William Charles Ramsdale (1865-1941) and Johanna Boyle (1866-1954)

Our great grandparents

William Charles Ramsdale was born at Carlsruhe Victoria on 17 June 1865, the third child and son of James Ramsdale and Mary Meagher. William was baptised on 6 August 1865 at Kyneton. He was not yet 7 years of age at the time of his father’s death, so was probably raised from that age by his mother and stepfather James Liston.

Johanna Boyle was born at Carlsruhe on 24 May 1866, the second child and first daughter of John Boyle and Anne Slattery. She was baptised at Kyneton on 19 August 1866. Her daughter Ethel Ramsdale wrote about her:

My mother met with an accident when she was about 3 years old. Her brother Bill was chopping a bit of wood which she wanted & he brought the axe down on her fingers result she had 3 fingers & two stumps on one hand which didn’t worry her as she did everything sewed, knitted etc etc. She was brought up by her Grandmother Mrs Slattery [Julia Slattery née Holohan] who used to operate the tollgates at Kyneton. She went to a private school run by a Mrs O’Reilly and Miss Phillips (sisters) & had a very good education and was quite a lady & used to dress beautifully always getting her clothes made by a good dressmaker & her hats used to be so becoming too. She went to the Kyneton Presbytery to work when she grew up & eventually married.

Sadly, Ethel did not leave any descriptions or anecdotes of her father’s early life, and indeed made few mentions of him at all in her notes.  She noted that her father was often away from home “on relay work”.

William Ramsdale and Johanna Boyle married in Kyneton on 8 April 1891.  At that same time and place, William’s older brother John married Johanna’s younger sister Ellen. William and Johanna had six children:

  1. Mary (b.1893) – known as "Tot”, she was born at Carlsruhe on 27 February 1893. She married Henry Omant at Kyneton on 6 June 1917 and they had four children together: Noreen (b.1918), Henry Charles (Harry) (b.1920), Mary Patricia (1923-1947) and Ellen (Nell) (b.1925). See detailed newspaper report about Tot's wedding (with photo of Henry Omant).
  2. Ethel Mary (our paternal grandmother - 1895-1974)
  3. Ellen (1898-1952) – known as “Nell”, she was born at Carlsruhe on 8 May 1898. She married Leonard Rau at Kyneton on 15 July 1925 and they had one daughter, Maureen Patricia (b.1927).
  4. Annie (1900-1961) – known as “Nan”, she was born at Carlsruhe on 23 October 1900. She did not marry and died while on a holiday with her sister Flo at Loxton, South Australia on 13 January 1961. She was a diabetic and could not be transported home. She is buried in the Loxton Cemetery.
  5. Florence (1903-1974) – known as “Flo”, she was born at Carlsruhe on 13 December 1903. She married Edwin Habel at Kyneton on 13 April 1927 and they had four children: Brian Edwin (b.1928), Mary Claire (b.1929), Joan (b.1935) and Coleen Therese (b.1941). Flo died on 13 June 1974.
  6. William Charles (1908-2001) – known as “Charlie”, he was born at Carlsruhe on 10 January 1908. He married Vera Sheehan on 14 December 1935 at Sunshine, Victoria and they had four children: Joan (b.1937), Alan (b.1941), Denise (b.1942) and Gerard (b.1946). Charlie still played tennis in 1987 and was also a very good athlete when he was younger. Charlie died on 31 May 2001.

The Ramsdale Family 1789-1988 (author unknown) has this description of some aspects of their life in Carlsruhe:

Mary (Tot) remembered going to mass at Kyneton on the old style railway trolley (push-pull variety) in all types of weather. Early mass was once a month to receive holy communion. They had to walk from the station to the church and back again.

Monday was always washing day and the residents from beyond the Hotel took their washing to the Campaspe River where it was washed , then hung up to dry under the old wooden bridge over the river. There was always someone chosen to keep watch to prevent someone stealing it. Water was very precious and the area was dotted with wells, this could only be used for drinking.

There were tennis courts on Bourkes property, this became a meeting place for the young and the energetic. The only shelter was a large black old tree. Dances were held in Birrell’s barn, providing entertainment for all ages.

Ethel Ramsdale said that after the death of Ellen Boyle Ramsdale in 1899, Johanna “went up to keep house” for her widowed brother-in-law, John Ramsdale, and look after his sons.  When this arrangement did not work out, for reasons unexplained by Ethel, Johanna “went to a house of her own again (Bowers’ House) we used to call it, and took Frank and Bill [John’s younger sons] with her while [another] aunt took the elder boy Jim”. Again Ethel is silent on exactly where her father William Ramsdale fit in with these arrangements. Ethel did describe the “Bowers’ House” and aspects of the family’s life there:

It was a lovely old house with roses (Cloth of Gold) all over the front verandah & 13 cherry trees which were a lovely sight when ripe. People used to come with their baskets to pick the cherries when ripe (all free) as in the country in those days, everyone exchanged their foods with each other. The place had quite a lot of land with it & a creek a tributary of the Campaspe River flowed through it. Mr Bowers used ½ the paddock the other side for his cows, with a high 6ft fence to keep them from the railway lines. We had the other half of the land which ran through to Kyneton and Bendigo and my mother used to have her ducks, geese & chickens. We used to sell the young geese at Xmas for about 3/6 each& we had to dress them for that. Mum and I usually killed and plucked them. We were a good way from Kyneton (Carlsruhe 4 mile) & as there were no shops at Carlsruhe we had to trap rabbits & kill the poultry for food. We used to get most of our groceries by walking into Kyneton, tea etc. used to be delivered by Griffiths Bros. in those days in large chests.

At some time before 1909 the family moved to “a lovely little cottage in Kyneton near the Kyneton Hospital in Simpson Street”.  William Ramsdale then obtained permanent employment with the railways, which came with “a house free of rent” at Carlsruhe railway station, where the family was living in 1914. The 1903 electoral roll lists William as a "platelayer"; in 1909 he was a "railway labourer"; in 1914 a "railway employee"; in 1931 he had most likely retired as no occupation was listed.

Some time between 1919 and 1931 William and Johanna bought some land at Sunshine, Victoria where they built a house that still stands at 7 Robinson Street. They lived at this house for the rest of their lives.

7 Robinson Street Sunshine
The house at 7 Robinson St Sunshine. Photo by Phillip Dwyer c. 2008.

William died at Sunshine aged 75 on 10 May 1941, with the cause of death and duration of last illnesses noting “heart failure - 1½ days, gastroenteritis – 6 days, arteriosclerosis – years”. He was buried at the Footscray Cemetery on 12 May 1941.

Johanna died at Sunshine aged 87 on 15 February 1954, with the cause of death and duration of last illnesses noting “cerebral haemorrhage – 4 days, hypertension – 5 years+, senility”. She was also buried at Footscray Cemetery, on 18 February 1954.


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