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Lawn Bowler, Coach and Umpire, Victoria, Australia. Writer, Genealogist and Web Editor.

Michael Halbert 1858-1930

Grandma & Grandpa Halbert

Michael Halbert

(AKA Albert Miller Halbert Snr.) 1858-1930 

It was one giant leap over water to a fast-rising gangplank, and as though his freedom depended on it, he managed to grab onto it with both hands, and scramble over it, hidden from sight. Albert Miller Halbert, also known as “Miller”, “the Red Headed Bastard” or later “Baldy”, left Victoria that day for…uh… New Zealand, it seems, and a new life, none too soon.

As he threw himself over onto the deck, he grabbed sight of the D’s (Detectives) scrambling down the Port Melbourne docks. Yep, they were just a little late in thwarting his hastily unplanned escape. Albert, a then resident of Boundary St. South (now Pickles St), Port Melbourne (known as Sandridge until 1884) was very aware of the shipping timetables and their comings and goings. His uncle and some cousins were ships captains who regularly sailed the Pacific. He had bolted for the next departure, leaving the police guessing as to which dock and which ship he might choose, to sever his ties with the Constabulary, and Victoria, forever.

Albert was just over thirty, a country jockey who took up the occupation late in life to make ends meet. Indeed, he was so keen to make ends meet he got involved in the seedier side of the sport, and it was his ability to ‘ring-in’ a horse which led to this desperate 1890’s escape.

Race fixing (ringing in) would be later explained in the Sydney, Sunday Herald of 5th June 1949. “Before a race the jockeys and bookmakers in the ring decide which horse is to win. They then back it heavily, always choosing a horse with a ‘reasonable chance’ so its win will not arouse suspicion. During the race the jockeys ‘in the know’ bunch up and box in other horses which are running well. A free passage is thus assured for the selected winner.” Detectives say that dishonest jockeys generally make a great show of punishing their mounts with their whips. “In fact, however, they do not give their mounts a clear cut, the whip is merely brushed against the horse’s flanks.”

This “ringing in” was the explanation I had always assumed to be the type of “ringing in” made in papers written by, and orally espoused by, his son Gordon Halbert. Another son Arthur, however, grew up with an entirely different slant on this story, handing his version on to his daughter Glenys and Glenys has only just handed it on to me in 2017. I cannot disclaim it, nor prove it, tho’ I did put in a sturdy effort in contacting all relevant racing bodies, to little or no avail. Some things about this event, those there at this time and its location “ring true” to me, and may go some way to explain circumstances I later touch on. Glenys’ father always said a horse was “rung in” or a horse was a brumby “ring in”. It seems the only proof is word of mouth, handed down.

This event would have happened between 1888 and 1891.

Arthur’s story goes: “A brumby was entered in a race at Kingston S.E., South Australia with the legal name and credentials of a bona fide racehorse, a horse “unlikely” to win a race. The brumby had a white blaze, to which brown nugget/paint was applied to disguise it’s true breeding or lack thereof. With jockey Halbert on its back, the horse won!

Alas a heavy shower of rain melted away the staining, but not before Halbert and his accomplice had collected their dues and scampered, never to be seen again.”

If this story rings bells, we have to remember that the “Fine Cotton” affair was nearly a hundred years later and scams of a similar ilk happened long after these family stories were generated.

Too me, Gordon’s and Arthur’s words support some of both scenarios:

That, great grandfather  “wanted to make money too quick and got into trouble through riding and ringing a horse in” as a Victorian Country Jockey, a tall jockey at that, but nevertheless a jockey. In relation to the scam, for some reason, Gordon states that “he had to do it”, and that “they got quite a few hundred quid, him and his mate”. “They heard the D’s were on to them, someone had put them in, and they had to leave the country in a hurry.” They fled at speed, “they had to leave via the port of Melbourne and by the skin of their teeth they accomplished that deed, looking back to see the D’s, (Detective’s) who had just come onto the wharf looking for them. They fled to New Zealand and never came back to Victoria or the eastern states.”

So the “ringing in” was replacing an average horse with another (not a brumby) but one likely to win, and riding it to win, not holding it back. The paint aspect rings true.

The Australian Turf Club states; “There is no doubt ring-ins occurred in the 1880s. Some would have been successful and not known about. The unsuccessful ones usually caused great headlines in the press.” And further “Your story of a brumby being substituted seems strange because brumbies would mostly be slower than racehorses. Also by the 1880s all racehorses were thoroughbreds and it is easy to tell a thoroughbred from a brumby.

If such a confidence trick was attempted it would have to have been in the bush or at the pony race meetings. Kingston is a country town in SA. Pony racing was for small racehorses, under 15 hands, so a brumby might have been able to pass in a field of such horses. But, again, a brumby would almost certainly be slower than a thoroughbred pony”. (There is also a Kingston in country Victoria. Ed.)

While growing up, Albert endured a lot at the hands of his father. His father taught him well in the skills of alluvial mining, but in doing so, sacrificed his son’s chances at any education. There were many times when his father whipped him. Luckily, on the last occasion he managed to do a runner, finding refuge in a New South Wales shearing shed. Although his father chased him down, a beefed-up bunch of shearers, horrified at the apparent beatings the father had etched onto the torso of the lad, (as son Gordon states “he had all his skin off his back”) surrounded the son, and refused to release him back into his father’s ‘care’.  The shearers “kept him there as a shed hand right through the piece, that’s how he first got away from Kingower”.

I doubt Albert Miller Halbert (then Michael) ever returned to the family home after this rampaging encounter, but I do know he learned to shear early in life, so perhaps this was the beginning of an independent life away from his 1858 birth place, and his humble start as an unpaid lackey on the Kingower Goldfields.

Nettleton Ship Escape by Michael Halbert

(Above, Port Melbourne Railway Pier, Nettleton and Arnest circa 1890.) 

‘Stowaway’ Albert successfully reached Waiapu, New Zealand, but it is impossible to trace the actual date and ship’s name, as Albert would have falsified his name or used family contacts to steal away. The changing of names in this family was a ‘skill’, an art-form, and this would not have been the first time  nor would it be the last! Indeed, it seems that his father James Lamb Halbert (perhaps more a fox, than a lamb) set this trend on leaving England. He chose to purchase tickets to Australia using his wife’s family name of “Charlton” and did a ‘midnight flit’ to avoid an  excruciatingly large tax and creditor debt, that was hanging over the public house that he owned and ran. Just days before his planned departure, he quickly and quietly sold both the fixtures and furnishings of this pub.  Alas, the ship of departure, the S.S. Great Britain, developed a fault on departure, and had to turn back. The delay was long enough for the constabulary to ‘cotton-on’ to his location and they arrested him on board.

Taxes paid and creditors satisfied, he was eventually able to resume his travel plans on the same ship, and on the 13th June 1854 more than six weeks later, James Lamb Halbert (1828-1907), using the name James ‘Lindsay’, departed Liverpool on the S.S. Great Britain (the longest ship of its time) sharing the journey with 138 crew and 349 paying passengers.

SS Great Brit 1

Above (the SS Great Britain 1843, Liverpool & Australian Navigation Co.).

The family arrived in Melbourne 66 days later on the 18th August 1854. A new life awaited him in this very distant land, but it was certainly less glamorous than that of his dreams, due to his depleted purse.

The “Newcastle Courant” of Friday 5th May 1854, reported:

“On Saturday, last, Mr James Halbert, landlord of the White House public house, Pilgrim St in this town, suddenly decamped leaving his creditors minus a considerable sum…Halbert had gone to Liverpool to embark for Australia… [the police] arrived at Liverpool and proceeded to the Great Britain steamer where they discovered him on board…” “Halbert had entered himself amongst the passengers as James Charlton. He was accordingly brought to this town on Monday and safely lodged in gaol awaiting the due course of law.” “It appears that the plan for his flight had been well matured by Halbert, as, previous to his departure by the Saturday night’s express train, he sold every piece of furniture in his house. He, however, left a short supply of ale and spirits with which several of his friends, after he left, made too free, some of them afterwards having to be conveyed to the station house on barrows by the police, drunk and insensible. Hence arose the rumour of his departure.”

The “Newcastle Courant” of Friday 12th May 1854, reported:

“The Liberation of Mr Halbert – We alluded last week to the sudden departure from this town and capture of Mr James Halbert of the White House. Since then it is stated that after settling with his chief creditors he was liberated from goal and departed once more to raise his falling fortunes at the diggings in Australia.” (Articles courtesy of Cameron Day and Garry Halbert)

He died in Kingower, Victoria, Australia on 6th December 1907 as one of its oldest resident’s, having moved there more than 50 years before.

His son David Carrot Albert Halbert, also a publican, lived from “cradle to the grave” in Kingower. His hotel license transferred to Mrs. Ellen Douglas Halbert (nee Souter) his wife  before his 1910 death. (Below the grave of David Carrot Albert Halbert and Ellen Douglas Halbert nee Souter at Kingower, Vic. Aust.)

Halbert, Garry David Carrott Halbert - Copy

The local newspaper stated, in relation to James: Kingower from year to year has added many to the death toll of “Old Residents” and on Friday last still another was added to the list in the person of  Mr. Jas. Halbert, father of Mr. David Halbert of that place. The deceased gentleman was probably better known to the “old identities” than to the younger generation, but he was one of those pioneers to whom the present day workers owe much. Mr. Halbert was eighty years of age.

But back to Albert, in New Zealand…

New Zealand treated Albert well. He was now truly his own man and he decided that in this life, if he was to get on, it was up to him.  He learned to shear like the New Zealanders, he learned to butcher and he learned to pull teeth, a very handy asset for a man who was seemingly from nowhere and came with nothing. He also perpetuated the family trait, he was now known in New Zealand as “Michael Halbert”, according to the NZ Electoral Rolls.

No. 1466, Halbert, Michael, Waerenga-a-Hika, butcher, residential. Followed by:

No. 1467, Halbert, Thomas, Te Arai, farmer, residential. (His quite famous N. Z. cousin.)

He missed the gold though, and so in late 1892, on hearing of a big find in Coolgardie, he pooled his pennies and with what possessions he could carry, packed up and took a roundabout route to Western Australia. Going via any eastern port was not an option for Albert, as he still feared arrest, should he be recognized. For whatever the crimes, he was a “wanted man” and “a person of interest” in the east of Australia.

Coolgardie owes its very existence to the discovery of gold at nearby Fly Flat, 120 miles to the east of Southern Cross. According to all accounts, gold was discovered by Arthur Bayley and William Ford on the 17th September 1892. Bayley hastily reported the discovery of 554 ounces of gold to Mr. J. M. Finnerty, the then mining Warden, resident at Southern Cross. (It was Warden Finnerty that later gave Coolgardie its “official” name in 1893.) At the time 554 ounces of gold was worth about 2,200 pounds ($698,040 today) and in accordance with Western Australian mining regulations, Bailey was offered a ‘reward claim’, a claim granted to a miner who discovers gold in a new area, this claim covered twenty acres of land at Fly Flat. This claim proved to be very profitable, and during its seventy years of existence, spawned over 500,000 ounces of gold.

So, New Zealand  Michael Halbert, now calling himself Albert Miller  Halbert (1858-1930) turned up in Coolgardie, hot on the heels of this “find” either from the south, west or north. Did he walk up from the South or inland from the West?

I doubt he traveled south from the north…but again we may never know, as once again he did not use his real name or either of the above.

Everyone was keen to get to the goldfields be it via Esperance, Fremantle, Wyndham or overland, a long and arduous trek.

Travelling Camp P. 12 Resources Sect. Sun. Times 2 Apr 2006

(Traveling Camp P. 12 Resources Sect. Sun. Times 2 Apr 2006)

Albert’s “future wife” (Rose Ann Keogh) traveled to the goldfields by rail and coach on the newly opened rail section, which extended the line from Northam to Southern Cross. This section had officially opened on the 1st July 1894, and from there Rose traveled another 190 kilometers on to Coolgardie by coach.

According to her son Gordon, “she was the third white women to venture there; the first two in the area were Mrs Felix Murphy and her daughter Edith, who arrived in Southern Cross by camel in about 1889, and then went on to Coolgardie in 1894.”

This however is hearsay, handed down from Albert to Gordon and then to me, but it is not what the books say.  This first train to Southern Cross may have brought with it, guests to the first Coolgardie wedding which took place three days later on the 4th July 1894 between Clara Saunders and Arthur Williams. The service was conducted by the Rev. Thomas Trestrail at John De Baun’s Great Western Hotel in Bayley Street (now the site of the Coolgardie Motel on the corner of Bayley and Hunt Streets). Clara was either sixteen or seventeen and Arthur was twenty eight years old. Lucky man!

Clara Saunders 1st wedd. Cool. Written

(Clara pictured above Courtesy of the National Trust of Australia, W. A.)

The next extension of the rail line, to Coolgardie, was officially opened by Sir Gerard Smith on the 23rd March 1896. The Mayor of Coolgardie held a banquet for five hundred invitees to celebrate. The first train arrived, led by an Afghan Guard of Honour, and was greeted by the resident Aboriginals participating in a welcome ceremony at its end. (Picture 2)

Coolgardie Name photo

Aboriginals welcome Rail to Coolgardie

(Pic. 3. Coolgardie March 1899 SLWA and  Pic. 4. Coolgardie, East end of Bayley St 1896-97 Shire)

When Federation occurred in 1901, Coolgardie became the centre of the O’Connor Federal Electorate, named in honour of Charles Yelverton O’Connor of the Pipeline fame. It was the third biggest electorate of Western Australia. A bustling metropolis.

As previously stated James Lamb Halbert, Albert’s father and my Great, Great Grandfather, died on 6th December 1907, in Kingower, Victoria.  No notices were posted in any newspapers regretting his loss or notifying the funeral details, from Albert or any of his West. Aust. families and, likewise, there was no mention of this son or this son’s families by James’ family.

The Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA) of Tuesday 21 January 1908 simply stated:

HALBERT. – On 6th December 1907 at Kingower, Victoria. James Halbert, aged 78 years, father of Joseph Dudley Halbert of Menzies.”

Albert Miller Snr. (son of James and my Great Grandfather), died on 10th May 1930 from pulmonary fibrosis and heart disease. The death notice states:

“HALBERT-On May 10, 1930, suddenly, at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Bryan, 10 Southport St, Leederville. Albert Michael, dearly beloved husband of Rose Ann Halbert, loving father of Dulcie (Mrs. Bryan), Miller (Meekatharra), Gordon (Kalgoorlie), Ruby, Clara (Mrs. Catchpole), James (Redcliffe), William (Ardath), Arthur (Kundip); aged 71.

It appears that he died as Albert Michael, not as Albert Miller, and that’s as the official documents at Births, Deaths and Marriages, Western Australia, and the Karrakatta Cemetery records state.

His son  Gordon’s death certificate records him as Arthur Miller. Warden Frederick William Spence knew him as Michael in 1902. There had been many other names along the way. He appears in the Western Australian Directory of 1926 as Halbert, M. Miner & Orchardist, Albert M in the Coolgardie (PO Dir.) and Michael A in the Kundip (PO Dir.). He signed as Albert Miller on his son Gordon’s birth certificate, above right. His death certificate below says parents’ names “unknown”?

Halbert, William, Albert, James Grave Karrakatta.

Halbert, Albert Michael Death Cert. Fr Garry H - Copy

John Ai Egge ( A good Egge!)

John Ai Egge. (Photo enhanced by My Heritage) Statue courtesy of Wentworth Big 4 Park.

John Egge was born in Shanghai China in 1830. As a young man, he worked on a sampan on the Yangtze River. At the age of 16, he sailed to Australia as a cabin boy with Captain Francis Cadell.

Egge was the cook on Cadell’s PS Lady Augusta which raced with Captain Randall’s vessel, PS Mary Ann in 1853.
In 1866 he chartered his first riverboat PS Treviot. By 1870, Egge was established as one of the biggest traders on the Murray Darling and his on-shore business interests had expanded at the same rapid rate as his river trade.
Captain Egge died in Wentworth in 1901 and is buried in Wentworth Cemetery. Walking cemetery guides are available from the Wentworth Visitor Information Centre.
A bronze statue of Captain John Egge was unveiled at the Wentworth Wharf on June 12, 2009, during the 150th Anniversary of Wentworth. The statue was commissioned by the Wentworth Branch of the National Trust and sculpted by Lynne Edey. (Courtesy Big 4 Golden River Holiday Park, Mildura.) 

Chinese riverboat captain, was born in Shanghai, China, and came to Australia in 1852 in the Queen of Sheba, owned by Francis Cadell. When Cadell opened the Murray River trade with paddle steamers, John, on the books as ‘John Bull’, served as cook in each new ship as it was launched. In 1856 he assumed by deed poll his Scandinavian surname. While establishing a piggery on Hindmarsh Island in Lake Alexandrina, South Australia, he met a Devon girl Mary Perring, whom he courted by swimming the river to visit her, his clothes piled on his head. John and Mary married on 8 April 1857 at St Jude’s Church of England, Port Elliot, and were to have eleven children. In 1859 the couple worked their passages up the Murray to Wentworth, New South Wales, where they set up a business hawking pies and pasties that they baked in camp ovens. By 1863 they owned a bakery and butchery, were general dealers and kept a boarding-house to cater for the many single men in the area. About 1867 Egge chartered the Teviot to trade on the river as a floating shop. Next, he chartered the Moira to carry cargo and in 1868 bought the Endeavour to ply the upper Murray between Echuca and Albury. By the 1870s Egge was one of the biggest traders on the river, operating from his large store near the wharf at Wentworth. He was said to pay up to £1000 a month in customs duties. The Murrumbidgee was his most elaborate boat, fitted with polished counters and mahogany showcases. For years he advocated Federation, foreseeing that it would end the poll tax he repeatedly had to pay—despite becoming a naturalized British subject in 1868—when he berthed his boat in the different colonies through which the Darling and Murray rivers flowed. One flamboyant exhibition increased his reputation: during a particularly high flood, he brought the Prince Alfred out of the river and down the main street of Wentworth. Wentworth’s citizens presented Egge with a testimonial and a gold ring set with diamonds when the family left in 1888 to live for a time in Adelaide, where their children went to school. Often in court suing or being sued for non-payment of bills, he put a value on apologies: ‘I’m ten pounds sorry’, he would say. ‘How sorry are you?’ He was generous to religious and social groups, making his boats freely available for dances and river picnics. Many a hard-up shed hand or station hand got a free ride. During the shearing strike of 1891, angry mobs held up riverboats that tried to carry strikebreakers, but picketing shearers cheered his boats from bend to bend. The drought of the 1890s forced him to cease operations on the river. Egge died at Wentworth on 11 September 1901 and was buried with Wesleyan rites in the local cemetery. Four sons and three daughters survived him. (Courtesy of Find a Grave)


From the “Federal Standard” September, 14, 1901

It is with the deepest regret we have to record the death of Wentworth’s oldest and most popular resident, in the person of Captain John Egge, late of the steamer Murrumbidgee, and formerly of the Tiviot, Endeavor, Prince Alfred, etc., which occurred at his residence, Little Darling Street, on Wednesday evening last, at a quarter to nine o’clock.  The deceased gentleman, who was in his 71st year of age, had been in failing health for some considerable time past, being a sufferer from weakness of the heart, which necessitated medical attendance at frequent intervals.  The latter end of last week he was seized with an attack of influenza, an epidemic which is the cause of much prostration in our town just at present; on Saturday he laid up with this complaint, which appeared to take a very firm hold, and there was great danger of it turning to pneumonia, and in spite of the best attendance and attention that loving daughters and sons could give, with medical skill, this worst of features happened, and the case became of a most serious nature, double pneumonia setting in with all its severity upon the already feeble body.  Throughout the week the poor old gentleman lay between life and death, clinging to the former simply through medical attention and careful and constant attendance and nursing.  When the seriousness of the case was known in the town, there was a gloom cast over his many friends, and that gloom was greatly increased when on Wednesday evening the worst was realised. The patient, who had lapsed into partial unconsciousness, but still conscious enough to show his recognition  of loving faces and faces of old friends by a gentle smile, peacefully and quietly passed beyond that bourne from which no traveler returneth. Surrounded by the sorrowing members of his family, and tended by loving hands, his end was peace, and the pleasing expression upon the face told of the gentle and peaceful death which had been his, than whom no man better deserved it.  As a mark of respect and esteem, flags were hoisted at half-mast throughout the town.

The late Captain Egge was a resident of Wentworth for 41 years, having come here to live in 1860, though he was on the river and had been in and out of Wentworth some years previous to 1860, so that it may be fairly stated he was the oldest resident of the district.  Prior to coming on to these rivers he was running in the vessel Queen of Sheeba, between Melbourne and Port Adelaide, with the late Captain Cadell, in 1853 and 1854.  The latter end of 1854 he came on to the rivers with Captain Cadell, and was in fact one of the pioneers of the rivers.  He became acquainted with his late wife at Hindmarsh Island;  they were married at Port Elliott in 1856.  He was then still with Captain Cadell on the rivers, but settled down permanently in Wentworth in 1860 as before stated, and his residence has been here since, with exception of a period of about 12 or 18 months, when he made his home in Norwood, while his children were at school in Adelaide.  Briefly stated, he commenced business here as a baker, and also kept a boarding house;  after that he built and successfully carried on a store;  he built the store which was carried on for years by Messrs. Tonkin, Fuller & Martin, the premises now owned by Mr. C. Lemmon.  Sometime after that he took to hotel business and carried on for a time the business known as the Wentworth Hotel.  After that his energy carried him into a new line of business and he took up the butchery business, which is now carried on by his son-in-law, (Mr. Johnathon Miller Halbert).


Later on in the eighties he took the wharf stores, which became the central depot of supply for his steamers then running.  In 1891 he experienced the severest blow of his life, in the death of his good and devoted wife, the late Mary Egge (nee Perring), who was a sister of Mrs. F.D. Kerridge (Susan Ann P.) of this town and of Mrs. W. Seward (Adelaide Jane P.), now of Mildura, and who, like her husband, was held in the highest esteem by the residents of the town and district.  It might be inferred from the foregoing that he did not take up steam boating until later years, but such was not the case; his steam boating career runs almost parallel with his career as a townsman. He first chartered the steamer Tiviot, in which he carried on a successful hawking business; his next boat was the Moira of old days, and after a period of charter with these vessels he purchased the Endeavor and afterwards the Prince Alfred. He then sold the Endeavor to the late Mr. J. S. Upton, a former merchant of this town and retained the Prince Alfred for a number of years, after which he bought the Murrumbidgee, and built the well-known light-draught barge, the Susan, in turn parting with the Prince Alfred. With the Murrumbidgee he traded for a great number of years, until a little over 12 months ago, adverse circumstances coming upon him, he settled down quietly in Wentworth, with his sons and daughters and the continued respect and admiration of his many friends to comfort him in his declining years.  All through his career, both on and off the rivers, he earned and retained the utmost respect and good will on all sides and the working men, in particular, thought much of their old friend, the skipper, as was shown in the troublous days of ’94, whenever Captain Egge’s boat hove in sight the shearers and rouseabouts on the stations cheered the good old skipper lustily until the vessel disappeared round the nearest bend.  Such was his disposition and generous good nature through life that he leaves not a single enemy.

The deceased gentleman leaves a family of 4 sons and 3 daughters, living, namely, Messrs. R.J. (Richard John), F.J. (Francis James), E.D. (Edwin David), and W.F. (William Fredrick) Egge, and Mrs. J. M. Halbert (Susan Egge) and Misses Minnie and Maud Egge, and there are 2 sons and 2 daughters dead, (James Peter, Ellena Jane (Golding) and Amelia Adelaide (Paget).

The remains of the deceased were interred in the Wentworth cemetery on Thursday afternoon, and there was a very large attendance in the mournful procession, and much larger again at the graveside. The Reverend D.D. Hunter read the burial service in a most impressive manner, and there was many a tear-dimmed eye in the large assemblage of relatives and friends, over the loss of a good honest and true father and friend.

Deniliquin Pioneers

The Deniliquin Genealogy Society Inc. has put together a wonderful collection of stories detailing the life and times, the trials and tribulations, of its earliest ancestors (pre- 1900), as seen through the lens of history, writings and the telling of family folklore by their descendants.  It is a wonderful read and must have, if you see your family name in the list of contents below, or were at some time, a resident of Deniliquin.

This book is available for purchase through the Deniliquin Genealogy Soc. (at the time of writing the cost of the book is $30 plus postage, $12.95 Standard post or $17.50 Express post).  

For more information you can go to their FACEBOOK site or contact Val on 5881 3980

The First Family of Michael Halbert.

“The  Other  Family” “Albert Miller – Who?”

Michael Halbert

The descendants of Albert Miller Halbert (as Sergeant Shultz oft’ said to Colonel Klink), could rightly and honestly say “I  know nothing” when it comes to their forebear “Michael”. The earlier generations, if they did know anything, did not share it, but I do believe they were as much “in the dark” as I was.

I often pondered what his earlier life may have been like, did he have a loving home, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters–in-law. 

To find out more I started down the usual genealogy pathways. I did a course or two, visited a few State Libraries, National Archives and localised Historical Society’s and Genealogy Groups.

I had 2 “certificated” clues, the first source, his own death certificate, called him Albert Michael and told me that his fathers name was “Halbert” and mother “unknown”. The second source came from his son Gordon’s birth certificate, it said he was born in “Kingower”. Not a lot to go on, I’ll admit, but in the end those two “finds” took me on a journey that would indefatigably prove that our satellite existence was actually just a part of the larger galaxy of Halberts.

Above the Birth Certificate of Michael Halbert, the Death Certificate of Albert Michael Halbert , the signature of Albert Miller Halbert and the Grave of Albert Halbert.

My investigations found that this Michael married a Rose on the 21st January 1884, but this was not “my” Rose (Keogh), this was Rose Fry, daughter of Thomas, a butcher, and Brigid Fry (nee Moore).

The Bride, Rose Fry was born in Kingower, and at age 19 or 22 (?) married Michael, aged 25, at St Mary’s, Kingower, 12 kms south-west of Inglewood and 45 km west of Bendigo.

(St Mary’s courtesy of photographer John Young and Vic. Places)

Rose had 8-13 siblings (?). The Bridegroom, Michael Halbert was the sixth of thirteen children that we know about, the first, a female Maud, was born in 1851 and died in 1851. So that made Michael the fifth of five brothers, with seven others of mixed gender to follow. 

Michael and Rose had  4 children, Harold James 1884-1967, Albert Gordon 1886-1967, Ivy Yatla 1887-1889, and  Miller Walter 1890-1974. The three male’s were all named in honour of Michael and Rose’s siblings. But where did the name Ivy Yatla come from? It was just too much of a coincidence that my Albert and Rose’s children also shared these names, including Ivy Yatala(!), and more, like Lindsay, Dudley, Jane and William (all siblings of Michael) as can be seen on pages further on.   How could he?

For me, that meant that all the children born by my grandmothers on both sides were…illegitimate!!!! Yeh, the McMillan’s and now the Halbert’s! (Kinda makes me proud, actually, as exceptional ladies they have proven to be.) 

That brought home the niggling conundrum, was he a bigamist?, did he actually marry my great grandmother Rose Keogh in Coolgardie in 1895, as he said he did? The answer is of course, NO! Many searches were done by the first and second families, to no avail. It could be that his “timeout” in New Zealand was necessary because, as a “Wife Deserter” (if he was, in respect of Rose Honor Fry), he could be arrested and jailed if he tried to return to Australia within three years of desertion. This Rose, it appears, never lodged papers for divorce, desertion, or maintenance.

According to Helen Harris (Researcher) “As there is no record of his first wife taking out a warrant for desertion, or inserting a Missing Friends notice, or attempting to divorce him, it is reasonable to say that either they came to a mutual understanding and parted, and that he agreed to send maintenance payments, or that she already had another male friend to provide for her and the children.  Rose would have needed financial support of some sort.”

Two things are certain, firstly, Michael’s last address before jumping onto a ship, was Pickles St, Port Melbourne, where he was surrounded by those that later became “Racing Identities”, (Jockeys, Owner’s, Trainer’s, Bookies etc.) and secondly, that he never returned to Victoria.

No record can be found of him as a registered Jockey in Victoria or Australia, an occupation he stated as fact, later.

(Above left, the Death Certificate of Rose Halbert, (nee Fry) (Above right the Melbourne “Sands and McDougall” of 1892) NOT AVAILABLE.

As the Sands and McDougall can be a year or two out, as off the date of publish and as Michael was already  a “Resident” of New Zealand in the 1893 Electoral Rolls (which can also be a year or two out), one could assume, that he left  Australia a few years before 1892.

Rose Halbert (nee Fry) also left Victoria about the same time as Michael as there is no record of her being there past 1890.  She died in Redfern, a suburb of Sydney, at her 92 Bourke St., home aged 63 (or 66). She died of carcinoma of the uterus and secondary cancers. She had seen a doctor the day before she was found deceased, by her first born son, Harold James Halbert. One must wonder why, as she neared death, she was alone, in her own home? Why not in the care of family or hospital medico’s?

The Obituary notice in the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday 30 January 1928 was abrupt and to the point, giving the scarcest detail.

“Halbert: January 29, 1928, at her residence, 92 Bourke Street, Redfern, Rose Halbert, aged 63 years.”

Rose, her son Harold, and daughter in-law Ruby share a grave at  South Head Cemetery, Vaucluse, N. S. W. The funeral notices for Rose read:

HALBERT.-The Relatives and Friends of the Late Mrs. ROSE HALBERT are kindly invited to attend her Funeral; to leave her late residence, 92 Bourke street. Redfern, THIS (Monday) AFTERNOON, at 2 o’clock, for the Church of England Cemetery, South Head.

HALBERT.-The Relatives and Friends of Messrs. H. J. JACK and GORDON HALBERT, are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their late beloved MOTHER, Rose Halbert; to leave her late residence, 92 Bourke Street, Redfern, THIS MONDAY, at 2 p.m. for Church of England Cemetery, South Head. Motor funeral.

(Surely “Messrs. H. J. JACK and GORDON HALBERT” are Harold James , Miller Walter  (aka Jack) and Albert Gordon Halbert……but it’s not obvious from the notice?)

Rose and Michael’s 3 boys, Harold, Albert and  Miller grew up without a father figure throughout their formative years, as Michael would have absconded, by the time Harold had turned 5, maybe 6.

Nevertheless, Rose’s decision to move back to Sydney., N. S. W., would have provided plenty of male attention from her parent’s and in-laws, OR, maybe it was just male attention? We don’t know how the family was supported.

Not much is known about the Fry and Moore families (Rose’s parents) but we know that her father Thomas Fry, a butcher, died in Kingower in 1870 when his last child of 9, Emma, was just 3.

Bridget, his wife, who was 10 years his junior, lived on for another 29 years, possibly marrying William Innes in Inglewood, Victoria in about 1873 at age 40.  She died, however in Sydney N.S.W. officially as Bridget M. Fry in 1899, aged 66.

But let’s have a peek at the “Eastern States” children of my great grandfather and see how they fared in comparison to his “Western Australian” children.

(One could only explain the later as the “hard working poor”, fond of the occasional drink and a gamble, turning a quid where they could and keeping mainly to themselves. They never became rich or famous, nor did they seek the company of the rich or famous. There were definitely no grand abodes dwelt in, nor much desire to travel, for travels sake. They just made do with what their purse allowed, enjoying a simple life, with no extended family or relatives of any kind, to draw comfort from or cause angst.)

Indeed, Michael (namesake and great grandchild of Albert Miller/Michael from the East), states, on seeing a photograph of his Great Grandfather, “I just noticed that Michael didn’t have shoe laces. A bit ironic, knowing his son would have had a maid and  a chauffeur, to drive his Rolls Royce, both living in.”

The Halbert abode

Mrs. Halbert’s car.
You just have to look at this photo below to see it is so (no shoelaces), but we are talking about Western Australia in the “Depression Years”, and a man, that it seems for now, didn’t like, need or want any contact with his Eastern States family, of any ilk. 

(Photo Courtesy of Ronald Catchpole, enhanced and colourized by My Heritage.)

The Gammage’s and Bryant’s of Richmond.

Bill Graham

Two Richmond Families during and after the First World War.  One with a US Civil War connection.

Bill Graham, a friend of Richmond & Burnley Historical Society,  who has donated a number of items, has been working on a history of two families who lived in Richmond throughout the early years of the 20th century, of which two members were to become his maternal grandparents.  The Richmond timeline of this story is the period from around 1915 to 1923.  The families were the Gammage’s, who lived at 74 Gardner Street and the Bryant’s, who lived firstly at 64 Somerset Street and later at 54 Fraser Street.

The Gammage family originally came from in Oxfordshire.  Charles Gammage senior had emigrated to America with his family in 1845 at the age of 15.   He married in 1852 and fathered 4 children.  Charles served in the Union army during the American civil war.   He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff on October 21, 1861.  After being released from a Confederate prison camp in 1862, he was discharged from the army and soon after, deserted his family.   After several years his wife had him declared legally deceased, allowing her to re-marry.  However, far from being dead, Charles had departed New York in 1863 on a ship bound for Melbourne, a fact that was not uncovered until nearly a century later.

Charles married two more times in Australia and fathered 4 children here.   He lived in and around Beechworth from the 1860s until 1915 and spent the final year of his life in Wonthaggi.  Apart from vague rumours, Charles’ Australian family knew little of his American past until the 1980s when an American descendant in Rhode Island, where Charles had lived, discovered that he had moved to Victoria after abandoning his family.   After many years of research, she established contact with his Australian descendants.   Thus, the details of his lives in America and Australia finally came to be known to his many descendants.   A local historian with an interest in American Civil War veterans who came to Australia after that conflict, became active in Charles Gammage’s story.  It eventually resulted in a US army headstone being placed on his previously unmarked grave in Wonthaggi in 1990.

Charles’ fourth Australian son, Charles Edwin Gammage, was born in 1874 at Stoney Creek, near Beechworth.  He worked as a sawyer and then a boilermaker.   Charles’ work had taken him to places as varied as Thailand and Western Australia before the family settled in Richmond.  They were recorded as living at 74 Gardner Street in the 1915 Sands and McDougall.    Charles Edwin Gammage (pictured here) and his daughter, Irene (also pictured as she was in 1914) worked at the Vickers Ruwolt engineering works, which is now the site of Victoria Gardens.  

The Bryant family came to Australia in November 1912.   The father, Benjamin, was in the boot trade and their eldest son, William had been serving his apprenticeship as a bootmaker.  The family lived at 54 Gardner Street and William knew Irene from school in Richmond.  They used to attend dances in Bridge Road, but the Great War had changed everything.  In February 1917, William enlisted in the A. I. F., on the day of his 18th birthday.   He served as a signaller with the 2nd Division and was awarded the Military Medal for his deeds during an action at Morlancourt in the Somme region.  William Bryant and Irene Gammage had been close before his embarkation and he wrote many letters to her during his time away. They were married in 1923 and this photo dates from 1950.  The letters remained in the family and are currently being scanned.  It is hoped they will be made available to R. B. H. S. researchers in the near future.

William and Irene Bryant

(Bill also has records that show that the widow of Charles Edwin Gammage Senior, Annie Jane, had lived at 14 Murphy Street Richmond around 1925, Charles Edwin having died in 1922. Records show she spent some time at Bontharambo in Wangaratta, hence another connection of interest, this time to the famous Richmond pioneer, Rev Docker.)