An Australian’s account of a fire at the Charles Kingsley Hotel, ………. Devon during the Great War

Beta Richardson in 1918, a few years after this story takes place

The following anecdote was told to Hugh Richardson by his aunt Beta in the 1940s. Hugh writes: 

‘When I was about 12 or 13, my aunt Beta told me a story about a true experience she had in the early days of the Great War, and she had me in stitches. I fell about laughing, but I realise now that a lot of that was because of the way she told the story.

‘At the end of her story, I said “You must write it down, it’s so funny” and unbeknownst to me, she evidently did that, because only in the last year sometime I came across her brief scribbled note, which I have transcribed into type.’

Beta was vague about where these events took place, but noted that the hotel in question was in Devon and was named after a famous Victorian writer – the Charles Kingsley Hotel. Surprisingly enough, a likely location was quite easy to find: a pub, in a town called Northam, now known as the Kingsley Inn. The few details Beta gives about the location seem to match the Kingsley Inn’s location. Now read on … 

I was strolling up the sloping High Street of a small town in the South of England (Devon) on a cold winter’s day, when I noticed a woman chasing a man down the street. She caught him and took something out of his hand. When she returned to where I was standing, she showed me a till containing money which the man, having taking ways, had snatched from the bar of her hotel. Continue reading An Australian’s account of a fire at the Charles Kingsley Hotel, ………. Devon during the Great War

Thanks, Archie!

Some people. If a man does a job of work, what harm can it do to thank him? But some people would begrudge even that minor courtesy it seems.

I refer, of course, to the Gogango Divisional Board, who held their usual monthly meeting on 1 September 1896. I quote from the report of their meeting in the following Saturday’s edition of The Capricornian:

Mr A J Richardson wrote informing the Board that he had placed a finger board “To the township of Herbert” on the road from Rockhampton to Balnagowan Station at the place where the road to the township of Herbert turned off, and he had also blazed a line of trees from that place to Thompson’s or Deadman’s Point, from whence people riding or driving to Herbert simply had to follow the bank of the river downwards. He suggested that this information be made public. Later on he would survey that part of the branch road which passed through the reserve at Thompson’s Point, but for the present the blazed line would sufficiently meet the wants of the public. He believed he had acted according to the desire of the Board. Continue reading Thanks, Archie!

Archibald Richardson on comets

The Great Comet of 1861, which may have been witnessed by Archibald Richardson while on a voyage to Australia

It seems A J Richardson was an armchair scientist in his spare time. Or possibly an amateur astronomer. In any case, he sent a letter to the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in 1896, in which he attempted to allay people’s fears of the imminent catastrophe of a comet striking the earth. Apparently the end of the world was nigh, even that long ago.

It may be that Archibald began thinking about comets after witnessing one during his voyage to Australia in 1861.

I’m not sure how well Archie’s theory about the head of a comet acting as a giant lens and creating the optical illusion of a tail (as opposed to possessing a real tail) would play with modern astronomers, but he had clearly done some research and some hard thinking on the subject. Continue reading Archibald Richardson on comets

More about molasses

I realized a moment ago that I haven’t put anything on this site about molasses for a long time. I’m sure the large number of people who visit here just to hear the latest historical discoveries about molasses will be getting restive. So to redeem myself, I’m posting the testimony Archibald Richardson gave on 26 July 1831 before the powerful parliamentary select committee on the use of molasses in breweries and distilleries. It was following this testimony that Archibald conducted an experiment on the use of molasses in distilling, as recorded here.

Readers should be warned that this text is rather long and technical, and immensely dull for anyone not completely absorbed by their interest in the life and doings of molasses. But surely very few people fall into that category.

Continue reading More about molasses

Archibald Richardson’s arrival in Australia

The Waterloo, painted by D. Macfarlane

I’ve been trying for some time to find out exactly when (and where) Archibald John Richardson arrived in Australia, but evidence was elusive for some reason. At last, however, I’m pretty sure I have the answer. Whether the record has only just shown up in the archives, or whether I didn’t use the right search terms before, I don’t know.

Archie sailed for Australia on board the Waterloo, embarking at Gravesend in late April or early May 1861. He arrived at Sydney in the early morning of 15 August.

The date  fits with what we knew about Archie’s whereabouts: he was still in England (living in Hampshire) for the 1861 census, which took place on the 7th/8th April 1861. He sailed for Australia just a few weeks later.

The picture on the right is a painting of the Waterloo from the National Maritime Gallery website. It seems the ship is ‘decorated’ with fake gun ports to deter pirates. Continue reading Archibald Richardson’s arrival in Australia

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 Continue reading Good on yer Beta

Archibald’s childhood home?

Lancrigg, Grasmere, where Archibald Richardson may have lived as a child

Might this charming house in the Lake District have been home to Archibald Richardson, after the death of his father and sister in the 1840s? It’s beginning to look like it.

The work of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program goes on. Last October they notched up 3 million scanned newspaper pages. They are scheduled to finish in July this year, after adding another million pages or so to the total.

One thing that seems to have shown up in a recent wave of digitizations is a death notice for Archibald, who died in Rockhampton in December 1900.

After his  father died, we don’t know exactly what happened to Archibald. But according to the article from the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Continue reading Archibald’s childhood home?

Monica Richardson’s film ratings

During the first nine months of 1945, Monica Richardson saw more than 75 films. (In the early 21st century the average person probably sees about five films a year at the cinema.) Apart from a couple whose titles she couldn’t remember, they are listed here. She rated almost all of them on the following scale (although I’m willing to entertain debate about the correct ranking of each Continue reading Monica Richardson’s film ratings

What the heck …

… is this about? This letter (for a facsimile of the original, see here) was among some papers my auntie Gerry sent to my mum about twenty years ago:

(dated Sept 26th, M V Fairsea)
Dear Mr Fisher,
It was a great joy to me to read your aunt’s letter, this story would have been lost if you had not made the enquiries, and it must have given her great joy to find you were interested.
In fact she has given me a very vital clue, we acquired the surname Richardson from Leith, so your grandfather must have got to Australia with his cousin, and if only your Aunt could remember any relatives in Queensland, they are the very family who have been missing so long, and are entitled to a share of the estate in Durham,
All I need do is obtain death birth and marriage certificate copies to forward to England.
I know this story sounds fantastic but I know it can all be verified at Somerset House, as my father did when he was only 21 years old.
My father is 82 but his memory [fragment ends]

Well, the story was lost, but not without leaving a tantalizing mystery Continue reading What the heck …

Molasses, molasses

Classically literate people will recognize the title of this post as a reference to Xenophon’s Anabasis, and the cry of the Greek army as they finally sighted the sea: “thalassa, thalassa”.

Similar emotions were stirred in the heart of my great aunt, the noted Australian poet Lala Fisher, when she spotted some molasses. To her, they were a miracle cure for just about every ailment – in farmyard animals, at least. Here is a letter she wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald which was published on 9 November 1907:
Continue reading Molasses, molasses