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WILLIAM’S FUNERAL

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The final submission for UTAS Writing The Family History Saga, William’s Funeral is based on factual details. The narrative has been  constructed to tell the story of my great grandmother Lily Menz Morse  who was widowed when her husband died in a tragic mine accident at the same time Queen Victoria died,  William and Lily had 4 boys under 9 years of age and she was 8 months pregnant with her fifth child. he was born  in March 1901 and named for his father William Francis Samuel Morse.  My grandfather is the middle son, Percy  Morse. Lily was on her own as she was estranged from her family. Her formidable father  Abel Menz  felt she had married beneath station.   Able was a powerful man  in the Mount Franklin Shire, and Past President  and Councillor of the shire. I want  to believe that her 11 brothers stood by her at the time of her husband’s death although I have no evidence to support this. Her sons were named for her brothers. Annie and James Parker are her sister in-law and brother in-law.  Annie was William’s sister and both were witnesses at Lily and William’s  elopement. This is my narrative relating to William’s Funeral.William& Lily's headstone

Everything was black, even the moon hid from view. The soft rain[1] fell echoing her mood. Lily set in her rocking chair on the front porch.  Her belly rising and falling as the child kicked.  Wrapped in an old quilt, Lily’s tears flowed. William lay in the front room[2].  Her thoughts were about the boys and the new baby. The Colony was in mourning the death of the old Queen[3], but she mourned William.

She closed her eyes against the night and everything went black.

The smell of porridge tickled Lily’s nostrils before Otto woke her.                                            “Mumma, mumma are you all right?” Otto shook Lily. Awake for hours,  Otto made sure Percy and Harold ate breakfast and changed Bertie. He understood how hard today would be.  Otto’s ninth birthday was only two weeks away.  The eldest boy, he was the man of the family. .  Looking down at her skirt she smiled when she saw the grey lumpy hand-print.  Otto had made porridge to feed the boys. Now her clothes need changing, and the funeral was at 10.00am.  Pulling her watch out of her pocket, she noted there was enough time before Annie arrived.  Her brother and sister-in-law, had been so helpful. Annie had lent her a black bombazine dress to wear. Smiling she thought just as well she was thin and Annie wide, for the dress fitted her in her eighth month.  The boys would need help to dress, she couldn’t leave everything to Otto.

Lily adverted her eyes from crepe draped coffin. The essence of William didn’t exist in a wooden box, he lived in her heart and as long as she had the boys he would always be with her. Reverend Rogers[4] had sat with her last night and talked about the future. He’d talked to the Mine manager. There might make a small annuity available. The parish would help where possible. She thanked him for his kindness, but her insides curled up at the thought of accepting charity.

She dressed slowly, and before she knew it Annie arrived; breezing through the door like a breath of fresh air.  James following in her wake with several brown paper parcels in his arms.  Annie took immediate control; organising the boys and before she could blink, they were washed and changed. Shouts and giggles sounded as they cut the string and unwrapped the packages.  Five-year-old Percy ran into the room;

“See Mumma, new pants and shoes he pointed his foot. Auntie Annie has new pants and shoes for all of us, even Bertie.”

“Percy, come here and help me with Bertie,” Annie’s muffled voice called from the back room. Percy raced back and, the giggling continued.

Lily retreated to the porch, to her chair, unable to stay in the front room, she had tried but felt breathless. James carried a tea tray out and placing the tray on the table he handed Lily a mug of sweet tea.

“Where did all the food in the kitchen come from, Lily?

“From the neighbours, it’s a good spread for the Wake.”

James laughed, “Well that’s something. It appears Otto’s been cooking porridge. Somehow I don’t think you’ll be able to selvage the pot.”

Before Lily answered, the boys spilled out on to the porch. Annie followed, her pink cheeks glowing. The boys standing to attention, with two-year-old Bertie balanced on Percy’s hip. Bertie’s thumb remained jammed in his mouth.

Harold twisting and turning to show off his new clothes spied the two drays coming up the road.

“Mumma! Look Uncle Otto, Uncle Alex, Uncle Ernest, and oh just everybody!”

Lily looked up through the drizzling rain across the rail line to the church. Revered Rodgers’ trap was already there, push-bikes and drays crammed into the rear. The black draped dray pulled up out the front. The second dray loaded with men drove on to the house.

Otto drove the trap around the back. The rain stopped.  He dismounted and the six brothers walked together to the steps of the porch.

“Morning Lily, we’re here to take William to Chapel.”

Lilly nodded and her boys melted to her side, and they walked down the steps as her brothers entered the house. Standing three on either side of the coffin they raised it from the trestles. Turning, they carried the coffin from the room, out the door and down the steps. In the yard they stopped, shifted William’s coffin to their shoulders and linking arms underneath, they began the short walk to the Church. Lily followed. Annie and James closed in beside her, and with the boys they made the journey across the railway line to the church.

 

[1] 1901 ‘WEATHER FORECAST.’, The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 22 January, p. 1. , viewed 20 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207027824

[2] Death Certificate of William Samuel Frances Morse, died 23 January 1901, Registrar of Birth, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, 28251/1901

[3] 1901 ‘PUBLIC MOURNING’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 24 January, p. 10. , viewed 19 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196061718

[4] https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5ac5a60b21ea6b05947f8500

 

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