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On this day… 24 December

December 24, 2010

I have started preparing some posts in advance.  A series of posts called ‘On this day…’ about events in my family history that happened on dates throughout the year.

In the process of doing that I realised that the 24th December is exactly 100 years since the funeral of my great grandmother, Marion Hanna.

My great-grandmother, Marion Hanna

Marion Hanna was born in Cochrane Street, North Brighton, Victoria on 30 December 1887, the daughter (and eldest child) of Rosina Hammond and Frederick Greer Hanna.

She married Nicholas Wade Hanna at the Mechanics Institute, Leonora, Western Australia on 3 June 1907.

She had two children – my grandfather, Frank Greer Hanna, born in Sandstone on 27 April 1908, and Richard Frederick Hanna, born at Nurse Skinner’s Braidwood Cottage 169 Charles Street, North Perth on 10 August 1909.

Marion Hanna's grave stone - photo taken about 1992

On 20 December 1910, ten days before her 23rd birthday in the Perth Hospital (now Royal Perth Hospital) she died of typhoid fever.  She was buried at Karakatta Cemetery in Perth on Christmas Eve 1910.  What a sad Christmas that must have been.

Her funeral arrangements were organised by her husband.  I know this because her death certificate records her as Daisy Kirwan.  Death notices in the newspaper record her as Daisy Kirwan and notify South Australian papers to copy.  Nicholas had family in South Australia.  The Hannas had come to Western Australia from Victoria and still had family there to mourn their loss when Frederick Greer Hanna died in Menzies, Western Australia in 1919.  His sister placed a death notice in a Melbourne paper, referring to him as ‘late of Brighton’ to notify other family and friends of his passing.  I’ve just realised her headstone refers to her as Marion Daisy Kirwan, dearly beloved wife of Nicholas Kirwan.  However in the cemetery register she is simply ‘Daisy’.

Marion’s family loved her.  In the early 1990s, I managed to locate some of her brothers’ descendants by going through the local phone book and calling all the Hanna’s listed, till I found someone who knew what I was talking about.  I must have had more time on my hands in those days.  And less technology.

Those lovely people didn’t hesitate to invite me to their home, and invited other family members to be there to meet me.  They gave me the first and only photo I’ve ever seen of my beautiful great grandmother.  When they handed it to me, the first thing I felt was recognition.  She looked familiar.  I immediately said ‘isn’t she beautiful!’ and the lady who had handed me the photo said ‘she had auburn hair’.  All my life I have felt hard done by because I had straight, brown, ‘mousey’ hair.  That’s what I called it.  I think I must have read too many ‘girls own’ books in my childhood.  My hair was actually a lovely chestnut colour.  But it was straight and all I wanted was that frizzy, voluminous hair that you can pull back in a bunch and it puffs out – just like Marion’s hair in the photo.  And auburn.  How beautiful it must have been.  If you like that kind of thing.  Which I particularly do and always have.

Greer Hanna 1914

The Hanna relatives also gave me other photos – of Marion’s brothers, Langford and Greer.  Greer looks like a slightly scaled down version of my Dad.  They told me about the other siblings I hadn’t yet ‘found’, and told me everyone’s nicknames – the names they went by – Greer was just Greer.  Langford was ‘Lanx’.  Lanx is in the second photo from the left on the header.  Ruth was just Ruth.  Rosina was ‘Zena’ and in fact that is how she was registered on her death certificate.  Frederick was Eric, always.  Given this information, the registering of Marion as Daisy made sense, and I said as much.  They were surprised.  They didn’t know about that, as it had happened so long ago, but they said that the family always called her Marion. That all their lives she had always been referred to as Marion.  No one had ever called her Daisy, as far as they were aware.  And she hadn’t been forgotten.

My grandmother – Marion’s daughter-in-law, I guess – told me once, when I was a child, not to eat the ‘sour sop’ stems – those yellow oxalis flowers with stems that taste sour.  As children we used to like to pick them and suck/chew the stems for the sour juice that was released.  My grandmother told me I shouldn’t do that because thats how grandad’s mother died.  Not that they are poisonous, but she picked some and put the stems in her mouth and then she died.  I wonder if that’s how she got typhoid.  My grandmother also told me that grandad’s mother was called Daisy, but that her real name was Marion.

Frank Greer Kirwan about 1968/9

My dad’s family gathered together in 2008 in Kalgoolie, to commemorate grandad’s 100th birthday.  I wasn’t able to go, so I made a booklet of family history information about Grandad and his ancestors, with photos and maps and such and printed them for the occasion.  It doesn’t seem very long ago.  But that is how long Grandad had his mother for. That is all the time he had, all the time she had with her little boys.

Richard Frederick Kirwan, the youngest of the two boys, went to live with his grandmother, Rosina (Hammond) Hanna.  Her youngest son, Frederick (Eric) was born the same year, so those two boys would have grown up like twins.  I was told she only took Richard, because both little boys with her Eric and Zena who would have been in primary school would have been too much for her.  Frank Greer Kirwan, my grandad was sent off (or taken, I hope) to South Australia [edit 28 Dec 2010: I have just learned that Emma Kirwan married William A Willmott in Perth in 1907.  They were probably living here in 1910.  It would have been convenient for them to take little Frank in]

Emma (Kirwan) Willmott

where he lived with Emma (Kirwan) Willmott and her husband who didn’t have any children of their own.  Grandad said that they were cruel to him and he was very unhappy with them.  Later he went to live/stay with Bill Wade and his wife, who were very kind to him and looked after him well, and took him to London with them for a while.

I think Grandad felt the loss of him mum, and  her family, very much.  He valued the connection he did have with her family and with the family that cared for him as he was growing up.  He wanted to name one of his daughters Zena Greer after his mother’s siblings, but my grandmother wouldn’t agree to it – she thought it was an awful name (and so did my aunty when she was older – she was very glad to not be called Zena Greer).  One of grandad’s daughters was named Ruth, and one of his sons has Wade as a middle name.  I am still trying to track down exactly which Wade it was who looked after Grandad – they would be descendants of Eliza Kirwan and William Wade, who married in Perth a  year after Eliza arrived with the rest of her family, in 1850.  Emma Willmott was a sister of Nicholas – so grandad’s aunty.

The lives the two boys had after they grew up were quite different.  I will write another post, another day about that – but I believe that the differences in their upbringings had a lot to do with the way their lives turned out.

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