Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

writing

Have you ever experienced those little psychic moments when people or documents appear in your life at the right time? They provide the answers to your family history questions.  Their presence is seemingly a coincidence as how else can they be explained.

Today, I experienced such a moment.  I was in a coffee shop with my cousin who has been assisting me in my family history research.  We were discussing William Lyons, my Great Grandfather, and her Grandfather. As we prattled away about his career as Second Class Drill Instructor, I was totally unaware of a group of soldiers in uniform at the table behind us. 

Kay went on to say “you know that Second Class in the army isn’t what it sounds to be.  It is actually a higher rank than First Class.”

She peered across my shoulder and said, “Isn’t that right?” to someone behind me.

When I looked around,  I realized she was directing the question at a soldier at the table behind us.  He was quick to explain that indeed First Class is a higher rank than Second Class.  Kay blushed and laughed off her gaffe, returning her attention to our conversation with her hand hiding her face.

We kept talking and I began to hungrily take notes as Kay off loaded more and more little morsels of her Grandfather’s experiences, which she had been told by her father.  There were stories about casks of rum washing up onto the shores of Gallipoli; how he trained for the First World War by walking a 60 mile return trip from Giru to Townsville and back; how Great Grandfather was initially refused the soldier’s pension because he abused the young clerk who took his application had an attitude he found offensive; and how he ordered his batman to steal furniture from the British Officers’ tents during the Boer War.

When Kay mentioned the word ‘batman’, my ears pricked as I was led to believe that ‘batman’ was the name of his horse in Egypt during the First World War. 

“So what is a batman?” I enquired, somewhat confused.

“Excuse me!” Kay shouted, trying to attract the attention of the soldier at the next table.

“Can you please explain to my cousin what a ‘Batman’ is?”

He laughed and said, “A Batman was an assistant to an officer.  He would get his uniforms ready, deliver messages etc.  But the position doesn’t exist anymore.”

It turns out that Great Grandfather was a bit of a rogue and larriken.  He figured that the British Officers didn’t deserve the luxuries they possessed and set about to acquire them for himself.  As it turns out they included a piano. 

Now, I must admit that when I read in his diary about ‘Batman’ I assumed his horse was named after the comic book character.  However, the character most probably wasn’t created back in 1917.  Now that I am aware of the actual military position, I will reread his words in order to ascertain whether he was indeed talking about his trusty steed or his servant.

Before we parted company Kay said to me, “I think Grandfather is looking over your shoulder today.  Those soldiers are his messengers.”

I would have to agree. It is not the first time that I have experienced such moments; when someone appears at the right time to provide me with much sought after answers.  So, my final words are to you Great Grandfather, “thank you.”

Post Note:

Before I sign off, I wish to share another psychic moment that I experienced this morning. At 6.00am I received a text from my cousin Kay.  She was reading my blog and realized the significance of its name.  She said “Kimmie, just realized for years I’ve been saying how the family have shoved Grandfather in the cupboard and shut the door, and you have named your blog ‘Behind The Cupboard Doors.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William the Drill Instructor

“ATTEEEN….TION!”

William’s bellowing command spilled clouds of smoky breath into the cool morning air. He walked down the line of new recruits, checking that they have adhered to the details that single word implied.

“Men…your feet are to be at a 30 degree angle!” William’s voice echoes across the field as he further drills his subjects in military precision.

“Keep your arms straight,”

“Your hands are to be closed, not clenched.”

William wrestled with the winter cold as he stood facing his new recruits.  Summer’s stormy skies have long passed, blanketing the west with a sense of security as people prepared for winter’s welcomed relief from the heat.  Although he knew what a fickle friend the weather could be; that one must be prepared for change.

Feeling the early morning cold on his face and neck, like sharp needle stabs, his voice continues to project words, loud and crisp, whilst ignoring the icy jabs against his skin, the freezing breeze that cut his face.

‘Discipline,’ he recites to himself. ‘It is all about discipline.

He wonders how long it will take to transform these unruly assembly of bodies into well drilled soldiers, who will instinctively react to a single word command. He knows that it will happen.  He too was green and unco-ordinated at the age of 17 when he joined the Mackay Mounted Infantry.  It just takes time and practice.  He knows that he has time on his side as the War is over in South Africa and there are no conflicts in sight.

He can  recall a time, many years ago, when accusations of being ‘pretend soldiers’ were thrown at young soldiers like he.  He lost that title on the barren windswept plains of South Africa.  It was a death that he welcomed as it silenced the blind accusations, but the hero status that follows a war is no better.  Both are born out of ignorance, he thought.  Was my life any different to that before the war?  He believed not, except of course his memories are now stained with blood.

Upon his return to Brisbane from South Africa, he promptly wrote an application to the Commanding Officer of the 1st Queensland South African Contingent regarding a position of Second Class Instructor.  He knew then with a sense of unwavering certainty what he wanted to do with his life, especially now with the formation of the Permanent Armed Forces following the Federation of the States.

Sir,
I have the honour to tender this my application for a position as a Second Class Instructor in the permanent Staff of the Queensland Mounted Infantry and in doing so beg to submit the following:
Previous to leaving for South Africa with the 1st Queensland Contingent, I held the rank of Sergeant in ‘M’ Coy QMI for six months, having been altogether about 9 years connected with the Queensland Mounted infantry, during which time I regularly attended.
During my connection with the 1st Queensland Contingent, I was in all engagements that the regiment took part in and on the 1st June was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
None else than the C/O 1st Queensland Contingent is more acquainted with my general character and behaviour and if more reference is required I would refer you to Captain Joseph, Commanding Officer of ‘M’ Coy, QMI, Mackay.
Trusting a favourable consideration.
I have the honour to be Sir,
Your Obedient Servant
W. Lyons Sergeant.

When notification arrived of the acceptance of his application, he was overjoyed.  He enthusiastically received Major Reickelmann’s letter dated 12th February 1901 instructing him to travel to Gatton by the next steamer.  His pending departure signified the beginning of his new life.  All the years of training and sobering experiences of the war somehow seemed to now make sense.  They were all part of his life’s journey.  Was that not a good thing?

William’s  commands echoed across the field, above the thumping and thudding of booted feet marching to their own continuous beat; stopping, turning amidst clouds of dust and flying clods of dirt and restarting in another direction, all directed by single words or silent signals given by fingers and hands.  This was all in a days work for William, training young men for war.

Glancing up at the clear blue sky, a cold shudder racks his body along with the realization that the storm clouds will once more cover the skies with doom.  They always do. He lives in readiness for that moment and Cis knows that.  Although she lives in hope that the weather will never turn.

 

 

 

Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

In many ways I am the family archaeologist, piecing together the remnants of my ancestors’ lives and trying to fill in the gaps to complete the picture. Oftentimes the answers are a matter of conjecture and other times it comes down to elimination.

Last week I discovered two letters in the old mustard box which perhaps has housed them for over 100 years in the solitude of Great Grandfather’s army trunk alongside his riding whip, spurs, packs of military bandages, bridle hardware and field notebooks from World War I.  Yes, I am blessed with the treasure trove of items that have been silently waiting to be found all these years.

Each time I file through these items looking for information appertaining to a certain time in my Great Grandparents’ lives, the relevant material always seems to materialize at the most opportune time. My current research has taken me to Roma where William and Cis began their married life; she became a housewife and he took up a post as Second Class Drill Instructor with the Queensland Mounted Infantry.

I already knew that William was a Drill Instructor as the title had been bandied around by various family members for years.  However, I had little concept of what the job entailed.  I imagine he taught soldiers how to ride a horse.  Thanks to his detailed paperwork, books and manuals that he kept I have been able to gain a much greater understanding of what his career entailed.

They say that you can gauge much about a person’s personality and character by the items they kept and I have known for many years how important my Great Grandfather’s military career was to him.  Even when he died in 1955, the items he had stored behind the old cupboard doors were 40 years old and more.  I guess that is one of the reasons why it is important to me, knowing that he would appreciate that his story is being written for posterity.

Drawing your attention back to the two letters I found, one is an application for position of Drill Instructor dated January 1901 and the other is dated February 1901 advising him to take the next steamer to Gatton in order to take his new post.  The former is somewhat confusing as it is signed (or it seems to be) J. Lyons.  William’s brother was John and he was also a veteran of the Boer War.  However, I am inclined to think it refers to William rather than John, as the latter went to the Boer War in 1902 but he had no prior military history.  Whereas the experience outlined in the letter matches William’s work life.

Also, the handwriting is not that of William Lyons so I am assuming it is a handwritten copy of an original letter, or perhaps someone has written a guide for William to follow, when applying for the position.  I am also inclined to think this because of the scrappiness of the letter, with the cross-outs and handwritten additions.  Click on the link below and take a look for yourself.  Whatever the case, I will never know for sure.

Letter 12.2.01 Mackay

Researching family history is a road blotted with holes and confusing signs that could easily see you taking the wrong turn.  However many wrong turns I take and potholes I hit, my search will never stop until I have found the answers; and if I can’t find the answers now, I know that I might sometime in the future.

 

Letter to Great Grandfather

Dear Great Grandfather,

There have been many moments during my months of research that I wished you were here; so I could interview you personally, instead of those who only knew you in your latter years.  How I wish that I knew about you in my younger years so I could have sat down with my Grandfather and learnt more first hand.  But sadly, when we are young, we are only interested in the present, instead of the past which seems so grey and hazy like the world depicted in old photographs.

I am forever thankful that I have access to your old cupboards so I can piece together your life from the items you left behind. And I must tell you, the clues you left have often been cryptic and I have to read between the lines.

Each time I sit on the floor and pull out your old mustard box from beneath my mesh shelves, the smell of the past lingers with the fumes of moth balls, and my fingers disturb the layers of dust and the hornets’ nests that have gathered over the years.  But, Great Grandfather, I don’t mind that my hands feel gritty and that the floor ends up wearing fragments of the past, as I file through the miles of letters, cards and photographs. They are all that remains of you. They have been touched by your hands, they have been brushed with your DNA.

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This box of bits and pieces of my Great Grandfather’s life were found in his old army trunk only a few months ago.

The last few weeks, my search has been intense as I check and double check your correspondence, for places and dates suggesting where you lived between the years 1901 to 1910.  But then, you already know the time I’ve spent as you watch me from the top shelf.  I am sure you look down from your portrait with amusement as I cringe from stiff knees and cramped legs from kneeling too long, searching through a world that has long since gone.  You could save me the time and discomfort of sitting on the floor, if you just tell me the answers I am looking for.

This week, Great Grandfather, I am researching your early military career, your position of Drill Instructor with the Queensland Mounted Infantry.  I do know how much it meant to you.  Afterall, you have left so many clues.  You kept so many books and manuals appertaining to that part of your life, which I have found in the mustard box where you placed them a lifetime ago.  I also found that brown folder, you know the one, in which you kept a copy of your original letter of application dated January 1901, along with the letter instructing you to take the next steamer to Gatton to commence your new position in February that year.

Of course I didn’t need to search through the boxes of stuff to know that you were a Drill Instructor as that is one detail that several of your Grandchildren have passed on to me.  However, I would like to thank you for filling in the details between the lines; it is as if you wanted to be found.  I have the feeling you want your family and the world to know that your life was worthwhile.  You have been biding your time, to find the right person to tell your story.  For that, Great Grandfather, I am eternally grateful, that you chose me.

So, beneath your watchful eyes, my search will continue to uncover the details of your career.  I have read some of your manuals Great Grandfather and realize that your life was about details.  All the mathematical precision that was required to be a good soldier is overwhelming.  I can picture you standing before a squad of men, drilling them with the details of the simplest of tasks.  You yell “STAND TO ATTENTION”, followed with “heels together! Feet turned at 30 degrees! Knees straight! Hang your arms straight from shoulders! Wrists straight! Hands closed, not clenched! Heads balanced on neck, not forward and balance your weight on both feet!”

Yes indeed, your world was one of exactness, whether you were training men how to stand on the parade ground or calculating the strength or direction of wind in order to shoot accurately at a target. How interesting it would be to sit and discuss these details with you over a steaming cup of tea or a whiskey, if you so wish.  Sadly, I know that in reality I will never be honoured with that opportunity, so I accept that I will have to continue deciphering the facts from what you left behind those old cupboard doors.

Your Great Granddaughter

Kim (Lyons) Chambers

Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

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Welcome to the world behind my desk.

Last weekend, I had a general idea of what I was going to write for the post titled “The Soldier’s Wife”, however, I had no idea where the story would take me.  It really began as a narrative about William and Cis’ life in Roma or rather what I imagined it to be.  Of course, by the end of the week, they took me on an entirely different course.

In the courses I have completed about writing family history, I have been schooled in various tools to use in bringing a scene to life.  These include the use of dialogue, conflict, social history, theme, symbols, and the list goes on.  I thought I would spend some time explaining how I have incorporated these storytelling tools into my story.

Social history is one of the most important tools that one uses in order to create a world that no longer exists.  In the story of William and Cis, my current posts take place in 1902 and the world in which they lived was so much different to the one that we know.  So, last weekend I spent hours online looking for information on Roma at that time.  Photographs are a really great source of information and you will note I described the station in my story from the photograph I included. That photo was actually taken in 1915, however, I do know that the Roma Railway Station did exist back in 1902 and so I assumed they were the one and the same.  Country stations throughout Queensland generally looked much the same.

I was fortunate to stumble across a website http://queenslandplaces.com.au/roma which happened to provide me with a wealth of information about Roma in the year 1903.  That site was where I discovered that twelve hotels existed at that time along with a library situated in the School of Arts and a Reading Room that was cited as being ‘the best in the colony’.   The details on that site, helped me construct the scene that became my post.  Also, I found a video of an old turn of the century steam train during a re-enactment at Roma Railway station, which provided me with the description of the train in my story.

One of the more complicated aspects of writing is introducing theme into the story.  It has taken a while for me to figure this one out and well it has evolved as the story has unfolded. It has become very clear to me now that life is a series of departures and arrivals of which we have no say.  Fate has written our life story up in a big book in the sky and well we are just passengers in that journey.  This is what Cis realized at the end of the scene.  She has married a soldier and the life of a soldier can never be certain.

As I have mentioned before, there is no way of knowing what our ancestors said more than 100 years ago.  By adding dialogue, we bring them to life and often it can be sounding board for the point we writers wish to impress.  It is never meant to be an exact re-enactment of actual events, unless we have written records giving detailed accounts of those events. My interest in writing my Great Grandparents’ story is in the reasons behind their decisions and consequences of them.  It is really not about a chronological account of their lives at all.

Conflict is something that seeps its way into everyone’s lives and in “The Soldier’s Wife”  I have attempted to introduce it more than once in the post. Firstly, Cis is reflecting on the whirlwind few weeks that have been a constant stream of departures and arrivals, leading up to her wedding.  Where is her life going?  She had been so certain when she agreed to marry her soldier beau, but now reality has set in and she is left wondering what her future will bring.

The use of symbols is another subtle tool to introduce the theme.  In the post where Cis and William arrive in Roma, I use the whistle as a symbol to  mark departures and arrivals.  In the scene of their wedding, I used the “concerned angels” and “Christ sacrificing his life on the Cross” to suggest that Cis’ decision to marry William would indeed have consequences.  Her decision meant a departure from the life that she knew.  And for those family members who know how the story ends, I needn’t explain the consequences.  Not yet anyway.

The other aspect in putting the story together has been more research.  By checking electoral roles from 1903, I ascertained that they indeed were living in Albert Street, Roma.  I also found an envelope addressed to Mr W.M.J. Lyons in Roma postmarked 1902. I am fortunate to be the custodian of their personal effects which include letters, envelopes, cards, bank books and cheque books. By filing through the boxes of paperwork, I can track their life.

My writing this week has also been a case of arrivals and departures.  Upon some research and thought, I departed from a bland narrative and arrived at a scene which I hope demonstrates the meaning that I intended.  Hopefully, you have now gained some insight into my world each week before I eventually press ‘publish’ and put my stories to air.

 

The Soldier’s Wife

Beyond the sprawling city streets of Brisbane, at the end of a 320 mile train journey, an outback town called Roma awaited the arrival of newlyweds, William and Cis Lyons in October 1902. William had already taken up a post there as a drill instructor with the Queensland Mounted Infantry.  Cis was about to discover her role of a soldier’s wife.

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Roma Railway Station (Photo: thefashionarchives.org)

Cis’ tiny lace up boots echoed on the timber platform floor as she disembarked from the train with the help of William’s hand.  She straightened the crushed gathers of her cotton skirt and petticoats with her gloved hands ensuring they covered her ankles before taking a look at the station.

She noted that it was similar to most country stations with its weatherboard walls and bull-nosed awning supported by a chorus of fanciful timber posts.  Much smaller and less ornate than the Brisbane station where they began their journey, it was much more welcoming, she thought.

“Cis, you stay here and I’ll fetch our luggage.” William announced, before heading down to the luggage car.

Cis walked a few feet across the platform and stood against the station wall, beneath the shade of the iron awning.  She listened to the clunking of disembarking boots upon the platform floor; the opening and shutting of carriage doors; the voices of people meeting and greeting; and felt the swish of ladies frocks as they passed through the picket gates, next to where she stood.  Once the excitement of the arrivals had subsided, the whistle sounded and the train began to spit and hiss huge white clouds of steam back through its carriages, sweeping anyone in its path with searing heat. After much huffing and puffing it summonsed the energy to continue its journey.

As the chugging brown trail of steam and smoke faded into the distance, Cis drew a deep breath of fresh air and leaned her head against the wall, glad to stretch her legs.  The station noise had lulled to little more than the pitiful cries of crows, intermittent neighing of horses and murmurs of conversation coming from a group of people standing further down the platform.  At last she had time to herself, a quiet moment to reflect on the rush of weeks that has been her life of late.

This latest arrival has been just another in a series of departures and arrivals, all orchestrated by church bells and train whistles.  “And here I am waiting for yet another departure!” she thought, when she saw William walking towards her with a port in each hand and boxed wedding gifts under each arm.

Station Street that afternoon was rumbling with sulky wheels and the rhythmic clip clopping of horses’ hooves.  That was normal with the arrival of Brisbane Trains which carried goods as well as passengers to this outback town. On their carriage ride to their new marital home in Albert Street, Cis took in the sights of her new town.

They passed several large shops as well as smaller ones, sprinkled in between the dozen or so Public Houses that guarded over the wide dirt streets with architectural superiority.  She was particularly impressed at seeing a sign reading “Library” on the front wall of the School of Arts Building and another advertising a “Reading Room”.

“Cis, you will never be want of something to do,” William reassured his new wife. “And you will be pleased to know that we have a mail service that runs four days a week, as well as a telegraph office.”

“I’m impressed,” Cis replied.

Further down the street, a column of men on horseback were walking in their direction. As they neared, Cis felt a twinge of pride when she noticed the khaki uniforms, slouch hats and emu feathers fluttering in the breeze.  The rider leading the group nodded and acknowledged William with a curt “Good Afternoon, Sergeant,” and kept riding past.

In a split second, her feelings of pride turned into something she could not explain. Cis leaned against William’s shoulder, looped her arm firmly around his and looked straight ahead.  What was it?  The uniforms? Or perhaps the salute? Her future had seemed so clear, but now it seems so uncertain.  She felt numb by the realization that her husband’s life was neither for he nor she to decide.  The future that she had planned for was now the present and she was left wondering what her new future would bring.

Monday Musings From the Writer’s Desk

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Wouldn’t it wonderful to be able to travel back in time to visit your ancestors as their lives played out, instead of having to piece their lives together, from the trail of evidence they’ve left behind?  Whilst researching my Great Grandparents’ wedding, wishing I could be there to see and experience it firsthand, a strange thing happened.  I received an invitation in the mail, to which I promptly replied.

Dear Great Grandmother,

An invitation appeared in the letterbox today and upon opening the envelope I was quite dismayed at the card I held in my hand. How could it be? It is an invitation to your wedding to be held on 15th October 1902?  Am I dreaming or has technology advanced so far as allowing me to travel back in time?  Of course, Great Grandmother, my reply is ‘Yes’, as I would be honoured to be your wedding guest.

It would be an opportunity to meet you as a young woman, and all those members of my family who bid their farewells long before I was born.  I especially look forward to seeing your sister Nelly as a little girl. Do you think she recognize me at all?  Grandma, with your permission of course, I would gladly introduce myself as your Great Granddaughter.  There is something so warm and welcoming as seeing familiar faces whose features you have inherited yourself.  And, how wonderful it will be for them to see their own faces in a face from the future.

Grandma, I look forward to sitting in the Cathedral so grand, watching you walk down the aisle on the arm of the man who was one of our family’s greatest pioneers.  What a sight to behold, amidst operatic  ceilings, choruses of archways, and the dazzling dance of coloured light projecting through stained glass.  There will be whispers of guests watching your beauty enhanced by the heavenly notes of the bridal march.  My attention will hang onto  every note of those whispers in  the lilting Irish voices of loved ones who were so dear. Would you mind, Grandma, if I bring a tape recorder so that my family at home can hear  the voices of their ancestors who are no longer here?

But most of all Grandma, I wish to see you in colour instead of black and white.  I want to see your beautiful coif of red hair, porcelain skin, dark blue eyes and the details of your wedding dress.  Yes, I love the mystery that sepia presents, but to take a glimpse into your special moment in time, would be sublime.  I am also sure that meeting you as a young woman will feel very strange as I only knew you in old age.

Yes, dear Grandma, we will meet again in the future, when I am a child.  I will visit your home on Sunday afternoons and we’ll sit around your table enjoying tea and scones.  And as the years go by, my memories of those visits will never fade with age; they will always be dear to me.  All I have of you, are those sweet memories.

I can also tell you that you will have four sons, and your third child, my Grandfather will be named John Austin Lyons. There are many details of your future life that I could tell you, Grandma, but that would be inconsiderate of me to fill you with worry when fate has plans that cannot be changed.  That would deprive you of life’s little mysteries, and one cannot change history.  If that were possible, there would be no history to tell.  So, when you emerge from the sanctity of the cathedral on 15th October 1902, go forth and be happy wherever your life takes you. Just remember, Grandma, when you hit some unexpected bumps in the road, hold on tight, as you will survive.  That I know for sure.

Before I say goodbye, I thank you Grandma for thinking of me; someone whose leaves have not yet sprouted on your family tree.  I so look forward to seeing you and meeting Great Grandfather too on your wedding day in 1902.

Kindest Regards,

Kim Elizabeth Lyons.

Your Great Grand daughter

William and Harriet Wed

Alighting from her horse drawn carriage, Harriet Deane is rendered speechless as she stands on the edge of the street.  Shading her brow with one gloved hand, and holding her hat on her head with the other, she leans her head back and stares up at the stupendous view of masonry and stone that invades the bright blue October sky above.  The monumental façade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, dressed in stained glass and towering spires, is like nothing she has seen in her 26 years.

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St Stephens Cathedral Brisbane (Photo: National Library of Australia)

 

1902 was an exciting year in Queensland’s capital of Brisbane.  She was bestowed the status of “city”; she welcomed home the last survivors of the Boer War; and she saw the first motor car on her streets. Arriving from the developing sea port of Townsville in North Queensland for their daughter’s wedding that year, the Deane Family found themselves in a world of old versus new.

The sprawling inner city streets, lined with towering buildings taller and grander than anything they had ever seen, were rumbling with horse drawn carriages and buses, as well as electric trams that rattled along rail tracks, back and forth from morning to dusk.  The vibrancy of the city noises; the shops brimming with fancy wares and the multitude of townsfolk dressed in their finery, presented a new world for these country folk from North Queensland.

Victoria Bridge Brisbane

Traffic on Victoria Bridge, Brisbane at turn of the century.  (Photo:  State Library of Queensland)

Brisbane was also a new world for Harriet. Her impending marriage to William Lyons meant she had to relinquish any teaching career aspirations she may have had, in exchange for the life of a soldier’s wife.  As it does, love overruled any doubts she may have had.

State Library of Queensland cnr Eliz & Creek st

Corner of Elizabeth and Creek St, Brisbane – note St Stephens in the background (Photo:  State Library of Queensland)

The few steps leading from the footpath to the forecourt of the Cathedral are her first official steps of her new journey.  Although, it is a journey that began from the moment she said ‘yes’ to William’s proposal.  She is amazed how a simple three letter word prompted so many changes to her life.  In a space of weeks, she has resigned from her teaching position, packed up her life as she knew it and left her family’s home in Townsville for Brisbane which she finds strangely overwhelming.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, she preens her ruffled skirt and checks that her hat of frothy net and floral blooms is firmly secured on her nest of auburn hair.  The sun is beating down on her diminutive form with a fierceness that begs her to loosen her tightly corseted bodice.  “What can I do?  There is no time,” she reminds herself, trying to dissuade her bouquet from shaking, clasping it tightly between both hands. Hearing the soft notes of the church organ calling through the Cathedral door, first whispering, then begging for her to enter, she knows it is too late to turn back.

“Cis, you look beautiful,” her Father reassures his daughter in his Irish brogue and bends forward offering his arm.

Cis looks up at her Father, managing a feint smile, and takes his arm in her own, feeling his formidable strength through his dark suit coat.  She knows that he and Mother took surmountable risks from the moment they left Ireland in search for a new and better life in Australia.  She has learnt from her Father to never look back; just keep marching forward.  Feeling empowered by this forthright, bearlike man by her side, she is ready to face whatever the world throws her way.  “This is a day of new beginnings!” she reminds herself.

“Okay, Father,” she announces. “I’m ready.”

“Are ya sure now?” he asks with a grin.

“Of course I’m sure!” she retorts.

As George Deane and his daughter pass through the imposing arched threshold of the Cathedral, the organ pipes begin to explode from the sounds of Wagner soaring to the heavenly realms of the timber vaulted ceilings and back, in a crescendo of joyful bars, chords and notes, as God welcomes them into his house.

Bris.StSPugin

The original pipe organ of St Stephen’ Cathedral (Photo:  Daily Mail 10/3/1906)

Cis, in her frock of ruffles and bows, moves with slow deliberation in unison with her father’s steps.  They follow the long central aisle that separates the pews, passing row after row of smiling faces of family and friends; passing the colonnades of arches whose chorus of high pitched voices peaks to heaven’s wondrous beat.   Cis feels the momentousness of her journey, as she disappears into the magnificence of the cathedral; deep into the abyss of the unknown.

The organ lowers its voice to a simmering lilt and Cis notices William for the first time. His beaming face is watching his new bride.  Her father guides her to a place beside her husband to be, facing Father O’Reilly who is standing, hands clasped, in readiness to assist both William and she in the rite of passage as man and wife.

Overcome by quietness, the Cathedral echoes with Father O’Reilly’s voice as he ceremoniously delivers the mass.  Both the bride and groom are oblivious to the guardian angels’ concerned faces looking down from their stained glass home above.  They are blissfully unaware of Christ, sacrificing his life on a giant cross that casts a shadow upon the place where they stand.  Caught in the solemnity of the moment, for better and for worse, they both willingly agree to face life’s challenges together, whatever they may be.

William & Harriet (Deane) Lyons_NEW

William and Harriet Lyons (Deane) – 15th October 1902