Stephanie Ryan and Bobbie Edes have both recently talked about the history that can be attached to houses. I was delighted to read Stephanie’s post last week about the history of the Ryan house at Kedron and the fabulous archive of house photos in the Corley Collection. This ties in very well with this week’s post.
The GSQ Writing Group had its first meeting for 2019 on Sunday 17 February and we were delighted to welcome a guest speaker, Caylie Jeffery. Caylie is a published author and her most recent project was to document, in book form, the project which emerged from a simple post on Facebook, and became known as the Under the Lino (UTL) (www.underthelino.com.au) project.
Caylie and her husband purchased a property in Heussler Terrace in Milton in the 1990s, which she freely admits was the worst home on the busiest terrace. As she and her husband started to renovate the property, she discovered three bank books, £20 in notes and some coins hidden under the multiple layers of lino in the kitchen. She put them away safely in an envelope meaning to come back to them one day. That one day turned out to be some 20 years later when the envelope emerged as she was looking for something else. Not sure what to do with them, she asked for advice from the social media community and was deluged with responses.
Not wanting to spoil the story, suffice to say that the energy within the Facebook community resulted in significant research not only on who owned the money and the house, but also on the connectedness of various families in the Milton area; this went some way to solving some of the mysteries associated with the house.
Contributors to the project not only researched the history of the family of Arthur and Eleanor Webster, whose names were in two of the bank books, and their son, Morgan – who were they, what were they like? The group also investigated living conditions during that period. Analysis of the bank books led to discussion of how much the cash was worth in today’s values? How did a working class family manage to accumulate and save the amount of money in the bank books? Practices relating to banking, Commonwealth War Bonds, and pensions all fed into the discussion. Why did the Websters hide the money?
As the tentacles of the project spread out, more and more people became involved and other secrets, such as a murder, brothels, fraud began to emerge. Through the research Caylie met members of the Webster’s extended family, their friends and workmates, and many Milton residents who remembered the family.
Caylie was encouraged to pull the different parts of the project into a book, which was published in late 2018. Starting with the story of her own family, the book provides the background to the purchase of the house and the discovery of the bank books and money. It then records what has been found out about this branch of the Webster family, including its links to Websters Biscuits company, and the Shingle Inn. The separate research topics are documented verbatim from the social media posts, which enables readers to get a sense of the energy of the group and the excitement when a new piece of information is discovered or something is explained.
Caylie freely acknowledges the assistance provided by many members of the project group and the wider community in unravelling the mysteries that emerged from the discovery of bank books and money. Along the way she learnt a lot about early Brisbane and she now spends much of her time sharing that knowledge with others, especially schoolchildren. She has featured in radio and newspaper interviews, see the Courier Mail QWeekend article which includes various photos.
This is truly a lesson to anyone renovating an old house – make sure you look carefully under the lino, you never know what you may find! It also echoes Stephanie’s post about the history that lies in our homes, and how our homes contribute to the lives that we and our ancestors lived.