Sunday, May 10, 2009

Harry arrives in Melbourne

As told by his letter/journal, Harry Oakley and his sister Amy Jane arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday, December 6, 1887. Harry had written in his last entry that George Rees had been there to meet them on their arrival... George Rees(above) was Harry Oakley’s friend in Newtown, Wales, who also immigrated to Australia. This photograph was in the large photo album that Harry carried with him to Melbourne, and was identified on its reverse as “George Rees, Harry’s partner”. It was written by Harry’s elder son, Gordon Oakley, and I do not know what the ‘partner’ refers to in terms of business dealings.
George was born George Frederick Rees in c. 1865, the son of John Rees, farmer, and his wife Sarah. He first appears in a census return in 1871:
Castleydail, Newtown.
John Rees/head/45/farmer of 195 acres/ b Montgomeryshire
Sarah Rees/wife/42/ b Montgomeryshire
Thomas Rees/son/18/b Montgomeryshire
John Rees/son/16/scholar/ b Montgomeryshire
Henry Edward/son/14/scholar/b Montgomeryshire
Ann Elizabeth/daughter/12/scholar/b Montgomeryshire
George Frederick/son/5/ scholar/ b Montgomeryshire
Plus five servants.

By the 1881 census, John Rees, George’s father, had died:
Castledail, Newtown
Sarah Rees/head/widow/50/ farmer_____/ b Montgomeryshire
Charles Rees/son/30/farmer’s son/b Montgomeryshire
Thomas Rees/son/28/farmer’s son/ “
Annie E. Rees/daughter/21/ “
George F. Rees/son/15/farmer’s son/ “
Newton Bradley/nephew/10/b London
Mary Bradley/niece/ 8/ b London
Darille Bradley/niece/6/b London
Cristopher Bradley/nephew/4/b London
Plus six servants

Like Harry Oakley, we know that George Rees was in Newtown in the 1881, but in Melbourne by 1887 because he was there to meet Harry when he got off the ship. The Vic unassisted shipping records has only one possible entry that could be George:
“ Mr. Rees arrived November 1887 aged 22 per ‘Manapouri’.”
If this is George Rees,which I believe it is, there presents the possibility that he and Harry back in Newtown made the decision together to travel out to Australia to further their prospects.
According to his son Gordon Oakley, Harry was employed initially by Kirkby & Co, a firm of Wine and Spirit Merchants Located at 300-302 Flinders Street, Melbourne. He worked there as a cellar man for five years, until November of 1892.
Back in Newtown, Harry had been the youngest ever Lodge Master of the Oddfellows Lodge in the town. He had carried with him to Australia splendid references from fellow Lodge members, and was bitterly disappointed upon his arrival that Melbourne Lodge members did not use their influences to assist him.
Harry's first trip to Mulwala, his future home, came during his first few years in the colony when he went with friends to the Murray River town on a shooting expedition. Mulwala is on the NSW side of the Murray River, with Yarrawonga being its 'twin' on the Victorian side.
Harry fell in love with Mulwala and the local area, and decided to make it his home base.With a partner named Faulding, he set up a travelling drapery business which was conducted from two large covered wagons. Initially, Harry made his business headquarters under a large box tree close to Smart's Blacksmith Shop.Harry was mainly on the road with his wares, visiting settlements- farms and stations - from Mulwala to beyond Deniliquin and throughout the Riverina.
Roads at this time were little more than rough dirt tracks so keeping to a regular timetable was a formidable task, but when shearing began at a shed on his route, Harry and his teams would turn up. An article published in the local Yarrawonga newspaper when Harry turned ninety stated:
" After working in Melbourne for five years, he came to Mulwala in 1892, and with a partner by the name of Faulding,established a prosperous business as travelling drapers.They began their business with a small cart and horse,but business improved so much that in later years they used a big cart drawn by five horses.The roads in those days were terrible, and Mr. Oakley has many stories to tell of difficulties encountered in taking their wares to settlers."
During these early years in Mulwala, Harry still made the occasional trip to Melbourne where his sister Amy Jane was residing and earning her living as a teacher of piano.She had made numerous friends,including the Bishop family of Oakleigh. Bertha Bishop, the mother of a family of two sons and four daughters, had contacted Amy after seeing her advertisement for piano lessons in a local paper. Bertha's mother's name had been Hannah Oakley, and she was curious to see if any family relationship existed between the young Englishwoman and herself. There wasn't a family tie, but a very close friendship developed between Amy and the Bishops, and in particular between Amy and eldest daughter Olive Jessie Bishop, who was four years Amy's junior.
Harry Oakley in turn was introduced into the Bishop family circle, and friendship grew between he and Olive, encouraged no doubt by his sister. Still, it was some years before friendship blossomed into love...Harry was 41 years old and Olive 35 when they finally married in 1904.

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