Montgomery Family Life at Bishopscourt - Late 19th Century Ways

The family sailed for Hobart early in September of 1889 in the Shaw Saville liner the S.S. Tainui. She was a small four-masted vessel of about six thousand tons, with one tall smoke stack, and took six weeks to complete the voyage of some twelve thousand miles, round the Cape of Good Hope, to Tasmania. The children had to do lessons every morning in the saloon with their mother — except Bernard, who was then not yet two years of age, and Una, still a baby in arms. When the Tainui cast anchor in the beautiful harbour of Hobart, on the twenty-third of October, a new venture for them all began.

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At first it was a tremendous shock, especially for the Bishop and his young wife, as everything was so completely different from the life, and the people, they had known in London or in Ireland. There was only one choice open to the whole family, they decided. This was, as far as possible, to forget completely everything about their past life, and become `Colonials' (now a long-outmoded word) and Tasmanian, in thought and outlook. But there was to be one very strong exception to this policy. None of them were to be allowed, under any circumstances, to adopt a Tasmanian accent. It was Mother who insisted absolutely on observance of this rule, and swift retribution awaited any member of the family who broke it—especially if the breaking was deliberate mimicry or otherwise mischievous! She attained her object apparently for no member of the family has ever shown evidence, by accent, of having lived long in Australia.

It goes also almost without saying that Mother continued to impose a strict routine on all the children. She had begun this at Kennington, and maintained it on the long voyage to Hobart, so it became the natural order of things to include it in the new era which now began. It was the type of routine to which we all became accustomed and which, broadly, remained in force, even for adults, in every house of which mother was the mistress, throughout her life.

The day began, and ended, with family prayers as it had at Dean's Yard, and everybody, servants and guests included, had to attend. After breakfast the girls made the beds, the boys cleaned the shoes, and adults were expected to look after themselves, unless mother had organised something for all.

The children had lessons in the morning with games or exercise of some kind in the afternoon. Later in life, especially in Ireland, she added another very strict rule. Everybody had to be out of the house between two and four o'clock in the afternoon, so that she could rest undisturbed by noise or interruption of any kind. It did not matter where you went or what you did as long as you were not in the house, though if you remained in the garden you must make no noise that could reach her. The Bishop was the only exception to this rule, though he, very willingly on his part, had to remain in his study.

Meanwhile at Hobart, with her usual organising ability, Mother had arranged for tutors to come from England and take over the whole job of teaching the children, who were rapidly growing up. The arrival of these tutors gave her more freedom to devote her attention to the many and varied activities of a Colonial bishop's wife. Fortunately Bishopscourt, their home in Hobart, was a large rambling building with a big garden, well suited to her purpose. She had an additional room built, outside the house, which served as a school where not only her own children were taught, but also those of certain close friends in or near Hobart. One of the boys who came was Andrew Holden, the son of Doctor Holden who was father's closest friend in Tasmania. Much later, Andrew married my elder sister Una.

The boys of the school had the charge of the schoolroom, taking their turn weekly to keep it clean, light the fire, chop the wood and generally maintain it. Here too they got their own evening meal, and for this purpose the boy in charge for the week was given half a crown to spend on 'extras' over and above what the cook provided.

One boy would spend the whole sum on cake or biscuits, whilst another bought tinned salmon and persuaded the cook to make it up into fish cakes. The future Field-Marshal, on one occasion when his turn came round, discovered, with due regard for economy, some cheap eggs. He announced, to the great amusement of his parents but the dismay of his fellows, that he was providing `reduced eggs' ! Although all the children had to submit to Mother's routine and sense of order it should not be thought they were unhappy or discontented in Tasmania. On the contrary they loved it all, especially the constant outdoor life, the picnics, riding, fishing and the like.