Good on yer Beta

Beta in 1918

Auntie B was a bit of a character, by all accounts. I never met her (as far as I know) – she died either before or soon after I was born. But I heard a bit about her. She was eccentric, generous and warm-hearted, by all accounts.

The latter attribute seems to be confirmed by the following story, which appeared in a 1920 issue of the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin:


Central Queensland soldiers who were the recipients of many kindnesses at the hands of Miss Beta Richardson, formerly of Rockhampton, while they were resident in the mother country, have had an album, containing about 120 photographs, prepared for presentation to her. The photographs include one of Eastcote, on The Range, where Miss Richardson lived for many years with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Richardson; Redwood, the well-known vineyard in the Yeppoon district, which was at one time the property of a member of her family; beauty spots in the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and other parts of the district; views of the leading public buildings in Rockhampton; and the Fitzroy and Alexandra bridges; a fine set of flood pictures; and a most interesting series of views of the doings of a party of Rockhampton and Mount Morgan residents catching and riding turtles on Peak Island, off Emu Park. On the front of the album is a silver shield bearing the inscription

Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Tuesday 27 July 1920

“To Miss Beta Richardson from some of her ‘digger’ friends, 1920” and on the back is a reproduction, in gold, of the Australian coat of arms. On the inside of the cover appears the following:-


“Rockhampton, Queensland, June 1, 1920, Miss Beta Richardson, 73 Clarence Gate Gardens, London. This small token is sent from a few of the members of the A.I.F.who were welcomed and entertained at your mother’s house in London during the period of the Great War. It may serve to recall days spent in your homeland and is offered in appreciation of your untiring energy and tactful service, which was always at the disposal of any member of the A.I.F., be his rank what it may. To the ‘digger’ in trouble, when he over-stayed his leave or otherwise offended against military laws, your ready help and advice were always forthcoming even to the extent of bearding the military authority in his den.” On the opening page there are water-colour pictures, by Mrs. C. White, of Emu Park and Yeppoon. The album will no doubt be a most welcome reminder to Miss Richardson of many days spent in Rockhampton as well as tangible evidence that the services she was able to render soldiers from Central Queensland on the other side of the world were heartily appreciated by them.



Way to go, Beta.

20 thoughts on “Good on yer Beta”

  1. It’s so annoying to know that existed and that no one thought it was worth keeping. Isn’t this supposed to be a family of hoarders? Granny would never have thrown anything out…anything! Ha ha!

  2. Probably a few people did think it was worth keeping. But it just takes one man with an incinerator in the back garden.

  3. I’ve been checking out that website the article is from and her name is mentioned a lot. There’s an obituary from 1950 for William Franklin Richardson that lists Beta and Leila as his sisters and A.J and Francis Richardson as his brothers (no mention of Maul). There’s also something about Donald Fraser (?) visiting Beta in London (she was a friend of his from Rockhampton). All very interesting 🙂

  4. Yes, I saw the obit of W F Richardson, but they got his first name wrong (should be Willingham). Plus they call Lala Fisher Leila Fisher. Journalists eh, even in the 50s. I haven’t seen the thing about Donald Fraser though.

  5. Oh and the reason there’s no mention of Maul is because they’re talking about surviving brothers and sisters, and of course Maul died in 1937.

  6. Well yes but ‘Leila’ died in ’29 so how does that work? Lol, I think they forgot him 🙁 And Josephine, there were too many of them to recall obviously 🙂

  7. Exact wording: “His surviving brothers are Messrs A. J. Richardson (Yeppoon) and Mr Francis Richardson (Tasmania). He is also survived by a sister, Miss Beta Richardson (London). Another sister, who predeceased him, was Mrs Leila Fisher, the Australian poetess.”

  8. You’re welcome. I suppose that makes you my second cousin since A J Richardson is my great great grandfather too. It’s nice to hear from someone over there.

  9. Hi Rob. I really should should visit your your excellent site more often: it is fascinating. Thank you. I remember Aunt B. I recall going to her home when I was a child of, I guess, about eight or nine. I’m not sure but think it might have been in London. It was a terrace house with narrow rooms and many stairs, with knick-knacks lining both sides. At the top of the stairs was a room (only one that I remember anyway) and inside was an old trunk containing ‘treasures’ B had collected on her round-the-world travels. It was a real Aladdin’s Cave to a child. A little bottle of coloured sands that formed a clever picture inside the bottle intrigued me. (Actually, this might have been a goodbye visit before we left for Australia, in which case I was 10.)
    In the sitting room, to the right as you entered the house, was a piano. On the top of the piano was a large crystal ball which, so B assured me, was given to her by a real gypsy. I have a vague memory of Hugh playing that piano, but might be wrong. Perhaps he came with us to visit B.
    My Dad, Maul’s eldest son, told me once or twice about the visits he and the family used to make to B’s home when Dad was young. At that time B lived in a big place with a tennis court and she used to have the local bishop (I’m pretty sure it was the bishop: I remember being most impressed when Dad told me) to afternoon tea or dinner. B also had a maid. Dad said that one Sunday they were sitting at the table (don’t know if this was a ‘bishop’ day or not) and the maid brought in the coffee. B took a sip of hers and angrily told the girl to ‘Take this away and bring me another. You know I like my coffee HOT.’ Dad said B must have had an an asbestos tongue because the coffee B refused was really boiling hot! I think this was after Maul died because Dad mentioned B wanting to help grandma by inviting them to meals at her home.
    I left England with my parents and siblings in 1960 and B had died by the time I returned (1972-1974). However, someone (Gerry I think) gave me a lovely rose vase for a single rose, and a silver spoon and pusher feeding set for my new baby, Jo, from the things still in B’s collection. Sadly the feeding set was left on the plane coming back to to Australia but I still have the vase. Why B had a child’s feeding set I can’t imagine, but she certainly was a champion hoarder.
    Dad told me that B had rented garages or lock-ups in London to store some of her many, many ‘treasures’ and that no doubt there was at least one of these places the family knew nothing about after B died. If so, quite possibly that special photo album might have been there and is now in the care of some other family.
    Another story from my dad was about how difficult it was for his mother when Maul died, leaving her with eight children. He said that, although the girls in AJ Richardson’s family were left amply provided for, the boys were expected to make their own way in the world. B and her sisters had money but Maul had very little when he died and what angered Dad was the fact that none of Maul’s sisters, except B, went out of their way to help the relatively young widow and children. I think Dad was about 12 at the time.

  10. Sorry, the sitting room in B’s terrace house was to the left as you entered the house, not the right. I was picturing left but wrote right. Should know one from the other by now.

  11. Fascinating stuff Margaret. And amazing to think that some of B’s stuff might still be out there. My mum inherited two things that i know of – a substantial oak bureau (possibly quite valuable), now in the possession of Richard, and a not-particularly-distinguished antique French clock that never worked.

    You say “none of Maul’s sisters except B” helped after his death, but in fact, other than B, only Jo was still alive – Lala died in 1929. I’m not sure when Jo died – must try and find out.

  12. Hum, yes Rob, I realised afterwards that there were just three sisters, though I didn’t realise Lala had died before Maul. It’s difficult to remember everything Dad told me…and of course he is no longer here to ask…but there was something about a sister leaving money to the Battersea Dog’s Home (not cats), so perhaps Dad meant little had been done to help Maul’s family financially before OR after his death, despite money being available for a dog’s home. Apparently Grandma struggled financially anyway with eight children to feed and clothe. Whatever it was (and of course, being young himself at the time, Dad might have had his facts wrong…though I wouldn’t have told him that!) it certainly rankled with him for the rest of his life.
    Stan was a strange one, wasn’t he? He was the only paternal ‘grandfather’ I knew and was just there quietly in the background, with Grandma taking centre stage. I remember nothing more about him but at least he lives in my mind as a gentle person. From what I know, or think I know, Stan came to Australia after Grandma died, though I never heard of any visits between him and my parents. This could be due to distance of course. He certainly wasn’t often mentioned when I spent time with Mum and Dad. Stan was a brave man to take a woman with eight children under his wing, but I think they were probably adults by then and Grandma had already fought and won her battle to keep them all from the poor house. I wonder how?

  13. Margaret, one story your dad told me was that when they all lived in the flat in B’s house, he would do chores for her and then go to her room to let her know they were finished and she would give him some money for the pictures or something. Anyway, she would insist he looked at the wall and didn’t peak, but he always did, and she would have notes pinned behind the curtains, hidden in books, under her pillow, all over the room. I always remember that when I think of her. Also that Granny (Monica) was dumbfounded by the fact that when Maul had a business opportunity that arose that he needed some money for (to do with crystal set radio production I believe) B turned him down and Granny thought that was very cold of her as she wanted for nought. Not long after that he died so I always wondered if part of the reason B took them in was out of remorse. I believe when Granny went to Oz in the 80s she went to visit Stan, maybe with Anne? I think there’s a picture somewhere. That said it could have been from when Anne came over here actually. I’m not sure on the dates and how they lined up. Good to hear from you! hope you are all well! Xxx

  14. Oh, hi Anna! Isn’t all this family tree stuff complicated? I’ve been checking through my photos again but so many questions remain unanswered. For a start, Dad always led us to believe that it William Knox-D’Arcy was a close relative and we’ve allowed ourselves to bask in his glory. But now I discover (a bit late I know) that we were only related in as much as one of Dad’s aunts married into the family. I’d hardly call that ‘close’. I was also under thee impression that Gerry tried hard, unsuccessfully, to have money that was held in Chancery released because it belonged to our family. However, I can find nothing about it except for the mysterious letter Rob put on this site…and it pertains to land I think. The legend is that someone (I was told my great, great grandfather) had died intestate leaving a huge sum of money that was taken into trust by Chancery. But I can’t see how that can be. The last I heard, a long time ago, was that there are now so many descendants of the wealthy person who died, that even if we could trace them all it would cost so much to prove all the claims that despite the time and interest accrued, we would probably end up owing money instead of receiving it.
    Interesting to know Grandma and co lived with B. I hadn’t heard that…or had forgotten. I know we lived in the attic flat of 77 Bromfeld Road Clapham when I was little and moved again when I was about 5. I remember being taught our address as a little song, clapping my hands as I said Clapham. The building was tall and had a long crack down the outside wall. I was told it had happened during an air raid, but I’m not sure. There was a Polish man renting the bottom flat nearest the front door and we hated going past it because the smell was awful. It was probably cooked cabbage. Beta owned the building the flats were in. Although I was so young, I can probably remember more about living there than anywhere else during my childhood. I wonder if Maul was a person who had good ideas but lacked the drive to see them through, and that’s why B refused him the money when he needed it? Dad was like that, had lots of good ideas but rarely carried them through. When he did, they came to nothing because he simply wasn’t a good businessman. People would quickly chase him for money he owed but he hated chasing the ones who owed him. He was a sucker for a sob story and it was his undoing. My brother Peter is the same: brilliant technical brain but no drive to make anything from his talent. Ho hum. xxx

  15. Margaret, I’m sorry, but it appears my website may have misled you – D’Arcy was indeed a close relative – he was Maul’s uncle (not by marriage) so your dad and my mum’s great uncle and our great great uncle.

    It’s interesting that Gerry was trying to secure some inheritance for us – if she was, I suspect it was quite hopeless, as what you heard suggests, but there’s just a glimmer of a suggestion she may have been on to something – I posted about it on Facebook, I think, a few years ago, and I’ll try and find it and tag you in the comments. It’s probably nothing to do with the mysterious letter, which I suspect might turn out to be a red herring or wild goose chase, assuming we had any chance of finding out what it was all about after all these years (which I doubt).

    Your great great grandfather on your father’s (Richardson) side would have been Archibald Richardson. He may well have died intestate – probably did, in fact – but I really doubt whether he had any large sums of money to hand at the time of his death, having been bankrupt not so very long before.

    If it was another great great grandfather, it could have been W. F. D’Arcy (WKD’s father) but he was also bankrupted, or at the very least left so broke and discredited that all he could do was emigrate to Australia. Then there are Edith’s antecedents, but I don’t think they had very much money.

  16. Stan migrated to Australia sometime in the late 60s or early 70s i think. He married an Australian woman named Alice (i think) and lived in Adelaide. When mum (Monica) came over in 1988, we went to Adelaide to visit him. He was well into his 90s and living in an old people’s home. Alice had died some years earlier, but Stan had a girlfriend in the home. He was hoping to live to 100 and get a telegram from the Queen, but he didn’t quite make it.

    I remember him from my childhood as being a nice old man who had a big vegetable garden at the back of his house at 176 (i think) Maldon Rd, Great Baddow. He was in the trenches in the first world war and apparently suffered from trench foot as a result. Mum told me he’d worked in (possibly owned) an ironmongers shop in Chelmsford. I believe he came from Suffolk originally. Mum never forgave him for burning all of B’s stuff whe she died.

  17. I can understand Monica…and the rest of the family…being annoyed with Stan. What a cheek. But perhaps it simply didn’t occur to him that anyone might actually be interested in what B had gathered around her, and was just trying to get rid of the problem quickly and easily. There must have been such a lot to sort through! Col (my husband) tends to keep things for years and years: hates throwing anything away ‘just in case’. I have always said that if he dies before I do, and he hasn’t sorted the good from the bad by then, it will all go the highest bidder…or the tip.

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