“Charles,” a man came running up behind him, “I thought it was you.”
“Sorry, you must have the wrong person,” Charles said, shrugging the man’s hand off his shoulder.
“You caused a right ruckus in London when you didn’t return with us.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about mate. I’m from Coventry,” Charles said trying hard to mask his Cockney accent as he turned and walked away.
“If that’s the way you want to play it, so be it,” yelled the man, “but don’t think I’m not saying something to Edith when I see her.”
Charles felt a shiver down his spine. “I don’t know any Edith,” walking away as fast as he dared without drawing too much attention to himself.
As he walked Charles kept his eyes open to make sure he wasn’t followed. He decided he would take a roundabout way home to reduce the chance of being found. It had taken twelve years but his past had caught up with him. He knew he should have left Melbourne quickly after arriving, but he’d met Minnie and fallen in love.
Rounding the corner he saw St Jude’s Church so went in and sat down. This was where he had married his beautiful bride. He loved Minnie today as much as he had loved her then.
“You may kiss the bride,” said the minister as Charles took his bride in his arms.
She looked glorious in the gown she had designed. The lace on her dress was exquisite. He was a lucky man. He turned with her to face the congregation and saw the smiles on her parent’s faces. James and Sarah had welcomed him as their own into the family. He had deceived them. He knew he should move with his bride far away but he couldn’t take her from her loving parents. No, he would just have to risk it.
Returning to the present Charles noticed the shadows settling in the church. How long had he sat here? What bad luck that William, his old shipmate, had spotted him. He was usually careful when the ships came in but after all this time he had become complacent. He had to plan how to get out of this mess before his world came tumbling down.
Walking through his front gate he was nearly bowled over as young James came bounding out, “Daddy you’re home! Mum has dinner ready. We’re starving!”
Charles looked at his eldest boy and knew instantly that they would have to move. He couldn’t risk losing everything he had worked so hard for. It would be hard with the new baby, but if he had any hope of seeing his three children grow, they had to move and move quickly.
He ruffled James’ hair, “Sorry mate, I was busy at work and forgot the time.”
Charles made his way to the kitchen and gave Minnie a hug and a kiss, “Sorry love.” He sat at the table and looked at his family. “What do you think if we move to Kalgoorlie? They’ve found gold there.”
Minnie looked stunned, “What? Leave Melbourne? Why this all of a sudden?”
“The boys at work were talking about it and I thought what a great opportunity. I think we could make a real go of it there.”
“Gold. We’d be rich!” exclaimed Henry as he spat food all over James in his excitement.
“Ewwww, gross,” yelled James.
“Calm down boys. We don’t know if this is what we’ll do,” said Minnie as she wiped up the mess.
“Yes! This is what we are going to do. I’m going to start making the arrangements tomorrow,” Charles said with determination.
With resignation, Minnie responded, “Whatever you think is best, dear. But it is such a long way. I thought we were happy here.”
“We are, but I think we’d be even happier in Kalgoorlie.”
Charles relaxed. His plan was taking shape. They didn’t own much so hopefully he would be able to have them out of here by the end of the month. He would have to be careful that he wasn’t sighted again by William otherwise it would all come undone. With any luck, William just had a short shore leave and his ship would sail soon. By the time William got back to London and found Edith, they would be long gone.
One thing was for sure, Minnie must never learn the truth about his wife, Edith and their daughter.
My great-great-grandfather, Charles Newman was a sailor and I have been fascinated by him the more I discover about him. The Newman family has always been an enigma to me. I never met my grandfather, Biro, as my mother was estranged from him due to his alcoholism. In recent years a cousin, Shelley, contacted me from a post I put on the internet about this family 15 years ago. She was excited because she had never found anyone researching them. I learned that her father, Fred, had cut ties with Biro too.
Charles claimed he was from Coventry but Fred said he had a Cockney accent. On all documentation I found, Charles stated he was born in Coventry but I could find no record of him. Shelley pointed out a document she found where he said he was from London. With this clue and the Cockney accent, we cracked open the case. His father was from Coventry but Charles was indeed from London.
We found a London marriage to Edith Davis with Charles’ signature matching all the Australian documents. The 1881 Census record has them living together but by the 1891 Census, he was married to Minnie Stockwell in Australia. I have been unable to find a death record for Edith or their daughter. We surmise that Charles abandoned ship in Australia thus abandoning his wife and daughter.
Best of all, I met Shelley and Fred, in Perth, earlier this year for the first time!