I thought you may enjoy this fictional account of what might have happened to my Great Great Great Grandmother, Mary Ann Perrett and her children.
It was Christmas Eve. The light was diminishing, and James and John Perrett were almost finished weeding the vegie patch at their cottage in Bundamba, They’d been at their labouring jobs all day, but they knew how important it was to tend their garden beds. What with their father James dying suddenly, and now the family being almost penniless, keeping food on the table was paramount. What was Christmas day going to be like?
All of a sudden, through the air, came the enticing smell of meat cooking in their family’s cottage.
John looked at James, “Can you smell that? Where did Mother get the meat? Where did she get the money?” They quickly raced to the door.
“Mother, Mother, where did you get the meat? I thought we had no money for meat!”
Just as they were questioning their mother, Sealey, their younger brother, who had been picking cotton all day, raced inside.” What’s going on? Is that mouth watering meat I can smell? I don’t know where you got it from Mother, but am I looking forward to eating it!”
By this time Mary Ann Perrett knew she had to answer their questions.
“ You know how hard it has been since your father died. At times I wish we were back home in South Perrott. There, we would have been able to live in mother’s second house. Your grandfather had been a yeoman working for Sir Alex Hood and we were well off. Why your father thought we would be better off here I don’t know. We have been reduced almost to beggars. How selfish of him to die and leave us in this mess!
By this time, the brothers knew that their mother had had to do something drastic.
“What did you do then!” they exclaimed in unison.
Just as Mary was about to explain how she obtained the meat, in walked Ellen, Mary’s eldest daughter, who had been doing a day’s work in Ipswich. She looked at the faces of her brothers and then at her Mother. They seemed to be all waiting for something. “What’s happening?” she shouted. “Why are you all looking at Mother like that?”
“It’s all right Ellen, I was just about to tell your brothers where I obtained the meat you can smell cooking on the stove”.
By this time the other six children had had their supper and gone to bed.
“Let’s sit at the table and discuss this matter,” said Mary. By this time the boys were really getting anxious. It seemed forever, since they first had smelled that delicious smell. They were now getting very hungry, and wishing their mother would hurry up and tell them, so they could enjoy the meal. They knew their mother to be a strong willed person and so made their way to their wooden seats around the table.
“As you know we have little money, only the money that you all bring home from your jobs. So today I knew I had to do something. Having to take care of baby Susan and the other little ones I am unable to get work. So the only thing left was to ask Uncle Adam, your father’s brother who lives in Ipswich, for some money, to tide us over till after Christmas. So the children and I walked all the way to his house. We were met there by Louise, who kindly listened to our plight. She spoke to Adam, and he agreed to help us out, till we can pay him back after Christmas.
After that, the children and I were able to buy the meat and so we walked back. The children were so tired after their long walk,they have all gone to bed early.
I think it is now time for us to share this delicious meat, don’t you agree!”
So Ellen laid the table while Mother dished out the meal. Each of them was thankful that they were not alone here in this new country.
The next day was Christmas, each one having slept well after their hearty meal. Now that they knew that their money problem was solved till after Christmas, they were determined to enjoy the day. All of the children worked that morning to make their small cottage look like it would have been like back home. James was able to cut down a tree, which they decorated with stars made from leaves.
At lunchtime, they enjoyed more of their meat dish from the previous night. Mary, James and John, were feeling a bit wistful, wondering what Christmas in South Perrott was like. Was it snowing? How different it was here in this hot country.
“However for this Christmas day in Bundamba, we are are putting our worries and cares aside and enjoying it!” said James who now took on the role of father.
“ Merry Christmas everyone!” they all exclaimed.