Alexander Duff was born on November 30, 1806 in Bethnal Green, London. His parents were Alexander Duff, a silk manufacturer/merchant and Esther Busby. He married Caroline Deakin in August 1831. The children from that marriage were Caroline Esther, Elizabeth and Emma, my great grandmother. He came to Australia in 1866 on board the "Young Australia" and purchased land in Chermside on 26th September 1866, Portion 560 now on Gympie Road, and Portion 577 in what is now Hamilton Road. He died on 30 August 1867 of typhoid fever. His death certificate states that he had been in Queensland for 12 months before his death. As a child I can recall my grandmother telling me that he had been the first settler in Chermside. He was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Brisbane.
His daughter, Emma Duff married Edward Poulton in England and settled in Gympie, then moved to Chermside (or Dead Man's Gully, as it was then). Their children were Elizabeth Emma, Clara, Annie, Edward, Florence, Bertie and Ellen (our grandmother). Ellen told my mother that she came from Gympie to live when she was four years old. This would have been two years before her father, Edward Poulton was drowned in the Mary River at Maryborough. On a list of landowners that I have, the owner of the Dead Man's Gully property is listed as E Poulton. I'm not sure whether it was Edward or Emma. As the land was previously owned by her father, I have assumed that it was Emma.
I'm not sure when the house, previously on the corner of Mermaid Street, was built, or by whom as both my grandfather and great grandfather were builders. It could have been either one of them, or someone else in the years between Edward Poulton's death and Ellen's meeting with Alex Beckmann.
I have often wondered, since becoming interested in family history, how Emma survived with three young children (the elder members of the family had married), Florrie (Mrs Quinn), Bertie, who died in 1911 of Bright's Disease and Ellen, then aged 6.
Looking at photographs of the family between 1885 and 1915 when Emma died, and seeing the type of clothing worn, it seems as if the Poulton family was not a poor family. Emma seems to have been very devoted to her family, as I know that my grandmother was to her.
I can't recall Nana talking very much about her early childhood, except that she had to walk to Aspley to go to school. I don't know if the Aspley School was then where it is now. If it was, it was a long walk for a little girl. But the world in those days was a much safer place than it is today.
I do remember tales of her young adult years - going to dances, walking to Lutwyche Cemetery through bush land to catch the horse drawn tram, and thinking on one particular night that she was being followed home. I'm sure her sister Florrie was with her on most of these excursions. Photographs of Florrie and Ellen show them both to have been very attractive young ladies, and I'm sure the family home attracted quite a few eligible gentlemen.
From reading a diary for 1910-1911, Ellen seemed to be very fond of the moving pictures. On a trip to Sydney in late 1910, she seemed to be quite a social butterfly, with visits to friends and relatives almost every day, and quite a few visits to the moving pictures. At this time she would have been 31 years old, so was no spring chicken, and seemed to know her way around Sydney quite well. (I was 30 when I had my first visit to Sydney and would have got lost if I'd been turned around three times in Circular Quay, and I still feel that way about Sydney.)
One of Nana's great loves (apart from my Grandfather) was music, and musical evenings seemed to be held at the house at Dead Man's Gully quite frequently. She taught music for a number of years and I have in the treasures rescued from her house, a receipt book with names of pupils, dates, and amounts paid. So it would appear that she made an honest living. I have just recently learned that one of Nana's nieces, Annie Amy Heilbronn, followed the same profession.
Emma, Nana's mother, died in 1915 at the age of 80. The previous year, Nana had married Alexander William Rudolph Beckmann. He was the only son of Carl and Alwine of Zillmere. Apparently Nana first met him when he was delivering bread for his father, who was a baker.
The marriage united two of the pioneering families of the area. My mother was their adopted daughter, Elsie.
The house at Chermside was called Pinner. On looking through old photographs, we found that Pinner was the place in London where Emma had been born.
After Emma's death, my grandparents used to foster children, and I believe the house on the corner became known as the orphanage. My great aunt Florrie (Mrs Quinn) also fostered children. One of the children my grandparents fostered, Jack Hopkins, lived in the old house until his death last year.
My mother Elsie married Frank Bowker from Bald Hills. My sisters, Rozlynn and Elva, and I spent a lot of time at Chermside as children and the old house held lots of memories, especially for Rozlynn and me, as Elva was only 11 years old when Nana died.
In conclusion, I would like to read an article that appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail after my Grandfather's death in 1952. "Another link with the pioneering days of Chermside, when it was known as Downfall Creek, was severed when the death of Mr Alec Beckman recently occurred. He was born in Zillmere over 72 years ago, and had lived all his life in the district, including 38 years residence in Chermside.
His father, Mr Carl Beckman, may be recalled by residents of Zillmere as the proprietor of a bakery business for a number of years. Later, with his son Alec, he was engaged in the building trade and they took a pride in the number of homes built by them throughout the Downfall Creek district.
It is interesting to note that Mrs Alec Beckman, a resident of over 60 years in Chermside, was also of pioneering stock. Her grandfather, Mr Alexander Duff, was the first resident of Chermside. As a young man he left Scotland for Queensland, and as an encouragement for migration he was given a land grant in the then unknown bushland of Downfall Creek. This land comprised 10 acres of what is now a very valuable portion of the business section of Chermside. It was bounded by what was known from early years and until recently as Duff Street, in honour of Chermside's first resident. Despite strong opposition from the Progress Association and for some unknown reason, the city council changed the name to Kuran Street, a name without any significance, as far as is known to Chermside residents.
A large number of the older residents of Chermside will regret the passing of their friend Alec Beckman. He could be aptly described as one of nature's gentlemen, a kindly man whose daily thoughtful acts were a record of kindness and consideration for others. Those who were favoured with his friendship will always appreciate his dry wit and humorous quips. He was a noted story teller and had a pleasing sense of humour strongly developed. Alec has told his last story. We bow our heads and say farewell. Besides his widow, of Gympie Road Chermside, he leaves an adopted daughter, Mrs Elsie Bowker of Bald Hills, and a host of friends to mourn his loss."
Information supplied by Beverley Connolly at the naming of the park ,Dead Man's Gully, in