14a — Christisons: My Scottish great-grandfather

Posted originally on January 27, 2017 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially. This intermediate post is abridged.

My cousin Ray Christison has posted this on Facebook.


January 25 was Burns Night (the night on which Scots celebrate the birthday of the poet Rabbie Burns). This has hit a chord with me this January as I have been busy editing the draft artwork for my biography of my enigmatic and shapeshifting great-grandfather John Hampton Christison. I know that this book has been eagerly awaited by my relatives and by Australian dance historians, and hopefully it will be published very soon.

His is a fascinating story…

The following was taken about 74 years ago at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland.  L-R: John H Christison Jr, Eric, John’s father, Sophia Jane Christison (my great-grandmother), Roy Christison Senior, and finally my brother Ian Whitfield.


I note that CNN reports that “half of Donald Trump’s DNA is Scottish. His late mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born and raised on the remote and beautiful Scottish Isle of Lewis, before leaving as a 17-year-old for the United States to work as a domestic servant in 1930.” That is the nearest I get to having anything in common with Donald J Tweet, who gets worse and worse as the days go on.

Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 4: Cronulla 1961-1962, 1964-1969

In summary:

1961-1962 Nicholson Parade, CRONULLA
1964-1965 Franklin Road, CRONULLA
1965-1967 Gosport Street, CRONULLA
1967 Willarong Road, CARINGBAH
1968-1969 Woolooware Road, WOOLOOWARE

It would take too long to explain why the family moved so much! Add to that mix practice teaching at Cronulla High in 1965, and appointment there 1966-1969, after which my Shire life came to an end, though connections of course continued.


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Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 3: 1959 – 1961

Recap of my family’s wandering thus far:

1. 1943-1952 Auburn Street SUTHERLAND
2. 1952-1955 Vermont Street SUTHERLAND (first time)
3. 1956-1958 Avery Avenue KIRRAWEE
4. 1959 Box Road, JANNALI
5. 1960-1961 Oyster Bay Road, COMO


Quite a lot more bush occupied much of that space back in 1959-1961, and my father was in some small measure one of those responsible for its going, being a real estate agent in Jannali and then Sutherland for much of that time, while my mother had for a while a dress shop in Jannali. Long story; I won’t go there.

riley_rm_2.5 At 17 I did my first practice teaching session at Jannali West Primary, over the line and up the hill from Jannali shops. In Jannali we lived above the shops in a flat that at least gave a good view of closely watched trains; in 60-61 we rented a house in Oyster Bay Road, and very leafy it was too. Dad had a Riley in those days though ours was black. He could use his carpentry skills on it too… The cat, which came with the house, had a habit of curling up inside; one day when Dad set off for Jannali in the morning, the cat, disturbed, went in panic for the highest point, the top of my father’s head, and sat there with its claws dug in. Fortunately Dad did not crash into anything and disburdened himself rather quickly. I think after that he made sure the car windows were closed when the car was in the car port.

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Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 2: 1958

From 1956 to 1958, give or take some months, Kirrawee was my home. Now fifty years is a very long time, but the station and main street are still very recognisable.


Go down the street, turn left at President Avenue and walk toward Gymea. When you reach Bath Road turn left again. When the railway line hinders further progress, turn right and you are in Avery Avenue. When I lived there Averys still occupied the corner house. Past the Roaches, two doors up, what was left of a farm began, complete with goats and the odd cow. Beyond that the road to Grays Point was still mainly bush. There was a “village idiot” living in a hut on the farm: Old Jack was harmless, given to carrying around an alarm clock in a brown paper shopping bag, and always checking the time. He used to ring the talking clock from public phones and actually speak to it. (Now I think he must have wandered in from a Patrick White novel…)

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Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 1

Yes, The Shire! I spent the first 26 years of my life there. It seems a long way from Surry Hills…


Over there on the west of the map you see Sutherland itself. See how close the bush of Royal National Park comes. On the top right you will see how industry has ruined one of the most important parts of The Shire historically, Captain Cook’s landing place at Kurnell.
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