William Bligh Turnbull spent most of his life as a farmer but that wasn’t all he did. There was a period, mid-century probably, when he was operating a trading vessel out of Sydney. It was called La Casquarie (sic) and most likely worked the coastal trade, or maybe up and down the rivers, which were the main thoroughfares in those days, when Maitland, for instance, on the Hunter, was the largest town in the state after Sydney. La Casquarie would have carried cargoes of timber, of livestock, of produce, of grain. The name is obscure, perhaps even a misprint. A casque is a helmet; casquerer is to trick or to shell out; the spelling, if it is accurate, almost looks like a play on the word Macquarie, which name is of course ubiquitous in NSW. William was born, as mentioned, at Ebenezer in 1809, just about the time those exceptionally heavy floods which caused so much loss of property and life, visited the Hawkesbury River; and died after a buggy accident in 1892. It seems to have been a protracted demise: he lingered on to the end in a comatose condition with intervals of lucid reason. According to his obituary in the Macleay Chronicle, William Bligh Turnbull did not take any very prominent part either in political or religious matters, but, uninfluenced by theological hatred and free from sectarian bigotry, he tried to perform his duty prudently and independently, and did not suffer himself to be swayed by personal bias or popular prejudice. His genial and kind-hearted disposition, his integrity and probity, won respect wherever he was known. The obituarist, grandiloquently, went on to quote the words Mark Anthony spoke over the body of Brutus towards the end of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: His life was gentle; and the elements / So mixed in him that Nature might stand up / And say to all the world: This was a man. He had married seventeen year old Sarah Davies in February 1838 and she outlived him by more than a decade, dying in 1906 at the age of 84. Ten of their eleven children were born on the Hawkesbury but it isn’t the case, after all, that it was the eldest son who was given the second name Bligh. That distinction, in the next generation, was reserved for James Bligh Turnbull, fifth child and third son, who was born at Colo in 1847. Colo is a little to the north and west of Ebenezer, on the Colo River, a tributary of the Hawkesbury, where the Turnbulls had extended their property holdings. James Turnbull would have been 21 when his father moved up to Kempsey; he is described as a farmer and a Methodist and appears in later years to have worked a property at Sherwood, a little to the west of his Dad’s land at Euroka. Whether James went north with the family in 1868 or followed after is unclear; he certainly ended his life on the Northern Rivers, dying in Kempsey, aged 83, in 1930. His wife, however, Eliza Cox Turnbull, nee Gosper, was born in 1860 at Maraylya, just south of Ebenezer on the Hawkesbury, suggesting either that James stayed on there a while or else that links, which might have been commercial as much as romantic, were maintained between the Hawkesbury and the Macleay. Eliza was thirteen years younger than her husband and outlived him by ten years, dying at Kempsey in 1940. Together they produced fourteen children in all, eight sons and six daughters. Frederick Turnbull, the ninth child, got the Bligh. He was born at Euroka in 1893 and was Malcolm’s grand-father; the two must have known each other. Fred, as he was called, seems to have been the first in the direct line not to have made his living off the land; when he enlisted in the 11th re-inforcement of the 19th Battalion, at Kempsey on 1st October, 1915, he gave his occupation as a school teacher. He was then 22 years old and a single man living at Sherwood, his father’s property on the Macleay River. Like his father, Fred gave his religion as Methodist. He embarked HMAT Nestor on April 9, 1916 at Sydney and sailed via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal to Alexandria, thence to England, where Australian troops generally undertook more training before going to France. The 19th Battalion had been raised around Liverpool in March 1915. It fought in the later stages of the Gallipoli campaign and then, after the men had undergone further training in Egypt, was sent to the Western Front. By the time Fred arrived, most likely late in 1916, the 19th had fought at Pozieres and Clery; then, in November, they were part of an attack on the German lines near Flers, in conditions which Charles Bean described as the worst ever encountered by the AIF. The following year, 1917, the 19th took part in three major battles: second Bullecourt (3-4 May) in France; Menin Road (20-22 September) and Poelcappelle (9-10 October) in Belgium. They fought through almost until the end of the war: at Amiens on 8 August 1918, in the legendary attack on Mont St Quentin on 31 August, and during the forcing of the Beaurevoir Line around Montbrehain on 3 October. But Montbrehain was the battalion’s last battle. On 10 October, it was considered so reduced and debilitated that it was disbanded to reinforce other battalions in the brigade. This was done against the advice of their supreme commander, Monash, who thought morale would suffer as a result, since the men identified primarily with their battalion. Monash also thought that, so long as there were enough soldiers to man 30 Lewis guns, a battalion was a functional fighting force. We don’t know what Fred got up to in the war; only that he survived. In the genealogies he is described as a store-keeper as well as a school teacher and a soldier and maybe he was keeping shop when his only child, Bruce Bligh Turnbull, was born at Tumut in 1926; Fred’s wife, Mary Agnes Turnbull, nee Brown (b.1894) was from Condobolin. Tumut is between Canberra and Wagga Wagga, south of Gundagai, on the edges of Kosciuszko National Park; Miles Franklin country. She came from nearby Talbingo, further into the hills, and there are memories of her in both places. Condobolin is away to the north-west, out on the plains in Wiradjuri country, west through the Bogan Gate from Parkes.
Sunset over the Macleay overlooking Euroka, 1990; Robert Campbell Jnr (1944 – 1993); AGNSW
Tumut Plains: Photograph by Peter Jarver; http://www.peterjarver.com/browse.php?id=223