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Weston, Blanche (1806–1904)

from Cumberland Argus (Parramatta, Sydney)

A treasured link with the historic past, a contemporary of many of the great pioneers of Australian history, has this week been removed. Early on Monday morning, Mrs. Blanche Weston, a lady who for some time had been believed to be the oldest living Australian native, passed peacefully away in her 99th year, at Horsley, the beautiful woodland home where she had dwelt for the last 75 years. Her life story has been in a great measure concurrent with the story of the growth and development of these States, and while her many amiable attributes had endeared her to a wide circle of friends, and particularly to the humble dependents by whom she was surrounded and idolised, her personality was an intensely interesting one to every Australian. Her memory, to her latest days, was wonderfully clear and accurate, and if she could ever have been induced to commit to writing her reminiscences of the early days, when she was a frequent visitor at old Government House during the regime of Governor Macquarie, the result must have been a work of great value. Unfortunately, for the present generation, the old lady was very reticent as to the events of past days, and had a strong dislike to the publication of her early memories. She would, on no account, permit herself to be "interviewed" by press representatives, and it is lamentable to think how much of instructive insight into the social and political conditions of the infant settlement may thus have been lost forever.

Mrs. Weston was the widow of the late Captain Weston, of Horsley, near Prospect. She was a daughter of Colonel Johnston, of Annandale, an officer who figures prominently in Australian history in connection with the arrest of Governor Bligh. Her brother, the late Captain Johnston, was the first Australian officer to join the British Navy. Her husband, the late Captain Weston, died at Horsley in the year 1856, and was interred in the family vault in the burial ground of the old Prospect Church. In the same vault also rest the remains of the late Miss Johnston, a sister of deceased, as well as those of her son, the late Mr. Frank Weston, her daughter, the late Mrs. Perry, and a grandchild. The deceased lady had a family consisting of four sons and four daughters, of whom one son, Major Edward Weston, of Mosman's Bay, and two daughters, Mrs. McDougall, wife of the late Mr. Malcolm McDougall, of Warwick, Queensland, and Mrs. Smart, widow of the late Mr. Fred Smart, of "Greystanes", Prospect, alone survive. Mrs. Smart has for some years resided with her late mother at Horsley, as did Mrs. Weston's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Frank Weston. The deceased members of Mrs. Weston's family were George Weston, who died in childhood, the late Mr. Frederick Weston, of Harris Park, the late Mr. Frank Weston, the late Mrs. F. Perry, and the late Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Weston leaves descendants living to the fifth generation. Her grandchildren number 20, amongst whom are included Mr. Fred. Weston, now of Dubbo, a gentleman well known in Parramatta, and the wives of Mr. A. I. Oakes and Mr. C. S. Oakes, who are both residing in Harris Park, as well as Mr. C. W. Perry, of Sherwood Grange, near Smithfleld.

As recorded in a recent number of The Argus, a family gathering was held not long ago in honor of Mrs. Weston's 98th birthday, and there were then present four generations of the family. Through the descendants of her late daughter, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. Weston was, however, a great-great-grandmother.

Notwithstanding her advanced years, the late Mrs. Weston was to the last in full possession of her faculties and wonderfully active and vigorous, both in body and mind. Dr. I. Waugh, who for upwards of 30 years, was her medical attendant asserts that, in the course of a long and extensive professional experience, he has never known so remarkable a retention of unimpaired memory and both mental and physical power at such an age as Mrs. Weston's. Up to the last she personally superintended the management of the large estate at Horsley, paid wages, and kept accounts and took the keenest interest in the well-being of her servants, by whom she was greatly beloved. Her charity and kindness of heart won the affection of all who were brought in contact with her. Her retainers rejoiced to spend their lives beneath her kindly rule. Sons succeeded fathers in her service, and many of her employees were of the third generation of those who had been servants to the family. As an instance of her energetic habits, it is only quite recently that she spoke of driving to Parramatta to pay a visit to friends there, and birthday cards were received, addressed by her, a few weeks ago. A fine tree having been blown down on the estate some little time ago, Mrs. Weston expressed her intent of having a young tree planted in its place. She took a great deal of interest in various kinds of sport, and, until a few years ago, went regularly every year to see 'The Cup' run for at Randwick.

The beautiful house wherein Mrs. Weston dwelt was built by her late husband, who was a retired Indian officer, after the pattern of an Indian bungalow, and Mrs. Weston used to speak of the days when it was being built, and of having lived in a tent during that time.

Until Thursday last, Mrs. Weston had appeared to be in her usual health, but on that day she was attacked by a serious illness, and passed calmly and painlessly away at 5.30 on Monday morning, retaining her consciousness to the last.

There were with her at the time of her death, her son, Major Weston, Mrs. Smart, Mrs. Frank Weston and Miss Perry.

An Argus representative had the other day an interesting conversation with Mr. Charles Weston Perry, of Sherwood Grange, Smithfield, a grandson of the late Mrs. Weston, and who has for the last few years been managing her estate at Horsley. This gentleman corroborated much of the information which had been previously obtained from other members of the family. The late Mrs. Weston, he said, was born in Annandale, on the 23rd of July, 1806, and was undoubtedly the oldest Australian native. There might, perhaps, be residents in this country who had attained a still greater age, but none, he felt assured, who had been born in New South Wales, and, with one exception — on the occasion of a two years' visit with her husband to India — had never been out of the colony, or more than 100 miles from her home. She was married at the age of 22 to Captain George Edward Nicholas Weston, by whom she had issue, as before stated.

The house at Horsley, which was built by her late husband, is a very solid and substantial edifice, the late Captain introducing there ideas which he had acquired in the East Indian service. For instance, there is still in the dining room a punkah, which was put up by the Captain's orders, and which, years ago, used to be kept swinging by a black boy servant.

Speaking of Mrs. Weston's goodness to her servants, Mr. Perry remarked that she was never in all her long life known to dismiss an employee. Her men had been with her 20, 30 and 40 years, and, in fact, when a servant entered into her employ, it was the usual thing for him to spend the rest of his life there. The servants were so happy and comfortable, so kindly and generously treated, that they never desired a change. But Mrs. Weston was more than a kind mistress; she was the helpful friend of all the poor for miles around. Whenever a case of sickness occurred, or anyone was accidentally hurt in the vicinity, the first thought was to rush to Mrs. Weston for aid. And she had a medicine chest from which she always produced some wonderful healing specific to comfort and to cure, while she ever took care to see that her patients were amply supplied with good and nourishing articles of diet, that did even more good than the medicines. To any tale of sorrow or distress, she never turned a deaf ear, but was always ready with wise, considerate counsel and prompt and liberal relief. To the poor, to whom she was ever ready to extend a helping hand, her death will indeed prove an irreparable loss.

Returning to the subject of Horsley, Mr. Perry said the house was remarkable for its immense cellar, which extends beneath the whole of the building. All the wine used in the house has for many years been made on the estate. The property is chiefly grassing land, though there are fine vineyards and orchards. Formerly wheat was extensively grown, but on account of the appearance of rust, this was years ago abandoned. The residence contains some fine oil paintings, portraits of the late Colonel Johnston, Captain Johnston, R.N. and other members of the family. Mrs. Weston had also amongst her curios two antiquated flint-lock pistols, interesting old pictures of Sydney as it was in or about the year 1810, and she remembered what was known as the 'Tank Stream," when the harbour boats came up as far as what is now Bridge-street in Sydney, and Brickfield Hill consisted mainly of huts and market gardens.

In the early days of her residence at Horsley there were blackfollews in the neighbourhood as well as occasional bushrangers, in fact, a spot in the vicinity is still known as "Bushrangers Hill.''

Mrs. Weston was also a loyal supporter of the old Prospect Church, where many of her relatives were married, and some of them, as before stated, buried. Another curiosity at Horsley is an antique four-poster bedstead into which the occupant has to climb by the aid of steps.

Mr. Perry showed our representative photographs of the house at Annandale where Mrs. Weston was born, and also of two of the nieces, daughters of her brother, Captain Robert Johnston, viz., Mrs. S. Dickinson and Mrs. G. A. Murray.

Horsley has the characteristics of all the best houses built in the colony in the olden days, the heavy verandah columns resembling old Government House. The louvres of the window shutters are worked with a peculiar handle, which have a history of their own. Some years ago, Mr. Harald Smith, who was about to visit India, was commissioned by Mrs. Weston to go to a certain firm to secure those particular handles. This Indian firm was in existence when Captain Weston was there as an Imperial officer before he came to Australia, and Mrs. Weston thought they might still be in existence. Mr. Smith found the firm all right, and they looked up their old ledgers to the business Captain Weston did with them in the early part of 1800. They found the entry all right, and were so delighted with renewing business with the family that they made Mr. Smith's stay in the country a perfect, round of gaiety. The timber used in the construction of Horsley was teak brought specially from India.

Mrs. Weston possessed considerable property, inherited through her father and husband. There are over 2000 acres in Horsley, and 1500 acres not far from Kiama as well as valuable city property. Mrs. Weston only had a life interest in the estate of her father, and that estate will now be realised for the benefit of her children and their heirs.

The funeral took place on Wednesday, when the remains of the departed were consigned to their last resting place in the family vault at Prospect, where sleep the husband, sons and other relatives, to whom reference has been made elsewhere. The occasion was a peculiarly sorrowful one. In all that great gathering there was scarcely a dry eye. It was at about 2 o'clock that the solemn funeral procession moved slowly from Horsley. The hearse led the way carrying the flower covered casket and an almost interminable string of vehicles followed containing the kindred of the deceased, her servants and dependents and a very large number of sorrowing friends, the leading residents of the district and mourners who had come from long distrances to pay their last sad tribute of respect to the dead. As the cortege wound its way slowly through the precincts of the great Prospect water works, flags were displayed at half-mast, the recognised sign of mourning homage. In the old Anglican Church on the hill the beautiful burial service was conducted by the Rev. George Middleton and the Rev C. T. Sackville West (Strathfield), the glorious chapter of Corinthians, so instinct with Christian hope and consolation for the bereaved, being most impressively read by the rector of Seven Hills. Then came the concluding portion of the solemn ceremony at the graveside, when the coffin was reverently laid in the vault, and the Rev. George Middleton addressed a few words of comfort and exhortation to the assembled mourners. He spoke of the universal sentiment of respect which had been cherished for one who, for 98 years, had worn the white flower of a blameless life, and had walked in the steps of Him whom she trusted. They were saying farewell to her mortal remains, but only for a short time. Her spirit was immortal, and the speaker reminded his hearers of the Great Day when the body should be bidden to come forth from the grave. Of those who had lived unblemished lives, as had the departed, it was truly said, 'Blessed are they who walk in the steps of the godly.' There were solemn lessons to be learned from the death of that aged patriarch—as he might truly call her—lessons as to the blessedness of those who die the death of the righteous. She was then looking from the battlements of Heaven and urging her dear ones on earth to live on, to rise from strength to strength, until the day when they should rejoin her in immortality, and enter into the peace that remains for the people of God.

The chief mourners present were Major E. H. Weston (son of the deceased), Messrs. C.F. Weston, A. H. Weston, Frederick Weston, N. Weston, F. W. Perry, G. E. Perry. C. W. Perry. W.W. Perry, J. W. Perry, C. E. McDougall and A. McDougall (grandsons), Messrs. C.F. Perry and R. D. Perry (great grandsons), Messrs. A. I. Oakes, Claude Johnston, Stanley Johnston, Edward Johnston, Norman Johnston, Leslie Johnston, W. R. Dickinson and J. Dean ; and also present were many present and former servants of deceased. Also noticed were Messrs. J. R. Smith, A. Hill, W. Lethbridge, J.K. Lethbridge, Dr. I. Waugh (the deceased's old and valued medical adviser), Dr. R. Phipps Waugh, Messrs J. P. Jones (representing Messrs. Jones and Jones, solicitors, Sydney), W. Cope, E. W.P. Cox, C. O. Lamb, P. A. Lamb. C.V. Lamb, P. Deane, W. E. Richards, Henry Cornwell, L. Hyland, Walker (Eastern Creek), Jacob; Learmonth, J. Eyles, G. H. Mobbs, F. Morris, E. J. Brown (Parramatta), A. F. Jacob, G. H. Watts, J. Newis, B. Stein, J. Stein, R. Stein, P. Nealon, J. Nealon, G. Evans (Rooty Hill), T. Luckey, W. Gates (Parramatta), Edgar Cox, Perkins, P. Brien (Blacktown), D. Walker (Rooty Hill), Nicholas. Campbell, Haywood, Beattie. Jenkins. H. Smith, A. Walsh, Weaver, T. Walsh, J. Kitchener, and many others.

The massive monument above the vault wherein the late Mrs. Weston was interred bears the following inscriptions: — "Sacred to the memory of George Edward Nicholas Weston, Esquire, of Horsley, who departed this life 25th November, 1856, aged 56 years."

"In memory of Julia Maria, wife of Frederick W. Perry, daughter of G. E. N. Weston, who died at Abbotsbury, 10th June, 1868, aged 36 years."

"In memory of Julia, eldest daughter of Colonel George Johnston, of Annandale, who died at Horsley, 10th December, 1879, aged 83 years."

"Also of Francis Jenkins, youngest son of G. E. N. Weston, who died at Horsley, 30th January, 1902, aged 57 years."

"Also of Blanche, oldest daughter of Malcolm and Blanche McDougall, and grand-daughter of G. E. N. Weston, who died at Horsley, 8th July, 1871, aged 17 months."

Over a grave close by is a handsome cross, bearing the inscription, "In memory of Frederick Weston, third son of G. E. N. Weston, of Horsley, who died 4th December, 1886, aged 50 years."

Another cross also close at hand is engraved with the words, "In memory of Donald Weston McDougall, who died at Greystanes, Prospect, 17th June, 1888, aged 26 years."

Another gravestone has the inscription: "Phyllis Mary Shelley Oakes, born 1st January, 1899, died 27th October, 1899."

The headstone of a grave at the side of the family vault has the following inscription: —
"Sacred to the memory of John Douglass, who died at Horsley, 19th May, 1866, aged 70 years. He was for 35 years a faithful servant of the late Captain Weston."

A gravestone in another part of the churchyard is inscribed: —
"Sacred to the memory of Malcolm Charles Weston, Esquire, who died at Horsley, on the 27th January, 1856, aged 23 years."

Original publication

  • Cumberland Argus (Parramatta, Sydney), 3 September 1904, p 11 (view original)

Other Obituaries for Blanche Weston

Citation details

'Weston, Blanche (1806–1904)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/weston-blanche-19466/text33993, accessed 23 July 2019.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2019

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Johnston, Blanche
Birth

1806
Annandale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Death

29 August 1904
Smithfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

gastritis

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence