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Interesting certificates

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There are many fascinating historical certificates among the Registry's 18 million records, often relating to prominent (or notorious) Australians. Thomas Parr and Mary MacCormick were the first couple to be married in the colony of NSW on 10 February 1788 in Port Jackson.     

A couple of unusual certificates:

Famous women

Dame Nellie Melba

Helen Porter Mitchell (Dame Nellie Melba) was born in Richmond, Victoria in 1861. In 1880 after leaving school she moved with her father to Queensland. She married Charles Nisbett Frederick Armstrong in 1882, bearing him a son. She soon grew bored and in 1884 she left her family for Melboune, to pursue a singing career. She made her Melbourne debut as a singer that year and her European debut in Brussels in 1887, as Gilda. In 1889 she debuted on stage in both Paris and London, her career coinciding with Covent Garden's golden age. Having taken a stage name for her home town of Melbourne, Melba was introduced to high society, performing for the crowned heads of Europe. In 1890 Melba had an indiscreet affair with Phillipe, Duke of Orleans. Melba's husband finally divorced her in Texas in 1900.
Dame Nellie Melba
In 1902 Melba returned to Australia on a concert tour that resembled a royal tour, drawing huge crowds at train stations. Melba returned to Australia to tour in 1909 and 1911. She was active in promoting war bonds during World War I and supporting the Albert Street Conservatorium in Melbourne.

In 1924 Melba began a series of infamous 'farewell' concerts, which introduced the phrase 'doing a Melba' to the language. Her last performance was at a charity concert in London. Returning home to Australia, she became ill with fever and only made it as far as St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, where she died on the 23 February 1931 of septicaemia, which had developed from facial surgery she had undergone in Europe.

Melba was much loved in Australia and her funeral was as grand as a state funeral. She left a legacy of a few recorded performances, a glamorous image and a dessert named after her: the Peach Melba.

Mary Reiby (nee Haydock)

Mary Reiby Mary Haydock was born in England in 1777, and transported to the Colony of New South Wales for horse stealing in 1790. When arrested she was dressed as a boy and using an alias, however her identity was revealed during the trial. She was 13 years old when sentenced. Arriving in Sydney in 1792 she was assigned as a nursemaid in the household of Major Francis Grose.

In 1794 she married Thomas Reiby, formerly of the East India Company, who established a trading enterprise called Entally House. By 1803 Thomas owned three boats and traded coals and wheat up the Hawkesbury and Hunter rivers. In 1807 Thomas bought a schooner for trading with the Pacific Islands, however he fell ill after a voyage to India in 1809.

After his death in 1811 Mary was left with seven children and control of a large business which included rural properties, Bass Strait sealing operations and overseas trading. Through enterprise and hard work she became one of the most successful businesswomen in the Colony. As she rose in affluence, she also rose in respectability and socialised in Governor Macquarie's set. Mary opened a new warehouse in 1812 and extended her fleet with the purchase of two more ships in 1817. In 1820 Mary returned to England with her daughters.

Returning to Sydney she began buying property and erecting buildings in the centre of town. Mary was soon able to retire from management and live on her investments. In 1825, noted for her interest in church, education and charity, Mary was appointed one of the governors of the Free Grammar School. She settled in Newtown in her later years, where she lived until her death in 1855. Mary's face now appears on the Australian $20 note.


Ben Hall

Ben Hall Ben Hall was born at Wallis Plains, near Maitland, on 9 May 1837. He was the son of ex-convicts, and spent his early years around Murrurundi. In the early 1850s he worked as a stockman on the Lachlan and on 29 February 1856 he married Bridget Walsh at Bathurst. In 1859, in partnership with John McGuire, he took up a Crown lease of land at Sandy Creek south of Forbes. They had a son Henry, born 7 August 1859. In early 1862 Bridget left him, taking with her his infant son. In April 1862, Hall was arrested for armed robbery, but was released due to lack of evidence. Three months later he was arrested again for involvement in the Eugowra gold escort robbery. Again he was released due to lack of evidence, but having incurred substantial legal expenses he and McGuire were forced to transfer the lease of Sandy Creek. In early 1863, Hall joined John Gilbert at the head of a gang of bushrangers.

This gang was well led, well armed and their stolen racehorses easily out paced the poorer police horses. In October 1863, they made a daring raid on Bathurst and throughout 1864 they committed many robberies along the Sydney-Melbourne road south of Goulburn. Following the shooting of two policemen by the gang, a reward of 1,000 pounds was offered for Hall's capture . Betrayed by an informer, he was ambushed on 5 May 1865 and shot dead by police near the Billabong Creek near Forbes . His body, riddled with gunshot wounds, was buried in Forbes Cemetery. He was 27. His funeral was well attended; as there was considerable sympathy amongst local people for a young man who had been so well regarded but whose life had taken such a disastrous turn.

Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt)

Captain Thunderbolt Frederick Ward was born in 1835 in Wilberforce, near Windsor, though there is no official record of his birth. He worked as a drover and horse breaker at Tocal Station on the Paterson River until his arrest in 1856 for receiving seventy-five stolen horses. He was sentenced to ten years hard labour. He was released in 1860, but he returned to Cockatoo Island to complete his sentence after being tried for horse stealing.

Ward escaped in 1863 with the help of his wife, Mary Ann. They lived on the Culgoa River near Bourke until Ward adopted the name 'Captain Thunderbolt in 1865. With associates, Ward carried out armed robberies near Bourke, Moree and Gunnedah. Alone and with a reward of 200 pounds on his head, Ward held up a mailman in 1867 and was almost captured while drunk near Manilla. In November that year his wife died of pneumonia.

Ward then worked with William Monckton, a 13 year old runaway, until October 1868. On 25 May, 1870 Ward was surprised while testing a horse, chased and shot by Constable Alexander Binney Walker at Kentucky Creek near Uralla. A Protestant, he was buried in Uralla cemetery without religious rites.

Ward's career as a professional bushranger is attributed to his horsemanship, choice of horse, never taking on armed guards or police and popular sympathy due to his gentlemanly behaviour.

Famous Men

Victor Trumper

Victor Trumper Victor Trumper was born in Sydney on 2 November 1877. Trumper learnt to play cricket on the streets of Surry Hills and at 15 he played with the Carlton Club followed by the South Sydney Club at 16. He scored 67 runs for the New South Wales Juniors eighteen against Andrew Stoddart's eleven on 22 December 1894, leading to his selection for New South Wales side against South Australia in January 1895.

Touring as the fourteenth man in 1899 he became the first Australian to score 300 in England and was admitted as a full team member.

During the 1902 tour he scored 11 centuries and was described by Wisden as 'the best batsman in the world'. He became the first batsman to record a century before lunch in a Test at Old Trafford.

In August 1904 he opened a sports store in Market Street and in 1909 he formed a sports and mercery store in George Street, near Wynyard Station. In 1911 it became Victor Trumper and Dodge Ltd.
Trumper was appointed NSW captain for the 1910-11 season and led the state 24 times for 15 wins, 4 draws and 5 losses. He was the first to score six centuries in Anglo-Australian Test in Sydney in December 1911. Opening in what would be his final test, he scored 50 in the second innings in Sydney in 1912.

Trumper's final game was for his club, Gordon, against Petersham at Chatswood Oval, 24 October 1914. Already tired and sick, he only scored 4 runs. By late 1914, kidney disease had taken its toll and by April 1915 he was confined to bed. In June he entered St Vincents Hospital, dying there on 28 June 1915. Buried in the Anglican section of Waverley Cemetery, he was survived by his wife, 9-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.

Trumper's first class batting figures are: 255 matches, 16,939 runs, highest score 300 not out, average 44.58. He made 42 centuries and 87 half centuries. He took 172 catches and 64 wickets at 31.73.  

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson Henry Lawson was born on 17 June 1867 at Grenfell in NSW, to Niels Larson, a Norwegian miner who had changed his name to Peter Lawson, and his wife Louisa. Lawson had an unhappy childhood and his parents separated when he was young. Lawson was a lonely and unpopular child at school, often unable to attend due to isolation and moving from place to place with his parents. His isolation was made even worse when he was left partially deaf due to a childhood illness.

Lawson left school in 1880 and moved to the Blue Mountains to work as a builder with his father. In 1883 he moved to Sydney to live with his mother and became an apprentice coach painter to Hudson Bros Ltd, studying at night to matriculate.

Unable to cure his deafness, find a better job or succeed in his studies, Lawson began to write. Inspired by his mother's republican friends, his first published poem, 'A Song of the Republic' appeared in the Bulletin in 1887. His first published short story, 'His Father's Mate', appeared shortly after his father's death. He began working as a journalist, writing articles for the Republican as well as publishing verse.

In 1891 Lawson was hired by the Brisbane publication the Boomerang, contributing prose and verse, as well as writing for the Worker. However the Boomerang ran into trouble and Lawson was let go. He then divided his time between odd jobs, writing and carousing.

Falling into a rut, J. F. Archibald sent Lawson to Bourke at the Bulletin's expense. The memory of this time, with its drought and hardships, would colour his work for the rest of his life. Work inspired by this period includes 'The Bush Undertaker', 'The Union Buries its Dead' and the short story collection While the Billy Boils in 1896. The same year another book was published, In the Days When the World was Wide and Other Verses. He also married Bertha McNamara in that year.

Returning from a trip to the Western Australian goldfields, Lawson began drinking heavily in the company of his friends. Bertha moved to New Zealand to try to remove Lawson from their influence, however when Bertha fell pregnant they returned to Sydney and Lawson returned to his old friends and habits. Lawson became obsessed with wanting to write in England and, sponsored by Earl Beauchamp, he finally took his family to England in 1900. Joe Wilson and his mates was written and published in London, however the climate and ill health forced the family to return to Sydney in 1902.

Lawson entered a decline. His wife left him, he drank heavily and attempted suicide. He was gaoled for failing to pay maintenance and spent time in mental hospitals. Although he was writing, his work suffered and critics accused him of maudlin sentimentality. Works from this period include The skyline riders and other verses (1910), Triangles of life and other stories (1913) and My army, o my army! and other songs (1915). Friends arranged spells in the country and the Commonwealth Literary Fund granted him a pension of one pound a week but his alcoholism and deterioration continued. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage at Abbotsford on 2 September 1922.

A legendary figure and friend of prominent politicians, Lawson was granted a state funeral. Lawson is best remembered as one of Australia's greatest poets and story writers, and is most popularly known for his bush tales.