He Only Ever Went To Sea. Finale

After 1900 he made several mentions of his children in his letters; from August 1901 an unusual letter written at his home in Sydney:

“We have a good old Irish servant (Biddy by name) who looks after the house and kids splendidly, in fact little Freddie will do more for her than he will for us. He is such a good little fellow…Mollie is a cranky little thing….Jim goes to the Waverley Grammar School and Millie to the Convent school in town….they are doing their work and squabbling beside me now. They are getting quite big and we can send them all over Sydney by themselves….Mary is going to send you one of Mollies curls – she is a mass of curls and such a pretty thing. “

The letter finished: “This is the first letter I have wrote you in the midst of my family. Excuse the writing, they are shaking the table.” And from early 1903:

Little Freddie is a very fine boy and the pet of Bondi. Mollie is a little terror, she must do as she likes and if anyone interferes she can just say ‘I’ll tell my father when the big ship comes home!’. Mildred and Jim are big lumps going to school and if I take Mary away I will put them to boarding school. “

(Frederick Courbarron enlisted in the AIF 15th Battn in Sydney on 24th July 1917. He was aged 17 but archival evidence shows he listed his age as ’18 yrs, 5 mths’, something commonly done in order to be accepted for service. He gave his occupation as being a farm hand and his next of kin as his mother, Mary, who at that time was living at Moree, NSW. In 1937 he married Mary Ellen Navin (Nell) who was 8 years his senior, and they lived at the NSW north coast town of Brunswick Heads. Mary died in 1963. Frederick died and was buried there in 1983).

April 1903: ” I was home for two days a few weeks ago, the first time in near two years, the youngsters did not know me. Jim said ‘I suppose you’re Dad?’ Mary came to NZ to meet me when I got back from Calcutta and was aboard for a few days, I took her back to Newcastle on the ship.”

James made several references to his health over the years. His gout had given him considerable discomfort and he was suffering increasing deafness caused by the years of taking quinine to combat malaria on his travels. He also suffered from rheumatics and it was for this reason that he resigned from the Union Steamship Company on 10th September 1903.

In late October, following his retirement from the USC, the family left Sydney for the rural town of Richmond . On the 6th November, James began proprietorship of the Royal Hotel in Richmond after being granted a license from the Windsor Licensing Court. The license was issued in the name of ‘Capt. J.H. Courbarron’. The family took up residence in the hotel itself during which time their eldest child, Mildred, attended St Joseph’s Convent in Windsor. Articles published in the local Hawkesbury Herald report the various public and private functions that were hosted at the hotel and that Mary was much lauded in her role as Hostess. The following is taken from the edition published 15th April, 1904:

“A very pleasing incident occurred at the Royal Hotel last week. Just prior to catching their train, a number of officers of the 1st Australian Light Horse waited on Capt. and Mrs Courbarron to express their thanks and appreciation of the kindness shown them, and the men under their command, during their stay in town.

Each spoke in eulogistic terms of the hostess who, at all times, was most untiring in her efforts for the comfort of all who visited the hotel. The hope was expressed on all sides that the camp would again be held here next year, and that Capt. Courbarron and his good lady would still be found at the Royal.”

It appears that James and Mary’s tenure in Richmond was a successful one and they possibly may have remained settled there however their brief career as hotel proprietors came to an end in June 1904 when the Herald reported that the family had left Richmond. From an article dated 10th June 1904:

“Captain and Mrs Courbarron and family left Richmond on Thursday last. It is their intention to reside in Sydney privately for at least some time.”

This early departure, less than a year after their move to Richmond, can almost certainly be put down to the declining state of James’ health. The family returned to Sydney taking up residence in Bondi, at 72 Anglesea Street. This house was built in 1900 and still stands today.

His health continued to deteriorate however and three months later, on the 16th September, James died at home. The cause of death was noted as cardiac failure caused by chronic nephritis – or Brights Disease. He was  41 years old.

(This Brights Disease is a genetic condition and was also suffered by James’ relatives in Canada; his daughter Mildred passed the condition down to her own daughter, a grandson and a great grandaughter.)

Mollie was only six at the time of her father’s death but recalled that her last vivid memory of him was when the undertakers came to collect his body. Their servant Biddy had sent her and young Freddie, who was four, to their rooms at the top of the stairs. They crept out and sat on the top step watching as the undertakers put their father’s body into a coffin. James had requested that he be buried as close to the sea as possible. And he was. He was buried at the windswept Waverley cemetery in a plot facing the sea. When Mary joined him there in 1927 many more graves in that time had been placed between James and the cliff face.

Money did eventually come from Ireland in June 1905 with the sale of St Ernan’s. It was not a great fortune – $1,670. James Hamilton suggested several ways for her to safely invest it but Mary dissipated it in her own way.

After her husband’s death, Mary became involved with a man of dubious character and it is believed she married him, or at least took his name. In correspondence dated during WW1, she signs letters to her son, James, as ‘Mary Casey’. The birth of a baby girl, Kathleen (Kitty), to Mary followed in 1907 (registered in Lismore) and the subsequent loss of the money and silver sent from St Ernans. Mary by now had moved to northern NSW, Mr Casey having disappeared from her life before the birth of Kitty – and most likely with the family silver as well…..

Mildred, my great-grandmother, died in 1968. Molly (Mary-Helen) died at Gosford in 1988. A few years earlier she had recounted her memories of her sea-going father…

“He was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and had mid-brown hair. He was an honest person who had been kind with the children, he could also be stern with them. “

Molly also spoke about how her father traveled home to Bondi on his infrequent visits to Sydney. She said he traveled by Hansom Cab from Dawes Point – the Sydney harbour bridge stands there today. He also smoked a pipe.

When asked if her father ever went to church she answered…

No, he only ever went to sea.

 

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