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Friday, April 2, 2010


The Argus on Monday 18 October 1875 reported that on the previous Saturday the body of a man named WILLIAM EVITT had been found floating in the Yarra River above the Botanical Gardens. The deceased was about 60 years old - around my age - and was last seen on 9 October when he left the Bricklayers' Arms Hotel, Church Street, and headed towards the river.


On the MAWBEY side of my family, my great grandmother and three of her children were murdered by two Aboriginal men in July 1900.
Today I've discovered that an EVITT woman met with a similar fate!
I don't know if she is any relation to me, but it will be worth trying to find out.
This brutal murder occurred at Jundah near Longreach in Queensland in January 1909.
The body of the 30-year-old widow was found floating in the Thompson River with her head smashed in.
An accomplished horsewoman, she had gone out looking for stock and had not returned.
A black-tracker called Bismark who had been working with sheep in the area was arrested on suspicion of her murder.
He subsequently confessed, was sentenced to death and hanged in Brisbane Gaol on 20 April 1909.
Bismark said he did it because the Evitt woman called him names.
A similar motive was attributed to Jimmy Governor, the Aboriginal man who initiated the murders of the Mawbey family.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Whenever I see this photograph of the Anzacs gathered at the Great Pyramid of Cheops, Egypt 1915 I always wonder if my grandfather, Tom Evitt, or 'digger' as my grandmother used to call him, is among them. A copy of it is hung at a returned servicemen's club on Sydney's northern beaches where I am a member. Soldiers in the First World War were known as 'diggers' because of their wartime activity of digging trenches to protect themselves from enemy gunfire.


The House of Names says EVITT is Scottish and was first found in PERTHSHIRE possibly before the Norman Conquest.
It derives from the Picts so named because they used to tatoo themselves creating 'pictures' on their skin.
They were said to be terrifying in battle because their bodies were 'painted' blue with tatoos and they used to fight naked.
Related surnames are LEVITT, L'EVITT.


I was very surpised to learn that the name EVITT is Scottish.
At no time was this ever brought home to me. I never knew there were any Scottish connections in my family.
However, it may explain why I love Scottish Highland gatherings and the sound of bagpipes.
I have been the town of Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands for their annual 'Brigadoon' festival several times.
This sleepy hamlet, south of Bowral, is magically transformed for that weekend with even the seats on the railway station platform bearing the name 'Brigadoon'.
I also felt an instant empathy with the Scottish people when I was travelling with a group of Australians in a car through England, Scotland and Wales when I was in my mid-20s.
I'm afraid to say I did not feel the same way about the English who I just could not warm to in any way.
But now I recall my mother telling me that my grandfather's father was a strict Presbyterian and from the sounds of it, I definitely would not have liked him.
He strongly objected when my grandfather married a Catholic who passed her religion down to me.


My maternal great grandfather was Thomas Edward Evitt who married Harriet Phillis in the Maclean district in nothern NSW in 1877.
She had been born in Raymond Terrace near Newcastle in 1857 meaning she was 20 when she married.
Thomas Evitt appears to have lost his father early in life with only the name of his mother, Emily M, recorded on his death certificate.
Alternatively, he may have been born illegitimate.
He named his first born child, Emily Esther E. Evitt, after his mother.
The name 'Esther' may indicate a Jewish connection.
Emily Evitt was born in the Richmond River district before her parents moved to Sydney where they proceeded to have seven more children.
My grandfather, Archibald Robert "Tom" Evitt was number four in the line-up of five boys and three girls:
1880 Emily Esther
1883 Bertha S
1885 Arthur A C
1887 Archibald Robert
1890 Stella M L
1897 Claude M
1899 Clarence E R
1903 Leslie R


My maternal grandfather, Archibald Robert Thomas EVITT, was born in Newtown, Sydney in 1887.
He went by the name 'Tom' - his father's name - but 'Archie' would have suited him equally well.
My grandfather was a knockabout kind of bloke, one who had learnt to survive in the 'school of hard knocks'.
When he was a teenager he had been ostracised by his family and had to earn a living by 'carrying his swag outback'.
When World War I broke out, he enlisted with the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) and went to Egypt for the Suez campaign and to the Western Front.
He was finally sent back home for having flat feet.
Why it took them so long to discover this would be impossible to know.
He complained about having cold feet for the rest of his life as a result of them freezing in the trenches in France.
Back in Sydney, he married Ethel May Fitzgerald at Drummoyne in 1918.
He was aged 31 and she was 33.
Apparently being married to a younger man must have bothered my grandmother, because my mother was always ashamed to admit that she had followed in her footsteps.
She always kept her date of birth hidden so as not to disclose the seven month age difference between her and my father.


I grew up up in a family where tragic historical events that had occurred in my paternal line completely overshadowed my maternal family history.
The story of the families bearing the surnames EVITT, FITZGERALD, PHILIS, LANGHORNE and McGIBBON.
I am about to rectify that now.
My maternal family history story starts with the EVITT family.
This is their story.

Pamela Mawbey