David Hepburn Shearer - Master Mariner
David Hepburn Shearer was born on the small farming island of Shapinsay on the 8th of November 1841 which is one of the many islands that make up the Orkney Islands. Shapinsay is situated 80 kilometres north of the Scottish mainland.
David’s parents were Peter Shearer and Jane Merriman. The first census found for the family was the 1841 Scotland Census which was taken before David’s birth. His father was listed as a fisherman and living at Little Foxton in Shapinsay with his wife, two sons, James and William and Jane's younger sister Christian.
Born on an island that is fertile in agricultural land, David was surrounded by farms and fishing ports.iii The Shearer’s had a long history working the land in the islands and fishing the seas (Fact: They still do. Doing a google search, you can find agricultural shops and fishermen named Shearer still on the Islands.iv)
So, it was not surprising when he had finished his schooling, he was going out to sea with his father on many fishing trips, and then leaving home at the age of 19 to become a seaman working on board the sailing vessel the Nancy Riley (an iron cargo ship that was built in 1857 and wrecked in 1868) where David was recorded on an English Census at the Liverpool Kings Dock.
It was barely a year after David had made his way to London when he set sail for Australia for the first time, arriving in Sydney, New South Wales on July 19, 1862.
David had sure found his call in life. He loved the sea; the ocean was in his blood. Watching the rolling waves crash into each other in-between his duties was calming. It was not long before he was heading again across the vast ocean back to London where he had reached the rank of Second Mate on the 3rd January 1865. It seems the first long voyage to Australia wasn't enough, he had returned to Australia straight after receiving his certificate.
David arrived in Morten Bay, Queensland on the 9 Mar 1865, he was now 23 years old and already spent 4 years living and working out at sea. In this time, David had prepared for his next certificate and didn't stay long in Australia as he left for London one more time, and now has in his hands his First Mate certificate which he obtained on the 15 Jun 1866
Keeping himself busy voyaging out to sea where he felt alive breathing in the fresh sea air, working in the sun, the rain and the wind. David finally reached the title of Master in the Merchant Service and was granted his competency certificate of Master on the 18 Jan 1871.
Heading back to Australia for his final long journey, David had gained employment running cargo around the east coast of Australia. It was in Sydney where he met his wife Margaret, an English Lass and daughter of Henry Walker. They were married in Henry and Ann Walkers backyard in Woolloomooloo by the Reverend Thomas Gainford, minister of the Mariners church.
David and Margaret were blessed with two male children (David John and James William) in their first 3 years of marriage and were residing in Dulwich Hill in the residential area of the greater Marrickville district. Their third child, Hepburn was born in Newton, New South Wales in 1879. Sadly, in November of 1880, just one month before their Christmas baby Edward Henry was due to be born, Hepburn had passed away.
This loss was not the last David and Margaret would experience with their children. 1883 saw the birth of their first daughter Catherine Margaret who would only live to see 4 short years.xvi Another daughter, Jane lived a full life, then there was their last child, Kate who died aged 1.
All good things must come to an end, right? David Hepburn Shearer was just aged 44 years old when he passed away in 1886 in Petersham New South Wales. Leaving behind a wife and six young children, the eldest just 11 years of age. Both of his parents outlived him, his father Peter died an old man in 1891 and his mother Jane a few years later in 1896.
David lived a short life but full of adventure, travel, and gratification. David’s love for the water brought him to the Australian shores, where he made a new life for himself and started his own family and passed on his family traditions of fishing and looking after the land. Most of my cousins, aunts, uncles and father all have a passion for fishing and gardening; it runs through our veins. Not inherited by all (I detest seafood and the sun) but you can see there is something there in the cultural DNA.
Just adding the last two short stories I wrote during my Writing family history course, then I have one more left, the main essay I am about to hand up. the next two short stories are both about my Bisdee family, my 2 x great grandfather Edgar and my great grandfather George John.
Crouching down in the field a quarter mile from home, Edgar’s father silently motioned for Edgar to creep forward and then pounce on the sheep that had strayed from the flock. This would feed the hungry family for days. If only Edgar had the foresight to think the 17 chickens that had already been stolen over the last few days were enough.
Halting at the thievery of just a few chickens, Edgar and James could have gotten away with it. Going out that luckless last night and not having a clue that Old George was on his way home from the publican or that he would later be able to identify the Bisdee father and son on Thomas Castle’s property was where the luck did run out.
If Edgar had any notion that he would be caught, charged, judged and committed for the crimes of grand larceny, would he have still stolen the animals that feed his starving family? Would knowing that he would be spending two years on a leaky old decommissioned ship with the other ill-fated convicts who would soon be sailing across the waters be a deterrent? And then spending another 3 years as an Australian convict before meeting his soon to be bride with no chance of ever returning home?
The times were hard, families were hungry, and the jobs were far and few in-between. Edgar and James did what they had to do to keep their loved ones alive but unfortunately ended up paying with their futures.
George John Bisdee
George Bisdee was 30 years old in 1908 and was unknowingly 3 years from marrying his girl Daisy. George really needed to save money so he can show John Younger, he was worthy of marrying his daughter and keeping a family.
George was also hoping that Mr Younger had not seen the newspapers detailing his woes. Seven years he had evaded debtors, but it seems to have caught up with him. Being arrested on his way to work on Thursday, January 2nd and appearing in court on Wednesday 14th of January would surely have guaranteed he had lost his job at the farm in Midland Junction.
It wasn’t easy being a son and grandson of convicts. You were looked down on, treated like second class citizens. Life was tough, the work when he was able to get it was rough.
George had many different jobs over the years, from working at the rail tracks to building the infamous Kalgoorlie pipeline, although he was known as Williams there. Was it his fault the Ganger called him Williams, and he had to sign for his pay as “Williams”?
From job to job, quitting one, being sacked from another it was pure chance that he moved around and couldn’t be tracked down for the police to serve his warrant.
George was to obey the order set out by the court and attend court when summoned, on the guarantee he would follow the orders et, he would be released from custody and not go to jail. If, however, he did not comply with the orders, he would be served another warrant of arrest.
So be on the look out for the next story, it is on my 2 x great grandfather David Hepburn Shearer
I am currently studying family history through the University of Tasmania and I am half way through the unit Writing Family History and for our weekly assignments we have had to write a short 250 words story using the Who, What, Where, When approach and use that in our writing, we were able to use fiction a non fiction, so I applied a little of both based on all the facts that I have found to some of the stories I wrote.
Here are a few I have done so far..
Charles Bernhardt Hahnel
Charles Bernhardt Hahnel was just 20 years of age when embarking on the Journey of a lifetime, a young and impressionable man ready to take on the next chapter of his life. Leaving his hometown of Chemnitz in the Saxony region of Deutschland, travelling to Antwerp, Belgium’s bustling port city in the summer of 1886. Charles was heading to Australia, seeking a better quality of life far removed from the political unrest after the depression left behind by the Franco-Prussian wars.
Charles found work as a miner in the Victorian goldfields of Maryborough, where he had met and fell in love with the gorgeous Hannah Gribble. The two were married late in the year of 1890 and not long after followed the birth of their first child, one of nine children. This first child would be my great-grandmother, Lily. Another three of their children were born in Timor Victoria before the call of the Western Australian goldfields called them. By the year of 1897, Charles was working at the Princess Margaret Gold Mine in Bulong Kalgoorlie for 13 shillings and 4 pence per shift.
Charles became an Australian citizen on the 16th of May 1904, the same year his 6th child, Albert was born. Charles lived a short life, reaching the age of 68, he lived to see one of his children pass before him. Charles was a cheerful man, he lived life, travelled, experienced two vast gold rushes in Australian mining history, a big family and a happy life living in Kalgoorlie Western Australia.
Standing in the courtroom Albert was watching his sister-in-law give her deposition on the events that had followed his oldest brother running off and skipping the country. He was not proud of his actions, in fact, he was disgusted in what happened, but this woman was infuriating. Does she not understand her husband has left and is not coming back? The coward has a history of deserting, remember that time he was wanted for ditching his duties as a seaman on the Catherine Adamson? She cannot run this business, Richard had handed his share over to John before he ran off for San Francisco. This woman has no business sticking her nose into the family business.
Albert turned his attention into what Elizabeth was talking about, she was describing the moment that Albert had seized her by the throat, violently and was pushing his thumbs into her windpipe. “…and he said BEEP you, I will strangle you if you don’t leave off”. Not his finest moment, but the anger he felt at his brother shirking his responsibilities again was almost too much to bear. At least John was a hard worker like himself, those oysters don’t sell themselves! Elizabeth explained to her counsel that that evening Albert had returned with John and broke her door with an axe and entered the house she once shared with her husband and refused to leave…This is what led to Albert being committed to trial in Sydney in the spring of 1868
Farming someone else’s land for a living was not much of a living. The three of us bringing in wages was not enough to feed us all. Poor Johnny and little Ellen always whining they were hungry. Silvester even took on the coal mine to help Ma and Pa, yet it’s still not enough. Now Pa and me are standing here hiding in me eldest brother’s semi. I can hear them rallying about trying to spring us. We are about to get nicked.
My heart is beating faster as I try to make myself sink lower and further into the pantry… I can hear them. They are talking to William. They are asking if he has seen us. They are now walking about the house, searching, they are going to find us any moment now. We are done for.
The door of the pantry has sprung open and standing before me is the feet of the uniformed officer reaching in to pull my Pa and me out… “You filthy bleedin beggars! Hiding like cowards, you’re done for now!” My heart sank as I was yanked out of the pantry and half dragged to an open area where I was put in shackles. I didn’t resist, there was no point. I know me fate. “William, you got to look after Ma and the kids” I shouted over to my brother as Pa and me are led out of his house. I would only see my brother again for a moment in the courtroom as Pa and me were tried for grand larceny.
Lavina Younger (Nee Osborne)
Months at sea on board the Scottish built Iron full-rigged ship The Eastminister, Lavina Osborne finally stepped on to solid land. She was being herded with the other single woman to C.P.S in Gympie so they could get her processed and into her new lodgings where she would soon begin her work.
The port of Maryborough was an enthusiastic scene compared to spending so long with the same faces' day in and day out with nothing but choppy watery landscapes to gaze at. It was a refreshing change.
Once Lavina emerged from the cabins, she could feel the hot, humid air surrounding her. Little droplets appeared on her forehead as she took in her surroundings. It was a whole other world, unlike her home farming village of Martock, where mills and factories were starting to pop up all over the place.
It was cold, wet and miserable in England when she had boarded the ship, nowhere in Queensland it was hot and humid with what would look like temporary docks and bays to greet her, compared to the industrious Port of Plymouth.
A man in a fine-looking suit guided the woman who had assisted passage over to a roughly made tin shelter where he was rambling on about the lodgings the girls were to take for the night. Looking around her surroundings, Lavina could see past the shelter on the dockside looking out towards the town of Maryborough, she could see the town was recovering from a recent flooding and hoping her new home of Gympie was more inland and a little less wet.
There are two more weeks of writing activities before we have the big essay to write when University resumes after the new years celebrations, which I will update this blog with :)
If I don't say hi before Christmas, I wish every one a bright happy Christmas with lots of family and food and the best start to the new year!
I was browsing my tree last night, filling in some information here, there and anywhere, when I noticed that my grandfathers (Aubrey Shearer) cousin had lost 3 of her children in the one year, I clicked on one of their names and looked at the obituary and thought how sad, maybe they were sick.
My name is Davina and I have been researching my family history since 2011. I started with almost nothing but ended up with a wealth of information and I needed an outlet to show and display all the information I have found.