William and Emily's children
from the Riwaka Cemetery web site
Mavis and Bruce
Information about William Wallace (1868-1942) remained elusive until I noticed a picture in WD’s photo album of him driving a buggy, accompanied by an unnamed young woman. Luckily, WD had captioned the photograph to locate the event in Riwaka, which lead to a number of hits in NZ’s newspaper archive.
The first, in a 1895 Mataura Ensign, announced that Wallace had left Riwaka to join a friend in Johannesburg, intending to get work in the gold mines. He had been studying ore extraction “by the cyanide process”, considered to be safer than using liquid mercury. They both sound damned dangerous to me but then, I’m not a gold miner. His father contributed some of Wallace’s letters home to the Nelson Evening Mail, which, in February 1899, serialized one of them over several editions. The letter described his voyage from Transvaal, via Cairo, to England. The letters are wonderfully descriptive, both of his surroundings, his companions and his own perceptions. For example, he kicked himself for being in the wrong company for Mozambique sightseeing. He’d wanted to see the fort and cathedral but his group had other ideas – “an hour at the Post Office buying stamps – what a stupid thing stamp collecting is”. In the way of all things staying the same, he is next in Zanzibar where he is corrected in his first impression of Arabs (Moslems) being “often sulky, evidently hating Europeans” by a resident clergyman who said they “aren’t as bad as they are painted” and have more good than bad points. On the other hand, Wallace and the clergyman felt that owners were not fairly compensated (“not nearly to the value of the slave”) when the country abolished slavery. He also thought the young slave girls he saw carrying loads of coral stone for building purposes didn’t look too miserable.
In the final instalment, he discusses his travelling companions, in particular a young Jewess who suffered continually from seasickness although “some of the fellows are ill natured enough to say that she cannot expect anything else than to be sick when she stuffs herself with such a miscellany of food and drink”. She told him she was taking notes to report the trip in a Frankfurt paper – Wallace wondered whether she would get her unwitting revenge for his comments. I recommend searching the Nelson Evening Mail’s 16 and 17 February 1899 issues to read the letter in full because it is an evocative report of his travels.
In 1901, Wallace writes from Remount Camp, Stellenbosch where he is a ‘conductor’, tending and transporting horses and mules for the Army. Again, William forwarded his son’s missive to the Nelson Evening Mail. Wallace had just returned from a trip to Kimberley and Mafeking, “the most rough and terrible fortnight I ever spent”. He described Stellenbosch as “a very pretty Dutch village – a fruit growing district”; the camp was on a farm belonging to Mr Rhodes. Of the military people he was in contact with
“some are very nice fellows and others just the opposite. Young upstart
subalterns who put on airs are very much disliked… we are not in khaki,
though solely under military control, with rifles and bandoliers ready for
use for defensive purposes… I am glad we are not obliged to wear khaki,
as then we should be liable to be humbugged about and salute every officer
who comes along, whilst in civilian dress we are as good as they are”. Onya,
Wallace. He returned to Riwaka where he was a fruit grower, perhaps taking
over his father’s property. He remained single all his life.
Compared to her father and brother, Marion Tillotson’s (1869-1950) life
seems to have been the conventional one shared by women of the era. She
married James Graham who was a Scot, eldest son of Alexander Graham,
from Auchengray, Larnarkshire. James was manager of the stock agency
William sold in 1892, the same year that James and Marion married. Within
10 years, he was a partner in the business. In 1919, his occupation on the
electoral roll was merchant. He had retired by 1928 when the family, except
for the eldest son, was living in Granville Terrace, Mornington, Dunedin. Marion’s last address was Gordon House, East Gore, where she died in 1950.
The couple lived in Gore where they had five children.
• Gerald Muir (1893-1984) was a carpenter in Gore in 1914 and 1919, living at Gordon House. When he enlisted in the army in 1917 (serving in Western Europe), his occupation was architectural student. It doesn’t look as though he pursued that career because, in 1928, he was a merchant and continued in that occupation through his working life. He married Kate Ellen Russell (1900-1999) in 1926 and they were living in Wellington’s Roseneath. Gerald had retired by 1961, the date of WD’s memoir. The couple’s final entry is in the electoral roll is 1981 when they are living in The Crescent, Wellington where Gerald died, three years later. I have found no record of children.
• Bruce Douglas (1900-1979) regularly appeared in the newspaper-published end-of-year award lists during his school years for attendance, his shorthand skills and when earning a scholarship in the public service examinations. Then he vanishes from the records except for the electoral rolls where
his occupation was ‘clerk’. After 1946, his clerking was for Dunedin’s Leviathon Hotel,
a temperance institution. He must have been a valued employee because the final
occupational entry is of liftman at the Leviathon, aged 63, which sounds a bit like a
retirement reward for past services. He died in Waitaki and is listed in records of the
Timaru crematorium. He was a lifelong bachelor.
• Mavis Leslie (1901-1994) earned commendation for her school attendance and
won first prize (value 15/-) with Pearl Aitken for the local under 15s (only just!)
piano duet competition in 1916. Aged 27, she married Robert Stewart Green
(1899-1960) in 1928 and they had at least two daughters. Marion Margaret died in
1935, the year she was born. When WD wrote his memoir in 1961, Mavis, newly-
widowed was living with her other daughter, Vivienne, and that arrangement
continued for at least another couple of years when they had moved to Wellington
and were living in Queen Street.
• Merle Monteith (1905-1996?) is nearly invisible in the records. Born in Gore in
1905, her musical prowess, reported between 1915-1920 as she passed the grades
of Trinity College’s course, included tying in first place in the under 12s piano solo
in 1916. She, with her sister Violet, also won the piano duet competition, which
earned them 10/-. The electoral roll has her in Clutha in 1949. The next voting listing
is on the Australian electoral roll in 1954. WD’s memoir tells us she had gone to keep
house for her mother’s cousin, Fin, in Paddington, Sydney, and she continued to share
his residential address until his death in 1971 (presumed). She then vanishes from the record both in Australia and New Zealand. There is a headstone for a Merle Graham in NSW’s Nambucca Heads Cemetery, with the dates 14 April 1909-22 May 1996. Our Merle was born in April 1905 – there may be a mistake with the dates or it may be the headstone in Nambucca Heads Cemetery has nothing to do with us at all.
• Violet Marion (1907-) is even less visible. There are some newspaper reports of scholastic and musical achievements during her school years and she was a spinster living at Gordon House, Gore, in 1938, then nothing. WD’s memoir has her living in Timaru in 1961 but he does not say, as he did with her siblings, whether Violet was married or not.