Today’s WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge is to finish the sentence “I wish I were…”.
I wish I were a time traveller.
My ancestors were a real mixture – English, Irish, Scottish, German, Swedish and Chinese; and they all arrived in Australia in the last 50 years of the 19th Century. To me, this is fascinating. What brought them here? What drove them to leave everything they knew, to take the long and arduous sea journey to come to a vast new country that was still finding its own way? And they all came to Queensland. I wish I could go back to ask them why, to experience their lives as pioneers (starting from scratch, (for some) learning a new language, getting to know all of the other migrants).
For most of them, the abundance of cheap farming land was the main attraction. Times were tough, particularly in the United Kingdom, with widespread poverty; huge families crammed into tiny houses (if they were lucky). It was cold, damp, and polluted. Australia must have seemed like a paradise, with all that sunshine, fresh air, wide open spaces…and opportunity.
The two fellows who I am particularly interested in are two of my great-great-grandfathers on my mother’s side of the family.
John Johnson – born in Sweden in 1830, married twice (to Irish women), fathered 13 children (the last of whom was my great-grandmother), and who I recently discovered was once the publican at the Cleveland Hotel in Brisbane. Yes (for those familiar with the Ancestry.com TV advertisement) there’s a pub in my family!
William Ng Puie – born in Guangzhou, China in 1853. Only part Chinese, the Puies were a family of touring pugilists (boxers) who were quite well known in Australia (so I’m told). I’ve seen photos (a long time ago) but don’t have the research done by my mother’s cousins to complete this branch of my family tree. I would actually like to go back a little further to meet his grandmother – a full-blooded Chinese woman. Was it love that saw her marry that Irishman?
There are so many more reasons that I wish I were a time traveller – to revisit my childhood, to get my own corset and crinolines (I was definitely born in the wrong century), to see how they really built the pyramids, and to talk to my Dad again.
I’m not interested in changing the past – it is what it is and I am the person I am today because of it – I just want to get a better picture of who I am by getting to know these people who are each a small part of me.