As today is the twentieth anniversary of the death of my mother, I’ve felt inspired to divulge some family history, especially as it relates to my mother’s line.
My mother was one of twins born on 16 July 1917 in Wagga Wagga NSW. Her mother was Barbara Jane nee Lockwood and her father was George Charles Jago. Mother was christened Helena May and her twin brother was named George Richard, known throughout his life as Dick. They had an elder brother, Edgar, born in 1914 who died whilst training as a pilot in Rhodesia during World War II.
I never met my maternal grandmother or grandfather- George Jago died in 1919 and Barbara Jane in 1943. I never heard much about George Jago. I suppose because he died when mother was two she would not have remembered him, just as I do not remember my own father, dying as he did when I was the same tender age.
Barbara Jane was obviously idolised by her children and she does sound from *family records to have been a formidable if rather irresponsible lady.
But first some genealogical details.
Barbara Jane was born in 1887, the third youngest of ten children born to Henry Lockwood and wife Fanny (nee Radcliffe) . Fanny’s father was Charles Radcliffe who emigrated to Australia from England in 1852. He was a musician and came from an enlightened family who believed in educating their children, including the girls. Her mother was Jane Grisedale.
On the Lockwood side, Henry Lockwood came to Australia from Yorkshire in 1851 as a baby and was the son of James Lockwood and Barbara (nee Earnshaw).
Barbara Jane Lockwood was obviously named after her grandmothers. The Lockwoods grew up in rural North Victoria at a property called Kiewa, at Harston, near Tatura. The property remains in the family as far a I know. When Henry Lockwood died in 1918, the property was purchased by the husband of the youngest daughter Nellie. In 1972 Nellie’s son hosted a family centenary reunion which I attended. That’s the only time I have visited the old homestead.
When Fanny Radcliffe died in 1896, my grandmother Barbara Jane was nine years old. Initially the youngest children, Barbara Jane, Fanny and Nellie were cared for by their elder sister Lillian until their father, Henry, remarried and brought a stepmother to the property to look after the children.
Barbara Jane couldn’t stand the stepmother and ran away from home at the age of seventeen to Melbourne. She worked as a parlour maid at Government House. There is a story mentioned in *Mallee Memories that she got pregnant and bore an illegitimate child who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The author of Mallee Memories obviously didn’t approve of Barbara Jane, so who knows if the story is true.
Barbara Jane, after her husband died, undertook a nurses training course. Rather than train and look after three small children she dumped them with her sister Lillian, who by that time was married and living in country Victoria at Birchip, where they stayed for about two years before Barbara Jane was compelled to take them back.
She ran a small maternity hospital in Wagga Wagga whilst she brought up the kids and never remarried. According to the other side of my family (my father’s side) Barbara Jane delivered a few of my father’s brothers in her hospital.
She probably had a pretty hard life, but she was a great reader which no doubt brought her some consolation. If a love of reading is genetic, that’s where I got it from. I have a box of her books, mostly classical literature. Her sisters gave her a complete set of leather bound classics for her 21t Birthday.
But she bought other books for herself and seems to have always written her name, the year of purchase and occasionally the location in the facing page, a habit I formed quite independently myself, until I realised my precious modern firsts might be devalued by this “defacement”
On to my mother’s story…
She grew up in Wagga Wagga with her two brothers and assisted with the cleaning and cooking in her mother’s hospital. She and my father knew each other socially in the 1930s but they didn’t get married until 1945.
My mother, like her mother before her, trained as a nurse and throughout her life continued to update her skills and competence.
Here is a photo of her and a group of nurses sometime in the 1930s (I assume). She’s in the second standing row third from the left.
Mother was brought up C of E but converted to Catholicism in her late teens, early 20s. She entered a convent and was a nun with the St John of God order for several years, until her health became affected and she was forced to leave.
Then she married my father, who was the eldest of seven brothers and had done well for himself by becoming an accountant. His other brothers were all in trades, and regarded the Jago clan as intellectuals.
My brothers and I were all born in quick succession (1946,1947 & 1949), my younger brother being born in January 1949.
In September 1949 tragedy struck when my father died in a freak accident. He had gone out into the yard to bring in the washing off the line, as it had started to rain. He slipped on the wet concrete path and hit his head in a fatal area, dying instantly. The rest of the family were off at the circus, I was told, so a neighbour found him.
My mother, with three small children to care for, was reduced to taking in boarders to make ends meet. I remember one of those boarders teaching me how to snap my fingers.
It must have been in the early 50s that mother resumed her nursing career, becoming matron of a small rural hospital in Bangalow in Northern NSW. We lived at the hospital; one of perks of the job and handy if you were a widow with children.
In 1953 she remarried. The first we knew about it was being told by the nuns with whom we’d been dumped while mother went off on a holiday, that we had a new father. We first met the stepfather in Sydney flying by ourselves from Lisbon, never to return to Bangalow.
We all moved in with the stepfather in Braybrook in the western suburbs of Melbourne. The marriage was not a success, the stepfather proving to be a violent and nasty man. We children hated his guts.
We were rescued by mother’s twin brother Dick, who assisted mother to escape from the stepfather while he was away somewhere. She must have been planning it for a while, for we were transported directly from Braybrook to Woods Point, a remote goldmining town in North Eastern Victoria, where mother took over the hospital. It was as far away as you could get from the city and she didn’t leave a forwarding address. She also reverted to her first married name.
The Woods Point Hospital
The years in Woods Point were happy ones for us kids, running about the bush wild and free. We lived at the hospital of course.
Mother was the sole medico in the town, though the hospital rarely had patients, most cases needing urgent treatment being tended to in Mansfield the nearest large town, where they were transported by ambulance with mother in attendance. On occasions she rescued injured possums from the side of the road and brought them home to care for. We had lots of pets – dogs, cats and rabbits.
It was a rough place I suppose. Mother kept a pistol in her hanky drawer; I was horrified when I found it there. The Morning Star mine was still in operation in those days, so a lot of medical emergencies were related to accidents at the mine and on the roads around the area which were steep and winding with precipitous drops. It snowed there in winter and was bushfire prone in summer.
After a couple of years of attending the Woods Point primary school, my older brother and I were packed off to boarding school, me in Mansfield and Mick in Wangaratta.
In 1960 we left Woods Point and moved to Wangaratta, mother having got a job in the maternity ward at the base hospital there. We spent our high school years there and we lived in a house this time.
When I left home in 1966 to go to university, mother and younger brother continued on in Wangaratta for another year.
In 1967 mother moved from Wangaratta to Melbourne where she had found a job as matron of a day nursery in Northcote then a few years after, obtained a similar position in Preston.
She left the workforce in the late 1970s, her health having forced her retirement. She lived in Fitzroy in a pleasant flat close to the Exhibition gardens.
Like her mother she was a great reader, and also had passion for music, especially classical music and the opera. I used to go to the opera with her over the years and we often ran into my Great Aunts Fanny and Nellie, Barbara Jane’s younger sisters there, until they passed away within a short time of each other.
Mother and her twin brother Dick remained close despite the fact they criticised each other behind the other’s backs. Dick died in 1987 just before their 70th birthday. He died intestate and well off, but mother received very little from the settlement. She was too proud to ask for anything much and settled for the box of her mother’s books and her portrait (see above). All uncle’s wealth went to his estranged wife.
In 1990 my older brother Mick died of a stroke. This was a real blow to mother and the rest of us. Her health declined rapidly after that and she died on 23rd January 1991 at the age of 73.
I still remember vividly the day she died. It was an extremely hot and sticky day. I was at work and received a call from the hospice where she was residing at the time, to say she had taken a turn for the worst. By the time I had got to the hospice she was gone.
As much as it was sad, it was also a relief, for her options at that time were very limited. She was beyond caring for herself and being a very independent lady, she had a horror of nursing homes and I was reluctant to force her into one.
People said about her that she had had a hard life, implying that she had fortitude and courage. This is certainly true. She was a kind person and never bitter about her life. She found consolation in religion but never boasted of it. She accepted that her children ended up agnostic, and never tried to reconvert us. She dedicated her life to nursing and helping others.
Her funeral was conducted at All Saints church in Fitzroy by no less than two priests. There were nuns galore at the ceremony, which even caused the funeral director to raise his eyebrows. The funeral cortege wound its way through the back streets of Fitzroy then headed for Fawkner Cemetery. It was another hot day, with a strong northerly wind and at the stark grave site, with the priest reading the graveside prayer with the eponymous dust swirling around, I found it a moving and profound experience.
My mother and I were good friends. We understood each other and I used to visit her regularly at her flat, where she always had a cold can of VB waiting for me. She had encouraged me from an early age to be independent. She once apologised to me for this, but I assured her it was a valuable attribute she had forced me to accept and I certainly didn’t bear her any grudge.
*A document called ”Mallee Memories” written by one of my mother’s cousins who was the daughter of Lillian Murray (nee Lockwood)