazed.  I didn't know that was done.


Add this into your diary - commences ABC1 on 19 August 2014

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Helen Margaret SKALBERG nee McFadyen

My grandmother's first cousin was Helen Margaret McFadyen.

Helen, known as Margaret,  was born in 1909 at Brunswick, Victoria the youngest daughter of John Thomas McFadyen and his wife Katie (Catherine nee Adams).

Catherine/Katie nee Adams died in 1946 - she was a daughter of George Adams and Catherine Barry.

Again cousin Christine came up trumps in a search for Catherine/Katie's daughter, Mrs Margaret Skalberg.  She found the following document in the National Archives.  I requested permission from the NAA to use the image here.

photo courtesy of National Archives of Victoria
All of the above information fits with what we have found in electoral rolls etc.
I didn't know that an Australian who married an "alien" resident had to also register as an alien.
Helen/Margaret's husband, John Skalberg, has been listed on the Russian Anzacs website and he served for Australia in both World Wars.

Born 1895 (WWI), 3.01.1898 (WWII)     Place St Petersburg, North-Western Russia (WWI) or Wolmar (Valmiera), Latvia (WWII)     Ethnic origin Russian/Latvian?     Religion Roman Catholic
Father Skalberg, Joseph
Arrived at Australia -
Residence before enlistment Port Melbourne
Occupation 1916 labourer, 1941 salesman
service number 518A     enlisted 5.12.1916     POE Melbourne
unit 10th MG Company, 13th MG Company, 4th MG Battalion       rank Private
place Western Front, 1917-1918      casualties WIA 1918
final fate RTA 5.04.1919       discharged 7.11.1919
Naturalisation served as Russian subject
Residence after the war Melbourne
Wife Helen Skalberg, married 1929 (?); son Ivan John Skalberg
WWII served 1941-1945 Army pay corps
Died 15.08.1974

In searching the electoral rolls things get a bit confusing.  Helen/Margaret named her address as 169 Brunswick Road but in the electoral roll in 1949 there is listed a Helen Alfreda Skalberg.  We can't find Helen/Margaret and John Skalberg together anywhere.

In 1954 an Ivan John Skalberg (son?) was living at 169 Brunswick road.  He was a commercial artist, but neither Helen nor John were listed there.  He was later living in Heidelberg.

Helen Skalberg died in 1976 at Parkville, Victoria.  Her husband, John Skalberg, died in 1974.  They are both buried at Fawkner Cemetery.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Mysterious Mr. Mansfield

In researching our Adams family it seems each time we find an answer to something it poses another question.

George Adams and his first wife, Catherine nee Barry, were my great great grandparents.  This post is about their second youngest daughter Margaret Adams.

Margaret's mother, Catherine, died at Park Street, Melbourne in 1884 and father, George died at 5 Brixton Street Flemington in 1921.

In George's will he left his surviving daughters from his first marriage 20 pounds each and all the daughters except Margaret are mentioned by their married names, yet Margaret's death certificate states she married a James Mansfield in South Melbourne at the age of 25 which would have been in 1893.

Margaret was born at Vasse in Western Australia in 1868.  Her death certificate states she was 55 years of age and had spent one year in W.A and 54 years in Victoria.  She died in 1926 at what I initially thought was perhaps 72a Watters or Walters Street, Albert Park but I couldn't find a street by either name.

No registration or certificate has been found for a marriage of James Mansfield and Margaret Adams.

But ......

My third cousin and fellow Adams researcher Christine found a couple of articles in the Argus Newspaper from January 1893 about a James Alexander Mansfield being arrested for Bigamy.  This James Alexander Mansfield was a former Secretary of the Amalgamated Seamen's Union.

In the 1903, 1909 and 1914 electoral rolls a James Alexander was living at 68 Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park with a Margaret Mansfield.  His occupation is given as coalweigher.

In 1924 electoral roll Margaret Mansfield was still living at 68 Beaconsfield Parade.  There is a Withers Street directly around the corner from that address, could that be where Margaret Mansfield nee Adams died in 1926?  Living at 66 Withers Street was a John Burgess Mansfield and a Nina Mansfield.  I haven't found a connection ..... yet.

I could find no other suitable James Alexander Mansfield in a search of the electoral rolls, nor could I find a death certificate or registration but on searching Trove again I found the following death notice for 1917.

Could our Margaret Adams "husband" be James Alexander Mansfield the bigamist?  Husband of M. Mansfield could be purposefully ambiguous?