Alice Maud Laurence
Born Kiama, New South Wales on 16 December 1890.
Married Alfred William Cheeseman at Narrandera, NSW 18 May 1910.
Died 1967 in Preston, Victoria
Click here for more photos of Alice Laurence and her family.
Alice Maud Laurence was the fourth child of William Joseph and Mary Jane Laurence. She was born at Kiama in New South Wales on 16 December 1889 and was baptised, with her older sister Emily, at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kiama on 1 September 1890. In around 1894 Alice moved with her family from Kiama to their newly acquired bush block at South Yalgolgrin near Barellan. The older girls had to look after the chickens and cows, herding the latter through the surrounding bush in search of fresh grass, or feeding them the fresh tips from the Kurrajong trees. A few years later, William arranged for Alice to go to the farm of one of his friends to help the man's wife look after her children. She was poorly treated and, on one occasion, became lost in the bush after she was sent out to bring in the family's cows. Alice could well have perished except she remembered her mother's advice and followed a fence that she came across and which led her back to the homestead (well after the cows had returned of their own volition). Instead of being concerned, the woman was angry with Alice, hit with a small whip she used to herd the cows and then sent her home. Mary Jane was horrified at what had happened and refused to allow Alice to go back.
When she turned 14, Alice went to work as a domestic servant at the Narrandera Hotel. While there she was offered a position at the Bynya homestead by its then manager Leslie Thompson, 'a young and energetic man' according to Gow and Gow, who 'had gained his first station experience at Murril Creek, beyond Ardlethan, and later, at Manfred Downs in the Queensland Gulf country'. Bynya (meaning 'big hill' or 'mountain') was one of the northern sheep runs that had been established in the area in the 1870s. At the time it was owned by A. S. Austin, a son of the owner of the Wanganella run. It comprised some 100,000 acres with 40,000 of these freehold and the balance crown land. Austin sold the property in April 1912 to a syndicate which sub-divided it into smaller farms.
Alice was employed to help the station's Irish and, at times drunken housekeeper, a Mrs Flood and her husband. The only other people who lived there were the manager Thompson, the station overseer called Botterall, and a seventeen year old rouseabout. Quite often the owner of the station would visit as would Thompson's sister Winifred after whom Alice named her eldest daughter. It was while she was working at Bynya that Alice met her future husband Alfred Cheeseman. After returning home from South Africa, Alfred had found it hard to get steady work around his home town of Carngham in Victoria and so he and his brother Herbert travelled north into the Riverina district where they were contracted to sink wells for bore water. Alfred and Alice became friends and continued to write to each other after Alfred returned to his small farm at Beaufort. Twelve months later Alfred proposed and, much to the disappointment of her employers at Bynya, Alice accepted. At her farewell party at Bynya Alice received a number of gifts including an inscribed silver tea and coffee service, a silver and oak biscuit barrel, a silver butter dish and a framed photo of the famous Melbourne Cup winner Carbine (the last two from Botteral). Her place at the homestead was taken by her sister Emily (shown in the photo below).
Alice and Alfred's wedding photo showing (L/R): Emily Laurence, William Joseph Laurence,
Alice and Alfred were married at St Thomas's Church in Narrandera on 18 May 1910. Those members of their respective families who were unable to make the trip to Narrandera for the occasion were able to read the following account of the wedding in the Ripon Shire Advocate :
After they were married, Alfred William and Alice lived on Alfred's small property in Beaufort. Life here was not easy and Alfred was forced to do extra work in order to support his family. This meant he was away from home for much of the time and Alice was forced to work the home block as well as look after her two young children, Alice Winifred or 'Winnie' (born in 1911) and Christina Mary or 'Teen' (1913). During this time, Alfred's father, Alfred John, and his youngest brother Ralph would often visit the property to see that Alice and her children were all right, and, sometimes, take them into town to shop or see the sights. The family would also occasionally spend the weekend at Alfred's brother William Cheeseman's place in the town of Beaufort. While there they would go to whatever entertainment that was on. According to Winnie, Alice 'loved these weekends, there was always so much fun at Bill and Jinny's, they had three children, just a small house, but Auntie Jinny could make a comfortable bed on the floor and she was a wonderful cook'.
Around the time of Teen's birth, Alfred was approached by Robert Balcombe ("Balky") Beggs to work on the latter's property at 'the plains' some 17 miles from Beaufort. Balky Beggs was the son of Robert Gottlieb Beggs and his first wife Maria Balcombe of the Briars at Mornington (Maria died giving birth to Robert). Robert Gottlieb and his brothers Theodore and Hugh Beggs were part of the powerful Beggs dynasty which owned a number of properties in Victoria and New South Wales including 9,000 acres of open plains at Hopkin's Hill. Encouraged by the prospect of earning a good income from farming, Alfred accepted Begg's offer and started work soon after. Because it was too far to commute, he had to stay at the property during the week. Even though the living conditions at the plains were fairly primitive, Alice decided to join him so each weekend the family would move back and forwards between the two places.
In 1919 Alfred acquired a 300 acre block of land near the township of Skipton (picured above and located some 50 kilometres west of Beaufort) and, after moving there in the winter of 1920, the family began to prepare for a new and, hopefully, more prosperous life. In addition to clearing and farming the land, Alfred had to build, virtually from scratch and using only basic implements, a house to live in, a dairy and other necessary buildings. An idea of the couples' life at this time can be gained from a letter, posted in November 1925, from Alice to her youngest brother Tommy. Tommy had sent Alice a photo of himself (shown later) which she was delighted with and which prompted an invitation for him to visit Skipton. She went on:
It took Alfred and Alice around four years to get the farm to working order, by which time Alfred had begun to suffer from fits thought to be caused by scarring of the brain incurred in his accident in South Africa. He was advised to move to warmer climes and so, no sooner was the farm at Skipton established, it was sold in 1927 and the money invested in another property near a town called Walpeup.Walpeup was located in north western Victoria in marginal farming country on the edge of the little desert which lies across the border between Victoria and South Australia. The new farm was not the success the family had hoped for and the hard work and constant battle with droughts and the aftermath of his illness in South Africa eventually took its toll on Alfred who died suddenly on 20 March 1949. Alice initially stayed at the farm but then sold it to her son Lance and went to live initially in Ouyen and then near Winnie in Preston where she died in 1967 at the age of 78 years. In her memoirs, Winnie lovingly recorded the last years of her mother's life as follows:
The left photo was taken at Skipton in around 1921 and shows (L/R): Laurence Alfred, Alice Winifred, Leslie William and Christina Mary Cheeseman.