Thursday, 9 May 2013

The de Crespigny family macaw

The death of a macaw at Hastings was noted in the New Monthly Magazine of 1814.  The macaw was said to have been 122 years old and belonged to the de Crespigny family for most of its life.

retrieved from

Macaws are known to be long lived but a recent academic paper talks about a life span of less than 60 years.1 Another article states "In reality, however, life spans rarely exceed 50 years of age, although a few reliable records exist of parrots aged up to 65–70 years."2 Newspapers report a macaw named Charlie in England who is believed to be over 100 years old. However since there is no agreement over his ownership for part of his life, then the claim that he is the same bird who hatched in 1899 must also be questionable.3 Another macaw, also in England is claimed to be 87 years old.4 however, the Guiness Book of Records states that the oldest living parrot is 39 years old.5 Presumably other parrots have not been authenticated as being older.

122 years would thus be regarded as an exceptionally long life and somewhat improbable.

The macaw had belonged to Lady de Crespigny who died in July 1812. If she had had the bird for 40 years and 10 months, she would have had it from September 1771.

Lady de Crespigny's husband's father was Philip Champion de Crespigny (my sixth great grandfather) who died at the age of 60 in 1765. His wife Anne (née Fonnerau) died in September 1782.

It is possible that the bird was acquired when Philip was an infant but perhaps it is more likely that he acquired it as an adult when his brother, Claude Champion Crespigny, was involved in the South Sea Company. He joined the South Sea Company as a clerk in 1720 at the age of 14 and eventually became its secretary. Claude died in October 1782.

If the bird had been owned by Mary de Crespigny's father-in-law it would have been born before 1765 meaning that in 1814 when it died it was at least 49 years old. If Claude Champion Crespigny had owned it, it would have been at least 32 years old. Claude died unmarried and left his belongings to his nieces and nephews so it could have come to Mary de Crespigny that way.

Twenty years after its death, the de Crespigny's bird was still remembered in The Pocket magazine of classic and polite literature published in 1833

retrieved from

A beautiful illustration of a macaw by Edward Lear, who is better remembered as a poet of humerous verse:
Ara Macao by Edward Lear 1830 from where the author makes the point that Lear was a serious artist: What is not as well remembered these days are his works as a serious artist. Born in 1812, the twentieth of twenty-one children, he experienced extreme poverty as a child, and was brought up by an elder sister. Whilst still a teenager, Lear began work on his illustrations of parrots, unusually for the time drawn from life, which were published in an edition of 175, as Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidae, or Parrots in 1832, when Lear was still only twenty. The forty-two hand-coloured lithographs are of breathtaking quality, and secured Lear’s reputation as an ornithological illustrator, (a copy of the book, of which about a hundred remain, sold in 2004 for over £50,000).

1. Clubb, Susan L., and Lorraine Karpinski. "Aging in macaws." Journal of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (1993): 31-33. retrieved from 

2. Brouwer, K., et al. "Longevity records for Psittaciformes in captivity." International Zoo Yearbook 37.1 (2000): 299-316. retrieved from

3. Lyall, Sarah. "Reigate Journal; Parrot May Have Been Churchill's, but She's Not Saying". New York Times (March 9, 2004) retrieved from

4. "Who's a pretty (old) Polly, then? World's oldest parrot, 87, is a Hollywood legend, squawks catchphrases from Ace Ventura... and loves attacking the paparazzi." Daily Mail (UK) (4 November 2012) retrieved from

5. "Oldest parrot - living " Guinness World Records retrieved from on 9 May 2013

Monday, 6 May 2013

A toxophilite - Mary de Crespigny née Clarke (1749 - 1812)

A beautiful sunny day in Ballarat and Charlotte is just trying out archery. A satisfying thud of the arrow hitting the butt makes me think of a well known toxophilite in our family, the first Lady de Crespigny, wife of the first baronet. Her interests in archery probably helped considerably in gaining the baronetcy as it linked her with the upper echelons of society.

Mary Clarke (1749–1812), Wife of Sir Claude Champion_de_Crespigny, 1st Bt by British (English) School Oil on canvas, 75 x 62 cm Collection: Kelmarsh Hall retrieved from

In 1801 Mrs Crespigny, as she then was, was patroness of the Royal Toxopholite Society. The patron of the society was the Prince of Wales.

The Fashionable World .
The Morning Post and Gazetteer (London, England), Tuesday, May 12, 1801

After John Emes & Robert Smirke To His Royal Highness George Prince of Wales This Plate representing a Meeting of The Society of Royal British Archers in Gwersyllt Park, Denbighshire, aquatint by Cornelis Apostool, [Siltzer p.335], 1794, John Emes. The scene illustrates the popularity of the Royal British Archers, or Royal Toxophilite Society, amongst women (albeit only of a high social standing) as one of the few sports in which they compete at all, let alone on equal terms. The original painting is in the British Museum, the landscape being the work of Robert Emes, who also published the print, while the figures were painted by Robert Smirke. Retrieved from

From The Book of Archery by George Hagar Hansard, 1840. Section III Female Archery pages 153 - 155 retrieved from
with permission from the site librarian

Mary Clarke was born about 1748 in Surrey.  On 16 February 1764, at the age of 16, she married Claude Champion de Crespigny (1734-1818), my fifth great grand uncle.  They had only one child, a son William, born 1 January 1765.

Mrs Crespigny was  a writer and socialite.  Below is one view of her from A Happy Half-century: And Other Essays by Agnes Repplier, published by the Houghton Mifflin Company in 1908 and retrieved from where Ms Repplier talks about a "young authoress named Elizabeth Ogilvy Benger - a model of painstaking insignificance  - [who] invited Charles and Mary Lamb to drink tea with her one cold December night, [but] she little dreamed she was achieving a deathless and unenviable fame". Charles Lamb wrote about Elizabeth Benger to his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge and she is said to "be laughed at forever because of Charles Lamb's impatient and inextinguishable raillery." In the essay Lady de Crespigny is mentioned as a friend of Miss Benger's but not of Charles Lamb:

Newspaper clippings give an insight into her many activities.

14 May 1801 - Morning Post - London, page 1

Morning Post 11 September 1803, page 1. Similar notices appeared in years following as new editions were produced.
9 January 1804 - Morning Post - London page 3 Master William is probably her grandson, the second son of her son William and born 1789 (age 14 at the time of this party).

19 May 1804 - The Ipswich Journal - Ipswich, Suffolk, page 4
Of the "old families" of Camberwell not yet mentioned by us, we have the ... De Crespignys, who came from France, as Protestant refugees, in the reign of William III., though they did not settle in Camberwell until early in the eighteenth century. Champion Lodge, at the foot of Denmark Hill, was built in 1717, by Mr. Claude de Crespigny. In 1804, the Prince of Wales visited Champion Lodge, and of course a great fête was made on the occasion, and the owner of the house was soon afterwards made a baronet. The park had originally an area of about thirty acres. The house, noticeable for the fine iron gates and the stately cedars in front, was pulled down in 1841, and the site is now occupied by rows of houses. Sir Claude de Crespigny was a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and married the gifted, as well as accomplished, daughter of Mr. J. Clarke, of Rigton, Derbyshire. It was this Lady de Crespigny who wrote the admirable lines which were placed over a grotto standing in the grounds of Champion Lodge, and dedicated to Contemplation. from 'Camberwell', Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), pp. 269-286. URL: Date accessed: 06 May 2013

Description of the festivities at Champion Lodge in June 1804 from
The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 74, Part 2, published by A. Dodd and A. Smith, 1804, pages 621-2 retrieved from Google Books

Not long after these successful festivities the Champion de Crespigny baronetcy was created (5 October 1805).

12 October 1805 - Lancaster Gazette - Lancaster, Lancashire, England, page 1
The de Crespignys attended court and the elaborate dresses of Lady de Crespigny were reported upon.

21 January 1806 - Morning Post - London, page 3
19 January 1808 - Morning Post - London, page 3

Lady de Crespigny died in July 1812.
The Gentleman's Magazine for July 1812 page 188, retieved from Google Books

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Frederick Beswick Cross (1893 - 1959) World War I service

Frederick Beswick Cross was my husband's grand uncle.  He was born at Homebush, Victoria on 30 July 1893, the fifth of ten children of Frederick James Cross and Ann Jane née Plowright.

Fred joined the Australian Imperial Force on 11 May 1915 at Maryborough shortly after the news of Gallipoli.  He was aged 21 years 10 months and his occupation prior to enlistment was labourer.  His religion was Roman Catholic. (National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; Cross Frederick Beswick : SERN 1689/2021 : POB Talbot VIC : POE Maryborough VIC : NOK W Cross Ethel)

On his first medical examination at Maryborough on 10 May his height was given as 5'9½". He was re-examined in Melbourne on 15 May where his height was adjusted to 5'7½"

He was assigned to the 2/23 reinforcements in June and then he re-enlisted again at Broadmeadows on 24 August (page 10 of dossier).  The outcome of his first service period is not clear but his initial attestation forms are stamped with "Deserter see BRM No. 7 192."  Late in his file (page 47) a handwritten note states that his date of enlistment is to be taken from his first attestation papers as 11 May 1915 and "do not show "desertion". CC's ruling." On re-enlistment he was assigned to the 8th reinforcements of the 22nd battalion.
Uncle Fred (Brother of Peter (Ernest) Young's mother, Elizabeth Cross)

Fred embarked at Melbourne on 26 August 1915 on HMAT "Anchesis".  

In December 1915 he was admitted first to the 19th General Hospital and then transferred to the 2nd Australian General Hospital (in Egypt at the time) with enteric fever.  Enteric fever, also called typhoid fever, is an acute infectious disease characterized by high fever and intestinal inflammation, spread by food or water contaminated with the bacillus Salmonella typhosa.
page 40 of WWI dossier

page 39 of WWI dossier

Fred was discharged from hospital in April 1916.  He transferred to  the British Expeditionary Force and disembarked at Marseille on 18 May and joined his battalion on 7 July.
page 43 of WWI dossier

In January 1917 he was admitted to the Casualty Clearing Station with mumps, later transferred to hospital and discharged to rejoin the 22nd Battalion on 19 February.  On 25 February he was wounded in action and admitted to the 5th Field Ambulance with a penetrating wound to the cornea.  He did not serve on the front line again but was transferred to hospital in England in March 1917. 

After convalescence the AIF assigned him to administrative jobs in England including with the 2nd A A Hospital, Admin headquarters and AIF Kit stores.

In the last week of Feb. 1917 the 22nd Battalion was manning a line of outposts facing Warlencourt. The 25th of February was a  difficult day for the 22nd battalion.  It is not clear if Fred was wounded in the morning or evening; there were two separate engagements.
Australian War memorial image ID number E00214; Unknown Australian Official Photographer; Black & white - Glass original half plate negative; Place made France: Picardie, Somme, near Le Sars; Date made 28 February 1917; Description: Near Le Barque, France. View of a support trench in the Maze. This spot marked the position of a German 'pineapple' bomb. In the foreground, smoking a cigarette and wearing trench waders, is 1365 Private P Harding of A Company, 3rd Battalion.

Australian War memorial image ID number E00353; Unknown Australian Official Photographer; Black & white - Glass original half plate negative; Place made France: Picardie, Somme, Le Sars; Date made March 1917; Description:View of the smashed German light railway engine in the old no man's land, between Le Sars and Warlencourt in March 1917. The Butte de Warlencourt can be seen in the background.
Australian War memorial image ID number E00431; Unknown Australian Official Photographer; Black & white - Glass original half plate negative; Place made France: Picardie, Somme, Le Sars; Date made 20 March 1917; Description: Four Australian soldiers bringing in wounded through the main street of Le Sars. Along this frozen road, which at that time was swept at night by machine gun fire, stretcher cases were often carried. When the thaw set in and the country returned to the conditions of a quagmire, there were occasions when it took up to six or seven hours to carry a wounded man the comparatively short distance from the line to the aid post.

In February 1918 Fred Cross married an English woman, Ethel Dunkley at Our Lady of Dolours Servite Church (Roman Catholic), Fulham Road SW10.  In July 1919 he sailed for Australia on the "Main" arriving in October.  he was discharged from the AIF in November 1919 as medically unfit - disability - enucleation of left eye.

Correspondence with Ethel's family (prompted by this blog entry)  has revealed how Fred and Ethel met.
Ethel's closest sister, Ellen,  worked in a munitions factory during the war. She used to write notes to the  soldiers and put them in with the ammunition. A lot of them wrote back and she  had too many to deal with so she gave some to Ethel. One was from Fred. When  he lost his eye (as did his brother George) he ended up in a London hospital  and Ethel went to visit him. Both families objected to the marriage. After  their eldest daughter Peggy was born they came back to rural Victoria. Ethel  had a terrible trip out and did not always enjoy living in Australia.  
Ethel came to Australia with Fred and baby Peggy in October 1919 on the "Main".
Departed Plymouth 29 July under Captain  H. W. N. Evans.
First went to live in Homebush near Ballarat on family farm but later moved to the city [Melbourne] because Ethel (a city girl) had trouble coping with life in the bush.

Fred and Ethel had three daughters. The oldest was born in England.

Fred died in 1959. Ethel died in 1971.

page 41 of WWI dossier