Samuel Mewett, my great-great-grandfather, died at Kersbrook, S.A. on 26 January 1888, aged 85. Judging by his death certificate entry he was thought by his family to be 86; the memorial at Kersbrook cemetery, installed in 1976 by family descendants, gave his age as 84. However, Samuel was baptised at Willingdon in England in September 1803 so we might assume that he was born in that year (civil birth registrations were not kept until decades later). This explains why I have dared to contradict the death certificate and the headstone memorial in stating that Samuel died at age 85. Why is this so important to me? Read on.
Another of my great-great-grandfathers, William Giddings, died at Gumeracha, S.A. on 26 July 1897, also aged 85. I accept this age because it was given on his death certificate and again on the headstone of his grave at the Kersbrook one-time-Methodist church, his birth date being recorded thereon as 1812.
Jesse Mewett, my great-grandfather, son of Samuel and Martha and husband of Rhoda Giddings, died at Parkside, S.A. on 20 March 1911 of bronchitis and asthma, aged 75 years. Other great-grandfathers included William Lloyd who died at Horsham in 1906 aged 65, John Campbell Pollock who died at Woodfield in May 1897 aged 69, and William McGuigan who died in Melbourne, though a resident of Kanumbra, in 1909 aged 81.
Ted (Edward John) Mewett, my grandfather, died at Blackburn, Victoria in 1934 aged 72. My grandmother, Emma Lloyd had predeceased him by 30 years after the birth of her seventh child. William Hendry Pollock, my maternal grandfather died at Woodfield, Victoria, in 1928 aged 80.
My father, Percy Edwin Mewett, died of lung cancer at Prahran, Victoria in 1959, aged 67.
(My mother Maggie Pollock died at Kew in 1979 aged 90)
This week I celebrate my 85th birthday (28 March 2014) thanks to the marvels of modern medical practice and the loving care of Mary, my wife of 59 years. But I think back to my great-great-grandfathers who both lived to 85; they were born in England in the early 19th century, and as poor emigrants they brought their families to Australia on sailing ships, worked for the South Australia Company as tenant farmers, settled on the land in the Kersbrook-Chain Of Ponds-Gumeracha districts, and survived drought, bush fire, flood and other hardships without the help of modern medical science or government assistance. They were the tough and true pioneers of our families in Australia; I’m proud to claim them as my ancestors and I acknowledge and honour them by publishing this tribute to them.
I haven’t forgotten the women pioneers of the Mewett family but I will have to wait until I reach 90 to write in similar vein about their longevity and the roles they played in supporting their menfolk!