When my great-grandmother Ellen was a young child, the family decided to immigrate to Australia. After a lengthy boat ride, in mostly squalid conditions, the family arrived in New South Wales. My great-great-grandfather took up farming in the Armidale, New England area of NSW.
He was a very successful farmer and became an extremely wealthy man. Family life was good, the children all had food and clothing and led a happy life. Much better than they had back in the Mother Country.
When Ellen was just 18 years of age, she met a handsome young man and fell in love immediately. He was a strapping young man and worked hard as a labourer. However, he had a dark secret. His own father had been sent out from Ireland as a convict. He had not committed a serious crime, just stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving family.
Ellen chose to keep this news from her family. They were considered ‘Upper Crust’, so to speak. They would never tolerate the son of a criminal becoming one of their family members.
The courtship progressed and Ellen’s family quite liked the young man… However, all that changed when someone let the cat out of the bag about this fellow’s heritage. Ellen was forbidden from seeing the young man again.
Of course, Ellen had other ideas and continued to meet him in secret. This went on for a year or two until once again someone let her father know.
By this time, Ellen was 21 and able to make her own mind up. Her father told her that if she stayed with him she would be banished from the family. He told Ellen that if she chose the young man, she would never to be spoken of and would never be allowed to visit her family again. Her father was a tough old bugger. He kept his word though, and Ellen made her choice.
She and her true love moved away and married in 1887. The couple were very happy, apart from the fact that Ellen had been banished and all rights to any inheritance from her wealthy father all forsaken.
They had children, first a son and then a daughter. The son died from unknown circumstances when he was just 19. The daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman who would become my grandmother. When my great-grandfather passed away, Ellen came and lived with my grandmother, her daughter. I remember Ellen. She always wore black. She was always in mourning, perhaps for the loss of her husband, or maybe the loss of her family back in the countryside. I know that her parents never knew about anything that happened in her life after Armidale. I find that very sad.