Tuesday, September 25, 2018

B22 Branches Family of Sarah Bisdee

The Family of Sarah Bisdee

Daughter of John Bisdee and Henrietta Miller

Daughter - in - Law of

Caroline Durnford and Rev William Cheesborough le Poer MacKenzie Kennedy

From Hutton in Tasmania and Hutton in Somerset UK
Thanks to Andrew Petrie for family photos.

There comes a time in our life, when we become inquisitive of our past.  More so in the past decade, with the availability of old records becoming available through technology, and the availability of genealogy programmes.   My father in law was always interested in his convict heritage,  but his information was rather scant.

My mother-in-law's German family members, had amassed a great deal of information about their settlements in Queensland.  We spent many a weekend traipsing through long grass into cemeteries to find the headstones and markers of her early family.

Personally, my own family was rather unknown to me, at this time, other than we had a rather famous "ancestor" that we did not talk about, because he "did something wrong, and we don't talk about him".  However, one very special person, was my great uncle.  Killed on landing at Gallipoli.  An Anzac, one who we respected and whose memory was relived every 25th April.

 Then one day, a cousin brought to me some documents and a photocopy of our great grandfather, Col. Edward Durnford.  His painting hung on the wall of the Durnford family home in Mackay.  Small pieces of information, but the first indication that we were from a Military background.

A catastrophic medical event changed my world forever in a split second in 2003.  After 25 years in real estate, I left in an ambulance, never to return.  Five years into recovery, it was time to find out who gave me a defective gene. 

For many years, a favourite saying was, "when one door closes, another opens".  Little did I know how apt that was, nor that it had been written by a Scotsman!!!!

We decided to find the Jillett ancestors in Tasmania.  Photograph their graves, and visit the towns where we had found that they lived.  That decision vastly changed my life, and since 2010, my focus and determination has been on researching family history, and sourcing the truth from among the many mis-conceptions of a family member, often far removed from the perceptions that others may have, whether that be positive or negative.

Tasmania is, one of Australia's best kept secrets.  So much history in such a small place, stories of hardship, courage, and the desire to make a better life for themselves.  If only the weather proved a little more to the liking of those born in the semi-tropics!

Oatlands was the home of Thomas Jillett, and his parents, and siblings.  What a beautiful town, we were totally unprepared for what we found.  Firstly a windmill, standing tall above the skyline, and surrounded by old houses and Thomas Jillett had owned it. Finding the cemetery and his grave proved rather difficult.

The cemetery was large, surrounding the St. Peter's Anglican Church.  All these tombs and headstones, we wandered around, without any luck.  Then at the point of giving up,  we decided to have a look at the mound of rubble, surrounded by safety tape.  No-body could imagine what a shock that became, because in that rubble was the names of my husband's family.  Thomas Jillett's resting place.

It had to be fixed, and it was my understanding that the family were responsible for those repairs, as the churchyard was not maintained by the Council, but by the parishioners.

With the help of some very friendly residents, we found the man who looked after the grounds.  A decision was reached with him, to get a bobcat and fill in the grave where you could see underneath, the coffins.

We were flying back home the next day, so everything was rather rushed, and then someone mentioned "Heritage Listed".  Well that changed plans totally.  There would be no bobcat filling in a hole.

By chance, that night, there was a programme on TV about the restoration of the Mill.  Again, another surprise, the community support for that restoration had resulted in a successful outcome.
But in the end, the Callington Mill was restored, and the Thomas Jillett Family Crypt was restored.  

Our $2K estimation of initial work, became $25K.  An application was made to the Historic Sites Programme from the Federal Government, and they accepted the application, which amounted to 50% of the cost.

Thomas Jillett Crypt was now safe, and a fitting memorial to his life, and that of his family, pioneers of Tasmania.  Or so we thought.

All over Australia, there are small cemeteries, broken graves, and the like, possibly they remain in that state, due to a misconception regarding the responsibility of the maintenance of those very graves. Unlike large cemeteries controlled by Councils, through Cemetery Trusts or Boards, a cemetery in a church ground, is the responsibility of the descendants.  By accession they own those plots., and the headstones.

Very often in many of those small cemeteries, the granting of the lands, or the construction of the church, has been through the generosity of the settlers in the towns.  They paid for those churches, and the lands, so that their family could be buried on those lands. 

Time moves on, circumstances change, but the facts relating to a grave in a cemetery in a church ground do not.  They are owned by the descendants, whether those descendants are aware of that is probably a failing on those charged with the responsibility of the management of those cemeteries.

My ancestor who our family "did not speak about"  had a sister, Caroline Durnford.  My 3rd cousin*2,  whose son married a daughter of one of Tasmania's pioneering families, the Bisdees.  That is where my interest and research would have remained, by incorporating her into my family tree, except for a story which was released about the Anglican Church selling its Churches in Tasmania, to raise funds for a commitment.

How safe was Thomas Jillett's crypt now?  Not one bit.  While they have not included St Peter's on their list, as yet, they have however included the cemeteries of the Bisdee family, including the grave of one of Tasmania's VC winners, John Hutton Bisdee.  This was not right, my Bisdee cousins in UK would expect that our shared ancestors would have a voice. 

When our ancestors die, so do all those memories and stories that they quite often forget to pass down through the generations.  Before the advent of improved technology, and the digitisation of countless records, those stores would forever be lost into the dark and dusty corridors of archives all over the world.

Thankfully that has all changed, and now added into the resources is the ability to connect one's DNA with unknown family, sometimes with good results, perhaps not so for others.  But without a very comprehensive family genealogical tree, nothing can be achieved in researching many of those thousands of matches that will appear when DNA is tested.

Since beginning to work on my own family, in a need to find my own father, my understanding of my ancestors has been enhanced by the information that is available to them.  One person who particularly stands out, is my 4th Great grandmother, Jemima Isaacson.   

Jemima was the daughter of Anthony Isaacson and Hannah Arthur.  She was born in Newcastle, and later the family moved to London.  Her family were wealthy, and she is a direct descendant of King William The Conqueror.  Something that was a shock to us, when that was discovered.  But Jemima had some very strong qualities about her, and those qualities seem to have been handed down her family.  She married in 1771, Major Andrew Durnford, and from that marriage, spurned a Military Family relationship within the Royal Engineers of England, that has been a tradition for over 250 years.  

Her great granddaughter was Caroline Jemima Durnford, who was born in 1836 in Ireland, when her father  General Edward Durnford, a Royal Engineer, was responsible for the mapping of the country. Caroline's brother was Col Anthony William Durnford, wrongly blamed for decades, and made the scapegoat, for the loss of the Zulu War in 1879.  Growing up as kids in Queensland, in the 1950's we knew about this cousin, and that he had "done something bad", and "we don't talk about him".  So when it came time to confront his past, to include in our family history, I was totally unprepared for what information there could be found about him. 

 Reading old newspapers provides an insight into the times and events of the periods, and after reading for hours, it became clear from what I was reading, there had been a cover-up.   His brother fought to clear his name, and while it was some 136 years later, it was, in my opinion, quite necessary to continue what Edward, his brother had started.  Jemima our grandmother would have expected her family to fight for one of their own.   My cousins call it our "Durnford determination", perhaps it should be our "Isaacson determination", as was and is, my motivating source.

Caroline married William Chessborough le Poer Kennedy, in 1854, and they had 3 sons. William died in 1865.  He was an extremely clever man, who also completed research into his Scottish Family Genealogy, and charted that research in 1863.  He came from a long line of Military and Medical families, who could also take their lineage back to King William the Conqueror.

Each of his sons was involved in either Military or Government appointments, and followed his footsteps by serving in India.  The descendants also have served their country in all sorts of roles.
When their eldest son,  Herbert, married Sarah Bisdee, he combined two very like family structures. Sarah's family were settlers, farmers, and businessmen, but that military prowess, continued through to their children,  their grandchildren and to her nephews.   Her brother's son was John Hutton Bisdee.  John was awarded the highest Military Award possible, the VC for bravery during the Boer War.

John enlisted in Tasmania, where he lived.  He and his sister died in 1930, and are buried at the family cemetery at Jericho, in the Southern Midlands region of Tasmania.  A huge memorial denotes the many other members of his family, also remembered in that site, which include some very powerful and distinguished people, including members of Parliament.

The Bisdee Family stronghold was Hutton, in Somerset.  Ancestors for years have been buried in the local church.  Tablets of remembrance have been erected in their honour.   Sarah's father and uncles settled in Tasmania, and undertook extremely important roles within the community, and the State.  
Her sisters married influential men, including the Colonial Treasurer of Tasmania, a role equivalent to that of Premier of the State, and one who was shot protecting the Duke of Edinburgh in an assassination attempt in Sydney in 1868.

All these ancestors have amazing stories to reveal, and all have been laid to rest in places which honour and respect their contribution and past endeavours throughout their lifetime.

Except for some.

The Anglican Church in Tasmania is in need of funds, as a result of  deplorable action by some of their own.  In fact they plan on selling 76 of the 133 churches they hold in Tasmania to fund part of the payout to victims.

This brings far reaching effects, as members of the Bisdee family donated land to one of the churches, in Melton Mowbray. In 1864, the residents were raising funds to build a church, which opened in 1866.  In 1935 the community was still busy raising funds for the new church,  which Bishop Hay laid the foundation stone in 1937.  

In Bothwell, another cemetery on the list, again this church and cemetery was begun due to the efforts of members of the extended Jillett family, and donations from the Nicholls family.

The Minister, in 1860's was Rev Thomas Wigmore, grandfather of Ellen Whiteway, who married  John Jillett. and Sophia Whiteway, who married Robert Albert Jillett.

The Jericho Church was again built through the contributions of the parishioners and committee, John Bisdee being one of those.  Those efforts began in 1830.

While it may be their "right" to sell these churches, is it a "moral right", to sell buildings that they apparently have not contributed towards construction costs?   

What about the Cemeteries?  The Anglican Church have said the cemeteries are "safe".  But are they? The graves and headstones in the cemeteries which surround these churches do not belong to the church, they belong to the descendants .  

That became abundantly clear when faced with an absorbent cost to restore one of the graves of my husband's 3rd great grandfather, in St Peter's Cemetery in Oatlands.  Family were responsible for the restoration, however, the site was deemed of significant Heritage importance, for the Federal Government to grant a 50% loan towards the expense.   As yet, this church is not on the For Sale list.

The Anglican Church do have a Charter, Constitution, and Trusts,  which they are supposed to uphold, as to their responsibility over those who are no longer able to speak. Does it have the right under that Constitution to lump all the funds together, to satisfy this purpose, or are, as been read, the funds to be redirected back to the Parish?

While cemeteries might be deemed "safe", access is not.  That has already been established with St Anne's Church in Green Ponds.

While the Burial and Cremation Act of 2002, updated 2015, mentions conditions for seemingly "new" burials, it does not appear to mention anything about, "old historical cemeteries", or the lands surrounding Churches.  The Act also includes the role of a Cemetery Manager, and his powers.  No doubt that is something also unknown to the general population, especially in relation to his rights regarding headstones.

4.6 Tasmania  (a) Acts

The Burial and Cremation Act 2002  (Tas) provides that if any monument has been erected contrary to the terms and conditions on which the permission to erect it was granted, or the cemetery manager believes the monument is unsafe, the cemetery manager may (by notice in writing) require the person who erected or placed the monument to take it down and remove it or render it safe within a reasonable time (as specified in the notice).

However, if the person fails to comply or the cemetery manager (after diligent enquiry) is unable to find the person who erected or placed the monument, the cemetery manager may take the monument down and remove it, or render it safe, and recover the reasonable cost of doing so from the person who erected or placed the monument. This would indicate that ownership is vested in the person that erects a tombstone.

(b) Statutory rules and delegated legislation

Given the relatively thorough legislation in Tasmania, statutory rules and delegated legislation do not add any further detail to questions of ownership of, and liability for, tombstones.

The Tasmanian Heritage council does have a position.

The regulations set down in the Tasmanian Heritage Council’s Practice Note 11 in 2004 make an interesting comparison to the treatment of the old urban cemeteries of Launceston and others like them. The guidelines explicitly state that all burial places are unique and even if not covered by heritage listing, are likely to have historic, cultural heritage significance

Consider then  the case in Waratah Cemetery in Newcastle, they sold the cemetery to the NSW Housing Commission to build housing in 1954.  And the graves that they were supposed to be the care-givers over? well they were demolished, and the headstones used as the garden borders in parklands.  

Another Tasmanian pioneer's body now lies buried under the dense concrete structures.

Reference is made to a thesis, written by RA Mallett, in 2006 , about the old Launceston Cemetery.   He touches on "attitude", of the community, and their expectations as to their ancestors, particularly in relation to their final resting place.   Once Tasmanians were shamed and embarrassed about those "convicts" ancestors, today, it is a completely different community attitude.   

Their ancestors and those still to come, are entitled to show their respects to those whose DNA is deeply embedded with theirs.    

It would be wrong, if members of our family failed to protect those without a voice, who have contributed so much, and become pioneers in their own right.  

But before any progress as to the future can be made, background knowledge of the past needs to be recorded.  The information researched in this book, is but a snapshot of the lives of so many pioneers, many unsung heroes who have battled hardships and faced their adversity, so we can live as we do.
John Hutton Bisdee VC gallantly served to protect his country, and his country should be prepared to protect his family, in their final resting place. 

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn

The Family of Lieutenant Colonel John Hutton Bisdee VC

Within my extended family, there is little known about a rather important and most gallantly decorated Military man, who lived in Tasmania.  His name is John Hutton Bisdee.  He was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions in the Boer War. fought in South Africa in 1899.
He enlisted again in World War I, along with some other Bisdee Family members.
Tasmania is not a large State within Australia, and yet 811 young men enlisted.  Twenty six did not return.   John Bisdee didn't waste time in enlisting, his service number is 24. 
The First Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, was made up of men on the land, from the farming communities. 

The South African (Boer) War (1899–1902) won support from the Tasmanian government only after other Australian colonies had made offers. This first contingent of eighty soldiers, commanded by Captain Cyril St Clair Cameron, was drawn mainly from rural districts. This pattern of recruitment continued, especially as mounted troops and 'genuine bushmen' became essential when the Boers adopted guerrilla tactics.

 Public enthusiasm was evident when 15,000 people farewelled the first contingent from Hobart in October 1899, and became widespread after the Boer victories of 'Black Week' in December.

Patriotic subscriptions funded the equipment of a contingent of mounted infantry, and the Union Jack Society clothed and equipped men of the second Tasmanian contingent. In rapid succession in early 1900 the first contingent was reinforced and second and third contingents were sent to South Africa, applications for these units being oversubscribed by more than five to one. Enthusiasm reached its peak when the siege of Ladysmith was relieved in 1900, the news prompting large patriotic celebrations.

Jingoism overwhelmed much opposition. The Hobart Clipper labelled the conflict 'The Gold War'; its editor was assaulted at a public meeting. John Earle, miners' leader, condemned the war, but later became Premier. The war benefited Tasmanian industry, especially jam sales.

The mounted infantry contributed to an incipient bushman-citizen soldier image, laying the groundwork for the Anzac digger image. About 860 Tasmanians served in South Africa, the vast majority as mounted infantry in colonial contingents (but a third of them as part of units of the Australian Commonwealth Horse, the first soldiers of the new Australian nation to serve overseas), and 27 were killed.

The Tasmanian 1st Imperial Bushmen was the most highly decorated Australian unit in the war, and won two of the six Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians in  South Africa.

John was not the only one to be awarded the Victoria Cross, also awarded was Lieutenant Guy Wylly.

As a 20-year-old, he became a lieutenant in the Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, raised to fight in the Second Boer War.

On 1 September 1900 near Warm Bad, Transvaal, South Africa, Lieutenant Wylly was part of a force under Herbert Plumer which engaged a small group of Boers at Rooikop. The Imperial forces captured 100 rifles, 40,000 rounds of ammunition, 7 Boers, 350 cattle, and 2 supply wagons. After the engagement, Wylly was reported to have been severely wounded, along with another Tasmanian officer, and 3 men from the Bushmen.

On 18 September 1900, the London Gazette carried an announcement that Wylly had been granted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, on the nomination of the Governor of Tasmania, backdated to 19 May 1900. On 16 November, this appointment was cancelled for some reason. On 23 November his VC was gazetted, with the following citation:

Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Lieutenant Guy G. E. Wylly

"On the 1st September, 1900, near Warm Bad, Lieutenant Wylly was with the advanced scouts of a foraging party. They were passing through a narrow gorge, very rocky and thickly wooded, when the enemy in force suddenly opened fire at short range from hidden cover, wounding six out of the party of eight, including Lieutenant Wylly.

That Officer, seeing that one of his men was badly wounded in the leg, and that his horse was shot, went back to the man's assistance, made him take his (Lieutenant Wylly's) horse, and opened fire from behind a rock to cover the retreat of the others, at the imminent risk of being cut off himself. Colonel T. E. Hickman, D.S.O., considers that the gallant conduct of Lieutenant Wylly saved Corporal Brown from being killed or captured, and that his subsequent action in firing to cover the retreat was "instrumental in saving others of his men from death or capture.[1]"

Both men later enlisted in World War I and Major Wylly, eventually became Aide-de-comp to King George V[2]

John was not the only Bisdee family member to serve in World War I, although he may not have known some of the others. 

[1] www.accaweb.com.au/.../The-Law-on-Ownership-of-Tombstones-and-Monuments.pd..

[2] https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/sr-2015-033#GS1@EN
[3] https://eprints.utas.edu.au/8379/2/02_Mallett_whole_Thesis.pdf  by RA Mallett - ‎2006

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