Eleanor Isabella Welsh

Eleanor was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in 1857. Her father James Welsh was a Master Mariner and her mother was Ellen Mary Chamberlain. They had five children together.

The family moved back to Adelaide, South Australia, from whence they came, in about 1860. Her father, James died in November of that year.

When Eleanor’s mother Ellen, married John Patton he had six children from his first marriage and then had another six children with Ellen. Thankfully all seventeen children didn’t live together at the same time.

In 1874 Eleanor married George Chapman at the St Saviour Church at Glen Osmond, Adelaide, South Australia.

George and Ella’s (as he called her) life is recorded in George’s diaries which are in the process of being transcribed.

Eleanor is my 2x great grandmother.

Shipwreck Survivor, Ellen Mary Chamberlain, An Incredible Woman – Part One

This post was first published in December 2010.  I have updated and republished it as part of Women’s History Month.

I am amazed by the things Ellen went through in her life.  Born in Westminster, Middlesex, England in 1833 Ellen had five siblings.  It is believed she came to South Australia in 1848 on the Princess Royal, when she was just fifteen, with her sister Eliza Isabella Chamberlain.  Their parents had come out three years earlier.  I can’t imagine travelling on a sailing ship to a new country, basically alone, at fifteen years of age.

Port Adelaide 1840s

On the 2nd Aug 1850, at seventeen years of age, Ellen married Captain James Welsh at St Andrew’s church in Walkerville, Adelaide, South Australia.

On the 4th Sep 1850 Ellen was on board her husband James’ ship the Harlequin travelling to Singapore when they were struck by a violent northwest gale.  The ship was lost along with three of the crew.

The Harlequin was owned by Elder and Co. of Adelaide, departing that port for Singapore on 3 August 1850 under the command of Captain Welsh (or Welch) with a crew of eight, and was to call at Albany and Fremantle en route. The captain’s wife of one month was also on board. A newspaper criticised the condition of the rigging of the schooner stating that ‘she was most shamefully found in every respect, and had hardly a whole rope from stem to stern’ (Gazette, 27 September 1850: 2c). Western Australian Museum Shipwreck Database

The gale then swung to the south-west, and at 3 o’clock in the morning of 4 September the Harlequin was driven on to the coast to the west of West Cape Howe, ‘a locality of the most fearful description for such a mishap, the coast consisting of almost perpendicular rocks of granite, near 200 feet high, and the water at the base having a depth of ten fathoms’ (Gazette, 20 September 1850: 2c). The vessel very quickly began to go to pieces, and three of the crew, the cook, a seaman and a cabin boy, were drowned. It was later stated that the seaman was drunk and made no effort to save himself. Mrs Welsh was three times washed off a spar that the crew were using to help get her ashore. On each occasion she ‘regained it by swimming, an art of which she was before entirely ignorant! and only knew by description’ (ibid.).
The cook attempted to save his life by grasping at the dress of Mrs Welsh, who had gained a small rock; and as his efforts threatened the loss of her life, and could not save his own, his hold was broken off by one of the sailors, and he sank (Inquirer, 18 September 1850: 2c).

Mrs Welsh had been asleep below, and was dressed only in a night dress. The body of the drowned sailor was located on a ledge of rock, so his trousers were removed and given to her to wear. The survivors were saved by a sailor climbing the cliff with a rope, which, after fastening one end, he lowered to the others. This enabled them to climb the rocks, and finally Mrs Welsh was hauled up. Western Australian Museum Shipwreck Database

A full description of the ship, its cargo, passengers and the rescue of Mrs Welsh (Ellen Mary) can be found in the Western Australian Museum Shipwreck Database.

Back In South Australia

Ellen and James’ first child, William George Welsh was born in Pine Forest, South Australia on 7 Sep 1851.  The family then moved to Victoria and another son was born in 1853, Charles James Welsh.  Sadly Charles only lived for eight weeks.  Ellen was far away from her own family back in Adelaide, I often wonder how she coped being away from home, with a young toddler and mourning the loss of her second child.

 Geelong Harbour 1857

In 1855 Ellen and James are recorded as living in Geelong, Victoria where James had the position of Bar Pilot for the port.

A bar pilot or maritime pilot is a professional who helps to guide ships through navigationally challenging waters. While the bar pilot is on board, he or she provides advice to the captain; this advice is based on knowledge of local waters, weather conditions, and the abilities of the captain’s boat. Typically, the captain retains legal control and responsibility of the ship, although a bar pilot can be held accountable for egregious navigational errors which result in substantial damages.  (Thanks to wisegeek.com for this info.)

Ellen’s parents and her younger sister Eliza Isabella arrived in Geelong for a visit before returning to England.

This article from the Geelong Advertiser is titled “Melancholy And Fatal Accident”.  Eliza Isabella Chamberlain, Ellen’s sister, was killed by falling timber near the Harbour Master’s office on the 7th Mar 1855.  The full article with the inquest details are on Trove.

I don’t know how long the Welshs remained in Geelong, the next record I have is of the birth of their daughter Eleanor Isabella Welsh, my great, great grandmother, in 1857 in Melbourne, Victoria.  I didn’t realise until I was writing this post that Eleanor Isabella would have been named after Ellen’s sister.

Eleanor Isabella Chapman nee Welsh
Back in Adelaide in 1860 and another daughter is born to Ellen and James.  Clara Elizabeth Welsh is born on the 22nd Aug 1860 in Queenstown, Adelaide, South Australia.

Special thanks to Joanne Steele for all her research and for the photo of Eleanor Isabella Welsh.

Stay tuned for part two of this amazing lady’s story.

South Australian Postal Worker Records

The National Archives of Australia Adelaide office holds records of the state’s early postal workers so I checked to see if either of my William Chapmans (father and son) were there.  I found some of their pay records and a photo of my 2x great uncle William Chapman Jnr.  The photo held by the National Archives appears to be the original as it is in an old cardboard frame with faded writing on it.  I was able to take a photograph of it but unfortunately I can’t reproduce it here due to copyright restrictions.  I can however show you what it looked like when it was printed in The Register on 18 March 1925 on William’s 81st birthday with a long article about his life’s recollections.  William died in 1930 aged 86.

Newspaper Photo

Newspaper Photo

View William’s profile in my family tree here: http://kyliesgenes.com/individual.php?pid=I1205&ged=WillisonFamilyTree16Nov2011.ged

William Chapman Snr – Letter Carrier & Band Leader – Part Two

Here are some other references I’ve found to William;

A biographical register of early colonial Australian musicians: C-D
Violinist, orchestral and band leader, cornet-a-piston player, viola player

The letter carriers burst upon the streets as the ‘Scarlet Runners’, clad in scarlet coats cut like morning dress, piped with blue and crossed and crowned with splendid gilt hats adorned with a circle of gold. They were fit for a king and the small boys of the town followed Robert McCulloch and William Chapman on their rounds, basking in vicarious splendour.

But the regalia had its disadvantages, for it made the postman easy marks for unchained poodles, terriers and mastiffs and Mr Watts informed them that ‘where ferocious dogs were allowed to be about the yards or gardens they were not expected to go upon the premises to risk being bitten.’

They had a meagre time traversing the town in summer beset with dust and in winter hampered by mud and, in 1852, when half the population rushed off to the Victorian goldfields, they were dismissed at an hour’s notice. However, instead of slackening, post office business increased and after harassed clerks had worked around the clock for three days of indescribable confusion, the carriers were reinstated.

from Geoff Manning’s Insight Into South Australian History

State Library of South Australia


William’s son George (my great, great grandfather) kept extensive diaries from 1872 to 1926.


Taylor, Betsy. George Chapman diaries [online].Southerly, Vol. 64, No. 3, 2004-2005: 32-53. Availability:<http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=601281277926000;res=IELLCC>ISSN: 0038-3732. [cited 12 Jun 12].

“There was not a ball or dance of any consequence for which he did not supply the music” (The Advertiser).

Hearse and horses

Horse Drawn Hearse

William Chapman‘s funeral is described in this newspaper article from The Advertiser 4 Jan 1897.  This is a transcript.

By the death of Mr. William Chapman the colony has lost one of its oldest colonists, one of its best musicians, and one of its most respected citizens. He was employed in the General Post Office for 39 years, and was known as the father of the postmen, while his great abilities, either as an instrumentalist or as leader of an orchestra earned for him a reputation of which any man might well feel proud. Therefore it was only to be expected that his funeral should have been largely attended on Sunday afternoon. The various musical organisations of the city were well represented, and a band of 33 was chosen from them under the conductorship of Mr. Heath to play the “Dead March in Saul.”  A splendid effect was produced, the different instruments blending well, and almost the whole way from Angas street east, where the deceased gentleman’s late residence is situated, to the West-terrace cemetery, the band played the solemn strains.

On either side of the hearse marched the pallbearers, Messrs. John Lee, W. Mitchell, D. Mahony and J.W. Williams, and then came the mourning coaches, the members of the Adelaide Lodge of Oddfellows, of which Mr. Chapman was a member, Brothers A.J. Radford, R. Morphett, secretary, and R. Richardson, deputy provincial grand master, walking in front.

There was a large attendance of the general public. At the grave the Rev. A. Wilson read the burial service of the Unitarian Church, and Mr. Radford conducted the Oddfellows service.

The chief mourners were: Mr. and Mrs. William Chapman, Mr. and Mrs. George Chapman, Messrs. Charles, Alfred, Frank, Bernard, and Frederick Chapman (sons), George W. Chapman, Harry Chapman, H.M. Chapman, P.E. Chapman,and Harold Chapman (grandsons), Misses Mary Chapman and Hilda Chapman (granddaughters), E. Weller and Tom Weller (nephews), and Mr. and Mrs. John Patten.

The General Post Office and the suburban officers were represented by Messrs. A.J. Wright, (chief clerk),  J. Conigrave, C.G. Schedlich. J. McDonald, J. O’Halloran, S. Boer, E.L. Virgo, W.H.Button, E. Bacon, S. Suckling, A.J. Arrowsmith, E. Niebuus, J. Mahoney, J. Lee, Mr. Black, A. Hubble, W.S. Doucit, J. Williams, W.A. Mitchell, J. Oatey, R. Gillman, V. Gurr, J. Moloney, W. Maley, John H. Maddern, E.J. Conlon, W. Condon, M. Collins, J.P. Pearson. J. Ottaway, P.F. Smith, S. Ramsay, S. Kidman, E. Short, A. Hamlin, H.B. Wilson, W.G. Wallace, and C. Graham.

The band was composed thus: — Eastern Suburban — Messrs. C. Schraeder, T. Stephens, S. Leaney, F. Stephens, J. Harrison, E.L. Gill, H. Hill, J. Shapter, C. Smith, J. Sullivan, W. Piercey, H. Coombes, A. Piercey, D. Pratten, J.J. Craig, and F. Grunicklee. Loco. — Messrs. J. Bermingham, W.Bermingham, S. Graves, K.J. Carne, W. Thorne, and W. Hooper.

Fitzgerald’s Circus — Messrs. F Bowles, A. Beane, C. Geyer, H. Bush, and T. Sexton.

Theatre Boyal orchestra —Messrs. F. Saltmarsh, J. Sparbier, and A. Heath.

South Australian Military — Messrs. F. Ingerson and J. Stephens.

The music profession was also represented by Messrs. A.C Quin, P.A Howells, James Shakespeare, C. Rosenbain, F. James, J.H. Fray, T. Grigg, and C. Cawthorne.

Among others at the grave were Messrs. James Lucas, F.F. Smith, M.W. Brooks, E.Everett, Mr. Shrosbee, James Perry, W.T. Oke, H.M. Addison, John Rowe, George Pullman, W. Nairne, C.W. Dyer, G. Beare, A. Warhurst, J.E. Gooden, H. Delaine, J.E. Kippist, J. Fabian, W. Collins, T. Smith, W. Lithgow, C. Molton, J. Williams, A Robertson, J.V. Duckmaster, R. Hutton, T. Tunstall, B. Earnshaw, S. Moore, B. Chapman, J. Fitzsimmons, R.C. Mitton, E. Bleumel, R.Buring, W.F. Giffen, C. Giffen, J. Foggo, William Gordon, B. Davis, A. Proctor, C. Williams, G. Hackett, C. Schrader, J.Duncan, A.E.P. Tomlin, C.G. Dibbin, J. McCabe, and. H. Barnett.

Wreaths were sent by the employees of the General Post-Office, Mrs. William Kay and the Misses Kay, Mr. Robert Kay and the Misses Kay, Mrs. Giffen and family, Mr.and Mrs. John Collins aud the Misses Collins, Mesdames M. McFie, C. Williams, O’Brien, Brooks, and May, Messrs. W. R. Pybus, and C. Cawthorne.

Apologies for non attendance were received from Sir Charles Todd, the Rev. J.C. Woods, and Mr. F. Basse (president of the Liendertafel). Messrs. Pengelley & Knabe carried out the funeral arrangements


Mourners in 1880s costumes

Mourners At Re-enactment Of JL Monck's Funeral

Can anybody help me identify any of the people listed above who were at William’s funeral? Other than family the only other names I know are: Number one- Rudolph Buring my 2x great grandfather whose son Oscar Rudolph Buring married William Chapman’s granddaughter Nellie Blanche Chapman (my great grandparents). Number two- R.C. Mitton who had a school in Pultney St. Adelaide. Number three- Rev. J.C. Woods the Unitarian minister.

Were any of your ancestors there?

This is the music which played throughout the funeral procession, The Dead March by Handel.