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Garnsey, Marion Laura (1835–1927)

There passed away at Blackheath last week, at the age of 91, a lady Marion Laura Garnsey, whose life-connections seem worth recording. Her father, Thomas Walker, of Rhodes (not to be confounded with Thomas Walker, of Yaralla whose memory is perpetuated by the noble hospital which bears his name), was born in 1791 at Rhodes Hall, in Yorkshire, the son of one John Walker, who is described in family documents as "barrister-at-law and Recorder of the town of Leeds." The name "Rhodes," which Thomas Walker afterwards left imprinted on the survey maps of Tasmania and New South Wales, is said to date back to the Middle Ages, and to have been brought to England by a returning Crusader. In due time, young Thomas became an officer in the 10th Light Dragoons, but finding life in that regiment rather expensive, transferred to the Commissariat Department. As Assistant Commissary-General, he went through the Waterloo campaign under the Great Duke, and was shortly after recommended as one of two officers required by the Governor of Australia to help in the development of the infant colony. So he came out to this land as Deputy Assistant Commissary-General, his companion and senior officer being Commissary-General Cordeaux. Half a mile or so beyond the Rhodes platform on the Northern Suburbs line, a large factory building rears its impressive height on the traveller's left just before he crosses the river by the Ryde bridge. But up to a few years ago, on that very bank, there stood a much more picturesque object, a large but low-roofed stone cottage with its wide flagged verandah and roomy stables, all prettily tucked away among tall trees and spacious gardens. This was the second "Rhodes," which, until the coming of the factory, had belonged to Thomas Walker's estate for well nigh a hundred years. Here Walker brought his bride in 1823, when he married Anna Elizabeth, the daughter of another pioneer settler, the Hon John Blaxland, of Newington, a little higher up the Parramatta River. Blaxland was a "Man of Kent," who, like Walker, had brought old family estate names with him to his new country. Newington is one and Fordwich is another. In 1830 Walker was given responsibility for the commissariat of Tasmania, and migrated once more. He received later a grant of land near Longford where he settled as a farmer, adding to his estate by purchase, and building a third 'Rhodes House,' which still stands, a lasting witness to the icons of our grandfathers as to the solidity, comfort, and amenity befitting "a gentleman's residence." Spacious, too, were the ideas of our pioneer forefathers in the matter of families. Five sons and nine daughters (of whom Marion Laura was the sixth) were born to Thomas Walker and Anna Elizabeth, his wife. In 1861 Walker died, and nine years later his widow brought her family back to the old Rhodes on the banks of the Parramatta. In 1888 Marion Laura married the Rev Charles Garnsey, incumbent of Christ Church, Sydney, who had been left a widower two years before. They had met more than thirty years before, but she was little more than a name to any of her ten step-children. However, she faced the responsibilities of her new position with a courage that was always one of her strongest characteristics.

At Blackheath, where she spent most of her time in recent years, she made many friends by her geniality and kindliness to all who came in her way. Staunch loyalty was of her very warp and woof, and now her mortal remains lie in the pretty little mountain cemetery, close to those of two of her old friends, Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, the dare devil horseman, and Norrie Gatenby, a member of another old Tasmanian family. Nearby, too is the grave of Dowell O'Reilly, the poet of "Tears and Triumph." Two sisters remain at the fourth "Rhodes House," Strathfield, as living links with the storied past.

Original publication

Citation details

'Garnsey, Marion Laura (1835–1927)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/garnsey-marion-laura-15432/text26647, accessed 21 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Walker, Marion Laura
Birth

11 July 1835
Longford, Tasmania, Australia

Death

May 1927
Blackheath, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage