|My only photo of Nancy Hamilton|
Nancy was born on 30 June 1908 in Ulverstone, a small town on the north coast of Tasmania, Australia which had only really started to develop when the railway had arrived there less than twenty years previously.
On Thursday 24 September 1846 a very curious thing happened at the house. It was still owned by the Moores but was unoccupied for a period (perhaps while they travelled abroad), so they had left it to the care of a couple, Mrs and Mrs Taylor. On this Thursday an aristocratic lady drew up outside the house and made inquiries there about a child that she had heard about. Mrs Taylor went off to fetch her daughter from Chandos St -- she did in fact have a three-year-old son (who was illegitimate). She sold the child to the lady for a down-payment of half a sovereign. Not long afterwards the woman came back and showed them the boy, who was now sleeping, stripped of his ragged clothes and 'now superbly clad in new clothes, and hat and feathers of the most tasteful and expensive kind'. The woman promised to return five days later to give the mother more money, up to a total of £5. This story was told in the Sunday Times but I don't know if there was any follow-up -- if there was I haven't found it.
So, back to Richard Hamilton, who joined the navy before marrying a girl from very close to his home at Fintra, Alicia Barrett. They went to live in South Africa where Richard wanted to be a farmer. Sadly Alicia died giving birth to her second daughter. Her two girls seem to have been sent back to Ireland to be brought up by their aunt Clara Barrett. Meanwhile Richard married for a second time, a woman who had been born in England but who had also emigrated to South Africa, named Margaret Mason. Richard had a chequered career in South Africa, trying his hand at a number of careers, including diamond-mining, but eventually returned to Ireland to try to raise money against his future inheritance from his mother (who had the Fintra estate in trust) in order to fund a new venture in America. While he was detained at Killybegs (where the Fintra estate was), it seems he may have fathered an illegitimate child with his dead wife's sister Clara -- a boy named Douglas. While his wife and children waited in South Africa for him to send for them, Richard set off to San Antonio, Texas without very much money, intending to work for a couple of years, learning the lie of the land, until he could realise his assets in Ireland. Sadly, he never made it to San Antonio as he died on the train journey from the East Coast, possibly of alcohol poisoning.
Nancy's father was Richard Robert Ernest Hamilton, the eldest of Richard's eight children with Margaret Mason. He was born in 1865, the same year as 'my' Henry. In 1881, according to the census, he was staying with his great-aunt Isabella Moores, just like his father before him. By now she was living alone (her husband Thomas had died in 1870) at 129 Holland Road, West London, with just the services of a cook and a housemaid. Richard was studying Law while he was there. Once qualified, he emigrated to Tasmania, settling in Ulverstone near Launceston, Tasmania's second town.
He and Margaret had three daughters, Connie Loo (born 1897), Jessie Fintra (born 1902 -- I love that they named her after the ancestral home) and Nancy (born 1908). In 1904 Richard also fathered another child who was named Robert. Robert's mother was Rhoda King, who I believe was a servant in Richard's household. The illegitimate child was fostered out to a local woman, Mrs Greeney, who fostered a great many children both privately and for the state. She was a good woman. Robert was renamed Eric Reginald Greeney by his new guardian and later he changed his name again to Reg Greer. He was Germaine Greer's father and she wrote an excellent book about her search for the key to the mystery about him, Daddy We Hardly Knew You, published in 1990. She is an amazing genealogist. She's also 'my' Nancy's 'half-niece'!
Unlike some of her relatives, Nancy does not seem to have had an exceptional life. She evidently took part in lots of school activities and sporting events as she grew up. It's possible to track her through mentions in the local newspapers. For instance, on Thursday December 20th 1923 Nancy played Catherine Parr in a 'spooky sextet' of the wives of Henry VIII at the end-of-term speech day at Church Grammar School, Ulverstone. 'Each child in turn delivered a little speech very effectively'. As part of the same event Nancy played a Huguenot, the Comte de Caerhout, in the closing entertainment, 'The Trap', about the Huguenot Massacre on St Bartholomew's Eve. Her character-acting was 'outstanding', the paper said. Nancy won prizes for arithmetic, sewing and popularity (the latter voted for by the other pupils). She played a lot of tennis.
Nancy was soon to leave to go to finishing school. When she came back to Ulverstone she threw herself into the local social scene. She was named Belle of the Ball at more than one of the many dances and balls that took place. The papers lovingly described what seem like all the ladies' outfits so that we know that Nancy wore 'black georgette with inlets of lace' on one occasion and 'satin-trimmed net' on another.
|from the Burnie Advocate of 1 July 1932|
|This postcard of the SS Mongolia was sent from Gibraltar during the voyage Nancy was on|
|This photo shows Henry's grandfather, James Henry Room, front centre, surrounded by five of his children, including Henry's father, Bill Room, standing behind his father. The others are Henry's uncles and aunts, Harry, Dick, Mary and Edna|
Apart from that, Henry is elusive. I haven't found the date when he died but Nancy seems to have outlived him by a number of years as she appears on her own in the censuses for a long time, right up until 1980 when she was living in a small house in Auburn Road, Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne. Again, I haven't found the date of her death.
Nancy wasn't famous or extraordinary, but I have hugely enjoyed hunting down all the little mentions of her that I've been able to find, in an effort to bring her to life. This post concludes all the stories that I've been able to squeeze out of those photos found in a flea market in Brighton. Well, almost all of them, but those lesser tales may have to wait.