Tuesday, July 31, 2018

M4. Meet The Rellies - A Special Lady from New Zealand Sabina Jillett

Sister Margaret Mary


Before introducing Sister Margaret Mary, and telling of her life, it was necessary to find out exactly why a Roman Catholic Nun would be included in the family, and be one of the cousins and aunts of the descendants of Robert and Elizabeth Jillett.

Traditionally the family were Church of England, and from England,  so to have a Roman Catholic Nun, there must have been a relationship with an Irish person.

There is no question at all about how interesting Family History Research is, especially when you uncover the unexpected.

Convicts from England were generally of the Anglican faith, convicts from Ireland were generally Catholic faith.  Well actually until King Henry the VIII came on the throne, most in England were Catholic. In 1534 Henry VIII made himself head of the Church of England..

So while wondering why a certain cousin was who they were, further research into the family lineage was conducted.  The story then became one of two parts, one relating to Sister Margaret Mary

The story began when Robert Jillett  crossed the Tasman Sea and went shore whaling in New Zealand after leaving the farmlands of New Norfolk in Tasmania.  Why he left, is an unknown.

Robert was a rather clever man, at the time there were Maori wars and battles between settlers and then the Military.  Robert chose for his partner the daughter of a Chief, Etera Te Morere. That assured him of "protection".

They had a family of 5 children who survived.
1.      Charlotte Jillett             m         John Whitehouse
2.      John Jillett                    m          Ellen Jane Cook
3.      Robert Jillett                 m         Emma McPenger
4.      Susan Jillett                  m         William Whitehouse
5.      William Jillett               m         Mary Jane Whitehouse.............

John Jillett married Ellen Jane Cook in 1875

They had a family of four
1.      Sabina Mary Ann Jillett           1877
2.      John Robert Jillett                    1878
3.      Charlotte Ellen Jillett               1880
4.      Joseph Frederick Jillett            1882

John died in 1883 and Ellen remarried and had another family.

John's brother William Jillett was the original settler of the Titahi Bay area.


John Jillett Family

John Jillett was 32 years of age when he died, and that is rather sad, and also very young.  John and Ellen had a family of 4 young children and after his death she remarried Wilfred George Chrysostom Legonia Lee.  His father was a clergyman.

Perhaps his dedication to the Church was the reason for naming his son after the Greek patriarch; archbishop of Constantinople (398–404),   Chrysostom.
They married in Otaki New Zealand, in 1885, and had another family, of 5 daughters and 2 sons..

But in researching, sometimes the unexpected turns up, and so often in my case, late at night!
There was an advertisement in the Sydney newspaper, regarding the death of John Jillett, the beloved son-in-law of Mrs Robert Hans Cook, of Sydney and her daughter Mrs George William Foster.
A little confusing was the reference to Gloucester Street Sydney, it almost infers that John Jillett was living there.  If he was, then that would explain how he met and married Ellen Jane Cook, a girl from Maitland near Newcastle.  But how did Mrs Peter Cook become Mrs Robert Cook?

John Jillett was born in 1851 and his mother died in 1863, he was quite young.   The early deaths of many of the parents left so many young children as orphans.

John moved to Otaki after his mother Te Kaea (Etara) died  7 May 1863.  John moved to Otaki, or more precisely somewhere near Pukekaraka hill, to live with relatives of his mother's family. He went there with his youngest brother, Robert, who was just 3 years old. Robert junior was born three months after his father died in a horse and cart accident in October 1860.  Hone and Robert would have spent time at Tainui marae on the other side of Pukekaraka hill. Hone was a very active in the Otaki Catholic  Church and his grave is at the top of a small Catholic cemetery marked out on front side of Pukekaraka  hill.[1] 

John lays buried in a grave on top of the hill, looking out to Kaputi.


View looking south over Otaki from Pukekaraka hill, showing St Mary's Catholic church and presbytery at the right, taken between 1886 and 1888 by Wrigglesworth & Binns of Wellington[2]

The Otaki Historical Society record the following information about Pukekaraka  hill 
During the New Zealand Wars, Otaki was divided between ‘Kingites’ – who supported the Maori King – and Queenites, who supported Queen Victoria and the New Zealand Government. The Kingites raised their flag at Pukekaraka but there were no hostilities in Otaki.
Otaki had a few stores and hotels, and a simple court house and gaol. There were Maori constables, and a few Pakeha settlers.
William and Mary Small and their baby son Alexander arrived in Otaki. William built a store, house and blacksmith’s forge.
A coach service began, carrying mail and passengers from Wellington to Wanganui, later to New Plymouth. The route ran along the beach from Paekakariki to Foxton. It turned off the beach along what is now Old Coach Road, Rangiuru Road, Te Rauparaha Street, Convent Road and Old Coach Road again to the beach. Otaki was a major stop.

An accommodation house built by William Davis, opposite Rangiatea, was taken over by postmaster Frederick Martin. Another accommodation house, run by Thomas and Mary Dodds, burnt down.
A telegraph office opened in Rangiuru Road, later becoming a post office.
The Telegraph Hotel was opened by Frederick Martin, who transferred the licence from the hotel opposite Rangiatea. A library also opened.
William Small bought land, Waopukatea, south of the river on which he later built his home, Clifden – now part of Bridge Lodge.
There were fewer than 200 Pakeha. In addition to stores and hotels, there were a few bootmakers, blacksmiths, butchers, saddlers and some settlers leasing land outside the town. A Working Men's Club, Racing Club, Athletic Club, Rifle Club, Tennis Club and a Harmonic Society had been established.
The Telegraph Hotel was taken over by Frederic and Mary Ann Bright.
The Government began buying land for a railway line but then ran out of money.
An Otaki Road Board was established. Two ships wrecked off Otaki beach: the Felixstowe (four drowned) and the City of Auckland (no loss of life). The mast of the City of Auckland remained on the beach until 1936.
The first state school was opened in Rangiuru Road.
James Gear and Isabella Ling began acquiring land in Te Horo.
What is now the Family Hotel was built for Frederic Bright, taking over the licence from Langley’s in Te Rauparaha Street.
The Bank of Australasia opened an agency in Otaki. Possibly timber milling began for the proposed railway.

The information regarding John Jillett indicates his love of horses, and horse racing.  He was the Secretary of the Otaki Race Club, until his death in 1883.

The first official racing club at Otaki was formed in 1880. This was a European one for which John Jillett, who died three years later, was secretary. They raced on an area of land known as the Rikiriki which formed the first circular course in the district. It was of a mile in length, and on one side followed the Rangiuru stream not far from the mouth of the Otaki River. After functioning for eight or ten years the Club encountered financial difficulties, and the course became overgrown with dense variegated thistle which in most places grew so tall that spectators were unable to view the progress of the horses until they made the home stretch.

Attendances soon decreased until the club was finally disbanded, being superseded in 1885 by the Otaki Maori Racing Club. After spending £250 on reforming the course and a further £170 on the construction of a Stewards stand and grandstand the Otaki Maori Racing Club became firmly established. In 1896 they claimed to have never had a loss at any meeting held. They also boasted in the following year that they had achieved a record in the number of nominations for a hack race meeting anywhere in New Zealand. Their entries on this occasion totalled 170.

It raises the question was John working for the wealthy Racehorse owners, and was that the reason he was in Sydney?

More importantly who were the parents of Ellen Jane Cook?

Ellen Jane Cook

Ellen Jane Cook was the daughter of Peter Cook, was the long standing belief.  Peter Cook was a most interesting person, and researching his lineage had its links back to another lineage of Jilletts.
One niggling point in this is how did Ellen Jane Cook from Maitland in NSW manage to be in New Zealand in 1875, in order to marry John Jillett?

What connection could there possibly be?

However Ellen was not the daughter of Peter Cook, rather her parents were Robert Cook Hand born 1807 in Birmingham and Mary Ann Mc Grath.

Robert used the name Robert Han Cook, and throughout his life as a publican in Sydney, the name was erroneously spelt and translated.  Robert Hanscook was often used.  No doubt someone forgot to put the "d" in the name, as he was most likely named after his mother's family.

Robert arrived on the "Edward" and was in the Military.  He married Mary Ann in 1836, and they had 11 children.  He died in an institution, at around 75. 

Mary Ann McGrath was the daughter of a soldier James McGrath who arrived on the Red Rufus in 1831.   He had his wife and three children with him.  Mary Ann died in 1914, and had lived for 83 years in the Colony.

Of the children only Ellen went to New Zealand.
But this research proved also that there were some links back to the Roman Catholic Church, as Ellen had been baptised Roman Catholic.

The only other remote possibility of a meeting is that perhaps John Jillett visited Sydney and stayed in one of Ellen's father's hotels.

Ellen's sister was also named Sabina, and had a daughter she named Sabina as well.  No doubt that name was a traditional family name.


Sabina Jillett

Sabina Mary Ann Jillett was the eldest daughter of John and Ellen Jillett.
This beautiful lady became a nun, Sister Margaret Mary. She taught at Otaki.

Sister Margaret Mary - Sabina Jillett 11 November 1877 died 18 October 1959

Sabina Jillett was born on 11 November 1877. Her father was a descendant of Captain Tom Jillett, who was married to a cousin of Teraiti Tonohi. Sabina was proud of her dual heritage.

Her family was very musical, and a nephew was Fr Jillett of the Auckland Diocese, who was a gifted musician and artist. She became a teacher and taught in Otaki. While there she boarded with the Crompton family, whose own daughter was Sister Ita of the Sisters of St Joseph.

Sabina entered the Sisters of St Joseph on 7 July 1898 and was professed as Sister Margaret Mary on 2 July 1900. Her profession had been delayed on account of her ill-health.

Sister Margaret Mary was a member of the Foundation community when the Sisters began in Manaia, and was also a Foundation member of the Patea community in Patea. She also taught in Ohakune for a short time. However the major years of her life were spent in Otaki where she ministered from 1929 till 1940.

Margaret Mary is remembered in the Otaki Jubilee booklet as only pint-sized, but she had a quick brain, a soft heart, and great devotion to St Joseph. In the lean years she would place whatever was needed in front of Joseph's statue, such as a piece of wood, or a potato, and invariably have her faith rewarded by the donation of these much needed items.

She was much more likely to forgive than punish misdemeanours, described as one parishioner as a sweet little thing, not always an asset in managing the bigger boys in the school. There was a playfulness and creativity in her interactions with the pupils that contributed to their fondness for her.

She also ran a small shop which pupils enjoyed browsing, and the hats from there were used on Sundays for girls who had forgotten theirs.

In her later years Sisters remember her great love of vocal prayer and constant recitation of litanies.

Sister Margaret Mary died at Sacred Heart Convent Whanganui, on 18 October 1959. Mass of Requiem was celebrated in the Parish Church at Otaki. Her final resting place was on Pukekaraka, the hill behind the Parish Complex.

Records from Otaki Historical Society reveal the different roles that her family played within the community. Her brother Robert enjoyed racehorses, not unlike his great uncles and cousins in Tasmania[3].
 Sacred Heart Convent Whanganui

The Journey – 1880 – The first four founding Sisters, Sr M Hyacinth, Sr M Teresa, Sr M Joseph, Sr M Clare left Perthville, NSW Australia to begin the New Zealand branch of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Wanganui, in the central North Island.

The first schools – a primary school and a secondary school for boarders were opened that year.
The first four founding Sisters pictured right (from left): Sr M Hyacinth, Sr M Teresa, Sr M Joseph, Sr M Clare (in front).[4]
  • 1883 Three of these Sisters went up the Whanganui River to the Maori settlement of Hiruharama with Suzanne Aubert. Two remained working there for several months, returning to their work in Wanganui in 1884. Later, Suzanne Aubert was to begin the first New Zealand Catholic Sisters – the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion.
  • 1912 A new convent and large secondary and day school was built on St John’s Hill, Wanganui. It carried on the name of the original school, Sacred Heart Convent. Sisters were now teaching in schools from Taranaki to Hawkes Bay, and south to Otaki.
  • 1920 – 1960 Time of growth and expansion in both numbers and ministry in the schools
1949 Mt St Joseph homestead purchased and set up as training school for Sisters

 Winter Wonderland – St Joseph's Church, Ohakune.
Photos: Merrilyn George

 While Sabina followed a tradition in the Church, and was a loved member of the Otaki Community, her father's interest in horses seemed to be a inherit family trait.
Although Sabina and her nephew followed her chosen path,  her extended family, in New Zealand and in Australia followed a different one. 

John Robert Jillett

 John, became a saddler, first at Lower Hutt, later at Urenui in North Taranaki and, in between times, ran a coaching business at Titahi Bay. The other brother Joesph, served in both the Boer War and the Great War, later becoming involved with horse racing at Trentham.

The Trentham Racecourse was the Army Camp in 1915
Trentham Camp

There is a constructed street in the camp, and within a short space of time buildings will face it to its full length on both sides. It is called MacChrystall’s parade, after the genial captain of that name. During the previous camps photographers were allowed to do business with the men, and in many instances the visitors, after receiving deposits for photographs, never put m an appearance again. In order to prevent the men being swindled in future. Colonel Potter has provided buildings for two recognised photographers, and a proportion of the rent received for the use of the premises is being added to a fund, to provide the men with, dainties when at sea.
New Zealand Times, Volume XXXIX, Issue 8930, 1 January 1915


Jillett's Coach service Porirua to Titahi Bay, c1900.

Driver is John Robert Jillett.  Sabina's brother

Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.2.74.

Their uncle William Jillett was one of the earliest European farmers in the area, arriving in 1864, and he has often been called the ‘true pioneer’ of Titahi Bay. Jillett started up a horse-drawn ‘bus’ service from the Bay to Porirua and became the first postmaster in 1902.  His nephew John Robert Jillett drove the coach.

From the 1920s real estate and holiday brochures promoted Titahi Bay's 'broad, deep sweep of sandy beach' as a natural and healthy destination. Most of these early holiday-makers would catch the train to Porirua and then the horse bus to the Bay. It is believed that the first bach was built in Christmas of 1900 by the Sievers family.
They were soon followed by businessmen from Wellington and Manawatu. Mrs Thornley, who from 1903 ran the Titahi Bay Club Hotel for thirty years, had a couple of cottages to let. The Titahi Bay Club Hotel provided accommodation and tearoom facilities throughout the twenties. Mrs Thornley’s son continued the business along with a little ‘sly-grogging’. After the Second World War, it was run as a nightclub. The Club was finally demolished in 1953.

William Jillett was 21 when he bought some land in 1887 and established a resort for wealthy Wellintonians and the development of the Bay as a holiday place continued until World War 2. It is a spectacular setting for the beach, peninsular, cliffs, rocks, Mana Island, harbour and the sea.


You could say that Horse Racing to the sons of Robert and Elizabeth Jillett was, to the Whaling Industry of their daughters!
Each were seeking a prize, one was called "black oil" the other was entirely different.

If they were not writing about it, they were riding in it, and they were being officials in it.
In fact a comparison can be made within the Jillett family, all the Jillett/Bradshaw daughters were involved in the surfing industry, and all the Jillett boys were involved in the turfing industry!
Gives Surf and Turf a new meaning!!!

Robert Jillett married Dinah Maud McIlvride and they had three sons.

John and Dinah had three sons

1. John William Leslie Jillett 1902 - 1983 m Eve Amelia Barton (Payne) 1901 - 1990
2. Douglas McIlvride Jillett 1906 - 1965 m Phyllis Blackburn 1907 - 1976
3. Gordon Grant Jillett 1917 -1941 Died in World War 2 Missing in Germany

John William Leslie Jillett

In 1975, he and his wife were living in Cremorne in Sydney. He served in the Royal Australian Air Force, in World War 2, in the War History Section. His records are online, he served in PNG.
When he enlisted, he was a journalist at the Courier Mail newspaper in Brisbane. His son followed in his footsteps. He worked at the Age.

Leslie Jillett wrote a series of books.

·        Moresby's few : being an account of the activities of No. 32 Squadron in New Guinea in 1942 / by Leslie Jillett ; decorations by Harold Freedman
·        Wings across the Tasman, 1928-1953 / by Leslie Jillett.
·        New Zealand Journalists' Association, 1912-1933 : a record of the first twenty-one years / [by Leslie Jillett]
·        A history of North Shore, Sydney : from 1788 to today / by Les G. Thorne ; edited by Leslie Jillett

He was also the editor of the Star Newspaper, in Dunedin. In 1970 he became the editor of The Anglican, the publication of the Anglican Church.

Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), Friday 31 July 1970, page 9 Publishing in August
SYDNEY, Thursday. — The first issue of The Anglican under Mr Leslie Jillett's editorship is due to be published on August 17, a joint statement from Bishop J. S. Moyes and Canon H. M. Arrowsmith, on behalf of the Church of England Diocesan Information Trust, said yesterday.

They said a Melbourne firm's plans to publish a national Church of England journal have been suspended. The Anglican had stopped publication in February after the disappearance in China of the former editorial director, Mr Francis James.

Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), Saturday 12 September 1953, page 2

TRIBUTE TO TRAIL-BLAZERS Pioneers of Trans-Tasman Flying

AUSTRALIA and New Zealand, brought together in a bond of friendship, mutual co-operation and ' understanding, since the same pioneers colonised the two countries in the early 1800's, have never had a stronger link than today.

THEY have, much in common; and now, there is an almost daily air link between the two countries. This air link is comparatively recent. "Wings Across the Tasman" (Angus and Robertson, price 18/6; published to-today) puts the calendar back a quarter of a century to the days when a handful of carefree men and one woman, dared all to fly the Tasman.
Christchurch's early spring sun shone brightly on Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith's "old bus," the Southern Cross, 25 years ago yesterday as it circled the city thrice and landed on its outskirts. The Tasman Sea had been flown for the . first time.

This famous airman and his co-pilot Charles Ulm, fresh from their conquest of the Pacific, four months earlier. H. A. Litchfield, navigator and New Zealander, T. H. Mc William, radio operator, had earned for themselves a niche in the hall of flying fame for this "hop," full of unknown hazards and more than normal share of thrills and danger. Leslie Jillett, New Zealand born journalist who has worked on newspapers in both countries, recalls these days — and many others just as exciting — in his ' Wings Across the Tasman with a down-to-earth, fact-packed account of the hundred and one experiences and thrills earned by those who chose to fly the Tasman, described by one as "a dirty stretch of water, - breeding a vicious type of young storm that rampages up and down for days before the meteorologists get wind of it.
Mr. Jillett, remembered for his "Moresby's Few," the story of No. 32 Squad-fn, R.A.A.F., and its "whispering death'? Beau-fighters, is well equipped to tell the Tasman tale. Former officer in charge of the R.A.A.F. War History Section, he has a fascinating flair for browsing through old flying records. To the new generation, who missed the days of the Tasman air pioneers or their parents who recall them hesitantly, here is a story of adventure, courage and endeavour, a story which typifies the fine spirit of the early airmen. Most of their names, on everybody's lips in the late 20's have been forgotten today ; In this book they fly again. Names like John Moncrieff and George Hood, first to attempt the crossing/ who failed and lost their lives; Kingsford-ford Smith and Ulm, Guy Menzies, first to fly the 1000-odd mile stretch solo; bearded Francis Chichester, with his Moth seaplane and island-hopping flight. .

No. 32 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force unit based at RAAF East Sale in Victoria. It currently flies training and transport operations. The squadron was raised in February 1942 for service during World War II. Equipped with Lockheed Hudsons, the squadron was tasked with anti-submarine, anti-shipping operations, bombing and reconnaissance missions in New Guinea. In late 1942, the squadron was withdrawn to Sydney and re-equipped with Bristol Beauforts, which it operated along the east coast of Australia until the war ended. The squadron was disbanded in November 1945, but was re-formed in 1989 and currently operates King Air 350s.

Leslie and Eve had two children

Neil Barton Jillett 1933 who married Joan Bull
Valerie Clare Jillett 1935 who married Noel Garnet Dodd.

Neil Jillett became a newspaper writer, playwright, and acclaimed critic, with the Age in Melbourne.
Valerie studied at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.


John lived at Foxton in New Zealand before his death.
John died in 1950 and Dinah died in 1945.  Their final resting place, Te Henui Cemetery in Plymouth is stunning and cared for.  Beautiful gardens, a fitting tribute to the lives of ancestors.

McIlvride Jillett

Their second son was Douglas McIlvride Jillett who married Phyllis Blackburn.  Douglas was born at Tihati Bay

She was the daughter of Thomas Blackburn from England, who was a carpenter according to the census and Annie Dalkins.

Douglas was a teacher with Maori Education.  It was his death in 1965 that began the Jillett Family History.

Dr John Jillett is the son of Douglas and Phyllis

NZ Maoris v the British Lions 1959. What sticks in my mind as a kid just absorbing the aftermatch atmosphere is seeing this Maori All Black coming over to my late father and shaking his hand warmly. Man! A Maori All Black chatting to my Father. Wow! And just after an all important British Lions tour match. Evidently my father, Grant Holms had taught at Te Karaka District High School where Sonny Rutene had attended as a pupil. The Headmaster at the time was a Mr Doug Jillett who later became the Senior School Inspector for Maori Schools.
Doug Jillett was responsible for acquiring a scholarship for Kiri Te Kanawa to come to Auckland so that she could further her singing career. And also at Te Karaka DHS was John Jillett who later as a professor at Otago University would become synonymous with the handling of beached whales in NZ and world-wide.[5]

Having adopted the Lions name officially when the Lions returned after the Second World War in 1950, the Lions also adopted the famous red jersey permanently, and the look would remain broadly the same for the next 60-odd years.
What’s interesting about the 1959 shirt is who made them. Rather than take their shirts with them, the Lions ordered shirts from local manufacturers – in this case, a knitwear company by the name of Canterbury… 58 years later, Canterbury ended Adidas 18-year run as jersey sponsor when the Lions signed the New Zealand 

The 1959 British & Irish Lions won legions of admirers all over New Zealand with their attacking brand of rugby.    

As diverse from Rugby is Opera and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

' One of the greatest sopranos of the modern age has officially announced her retirement at the age of 73.   New Zealand opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, has not performed publicly for about a year but told the BBC she did not intend to perform in front of an audience again.
I don't want to hear my voice, it is in the past,' she said. 'When I'm teaching young singers and hearing beautiful young fresh voices, I don't want to put my voice next to theirs.'
Te Kanawa's career spanned more than five decades and included performances at the world's top opera houses, although she is best known as the diva who sang at Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding in 1981. 
Over half a billion people heard her singing 'Let the Bright Seraphim' by Handel during the ceremony - but after Diana's death in 1997 she refused to ever sing - or even listen to - the song again.[6]
She said: 'When she died, I felt that I should put that song away forever.

Te Kanawa was born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron in Gisborne, New Zealand. She has Māori and European ancestry, but little is known about her birth parents—she was adopted as an infant by Thomas Te Kanawa and his wife, Nell. She was educated at St Mary's College, Auckland, and formally trained in operatic singing by Sister Mary Leo. Te Kanawa began her singing career as a mezzo-soprano but developed into a soprano. Her recording of the "Nuns' Chorus" from the Strauss operetta Casanova was the first gold record produced in New Zealand

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was to feature also with another Jillett cousin.

Sergeant Pilot Gordon Grant Jillett

Gordon served in World War II and was killed on a bombing mission in 1941.

Gordon Jillett and his crew were tasked with bombing the Tirpitz, in 1941. Many sorties' were flown trying to bomb this huge ship. Later movies were also made. The Sinking of the Bismark, is what they were attempting to carry out.

He flew a Wellington Bomber. This mission would be his last. He and the crew were not found.
20/21 June 1941 - Kiel RAF Bomber Command - 47 Wellington, 24 Hampden, 20 Whitley, 13 Stirlings, 11 Halifax heavy bombers

Sergeant Pilot Gordon Jillett (Pilot, Wellington IC R1339) Killed Sergeant Mason Fraser (Pilot, Wellington IC R1713) Killed Sergeant Desmond Dacre, (Air Observer, Wellington IC R1713

English: Vickers Wellington Bombers of the RAF at RAF Stradishall on the 10th of July 1939. Ready to fly to Brussells and Paris as a show of strength from the RAF.

On the night of 20/21st June 1941, 47 Wellington medium bombers, 24 Hampden medium bombers and 20 Whitley medium bombers left England to locate and attack the Tirpitz. She often was under cover in Norway. Unsuccessful in locating the ship, they attacked the port of Kiel, in Germany.


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