Friday, 2 February 2007

This is a family story. A story about my family. One branch of my family, at least. It's no wonder that the tree is used as a metaphor to describe families. The way they branch and flower, losing their vitality then regaining it again as an offshoot takes root.

Sometimes two branches of the same family will intertwine, as do the branches in the photograph below. For some reason there's a connection that binds them more closely than even the ligatures that bind all members of the family together.

In this case, the story I've discovered after so many years of obscurity is about my maternal great-grandfather. It's cogent for me because he was a journalist. But more intriguingly: he was an adulterer. That the story only emerged after I reached my forties indicates the strong puritanical streak in my family. It's no wonder that only recently have convict origins been considered acceptable. Nowadays, people even boast of it.

Some time toward the end of the third decade of the twentieth century, my maternal great-grandfather, Robert K., a newspaper reporter (since 1920 with The Weekly Times, which was located then on Flinders Street in Melbourne), was approached by an acquaintance who had a need she thought he could fulfil.

Born in 1865, he had emigrated in 1869 from the Isle of Man to Durham Ox, near Bendigo, in country Victoria. Now, he was a senior figure in the Masonic Lodge in Melbourne.

The woman's husband was having an affair, it seems, and the distraught woman believed that Robert K. was the man who could put matters right. Fortunately for her, but unfortunately for my great-grandmother Alexina, he was successful. In fact, he ran off, in 1930 (around the time my mother was born), with the adultress himself.

Naturally, this development was disastrous for my grandmother and her family. So much so, that it wasn't until I was in my forties — decades after the story could have done me some good — before I saw the petals on the ground where they had fallen, so many years earlier.

Robert K. died in 1948. Alexina took to wearing black (the widow's weeds) after he left her. My mother remembers Robert K. visiting her in her mother's house. But he was never forgiven by the family.

The tree shown above is a yellow flame tree (Peltophorum pterocarpum) as far as I've been able to ascertain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the picture of the tree trunks, they look like knees. Most adulterers in my family have run off with members of the same sex, which deals a double blow (or lessens the blow, it depends how you look at it) to the person left behind.