June 27 1935
To Whom It May Concern
I, Mrs Mary Mercie Varley, have just received a letter from New Zealand, asking me to furnish all the information I can about my parents, and the family.
My mother was born in Ireland in 1819. I have heard her speak of County Galway, Cork. Her name was Hannah Blake. She was just twelve when her mother died. She had a younger sister eight years old, and in frail health. Her mother had not been well for some time, and Hannah had to care for the sister. The little sister fainted when she found her mother dead, and they could not bring her to. Her name was Helen Blake. My grandmother had been married before. Her first husband was a Burke. They had one daughter, Mary Burke. She was red headed. When she grew up she married William Burke. I do not know how long they lived in Ireland after they married. They went to England and were there when Grandmother Blake died.
The priests went in and took charge. Hannah had never been to school, so could not write to her half sister. (I'm just repeating what my mother told me). She said the priests went through her mother's papers and said he could not find her sister's address; but, that she ought to go to her, or try to find her. Mother told us that Mary wrote often and was sure there were letters in her mother's papers. Burke had lots of land and property, and of course, Mary was left her share of it. When Grandfather Blake died he left money, even for his step-daughter - Mary. Blake was a well-to-do tailor. My mother took after him. She could do fine work.
The priest told my mother that one of the priests had to go to England on business and she could go in his care. They would put her in the care of the Mother Superior at the first convent, with a letter of instructions to them to find out at the Post Office if any mail came to William or Mary Blake.
After so long she would be moved to another town, just in the same way. I must say here that it was inhuman: a child of twelve years that had the means , or should have, and could speak only Irish, to be kept as a maid instead of giving her an education.
I do not know how many places she was sent to when she made the acquaintance of a girl attending the convent school. She took a liking to Hannah and taught her to speak English. She felt sorry for her and invited her to her home. She asked permission of Mother Superior. The girl's parents kept an inn on the King's Highway, where travelers stayed. They became attached to her and asked if she would like to live with them. She said yes. I do not know how long she lived there, but that was where she met my father and she married at twenty. She told him her history and he promised to find her sister.
They moved to different places in the South of England. He took a toll-gate in the King's Highway, but there was not enough in it for a living, so he took over a bakery and confectionery in a town about half a mile from the toll gate. The town was named Hinckley. That was the first town that I could remember as I was just a little girl. I know my mother had five children, but do not know whether they were all born there. I know baby Jim was born there. I took care of Jim as a baby and all the others as they came, and there was always a baby until there were eight. I will give their names: Tom, Catherine, Mary Mercie, Hannah, Jim, Daniel, Helen and Henry. They were all the children of Henry and Hannah Robinson. Her maiden name was Blake.
One day my father filled his promise of finding my mother's sister. While in his shop one day a strange man walked in, asking if he had anything to entice a poor appetite. Father said for him to look around and see. Father noticed the Irish brough right away and asked if he was a stranger in town. He said he was and that he had a sick wife. He said his name was Blake. Dad told him his name was Robinson. He then asked Mr Blake if his name was William, and his wife's name Mary, and was his wife red-headed. Mr Blake said yes. Father told him that he had then found his wife's sister Hannah. Father filled a basket and called the boy who helped him to stay with the shop until he got back.
They went to a livery and got a rig, went to where they were staying, loaded them in with the three children. John the eldest with red hair like his mother; Willie, and a girl Helen. They drove to the toll gate and helped Aunt Mary out and placed her on a bed. They all had a good cry. My brother and sister took the new kin outside while I stayed inside to care for the baby. Father went into the kitchen and soon had a meal ready for them. I could not take my eyes of Uncle Willie. He walked the floor, back and forth, asking why folks back home had not answered any of his letters. Mother said there was no one to answer after her mother died and they bundled Hannah off to England. Uncle Willie said that when Mary got better he was going back to Ireland and look up those priests. He thought she would be all right since she had found her sister. Mother fixed up the children's clothes. She seemed to improve for a while but she did not get well. She got weaker until she died. I did not go to the funeral as I had to care for the little children, but I think she was buried at Hinckley. I am going to write to Hinckley and find out. I could send the information to London as it takes so long for mail to New Zealand.
Uncle Willie said just as soon as mother could get the children's clothes fixed he would take them on. Mother pleaded with him to leave them with her. She would take care of them. When he would not leave them she asked that he leave the little girl, but he could not part with any of them he had had the care of them for so long. He said that he would come back and that he would write.
Now, as father had been all over the South he had been thinking of sellingout and try the North to find them. One party had been to him just a while before the Blakes showed up and they came back with a better offer. Mother did not want to leave until she heard from Uncle Willie. Since I got older I have thought that was the mistake father made. He got impatient, waiting to hear from them. I think in those days, if a letter arrived, and you were not at the address, the letter was sent to the dead letter office. There was no attempt made to trace them. I always think they wrote after we left, perhaps they even came back. But we never heard of them. We went to the North of England and settled in the town of Etherley in the County of Durham. That was where I went to school.
I recall when King Edward, then Prince of Wales, had his twenty-first birthday. Col Stobart lived there. He had two daughters that took quite an interest in the two schools. Miss Mary Stobart came to see the school master about giving the school holiday abnd have the two schools join in a parade. They marched on the main street and through Col. Stobarts pretty grounds, then to the cricket field, where tea and fruit cake was served. Our family had not been there very long and Miss Mary was always doing some thing to be friendly to strangers. She presented each of we three children with a flag. My brother Tom's was white with green emblem of Ireland, sister's and mine were made of red, white and blue tafeta. We sang songs. The lat was God Save the Queen. Col Stobart is buried in Etherley Church Yard. Mis Mary Stobart married a Captain Inks. He took her away and we never saw her again but she was never forgotten.
I have two sisters buried in Etherley Church Yard. Hannah Robinson, age fifteen years and Catherine Robinson, age twenty-two years.
When I was twenty I was married to Paul Varley of Stanley near Crook. I was married at the Methodist Church by the Rev. Thomas Hepton, July 17, 1875 at Crook Church. We lived at Stanley. Later we moved to Howden Le Wear, Durham County. That is where our first daughter was born, December 1 1876. We then moved to Bearpark, Durham County. That is where our son Wilfred Ashton Varley was born, April 12, 1878.
We sailed to New Zealand from Plymouth England in 1879 on the sailing ship Opawa, landed in Port Nelson December 24th after 92 days at sea. We went to Kowie Pass, which was later named Springfield in the Province of Canterbury.
After living in New Zealand nearly two years my husband's people came to America and gave us no rest until we came to this country. We took the mail steamer Zealander for San Fransisco, Cal. We settled in Braidwood, Illinois for a while. That is where our daughter Daisy Maud Varley was born November 11 1882. Lillie Matilda Varley was born September 10, 1883.
We then moved to Thurber, Texas where Nettie Koradean varley was born on January 19, 1894.
Well, I think this is all I can think of. Perhaps I could have made it shorter, but if you have to see into it further, those places could be written to. If I could afford to go to Ireland and was not so old, I was eighty on the 26th of last March. I hope this will help to get what is coming to us. It won't do me any good. I am not so young now. If there is anything I have forgotten, let me know.
Your loving aunt
Mrs Mary Mercie Varley (Mary Mercie Robinson)
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