Monthly Archives: December 2015

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year 2016

This meme sums up the way we can meet the New Year should we choose to do so.  I look back at this year with great sadness as I lost my beloved Dad in January 2015.

Life is  always throwing out challenges and it’s how we deal with them that makes us who we are.  For a writer, I am terrible at keeping in touch with friends and relatives.  But please know I think if you all often and cherish your love and friendship.

I look back at this year with  mixed feelings of joy and also great sadness as I lost my beloved Dad in January 2015.  Two days after my birthday and one day before Mum and Dad’s 68th wedding anniversary.

This year may be my final year at University as I enter the last year of my degree. I don’t understand where the last five years have gone. Ten years ago completing a degree was an item on my bucket list one I never thought I would accomplish and here I am.  I am so grateful to all my friends, tutors, and lecturers who have helped me through this journey. I  have cried, panicked, laughed and thought I wasn’t good enough but have kept going.  When I graduate in 2017 it will be the dream of a life -time realized.  I could not have done this without my long-suffering husband  who put up with books and notes everywhere and scratch meals and loves the uni break because I actually cook.

There have been a lot of personal challenges I have faced apart from losing Dad.  My wonderful grandchildren, I haven’t seen them for three years come May. Finances and obligations have not allowed that luxury  and I often feel I am losing them.  As an only child, that is the price I have had to pay.  My kids are grown up with their own lives and families and my parents needed my support.  I know they are there if I reach out but sometimes it is hard to intrude. My wonderful son and his beautiful wife have had their share of heartaches and don’t need mine. My beautiful daughter and her  husband and the boys are the joy of my life. It breaks my heart to be so far away. I miss my children even though they are in their 40s.  I miss them and love them in a way they may never understand.

My wonderful Uni friends who accept me for who I am and rarely challenge my age.  THANK YOU.  Well, sometimes when they say something and they go  ‘Oh God you’re the same age as my Grandmother.’  They make me laugh and forget my troubles and they have made my journey at Uni easier.

My fantastic husband who puts up with my temper tantrums and no cooking or cleaning, and who has his own health issues – I love you.


You are the sun of my day.

You are the moon of my night.

You are the air I breathe.

You are the joy I find when I awake

and the peace at night before I sleep.

Stay with me always  and be my life.’


HAPPY 2016  







This is a flash fiction of 250 words. A fictitious  a letter sent from the home front  during the 1914-18 war. I remember my grandfather telling me this story when I was a little girl.  He called my Grandma Girlie and she called him Boy. Is it true?  I don’t know. He was a tunneller on the Western Front and my hero.  Picture Courtesy of the Australian National Archives.   My Grandfather Percival Norman Morse.

December 26, 1916

Dear Girlie,

It’ll be well into 1917 before you receive this. I’m writing from “somewhere in France”.  The Christmas package you sent was wonderful. The minute I opened it and smelt the cake I was back to our kitchen watching you bake and the big scrubbed table was laden with Christmas food.  Oh well, it’s been pretty bleak here food wise. Rations are short. You would not believe what happened yesterday, a young Jerry marched across no man’s land with a basket and a white scarf on a stick.  Silly bugger he nearly got his head blowed off.  He left the basket about 20 feet from our trench, called out Merry Christmas in English and  took off back to his lines as if the very devil his self  were after him.  You remember young Alfie Schultz, well he said he could smell fresh bread and he crawled up and out of the trench.  He slithered across and grabbed the basket. Bowl me over it was full of fresh baked bread.  The Officers tried to take it, but they backed down pretty quick. Tried to tell us it was poisoned.  Well, I ate it and I am still here to tell the tale. You know Girlie this isn’t what I thought it would be like. I could be fighting me cousins, ’cause grandpapa was German. It’s not right Girlie. It’s not right. I’m not a coward and I’ll fight, but they’re not all bad.

All my love,




What was that stink!

Looking around Fred couldn’t see anything that would cause the smell. Then looking down at his boots he saw they were covered in the foul smelling, turd coloured clay from the gravesite.

Pulling the trap to the side of the Lockwood road, the hot tears burning his cheeks, he felt the bile rise in his throat. Leaning over the side of the trap, he spewed until his belly was empty.  He was sweating heavily in his mourning black, it was unseasonably hot for July.  He lost track of how long he sat, still and lost in thought.

He was busy thinking about other things, Old man Skram had come to the funeral. Her children hadn’t.  The children, he laughed bitterly. Margarethe was in Melbourne with her husband and Will was helping his father at Benjeroop.  They had families of their own.

He’d done the right thing burying his beloved Annie under her real married name, Skram.  It was the same with the paperwork he had made sure all the information was on there.  He’d wanted her buried with their baby girl, Letitia, but Skram wouldn’t allow it.  So she was buried nearby as close as he could get her.  He grinned, it helped having a brother in law who was an undertaker. Sawyer had seen to it that everything was done right. He wanted Annie to have a good send off. She’d earnt it.  Thank God, Sawyer had organised everything. He was still too shaken to even think straight.

She’d only been sick such a short time and now she was gone.   She was so alive, and she loved to dance and laugh. Married and dead in the same year.

        Annie me love, I’ve never regretted a minute of it.  We’d some good times. I still expect you to come round the corner of the yard, flapping your pinny at the chooks and telling me to get down and get me lazy backside inside, that there’s another barrel that needs tapping.

      Whist away with you Fred Lennon, you lazy bugger leaving me to do all the work as usual.

       God Annie, you were so beautiful, black hair, blue eyes and beautiful skin. A typical Irish girl you were, and with a temper to boot.   I don’t know how I am going to keep going without you.

Fred realised he must have spoken aloud as the horse was becoming restive. They had waited for her children to marry before they had married.  They had had a good life together. Everyone knew they weren’t man and wife and they had come to the wedding none the less and helped them celebrate. Now they came to bury her.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, he reached for the water bag on the side of the trap, and lifting the damp canvas to his lips and took a long, deep swallow. Then pulling a white kerchief from his pocket he wet it with the cool water and mopped his face.  He stuck his boots over the side of the wheel and poured his precious water over them trying to remove the clay. He realised he was crying. These were the first tears he had shed since his Annie had passed.

Putting the water bag back on the hook, he wiped his face again. Balling the kerchief he threw it under the seat and picking up the reins slapped them against the horse’s rump. If he didn’t hurry they’d be late, No one had gone past him on the road but they may have taken the other way. Either way, they would not be far behind. Flicking the reins again, and the horse broke into a trot, in a hurry to get back to his stable.

Driving the trap into the empty yard at the rear of the Queens Head, the horse came to a halt outside its stable door.  Fred sat, the reins limp in his hands, struggling to compose himself.  The drive from the cemetery had taken well over an hour. No time to think, the horse needed wiping down and the trap put away and he was needed inside.  Little Ben appeared as if by magic and started to unbuckle the harness.

‘Mister Fred, there be people in the front parlour waiting fer you. You best change them boots before you go inside or Miss Annie will have at ya,’ realising what he’d said he clapped his hand over his mouth.

‘Mister Fred, I’m sorry I meant….’  His voice trailed off and he busied himself moving the horse out of the trap harness.

Walking over to the boy Fred put his hand on his shoulder, ‘It’s alright Ben, I know.  I miss her too. I’ll change me boots in the tack room. Clean ’em for me later will you.’

‘Righto Mr Fred, they be looking like new when I finish with ’em.’

In the tack room Fred removed his mourning coat, hanging it on the hook. Taking down his brown jacket, he put it on and changed his boots. The jacket had been her wedding present, it had come all the way from Melbourne.

At the kitchen door, he could hear the women’s voices, he could smell the bread baking and the meat roasting.  The heat hit him in the face as he opened the door.

‘Mr Fred, where’ve you bin?’ Ginny came running to him, she grabbed him by the arm.

‘The bar and the front parlour are packed tight, they’re there awaiting for you.’

The bar was bursting at the seams, so was the parlour everyone was here to pay their respects to Annie.  He saw Skram’s pale face in the crowd, they had both lost her.  Reaching up he rang the bell over the bar.

Fred turned to face his friends, ‘Thank you all for coming and the tables are set up outside. But before we go out to eat, please raise your glasses to Annie. The best wife and friend a man could have. To Annie.’

Their voices rang out, strong and clear,

‘To Annie.’

Alberton the Elephant


It had always been assumed that the Ranee, the first elephant  at Melbourne Zoo was the first elephant in Victoria.  Ranee,\ whose story features on this blog site was ousted today by a chance discovery.  While chatting on social media with another writer, the subject of elephants came up, as it would and I was advised that an ancestor of the writers had purchased an elephant from Siam and imported it into Australia via Tasmania. This  chance communication sent me scurrying off to Trove and there  I  unearthed additional information.

Edward Martins did indeed purchase an elephant for the princely sum of £175 in the early 1840’s and transported the animal to Gippsland.  To the town of  Alberton.  Alberton is a small town in  Victoria. It is located along the South Gippsland Highway, 6 kms south of Yarram and 216 kms east of Melbourne .  The township was surveyed in 1842 and named after the Price Consort, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.  It seems both the town and the Elephant shared the royal name.  Thank you, Archie for sending me off on the trail of Alberton the Elephant.

The following is a transcript from Trove’s archival material and tells the story of the Gippsland Elephant.


The present generation can form but a small idea of the struggles and difficulties encountered by the early settlers in the forest encumbered areas of Gippsland fifty year ago. For it must be remembered that in those days of giant enterprise, the difficulties of the land were calculated to appal even the most determined of the pioneers. Huge forests of eucalypti and box reared their lofty trunks to heaven, in that fierce struggle-for existence which dominates all nature. Thick undergrowth of ti-tree and other scrub defied the puny efforts of the settler, and mocked at his patient resolution. The dingo was a terror in the land, and eternal vigilance was the price to be paid for relief from his incessant depredations. Gradually the efforts of settlement made themselves apparent amid the pristine profusion of the bush, and the wanton growth of forest trees centuries old ; gradually the towering timber yielded to the axe and saw; gradually the undergrowth disappeared before the advance of the settler; and smiling homesteads, surrounded by fruitful orchards, and half hidden by a wealth of lightwood, willow and wattle, delight the eye of the traveller, where once the desolation of the scene was broken only by wandering herds of kangaroo and emu; feeding along the grassy slopes of the fern lifted creeks.

In the year 1838 the present writer’s forbear landed at Port Phillip from the sailing ship Bonnie Chiel. This was the first vessel to leave Liverpool direct for the port, and had been chartered for the purpose by the members of three families, the voyage out occupying some six months. Shortly after their arrival the voyagers selected nearly all the area of Brighton under the then existing land act. They stocked their land with some 1800 sheep, but were not successful, the country proving unfit for stock. After a sojourn of about seven years at Brighton, where the immigrants had profitably engaged in various speculations, they moved to Yarram, in South Gippsland.

After this time a travelling circus had arrived at Port Albert from Tasmania, and being in a state of financial collapse, parted with its menagerie at auction. The elephant a fine specimen of its kind-fell to the bid of one of the party who had a penchant for big game, for the sum of £175. The sight of the huge beast was a veritable revelation to the blacks, who now beheld the tusked monster for the first time, and were lost in terror and amazement. The enter prising owner of the beast mas waited on by a selected deputation of the dusky tribe, by whom he was held much in awe, as the possessor of a “debbil-debbil.” The animal’s trunk especially excited their curiosity, an aged black eagerly inquiring, “how white fella make him big fella carry two fella tail.” The elephant eventually proved more of a nuisance than a help, for though he would work well, he was exceedingly mischievous, and did a lot of damage sometimes. He was employed, inter alia, to drag the sledge, which carried the water from the distant creek. Frequently -on the completion of this task, however, he would remove the bung from the cask, and alter slaking his thirst and showering himself all over with his trunk, allow the residue of the water to run to waste. The climax came when, in the dead of night, he forced open the kitchen door, smelt out the trough of bread which had been set to rise, an., after gorging himself therewith, amused himself by flinging the rest about the walls and ceiling. The tea and sugar chest having also claimed his attention, the appearance of the kitchen in the morning was such as to justify the rope’s ending “his nibs” received at the hands of his master. He turned sulky at this, broke away to the bush, and was never again seen alive. Some twelve months after his skeleton was found many miles away in dense scrub, the actual cause of his demise remain ing a mystery.

1903 ‘REMINISCENCES OF EARLY GIPPSLAND.’, Traralgon Record (Traralgon, Vic. : 1886 – 1932) , 20 February, p. 3 Edition: MORNING., viewed 13 Dec

The Mystery Woman Annie Canning


Today for your delectation I am posting two pieces of flash fiction.  They are about Annie Canning my great -great grandmother and are basically about the same thing. There are presented in two different ways.

Silently, her small hands trembling Annie stands beside the tall blonde man.  The bright wildflower posy tumbles from her fingers landing upside down on St Killians’ slate floor. Shuffling, Johan glances at the fragile figure beside him. The full skirts of Annie’s best grey bombazine brush against his leg.  A typical Irish colleen, her black curls tumble from under the brim of her bonnet, and the green silk trimmings highlight her blue eyes. The priest’s slurred voice declares on this day of grace in 1866, they are man and wife. Annie Canning is now Mrs Johan Skram.

Without hesitation, Annie picks up the pen and boldly writes “spinster” in a strong hand on the marriage licence. The minister is asking if she has any issue, in a firm voice she replies no. Looking at her he shakes his head and writes nil in the space provided.  Turning she smiles at Fred Lennon her husband to be, he squeezes her hand in encouragement.  Annie stands tall and proud beside Fred, thinking how different it feels this time. The minister declares on this day of grace in 1896, they are man and wife. Annie Canning is now Mrs Fred Lennon.

Weeping Fred picks up the pen. His tears blot the paper causing the ink to run. Slowly he completes the notice of death for Annie Lennon, formally Annie Skram, was born Annie Canning of County Waterford. Children are Margarethe, William, and Letitia Skram. Deceased aged 49, on this day of grace in 1896.

Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages

VPRO Marriage 1866    Canning/ Skram   2618/1866

VPRO Marriage 1896     Canning/ Lennon 3819/1896

VPRO Death       1896     Lennon 8636/1896



Why do I find Annie Canning so fascinating?  I have been attempting to unwrap this mystery for over thirty years.  She is different because she is my great- great- grandmother.  She has been removed from family photographs. Family legend states she left her babies, my great-grandmother and her brother, and ran off to South Africa.  Using two primary sources, a marriage certificate[1], a death certificate[2] and a secondary source a newspaper notice of insolvency[3]. I will show what can be verified. She did leave her husband and her children, however, they were not babies when she left. She was a strong woman who left an unhappy and possibly violent relationship. I tip my hat to Annie and acknowledge what I have learnt opens to the door to more questions. 

We know Annie Canning came from Country Waterford and was fifteen or sixteen when she arrived here based on information on her marriage and death certificates. Her marriage in 1866 places her in Bendigo and marrying one Johan Frederick Skram from Denmark.  A Notice of Insolvency in May 1880, indicates she is estranged and in fear of her husband from mid-1878.  Referring to her death certificate and the Notice of insolvency, the ages of her children can be determined when she left them. When she married and died in 1896 they were in their 20’s. Her death certificate records a third previously unknown child. There is no divorce certificate.  Every answer presents a new question, a puzzle waiting to be solved.


[1] VPRO  Marriage Certificate  Canning /Skram 2618/1866

[2] VPRO  Death Certificate  Lennon  8636/1896

[3] Notice of Insolvency  Ann Skram, The  Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Friday 21 May 1880 p 5




This is my 250 flash fiction take on Amalie’s death

She is cold, she shivers, and the darkness surrounds her.  This is an inhumane place! 

I am standing here, detached, in the shadows. Why am I here, guarding the frail broken body on the hard metal bed in this cold room?  Her body convulses.  There are two others present, a nurse who tends her and a man who by his dress, I discern he is a priest.  They ignore, me as if I am invisible.  I feel I know her, as I know the body shivering in the bed.  The priest is bored. He is watching the second-hand trail around the huge clock face, waiting for the end. Then he will fulfill his duty and take his leave. He is thoughtful, remembering the first time he met her. Thirty-five years ago.  He was young commencing his ministry in this place. She has been alone for a long time. He composes himself to wait, he owes her that much.

Perhaps now I should introduce myself, I am Amalie Frankenstein-Menz and I am waiting for me to die.

This fragment of my story begins when I married Abel in 1896. He was 60, a widower, I was 30.  Six years later he died, leaving me at the mercy of his children. They were not much older than me and hated me. I was incarcerated in Kew Asylum in 1911, because I did not speak English. I was transferred to Beechworth in 1913. My case was never reviewed. I died February 9, 1948, alone and forgotten.

Primary Sources

NAA: B6531, MP/MENZ AMILIE (sic) Menz  Viewed January 2010

VPRS Kew Asylum/ Hospital for the Insane/Mental/Psychiatric Hospital – VA 2840

VPRS Beechworth Asylum/Hospital for the Insane/Mental/Psychiatric Hospital – VA 2842

VPRS Will Book 1903 87.664 Microfiche, Viewed  September 1990,  Abel Menz

VPRS 1920 Year 1935 to 1952 Reel Number4 Series 24, 1948/133  Inquest Documents Amalie Menz

Victorian Marriage Certificate 1896/ 3490 Abel Menz and Amalie Frankenstein  

Victorian Death Certificate 1903/5998   Able Menz                                            

Victorian Death Certificate 1948/16242 Amalie Frankenstein-Menz

NOTICE administration of estate records Abel Menz, The Victorian Gazette Number 539 May 19, 1948, p. 3304

NAA: B6531, MP/MENZ AMILIE, (sic) Menz  Viewed January 2010


Secondary sources

Morse, L 1991, ‘A Brief Window in Time’, The Victorian Genealogy Magazine, Ancestor, Spring Winter. pp.15-16

Morse, L 2015   Amalie’s Hell  Blog  entry

Who is Letitia Fanny Skram?


For the UTAS course, I am doing over summer session the emphasis is on flash fiction 250 words no more. Thought I would share this and get your feedback.
Part of conversation is asking questions. Imagine that you could talk to one of the characters on your family tree, what kind of questions would you ask them? Imagine the conversation you would have and write a dialogue. Spark What questions would you ask your ancestors if you could? What responses might they give? This ‘time travel’ e-tivity allows you to imagine that conversation: one I’m sure we’ve all dreamed about!

Who was Letitia Fanny?
‘Damn you to hell and back Annie Lennon. Thirty years I’ve searched for you. I find you and more questions. If only life was like the Ancestor ad and you’d pop up and say “Come find me.” ‘
‘Well now, tis that the way it is. What is it you’d be wanting to ask me?’
‘Annie? I’m Linda, your great-great-granddaughter.’
‘I know who you are girl, do you think I’m daft? Ask your questions. We don’t have time to dawdle about.’
‘Can you tell me about Letitia Fanny?’
‘She was born, she died, a wee babe. There’s naught else to tell.’
‘But, when you left GGGranpa Skram you took her with you’
‘Of course I did girl, she was sick. Skram was always away farming and mining. T’would not have been right to have left her with my Margarethe, her nothing but a child herself.’
‘Is that the only reason? ‘
‘What do you mean by that? She was a babe at breast. I could na leave her.’
‘Fred Lennon was boarding with you. His sister’s name was Letitia. Her baby was called Letitia Fanny. Was Fred your little one’s father?’
‘Well, Miss Nosey Parker you’ve been digging the dirt. I suppose there’s no harm in the telling now. My Fred was her daddy. But your gggrandfather, he never let on. He gave her his name and he buried her. I’ve naught more to say on the matter. Remember next time girl, don’t cuss me or I mayn’t answer.’