Tag: Sydney

Chinese New Year in Sydney – 150 years of history

Chinese New Year has been celebrated in Australia for over 150 years—since the first festivities were held in the late 1850s. The first newspaper reference I can find about Chinese New Year being celebrated in Sydney is from 1862, when the Sydney Morning Herald noted that:

The coming in of the Chinese new year was duly celebrated on Wednesday week by the Chinese shopkeepers of Sydney with ceremonies peculiar to themselves, winding up with an ample supper (SMH, 8 February 1862).

The details were republished in the Queanbeyan Age:

The Chinese New Year.—On Wednesday last, says the Sydney Herald, all the Chinese shopkeepers in Sydney closed their establishments, and refused to serve customers. Upon inquiry, it was discovered that, according to the Chinese reckoning, the old year closed with Wednesday, and that the event was being celebrated in the usual Chinese fashion. In the evening a pig was killed and its head having been dressed, it was adorned with flowers and placed in a conspicuous place in one of the Chinese houses, where each Chinaman in turn bowed down before it, apparently performing some act of religious homage. The floor of each of the apartments in the house was extensively lighted with candles in bottles, and after the religious ceremonial was over, the company adjourned to partake of a sumptuous supper, consisting of an abundance of poultry. The body of the pig was also served up and eaten. Musical performances in the Chinese style followed, and were kept up till daylight in the new year (Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser, 13 February 1862).

Here are a few other articles about Sydney’s Chinese New Year celebrations over the following decades:

Kung hei faat choi! Xin nian kuai le!

William Chie, fruitgrower, of Carlingford

This guest post by Carlene Bagnall tells the story of William Chie, an Anglo-Chinese fruitgrower and poultry farmer from the Carlingford–Epping area in Sydney. Carlene came upon William Chie’s story while researching the history of the Epping Seventh-day Adventist Church.

William Chie lived at Carlingford, a suburb to the northwest of Sydney, in an area of gently undulating hills covered in fruit trees, the scattered orchards serviced by dirt roads. Here for many years he kept a poultry farm and had a productive orchard in which he grew fine apricots. The majority of his neighbours also had orchards and kept poultry. Not far from his home on Pennant Parade, on the corner of the main road linking Carlingford and Epping, was a small wooden church belonging to a small company of Seventh-day Adventists. Beyond the orchards were tall forests where timber was logged and in wet weather the muddy roads were churned up by the hooves of the horses pulling the logs to the saw mills. (See a picture of Carlingford Road, Epping around the time William Chie lived there.)

William Chie was the son of John Chi, a dairy farmer at Avondale, near Wollongong, and his wife Margaret. John Chi was from Amoy and arrived in Australia in 1852 — one of four Amoy Chinese men brought out to work on rural properties at Dapto owned by Henry Osborne, a prominent local landholder and member of the Legislative Assembly for East Camden. John Chi married Margaret Miller at Wollongong in 1859 and they had seven sons – John, William, Francis, George, Charles, Jem (James) and David – and one daughter, Eliza. Of these children, John died as a child in 1866. Margaret Chi died in 1896 and her husband John in 1908.

In 1883, William himself married Mary Jane, the daughter of a Wollongong farmer William Miller and his wife Mary née Noble. Some time in the 1880s they moved to the Carlingford area. William Chie is listed in the NSW Census as living in 1891 at Ray Road and in 1901 at Pennant Parade, with his household comprising one male and one female – he was not identified in the Census as being half-Chinese. William and Mary Jane were married for 42 years and had two sons, both of whom predeceased their parents. Mary Jane Chie died on 11 January 1927 at the home of her niece, Ivy Molloy, at 138 Campbell Street, Sydney, aged 65 years.

Some time soon after the turn of the century, William Chie became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at Epping and remained a faithful believer until his death. The first church building was completed in January 1902 and a week-long Adventist mission held at Carlingford in June that year. Over the years, William would have seen the destruction by fire of the little Adventist church on the evening on 23 June 1914, when it was set alight by a rejected suitor of the bride on the eve of her wedding to another man. He would have participated in plans to build a new church closer to the railway station at Epping, on a block of land donated by Annie Mobbs and her son, Lewis, from a subdivision of their orchard earlier that year. He would even possibly have been among the men of the church who helped to build the new building, which was begun and almost completed on Australia Day, 1915.

Later, William Chie bought a block of land on Carlingford Road, part of the Nevertire Estate, which was also subdivided from the orchard of Annie and Lewis Mobbs in 1914. William built a house which he named ‘Avondale’, near to Annie Mobbs’ home ‘Nevertire’, between Ryde Road and Midson Road. A description of ‘Avondale’ from a sale notice in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1927 stated:

4 minutes from ‘Bus, 2 Minutes from Public School.

“AVONDALE,” CARLINGFORD ROAD, between MIDSON ROAD and RYDE STREET.

DOUBLE-FRONTED WEATHERBOARD COTTAGE, on brick foundation, having iron roof and containing four rooms, kitchen, bathroom. Detached is laundry, car entrance at side, verandahs front, side, and rear. Fowl houses and run. TORRENS TITLE. Land, 120 feet by a depth of 145 feet 4 inches.

The Epping Seventh-day Adventist Church had good reason to remember William Chie with affection. The church building carried a debt which, according to an account from the 1960s:

was finally cleared in 1922 [sic] by a sum of £100 left in bequest to the church by a Mr Chee, a Chinese fruit agent in Sydney.

William Chie’s will, which was written on 26 October 1924 and stated he was a fruit agent, left a life interest in his estate, valued at £1276/12/5, to his wife Mary Jane and named as his executors George Chie of Woodside Avenue, Strathfield, and Edward Keeler of Pennant Parade, Carlingford.

Mary Jane could use any of the furniture ‘for her own comfort’ and was ‘at liberty to occupy the cottage rent free and undisturbed should she elect to do so’. After her death and the bequest of £100 ‘free of legacy duty’ to the church, his estate was to be divided into one-eighth shares to his brother Frank Chie, his sister Eliza Chie, his nephew Frank Chie, his niece Stella Chie, his niece Maletta Chie, and the last one-eighth share was to Helen Elizabeth Hawkins of Pennant Parade, Carlingford. Witnesses to the will were Alice and Ernest Hawkins of Pennant Parade.

This obituary appeared in the Australasian Record, a weekly publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, written by E.G. Whittaker:

William Chie, aged sixty-three, died at his residence, Carlingford Road, Epping, on Sunday, September 13, 1925. Brother Chie was one of the pioneer members of the Epping church, having been associated with the message for about twenty years. His health had been somewhat indifferent for some time. He leaves a wife to mourn her loss. We laid him to rest in the Carlingford Cemetery. In the service conducted at his house, his favourite hymn was sung; ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh! What a foretaste of glory divine.’

Sources

  • Australasian Record, vol. 29, no. 41, 12 October 1925, http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/AAR/AAR19251012-V29-41__B.pdf
  • Carlene Bagnall, ‘Epping Church 1902 to 1940’, Epping Seventh-day Adventist Church website, http://www.eppingsda.org.au/sites/default/files/u2/Epping%20Church%201902%20to%201940.pdf
  • Kate Bagnall, Golden Shadows on a White Land, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2006, p. 145
  • Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, October 1898
  • Last will and testament of William Chie, late of Epping, fruit agent – NSW probate no. 134087, 16 November 1925
  • NSW birth certificates – 14049/1860, 14994/1862, 15032/1863, 16587/1864, 17089/1865, 17904/1867, 19804/1869, 19504/1871
  • NSW death certificate – 1927/52
  • NSW Census Collectors Books for 1891 and 1901
  • Sands Directory, 1924, p. 284
  • Souvenir programme: Official opening of the Epping Seventh Day Adventist Church, 17–18 June 1961
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 January 1902
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 June 1902
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 1927
  • Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 12 November 1898

NSW History Week 2011: EAT (Chinese Australian) History

The theme for this year’s NSW History Week is EAT History – the edible, appetising and tasty history of food. Not surprisingly there are a number of events highlighting the connection between Chinese Australian history and food. It may not be possible to attend them all, but here’s a listing of all the ‘Chinese’ events.

Saving the La Perouse Chinese Market Gardens

Organisation: Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
The heritage-listed Chinese Market Gardens at La Perouse have been producing food for over 150 years. The adjacent Eastern Suburbs Cemetery Trust wants these seven hectares of Crown Land for extra graves. For the past three years there has been a battle to retain the Chinese Market Gardens. Guest speaker Christa Ludlow, National Trust (NSW) Landscapes Advocacy Committee member.
When: 3 September 2011
Open: 2:30pm
Close: 4:30pm
Where: Sydney Mechanics School of Arts
280 Pitt Street (between Park & Bathurst Streets)
Sydney, NSW 2000
Australia
Cost: $10.00
Members/Concessions $5.00.
Refreshments included.
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Website: http://www.chineseheritage.org.au
Name: Kathie Blunt
Email: dblunt@bigpond.net.au
Phone: 9449 2453

King Fong’s Chinatown Food Tour

Organisation: Chinese Australian Historical Society Inc.
History Week Event Type: Tour
Cross generational merchant, King Fong, will take you through the streets, eateries and grocery stores of Chinatown to showcase the different types of Chinese cuisine and imported delicacies which marked the growth in richness of Sino-Australian food culture. Join King Fong afterwards for Yum Cha at a local restaurant. Bookings essential, 30 places available only.
When: 6 September 2011
Open: 10:15am for 10:30am start
Where: Sydney’s Chinatown
Corner Dixon and Hay Streets
Haymarket, NSW
Australia
Cost: $5.00
Optional lunch $18.00
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Website: http://cahs.wordpress.com
Name: King Fong
Email: clifford.to@kellogg.ox.ac.uk
Phone: 9452 3761

The Chinese Market Gardens of Ryde in the Early Twentieth Century

Organisation: Ryde Library Service
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
Before we can EAT History we have to grow history. This illustrated talk will examine the story of the Chinese market gardens and gardeners from the earliest references to them in this area in the 1890s through to the middle of the twentieth century.
When: 6 September 2011
Open: 1:30pm
Close: 3:00pm
Where: Ryde Library
Corner Pope and Devlin Street
Ryde, NSW 2112
Australia
Cost: Free
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Website: http://www.ryde.nsw.gov.au
Email: rydelibrary@ryde.nsw.gov.au
Phone: 9952 8352

From Canton to courage: Australian Chinese in Parramatta and beyond – exhibition floor talk and seminar

When: 6 September 2011
Open: 9.15am
Close: 1.00pm
Program: Daphne Lowe Kelley, ‘The Chinese Australian experience: an overview’
Jack Brook, ‘Nineteenth-century Chinese Australians in Parramatta’
Brad Powe, ‘Sharing family stories’
Carloynne Wark, ‘Sharing family stories’
Where: Parramatta Heritage Centre, 346A Church Street, Parramatta

From Canton with courage 6 September 2011 (pdf, 389kb)

Potatoes in the Rice Cooker: Oral Histories of Asian-Australians Cooking at Home, Work and Play

Organisation: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney
History Week Event Type: Workshop
History Week comes alive with a workshop focused on real experience and oral history. Potatoes in the Rice Cooker will include short lectures on histories of Asian-Australian food encounters and the sharing of personal stories, objects, belongings, photos and recipes to do with the dynamics of the kitchen and the table around the preparation, cooking and eating of food in families, workplaces, recreational and community spaces.
When: 7 September 2011
Open: 9:30am
Close: 1:00pm
Join us for lunch at a local restaurant afterwards!
Where: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology
Building 10, 235 Jones Street, Broadway
Ultimo, NSW 2007
Australia
Cost: Free
Participants are invited to lunch at a local restaurant at their own cost.
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Name: Dr Elaine Swan
Email: Elaine.Swan@uts.edu.au
Phone: 9514 3819

The Sydney Markets

Organisation: City of Sydney
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
Allen Yip’s family has been associated with the Sydney Markets dating back to the 1880s. Join Allen as he talks about the history of the markets and his personal experience of this unique part of Sydney. Allen’s talk will be followed by a screening of the short film Out They Go, which beautifully captures the Sydney Markets in 1975 before it moved to Flemington. Presented with the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc.
When: 7 September 2011
Open: 12:00pm
Close: 1:00pm
Where: Haymarket Library
744 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Australia
Cost: Free
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Email: library@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au
Phone: 8019 6477

Chinese Food Trail

Organisation: Marrickville Library and History Services
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
King Fong, President of the Chinese Historical Society, will explore the history of Chinese settlement since the 1850s. His talk will explore the significance of food in this history, from market gardens to Chinese grocery stores.
When: 8 September 2011
Open: 11:00am
Where: Marrickville Library
Corner Marrickville & Petersham Roads
Marrickville, NSW 2204
Australia
Cost: Free
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Email: info1@marrickville.nsw.gov.au
Phone: 9335 2174

Robert Ho on Cantonese Cuisine in Sydney

Organisation: Chinese Australian Historical Society Inc
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
Early Chinese migrants came mainly from Canton and brought with them the distinctive Cantonese style of cooking. Cantonese cuisine has therefore become the symbol of Chinese food to westerners. Drawing on his life experience, Chinatown Master Chef Robert Ho will talk about Cantonese cuisine in Sydney since the 1950s. Attendees will also make history – the traditional village style “Poon Choi” (Basin Feast) will be served first time in Sydney!
When: 11 September 2011
Open: 11:30am
Close: 1:30pm
Where: Hingara Chinese Restaurant
82 Dixon Street
Haymarket, NSW 1240
Australia
Cost: $25.00
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Name: Anna Lee
Email: annalee@workready.com.au
Phone: 0412 334 398

LJ Hooker’s Chinese roots

His name is known across the country, but until recently the true story of LJ Hooker’s early life was unknown, even to his own family. Now, after five years of research, writing and production, Natalia Hooker has published a lavish biography as a tribute to her famous grandfather. The book, LJ Hooker the Man: The Untold Story of an Australian Icon, is particularly interesting for what it reveals about LJ Hooker’s Chinese roots.

Black and white portrait of LJ Hooker

Until an article in the Sydney Morning Herald published in 1985, nine years after Sir Les’ death, nothing was publicly known, or rather said, about LJ Hooker’s Chinese ancestry. The article revealed that LJ was ‘of Chinese origin’ and had changed his name by deed poll from Tingyou to Hooker in 1925 (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March 1985).

In the preface to her biography, Natalia Hooker explains that there were many theories about the origins of the name Hooker:

The most popular story is that LJ’s Chinese father was a railway engineer named Tingyou who had invented the ‘hooker’ coupling system for rail carriages. Another suggestion was the LJ was an admirer of the American Civil War general, Joseph Hooker, whose statue had been built in his honour in Boston in 1903, the year of LJ’s birth. None of these accounts were particularly convincing. (LJ Hooker the Man, p. 5)

Fay Pemberton, the daughter of LJ’s cousin Sylvia, told Natalia a different and much more plausible story, however. Fay said that Hooker was, in fact, LJ’s father’s name.

LJ’s mother Ellen Tingyou, known as Nellie, was 18 and unmarried when she gave birth to her son on 18 August 1903. As was customary at the time for unmarried mothers, Nellie’s baby’s birth was registered with no record of his father.

Little Leslie grew up surrounded by family though – he and Nellie lived together with his grandfather, Chinese-born James Tingyou; aunts Mary Quan and Rosanna Davis; uncles Chun Quan, John Davis and James Tingyou junior; and his cousins William and Percy Quan and Biddy and Sylvia Davis. It was a household in which Chinese must have been spoken, at least by LJ’s grandfather, James Tingyou, and uncle-by-marriage, Chun Quan.

When LJ’s mother Nellie died from tuberculosis in 1911, at the age of 25, it was this extended family that raised him – in particular, his cousin Sylvia who was only six years his senior.

A mystery half solved

For Natalia Hooker, LJ’s parents were something of an enigma. Other than Fay Pemberton’s comment about the Hooker name, Natalia had no clue as to LJ’s father’s identity; she also knew little about the short life of LJ’s mother, Nellie. After some unsuccessful attempts to track down records of the births of Nellie and her siblings, Natalia approached me to see what I could uncover, particularly about the family’s Chinese connection.

As with much family history research, particularly those with Chinese heritage, the trick was in thinking creatively about names. Natalia knew details of the marriage of LJ’s maternal grandparents, James Tingyou and Rosanna Dillon, but there was no trace of their four children under either of their surnames. It turned out that the births of Mary Alice, Rosanna junior, James junior and Ellen (Nellie) were registered under the surname Harlet, and also that in some of the records their Chinese father was listed as being English. When James and Rosanna were married by Rev. James Fullerton in Sydney in 1874, Rosanna’s age was put up to 22 so that she did not need the consent of her parents to marry. It seems, sadly, that she may have been estranged from her Irish-born parents and siblings and felt the need to lie about her name and her husband’s birthplace.

Discovering the Harlet name led, inevitably, to some more small discoveries. But the real clincher came when I found a death registration for LJ’s mother, Nellie Tingyou, under the name Ellen Hookin. With Fay Pemberton’s comment at the back of my mind, the immediate similarity between Hookin and Hooker was striking! The story got even more intriguing when I saw that the informant of her death was a man who described himself as her husband, Harry Hookin.

From Hook Yin to Hookin to Hooker?

Harry Hookin had arrived in Sydney as Hook Yin, a thirteen-year-old boy whose cabinetmaker father was a long-term Sydney resident and naturalised British subject. Already proficient in English, Hookin attended and did very well at school and, in time, took over management of his father’s business, Sing War & Son in Albion Place. At the time of Nellie’s death he gave his place of residence as Beecroft, where the extended Tingyou family were also living – it is possible that Hookin was one among the tangle of aunts, uncles and cousins with whom the young LJ Hooker shared his home.

Harry Hookin, 1911. NAA: ST84/1, 1911/68/61-70.

After Nellie’s death is would seem that Harry Hookin disappeared from LJ’s life though. Three years later he married ‘again’ (he claimed to have married Nellie Tingyou in 1910, for which I have failed to locate a marriage registration) and there remained no memory of him among the Tingyou descendants.

The obvious question remains, however – was Harry Hookin LJ’s father? As Natalia Hooker concludes, ‘it is impossible to know for sure whether or not Hookin was Les’s biological father’ and a number of facts, such as his age – only 17 when LJ was born in 1903 – perhaps suggest otherwise. But, to quote Natalia again:

the fact that Les, as an adult, chose to change his name to Hooker, suggests that, at a minimum, Harry Hookin was a father figure to Les. (LJ Hooker the Man, p. 42)

Some more records about Harry Hookin have recently come to light, but whether they are able to prove anything is another question! It may well be that this remains one of those mysteries that is impossible to solve.

About the book

LJ Hooker the Man: The Untold Story of an Australian Icon by Natalia Hooker (self-published, 2010) is available to order online: www.ljhookertheman.com. It costs $54.95, free delivery. It is available in bookstores throughout Australia as of February 2011. You can also see a preview of the book.

Going against the grain

I’ve just begun writing a book chapter about the travels of white wives of Chinese men from Australia/NZ to China in the period 1880 to 1930. It’s a topic that I’ve been gathering material on for years and years, but now it’s down to actually writing something concrete and (hopefully) intelligent, it’s proving difficult to work out how exactly I’m going to frame their stories.

What’s troubling me most right now is the overwhelmingly depressing tales that emerge from the sources, like this one that I found this morning, titled ‘Harbor Bridge Suicide’  from the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 17 January 1933:

Sydney, Tuesday.

At the inquest yesterday into the death of Mary Anne Mee Hing (62), who jumped off the Harbor bridge on January 5, it was stated that she was an Australian woman who had married a Chinese store-keeper with whom she went to China.

Her husband’s people disowned her, and she returned to Australia, where her parents refused to have anything to do with her. She returned to China and found her husband married to a young Chinese girl.

The woman thereupon came back to Australia, where she took to drink and subsequently ended her life.

The coroner returned a verdict of suicide.

I will see if I can get the full records of the inquest, in the hope that there are more subtle shades to the story, but The full records of the coroner’s inquest into Mary Anne’s death no longer exist, and from the other little bits and pieces I’ve found about her, it seems quite possible that Mary Anne’s life was as full of disappointment and heartbreak as this short report suggests. So many reports tell of marriages that have broken down, of women returning to Australia in financial and emotional distress, of illness, death or separation from children. The nature of these sources is something that I’ve tackled before, in my work on Agnes Breuer’s visit to China with her husband in 1933, but as I look over the bits and pieces I’ve assembled I now wonder if I’m wrong in wanting to assert that the difficult and unhappy times related in the sources are not a fair representation of how white wives experienced China.

At the heart of my response to the sources is my own response to life in China, most particularly as part of a Chinese family there. I went to China more or less on a whim, and it overwhelmed my life, both personally (I fell in love and married there – a relationship that, like many of my subjects’, has not endured) and intellectually (it sparked my passion for Chinese Australian history). There were and are aspects of life in China that I love, and aspects that I find so very difficult to deal with. It is a place where I have been both my happiest and my most unhappy.

If you caught me in the right mood I could paint a picture of my time as Chinese wife and daughter-in-law that was as sensational or pathetic as any that appear in my 19th and early 20th century sources. From seemingly small things, like not being allowed to wash my hair on feast days or to use a needle and thread while pregnant, to bigger things, like the idea of letting my parents-in-law raise my baby or meeting women in the village who had effectively been bought by their husbands. There were many things that contradicted my own (university-educated, Western, liberal, feminist) sense of how the world should work and ultimately how I wanted my own life to be.

At the same time though, spending time in China both as an independent entity and as part of a family has brought me a richness of experience and knowledge, a strength of character and sense of self, and many memories and stories that I would never had if I had stayed safely home in Australia. So if you asked me on another day, I might rave about how wonderful China is and how much I miss being there.

Couldn’t this also be the case for my white wives of a century ago? I know of wives who made short uneventful trips (happy holidays, even?) to China with their husbands and children. And I have scant detail about perhaps half a dozen white wives who stayed living in their husbands’ south China villages for long periods, like one who was described by New Zealand Presbyterian missionary Alexander Don as being ‘far more important in [the] Chinese village than she would have been in her own country’ (Otago Witness, 11 April 1906).

I don’t want the focus of this chapter to be on the biases and prejudices of the missionaries, newspaper reporters and government officials who recorded the experiences of my white wives, rather I want to think about the lives of the women themselves. But with a growing amount of evidence to suggest that my sources are going to remain weighted to the negative, I’m going to have to think about how or if it might be possible for them to reveal a more balanced account. If ever were a time for reading ‘against the grain’, I think this might be it.

Birth certificate registers

In October 1913 Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, Atlee Hunt, sent a circular to the state Customs departments asking if they kept records of Chinese Australians who used their birth certificates as identity papers when travelling overseas.

Queensland already kept such a register, and Hunt felt that:

Such a register is very desirable to enable a check to be kept on persons claiming admission to Australia on birth certificates, as it is an easy matter for a number of copies of the same certificate to be obtained, and the experience of the past shows that in some instances several Chinese have attempted, sometimes successfully, to land on copies of the same certificate. (NAA: A1, 1913/20069)

An example of the early difficulties that both Chinese Australians and government officials had with using birth certificates as identification can be found in the case of Fred Hong See (see NAA: BP342/1, 13021/357/1903). Fred was born in Sydney in 1885 to Chinese parents who, when he was very young, took their son back to China. Fred’s father later died and, in 1903, Fred returned to live with other relatives in Sydney. When he arrived, Customs officer J.T.T. Donohoe doubted his identity and would not allow him to land. Donohoe’s suspicions were based on the fact that Fred could not speak any English and his feeling that Fred looked older than the age stated on the birth certificate he presented.

Fred was quickly sent on his way back to China, and it was only through the threat of legal action by his well-respected relatives in Sydney and their payment of a deposit of £100 that Fred was permitted to stop at Brisbane for re-examination. With evidence provided by Fred’s relatives, the Brisbane Collector of Customs, W.H. Irving, was satisfied that he was, in fact, telling the truth. After Atlee Hunt’s approval, Fred was allowed to stay.

This is the copy of Fred Hong See’s birth certificate that he presented to officials on his return to Australia in 1903. It can be found with other correspondence about the case in NAA: BP342/1, 13021/357/1903.

In the decade after the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act, the processes for its administration continued to be refined and tightened, primarily to prevent the fraudulent entry of Chinese into Australia. Hunt’s request for the keeping of birth certificate registers came about from a concern that ‘as other channels of fraudulent entry are being blocked, the Chinese will make a determined effort to utilize birth certificates to that end.’

His Customs circular of 1913 set out the details that Customs officers should record to enable correct identification on a person’s return to Australia:

  • name
  • number of birth certificate
  • date of issue
  • date of birth
  • where born
  • date of departure from Australia
  • remarks concerning departure
  • date of return
  • by whom examined, landed or rejected
  • general remarks

The Collectors of Customs responded thus:

  • Victoria reported that had been keeping a register from the beginning of the year (1913), but without the level of detail requested.
  • New South Wales had not been keeping records, but was now ordering a book for the purpose.
  • Western Australia had no special register, but would immediately open one.
  • South Australia said they had not had any need for a register, as there had been no cases of Chinese being admitted on birth certificates there.
  • Tasmania would begin keeping a record, but had only had four cases to date.
  • And the Northern Territory had been keeping record of Chinese arriving on birth certificates since 1911.

It became the practice for birth certificates to be endorsed by Customs officials on a person’s departure. This usually included taking a handprint and attaching a photograph, as well as recording the details in a register. Some people also went through the formality of applying for a CEDT.

The two remaining registers

To my knowledge, only two of the birth certificate registers still exist, those for Queensland and New South Wales. The Queensland register is held in the Brisbane office of the National Archives, and a digital copy is available through RecordSearch:

The first volume, of 16 double pages, has suffered flood damage and can be difficult to read in parts. The second volume, which has 23 double pages, is much more legible. A sample page from the second volume is shown below – this is a left-hand page, with the remainder of the details about each person completed on the corresponding right-hand page.

The single register for New South Wales, held in the National Archives’ Sydney office, is more substantial than those for Queensland, demonstrating the greater amount of travel that occurred from Sydney. The register contains around 150 double pages and includes an alphabetical index at the front. The entries date from 1904 to 1962; those before 1913 were presumably copied from records elsewhere. It is also fragile and difficult to read in places, but it has recently also been digitised and made available through RecordSearch:

The page reproduced below is a left-hand page, with further details about the travels of each person available on the corresponding right-hand page.

Making use of the registers

These registers are valuable sources of information about Chinese Australian families in Queensland and New South Wales, and can provide missing pieces of information for people who did not apply for CEDTs when they travelled overseas (which many Australian-born Chinese did not).

Having them digitised is great, especially for those of us who can’t easily get to the Brisbane or Sydney reading rooms – but what would be even more useful is if the information contained in the registers was in a form that could be searched and sorted. I’m working on a bigger project relating to Chinese families in New South Wales, based around a database of information sourced from marriage and birth records up to 1918. I’m part-way into transcribing relevant details from the published BDM indexes with 1000 entries (out of an estimated 3000–4000) in the database so far!

The information found in the birth certificate registers obviously relates very strongly to this, so I have another crazy plan to also transcribe the information held in the Sydney register. It’s not going to be a quick job – and it’s one that could easily be shared since the New South Wales register is online. So, if you happen to have some spare time and don’t mind deciphering old handwriting, I’d love to hear from you!

Form 21(i): Certificate of Domicile, 1902

This is the first in a series of five posts that looks at the different iterations of Form 21 over the first decade of the 20th century. Form 21 is better known as a Certificate of Domicile or Certificate Exempting from Dictation Test (CEDT), but there is something reassuringly bureaucratic in it having a number. There is something practical in it too, because there were a bevy of other forms as well (32, 22, 19, 9 etc), including the confusion-causing Certificate of Exemption (Form 2, which was a temporary entry permit rather than a re-entry permit).

I have located what I’m fairly confident are the first examples of each variation of Form 21 between 1902, when the Immigration Restriction Act came into effect, and 1908. After then things settled down a bit and the form remained more or less the same over the following decades. My examples are taken from New South Wales.

You can see these examples and others in my Invisible Australians library in Zotero.

Certificate of Domicile for Ah Shooey

The first Certificate of Domicile issued in New South Wales would have been numbered 02/1 – ’02’ being the year 1902 and ‘1’ being the certificate number. There is a volume of certificates from 1902 in NAA: SP11/6, Box 3 (more about this in an earlier post), and my guess is that the first Certificate of Domicile is probably to be found there. Unfortunately it’s not digitised and I’m not in Sydney, so we’ll have to leave confirmation of that ’til a later time.

The first Certificate of Domicile that I can include here is, therefore, from a year later. It was the first Certificate of Domicile issued in New South Wales in 1903 (no. 03/1) and is the first certificate to be found in series NAA: ST84/1, ‘Certificates of Domicile and Certificates of Exemption from Dictation Test, chronological series’. (Here’s a link to the record item it is held in: NAA: ST84/1, 1903/1-10 – the whole item is digitised.)

The certificate was issued in the name of Ah Shooey, a 47-year-old Chinese man from Canton, who was departing Sydney for China on the Kasuga Maru on 1 January 1903. The certificate notes that Ah Shooey has one son, who is accompanying him. This is presumably 22-year-old labourer Louey Back Keong, whose certificate is no. 03/2.

Two copies of the form were completed; the one pictured above includes the word ‘Duplicate’ handwritten in red on the front. This copy was kept on file in Sydney, while the other copy (also found in NAA: ST84/1, 1903/1-10) would have been given to Ah Shooey to use during his travels, before being collected and filed on his return. Details of Ah Shooey’s arrival were also marked on the used certificate (‘Landed Empire 27/05/05’).

Ah Shooey’s form records the following information:

Duplicate

No. 03/1

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
Immigration Restriction Act 1901 and Regulations.

CERTIFICATE OF DOMICILE

I, Nicholas Lockyer Collector of Customs at the port of Sydney New South Wales in the said Commonwealth, hereby certify that Ah Shooey, hereinafter described, has satisfied me that he is domiciled in the Commonwealth, and is leaving the Commonwealth temporarily.

[Signature of Nicholas Lockyer] Collector of Customs
Date 31st December 1902

DESCRIPTION

Nationality Chinese
Birthplace Canton
Age 47 years
Complexion
Height 5ft 5 1/2 inch in Boots
Hair Turning grey
Build Stout
Eyes Brown
Particular marks Nail on little finger left hand missing. Top of third finger on right hand off from first joint.

(For impression of hand, see back of this document.)

Family One son
Where resident Accompanying
Date of arrival in Australia Year 1877
Place of residence in Australia Deniliquin
Occupation Storekeeper
Property Value £400 Deniliquin

Date of departure 1st January 1903
Destination China
Ship Kasuga Maru

References in Australia (names and addresses) Police Magistrate Deniliquin. A Fordham Deniliquin. C Hitchin Jerilderie.

Form No. 21.

On the reverse, the form includes the words ‘Impression of Left Hand’ and Ah Shooey’s handprint.

Reverse of Certificate of Domicle for Ah Shooey, 1903. NAA: ST84/1, 1903/1-10

La Perouse market gardens under threat

Chinese community and heritage groups are opposing the planned resumption of heritage-listed market gardens at La Perouse in southern Sydney for use as a cemetery. The land on which the market gardens sit has been used for food production for more than 150 years, and managed by Chinese gardeners for more than a century. They are one of the very few remaining examples of the productive gardens which used to be found all around the Sydney suburbs.

Media release – Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc.

Resumption of Heritage-listed Market Gardens alarms community

Chinese community leaders were shocked to learn about a plan to resume 60% of the heritage-listed Chinese Market Gardens at La Perouse, which was presented by representatives from the adjacent Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park Botany Cemetery, at a Chinese Community Consultations meeting on 26 July 2010, organised by the Community Relations Commission and the Land and Property Management Authority.

The cemetery and the market gardens are on Crown land. Two years ago, in response to representations to acquire this land by the Botany Cemetery and Eastern Suburbs Crematorium Trusts, the Department of Lands, prepared a Draft Assessment of Crown Land – Chinese Market Gardens, Phillip Bay and called for submissions. Many submissions (including ones from the National Trust and Randwick Council) were lodged in July 2008 for the retention of these seven (7) hectares to remain as heritage-listed Chinese market gardens.

The Draft Assessment identified three (3) suitable uses for this land:

  • Environmental Protection
  • Agriculture
  • Nature Conservation

It stated that ‘the site currently has a very high capability for agriculture and is functioning very successfully in this purpose’. (p.35)

It further states in relation to the cemetery proposal: ‘The site in its current state would most likely require significant engineering works to overcome the current constraints such as a high water table and flooding issues. Given the current environmental constraints and current state of the subject land, the site is considered not suitable for the establishment of a cemetery. As per the Australasian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association (2004) ‘Guidelines for the Establishment of a Cemetery’, if the water table is too high burials may not be possible.’ (p.36)

Daphne Lowe Kelley, president of the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia says, ‘The community recognises that with a growing population, there is increased demand for burial space but urges the State government not to acquiesce to this demand to turn unsuitable land into burial plots. I am sure that no one wants to have their dearly departed spending their afterlife in a former swamp.’

Contact: Daphne Lowe Kelley – 0417 655 233 – lowekelley@bigpond.com

Media release – Australian Heritage Institute

From Andrew Woodhouse
President, Australian Heritage Institute, a non-profit, Australia-wide group of local heritage societies
Suite 12, 3 McDonald Street Potts Point NSW 2011
Phone: 0415 949 506

Wednesday 28th July, 2010

State Government moves to evict Chinese market gardeners at historic La Perouse site and downgrade heritage based on hidden report. Calls for Kristina Keneally to intervene.

‘NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, should intervene to provide Sydney with more sustainable food sources and stop her Land Property Management Authority from evicting second-generation Chinese market gardeners from their Bunnerong Road, La Perouse, Crown Lease, just to increase profits and plots for a nearby cemetery,’ Andrew Woodhouse said today.

Mr Woodhouse was invited with about 50–60 members of the Chinese community to a meeting yesterday called by NSW Community Relations Commission to discuss land use changes at the controversial market gardens site.

The scheme, supported by the authority and promoted by the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Cemetery Trust, calls for eviction by 2013 of two of three lease holders, and resumption of 60% of the current market gardens, according to information provided at the meeting (agenda available).

However, no guarantee is provided of any future site for two leaseholders and no guarantee the remaining 40% will be not be resumed at a later date.

Former Labor Party Minister-turned paid lobbyist, Gary Punch, spoke for his clients, the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Trust (ESMT), who aim to purloin public land for their commercial benefit.

The ESMT is owned by the NSW state government and has been the subject of previous public concerns about conflicts of interest. (See ‘State Buys into Funeral Service’, by Paul Bibby, SMH, 27 November 2009, p.9.)

‘The whole rationale of this proposal is a house of cards, with the area’s heritage, dating back to land use by Count La Perouse in 1788 according to the NSW Heritage Council, to be handed over to fill state government coffers depleted by financial mismanagement,’ Woodhouse says.

‘According to Glen Blaxland, a local historian and once a member of the local historical society in the Municipality, Count de La Perouse cleared a piece of land and established a vegetable garden in Phillip Bay to prepare vegetables for his return journey back to France.

The first known name of this suburb area was the Frenchman’s Gardens. It is believed that this vegetable garden was Australia’s first primary industry site and the site was more or less the same site as the Chinese Market Gardens.

According to Randwick – A Social History, published by Randwick Council in 1985, ‘…until 1859, the market gardens were owned and tended by Europeans…’

‘Clearly, the ESMT is guilty of re-writing history to suit itself, claiming in their heritage report there has been no market gardening on the site until after 1904.

‘Show us your evidence,’ Woodhouse says.

‘Claims that heritage plaques or other interpretation will be installed on the site post-resumption are tokenism,’ Woodhouse said.

In yesterday’s one-sided meeting conflicting claims from Gary Punch and George Passas (ESMT) about whether work will begin in 3 or 7 years, the actual costs, perhaps up to $40 million in five $8 million stages, and information contained in a heritage report by an architect, Paul Rappaport, which the ESMT refuses to release, all point to a lack of transparency and accountability.

‘The meeting was presentation, not consultation,’ Woodhouse says. ‘It lacked credibility.’

‘This is not a “public good versus private interests” battle, as Gary Punch claims,’ Woodhouse says, “it’s a 7-hectare land grab based on unknown heritage evidence to remove private, profitable, sustainable businesses to make profits from the dead for the government.’

‘Offers to set aside 20% of new burial plots for Chinese community and a temple are simply bribes,’ Woodhouse says with further comments by Gary Punch that ‘Quite frankly, if you were not Chinese but English Australians there would be no problem with all this’ being not only factually incorrect but prejudiced, perhaps even racist.

Mr Woodhouse has applied under FOI laws for the disputed heritage report.

‘This whole dodgy project should be referred to an Independent Commission of Enquiry,’ Woodhouse says.

For further comments please also phone:

Ms Daphne Lowe-Kelly, President
Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc.
Phone: 0417 655 233
Email: lowekelley@bigpond.com

Mr Terry Ha, Chinese market gardener & leaseholder
President, Australian Chinese Growers’ Association of NSW
Phone: 0419 218 794
Email: terry8ha@hotmail.com

Another Fullerton marriage

Further to my recent post about the Rev. Dr James Fullerton’s habit of marrying young white women to Chinese husbands – I’ve found another, somewhat earlier, example.

The San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin of 30 August 1862 reproduces an article from the Australian and New Zealand Gazette reporting on the increase of marriages between Chinese men and European women. The article says that ‘hitherto the brides have generally been of the lowest class of Irish woman’ – except for the bride of Mr Yung Sing, a merchant from Sydney. She is Emma, daughter of the late John Mann of Parramatta. Emma and Yung Sing were married in the Scotch Presbyterian Church by the Rev. Dr Fullerton.

New South Wales BDM records confirm this: the indexes list the marriage of Emma Mann to Young Siun in Sydney in 1862 (125/1862) and the birth of Adeline M Yung Sing, daughter of Emma and Yung Sing, in 1863 (101/1863). If Emma was the daughter of John and Ellen Mann born in 1843 (V1843702 27A/1843), she too would have been under the age of consent at the time of her marriage.

Strikes me that there is something of a nice little research project here. (Not that I need any more nice little research projects.)

(Information about the Daily Evening Bulletin article taken from the Chinese Australian History Resources Database, item no. 2476.)