Monday, May 23, 2011

Aunt Maida

To my astonishment—and this seems so right, so neat, and so symmetrical—Uncle Roy’s wedding in 1920 to Aunt Maida brought the surviving Pearsons of Kilmany Park into direct alliance with the remarkable Dowling family of Tasmania. As we have seen, Maida Frances Blood Dowling was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Aubin Dowling, formerly of Talgai West in the Darling Downs of southern Queensland. She was therefore the granddaughter of John Leonard Dowling, grazier of Ellerslie, Fairfield, and his wife, Cecilia Ann (1821–1905), the daughter of Major Thomas Daunt Lord (1783–1865). John Leonard Dowling was, in turn, the son of the Reverend Henry Dowling (1780–1869), and Elizabeth, née Drake (1782–1853), whose mother Susanna, Mrs. Drake of Gloucester was intimate with Selena, Countess of Huntingdon, the revivalist, Methodist luminary, confidante of John and Charles Wesley, and sex kitten. The Reverend Henry Dowling was not only a famous Vandiemonian divine, whose chapel stood for many years in York Street, Launceston, and who performed innumerable baptisms in freezing rivers all over Tasmania, but he was also the father of Robert Hawker Dowling (1827–1886), the distinguished Tasmanian portrait painter, whose wonderful 1856 Mrs. Adolphus Sceales with Black Jimmie on Merrang Station (above) now hangs prominently in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. In other words, the painter Robert Dowling was Aunt Maida’s great-uncle, though she never knew him. Her paternal grandmother, however, Cecilia Ann, Mrs. John Leonard Dowling, lived to the very great age of eighty-four, and died on October 19, 1905, at her residence St. Leonard’s (naturally) in Launceston. It is possible that Aunt Maida did meet Grannie Dowling once or twice, although the journey from Brisbane to Devonport (and vice versa) was long and difficult; indeed old Mrs. Dowling may well have been disinclined to attempt long sea voyages because in 1857 her sister-in-law (her husband’s sister) Hannah Maria Waller was, together with Mr. Waller and all six of their children, drowned horribly in the wreck of the Dunbar at Sydney Heads. Anyway, Grandmother Dowling’s connection to Van Diemen’s Land was almost as long as it was possible to be. She was the daughter of Major Thomas Daunt Lord, and his bride Susan Greenslade of the Bahamas. Major and Mrs. Lord were married in 1810 at Nassau, when Major Lord was serving in the second West India Regiment. In the early 1820s he became embroiled in the so-called Bradley–Arthur wrongful imprisonment affair in Honduras, and as a consequence decided to sell his commission and sail to Van Diemen’s Land. He arrived at Hobart Town aboard the Cumberland in January 1825, when Cecilia Ann was just three and a half. His main occupation through much of the next decade was serving as commandant of the severe and isolated Maria Island penal settlement, where he was regularly accused of misappropriating government stores and other forms of theft, but consistently avoided prosecution. Indeed following each indictment Major Lord visited terrible, terrible pain upon his accusers. After the closure of Maria Island in 1832, he was appointed to the police magistracy at Waterloo Point (Swansea) and in the two years following managed to get himself acquitted of stealing still more government property, although eventually he did forfeit his Commission of the Peace. Mrs. Lord died on September 7, 1849, at Okehampton, Spring Bay (Triabunna), and the Major followed suit on April 23, 1865. He was considered to be “as great a villain as any in Van Diemen’s Land,” but I assume marriage to John Leonard Dowling of Ellerslie, Fairfield, effectively removed Cecilia Ann from the unwholesome domestic criminal environment in which she spent her childhood—indeed it is quite possible that Aunt Maida was never made aware of those Regency peccadilloes, any more than Uncle Roy faced up to the shocking massacres through the 1840s of the Aboriginal men, women, and children of East Gippsland.

1 comment:

  1. Selena Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, the revivalist, Methodist luminary, confidante of John and Charles Wesley, and sex kitten.

    Methodist sex kittens are always trouble.