1919 influenza epidemic through my grandmother’s eyes

The COVID-19 outbreak of recent months has been more than adequately destructive and frightening, but the influenza epidemic that followed World War 1 was far worse. In South Australia its progress was recorded in an odd way by my grandmother Kathleen Cudmore (1908-2013), the daughter of an Adelaide doctor.

In 1919, just eleven years old, she composed a hand-written newsletter called ‘Stuffed Notes’ [sic. I think because her toys were stuffed animals], about an imaginary hospital which had many cases of Spanish flu. On 14 March 2018 I blogged a transcription of her newsletter. Oddly enough, or perhaps not, the ebb and flow of cases of influenza she recorded in her newsletter follow much the same pattern as South Australian cases as a whole.

Kathleen and Rosemary

Kathleen and her older sister Rosemary about 1919


Looking just at the mentions of Influenza (my transcription retains the original spelling and grammar)

February: There has been one case of influenza which was fatal. But we are glad to say no more cases have been proved influenza.

March: No more cases of Enfluenza have accured.

April: There has been one more case of Influenza. But he is recovering.

May: The are 8 cases of Influenza 2 deaths and 3 dangious cases all the rest are getting better.

June: Five cases of Influenza have accured 1 death and 2 dangirus the other two a getting better the outbreak of Influenza is very bad at present.

July: There are 10 cases of Influenza 3 deaths and 5 dangrous cases. Nurse Wagga is ill with Influenza so Nurse Sambo is taking her place. … Nurse Wagga is is not so very dangious but she is fairly bad.

August: Influenza
Cases = 12
Deaths = 4
Dangious = 3
Mild = 5

Nurse Wagga is quite well now and has gone away for a Holiday a Henly Beach.

We are not removing the Influenza cases to the Isolation Hospital at the Exhibition. As we heard the conditions are not very good.

September: There a five cases of Influenza but they are all recovering.

October: There were no deaths lately and most of the dangerous cases are getting better.

November: No more cases of Influenza have accrued.

Here is a graph of the number of influenza cases in Kathleen’s hospital:

Stuffed Notes Influenza graph

Here is a graph of South Australian influenza cases:

Influenza South Australian notifications 1919

Graph of South Australia influenza notifications, January–December 1919 from Kako, M., Steenkamp, M., Rokkas, P.J., Anikeeva, O. and Arbon, P.A. (2015). Spanish influenza of 1918-19: The extent and spread in South Australia. Australasian Epidemiologist, 22(1) pp. 48-54 Retrieved from the Flinders Academic Commons: http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/dspace/

I once thought that Kathleen’s “Stuffed Notes” had their origin in dinner-time conversation among the adults of her household, but recently I noticed that in early 1919 her father Dr Cudmore had not yet returned from the War, so the dinner conversation was not based on hospital information at the beginning of the year. Perhaps Kathleen followed Adelaide newspaper reports of the local outbreak.

Influenza South Australian newspaper articles 1919

1919 South Australian newspaper articles mentioning influenza by month (retrieved from Trove.nla.gov.au)

Deckchairs on the Mooltan

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a 1939 photograph of four men sitting in deck chairs on a ship bound for the Congo.

I have something similar.

Among my paternal grandmother’s photographs is a casual shot of her father, Arthur Murray Cudmore, her future father in law, CTC de Crespigny, and Bronte Smeaton, another Adelaide doctor, in deckchairs on RMS Mooltan sailing to Lemnos in the Aegean, near Gallipoli, in 1915. Both Drs de Crespigny and Cudmore held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel: de Crespigny was Registrar and Secretary and Cudmore a consultant surgeon of the 3rd Australian Hospital.


Arthur Murray Cudmore with Trent de Crespigny [centre] & Bronte Smeaton [left] in 1915 at sea. Picture from my grandmother Kathleen née Cudmore’s scrapbook. (Kathleen later married the son of Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny.)


18 May 1915 Crowds of well-wishers farewell Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) personnel who have just embarked on the transport HMT Mooltan at Port Melbourne railway pier. Australian War Memorial image id C01009 retrieved from http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C01009/

My great grandfathers served at Lemnos with the Third Australian General Hospital receiving sick and wounded soldiers from Gallipoli.

In January 1916 the hospital closed. De Crespigny was put in charge of the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis. The staff of the hospital sailed for Marseilles in 1916 from Alexandria.

On 24 March 1916 Alice Ross King received her orders to sail to France. She and her fellow nurses from No. 1 Australian General Hospital waited on the pier at Alexandria, weighed down with the booty from a final shopping spree. One nurse had a canary in a cage. A captain was told to make sure all the nurses were on board the hospital ship Braemar Castle.‘Not knowing the AANS he told us to form a double row to “number off”,’ Alice recounted.‘He wanted 120. Each time he got a different number. He was terribly worried. Finally our big [commanding officer] Col De Crespigny came down the gangway to see what was the matter. In his tired voice he called out, “Sisters! Form a fairly straight line. Left turn! Get on board.” “Oh! Sir,” said Matron, “they are not all here.” “Then they’ll be left behind,” said our CO. Our first hard lesson! We had always been fussed over [and] spoilt before,’ Alice wrote, with a shade of overstatement. (Rees, Peter. The Other Anzacs: Nurses at War 1914-1918. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2008. Retrieved from https://epdf.pub/other-anzacs-the-nurses-at-war-1914-1918.html)

I never knew my great grandfather Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny, and my impression of him is derived from what my father can remember and other people’s memoirs. But this story, of him of directing people to get on with it, sounds characteristic. It certainly brings him to life for me.

Another shipboard anecdote is set in the journey home. My great grandfather, supposedly averse to brisk exercise, did his rounds of the deck very very slowly. But he met a satirical suggestion about his speed with a rapid retort:

de Crespigny slow walk 1941

The TALK OF THE TOWN (1941, January 11). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55761367

Both my great grandfathers arrived back from the war on Tuesday 13 May 1919 on the HMAT Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce Castle Cudmore 1919

Dunluce Castle de Crespigny 1919

Personal Notes. (1919, May 17). Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164132088

Dunluce Castle AWM 1915

Soldiers line the deck of the hospital ship HMAT Dunluce Castle in the harbour in Malta about 1915. Image from the Australian War Memorial P05382.015

Related posts

Mary Cudmore née Nihill (1811 – 1893)

My third great grandmother Mary Cudmore née Nihill (1811 – 1893) was born near Adare, County Limerick, Ireland, to Daniel James Nihill (1761 – 1846) and Dymphna Nihill née Gardiner (1790 – 1866). Mary was the oldest of their eight children, seven of whom were girls.

Mary Cudmore nee Nihill

Mary Cudmore née Nihill probably photographed in the 1850s

For some period, Mary’s father Daniel James Nihill, was employed as a schoolmaster at Cahirclough (Caherclogh), Upper Connello, about ten miles south of Adare. Daniel’s father James owned a large stone farmhouse near Adare called ‘Rockville’. Daniel and his family lived with James Nihill and cared for him until his death in 1835. The house and its associated estate, Barnalicka, were then passed to the daughters of Daniel’s older brother Patrick Nihill (died 1822).

[Rockville House, now known as Barnalick House, operates as bed-and-breakfast tourist accommodation.]


On 15 January 1835 Mary married Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore who was from a village near Cahirclough, called Manister.

The Limerick Chronicle of 24 January 1835 reported the marriage:

At Drehedtarsna Church, in this County, by the Rev. S. Lennard, Daniel Cudmore, Esq. son of the late Patrick Cudmore, of Manister, Esq. to Mary, eldest daughter of Daniel Nihill, of Rockville, near Adare, Esq.

The Cudmores were poorer than the Nihills. Daniel’s parents had separated and his father had died in 1827 . About 1822 their mother, a Quaker, sent Daniel and his older brother Milo to be educated by fellow Quakers in Essex, England. In 1830, when Milo finished his apprenticeship to a baker and flour dealer, Daniel and Milo returned to Ireland.

Daniel seems not to have trained for a trade, but his mother found a position for him with John Abell, a family friend, who ran a hardware store in Rutland Street, Limerick. There he gained a working knowledge of the hardware business, which perhaps proved useful to him in his later career.

In January 1834 Daniel Cudmore sought permission to emigrate as an assisted immigrant to New South Wales, proposing that he would undertake to ‘explore the interior of New Holland’. His application was turned down. A newspaper notice in the Freemans’ Journal of 15 April 1834 made it clear that assisted emigration was available only to young and married agricultural labourers who intended to take their wives and families with them.

Daniel had known Mary Nihill for a some time. In 1833 he wrote a poem to her:

To Mis N—-l
Dear Mary, since thy beaming eye
First raised within my heart a sigh –
Since first thy tender accents clear,
More sweet than music, charm’d my ear,
My heart beat but for thee, love.

This heart which once so blythe and gay,
Ne’er owned before Love’s gentle sway,
Now bound by Cupid’s magic spell!
O! Words would fail were I to tell
The half I felt for thee, love.

Though far from Erin’s vales I stray’d,
I never met so fond a maid;
Though England’s fair ones vaunt their gold,
With all their wealth their hearts are cold –
I leave them all for thee, love.

And should Australia be my lot,
To dwell in some secluded spot,
Content and free from want and care,
Would’st then my humble fortune share? –
My hopes all rest on thee, love!

The handwritten original is in the possession of one of my cousins. It appears that ‘Australia’ in the last verse was added well after its composition. This suggests that Daniel had decided to emigrate but had not yet decided where.

In 1835, as Mary’s grandfather James Nihill approached the end of his life, Daniel Nihill, perhaps recognising that he could have no expectations, and with little to keep him in Ireland, decided to emigrate to Australia. By their marriage, Mary and Daniel Cudmore qualified for assistance. On 11 February 1835 they left on the “John Denniston” for Hobart Town. Mary’s mother and two of her sisters travelled with them.

Six months later, after the death of Daniel’s father James in July, Daniel Nihill and Mary’s other sisters followed.

On his arrival in Hobart Daniel Cudmore applied for a teaching position. However, a review of his application found that it was not written by himself. Mary had written the document on his behalf. Nevertheless, such was the shortage of trained people, Daniel was engaged as a teacher and clerk at Ross, in the Midlands, seventy miles north of Hobart.

On 22 July 1836 Mary gave birth to her first child, a daughter called Dymphna Maria, at George Town, where Mary’s parents were teachers. George Town was a small settlement on the Tamar River thirty miles north of Launceston.

By the end of 1836, however, Daniel had moved back to Hobart, where he found work at De Graves Brewery, later to be known as Cascade Brewery.

A year later Daniel and Mary decided to try their luck in Adelaide, which had been proclaimed a colony on 28 December 1836. Daniel arrived on 15 April 1837. Mary, leaving her 14 month old daughter in the care of her mother, travelled on the “Siren” from Launceston to Adelaide with her father and sister Rebekah. Mary was pregnant, and on 11 October 1837 gave birth prematurely to a son, James Francis, on the “Siren” off Kangaroo Island.

On 3 December 1837 visitors from England, who were friends of Daniel’s mother Jane, called on the Cudmores. They wrote:

… at a hut we saw an elderly man sitting at the door, reading, we found it was the dwelling of Daniel Cudmore, son of Jane Cudmore of Ireland…and the old man was his father-in-law. D. Cudmore has greatly improved his prospects temporally by removing from Tasmania, where he was an assistant in the undesirable business of a brewer; he is here occupied in erecting Terra Pisa buildings and both himself and his wife are much respected.

Cudmore Daniel and Mary

Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore and his wife Mary probably taken in the 1850s

Daniel acquired his first block of land in North Adelaide in December 1837. By 1838 he was a partner in a new brewing company. Daniel farmed at Modbury, ten miles north-east of the main Adelaide settlement. In 1847 he inherited property in Ireland. This he sold to take up a pastoral lease in South Australia. In the 1850s and 1860s he acquired more pastoral leases in Queensland and New South Wales. Mary Cudmore appears to have had an active involvement in the management of the Cudmore properties. In 1868, for example, it was she who gave the instructions for the sale of a farm called Yongalain 1868.

Beside the two children mentioned above Mary Cudmore had 7 more:

  • Mary Jane Cudmore 1839–1912
  • Margaret Alice Cudmore 1842–1871
  • Daniel Henry Cashel Cudmore 1844–1913
  • Sara Elizabeth (Rosy) Cudmore 1846–1930
  • Robert Cudmore 1848–1849
  • Milo Robert Cudmore 1852–1913
  • Arthur Frederick Cudmore 1854–1919
Mary Cudmore nee Nihill AGSA

Mary Cudmore née Nihill (1811-1893): portrait in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia donated by her grandson Collier Cudmore

In 1862 Daniel Cudmore bought and extended a villa in the Adelaide Hills
at Claremont, Glen Osmond, five miles south-east of the city. There he
retired with Mary. Daniel died in 1891, she in 1893. They were buried in
the Anglican cemetery at Mitcham. In his retirement he had published a
volume of poetry, including the poem he wrote to Mary in 1833.

Claremont, Glen Osmond

The theme of this week’s post is ‘prosperity’. It is pleasing to suppose that beside Daniel and Mary’s material success, they prospered as a couple, joined together, through richer and poorer, for fifty-six years.

Related posts


  • In the 1990s James Kenneth Cudmore (1926 – 2013), my second cousin once removed, of Quirindi New South Wales, commissioned Elsie Ritchie to write the Cudmore family history. The work built on the family history efforts of many family members. It was published in 2000. It is a very large and comprehensive work and includes many Cudmore family stories and transcripts of letters and documents. (Ritchie, Elsie B. (Elsie Barbara) For the love of the land: the history of the Cudmore family. E. Ritchie, [Ermington, N.S.W.], 2000.)
  • P. A. Howell, ‘Cudmore, Daniel Michael (1811–1891)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cudmore-daniel-michael-6335/text9913, published first in hardcopy 1981
  • Gunton, Eric Gracious homes of colonial Adelaide (1st ed). E. Gunton, [Adelaide], 1983.

Further reading

  • Cudmore, Daniel.  A few poetical scraps : from the portfolio of an Australian pioneer : who arrived at Adelaide in the year 1837  Printed by Walker, May &Co Melbourne 1882

Remembering my Grandfather’s Holden cars

From 1948, for more than six decades, one of Australia’s most popular cars was a locally designed and manufactured General Motors sedan called the Holden.

Those days are gone. Holdens ceased to be manufactured in Australia in 2017, and yesterday General Motors announced the ‘retirement of the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand’.

The first car of my maternal grandfather Hans Boltz (1910 -1992) was a Holden, which he bought in 1959. Hans owned only Holdens. In the 60s I remember he had a blue Holden. My parents had a similar green Holden. In the 1970s he had a metallic gold Holden with red cloth seats. Hans’s last car was a Holden Commodore, white with pale blue seats.

Ridley Street 1966 abt_0002

My grandfather, Hans Boltz, working on his lawn mower in front of the garage with a Holden parked inside. My brother is looking on. Photograph about 1966. Greg tells me this an EH.

1967 St Barbary land with Holden

My parents’ new block of land near Batemans Bay before the house was built. Their Holden car is in the middle. Photo about 1967.

deCrespigny 1968 StBarbary _0010

My parents’ Holden car in 1968 at Batemans Bay. Greg tells me this is an EJ.

A Colonial Dinner

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt photograph has men sitting at long tables for a formal dinner. This reminded me of a painting by my fourth great aunt, Martha Berkeley née Chauncy (1813 – 1899), sister of Philip Chauncy (1816 – 1880), my third great grandfather.

Martha arrived in Adelaide South Australia in February 1837 on the John Renwick with her husband and her unmarried sister Theresa (1807 – 1876). They landed just six weeks after the Proclamation of the Province on 28 December 1836 when, by Vice-regal proclamation, South Australia was established as a British province

Martha was an artist. Several of her works are held by the Art Gallery of South Australia. One of the more notable is a watercolour of The first dinner given to the Aborigines 1838.


Berkeley Martha, The first dinner given to the Aborigines 1838, Art Gallery of South Australia

A notice appeared in the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register on October 27 announcing a conference with the Aborigines of the Province with a dinner to be given to them.


Advertising. (1838, October 27). South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register (Adelaide, SA : 1836 – 1839), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31750198

Martha’s watercolour was:

Her major work … a large watercolour, The First Dinner Given to the Aborigines (AGSA), depicting the three Adelaide tribes being entertained by Governor Gawler on 1 November 1838. The Aborigines sit awaiting the distribution of biscuits, meat, tea and blankets, while their three chiefs, dressed in new jackets provided by the settlers, stand together at the inner edge of the circle surrounding the Governor, the Protector of Aborigines and their wives. Behind the Aborigines is a standing ring of settlers, which includes obvious portraits. Berkeley added a pencil description of the event on the back of the painting in 1847, which confirms her aim of recording an important historical event for posterity. (Kerr, Joan. “Martha Maria Snell Berkeley.” Design & Art Australia Online. Design & Art Australia Online retrieved from http://www.daao.org.au/bio/martha-maria-snell-berkeley/biography/ )

This description aligns with a newspaper account of the event in the Southern Australian of 3 November 1838.

THE ABORIGINES.—On Thursday last, in pursuance of an advertisement issued by the Governor, a dinner was given to the natives, and the occasion excited much interest in the town. Soon after the hour appointed for the assembling, a vast concourse of the inhabitants had collected on the ground, and were enjoying the fineness of the weather in promenading for upwards of two hours before the ceremonies commenced.

About two o’clock a band of about 160 natives were assembled, and their appearance was certainly highly pleasing and orderly ; their huzzas would have done great credit to the lungs and voices of English-men, and their general, demeanour upon the occasion was very orderly. The native men were dressed in gaudy coloured cottons and the women had new blankets and rugs; and the tout ensemble of the group had a very striking effect.

Soon after they arrived, His Excellency said a few words, which were translated by Mr. WYATT, expressive of his desire that they should imitate the good qualities of the whites, learn to fear and love God, learn English, cease from quarrels with each other, and pay respect to the property of the whites.— Whether they understood what was said, we know not, but the vacant stare and senseless faces of many evidently bespoke utter ignorance of the meaning of His Excellency.

Immediately after, they squatted on the ground in a series of groups, and were regaled with roast beef, biscuit, rice, and sugar water, and if we may judge of their enjoyment of their repast by the quantity consumed, we should say they certainly did enjoy it. Trials of throwing the spear followed, and at a late hour in the afternoon the company dispersed. The Governor had very politely provided a luncheon on the ground, for the ladies and gentlemen visitors, which was also rather numerously attended, but whether with the same effect we have not the means of ascertaining ; however, every one appeared highly to enjoy the holiday.

Of the usefulness of this ceremony we have some doubts, but we trust it may be productive of good. To some part of it we most decidedly object—that was, rewarding and cheering those who could throw the spear with the greatest accuracy. An hour before, the Governor had told them to respect the white man’s property, and not to spear his sheep and his cattle, and immediately afterwards they were regaled with fine fresh beef, and exercised in the art of throwing the spear! Surely we should induce them to abandon a practice so dangerous to the peace of the colony, and the very source of all broils, and not encourage them in perpetuating their knowledge of such an art.

In May 1838 there had been another dinner of about 200 ladies and gentlemen assembled to farewell Governor George Gawler who was leaving London for South Australia. In Gawler’s speech he spoke of the Aborigines:

There is one interesting circumstance connected with the colony on which I can –
not help remarking; it is with regard to the aborigines. A great many here perhaps are acquainted with a report of parliament on the subject of the aborigines, in which it appears that colonization has been almost every where (I believe there is not an exception save South Australia) either the cause of the destruction or demoralization of the aborigines. I hope South Australia will continue to be an exception to that rule, and I hope I shall never forget towards the aborigines of South Australia, what I never forget to any other men, that as children of one common parent, they are “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” I never yet heard of a man so wild that judicious Kindness did not in some degree succeed in taming, and I hope that this particular case will not prove an exception. (DINNER TO GOVERNOR GAWLER AND THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN COLONIZATION COMMISSIONERS. (1838, May 9). South Australian Record (SA : 1837 – 1840), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245932046 )

Gawler arrived in South Australia on 12 October 1838 after a four month journey. One of his early gestures as a Governor was the Dinner for the Aborigines. It is a great pity that colonisation in South Australia did not become the exception but also led to the destruction and demoralisation of the South Australian Aboriginal people.

Adding colour to black and white photos with new MyHeritage in Color tool

Did you know that black-and-white photographs can be colourised?

A new tool to do this, easy to use and free to MyHeritage subscribers, is now available at:


Not everyone would agree that artificially colourised photographs are better than black-and-white photographs. Perhaps it depends on the photo.

What do you think?

Here are some of the photos in my collection that have been colourised with the new tool.

My great grandmother, Kathleen Mary Cudmore formerly Cavenagh-Mainwaring née Cavenagh, and her sisters in about 1908. I wrote about them at N is for Naval husbands.

The school in about 1919 of my grandfather, Hans Boltz (1910 – 1992)

And a picture of my grandfather as a young boy. I wrote about him at Hans Boltz’s school photograph


A photograph taken about 1899 of Greg’s great grandfather John Young (1856 – 1928) with Greg’s grandfather Cecil (1898 – 1975), Jack Young (1896 – 1918), and John’s two step-children Bob (1883 – 1957) and Mary Whiteman (1884 – 1945). I wrote about this photo at Y is for Young family photographs.

Through her eyes: votes for women 1903

My third great grandmother Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana, lived from 1820 to 1904, a period of great change in the political status of women.

Charlotte Frances Dana

Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana (1820 – 1904) photograph probably taken in the late 1850s

In 1902, when she was 82 years old, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 granted Australian women the right to vote and the right to stand for election to the Commonwealth Parliament.

When the list of voters was compiled, Charlotte was recorded on the Electoral Roll for the polling place of Beaufort, Division of Grampians, State of Victoria, as Charlotte Champion, living at Eurambeen, occupation home duties. (Eurambeen was about 11 kilometers west of Beaufort.) Also on the Roll were her daughters Viola Julia Champion and Helen Rosalie Beggs née Champion Crespigny, both also living at Eurambeen with the occupation of home duties.


The Commonwealth of Australia 1903 Electoral Roll for the polling place of Beaufort, Division of Grampians, State of Victoria, pages 2 and 3 showing the surnames of Beggs and Champion. Image retrieved from ancestry.com


Oddly, it appears that Charlotte and Viola were recorded twice. There are entries  on page 4 of the roll for Crespigny Frances and Crespigny Constantia, also both of Eurambeen; Frances was Charlotte’s middle name and Constantia was Viola’s third given name. When names were collected for the roll the surname Champion Crespigny went over two lines and so did their given names. There was not enough space on the form: the result was two Roll entries each.


The Commonwealth of Australia 1903 Electoral Roll for the polling place of Beaufort, Division of Grampians, State of Victoria, pages 4 and 5 showing the surname Crespigny. Image retrieved from ancestry.com

On the 1909 roll Viola’s surname was changed to Crespigny, with her full name recorded as Crespigny, Viola Julia Con. C. At that time she living at St Marnocks with her sister and brother-in-law.

A Victorian state election was held in October 1902 but for this women were as yet not enfranchised. The next year, however, there was a Federal election on 16 December and Charlotte and her daughters were eligible to vote.

The Federal Division of Grampians was retained by the sitting member Thomas Skene (1845 – 1910) of the Free Trade Party, an anti-socialist party which advocated the abolition of tariffs and other restrictions on international trade.

Charlotte and her daughters, from a prosperous family of graziers, probably supported Skene, a pastoralist. Voting was not compulsory, however, and though she was entitled to vote, Charlotte was unwell and probably unable to travel to the polling station at Beaufort to cast her vote.

There was provision for postal voting but it was very complicated, with specific witnesses required.

All in all, the story of my great grandmother’s enfranchisement is not especially remarkable. She was not a fire-breathing suffragist, but an ordinary person who, late in life, accepted a new political privilege with no great fuss.


A portrait of Betsy or of Anne?

In 1912 pastel portraits of four members of the Champion de Crespigny family were sold by the art-auction firm Christie’s. The unnamed artist was listed as ‘British school’.

Without offering any authority for its identifications, Christie’s sale catalogue names the sitters as:

  • Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, Bart., in grey coat and plum coloured vest
  • Susanna, sister of the above, and wife of Sir Richard Sutton, Bart,. in white flowered cloak and straw hat
  • Sarah, wife of Sir William Champion de Crespigny, Bart., in yellow dress with blue scarf
  • Anne, wife of Philip de Crespigny, Esq., in white flowered dress, oval

The portrait of Anne is now considered to have been the work of an eighteenth-century Scottish portrait-painter, Katherine Read (1723 – 1778). It was sold most recently by Sotheby’s auction house in 2018. The other three portraits are probably by the same artist.

CdeC Anne de Crespigny pastel sold by Sothebys in 2018

Katherine Read PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN, PROBABLY ANNE CHAMPION DE CRESPIGNY (1739-1797), BUST LENGTH, WITHIN A DRAWN OVAL sold by Sotheby’s lot 54 29 October 2018

Last year on a visit to Kelmarsh Hall, the Northamptonshire country residence of the Lancaster family who were cousins of the Champion de Crespigny family, I took the opportunity to view the various de Crespigny and other family portraits on display.

The Kelmarsh collection includes oil-on-canvas copies of all four of the portraits sold in 1912. However, there are discrepancies between the names attributed to the sitters of the pastel portraits and those of the oil copies.

Kelmarsh Hall oil on canvas portraits of Claude, Susan, Mary, and Betsy de Crespigny

The first two portraits, Claude (1734 – 1818), the first baronet, in a plum-coloured waistcoat and Susan wearing a straw hat, are clearly copies of the pastels and there is no discrepancy as to who the sitters were.

Susan, Claude’s sister, was born 1735 and died in 1766, which means that her portrait was probably drawn before 1766. In 1765 Susan married Richard Sutton. It seems reasonable to suppose that this portrait was done about the time of her wedding.

The sitter of the third pastel portrait was identified in the 1912 Christie’s catalogue as Sarah (1763 – 1825), wife of Sir William Champion de Crespigny (1765 – 1829).

Kelmarsh Hall has a oil portrait said to be of Sarah, and in this she is wearing a blue dress with a yellow shawl not, as in the pastel, a yellow dress with blue scarf. She is very much younger than the other sitters.

Kelmarsh Hall also has a portrait of Mary (1747 – 1812), wife of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the first baronet. She is wearing a yellow dress with a blue shawl, as described in the 1912 catalogue. I think it more likely based on the description that the third pastel portrait in the 1912 catalogue is the portrait hanging at Kelmarsh and now said to be of Mary de Crespigny née  Clarke.

Kelmarsh Hall: Lady Sarah Windsor (1763–1825) and Mary Clarke (1749–1812), Wife of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, 1st Bt

Claude and Mary married in 1764. I think perhaps the first and third portraits were done not long after their wedding, maybe about 1765, at the time when Susan’s portrait was done. It seems likely that the 1912 catalogue misidentified the sitter as the wife of the second baronet. She was in fact Mary, wife of the first baronet. The Kelmarsh Hall portrait of Mary seems to be a better match to the other three portraits and thus likely to be a copy of the third pastel sold in 1912.

There is another possibility: the third portrait is of Sarah Champion de Crespigny née Cocksedge, the first wife of Philip Champion de Crespigny who was the brother of Claude and Susan. Sarah de Crespigny died in 1768. It may be that the 1912 catalogue description correctly identified the sitter as Sarah de Crespigny but misattributed the husband as William de Crespigny (1765 – 1829) instead of his uncle Philip de Crespigny (1738 – 1803). I know of no other portrait of this Sarah de Crespigny.

The fourth portrait, of Anne, has been offered for sale several times since 1912, most recently in 2018. This portrait was probably of Anne Champion de Crespigny, the sister of Philip and Claude, not of her mother, Anne Champion Crespigny née Fonnereau (1704 – 1782), wife of Philip (1704 – 1765). The woman in the portrait, probably drawn in the 1760s, is too young to be the senior Anne de Crespigny.

The pastel portrait sold most recently by Sotheby’s in 2018 and thought to be of Anne de Crespigny, and the Kelmarsh oil on canvas portrait said to be of Betsy de Crespigny née Handly. I am reasonably certain the painting at Kelmarsh Hall is a copy of the pastel portrait and is thus of the same woman – so is the portrait of Anne or of Betsy?

However, the copy of the portrait identified in 1912 and 2018 as Anne de Crespigny is identified at Kelmarsh as being of Betsy Hodges née Handly formerly Borradale, second wife of Philip Champion de Crespigny brother of Claude and Susan and Anne.

Betsy was born in 1743. In 1765 she married George Borradale, a clergyman. They were divorced in 1769 and Borradale died shortly afterwards. In 1770 or 1771 Betsy married again, to Philip Champion de Crespigny, who had been widowed in 1768. Betsy died in May 1772, not long after the birth of her son Charles Champion de Crespigny (1772 – 1774).

It is hard to know if the pastel portrait with a copy at Kelmarsh Hall is of Anne or her sister-in-law Betsy.

At the time of the 2018 sale of the pastel through Sotheby’s, the description of the work stated that there was an indistinct inscription on the reverse. The lot includes a photo of the reverse but I am unable to make out any inscription. Perhaps in the early 20th century the inscription was clearer and thus the attribution of the sitter as Anne de Crespigny was based on that inscription.

Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803) had four wives: Sarah died 1768, Betsy died 1772, Clarissa died 1782 and Dorothy died 1837. Clarissa and Dorothy had their portraits painted by the fashionable artist George Romney. Philip was interested in portrait painting and it seems plausible that his first wife would have had her portrait done.

If the inscription on the reverse of the fourth portrait could be deciphered it might give more certainty as to who the sitter was. Similarly if the third portrait re-appears, an inscription would also give some certainty as to who the sitter might be.

I suspect that the 1912 catalogue was correct in the names of the sitters, that is the four portraits were of Claude, Susan, Sarah and Anne de Crespigny. Confusion may have arisen because the 1912 catalogue was incorrect as to who were the husbands of Sarah and Anne de Crespigny. It also may be that Kelmarsh Hall has misattributed the sitters of the portraits of Mary de Crespigny née  Clarke and Betsy de Crespigny née  Handley. Without further documentation I don’t think it is possible to be certain.

Anne Champion de Crespigny (1739 – 1797)

My sixth great aunt Anne Champion de Crespigny (1739 – 1797) was the sixth of seven children of Philip Champion de Crespigny (1704-1765) and his wife Anne née Fonnereau (1704-1782). She was born on 10 October 1739 and was baptised on 30 October 1739 at the Church of St Benet Paul’s Wharf, London.

Anne’s father Philip had a successful career as a lawyer. At one point he held the position of Marshal of the Court of Admiralty, its senior sheriff. Philip’s father Thomas Champion Crespigny (1666 – 1712), a Huguenot refugee, served in the English army. He died at the age of forty-eight, when Philip was only seven years old. Philip was indentured at the age of fourteen to Charles Garrett, procurator of the ecclesiastical Arches Court of Canterbury. In 1731 Philip married Anne Fonnereau, the daughter of a wealthy Huguenot merchant.

  • Philip and Anne had seven children, two of whom died young:
  • Jane Champion Crespigny 1733–died young
  • Claude Champion de Crespigny 1734–1818 the 1st baronet Champion de Crespigny
  • Susan Champion Crespigny 1735–1766
  • Anne Champion Crespigny 1736–1738
  • Philip Champion Crespigny 1738–1803 my 5th great grandfather
  • Anne Champion Crespigny 1739–1797
  • Jane Champion Crespigny 1742–1829

About 1765, Anne de Crespigny’s portrait was drawn in pastel by Catherine Read (1723 – 1778).

CdeC Anne H0046-L155543688

Anne de Crespigny married twice. Her first marriage, in April 1765, only two months after her father’s death, was to Bonouvrier Glover (1739 – 1780). Her second marriage, in 1783, was to James Gladell, later James Gladell Vernon (1746 – 1819). Anne had no children by either marriage..

Anne left a will dated 7 January 1797 probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 5 July 1797. At the time this was drawn up her
residence was Hereford Street in the Parish of Saint George Hanover
Square in the Liberty of Westminster and County of Middlesex. Her will
refers to her marriage settlement, her husband James Gladell, her
brother-in-law, the husband of Susan, Sir Richard Sutton, and to George
Stainforth. I am not sure how George Stainforth is related or connected. She also mentioned and left money to:

  • her nephews Thomas Champion Crespigny (1763 – 1799) and Philip Champion Crespigny (1765 – 1851), sons of her brother Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803) and his first wife Sarah
  • Her brother Claude Champion Crespigny, her sister in law Mary and her nephew William (1765 – 1829)
  • Her godson William Other Champion Crespigny, this would have been the son of William, grandson of Claude, born 1789 and died 1816
  • Her sister Jane Reveley, her brother in law Henry Reveley (1737 – 1798), her niece Henrietta Reveley (1777 – 1862), her nephews Hugh Reveley (1772 – 1851) and Algernon Reveley (1786 – 1870), and her niece Elizabeth Anne Roper (1773 – 1816)
  • Her niece Anne (1768 – 1844) the wife of Hugh Barlow and daughter of Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803) and his first wife Sarah
  • Her four nieces Clara (Clarissa 1776 – 1836), Maria (1776 – 1858), Fanny (1779 – 1865) and Elizabeth Champion Crespigny (Eliza 1784 – 1831); daughters of Philip and his 3rd and 4th wives Clarissa and Dorothy
  • Right Honourable Alice Countess of Shipbrook, the widow of her husband’s uncle Francis Vernon (1716 – 1783)
  • Richard Glover (1750 – 1822), her brother-in-law from her first marriage

Following the probate records include a letter from Anne to her niece Henrietta, presumably kept because it describes how she wished to have some of her belongings dispersed. I have transcribed this below, keeping the original spelling.

March the 20th

My Dear Henrietta

As I am going to have an opporation performed that renders my recovery doubtful I write you these lines to say that my wardrobe and all that is in my drawers independant of my Trinket Box (which Mr Vernon is intitled to by right. As well as by my desire I leave to you conditionally that you will resave for your own use and benefit all that – is worth your acceptanttance desiring you will give everything else to my maid Mitrell (?) Who having lived but a few months with me is not intitled to great perquisites at the same time would give her what ever is not worth your acceptance an Ivory ffan which John Shore brought me from India & desire may be sent to my ffriend Lady Shelley as a small token of my Remembrance

Most affectionately A. G. Vernon

She died on 2 June 1797. This was recorded by The European Magazine, and
the London Review.

A scarf for General Birdwood

Everyone knows about WWI comfort funds and the socks that were knitted for the Diggers in the trenches.

But have you heard about the scarf that was knitted for their commanding General?

Birdwood Gallipoli 1915 awm 6184034

Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. 1915. General William Riddell Birdwood (outside his dugout at Anzac. Photograph by Ernest Brooks and retrieved from the Australian War Memorial G00761

In 1916, Sophia, Mrs Philip Champion de Crespigny, (1870 – 1936), second wife of my great great grandfather, started a campaign to knit a scarf for General Birdwood, the popular commander-in-chief of Australian divisions on the front.

The first anniversary of the landing at ANZAC was observed on Tuesday 25 April 1916, with prayers and mourning for the dead.

Three days later ‘ANZAC Button Day’, with parades and many stalls and kiosks, was held in Melbourne to raise money for the troops. One of the attractions was a kiosk, ‘erected by the St. George Society’, an English patriotic society, where for sixpence patriotic knitters could add a row to scarf for General Birdwood.

Mrs Philip Champion de Crespigny was responsible for this money-raising idea.

Sophia Cde C nee Beggs 1894

Sophia Champion de Crespigny about 1894

Two of her sons and two step-sons enlisted during World War 1:

Within a week, a quarter of a yard had been added to Mrs de Crespigny’s scarf, with many sixpences added to the funds. She was aiming for 1½ yards.

Adelaide commentators seem to have been a bit over-critical. The edge of the scarf was wobbly, ‘goffered’ it was said, which means fluted or serrated. Knitters ply their needles differently, of course, at different tensions, so the collaborative scarf could not be expected to be perfectly uniform.

By mid-May Sophia de Crespigny had received so many applications for row-knitting that she hired a room at 349 Collins Street, not far from her husband’s office at 257 Collins Street [he was the general manager at a bank there], where she met prospective knitters between 10 o’clock and half past four on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

In June Sophia de Crespigny travelled to Geelong, where would-be scarf-knitters would find her at the Bank of Victoria in Malop Street.

The Geelong Advertiser reported that the scarf was khaki with a border of General Birdwood’s colours: red, purple, and black, and a touch of yellow. The scarf was now 2½ yards long.

By mid-August Birdwood’s scarf, completed, and yard longer than planned, was put on display in the window of Messrs Singer and Co. in the Block Arcade on Collins Street. There was also a book with the names of over 300 of its volunteer knitters. Sophia’s scarf campaign had raised £13. The Melbourne Lady Mayoress’ fund for Red Cross got £2 18/-, and £10 2/- was presented to the Y.M.C.A. for the benefit of the Australian soldiers at the Front (a national appeal).

Melbourne Punch 24 August 1916 page 32

Melbourne Punch 24 August 1916 page 32

Among letters received by General Birdwood, now digitised by the Australian War Memorial, is one from Sophia, Mrs Philip Champion de Crespigny, forwarding the scarf and the book of names of the ladies who worked on it.

Birdwood letter 3 6098253

Letter from Sophia Champion de Crespigny to General Birdwood enclosing a scarf and a book with the names of the knitters. Retrieved from the Australian War Memorial Letters received by Field Marshal Lord William Birdwood, 1 June 1916 – 25 December 1916 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2084586?image=107

scarf AWM 4230193

I have not found a picture of General Birdwood in a scarf. This picture from the Australian War Memorial is from about 1915: The officer in the foreground, rugged up in a greatcoat and scarf, is possibly Major Harold A Powell of the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC). The tents in the middle distance on the left are probably those of a field hospital; the location appears to be the Gallipoli Peninsula.


General Birdwood’s reply to Sophia de Crespigny was published in the Geelong Advertiser.

Birdwood letter Geelong Advertiser 1916 12 05 a

Birdwood letter Geelong Advertiser 1916 12 05 b

Birdwood mentions that his aide-de-camp Henry de Crespigny (1882 – 1946) was a cousin of Sophia’s husband [Henry was Philip de Crespigny’s 3rd cousin once removed]. Birdwood also mentions Dr de Crespigny and ‘his hospital’. This was the 1st Australian General Hospital in Rouen, commanded by Philip’s son – Sophia’s step-son – Constantine Trent de Crespigny.

Birdwood 1918 trench awm 4096023

General Sir William Riddell Birdwood visiting a Battalion Headquarters in the support line trenches in Ungodly Avenue in the Messines Sector, in Belgium, on 25 January 1918. General Birdwood is second from the left. Australian War Memorial image E01495

Across Australia many other scarves were knitted by ladies who gave their sixpences and shillings to raise money for the soldiers, and it seems more than likely that Sophia’s was not the first. I’m not a great knitter myself – I started a scarf in the 1980s, which forty years later is still less than a foot long – but I’m delighted to have a family connection with Sophia’s.



Other scarves were also knitted for General Birdwood during 1916