Photo: Mary Atkins Ross (left) and Elizabeth Atkins Cox (right) with at back, Elizabeth's daughters, circa, 1935.
I had been planning a trip to Gladstone for a few days to pore over old copies of The Areas Express and Farmer's Journal, which was the paper covering Gladstone and the area where Charlie Ross lived and worked, when Trove began putting it online and thus saved me a little bit of travel and a great deal of work.
Trove is a godsend for research where instead of scouring page after page in a library, you type in a name and a time-frame and it brings it all up.
I have picked up a few snippets already and await further published notices, articles and advertising as the process continues and while I doubt there will be much that is substantial, given the low status of Charlie Ross, whatever comes will be appreciated and useful.
One thing which has become clear, and as the obituary suggested, was that Charlie Ross was very popular and much-liked in Gladstone, just as he had been in Port Pirie. He was also involved in the community, putting his name to a list supporting the Mayor when he sought re-election in 1901.
And beyond formal notices he was called Charlie. But the first mention comes in 1887, a year before he married Mary Atkins, where he is cited in a theft case, in Laura, a small town in the Mid-North.
This is perhaps an indication that Charlie Ross travelled far and wide selling fish. It seems Charlie had bought a gold pin which had been stolen, yet another indication that he was doing pretty well as a fish-hawker if he had five shillings, a goodly sum in the day and about a quarter of an average weekly wage, to buy a gold pin, and perhaps it was a gift for Mary. Or perhaps it was for himself, as the pin had been stolen from a man.
However, hearing it had been stolen, Charlie returned the pin to the owner, so a man of conscience or pragmatism, or sense, it seems.
MAGISTRATE'S COURT, LAURA.
Tuesday, January 4.
(Before I.J. Cook, JP, and W. Wilson. JP.
A nice fellow servant - Laurence Axon, bootman, at the Laura Hotel, was brought up in custody of Water Policeman, Gallanto, charged with having stolen a gold pin, the property of Ernest Collins, barman, at the same hotel.
Mister Collins identified the pin produced; had missed it for some time but did not say anything about it. Saw it at Gladstone last Sunday with Charles Ross. By the Court, He had not given it to anyone or authorized anyone to remove it.
Photo: Flora Ross Swincer, who was said to be the 'spitting image' of her grandfather, Charlie Ross, for whom we have no photograph.
It is also a reminder of how much we assume from our perspective of today. I had assumed, when I found that Charlie's business was listed with the Gladstone Council that he would have had a shop, but of course not, nothing so grand for someone of his social standing and even for the times.
Charlie would have taken the train to Port Pirie to buy his fish and carried it back, packed in ice, to hawk around Gladstone. One guesses, that even with ice available, as it must have been to make it possible to transport fish from so far and then sell it around the town, that Charlie probably had to make a couple of trips a week to Pirie to ensure the freshness of his fish.
Hawker's plied their various trades around towns, cities and country areas, and as has become clear, until ill health made it necessary for him to have a horse and cart, Charlie Ross, local fishmonger, pulled his own small cart around Gladstone, selling his fish. And no doubt this is how he met Mary Atkins and a relationship was made possible.
In many ways, they were both on the edge of the social strata, she as an unmarried mother of an illegitimate son, and he as a foreigner, and no doubt that played a part in their coming together, since options for marriage would have been limited, no matter how popular the Greek fishmonger might have been around town.
His accent, my aunt told me, was said to have been very heavy and no doubt it was more so then, before he married and set up home with Mary and had children. But, if he was popular around town and well-liked, as we can see he was, he must have had an engaging personality and Mary, feisty as she also appears to be, would not, I believe, have married him without liking him.
Each may have had reduced options in the marriage market, but finding each other was the foundation of my father's family. And none of it would have happened, without fish!
Perhaps more telling, was that four years before his death, a fund was set up to raise money to buy him a horse because his health had failed and he could no longer walk, pulling his cart, to sell his fish. Given that his death notice cited heart disease and asthma, it is pretty clear that he had failing health for quite some time, but, with the help of his fellow-citizens, continued to work as a fish hawker.
From The Areas Express:
Mr Charlie Ross, of this town requires a horse, and is not in a position to buy one. The charitably disposed are appealed to elsewhere, and subscriptions may be sent to Mr H Cox, or this office. He who gives quickly gives twice.
July 10, 1903.
Owing to the efforts of Mr Cox, of this town he sum of five pounds has been collected for the purpose of buying a horse for Mr Charlie Ross to enable him to enable him to carry on his business as a fish hawker. Mr Cox succeeded in getting a suitable animal for four pounds and the balance has been expended in chaff.
Mr Eley has kindly consented to put on the first set of shoes, free of charge so that the unfortunate Charlie will have a fair start. Mr Ross desires us to tender his sincere thanks to all who subscribed.
Henry Cox was married to Mary's sister, Elizabeth, and so Charlie's brother-in-law, which means helping him out is not surprising. However, it was the genera goodwill in Gladstone which made the fundraising successful.
In the same year, Charlie, perhaps unwell and feeling grumpy, put in a notice regarding animals straying onto his property.
Notice is hereby given that all dogs, pigs and poultry found trespassing on Allotment No. 39, (East Ward), town of Gladstone, will be destroyed and all horses, sheep and cattle impounded.
However, who can say what treasures might unfold as the Areas Express goes up online?
The Areas Express newspaper served the small towns and farming communities around Gladstone for over 70 years. It took a strong politically conservative stance, and included articles about a wide range of agricultural topics. The Express was a weekly through most of its existence, but was published twice-weekly from February 1878 to July 1886.
We know Charlie was in Gladstone by at least 1885 or 1886 because his obituary say he had spent 'more than twenty years' in the town and he married Mary Atkins in 1888. He died in 1907, at the age of 59, and so the focus of interest for him is the twenty or so years prior. Mary died at the age of 76 in 1937, so she had 30 years alone, before joining him in Gladstone Cemetery.
He is mentioned in a court report for 1889, when he and two others were charged with being the owners of unregistered dogs. His fine was substantial, some five shillings, probably a quarter of his weekly earnings, so one presumes he was making a reasonable living selling fish although in 1889 he had just been married a year and was not supporting children.
Saturday, July 27, 1889.
Before Messrs B.J. Knight and E. Coe, J.P's.
Henry Cralib, Henry Gaunt and Charles Ross were charged with being the owners of six unregistered dogs. The two former cases were dismissed and Ross who pleaded guilty was fined 5s.
He gets another mention in 1891 for 'not having lights on a vehicle' so one presumes it was his cart, which he pulled, when hawking fish.
Gladstone Police Court. Wednesday, May 6, 1891.
(Before Messrs. L. McDougall and A.O. Catt, JP.
Charles Ross for a breach of the Lights on Vehicles Act was fined 1s and costs 11 shillings in all.
His wife, Mary, also makes the papers in a court report for 1898 for smacking a neighbour's child.
The evidence went to show that defendant 'smacked the bottom' of the said boy and a fine was inflicted.
We have seen quite a few indications that Mary Atkins Ross was, despite her petite stature, a no-nonsense kind of person.
Photo: Ellen Street, Port Pirie's main street, where Charlie Ross would have gone to buy fish.
Like the newspapers in neighbouring districts during the 1870s and 1880s, the Express argued long and hard for the extension of the railway network to the districts it served. In 1877 a two page supplement was printed to cover a lively meeting about the subject held at Laura (14 July 1877). A second strongly held belief reflected views on making land purchase easier for intending farmers: '... in new countries railway construction should be carried out precedent to, or in company with, liberalized land laws ... ' (21 July 1877, p. 2). The newspaper suggested that Parliament needed to consult directly with the country people. 'It is rather amusing that while the House of Assembly, the press and the public are floundering about in the depths of the land question ... the only persons who could speak with authority on the debated points - the farmers themselves - are quietly ignored' (15 July 1882, p. 2).
From the start, the Areas Express had an outspoken editorial policy regarding political matters. The 19th century editors of the newspaper were keen analysts of contemporary politics. 'In the midst of the political stagnation which prevails, the Gumeracha election comes as a relief' (17 April 1880, p. 2). From 1905 there was a strong pre-occupation with the 'evils' of socialism. The Express fully supported the formation and activities of the Liberal Union - a conservative political organisation for women. Elections - local, state and federal - tended to be well covered, with profiles of the candidates and discussion of the platforms.
The Express did not focus as strongly on sport as did many country newspapers. The cricket teams of Gladstone are chronicled from 1878 and the local football club from 1880. In 1879 the newspaper reported on the first Great Northern Racing Club meeting in its 'Turf gossip' column (26 March 1879 p. 2). In 1882 the Express was outraged by a humorous article in Adelaide Punch suggesting there was not enough accommodation for visitors to the races, and that the 'palatial' Gladstone gaol could be used. The Express seemed to think the suggestion was a serious one (19 April 1882, p. 2). For a time from the mid-1880s regular sporting columns appeared. The bicycle craze reached Gladstone in 1898, leading to the formation of the Great Northern Bicycle Club (4 November 1898, p. 2).
While the information is not yet online there are indications that some of the Ross children are mentioned in the sports pages.
From 1902 the newspaper, like most country newspapers, began publishing more social and biographical articles. Detailed obituaries, descriptions of weddings and biographical sketches were printed. From 1924 to early 1925 a series of articles about old residents, titled '80 years or over', gave detailed information about the lives of ten elderly local men.
If only Charlie Ross had lived long enough to be included.
The pages of the Express strongly reflected the agricultural nature of the community that it served. Beginning with reports of the Belalie Agricultural Society Show and the local harvest (8 October 1881, p. 2), the newspaper reflected the advances brought by mechanisation and the application of scientific principles. There were advertisements for tractors to replace horses and discussions on the use of super-phosphates and subterranean clover and a variety of other issues. The meetings of the Gladstone branch of the South Australian Farmers' Mutual Association were reported regularly throughout the life of the newspaper. In the Express's early years a column titled 'The Farmer' was published.
Photographs first appeared in the Areas Express in 1910. This included photographs of floods at Gladstone in that year which caused the deaths of two men (9 September 1910, p. 2). In September and October 1924, when the Gladstone Football team were the local premiers, front page photographs of the team and an historical photograph of the 1885 premiership team appeared. For a time in the mid-1920s many photographs were printed in the newspaper, mostly of individuals. During the Second World War these gave way to syndicated war photographs.
The newspaper was established by JSJ Pengelley and WJ Trembath. From October 1878 the proprietors were brothers David and Andrew Taylor and their brother-in-law David Bews of the Wallaroo Times. David Bews withdrew from the company at the end of 1880 and in December 1882 the newspaper passed to Gordon Kearney. In July 1887 Charles D Southcombe became publisher and printer and in April 1888 William Hancock took over the newspaper. From 1910 he entered into partnership with Sam Osborne of the Port Pirie advertiser and Woroora producer. In 1928 Hancock sold to Lester Judell. In August 1945 Judell retired to the city and his three newspapers, the Express, the Jamestown Agriculturist and Review, and the Laura Standard, were then run by managers in the three towns. In 1948 Judell amalgamated the three newspapers into the new Northern Review at Jamestown.