26 September 2011

Auntie Alice

My great great aunt, Alice Mary Allen nee Merrick (born 1883, Redfern NSW, died 11 Dec 1967, Strathfield NSW), was quite superstitious. Being brought up in a Christian family didn't seem to have had any impact on this and there were a number of rituals that she would perform at times.

The one that has been passed down through family lore is about the new moon. At the time of a new moon she would go out into the backyard and say "Welcome New Moon, welcome New Moon, welcome New Moon" - I'm not sure of the reason why, presumably it ensured good luck. She also believed it was unlucky to look at the new moon through a window - I guess you'd need to keep the curtains tightly drawn! I think my grandmother and her siblings (Alice was their aunt) thought she was rather eccentric. Searching on the internet I found reference to both of these practises in "The peasant speech of Devon, and other matters connected there with" written by Sarah Hewitt, published 1892. Goodness knows how Auntie Alice came to hear about them!

Auntie Alice was a milliner who employed a number of people at her factory in Lakemba. I have tried to find advertisements in historical newspapers for the millinery business but without success. However for her to have employees it must have been reasonably successful. One advantage of having a milliner in the family was that my great aunt, Auntie Alice's niece, had a penchant for hats, and so upon her death there were a large number of once terribly stylish hats passed down for my children and their cousins to use for dress-ups!

Updated to add: I mentioned this to Dad the other day and he commented that the other strange thing Auntie Alice did was to put all the cutlery away in a thunderstorm. Mum said that had been done in her family too!

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