Powell Family Reunion

 Powell Descendants Meet at Toowoomba, Qld.

About sixty Descendants of John Powell (1783 – 1837) and his wife Elizabeth, formerly Beauchamp, attended the family reunion at the home of Bernie and Dawn Franzmann at Highfields, Toowoomba, Queensland, on Sunday 30th September 2007,  to meet and greet and share information with family members who came from as far away as Melbourne and Wagga Wagga to be there.

The day was fine, clear and warm, and the setting on the Franzmann property, which is on the eastern side of the New England Highway, that stretches from New South Wales into Queensland, was ideal for such a gathering.  The shady trees and wide, grassy areas provided comfortable camping places for several of the family groups who arrived on Saturday, while other early attendees, including Jane and I and Jane’s brother, Peter Francis, stayed near-by at the new Motel.  On Saturday night we all went to the restaurant at Highfields, and judging from the laughter and handshaking everyone was having a great time meeting and catching up with other family members.

On Sunday we all gathered at Bernie and Dawn’s place about 10 a.m. and set up displays of photographs and memorabilia on tables in the shed beside the house, and Jane got busy with her laptop, recording details of relatives who were previously unknown to us. Most were descendants of John Powell’s grandson, Charles Robert Powell, one time Mayor of Maryborough, Queensland, whose business fortunes and misfortunes are faithfully recorded in Alan and Margaret Nichol’s recently published book, “Merchants of Mixed Fortune”, a history of the Powell and Beauchamp families, from London to Longford, Melbourne to Maryborough.

To my mind, the most unforgettable feature of the Powell Reunion was the amazing displays of old photographs, most of which were taken by Charles Robert and Fanny Powell’s sons, particularly Charles Henry Powell (1870 – 1954).  Charles was a mine manager; whose work took him to various isolated mine sites, towns and cities from Queensland to North Western Australia.  He was a gifted amateur photographer, and his photographs capture, with amazing composition and clarity, people, places and events that took place at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

After a most enjoyable barbeque lunch, Dawn gave a speech of welcome to everyone, and said that the reunion was in honour of her father, Ken Powell (1906 – 1973), who took pride in the Powell family and the bond that still exists between branches of the family.  Ken was a P.O.W. and survivor of the infamous Burma Railway.  Dawn’s Mother, Jacqueline, was at the reunion and enjoyed meeting and sharing information with other family members.  Dawn then introduced Margaret Nichol, co-author with her husband Alan, of “Merchants of Mixed Fortune”.  Margaret said how disappointed Alan was that he could not attend the reunion, and extended his apologies.  She told of their long and detailed research into the Powell family and surprising details they uncovered about the Powell and connected families.  She made particular mention of a family connection with the Scottish Clan Cameron through Catherine Stirling Cameron, who married Charles Ross Nairne.  Their daughter, Catherine Fortescue Nairne, married Charles Powell, a son of John Powell and father of Charles Robert.

While all this was going on, Dawn and Bernie’s daughter, Lenora O’Connor, had to dash off to a concert performed by local primary school children, that she had organised to raise funds for charities involved in drought relief, and which was attended by Ian McNamara (Macca) of the A.B.C.’s programme, ‘Australia All Over’.  The Toowoomba school children are producing a Christmas CD for sale in support of the drought relief charities.

For those who don’t know it, Toowoomba is a beautiful city on top of the range of mountains west of Brisbane, and gateway to Queensland’s premier farming district, the Darling Downs.  Each year the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is held in spring, and in spite of the drought, this year’s Carnival was a triumph for all those involved.  Jane, Peter and I were fortunate to be able to visit some of the beautiful gardens and floral displays, and also took time to visit the Cobb & Co Museum, which features old coaches and buggies among a variety of horse drawn vehicles from the farms, towns and goldfields of early Australia.

For all those who attended, the Powell Reunion was a most pleasant and memorable event.  Our thanks to Dawn and Bernie for making it possible.