Back to civilian life

On 14 July 1919, the day before his 37th birthday, Andy was discharged from the Australian Army.

Andy and Jane had been married for 5 years but had spent barely 4 months as husband and wife. They must have been excited to restart their lives together. I imagine Jane was determined not to be separated from Andy again.

Jane brought Andy home to Beaufort, Victoria where he met her family probably for the first time.

No doubt Jane’s mother Elizabeth welcomed Andy into the family, but what did patriarch John Stewart think of his new son-in-law? Did John’s blunt manner cause tension?

The Stewart home was a small miner’s cottage – two bedrooms at the front, a kitchen-eating room behind and a verandah. There wasn’t much space to retreat from a tense situation. The kitchen was Elizabeth and Jane’s domain, the verandah was where John would sit and smoke his pipe. Where did Andy fit?

Andy was going through a difficult period, assimilating back into civilian life. He may have had bad dreams or flashbacks. He may have felt that there was no-one he could talk to about his experiences. But not only did he have to psychologically adjust, he had to find his place in the Stewart family.

Perhaps this is when Andy took on the chore of chopping wood for the fire and the stove. Next to the house was a substantial woodpile. Going out to the woodpile would have been a good way for Andy to get some time to himself and let off some steam, while also being a productive member of the family.

Sources

NAA: B2455, DUNCAN, A.S. National Archives of Australia.

Featured image: Andrew Stewart Duncan with niece Nellie Bruce Stewart and Clarence Leslie Stewart, Beaufort c.1919. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

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Notes on Jane’s parents

I get the impression that John Stewart was a hard man. He lived a frontier life, born in Van Diemen’s Land in 1845, growing up in pre-gold rush Geelong and then on the central Victorian goldfields. He raised his own family at Eurambeen and the Fiery Creek goldfields. John learned the stonemason’s trade from his father. His work can still be seen in some of the old buildings not far from Ballarat.

Stockyard Hill Hotel 1935. One of the buildings on which John Stewart worked as stonemason. Museum Victoria collection: 'The Biggest Family Album of Australia' MM 000697
Stockyard Hill Hotel 1935
One of the buildings on which John Stewart worked as stonemason.
Museum Victoria collection: ‘The Biggest Family Album of Australia’ MM 000697
Stockyard Hill Hotel 1988
Stockyard Hill Hotel 1988. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

John Stewart was 31 when he married 19-year-old Elizabeth Ann Ball in the Beaufort Primitive Methodist Church on 18 May 1877. As a young man he would have cut a rugged figure; not tall but solidly built with a jet-black bushranger beard.

My father was only two years old when John Stewart died in 1944. But he has a strong image of John sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch at Beaufort, his face hidden under the brim of his hat, puffing away on his “big, old, stinky pipe”.

John and Elizabeth Stewart, Neill Street Beaufort
John and Elizabeth Stewart, 108 Neill Street Beaufort. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

When my grandmother Rene gave birth to my father, John Stewart declared, “the girl’s too young to have a baby. Take it away from her”. Rene was one month away from her 20th birthday. Apparently it had been acceptable for 31-year-old John to marry 19-year-old Elizabeth, but for Rene 19 was too young. (Elizabeth had had her first child when she was 21.)

Rene remembered Elizabeth Ann Ball as a “lovely lady”. It was Elizabeth who kept a welcoming home and maintained strong relationships with her children and grandchildren.

A welcoming home Elizabeth Ann Stewart (nee Ball) with her daughter Jane (seated), daughter-in-law Amelia Bruce Tan Loo Stewart and Amelia's children Clarence and Nellie Stewart
A welcoming home
Elizabeth Ann Stewart (nee Ball) with her daughter Jane (seated), daughter-in-law Amelia Bruce Tan Loo Stewart and Amelia’s children Clarence and Nellie Stewart. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

Meanwhile on the home front

While Andy was overseas Jane Duncan was a dutiful wife. She took an interest in the newspaper reports of the Gallipoli campaign and later the Western Front. She clipped newspaper articles for Andy to read when he returned home.

Elizabeth Jane Duncan nee Stewart c. 1918
Elizabeth Jane Duncan nee Stewart c. 1918. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

Jane wrote regularly to the Department of Defence, advising frequent changes of address and seeking updates on Andy’s situation. She also wrote to the newspapers in Broken Hill, Adelaide and Melbourne to share any news from the front.

On 27 May 1915 Jane wrote

I suppose you know that Sergt. Duncan enlisted at Broken Hill and after his departure I sold our home & came to Beaufort to be with my mother till such times as Mr. Duncan returns

Jane Duncan's letter to the Department of Defence, 27 May 1915.  B2455/3525935 © Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2013.
Jane Duncan’s letter to the Department of Defence, 27 May 1915.
B2455/3525935
© Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2013.

To be with my mother. Not her father? Family memories suggest that Jane and her father, John Stewart, only got along in small doses. Jane’s relationship was with her mother.

It wasn’t long until Jane’s free spirit saw her leave Beaufort again, though she returned regularly to her parents’ home. Jane’s letters to the Department of Defence record her travels.

• In August 1916 she was in Broken Hill “for a month or two”, staying with friends.

• On 24 October 1916 she changed her address to Beaufort, “as I have left Broken Hill & have returned to Victoria”.

• In April 1917 Jane wrote, “I am in Sydney for a few months” and gave her address as 146 Flinders Street, Moore Park, Darlinghurst.

• By 31 January 1918 Jane was lodging at the Dunolly Coffee Palace and planning to stay “for some considerable time”.

• On 5 April 1918 Jane was back in Beaufort, but by mid-May she was residing at 11 Victoria Road, Malvern with her aunt, Elizabeth Anne Downes White (nee Stewart). Jane stayed in Malvern until news came of Andy’s repatriation to England in January 1919, then she returned to Beaufort for a month or so.

• By 11 March 1918 she was in Bung Bong, near Maryborough. It is possible that Jane’s travels to Dunolly and Bung Bong were associated with family, as the Whites and the Stewarts were mining families with connections to the central Victorian goldfields.

• The Riponshire Advocate of 29 June 1918 reported that Jane was in Banyena.

• On 19 April 1919 Jane wrote to advise that she would be leaving Bung Bong for Beaufort and requested any further news of Andy be sent to the Stewart home.

 

Sources

NAA: B2455, DUNCAN, AS. National Archives of Australia.

1918 ‘FOR THE EMPIRE.’Riponshire Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 29 June, p. 2.