Origin of the surname
The surname Kessey (an adaptation of "Casey") was adopted by the family of Thomas Casey in the 1850s. He arrived in Australia as a convict in 1818 and several of his sons also fell foul of the law and spent time in gaol. It was common, at that time in Australia's history, for ex-convicts to hide their origins as much as possible, even from their own descendants. It is likely that this was the main reason why Thomas Casey adopted the surname Kessey for his family.

There are no "Kessey" birth records in NSW prior to 1857. The birth record for Thomas' son William, born in 1853, uses "Casey". From 1857 onwards, however, the "Kessey" spelling is used almost invariably. It was used on the marriage certificate when Thomas' son John married Mary Ann Hanrahan on 27 August 1857 and on their pre-nuptial agreement dated two weeks earlier. Perhaps the change was prompted by the stigma implied by that agreement; it was designed to ensure that Mary Ann, not her future husband, would retain ownership of the land given by her parents as a wedding gift.

The new spelling was used a few months later when the birth of  Thomas' granddaughter was registered - Mary Ann (daughter of Thomas junior and his wife Sarah Ann Grose). The new spelling thereafter became the norm. The only subsequent aberration was the spelling "Kasey" on the 1858 birth registration for James (eldest son of John and Mary Ann Hanrahan).

Thomas Kessey, c1798 - 1882
Thomas Kessey was born Thomas Casey and was transported to Australia as a convict under his birth name in 1818. He had been convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing two sheep. The court transcript indicates that he was living on his father's farm but does not give his father's name. Oral history records that his mother's maiden name was Langford.

He was transported to Australia on the convict ship General Stewart, arriving at Sydney on the last day of 1818. Thomas was described on the ship's indent as just 5 feet tall, round face, fair to ruddy complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He was 20 years old.

Two years later he was working as a storekeeper at the NSW Commissariat. He was later promoted to Overseer of Town Carts, for which service he was allocated one convict helper.

In 1826 he started a carrying business in partnership with an ex-convict, William Boyle. They carried goods between Sydney and Bathurst, a very difficult journey over the recently-conquered Blue Mountains. He met his future wife, Judith Grady, during this time and they were married at Kelso, near Bathurst, on 22 December 1832.

After serving his time, Thomas settled in the Bathurst district of NSW near Rockley and raised a large family of four sons (Thomas b.1833, John b.1839, James b.1840, William b.1853) and eight daughters (Ann b.1841, Mary-Ann b1842, Margaret b.1845, Julia b.1847, Elizabeth b.1851, Martha b.1857 and Jane b1859).

Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

His three eldest sons fell foul of the law and spent time in gaol, both at Bathurst and Darlinghurst. Thomas and James, aged 31 and 24, were convicted of robbery under arms in relation to two separate hold ups that occurred in 1864. Both hold ups involved three masked men, with Thomas Kessey convicted in relation to the robbery of two stage coaches between Bathurst and Orange in June and James convicted in relation to the subsequent robbery of a well known grazier on the Limekilns Road (near Bathurst). Each brother was sentenced to ten years hard labour, served at Darlinghurst Gaol and Cockatoo Island.

In 1864, Thomas senior was 66 years old and was supporting three young children and three unmarried daughters. His eldest sons were supporting several very young children also. It seems that the struggle to provide for this extended family resulted in the older sons taking to crime.

The middle brother, John, served three sentences in Bathurst Gaol between 1870 and 1899 for stealing livestock, the very same crime that had resulted in his father's transportation to Australia. It seems possible that Thomas involved his older sons in stealing animals for food during the early 1860s. From there, it was a short step to robbery, with the inevitable result that Thomas and James were caught. With them in gaol and an ever-increasing extended family to support, John decided to continue stealing livestock and was also eventually caught . The gaolling of so many of the men would have placed a very great strain on the family women during the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Thomas, the patriarch, died in the depths of a Bathurst winter in 1882 at 83 years old. His entire estate, valued at £320 was left to his wife, Judith.

Research interests

John Kessey, 1837 - 1902
John Kessey 1837 - 1902

John Kessey was born in about 1837, the second son for Thomas Kessey and Judith Grady. He lived all his life on farms near the village of Black Springs in the Bathurst district of NSW. He would have had only elementary schooling and would have been required to work hard in helping his parents run the farm.

By the time his older brother Thomas married Sarah Ann Grose in 1856, nineteen year old John had three bothers and five sisters. Two more sisters were born during the following three years. John married Mary Ann Hanrahan on 27 August 1857 at Bathurst and their first child was born ten months later. By that time, John also had a couple of nieces.

It is apparent that he and his brothers started stealing their neighbours livestock. Perhaps their father led them astray with some of the tricks that had led to his own conviction for sheep stealing two decades earlier. The family's reputation was probably the reason why Patrick Hanrahan insisted on a pre-nuptial agreement before consenting to the marriage between John and his daughter, Mary Ann. This agreement was designed to ensure that Mary Ann, not her future husband, would retain ownership of the land given by her parents as a wedding gift.

Eight years after the marriage, John's brothers, Thomas and James, were convicted of robbery under arms in relation to two separate hold ups. Both hold ups involved three masked men, with Thomas Kessey convicted in relation to the robbery of two stage coaches between Bathurst and Orange in June and James convicted in relation to the subsequent robbery of a well known grazier on the Limekilns Road (near Bathurst). Each brother was sentenced to ten years hard labour, served at Darlinghurst Gaol and Cockatoo Island.

John's father, Thomas senior, was 66 years old and was supporting three young children, three unmarried daughters and two grandchildren whose father was in gaol for ten years. With two of three older sons in gaol, he would have relied heavily on his remaining son, John, to help support the extended family. It seems that the struggle to provide for this extended family resulted in further crime.

In February 1870, John was convicted of cattle stealing and sentenced to 3 years hard labour. Those three years would have been very hard on his wife and five children (James b.1858, Phillip b.1860, John b.1865, Thomas b.1865, Elizabeth b.1867). Emily was born a few months after her father went to gaol and the last child, Ethel, was born in 1877.

Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

After serving his sentence, John returned to farming. It seems that he also returned to his criminal activities for he was convicted, in May 1894, of pig stealing. The portrait taken on his admission to Bathurst gaol for another nine months hard labour has him looking every one of his 57 years. His hair and beard are quite grey and we learn that he has a scar on the palm of his hand.

Five years later, he was convicted again, this time for cattle theft. He was sentenced to 1 year and 8 months in Bathurst Gaol from August 1899. Hist portrait shows him as an old man although he was but 62. He was deaf and the little finger on his right hand was contracted.

Bathurst Gaol's 1899 Photograph Description Sheet for John Kessey

John contracted cholera and died on 9 March 1902 aged 65. He is buried in the old Black Springs cemetery.

James Kessey, 1858 - 1944
James Kessey, 1858 - 1944

 James Kessey was the first member of the third generation of Kesseys in Australia. Both his grandfathers were convicts as were two of his great-grandfathers. His maternal grandfather, Patrick Hanrahan, died when James was five months old, but his paternal grandfather lived on for another 24 years and would have been well-known to James.

He was born 40 years after his grandfather, Thomas Kessey, arrived in Australia as a convict aboard the General Stewart and he was the first Australian born with the surname "Kessey" (because his uncles and aunts were born as "Casey"). The "K" spelling for the surname was adopted by the family from the time of James' parents' (John Kessey and Mary Ann Hanrahan) marriage in 1857.

When James was six years old, his two oldest uncles were convicted of robbery under arms and sentenced to ten years hard labour to be served at Darlinghurst Gaol and Cockatoo Island. The Kessey family was associated by marriage to a number of other local families whose members ran foul of the law and spent time in gaol. Property crime was rife in the area. His own father, John Kessey, was convicted of cattle stealing and gaolled for 3 years when James was twelve years old.

James' mother, Mary Ann Hanrahan was expecting her sixth child when her husband was gaolled. She could expect no help from her husband's family because two of his brothers were already in gaol and her father-in-law had his hands full supporting his own large family. She was fortunate, however, that she had two strong sons to help her with 5-year-old twins John and Thomas, toddler Elizabeth and the new baby, Emily. No doubt, she also relied very heavily on her mother, sister and brothers.

It seems likely that Mary Ann steered her children away from the Kessey clan because of its association with crime. It would have been easy for her oldest son to be led astray by his father and uncles but, in fact, he went the other way to become a solid citizen and pillar of the community.

At the age of 32, James married Mary Jane Press at Rockley. Her father, David Press, had emigrated to Australia with his parents on the Una in 1849 from Wiveliscombe, Somerset.

The first child of the marriage, Mary Grace, was born in 1891 with the second, James Alexander (known as Harold) following two years later. They were known by their second names throughout their lives. Eight more children followed: Beatrice b.1895, Emily Bernadette ("Bern") b.1896, Philomena b.1898, Joseph Aloysius b.1899, John Horace ("Horace") b.1902, Halvar Roy b.1905, Jean Alice Columbia b.1907 and Hilton David b.1909.

Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

James Ran a hotel at Brewongle for a time before building an hotel at Mount David, near Rockley. He and his wife ran the latter hotel; most of their custom came from the local miners. The eldest two daughters, Grace and Beat, married two sons of the mine manager, Garnet Martin and Dal Martin respectively.

In 1914 there was a scandal involving Mary Jane Kessey and the mine manager, Walter Henry Martin. James Kessey sued his wife for divorce and named Martin as co-respondent. The divorce was granted and Martin was ordered to pay James Kessey £500. With their mother gone, the younger children were taken in by their older sisters who were, ironically, married to Walter Martin's sons.

Following this upheaval, James and his family moved to Orange and ran a butcher shop. His eldest son, Harold (James Alexander), fought with the Light Horse in the First World War.

Four years later, when the First World War ended, the soldiers brought a virulent strain of influenza to Australia. Many people died in a very short period. The NSW town of Orange was very badly affected and James Kessey feared for the safety of his children. He asked the local doctor for advice on how to get away from the 'flu'. The doctor advised him to take his family "to the hottest place you can find". James Kessey decided to move his family to Bourke.

During the crisis, Jim Kessey was reconciled with his ex-wife. They boarded the Western Mail train and made it to Dubbo only to be refused room at the inn. At this time of medical crisis, strangers were not welcome. Jim Kessey had to ask the police to intervene in order to obtain overnight shelter for his family.

The family proceeded on the first available train to Bourke. At Byrock, Jim and Mary Jane were quietly married for the second time. The younger children never found out about their parents' divorce. 

James Kessey invested Walter Martin's £500 in buying an hotel and a number of rental houses. Most of his family accompanied him. His daughter Grace Martin came with her husband Garn. His daughter Beat came with her husband Dal Martin. His daughter Bern came with her husband Bill Grady; they had a dairy in Bourke. His daughter Phil came and worked for her father in the pub. The only ones that did not come were Harold (who continued to run the butcher shop in Orange) and Joe (who worked on the NSW Railways).

Jim Kessey was 60 years old when he arrived in Bourke but was soon a leading citizen in the town. He was elected to the Council and became Mayor by the time the Great Depression struck in the years following 1929.

His compassionate side was demonstrated during these years. He frequently marked his tenant's rent books as "paid" for several months without having received what they could not pay. But he could be tough too. When Communist Party agitators requested permission to make speeches in the town's park, he denied permission and ran them out of town (see "Bricks at dead of night").

Jim Kessey was a canny businessman. Having made a success of the pub at Mount David, he continued in the hotel business after arriving in Bourke. That venture, coupled with his income from rental houses, enabled him to finance the purchase of the Palais Royal theatre at which he presented films. He was also the driving force behind a number of community projects initiated by the Council, many of which he partly financed. On his retirement as mayor, he was presented with an Illuminated Address by the Council.

His children also played a significant part in the life of the town, with Halvar also serving as Mayor.

Jim Kessey lived in Bourke for the last 26 years of his life before his death in 1944, aged 86. He is buried in the Bourke Cemetery.

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Halvar Roy Kessey, 1905 - 1989
hhrk.jpg (7245 bytes)Halvar Kessey 1906-1981

Halvar Roy Kessey, born 1 April 1905, was the eighth of ten children born to James Kessey and Mary Jane Press. His siblings were Grace (1891), Harold (1893-1957), Beatrice (1895-1951), Bern (1895), Phil (1898), Joe (1899-1970), Horace (1902-1974), Jean (1907-1995) and Hilty (1909-1977).

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Halvar, Harold, Joe, Hilty, Bern
Jean, Beat, Horace, Grace

The family lived at Mount David (Bathurst area of New South Wales) where Halvar's father was the publican. Mount David still had an active gold mine in those days and the miners were the backbone of the pub's earnings.

When he was in primary school, Halvar's parents went through an acrimonious divorce, and his mother lived in Sydney during this time. Halvar was sent to live for a time in Orange with his married sister, Beatrice ("Aunty Beat").

At the end of World War I, the returning soldiers introduced a terrible influenza to the country. The death toll was so high that Halvar's father decided to move his family as far away as possible. His doctor advised him to move to "the hottest place you can find". And so, in 1918, 13-year-old Halvar and his family moved to Bourke where he lived for most of his life.

The wounds of the divorce had obviously healed, because Halvar's parents remarried each other at Byrock during the train trip to Bourke.

Halvar's father was a successful businessman who ran a pub, a movie theatre and owned several rental houses in the town. Jim Kessey was Bourke Mayor during the Great Depression and took an active part in the town's sporting clubs.

Halvar played a lot of sport and developed a strong physique. While still a teenager he was the chief "chucker-out" in his father's pub! There was a keen but friendly sporting rivalry with his brothers that continued throughout his life. For example, at the age of 50 he challenged his brother, Hilty, to a sprint race along Sturt Street and it was keenly contested!

He was a good all-round cricketer capable of some prodigious hitting. He loved to drive fast bowlers for six. On one occasion a six not only cleared the boundary of the main Bourke Oval, it also cleared the fence and landed on the roof of the shop on the other side of Mertin Street!

In 1927, Halvar was chosen to represent Bourke at cricket in the "Country Week" sporting festival in Sydney. This was a great chance to play in the big city, impress selectors and press for higher honours. But he was also engaged to be married and his wedding day clashed with "Country Week". He chose to get married.

Halvar married a local girl, Ena Ruby Murphy, on 29 October 1928. She was a third-generation Bourkeite who had been raised by her grandmother, Alice Bowen (nee Poulton), after the death of her mother (Ellen Ruby Murphy) when Ena was three years old. Ena had met Halvar many years earlier and was very popular with all the Kessey family. She and Halvar produced four children (Jim, Halvene, Carmel and Penny) and seven grandchildren, all of whom were born in Bourke.

For many of the early years of his marriage, Halvar worked for the local Bourke Department Store, Hales and Co. He and Ena lived at the western end of Hope Street, about two blocks from his parents' house in Sturt Street. There was a spare block attached to the house where Halvar and Ena ran a cow and some chickens, with room left over to set up some high jumps for the children.

Halvar continued to play sport and work hard throughout his life. On one occasion he rose early on the weekend and painted the house in the morning before playing cricket in the afternoon! He was also a good footballer and, in later years, a very keen and successful bowler. He served his sports as an administrator also. As President of the Bourke Bowling Club for many years he built the club into the most successful one in town. Subsequently, when the club wanted to build a new modern clubhouse, Halvar was asked to take over the Presidency again so that the Board would benefit from his common sense and financial acumen.

When his father died in August 1944, Halvar bought the Sturt Street house from the estate and moved in with his family. His mother continued to live there too.

He was elected to the town Council and served as Town Mayor. During World War II he was refused permission to join the military forces due to his role in organising civil defence as mayor. The air force built a good airstrip at Bourke for use as a refuelling station. He was provided with sealed orders that were only to be opened in the event of a Japanese invasion.

In the late 1940s, he resigned from Hales & Co in order to start his own business as a house painter.

During his term as Mayor, the town faced a crisis when a large surge of floodwaters moved down the Darling River from Queensland in 1950. The town council decided that the town should be walled in with levee banks to keep out the floodwaters. It did not want a repeat of the inundation that had happened sixty years earlier when most of the town was knee-deep in water for several days. 

In one incident, the chief engineer employed by the town council was asked to nominate how many sand bags Bourke should request from the State Government.

"Two hundred", came the astonishing reply.

"Make that ten thousand", interposed Halvar gruffly.

After that, he made sure he oversighted all preparations. He organised the townspeople in the few short weeks that were available before the flood surge came down the river. All trucks in the town were given over to the flood effort. Business hours were cut down to two or three hours each morning and the rest of the day was given over to filling sandbags, cooking for the workers and building the levee banks. The schools were closed and the children mucked in with everyone else. It was a great community spirit that carried the town through.

It was a big flood and the hand-built levees were tested to a very great degree. At the height of the crisis, Halvar arranged for all spare corrugated iron in the town to be laid on the outside of the levee banks in order to strengthen the defences, particularly on the weather side of the town. When the corrugated iron ran out he had all of the athel pines in town pruned and the branches used in the same way as the corrugated iron.

The levees held in 1950. They were strengthened for the 1955 flood and held again. During the next big floods, in the 1970s, the levees were re-built using modern machinery. These days they are a permanent feature of the town; the athel pines have taken root and grow around much of the levee bank. Similar levees have also been used in other western towns, to great effect.

In 1953 Halvar started a plastering business with a partner: Jack Halliday. They built a small factory on the block next to the old house in Hope Street. Later still, he was employed by Bourke Shire Council as an overseer. In this role, he oversaw the building of a number of public infrastructure projects, including much of the town's kerb and guttering work carried out by "dole" labourers during the 1960s. He was also heavily involved with oversighting the work required to build and maintain many of the roads throughout the district, including the road to the top of Mount Oxley.

After retirement, Halvar and Ena moved to Berkley (Wollongong) to be nearer their children and grandchildren. Halvar died in Wollongong Hospital on 11 December 1981 after suffering a stroke three years earlier.

Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

Halvene Therese Kessey, 1934 - 2005
hhtk.jpg (7598 bytes)Halvene Therese Kessey 1934-

Halvene Therese Kessey was born on 6 February 1934 at Bourke. Her name was created by merging her parents first names, Halvar Roy Kessey and Ena Ruby Murphy.

During Halvene's early years  the family lived in Hope Street, next door to her father's plasterworks business. They moved to 13 Sturt Street following the death of her grandparents.

Halvene was a keen netball player at school. After leaving school, she worked in the office at Hales' department store until she was married. Her husband, Reginald Bruce Fleming, had come to Bourke three years earlier as an employee of the Bank of NSW.

Halvene and Bruce were married on 1 March 1955 at Bourke during the '55 flood. Since all roads were cut by floodwaters, they had to depart by air for their honeymoon in Sydney. Soon after they returned to Bourke, Bruce was posted by the Bank to to Windsor. It was a lonely time for Halvene, who was used to knowing everyone in her community. After a few months, she and Bruce decided to return to Bourke to live, a move that required Bruce to resign from his Bank position.

Their first child, James Michael, was born in Bourke on 15 December 1955 and was followed 18 months later by Shae Therese. In the early years of marriage, the family lived in Oxley Street and Halvene worked part-time at nearby Kara's cafe. Bruce worked for a time as an insurance agent and later for Oxley Motors.

Soon after Peta Patricia was born on 11 December 1960, Halvene and Bruce started to design a house that they planned to build on a vacant block of land in Mertin Street. They sold the Oxley Street house and moved back to Halvene's parent's house at 13 Sturt Street for a short period while the new house was built. This took longer than anticipated: over a year.

A few years after moving into the lovely new house at 14 Mertin Street, Halvene gave birth to her fourth child: Patrick Bruce. By this time, her husband was running the Bourke fuel depot for Ampol and had expanded the business to encompass a mail run and wool-carting. The family prospered with the children doing well at school and the whole family getting involved in leisure pursuits such as pony club and water-skiing.

As the children finished high school, they moved to Bathurst and Sydney to pursue higher education before finding jobs and settling in Sydney. In 1974, Bruce and Halvene decided to leave Bourke in order to be closer to their children. Bruce's new employer (Tancred's abbatoir) cooperated by transferring him to its Corrimal office in the Illawarra district. The family bought a house and settled at Figtree. This location had the advantage of being close to Halvene's sister Carmel and brother Jim as well as being close to Sydney. Soon afterwards, Halvene's parents also moved into the area. The family had broken away from Bourke after an association that dated back about 120 years (Halvene's GG-Grandparents, James and Frances Reed, moved to Bourke from Sydney in 1862).

Halvene and Bruce's son Patrick married Lisa Davis on 10 October 1992 and they now have three grandchildren: Amber, Ruby and Jed.

pmumdadb.jpg (11513 bytes)Halvene & Bruce (1997)

Halvene and Bruce moved to Bathurst in the mid 1990s.

Halvene suffered a stroke in April 2004 but recovered quite well. Unfortunately she was not able to recover from another stroke in October 2005. She died on 6 October 2005 and is buried in Bathurst cemetery.

The rose still grows beyond the wall.

Obituary        Eulogy

Obituary: Halvene Therese Fleming (nee Kessey), 1934-2005

The Late Halvene Therese Fleming, (nee Kessey), passed away on 6th October 2005 at Bathurst Base Hospital aged 71 years.

 Born on 6 February 1934 at Bourke, Halvene was the daughter of former Bourke citizens, the late Halvar and Ena Kessey. On her mother’s side, she was the third generation to be born in Bourke where she lived for her first 46 years.

Halvene was educated to the Intermediate Certificate level by the Sisters of Mercy at St Ignatius Convent School. After leaving school, she joined the office staff of Hales and Co where she worked until her marriage to Bruce Fleming on 1 March 1955.

 Halvene was a keen participant in the life of the town, gaining particular enjoyment through sport such as basketball and through her attendance at local dances and balls. Early in her married life she was an enthusiastic participant at the commencement of the Bourke Ladies Bowling Club. Later Halvene loved her games of golf with the Bourke lady golfers.

 Halvene and Bruce raised a family of four in Bourke. Halvene supported her family and the community through her involvement in school activities such as the P & C Association, St Ignatius School librarianship, fetes, working bees and the tuck shop. In addition she enjoyed many hours assisting at Pony Club functions and keenly encouraged her daughters in their equestrian pursuits.

 Halvene shared in Bruce’s participation in local service clubs such as Apex, Rotary and the Bourke Golf Club.

Since 1980 Halvene has lived in Figtree and Bathurst, where she continued to indulge her passion for gardening. From Figtree, Halvene and Bruce attended Open Garden Festivals from the Southern Highlands to the Illawarra and Blue Mountains.

 Halvene derived great pleasure from ongoing contact with numerous old Bourke friends and close ties with her large extended family. In recent years she relished the role of Nan to her three grandchildren, Amber, Ruby and Jed.

 Halvene and Bruce celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in March this year at Bathurst, with a lovely dinner and party for their many friends and family members. It was a memorable and joyous occasion for all.

 A large group of family and friends celebrated Halvene’s life at a requiem mass held at the cathedral of St Michael and St John, Bathurst on 10 October 2005. She is buried at Bathurst cemetery.

 Halvene is survived by her husband Bruce, children Jim, Shae, Peta and Patrick, daughter-in-law Lisa, her beloved grandchildren Amber, Ruby and Jed, much loved brother Jim Kessey and sisters Carmel Hull and Penny Kessey.

Eulogy: Halvene Therese Kessey

by Jim Fleming

·        Mum was born in Bourke in 1934. Her personality was shaped by her experience of being part of a large and vibrant extended family and by participating in a thriving small community.

·        Mum had deep roots in Bourke. Her mother, Ena Ruby Murphy, was descended from three families of long-standing in the town. The Reeds, the Bowens and the Murphys had all been established in the town for more than 50 years by the time Mum was born. She was the fifth consecutive generation to live in the town so she had lots of relatives there.

·        Mum’s mother, Ena, along with her brother Jack and sister Leila was raised from the age of 4 by her grandmother, Ma Bowen, after her mother died. Ma was by then a widow with a large brood of children and not much money. But the family pulled together to get through; everything was shared, everyone contributed. Ena was very close to her siblings and her Bowen uncles and aunts for the remainder of her life and this family-consciousness was passed to her children, including Mum.

·        Mum’s father, Halvar Roy Kessey, moved to Bourke with his parents and siblings in 1918. The Kessey family originated in the Bathurst area, where Grandfather Kessey had pubs at Brewongle and later at Mount David.

·        Both the Bowens and the Murphys also came to Bourke from the Bathurst area, so it is fitting that the family has returned to this area in recent years.

·        Halvar and Ena met at school in Bourke and were married soon after Ma Bowen died in 1927.

·        Ena combined the names of Halvar and Ena in naming her eldest daughter Halvene. I might add that she had invented the name several years before they were married, so she certainly planned ahead!

·        For the first 10 years of Mum’s life the family lived in Hope Street Bourke. Some of the first photographs of Mum show her at age 3 or 4 playing in a slightly overgrown garden at Hope Street with large flax plants towering over her. She was at home playing in that garden, as she was in many other gardens that she created over the years. This was a passion that she shared with her brother Jim and her sisters Carmel and Penny.

·        She created a great garden at Mertin Street Bourke with loads of luscious peaches, grapes and passion fruit. The main flowers in that garden were roses and she was, on more than one occasion, forced to shoo stray cattle and horses that found them very tasty. Cattle in gardens continue to plague her sister Penny to this day!

·        Mum subsequently created very good and productive gardens at her other homes at Branch Avenue Figtree and Opperman Way in Bathurst. She also assisted others in establishing their gardens with advice, cuttings and physical work, including the creation of a particularly special meandering path at Locksley.

·        After grandfather Kessey died, Mum’s family moved into the Sturt Street house that he had built in Bourke. That house was home to a lot of us as Nan and Pop welcomed many of the extended family and friends at various times over many years. They would come to stay for holidays; or to stay for a few months or even longer. Mum cemented firm ties with her many cousins in this way and many of them and their children are here today.

·        Mum loved school and was a keen participant in sport, particularly basketball (now netball). She made good friends including John Wheelhouse, Les Hull, Cath Holland, Ruth and Rona Hanns.

·        She attended the Bourke Picnic Races Ball in 1952 in the company of Cath, Ruth and Rona. That night the girls made friends and danced with Bill Darley and his mate, Bruce Fleming. Dad recalls that on the night that he met Mum, she was wearing the dress that she had worn for a wedding earlier that year. It was a lovely pale blue – a colour that always suited her.

·        Mum was an excellent dancer and she and Dad never missed any of the many dances and Balls held in Bourke in those days. When we were kids she was very involved in planning and organizing the annual Apex Ball when Dad was in Apex. One of those Balls was where she co-opted Penny to introduce the latest dance craze from Sydney: the Washington Stomp. And we kids learned it too and danced it in the Sturt Street family room that we called the “arcade”.

·        Dad was invited to share some Christmas cheer at the Sturt Street house in December 1952. He arrived just as Pop and Uncle Jack contrived to drop a huge block of ice onto Uncle Jack’s foot, breaking several bones. Such was the spirit in the family that this incident caused much amusement at the time and Pop dined out on it for years to come.

·        The story passed into family folklore, as did a later incident that involved Dad, Patrick’s skateboard and a broken ankle. Mum dined out on that one for years, particularly the bit about her straightening out the broken ankle before the ambulance arrived.

·        Suffice it to say that Mum and Dad have spent a further 52 Christmases together since that first one in 1952. We will all miss Mum greatly this Christmas especially and for years to come.

·        That season has always been the highlight of the year for the family; a time when everyone gets together. Mum always greatly enjoyed the present buying, the wrapping, the stacking of huge piles of presents around the tree and, of course, the opening! And she was hard to keep up with during any Christmas shopping expedition.

·        After she and Dad were married, Mum participated in the community in a variety of ways. She sang in the church choir, she worked in the school tuck shop, she did a great job of running the school library, she organized regular working bees to clean the convent, she played bowls and golf. Peta recalls that Mum always won the broom-throwing contest at town picnics! I recall her winning a handbag-throwing competition at one of them too!

·        Later, when we kids got a bit older she was a stalwart at Pony Club events and travelled around all of the country shows while Shae and Peta participated in the equestrian events. And she spent hours on the riverbank during water-skiing fun.

·        She always welcomed friends into our home and treated them as family. She maintained many of those friendships over many decades despite the fact that she or they moved away to different towns. Many of those friends are here today.

·        Like all of the Bowen and Kessey clan members, Mum was a champion yarner. She had no trouble participating in two conversations at once and could keep track of a couple of others! Shae and Shauna regularly reminisce about sitting under the table in the arcade at Sturt Street trying to listen to all of the conversations – and Mum was usually in there with gusto.

·        One of her greatest loves was a sing along. She knew the words and tunes to lots of songs. The Kessey sisters were great harmonisers too. I thought I’d heard all of her songs over 40-odd years but she surprised a few of us a couple of years ago when she unveiled “Salome”. It has now become a sing along standard, but is best performed with the aid of a couple of saucepan lids!

·        She was a very supportive wife and mother for over 50 years. She supported Dad in his pursuits, be they cricket, refereeing the Rugby League in Group 15, golf, Apex, Rotary.

·        She supported the kids in a myriad of ways, some of which I have already referred to. She was great at hounding us to learn our times tables and our spelling; she made a great Aladdin costume that won me first prize in the fancy dress competition – complete with Aunty Jo’s oriental lamp; she made countless school uniforms even though she hated doing it.

·        She would also occasionally provide a piece of homespun advice. For example, when the girls objected to over-vigorous hair brushing she would say with finality, “Pride must suffer” – a direct quote from her own mother!

·        Mum had a number of cooking specialties that were especially appreciated: a champion pikelet maker; curry-maker extraordinaire – especially when the main curry-eater was returning home from boarding school; she made a mean lemon meringue pie and a legendary trifle.

·        She was the best horse-groomer, tail-plaiter and hoof-painter.

·        Not to mention excellent cheering abilities. She watched Peta playing softball once, which is very vocal and noisy. She was the loudest at yelling “Way to go!” She got a great kick out of it and has been rocking it in at every opportunity ever since.

·        Mum was always an avid reader and sometimes bragged that, as a kid, she would have all her Christmas books read by New Year. In later years she was also a crossword fanatic.

·        Most of all she was a devoted, loyal and loving family person, friend, wife, mother and grandmother. Nothing gave her greater pleasure than being amongst family and friends, sharing a yarn and a sing along. It was great that she was able to enjoy everyone’s company at the celebration of her 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year. And what a great night that was.

·        We will all miss her terribly. Life wont be the same without her smiling face.

Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

© Copyright Jim Fleming 2002.
This page created on 20 June 2002.
Last edited on 22 Mar 2011 .
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