Some might say it was because I married a Kiwi who had lived in Western Australia many years before travelling the world and meeting me in London. But that was just the next step in my fate, and one I couldn’t believe was really happening.
I became fascinated with Australia when I saw A Town Like Alice (1956 film and 1981 TV series) and then read the book, which remains one of my favourite books (I think we’re due a remake film too, aren’t we?). Then came the film My Brilliant Career. I then read the book, and My Career Goes Bung. Next came The Thorn Birds, and yes once again I saw the TV series before I read the book.
So from my late teens to early twenties, although my life followed the path I’d arranged for myself, anything Australian caught my attention. Not that we had much news and views on Australia in Wales earlier than this. But once I got to London and lived in Earls Court for a while, news and views broadened and I even met actual Australians (this was novel and very exciting back in the early 80s). I had a date with one Aussie guy who told me he flew helicopters on his parent’s cattle property. I thought he might have been exaggerating, but hoped he wasn’t because I mean – wow! That didn’t happen in Wales. I needed to go to this country but couldn’t imagine it happening anytime soon.
Cue meeting my Kiwi husband-to-be some few years later.
A wedding in Wales, a short two-year stay in New Zealand and on to Western Australia. I’ll never forget my Welsh roots of course, but I’m happy to love two places and call them home and I’ve now been here 20 years.
A number of years back, before I started writing, I turned my hand to family history and genealogy and discovered that not only did I adore this fascinating research, I was also quite good at it. I hoped to trace a convict or two in my family who’d been transported out here but haven’t yet found one. I thought perhaps I was the first in my direct family line (maternal and paternal) to land on Aussie soil.
Then I discovered my Faulkners.
Deborah Faulkner, baptised 1818 in Staffordshire England and the sixth of eleven children, was my 4th great aunt (paternal side of my direct family line) and her sons George Faulkner (born 1839) and Edmund Faulkner (born 1842) my first cousins, five times removed.
Deborah is recorded as the mother of both boys, and there is no father’s name. In the census of 1841 she’s living in Staffordshire on independent means and she’s calling herself Ann (her mother’s name). But I wonder if the father was supporting Deborah in some way as her sister, Jane, was in the Union Workhouse by 1851 with three illegitimate children. This would have been Deborah’s fate had someone not supported her and the children.
By 1851 Deborah was living in Lancashire, working as a house maid, so perhaps her financial benefactor ended the support, or maybe died. Sons George and Edmund went to live with family members in Staffordshire. Deborah married John McLeod in February 1852 in Lancashire. John was a Scottish born farm bailiff working for the same family as Deborah. They sailed to Victoria, Australia c1852. Deborah died of fever in Collingwood in 1856, age 42.
But a little earlier, in 1855, four young men – her sons George aged 16, Edmund aged 14, and their cousins James and Joseph Bates - sailed to Australia on the clipper-ship Lightning.
Edmund Faulkner’s history is yet to unfold for me, as is that of his step-father John McLeod as I wasn’t able to find any records of either after the death of Deborah, although I have research possibilities but truthfully, I’ve been too busy writing books to do family history research in the last seven years. George Faulkner, Deborah’s eldest son, initially achieved the most solid and prosperous livelihood of all four young men who sailed on their adventure.
In 1860 George married Irish born Mary in Prahran, Victoria. Perhaps his brother Edmund died too because George and Mary named the first of their seven children Edmund (although he died, aged four). After the birth of their first child they moved to Stawell, Victoria where they stayed.
During his life in Stawell, George Faulkner’s occupations were: Gardener, Market Gardener, Orchardist, and Vineyard & Garden Lease Owner.
On 27 Jan 1872 Pleasant Creek News (Stawell) reported that George Faulkner had taken on the lease for Vineyard and Gardens at Concongella Creek, Stawell.
I often wonder why I don’t write historical fiction. Maybe one day I’ll put something together combining historic fact with fiction, and tell a story of my ordinary but to mind extraordinary Faulkners.
If there are any Faulkner or Stawell readers here, please do get in touch as I have a lot of information from the UK side of things and I’m happy to share. Just email me.
“To forget one’s ancestors is to be like a brook without a source, a tree without a root.”
My grandmothers (paternal side), mothers to daughters, left to right:
4th great grandmother, Mary
(sadly no known photo of 3rd great grandmother, Jane),
2nd great grandmother, Alice
great grandmother, Annie
and grandmother, Jennie Jones
The lady on the left is Mary Bates née Faulkner, born 1811. She was Deborah’s older sister and mother to the boys who travelled to Australia with George and Edmund Faulkner.
A version of this post was first published on Australian Romance Readers Association blog
My thanks must also go to Stawell Historical Society for their communication with me.
Concongella Vineyard website
Jennie Jones is a bestselling author of feel-good fiction with romance (and a touch of humour) at heart. Her books include the Swallow’s Fall series set in the Australian Snowy Mountains and A Heart Stuck on Hope which is Jennie’s latest release from the A Dollar for a Dream series set in country New South Wales.