John Robert CUNLIFFE II
- Born: 13 Nov 1853, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Christened: 16 Nov 1853, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Marriage: Margaret PEARSON on 9 Nov 1882 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- Died: 16 Aug 1934, Bellevue Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia at age 80
John Robert Cunliffe was born in Russell Street, Melbourne, Victoria on 16 November 1853, the eldest surviving son of Sarah and John Cunliffe. He married Margaret Pearson, born on 24 December 1860 in Sydney, at Christ Church, Sydney on 9 November 1882.
Little is known of his early life except that he helped care for his four younger surviving brothers after his father went to America upon the death of his mother in childbirth with her tenth child. I believe his mother, Jane, a widow, and his seven siblings immmigrated at Melbourne with his father, John and mother, Sarah and most probably helped with the care of the young family. The family moved to New South Wales after his father left them, when and for what reason the writer has been unable to discover.
Margaret was born on 24 December 1860, the sixth child of Charlotte and Frederick Pearson, at their home at 288 Pitt Street Sydney, where Frederick ran a successful furniture business. She was a well educated young lady attending Mrs Cameron's Boarding School in Stanly Street.
John is known to have owned a menswear shop at one time but sold it and gained employment at Farmer's and then Anthony Hordern's, both large department stores in Sydney where he worked until well into his seventies.
He was very dedicated to the Labor Party and is said to have been very involved with the beginnings of the trade union movement in Sydney.
John, it seems, had a huge temper which the whole family completely ignored and very definite opinions on all sorts of subjects, particularly religion, probably due to his father's abandonment of his young family to take up lay preaching. John was an avid reader and he and Margaret often played chess, Margaret invariably falling asleep halfway through the game thus incurring John's wrath.
There were always large family gatherings on Sundays with John's brothers, Alf and Ted and their families, when everyone played cards or billiards. There were often 'sing-songs' around the piano, with Maggie playing and John leading the singing. John always repaired to the pantry to partake of his customary two nips of rum each night much to the rest of the family's disgust.
Margaret or Maggie as she was known, was a very superstitious lady, given to using lots of 'sayings'. She was always busy caring for her large family, making great 'productions' out of wash day and the weekly arrival of John the Chinaman from whom she purchased her fruit and vegetables.
The family lived 400 Cleveland Street in Sydney in the early years, moving to 'Blink Bonny' in Woollahra when the twins were young and spending their last years at 'Cartref' in Bellevue Hill.
They had nine children, Mabel & Doris the 1st and 3rd children, dying in infancy from diphtheria. They were cared for in their later years by their unmarried daughters Clarice and Wils and their unmarried son Roy.
John died on 16 August 1934 aged 76 and Margaret, from cancer, on 27 September 1938 aged 77.
March 27th 1882
I Suppose I ought to put Dear Miss Pearson but I hope you will forgive the liberty. I am very glad you had a good passage down but I have no doubt you were wishing yourself back on shore again and vowing you would never trust yourself over the treacherous Briney again. I suppose you thought I was in a great hurry to get away & so I was because I knew that you only had a few minutes to spare and Mr H. was waiting for me. I told him I was just going down the street there was someone that I wanted to see & that I would be back in a few minutes. He waited nearly half an hour & was just starting for home when I got back.
Dear Maggie I have missd you very much (answer indeed) it gives me a slight idea of what I should feel if I had no hope of ever calliing you mine.
I hope you are enjoying the beauties of Newcastle & the Society there (whisper) Has the hat & sash done any damage yet or have you realized your hope or fear I forget which and got your name in that paper.
With me things are about the same as usual. I like Farmers better than I did at first. Business is very dull so I may get the Ancient & honorable order of the Sac if the trade don't get brisk
Hope you are in good health & that you are not making too many conquests
The following is a transcript of a letter sent to Margaret and John Robert Cunliffe concerning their son, John.
August 2nd 1915
Dear Mr Cunliffe
Some six weeks ago a Red Cross Lady of my acquaintance told me of a young Australian at the local Hospital, who was very ill, and lonely, and would welcome someone to visit, and cheer him. I gladly called, and so became the
friend of your son. We are very good friends (although I am in the forties) our principal bond of union, being; that, having spent six years in Australia, I know Sydney well.
Singularly enough I have a cousin who lives in Queen St Woollahra, quite close to you. When your boy first came to "Webbersley" he was in a very weak state. His very severe wound, and the loss of blood had brought him down to a shadow. It was his very good fortune to be sent to "Webbersley" a large mansion used as a Red Cross Hospital, and it is the most rigid truth to say that he has had every possible care and attention, and everything has been done to minimise his great loss.
He realises his good fortune, in getting out of the war with his life, and as I told him the other evening, he has all his faculties (there are many poor fellows whose nerves are shattered, and who have become imbeciles) his vital organs are sound, he has his sight, and taking all the enormous risks into consideration, he is indeed fortunate.
Perhaps I ought to say here that I am taking the liberty of writing you because I felt you would like to know from an outside source, how your lad is going on.
Jack came to tea at my house last Sunday along with another poor fellow, who has lost his left eye, and on arriving back at the hospital, found that orders had arrived to go to London.
He left us I know with the greatest regret, because he has made hosts of friends. Everybody has the highest opinion of "Cunliffe", in fact my wife holds him up to my boy (aged 10) as a pattern.
We are six miles out of town (Manchester) and as I came out of the station the other evening a Red Cross man said "Cunliffe has gone" and proceeded to speak of him in the most affectionate way.
It is no exaggeration to say that his modesty, and frankness, and indeed his entire personality is so winning that everyone esteemed him here, and I feel sure you will be glad for me to let you know this.
He was to have been taken about to see some of the local places of interest, but this is all out of the question now, as regards this district. He is now in Surrey, over 200 miles away, near London. I had hoped to take him to see the ancient City of Chester, only 40 miles away. This is a walled town, replete with historical interest, and your boy wants badly to see something of historic England. However where he now is there are many such places, easily accessible. "The Stately homes of England" moated granges, Castles, the seat of the nobility etc. You are I know, a democrat, and will understand that these ancient monuments of the past, have a national, and historic interest entirely apart from the people to whom they belong.
However I do not doubt that your boy will have a good opportunity, before he sails for home, of seeing these relics of feudalism, of a Medieaval barbarism, which, although, perished as an institution still survives to an astonishing extent in rural England.
For in the country districts the people are still practically serfs, they bow, and curtsey to the squire, the parson, and the "Lord of the Manor". The ignorant peasantry still call these, "the quality" and your "Squire, Parson" or other local big-wig; refers to the common people, as the "lower orders","the working classes". In the Cities, and big centres of commerce and industry, the plutocrat, the merchant prince, (the Capitalist) is rendered the same homage, by the artesan, the clerk, & the shop-keeper, as the peasant of the countryside gives to the aristocracy. Some of us who can see through the injustice & inequality of our social system, often dispair at the want of intelligence displayed by the backbone of this, as indeed of every other country's, the working people.
"What matter then if we have bound"
the whole world round with bands of gold
if, hidden in our heart is found
the care, that groweth never old"
In Australia in a general sense, "Jack is as good as his master", and more important, is well aware of the fact: Here an absurd deference is given to aristocratic birth, and to wealth.
However I find I am beginning to ride my hobby horse, far away from any relevance to what I commenced to write about. Your boy's disability is without doubt a serious one, but it is not insuperable. Difficulties are made to be overcome, and I am confident he will overcome to an astonishing extent, the handicap of the loss of his right arm. May I say that what troubles him to a great extent, is the emotion that you will all feel when he arrives home. If I may suggest it, I would advise that you ignore his loss as much as you can, and treat it as casually as possible. Let your re-union be a happy and jolly occasion, it ought to be, seeing that your lad has emerged triumphantly from the pit, from the awful crucible of war. Sometime I should like to write to you more fully of this subject of war. "War" said Genl Sherman "is Hell" and this terse definition is so admirable, that it adequately describes what is, in sober fact, the prostitution of civilisation, to the user of barbarism.
I am going to send you a few picture post cards of the district, and of the hospital "Webbersley": my wife thinks that his mother and yourself would like to have an idea of the place. One thing is certain Jack has made a wonderful recovery, and his stay at this place was by no means unhappy. He left us all with great reluctance, & I have heard from him at his new "camp", which he does not like so well. It is quite Possible we shall never see him again, unless I return to Australia; "is we were but Ships that pass in the night", we have at least the happiest recollections of a too brief acquaintance.
With best wishes to you, & your wife and family from my wife and myself.
Yours very sincerely
All notes thanks to Mike Syme
John married Margaret PEARSON on 9 Nov 1882 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. (Margaret PEARSON was born in 1859 and died on 27 Sep 1938 in Bellevue Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.)