Monthly Archives: October 2014

Into the electric age: Marion M (Sinclair) Skelton (1883-1970)

My grandmother, Marion Margaret Skelton (née Sinclair), was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, in 1883.  My last post on her, ended saying that she left England to come to NZ in 1905.

Marion was very formal in the way she talked about family members. In her letter (dated 9th May 1938 ) to one of her nephews, she referred to her father, James Sinclair, as “the father”:

The father came to N.Z., and when the two eldest had finished their education in England, they came to N.Z..

Marion M Sinclair is on the passenger list for the German ship Scharnhorst, which left Southhampton for Australia on 30th January 1905.

The incoming passenger list has Marion arriving in Sydney on the Scarnhorst on 17 March 1905.  The names next to Marion’s on both lists are Mrs SM Parkinson and Mrs E. Elliott.  These two women and Miss M Sinclair are also listed as travelling on a ship  that went from Sydney to Auckland about a week later.

Auckland waterfront 1905 Heritage Image Sir george Grey collection

Looking south from the masthead of the barque Piri, showing …. various buildings and wharves in Auckland, 1905. Photographer : Henry Winkelmann, 1905, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W117

Mrs S M Parkinson was a social and temperance campaigner, much like Marion’s grandfather William Anthony Brignal.

Marion’s brother, William John Sinclair, must have come to New Zealand some time soon after that.  He was born in about 1985.  In the 1901 UK census, he was living at his grandmother, Margaret Sinclair’s house, 26 Beverley Terrace, Cullercoates, Newcastle Upon Tyne. His occupation is listed as electrical engineer.  This was in an era when,  “much of Britain’s most innovative electrical engineering emerged around the Tyne.”

[Moffat, Alistair and George Rosie, Tyneside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead from Earliest Times, Mainstream Publishing: Edinburgh and London, 2005: p.276]

Barras Bridge Newcastle

Barras Bridge Newcastle Upon Tyne post 1901: Newcastle Libraries 029167

William John married Mildred Cruikshank.  His father was mentioned in the newspaper report of the wedding (Observer, 15 June 1912, p.8.)  After the wedding, the couple lived in Gisborne, where “Bill” had already made his home.  Bill continued to work as an electrical engineer, for Turnbull and Jones in Gisborne (as shown in successive NZ Electoral Rolls and in his mention in the Poverty Bay Herald, 4 July 1916, p.4.)

Marion’s 1938 letter mention her first few  years in New Zealand:

I taught under the Auckland Education Board for 10 yrs, first at Hakaru (1906), then at Brynderwyn near Maungaturoto (1908-?) when I got married.

Maungaturoto 1914 Heritage Image

Development of the route of the North Auckland Main Trunk Railway: new buildings erected at Maungaturoto. Creator: Auckland Weekly News, 25 June 1914, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19140625-48-3

Marion married Marcus Noble Skelton (aka Noble Skelton) in Auckland in 1915.  The newspaper report (in The Northern Advocate, 9 April 1915, p.7) does not mention Marion’s father as being present at the wedding. At that time, Marion’s father James Sinclair was living in Matakana, north of Auckland.

The marriage certificate, states the full names for both her parents, plus names a witness as Dr F W Fullerton of Takapuna.  He was the husband of Marion’s aunt Eveline/Evelyn (see my earlier post on them).

There are many newspaper reports of the time of the social activities that Dr and Mrs Fullerton attended.  However, unlike the articles about Marion’s father and uncle in Matakana, none of these articles mentions the connection with John Sinclair, tobacco manufacturer of Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Neither do any articles about the Fullertons mention their connection with Marion, or the Matakana Sinclairs.

Noble was born and raised in Paparoa in the Kaipara region, and that is where he and Marion lived for the rest of their lives. Like many of her Sinclair family, Marion was a lover of music, and continued to teach music to people around the Paparoa area after her marriage.

Noble was first a teacher, then went into business as a solicitor with his brother, Hall Skelton of Auckland.  Noble was also a farmer on land where his home, Summerhill, Paparoa, stood.

Summerhill

Painting of Summerhill – owned by Skelton family, Paparoa.

During the depression of the late 20s and 1930s, Noble hit financial hard times.  He died unexpectedly at 59 years of age, leaving two young teenage sons, and his wife Marion (see his obituary in the New Zealand Herald, 15 August 1933, p.10).  Marion wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her life.

In the 1920s and 30s, life was not only difficult financially, but in the rural Paparoa, there were few of the conveniences we take for granted today. Travel and communications were far less sophisticated.

The weather could also sometimes be quite cruel.

Paparoa flood 1924

“The settlement of Paparoa, North Auckland under water, after the recent floods.”  Photographer: D Nicholas, Auckland Weekly News, 17 April 1924, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19240417-43-The settlement of 6

In her 1938 letter, Marion says that they had “heavy rain and high floods here last week”.

A newspaper of the time judged this to be the worst flood since 1924-5 (New Zealand Herald, 4 May 1938, p.14; See also New Zealand Herald, 5 May 1938, p.16)

Marion’s son Ron (Ronald Noble Skelton) continued to live with her at Summerhill until he got married.  At around the time of his marriage, he had a house built in the centre of Paparoa, and Marion lived there for the rest of her life.

In her later years Marion’s Strohbech piano was one of her most prized possessions.  She bequeathed it to her son Ron Skelton, as indicated in her Will held at Archives NZ. Marion M Skelton (née Sinclair) died on 21 February 1970.

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Filed under biography, history, marion margaret sinclair, newcastle upon tyne, paparoa, technology, william john sinclair