Resilient Women

 Shaking the Family Tree

My great, great grandparents,  Peter and Mary Ann Davey with eldest daughter MaryAnne at Creswick, Victoria, C1898.

I shook the Family Tree and down came Mary Ann Goodwin Davey.

When I first came to Tasmania I gave no thought to the fact that I was returning to the state where my great, great grandmother arrived in Launceston, Australia, as a convict, in 1845 on the “Tory 1”. 

Catharine Platt, nee Steele worked as a laundress to support two little daughters. Times were tough and she stole some shoes and was transported with her children to Launceston. Sadly, her children died on the voyage, she was reported to have been quarrelsome and discontented, not surprising, given the circumstances.

Catharine married another convict, James Goodwin, on 10/8/1846 at Campbell Town C. of E., James was a potter convicted at Stafford Assizes in1840 of burglary. At the time of their marriage James was 32, a farmer and Catharine was 33, a servant. The census in 1848 shows them living in Launceston where son James was born 1847 but died in 1848. Mary Ann was born in 1849. Then twin boys, William and Joseph were born in 1851, sadly Joseph died in 1852.

In Sept. of 1853 the family left for the Victorian Goldfields on “Queen of the Netherlands”.

Mary Ann 4, William 2, with their parents travelled inland from Port Phillip Bay, a long, tiring journey, probably on foot north of Melbourne to settle in Creswick, where rough huts and tents were home to the gold diggers.

On the mainland, those who hailed from the island colony were known as ‘Vandiemonians’ or ‘Vandemonians’. The second moniker referenced the place where they had (usually) served time but, as Bruce Moore notes, it also ‘blended with the word demon.’ 

These ‘demons’ flooded into Victoria in the early days of the gold rushes – in the second half of 1851 there were more recorded immigrants from Van Diemen’s Land than from New South Wales and South Australia combined. A significant proportion of these emigrated as ex-convicts, but it’s speculated that many more ex-convicts (not to mention those who had escaped) chose to cross Bass Strait unannounced. Geoffrey Serle suggests Vandemonians were largely responsible for the increase in crime recorded in the colony at this time. The majority of contemporary observers certainly considered them as a severe threat to law and order on the goldfields. Typical of this view was Mrs Clacy’s condemnation of them as ‘refuse’ and ‘men of the most depraved and abandoned characters, who have sought and gained the lowest abyss of crime …’

Efforts to stem the flow of Vandemonians led to the Convicts Prevention Act of 1852. Criticised by some at the time as ‘illiberal’ and ‘arbitrary’, this legislation attempted to stop convicts who had conditional pardons from landing in Victoria. The fear and hatred these new immigrants inspired also helped generate support for the anti-transportation movement, headed by the Australasian League. By the end of 1852, its fierce lobbying had led to a decision to end transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. Sir John Pakington suggested resistance in the colony had become so strong that a policy of transportation could only continue to be enforced if it were backed by military might. Further, given the gold rushes, Pakington pointed out that transportation might now ‘be taken as a very great boon’ rather than a punishment.

Produced by the Cultural Heritage Unit, The University of Melbourne http://www.egold.net.au/biogs/EG00191b.htm Updated: 27 May 2015

There is no evidence that any gold was found but this pioneer family braved the elements and harsh conditions to be the foundation of the Raisbeck side of the family in Australia. 

Mary Ann Goodwin married Pietro Fandony , (PeterDavey) an Italian gold seeker, at Buningong on 26/9/1864, when she was 15 years and they had 11 children, including my grandmother, Violet Fandony Davey, who was born in 1886 at Creswick, Victoria. 

Peter had arrived on “Maidstowe”on 14/1/1858. A widower, his wife and 2 children died in Italy. He settled in Laanecoorie and was a wheelwright and carriage maker.

“In the 1860s, there were more Italian nationals than Swiss-Italians arriving in the colony. New arrivals sought out the emerging goldfields at Walhalla, Ararat, Stawell and other diggings. With the decline of alluvial gold yields and the widespread growth of deep lead or quartz mining, many Italian speakers, lacking capital and mining skills, took up other gold mining related occupations. They diversified and pooled their resources to become cartage contractors, wood tramway builders and operators, woodcutters and charcoal burners, rather than miners. Daylesford and Hepburn districts became centres for Swiss-Italian and Italian settlement. Many settled as farmers, while others became brewers, hoteliers, pasta makers, builders and shopkeepers. Early mining settlements did not have a stable or entrenched society; they were more open-ended and tolerant of minority groups (other than the Chinese) than later settled Victorian communities. Most Italian speakers became part of local society’s fabric and makeup and introduced new ideas, practices and styles. In places like Hepburn and Daylesford, their legacy survives in the local stone architecture.”

Serle, Geoffre The golden age: a history of the colony of Victoria, 1851-1861 Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1963

I also learned some stories about our family from a talk my father gave at his Rotary Club. Not all true, unfortunately.

Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913 – 1954),

Tuesday 30 November 1948


During the course of an autobiography given by Cessnock artist Charlie Raisbeck at the last Cessnock Rotary Club dinner, he revealed that he had not always been dependant on brushes and paint for a living, but had met with success as a gold prospector.

Mr. Raisbeck prospected for gold at various goldfields, including Ballarat, in Victoria, and Hanging Rock, near Nundle, New South Wales. 

Another interesting fact was that in the family history has appeared such illustrious names as William Hogarth, the brilliant 18th Century master of Satirist Art. 

Charles Dickens, who was Charlie’s great grandfather; Giovanni Fantoni, Cue Italian 18th century lyric poet and Madame Itosina Fantoni, 19th century Italian Prima Donna, from whom it is inferred the present Rostna Raisbeck, Charlie’s sister, has inherited her talent as a singer of world class. 

She is at present singing with Cessnock’s Kenneth Neate at Covent Garden Opera House. 

Mr. Raisbeck’s description of the City of Ballarat, where he was reared, showed that Australia’ indeed ‘ has a city to be proud of, with it’s beautiful artificial fresh water lakes, glorious parks, statues, zoo and Botanical Gardens. Two of the World’s most valuable pieces of, statuary, ‘Ruth’ and the ‘Flight from Pompeii,’ were exhibited in the Statuary there, he said. ‘ It was a city of romance, historic traditions and beauty, and a town which should be studied by all town planners.

Mr. Raisbeck gave a brief illustration of alluvial fosicking, and also some interesting details and information on the Nundle fields. Charlie’s ability with the saw and mouth organ is well-known in coal field’s musical circles, but it is not so well known that he was a solo cornet player with Maitland Federal Band, under Fred Fitners, and the 13th Battalion under W. O. Hamilton. He also played solo cornet with Tamworth Citizens and the A.A.O.C. Band. During his talk several humorous incidents in his life were well received.

Charlie has what one could truthfully call a colourful life. He claims that his father, Mr. T. E. Raisbeck of Maitland, is the greatest signwriter he has ever seen.

My Grandmother Violet Fandony Davey married Thomas Edwin Raisbeck at Springmount on 21/9/1908.

My father Charles was their eldest, born in Sydney 27/6/1909. 

This photo was taken at party my parents gave to celebrate the 

50th. Wedding anniversary of my grandparents.

At left are my parents, Joyce and Charles, then David and me, Janice. Next is Aunt Rosina, that I met for the first time, and Grandma and Grandpa Raisbeck.

My grandparents were very kind to me as a child growing up during WW2. With Dad in the Army, I spent some time with them in Maitland where they lived in a 2 storey rented house with shop front that Grandpa used as a sign-writing workshop.

I was always fascinated by the beautiful lettering he produced as well as cabinet making and growing exotic vegetables and herbs. Grandma was a skilled embroiderer and made rag rugs.

What I discovered during the process of looking up my family tree was a number of very resiliant women. I share their DNA and so do you. Our very bodies, nervous systems and biology has been passed down through the generations.

My own children are unaware of my findings but I have a record on ancestry.com because it is important to know that we aren’t just lost branches and twigs wandering about scattered on the earth.

There has been history, struggle, and hardship as well as achievement in our lives to get us to this point. Not much wealth or fame or beauty to speak of but at least we have survived, given the uncertain beginning of our time in Australia, that is a lot.

Because we have been a family that scatters, rather than remain static, in one place, there has not been opportunity to get to know cousins, aunties and uncles to build close family ties. That is regrettable. However, we can make the most of modern day communication technologies and get to know one another better. That is my hope.