Thursday, 2 August 2012

A better life (Part 2)

On 5 April 1899, Philemon Lewis COLEY accepted appointment as a Lengthsman in the Southern Division Maintenance Branch of the Railway at the wage rate of 6 shillings and 6 pence per day.

In the 1903 Electoral Roll for the Division of Maranoa (Polling Place of Muckadilla) he was showing as living with his wife Lucy COLEY at 345 Mile Camp. There were apparently no other adult residents.

It is more than 500 kilometres from the Fassifern Valley (B) to Muckadilla on the Maranoa (A).

What had become of the good life of a decade earlier?

There had been personal tragedy when Margaret died on 26 March 1892, leaving PL with two small daughters. It seems that her younger sister Lucy HARLEY came to assist with the care of her nieces; then on 26 May 1893 married Philemon Lewis.

At the same time, the economy of the Colony was taking a battering. The maritime strike of 1890 and the shearers strike of 1891 had significant impact on agriculture. Then, between January and June of 1893, Brisbane (the capital city) was battered by four floods. Both cross-river bridges (road and rail) were swept away and a major coal mine at Ipswich was destroyed.

The direct effect of the flooding was barely detected in the Fassifern Valley but the economic effects could not be avoided.

By 1899, P L and Lucy had added three more children (Walter Lewis, Sylvia Mabel and Charles Cephas) to the family and the property at Thorn could not support them. So our 2xgreat grandfather turned to the same employment his father had followed four decades earlier — maintaining a section of transport infra-structure.

The Electoral Roll for 1905, showed that the Coley family had moved back closer to "home" and were living at Railway Station, Stapylton as electors in Oxley (voting at Beenleigh). They would have been based there when great grandfather Alexander Clarence COLEY was born on 25 August 1905 and his sister Laura May almost three years later.

In 1912, the family were living in Blenheim. Their eldest son, Charles Cephas, was admitted to the teaching profession as a pupil-teacher at Blenheim State School in October of that year. The Electoral Roll for the Laidley Subdivision of the Moreton Electorate of 1913 shows P L (misspelled as Philimon) listing his occupation as "farmer" once more. Their last child, Berenice Alicen, was born there on 25 June 1914.

It was at Blenheim that P L died on 10 July 1915. In 55 years, the son of a canal labourer and a nail-maker had seen both sides of working life in his new land but could look forward to his son following a respected profession that would assure his future.

How the war in Europe would cut short that dream is a tale for another day.

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