Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Pearsons in London

My great-grandparents, William and Sophie Pearson, were actually touring Wales with their children when war broke out in August 1914, but this snapshot photograph was taken in Hyde Park shortly afterwards, at around the time their only son, Uncle Roy, joined the British Army. It was to be as close as possible to Roy, who served as an officer in the 13th Hussars in France and Mesopotamia, that, having sailed all the way back to Victoria at the end of the year, almost straight away, in 1915, the Pearsons decided to return to England, where they remained for the duration of the war.

Maybe because he had earlier served on certain defence committees, William must have known or guessed that it would be a long haul, because he resigned his seat in the Legislative Council of Victoria, and entrusted his Australian affairs to his brothers and an array of (as it eventually turned out) fairly incompetent business agents.

Something of the devotion of the parents is clearly visible here, as well as the almost raffish informality of the Australian golden boy and heir to Kilmany Park.

William died prematurely, in 1919, and the following, rather pompous obituary duly appeared in The Gippsland Times
on Thursday, April 3, 1919:

The Late William Pearson.

The news of the passing away, rather suddenly, of Mr. William Pearson, at his residence, Kilmany Park, on Monday morning last [March 31, 1919], occasioned widespread regret throughout the district. Early in the morning Mr. Pearson was about his home as usual, but his heart suddenly failed him, and he passed peacefully away before the arrival of Drs. Macdonald, Hagenauer, and Campbell. The deceased gentleman was the third son of the late Hon. William Pearson, one of the early and highly esteemed pioneers of Gippsland, and the Kilmany Park property has been in the family’s possession for three score and a half years. Mr. Pearson was at one time the owner of Bonegilla Station, near Wodonga, which he sold on succeeding to the Kilmany Park Estate. He was keenly interested in sport generally, and at times had a horse in training. At one time he was President of the Sale Turf Club. At the time of the visit of His Majesty the King to Victoria [as Duke of Cornwall and York, to open the first Federal Parliament in the Exhibition Building in Melbourne in May 1901], close on 20 years ago, Kilmany Park was placed at His Majesty’s disposal as a shooting box, and on the occasion of his visit there His Majesty was entertained at afternoon tea by Mr. and Mrs. Pearson. Mr. Pearson’s death was not altogether unexpected, as he had been in indifferent health for some time. He had only lately returned from England, where he had been to see his only son, Roy, who is still on active service with the British army in France. Besides the soldier son, the widow and two daughters survive Mr. Pearson. One of the daughters [Aunt Mim] is the widow of the late Captain [Pat] Jackson, who was killed in action. His surviving brothers are Messrs. John and Alex[ander]. Pearson, of Berwick and Glenroy, respectively. The deceased gentleman took an active part in the public life of Sale. For some time he was a member of the Sale Borough and Rosedale Shire Councils [in which latter capacity my grandfather, William Borthwick, eventually also served]. He was also an ex-President of the North Gippsland Agricultural Society, with which body he was associated for a considerable number of years. The deceased represented the Gippsland Province in the Legislative Council from 1896 to 1916, being succeeded by the Hon. G. M. Davis. His father [and namesake] represented the same province from 1881 to 1893.

He was 54 years of age.

By Mr. Pearson’s death the Diocese of Gippsland is deprived of one of its pillars. He has been a member of the Trusts Corporation since its inception, and for many years was chairman of committees of the Synod. In public, as in private life, he was a conscientious and honourable man, and was of a retiring disposition.

The funeral, which was largely attended, took place on Tuesday afternoon [April 1, 1919], the interment taking place in the Sale Cemetery. The chief mourners were the deceased’s brothers, Messrs. J[ohn]. and A[lexander]. Pearson, and his [numerous] brothers-in-law, Messrs. Gooch. The Sale Borough Council was represented by the Mayor, councilors, and the town clerk, and the Council of the Diocese of Gippsland by the Chancellor, Mr. P. P. Sargeant; advocate, Mr. William Bruce; registrar, Mr. C. W. Bell, and Messrs. L. C. Treloar, E. R. M’Quie, and A. L. Johnson. The Cathedral Chapter was represented by Messrs. R. J. Cherry, G. Walker, R. Williams, and E. Phipps, senr. The burial service was conducted by the Bishop of Gippsland, assisted by the Rev. R. G. Nichol, Warden of the Divinity Hostel. In an impressive address, His Lordship referred in eloquent terms to the life of the deceased, and various traits in his character.

The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Messrs. L. Jensen & Co.
It is a reflection of the close-knit nature of Edwardian society in East Gippsland that before too long Dr. Hagenauer's daughter married the youngest of the numerous Borthwick boys, Uncle Ron, whom the Pearson children, including Gran, grew up with as friends and neighbours.

Whether William Pearson took the decision to sell Kilmany before he died, or this became necessary shortly afterwards, Uncle Roy survived the war, got married to Aunt Maida, and evidently drank himself into oblivion. Kilmany was in 1921 sold to the government for subdivision and soldier settlement. Roy Pearson died at his residence "Commotion," at Kilsyth near Croydon on July 31, 1923, shortly before his own mother died at Metung. He was 33. Aunt Maida retired to Toowoomba in southern Queensland. She and Uncle Roy had no children.

Aunt Mim was not so lucky. She was left a fearfully young widow, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that Gran's hopes for marriage, too, were dashed by the catastrophe of the First World War. An engagement in 1914 to a young Australian submariner was for some reason irrevocably broken, before he was lost at sea in the closing days of the war, and Keith Borthwick, with whom Gran spent a considerable amount of time at coming-out dances in 1912 in Sale and Melbourne, and also golfing at Kilmany and Traralgon, was in 1915 killed at the Nek (Gallipoli).

Gran must have been aware when eventually she married our grandfather, William Borthwick, at Sale in 1920 that the heart condition which had prevented him from serving with his brothers in the A.I.F. (but not from volunteering) might well cause him to die prematurely, but in due course my grandfather died in 1953 at almost exactly the same early age at which Gran's own father died in 1919.

Fortunately, this glum pattern has not persisted, and the Pearson and Borthwick genes have evidently responded extremely well since then to medical advancements.

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