On Christmas Day, 1888, thirty-four year old James Thomas Fulcher disembarked at Townsville, North Queensland, with his young wife, Margaret, and daughters Molly and Bess. The Fulcher family had come from Shropshire, England, and James Fulcher had been appointed to take the position of Headmaster of the State School at German Gardens, Townsville, at the start of the 1889 school year.
James was the son of George Fulcher, and Charlotte Pugh, who were married on 10th October 1850 at Molebrace, Shropshire. They were both schoolteachers and their Marriage Certificate shows that his father was James Fulcher, farmer, and she was the daughter of Thomas Pugh, innkeeper. George was born at Thetford, Norfolk on 18th August 1828. At the time of their marriage they both lived at Kingsland, Shropshire.
George and Charlotte's first child, a daughter, Sarah Charlotte Fulcher was born 15th September 1852 at Castle Gate, Shrewsbury, and their son, James Thomas Fulcher was born at Bishops Castle, Shropshire, on 5th November 1854. Sadly, Charlotte Fulcher died shortly after the birth of her son and she was buried on 4th December 1854. At the time of his wife's death, George Fulcher was the Principal of the National School at Bishops Castle, Shropshire.
George Fulcher married again in 1856 at Eton, Buckinghamshire. His second wife was Mary Brent, also a schoolteacher at Bishops Castle. She and George had five children, Amy Mary, William George, Frederick, Nell and George.
In August 2008, Jane and I, that is Jane and Geoff Aslett, obtained Readers Tickets for the Archives at Shrewsbury to see if we could find any records of the Fulcher family in Shropshire. James Thomas Fulcher is Jane's Great Grandfather, so, of course, George was her Great Great Grandfather. We knew that George Fulcher had become the Master of the Workhouse at Oswestry, Shropshire, so we decided to start with the records of the Workhouse. At the Archives we were given a large, heavy, leather bound volume which contained the minutes of the Board of the Oswestry Incorporation in the 1850's, all hand written in very neat and precise style.
We read that, following a Special Meeting of the Board of The Oswestry Incorporation held on 20th September 1858 to hear charges of misconduct against the Master and Schoolmistress of the Workhouse, the Board dismissed the offending parties and advertised for a replacement Master of the Workhouse at a salary of 60 Pounds per annum, with board and lodging, furnished apartment and washing, and for a schoolmistress at 30 Pounds per annum, married couple preferred. There were 12 applicants for the positions, including George Fulcher and his wife Mary, Schoolmaster and Mistress of the National School, Bishops Castle. George and Mrs. Fulcher were appointed to fill the positions of the Workhouse Master and School Mistress on 11th October 1858. George continued as Master for 39 years.
At the meeting held on 24th January 1898, the Chairman refers to " the loss the incorporation has sustained by the death on last Saturday of Mr. George Fulcher, Master of this Workhouse, an appointment he has held for upwards of 39 years, during the whole of which long service he had faithfully and conscientiously discharged the duties to the entire satisfaction of the various Boards of Directors, who had met there from time to time." The Board unanimously passed a motion of regret and sympathy with Mrs. Fulcher and her family.
Following George's death, Mary Fulcher, the Matron of the Workhouse, was asked to perform the duties of the Master until a replacement was appointed. The situation was resolved with the appointment of George and Mary's youngest son, George, as Master, with his Mother as Matron and his wife, Elizabeth as Laundress.
We learnt, from some very helpful ladies at the Oswestry Information Centre, that the old Workhouse at Morda, Oswestry, which was subsequently used as a Hospital, caught fire in the 1980's and was destroyed except for a separate building that might have been the managers residence.
Sarah Charlotte Fulcher, daughter of George and Charlotte was born at Castle Gate, Shrewsbury on 15th September 1852. She married John Shaw on 30th November 1870 at Aston, Warwickshire. John was the sixth child of a family of eight. He was apprenticed to the leather trade in Nottingham, and about 1865 was employed by his cousin, John Turney, who was in business as a Glue and Leather Manufacturer at Stourbridge.
Leaving Sarah and two sons to follow later, John came to Australia in 1874 and established business as a Fellmonger at Hindmarsh in South Australia. Sarah and their two sons, Francis Michael and Ernest Herbert (Frank & Ernest) joined him in 1882. They lived at "Macider", Chapman St and "Morda" 43 Chapman St, Hindmarsh. The business directories for 1888 had the business listed as Wool Scourers, Basil Tanners, Glue and Neetsfoot Oil Manufacturers. Five more children were born to John and Sarah Shaw at Hindmarsh in South Australia, George Dorricutt, Evelyn Charlotte, John Frederick James, Harold Bayley and Gladys Mary Fulcher. Mary Shaw, said that Sarah's brother Fred Fulcher also immigrated to South Australia. (information from Alan Gray.)
James Thomas Fulcher son of George and Charlotte, was born at Bishops Castle, Shropshire, on 5th November 1854. Affectionately called Jimmy by his family, he trained as a Pupil Teacher for three years at Oswestry National School and was at Chester Training College in 1875-76. He was employed at various schools in England from 1876 to 1888.
On 14th May 1878, he married Margaret Fawcett, daughter of James Fawcett, butcher, at Preston, Lancashire. Margaret was a pupil teacher with two years training at Warrington College, 1874- 75. She was born in the same year as James, 1854, on 7th July. Their first two children were born in England. Edith Mary, called Molly, on 26th July 1879 and Elizabeth, called Bess, on 24th July 1883.
Jimmy was recruited by the Agent General to teach in the Colony of Queensland. The Fulchers' decision to come to Australia was probably influenced by the experiences of Jimmy's sister, Sarah and her husband, John Shaw in South Australia. Jimmy, Margaret, Molly and Bess, sailed from London on the "Lindula" on 29th September 1888. They arrived in Brisbane on 30th November, and after discussions with his new employers, James Fulcher was appointed Headteacher at the Townsville North Public School at German Gardens.
The family proceeded to Townsville on the coastal steamer, "Warrego", arriving on Christmas Day 1888.
The name of the suburb, German Gardens was changed to Belgian Gardens during the First World War, when Germany was the enemy and German names were changed. When the Fulchers arrived, Townsville had been settled for barely twenty-four years.
With a population of about 10,000 people, it was mainly a port for the mines of Charters Towers and Ravenswood and the grazing country to the west. The Victoria Bridge was being built across Ross Creek, and the breakwaters were under construction to form a harbour at the mouth of the creek. It was the height of summer and the middle of a drought, with no relief from the heat and dust on the dirt roads. There was no reticulated water and only one well in German Gardens was not dry by the end of 1888. Their new home was such a contrast to the green, shady lanes of Shropshire, they must have wondered if they had made the right decision in coming to Queensland.
But the rains did come and Jimmy later told his granddaughter how trips to or from town were delayed when the creek which ran from Castle Hill to the sea, in the vicinity of Gregory Street, was in flood. Once a month, Jimmy picked up the local Minister in his buggy and took him to the Townsville Gaol, to conduct a service for the prisoners. The Gaol was situated off Gregory Street, where the Central State School is now. Jimmy played the organ for the service and, years later, Bess told her grandchildren how she used to sing lustily with the prisoners, whose favourite hymn was, "We Love 'This' Place Oh Lord".
On the 9th November 1890, a son, George Eric Fulcher, was born to Jimmy and Margaret at German Gardens, Townsville. The Fulchers were delighted with their little son and sent photos of Eric and the girls to their relatives inEngland as well as to those in South Australia.
Transfers to other schools took the Fulchers, in 1894 to Yengarie; in 1902 to Winton; in 1906 to Tinana near
Maryborough; 1915 Hughenden; and in 1917 to Marian near Mackay. While in Winton, Bess met Charles Augustus Mayne Morris, a bank clerk and son of the Winton Police Magistrate, C.A.M. Morris. Charlie and Bess were married at Rockhampton and went to live in Maryborough, where their first child, Maida Fulcher Morris was born. Their second daughter, Dilys Mary, was born at Kamloops, Canada. Charlie had tired of banking and he and Bess had decided to move to Canada, where one of Charlie’s sisters was living. Bess’ sister Molly Fulcher went with them to help Bess take care of baby Maida.
In 1908, the year of Dilys' birth, Molly married Charles Baines and settled permanently in Canada. Their daughter, Janet Margaret Baines was born in 1911. Life was very hard for Charlie and Bess in Canada and when Margaret Fulcher paid a visit to her daughters and their families in 1910, Bess and Charlie decided to return to Australia with her.
For a time Bess and the children stayed with Jimmy and Margaret at Tinana while Charlie went in search of a cane farm to buy. He eventually purchased one at McDesme, on the Burdekin River near Ayr.
Jimmy Fulcher wanted to help his son Eric to get established. He purchased a dairy and cane farm at Pialba for Eric, who had been trained for an agricultural life at Gatton Agricultural College. Eric married Charlotte (Lottie) Johnson and they moved on to the Pialba farm where their son, Harry, was born on 20th February 1916.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Eric tried to join the army but was rejected, as he was too short. Later, when short men were also needed, he was accepted, and was shortly sent to the war in France. In September 1917, Bess received this letter from Eric, written two months earlier, in France.
As you see by the address that I'm over here and am ready to go up to the line any time, in fact we are warned to be ready to go up today and the lads are packing up and talking 19 to the dozen. This is a bosca country for scenery, it's dead pretty but you never know what minute its going to rain and then the mud is that darned slippery, dam we have to fall in.
July 6th.. Another spasm. I joined up the Battalion on Tuesday last and struck a couple of Maryborough chaps.I'm having a fairly good time and we aren't up in the front line yet but we aren't too far away. We hear the guns going most of the night and planes are just like birds and almost as common.
Well old girl there's nothing to write about here, its all military stuff and that wont go through.
Oh, by the way, you needn't put reinforcement on my letters now, put D Company signals 25th Battalion AIF France.
I'm going to have a wash in a shell hole presently, it's dead funny in this camp, it's real active service now. Well old girl I'll have to love and leave you and get fixed up for the morning. I'm writing this lying on my back with my legs cocked up for a writingdesk, a plane is going over the tent and Fritz is sending a few pills over to our lads. I can hear them bursting. Good-bye my girl, lots of love to all, love and kisses to yourself and the kids,
Your affectionate Bro,
George Eric Fulcher was killed in action on 20th September 1917. He was buried in Lijssenthoek MilitaryCemetery (Plot 23, Row B) near Poperinghe, Belgium. His family in Australia received notification of his death just a few days after Bess received this letter from him.
In the days before the coastal towns of Queensland were connected by railway, it was usual for people to travel up or down the coast by sea. So it came about, that when James Fulcher was transferred from Hughenden to Marian, near Mackay, he and Margaret travelled from Hughenden to Townsville by train, then caught a ship from Townsville to Mackay. Little did they know that this short sea voyage would be an adventure that nearly turned into a disaster, as they arrived at Mackay during a cyclone. I should mention here that by this time, Bess and Charlie Morris had separated. Bess and the two children, Maida and Dilys, were on their way to live in Brisbane and travelled on the same ship as far as Mackay, where the Fulchers disembarked. Bess and the children continued on to Gladstone, where they caught the train to Brisbane.
Margaret and Jimmy both wrote to Bess on 15th February 1917, to tell the story of their perilous arrival, and about their new home. First Margaret wrote:
"My dear Bess,
I daresay you will be wondering how we are getting along. We arrived safely at Marian. It is a bush township with a big sugar mill.
Well now to begin our adventures. We got safely on the Tug and were sent away from the luggage. There wasn't a seat to be had on deck so we leaned against the saloon cover. The Tug was rocking like a cork, we could hardly stand. In a little while the steam launch came along and we both started to get into it, when some man told us it would not go away for an hour and to go back, they would call us, and to our dismay, in about ten minutes or so, the launch left. The steward said he did call out but I suppose, owing to the noise, we never heard him and nobody seemed to know if the launch would come back.
We went into the saloon but it was full of sick women and children, who had been on board since 10.30 that morning, waiting for the " Wyandra."
The launch came out about 1 or 2 (am.) and we got up on deck after some trouble. As the stairs were very steep and no hand rails, we had to hold on to the stairs. Dad got up first and to my horror it was so rough he couldn't keep his feet. He fell and his feet went sliding through the rails and if he hadn't had presence of mind to grab the rails he would have gone through and been lost. One of the crew helped dad up and took him to the launch and another me, but when we got there it was impossible to get in. We had to jump when the boat came up. Neither of us could do it, so we said if we had to stay a week in the Tug we would not go in the dark.
We managed to get back to the saloon. Dad rolled up his coat in a pillow and got a stretch on the floor of the saloon. I was sitting in a camp stool with my feet in a seat at the table. I managed to wedge my feet against the table to keep me steady and after a while I saw that I could lie on the floor with a little pushing, so I got down and had a little sleep till day break, then the children began to wake up crying. I found I was lying next to a schoolteacher who was going to Clermont.
The "Wyandra” came in during the night, but the Skipper of the Tug would not go near. The "Wyandra” anchored the lee side of Flat Top where it was smooth and then she came around about 6.30 am, and the "Wyandra” passengers (from the Tug) went aboard and the "Wyandra” passengers for Mackay came aboard in a sling. We had some breakfast and then I sat in the Captain's bridge till nearly 11 when the Captain decided to run into town as the launch did not come out, and I was very glad. We saw Dr. and Mrs. Willis in the “Wy”, also Fanny and Adolf. They waved to us, but oh we were so dirty. My blouse was absolutely filthy, and then we got to the wharf and to my vexation, we found my Yankee Box was not in the Tug. There was one, but not mine. We got a cabby and went to ever so many hotels before we could get a room. The place is a scene of destruction, hardly a house or building that is not damaged or lying flat on the ground.
We got a hotel in Sydney St., a second class one, but it was clean and dry. At first she said she could not take us in as the only room she had, the workmen were in it, but she would see if they were nearly finished. She came back and said the men were just going and if we liked to wait while the girl did the room, we could have it, so you may be sure we snapped. I soon had my dirty things off and had a good bath and some clean clothes and was soon all right. While I was waiting, who should walk in but Lottie's Aunt Edith. It seems she lives there and looks after the children and helps generally. She made us very comfortable. We had a big double corner room, cool and quiet. The house had lovely wide verandahs. Mackay is a very pretty town. It has beautiful big buildings and good shops, but nearly all the windows are broken and boarded up. The streets are wide and well made. The footpaths are made of concrete and there is a row of Moreton Bay Fig trees down the centre of the street. There are several good jewellers. In the evening, after dinner I went down the street to get some candles and walked into Percy Armati’s shop. It is a good shop with two big windows. He did not know us but we knew him and we had a chat.
Next morning Dad and I went around the shops as salvage sales were on and I thought I might get something cheap. There are plenty of good shops and things are not dear. We left town for Marian at 4.10. It was very slow and we did not get there till 6., but it was beautifully fine. The home and school here were not damaged. Dad is out and has gone to the Sec. of the school for the keys and he will see the house. We have decided we will buy some furniture in Mackay and make ourselves comfortable and sell up at Pialba. I am to go down and pick out what I want and sell the rest and get Lottie to come here with us for a while, if she will.
I hope you are better and getting settled in at Bowen Hills. I suppose you will see about Maida's school first thing. I expect you had a rough trip to Gladstone, as it was very rough at Flat Top.
Give my love to the kiddies and to your dear self.
Dad sends his love,
Jimmy's letter to Bess gave more information about their new home.
"Well my dear old Pal Bess,
We're here at last. Mum has given you an account of our very delightful trip from Flat Top to Mackay!
This morning I hunted up the Secretary of the school and got the keys of the school and house. My, its the tiniest schoolroom I've had since I came to Australia, but as the moneys the same its " no troubling me". The school is on high piles, with a front and back verandah. Underneath is fitted up as a class room. The grounds are small after Hughenden, and at present sloppy, but that will mend with the aid of Wind and Sun. The house is nice and very compact, reminding me very much of our Townsville house. It has a Bungalow roof and two nice verandahs. I am sketching a rough plan for you.
There are a lot of ferns and nice pot plants but all more or less injured by the storm-treatment they have endured. There has been a terrible lot of damage done here by the storm. Lots of places blown down and utterly destroyed, others badly damaged. The School and strangely enough the Churches seem to have escaped unharmed. I'm going to town to-morrow after Mum has been to the house and we have decided what additional things we need. There are beautiful shops in Mackay. Regular up-to-date big-city places. The great drawback is the difficulty of getting from Flat Top to the Town.
There is of course nothing to tell you beyond what Mum has already mentioned, I do hope you got safely and comfortably to your journey's end and will succeed in procuring a suitable house without much trouble or loss of time. Give my love to the dear kiddies and accept a huge share of the same your own dear self for you are very dear to me my Pal Bess.
Ever your loving "Pal",
Three years later Molly Baines brought her daughter Janet out from Canada to meet her Grandparents and it was decided that since Jimmy was shortly to retire, Margaret would return to Canada with Molly and Janet and, on his retirement, Jimmy would join them there. Molly and Charlie Baines planned to build a cottage for them in their cherry orchard.
Just when Jimmy was due to depart from Mackay on the start of his journey to Canada, he received a cablegram with the heartbreaking message that Margaret had died of a heart attack on the 14th March 1921. As there now seemed little purpose in his going to live in Canada, he changed his plans and went to live with Bess and her two daughters in Brisbane. At the time, Bess was living at Haig St, Milton, but then purchased a cottage "Koolkuna" at Realm St., Auchenflower, where Jimmy had a comfortable room built-in downstairs for himself, and Bess and the children lived upstairs. The home was on quite a large block of land that stretched through to Gregory Street. In latter years, several blocks were cut off and sold, including one next door to Bess, where Eric’s widow, Lottie Fulcher and her sister Ethel “Johnnie” Delaney, built a house for themselves after the second world war. Lottie’s son, Harry Fulcher, also lived near by, so they were in close touch over the years.
James Thomas Fulcher died in Brisbane on 2nd July 1939 and Bess died in Townsville on 22nd February 1957. Molly died in Canada on 31st December 1963.
It is interesting that, in the 2002 school year, Sophie and Bridie Kippin, Katrina Spiegelhauer and Balin and Imogen Beinssen, five descendants, (3rd great grandchildren) of James Thomas Fulcher were attending the Belgian Gardens State School, where he was Headmaster from 1889 to 1894. The children are great grandchildren of Jimmy Fulcher’s granddaughter, Dilys Francis, formerly Dilys Morris.
The children of George Fulcher and his second wife, Mary Brent were, Amy Mary, William George, Nell, and George. Some brief details are known about the boys, but, so far we have been unable to find anything about the girls.
William George Fulcher the elder son of George Fulcher and Mary Brent was born on 13th December 1857 at Bishops Castle, Shropshire. He married Judith Amy Higgs at Oswestry in 1886, and they had three daughters, Amy Mary, Margerie Brent and Ellen Georgina.
In 1900, William George Fulcher was Master and Mrs. Amy Fulcher was Matron of the Atcham Poor Law Union Workhouse, Crosshouses, Berrington, Shropshire; 550 inmates.
In his last Will, dated 1933, William George Fulcher of 'Bonmoor', Port Hill Road, Shrewsbury, expressed his desire to be buried in the same grave as his dear wife (sec. 37, div 14. letter F).
Wm. Geo. Fulcher left his furniture and effects to his three daughters, a small bequest to his old servant and trusted friend Mary Jones, and a malacca walking stick with silver band to his nephew, George Fulcher of Willow Street, Oswestry.
George Fulcher the second son of George Fulcher and Mary Brent was born about 1864 at Oswestry, Shropshire. In 1887 he married Elizabeth Dora Boucher at Bicester, Oxfordshire. George and Elizabeth had three children, Beatrice, George Frederick Brent and Eva.
The 1901 Census confirms that George Fulcher was appointed Master of the Union Workhouse at Oswestry after the death of his father. His Mother, Mary Fulcher was the Matron and his wife Elizabeth was recorded as the Laundress in the Census.
When Bess Morris moved from Ayr to Brisbane, after separating from her husband, Charlie, she resided for a time at "Monrovia" in Haig Street, Milton, before purchasing "Koolkuna" at Realm Street, Auchenflower. This would have been about 1920, and she resided there until shortly before her death in 1957.
Bess' father, retired headmaster Jimmy Fulcher, had a room built for himself downstairs, so the household consisted of Bess Morris, her daughters Maida and Dilys and her father Jimmy. It was the 1920s, and with two attractive daughters and friends and family near by, life was never dull.
Regular visitors included Toowoomba Grammar, later Queensland University students, Grove, Jack and Bert Francis who had met Maida and Dilys on one of the coastal steamers that carried passangers along the Queensland coast in the days before the railway was extended to the northern ports. The young people discovered that their fathers, Grosvenor Francis and Charles Morris had shared the same boarding house in Charters Towers,in their bachelor days, when Grove was articled to a solicitor and Charlie was a bank clerk.
Other regulars at "Koolkuna" were Bess' sister-in-law Lottie Fulcher, her young son Harry, and Lottie's Sister Ethel 'Johnny' Johnson, and bank clerk, later renowned artist, Douglas Annand.
In those days a tram line ran down Milton Road. Dilys related how, after a visit to "Koolkuna", Jack Francis would leave in time to catch the last tram. The girls would sneak down to the corner to see if he was sitting at the bottom of the hill, in which case, knowing that he would be back shortly with a story that he had missed the last tram, they would go back to the house and make up a bed for him.
Dilys also told of hikes up One Tree Hill, now known as Mount Coottha. Maida was possibly somewhat more conservative, while Dilys was more likely to step forward than to be a shrinking violet. She told how she, a lowly female typist at the Brisbane City Council, joined the end of the queue of selected dignitaries to meet the famous aviatrix Amy Johnson, and to shake her hand, while the Mayor looked on in shocked disbelief.
Eventually Maida married Doug Annand and Dilys married Jack Francis and moved from "Koolkuna".
Over time, housing blocks were cut from Koolkuna's land, which originally stretched down from Realm Street to Gregory Street. The house next door was built for Lottie Fulcher and her sister Johnny Delaney, who resided there into the 1970s.
When Bess became frail, she moved to Charters Towers to live with Dilys and Jack Francis. "Koolkuna" was rented to Mrs. Tink, who purchased the house sometime after Bess died.