Thursday, January 04, 2024

Bobby La’s Hand Dyed Yarns Launch

I have just put up the first of my Australian Merino hand dyed and natural yarn on Etsy (via bio). The labels aren’t quite printed yet (ink is still wet on the garden drawing, which has nothing to do with wool but everything to do with home).     This is a gorgeous, soft, strong, lightly lofted 17 micron, 1/13nm (100g/1,300m)merino that takes colour beautifully. Colours will build and you can order any amount, but this is for my fun, on top of a job and a wild idea to write a book of my own designs (2 years in and well on the way).                                         

I just love this wool so much and want to share it in either it’s natural state or colours that I love, true story. Note @elizabethwilliamsonknitting ‘s #daskelberryshawl knit by @sk2pgrant and dyed by myself. So grateful!! #bobbylashanddyes #handdyedyarn #cobwebwool #finelaceknitting #shetlandlace #knittersgonnaknit #shetlandknitting #australianmerino #beautifulhanddyedyarn #cottageindustryaustralia #robynemeliaisbobbyla #illustrationartists #inkdrawing #topiarygarden #topiarybirds

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Widow’s Lament

 I’m looking at the dent on the couch

Where you used to sit

It’s still there

I’m thinking of the dumb
I (can) watch
Without your eyes


Without some groaning

Without even watching (I’m busy)
(I don’t care)

Without you
Now you’ve gone
I might end up watching the wrong shows

All of the time

I miss you

Friday, July 28, 2023

Alexander Kenneth Tolmie McKenzie & Jane (Jennie) Ross, His Wife.

Thought to be a tall red-head.

Alexander McKenzie, born 5 Dec 1842 in Fodderty, to Kenneth McKenzie and Ann (Annie) Tolmie & Jane Ross, born 30 Dec 1842 in Ardgay, Kincardine, to Donald (Callum) Ross and Ann (Annie) Murray.

The gorgeous book: 'The Chronicles of the Ardchronie Children: Parish of Kincardine' has a beautiful account of Jane (Jennie)'s parents Donald Callum and Annie's wedding and then Jane's birth (both below). Note that Maggie, the author, is Jane's younger sister. More about Donald later.

Alexander & Jane married 28 Nov 1864 in Dundee. He was a Mason and she a domestic servant. It's the first time just now that I noticed they were at the same address and that it's a fair way from home. 3hrs drive today. I suppose that's where they met.

The very next I hear from them is via the birth of their son, named Alexander (of course) born in Shellback Creek, Thames, New Zealand in 1869. Our Alick by now a miner. You will no doubt be aware of the gold rush going on in NZ and Australia. In 1872 my great grandmother Elizabeth (Bessie, no one was allowed to call her anything but Bessie) McKenzie was born in Thames, New Zealand (North Island). Alick was by now a contractor.

The family moved to the Dunedin area on the South Island, though I'm not sure when or what was happening. There is the Deborah Bay tunnel contract in 1874 and Jane much later lived at Palmerston nearby. I assume the family were around Dunedin for much of the time while Alexander travelled for work. The contracts include Alick's brothers Daniel and John. Daniel did aged 51 in 1890.

I had not known of Daniel as he was not present for the 1851 census, however family contacted me to inform me of Annie nee Tolmie (of the wedding story) going to NZ and sent this gravestone picture below. A Daniel McKenzie is found at another property in Tain, as a stable boy (aged 14) and I imagine it was not a terribly common name and explains the gap.

Port Chalmers, New Zealand.

 On 5 Dec 1878, in Greymouth, Alexander was struck and killed by a 'lodger' when felling a tree. See article below. 

Alexander was part of the Freemasons in Thames. His name is found in their archives and below, the obituaries speak of his character. There are mistakes. For example I have no evidence of the couple ever going to Nova Scotia, though I have no travel records at all so they may have popped over. Alick's brothers John and Daniel McKenzie were over in NZ too. Daniel shows up at a nearby place in the census in Scotland and I had not otherwise known of him, until finding some distant family who confirmed via Ann Tolmie's death. After their father Kenneth McKenzie died in Scotland, Annie followed them down to Dunedin, NZ. I had imagined Alexanders life in NZ to be a lonely one, dying away from his wife and children. However I have found evidence that his brother Daniel had worked nearby not long before his death. With their mother Annie around, Jane, the children, her brother in laws and their families nearby, it will have been quite a family.

John, Daniel and Alexander had the contract for the Deborah Bay tunnel, a railroad tunnel that I think exists today as a walking track. 

Jane's father Donald Ross was a road contractor back in Kincardine, where he lived his whole life as far as I can see. He is buried with Ann and their son John at Kincardine Cemetery (below).

5th December 1842, birth of Alexander McKenzie to Kenneth and Anne nee Tolmie.
Jane Ross, daughter of Donald Ross, Ardchronie, and Ann Murray. b 30 Dec 1843, baptised 12 Jan 1844.

The wedding of Donald (Callum) Ross and Anne Murray (Jane's parents and Alexander's in laws).
 Beginning, My father... which is Donald Callum Ross (my g.g.g.grandfather). Near the bottom when the author states: Now for our family... there is mention of Jennie being in NZ ... this was such a moving passage to read and I am amazed to find such detail. Nice stories too.

The wedding certificate of Alexander and Jennie (Jane).

In New Zealand, in 1869 and 1872, Alexander and Elizabeth were born. Father, miner. The district they were born in was a huge gold-rush area. Elizabeth died before I was born but was quite a character. I'll do a separate article on her later.

Bessie's original birth certificate.

 Bessie joined the Salvation Army in Auckland and came to Melbourne, Australia, to study, where she met and married George Armstrong and had five children: Hazel, Laurel, Hilda, George (known as Keith, my gramps) and Ian Alister (Alec). Just a brag... Hilda and Laurel won a competition in 1923, choosing the name 'Vegemite' for a new vegetable extract you may have heard of (yum). 

Whilst I do have two of the contracts involving the Deborah Bay Tunnel, they are too long (and a bit boring) to add here. I did find this snippet from 1874 and imagine it to be my great, great grandfather, though I know nothing more on the subject:

And then, sadly, we go to his death. This was very difficult to find as the name is so common and NZ BMD doesn't have parents names in their search engine. However, I was contacted by someone who was related to Jenni's second husband (the name change being the reason I could not find her death certificate, nor any trace of her). That wedding certificate, whilst having Alexander  wrongly named 'Charles', added up in every other way and gave the date of this, her first husband's death, some 11 years previous. From that I was able to narrow down my search and find my grandfather's death certificate and then found a few newspaper articles.

I have not found any Nova Scotia connection though as mentioned I have no travel documents at all. He certainly was born in Scotland. 

The children were 6 & 9 years old. 
Young Alexander became a fisherman like his own father in law. I have yet to find any current descendants. He had 2 daughters and a son (Alexander of course) to Emma Ajen, his wife. One girl Annie Emma and Violet Jane. Annie died aged 14.

Jennie and John Shearer Ritchie's wedding. Note Jane's parents. They had no children (she was 45).

Below is the tombstone of Jane's parents and brother at Kincardine, Scotland. Donald Ross, the Road Contractor my father spoke of as having either been in NZ or being somehow connected to Alexander (his son in law) become a rail tunnel builder. I have no information about any link between their work and it's clear that Donald lived and died in Scotland, though 10 years between census allows for some movement.

Jane (Jennie) Ritchie's death.
Again, as is common with death certificates, where the recording of information about the deceased is by those around them, some details are incorrect. 

Below is Jennie's parent's gravestone at Kincardine, Scotland.

In loving memory of/DONALD ROSS/died 14th Aug. 1909/aged 94 years/and of his wife/ANNIE MURRAY/died 24th April 1910/aged 85 years/also their son/JOHN ROSS/died at Ardcronie/8th March 1929/aged 83 years.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


Can’t sleep                                                    (just relax yourself)                                   (my pillow is lumpy)

Can’t Sleep             (try not to wriggle) 

I’m soooo tired.                      (you’ve got to work in the morning)

Sore back                (I’ll just stretch a little)

Hot               (and poke my feet out)

Sticky                                (my f’ing feet are cold now)

Roll over     (be stealthy)                                                                              (don’t be annoying)

Roll back             (sorry about that)

Thinking…                 (just think of quiet things!)    (imagine the fields over the road)   (listen to the wind)

Whoa! That’s a good idea!   (fuck, what a great idea!)                 (wow, that could work really well)

Hmmmmm…               mmm…          huh…!

Mmm…                                                 (no, you can’t start a project at 3.56 in the morning on a work day!)

I could use all of my gold threads                                           (a squillion thoughts, each better than the last)

Start now?                               (no, you   Can    Not    Start    Now!)                       (Go     To     Sleeeeeeep!)

I might as well use them really                            (ffs! think about quiet things!)

                                           (you could use the old brocade and that blue mohair you got from the market)

I think I’m drifting now    (I think I’m falling asleep)

                                                                                  (we could go to Spotlight on the way home)

Yes, definitely nicely drowsy                                             (or Lincraft at lunchtime I suppose)

That’s so much better        (I’m pleasantly drifting away)            (nearly gone)     

                                                                                   (thoughts are quiet now, if textured)