Pop and Jo's Wedding

Early Married Life

(from Jo's diary)

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The Lawrence Family - The Wedding - Farewelling the Soldier - Home to Mother -
Off to England - Arriving in England - Glasgow
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Arthur Lawrence

As I unpacked next morning my father called out that there someone to see me. I ran out thinking it was Faye and it was Arthur. My feelings were only surprise. So we settled down to the quiet little time left before 1914-War. Yes, I had heard of War where as a six year old my cousin Jack Vercoe had gone with a contingent to South Africa. I had heard the songs like ‘the Absent Minded Beggar’ and ‘Goodbye Dolly I must leave you’. But it all meant next to nothing. I never really knew the excitement of the relief of Mafeking. But now almost at once the son of an old friend was a Lieutenant and in camp at Broadmeadows. The first near touch to us of what was to be. I decided that my life ambition was to be a nurse and started training. A mistaken idea which I very speedily discovered and in a nutshell I lasted about three months and thankfully returned to my family who never had one word of reproach. The following year (1915) we saw more and more of those we knew march away. Clement Lane was the first of our friends killed at the landing at Gallipoli. Dear Clem who used to sing around the piano with us ‘Let me call you sweetheart’ etc and who travelled with a firm of tea merchants and made it his business to call quite often for ‘business’ talk. Clem whom we said goodbye to in Camp, and who had somehow forgotten all the trivial past times.

Arthur Poole Lawrence
Arthur Poole Lawrence
Top right: On the deck of HMAS Ballarat
Bottom middle: Posed in slouch hat, which was used for drawings of him as the archetypal digger, pictures which remain with the family.

Arthur Lawrence was doing Medicine and forbidden to enlist, but his younger brother (Bunt) went off. A nearer step to us! 1916 came, and Arthur and I hoped to be married some day and I started a Kindergarten course. Nearing the end of 1916 and with his final degree approaching Arthur was ready to enlist. We decided to marry but if our people opposed that we would not be engaged. Arthur felt that was unfair taking the future into consideration as so uncertain. On the day that we went to Ormond Hall to see the conferring of degrees Faye said she had in her pocket a message from her older brother in Queensland that he too had enlisted- poor Mrs Lawrence. And we hardly gave her a thought.

The Lawrence Family

Here I will digress to speak of Arthur’s people as we get so near to our marriage. His father (Alfred) was one of 3 sons and 3 daughters born to Christopher Lawrence and Mary (née Fabian). As a young man he came to Australia with, I think, two friends. They were Baptists and came in touch with the Reverend George Slade, a Baptist minister at New Market, Victoria. George Slade had five children. One daughter died, but his three sons were of poor account and all the energy, determination and commonsense seemed to be centred on his daughter Edith.

George and Marianne SladeGeorge and Marianne Slade
The Reverend George Slade and his wife Marianne Croggon
Right: The farmhouse at Hanslope, Bucks owned by the Slade family, which Amy and Arthur visited after WW1.

It was a strange wooing and mating of Edith Marianne Slade and Alfred Lawrence. I believe he handed her a note one day and presumably the answer was in the affirmative. I wondered if she had any happiness at all. Two little boys, then a little girl who, without consulting her he named Mary Fabian after his mother, then one more little boy then the end of everything for them both. Alfred Lawrence had been a brilliant business man but too quick a success unbacked by enough financial security was too much for him and he suffered a breakdown from which he never recovered. He went back to England and entered a private ‘Home’ where he lived for many years.

Edith’s background gave little help for such a burden heaped upon her shoulders at this time. In her early thirties, she faced the future alone with a new born baby and three small children. With the help of a good friend and her husband she organised her resources.

She developed good business ability and with the force of character she seems always to have had she kept the home together. When I first went home from school with Faye, they had a comfortable old home and a cow which Arthur and Bunt had to milk- never the oldest son George, and they had a cottage; well named Arcardia, in Ferny Creek on about 8 acres of land, looking over the countryside towards both Western Port and Port Phillip Bays. Here at Christmas time, the cottage was filled with young people. My mother-in-law and I did not see eye-to-eye on many things later, but I should like to pay a tribute to a brave gallant women who, if I did not love, I certainly did admire. I should add that she also managed to keep her husband in comfort all those years and her prayer was he predeceased her so that she would know he was safe. Her prayer was granted.

Pop' Family
Arthur Lawrence's family
Top: Alfred Lawrence
Top right: Alfred's father Christopher George Lawrence, a pawnbroker in London,
taken in 1906 with his daughter Hettie Lawrence Mills and granddaughter (front left),
second wife Emily and step children/family friends. Hettie later migrated to Australia.
Bottom: Arthur's grandmother Mary Fabian/Lawrence and mother Edith Marianne Slade/Lawrence.


The Wedding

Back to 1916. Keep the home fires burning. Sister Susie sewing shirts for Soldiers. Smile while you wish me sad adieu. The degrees were taken. We sat with a Mrs Sewell whose youngest son was finishing with Arthur. He was the only one already in Khaki and in a very short time he had already given his life. Arthur would not go on to Royal Melbourne, as that meant a year’s residency, so he went to Geelong for about 3 months I think. One Sunday morning early in December he called to ask my parents if we might marry before he went. He was 23 and I was 22. My father was willing at once. My only brother was only 17, and my father felt a pride in saying that his son-in-law was in this great war to end wars. My mother hesitated but eventually gave her consent. We arranged to be married on January 31st and Arthur would leave on February 17th for England. It wasn’t a time for a happy wedding; sorrow was coming too close for too many. Faye and my old friend Jessie Sutherland were my bridesmaids, and George Lawrence, also in uniform, and Geoff were groomsmen. George was to sail on the same ship as Arthur. After the ceremony we just went home for a special afternoon tea with only relatives and one special extra friend of mine, Jessie Pullen and one of Arthur’s friends.

Pop and Jo's Wedding
Wedding of Amy Moxon Beck and Arthur Poole Lawrence.
Top left: Amy with bridesmaids, including her friend and sister-in-law, Fay on left.
Top right: Amy's family, brother Geoffrey and mother and father.
Bottom: Captain Lawrence and sister Fay (Mary Fabian Lawrence).

Farewelling the Soldier

On an early summer evening, we went by train to ‘Arcadia’ where we had four days honeymoon which we did not know would be all we had for 2 ½ years. Then we came down to rooming at Elsternwick which we had taken until the day of departure. At last the day arrived when the Ballard was to sail. We were up early, each trying so hard not to show our feelings. We took a taxi down to Port Melbourne pier arriving before the troops. Nobody stopped me walking down the pier to the troopship. We stood quietly for a time there then Arthur said ‘I’ll take my gear on board and come back’. ‘Say goodbye in case’ I said. We kissed and held each other for a moment then I watched him go on board. Near me was standing the captain of the Weerona, an old bay steamer. He said to me ‘you may not be allowed to stay on the pier so if you are questioned say that you may come aboard the Weerona, I am the master there’. I thanked him and stood watching the troops who were now embarking.

Presently, I was handed a message saying that Arthur was not permitted to disembark and almost immediately a Lieutenant told me I had no business on the pier. I told him of the captain, and immediately went on board the Weerona where I stayed through the whole of that endless day. The mate of the Weerona took a message to Arthur from me. Very late in the afternoon they allowed the relatives onto the pier and there was a wild scramble. I would have had the pier’s start on them, but the captain and mate of the Weerona suggested I was better off on the top deck of the Weerona. Thoughtlessly of Arthur’s mother and relatives I stayed there and we looked at each other over the length of the pier. Presently the ship began to draw out. I had brought a big towel to wave and the mate had his telescope. I couldn’t see for tears and I saw Arthur draw his hand across his eyes. You keep that towel waving I said to the Mate and I looked through the telescope as long as I could. Now said the Mate, you want something hot before you have a good cry, so I went with him to a café in town and had a cup of hot soup. I could not face being alone, so I went to the Lawrence’s and climbed into bed with Faye. Looking back I can guess how hurt Arthur’s mother must have been that his thoughts had to be for me.

Arthur Poole Lawrence
Arthur Poole Lawrence.
Top right: On the deck of HMAS Ballarat.
Middle bottom: Posed in slouch hat, used for drawings of him as the archetypal digger
(pictures remain with the family.)


Home to Mother

Next morning, I went back home. Here comes the grass widow back, I said as I walked in. Now the years have passed I can see that young people quickly recover from sorrows. Almost at once I settled back into the routine of my life. My mother’s health began to fail at that period. I had to care for her constantly, and we grew inexpressibly near to each other. Letters came and thereafter a very few weeks came one Sunday when I came into the evening meal my brother Geoff said ‘My word, I heard something awful’ and my father said ‘Well, keep it to yourself’. This, of course, roused my curiosity and so they had to tell me that on Anzac Day 1917 the Ballarat, on which George and Arthur were travelling [across the channel to France] had been torpedoed during the Anzac celebration. However, it was thought all were saved. We had to wait anxiously for several days until it was confirmed. More letters came from Salisbury plains, and then at least from France.

I went back to finish the kindergarten course I had commenced and in between listened to recruiting speeches at odd places in town feeling a surge of feeling that I was the wife of a soldier. Once I went into the shop of Stewart Dawson, which used to be on the site of the Town Hall at the corner of Collins Street and Swanston Street, to buy a little boomerang with ‘return to me’ on it. The man who served me said ‘if he gets this, he is bound to return’. My father had a very lively assistant at the time and I used to catch the same train home each evening with tennis friends, so with very little event time passed.

One morning the postman the arrived and I received notice that my husband had received the Military Cross for his bravery in evacuating the wounded under fire. We were very proud, but above my pride was a surprise that he was actually in the firing line, a fact that he had successfully hidden from me. Then at last there was November 11th, 1918 and the cease firing. We all drew a long breath of relief. That is, those who had been spared. When I had been going into town every morning I used to watch the strained anxious faces of my fellow passengers and then one could not help but contrast these with the faces of those in mourning. The curious strain was gone from those faces and I well remember the face of a very vivacious woman my mother knew. She lost both her sons, and her face set like a mask which had forgotten how to smile.

Off to England

Early in 1919, I was staying with my mother-in-law at Arcadia when a cable arrived from Arthur telling me to join him in England. Two and a half years had passed since I saw my young husband. Letters were all that had passed between us, and our lives had moved in quite different channels. My first reaction was that I couldn’t leave home and go away to someone who suddenly seemed a stranger. I went down to friends who knew my mother-inlaw, and rang my mother. ‘Of course, I am not going’, I said. ‘Of course you must’, she replied. ‘Will you come with me?’ ‘No, you duty is to your husband, as mine is to mine’. Needless to say I could not sleep and almost at day break I walked up to the hill and while the sun rose I faced my problem out. Gone were my un-responsible days and very soon my life was again formed to someone else’s. My mother-in-law very naturally was by no means pleased with my hesitation.

I went home as soon as I could and then came a hectic time trying to get a passage. At last I found a friend whom I had met in my brief stay at the hospital and we both got a passage to England via Canada. I was all the time terribly upset about leaving my mother. I said to myself I will let ANYTHING stop me, and if the way is easy I will know she will be alright when I get back. Well, that’s the way it was and when I kissed her goodbye, I knew I would see my mother again.

I went first to Sydney and stayed with Mrs Stewart till our ship sailed. There was a flu epidemic and we had to go daily to be checked and each day I ran a temperature and the nurse said I might not be allowed to go. I asked to see the doctor and explained that I was only suffering from excitement. Well, at last we embarked on a ship to NZ. and there we were to be transferred to the ‘Niagara’ for our journey to Canada. We were quarantined for some days in Auckland harbour, then transferred to the Niagara. Elsewhere in a little diary given me by the Rev. William McKie, I have written of our wonderful trip. All the difficulties we encountered, all the fun, the lovely last of girlhood. The ending of an ‘era’.


Arriving in England

We stood at the rail early one morning at the Southampton wharf. Evelyn waited for her brother-in-law, I for my husband. Could I write of the wonderful reunion as though we had parted only yesterday? Could I say it was journey’s end, a dream come true? I was all dressed up in an extra special outfit I had kept for the occasion and then as he stepped on the deck I flung myself at him and then everything was not a bit as we both must have hoped. We drove through the ugly streets of Southampton to a hotel where we had breakfast where we had breakfast and went up to our room. Both were trying very hard I know to be polite and even natural but the blame was really mine. I had forgotten the few days of married life and if the truth be known only ready to be ‘courted again’. I was horrified at the circumstances in which I found myself. Arthur, for his part, was disappointed and I think (although I cannot know) a bit conscience smitten. After a dreary two days we went up to London with me more and more bewildered and Arthur more and more antagonistic. Our written intentions had been a leisurely second honeymoon making our way gradually to Glasgow.

We carried out this plan in the opposite of a honeymoon manner. We went to Oxford and to Warwickshire (my own mothers honeymoon) and later we went to Hanslope, a little village in Buckinghamshire where my mother-in-law’s cousins had a farm. It was the Dowerhouse of an old manor which must have been destroyed. It stood a little distance from the village at the end of a typical English lane. At the gate stood Yew trees. Some of its windows had been walled up from the ‘window tax’ time. One wing had been lost, so it was uncertain whether it had been built in Henry VIII or Elizabeth’s time- there was big stone-flagged room with rushbottom chairs and old pewter and a staircase with narrow steps and a secret passage up to low-ceilinged rooms-an inglenook in a huge kitchen fireplace. An old dream house. We were given a lovely old bedroom overlooking the leafy lane. By this time alone in a strange land I was very heartsore. I stood at the window trying to think what was best to do.

Over in Australia my mother was waiting each week to hear from me and I was determined that she mustn’t be hurt too. Could I go home to Australia and walk in and say ‘the grass widow has come back again’. Could I do anything to make things go right again. At long last I got into bed and put my arms around him and asked him to try with me to start again. Well, we did try and the next day we seemed to step into heaven.


We arrived at last in Glasgow and I found a boarding house on the Kelvin side while Arthur returned to Royal Infirmary down in the East side of Glasgow. Three happy months. A happy family of people where I lived and a jolly crowd of people at the Infirmary.

We often went down to the Clyde and walked across the Arran when the heather was in full bloom, and in the autumn we went up to Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine to what is called the Rob Roy country and here in that lovely country my great wish was fulfilled and not long after we knew we were to have a baby. When the winter started, Arthur enrolled in Edinburgh to do his FRCSE. We felt the difference in Edinburgh. We had known large numbers of people in Glasgow but Edinburgh seemed cold and unfriendly. We took half a flat at Morningside overlooking the Pentland hills and Arthur’s seat. I was left much to my own devices as Arthur was doing his course. Several friends visited me from Glasgow, and I began collecting a little trousseau. Then after we had seen out the old year on the steps of the Throne Kirk in Edinburgh, we rather thankfully left for the South on the first step of our journey home.

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