US and Us

It has been said about different English speaking peoples that we are divided by a common language. We have managed to converse quite effectively while in the USA but are giving our Oregon friends, Larry and Gay, some lessons in Strine in preparation for their visit down  under.

We only have time for five days visiting the American northwest; Oregon and Washington, before returning to Canada to cruise. We have managed to hit some of the hot spots in the area: Portland, Seattle and Neotsu. You haven’t  heard of Neotsu???

Neotsu has a post office. That’s it! Situated at the north end of Devil’s Lake, directly west of Salem and 2 km from the North Pacific Ocean. A most peaceful spot where Larry and Gay, who are joining us for the rest of our travels, hosted us. Our travelling group is now six.

Devil’s Lake from the deck (Neotsu)

Larry and Gay’s were great hosts and their local pinot noir was fabulous. That is almost enough reason to consider living here. But there were other advantages (so some would say) to living in Oregon…

Its legal in Oregon
Space Needle built for the 1962 World’s Fair

We didn’t get an opportunity  to see much of Portland except for a delightful dinner at a favourite restaurant overlooking the city.

Flying into Seattle we found Scot and last of our travelling companions. Seattle is slightly bigger than Neotsu.

In Seattle we walked and walked then took the amphibious Duck tour. On our walking tour we had a beautiful sunny Fall day with 20C temperatures that only required shirt sleeves. We visited the markets and the space needle, and then took in the amazing Chihuly glass gallery and garden.

The Duck tour showed us the highlights of the Downtown area and then onto the Lake Union including motoring past Tom Hanks’ famous Sleepless “boat house”,

The Duck tour passed through the Freemont district but didn’t allow us to stop to join in the Oktoberfest celebrations. The American Northwest is well known to have many boutique breweries and brewery pubs. We did manage to sample some of the wares along the way. A common brew here is the Indian Pale Ale or IPA. This is a very full flavoured hoppy beer originally brewed to last the long early voyages to India without spoiling. This was necessary in past centuries, of course, when beer was often a substitute for water, the cleanliness of which could not be assured. The water is quite fine here and we shower every day, but we have a long voyage ahead of us so we had to try some IPA.

Riding the Ducks

We were told that Seattle’s population is growing by about 2,000 people a month as the large multi-national companies that make this city their home, expand. Amazon seems to be the main culprit growing the quickest and creating a building boom Downtown (we love that term) for new high rise buildings to house their staff as it increases its reach internationally and into the food market.

The Chihuly Glass Exhibition including Garden Display

As with short visits to any city we feel as though we have just scratched the surface of this interesting city. Seattle is certainly a place we could spend more time exploring.

With a few transfer hiccups we boarded the Victoria Clipper ferry and the two and a half hour trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island. We head back to Canada with some fond memories of our short visit to America.






Harry Cornelius Bray (1847-1923)


On this day, September 19 in 1923, Henry Cornelius Bray my 2nd great-grandfather died at his home in Woids Avenue, Hurstville, NSW, and was buried the following day at Woronora Cemetery. He was 76 years old.

Harry was born on July 2, 1847 at Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. His parents were Cornelius and Mary Ann (Hayles) Bray both natives of Portsea. Cornelius had been a mariner at the time of their marriage but when Harry was born he was recorded as a baker and grocer.

Harry was christened at St. Mary’s church, Portsea with his older sister, also Mary Ann, in October the same year. As far as we know he was christened Harry and not Henry, and he certainly carried that name throughout his life and passed in on to two more generations.

In about 1853, when Harry was just six years old, Cornelius and his family emigrated to New South Wales together with his brother George and his family. The reason for this big move will probably never be known, certainly there does not appear to be any evidence that they were tempted by gold fever. In Sydney he was later known to be a cordial maker.

Harry Cornelius and Mary Bannatyne Bray

Young Harry was a driver of a baker’s cart when in 1870 he married Mary Bannatyne Armitage. Mary was the third daughter of Joseph and Martha (Files) Armitage who were shipped out to New South Wales under the equivalent of witness protection following riots and a death in the Chartist uprising in Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire. Mary was born on the ship Mary Bannatyne, in the English Channel shortly after weighing anchor for their new homeland, and named after that ship.

Harry continued working as a carter or van driver throughout his life and with Mary raised eight children living at various locations in the Redfern and Alexandria areas.

Harry Cornelius Bray and his buggy

By the turn of the century the family had moved to Hurstville on a large property with several blocks back to back with frontages in both Woids Avenue and Bellevue Parade. They remained there the rest of their lives.

After Mary’s father died in 1862, her mother lived with them at Hurstville, as did some of her children.

When Mary died in 1926 she was buried at Woronora next to Harry Cornelius.

Note: My thanks to cousin Neville Bray for much of the research and photos. Neville has a website for Australian Bray Families at

Canada – Travels and Some History

On our travels to Canada we are only visiting the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Their provincial border was designated as the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains, where the watershed changes from westward to the Pacific to eastward to the Atlantic or Arctic Oceans.

We arrived in Canada during their 150 year celebrations for becoming an independent nation. As you might imagine we have learned quite bit about the history of this country along the way.

Wikipedia tells us that “According to archaeological and genetic evidence North and South America were the last continents in the world with human habitation.” and “Around 16,500 years ago, the glaciers began melting, allowing people to move south and east into Canada and beyond.”

The “European” history of Canada started in the east generally with French settlement way back in the 1500s. The British rule started in 1763 and settlement of the west from the late 1700s.

Our Rocky Mountaineer Commemorative badge
Our Rocky Mountaineer Commemorative badge

The current 150 anniversary celebrations are quite prominent although they probably don’t have quite the same significance in British Columbia. When the Dominion of Canada became an independent country on July 1, 1867, British Columbia (BC) was not one of the four provinces in that union and was still a separate territory. However Canada became concerned about the lack of access to the Pacific Ocean and after Russia sold Alaska to the United States, and the possibility of their further expansion, there was even more reason to have BC join Canada. The deal was sealed when BC was offered relief from its significant debts and the promise of the construction of a trans-continental railway to connect BC with the eastern provinces. So in 1871 British Columbia became part of Canada. Of course, the railway was not completed until 1885 but having seen some of the terrain through which it had to pass it is a wonder that it was constructed at all. You have to give it to those civil engineers…

We also picked up some history of western Canada including about the fur trading, the gold rushes and the contact with the First Nations peoples. We learned about how some of these peoples lived and specifically the Blackfoot nation. How they adapted to changes such as the coming of horses to North America after the Spanish introduced them in Mexico. We learned how the bison herds were slaughtered from an estimated 30 million in the 1600s to just 345 animals in 1872 (before exerted efforts were made to ensure their survival).

Some additional facts:

  • Canada is the second largest country in area in the world after Russia.

  • The name “Canada” likely comes from the native word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement” and was used generally from the mid-1500s and started to be used officially in the late 1700s.

  • The maple flag was adopted in its current form in 1965.

Looking at Canada there are many similarities with Australia but also many differences resulting from their longer history and their harsher climate.

Captain James Cook – Christ Church Cathedral

The Canadian Rockies

Our party of four; Jenny and I together with Margaret and Arthur flew out on a long wide sweep through the Far East and depositing us in Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada has always been high on Jenny’s bucket list and I was more than happy to tag along – a good move.

Off on the Rock Mountaineer

We set off in the Rocky Mountaineer early the next morning on our Canadian Rockies tour, the first two day leg taking us to Jasper The Rocky Mountaineer was a surprisingly big operation with 2 locos, 20 cars and 745 passengers all farewelled by a kilted bag-piper who played various tunes including a verse of Waltzing Matilda.

The fearless foursome

Our carriage with its domed half-glass roof enabled a wonderful view of the countryside through which we passed, and being almost at the rear of the train we were able to see most of the long procession as it snaked its way alongside a number of rivers. First it was the Fraser River, then branching off on the Thompson and on the second day, the North Thompson. I must remind myself to research the pioneers, Simon Fraser and David Thompson who gave their names to these streams. The rivers were always fast flowing with intermittent rapids indicating both the quantity of water and the continually rising terrain. The scenery was very different to the Aussie landscape and I found the uniform shape of the conifer trees on the hills and mountains strangely relaxing. At times it was almost as though a patterned cover was thrown over the slopes.

Aboard the Rock Mountaineer

Jenny was the designated chief wildlife spotter. She was quite successful with our feathered friends including a couple of bald eagles. However, she disappointed in terms of elks and moose, but a black bear and cub were sighted at a distance frolicking across the river. We were notified by radio from the front of the train when approaching some bighorn sheep and we saw a couple close to the tracks. The males (rams) have longer curved horns than the females – they are hornier (Canadian Joke).

We soon realised that the railways play a big role in this part of the world. The trans-continental Canadian Pacific line opened up western Canada when it was completed in 1885. Twenty years later in answer to increased demand another line, the Canadian National Railway was also finished. We were amazed by the amount of freight traffic that we passed on the trip either in sidings off the main single line or across the river on the opposing line. Much of the freight was in containers stacked two high. At one stage Jenny counted 166 cars as we passed and we are told trains can be over 200 cars long.

Our long train

We over-nighted at Kamloops on the Thompson River. This city ranks highest for hot summers in Canada with a semi arid climate and an annual rainfall of 8 inches (200mm), being in the northern part of a desert system that runs up from near the Mexican border.

On the train, the service was exceptional and we really didn’t want for food or drinks. With and sight-seeing the two days passed quickly.

The second leg of our Rockies tour started with a motor coach to Banff. This is normally a three hour drive but with all the sight seeing our bus took nine hours for this trip and, oh boy, did we some magnificent scenery. It was quite different to the first two days as we got away from those big rivers and into in the Rockies proper where the higher rocky mountain peaks were snow-covered and with glaciers in between. At one stop we transferred to a large 4WD vehicle and drove up onto one glacier. Part of the commentary during the trip included sad facts about how quickly the glaciers were receding.

The next morning in Banff started very cold with low clouds which fortunately cleared enough in the afternoon so we could take the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. There, while a light dusting of snow fell, we were able to appreciate the view of the various mountains surrounding the town and between which the Bow River wound its way through glacier shaped valleys.

Banff from Sulphur Mountain

Today the coach took us just down the road to Lake Louise; that idyllic spot with our Chateau Hotel and one end of the turquoise lake and snow-covered mountains and glacier, that looks like a painted scene, at the other. My photos could not possibly do it justice. A few minutes sitting and gazing at the scene provokes an almost unreal sense of peace.

Lake Louise
Lake Louise and the Chateau Hotel

Tomorrow we head off on the last two day stage of our Rockies tour by coach back to Vancouver again via Kamloops.

Thomas Bruce (c1833-1912)

ON THIS DAY, September 5, in 1865 Thomas Bruce married Sarah (Goodburn) Murray at Young, New South Wales.

Thomas was the first in our Bruce family to come to Australia. Born in Perth, Scotland, his father Alexander is believed to have been a wool weaver who shortly after the death of Thomas’s mother Helen (nee Addie), remarried in 1837 widow Jessie (Gourlay) White and later moved the family to Galashiels. The family lived in Roxburgh Street for many years and Thomas is recorded as a wool dyer there in 1851, but no more records have been found of him in Scotland,

Sarah Murray was the eldest daughter of William Ambrose Goodburn and born at Kissing Point on the Parramatta River in 1843. William was from Folkestone in Kent and arrived in New South Wales in about 1835 and shortly after married Mary Jane Cavanagh from Armagh, Ireland. In 1860, at the age of 16 and with her father’s permission, Sarah married Peter Murray in Chiltern Victoria. Peter was a native of Monaghan in Ireland and it is suspected he joined the Victorian gold rush in the Chiltern area. Shortly after their marriage the couple moved to Young (or Lambing Flat as it was then known) coinciding with the discovery of gold there.  However within three years Peter died of hepatitis leaving Sarah pregnant with their son James.

No details are known of Thomas’s life until he married Sarah in Young but it is likely that he was also lured there by the prospect of gold riches, however at the time of his marriage he was working as a butcher. At Young a son, also named Thomas, was born in 1866 and two years later after the family had moved to Grenfell, another boy Alexander was born. Within six weeks of Alexander’s birth Sarah contracted typhoid fever and was dead six days later.

Several generations of Bruces at Hillgrove

At Grenfell, Thomas worked for a time as a wool classer, probably using early skills developed with his father in Scotland, and with two young sons he remarried in 1870 to Jane Bond. The young James Murray died that same year at Binalong (maybe with relatives), however Jane gave birth to a daughter, also named Jane, the following year.

In this story, gold now raises its head again. At Bakers Creek east of Armidale, alluvial gold had been discovered in the late 1850s but serious mining commenced only in the late 1870s. It is not known exactly when he moved there, but in his death notice Thomas was said to have been one of the earliest arrivals at what became the town of Hillgrove. Thomas and his two sons (Thomas and Alexander) were all miners at the Hillgrove mines for many years. His wife Jane died at Hillgrove in 1897, but Thomas lived on  surrounded by the rest of his family until his death in 1912, even as the mining industry tapered off and the town of Hillgrove had started to declined.

Thomas’s exact birth date is unclear as various ages between 79 and 95 have been given for him when he died.

Maybe he exaggerated his age…