Family stories 2 — About the Christisons
On my original website — well, almost original as the first one on Talk City (2000) is long gone — I had a gallery with notes about my mother’s family. Unfortunately my copies of the full-size pictures vanished some time ago when my old computer crashed and had to be reformatted. Fortunately I was able to retrieve the small versions, which give some idea at least.
The pic on the left is Roy Christison in the late 1880s. What a cutie! Can you see any resemblance? Does the fact so many of my ancestors seem to have worn dresses have any bearing on my later life? The Tartan I used to think is Gordon, but I find it is probably Farquarson, as the Christisons of the Aberdeen-Montrose area are a sept of that clan. But then, given the information Karly Morgan, another descendent of John’s, sent me in April 2003, perhaps it is Gordon after all; Roy’s sister Isobel had told me it was when she first showed me his father John’s picture, which is on the right, full size!
My maternal great-grandfather, John Hampton Christison. A bit Byronic in several ways by all accounts. This picture was taken in the late 1880s. He was an interesting character who published a book on Scottish dancing and etiquette. (Christison, JH. (1882), Manual of Dancing and Etiquette, 793.4 C. Mitchell Library, Sydney.) He was born in Scotland. (5th May 1858, Brechin, Angus, Scotland; married Sophia Jane Lillie in Australia 1880.) I had always thought John Christison was born in Australia. His father was David Christison (1828-1905) who was born in Fife, Scotland, and died 11th November 1905 at Joadja Creek, NSW, now a ghost town. He was in his later years a Lamp Lighter for Mittagong Council. John certainly took his family back to Scotland, around the time these photos were taken, in Maitland NSW, in fact, and I suspect before departure sometime in the later 1880s. One winter was enough to persuade them to return to Australia. My grandfather Roy remembered the locals in Inverurie (or was it Inverbervie?) calling out to them, “Kiltie, kiltie cold bum” as they swanned down the street in this gear.
Wendy Plunkett in Melbourne sent me these details on January 28 2003.
John Hampton Christison was my Great Grandfather too, so I think that makes us second cousins. I’ve been tracing the history of my various lines for about 10 years now, but have only got to look at the Christisons here in Australia recently, although I visited Scotland in 1997 and traced the family back a couple of generations. David Christison [father of John Hampton] was born in Fettercairn, the son of David Christison and Janet Hampton [or Hanton], which is where the name originated. He had a twin brother Alexander [Don't know whether he died in childhood] and at least three other siblings. In the 1841 Census David [the Younger] aged 13 was apprenticed to a tailor, Alex Anderson, whilst elder brother, James, aged 18 was apprenticed to a shoemaker, Will Silver. In the 1851 Census David [the Elder] is listed as a crofter and agricultural labourer, while wife Janet is a schoolmistress. [Schoolteaching has continued strongly through the generations I see!] David married Catherine Belford in December 1852 and they had nine children, all born in Brechin, Angus Scotland. [Angus is next to Kincardine.]
Two girls and two boys appear to have died in early childhood, but the other 5 all drifted to Australia at some stage. John Hampton was the first, having left his ship c. 1878, I think, and married Sophia Lillie in 1880. David and Catherine arrived in 1885 on the “Florida” with their two daughters, Jessie and Lizzie. Their youngest son, Alexander Belford, arrived in 1886 and David, the eldest living child, and his wife [Catherine Angus] came in 1888. I have been trying to fill in the gap after the family returned from their visit to Scotland in 1889. I think that John Hampton [another pic on the right] went to the Boer War in 1899, but haven’t been able to establish what he did before. He says he was divorced in 1892, when he married Mary Mohr in Melbourne in 1909. She was born in Mittagong, the same year as his eldest daughter, Lillie Violet, and was 24 years younger than him. They had three daughters, Katherine Belford,Effie Edzell and Shelah de Lisle. He was a “Railway Official” in 1909, but was back to “Dancing Teacher ” when he died in 1923. I would like to catch up with some descendants of his second family to see what their stories are.
More pieces in the puzzle, thanks to Karly Morgan, a descendant of Isobel, my grandfather Roy’s sister. One of Isobel’s daughters tells this story:
John Christison was a member of the Gordon Highlanders before he came to Australia. He paid two pound to pay his way out of the regiment and joined a ship’s crew to pay his way to Australia.
When Sophia (pic on the right) and John were newly married they lived at Clarence Town and owned a vineyard at Hinton (near Maitland). John taught highland dancing at night in Maitland. He also later taught in a private school. They went to Scotland when nanny was 2 years old and remained there until she was 6. John received the highest medal possible for his dancing and danced before the Queen, (Victoria). When they were coming back to Australia Sophia was on the boat with her four children when John refused to board the boat. So she sailed here on her own* and went to live with her parents, George and Mary Lillie. John Christison returned to Australia on the next available boat and kidnapped his two sons from school, in Sydney [that's the other son, David, on the left], and took them to his parent’s house in Mittagong. The police were called and the boys were returned to their mother. John Christison remarried in Rose Bay, Sydney, and he had two children by that marriage.
A bit of a contradiction there about John’s second marriage though. In one of the memoirs my mother left to me, she adds:
[In 1906] Dad (Roy) completed his training at the age of 20 and his first school was a very small place called Spencer on the Hawkesbury River. It was 11 miles down river from Brooklyn Railway Station. In those days it was only accessible by water so Dad was met and rowed by one of the fishermen’s mother to his place of “work”. He was one of the luckier ones because he had his mother (Sophia) who at a young age had been left to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up her family alone. To do this she took in boarders and herself, a very refined lady, went out to work starting at 3 am to scrub and clean office buildings in the city. With two of her children married and the youngest daughter able to stay with her married sister it left Gran free to go with Dad to become his housekeeper. He felt he owed her his help and care now he was in a position to give it to her. I think his wages were about nine pound a month. He was able to rent a sort of cottage — slab built…
And that story will form another page later on, but you will see my grandfather had an exciting childhood.
* My mother told me that during World War II Sophia told her the whole story, very late at night, but my mother’s mind was on babies (me probably) and a husband and brothers at war, so she didn’t really listen… I do recall my mother telling me though that the real reason Sophia left so precipitously was that she had seen something quite dreadful. I have given a hint above by using the word “Byronic”. By the way, I remember Sophia, just; she died when I was nine, the same year as my sister.
Connection with Christison of Lammermoor?
One of Queensland’s more interesting pioneers, something of a trail-blazer in Aboriginal relations, was Robert Christison of Lammermoor Station and Cameron Downs. He in turn was the nephew of Sir Robert Christison (1797-1882), an eminent professor of toxicology and medical jurisprudence at Edinburgh University. There is even a connection between him and Sherlock Holmes! The fourth baronet, Lieutenant-General (Alexander Frank) Philip Christison, a major British military figure of the Second World War, died in 1993 at 100 years old, but thirty years earlier my grandfather had a letter from the Old Country questioning his relationship to this family. If there is a connection, it must be distant.
See also About the Whitfields
Maureen Christison Says:
January 21, 2008 at 4:50 pm
If you go to World Connect you will find the Christison family tree which I have researched and you will find the link to the General and the others.