Friday, November 1, 2013

From Rookery to Respectable

After an almost two month hiatus from blogging I'm back to report my first days's progress on Nanowrino - 2933 words ciphered from my research notes for the family history with a working title From Rookery to Respectable, although I'm sure this will change later on - I hope so anyway as I'm not too fond of it.
The following is the first 700 words:

This book is dedicated to Reginald Holmyard and the other lost children

I am indebted to the research prepared by E J M Holmyard in 1972 and amendments and additions made to this by D R Holmyard in 1998. Without this information the task of beginning this family history, or even knowing where to begin, would have been much more difficult. I also acknowledge the complexity in obtaining documents and personal information in the earlier research, before the advent of online genealogy sites and newspapers, so when I use earlier information as a base for clarifying and correcting this, it is with the greatest respect for this earlier work and only offered to dispel myths that have abounded for several generations.
In the absence of a biological family of my own, I tend to borrow heavily from those close to me, constantly amazed by the configuration of past and present generations, and this story proved to me no exception. It is a story of family myths and legends, of relatives with no genetic links and others who have dropped off the tree altogether. I began this project in 2011, intending to write a brief family history of the Holmyard family, from the Deloraine/Elizabeth Town area of Tasmania. Over the two plus years of my research it has become much more than that. It has become a labour of almost obsession, as I scoured every record I could find in online resources and musty history books, each new link opening adding to my fascination.  And as I followed each character, that person came alive for me, telling their own account of the story as I walked in the shadow of their footsteps, travelling with them through the stinking city streets of Victorian England and the long voyage to Tasmania and beyond as they moved and settled to the Westward. But I acknowledge these stories are not mine to tell and for that reason I have elected Mary Ann Nowell (AKA Knowles) the adoptive mother of my husband’s grandmother, to clear up misconceptions and the misunderstandings perpetuated for the past five or more generations.

This is her story.

Some skeletons lay quietly for eternity, cupboard doors welded shut by the oxidation of time, while others rattle and hum and shake the latch until someone sets them free. My bones have been a mixture of both, content to lie quietly for almost a century before the urge to make the noise of truth, for that is something we’re all entitled to - in life and in death. Lately the desire to set the record straight has been getting stronger and I hope my voice will be heard across the layers of the stories I created during my lifetime. These stories have become the truth throughout the succeeding generations, to become the romance that sanitised and perfumed a reality that, had it been allowed to remain, would have ruined lives and reputations and changed the face of the family I loved so dearly. I am not excusing myself, however, as burying the past is something many early Tasmanians did in trying to move away from the stigma of their transportation to the island, in their aspiration to make good and start anew.

My mother’s name became lost to time in the space of one generation, as if it was a shameful thing to be born poor and, even worse, to be born poor and Irish and living on the streets of London in a time of want. And there was a time, I now admit, that I was also loathe to mention her name, lest her reputation in some way attached itself to me. How easy it is to ignore one’s own transgressions and judge another, as if doing so gives immediate absolution. My mother was a thief and a vagabond, a product of her time. She was also courageous and strong, overcoming obstacles and hardships beyond the imagination of most and although she is no more a part of the Holmyard family  blood line than I am, her life and mine is intertwined through the stories that have grown out of the not knowing.


  1. Congratulations, Merlene, firstly on your impressive word count on the first day of Nanowrimo and secondly on the beginning of what sounds like a fascinating read. And so well written. I envy you and others I know who seem to effortlessly pour out words and phrases that read and flow so well... I guess it's all about practice (and a little bit of natural talent). Keep going, Merlene. There's nothing like getting off to a great start.

  2. Thanks, Chris. Hope to catch up with you soon.


For some reason I'm yet to fathom I'm unable to reply to comments left by others so thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. Merlene