Chapter 3

The Family

Frances Matilda Hamilton, (1889-1989) the oldest child in the family, was named after her Aunt Matilda and the hymn-tune writer, Frances Ridley Havergal. Fanny, as she was called, was born at Downfall Creek and spent her early years in the Chermside district. She went to Little Cabbage Tree Creek School (later called Aspley School) with Hugh and Eddie until the Downfall Creek School opened in 1900.1 All of Thomas and MJ’s children learned to play musical instruments and Fanny was a talented pianist and organist. She shared her enjoyment with her family and church.

She learnt the millinery trade at the Brisbane Technical College, at that time in Ann Street, and worked from home, not only as a milliner but also as a piano teacher. Lessons were either at her home or her pupils’. There are a few pages of a diary she kept in 1913 and she led a very busy life - working, attending choir practices and teaching at Sunday school. There were many social activities for a young lady to enjoy - visiting friends, going to the Exhibition, playing tennis and getting to know Percy Carseldine (1889 - 1964), one of her father’s blacksmith apprentices.

Fanny and Percy were married in 1913 and lived at Northgate until 1920 when they moved to Fairfield at Bald Hills. Percy took over the work of his mother’s dairy and their children, Andrew Joseph, Harold Edward, Vernon Wallace Hector and Hugh James helped with the farming activities. The children also were good musicians.

Fanny joined the choir of the Bald Hills Methodist church and played the organ at various times for the Bald Hills and the Brighton congregations. She and Thomas enjoyed fishing together, and like all his other children, she wrote to him whenever she was away on holidays. She described birds and flowers that he knew and loved and went to considerable trouble to find a suitable home for his last horse, Dolly. Aunty Maggie lived with the Carseldines for several years before she died.

Percy died in 1964 and the following year, Fanny went to live at Cooper House and later at St John’s Nursing Home, both at Wheller Gardens in Chermside where she died on 7th October 1989, aged 100.2

Hugh Faulkner Montgomery Hamilton (1890-1971) was born at Downfall Creek and his name commemorates some of his Irish ancestors. His family called him Hughie as his mother’s brother was also Hugh Hamilton – adding to the confusion of Hamilton names.

Hugh left Chermside School in December 1904 and went to The Boys’ High School at Warwick, a boys’ boarding and day school.3 He was the only one in the family to have a secondary education and there is a suggestion that someone in Warwick repaid a debt to Thomas by paying for Hugh’s education.

Hugh followed Thomas in many of his interests and work. Like his father, he learnt to play the violin and played in the church orchestra as well as being the Sunday School superintendent for several years. He also found time to be a trustee for the church and the School of Arts.

Thomas noted in his diary that Hugh’s first job in the shop was to paint the bottom of a dray – nearly 8!4 Hugh worked for his father for several years and then bought a milk run from N. R. Wilde in 1921. He sold it within a few months. He then worked in Uncle Willie’s (MJ’s brother) blacksmith’s shop at Nundah but he was more interested in all the new cars and trucks coming into Brisbane. The CEMC was looking for a suitable buyer and it was with much satisfaction that Hugh bought the business that his grandfather, Andrew Hamilton, had begun.

Hugh was working in the workshop for several months before he officially started the business in April 1923. He called it Hamilton’s Coach and Motor Body Building and agreed to rent the premises for 15/- per week for the first six months. The secretary of the CEMC soon noted that Hugh was doing good business.5

Motorised transport became more popular in the 1920s and much of the work involved alterations to trucks and buses. Drivers and businesses found motor vehicles much more convenient than working with horses which needed constant attention. In 1922, Thomas attended a horse sale at Petrie Terrace where prices ranged from 5/- to Ł1 – never so cheap. 6 Some occupations which depended on animals declined – saddlers, feed merchants and blacksmiths.

Many returned soldiers were familiar with driving trucks and preferred them to horses. Farmers wanted faster access to city markets and processors. Local councils started to improve road surfaces and needed heavy mechanical equipment. To do this, some established coachbuilding and blacksmith businesses adapted to the new technology by making and repairing bodies for motor vehicles.7 A few continued to make and repair horse drawn equipment and Hugh still employed a blacksmith in 1928. Much of the repair work was on the spring drays belonging to the district storekeepers. Hugh clearly saw the ending of an era and adapted his business to the latest technologies.

Much of Hugh’s business related to modifying truck chassis for specific uses. The chassis arrived in large crates and it was the firm’s job to adapt the vehicles to suit those needs. Bodies, canopies, windscreens, toolboxes and seats had to be adjusted to meet the requirements for customers whose vehicles delivered milk, bread, fruit, ice and meat to shops and homes.

Thomas, and Hugh’s brothers, Eddie and Alex, worked for Hugh at various times. They had separate trade specialties but helped each other during busy periods. Hugh and his Uncle Willie at Nundah maintained a family tradition of helping each other during busy or slack periods.

Packer Brothers and Begrie were engineering hardware suppliers and steel distributors. They were also the agents for Thornycroft trucks which Hugh’s workshop adapted to carry heavy loads of steel and timber.8 It also modified Thornycroft chassis for some local councils to suit gravel haulage and on one occasion, used a Thornycroft chassis to build a horse float, the first in Queensland. E. J. Easton designed the float in 1928 to carry three of his horses from Booval to Ascot racecourse.9

Tipping trucks were used for farm and construction work and the chassis of Chevrolet, Dennis, Albion, Morris, Ford and Whippet vehicles were modified for special uses. Some customers even had their cars converted from a sedan into a cab and utility design. One butcher decided that his double-seater Oldsmobile would be more useful as a delivery truck and a Nash got the same treatment. Boyce and Little, bus proprietors, were also valued customers.

Hugh enjoyed working with timber and the workshop was an ideal place to store all kinds of timber. In 1935, he installed machinery to build the wooden section of pack-saddles, the saddle trees, for the Army. Packer Brothers and Begrie supplied the steel to attach to the timber and Butler Bros. finished the saddles with the leatherwork.

The business was sold in 1951 to E.B.McNulty, a bodybuilder of Stafford, but it retained the Hamilton name. Three generations of the family had worked in the business which had adapted from horse to motor transport. It had employed many local tradesmen and its reputation ensured that, over the generations, customers travelled great distances to do business with the Hamiltons.

Hugh married May Carseldine (1889-1974) in 1915 and they were both enthusiastic supporters and workers for the Chermside Methodist Church. Choir practices were occasionally held in their home Lamont and May was president of the Ladies Guild for many years. As well as being treasurer for the church, Hugh regularly brought residents from the nearby Garden Settlement (now Wheller Gardens) to church services. Their children, Leila, Dulcie and Muriel, joined in church and musical activities.

Thomas Andrew Edward Hamilton (1892- 1986) known to the family as Eddie, travelled the furthest of all his family. He enlisted as a private in the 4th Pioneers in 1916 and served in France.10 His family wrote to him regularly and sent newspapers with news from home. He told his family about air raids on London in his postcards from the Fovant camp on Salisbury Plain. While in England, he used any spare time to take photographs.

Like many soldiers and civilians at the end of the war, he contracted the Spanish flu virus and was very sick in France. He was sent to hospital in Bath and it was three months before he was well enough to travel on the Lancashire for the return to Brisbane. Australian health authorities were trying to contain the spread of the disease and on arrival in Brisbane, Eddie had to spend a few days in quarantine at Lytton. He finally left the ship at the Kangaroo Point Hospital Wharf and his family was there to meet him coming home from the War.11 There were several welcoming functions for him and his friends in the School of Arts The flu epidemic was eventually widespread in Brisbane and, in spite of precautions, most of the family succumbed to the flu and were sick for months.

After a short holiday, Eddie started blacksmith work for Uncle Willie at Nundah. During quiet periods at the blacksmith shop, he worked for firms such as Rawleigh’s which specialised in door-to-door sales of health and cleaning products.

He also worked in various trades associated with motor bodybuilding, even occasionally helping Alex to paint cars and trucks. William Hamilton died in 1939 and the following year, his widow, Rhoda, suggested that Eddie might like to buy the business. After some discussion with his father, Eddie bought the business and it continued for many years.12 He built bakers’ carts, utilities and carts, bodies for Cribb Island buses and some of the early Chesney caravans. It was a good site on Sandgate Road and is still occupied by a car firm, Mitsubishi Motors.13

Eddie married Mary McDonald (1894-1987) and they lived with their children, Herbert, Keith and Norma at Northgate.

Clara Alice Hamilton (1894-1990) spent all her life in the Chermside/Kedron district. Her first day at school coincided with the opening of the new Downfall Creek School.

After she finished school, she learned the same trade as her mother – that of dressmaker. Mrs Black taught Clara the finer points of dressmaking and customers came to see her at Burnie Brae where she had plenty of space to spread equipment and materials. Clara and Aunty Tilly (Matilda Hamilton) made Fanny’s wedding dress.

She enjoyed meeting people and was very busy during and after World War 1. She was one of the 400 Lady Volunteer Workers who helped the Y.M.C.A. at The Hut, North Quay, Brisbane. “No words can adequately describe the praise due to these workers for the cheery unselfish manner in which their work was undertaken. No duty was too arduous, but all were willing to share, besides the drudgery of the kitchen and waiting on the dining room, they often gathered round the piano and made good cheer for the boys with music and song.”14

At a public ceremony in 1920, Clara became the first Worshipful Mistress of the Perseverance Lodge, Number 54, of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society. She went to political meetings with her parents and joined the Queensland United Party. Thomas and Clara often went fishing together and on many occasions, she was his offsider – painting at Burnie Brae, gardening or helping with the chickens and the incubator.

Clara met Jim Argo, (1893-1985) at the Chermside Post Office where he was visiting his father. They married in the Chermside Methodist Church in 1925 and lived at 7th Avenue, Kedron. Jim worked as a motor mechanic until he retired. He then did deliveries for Woodland Woodworks.

The family enjoyed making music. Clara played the piano at home and was an organist for her church for many years. Musical evenings at the Argo’s were very popular. She loved to sing and during World War 11, she attended functions where she was often asked to sing for the troops.

Their children, Betty, Dorothy, Marjory and Heather all learned to play the piano and competed in eisteddfods in Brisbane. They lived behind Becky and Joseph Packer’s family and the cousins grew up together - the back gate never closed. The girls continued a family tradition - they became dressmakers and milliners. During World War 11, Betty helped to make uniforms for American women service personnel.15

Rebecca Charlotte Ruth Hamilton (1896-1986) joined her brothers and sisters already at Downfall Creek School and she later went to Stott and Hoare Business College in Edward Street, Brisbane, where she learnt shorthand and typing. Unlike her two elder sisters, she worked in the city and had several jobs, starting with the Queensland Farmers’ Co-operative Distributing Company. She also worked in the offices of the large department store, T.C.Beirne’s, in Fortitude Valley.

Becky, as her family called her, married Joseph Packer (1896-1969) in 1920 and they also spent most of their lives at Kedron. Joseph was an accountant and worked for John Reed and Nephew until he left to become managing director of Packer Brothers and Begrie. Becky did not return to work after her marriage. Their first baby, Joseph, was nearly eighteen months old when he died in 1924. Their other sons, Thomas, Douglas and Ronald, followed their parents’ interests in music and church activities.

The Duke and Duchess of York visited Brisbane in 1927 and attended many official functions. New Farm Park was the venue for a public welcome and Becky, Joseph and her father sang in the special choir of 2000 voices.16 New Farm Park was very crowded that day with many excited people all trying to see the royal visitors.

Becky and Joe joined the new Kedron Methodist Church where she played the organ. They were members of many organisations in the church and the congregation honoured them with a special presentation. The new “wireless machines” allowed them to follow their love of music and they held mini-concerts at home so friends and relations could hear this extraordinary invention. One of Becky’s special pleasures was to play her father’s compositions – he was thrilled to hear them.

Alexander Robert Cyrus Hamilton (1898-1991) spent a lot of time explaining the origins of his name. His Aunt Charlotte chose Cyrus as a Biblical name but he was always known as Alex. He was happy to leave school and start working with his father. Uncle Willie had offered to teach him the blacksmith’s trade but Alex always wanted to be a painter. He started as assistant to the painter in his father’s workshop in April 1912, earning 5/- a week. Alex worked for the new owners, CEMC, and was happy to work for Hugh when he later bought the business.

His first job was to paint the lorry for the soft drink firm of T. Tristram when the painter suddenly died. There was much to learn and practice was especially important in acquiring lining skills. After three years, Alex did all the painting and lettering. He specialised in sign writing and lining of trucks and customers came a long way for Alex to work on their vehicles. He used very fine brushes and highlighted the work with gold leaf which was sold in small folders. His young relations loved to use the end pieces in the books. Lining added immensely to the look and value of a vehicle and lined bicycles were a prized possession. He worked for the Argo Bicycle Shop in Chermside for several years and later trained pupils in the delicate work of lining.

The paints used on motor cars in the early part of the 20th century were the same as those used on horse drawn equipment. Alex worked on wagons, spring drays and sulkies at first and later painted vehicles, mostly trucks. He had to mix paints for special purposes. White lead paste was the basis for most paint and this was mixed with vegetable turpentine and colour tinters to make light colours. Varnishing was a time-consuming process and “every vehicle had at least one coat of first grade clear varnish.”17. The process had to be done in a clean and dust-free atmosphere.18

Alex also was a member of the Chermside Methodist Church. Thomas decided that the church orchestra needed a double bass violin so he bought one for Alex to play, which he did until 1980. Alex conducted the choir and could always find jobs to do at the church where his painting skills were appreciated. In later years, he was a church trustee and treasurer of the church cricket team.

Alex married Mary Chalk (1898 - 1981) in 1921 and they lived in Chermside, at first in a house previously used as the Chermside Police Station. With their daughters, Jessie and Joan, they continued a Hamilton tradition of music and community involvement. Chermside was a busy place and Alex was proud of his district. He joined the Progress Association and the School of Arts, was a member of the school committee and loved to play in the band of the Zillmere Band of Hope. Jessie played the piano and Joan the violin and they also competed successfully in suburban eisteddfods.

World War 11 brought many changes to Chermside and the most notable was the Army’s use of the Chermside Military Camp, again. Soldiers were based at the camp until they were posted to war zones and the Civil Construction Corps also had many men in camp. Most of them were far from their families and at times were lonely and bored. The district churches appealed to their congregations to welcome soldiers into their homes. Mary and Alex, as well as others in their family, responded willingly. The soldiers appreciated the home atmosphere but few would have realized the problems their presence caused. Food was rationed but Mary was able to feed all visitors by telling her family, FHB (family hold back).19 Many of the friendships formed between the soldiers and the family lasted a lifetime.

American and Australian soldiers attended concerts and tennis parties in Chermside. Black American servicemen organised a concert in the School of Arts and Alex and his family joined the community to thank the servicemen with an afternoon tea at the Garden Settlement.20 Alex and Hugh, with other local men, acted as air raid wardens.

Thomas lived with Alex and his family after MJ’s death in 1938. Many visitors came to the house and when he was ill, Mary was his willing and able nurse. She helped him make his asthma medicine and did his Christmas shopping. It was Mary who finished Thomas’ diary after he died in 1951.

William Hector James Hamilton (1899 - 1952) was always known as Hector. Two of his names probably commemorated his father’s brothers who had died as children. He was the youngest of the family and by the time he was born, some of his older brothers and sisters were at the Little Cabbage Tree Creek School, and his parents and grandmother were working hard at the wheelwright and coachbuilding business.

Hector went to the Chermside School. Several other children had fathers also working in local industries, particularly as tanners in the Kedron and Chermside districts.21 Distractions for young pupils included horses, cattle, coaches, and timber wagons lumbering along the dusty main street. Occasional sudden flooding also added to the excitement outside the school.

His first job in 1914 was a week’s trial in George Reid’s joinery/cabinet maker shop at Lutwyche. He must have impressed because George employed him permanently with the wage of 5/1 per week for the first 6 months. Shortages of materials towards the end of the War caused a slow down in work and Hector left to start work with his cousin’s husband, Jack Wayper, at Sandgate. Later jobs included working for the City Joinery Works and then a change as a bookkeeper for John Reed and Nephew. He spent most of his working life as a traveller in the Brisbane area for Packer Brothers and Begrie, a firm which had agencies for BHP steel, Molly Bushells, and the Thornycroft trucks and marine engines.

Many young men undertook compulsory military training before and during World War 1. They spent four years, part-time, in the senior cadets and Hector and Alex went to training camps at Enoggera barracks and drill at the Petrie Terrace barracks. Hector was a good rifle shot and much in demand on possum hunts.22

Hector and Doris Stiles (1903 - 1991) were married in 1924 and their house at Nundah was called Lornaville. They and their children, Lindsay and Lorna, were members of the Nundah Methodist congregation. Hector’s musical contribution was to sing tenor in the choir and occasionally, to conduct it. Singing was such an important part of the church’s activities that it competed in eisteddfods as far away as Rockhampton. And very successfully. He was also secretary of the church trustees for 20 years as well as working for various church charities. It was no surprise that the congregation decided to erect a memorial window to him after he died in 1952.