An letter dated November 9, 1918 Mayor Margaret Strelow found in an old book
An letter dated November 9, 1918 Mayor Margaret Strelow found in an old book

Voices from the past recall another era

ARMISTACE Day just passed reminded me of a letter I found in an old book. It was addressed to Maggie Carpenter of Fitzroy Street, Rockhampton and date stamped November 9, 1918.

As I re-read the letter this week it gave me pause to think about the woman who carefully refolded the letter and tucked it away.

By the time the letter was delivered the Armistice had been signed but I doubt that Maggie had the heart to celebrate much.

It reads:

Dear Ned and Maggie,

Few lines to let you know that Mother died on Thursday 7/11/18 at 20 minutes to seven pm.

She took bad on Sunday and Edith and myself and Eva went out - so we put our time in with her.

We had the doctor to her but he said we were doing all we could for her as on account of her advanced age, life was gradually ebbing from her.

He also told us mother had not the slightest pain so Maggie it was just a lovely death Mother died. Her breathing just ebbed away gently and the last without a move.

We are burying her at Warragul beside father on this date 9/11/18.

I have also to tell you that Hugh’s wife is not well again.

She has had both her breasts cut off. I am afraid it’s going to be very bad for her.

I was sorry you could not get over to see us again but owing to the drought and having stock it would be impossible for you to leave.

Some future time we hope to see some of you.

I went on my holidays at the usual time just in time to meet Edwin. He has been returned.

So we had some excitement.

He has been badly shellshocked and the Defence has given him a pension.

We have had him in the Warragul hospital for a few days but he is much better again.

Grand news from the Front now. Do hope it pans out all right.

I must now close had no sleep all the week so I feel a bit knocked out.

Hoping this will find you all well. We are so under the circumstances.

Your aff. Bro

J Gray

An letter dated November 9, 1918 Mayor Margaret Strelow found in an old book
An letter dated November 9, 1918 Mayor Margaret Strelow found in an old book

In these days of instant communication it’s hard to imagine receiving so many pieces of bad news in one go.

Thanks to the help of our staff at the Family History Centre, we were able to piece together further family information.

Maggie Carpenter (nee Gray) was born in Victoria, to Andrew Gray and Jessie Selkrig (whose death is mentioned in the letter). Maggie’s brother, John, was born in 1860, married Edith Hawes (mentioned in the letter) with their daughter, Eva Ada Gray being born in 1892. John and Edith’s nephew is Private Edwin George Gray who served in WW1.

Edwin Carpenter originally moved to Rockhampton with his parents in the very early days (1861) before moving back to Victoria where Edwin took up farming. He married Maggie Gray in 1880. The following year they sold the farm and returned to Rockhampton. He owned a number of properties over time and a conducted a saddlery and harness business in William Street. He served as an alderman (councillor) in both the Fitzroy and Livingstone Shire Councils.

Edwin and Maggie are buried in the North Rockhampton Cemetery.

Spare a thought for Maggie and the two Edwins and for Edith. And for those who had been here for thousands of years before them too.

Sometimes we stand on the shoulders of giants to have a clear vision for the future – and sometimes it is the pieces of the lives of ordinary everyday people that we must look to get our bearings.

They deserve our honour and respect.

(I’m keen to return the letter to any family who may recognise the names. Our Family History Centre has gathered more information about this family and will be more than happy to help.)



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