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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
William Winter

Born: 1878; Died: 1947; Married: 1.Lily McFeeters 2.Helena Blewitt

Father - John Winter [1833-1928]

William Winter was the seventh of eight children of John and Jemima Winter. John Winter migrated to Australia from the town of Haddenham, in Buckinghamshire, England. John was a 'pound' assisted immigrant who travelled out on the Blenheim arriving at Port Jackson on 5th July 1855:
'John Winter aged 22 farm labourer, Native Place Adenham [sic], Bucks, parents Joseph and Patience living Addenham [sic]. Religion Wesleyan. Reads & Writes, no relatives in the colony. Health good, no complaints. Arrived on the ship Blenheim on 5.7.1855'. [Assisted Migrants AONSW Ref 4/4945 Reel 24678].

After tramping from Sydney to 'Duntroon' now in the A.C.T. John and his recently arrived brother William Winter made their way to Kentucky, in the New England district of NSW. Here they gained employment as 'mowers', presumably a cutter of grass, crops or pastures. After a few years in that area, they decided to go back to the then Queanbeyan district to farm. John married Jemima McPherson on 13th June 1861 (Ref. 2738/1861) in St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Queanbeyan:
'John Winter, farmer, married Jemima McPherson at Queanbeyan on 13.6.1861. His residence shown as Canberry Side Co. of Murray and hers as Dungaroon Co. of Murray. Witnesses were John McPherson and Catherine McPherson and Rev Alexander Shearer Pennycook officiated.
[Reconstructed register of Marriages St Stephen's Presbyterian Church Queanbeyan].

Around 1859 John Winter selected 'Red Hill' (later called 'Gungaderra'), situated on the Wells Station Road. John added to 'Red Hill' until he eventually owned approximately 1,000 acres. In Yemen's Directory of landholders of NSW for 1900, John Winter of 'Red Hill' is recorded as growing wheat, maize, oats and potatoes.

'Obituary – John Winter

'The late Mr. John Winter, who died recently aged 96 years, was an old Canberra identity. He came there in 1855 to work for the late George Campbell, of Duntroon. After working there for some time he and his brother William (who had just arrived from England) carried their swags to Armidale.
After a few months of travel Duntroon was again reached in 1859, and at the end of that year Mr. Winter secured a farm on the Spring Bank Estate, the property of Dr. Hayley. This farm was on the Black Hill side of the Commonwealth Bank. He held this farm for three years and had the good fortune to harvest a record crop in 1863. That year he secured 960 bushels of wheat off 16 acres.
He then took up a selection at Red Hill [north Canberra, NOT the present suburb of that name], Robertson's Free Selection Act having come into force a short time before. Here all his children were born, excepting the eldest, who was born on the farm at Spring Bank. At the time of his death his children, grand-children and great-grandchildren numbered 101. About the year 1918 he left the Queanbeyan District, and lived with his third daughter, Mrs. Sarah Shumack. He passed away quietly a few minutes before midnight on 26th September, 1928
. [Yass Courier, Thursday 15 Nov 1928, p 6]

William Winter [1878-1947]

William Winter, the seventh of eight children of John and Jemima Winter, was born on the 4th October 1878 (Ref 20999/1878) at 'Red Hill'. As a young boy of nine William impaled himself on harrows while trying to jump over them. The resulting damage to his hip led to one of his legs being shorter than the other, resulting in a permanent limp. Despite this disability, he was expected to pull his weight around the farm. At about this time he left school to work full time on the farm and drive bullock teams to earn some extra money.
William then worked as an 'erecting engineer' in connection with sheep shearing machinery, also as an expert shearer and oil engine driver for the Federal Sheep Shearing Company from 1905 to 1910.
Around 1911William and his brother John bought a chaff cutter which they hired out around Canberra originally and then later in the Yass-Gunning district. They could earn a year's wages in the six month season.

'Reported that Winter's two steam threshing machines are busily engaged in the neighbourhood'. [Wizard's Notes Post 24.1.1895]

John, his father, had 'Red Hill' resumed in 1915 by the Federal Government, as part of the new Federal Capital Territory. He received £3,600 in compensation. John retired to his daughter Sarah and her husband Samuel Shumack's property 'Ravensworth', at Singleton, NSW until his death in 1928. The compensation money was given to the boys, Joseph, John and William, to 'help them make a start in life' with the proviso that they would pay him back as they became established.

William had taught himself how to play the violin and played in a family band at dances. He also taught himself 'copperplate' writing and was well known for his ability to make and fix anything. William married Lily McFeeters on 10th Sept. 1902 (Ref. 7985/1902) on his in-law's property 'Cattle Camp' at Jeir. They moved to Yass in 1915 and bought the property 'Kirkton' adjacent to 'Kenilworth Station' (a couple of miles from the town). 'Kenilworth Station' was owned by his sister Bella and her husband George Shumack.
William Winter, farmer, 23, born Canberra, son of John Winter and Jemima Winters nee McPherson married Lily McFeeters, 20, daughter of Charles McFeeters farmer and Louisa Elizabeth McFeeters nee Buckmaster on 10.9.1902 at the house of Mr C. McFeeters Cattle Camp Jeir. Rev. Wm. Michael Smith officiated and the witnesses were David Winter and Ada McFeeters.
[Queanbeyan Presbyterian Church Register of Marriages]

William and Lily had five children - Amos, Sidney, Marcella (Marcie), Alma and Elena (Lena). Lily had servants, including two sisters from Cooma as housemaids, to help run the property. Given that William was often away chaff cutting and harvesting wheat with his sons; Amos and Sid and his brothers John Winter ('Jack') and David Winter. Sadly Lily developed cancer of the bowel which eventually claimed her life on 30th April 1917 (Ref. 5814/1917).

William continued to live with the children at Kirkton, where he became romantically involved with Helena Blewitt, one of the housemaids. She became pregnant and fled to Sydney to have the baby quietly. William followed her to Sydney and married her on 22nd September 1920 (Ref. 10931/1920). She gave birth to Vida on 2nd November 1920 at Silverwater. They moved back to 'Kirkton' and Helena took over the management of the household. Amos, the eldest son was 16, Sid (13), and the three girls Marcella (11), Alma (9) and Elena (5).

Around this time, Alma was struck on the leg by a stone thrown while playing 'rounders' at school. Antibiotics were not available at this time and over a number of years and unsuccessful treatments she developed gangrene and was taken to Lewisham hospital in Sydney to have her leg amputated below the knee, this however was also unsuccessful and another amputation was performed above the knee, which finally stopped the infection. She was 16 by this time. This disability limited her employment opportunities in Junee so she earned a living from knitting and crocheting.

William owned two sawmills, one at Harden and the other at Bethungra. He had an accident at one of the mills and lost two fingers on his left hand (little and ring fingers) which finished his violin playing days.
On 7th August 1922 Mavis was born, and in that year William sold 'Kirkton' to William Edward Shumack. The family moved from 'Kirkton' to 53 Prince Street, Junee when Vida was 4 and Mavis 2. The sale was well-timed:
Land values in the Yass district continue on the upgrade. That part of old Kenilworth Estate owned by Mr W Winter and about three miles from the town has just been sold to Mr W Shumack at over £14 per acre which is easily a record for grazing lands in the district. A few years ago the Kenilworth land was sold by the Terry Estate for £5 an acre. [Queanbeyan Age 8.8.1922]

The property in Junee consisted of four blocks backing onto Duke Street from Prince Street. It had numerous sheds and workshops. The original family home burnt down under suspicious circumstances (a primus exploded) when Clem was just a baby. William was almost killed trying to get the grand piano out of the house. Marcie, trying to save Sid's new suit which had money in it, collapsed in distress and some believe this triggered her nervous condition. William owed money to Mrs Pratt, which was paid back using the insurance claim. William and his sons rebuilt the house with timber from the mills as form-work, and made the walls out of concrete. The house still stands today at 53 Prince Street, Junee.

On 19th September 1927 a son, Clement, was born, giving much pleasure to William who was now 49 years old. However William wrongly registered the birth as the 3rd of September.

William was well known for his generosity to his family and employees. David, his brother was sickly and often needed help to support his family. He built Amos a house as a wedding gift in 1928, with wood from the sawmills. He also helped Amos set up a garage selling oils and fuel which however was not successful.

When the Depression struck in the 30's work became scarce. Also diesel engines were taking over from steam engines. William and John sold the chaff cutter and went back to being shearing engineers. They competed for work, with John often undercutting William. Times were tough.

In 1936 Helena left William and the kids and took up with the Carter brothers (Tom and Leo). William was devastated. Clem was 9 and Mavis 14. Vida, who was about 16 years old, took on the responsibility of managing the household. She started work at J.S. Taylor's store, eventually earning the equivalent of a male's wage (£3 extra!). Helena worked as a cook in various Hotels, originally in Junee, then Windsor and Goulburn, where one of the brothers Tom, went to jail for common assault. Helena eventually settled down in Queanbeyan and worked as a cook then as a 'Pink Lady' at the hospital for many years.

Due to the war shortages Vida eventually lost her job and at the age of twenty-one decided to move to Sydney and managed to gain employment at McIlwraith's general store in Harris Park, and boarded with Mrs Skinner at Harris Park.

Marcella (Marcie) was twenty-seven and had had housekeeping jobs including with the Southwall's and finally the Stanton's. Marcie began having seizures and pain around this time, and was diagnosed as having a 'nervous disorder'. Mavis brought her to Sydney in 1940 for shock treatment at Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic in Lilyfield, which however did not help her condition. Marcie consequently was unable to work again, Elena (Lena) her other full sister was also unable to work due to a severe speech impediment from birth (most likely a cleft palate), neither could get a pension until years later.

Mavis remained in Sydney obtaining a live-in housekeeping job with Dr. Puttycomb in Belmore, having previously worked for Dr. Weaver and The Pratt's in Junee. Mavis met Bob Murray (a soldier) soon after.
William moved to Sydney in 1941, where he boarded in Great Buckingham Street, Redfern, in a boarding house owned by a friend and run by Mr and Mrs. Tucker. He worked at Clyde Engineering as an inspector as part of the war effort. William was sixty-three at this stage and suffering from heart problems (enlarged heart due to cholesterol blockages).

Vida went back to Junee at Easter in 1942, to check on her siblings. She came back with sad tales of the girls Alma, Lena and Marcie being unable to cope, and suggested to William that he move them and Clem to Sydney. Clem (15) can remember the Japanese mini subs were in Sydney Harbour at the time. William then rented a house in Westmead. Alma found work firstly at the textile mills and then at printing shops in Parramatta and Ashfield.

In 1944 Mavis married Robert (Bob) George Murray and two years later Vida married Donald Kennedy (Ken) Anderson. Clement married Aileen Clare Birchell in 1948. Alma married Thomas (Tom) Albert Cousins in 1952.

William died at home in Westmead from his heart disease on 7th October 1947. His will was invalid because it had not been witnessed, causing some difficulties. Amos was appointed the executor. The children's share of the estate, £74.9.2 each, was used to buy a house for Marcie, Lena and Alma, being unable to adequately support themselves. It was across the road at 24 Hassall St., Westmead and put in Alma's name. Clem knew the house was for sale as he had originally set up a fish shop in the front of the house with the view to purchase in time but war rationing led to its failure. Tom Cousins, inherited the house when Alma died.

Obituary – William Winter

Mr William Winter who died at Westmead was buried at Yass last Tuesday afternoon. Deceased who was 68 years of age was born at Red Hill Ginninderra Canberra. In his youth he was a keen cricketer. For years the deceased, his late brother John and the only surviving member of the family, Mr David Winter of Yass, operated a chaff plant between Yass and Canberra, In those days there was much more farming than there is now in the area and the three brothers used to be kept busy six months of the year. The Federal Capital Territory was then largely farming land. They then went to Junee district and carried on the same work. For the duration of the war deceased who was a first class mechanic and shearing expert was engaged in war work as an inspector of the Clyde Engineering Works. The late Mr Winter lived a useful life and could turn his hand to a variety of skilled work. His health broke down after the war and for the last two years he had been living in retirement at Westmead. He was married twice. His first wife was Miss McFeeters of Jeir and of that marriage two sons and three daughters survive. They are Messrs Amos (Sydney), Sidney (Junee), Misses Marcie, Alma and Lena (Sydney). Of the second marriage one son and two daughters survive, Mr Clem Winter (Sydney) and Mrs Bob Murray and Mrs Ken Anderson of Sydney.
[Yass Tribune Courier. Queanbeyan Age 14.10.1947]

[Researched and written by Anthony J. Winter, son of Clement Winter (based on oral history from Vida and Clem)]

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