A Heartfelt Letter – The Coffey Brothers

Maurice James Coffey, my 1st cousin 3 times removed, wrote to the officer in charge of base records of the AIF in 1932.  I found this letter in his service records held by the National Archives of Australia.

A brief transcription is as follows:

Dear Sir

Please supply me with the Regimental Numbers and units of my four brothers

Louis Johnstone Coffey Killed at Messines June 1917

Sylvester Plunkett Coffey deceased

Edward Daly Coffey died TB hospital Adelaide March 1921

Arthur Thomas Coffey enlisted at Albury NSW under the name of Arthur Everard and gave as his next of kin his cousin Thomas Plunkett of Bowna near Albury.  I am his next of kin being the eldest and only surviving brother.  Arthur died about 1923? after his discharge from the AIF in December 1919.

I wish to perpetuate the memory of my dead brothers who served in the AIF

Yours faithfully

Morris James Coffey

Late Lieut 10th Bn Inf AIF

Such a sad letter, to have four of his brothers who served in World War One all die at war or shortly after.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

They all got into some sort of trouble during their military service, whether it was going AWOL for a night, talking back to an officer or something more serious.  Several of the brothers neglected to mention on their enlistment forms that they had been convicted of criminal offences prior to their military service also.

There were seven brothers in the family altogether.  Christopher Augustin Coffey died when he was fifteen so didn’t serve and it doesn’t appear that Michael Francis Coffey (commonly known as Frank) served either.

Sylvester Plunkett Coffey’s wounds were such that he ended up with hemiplegia, the paralysis of one side of the body.  In one description it says that one eye was permanently shut, his mouth drooped, he drooled and had no use of his arm and that his leg was slightly improved.  It certainly paints a bleak picture of poor Sylvester.  I have found very little more information other than he returned to Adelaide and died in 1920.

So far I have been unable to find a reason for Arthur Thomas Coffey to enlist under a different name.  He must have used the name Arthur Everard after his military service as well, as his probate documents note both names.  I have yet to find any evidence that he used the name Arthur Everard prior to World War One.  In the above letter Maurice is under the impression that Arthur died in 1923 however this isn’t the case.  Arthur didn’t die until 1938.  Maurice must have found out his mistake as it is him who notifies Base Records of Arthur’s death.

Private Louis Johnstone Coffey

Louis Johnstone Coffey died in the Battle of Messines.

Edward Daly Coffey was in trouble with the law before and after his military service.

1920 ‘IN THE COURTS. SUPREME—CRIMINAL.’, Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931), 31 July, p. 34. , viewed 03 Jun 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165906753

Edward died not long after this on 22 Mar 1921.  His time in prison may have worsened his tuberculosis but it may also have prevented him from drinking which it appears was a problem throughout not only his life but that of his brothers as well.

As I find out more about the five Coffey brothers I am adding it to the RSL Virtual War Memorial.

Protect Our Cemeteries

When you’re next on a cemetery ramble please let the office or local council know if you see any graves which have significant damage, overgrowth of trees, weeds etc. We need to speak up to protect our cemeteries.

This is important the world over as more cemeteries are falling into disrepair, there is greater vandalism and grave reuse is happening more and more.  We’re losing our historic buildings, places and cemeteries at an alarming rate.  Soon we will have nothing left to pass on to our children and grandchildren….

Mary Plunkett – Continued

In my last post https://blog.kyliesgenes.com/2017/04/mary-plunkett-read-carefully/, I wrote about my 2x great grandmother Mary Plunkett.  The passenger list that I found is breaking down the brick wall which was Mary.

Things I have found:

  • Mary’s siblings – Ann, Luke, James, Susan, Rose, Catherine, Christopher
  • Mary’s parents – Thomas Plunkett and Ann Daly
  • Family possibly from County Cavan, Ireland
  • James Plunkett married Ann Jeffcott and moved to Albury, New South Wales, Australia
  • Christopher Plunkett moved to Albury, New South Wales, Australia
  • Ann Plunkett married Edward Jeffcott in Albury, New South Wales and moved to Victoria, Australia
  • Mary’s two eldest sons James and Thomas Hayward spent time in Albury Gaol
  • Susan and Rose married and stayed in South Australia

It’s so much fun taking down this wall brick by brick.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a breakthrough of this size in my own family tree.

The Legend Of Ben Hall

I’ve followed the making of the film The Legend Of Ben Hall right from its beginning as a proposed short film in 2014.  I’ve been interested in Matthew Holmes’ films because he filmed part of one, Twin Rivers, near my old home in Murray Bridge, South Australia which had a number of my friends and acquaintances in it.

Through a small donation to The Legend of Ben Hall’s Kickstarter campaign I was able to hear about the development of the short film, and then when interest was shown in making it a feature film I have followed that also.

If you don’t know the story here is a brief synopsis from the film website:

After two years running from the law, bushranger Ben Hall has gone into hiding, He is soon drawn back into bushranging by the reappearance of his old friend, John Gilbert. Reforming the gang and taking on a new recruit John Dunn, the trio begin a spree of robberies and crimes across New South Wales. After the killing of two policemen, the three become the most wanted men in the colony.

When the Government moves to declare them outlaws that can shot on sight by any person who chooses, Ben Hall makes desperate plans to flee the colony. But with a such a large bounty on their heads, treachery abounds where they least expect it … 

It was with great anticipation that I went to see the film last year and loved the attention to detail of the historical accuracy of the story, costumes, sets, and the characters. The story is fast paced with plenty of action and some romance too.  The score is beautiful and changes seamlessly from exciting to melancholy as the film progresses.  I’m listening to some of it as I write this blog post.

The Legend Of Ben Hall movie poster


Here is John Gilbert, one of the Hall Gang, I would definitely say he was a villain.


Recently I was looking through New South Wales Police Gazettes for a family tree I am currently working on. (not my own)  I came across the following item:


In 1865 the reward was paid out for the capture of John Gilbert.  I knew of Ben Hall and his gang before seeing the film and knew that he was a real person and that the characters in the film were real, however finding a record such as this when I’m doing research for a real person brought home to me the reality of the story of Ben Hall and John Gilbert in a way I have never known before with a movie I had seen or a book I had read.

In further news from the film website I’m looking forward to these upcoming movies:

The Legend of Ben Hall is the first film in a planned series by writer-director-producer Matthew Holmes. The screenplays for The Legend of Frank Gardiner and The Legend of John Vane  are already complete and in development by Two Tone Pictures and Running Panda Films.

These three companion films will form THE LEGENDS TRILOGY, an epic saga of the New South Wales bushrangers and the first of its kind ever produced in Australia. Each film will be based on authentic history and will immaculately recreate these stories for world-wide audiences. Two Tone Pictures is hoping to start production as early as 2017, with many cast members of The Legend of Ben Hall already set to reprise their roles.

Baptism Record

Whilst doing some research for someone else today I was thrilled to find this baptism record because it gave more clues than just the baptism and I haven’t seen one with this extra information before.

Birth and baptism record for Sarah Blears

Birth and baptism record for Sarah Blears

On the second row from left to right it has the date of birth, 5 Feb 1865, date of baptism 12 Mar 1865, child’s name, names of parents Wilbraham and Margaret, surname Blears, address 64 Mop Lane, father’s occupation Boiler Maker, and the signature of who performed the ceremony.

Underneath that on a new line it says, “late Hodson, m, at Cathd 1853”.  I hadn’t seen this on a baptism record before so I looked at the rest of the page and found it written on other entries like the one above Sarah’s.  At first I wondered if it meant the town they were from, that Hodson was a town but then the next part I was fairly sure was “married at Cathedral 1853”.  My next idea was maiden name.  Could it be Sarah’s mother’s maiden name?  Excitedly I searched for a marriage between Wilbraham (he switches between William and Wilbraham) Blears and Margaret Hodson and this is what I found.

William Blears Wedding

William Blears’ Marriage

I would certainly like to find more baptism registers with these extra details on them in the future!

River Torrens In Flood

Not far from where I live in Felixstow, South Australia is the River Torrens.  I have always loved rivers and spent many hours watching the River Murray when I lived at Murray Bridge.  The recent flooding in South Australia has provided for some interesting viewing and photography.  I’m no great photographer and I use my phone camera but I still love to record my life and local area in photos.

On the 14th of September, just a little over a week ago, we had extensive flooding in parts of the Adelaide Hills, South Coast and Adelaide suburbs.  Here are some of the photos I took on the 15th.




Park bench almost covered by water


Catchment channel leading into the river and the bridge over O.G. Road in the distance.

Catchment channel leading into the river and the bridge over O.G. Road in the distance.


Catchment channel leading to the Torrens at Drage Reserve, Felixstow.

Catchment channel leading to the Torrens at Drage Reserve, Felixstow.


Lochiel Park ford

Lochiel Park ford

The local news has reported extensively on the flooding:

I couldn’t help myself but check Trove to see what was reported about other times the River Torrens had flooded in my area.


Saturday 13th August 1870 the River Torrens flooded, this report stating that the water at Felixstow and Marden was nearly bank high.  It is hard to tell how much water that is as the river is very different today from how it was then.  This picture below shows how differently the river looked at Felixstow in 1910.

Photo courtesy of State Library of South Australia http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+64124 River Torrens at Felixstow 1910

Photo courtesy of State Library of South Australia http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+64124
River Torrens at Felixstow 1910


Photo courtesy of the State Library of South Australia http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+64126 River Torrens at Felixstow

Photo courtesy of the State Library of South Australia http://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+64126 River Torrens at Felixstow also 1910

This photo shows the river as much wider than it is today.


Here is a transcript of the above newspaper clipping from the South Australian Register 30 August 1889.

Felixstow Bridge
“On Monday morning Alderman Solomon, M.P. introduced a deputation representing the Districts of Payneham, Campbelltown, Teatree Gully, and Yatala South, to ask the Government to put a sum of money on the Estimates for the restoration of the Felixstow Bridge swept away by the recent floods in the River Torrens.  It was pointed out that the bridge was not only a convenience but a necessity to the people of the districts named and the fruitgrowers and cultivators in the hills and country beyond.”

I’m glad that our road bridges are much sturdier than they were in days of old.  Here is the footbridge where I take my grandchildren to feed the ducks.  I think we’ll be waiting a fair while for it to be fixed.

Footbridge between Drage Reserve and Klemzig Interchange

Footbridge under water, between Drage Reserve and Klemzig Interchange, 15 September 2016


Drage Reserve to Klemzig Interchange footbridge

Drage Reserve to Klemzig Interchange footbridge, 23 September 2016