Family members connect

January 06, 2018

History explored: A presentation was held at the Kyabram Club.

Fun: Susie and Bill Purcell, at a family reunion in December.

Research: History of a diverse family tree explored.

Coming together: A family clan came from all over Australia and overseas for a reunion in December at Girgarre East.

United: Susie Purcell and Peter Humphries catch up at a family reunion.

The weekend of December 30 and 31 saw the gathering of members of Bill Purcell’s extended family, which was made even more special after he discovered some surprising stories in his family’s history.

Mr Purcell said the television program Who Do You Think You Are? could not hold a candle to the stories of his family’s history.

Mr Purcell has uncovered some interesting aspects to his life, including details about his paternal grandmother, and he now knows the line of Purcells he is related to.

Mr Purcell’s father spent the early years of his life in St Joseph’s Home for Destitute Children in Surrey Hills, Melbourne, and despite many attempts to find his parents he died never knowing who they were.

The gathering at the Purcell farm Tuscanny Downs at Girgarre East during the weekend was the culmination of a lot of hard work.

People came from all over Australia and overseas to attend the gathering.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with their cousins and learn some more about their family history.

There were close to 60 people in attendance and another 30 who could not make it because of other commitments.

The line of descendants on Mr Purcell’s mother’s side is also interesting; it goes back to the Litchfield and McPherson families.

Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory, the Shire of Litchfield and Freds Pass were all named in honour of members of the Litchfield family.

Then there is the connection with the McPhersons (Mr Purcell’s great-great-grandmother Mary McPherson), who owned Dagworth Station near Winton.

The shearing shed there was burned down during the 1891 shearers’ strike, which was the catalyst for the formation of the Australian Labor Party.

The music for Waltzing Matilda is reported to have been adapted to Henry Lawson’s poem by someone from this station, possibly Mr Purcell’s great-great-grandmother Mary McPherson.

Interestingly, if you were to phone Winton Shire Council in outback Queensland and your call was put on hold, you would be listening to the tune Waltzing Matilda.

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