Category Archives: paparoa

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

Child of Victorian times: Marion Margaret Sinclair (1883-1970)

When I consider the contexts of the life of my grandmother, Marion Margaret Skelton (née Sinclair), I am amazed at the changes she must have experienced.  She was born in 1883, the eldest child of James and Fanny Jane Sinclair in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.

 Beatrice (1883) of the Tyne General Ferry Company by the Newcastle High Level and Swing Bridges

Beatrice (1883) of the Tyne General Ferry Company by the Newcastle High Level and Swing Bridges

Queen Victoria had been on the Throne since 1938.  Marion died in 1970, in the Kaipara region, about 80 miles north of Auckland, New Zealand – nearly 70 years after Queen Victoria died.

In 1879, horse drawn trams were common in Newcastle streets.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Tyneside was a significant center for the development of electricityJoseph Swan, who later joined with the Edison company, was an important player in the new applications of electricity technologies in Newcastle and internationally.

The world was changing. The year before Marion was born, a Newcastle drapers shop became the first shop in the world to be lit by electricity.

Marion’s mother died when she was 5 years old.  This death happened a few hours after Marion’s sister Fanny was born, according to a letter that Marion wrote in 1938.  I have a scan of the letter.  It was sent to me by a  descendant of another of Marion’s siblings who remained in the UK.  In the letter Marion wrote what she knew of her family history.   She named her siblings as William John, James George and Fannie. Marion wrote:

The mother died a few hours after Fannie was born, leaving four little children under 6 years old.

To my generation, it seems strange that she would refer to her mother as “The mother“.  However, this may have been at least partly due to the formalities expected in Victorian times.  I’m told that she always referred to her husband as “Mister Skelton”.  Her son, my father Trevor Noble Skelton, always referred to his mother using the Latin, “Mater” or “The Mater”.

Temperance gathering victorian Newcastle

Aaron Guy discovered a large collection of glass plate negatives depicting Victorial life in Newcastle. This photo is of a Temperance gathering.

Victorian Newcastle waiting for a launch on Tyneside

“Onlookers wait for the launch of a ship in Tyneside”

It is not entirely clear who Marion lived with throughout her childhood, but I was told that she was brought up by aunts.  I have a strong memory from the early 1960s, when my grandmother (Marion) was staying with my family. She showed me a photo of a young woman standing at the bottom of a household staircase and wearing a maid’s uniform.  My grandmother said that the young woman was a maid where she grew up, laughing at the memory.  She recalled that the young woman was “funny” and a bit of a jokester.  That’s the only photo I’ve seen from Marion’s earlier days.

During the 1891 census, I am pretty sure it is Marion and her 2 brothers who were boarding with Mr and Mrs Relph in Cullercoates: named as Marian, William, and Stewart.  This is the same area where the children’s grandfather, John Sinclair had a house at the time.  The children’s family name has been mis-transcribed as “Smeland”,  but the handwritten record shows the name to be “Sinclair”.  Also during that census, Marion’s baby sister Fannie, and their uncle, Stephen E Sinclair, 17 years old, were living in John Sinclair’s household at 26 Beverley Terrace in Cullercoates.

It is also most likely that, during the 1901 census, Marion was an apprentice music teacher, boarding in Hampshire. During the same census, Marion’s 16 year old brother, William John Sinclair, was living in Margaret Sinclair’s household at 26 Beverly Terrace in Cullercoates. Margaret was John Sinclair’s widow. William John’s occupation is listed as “electrical engineer”.  Also in the household was Marion’s sister Fanny.

Queen Victoria had died in January of that year, bringing the Victorian era to an end.   In the early 20th century, the electricity industry in Tyneside gathered momentum. In December of 1901,  electric trams began running in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Electric tram newcastle

Postcard of South Shields Tram No. 46, Fowler Street, September 1933: This tram was originally Tyneside Tramways & Tramroads No. 3, and ran on that system from 1901 until its demise in 1930.”

Four years later in 1905, Marion Margaret Sinclair’s grandmother, Margaret Sinclair died.  Early in that year, Marion left England to live in New Zealand.

Marion Margaret Sinclair’s life: To be continued.

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Filed under biography, history, marion margaret sinclair, newcastle upon tyne, paparoa, temperance

Family history & changing times

Over the last year or so I have been looking into some of my family history.  It has revealed a few surprises, brought forward some mysteries, and opened new and intriguing lines of research.  As with every family history, it comprises a network of bloodlines, that overlap and intersect at specific moments of time, in diverse locations.  And, when tracing the routes through which these lines all led to my life, begun in New Zealand, I am intrigued by the vast changes in the course of individual lifetimes: changes in the economic contexts, social change, political struggles and technological capabilities

Two of my grandparents came from Scottish working class backgrounds: he the son of a tinsmith, and (when single) a mill worker; my grandmother the daughter of an engineer from a line of shoe makers.  There’s an intriguing photo of my grandfather and fellow cadet at the Mitchell Library cadet, in front of a statue in Glasgow, in Edwardian suits, in the first few years of the 20th century.

Mitchell Library c1911

Mitchell Library c1911, North St, Charing Cross area of Glasgow, on Virtual Mitchell Library

My grandparents married in a boat off Manly beach in Sydney, early 20th century, then came to Auckland for my grandfather to take up a job as Auckland City Chief Librarian, curator of the Art Gallery and Director of the Old Colonialist Museum.

Anglo-Irish great grandparents born during and/or just before the Irish potato famine near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh: families largely of teachers, lawyers, clergy, military men, and at least one owner of a heritage residential property.  Such families fared better during the famine than the poverty-stricken Catholics.  See for instance, this record of the Workhouse in Enniskillen:

Enniskillen1 workhouse 2003

Enniskillen – Workhouse building, 2003

My great grandparents married in Melbourne in 1869, then journeyed almost immediately to the Northern Kaipara, to start the New Zealand family lines Paparoa. [The Back Roads blog has an interesting record of the Paparoa Dairy Cooperative of 1895-1896]

Paparoa Settlers’ Annual Picnic and Group of Small Children, 1900.

– Image from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19000727-6-4 [Auckland Weekly News 27 July 1900]

The Matakana mystery man: my great grandfather, James Sinclair, and his brother, were the eldest and youngest sons of a successful tobacco manufacturer in Newcastle on Tyne.  How did they come to be living in Matakana, Rodney at the beginning of the 20th century?

– Image from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19021218-12-1. [Auckland Weekly News 18 December 1902]

At the headquarters of navigation: The S.S. Kotiti lying at Matakana Wharf, on the Matakana River, Auckland, 1909.

– Image from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19091223-3-2 [Auckland Weekly News 23 December 1909]

Why do my great grandfather and his daughter appear to have become estranged? She doesn’t seem to have acknowledged his existence in Rodney, yet she had married my grandfather of Paparoa, in 1916, and lived there for the rest of her life. She seems to have grown up with the tobacco manufacturing family in Newcastle Upon Tyne before migrating to New Zealand in 1915.

Victorian Newcastle, images, The Guardian,2012

Victorian Newcastle, images, The Guardian,2012

James Sinclair had married the daughter of William Anthony Brignal, a newspaper manager, temperance campaigner and secretary for the Railway Men’s Mission. Born in Durham, he lived for a time in the Tyne and Wear area, but was most active in the Liverpool area where he lived the last period of his life, dying in 1895.  How political was he?  He worked for the radical Sunderland Daily Echo soon after it began publishing: it was set up to oppose the Conservative Party and was aligned with the Liberal Party.

 – Image belongs to Sunderland Daily Echo.

It actively campaigned on issues such as taxation and Home Rule for Ireland. He later worked for the moderately liberal Liverpool Daily Post. This was a significant period in the rise of the popular press.

All these life strands led to my immediate family that came into being soon after WWII. The prior lines in the New Zealand family branches included the following occupations: farmer, teacher, lawyer, librarian, accountant/manager, post office worker, telephone/telegraph operator, “gentleman” (Remittance Man?).

The various lines of my ancestry from the past couple of centuries, seem to have come from various parts of the north of England and Ireland, and from Scotland.  In earlier times, many would have lived in the border territories between Scotland and England.  They include a mix of people from the poorer and middle sections of society; largely protestant, but from various denominations and political positions.

NOTE: I have learned of these family lines from family statements and records; official birth death and marriage certificates; census and other records found on the online Ancestry Library; newspaper articles accessed via Papers Past, Trove, and the British Newspaper Archive and the New Zealand Herald on microfilm; cemetery records.

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Filed under enniskillen, glasgow, james sinclair, liverpool daily post, matakana, mitchell library, newcastle upon tyne, paparoa, politics, railway men's mission, sunderland daily echo, temperance, william anthony brignal