Who is missing?

This photo is of my great-grandmother Margaret Skram Hardiman.  Her mother and father separated  when she was a child. The story was she had run off to South Africa with a diamond miner. The truth is somewhat different. Research indicates she left her older husband not long after the death of her third child and moved from Benjeerop to Bendigo, Victoria,  with a younger man. It can be confirmed  she was a bigamist, as she married her long-time partner many years later. This is a creative narrative describing her   two marriages.


©  Annie Canning’s Weddings

Silently, her small hands trembling, Annie stands beside the tall blonde man.  The bright wildflower posy tumbles from her cold fingers landing upside down on St Killians’ slate floor. The older man stoops to pick them up. Shyly he hands them back to her. Shuffling, Johan glances at the fragile figure beside him. The full skirts of Annie’s best grey bombazine brush against his leg.  She is but sixteen, a typical Irish colleen, and her black curls tumble from under the brim of her bonnet, and the green silk trimmings highlight her blue eyes. The priest’s slurred voice declares on this day of grace in 1866, they are man and wife. Annie Canning is now Mrs. Johan Skram.

Without hesitation, Annie picks up the pen and boldly writes “spinster” in a strong hand on the marriage licence. The minister asks if she has any issue, in a firm voice, she replies no. Looking at her he shakes his head and writes nil in the space provided.  Turning she smiles at Fred Lennon her husband to be, he squeezes her hand in encouragement.  Annie stands tall and proud beside Fred, thinking how different it feels this time. The minister declares on this day of grace in 1896, they are man and wife. Annie Canning is now Mrs. Fred Lennon.

Weeping Fred picks up the pen. His tears blot the paper causing the ink to run. Slowly he completes the notice of death for Annie Lennon, formally Annie Skram,  who was born Annie Canning of County Waterford, Ireland. Children are Margarethe, William, and Letitia Skram(deceased).  Annie Skram-Lennon, aged 49, died on this day of  grace 1896.

References – Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages

VPRO Marriage 1866    Canning/ Skram   2618/1866

VPRO Marriage 1896     Canning/ Lennon 3819/1896

VPRO Death       1896     Lennon 8636/1896

Margaret Skram Hardiman 3


William Spring Gully Mine 1901

William Spring Gully Mine 1901

The beam groaned and cracked, falling directly across William’s legs.  Pain surged through his body as the weight pinned him to the tunnel floor.  It was so dark. He heard fading footsteps on the ladder, but the ringing in his ears blotted out most sounds. He tried to spit out the grit in his mouth. His spittle was thick and coppery. His mouth was full of blood. He coughed, choked and passed out.

Someone was screaming, the noise drew him back. He raised his hand trying to clear the gravel and grit from his face. The effort was too much.  His breath came in bubbling, ragged gasps. He realised it was his voice he could hear. Making a conscious effort to stop, he tried to think of a song. The only one he could think of was, Onward Christian Soldiers. He could not make his mind move past that one phrase.

Onward Christian Soldiers, there is blood in my mouth.  Why couldn’t he feel his legs?

He felt both hot and cold.  The cold was seeping up his body, but his chest was burning. Surrounded by the blackest black. He could see nothing, but he could smell and taste the cordite.

What had they done?  What would happen now?

Onward Christian Soldiers, he was dying.  Now the cold had reached his belly. The burning stopped. He wanted to sleep.  The cold crept up his armpits. It was oddly comforting. His lids fluttered, he closed his eyes and slept.


Spring Gully Mine Explosion  22 January 1904

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900) 23 January 1904 p 4


Oral  History – Mr P Morse (son of William Morse) 1998

Image is Item MM 3480 Negative – Spring Gully, Bendigo, Victoria, circa 1910 Collection Museum of Victoria.

LMorse Copyright 2016

Her Secret – Ada Maria Elliman

Is there anything more frustrating than family folklore that becomes embedded in the fabric of your family’s history?

Short answer no! These will o’ the wisp tales take on some form of Holy Grail that must not be disputed. Often they simply hide family secrets.

An example is Ada Maria Elliman. Ada or ‘Naunt” as she was known in the family. An incredibly private and strong woman.  The story she told was, she was born in New Orleans of mixed blood, her word was Octoroon.  Why did a woman born in Dromana around 1871[i]  invent such a story?   She was a tall good looking woman, who never married. She had two children out of wedlock, Ethel Arthamecy registered 1893[ii] and Fredrick Ernest registered 1895[iii].  Both were registered a Schnapper Point, Dromana. Looking at the siblings, it is obvious they have the same father.  The plot thickens, both children possessed dark skin tones, dark curly hair, brown eyes and snub noses. These physical traits were passed down to Fred’s daughter who was known as “Ginny” by the family. Her name is Patricia.

Ada consistently misrepresented the truth. Shortly before she died[iv], she burnt all her personal papers. She never revealed the father’s name. She was cremated. Her ashes were scattered.  The secret died with her. No evidence of her life remains except in public records

[i] Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages  15071/1871

[ii] Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages  12174/1893

[iii] Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages  15927/1895

[iv] Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages 5642/1952

LMorse Copyright 2016




‘Joe I can’t do this no more. You be working day and night and if you not be working here on the farm, you be out there searching for gold. I can’t stay locked away out here all the time. I won’t!’

‘For God’s sake woman, what do you want?  You’ve got the Hardimans at Benjeroop and the Hetheringtons are just down the way.  I don’t understand what you want.’

‘I want to be in town Joe. Where there be people I can talk to. Places I can shop instead of waiting four days to get me supplies.’

‘What would you say if we invest some money in town, say in a public house, would that help Annie? You can run it while I keep on here.  I’ll come down now and again to give you a hand.  You can take young Lennon with you.  He can do the heavy work.’

‘What about the children, will you be happy with Margarethe and Willy in a public house? Oh Joe, tell me you will.’

Annie hopped from one foot to the other, waiting for his answer. Looking at her he saw a glimpse of the young headstrong girl he’d married.  He couldn’t refuse her.  It would be a good investment, they had to look to the future.

‘Annie, calm down, calm down!’  Holding her, he kissed her.  ‘There’s a licensing hearing next week.  The Edinburgh Arms in the High Street needs a new licensee.  We’ll put in an application if that makes you happy.’


For the love of Annie

For the love of Annie

This is the final chapter of Annie Canning – Skram -Lennon’s story. It differs from a previous posting as it has been edited and a bibliography attached. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Annie  as much as I have enjoyed writing the stories about her.


Phew…what was that stink!

Looking around, Fred couldn’t see anything to cause the smell. Then looking at his boots, he saw they were covered in the foul smelling, turd coloured clay from the gravesite.

Pulling the trap to the side of the Lockwood-road, the hot tears burnt his cheeks. He felt the bile rise in his throat. Leaning over the side of the trap, he spewed until his belly was empty. In his mourning black, he was sweating heavily. It was unseasonably hot for July. He sat, still and lost in thought.

Old man Skram was at the funeral, her children weren’t. Margarethe was in Melbourne with her husband and Will was on the farm at Benjeroop. They had lives of their own. They never sought her out, although she never gave up hope.

He’d done the right thing burying his beloved Annie under her proper married name, Skram. It was the same with the paperwork, he had made sure all the information was on there. He’d wanted her buried with their baby girl, Letitia, but Skram wouldn’t allow it. So she was buried nearby as close as he could get her. He grinned, it helped to have a brother- in-law who was an undertaker. Sawyer saw to it that everything was done right. Annie deserved a good send off. She’d earned  it. Thank God, Sawyer organised it, he was still too shaken to even think straight.

She’d only been sick such a short time and now she was gone. She was so alive, and she loved to dance and laugh. Married and dead in the same year.

Annie me love, I’ve never regretted a minute of it. We’d some good times. I still expect you to come round the corner of the yard, flapping your pinny at the chooks and telling me to get down off the cart and get me lazy backside inside, that there’s another barrel that needs tapping.

Whist away with you Fred Lennon, you lazy bugger leaving me to do all the work as usual. God Annie, you were so beautiful, black hair, blue eyes and beautiful skin. A typical Irish girl, and with a temper to boot. I don’t know how I am going to manage without you.

Fred realised he must have spoken aloud as the horse was restless. They had waited for her children to marry. They’d shared a good life together, near on twenty years. Everyone knew they weren’t man and wife afore the service. Never the less they’d come to their wedding and celebrated. Four months later, they had come to bury her.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, he reached for the water bag on the side of the trap, and lifting the damp canvas to his lips and took a long, deep swallow. Then pulling a white kerchief from his pocket, he wet it with the cool water and mopped his face. He stuck his boots over the side of the wheel and poured some of his precious water over them trying to remove the clay. He realised he was still crying, today was the first time he had cried since his Annie had passed.

Putting the water bag back on the hook, he wiped his face. Balling the kerchief he threw it under the seat and picking up the reins slapped them against the horse’s rump. If he didn’t hurry he’d be late, No one had gone past him on the road, but they may have taken the other track . Either way, they’d not be far behind. Flicking the reins, the horse broke into a trot in a hurry to get back to his stable.

Driving the trap into the empty yard behind the Queens Head, the horse came to a halt outside the stable door. Fred sat, the reins limp in his hands, struggling to compose himself. The drive from the cemetery had taken well over an hour. No time to think, the horse needed wiping down and the trap put away and he was needed inside. Little Ben appeared as if by magic and started to unbuckle the harness.

‘Mister Fred, there be people in the front parlour waiting fer you. You best change them boots before you go inside or Miss Annie will have at ya,’ realising what he’d said he clapped his hand over his mouth.

‘Mister Fred, I’m sorry I meant…’ His voice trailed off and he busied himself moving the horse out of the trap harness.

Walking over to the boy Fred put his hand on his shoulder, ‘It’s alright Ben, I know. I miss her too. I’ll change me boots in the tack room. Clean ’em for me later will you.’

‘Righto Mr Fred, they be looking like new when I finish with ‘em.’

In the tack room, Fred removed his mourning coat and hung it on the hook. His brown jacket, the one she’d bought as a wedding present, all the way from Melbourne, was hanging where she left it. He picked it up, smelling her perfume on the fabric, he put it on and changed his boots.

At the kitchen door, he could hear the women’s voices, he could smell the bread baking and the meat roasting. The heat hit him in the face as he opened the door.

‘Mr Fred, where’ve you bin?’ Ginny came running to him, she grabbed him by the arm. ‘The bar and the front parlour are packed tight, they’re there awaiting for you.’

The hotel was bursting at the seams. Everyone had come to pay their respects to Annie. He saw Skram’s pale face in the crowd, they had both loved and lost her.

Fred rang the bell over the bar.

He turned to face his friends, ‘Thank you all for coming and the tables are set up outside. But before we go out to eat, please, raise your glasses to Annie. The best wife and friend a man could have. To Annie.’

Their voices rang out, strong and clear, ‘To Annie.’

(word count 1000 words)


A Canning  1854  Series: VPRS 7666; Series Title: Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports) [Microfiche Copy of VPRS 947] viewed  26 September 2015

Marriage Certificate Canning /Skram VPRO  2618/1866

Birth Certificate M Skram VBDM Index  19421/1867

Birth Certificate W Skram  VBDM Index 25923/1870

Birth Certificate L Skram VBDM Index  12415/1873

Death Certificate L Skram VBDM Index  14909/1875

Marriage Certificate M Skram/Hardiman  VBDM Index  2717/1887

Marriage certificate A Canning/Lennon VBDM Index  3819/1896

Death Certificate A Canning/Lennon/Skram VBDM Index  8638/1896

Marriage Certificate  W Skram /Kelly  VBDM Index  1718/1898

1880 ‘COURT OF INSOLVENCY.’, Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 10 September, p. 3, viewed 28 January, 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88637778

1883 ‘CITY POLICE COURT.’, Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 22 May, p. 3, viewed 28 January, 2016,http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88516160

1889 ‘FIRE AT LOCKWOOD.’, Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 20 February, p. 3, viewed 28 January, 2016,http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88583465

1892 ‘BENDIGO DISTRICT ANNUAL LICENSING COURT.’,Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 15 December, p. 3, viewed 28 January, 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88607233

1892 ‘LICENSING COURT.’, Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 13 September, p. 3, viewed 28 January, 2016,http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88603876

Death Certificate F Lennon VBDM Index  1692/1898

Death certificate J Skram VBDM Index  9119/1903

Morse, L 2016 For the love of Annie (Blog) justmecreativewriter. http://justmecreativewiter.wordpress.com/?s=for+the+love+of+annie, accessed 28 Jan 2016

Remembrance Parks Burial records  Skram A & L   accessed 26 December 2015 http://rpcv.com.au/deceased-search/?sn=Skram&gn=&yod=

LMorse Copyright 2016