‘Weaving threads of memories’ a phrase from the subtitle of my book on the Wall family, remains ever constant through my ongoing interest in family history. Those words manifested recently, demonstrating to me how memories and past events linger in archival records and family correspondence only to emerge in surprising ways as golden threads in the tapestry of our research or quest. The Internet can be the cause of a lot of problems, but it is also a source of good. Recently I connected with two people of no connection to the other, but individually they contributed significantly to the tapestry of knowledge about my Wall ancestors.
I submitted a short story to the Horncastle History and Heritage Society in England about William Wall, my two-times great-grandfather. The story focussed on the circumstances leading up to and including William’s arrest in Horncastle Lincolnshire, in 1834, and his subsequent transportation. William attended the famous Horncastle Horse Fair, an event that was held in Horncastle annually for more than 400 years.
From that article a member of the Horncastle History and Heritage Society, contacted me. Kev Woodward is researching a few topics associated with Horncastle including people who were transported to the colonies for crimes carried out in the area. I assumed William (who was from Norwich in Norfolk) was working in or near Horncastle when he ended up in trouble, but Kev threw some unexpected light on the subject that made me think about young William differently and possible new avenues of research I would otherwise have not considered.
I quote from Kev Woodward’s email:
I don’t think William would have been working for someone near Horncastle, more likely that he travelled from Norfolk to attend the horse fair, either to look after horses his boss was trying to sell or more likely to look after the one(s) he bought. People came from all over the country, from Europe and even the USA to buy horses. The main suppliers were the local area and the Irish who used to walk their horses from Ireland to Horncastle. There is still a country lane in a neighbouring County that is called Horncastle Lane as it used to be one of the routes the Irish used.
Kev’s historical knowledge of the area gives us an enriched understanding of context in 1834 Lincolnshire. Thinking about the people who walked from Ireland to Horncastle to trade horseflesh and probably other wares is astounding. The surprises didn’t end there. James Scrooby, the apparently wealthy farmer William was accused of robbing lived in a village called Belchford, where Kev has lived for 17 years! So he was on the case to see what could be uncovered about James Scrooby and the key witness for the Prosecution. Did they know each other? If they did, it bespeaks of how social status and connections mattered.
The other gift of knowledge that came my way to do with the Walls was a connection through GSQ member Charlotte Sale. I had the good fortune to meet Charlotte, the granddaughter of William and Daisy Sale who feature on p. 127 of the Wall book. My great-grandfather John Henry (Jack) Wall managed the Sales’ sheep station— Edwinstowe, “14 miles north of Jericho Railway Station” in Central West Queensland, for 16 years. Charlotte Sale graciously shared some of her family’s historical documents from the 1930s consisting of maps and correspondence about Edwinstowe and Jack Wall’s input as manager. To read of the improvements Jack Wall brought to the station and a description of the homestead helped bring my great-grandfather to life as opposed to being a person of historical interest, an ancestor I never knew personally.
The Homestead consists of a G.C.I. (galvanised corrugated iron) building, painted, 6 rooms lined and ceiled, with 10 ft. verandahs back and front, and attached Kitchen, Dining Room, Pantry, and Maids’ Room etc. It is the old type of comfortable Station Homestead, that has been added to from time to time, and having been looked after, serves all present requirements. Water is laid on to the House and Garden by 6 ft. Comet Mill from the waterhole on the Jordan.
The Outhouses comprise Store, Men’s Quarters, Garage, Meathouse, Blacksmith’s Shop, Cart and Harness Shed etc….(excerpt from a July 1933 report written by L.A. Childe for The Wool Exchange in Brisbane, following an inspection of Edwinstowe station).
Further reading describes the shearer’s quarters for 12 men, a meat house, bath house, overseer’s cottage, dog netting along boundary lines, and holding yards built out of sandalwood. The correspondence is rich in detail painting a well-rounded picture of daily life for the men and women living on outback stations in the early years of Queensland’s pastoral industry.
John (Airly) Wall, Jack and Margaret Wall’s second eldest worked on Edwinstowe station for his father after leaving school until he enlisted in WWI. Having served in the Midde East, France, and Belgium, and suffering from ‘Trench Feet’ or frost bite, with two medals Airly finally made it back alive in 1919. Airly returned to work on Edwinstowe, where at some point he was made overseer.
So what are the lessons learned here? If you feel isolated and are struggling alone in your research journey, don’t be afraid to put your quest ‘out there’ on the Internet. You never know from whom or where something new and exciting will turn up. Give it time; it helps to be patient. Would I have preferred to learn these things about William and Jack Wall before I went to print with the book? Of course! But better late than never.
New light shed on an old story can never be extinguished. It broadens the beam of knowledge making it easier for those who follow to keep these stories alive.