Francis & Emily Mawson

FRANCIS JOSEPH MAWSON                     1869-1951      

Francis Joseph (Jonah) Mawson was born in Abercrombie Street Auckland New Zealand on 12th March 1869 to John Mawson and Mary Mawson (Sullivan). He came to Australia between 1883 and 1885. He lived in Newtown where his father had a tailor’s shop. His father was a soldier in the 12th foot Suffolk Regiment and he was trained as a tailor. In 1881 his mother passed away.

Francis was a mariner till he married Emily Louisa Mawson (Messer) in Sydney on 3rd January 1894 and he gave up the sea to move to Helensburgh and worked in the mines. His brother Sydney Arthur was already living in Helensburgh. This same year his father John passed away on 30th September.

His first child a daughter Emily was born in November 1885 at Helensburgh.

Francis worked as a miner. On 20th September 1896 his first son Francis was born in Helensburgh. Then on 12th May 1899 another daughter was born Elsie May, born in Helensburgh but sadly only lived 33 days; she died on 13th June 1899. She is buried in Helensburgh Cemetery in the Anglican section, in row 6A.188 no marker, between Edith Read 187 and Frank Read 189 both marked by a Metal cross.

Frank was a check inspector, one of his reports is listed in the Illawarra Mercury Sat 1/12/1900. It is a report of the Metropolitan Colliery Helensburgh checking the cubic feet of air available for men, boys and horses and the importance of reporting any gas found, however small the amount. An example of the report No 2 south main intake 9720 cubic feet; 27 men, boys and horses average 360 cubic feet.

The family grew with the birth of another son Henry born in Helensburgh in 1904 and another daughter Christina born in Helensburgh in 1907. By this time Francis was very involved as a delegate on the Illawarra Colliery Employees’ Assoc., Helensburgh Lodge. On 12th October 1907 the quarterly council meeting of miner’s delegates was attended by Francis Mawson representing Helensburgh. The check inspector reports made at Bulli on Sept 3 and 4, and Corrimal on Sept 11 were received. It was discussed that if coal owners make an offer as a result of the Premier’s negotiations such an offer would be put to a ballot.

He was delegate during the Colliery dispute in 1909. On 16th May 1909 he returned from the conference (see SMH 17/5/1909) and reported there had been one gain to the employees an improved method of defining a “deficient place”. The new agreement was the best they could have hoped for. The vexed question of digging up bottom coal to give sufficient height for horses in the Metropolitan Colliery was left for investigation by Frank and the General Manager Mr D Robertson. A ballot for the position of delegate to represent the employees on the district board was taken but Francis missed out by 11 votes. He remained a delegate with the Helensburgh lodge.

In 1911 a daughter Dorothy was born.

When they were old enough the children all attended Helensburgh School.

On the 23nd November 1913 he and Emily had a stillborn child who is buried in Helensburgh Cemetery near the fence of the Anglican Section, where the stillborn babies are buried.

Tragically Francis lost the fingers on right hand. He had to rely on his wife Emily to support the family.

In 1914 young Henry wrote to his sister Emily in Sydney to tell her the family were moving to Sydney. They moved to Hannover Pde. Concord West. It was here he and Emily learnt of their son Francis being badly wounded in France during World War 1.

He then purchased a property at 37 King Street Concord West. He got obtained work as a council employee and a carrier.  His brother Sydney Arthur died in 1936.

On 9th December 1951 Francis took his own life at the age of 81 years by placing his head in a gas oven and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is hard to imagine after all this time why he would do this. But maybe living with no fingers on his right hand may have just at this time in his life been just too much.

He lived at King Street Concord West until his death and his daughter Doris lived there till her death in 1993.

EMILY LOUISA MAWSON (MESSER)                           1872-1961

Emily was born in Penrith in 1872 to a prominent local family. Her parents were

Henry Messer, born 1839 and Margaret Messer (Millen) born 1844. Emily was born 2 months early. She was the first daughter after six boys. Her father came home from working on his farm and needed his breakfast in a hurry before starting his job on the railways. Her mum reached up to cut some rashes of bacon from a piece of bacon hanging from the pantry ceiling and the stretching up brought on early labour. Henry had to rush his wife down the railway line from Glenbrook to Penrith on a fettler’s trolley and then carry her to the Millen house for Christina (Emily’s mum) to assist with the birth. Henry often teased Emily telling her how she was nearly born in a Chinaman’s garden on the banks of the Nepean River.

Emily spent her early years in Glenbrook she spent a lot of time with her grandmother as she lived alone.

In 1881 the family moved to Sydney, because of the ill treatment of landowners.

At 21 Emily married Francis Jonah Mawson in 1894 at St Pauls Church in Sydney near Central Railway Station. She and Francis moved to Helensburgh after their marriage.

Emily and Francis had 7 children all born in Helensburgh. Their first child Emily was born in November 1895, their first son Francis Mawson was born on 20/9/1896. In 1899 Elsie May was born and died the same year aged 33 days old. She is buried in Helensburgh cemetery Anglican section Nth Row 6A 188. Internment Register has interred on 26th June 1899. She is buried between Edith Reid 187 a metal cross and Francis Read 189 a metal cross. In 1904 Henry was born; in 1907 Christina was born and, finally, in 1911 Doris was born. On 23/11/1913 Emily had her last child a stillborn also buried in Helensburgh Cemetery near the fence with the other stillborns.

Emily was a tailoress and a wonderful cook. When Francis lost his fingers on his right hand Emily used her skills as a tailoress and cook to feed her family. She was so good at her work she even made overcoats.

In 1914 Emily’s son Henry wrote to his sister Emily to tell her the family needed to move to Sydney so Emily could get more work. They moved to 37 King St Concord West. She lived there until her death in 1961. She is buried at Rookwood Cemetery.

My research on Emily’s family on her mother’s side dates back to 1776.

Peter Sheriff was born in 1776 in Glasgow Lanark Scotland, he married Margaret Carmichael Sheriff (Forbes) in Greenoak, Glasgow, they married on 9/9/1802. They had Christina Sheriff born 13/2/1815. She married James Millen born 5/11/1802 in Chelsea Greenoak, Glasgow. James Millen was convicted in Surrey on 15/1/1828 and transported to Australia. James & Christina were married on 1/5/1943 after James had his certificate of Freedom he became a butcher in Penrith. James and Christina had Margaret Millen who was Emily mother.

Emily’s family on her father’s side dates back to 1805 with the birth of Henry Messer his parents were William and Ann Messer. He was baptised 9/3/1806 in St Nicholas C of E Deptford Greenoak.

Henry married Emily Messer (Sutherland) born 5/5/1816 in Middlesex London, she was baptised 6/6/1817 at St Magdalene Woolwich. Her parents were Ann Sutherland living in the poor house Woolwich and Joseph Davis a Corporal in the Artillery Corp of Saffers and Miners. She came to Australia on the ‘Rossendale’ in October 1834 at the age of 18 shortly after her sister’s wedding. Emily married Henry Messer on 12/10/1835.

Their children were William, Henry born 1839 and Emily.

Emily’s grandfather, Henry, died aged 36 in 1841, he was the publican of the Beehive Hotel in Sydney and a clerk at the Albion Brewery. After her husband’s death his wife Emily took over running the hotel.  After their father’s death, Emily’s dad, Henry went with his brother William in search of gold. They were only in their teens.

On 27 Novenber1860, Henry married Margaret Millen, Emily’s mum. She lived next door and Henry asked her mum if they could be married and he would look after her. Her mum refused as Margaret was only 16 and Henry said he would go away and never come back. As Christina Millen really liked and approved of this fine looking boy she agreed to let him marry Margaret, but Margaret had to live at home for another two years. Then Margaret began her married life and her family. She gave birth to six boys prior to Emily Louisa who was born in 1872 and so began this bit of family history.

Written by Mary Steenson (Great granddaughter)