McMahon Story – Post 1900



The McMahon Story.

The Continuation Post 1900.



As I mentioned in the history document recently completed, it took approximately 12 years to finalise all the creditor payments required to satisfy the Equity Court decrees. In that time our McMahon family moved around Sydney in rental accommodation, receiving some assistance from the Catholic Church and a small amount of funding from the Equity Court, as decided by their judgment, and from Emma Lee’s inheritance. After Emma’s death in 1912 they received sufficient funds from Emma’s estate, about £500, to purchase the federation style home in James Street Manly. It was interesting to observe that the house rented by their parents in Annandale was of a similar style to the one they purchased in Manly



On the death of their father, Francis Snr, on 22 May 1897, Francis, Emma and their four children, Cecilia, Francis, Edward and the 3 month old Mary, moved into “Glencairn” to look after Kate till she passed away on 10″‘ April 1898, less than 11 months after the death of her husband.



There would have been a lot of sorting of affairs required and that would have taken time and particularly as their 14 month old daughter Mary, died later that year on 2 November 1898, the family would have had a lot of grief to cope with as well. To add to their problems, the challenge to the wills by Francis Jnr’s two siblings, Mrs Rose Melliday and Austin John McMahon, the following year, would have caused the family more turmoil. Their stay at “Glencairn” would not have been a happy one.



The challenge to the wills started on ll August 1899. after various delays,and continued till 25 September 1899. lt was conducted in the Sydney Supreme Court and in fact there were two cases brought by the challengers (plaintiffs). First, to appoint a guardian for Matthew Bernard’s daughter Vera Constance McMahon and the second and main case, the Equity Court case under the Honourable Archibald Simpson, the Chief Judge in Equity, which challenged the wills and the finances of all of the family. The results are now well known; all family members lost everything: and as 1 mentioned previously, the only winners were the legal fraternity. My father mentions in the notes he left me that the solicitor handling Francis Snr and Jnr’s affairs went to jail over the case and ultimately committed suicide. As the man concerned, H White, was a defendant in the case too, so also possibly lost a considerable amount, prestige as well as finances, 1 have not attempted to verify my father’s comment, as 1 cannot see any gain arising from such an enquiry.



I have attempted to locate where the family lived after moving out of “Glencairn”. l found an entry in Emma’s diary, that their first move was on the 24 April 1899, when Francis and Emma and the three surviving children moved into “Careel”, a house in Oxford Street Sydney, which they rented at 18s per week. Emma was expecting another baby at the time and gave birth to Vivienne Jean on l January 1900 and 1 have assumed that she was born at the Oxford Street address, as l don’t have a copy of her birth certificate. From this point, 1 decided to check whether the electoral rolls could identify their other places of residence and I found that the next move shown was in 1903, when they were listed as living at “Kokera” in Victoria Street, Randwick and identified on the rolls as Emma Lee, ‘domestic” and Francis John ‘independent means’. Cecilia was only in her 20th year so was not yet at Australia’s voting age of 2l for women and thus not listed on the rolls.



This agrees with my father’s note that he and his brother Edward, went to schools in Randwick, however, because record keeping was a bit haphazard then, they could have been at other addresses in Randwick that involved the boys changing schools without showing up on the rolls. In fact, none of the schools I contacted in Randwick or Manly, had records of pupils who attended in the early l900s and it appears that legislation requiring public schools to keep records of pupils attendance did not occur till the 1960s. It is possible that Francis and Edward went to the school at St Marys Cathedral, while they lived close by in Oxford Street, because of their grandparents’ previous association with that Church.



After the Randwick address, l could not find any other changes of address until the 1908 rolls, where the family were listed at a house called “Yarraman” in Addison Rd Manly, which was on the site of the current shops situated between Darley St and Osborne Rd. The last change before their move to James Street was to “Wyandra”, at 7 Fairy Bower Rd. At this address the house is listed in Emma’s name, which Manly Council historical records indicate that they were probably taking in boarders or renting out rooms and because Emma was the first female owner listed in Fairy Bower Rd, she may have been the first to run a boarding house or let rooms in the area. . It is possible that this may have been a way they assisted their finances over the period from 1900. It should be noted that, because the electoral rolls identified the various addresses on stated years, it did not necessarily mean that they had not been elsewhere or lived at that address before that date and it is possible that the family were living in Randwick in 1901 and in Manly as early as 1906. These possibilities were highlighted when I checked the Manly electoral rolls, which did not show the family as residents of James Street till much later than the date of the house purchase of 2 August 1912.



By the way, 7 Fairy Bower Rd is now one of a duplex property, of such construction and fit-out, that would suggest that the developer bought the block that was vacant next door to No7 when our family lived there and built the larger property shortly after. No 7 is currently owned by a Catherine Smith, whose grandfather also came from Ireland. The Irish can’t be forgotten in this story.



My father mentions that he and his brother Ted went to about 4 different schools, catholic and public, while moving around prior to 1903. My father passed the Junior public examination in 1902, at a Randwick public school and apparently was required to sit for it again after being enrolled as a 16 year old, as a boarder, at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill on 27th January 1903. He then sat for the Senior public exam in 1904. His results were classed as exceptional in both the junior and senior exams by Jim Gray, the current archivist of St Joseph’s, who had been a teacher at Joey’s for over 30 years. Jim could not understand why Francis did not go on to university as his passes could have warranted. I had to explain that the family were bankrupt and could not afford to enrol him; instead, his father organised for him to sit for the AMP Society’s entrance examination for him to get a relatively well-paid job. He passed the exam and went to work for that organisation for the rest of his working life. They even supported him throughout the time he was overseas at the War.



As mentioned above, Francis passed the Junior exam in 1903 achieving a pass that gave him marks that came close to topping the State in Geography and in 1904 again obtained a pass that put him near the top of the State’s results and 2nd  Dux of the Joey’s school. His brother Ted, who was 3 years younger, was enrolled as a dayboy at the newly opened Waverly College in Birrell St Waverly, on 9 February 1903. He was one of the first boys enrolled, for his first year at high school, at this new school. The Waverley College archivist Kim Eberherd could not give me much information about Ted’s time at the College as their records indicate that he only stayed a few months and left school on 31 April 1903 and the records show that he possibly took up a job at the State’s Taxation Office.



Thus it can be seen how the financial crisis of the family was affecting the children too. However, both boys were employed by stable organisations, bringing in an income and helping keep the family afloat. The first born, Cecilia,(Cis), was fortunate that she had been able complete her education before the crisis occurred. She was 20 years of age when the boys first went to high school and no doubt was involved in helping her mother run the house, look after her baby sister, and maybe helping Ted with the education he had to miss. No doubt Francis J and Emma were also continuing to sell assets and find whatever ways they could to extricate the family from their financial crisis.



However, the family did not expect that they would lose their mother, Emma, from a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 47 on 11″‘ February 1912; 4 years after they had moved to Fairy Bower Rd Manly in 1908. . 1 think that Emma was probably the mainstay of the family and I make this comment because my father’s notes seem to be critical of his father’s handling of their financial problems, even stating, “that he just gave up the ghost”. This could be true, because Emma was prominent in raising extra cash by taking in paying boarders, if Manly Counci1’s historical information is correct, and may have done that while living in other areas as well. As can be seen below, neither was she afraid of buying a bit of land if the money was available and the land was at the right price. I think we can be sure that Emma had been intent in making sure that her family would rise out of the mire of financial ruin. So it appeared that Cis was the one who had to take over.



There is no doubt Cis was helping her. lt was quite evident that, after Emma’s death, Cis took the financial challenge onto her shoulders and chased the trustees of Emma’s estate to have her share paid to them and obviously negotiated the purchase of the James Street property, which they bought for £1250. This amount also included the arrangement of a mortgage of £750 to enable the purchase to go ahead. Her father’s name does not appear on any of the documents, some of which are included with this account. There may also have been other financial events in which she was involved, because, for example, Emma had bought lot No 46 of the Yosemite Park Estate, Katoomba on 29th October 1909 for £5, and that probably was intended for sale when the value increased, so Cis would have had to negotiate the sale. Also, 1 remember, as a child being taken by my aunt Cis to a poultry farm out near Blacktown, which was still owned by the family during 1940s l think. There was also mention of that property in my father’s letters from England during the WW1 as well.



So August 1912 is when we now know the financial problems of the family of Francis John McMahon, my grandfather, is virtually over after about 11 or 12 years of struggle. They are not out of the woods yet, but Francis. my father at 25 and Edward, my uncle at 22, are both working and bringing money into the household, which was being run by my 29 year old aunt Cecilia. Vivienne, 12, was at school in Manly and it would appear that their lifestyle had settled down. Cis continued her correspondence with Emma Lee’s trustees, aiming to get Emma’s full share of Walter Ewin’s estate and continued the control of the family’s finances.



Photos taken in that era, tend to show the boys off doing their thing, playing sport, camping away from home etc., and their father, who by the way, became a Justice of the Peace in 1920, was looked after by the girls, including being taken for picnics in the bush. He was also still riding horses at the Sydney Shows, competing and judging, and was photographed riding at his last and 66th Sydney show at the age of 84 on 241 April 1935 not long before he died. Francis was playing cricket and rugby with the Manly teams, while Ted was playing rugby with Newtown in 1907 to 1913. In addition, he was ‘capped’ as recognition of his playing ability by his selection for the City and Suburban representative sides in 1911, 12 and 13.



However, their lifestyle was about to change with the start of World War 1 in 1914; the alleged ‘war to end all war’. Francis volunteered to join the A1F late 1914 or early in 1915, at the age of 27, but insisted that Edward should not join up, but to stay home and look after the family and to keep money coming in. This request was certainly the correct one for the family, but would have placed great stress on the 22year old Edward, because young men who didn’t join up were targeted with white feathers suggesting cowardice, and pressuring them to join up. This was done mainly by women whose husbands, boyfriends and sons, had  joined up and they believed others should go and help. There was also a very divisive debate being promulgated by the Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who was pushing for conscription to send more soldiers to the war to help “ the mother country”. Fortunately, the referendum was defeated; who knows how many more young men would have died if it hadn’t.



Francis William went overseas and was in the 1915 August attack on Gallipoli. He was injured on landing; the breast pocket camera he was carrying saving his life. On his rescue, he was first taken back to Egypt, then to the military hospital in Hampstead, England on 9mSeptember 1915. This was a big disappointment, because he thought he was going to be sent home. The fact that he had been promoted to a Quarter Master Sargent was probably the reason, because the army needed men who could read, write, keep ledgers etc, so he was needed. He spent the next 3 years recuperating and retraining in England before being sent in to France in 1918 till the end of the war, returning to Australia in 1919. He then returned to his job at The AMP. \ As 1 mentioned above, Ted was prominent in City and Suburban Rugby selections during the war period and I believe he was also being considered for selection for NSW later, but had been struck down by the ‘Spanish Influenza Pandemic’ that hit Australia in 1918, which lasted till January 1919. Nearly 12,000 people died in Australia out of a population of 4.9 million, 6000 in Sydney, which was the worst hit of all the capitals, while tens of thousands were hospitalised. Worldwide, 40 million died and many, many, more were made ill. It was the worst pandemic the world had ever seen, starting in Spain and was apparently spread by soldiers returning home after the end of the war. It killed more people than the WW1. Fortunately for the family, Ted survived, but he missed out on a possible rugby career.



Francis, my father, met and married my mother, Mignonette Audrey Hoffman, who was the eldest daughter of John and Minnie Hoffman of Adelaide, Sth Australia. Where, when, or how they met I have no knowledge, but the marriage took place on 26th April 1930 at the Mary Immaculate Church, Manly. It would appear that they then went to live in Albury, NSW, for about 3 years, where I was born on 7 April 1931. I believe my mother had been running a dressmaking business in Sydney when they met so how that was handled from Albury I do not know. As I mentioned in “Mackie’s Story”, the family came back to Sydney in 1936, my parents separating and then divorcing in August 1940. I had gone to live with my mother when the separation occurred, which meant me going to a number of schools before my mother enrolled me into Barker College in September 1939 just as the 2nd World War was starting.



My mother  died on 27 July 1987 at the age of 87_ To complete this little bit of history, my father died of an aortic aneurysm in Manly Hospital on 5 Ocober 1968 at the age of 81, Ted also of an aneurysm in 1962 at 72,Cis on 7 July 1966 at 83 and Viv on 26“ December 1981 at 81.

[NOTE: Final two paragraphs with current family details not included here.]