Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sparrows and the China Cottage

In the boxing ring that is the frontal part of my mind there are two opposing corners at the moment: in one there are issues wearing the red satin boxer silks of part life memory; and in the other, the blue satin silks belonging to real-world research with stringent requirements.

I can remember things about my family from the 1840s until I left England in 1855, and I can recall things that were so, like two father figures, but one not an actual father, a cantankerous mother, interfering in-laws, money problems, past successes surviving as remembered glories, and the overarching, ever-present gloom of Dickensian poverty, ragged black bombazine and other clichés of the mid-Victorian aesthetic…at least as history likes to present it.

But I also have the detective work that must be carried out on the ground, in the present and carefully so, and always with one part of my psychic apparatus set aside for clues, corner-of-the-eye shimmers and the most subtle of indicators and sentiments.

My supposedly biological family, the Sparrows, wrote letters to their in-laws, the Morrises who had emigrated to Tasmania and the letters survive today, in Sydney. They are called rather charmingly, "The China Cottage Letters."Among the list of correspondents are many of the people whose names I have read in the research I have done upon the Sparrows. I could write a booklet on the Sparrow Tea Family and their in-laws the Phythians. Tea, tea, tea. Is this why I like tea cups, tea and the theatre around it, even though I am a coffee or hot-chocolate man?

Among these are Robert Sparrow (I think he was Robert Sparrow Smythe's real father) Frederick Sparrow ("his uncles paid for his education") and Henry who died in 1820, and who is most important but for what reason I cannot say, nor even guess. But that he is important is beyond debate. I also feel that I have got something slightly wrong and that the slight error has not-so-sleight implications.

The letters I hope will shed light on the family dynamic and what the heck was going on, and the fact that they are sitting in Sydney, unexamined is a great extravaganza of a tease.

Obviously, I can't wait to get my eyeballs on them, or at least a proxy set of eyeballs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Good Lord. I haven't posted in over six months.

I have been hard at coping with life's strange and unwelcome barrage while trying to get some information on my great grandfather John Whelan, seaman of Newmarket-on-Fergus, Clare, Ireland. He married Johann Scully in Melbourne in 1875, I think, and had two children: Patrick and John. Just where did all the family photos go?

-destroyed I expect, by the harridan who married Patrick after he was widowed because he had some money. She isolated him from his friends, made him move suburbs, farmed her step-children out as slaves to her sister and when he died, then bolted, taking no pains to secure the house (which was plundered) nor even tell my grandfather, John Whelan, hairdresser, that his father had died. Patrick's daughter thought her brother had ignored the funeral and there arose a lifetime rift.

A little bit of bitch goes a long, long way.

My chances of finding any pictures, which are usually good, are zero.