A Family History.

William – An illegitimate son.

 

Prelude: I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the Corona Virus! I contemplated writing a piece about it and maybe I will later, but for now, I thought I would share a bit of family history. It’s  longer than my usual posts, but since some of you are in self-isolation, you’ve got more time!

 

My mum (Hi MUM!) has been working on the family tree for many years. My cousin, Jenny, is the resident genealogist in our family (Hi Jenny!!) and has put together lots of facts and dates etc. In 2017, I started working on a fictionalised version of one of my ancestors. I didn’t get far. It’s not finished, and one day I will get back to it.

 

The long-story-short is that my great-great-great(?) Aunty Eliza had a baby when she was very young, and the family passed it off as her mum’s. Sarah Anne was a business woman and had a thriving company in Sydney that made embroidered regalia for military uniforms.

 

Firstly, I include an email sent to my mum to get more information. It was written when I was in transit to Israel. It sets the scene and then follows “Chapter 1” of the story. It needs a lot of work and is definitely a draft. I hope it makes sense!

 


January 2017

Hi Mum,

When I was sitting on the plane, I re-read the history you had written about Sarah Usher. I thought there were some good angles for a few stories there, but the one that stood out for me was William, Eliza’s illegitimate son born in 1874 and “adopted” by Sarah and Charles. Do we know any more about him? When did he die? Did he have any kids of his own? What happened to Eliza? Did she go on to have any more kids? 

It’s a fascinating angle coming from it with 2017 eyes. I wonder if they just pretended it was Sarah’s baby or was Eliza acknowledged as the mother? From what you wrote it would appear not. You’d think people would work it out. Frank was born in the same year…did they try and pass them off as twins?? Wow! I wonder where you would find out this stuff from. Sarah also had her last baby at 45! Old even by today’s standards but I guess in the absence of contraceptives, not unusual.

I wonder what sort of relationship William and Eliza had? I wonder if Wilhelm (who presumably skulked back to Germany) knew him. I wonder if he had other children? Children that perhaps could fight William in WW1. Do they not know who impregnated Eliza or did they just try and cover it up. Was Wilhelm a sexual predator or was Eliza a saucy young minx?

In the absence of facts, I am just going to make up a story! BUT I would like it to be “based on a true story” story. Any extra info you have would be greatly appreciated!

I wrote this on the plane and sent it once I arrived in Israel. Feeling creative at 11000 metres over the Himalayas!

Rx


Chapter 1: Eliza’s Baby

 

On 1874, two babies appeared in the Hund* household. Only one of them was welcome. At forty-five, Sarah Anne Hund (née Usher) gave birth to what would be her last child – Frank. Her oldest daughter, Eliza gave birth to a bastard called William. An illegitimate child. An embarrassment. A poorly kept secret. William Hund became his grandmother’s son. 

 

Sara Ann Hundt
Sarah Anne Hund (nee Usher)

This is William’s story.

 

By the time Eliza was 16, she knew she was clever. Not just clever-for-a-girl but clever. She helped her mum in the regalia workshop, ordering notions and materials. Organised and meticulous, great lists of mental arithmetic didn’t phase her. Writing work orders for the seamstresses was a doddle. It wasn’t hard. It was, in fact, boring.

So boring, she longed for some excitement. Of course, as things turn out even back in the 1870s, a girl looking for excitement doesn’t usually have to go too far to find it. 

 

In the summer of 1873, when Uncle Wilhelm came to visit, things perked up for Eliza. Wilhelm, her father’s youngest brother, was handsome and dashing, his clipped German-tainted English so refined and intoxicating to a clever young woman looking for more out of life. 

 

It turns out she was not as clever as she thought because by April she had missed two of her monthlies and she was pregnant. Marrying her Uncle was not really an option. By May, her mum asked her directly. In the days of washing out menstrual rags, there was no hiding anything in a household as crowded as the Hund’s on Cleveland Street.

 

Wilhelm was sent home. Eliza was banished to an old friend of Sarah’s  in Braidwood for her confinement.  VOILA, in December 1874, Sarah magically had another baby. A delayed twin to her own Frank. Of course, no-one was fooled. All the family and neighbours knew who the baby really belonged to, but officially it was Sarah and Charles’ baby. Baby number 13. 

 

William should have been the lucky first child, but he ended up at 13th. His mother’s search for adventure had led him up the garden path.

 

Frank and William grew up as brothers. The tension between their sister and their mum did not go unnoticed. The fiery glances, the cold shoulders, the unsaid words kept everyone on edge. 

 

William was clever too, although most of the time he stood in Frank’s shadow. Frank was always first. First to get the best bit of the lamb leg. First to get the juiciest part of the pineapple. Frank never realised, but William always noticed. 

 

Everyday. 

 

Frank was Mama’s favourite. William didn’t know why or what he had done, but as the years progressed, he learned to live with it. 

 

C-&-S-Hundt-et-al
The Hund Family

Frank and William grew up. They married. They lived their lives as best they could. And in 1907 their whole world turned upside down.

Mama died. 

Frank was appointed as executor to Sarah’s will. As they were going through all the papers, things started to get a bit complicated. Frank found his birth certificate. 

 

Mother: Sarah Anne Hund 

Father: Charles Friedrich Hund

Other children: There were his brothers and sisters, all listed but not William.

 

And then he found William’s certificate. He had to look at it twice. 

 

Mother: Elizabeth Hund. 

Father: (blank) 

Other Children: None

 

At thirty-three, William discovered Frank was not his brother but his Uncle. His sister was his mother and his mother, his grandmother. His world fell apart.


In my mind, the story will end up with William fighting his German half brothers in World War 1. There will be tension between William and Frank. Not sure what else will happen… yet….

* My mother’s maiden name has had a few iterations. Originally it was spelt HUND, then Hundt. Then it was changed (unofficially) to HUNT by some of the family to make it more respectably British. Then sometime after WW2 it was changed back to Hundt.

Our changing view of paedophiles.

Sexy is here to stayI found this newspaper advertisement in a recipe book my mum kept full of clippings of things she wanted to cook. It’s from 1975. It caught my eye for two reasons. It shows how our attitudes have changed, and it struck me as oddly relevant to my life at the time.

While the  #MeToo movement has highlighted the need for women (in particular) to be treated with more respect and dignity, things were different in 1976.  What we would consider sexual abuse or exploitation was a “normal” part of the landscape.

 

 

When I was 15, I used to walk home from school through the local shopping centre. I could take one of two routes. Either through the arcade (quicker) or up to the end of the shopping strip (more to see). This longer walk went past a butcher’s shop. The butcher, Bill, was a man somewhere between 35 and 40. He used to park is brown Porsche Carrera out the front of his store. I would sometimes slow down to look at it. He must have noticed me, and he would wave and smile. After a few weeks, the wave and smile turned into him coming out to say a few words, and then eventually me going in to chat with him. It all started pretty innocently. Then the talk started getting a bit risque. Flirting, I thought, and I was flattered that an older man with a Porsche would pay any attention to me, a silly school girl in a short skirt. It eventually became outright sex talk, and I felt excited! He was a sophisticated guy, and I felt so grown up! I knew it was “naughty,” but that was the risky part of it, the part that made it fun.

So I kept going by and talking to him.  It’s hard to remember the time frame now, but he asked me out. I was over the moon. Can you imagine how sophisticated I felt! I didn’t tell my mother, but my best friend’s mum was in on it, and she didn’t seem to think it was inappropriate. She gave me no warnings. There was no talk of the age gap beyond “Wow…he’s an older man paying attention to you; be flattered.” Mrs. J helped me get ready in a tight black dress and lace-up boots. I looked fabulous in a 70’s kind of way!

He picked me up from their house, and off we sped in the Porche. First, to a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, where Bill winked at the creepy-looking maître d’. The maître d’ ran his eyes over me in a way that stopped my breath. This was my first inkling that things were a little more sinister than my naivety had allowed. The nervous, excited butterflies in my gut began to be replaced by more anxious thoughts. I didn’t have a Plan B. Plan B’s were not a thing in 1976; I had no money. I was a long way from home.

He bought a bottle of wine and poured me a glass. The drinking age is 18. The restaurant was breaking the law. “No problem,” said Bill “the owner is my friend.” After dinner, he suggested a movie. Sounded good to me, perhaps a little tipsy.

We went to Oxford Street in Sydney. These days a hip place with lots of bars that cater mostly to the LGBTIQ crowd, back then, about the only place you could see X-rated movies in Sydney. As we walked in, he handed the guy at the door some cash, presumably, a bribe since it was a restricted premise. We sat in the dark seats, I looked around, and  I realised there were not many other women there. The “action” started on screen. I felt sick! Uncomfortable. Scared. I said I didn’t want to watch anymore and would he take me home.

He did.

I’ll give this to Bill; he never tried anything I hadn’t said yes to. He never tried to kiss or touch me. We drove home from Sydney to my place. The one hour trip took less than  30 minutes.  He drove hard and fast in that Porsche, certainly exceeding the speed limit. He didn’t speak. I could sense he was angry.

From then I always went home via the arcade. I never saw Bill again. I had emerged unscathed.

More than forty years on I reflect on this and it stands out so clearly he was a paedophile. That he had been grooming me from the beginning. Starting with slightly rude jokes and working up to porn. Thankfully, he had some principles. It could have ended very differently. I don’t recall hearing words like paedophile then. Sure, there were creepy guys you avoided, but as a 15-year-old, I didn’t feel like a target. I hadn’t heard of books like Lolita. It just wasn’t a “thing”. Not in my world anyway.

“Things” have changed. The findings of the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sexual Abuse shows this behaviour was rampant and people either turned a blind eye or didn’t think it was an issue in the first place.

I don’t characterise myself as a victim. I willingly, although naively, put myself in a place I should have avoided. In retrospect, I am concerned my friend’s mother did nothing but encourage me. I am glad to think this is less likely to happen now.

(Apologies to you mum! Here’s another story you didn’t know about!)

I wrote this post in response to the trial and later sentencing of Cardinal Pell; Australia’s highest ranking priest and a man who has caused misery to many.  If this post has caused you any distress, I urge you to seek help through some of the agencies that have been set up for this express purpose. Just because it happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

These services may help:

https://www.blueknot.org.au/

https://bravehearts.org.au/