Sunday, 1 September 2013

Father's Day 2013 tribute

Having been inspired by Jill Ball's GeniAus post this morning about Father's Day, here is my tribute to the fathers in my family.

Firstly, my husband, Dean. He's been a step-dad to my 2 grown-up sons, and is an awesome father to our two daughters. Here he is at the Sanctuary Cove boat show last year, wishfully thinking that this boat was actually his:

Next, the men whose DNA I share:

Gerald Andrew Collins (1941 - )
My father, Gerry (Gerald Andrew Collins), is a retired coal mine first aid officer, & school bus driver. He used to drive us on our school excursions, which gave us kids lots of cred. Back in primary school. Everywhere he would travel when he did his two laps of Australia he would know someone. There are never 6 degrees of separation to my Dad, only ever 2 or 3, especially if you're from Cessnock! He's battling lung cancer as best he can, and the world won't be as sunny without him in it. He answers the phone to his brother with the words: "He ain't heavy" instead of "hello", calls me "Old Nell", and always ends our phone calls by calling me "Pet". His philosophy is "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything at all." He's never even said it to me (not that I can remember but surely he did at some stage), although he lives it every day. I try and live by his example, and pass it along to my children.

Andrew William Collins (1907 - 1994)
This blurry pic on the right, taken on the lakefront at Wangi Wangi NSW in 1993, is 4 generations of our Collins family. In the wheelchair is my grandfather, Andy (age 86), my Dad Gerry, me as a spring chicken, and my eldest son, Stewart, who was only a few weeks old at the time.     

Andrew William Collins (my "Pa") was also a coal miner, as well as a bread carter, canary breeder and at one stage a driving instructor. He was really lucky to avoid being killed in the Bellbird Colliery Disaster in 1923, when he was 16. He had been offered to work "a doubler" (working two shifts in a row), but didn't take it on. The explosion happened in that second shift. He was a really gentle man. When I lived with he and my grandmother for a couple of years (a privilege I didn't appreciate at the time, especially for it's genealogical value!) I would come home from school in an afternoon and he'd ask if I learned anything. The answer was always "Nup", even if I did occasionally learn something. That was our standard greeting. He loved to sit in the sun on the front verandah of his Cessnock home and say hello to anyone who walked past, as he tapped the rubber end of his walking stick on the wooden boards.

His Dad was another Andy, or George Andrew, depending on the document, was also a coal miner. The name Andrew runs through the family all over the place in many generations, including my brother. (I've recorded them all so future descendants won't get confused by them.) I wrote about him here:

He was born at the Sydney Benevolent Asylum in 1885, and was fostered by the Collins family from Newcastle, NSW, at about 6 weeks old. His marriage certificate was in the name Collins, listing his foster-parents as his parents, so if I hadn't had a heads-up about his parentage from a great-aunt I would be merrily chasing someone else's tree. Then, this hush-hush family secret information turned out to be wrong anyway! His real father's name was listed on his mother's entry into the Benevolent Asylum when she was heavily pregnant: Henry Burgess Gibb (1865 - 1901), coal miner from Newcastle. He was working there at the time, although his family had emigrated from Liverpool, England, about 1857, and were living in Sydney. Maybe Henry was home to visit his family when he met Ada Barrett (nee Morrant). I have no photos of Henry. He committed suicide (another story to be told there) in 1901, age 36. Ada's husband, William Joshua Barrett,  was in Goulburn Gaol at the time of Andy's birth, for the attempted murder of their toddler son, William James Barrett. I calculated the Ada was about 3 months pregnant with Andy when the awful attempt on William's life took place, so my guess is that William Joshua Barrett knew about the pregnancy, had just found out about it, or worked it out for himself. 

Here is Henry's son and my great grandfather, Andy:

Andrew/George Collins (1885 - 1952)

So even though we are proud Collins', from the age of 19 I thought my surname was meant to be Barrett, then a few years ago I found that it should've been Gibb. Weirdly, the same goes for my Mum's side of the family. Her father was George Millard Kerville (1911 - 1991). His father was actually Leo Gabriel (1889 - 1962), not Horace Alfred Kerville (1872 - 1939), even though he was given the Kerville name. Leo started as a boarder in Grandpa's mother's house, but they had a relationship that lasted many, many years and many children. They didn't marry until Horace died in 1939. Yet another story! So my mother's surname should've been Gabriel instead of Kerville. Ah, families. Gotta love 'em!

My Grandpa, George Millard Kerville, was an eccentric master cabinet-maker, who also made his own wine out of anything and everything. He had a cellar dug out of the red dirt under his house in Port Macquarie, NSW, and he would sneak us grandkids a sip of mead that he'd made. He had a garage/workshop where he had all his machinery and tools, which always had wood shavings on the floor, and smelled like cedar. When we would visit in the school holidays he would let us make things out of his off-cuts, so there was lots of nailing and PVA glueing, with not much to show at the end of it. We loved playing in the cedar shavings, especially the then curly bits, which must have been off the hand plane. His motorbike must not have come to NSW when he moved the family there from Victoria in 1954, as I've never seen it at his house. When my Grandmother, Edyth Mary Tuck (1920 - 2003), was in labour with my mum and her siblings he took her to the hospital in the side-car of the bike. I'm sure the ride would've sped labour along!

Grandpa George in 1963, age 52

George Millard Kerville, about 1950, outside his home in Ashburton, Vic.
So to the fathers in my life, thank you for being there, for being the wonderful men that you all are, and for giving me life. I'm ever so grateful.