My grandmother, Violet Fandony Davey, born on the Victorian goldfields from convict stock was a pragmatic, stoic, but loving woman who provided strength to her more delicate and talented husband and their six children.
The family never owned their own home but lived simply, Grandma making rugs and embroidering fancy aprons, growing vegetables and a wonderful fernery that I loved. Grandpa had a workshop where he made signs for the local shops as well as making beautiful cabinets with stained glass fronts. They lived in a rented place that, at one time, had been a. Corner store, the shopfront becoming full of paints and brushes, ladders and signs.
I spent a lot of time with them during my formative years because my father was in the Army and my mother wasn’t coping so well with her three daughters so she would send me off with my 2 sisters on the bus to stay for a while with our grandparents, an hour away.
At the time I was about 8 years and my sisters, 5 and 2 years, the bus conductors were always very concerned that we were not accompanied by an adult, but I considered myself very capable of looking after our welfare, it was what I did.
My grandfather was always trying to improve his health and would grow and eat herbs and catch fish in the local river and ride his bike everywhere, they never owned a car.There was a piano in the lounge room that was always kept dark, very mysterious to me, never allowed to actually sit or stay in there. However, it had to be traversed in order to go upstairs to the bedrooms or through to the workshop. Most of the time we stayed in the kitchen or a little back verandah overlooking the garden.
Grandma’s six children were my father, the eldest, Charles Sheffield who became apprenticed to his father and became a signwriter and artist. Next came my Uncle Ted, a refridgeration engineer, after that Uncle Harry that I met up with much later in life when he was a busker playing the saw in a supermarket mall.
My famous opera singer Aunt Rosina came next, but to me she was Aunty Phyllis. The next son Allan was a bit of a black sheep, a drunken larrikin, playing music in a pub, lots of children that he abandoned, sad story.
Lastly, my Aunty Conny, pretty, kind and a wonderful seamstress. Also quite a good singer, but stuck to church choirs.
They had moved to Maitland from Ballaarat because grandpa had asthma so we never got to meet any of the rest of the family. When I started doing family history I discovered the first Raisbeck to arrive in Australia was Edwin Sheffield Raisbeck who was born in London (1844), to Edward Charles Raisbeck and Catherine Swan. He arrived in Australia in1880 and married Emily Chamberlain at Ballaarat in 1882.
So Grandpa Raisbeck born in 1884 was not the illegitimate grandson of Charles Dickens (a family myth) after all.