Jan 28, 2016

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Herbert William White – Australia Day 2016 Tribute

For Australia Day this year I am writing about my great grandfather Herbert William White, born in the parish of Farley in Wiltshire, England in 1864. He was the son of Robert White and Emma nee Titt and had nine siblings. Herbert immigrated to Townsville, Queensland in 1883 and as far as we know, no one else from his family came out to Australia. We know from a surviving letter that Herbert did remain in contact with his parents and siblings after he arrived.

Herbert and Dorcas White and family ca 1912

Herbert and Dorcas White and family ca 1912

Why Herbert for this Australia Day tribute? I only have one black and white family photo but it was claimed by older family members that Herbert had red hair and that is why quite a few of his descendants have red hair including me. So we share a particular family trait.

Townsville was not Herbert’s destination as he left the Immigration Depot at Townsville two days after arrival to go to Charters Towers, then a thriving goldfield. The lure of gold and adventure were the reasons behind his decision to travel to Australia in the first instance. It is not known if he only intended to stay for a short time or not.

But he met Dorcas Trevaskis, a South Australian whose Cornish parents had moved from Moonta, South Australia to first Copperfield near Clermont and then on to Charters Towers. Three years after Herbert’s arrival they married in Charters Towers and had eight children all born in Charters Towers. My grandmother Alice, also with red hair, was their third child.

Herbert worked in various Charters Towers mines and another family story is that he was blinded while working in the Papuan Mine but it has not been possible to confirm this story or find any other details about the accident.

Their oldest son Sydney Herbert White was accidentally killed after falling from a horse on the way to his grandmother’s place. He was only 11 years old and his In Memoriam card is one of the few surviving documents in the family’s records.

Letter from Robert and Elizabeth White, 1915

Letter from Robert and Elizabeth White, 1915

Another family document is a 1915 letter that Herbert received from his older brother Robert advising Herbert that they had buried their mother ‘in the front of the church on the right hand side going into the church straight across from the Bathurst tomb in the old church yard under the apple trees’. The letter refers to earlier correspondence from Herbert, probably a letter in response to the news that his mother had died.

Herbert never returned to Wiltshire and died of bronchial pneumonia and cardiac failure at Richmond Hospital in 1924 and was buried in the Richmond cemetery. No tombstone marks his grave.

His wife Dorcas survived him by 11 years and died in Brisbane in 1935 and is buried in Toowong cemetery with their youngest son. They share a joint tombstone.

At the time of his death Herbert’s estate was valued at £200 so he obviously did not find extreme wealth but he did provide for a large and loving family. He was survived by 31 grandchildren, some of whom may be wondering where their red hair came from!

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